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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 ThumbWalk this Way

Need a little inspiration or just a break from weeding? Garden walks abound this time of year, and there’s plenty to see. Here are a few you won’t want to miss.


Article ThumbSpring Is Finally Here

It’s finally starting to feel like a real spring. Migrating songbirds can be seen (and heard rather loudly at dawn) throughout the area. Another sign of spring – the tables and shelves at garden centers are groaning with plants, potting soil, seeds and other accessories. Here are two garden events on Saturday, May 17 that you’ll want to check out:


Article ThumbA Tough Plant for Tough Times

This is the year of the hellebore, at least in my garden. I have about a dozen now, with several of the lime-green ones being self-sown seedlings that have turned into grown-ups that now produce flowers. The others are rosy-red (sold as pink) and the color contrast is pleasant. So far there has been no “intermarriage” or “promiscuity” among them, so green is staying green and rose is staying rose.


Article ThumbSigns of Spring?

So here I am, wandering around with my nose towards the ground, scrounging for signs of spring. I’ve found a few — snowdrops 2 inches high with their white buds clearly visible, a few dark red sprouts that are surely tulips, and teeny red buds on the ‘Jens Munk’ rose, a rugosa hybrid from Canada that sneers at winter and breaks dormancy earlier than anything else around. It’s primed, ready to come roaring out of the gate as soon as it gets a good clear signal. The other roses are still snoring away.


Article ThumbSpring Has Started!

For the past two weeks I’ve been charging around saying I’m willing to bet real money that when the snow melts, there will be inch-tall snowdrops and crocuses already up and just days away from blooming.

It’s still too early to start collecting my money, but today, the icicle that once cascaded a full 3 feet down from the front porch gutter has vanished, and all that’s left is a steady drip-drip from the melting roof. The front yard garden is still blanketed with 2 feet of snow.


Article ThumbA Conversation on Color

At some point in a gardener’s life, he or she will likely come across the writings and photographs of the renowned gardener and garden writer Christopher Lloyd (1921-2006). Lloyd gardened at his family’s estate, Great Dixter, in Northiam, East Sussex, in the south of England. The wonderfully atmospheric and picturesque garden surrounds a rambling fifteenth-century Tudor-style manor house that continues to draw thousands of visitors each year.


Article ThumbBirds and Beans

All the snow we’ve had recently brought many more birds to the feeders outside our kitchen window. A lone starling was joined by sparrows, house finches, downy woodpeckers, seven cardinals, goldfinches (which are beginning to show faint yellow feathers as they lose their winter plumage), mourning doves and the occasional Cooper’s hawk (which sends the small birds scattering). It’s a good time to be indoors cooking and sowing seeds of tomato and pepper plants. As soon as the snow melts, I’ll get my soil thermometer and when the top inch of soil reaches to 52 F or so, I’ll begin sowing kale seeds.


Article ThumbFrom Garden to Table

No one wants to think about gardening when the temperatures hover in the single digits and the wind is howling, but before you know it, you’ll be able to get outside and start planting those lettuce and beet seeds.


Article ThumbBluebirds, Daffodils and Orchids, Oh My!

The weather outside is still a tad frightful, but the sunshine and the longer daylight this past week seem to have triggered Mother Nature. A pair of bluebirds showed up Saturday morning in our backyard where they explored one of our birdhouses. More bluebirds on Sunday morning flying from another nest box in our front garden, into the woods across the street. But indoors, spring has already arrived.


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questions

Late last year most of the leaves on my year-old seven-son tree (Heptacodium) turned brown, starting at the tips. It had some new growth on the tips and buds. I used a tree ring soaker hose every two weeks.

What is the largest tree that one can plant? We are trying to replace some 7- to 8-foot trees that were recently destroyed.

I keep seeing photos of interesting plants I’d like to grow, but they’re labeled zone 6 and I’m in zone 5. What can I do to successfully overwinter these marginal plants? I’d like to try them, but I don’t want to waste my money.

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