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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

I have a nicely sheltered, rounded 7-foot tall Japanese red maple on the southeast corner of my backyard. Half of the tree has lost its leaves, the formerly red bark is turning gray, and a good-sized square of bark has been stripped off on the side that faces the yard. I sprayed the exposed bark with black pruning spray to close any entry for insects. I have not cut off any of the branches.

Does the winter have any effect on the tree? Should I look for some insect infestation? What should I do now?

Which flowers can we plant that the bunnies won’t eat? My pansies and marigolds are all eaten.

I have twelve beautiful blooming violet plants on my office desk, placed 12 inches from a light source that’s kept burning day and night. I water them from the bottom and let the water remain in the saucer.

No matter what I spray, I continue to have gnats and other insects in my soil. I also occasionally start to get yellow spots on the tips of the leaves and then the spots start going down the leaves. What’s going on here?

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