Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Visitors in the Garden

What kind of visitors have you had in your garden lately?

Sure, it's nice if one of your neighbors/friends drops by and you take a stroll around the garden with a sweating glass filled with iced tea.  Or, maybe one of your adult children stops by and you sit on the deck sharing a glass of wine (you can do that now that they're adults) and catch up with the news.  But what about other visitors?

Are you taking the time to check out the small stuff?  Take a closer look. There is a plethora of Lilliputian folk out and about in your landscape.

Yep, Japanese beetles are out wreaking havoc on all sorts of things (and their behavior is, frankly, just disgusting).  My preferred method of eliminating them is smooshing (with gloved hand) and leaving the remains on the plant to signal a warning (of some sort) to their brethern.  Not sure that they are picking up on my hints though...  Or, you can certainly use the pan of soapy water on them (best in early morning:  tap the branch they are on and they will typically fall into the pan of soapy water and drown).

But there are some others that are actually do-gooders (yeah!).  I spotted this fellow in the Idea Garden by the pond, appearing to prepare himself for a swift ninja-style kick to a bad bug.  He is a bit difficult to spot (I did take this picture on my cell phone camera...he's the small green guy on the top of the blacker rock).  They're becoming more prominent at this time of year. 

Have you or your kids spotted any fun visitors lately?  I'd love to hear about them or see a few pictures!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Wednesday Talks in the Idea Garden

We've got plans for Wednesdays.  Which means boy-oh-boy do we have plans for you too!  (Just about every Wednesday--May through September--May 4th starts us off. ) At high noon, on the first and third Wednesdays of the month, I will be doing the honors and I will offer a sample taste of a tasty treat created with a bit of something that was grown in the Idea Garden (and I do try to stretch your tastebuds quite often!).  I'll also give you a bit of garden advice that is relevant for the season--hence the name for the program--Tips & Tastes in the Garden.   

If you yearn to learn a bit more about floral design and gain a few tips on just how to care for your cut flowers, you'll want to join Beth Libby, Floral Designer at Cantigny, on her Blossom Bits Wednesdays.  Beth crams lots of knowledge into her once monthly sessions and you won't want to miss a one!

Jill Weiss, Greenhouse Grower and Idea Garden Assistant, will present Ask the Grower.  Jill rounds out the month with juicy facts on growing your best plants ever--and she does it on a grand scale at her own farm/home too!  Go on see if you've got a question for her that she's not able to tackle...I challenge you!

What do you have to do?  Just these three things:

     1.  We would  like you to register on-line; just so we know how many people to plan for.  And some of us give out free stuff...but only to those who actually did register!  
     2.  You can bring a snack along and get your lunch in while we're doing our "show". 
     3.  The only mandatory thing you have to do is..smile.  Sorry--no exceptions!  We're having fun planning these days for you and we want to hang out with people who like to have fun too! 

There is no fee for these classes...just think...no $$ spent and you'll go home with a wealth of information--how 'bout that?  Wealthier in the wallet and wealthier in plant brain power!  See you Wednesdays in the Idea Garden!

Garden Close-Up: Spring Annuals and Blooming Bulbs

If you're craving a bit of color to brighten up these cloudy days you might want to join us Tuesday morning at 11am on May 3rd...you'll be led through our lovely formal gardens by Jane Rogers, and Jackie Carter, Cantigny Horticulturists Extraordinaire.  They will show you the plantings that are looking their absolute best and give you a bit of the behind-the-scenes factoids.  The tour is complimentary with paid admission to the park.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 29, 2011

Cantigny's Open House this Sunday

We are in the process of making everything spiffy for our visitors this Sunday, and hopefully you're one of them!  We had a bustling day yesterday with scads of dedicated (and much appreciated) volunteers come in and help us make the space clean and pretty. 

Do you have the time at some point on Sunday for a stroll through our greenhouses?  We're open from 10am-3pm.  Not only will our summer plantings be on their best behavior for your viewing pleasure, but we will also have a variety of worthy agencies and organizations set up for you to snag a few interesting tidbits and widen your world a bit.

Stop in, say hello, have a cookie and a glass of punch...you know flowers always make you smile :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Your Garden is the Best Teacher

We've had a string of rainy, soggy days.  And it's been hard to get out into the garden to do much of anything.  (Please don't work in wet soil--you'll do more harm than good, wreaking soil structure that you've tried to improve with great soil amendments).

I love to read.  Gardening books are invaluable; periodicals too.  You've probably got a stash at home, but the library is a great resource too.  Or you can possibly borrow a fellow gardener's favorite.  Winter and these mucky spring days are great to learn about something new or brush up on a topic you might have forgotten about.

But there is really no substitute for getting out there in your garden and trying it.  Maybe you want to try vegetable gardening for the first time.  Or maybe you fret about the "right" color combinations (hey, if you like it--try it!  Don't think about right ways or wrong ways here--let the garden snobs worry--you be the adventurer!).  Maybe you're smitten with a plant that is just out of our zone....Try it I say!  You may not always be successful...but then again, you just might be.  What's the harm in giving it a try?  I'll bet my favorite trowel that you'll gain some very specific knowledge particular to just you and your garden that you probably wouldn't find in any written word.  And that knowledge is worth sharing. 

We're trying a few plants for spring this year that might be pushing the temperature boundaries (we're going to plant out snapdragons, sweet peas this week--and yes, they like cool temps, but cold?  I don't know, we'll see...).  We're also trying out a millet called 'Flashlights'...will it do well in a cool, wet spring season?  I hope so.  We're also going to be creating some hanging "ball" baskets for spring, summer and fall.  Will our plant choices work?  I think so.  I'm going to be trying some new veggie varieties that are touted to be beautiful, but will they be tasty too?  I'll let you know.  Will you let me know about your garden adventures?  Are you courageous enough to share your not-so-successful stories along with the super-duper ones?  C'mon, we'll both grow 'n tell!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April Snow-ers Bring May Flowers

Wow!  What a difference a week makes, doesn't it?  Last weekend we had a drop of summer--sunshine, balmy southern breezes, temps in the 80's.  Back to winter this weekend--gray clouds whistling through bearing gifts of snow and wind.  Hmmpf!  What kind of a spring is that?  Just a typical spring in Chicago; I guess that's how we get our 50 degree average temperature around here....a few days in the twenties and a few days in the eighties and our average temperature is now fifty.

Which is why, my last week's post was cautioning not to buy or plant too early.  A reader did have a response to me....Yeah!  (I often wonder if I am writing for myself only).  So, thank you, thank you, thank you, to Heather for sending me a courteous and informative reply!  Heather wrote to me, as an employee of the Growing Place.  She agreed with me that many garden centers--very often the big box stores--put out inappropriate plants for our weather--like tomatoes.  And Heather you are so right!  We are a good two-three weeks out from safely planting those types of plants out...unless you do have a crystal ball and can foretell the future, knowing that we will not have another frost again for the rest of the spring.  Unfortunately, I don't.  So I will abide by the garden rule of May 15th being our average frost free date.  But, remember what I said about above about averages, and even our garden rule isn't a guarantee.

Heather also mentioned that at The Growing Place, (which is a wonderful garden store, by the way...and sidenote here,  often when I am out working in the Idea Garden, a guest may ask where she may locate a particular, maybe unusual, plant that we have in our designs.  While I don't think it appropriate as an employee of Cantigny, to tout a particular business, I will make a suggestion of several local businesses, and I can tell you, that The Growing Place is one that frequents my suggestions) they do their best to make sure that the plants they are selling you now are the ones that you can safely be planting now.  And, Heather, it has to be a difficult balancing act between demand and customer success, as you pointed out--and I applaud you folks for doing your best to educate our local gardeners!

If you want a shopping experience, seek out some of your neighborhood garden centers for knowledgeable suggestions and design tips. The big box stores serve their purpose as well--but please know the difference.  So, you, as a local gardener, have a balancing act of your own.  When to plant....when to be patient.  Where to shop to get a "bargain"-priced plant and where to shop to get some solid (and friendly) garden advice.  Happy (patient) Gardening!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Is it Spring or is it Summer?

It's April 10th and we're forecasted to have temperatures in the high 80's, possibly the 90's?  I'm gearing up to make a nice big pitcher of sun tea!  We dig out the short-sleeved tops and shorts and feel completely giddy...after such a winter, who wouldn't?  And after today, a lot of things that have been lying in wait just under the surface of the soil or unbudded on branches will burst forth showing off their "summer wear" as well. 

Garden centers have somehow created a specialized magnetic force that draws gardeners of all skill levels into the depths of their aisles showing off their finery of spring bloomers, herbs, vegetables and tropicals.  (Side note:  Yes, I was sucked into that magnetic field yesterday and purchased a Knock-out rose at Wal-mart for under $9.)  After a 5 month palette of white, gray, brown, tan (and mud) we physically need our fix!

But don't be fooled.  You do know that garden centers' main goal is to make a profit?  As much as we might like to think that if the plants are in the stores/nurseries--it must be time to plant...it really isn't so.  Sure, you can plant those that enjoy the bite (frost) of spring that is sure to make a return visit:  Bellis (English Daisy), Dusty Miller, Osteospermum (Cape May Daisy), Violas, etc.   As well as lettuce, cabbage, Brussels sprout, and parsley plants. Don't forget you can directly sow seed for carrots, lettuce, peas and radishes too. 

But please don't buy (and plant) those plants that really only thrive in true warm weather conditions:  basil, peppers, tomatoes, and any kind of tropical anything (Caladium, Canna, Colocasia, etc.).  You know how those tropical types are--they never pack anything for when a cold spell hits us...and then there they sit--shivering, slumped over, looking miserable like a young fashionista caught in a cold spring rain.

Do try to restrain yourselves a bit when purchasing plants on days with temperatures like today.  The cold temps will make a few more return visits yet and if you've purchased those sensitive characters you'll either end up hauling them in and out of your house or garage on cold nights/warm days or they will sit in your soil glaring back at you when you're tucked inside the house enjoying a hot cup of tea on a blustery spring day.  When the magnetic field draws you in, just think, "Iced tea today, but hot tea tomorrow".