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While Waiting for Winter


While my back was turned (okay, I was out of town), we got a little frost. I didn’t realize it until I walked around my garden yesterday and discovered that the New Guinea impatiens, coleus and zinnia had collapsed. The dahlias also had gotten zapped. The cannas, however, were still standing tall in their pots, and I’m going to leave them there until the frost makes a repeat performance.

Losing annuals is to be expected. But what really caught my eye were the flowering plants that were looking so fresh that you might have thought it was June. ‘Indigo Spires’ salvia, for example. It’s a 6-foot tall plant with 12-inch deep royal blue flower spikes, and next year, if I have any smarts, I will have a lot of tall stakes so my three plants will no longer need to get support by leaning against a nearby boxwood. (Santa Claus, are you listening?)

Also helping to hold up the salvias is a ‘Lady Elsie Mae’ rose. This shrub is a marvel, brimming with salmon-pink double flowers from the moment it breaks dormancy until the end of November—or later. No disease or pest problems, ever. Oh sure, it gets nibbled by Japanese beetles now and then, but nothing that can’t be managed as long as you’re not squeamish about squishing. This is a low-maintenance rose.

But what really surprised me was the calamintha. Last year at the Lurie Garden’s plant sale I bought this Calamintha nepeta subsp. nepeta (I know, it’s a mouthful) since it’s a real bee magnet and we need to provide help for bees whenever we can. As it grew this year, I noticed that its flowers really do have a lavender tint to them, although from a distance you would probably call the flowers white.

Calamint

Whatever you call them, as we move into November, they are blooming their little heads off, full steam ahead. And if you run your hands along the stems, they will give you a lovely whiff of mint. To read more, check out our September/October issue in which Nina Koziol wrote about calamint.

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questions

I recently moved to Chicago from Houston and I miss fresh picked figs. Is there any way to grow figs in Chicago short of installing a greenhouse? Will sunny windows do? I’m desperate.

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?

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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