2/22/2012 …And More Bulbs Plus Camassia

February 22nd, 2012

Camassia quamash

Not only have Snowdrops (galanthus) been flowering for nearly two months, and not only are there more still coming up, but now daffodils have broken ground and even tulips, and Camassia have begun to come up.

Flowering bulbs in spring are the harbingers of spring, supposedly. The smiles they provoke are particular to the sense of the coming growing and green season that they proceed. It’s a wonderful sensation.

Camassia is not an often seen bulb in Chicago but I think that’s because we’re not yet familiar with it ~ because it is wonderful. Usually flowering in June, the hyacinth-like foliage encircles an 18″ tall stalk full of blue racemes. Camassia comes in deep blues, others light blue and white. They flower for about three weeks, prefer partial or full sun, and are happy in wet or dry or any soil in between. They also spread rapidly but do not invade. When I have a large clump I just dig some of them up and share them around the gardens. They are a great treat in June – though I’m guessing they will flower in April this year. I’ll let you know.

February 15, 2012 2 Months Early!

February 22nd, 2012

In early January Snowdrops (Galanthus) began to show themselves and by the end of January had begun to flower. Here it is the middle of January and they are everywhere! People stop at the parkway garden surprised to see bulbs flowering in February, number of them taking pictures through their phone cameras. The whole thing is quite a site and now I walk the gardens twice a day looking for other bulbs coming up early. Hey, Chicago, is anything going on in your garden?

January 15, 2012 ~ Snowdrops Already!

February 22nd, 2012

Snowdrops (Galanthus) have suddenly popped up in the parkway garden and in the front yard – nearly two months early. It’s been a relatively warm winter so far in Chicago, icy cold at times but not settling in for a long, hard freeze. It will be interesting to see, if this odd winter weather continues, how other bulbs and perennial plants will be affected.

None of the Coral Bells (heuchera) look any different then they did in the fall. I’ve been planting many different kinds to see how each one grows and handles a variety of conditions – and they all look great. This includes Caramel, Palace Purple, Georgia Peach, Pistache, the Illinois natives Prairie Alum Root and Green Spice, as well as Chatterbox (with the longest lasting, delicate red flowers), Tiramisu, and Heucherella ‘Alabama Sunrise.’ These are fast becoming one of my favorite shade plants for their willingness to tolerate wet and dry periods, and the dandy shocks of color many of them provide. More on them in a later writing.

April 2011

April 26th, 2011

Raking leaves ~ I’ve stopped raking them in the fall and I’m watching to see if plants will push through this spring.  The still popular advice is to rake up the leaves, and one way or another, shred them and then spread them on the plant beds for mulch, the idea being that leaves will become too matted over the beds if left to their own devices, causing difficulty for waking flowers, or rot from keeping stems snuggled up in wetness.

I’ve wondered how plants in the forests survive their heavy cover of tree leaves, and I like the way the gardens look covered in the brown of fallen fall.  And I’d prefer not to do all that raking.  I’d just rather not have that responsibility too.

This spring everything seems to be doing fine.  If the plants are struggling to get out from under, they’re doing a fine job of it.  Bleeding hearts are up and juuust about to drip their white and pink hearts.  The Monkshoods are early again, rosy Epimedium began flowering today and the sulphur yellow ones look like tomorrow will be their day.  The PJM flowers are out.  I forgot – the red helleborus (Christmas rose) has been flowering since mid-march.  They are stupendous in a shady or partial shade spot, on their own or tucked under a shrub.

I walk the grounds three or four times a day watching for new leaves, a plant I’d forgotten about, surprise travelers.  Spring IS madness and it’s delicious!

March 2011

April 26th, 2011

Already the green world pokes it’s head up through leaves matted down from winter.  White Snow Drops (Galanthus) are preparing to flower in early March in Chicago and by mid-March they burst open ~ and gardeners’ everywhere feel their souls quicken with the beginning madness that is spring.  And then crocus.

Now, at the end of March the daffodils are preparing for their spring greetings.  Wind flowers will be coming in April along with blue scilla, the earliest of tulips, and hints of the plants waking as their first stretches break ground.

Jen says that “Spring is madness!”

June 1, 2010

June 1st, 2010

Planting tip ~

Whether a plant has been growing in a pot or is covered snugly in burlap we need to make sure that it’s roots are loose enough to grow out and down into the soil.  This won’t happen automatically if the plant has been growing long enough in it’s pot for it’s roots to experience the limits of the pot and begin to grow in circles and into each other.

Before you plant make sure to loosen the root ball.  If the roots are not tightly bound together just gently rough up the root ball with your fingers.  If the roots wrap around on the outside of the soil you want to be a little tougher in making sure the roots are loose.  Sometimes you’ll find that the roots are tightly wrapped together and do not pull apart easily.  In that case take a knife and make several slits into the root ball.

Weather commentary ~

In the midwest the weather turned very warm and then very hot and humid early this season.  Some plants awoke and began growing earlier than usual.  My Goatsbeard (Aruncus doicus) is in full flower – two weeks early, Snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa) has flower buds but is generally a late summer flowering creature.  This is true with other plants too – though not all.  It’s not uniform.  This leads me to surmise that the changing weather, global warming, does not simply alter the time that all summer flowering plants will flower – but it’s turned flowering time upside down on it’s head.

We don’t know what the impact of this helter skelter change will have on the environment, on the insects, wildlife, bird life that expect and need plants to flower and grow berries at certain times of the year.  We have a lot to keep our eyes on – even in our own back yards.

May 26, 2010

May 26th, 2010

ADHD and Pesticides – What Can You Do to Protect Your Children?

If you’re like most parents, you badger your kids to eat more fruit and veggies. Just when you thought you were making some progress, influential researchers tell us pesticides used to grow these important food groups could be causing ADHD (Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder).

In the study, published in the prestigious journal Pediatrics, ninety-four percent of the 1000 children tested were positive for pesticides (organophosphates). Those with higher levels were twice as likely to have ADHD symptoms than the rest. (read more)

May 5, 2010

May 5th, 2010

Growing concern about weed killers
Alarmed by latest research, the Obama administration is conducting a broad review of toxic weed killer atrazine that could lead to tighter restrictions:  Safe drinking water act.

Here is a New York Times article about roundup-resistant weeds.

May 1, 2010

May 4th, 2010

We’ve already had a couple of 80 degree days and a bunch in the 70s and a hefty amount of rain.  The Monkshoods showed up in early April and some of them are already half their finished height.

Estelle and I bought parsley and basil starts – 5 or so to a pot.  That means these tiny things had roots all intertwined.  We popped out the entire ball of soil and very gently teased them apart, trying like hell to tear as few roots as possible – which, of course can’t be avoided.  We did pretty good and all seemed to have survived.  It’s too soon to plant in the garden.  May 15 is Chicago’s frost free date.  In fact, right after we potted up the baby herbs – there was a frost!  Estelle had repotted hers so she moved them inside for the frost,  I had just bought row covering to experiment with so we covered Nick’s seedlings and those newly in the ground (yes, it’s too early) and everything made it through.

April 15, 2010

May 4th, 2010

I know you want to – but – DON”T DIG THE SOIL!  Not all, but most of us in Chicago have soil heavy with clay.  It really needs to be dry going down about one foot before turning it begins.  Clay soil turns to hard rock if dug or tilled while wet or even damp.