Sunday, July 27, 2008

Two More Gardens

The Wayman Garden

Susan and Glenn were my neighbors for many years until I moved into town last year. Her garden has undergone many changes in those years. Like the Hartmann’s, she and Glenn seem to do one major project a year. Over the years they have redone the front entryway, added brick paver walkways and expanded the perennial beds to border the entire back yard.

Susan likes plants that flower and the color scheme is a soothing blend of pinks and purples. One combination of plantings that she really enjoys is red astilbe and chartreuse hostas that she says "just glows" in the spring. She enjoys attracting some wildlife to the garden, especially humming birds, which frequent the monarda and the nepeta. She also likes the grass-like sedge, "Silver Scepter."

They have several fruit trees and a grape arbor and every year they put in a large vegetable garden. Last year she put up 34 jars of Concord grape jelly! They use no pesticides on the garden. Her favorite tomatoes are Rutgers, Celebrity and Big Mama. They will do a fall planting of more lettuces and radishes. Susan recommends using old CDs strung on fishing line to repel deer. She says if you hang it closer to the ground it will also scare off rabbits.

The Donahue Garden
Arlene is a long time member of the Countryside Garden Club (no relation), who enjoys all types of gardening and flower arranging. She has a large butterfly garden planted with lots of Asclepias, a milkweed favored by Monarch butterfly caterpillars. One year my daughters and I spent a fascinating afternoon there watching a monarch caterpillar spin a cocoon.

Arlene has several raised vegetable beds and I was particularly impressed with the trellis she had built for the cucumbers. The plants were already starting to scramble up the trellis without much help from Arlene, though she did tell me later she does tie them up.

Her favorite garden area is "The Secret Garden." This secluded garden is hidden by a shrub hedge with a willow branch entry way. I enjoyed the iron sculptures she had in various beds. Usually at some point in the season, the perennials are between bloom periods and it is nice to have something else to focus on.

One of my favorite plants is the giant allium and Arlene has several growing in her gardens. When they are in bloom they look just like a firework exploding on the Fourth of July, but even after the bloom is spent it still looks good.
It was a great day of gardens, but I have to say I was exhausted by the end and went home and took a nap! I hope you have enjoyed our little tour. Click here to see more pictures from my tour. Next Sunday I hope to get down to Ball Seed for their "Open Day."

More Garden Walks

The Neville Garden

The Neville’s moved to a smaller home on this Kane County property in 1976 and then to a bigger house on the property in 1989. The garden has been a work in progress ever since.
Whereas the Hartmann garden is an oasis of peace and tranquility, this garden is ablaze with color. I particularly loved the annual bed of cosmos and annual poppies that greets guests as they arrive and the well placed statuary and other permanent structures found throughout the gardens. The butterfly and hummingbird perennial garden was also well done.

The main interest on this property is the 2-acre native garden. Carved out of farm acreage, this native area is truly a labor of love. Once established, native gardens such as this are fairly easy to maintain, but getting to that point involves a lot of weeding and removal of unwanted plants.
As if the ornamental beds aren’t enough, the Neville’s also have a large vegetable garden. I was pleased to see them using the "Better Reds" plastic mulch around the tomatoes. University research has shown that using the red mulch reduces nematode growth and reflects light rays back up to the plant resulting in greater growth above ground. The upshot is that production is increased and Mrs. Neville reports similar findings.
Gail Johnson
Anyone who drives down Pomeroy Street in Crystal Lake has seen Gail’s front garden and the back is just as pretty and well maintained. It has been featured on Master Gardener Garden Walks before and this year was on the Countryside Pond Tour. For a small city lot, Gail has packed in a lot of plants and features.
The pond in her garden is not the main attraction, but it does add an element of calm and one can imagine unwinding after a stressful day at work with a glass of wine.
We get a lot of inquiries at Countryside about wisteria and there are several varieties of wisteria that will grow here. Gail purchased this one at Countryside several years ago and it is thriving. The variety is "Aunt Dee." Like all wisterias, this variety prefers deep, moist well drained soil however it blooms while still very young. Most wisterias are very slow to establish and don’t bloom until they are 5-7 years old! Gail is quite the plant collector and she loves roses, especially rugosas.
To see more pictures of the gardens I visited, click here. Also, don't forget the Open Day at Ball Seed in West Chicago on August 3.

Monday, July 21, 2008

On Patrol: Garden Walks

Many of you know Kim Hartmann from the greenhouse department. She joined Countryside in 2006 after a stint at Craig Bergmann’s retail garden center and 18 years as a management consultant at Hewitt and Associates. She has given many talks about gardening and perennials at Countryside and she often mentions that her mother was her gardening inspiration. Last Saturday I had the opportunity to visit Kim’s mom’s garden as it was on a garden walk sponsored by the Fox Valley chapter of the American Association of University Women.

There has been a house and barn on the Hartmann farm since the 1890s. The garden of present occupants, Ron and Pat Hartmann, has been a work in progress for the past 46 years. Kim’s dad, Ron, grew up on the farm and her mom, Pat, was raised on the neighboring farm. Ron currently farms about 800 acres of corn, soybeans, and hay. Originally, it had been a dairy and then a hog farm.
Pat told me that she "likes plants that look good all season." She usually selects plants based on their foliage. She finds flowers "too noisy." Her goal is to create peace. She also wanted to have something nice to look at out of each window of the house. She has lots of hostas and woody shrubs, such as hydrangeas. When she wants some color she will plant impatiens or coleus. She has several specimen conifers from Rich’s Fox Willow Pines that add vertical elements and interesting textures to the garden. Her other favorite places to shop are Countryside (of course) and Wasco Nursery, which is closer to her home.

Pat is pretty sanguine about her garden’s evolution. "Gardens are always changing," she stated, noting that trees grow, mature and fall down and you have to react to the changing environment. In some cases Pat and Ron are on the second landscaping of an area. Now they are contemplating changes to the porch and garden beds around the side door.
Pat offers these words of advice to new (and old) gardeners:
1. Make sure the soil is right. Amend it if necessary.
2. Keep the mature size of the plant in mind when you plant.
3. Where nothing will grow, put in annuals or a rock or a piece of "tchotcke."

Here is a link to more pictures from the Hartmann farm as well as several other gardens I visited that weekend. Don't forget the Ball Seed Open House on August 3 in West Chicago.

Sunday, July 13, 2008


We’ve come to that time of the year when things start to slow down here at the ‘Side. You’ve put in the garden, planted your annuals, and maybe added to the perennial garden. Now you are off on holiday or just taking it easy.

There is always something to do in the garden, mostly under the heading of "Maintenance." Maybe your spring containers are looking a little droopy. Some plants need to be cut back or thinned before they take over the container. Sadly, one or two of plants may have "gone dormant," which is a nice way of saying "dead." Don’t be afraid to get out the scissors and give things a trim, or if need be, add some summer annuals to the container. There are many heat and sun tolerant annuals you can add to the summer container. Angelonia is a great upright element in a container. It comes in purples and white. Pentas come in reds, pinks, and whites and attract butterflys and hummingbirds. Coleus work well in sun as well as shade containers and come in wonderful variety of foliage colors.

Keep a sharp eye out for bugs in the veg garden. Keeping them in check now, with the judicious use of insecticidal soap or even something stronger, like Eight®, will pay dividends in the long run. I have noticed that the Japanese beetles are now out in force. I would have thought that with the cold spring we had this year their development would have slowed as well and they would have emerged somewhat later. But, sadly, no. They arrived right on schedule. You can use Eight® on them as well. It is a contact spray with some residual, but you will have to reapply on a regular basis. For future reference, you can use a grub control on the lawn starting next month to kill the grubs that hatch when they lay their eggs. Milky Spore® is a biological control that will take several applications to build up an optimal level of grub killing bacteria in the soil but our customers report good results with it.

I’ve been riding my bike a lot around Crystal Lake in order to save on gas and for the exercise. Here are a few pictures of a few things I’ve seen in my travels. Here is a prime no-no with the mulch. The transition zone between the roots of the tree and its trunk is an entry point for diseases that can be harbored in the mulch. Small burrowing animals can winter over in the mulch and gnaw on the bark, damaging the tree. Mulch keeps the tree roots cooler and helps conserve water, but it should be kept away from the trunk of the tree.

I saw this cute idea for a planter on my way to the grocery store the other day. If you have a cute planter, please email it to me at and I will upload it to the blog.

I hope you are all enjoying our summer. I have enjoyed spending Tuesday evenings out at the lake listening to the summer concert series. If you haven't been you are missing a fun evening. Countryside deliveryman, Jim, plays the tuba in the Crystal Lake Concert Band and they are always great to hear.