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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

From what I have read, hellebores are supposed to spread. I have a few I planted four years ago, and they seem to be the same as when I planted them. They are planted in a bed of vinca. Should I remove more vinca that surrounds them? I do fertilize them and protect them with a winter mulch. What else should I be doing to have more plants?

I’d like to start composting. Do you have any advice on what kind of bin to purchase/build so that it is successful in the Chicago climate?

We have a skylight in the bathroom over our Jacuzzi tub with an area around the tub that is quite large. What plants can we grow there, and what care do they need? Can we grow orchids?

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