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Perennial Professionals!

If you’ve ever shopped at Chalet Nursery in Wilmette, or watched Channel 7 TV in the morning, or listened to Mike Nowak’s Garden Show (lamentedly it is no more), or well, just been around the plant world, you have seen the ever-enthusiastic Jennifer “Who Knows More Than God About Plants” Brennan.

Jennifer’s energy and exuberance knows no bounds. The woman doesn’t ever snooze. In addition to all else, she is now serving as the central region director of the Perennial Plant Association (PPA), which is the group which designates the “perennial plant of the year” for retailers to type. In 2014 it was Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind” which was grown from wild-collected seed from South Elgin, Illinois. This blue-green, erect grass was found by Chicago’s “very own” Roy Diblik, co-owner of Northwind Perennial Farm in Springfield, Wisconsin and author of The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden.

The PPA also holds seriously great conferences, most often attended by pro’s but they are nice people so anyone can go. So great that I’m still laughing about one that I attended in 1998 where a very famous landscape architect–old as the hills!–tried to kiss me out behind the hydrangeas. When I got back on the bus, I told my friend Pam about the incident. She laughed so hard, then said, “Ha! I was 1996!”

But I digress. Jennifer has organized a conference which every one of you MUST attend if you like perennials. And who doesn’t? Plus you get to go to The Morton Arboretum, which it’s time for you to revisit. It’s fantastic! Here’s the announcement of this wonderful conference. You will learn so much! 

 

regional perennial plant symposium

regional perennial plant symposium-2

 

Thinking Spring Means a Trip to Chalet Nursery in Wilmette, IL

Beautiful spring day. I swung over to Northfield, IL to check on the seedlings that I’m growing  in 90 year old Aunt Sue’s greenhouse, and then I couldn’t resist a detour to Chalet Nursery in Wilmette. It has the best selection of plants on the North Shore, and before opening for the season it underwent a needed facelift inside and out. Well done: someone is very talented at merchandising displays.

Here are a few new plants that caught my eye:

Syringa-Tiny-Dancer

Syringa vulgaris ‘Tiny Dancer’: grows only 3-4′ high and wide, smaller than another full-scented small lilac that I’ve used over and over: Syringa v. ‘Little Boy Blue’ which grows to about 5′. ‘Little Boy Blue’ is pretty hard to find, even wholesale, so I was glad to see it for sale at Chalet.

Spirea-Double-Play-Big-Bang

Bright orange foliage? Whoa, look at this bad boy: Spirea ‘Double Play Big Bang’ (which is also called ‘Tracey’, go figure). It’s orange now, but is yellow the rest of the summer, with bright pink blooms. That’s where I get off the bus. Bright pink on bright yellow? Combine with bright red cedar mulch, and you have….vulgar!

Forsythia-Show-Off

But I digress. I saw a Forsythia that was awesome. Brightest yellow I ever saw: like a fake flower. Evaston, IL landscape designer Karen Koerth emailed to say that Forsythia ‘Show Off’ has the largest flowers she’s ever seen on a Forsythia as well. She says it looks like a small yellow single rose.

locust-twisty-baby-branches-tree

I spied a Black Locust ‘Twisty Baby’ [Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady’] that grows 15′ high and wide and has the Locust’s usual fragrant white flowers. My honeybees love our Black locusts. I wish “conservationists” wouldn’t be in such a hurry to cut them down. I know they sucker, but that means that they also hold soil on steep slopes. AND they fix nitrogen. So what’s not to like? Huh? Huh?

One more fine occurence at Chalet: I ran into Jennifer Brennan, who has worked at Chalet for 20 years and hands-down is the most enthusiastic garden geek (also, voted most enthusiastic human) I’ve ever met. She has linked up with Mike Nowak, similarly crazed person, to create a TV show, Dig In. Watch them on Saturday mornings at 8:30 am on WCIU or on Infinity channels 248,360; RCN, channel 35; or WOW channel 170. Such nice people–please support their work! Find them on Facebook under their names or at diginchicago.

Chalet-new-garden-under-Larch

Last, thanks to Chalet for protecting the roots of the huge ol’ Bald Cypress [Taxodium distichum] when they moved the old check-out shed and installed a new garden there. Chalet had a damn fine idea and built an arcing pedestrian “bridge” (barely noticeable) instead of taking the cheapo route and putting pavers right up against the aging beauty. Bald Cypress, by the way, is a great tree: tiny female cones release tasty seeds eaten by squirrels, songbirds, wild turkeys, egrets, herons and ducks. The wood of this tree is so hard it is used for building water tanks–like the ones on rooftops in Manhattan.##