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Article ThumbBales of Fun

For vegetable gardeners, straw bale gardening may be the best innovation since sliced bread.

Straw bale gardening essentially turns a bale of straw into a raised bed. It requires no digging or soil preparation. Because you’re not planting in the ground, you don’t have to worry about soil-borne diseases, and weeding is minimal. It doesn’t even matter if your soil is crummy or if the sunniest place in your yard is covered in concrete. You can achieve optimal growing conditions for a vegetable garden in a humble bale of straw.


Article ThumbBasement Bounty

Decisions, decisions. What’s a devoted gardener to do with brugmansia as winter approaches?

For opulence and tropical splendor there’s nothing like angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia). Tall, elegant, with draping fragrant bells of bloom, it can dominate a patio, balcony or an entry way like little else.

But here’s the rub. It’s not hardy in Chicagoland. So this raises the sticky issue of overwintering. Should you just toss the plant when winter comes? Some do. Others would like to save it for another year. But how?


Article ThumbBeyond Violet

African violets are pushing the envelope when it comes to colors and flower forms. Ruffles, anyone?

When I was a child, I was totally mesmerized by the intense colors of the African violets that seemed to bloom continuously on my grandmother’s windowsills. I would stare in wonder at those jewel-colored blooms surrounded by collars of fuzzy leaves, fully convinced that only experienced gardeners of my grandmother’s reputation could get plants to bloom so gloriously indoors.


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Blog
What a Difference a Year Makes

This time last year we were heading into an awful, hot, drought-ridden summer — one that trounced the tomato plants, sent ...


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Spotlights
Sunny Disposition, Shady Needs

It is always a topic of conversation: What plants work well in sun or in shade? Or both?


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Columns
Dismayed in the Shade

"President Jimmy Carter once said that life is not fair. I’m not positive, but I don’t think he coined that phrase. I’m not pos


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Columns
Weather Warrior

As I write, the guy on the Weather Channel is warning us to stay indoors. “Don’t go out unless you absolutely have to,” the ...


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Columns
Gardener’s Guilt

I’m feeling guilty. Perhaps that’s because my column was due last week and I’ve now written, let’s see, 18 words. But I’m ...


questions

I have two 3-year-old rose of Sharon plants, about 20 feet apart. One blooms every year. The other plant forms about 100 buds and looks healthy, but it has not bloomed in the last two years. The buds are solidly closed and look as if they are rotting from the inside out. There does not seem to be any sign of insects on the plant. What is this problem?

I purchased some pre-chilled hyacinths and tulips for forcing but there were no directions with them. Does this mean I don’t have to chill them in the refrigerator, and will they just bloom in the house any time during the winter? The last batch of bulbs became moldy in the refrigerator.

What are your three favorite “all-but-forgotten” perennials that every garden should include? Why do you like them?

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