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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

dscn5528-e1283217452175dscn0145-e1283222444675About six years ago, we began looking for a way to soften a large expanse of hard surfaces, provide additional outdoor seating, expand existing garden beds, establish more growing spaces – and find a way to draw the eye further afield.

We talked, we walked, Tom took to the drawing board, measurements were made, wood was purchased, hammer and nails and saws were employed. After a time, an arbor emerged, looking like the shell of cabin. Ma and Pa and their little House on the Prairie. First named Penny’s Arbor House by the then young lad next door, it was christened last year as Papa’s Treehouse by our grandson, Ezra.

Back of arbor:hostas, grasses

Arbor:late June:2016 Arbor:Clematis:purpleA healthy row of existing hostas was divided and transplanted, and a woodland garden started to grow.  New plants were introduced, and climbing specimen took root. First a climbing rose, then several clematis, which came from friends’ gardens, and Abraham Lincoln, a gift from Jennifer and Jason one Mother’s Day. They were radiant this spring, climbing higher than ever before. Sweet Autumn Clematis, a division from my friend Phyllis,  has really taken hold. This year, it has scaled the trellis of the arbor wall, snaked rambunctiously over the top and is presently creeping down the other side. I can’t wait to see the signature white blossoms as Autumn approaches.

IMG_7963Three years ago, sitting in the arbor, Tom and I talked, for the umpteenth time, over what to plant and how to grow and design more space in the garden.

When we first moved in, I initially wanted a rose garden – but, borrowing from an oft used phrase, I was never promised a rose a garden – and never imagined the damage deer can wreak. There IS a sweet, clambering rose that cloaks part of the arbor in June, however.  Gardening, like life itself, calls for compromises.

Our initial plans were big and bold and worthy of the space we allotted.  They would also be free food for the resident deer population. We eventually came to the idea of planting natives and grasses. Once established, they were lower maintenance and they would most likely thrive here on the Cutoff. It seems we no sooner made the decision to go native than plant divisions from generous gardeners and abundant gardens came our way.

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A few grasses and some native Ageratum were shared, a plant was purchased here and there from native plant sales, garden club members’ sales, and the characteristic generosity of like souls with very green thumbs  – especially those of the Elmhurst Garden Club. Big bluestem and Butterfly Weed, Indigo and Bee Balm, Compass Plants,  Joe Pye Weed, and much, much more.

Our prairie garden has taken off, pushed past boundaries and developed a blowsy, free-spirited personality of its own.

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Double Red Bee BalmButterfly weed

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IMG_8854 - Version 3Echinacea.

A Greek word that means hedgehog, these long lasting flowers are more commonly known as coneflowers for the conical shaped seed head of the flowers. Our echinaceas are just starting their long blooming season and can be found in many gardens throughout the area. They are dependable and easy to care for – a good bang-for-your-buck if you are looking for a reliable perennial.

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Our Echinacea is doing well here on the Cutoff. I learned last year to temper my eagerness at pulling weeds too early in the season. While I do have quite a growth of weeds, my patience at waiting until I was sure has awarded us fairly a full crop of Echinacea, which are just starting to perform and have been graciously posing for me and my camera.

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These pictures, however, are all from the same photo. I started playing around with the image, cropping it in different spots, and thought you might like see them. Just don’t tell anyone that the photo was taken in the drive-through line of the local Mac Donald’s where I stopped for a cold drink the other day.

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As I sat, my car in the queue waiting to pay, I noticed this bee enjoying her own happy meal and just couldn’t resist.

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Sprite:statue:Bacon gardenAround the second Tuesday in July, the weather channel becomes our viewing choice. The weather feature on our very smart phones are clicked more often than our text messages, often while on our knees praying to the garden gods for decent weather. There is always a storm with thunder and lightning and downpours during the second week of July. This is actually appreciated on Wednesday or Thursday, for the storm (as long as there aren’t strong winds) affords free and much-needed moisture and the lightning does whatever the magic of lightning is. It charges leaves to grow bigger and greener and stronger.

By the second Friday, we are on a first name basis with our favorite weather person (mine is Tom Skilling)  and we really start to fret and fuss. An unspoken cone of silence hovers around the members of the Elmhurst Garden Club as bubble balloons of barometric thoughts hover over our heads.

The gardens are checked by committee members, and the chair of the Faire in the park grows anxious as spaces are marked, and remarked, and the hope of a good day increases with the summer heat.

The homeowners are on high-anxiety; visiting garden centers for one more (or ten) plants to put here or there – and what about the weather?  The rain, if it comes, is good early in the week and it does provide free watering, the soil is wet and soft so weeds are easier to banish from the landscape (at least until they turn their backs, for every gardener knows how weeds like to hide and then poke their impudent heads when IMG_8773someone comes over) – just no rain, please, late in the second week of July.

By the second Saturday in July, the die is cast – hopefully not overcast – and we do, in whatever our manner, pray for good weather for the second Sunday in July.

Bistro table:watermelon vase:Bacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Sunday, July 10, the garden gods truly did shine upon us! It dawned a most perfect day for the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire.

The vendors, club members, vendor chair Georgia and Elmhurst Park District employees were already busy as the clock showed 6 am. Have you ever seen an outdoor fair arise at the crack of dawn? It is really a sight to behold.

By the time the bells tolled nine from the churches along Cottage Hill and surrounding streets, much of the Faire was readied, while at the seven featured gardens, the homeowners were putting the last finishing touches in their gardens, as well as setting tables, tuning in music and working the most amazing garden magic, while members of the club set up ticket tables, and cars began to arrive, ticket holders eager to see what there was behind the garden gates.

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Oh, yes, dear readers, this year dawned with the best weather imaginable for the 21st Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire. It was an amazing event, with gardens large and small, whimsical and romantic, from resort amenities to urban farm. Most of these photos are from the day of the Garden Walk, though a few are from the preview walk (for homeowners to see each other’s gardens and members of the club to see the gardens if they are working on the day of the event).

These are two friends I admire and have learned so much from, on the day of the preview walk. They look like they know a secret, just inside that lush arbor.

 

This entire garden (right) is vegetables, anaerobic and aerobic composting, and more.  Much more. The family is involved in the entire operation – a truly remarkable farm to table cottage industry – all in their city-sized back yard. This photo was taken two weeks prior to IMG_8439the walk. The corn was several feet taller on the day of the walk. The bed to the left is potatoes of several varieties, now underplanted with arugula. Turnips, carrots, garlic, leaf vegetables, tomatoes . . .  and they sell their produce curbside once a week.

This garden, below, was a delight – and the gardener delightful.  I am always in awe of those who learned Latin – and remember it. In June, he had more than 250 Allium bulbs in bloom – and yes, he could properly name them all.

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It was a good day for gardeners, nature enthusiasts, artists and art buyers alike. The garden gods shined down upon us on the second Sunday in July and it will keep on shining as the actual proceeds are counted and we allocate the funds from this year’s walk with scholarships and local endeavors.

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IMG_8347Never lose an opportunity of seeing
anything that is beautiful
for beauty is God’s handwriting
– a wayside sacrament.
Welcome it in every fair face,
in every fair sky,
in every fair flower,
and thank God for it as
a cup of blessing.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

We have an abundance of potted plants. They fill the nooks and crannies in the garden and soften the landscape the sometimes seems to go on and on. They bring much-needed color into the hardscape of pavement and wood.

Potted plants need more water than those who are rooted in the ground – and they need to be fertilized from time-to-time. That time had come here and so it was on a close to perfect morning that I set about with a watering can and determination to feed my potted plants. I must admit that I was a bit like Mary, Mary quite Contrary as I went about this task. The watering took me away from a chore I was not enjoying; editing submissions for a newsletter , late-comers that were not to specifications. I needed some time to clear my head and the pots needed tending, so there I was, doing it slowly for all the backside bothers I’ve had, putting powder in the watering can, filling it to the brim, then watering, pot by pot by pot, doing the deck first. By the time I was through, I swear there were blossoms smiling at me in mass appreciation.

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The watering can full again, I took to the steps and tended to the pots on the driveway. These are larger pots and they were very thirsty, so, I needed to make a few trips up and down the stairs, then off I went to the front, hauling the watering can, which was easier than lugging the hose all the way up front, which is where I spotted Emerson’s “wayside sacrament”. A hummingbird was darting about, up and down shrubs and in among ferns. She was so busy that she did not notice me, nor the fact that I had just watered the fuchsia where the hummingbirds usually go for sweet nectar. I finally realized that this little wonder was looking for the blossoms of Rose-of-Sharon.

As you might imagine, in my excitement, I spilled the fortified water all over my feet. I wonder if it will help my toenails grow?

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I love hummingbirds and am delighted that they have returned and are usually found  sipping on the fuchsia, which is dscn8860-e12785074643571strategically positioned just outside our living room window. They also frequent bee balm out in the prairie and even come up on the deck. Yesterday, one stopped for a sip on a single stem of bee balm I had cut for a small vase.Tom has noticed them on the blooms of  Zeus and Aphrodite – drinking from the flowers of the gods.

I took it all in; the fair faces and flowers, feeling  very thankful for my “cup of blessing”.

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IMG_8077As with many adventures, ours began in a train station; the Riverside train station, to be exact. A group of 23 garden club members met in this historic depot for a customized tour of six private gardens, led by several docents of the Frederick Law Olmsted Society.

The entire town of Riverside, formed in 1868, was designed by renowned landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The entire town of Riverside has a National Historic Landmark designation and is often referred to as the town in a forest. The quaint downtown with its unique tower is the centerpiece of Riverside; a town with gently winding streets, a variety of stately trees and boulevards that meander, much like the nearby Des Plaines River,  down charming lanes reminiscent of another era and past homes designed by noted architects, including Frank Lloyd Wright.

Frederick Law Olmsted is widely regarded as the founder of American landscape architecture.

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Our tour was arranged by the conservation and education committee as we wrapped up our garden club’s 90th anniversary year. We were hoping to see how a town can develop in harmony with nature. We decided to tour Riverside (the past) and visit a relatively new enterprise in nearby Brookfield, Root 66. The owner of Root 66 gave us a program on hydroponics and aquaponics (the future) at our June meeting.

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As we “motored in our machines” to the gardens, our cars in procession, hazard lights blinking, racing through town at about 20 mph, we must have looked like a funeral procession. Some of the gardens were more fitting to the architecture and era of the home with prairie type plantings and natives, while others were more precise and controlled. We viewed the grounds of the Avery Coonley Playhouse, designed by Wright, as well as five other gardens.

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I found it to be a delightful and inspiring adventure, tired but smiling as I got back into my car at the Riverside train station, where our adventure began.

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Promises

 

IMG_8198I cherish the slow, silent, early morning moments when the sun slips through the borders of landscape and caresses the awakening garden. I anticipate those heavenly moments when angel rays reach out and press the promise of a newborn day.

We recently moved an old wicker rocker, a keepsake from the old Ohio homestead, to the front porch. It shows its age, but, then, so do I, which is quite fine. We immediately bonded, as eldersIMG_8350 often do, rocking back and forth in an early morning ritual of a cuppa tea at daylight and birdsong.

I have been a wee bit busy lately, writing and editing about the glorious gardens on this year’s Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire. In between tip-tapping away on the laptop, I’ve been tending the gardens as best I can and roaming the preserves and pathways around us. I’ve also been nursing a back injury; a bother to say the least, and a real pain in my back to say the worst. I’m on the mend, but, lost quite a few days in the fog of meds, a trip to the ER, and what must have looked like giant trying to put Jack back in the Box as Tom IMG_7688made valiant attempts at inserting me into the car – with a patch on his eye! Good thing angels were watching over us.

This isn’t about our troubles, however, but, to explain my absence, yet again, from these Cutoff pages, and to get on with the business of showing you that in spite of personal worries we all have, and in the shadow of all of the troubles and turmoil on this fragile planet, we can endeavor to reach for those angel rays, no matter how fleeting they are.

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Mrs_tittlemouseI’m here, dear readers . . .

. . . still here, chasing rainbows and hanging on moonbeams, following my shadow and wishing upon stars.

We were visiting grandchildren and family up North and tending to the garden beds here. I’ve been busying myself with the garden club’s activities and feeling a bit like Beatrix Potter’s Mrs. Tittlemouse, my house all awry with mixed up messes here there and everywhere. Such has been life here in along the Cutoff  on these early June days.

Do you ever feel like the world is spinning, faster and faster, and there you are, so far behind that you’ve almost caught up?  I’m not sure I will ever quite catch up, so, I’ll just settle for a bit and be content as I endeavor to get back into a more routine writing pattern.

I want to tell you about how our prairie garden, which has doubled in size, and show you our woodland plants sitting along the arbor, which is now covered in several varieties of clematis. The daisies and hostas have leafed out rather well and the catmint’s blooms are just about spent. They have been hosting a bevy of bees, with me skipping about in animated glee, much to the amusement, I’m sure, of the crew of construction workers, who have just about dug down to China with a massive pit for the foundation of the house that will finally be built on the barren lot next door.

The flora and “fawn-a” are a joy to behold – well, actually, I haven’t seen any fawn, yet, but the does have been “yarding up” in a way that usually indicates birthing babes is about to commence. So, off I go with my pens and rakes to scratch out a wee bit of my day and promise to write something a bit more substantial very soon. Here’s hoping you are doing well and enjoying whatever season you are in.

 

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