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Article ThumbnailGarden Tool Maintenance

A Clean Tool is a Safe Tool

In the garden, everything has its season. Fall is the season for cleaning and preparing tools for spring. Dirt and rust are harmful to just about everything, but especially to garden tools that are often wet and dirty. We depend on our tools to be safe and effective. Dirt and rust make our tools less safe and make us work harder. Water may be great for the garden, but it is the enemy of our tools.


Article ThumbnailFake Gardening

I’ve been trying to characterize exactly what happens in my yard as the days grow shorter and the nights grow colder. Many garden writers wax poetic about “winding down” and “wrapping up” the season. How lovely for them. The verbs that come to mind for me as I get to the finish line are “careen,” “stumble,” “bumble,” “blunder,” “wobble,” “list,” “tilt,” “lurch,” “crash-land,” not to mention the ever-popular nouns “pratfall,” “belly flop,” “nosedive,” “calamity,” “fiasco,” and “debacle.”


Article ThumbnailTreasures of the Woodlands

Tulips come from Turkey, but woodland wildflowers come from Chicagoland. Why not have some of both in your springtime garden?

I knew it would be a goner as soon as it was proffered. “I don’t have the right conditions for it,” I said. “Yes, I have shade in my backyard, but the soil is clay and besides, there’s no water.” But my hostess insisted, and so I went home with a marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), even though I had no marsh. The plant died within a year, my sighs of regret tempered by some inner I-told-you-so satisfaction.


Article ThumbnailSweet Midwinter Dreams

It’s the bleak midwinter. Or is it the weak midblinter? Who knows? I’ve been staring at the ceiling for what seems like days. I roll over to look at the time on my cell phone clock. 2:27 a.m. Oy. Must…shut out…these thoughts…must…sleep.


Article ThumbnailBeyond Red and Green

Sure, you love the holidays, but maybe you don’t 100 percent love red and green. Yes, they always make a dynamite pairing, but do they always have to be the go-to colors for decorating every year? You’d really like to broaden your horizons, see what else you might do to offer a festive face to the world.

Such was the challenge a customer presented to the design staff at The Growing Place, Naperville and Aurora. “The customer wanted to stay away from the traditional reds and greens that are everywhere during the holidays,” says co-owner Carol Massat. “But she loves mauve and burgundy, so we custom designed this container using a variety of evergreens and two types of eucalyptus that had been preserved and dyed – all natural materials. Then we added some lime green color to brighten it up a bit.


Article ThumbnailFrom the Editor - Mar/Apr 2014

In a few days I will plant my first tomato seed. Planting always makes me happy, whether it’s planting bulbs in the fall, dividing and moving perennials or putting in shrubs. But nothing holds more mystery and promise than a seed. It’s so small. How can it possibly contain the wherewithal to develop into a 5-foot-tall plant? And tomato seeds are big enough to be easy. When it comes to foxglove or ‘Crystal Palace’ lobelia, I never expect the truly teeny seeds to germinate and so always plant far too many and end up discarding many seedlings (these seeds, too, are actually easy). I never learn.


Article ThumbnailNot the Center of the World

Towards the end of February a startling fact was reported on the news. January, it turns out, had been the fourth warmest month in the history of the world. How can that be, everyone east of the Mississippi must have gasped?


Article ThumbnailMike’s 3rd Annual Holiday Hort Sing-Along

Don’t you just hate it when columnists fall into that trap of using the same old formulas year after year after year, simply because they don’t have the creativity or they’re too lazy to come up with something new?

Yeah, me, too. On that note, by popular demand (thanks, Mom!) I present the third installation of my not-so-award-winning
gardening words to popular carols. If you need to acquire music rights, you’re on your own, pal.


Article ThumbnailFrom the Editor - JulyAug 2017

If all has gone according to plan, our gardens are looking fabulous right about now. Yes, I still hanker after the bold and the beautiful, envisioning arbors draped with 15-foot sprays of fragrant roses and clematis like those I’ve seen in England. But I have no place for an arbor and many of those Anglo behemoths aren’t hardy here, so I’ve chosen a non-fragrant behemoth that is: ‘William Baffin’. If you want an ubermensch rose, this is it. ‘Rubens’, which regularly clambers to the rooftops and transforms even the most nondescript English house into a thing of beauty, I have high hopes this year for Clematis ‘Pendragon’, the 10-foot tall rosy-purple marvel that our Associate Publisher Ann Sanders says blooms non-stop in her Bolingbrook garden. Having a covetous nature, I ordered one for myself as soon as I heard her singing its praises. I’m giving it marching orders to climb to the top of my ‘Emerald Green’ arborvitae.


Article ThumbnailAll Together Now

What is it about starting a community garden that makes people react as if you just pulled a cocker spaniel puppy out of a top hat? “We just started a community garden at the end of our block!” “Awwww.”

“We just planted seven hundred cucumber plants and one radish!” “Awwww.”

“We just harvested another dog vomit fungus patty!” “Awwww. We mean, eewwww!”

You know how much I hate writing facts. But it’s true that I’ve ...


Article ThumbnailLawn Gone

My neighbor just paved over his front yard.

For those of you who are already doubled over in laughter, saying, “That wacky Nowak! Where does he come up with these things?” all I can say is, “No, really. He paved over his front yard.” By the way, I really was called “No-Wacky” in high school. Is it any wonder that I’ve never been able to hold down a decent job? And the fact that my neighbor just paved over his front yard isn’t all that funny, anyway. At least for a gardener.!

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Blog
Dahlia Delights

Last summer, I had the pleasure of strolling through Cantigny Park in Wheaton, where the floral displays are always spectacular.


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Columns
Compost Tales

I believe it was the Shakespearean actor and gardener Ralph Kean (second cousin of the even more Shakespearean Edmund Kean) ...


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Columns
Mike’s “Bargain Basement”  Holiday Hort Sing Along

People ask me why, year after inexplicable year, I continue to crank out these bizarre little lyrics for the holidays.


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Blog
Hummingbirds Heading South

One of the most extraordinary creatures to visit local gardens is the hummingbird. There are several species of hummingbirds ...


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Features
A Gift from the Gods

Irises are named after a goddess who delivered messages while traveling on a rainbow. Just one reason they have so many colors.


questions

My Siberian iris ‘Gracilis’ plants have only one bloom per clump. I have five 3 to 5 year-old clumps that are 8 to 10 inches wide. They do not appear to be crowded. All are planted in a moist area. Why is there only one bloom per clump?

I dislike staking perennials. Is there anything I can do to avoid it?

Now that bedding impatiens (I. walleriana) are not recommended because of impatiens downy mildew, what are three good annuals for shade?

calendar of events

See these and more events in our calendar of gardening events.

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