Sunday, October 26, 2008

October - quick update

Too busy with school stuff to be profound these days, but here are some pictures from today's flawlessly gorgeous fall Chicago day...

Japanese maple, Acer palmatum 'Sango-Kaku', by the front steps

The hybrid maple in the front yard is turning red from top to bottom... I foresee very colorful mulch in my future!

Aster macrophyllus, big-leaved aster, looks even prettier in fall than it does in summer

There's nothing like sun-warmed concrete to make a doggy sleepy

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The indoor garden, part 1

It's autumn in Chicago, my favorite time of year. The morning air is brisk and invigorating as I walk to the 'L', the juncos have returned and the robins are packing up their little suitcases, and the trees are dressed in yellow and red. I refill the birdfeeders, scowl at the sad handful of flowers on my one remaining mum, and turn my attention to the indoor juniors...

Tolmiae menzieaii, the piggyback plant - SO cute

Gynura aurantiaca, the purple velvet plant - rather leggy; did the nursery grow it in low light?

Homalocladium platycladum, ribbon plant

Jade plant; Echeveria; cactus seedlings from a kit my advisor gave me (and most certainly doomed); and a Schefflera

Iresine herbstii, beefsteak plant; Costus woodsonii, dwarf cone ginger; Chlorophytum amaniense, Mandarin plant. My sweet Jazzy stands guard in the corner. The froggy rain gauge doesn't collect much rain, fortunately. I will tell you some other time about my frog collection :D

Rhipsalis 'Trail' (it's a cactus! really!) and a philodendron

Aeschynanthus longicaulus nicely coordinates with my silly little craft fair purchase

Hoya 'Waxleaf' taking over the house. Observe the vines heading around the corner into the two adjacent rooms... "Hmm, let's see what's over this way!" It used to be in the window but I had to move it because it rooted into the seams of the vinyl window and wove inextricably through the mini blinds. Oy.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

October: infrastructure, earthmoving

The new retaining wall on the garage garden looks very nice:

(Note the little patch of orange that represents the only mums left after the plant got smashed during construction.) :(

I have yet to backfill the edges where the soil collapsed, and at the moment I'm too tired to think about it. I have a feeling the entire garden is going to sink this winter because I'll be too lazy to shore it up.

DH is out of town for the weekend and the weather is super-fantastic so I promised myself I would finally finish laying out the patio garden that has been a half-assed work in progress for about 3 years now:

Since most of it is former lawn, the soil was compacted and awful to work with, but about three hours later, the edge was defined, the grass was pulled, and four bags of tulip and daffodil bulbs were planted. Foley was very helpful, occasionally walking into the hole I was currently digging, lying in the bare dirt, or standing almost directly on top of me so all I could see and smell was brindle dog flank.

Anyway, as the "great" "leaders" of this great nation say, Mission Accomplished:

The dog dish is only a placeholder; there will be a bird bath there as soon as I find one that isn't hideous or plastic. I just needed to make sure I didn't plant any bulbs there! The edge of the garden will be red brick like the rest of the borders. I like brick because it's easy to lay down, it's pretty, and DH can mow right over it. The shrub is Carolina allspice; the other plants are volunteer purple coneflowers, Clematis 'Jackmanii' on the coachlight, and Gaura lindheimeri 'Siskiyou Pink'. More will come, next year.

The McHouse back yard, today

Saturday, October 04, 2008

About a bint

The obligatory "about me" post:
I am a 30-something gardener in a hundred-year-old house on the northwest side of Chicago. Our yard is vast by city standards (37.5 feet wide) and I've been learning how to garden in it for 12 years now. When we bought the house there were artificial evergreens, a rapidly-growing elm hedge, and a smattering of petunias in the yard. I like to think it's a little nicer now but I am rather biased.

In real life I am a graduate student in evolutionary biology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where I study genetic variation in the American basswood, Tilia americana. Ironically, almost having a Ph.D. in biology does nothing for my garden. I can sequence DNA but that doesn't explain why I can't grow phlox!

In my plant choices I lean towards Midwestern native perennials or at least things that look or act like natives. I love flowers of purple and gold and I dislike red and pink. My gardens are mostly border gardens, leaving the rest of the lawn as play space for my darling greyhound. I also have a whole lot of houseplants.

I've kept a garden website and a personal blog for several years. Now that I've finished most of the field work for my dissertation, I'm looking forward to spending more time with my pretty green babies, all of which are named Junior because it's just easier that way. Feel free to comment or suggest; if I know someone's watching, I'm more likely to keep the garden, and the blog, well-maintained!


I'm in the process of listing this blog with Blotanical, which hopefully will be the push I need to keep it up to date. It's a bad time of year for taking photos, since the summer-blooming plants are already going black and crunchy, but there should be migratory birds, picturesque snow scenes, and greyhound sightings a-plenty for a few months. And then: spring!

Anyway, if you're finding this through a Blotanical search, welcome and I promise to have more content in the future. And if you're finding it because you're the 10000000th person to search for photos of sky-blue asters, well, welcome to you as well :)

Friday, October 03, 2008

New additions, sans pictures

Purchased at Home Despot at the same time as my birthday juniors, but with much less fanfare:
Polemonium 'Touch of Class' - Jacob's ladder (my second attempt at keeping one of these alive in the front garden)
Phlox paniculata 'Pink Flame' - an electric pink phlox in the north edge garden. I've had bad luck with phlox for years (rampant powdery mildew) but this year I had one successful plant and drunk with victory I bought this new one. It is of course doomed but don't tell it.
Platycodon grandiflorus 'Sentimental Blue' - balloon flower. I've always wanted one of these. Plus, it has the word "codon" in it so it reminds me of school.

Also, forgot to mention that I received a hops plant (Humulus lupulus) during a tour of the Dorothy Atkins garden at UIC (link). This garden on the west campus contains plantings of over 100 medicinal plant species, several of which are subjects of active study in the pharmacy and pharmacognosy programs. Hops, they told me, will survive the winter, and since it's a vine it needs something to grow on.

Friday flowers, foliage, Foleyage

Ninebark 'Summer Wine', Physocarpus opulifolius

Little bluestem grass, Schizachyrium scoparium - one of my native prairie plants

Cranberry bush viburnum, Viburnum opulus

Autumn Joy sedum, Sedum spectabile

Foley "helps" with rebuilding the retaining wall around the garage garden