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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’m moving to a townhouse with limited direct sunlight. I would like to put a Japanese maple in a north-facing garden but don’t know if it will do well. What are the best kinds? Also, when is the best time to plant a small tree?

Besides mums, what are a few other plants you would recommend for containers for fall color?

What is the best way to dig up, clean and store gladiolus and dahlias? What are the little white sacs on glad bulbs?

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