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From the Editor - JulyAug 2016


Seen any good movies lately? One to put at the top of your list is “Greenfingers,” whose title is the English term for having a green thumb.

The film is based on a true story of prisoners from an English jail, some of them murderers, who get a second chance in life (and save their souls) by becoming gardeners.

The main character is a burnt-out shell of a man who is given a packet of viola seeds by his roommate, a cancer-ridden octogenarian. When the violas not only germinate but bloom, it’s a transformative moment.

The prisoners go on to plant a garden at their prison, and a nationally respected style maven, played by Helen Mirren wearing fabulous hats, comes to inspect. They enter a garden show, fail to win a prize, but the Queen disagrees, so the final scene has them trotting off for a meet ’n greet in which her majesty is about to give them the royal version of “you wuz robbed.” Info at the end of the movie tells us that in the future, the prisoners went on to win several prizes for their gardens at this show. So a feel-good movie. In spades, as it were.

We feel good about the stories in this issue. Our cover story takes us to Bourbonnais where Father Richard Pignihi has fashioned an enchanting two-part enclosure adjacent to the rectory of the church he serves. Then we visit a trailer park in Bridgeview where DeAnna Bialczak welcomes butterflies to a jam-packed garden that has been certified as a butterfly haven by Monarch Watch and the North American Butterfly Association. These are gardens that truly restore the soul of the individuals who created them and anyone who visits.

Both gardens are small and demonstrate yet again that it’s truly amazing what you can grow in a limited space. And if you want to save your flowers after their blooming period has passed, Jean Starr shows how to dry them so your summer joy can continue.

Looking for something completely different? Have you considered putting up a wall garden? Landscape architect Scott Mehaffey knows how to do it. Imagine a living wall on your patio providing the perfect cozy nook for summer dining and trying out Deb Terrill’s recipes for summer soups. Green grape gazpacho anyone?

We have more: herbs and summer annuals for shade containers; blue-flowering native plants; a school gardening project that gets kids excited about eating good food. Finally, we look ahead to hotter days and how heat hardiness will one day be as much a part of our vocabulary as winter hardiness. The professionals at the Chicago Botanic Garden have already done a study that indicates which trees aren’t likely to do well 35 years down the road. Prepare for a few surprises.

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I have houseplants outside that I will need to bring indoors. What is the lowest temperature at which I can leave them outside?

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?

Last summer my neighbor told me the black spots on my peony were a blight, although my peonies bloomed nicely. What can I do about this?

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