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A Potpourri of News…

Can you believe it’s June 1st already?! Sorry to have been out of touch…planting season…our farmhouse gardens to be photographed for Country Gardens Magazine

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…family…volunteerism…Leah’s college graduation…technical issues with this website…such a busy time of the year. Even the local wildlife is busy. When I drove into our driveway today, there were six (!) chipmunks running around like nut cases on the asphalt. They were glutinous, eating the seeds of maples, a phenom I had never seen before.  BTW, we are assured that those little seed nuggets are entirely edible, tasting like peas. You first.

Gardening world good news: tulips, redbuds, and big lilacs are done, but smaller (Syringa meyeri Palibin, Miss Kim, and ‘Boomerang’) lilacs are blooming with the azaleas. Huge amounts of foliage clothe all the shrubs and trees this year–even a lot of the ash trees aren’t as dead as I expected them to be. Wild geraniums, iris, wild phlox, hawthorns, variegated Solomon’s Seal, shooting stars, tree peonies, primroses and dogwoods are glorious. Fringe tree [Chionanthus virginicus] is about to “feather”. Did I mention the foliage and growth of the Beech trees–amazing! The bad news is that my (formerly) incredibly shaped Seven Sons Flower tree (Heptacodium miconoides–I love saying the name of this amazing tree which you must put in your garden) took a big hit from the winter wind (I think) and I had to chop it all to hell. Also, a big Redbud, a fragrant Viburnum carlesii, and a Juniper s. ‘Skyrocket’ died from drowning.

Did I mention the elegance of my all-time favorite shrub: Viburnum plicatum?Look at how beautiful this shrub is:

Viburnum plicatum Mariesii close up

Sometimes (well, ok, so often that I’m shocked not to have caused an accident) I’m driving around and see a sight that I am compelled to photograph. For example, this small conifer garden outside the investment house of VennWell in Lake Forest is fantastic. Small, deceptively simple, and a great contrast in textures. Voila! This is really all one needs to enjoy a garden. Kudos to its designer, Brent Markus, who specializes in four-season landscapes featuring Japanese maples and dwarf conifers. Brent mostly specializes in finding the most unique trees. I nearly drove off the road when I saw Acer palmatum ‘Lions Head’–a fantastic mop of leaves with red seeds that Dr. Seuss would love. Look at this crazy wonderful tree:

Acer palmatum Lions Head

Acer palmatum Lions Head

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ALERT! PERENNIALS ON SALE: Didier Farms in Lincolnshire has a wonderful selection of perennials–not limited to the “usual suspects”. Those very same perennials are on sale for $6.99 through July 12. Which makes me a little crazee because I just paid retail for some plants at Didier for one of my design customers. (Well, I couldn’t find the plants anywhere else at wholesalers.) But I’m definitely making another run to Didier’s soon…cool stuff.

Now I have to go outside to wrap our pear tree in nets so maybe the squirrels will be deterred. Last year, they managed to get in and eat all the pears despite the nets. Maybe this year will be different?##

Meet Jelena!

It’s March 10 and a very gray day (did you turn your clocks ahead?), but I want you to meet ‘Jelena’. She’s a fiery orange flower blooming right now, unaware that there’s still a lot of snow on the ground and more planned to come.

Jelena blooms on what is arguably my favorite shrub, the Witchhazel. Some call this bush, the Snapping Hazel, a name I prefer not only because it captures the look of this exploding, “bad hair day” flower but also because “Snapping Hazel” sounds like a dame I’d like to share a martini and a political argument with. But never mind, the name, Witchhazel, has its own charms. 

The great tree essayist, Donald Culross Peattie (love his name too) who could humanize any tree with his poetic descriptions, points out that it was the wood of the Wych (“to bend”, in Anglo-Saxon) that was once used to douse, divine, or doodlebug for underground water, oil, or gold.

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Note that this gentleman may be using the wrong wood if his extremely worried look is any indication…

Witchhazel is not easy to find in your local garden center. I once went looking for it, only to be told by the garden center manager that I’d never find it. After all, why stock a plant that blooms in March when no normal garden customer is shopping. Good point. You’ll have to buy it out of bloom and trust me on this one. Buy a lot of them and plant them in front of conifers for a real blast of color just when we need it most: NOW.

Take a look at the slide show below of witchhazels being tested at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Good places to buy Witchhazel:
CJ Fiore (Prairie Grove and Chicago, IL)
Johnson’s Nursery (Menomonee Falls, WI)
Chalet (Wilmette, IL)