Wednesday, October 20, 2010

October: Autumn in the Lurie Garden

I spent today running errands and doing some botany work at the Field Museum. Since it was such a gorgeous day, I dawdled a bit in between and visited the Lurie Garden. I think it's the first time I've seen it in autumn. It's pretty amazing how the garden changes throughout the year; just a few months ago it was the most vivid river of purple salvia imaginable, and now it's all soft gold and green.

The iconic Lurie shot; I wonder how many times have I taken this picture?

Since construction of the Art Institute's Modern Wing, this has become the other "iconic shot." That's Amsonia hubrechtii glowing like fire in the middle.

Looking west towards the Michigan Avenue streetwall. I love how each maple is turning red from south to north.

Chicago blues: asters and something (delphiniums?) in the background, echinops going to seed in the foreground.

Northern sea oats, Chasmanthium latifolium

Japanese anemones glowing amongst the fading foliage

To envision a city on a prairie, you just need the proper perspective.

Monday, October 18, 2010

October: Birthday Junior, plus one

It's been a long time since I've posted about, or acquired, any houseplants. I took a several-month hiatus from collecting, cooing over, photographing, and in some cases watering, the juniors, and am just now starting to regain interest in their cute little lives. I did however work up the energy to buy two plants recently...

Vriesea hieroglyphica, my birthday present to myself (and $20 off, thanks to Groupon)
and Portulacaria afra 'Variegata', purchased from a vendor at the Chicago Botanic Garden's bonsai show.
I don't know if I will maintain its horizontal branched form or just let it go wild. I certainly do not have the patience for full-on bonsai action, as evidenced by the collection of empty bonsai pots in my basement.

I put some of the houseplants outside for the first time this year. Usually, indoor plants stay indoors, outdoor plants stay outside, and never the twain shall meet. I mixed it up this year, overwintering a hibiscus and then putting some things out in the summer. Lesson learned: even morning sun is BAD. I nearly lost my treasured night-blooming cereus and another cactus to sunburn. On the other hand, the desert rose thrived and bloomed in the sun (until the wind knocked it off the table; now it sort of....curves) and the yucca put on a bunch of new growth. Trial and error, I suppose, but I'm going to be very reluctant to put anything outside next year.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

October: Aster-kissing

Asters, asters, everywhere! Next Thursday I will try to get pictures of the carpets of asters in bloom at the Morton Arboretum. I am also working up the nerve to rehome some asters growing wild on a vacant lot down the street. In the meantime, I will just enjoy the ones in my own yard...

I was told this is heartleaf aster (Symphyotrichum cordifolium) but the leaves are more like arrowleaf aster (S. urophyllum). Whatever it is, I was also told it belongs in shade. I'm thinking that's not entirely correct since this is all it's accomplished in two years.
A fuschia S. novae-angliae passalong...
...and a purple one my grandma gave me.
The sky blue asters, S. oolentangiense, always look like lovely lavender clouds.
A pink NOID native whose tag is long lost...
and a white one. Both from Prairie Nursery many years ago. Not shown is the S. ericoides, heath aster, which is already done for the season. :(
And remember, greyhounds are an important part of any fall garden!

Sunday, October 03, 2010

October: Nasturtiums: That's a wrap!

It's October in Chicago. The asters are blooming, the leaves are turning yellow, and the first frost is imminent. The cooler early fall weather has been a boon for the Spitfire nasturtiums, which rebounded from their bedraggled summer state and are still full and green. The nasties by the house filled in all around the purple aster that has just started to bloom. The purple and orange would make a striking color combo if only the nasties would produce more than two or three blooms at a time. Still, the contrasting foliage shapes look nice together. I like the idea of using nasturtiums as ground cover in the fronts of gardens and intend to try it again in the future.
The nasturtiums by the alley fence didn't like being trained up the fence, but the vines on the ground did well in their shady spot. Still very few flowers, but the foliage softens the boundary between fence and ground and has a cute woodlandy look. You can still see the sad yellow vines that I had trained upwards.IMG_7243
What have I learned doing this project?
1) I can't comment on other nasturtium varieties, but at least the Spitfires do best on the ground. Planting them in a crowded spot and hoping they'll fill out up on a trellis does not work. Even draping the vines upward doesn't work, as the vines soon become spindly and yellow. Mine also didn't do great in containers; the leaves were smaller and the vines stayed short.
2) The Spitfires didn't flower as much as I was hoping, which is too bad because I love their color. I'd like to try other nasturtiums, perhaps yellow ones, that flower more reliably. However, nasturtium foliage is very cool and is worth the effort by itself.
3) Wintersowing is totally the way to start these babies. Direct sowing, for me, was a complete failure, and I have no patience for grow lights and hardening off.
4) The hottest part of the summer is rough but with enough water, the plants will pull through and look lovely in the cooler late summer and fall. My plants survived both in full sun and mostly shade.
Special thanks to Mr. Brown Thumb and to Renee's Garden for putting this project together. I hope everyone had a good time and that the shared feedback has been useful! I've enjoyed seeing everyone's stories and hopefully we can do this again sometime. Cheers!

I'm growing Nasturtium 'Spitfire' for the GROW project. Thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

September: Nasties on the rebound

After an August with a little more water and a little less blistering heat and sun, the Spitfire nasturtiums are doing fairly well. The flowers are still more like occasional jewels than a full flush of color, but as I said last month, I'm thinking more of the foliage at this point.

The nasturtium in the planter has been in mostly shade for a couple of months. It's alive but small and the leaves are small. It does bloom sometimes but today it's shy. I think I'll put it back in the sun soon.

The nasty on the alley fence looks kind of silly and half-dead where I draped the vine up over the fencepost, but the vines on the ground make such a pretty groundcover! Well, okay, it looks leggy and scraggly in the picture, but from a short distance it actually looks pretty nice.

The nasties by the house still look best. They've pretty much filled in the area around the asters and spirea and make a cute groundcover. They're in full sun but the surrounding plants shade the roots, and that seems to help. Plus, they get watered most days because they're next to the veggie garden.

I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August: Bloom Day!

I am just now realizing, I have an awful lot of yellow flowers. Oh well!

North edge garden

Rudbeckia triloba, brown-eyed Susans

Rudbeckia subtomentosa, sweet black-eyed Susans, and Agastache scrophulariaefolia, giant purple hyssop

Garage garden

The 11-foot volunteer sunflower continues to amaze us, and hosts SO many bees, flower flies, and butterflies, the rest of the neighborhood must feel left out.

Eurybia macrophylla, big-leaf aster. Remember the good old days when asters were just Asters?

Well, this is a terrible picture, but it's my prairie dock, Silphium terebinthinaceum, with flowering stalks reaching high above my head.

Foley and Lucy, my favorite two flowers of all!

Thanks as always to Carol of May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day!

Sunday, August 01, 2010

August: At least the leaves are pretty

Hello, and welcome back to the GROW project! The foliage on the Spitfire nasturtiums has recovered from its crispy sunburned state of a month ago, possibly due to more watering or less intense heat and sun. My plants are still sparse on flowers, but I love the nifty peltate leaves of nasturtium and would almost be willing to grow them for that reason alone.

I moved the potted plant to a shadier spot, and it looks a little more alive now.

The plant vining up the alley fence looks good. It gets sun in the afternoon but the roots are shaded.

The plants I meant to go up the railing are also turning into a very pretty, yet flowerless, groundcover.

Part of that same plant, going where I meant for it to go:

And so you don't think I have zero flowers, here's one! (it's not quite that red in real life)

From the side... note cool nectar spur:
So how do your Spitfires grow?

I'm growing Nasturtium "Spitfire" for the GROW project. Thanks to Renee's Garden for the seeds.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

July: Bloom Day!

Is it that time again already?

Biggest. Sunflower. Ever.

Seriously, what sunflower has a trunk??
ETA: I measured the sunflower and it is 11 feet 4 inches tall, 4 3/4 inches diameter where my hand is. On 7/16 it has 4 flowers open and about 20-ish more buds. The thing is a freakin' TREE. Did I mention it's a volunteer? Why are my best plants accidental?

Monarda didyma 'Violet Queen' and Schizachyrium scoparium, little bluestem grass, in the prairie garden

The double cosmos 'Rose Bon Bon' seeds from Renee's that came with the Spitfire nasturtiums have just started to bloom.

Do I ever get tired of taking pictures of red admirals? (Answer: no)

Or swallowtails? (again: no)

Ox-eye sunflowers, Heliopsis helianthoides, in the prairie garden

Speaking of the prairie garden... This view just makes me so happy!

My favorite weed (good thing, because I have a lot of it): Commelina communis, the Asiatic dayflower

And let's not forget what's happening indoors! I lost two of my African violets and a third is in its death throes, but this guy still loves me.

Even the City of Chicago celebrates Bloom Day!

Thanks as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

July: New plants!

I made a secret gardening vow not to spend any money on perennials this summer. I didn't tell anybody about this vow in case I started buying plants. However, it is now mid-July and I've stuck to it so far. Except the $5 I spent on two daisies to replace the two that died over the winter. Shush, that doesn't count.

Today I planted seven wonderful new plants without breaking any vows. How did I do it, you ask? Well, I entered a contest at In The Garden Online for a $50 gift certificate from Annie's Annuals, and I won! I wandered through Annie's lovely on-line catalog, which is filled with plants not usually available here in the Midwest, and found seven that I just had to have.

The shipping cost was pretty steep, but the box arrived quickly and the quality of the packaging cannot be denied:

The plants arrived in great condition...
and with rootballs wrapped in plastic and damp paper, were very easy to remove from their pots and plant in various spots in the garden. They don't look like much yet, but just you wait...

Geranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis' and Heuchera sanguinea 'White Cloud' in part shade under the viburnum

Dianthus arenarius and Campanula medium 'Deep Blue' in the part-shade north garden

Echinops ritro ruthenicus...

and Linum lewisii (blue flax) in the prairie garden

and finally, Verbena bonariensis in the foundation garden. This one is technically Zone 7 and doesn't belong in my Zone 5b garden, but I put it in a warm, protected corner on the south side of the house and hopefully it will survive the winter. Incidentally, this is the very plant I said I wanted when I entered the contest :)

Wish my new babies luck! Many many thanks to Annie's Annuals and to Colleen for making these new additions to the garden possible!