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Article ThumbBales of Fun

For vegetable gardeners, straw bale gardening may be the best innovation since sliced bread.

Straw bale gardening essentially turns a bale of straw into a raised bed. It requires no digging or soil preparation. Because you’re not planting in the ground, you don’t have to worry about soil-borne diseases, and weeding is minimal. It doesn’t even matter if your soil is crummy or if the sunniest place in your yard is covered in concrete. You can achieve optimal growing conditions for a vegetable garden in a humble bale of straw.


Article ThumbBasement Bounty

Decisions, decisions. What’s a devoted gardener to do with brugmansia as winter approaches?

For opulence and tropical splendor there’s nothing like angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia). Tall, elegant, with draping fragrant bells of bloom, it can dominate a patio, balcony or an entry way like little else.

But here’s the rub. It’s not hardy in Chicagoland. So this raises the sticky issue of overwintering. Should you just toss the plant when winter comes? Some do. Others would like to save it for another year. But how?


Article ThumbBeyond Violet

African violets are pushing the envelope when it comes to colors and flower forms. Ruffles, anyone?

When I was a child, I was totally mesmerized by the intense colors of the African violets that seemed to bloom continuously on my grandmother’s windowsills. I would stare in wonder at those jewel-colored blooms surrounded by collars of fuzzy leaves, fully convinced that only experienced gardeners of my grandmother’s reputation could get plants to bloom so gloriously indoors.


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From the Editor

In this issue our primary focus is on perennial gardens – beautiful perennial gardens.


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Departments
From the Editor - NovDec 2015

Here’s the thing about gardening: it’s never done. So now 2015 is winding down, the year in which I thought my garden would …


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Columns
Mid-Season Classic

Are we all met? Good. Have a seat, everybody. Down in front, please. [Mumble, mumble, rutabaga, watermelon, and other crop ...


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Columns
Mike’s Instant Holiday Hort Sing Along: Just Add Snow

I’m often asked, “How do you do it, Mike … year after year?” That’s the wrong question. The right question is “Why do you do it,


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Columns
Mike’s Holiday Hort Sing-Along

If it weren’t for the holiday season, we probably would have legislated the month of December out of existence long ago.


questions

I thought that purple coneflowers were insect proof, but now I see some aphids at the bud and tiny flies. What is wrong?

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?

What are your three favorite “all-but-forgotten” perennials that every garden should include? Why do you like them?

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