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Recreating that Vintage Garden


When it comes to old houses, it’s not often that you’ll find one with its original garden elements. Wood arbors and fences eventually succumb to decay. Styles change and homeowners may remove trellises, statuary and old concrete urns. It was a pleasant surprise then to discover that the original Victorian fountain was still present outside the 1872 home that is now the Baert Baron Mansion Bed and Breakfast up in Zeeland, Michigan right outside of Holland.

The illustration below is from the 1884 Ford County (Illinois) atlas. The house is similar in style to the Baert Baron Mansion, but note what’s out in front — a cast iron fountain. These water features graced many “luxury” homes owned by weathly Victorians from the 1870s on, but many are long gone, the victim of changing fashions.

If you’d like to learn more about vintage-style gardens and popular Victorian plants, check out the class, “Create a Vintage Garden,” on Saturday, Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon at The Morton Arboretum in Lisle. In this class, you’ll draw inspiration for your own garden from the history of home garden design. We’ll look at how residential garden design has changed over the past century — from carpet beds to cottage gardens — and we’ll take the best of those design ideas and heirloom plants to show how you can create an old-fashioned garden of your own. For more details or to register, visit The Morton Arboretum or call 630-719-2468.

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What is the best time to plant a tree in northern Illinois?

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?

What does it take to make a climbing hydrangea flower? Ours was planted 3 years ago and is growing energetically. It’s in a protected nook near the patio and gets very little direct sunlight, but doesn’t act sun starved. We gave it a shot of slow release fertilizer on planting, and once since. Somewhat inadvertently it gets plenty of water, since the hose spigot is nearby and leaks, but drainage does not seem to be the problem. It now fully occupies an 8-foot trellis but shows no interest in flowering. Is it youth, lack of sun, too much or too little fertilizer, bugs, lack of pruning or what? When do these plants bloom and what conditions do they like?

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