Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gardening Trivia Question
We’ve started a new contest for the Countryside staff that I thought I’d also share with you. I will periodically pose a garden trivia question in our weekly staff meetings and then post the answer on the blog, so at least I know someone is reading this. So this week’s question is "How did tea roses get the name tea rose?" The answer is below.

News From The Nursery

K.C., the nursery manager, reports numerous calls of late regarding the freezing weather we had a few weeks ago and its impact on our trees, shrubs and perennials. The answer to your questions is we won’t really know until everything leafs out. For your trees and shrubs, K.C. recommends patience and some fertilizer. Use the plant fertilizer stakes or the Shultz granular fertilizer. The amount of fertilizer to use is based on the caliper, or diameter, of the tree trunk or the diameter of the drip zone. Our nurserymen (and woman) can help you figure out how many stakes or fertilizer you will need if you have those measurements.
As the trees and shrubs leaf out you may notice a brown edge on the leaves. This is leaf margin burn and is a result of the freeze. Other than being somewhat unattractive it will not hurt the plant. When the plant leafs out next year (barring another freeze), the leaves will look normal. K.C. recommends not pruning just yet, but once things have leafed out and you can tell what has died back, then you can do some light pruning.

As for your perennials and bulbs, again, patience is the key. If your daffodils are at half mast, resist the urge to cut them back. As long as the leaves are still green, the plant is sending energy to the bulb to prepare for next year’s blooms. The later blooming daffodils and tulips should not have been affected. In fact, my tulips just started opening yesterday. If your early perennials got a little nipped by the freeze, they may yet send up new stems from the root, though the blooms may not be as large or as plentiful. This is nature’s way of preserving the plant. It is keeping the energy in the root to get it through until next year.

K.C. has also done a little research on the 17-year locusts or cicadas. She says they should be emerging sometime in the next ten days. As I am a relative new comer to the Midwest, this will be my first experience with them, so I am actually looking forward to it. While noisy, they are not harmful to plants. You can cover your trees with netting, such as tulle or frost blankets, to keep the adults from laying eggs in them, and therefore preventing the invasion the next time. If you live in a new development you will not be affected since the excavating work that was done would have killed any larvae in the ground. Older neighborhoods, like Lakewood, will be the most affected.
Spring Gardening Seminars

We had a good turnout last weekend for our series of seminars. Our Aquascape representative gave a presentation on putting in a pond, using the Aquascape kits. Michael wowed people with his innovative container designs. Leslie (that’s me) talked about "out of the box" vegetable garden designs and planting, and Kim showed customers the latest and greatest perennial plants. I promised to put some of the pictures I used on the blog as they didn’t show up very well on the screen. I can also e-mail my presentation to anyone who wants it as can Kim Hartmann. If you would like either of these presentations, e-mail me at and I would be happy send them to you. The pictures below are from Villandry, a chateau in the Loire Valley in France that is renowned for its "parterre" style gardens. Another chateau in the same area with a unique garden design competition that is on display all summer is Chaumont sur Loire. Even my dad, Fred, enjoyed this garden, which is saying a lot for a guy who is busy these days turning his bit of paradise into an oasis of green (shrubs) and brown (mulch), heavy on the brown.

New Perennials

Two of the plants Kim spoke about at her seminar, and that have caught the attention of most of the green house staff, are Heuchera "Peach Flambe"and Euphorbia "Bonfire."
Heuchera "Peach Flambe"– Just when we thought we couldn’t stand another heuchera, Peach Flambe is introduced. This heuchera performs best with at least 6 hours of full sun but morning and afternoon shade. The peach foliage of spring will turn burgundy during the summer, eventually deepening to a deep plum for the fall. It is hardy in zones 4-8 and grows 7 inches tall and 14 inches wide. The small flowers are white.

Euphorbia "Bonfire"– While most euphorbias have green foliage that turns mahogany in the fall this magnificent plant has soft, velvety mahogany foliage all summer long. Like all euphorbias, it has bracts rather than flowers and the flower bracts of Bonfire are chartreuse. It has a mounding habit, getting 8-10 inches tall with an 18 inch spread. It is hardy in zones 5-9 (we are zone 5) and it is deer and rabbit resistant. Just as a side note, euphorbias are some of Michael’s favorite plants. He especially likes the Polychroma. I only mention this because if I ever get desperate for gardening trivia questions, this might be one.

Gardening Trivia Answer
Many of the plants we know today came to our shores from other countries. Roses are no different and many came to us from China via England. The English shipped them on the same ships that carried the tea they also imported, hence the name tea roses. After they had been hybridized, they became known as hybrid tea roses.

Michael in the Garden
For those of you who missed the seminars last weekend, you can catch Michael every Saturday morning in May at 8 am for a hands-on container gardening seminar. Michael will show you the premium annuals and perennials that make great container plantings and how to transition your containers from season to season. Bring your container and leave with a completed project. If 8am is too early, Countryside staff are always available to help you plan all of your gardening projects.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Where Have All the Flowers Gone (and the fruits and nuts and vegetables)

It has recently been reported in the news media that the bee population is under attack. Not only are we reducing bee and other wildlife habitat, and increasing use of pesticides, a new crisis has arisen– Colony Collapse Disorder. Although the origins of this problem are not well known, it is thought to be caused by a mite. Bees are unbelievably important to agriculture. According to a recent article in the Chicago Tribune, they and other insect pollinators are responsible for “every third bite of food we take.” One hundred thousand plant species are dependent on bees for pollination and 130 commercial crops depend on them as well.

What Can We Do?

First off, be careful when using garden chemicals of all kinds. Be sure to read the label, including the precautions, and follow the directions. Do not use more than you need. Make sure the product you are using is what you actually need. The horticultural staff here at Countryside attends training sessions put on by our vendors and we can answer or find the answer to questions you might have regarding garden chemicals. Many insecticides are non-selective, which means they will kill any insect that comes in contact with the chemical. Do not spray on a windy or even breezy day. In July and August, I am constantly battling Japanese beetles on my roses. I use a pyrethrin-based product (pyrethrins are an extract from chrysanthemums) and spray the Japanese beetles directly every evening when I come home from work (as I often say I am a martyr to my roses), but this way I am assured that only the beetles are getting killed and not other beneficial insects.

Second, we can provide habitat for bees by planting species that bees like and by putting out “bee houses.” There is a type of non-aggressive bee called a mason bee that pollinates fruit bearing plants, does not make hives and does not make honey. They are safe around children and pets. They build their nests in holes in wood. (Coincidently, we have mason bee houses for sale here at Countryside. Ordinarily I wouldn’t be so blatantly commercial, but since I figured you would call here anyway to see if we had them, I thought I’d save you the trouble.) So, “bee” part of the solution to the bee crisis. Plant bee friendly flowers and put out some mason bee houses.

Perennial Plants That Bees Like
These are just a few. Bees also like many herbs and annuals.
Allium Malva
Anemone Nepeta
Campanula Russian Sage (Perovskia)
Centaurea Rudbekia
Clematis Salvia
Coreopsis Scabiosa
Echinacea Sedum
Gypsophila Verbascum
Lavender Veronica

Fun Facts To Know and Tell

Bees have five eyes.
Bees must collect nectar from about 2 million flowers to make one pound of honey.
Average per capita honey consumption in the US is 1.3 pounds.

Farther Afield

Last week several of the greenhouse staff took time off for spring break. Laura Fergus and her family traveled to Washington, D.C., while Jana Tyk went west to Arizona. While in Arizona, Jana and her husband took in the Desert Botanical Garden ( in Phoenix. This 50-acre garden was founded in 1939 to “encourage an understanding, appreciation and promotion of the world’s deserts...” It is home to over 21,000 plants, including 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species. Numerous trails take you past several specialty gardens. The Plants and People of the Sonoran Desert promotes the interaction between man and desert plants. The Desert Wildflower Garden includes hummingbird, bee and butterfly gardens. The DBG promotes desert landscaping and conservation through seminars and classes. The most interesting tree Jana found was the Palos Verdes tree (cercidium microphyllum) with its green trunk and branches.

The Fergus family enjoyed Washington D.C., though they were a little early for the cherry blossoms. If you do get to D.C. at any time of the year, be sure to visit both the US National Arboretum ( and the US Botanic Gardens ( The National Arboretum is operated by the US Department of Agriculture and is located in the northeast section of Washington, D.C. and accessible by Metrobus. The mission of the arboretum is to “serve the public need for scientific research, education, and gardens that conserve and showcase plants to enhance the environment.” The arboretum staff conducts basic and wide-ranging research on trees, shrubs, turf and floral plants. The woody plant collections at the arboretum include azalea, dogwood, boxwood, holly and magnolia and a dwarf and slow growing conifers. Also located there are perennial and herb gardens, a knot garden, a rose garden and Asian gardens.

The US Botanic Garden is located on the National Mall across from the US Capitol. It is accessible by the Metro. The genesis of the gardens began in 1816 and it has been at its present site since 1933. The garden includes a conservatory and 2 acres of outside gardens. In 2006, the newly created National Garden was opened on 3 acres just west of the conservatory. So, if you do get to our nation’s capitol, don’t forget a visit to our national gardens.

For any one interested in seeing more of the world’s great gardens, I just picked up a book titled, “1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.” It is modeled after the book, “1000 Places to See Before You Die, which I am slowly ticking my way through, and details gardens on just about every continent. If you’d like more information, stop by Countryside and ask for Leslie.

The Garden Clubs of Crystal Lake

Have you ever wondered who takes care of the Triangle Garden at Minnie and Brink Streets, by the post office boxes, or the garden at the train station or the Blue Star marker by the Chamber Office on Virginia Street and who sponsors a scholarship in horticulture at MCC? Well, the answer to all those questions is the garden clubs in Crystal Lake. We have four hardworking clubs and over the next several months we will highlight each of them and their contributions to our community. In the meantime, here is a list of the clubs and a contact name and number, if you want more information on how to join.

Countryside Garden Club (no relation) Kathy Fueger 815.455.0707
Green Twig Judy Olson 815.459.0540
Garden Gate Marlene Filskov 815.356.0771
Wedgewood Jeanette Muench 815.444.1622
(Wedgewood Garden Club is limited to residents of the Wedgewood subdivision)

Gardening Success Begins at Countryside
Mark your calendar for April 21 and 22 when Countryside presents four seminars on gardening. Titled “Spring Success,” the day begins at 10:30 with a presentation on installing a garden pond. At 12 noon, Michael Fedoran will give a talk on spring containers, followed by a program on out of the box vegetable gardening at 1:30. Kim Hartmann talk about new and exciting perennials at 3:00pm. These presentations will be given on both Saturday and Sunday. See you then!

Until next time, Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

To Create, First You Must Destroy

As gardeners we are, as a whole, nurturing people. We like to see things grow. We take pleasure in saving things, in moving a plant from place to place to find its perfect spot. We move and we take our plants with us, like old friends. But there are times when something just has to go– a perennial, a shrub, a tree, that has not performed, or has "over performed" or was planted in the wrong place from the start and is now too big to successfully transplant. Sometimes it takes a neutral, disinterested third-party to bluntly point this out.

The other day, the younger daughter and I were starting to do a little garden clean up when she pointed to two shrubs and said, "Those are really ugly and they need to go." I guess in the back of my mind I thought the same thing but tried to convince myself that they served some sort of purpose, I suppose to spare myself the work of ripping them out. They are (were) two yew shrubs planted under a crabapple tree, which is itself planted too close to the house. They were supposed to be trimmed topiary fashion, but I never had the time or inclination to keep up the trimming. In some cases having shrubbery at the back of an ornamental bed provides a nice backdrop or "canvas" for what is planted in front. It stops the eye from gazing beyond what is the intended sight. It is part of the classic English style mixed herbaceous border. In my case, the bed is next to the house, so the house itself serves that function.

The benefit to using yews or other evergreens in the landscape is that they are evergreen and it can be quite comforting to look out in the garden on a cold dreary winter day and see something green and living and know that spring will surely follow. In this particular instance, I can’t see this bed from the house and we never walk that way in the winter because that is where the snow plow guy pushes all the snow from the driveway. I do spend a lot of time there in the summer and I would much rather have a flowering shrub, such as a hydrangea (there are three Endless Summer in front of what used to be the yew shrubs and a small rhododendron, as well as spring bulbs). I was thinking of putting in another rhododendron for some spring blooms or the new Blushing Bride hydrangea that would flower later in the summer, since the others have done so well there, but Alexa asked if she could do the planting and, as I want my girls to enjoy gardening as much as I do, I think I’ll let her.

The Professional Staff at Countryside

Here at Countryside we take great pride in our profession. During the winter months we all further our education by attending seminars and trade shows. A lot of the staff have also gone to great lengths to obtain a certificate sponsored by the Illinois Nurserymen’s Association and become Illinois Certified Nurserymen or ICNs. The newest member of our staff to get this certificate is Kim Hartmann of the Greenhouse Staff. In honor of this achievement we are sponsoring a little contest called :"Stump the ICN Professional." Come in, find any of our ICN professionals and ask them a question. Make it a hard one so it really puts them to the test! In return we will give you a coupon good for $5.00 off your purchase that day. This is a really great way to get to know our staff and save some money in the process. They are looking forward to hearing from you!

Karen Campney

The Greenhouse Staff Skips Work

The other day Richard and Lori were out of town so the greenhouse staff decided to "play hooky," and we all went to the Chicagoland Flower and Garden Show at the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center in Rosemont. The Flower show is undergoing some changes and appears to be in a "rebuilding" phase, but it was still worthwhile. I guess it is hard to wow industry professionals, but I personally enjoyed the Triton College display, with its dry creekbed of blue glass. Jana was impressed with the tablescapes displays by various flowershops and college floral design classes. I know we all enjoyed the wine tasting booth at the end of the day. Well, actually I guess it was before lunch, but we all still enjoyed it. The next planned outing will be in August when we go to the Ball Seed Field Days in West Chicago. The Ball Seed Gardens are gorgeous and we’d like to take you with us. If this is something you would be interested in let us know. E-mail Marcy at and we will keep you posted on the details.

Weather Alert

Temperatures will be falling this week with the possibility of SNOW! Actually, the snow will be most welcome if the temperatures drop as predicted as it will help insulate your plants. If you have already planted some of the cold tolerant annuals, pansies and violas for example, you may wish to cover them. Use an old sheet NOT PLASTIC. If you don’t get to it, don’t worry. You may lose the flowers and the leaves may get a little "frost-bit," but the plants should be okay and they will re-flower. Planted containers should be brought into the garage. If your bulbs are up and flowering, cut and vase the flowers to enjoy inside before they freeze. If your shrubs and perennials have started to leaf out you may notice leaf margin burn later in the season as they mature but overall they should be just fine.

And speaking of bulbs, if you get the chance before the snow comes, drive down Woodstock Street in Crystal Lake and just east of Oak Street on the north side is a lovely display of naturalized scilla. Along with crocuses (crocii?) and iris reticulata, these are some of the first bulbs to bloom in the spring. They look fabulous naturalized in the woodland garden or even in the lawn, as in the lawn of the house on Woodstock Street. We often are asked what is meant by "naturalizing," and this is a perfect example.
Until next time...Happy Gardening!