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From the Editor - JanFeb 2018


Gardening may be good for the soul, but this summer it was good for larceny.

That’s right. Plants were stolen from my garden this year. Three times. I am still reeling from the shock.

Two of the plants were new — an Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ that was supposed to mature into a bushy 3-foot tall yellow-leaved perennial in a shady part of the backyard, and a small cluster of ‘Cherry Berry’ hens and chicks (Sempervivum) that looked in a catalog photo as though they might be as red as those I had once seen at England’s Sissinghurst Garden. I’ve been seeking something equally red for 20 years.

Hey, it’s just money. However, the cluster of sempervivums that I discovered missing last week really broke my heart. This was a clump that had started many years ago as a single plant growing in the dry sandy soil between my front fence and the sidewalk, and it had then multiplied (slowly) over the years to perhaps 15 little silver-green “chicks.” Getting smothered by leaves and snow didn’t bother them. They never died back. In spring they popped their heads out unscathed. I had an emotional attachment to those little guys.

To the thief (thieves) I say, the cure to your problem is right at hand. Literally. If you read this issue of Chicagoland Gardening, for example, you will find two helpful stories on how you can get plants free! Nina Koziol has a story on easy ways to propagate houseplants. Then there’s a story on collecting seeds – and this is legit. Nobody except a professional nursery is going to need all the seeds that are produced each year by the hundreds (thousands) of easy-to-harvest annuals and perennials that are out there. Reach over my fence and pick what you want.

This issue has many other stories that will help you lead a virtuous gardening life. It’s January, so we have our regular review of the year’s new plants, seen in the trial gardens at Ball Horticultural in West Chicago. We visit the bountiful cottage garden of Janice Miller in Hinsdale and then the fabulous conifer garden of Rich and Susan Eyre in Woodstock, the latest entry in our Gardens of the Pros series. Diana Stoll offers recommendations in our New Gardener column for plants that rank beginners will be able to grow successfully, and we chat with horticulturist Lisa Hilgenberg at the Chicago Botanic Garden about the performance of recent All-America Selections vegetable winners.

For those who are wondering which trees will stand up to a warming climate, Susan Crawford passes along the recommendations of Guy Sternberg of Starhill Forest Arboretum in downstate Illinois and Paul Meyer from the Morris Arboretum in Pennsylvania. Hint: natives are on the list, but so are some imports.

So here’s a word of advice to all you real and potential thieves out there: The delights of gardening are many and varied. Some are even free. And next summer, stay out of my yard.

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questions

We all seem to plant the basic herbs like basil, rosemary and parsley. What suggestions can you offer for more exotic herbs that I could add to my garden to spice things up both for cooking and adding interest/beauty to my landscape?

From what I have read, hellebores are supposed to spread. I have a few I planted four years ago, and they seem to be the same as when I planted them. They are planted in a bed of vinca. Should I remove more vinca that surrounds them? I do fertilize them and protect them with a winter mulch. What else should I be doing to have more plants?

Must I mulch my garden and, if so, when is the best time to apply it? What are the best materials to use?

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