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From the Editor - July/August 2015


The stars must have been aligned as we assembled our editorial calendar for this issue since it turns out that we have a sub-theme going on here. Water. How to use it. How to save it. How to employ it for our benefit while doing our bit to be environmentally responsible. All in all, there are six stories that have come together to reinforce the theme and offer a variety of takes on the topic. It must have been the stars. Speaking for myself, I’m not that smart.

Water is the elixir of life. Always has been, but its importance isn’t always front and center on our radar screens until we don’t have enough of it, and then the brows grow furrowed with worry. What lies in store for California? Will their four years of drought turn into five? Will we be next? Or will the future find us drenched with overwhelming rains and floods? We need to think. And prepare.

One strategy is rain gardens, and a story about a beautiful rain garden is one of the features in this issue. Having long believed that a beautiful rain garden was an oxymoron, I changed my mind as soon as I saw the lushly planted swale at Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisc. Here was a collection of plants that worked together to retain water and impede runoff when the heavens opened but had the wherewithal to hold their own when the pendulum swung the other way. A second rain garden in Olbrich’s Rose Garden demonstrates the concept with a different set of plants (story by Patrice Peltier on page 53).

In Garden Basics, Melinda Myers discusses summer watering practices and offers tips for lawns, garden beds and containers. (page 20) Tip number one: choose plants that are appropriate for your growing conditions. No bog plants if your soil is dry.

That’s where you could plant a prairie, and Fermilab in Batavia offers a stellar example. Sarah Marcheschi takes us on a tour and tells how you, too, can visit and learn (Chicagoland Natives, page 29).

But should you want to grow some bog plants, Michelle Walsh explains how to make a bog garden in The Hands-On Gardener (page 24). The plants are fun-looking and rather strange. Some even eat insects.

Also strange is the fact that you can grow fabulous vegetables and herbs in water. At a senior citizens’ residence in Northbrook, this inventive energy-saving hydroponic technology enables a year-round rooftop garden. Cathy Jean Maloney gives the low-down in Good Gardens (page 27).

But maybe you only have room for a few containers and are balking at how they can demand daily (or twice daily) watering in high summer. So why not plant pots of succulents? In The Container Garden (page 40) landscape architect Scott Mehaffey puts together the lowest maintenance container garden ever.

Water. Use it (wisely) or lose it.

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questions

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?

We have a skylight in the bathroom over our Jacuzzi tub with an area around the tub that is quite large. What plants can we grow there, and what care do they need? Can we grow orchids?

Is it possible to plant and grow Italian cypress in the Chicago area? Are our winters too severe for it? If they are, is there an alternative conifer that will provide a similar look?

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