May 29, 2012

A weekend of roses

White Rose

For Memorial Day weekend, SB and I headed to the windy city for a mini-break. Since visiting the Morton Arboretum last summer, I’ve had my eye on the Chicago Botanic Gardens, on the north side of the city. I’d heard that because of their proximity to the lake, they have a special microclimate, allowing plants 1 or 2 zone warmer to thrive.

This spring has been so strange, I’m not sure I really noticed that the gardens were much ahead of my gardens at home, but there was plenty to be inspired by in their highly sculpted landscape. I now need poppies, after seeing a whole field of icelandic poppies in full bloom. Also, we need to train some climbing roses on geometric trellises, to decorate our yet to be built fence. I’m already looking forward to returning to the Botanic Gardens later in the summer.

Last week we put in a new garden along the side of the garage and planted our herb garden. As I laid the seeds in the ground, I thought about how optimistic the act of gardening can be. It is all about the belief in the future potential of these little seeds. After visiting the Botanic Gardens, I was thinking about how gardening is also about dreaming of colors, shapes, textures and smells. Gardening, a future fantasy for all the senses.

Speaking of the future, on Sunday, we had a planned surprise visit to one of my favorite gardening friends, Rosey Cheeks, to celebrate the soon-to-be birth of her second child. I cut it very close with my blanket gift, sewing in the ends on the car ride to Chicago. The honeycomb blanket had a photo shoot in the botanic gardens before starting its journey with Rosey and family.

April 5, 2012

Early Spring

Red Peonies

Last fall my Mom gave me a bunch of peony tubers from her yard. In a big push to get everything planted, we stuffed them into their shallow holes and hoped for the best. I couldn’t be happier. They are already up, full of buds and ready for a great summer. So far there have been no casualties. This mild winter and spring have been ideal for establishing a new garden.

Our sickly, city planted, crab apple tree, has also had an amazing comeback, thanks to liberal amounts of milorganite and is covered with beautiful blooms. Thanks for all the poop Milwaukee! Here’s hoping the mild weather continues.

Crab Apple Tree
July 11, 2011

Tree Hunting

Witch Hazel

Can finding more options actually make deciding easier? At least it is a fun tree hunt! I had the past week off for summer break, so I took a little road trip down to Chicagoland and into the arms of a true garden enthusiast. She whisked me off to the Plant Clinic at the Morton Arboretum and soon I had a whole new list of tree/shrub possibilities, plus an amazing catalog of plants, neatly circled with suggestions. These included:

Tecumseh Compact River Birch: small, short, compact, weeping tree with pendulous branches. While we searched for this tree, we never found one in the wilds of the arb.
Weeping Redbud: An option I was very excited about until I saw it. We both agreed to call it “swamp thing”.
Tina Crab Apple: I’m still not sure about the crabapple.
Dwarf Korean Lilac: These can be grafted to be little trees.
Lancelot Crab Apple ‘lanzam’: This may be the tree that the city planted in our devil strip aka terrace.
Magnolia x Butterflies: I still find it hard to believe that I could have a magnolia in Wisconsin.
Brevipetala Witch Hazel: This was the winning shrub of the day. Interesting, irregular shape, dramatic branches and fun flowers.

After all that, I’m leaning towards the Witch Hazel. There are a few varieties that stay under ten feet and they have a natural, tamed-wildness that I think is pleasing.

June 29, 2011

A tree of interest

Shrub Free Front

We had some trees removed from our backyard and while the big machinery was around, I had them pull out the old evergreen shrubs running along the front of our house. Taking out the bushes brought the look of the house from 1970s to a timeless classic. Next up is planting a butterfly garden in the front. As part of this new garden I really wanted to put a beautiful Japanese Maple in the front left corner of the yard. This would be the anchoring focal point, the show piece.

I’ve always wanted a Japanese Maple and marched off to the nursery to pick one out. Of course, when I got there I learned that they are a fussy tree, preferring afternoon shade rather than the full-on, unobstructed, southern exposure that I have. The experts at the nursery convinced me that if I planted one of these maples they’d look like burned-out shells all the time.

Now what? I would like a tree or shrub that never gets too large, that has “interesting” color, multi-trunk and an overall round shape. Working with the nursery we came up with four options:

Black Lace Elder – The “poor man’s japanese maple”, it has the dark lacy leaves and dainty flowers but is it too bushy
Smoke Bush – Beautiful leaf color and interesting flowers but is it too common
Contorted Filbert aka Corkscrew Hazel – Great winter interest but the summer greenery is less exciting
Weeping Pussy Willow – Fun, weeping shape but I’m not sure how well it will really do in my climate and how round it will be at full size

Right now I’m leaning towards the elder or the filbert, but I’m still looking for other options and other opinions. Maybe there is another shrub/tree out there that would be even better. All opinions or suggestions welcome!

April 29, 2008

Rose season begins

My first roses of 2008.



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