53 Pots of Dahlias and Counting

Mikes first potting of a dahlia this season IMG_7337 (267x400)See that smile on Mike’s face? That is what happens when his dahlia tubers make it through the winter and he can start propagating. 53 pots of dahlias planted last week and still counting. The plan is for each of those to send up sprouts, and for each sprout to become a plant. Most of the tubers will agree, and some already have. There are 5 pots in our basement that had tiny sprouts even as he was removing them from the cardboard boxes.

Belle of BarmeraThe Belle of Barmera that you see below is one that Mike is growing for our friend Daly. Looking at the bloom from last year, you can see why she wanted to over-winter it. Likely, we will get 5 or more plants from the tuber. By then, the tuber is exhausted and we won’t plant it. Sad but true. Don’t tell the Belle.

I’ll admit that the dahlias don’t look like much just yet. Tub o dahlias IMG_7333 (640x427)

Give these a few weeks and they will start sprouting. A few more weeks and the sprouts get cut off to each become a plant. May will arrive (really) and there will likely be 400 ready for our yard, our friend’s yards, and even relative’s yards.

Many will go to local plant sales:

  • The Central State Dahlia Society’s sale at Chicago Botanic Gardens on May 7th and 8th.
  • The Elk Grove Garden Club plant sale on May 14th.
  • The Central State Dahlia Society’s sale at Friendship Park in Mount Prospect on May 21st.

Just in case 400 isn’t enough, we’ve got 6 more tubers on order from Ritchie’s. Ok, you caught me, it’s not because 400 isn’t enough, it’s because they are so hard to resist. For example, we saw Gay Princess at Ritchie’s last year, and now we are adding her to our garden.Gay Princess

It just doesn’t end … and I like it that way.

Too Cold To Garden? Color!

“Those who can, garden. Those who can’t, color.”

Secret Garden CoverPerhaps that is not exactly how the quote was originally written, but it is still true. So though it’s a bit chilly (OK, frigid) in Chicagoland, I can still add color to my not-so-real garden. Coloring books for adults are a big thing right now. Really. I got my Secret Garden (Johanna Basford) coloring book at Angelina’s in Barrington, and coloring books for adults are popping up everywhere – even Costco.

I spoke on Creativity at the Buffalo Grove Garden Club a few days ago, and asked if anyone besides me had a coloring book. I’d say 6 others raised their hands. Then I get home and see that my friend Cathy posted on FaceBook about her coloring book, Meditative Coloring.
Meditative Coloring (640x360)

Wishing Well from Secret Garden Coloring BookThis trend is also good for marker sales, though not necessarily your pocketbook. I bought Pitt artist brush pens at Blicks. They weren’t cheap at $3.29 each, but the points are very fine, and so far they are staying that way. I could have spent way more than that, but you can see that these are doing the job beautifully. My 6 year old granddaughter, Allie, was very envious. We colored together last week in Fresno, but at those prices, Grandma’s markers were off limits to her. She was still kind enough to let me use some of her colored pencils. I gotta get me some of those. They’ll be cheaper than the markers, so I can get a whole bunch! You can also see in the picture I’ve been playing with my scissors.

Cathy has both markers are colored pencils. You can see in her picture below that she has gone for a softer look, and has done some enviable blending on the orchids. Color blending by Cathy

Officially, the 15th is the day that garden bloggers post about their garden blooms. I’ll admit mine were a bit sparse, so I’ve instead provided this art therapy option to get the garden-needy through the winter. Do you want to see what is going on in the January garden? Visit May Dreams Gardens – Bloom Day for Garden Bloggers’ Bloom day entries.

Is Autumn Really Gone???

How quickly things change. My little friend is not ready for this weather.

Gecko wants out 2

Gecko wants in

The Colors of Autumn

Blue skiesI’ve been going through my recent photos, and I was struck by the vibrant colors that autumn brings. The explosion of color vibrated through each photo, from the last of the dahlias, to each supposedly last bike ride I’ve taken for the year, to the last of the leaves now flittering down. This autumn, color has been God’s gift. So if you are thinking the seemingly plain old blue sky to the right is plain and old, don’t. I have repeatedly enjoyed that blue sky this autumn. No, the sky didn’t have the words in it when I was taking the picture, but it might as well have.

What the sky did have that day was a magnificent view from Peninsula State Park in Door County.

Pretty view at Peninsula (640x360)
Other times, the sky blue has been obstructed by a spattering golden leaves, like these, but that’s a good thing.
20151101_130425 (640x360)

It’s like our dahlias even know to bloom in brilliant fall colors. Our last dahlias seemed to scream autumn. This one is Normandy Sweet Lucy, and sweet she was. Normandy Sweet Lucy autumn (640x427)

Lucy may have screamed autumn, but I think some of our dahlias simply screamed. Utter destruction. I would have screamed too.

Dahlias Done (640x427)

Back to our regularly scheduled program, you know, beautiful colors. I try to plan my Busse bike rides so that I get to this spot when the sun is shining just right. Sparkling water just gets to me. How in the world does water change color like that? I don’t really want you to answer, we are right back to its a gift.

Sparkling Water at Busse (457x640)

Even the sky in Door County was magnificent this year. We have the pleasure of planning our days around what time the sun is gonna set. Sure, I’m used to sky blue, but sky pink?
Sunset pink (640x360)

Pink skies? Shimmering water? Perhaps we are a little jaded. After all, I simply expect the leaves to change color, and I rarely stop my daily activities for a sunset. Yep, a gift. Thank you God!

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17

Bella! Our Dahlias are Bella!

Wandas Aurora

Bella! That was Paula’s exuberant description of our dahlias. Paula is visiting from Italy. Fortunately, she is visiting a neighbor, not us, as we don’t speak Italian. But I knew it was good when she opened her arms wide in our dahlia garden and said ‘Bella’. Again and again ‘Bella’. And I knew it was good when Mike gave her a dahlia. Seeing her smile made his day.

I googled Bella, and she is the most beautiful girl you will ever see. Every feature that she possesses is engraved in your mind from the second you lay eyes on her. You wonder how it is that a person this extraordinary can exist, but find yourself just appreciating the fact that she exists, and even better yet, that you know her.

Paula is right – our dahlia garden is Bella! She is beautiful. So let’s get up close and personal. She will put a smile on your face too.

Magic Moment

Ben Huston

Kelvin Floodlight

Glamour Girl

Ketchup and Mustard

Thank you Mike, for all the smiles your dahlias grow.

Autumn Greetings From Me and My New Friends

2 new scarecrowsThis is the time of year I always make new friends. Our garden club helped folks make 65 new friends last week, and I personally made 2. Here they are, happily greeting passers-by on this (dare I say it) first day of autumn.

Kinda scary isn’t it? Autumn – already. And just when I almost finished my spring gardening tasks! I now its autumn even without the calendar. I wimped out and turned the heat on for a bit when it plummeted to 67 degrees in the house this morning, and I have hot tea brewing right now.

Oh well, it was a lovely summer for us. So lovely and fun filled that I hardly even blogged. My apologies. We were enjoying ourselves so much with Kevin’s wedding, which included growing the flowers. Work did interfere with my social media time as well. We even took a magnificent trip to the Grand Garden Show on Mackinac Island, which I haven’t even shared with you.

Ah, but all of that is over now. Memories and dahlias are what remains. Fortunately, lots of both!

Achieving Centerpiece – Wedding Flowers From The Garden

Heather Dworak (Penczak) wedding dayI have a new-found respect for floral designers. A well-earned one I might add. Just over a year ago, I was honored to say yes to Heather’s request to do the flowers for her wedding. The catch is, Heather was marrying my son, Kevin. That makes me the mother of the groom. It was very much in-character for me to say yes. It was very much out-of-character for me to admit that just perhaps, just maybe, this task was a bit ambitious. Fortunately, I did admit that. As it turns out, it was more than a bit ambitious. It would have been absolutely CA-RAY-Z for me to do it on my own. Little did I know that when my friend Sue, Heather and I met to look at options, it would truly be an adventure.

Sure, I have flowers, lots of flowers. Lots and lots of flowers. That is why saying yes to Heather’s request was even remotely possible. And many of those flowers have graced tables in vases. But this, this was going from backyard touch football to the Super Bowl. Should you do this? Should you do flowers for a BIG wedding? Read on.

  • Better start with a mellow bride. Heather – check.
  • Better have someone who has been there before. Floral designer and friend Sue – check.
  • Better have a mother of the groom (mother of the bride, sister of the bride, insert your relative here ____________) who doesn’t know any better. Me – check.

We got together last July, surveyed the yard to see what Heather liked, and started planning. Enter Pinterest. Cuz not all brides like the same thing. Duh. And it’s her wedding. Duh. Pinterest gave Heather a forum for sharing her likes. We saw lots of white and gold and bling. I, of course, started doing what I do best. I went shopping. Think about it, a gardener, on a mission, who gets to go out and buy things for her garden on the premise that it’s for the wedding. Woohoo!

Wedding gown hydrangea closeup

The planning continued… Looking at wedding flowers - Heather, Sue, Carol

The shopping continued. So much so that my basement started to look like the backroom of a floral shop, overflowing with supplies for the 15 tables. Oh, there were more supplies, two more tables full, because there were also 4 head table arrangements, bouquets for the bride and 6 attendants, a flower girl, church pews, patio tables, the bar, 4 corsages, and 15 boutonnieres. Did I mention CA-RAY-Z. Oh, and no two alike. Add to the checklist: a basement. This stuff has got to go somewhere.

Table full of chargers and bling

Spring came and I got to go shopping again! Now its the wedding garden of annuals I’m shopping for. A garden we are trying to plant. Trying to plant during one very wet spring. Trying to plant when I spent 5 out of 6 weeks out of town on business. Add to the checklist: stress. Plan well to avoid stress. Plan on having stress anyway.Kevin - Wedding garden

What helped me through it? I knew that God sent me Sue when I needed her. That was just a year and a half ago. He sent me the most creative person I know, a dear friend with a floral design background so that she knew what questions to ask Heather, and how to make it happen. She was the person with wholesale connections in case this was the year my garden didn’t produce. A coincidence? I don’t think so.

Allie at Kohls Childrens MuseumPlus, I’m contracting again, which gave me immense schedule flexibility. Add to the checklist: time. Your time, your husband’s time, your florist and crew’s time, even your friend’s time when all of the above isn’t enough. Because it isn’t enough. You either set your sights lower than we did, or you rise. Well, we decided to rise.

Let’s go back to I’m the mother of the groom. I was going to enjoy out-of-town company – this wedding was not going to keep me away from my son John and his family visiting from California. We are talking grandkids here, like Allie, who you see to the left. I was going to say yes, when Kevin, aka groom, wanted to learn to dance (even just a bit) two days before the wedding. And I was going to run the rehearsal dinner for 40 people at Heather’s Godmother’s house (with her family’s help fortunately).

Most of all, I was going to enjoy the moments. Enjoy I did. I really did. It was magical and memorable and mine to remember always.

Was the amount of time needed immensely more than I thought. Yes, yes, yes. Were the flowers beautiful? Amazing? Admired? Yes on all counts. But nothing, nothing, could outshine our wonderful bride. We are so happy to have you in the family Heather!

Oh, you want to see the flower prep and the results? Of course you do. I know you do, even if you don’t yet know you do. You really, really do. But for today, it’s all about Kevin and Heather. Love you both!

Kevin and Heather - Industrial

Clay Pot People Are Too Cute

Meet Gloria and Gracie, the Giving Garden Girls. Sue and I made them yesterday for Willow Creek Church’s veggie garden.

Glory and Gracie Clay pot people (640x360)

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – Painting Renee Style

It’s not that there isn’t color in my yard already. It’s just that most of it is green right now. Don’t get me wrong. After a long Chicago winter, green is good.

For example, these sedum are green, and that’s good. I sure wouldn’t want them to be brown at this point.Sedum starts

And this daffodil. It’s a vibrant yellow that I can see from across the yard. I can also see it is rather lonely out there. You can’t, but I can.Yellow daffodil

So I decided to assist Mother Nature. I went for instant gratification. I went for painting. Painting certainly qualifies as instant gratification. I love that I can start with something too ugly to photograph and turn it into this in just a few hours, including scraping and priming. Add 15 more minutes and you’d have seen a finished product here. But I’m going to leave that for your imagination. Just know that it did turn out lovely. Mike and I got that fence on our honeymoon many years ago, and I wasn’t going to let the ravages of time take that memory away from me.

Painting the red fence

If you want the instant gratification of painting something fully, you are gonna have to do that yourself. I can help though. From a distance that is. And rather figuratively. None-the-less, I can definitely help.

Pantry shelf being paintedWe’ll call this technique ‘Painting Renee Style’. Renee wasn’t really here to paint with me, nor have I ever remotely had anything to do with both Renee and painting together. But I know Renee. Rather, I knew Renee. Back in high school. Suffice to say that was a long time ago. A time when we were majorettes and we had these basic white blouses under our cute little purple jumpers with the big gold ‘S’ for Schurz on it. Renee only ironed the part that showed. I didn’t get it at the time. I get it now. And I bet she’d be proud of me.

Last week I painted my pantry. And you can bet your ironing board that I only painted the parts of the shelves that show. So please don’t lay on my pantry floor and look up. And that red fence, well, if you lay on the ground you’ll see that parts of it aren’t painted. So don’t do that either.

The Renee Style went further than ironing. When we had to do a gym routine to music, she picked the shortest song she could find. And when she designed a majorette routine for us to do on the football field, we each got to do a solo baton toss during ‘One is the Loneliest Number’. Easier for her and fun for us. Ok, it was actually scary for us, but I can’t admit that.

Mother Nature shouldn’t be needing my help much longer to decorate the outside in brilliant color. Till then, I’ll enjoy small pleasures like this crocus.Crocus

And these hyacinths.
Purple hyacinth on berm

Maybe not these green weeds in the dahlia garden.Weeds in dahlia garden

I enjoyed fresh green chives on a baked potato last night. Yep, green is a good color.Chives

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.

13 Tips Inspired by the Chicago Flower & Garden Show

Did you miss the Chicago Flower & Garden Show? You did? I’m sorry. I can help you with your loss by providing some of my favorite take-aways from the show. I can’t recreate the fragrance of hyacinths or beauty of a rose garden, but there is always more to learn about gardening. Let’s go there.

1. It’s time to plant lettuce outside. Start NOW as most lettuces will be bitter if harvested once the weather becomes hot. Mine is in my coal buckets, with my hyacinths. They are out of bunny-reach on the back porch.

Hyacinths and lettuce in coal bucket

2. Hankering to grow blueberries? Try Northcountry in a container so you provide the acidic soil and good drainage this winter hardy variety requires. It also has beautiful flowers and fall color. Though it is self-pollinating, it’s best to have more than one.

Tools clean in basket3. Sharpen and clean your tools. It’s easier for you to work with the tools and creates a nice clean cut for your plants. Beth Botts uses a diamond file to sharpen tools and Lysol to clean them.

4. Jack Barnwell and his staff succeed in maintaining 150 gardens on Mackinac Island without the advantage of motorized vehicles. If Jack says Proven Winner plants make their job easier, then I’m betting they can make my job easier. I too am in favor of strong plants that survive and thrive without a lot of deadheading and care. Proven Winners, here I come.

5. Attracting hummingbirds starts oh so soon. Use 1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar to 1 cup hot water and set your feeders out in mid-April. No red food dye. None.

6. Stacey Best, author of “Garden for the Health of It” says that gardening and worrying are both functions of the right side of the brain. They can’t coexist. It’s true for me – when I am in my garden, the stress of everyday life disappears.

7. August 8th is National sneak a zucchini into your neighbor’s porch day. I’m not making this up.
Burlap plant girdle from SeedKeepers.com

8. Short on winter storage space for your containers? Try a burlap girdle from Seed Keepers. Slip the cuffed and stitched burlap over the grow bag and you have an attractive, lightweight, alternative to heavy, hard-to-store pots.

9. Hellebores (Lenten rose) have come a long way, baby. I’ve avoided these early blooming perennials because the flowers faced down. Tony from Chalet Nursery tells us they now come in an incredible variety of colors and forms. One of the few truly evergreen perennials.

10. Miniature roses do well in 5 gallon pots. At the end of the season, bury the plant. You can also bring the whole pot into your garage, and water it about every 3 weeks over the winter.

11. Consider a fern for your container. Kimberly Queen is an annual that takes full sun and is drought tolerant.

12. Shawna Coronado told us about Freecycle. I found a free 48″ round resin picnic table in my area. Did I mention free? Items at Freecycle are free. Yes, free.

13. You can grow a salad a day in a 2’ x 4’ hydroponic garden. Contact Shawn Odneal of Root66 in Brookfield to learn how.

Yes, Chicago weather will become hot. Perhaps not today. Perhaps not tomorrow. But the Chicago Flower & Garden Show was a pleasant reminder that spring, and even summer, WILL come to our gardens.