Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Terry's Garden

A few weeks ago I drove down Hillside near Stern’s Woods to visit Countryside customer Terry Young. Terry is a Mc Henry County native and a retired art teacher. His garden, which is ever changing, reflects his artist’s eye. He mixes color and texture to create a wonderful garden. Terry has worked on his garden for over 15 years. Grassy paths meander past islands of color and meet at the vegetable garden at the bottom of the garden.

Since I have known him, Terry has added many late summer and fall blooming perennials, so I was surprised to learn that part of his garden is devoted to spring blooming woodland natives. One of his mentors in gardening and woodland plantings was the late Bill Wingate. Terry has several plants, including a celadon poppy, that were given to him by Bill.

Another thing I like about Terry’s garden is the use of annuals within his perennial beds. Some of his favorite annuals are the tall, colorful zinnias and cleome. He grows both of these from seed. Another of his prize plants is one that came from a 120 year-old farm house in McHenry County. The green coneflower (Rudbeckia lanciata) is normally found in southern Illinois. For the longest time he didn’t know what it was and finally had to enlist the help of the county extension office in Woodstock to determine what variety it was. This plant grows in sun to part sun and can reach 5-6 feet tall and about 3 feet wide.

To the west of Terry’s house is a row of trees that have grown and matured over the years Terry has lived in the house. Slowly, these changes are impacting the garden. Terry has had to reduce the size of the vegetable garden and shift it more to the east. Eventually it will be taken out. Some of the grasses that dot the various beds have also suffered from the increasing shade.

I also didn’t realize that Terry has an extensive collection of container gardens on his deck, including this unique antique chimney flue. This year he has it planted in New Zealand flax (phormium), which he overwinters indoors, vinca vine, impatiens and coleus. These same colors are carried out in the other containers.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This morning while drinking my coffee and reading the paper, I enjoyed watching the nature that surrounds us. The robins have already hatched their first clutch and the fledglings are out on their own. Now they are getting ready to lay eggs for a second round. The bunny that frequents my front garden is hopping up by the road and the hummingbird is stopping by my impatien bed for breakfast.

I took Beth Bott's (Chiczgo Tribune garden writer) advice and planted a few more vegetables in my front perennial bed that had a few spots open. I planted a sweet pepper and two different types of egg plant. It's also not too late to start a vegetable garden, depending on the type of vegetables that you would like to grow. Cooler weather is not too far away and you can do a second sowing of cool season crops such as carrots, beets, broccoli, lettuces, turnips, spinach and chard. You could even do some cabbages if you get shorter maturing varieties. we will be doing a final crop of some of these at Countryside and they should be available by the end of August.

I noticed recently that my roses seemed mysteriously Japanese beetle free and then yesterday I saw that my neighbor had put out a Japanese beetle trap. So I am hoping that that is where they have all gone. And bless her heart for "taking one for the team."

What's New at C'side

As things have slowed at the store we are making plans for next year. Lori is in the midst of ordering perennial plugs for plants we will grow here. Young Pamela spent last weekend in Ohio at the Ohio Shortcourse. They have seminars relating to al facets of the green industry for industry professionals, including production, green house management and marketing. One great idea that she came home with concerns how we display our annuals for containers. We now have 6 tables devoted to plants in the same color scheme that would look good in a container or window box. Micheal has already potted some up so you can see what it would look like and are for sale, or you can buy the individual plants to do it yourself.

Next Friday Micheal and I are going to West Chicago for the Ball Seed Field Days. These gardens are also open to the public, so if you have the opportunity to go, make sure you do. Cantigny gardens are not far from there and it would make a great field trip for a garden club or other group.

Kim Hartmann will be attending the Perennial Plant Association meetings in August in Ohio. Last year she came back with some great plant selections that we have incorporated into our plant offerings this year. Some of those plants she showcased in her presentation on New Perennials ofor 2007, and you can see a slide show of those by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page.

Luggage Update

As you may recall from earlier postings on my return from Spain earlier this month my luggage was left in Barcelona and missed my connecting flight to New York and then Chicago. Because the flight from Barcelona to Madrid was on the local discount Spanish airline, Vueling, they refused to forward my bags to me, even tho the service rep at the claims counter assured my would. I ended up paying DHL to pick up the bags for me and they are now on their way here and should arrive Monday. All of my pictures were in the backpack I carry and as soon as I get them back and sorted I will post the garden pictures.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Using Chemicals

The party is over and now gardening is just work. There are many plants yet to bloom in the garden, but now we have to water, and deal with weeds and insect problems.

I found a few Japanese beetles on my asters, tho none on the roses yet. Last year I used Bayer Tree and Shrub systemic on the roses. It lasts for 12 months and it kept the beetles from chewing on the leaves but did not prevent them from eating the flowers. (In a side note, we wondered at a staff meeting if this meant using systemics on vegetables would be okay since if the chemical didn't get into the flower it wouldn't get into the fruit. I suggested an experiment but I couldn't get any volunteers. So don't try that at home, either.)

Whenever you apply chemicals it is really important to read the label and follow the directions. Make sure you water your plants thoroughly before applying the chemical. The chemicals are taken in through stomas on the plant leaf and move through the plant via its vascular system. If the plant is suffering from drought the chemical won't be as effective.

Since most chemicals have a petroleum-based carrier, apply the chemical either early in the morning or late in the evening, so that the chemical has a chance to dry before being hit by sunlight, otherwise you will burn the leaves and further stress the plant.

Heat can also affect how well the plant absorbs the chemical. When it is hot stomas close up to prevent moisture loss and chemicals sprayed when the temperature is over 85 degrees will not be as effectives as when sprayed when it is cooler.

Chemicals today are manufactured to use the least amount of chemical to get the maximum benefit. And they aren't cheap. So make the most of the money you spend on them by using them correctly and most effectively.

Home Again

When I was in high school and went to Denmark on a 4-H exchange trip, my friend Eilley Weddle gave me a poem about how it was nice to visit other countries but also nice to come home to the US. And that is how I feel this morning. We had a great time in Spain and saw lots of things that were really old, including 20,000 year old cave paintings, but it is nice to be home and sleep in one's own bed. I wish I could say the same thing about my lugguge, which is still enjoying a vacation, because it got left in Barcelona. I hope it gets home soon.

My garden seems to have survived my absence. The butterfly bush that I transplanted before I left is still alive, as are my lobelia hanging baskets (although they need a trim,) and other bedding plants. This morning while drinking my coffee I watched a juvenile hawk land in the yard. There must be a bird nest in the honeysuckle hedge, because he ducked into the hedge, which caused a little stir and came out with something in his beak. The wren that was at the feeder did not move a feather. Yesterday when I was watering my impatiens, a hummingbird was feeding on them. I have a hummingbird feeder in the back but I like to see them also feeding at my flowers.

I stopped by C'side yesterday to pick up my schedule and chatted with Lori, who tells me the Japanese beetles are out. I found a few on my asters and sprayed them with Safer's Yard and Garden Insect Spray. It contains pyrethrins and salts of fatty acids. I don't think it has much of a residual effect because you can use it up to the day of harvest. I don't like to do a wholesale spray because it is a non-selective chemical (even though it is organic) and will kill even beneficial insects, like bees. I spray the beetles directly and I spray every day.

I am back at work on Wednesday, so stop by and see me.