Photo by Kevin Penczak
Zephirine Drouhin has never looked better. She is blooming with wild abandon on my Chicagoland garden gate. Zeffy, as she is affectionately known at Antique Rose Emporium, is officially a zone 6 rose. I’m zone 5 and I needed a thornless rose on my garden gate. Call me silly, but I don’t think anyone should get hurt walking through my gate. I couldn’t find a thornless zone 5 rose, so I ordered Zeffy.
For the first few years, my Zeffy was bloomless as well as thornless. That was when I was overprotective trying to keep her alive in zone 5. I’d cut her almost down to the ground in the fall and mulch heavily for the winter. Wrong. Now I’m being less cautious. We’re still protecting her with winter mulch, but not cutting her down, and were finally rewarded with blooms aplenty. She’s made my garden her home for 10 years, so she has made it through some bad winters and well as the recent easy ones. I’m hopeful she will continue to flourish.
Photo by Kevin Penczak
Photo by Kevin Penczak
Now that we aren’t’ killing her with kindness, the only pruning we’ve done the last few years has been to keep her under control. I help the canes wrap around the gate, cut dead wood, and cut back any canes that don’t add to her beauty. I trim her whenever I want and whenever I want. No real rules.
Zeffy is in full sun. She does get some black spot, so far nothing horrible. With so many canes, I sometimes just take out a whole cane instead of individual leaves to control it. I also feed her about 4 times a year.
Now that we’ve finally got this figured out, I’m hoping for a repeat performance this fall. In the interim, I’ve got a clematis growing up the other side of the gate, hoping it blooms during the summer months while Zeffy rests.
Speaking of repeat performances, join me at Bertholds Garden Center on June 22nd for ‘Creativity in the Garden’ at 1:00. This presentation debuted at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show this year. I’ll be happy to present it again in Elk Grove Village.
Do you want to know what else is blooming in the June garden? To see what other bloggers have blooming on the 15th of every month, visit May Dreams Gardens – Bloom Day for our Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day entries.
Bill Kurtis drove me around his garden on a golf cart. Boy was I surprised. I figured the kind person offering to chauffeur us around Bill Kurtis’s garden was one of the workers. Actually, it was one of the workers – the one who just happened to be Bill Kurtis himself.
That moment was just one of the joys from garden tours I’ve taken through the Open Days Program of the Garden Conservancy. That’s why I chose to tell their story and make their website the one we will visit for this month’s installment of Zone 5 – Favorites on the Fifth.
The Garden Conservancy makes it possible for you and me to visit gardens all over the country that are not normally open to the public. Gardens like Bill Kurtis’ garden in Mettawa on July 28th. It does cost $5 to get in. No, Bill doesn’t need the money. Proceeds from the Open Days Program support the national preservation work of the Garden Conservancy such as the rehabilitation of the gardens on Alcatraz Island (really), as well as local nonprofit organizations. Spend another $5 that day and go to Camp Rosemary for an exhibition of elegance. You won’t be disappointed.
The June 23rd garden in Barrington is well worth going to. The Olsen’s have 15 acres and 2 gardeners. We were suitably impressed last year and highly recommend it. Granted, your garden will pale in comparison, which can cause considerable feelings of inadequacy. Go anyway.
You can see the schedule for Illinois on the Conservancy website.
As Forrest Gump said, ‘Open Days is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get’. This much I do know – It’s gonna be good.
From the Garden of Faith, Hope & Love FB page
There is a picture deep in our minds of what a gardener looks like, and the enchanting time they spend enjoying their garden. The image is serene and peaceful. Perhaps something like this one, complete with a graceful young lady gathering roses, clad in a beguiling white dress.
Then there is reality. My gardening look is really much closer to Lucy’s. Lucy is our dog, the oh-so-dirty dog you see below. She and I run around the yard getting dirtier by the minute. Fortunately, Lucy seems to have a wonderful built in cleaning system. Our little white American Eskimo doesn’t often need a bath. I on the other hand, often need to be hosed off before I’m let back in the house to take a shower.
Somehow the two concepts mesh together when I’m in the garden — I (often) feel serene and peaceful like the lovely lady, while I’m looking dirty and disheveled like the dog. The rest of the world disappears for me and I am consumed with the task at hand. Often even with total joy.
Perhaps our young lady continues her fashion statement by wearing shoes like those designed by Madelyn Gaul. Madelyn took her inspiration from the Chinese Zodiac calendar’s year of the dragon. Madelyn says the Dragon is strong and magical. The dragon better be strong and magical in my garden. Strong to move rocks, magical to get all of the work done.
No dragon shoes for me. I would be more likely to wear raggedy washed-out shoes like these. Exactly like these, as a matter of fact.
My imagined musing of a gardener at the end of her day would include sipping iced tea on a garden swing surrounded by beautiful blooms. Oh wait – this is a picture of my garden swing surrounded by beautiful blooms. And it’s no surprise that the peaceful serene gardening lady in a white dress is absent. Someday she will be there. Someday.
I knew I was doing something wrong with my tomatoes. Big bushy plants, very few tomatoes. I even know the main problem – me! I put the plants in the ground and pretty much ignore them. I did make progress last year. At least my tomatoes got some serious support from these old fence pieces. A rather ingenious system with rebar running from end to end; rebar that could easily be adjusted as the plants got taller.
I don’t mean to ignore my tomato plants. You would think that someone who keeps up a major garden on a half-acre lot could take care of two tomato plants. Trouble is, I prefer tending my flowers, so this Tomato Soup Echinacea plant is much more likely to see TLC than a real tomato plant. Please don’t tell my tomatoes.
Maybe this year will be different since I learned a few things from Wally Schmidke at Bertholds Nursery. Wally spoke to the Elk Grove Garden Club last night and I took notes.
My first concern for my tomatoes is location, location, location. I’ve been planting them in the same spot for years, which is a no-no. I’ll probably switch out the soil with some from Mike’s 2nd dahlia garden. That garden was intended to be a vegetable garden, but we’d have to want the vegetables more than the dahlias for that to happen. Not likely. That garden soil is rich with compost that Mike has been creating for me. Ok, he thinks he was creating it for his dahlias, but I’m sure he will share.
My second concern is whether or not I bought the right tomatoes for us. I now know I want indeterminate, as the tomatoes will ripen at a variety of times. Determinate tomatoes are all ready at one time. Roma and patio tomatoes are often all ready at one time. I also should have given some thought to heirloom v. hybrid. Heirloom sounds good as they tend to have great flavor. Problem is they tend to crack and are more disease prone. I’ll save that decision for next year as I already have mine. Wally suggested Whopper, a hybrid that has good production and good disease resistance.
My third concern is the size of the plants. Mine are rather puny. I could have bought bigger ones. I could also have bought mine early, kept them inside, and repotted them while waiting for the weather to warm up. Wally wants lots of roots. If I had big plants I could have taken off some of the bottom leaves and planted part of the stem to have it generate more roots. Here’s Wally with a couple of his tomato plants.
I also need to prune the suckers when the plants get big, something I have failed to do in the past. This picture from Wally will help remind me.
Some of Wally’s other tips:
• Our Chicagoland compacted clay soil is rather alkaline. Tomatoes like neutral or slightly acidic. One option would be cotton burr compost, which would break up the clay and help the PH go acidic.
• Don’t overtill, it kills the good bacteria. A better choice would be to plant a cover crop in the fall, then just aerate a bit with a pitchfork.
• Dr. Earth is a good fertilizer to mix in at planting. Use it again later in the season, and be careful to not disturb the roots. Dr. Earth has mycorrhizae, which helps roots grow by pulling in nutrients and water. Bone meal and potash are good too.
• If you foliar feed, be sure to do the underside of the leaves. Fish emulsion and seaweed concentrate are options.
• Cut leaves/branches off that are near the ground.
• Use dechlorinated water. If your water is chlorinated, put some in a 5 gallon bucket and wait a few days.
• Water the soil, not the leaves. 1″ per week is enough. Don’t overwater.
• Don’t overcrowd your plants.
Want more of Wally’s tomato tips? Come to Bertholds in Elk Grove Village on Saturday, May 25th, from 2:00 – 3:00 to hear Wally’s tomato tips for yourself.
You may find this hard to believe, but only 37% of the folks in Chicagoland have a flower garden. Of that 37%, only 13% have lilacs. Of those 13%, only 7% cut the flowers to make bouquets.
Ok, so I made up the statistics, but the principal is true – not everyone has lilacs. With your help, we can wipe out the sad state of lilac-less-ness for one and all in our fair city. I’m doing my share by bringing in cut stems to work. Won’t you help by sharing yours too?
I’d show you pictures of our lilac bushes themselves, but that would be embarrassing. Did you know you are supposed to cut them back after they bloom? I did. But we haven’t done it.
Some of our lilacs are as big as a tree, needing Mike to do most of the bloom cutting for me. Even our Sensation lilac is a gangly sad looking thing. Both situations are our fault and need to be remedied after this year’s blooms are done. We should have been cutting out the stems that are bigger than 2″ in diameter. That would have given us a balance of new and old stems. The bush would have topped out at about 8’ and provided an abundance of flowers that I could reach. Oops.
This is the year we’ll do better. The pruning needs to be done right after they bloom. I’m putting in on my calendar. We won’t wait long as that would result in destruction of next year’s buds. We can rejuvenate the Sensation lilac by cutting out up to 1/3 of the stems. Some are overgrown, some are butting up against another bush, some are rubbing against each other, and some are just plain old unattractive.
The other lilacs are hiding out back where we forget about them. They are horrendously overgrown. Perhaps that is why they are hiding. Getting those back in shape will take more effort. Lots more effort. We should cut them almost to the ground and hope they recover to bloom in a few years. I’m not sure I have the courage for that.
For now, I’m going to fill some more vases and enjoy the moment.
Do you want to know what else is blooming in the May garden? To see what other bloggers have blooming on the 15th of every month, visit May Dreams Gardens – Bloom Day for our Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day entries.
How can it be time for Favorites on the Fifth again? Can today really be the 5th? Can it really be May? Doesn’t the world know I’m busy tagging, sorting, inventorying, and selling dahlias and can’t spend time at my computer? Is Erik Johansson really flattened onto the ironing board you see below? Ok, now I have your attention.
I’m gonna make it easy on myself, and I’m just going to send you off to see some really fun photos. I’m not even going to be concerned that the photos are not gardening related. Erik Johansson is a photographer and retouch artist from Sweden, and as you can see from his pictures below, he gets up close and personal with creativity.
Believe it or not, spring is coming. And so are plant sales! Our dahlias are hardening off outside, with some 400 of them going to various sales. Another 100 will be planted in our garden.
You might ask why — why the obsession with dahlias? That question is easy to answer with pictures. Feast your eyes on Cinnabar.
And Drummer Boy.
Yes, these are all pictures from our yard, actually Mike’s part of our yard.
As President of the Central States Dahlia Society, he is intimately involved with all aspects of dahlia growing. That includes making sure that you can grow them too. He recently spoke about dahlias for the Arlington Heights Garden Club, and will soon do the same for Rolling Meadows.
Please come to the sales and share the joy of passionate growers like Mike. His passion gets plants to you that are ready to go into the ground. They’ll flower starting in August, way earlier than if you plant tubers in the ground yourself in mid-May.
Upcoming sales include:
Here is a screen shot of general plant sales I received recently from the Garden Clubs of Illinois:
Mike and I knew that we’d eventually have to get some of the wild mulberry trees cut down. They were among the trees that line the back of our yard; at least they were till about a week ago. Now three of them are gone. There were others that could have gone too, but my heart and my wallet said no.
Not everyone cuts down a tree just because it has a split in it. This tree in Yosemite has a bit of a split, and they didn’t cut it down. Mike wasn’t convinced that was good logic for us. Yosemite didn’t have power lines, a fence, and a neighbor’s shed right behind the tree. Ours did, and the mulberries would have come down themselves if we didn’t help them along.
I really liked having the whole row of trees that you see below. The mulberries were on the far left.
They were pretty tall, and did a good job of creating a forested look in the summer. As you can see, Mike helped.
Now it’s back to the drawing board. We may put something really big in again, or maybe we’ll just go for something smaller. Decisions, decisions, decisions.
In the interim, someone has to go outside in this lovely weather to start moving shade plants to new homes. That would be me! Out I go.
Morning snow flurries are not enough to stop an afternoon gardener. After all, it is April and I am itching to get outside. I need to see what is trying to bloom for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I need to finish getting those grasses cut down. I need to plant the Pansies. I need. I need. I need. My inner gardener pretty much doesn’t care what the outside temperature is. I’m goin’ out there.
My coal bucket experiment has certainly been a success. I planted my coal buckets up last December and put them in the garage. Mike watered them a few times, but basically, we ignored them. We noticed some sprouts in early March and moved the coal buckets outside. Fearing for the life of my little sprouts, we often brought them in on really cold nights. It worked! I have the only blooming hyacinths and tulips in sight.
I do have a few (and I do mean few) other candidates for today’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day. I’m going to count the pansies as blooming, even though I can only take credit for buying them.
A lonely crocus is blooming.
The daffodils are trying.
The scilla is beginning to make a statement. It has naturalized under a large tree in the front, and soon the periwinkle it cohabitates with will join the party.
I know it’s not much, but I’m not going to complain. It’s all relative…and speaking of relatives, we have one in Door County. Debbie’s yard looked like this just a few weeks ago. Suddenly our spring doesn’t seem so bad.
Do you want to know what else is blooming in the April garden? To see what other bloggers have blooming on the 15th of every month, visit May Dreams Gardens – Bloom Day for our Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day entries.
Session after session after session after session. As the On-Site Seminar Manager for the Chicago Flower and Garden show, you’ve got to figure I have some takeaways to share. No, not leftover plants from the displays (darn). For this month’s Favorites on the Fifth, I’ll share my list of favorite informational takeaways from the show.
#1 – Best Quote
A quote from Rich Eyre at Foxwillow Pines:
“The sound of falling water is worth three psychiatrists.”
#2 – Best Gardens
Nearby places I want to see:
-The Chicago Art Institute garden designed by Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennials. Roy’s philosophy fully embraces native plantings.
- The Chicago Shedd Aquarium garden that won an Illinois Landscaper Construction Association (ILCA) Excellence award
#3 – Words of Wisdom
Tips from Chris Olsen, Landscape and Design Guru:
- Group 3 planters together. CRAM them full and SHOVE them together.
- Let your neighbors know when you are having a big party. Apologize for the cars and traffic. Then watch them all clean up their yards.
#4 – Attracting Monarchs
Pat Miller is a conservation specialist for Monarch Watch. She is a Master Naturalist and Plant Technician for the Morton Arboretum. Per Pat:
- Monarchs only lay eggs on milkweed. Milkweed is the only thing the monarch caterpillar eats. If you want monarchs, get milkweed.
- Most monarchs live about 4 weeks, but the monarchs towards the end of summer are built for the migration to Mexico and live up to 9 months. They ride the winds like hawks. Even the monarchs from Canada make the 3000 mile trip to Mexico.
Monarch caterpillar photo by Bette Watson
#5 – Best Book
Jeanne Pinsof Nolan does monthly organic garden workshops at Lincoln Park for Green City Market, as well as school programs. If she had to pick one gardening book, it would be “Rodale’s Ultimate Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening”.
#6 Local Flowers
Debra Prinzing’s new book “The 50 Mile Bouquet” promotes making your arrangements with plants from local growers. It surprised me to learn:
- 80% of cut flowers come from South America.
- 97% of Valentine roses come from South America.
- Only 2 floats in the Pasadena Rose Bowl Parade had American grown flowers this year.
#7 – Best Photography Tip
Mike Caplan may be best known as the WLS Meteoroligist, but to me he is a photographer. His photography session taught me to pretend there is a grid on my viewer when I am deciding what the focal point of my picture is. Think of it like a game of tic tac toe. The focus generally belongs at a grid intersection; only occasionally does the subject belong in the middle of the picture.
#8 – Best Lawn Care Tips
These tips come from Tom Tiddens of Chicago Botanic Gardens:
- Sharpen your lawnmower blade at least annually.
- Core aerate 1 – 2 times a year, late spring, early fall. Decreases compaction, Increases drainage, increases rooting, breaks thatch layer, and it’s then a great time to seed.
#9 – Best Bulb Tip
Jennifer Brennan’s and Mike Nowak’s “Dig In” Chicago TV show returns on April 27th to WCIU 26.
- Jennifer suggests starting summer bulbs inside now, just like you would start seeds now.
- We’ve taken that to a whole different level with over 150 dahlias currently growing in our basement. By the time Mike is done, we’ll have 400 – 500 for sales and for our yard.
#10 – Sad But True
Tony Fulmer of Chalet Nursery sadly acknowledges that Impatiens Downy Mildew (IDM) is here.
- IDM attacks regular impatiens, not New Guinea impatiens, or anything else.
- The plants lose all leaves and flowers.
- Spores are airborne and stay in the ground 5 – 10 years, so even if the plants are disease free when you get them, they are still very likely to die.
- Solution: Use alternatives like the new huge begonias that are available.