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From the Editor - NovDec 2018


I’ve been thinking about the difference between renovating the kitchen and gardening. Some people in this world see them as essentially the same. Yes, the kitchen renovation can be a colossal upheaval — but when it’s done, it’s done. You put in a new stove. Done. Ditto for the refrigerator and cabinets and dishwasher. Then all that’s left is to enjoy it.

There are people who think gardening is like that. Hire a bunch of guys. Have them come in with a truckload of plants, dig some holes and leave. Or find everything you need to know on the internet. Surely there’s an app for that.

But gardening doesn’t work that way. Gardening is a process. You may happen to get it started, but a garden evolves over time. The universe intervenes.

If it’s a new garden, it won’t look great the first year after it’s planted. And the second year isn’t going to be much better. So as you go along, you learn a thing or two about patience.

Then the weather plays tricks on you. Too much rain. Too little rain. Wind. Hail. You start to realize you can’t control everything and you’re not in charge. At best, more of a facilitator. So you learn a thing or two about humility.

Somewhere along the way, you notice that those blue-flowered hydrangeas in the catalogs are pink in Chicagoland. Against your will, you learn a thing or two about pH and soil chemistry and science since what blooms blue in the acidic soil of the Pacific Northwest will stay pink in the alkaline Midwest. And so you learn to accept reality and be reasonably content. Calling this the beginning of wisdom might be a stretch, but you get the idea.

The lessons multiply with time.

The mission of Chicagoland Gardening is to showcase gardens throughout the region whose caretakers have learned these lessons. Over this past year we’ve featured gardens in the western suburbs, the north shore, northern Indiana, the northwestern and south suburbs and the city of Chicago. This coming year we will add in the Wisconsin garden of Bill Radler, the man who gave us KnockOut roses. For all of these homeowners, their gardens didn’t “happen” overnight. As has been true throughout history, they developed, plant by plant, into the noteworthy creations that we so enjoy showing to a wider world.

Since winter doesn’t afford us Midwesterners many opportunities to work in the garden, our current issue includes a tropics-in-the-winter excursion to several of the small conservatories and greenhouses in the region where you can get away from it all. We highlight ten but there are more. We also offer holiday decorating tips from the four homes that participated in the most recent Cup of Cheer house walk in Naperville. For our Gardens of the Pros series, we travel to the rural garden of Bob and Robbi Hursthouse, a marvelous mix of natives and non-natives on a property enclosed by towering oaks.

It’s been a grand year, and now we look forward to portraying another 12 months of handiwork from the region’s gardeners. All accomplished with care over time. No apps.

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questions

Is there an overall rule about when to pinch back my leggy plants?

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?

When is the best time to cut back hydrangeas? How far do I cut them back?

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