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From the Editor - MarApr 2016


In the Merry Hall trilogy, a series that ranks high among the world’s great garden classics, the English journalist Beverley Nichols wrote, “[W]hen you are concerned with really important things, such as the dew on a spider’s web, or the first fragrance of a freesia … it is difficult to look over one’s shoulder, as it were, and remind yourself of such shadowy and transient details as the Red Army. In the scale of eternal values, a hundred military divisions are outweighed by a single pinch of thistledown.”

Nichols wrote this in the early days of the Cold War, and the shenanigans of the Red Army were much on his mind in those years. Now we are facing other threatening forces, but the point is as relevant today as it was in the late 1940s. There are passing political powers and there are eternal verities. As gardeners, we are people who are well equipped to stay “grounded” and focus on the verities.

Gardening puts us in touch with beauty – creating it, appreciating it, marveling at it, passing it on to others. It also puts us in touch with Life and Nature. By our activities we can make a contribution to the wider world, restoring and enriching the soil, providing habitat and bringing joy to others.

This is not to pat ourselves on the back but to remind us that we can be a force for good when some of the world is tinged with evil. We have a role to play, a valuable one, and it is good for the soul.

In our current issue we can find comfort by reading about a unique garden in Homer Glen developed by the homeowner, a city townhouse garden designed by the professionals at Mariani Landscape and stories that provide first-hand information from our experienced writers in growing an eclectic and interesting group of plants: lupines, rhubarb, tillandsia and daffodils. The latter story, “Daffodil Duos,” also offers ideas for plants that you can grow alongside your daffodils to make your spring garden even more delightful (page 42). Are you a container gardener? We have a story about early spring edibles to grow on your balcony or deck (page 40).

In the wider world, there’s inspiration to be found in learning about the Chicago Park District’s many natural areas, specifically the 100-acre wildlife corridor that is thriving along both sides of South Lake Shore Drive (page 28). Indigo buntings have been spotted in the bird sanctuary at 47th Street and Cornell. Who knew?

During the early dark days of the American Revolution, the pamphleteer Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” in an essay that so inspired George Washington that he ordered it to be read to the troops at Valley Forge (read it online here: bit.ly/1tzPmiB). The evil enemy in those days was, of course, England.

It’s time to pause and take solace in the eternal verities.

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questions

I’d like to start composting. Do you have any advice on what kind of bin to purchase/build so that it is successful in the Chicago climate?

With all the emphasis on growing fresh vegetables, I think I should use a cold frame but I am not sure what to do or how to go about it. Any ideas?

I would like to start seeds under lights. When is the best time to start flower seeds? The seed packet always says to sow a number of weeks before the last frost. When is the last frost?

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