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Saturday Surprise


It helps to go out and look at your garden every day. After a Saturday morning spent hacking out purple violets with the dandelion weeder because 1) there doesn’t appear to be an organic herbicide on the market that deals with violets and 2) I worry about the after-effects of whatever strong chemical a licensed professional might apply, I decided to catch my breath with a leisurely stroll through the front yard. And there I discovered a treasure — a lovely pendulous apricot-colored brugmansia.

Just a couple weeks before I visited the garden of Richard Tilley, the 87-year-old horticultural whiz of Wicker Park, and on departing, he gave me two 15-inch tall potted brugmansias that he had grown from cuttings. He does this every year, overwintering 20 or so plants under lights in his basement.

Photos: Ron Capek

I placed the pots in a full sun border by my front fence, a little behind some taller phlox, but no matter. I didn’t expect flowers from plants this young; I only wanted a spot where the plants could grow.

So it was just happenstance that I ventured into that border this morning to prop up some culver’s root and, upon turning around, saw a splash of apricot. It’s not a color I usually have in my garden, and I was taken aback by the size of the bloom. About 6 inches.

So I’ve moved the pot to the front steps where any passer-by may see it, and I’m hoping the other plant might now feel inspired to follow suit with a blossom of its own. You can be sure I’ll be outdoors to look tomorrow.

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questions

Now that bedding impatiens (I. walleriana) are not recommended because of impatiens downy mildew, what are three good annuals for shade?

I brought a frangipani (Plumeria) back from Hawaii last April when it was just a leafless branch. It sprouted leaves and grew over summer. Now it is losing its leaves. How can I keep it growing over winter? Will it bloom?

My split-leaf Japanese maple tree is 15 to 20 years old, about 7 feet high and about 10 feet wide. It is overtaking the corner of the yard. Can I trim it, and at what time of the year?

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