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Geums Are Gems

I once had a friend tell me, “I am adding more geums to my garden – they are so lovely and delicate. And now they come in more colors than ever.” So I nodded and smiled and kept my mouth shut because I realized that I actually didn’t know what a geum was.

After searching the Internet I found that I knew these flowers well – I had seen geums a thousand times. The native Geum trifolium is what I knew as prairie smoke. But I still didn’t know much about cultivated geums, which are also called avens.

Weird & Wonderful Spring Bulbs

It’s like the emperor with no clothes. The crown imperial stands 3 to 4 feet tall, its Sun King-bright flowers lording it over the spring garden with the hauteur of Louis XIV, utterly unaware that its dignity is fatally undercut by the absurdity of its green bad-hair-day topknot.

Not every spring bulb has the classic sculptured grace of a lily-flowered tulip. Yet many bulbs beyond the ordinary have charms that can grow on a gardener, adding variety and interest where tulips, daffodils and crocuses may seem old hat.


From the Editor

In this issue our primary focus is on perennial gardens – beautiful perennial gardens.

But, of course, no one sets out to create an unbeautiful garden. For thousands of years gardens have been about beauty.

Yes, they were also about utility.


From the Editor

One of the great benefits of gardening is that it gives us so many moments of joy. We could also call them God’s-in-his-heaven-all’s-right-with-the-world moments.

They take many forms – the much-anticipated opening of a new rose (or a beloved old rose), the first ripe tomato, the scent of a mock orange, the sight of robins plucking berries from a crabapple.


Something is in the Eye of the Beholder

You know you’ve made it in the world when you have your own Wikipedia entry. There’s something about the bracketed phrase [attribution needed] in an entry about your own life that just screams, “This guy is something special!” But since I do not yet have a Wikipedia entry (feel free to jump in there and fill the void, folks), I could be guessing.

Nonetheless, when I was told that this issue of the magazine would be focusing on a number of beautiful gardens (it must be “beautiful garden season,” which does not speak highly for the times of the year that are
not “beautiful garden season”), I immediately did what any reporter worth his or her salt would do with 700 words to write and not a flipping clue as to which 700 words to choose from, and that was to investigate the word “beauty.”


Searching for Nature (In All the Wrong Places)

You might have noticed, as you were reading through this magazine, that there are stories about the birds and the bees (which makes some of us nervous), wildflowers, not-so-wildflowers, milkweed (which is a wildflower, not actually a weed, but don’t get me started) and other things that could be lumped generally under the heading of “nature.”

SPOILER ALERT! If you start by reading this column first (come over here and let me give you a great big hug!), I just ruined the rest of the magazine for you by giving away the plot, for which I apologize. Sometimes I just lose control.

Wait a second … this is a gardening magazine. The plot is always the same: plant the seed, water the seed, nurture the tiny plant, feed the tiny plant, water the tiny plant, transplant the plant, nurture the growing plant, feed the growing plant, water the growing plant, watch the plant bloom, watch the plant fruit, deadhead or prune the plant, watch the plant decline, watch the plant die, curse the fates, wonder what you did wrong, rinse and repeat. It’s pretty simple, really.


Treasures 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.


Irresistible Roses

The powers that be have hit upon a wayto get me to stop talking about roses. “Write us a story,” they said, “and get it out of your system.”

It so happens that I do have quite a few roses — more than 20, I believe, although whenever I set out to do a mental count, I keep getting confused. Did I include the ‘Harison’s Yellow’ or not? And what about the Cherry Pie in the container? Oh, I think I forgot Hot Cocoa. And so I start over, and then start over again. Finally, I decide to just let it go. As I said, more than 20.

Some of these roses I bought because I dearly coveted them ...


Trialed by Jury

The experts looked at the evidence and gave these new plants a thumbs up. You will too. Here are our favorite new plants for 2015.


Basement 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?


Amazing Amaryllis

They bring color and joy to those dark winter days. With a little attention, they can return for years and years.

When it comes to growing just about anything in Chicagoland, the go-to person is clearly Richard Tilley.

Now 87 years young, Tilley is renowned in his Wicker Park neighborhood as the transplanted Englishman who starts 5,000 annuals from seed in his basement every spring, donating many of the results to the Wicker Park Garden Club’s annual plant sale.


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Something is in the Eye of the Beholder

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Mike’s Holiday Hort Sing-Along

I like holiday carols. Really, I do. Honest. Don’t look at me like that. I know it’s hard to tell from the annual hit job I ...



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Hummingbirds Heading South

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


questions

Our Russian sage (Perovskia) is full and bountiful but will not stay upright. Is there anything we can do? Is there a way to split some off when it has outgrown its space? Should it be trimmed back in fall or spring?

I want to raise the level of my lawn as much as 2 feet in places. I now have a large quantity of somewhat composted wood chips and I am wondering if I can use them as fill to raise the ground level and provide a good soil in which to sow a lawn.

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?

calendar of events

Northwest - 02/05/15

February 28

“How To Make Your Rock River Area Lilies Great.” A presentation by John Moors, director of collections at Klehm Arboretum. Learn about seed selection, growing supplies, artificial lights and caring for tender young plants. Klehm Arboretum, 2715 S. Main St. Rockord. 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Free for Klehm members and $6 for visitors. Info: klehm.org/lilies-rock-river-valley.

- 03/06/15 - 03/06/15 - 03/06/15 - 03/06/15

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