Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Dahlias - Display Planting in Dublin

A few years ago I enjoyed and reviewed on this blog the Dahlia show at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I really enjoyed the diversity which was shown there. Dalia's were always a flower that my mother loved to grow - but my father didn't like the digging up and replanting which is required for these tuberous-rooted tender perennials when growing in cold climate gardens. 
National Botanic Garden - Dublin, Sept 2015

None-the-less, these bright and colorful flowers bloom from midsummer to first frost, long after many other plants are fading away. The range in color and size is so large - flower shows or clustered plantings of Dahlias can really highlight the spectrum from giant 10-inch blooms to smaller pompons. As many varieties grow 4 to 5 feet tall, these plants can take a commanding place, a statement piece, in many gardens. 

On a recent tour of the National Botanic Garden outside Dublin, I was so pleased to see a large section of their Annual Bed dedicated to Dahlias. The outer beds were all daisies, the middle beds were mums and dahlias respectively . It was so nice to be able to not only see the blooms but also understand the slight differences in height, leaves, and structure of the plants.

I've captured shots of my favorite dahlias. I hope you enjoy too! Also see my other reviews of Ireland sites and adventures.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

DIY Pallet Container Garden - Large Version

Pallet Container Garden
A few weeks ago I posted about a DIY container garden I made from a pallet.  Then just a few weeks later I was at the Garfield Park Conservatory and saw this very large option, up-cycled pallets,  in their vegetable garden.  

Please do not attempt to put this design on a porch! This must weight a ton. Especially after the rain or a good watering. 

That said, if my yard had extremely poor soil, or I was growing a root crop, this would be in my yard most certainly!

Same basic considerations are used create this architectural element for the garden as in my smaller version. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

For the Love of Roses - Dublin Botanic Garden, Review

Rhapsody in Blue Rose
In a recent tour of the National Botanic Garden outside Dublin we walked through the Rose Garden. Virtually every botanic garden I have ever visited has a Rose Garden.  Roses are from China - a great export. The first "Rose Garden" occurred in the late 1700's in France. One avid (and wealth) gardener put in place a garden with over 250 rose varieties.  The Huntington Garden in California is the only the World Federation of Rose Societies Award of Garden Excellence recipient  rose garden that I've visited. 

I generally stroll through and think about how much love roses need - and how I've never been so lucky in my garden. Wild roses, no problem, but more typical roses never seem within my grasp. I enjoy the variety and the aroma! 

Little did I know that on this visit in Dublin, I would find my most favorite rose ever - that being the Rosacea Rosa Rhapsody in Blue - shown above. This picture makes it look a tad more pink.  The quest for the blue rose continues...

Dublin Botanic Garden - Rose Garden, Sept 2015
Take a look below for some of the great rose variety I saw.

Which will be your favorite?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Wild Flowers of Ireland - Howth

On a day trip from Dublin, Ireland, I had the pleasure of taking the DART (train) to the town of Howth.  
Howth is a rocky headland or peninsula that extends into sea in north Dublin Bay. Much to my delight, it is an area of wild natural beauty supporting many wildflowers. Here is encountered gorse for the first time.  These pictures were taken in early September, 2015. We had a perfect day walking around. 

Howth has two distinct habitats sea cliffs and dry heaths.  From the train station there is a bus to the summit and then choice of two walking routes that meander around the cliff-side slopes above the sea. The day we visited there where people from many nations enjoying the blue skies and  colorful patchwork of flora and abundant bird life.  
I especially liked the blazing yellow gorse and vibrant purple heathers - the contrast with stones and grasses was beautiful. Gorse is a spiny evergreen prone to seaside dry condition. It was so abundant. No fragrance sadly. 

Howth Sea Cliff Path - Sept 2015
Gorse and Heather

Read on for more sites and wild flowers we enjoyed. Also see my other reviews of Ireland sites and adventures.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

DIY Pallet Vertical Container Garden

Using pallets for something other than shipping platforms is fun and easy to do. I see lots of furniture and household items created from pallets. I have a posts on a few items I've created along these lines. This spring I wanted to make something for my garden - that being a pallet vertical garden.
Vertical Container Garden from Old Pallets

I created two planters this year, one which I placed in the shade near some hostas. Nothing tall seemed to want to grow here and I thought a little vertical interest would be a nice add. The second I put against a wall with lots of sunshine and perhaps too hot for other items. The latter was great for succulents :)

The pictures are from the shade pallet container garden - my first attempt. I also note some lessons learned that I incorporated into the second garden.

Here is my supply list:

- Wooden Pallet
- Additional wood (optional depending on the pallet) I used old wood flooring
- Heavy duty garbage bags (large)
- Hammer / Nails
- Staple Gun
- Old Coffee Sacks or Burlap Fabric
- Plastic milk jug or other beverage container
- Scissors or Knife
- Potting Soil
- Plants

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bee Yard - Helping Mother Nature

This year I decided to lend my garden to be an apiary or bee yard. Yes please bring on the beehives of honey bees.  I reached out to a few beekeeper associations and within a day or so I have several beekeepers who offered to keep hives in my yard in exchange for honey (or not depending on the health of the hive.) Bring it on! 

I don't really care if I get any honey well just one jar would be awesome. I wanted to let someone expand or learn their craft while helping Mother Nature bring back the bees, and potentially help out my own garden productivity. We selected a spot in the sun nestled up next to some Arbor Vitae and away from the road and pedestrian traffic. That also means away from the mosquito foggers.  The beekeeper also put in a little water fountain with a solar pump so they would have a ready water source - and the mosquito larvae wouldn't thrive. 
It was a grand experiment for all of us.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review Bird Haven Victorian Conservatory - Joliet

Bird Haven Conservatory, Joliet, IL Jul 2015
South of Chicago, in Joliet Illinois, there is a nice example of a Victorian Conservatory which was once common as part of large mansions and residential estates of the well to do.  I visited the Bird Haven Conservatory and was surprised by what I found and didn't find. I very much enjoyed the visit and recommend this as a day trip from Chicago particularly in conjunction with Midewin Tallgrass Prairie previously reviewed on this blog.

In particular I couldn't help but compare and contrast to Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory which was built around the same time - but with a very different philosophy.  Also updates and additions to the facilities has shown some major differences.

  • At Bird Haven, typical to the period, plants are placed in pots within the conservatory. At the Garfield Park Conservatory plants were planted in the ground to provide a sense that one is actually in a tropical or other exotic environment. This approach was considered very radical at the time. 
  • Both facilities have been updated over time. At Bird Haven a very large brick structure was added adjacent and connected to the site. I thought this really detracted from the historic integrity. The Garfield Park Conservatory was also expanded - to accommodate groups and catering. In this case a similar glass structure and style was used. So it seems more cohesive. 
  • Updates on the inside of the conservatory were also a bit different - similar to the comment above. Some of the adds at Bird Haven, to me, detracted from the overall design. 

Please enjoy the additional photos.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Midewin Tallgrass Prairie - Restored lands park

Midewin Tallgrass Prairie - July, 2015

Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie has been on my bucket list for a while. It's about an hour and a half from Chicago. That's close enough to have a nice day trip and just far enough to take some planning. 

Thus, when I had the opportunity to take a trip to Joliet area to participate in a charity bike ride, naturally I took a side trip over to see this prairie restoration. 

Despite the near 100 degree weather and thunderstorms - I loved it! Around every turn were wide open spaces, blooms, bugs and a restorative calm. 

This location is the first national tallgrass prairie. It's massive at 19,000 acres, the largest piece of contiguous open space in northeastern Illinois.  The panorama below does little justice to the feeling you get talking around the park.  On this hot hot day - there were hardly any other people there. I felt like an explorer or pioneer woman!

Midewin Tallgrass Prairie - July 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Review Chicago Antique Malls: Part 4 - Lake County (Zurko Productions )

This past weekend I had the opportunity to journey to the Antique Show at the Lake County Fairgrounds in Grayslake, Illinois. This is an event run by Zurko Promotions - details of which are on their website (linked here)   A really fun part of summer for me is going to garage sales, flea markets and these outside antique shows. I was super exited to head to Lake Country after a fun girls day to the Sandwich Antique Market just a month earlier. 

Lake Country Antique Show - Photo From Zurko Promotions
I should have taken heart in the photo provided on the Zurko website - that being a very large indoor room with vendors displaying on tables - i.e. not a great deal of larger items like furniture. 

What you see is what you get! Table with lots of costume jewelry, post cards, maps, buttons, bits and pieces. Lots of glassware too. 

There were also about 30 stands outside this main building. Five of which were selling beads - all the same merchandise and same price points. I enjoyed the exterior vendors more - unique furniture, old boxes, garden items. 

Read on the the 4th of my Antique Mall and Fair reviews...

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review Chicago Antique Mall - Sandwich, IL Antique Fair (Part 3)

Antique Wrought Iron Fencing
I have given a few reviews of antique malls and stores around the Chicago area (link here.) In the summertime there is added adventure to getting to any of a number of larger antique events such as Sunday's at Sandwich Antique Show.  I remember going to an antique market in Sandwich maybe 15 years ago or longer. It was almost too overwhelming and too much to cover in a day.  Today the market is undergoing a bit of revitalization having contracted significantly since my visit years ago. Under new management and a few years into the rejuvenation. I really enjoyed my visit and highly recommend as a day trip.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Designing 360 Degree garden views

Walled Garden Flower Bed
Something my grandmother taught me about flower gardens was that the design needed to consider views from all angles. 

That is a concept that she mastered not only once but many flower beds and all year long too! 

I wish I knew now what she planted and where - but alas, I just recall the beautiful output of all her hard work.

Recently I saw a beautiful flower bed - brilliant despite challenges with sun and water.  In some views there are not so many flowers but a variation in leaf size and plant height creates interest. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wine Crate Container Garden - DIY up-cycle

Earlier this week I was giving a presentation on container gardening with a focus on Herbs. When I give garden workshops I like to have something live to use as demonstration so I decided to up cycle a wine crate into a container garden. 

Wine Crate Herb Container Garden - DIY
There are a number of how-to websites that simply treat - drill holes - plant. This didn't seem to be quite sufficient for a container that I hoped would last all summer outside. I keep in mind that wine crates are designed for one time use; they are not the best wood out there and are usually not constructed very well. Therefore, I decided to do a few things differently than others propose. My technique includes:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Grand Reopening - Desert House at Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago

I've previously reported on damage and closure to Chicago's historic Garfield Park Conservatory, designed by Jens Jensen over 108 years ago. Several portions of the conservatory were repaired relatively immediately while other updates were done over time. This month (April 2015) the conservatory celebrated it's grand reopening. 

One of my favorite spots in the Conservatory is the Desert house. Here there used to be many pencil cactus and ponytail palms. Tucked in-between these tall succulents were some very unusual and rare plants.  When I give tours of the site, this room is always one where people want to linger and get closer to the "non-native" plants. It's also where children want to touch but parents are nervous!

Garfield Park Conservatory
Desert House - 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory
Desert House - 2009

So it was with much anticipation that I visited to see the renewed Desert House!  At first I was startled by how much more open the room seems - without the pencil tree that used to anchor the north side (all the way up to the ceiling) and with one of the large cactus severely cut back, the room is so much brighter!  There are also a wider variety of cactus and succulents as a result. Many plants which were previously maintained in the back-greenhouses and put on display at the reception desk, are now in the collection.  Plus the plants are spread out more - enabling viewing of each item more fully. This also makes it feel more desert-ish :)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Kitchen Scraps to Garden Treasure - Easy Plant Propagation

Starting plants from leftover scraps
Springtime and fellow gardeners are getting excited about planting seedlings. Seed starting is a key activity. This year I'm excited to be planting food scraps. Yes, there are a number of foods that you can grow from kitchen scraps. That's pretty great. The next best thing to buying local is not buying at all. Is this food recycling? It's nice to always have a home-grown supply of these items on my kitchen window sill or garden.  While it saves a little bit of money - it is also easy and fun! Kids that come over find it amazing.

To facilitate the process I use a plastic container from Costco apples. These little impressions are the perfect place to put the root end of celery, carrots, lettuce. Take a look at how this all works with examples of specific veggies. 

Here's my list herbs and veggies that I've (tried to) regrow from the scraps. Others listed at the bottom can be grown from seeds - but that's another story :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Morton Arboretum - Springtime Woodland Beauty

Daffodils naturalizing the woodland
Today I had the pleasure of visiting the Morton Arboretum - just west of Chicago. I was a tad worried that it was too early in the year to visit - but I was so wrong!

The woodlands and grounds are awash in native woodland spring blooms! Miles and miles of trails - be that pavement or with mulch.

People young and old enjoing the grounds. It was interesting to hear people talking about the shape and form of trees and would they look right at their home. That's great to take a long view to support trees! So many old growth trees needed to be removed - ash and elm disappearing in favor of maples I guess.  Nice that people are thinking about some diversity!

At the arboretum it's easy to identify the different species. This spring the fruit trees and flowering shrubs add to the ambiance.  This was such great inspiration for my own woodland restoration efforts!

Thousands of Trout lily and groves of May-Apple were so beautiful. Not a single buckthorn tree in sight!

Open Woodland - No Buckthorn!
Mayapple flowers in Spring

Highly recommended :)

Here are just a few shots from the day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Cloisters New York

In early spring I had the opportunity to visit New York city and went up to visit The Cloisters Garden and Museum.  My New York friends were very skeptical of taking the long train ride. However, noting that they had lived in NYC for nearly a decade and needed to do something new, they acquiesced with my request :)


The Cloisters, New York Mar 2015
The 66.5-acre Fort Tryon Park was kicked off by the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1917, when he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to create the park, which he later donated to New York City in 1935. The museum and adjacent gardens were built in 1934-39 on 4 acres of the park and were created through grants and endowments from Rockefeller. With insight to future development, Rockefeller bought and donated hundreds of acres of the river front property across from the museum, the New Jersey Palisades to the State of New Jersey. The view is awesome.

The building itself looks original to the rocky point and so old. With good reason, the building was designed by Charles Collens using parts of five cloistered abbeys. Talk about repurposing :)  . Further old building from Europe were disassembled and shipped to the site where they were reconstructed and integrated into this beautiful museum.  The photos below give a small sense of the integrated feel and medieval ambiance!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cactus Propagation from Stem Cuttings

Never touch the cactus -
no fail method to propagate
Cactus can be straight forward to propagate and you can do it without injury from spines. The trickiest part is making sure you don't get poked in the process!  Here are my tips for getting more of your favorite cactus. This is a good late fall or winter activity for many cactus are not actively growing now. 

Make a Cutting:

First you need to get a piece of the parent plant. For this you need just two tools. Best way to do this is to cut the stem with a very sharp knife. I tend to use a serrated knife work - like a bread knife, which has just come out of the wash and I know it's clean and sterile. This will helps limit risk of bacterial diseases.  The second tool that you need is my secret weapon for

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Dividing Potted Succulents

Repot Me PLEASE!!!
Several years ago I started this succulent (I believe a Gasteria) from a cutting received at the Huntington Garden.  It is a very slow growing plant - so just this spring I decided to divide and repot it. This is a clump-forming succulent plant, so as soon as the container is "full" the plants are clearly outgrowing their assigned space and need to be divided. It's similar for aloe, some sedums, agave, hens & chicks, and the like. For most succulents Spring and early summer are the best times to divide since it's before their growing season. However, there are succulents who's main growing season is winter - so double check before you proceed. 
Here's my approach for dividing and repotting succulents

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Spring Flower Show - Garfield Park Conservatory

For the Love of Tulips
Spring Showing in my Yard
Today I visited the Spring Flower show, entitled Sun Showers, at the Garfield Park Conservatory.  I look forward to spring flower and garden shows to get my creative fix. I also start thinking about the ephemeral and bulbs that will be breaking through in my own yard.  Plus it's just so great to get into a warm space that is bursting with color and fragrance! 

At Garfield Park Conservatory flower shows - one display house, the show house, is taken over by the display items. At times the explosion of flowers also spills over into Horticulture Hall and the lobby. This show was no exception. 

Please  enjoy the photos.  I'm not sure the colors are 100% true, but here are the shots of my favorites :)

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Planning My Vegetable Garden

Home Grown Goodness! 
One of my favorite garden activities in the winter time is planning out the plantings for spring and summer. This year I'm getting more serious about the vegetable garden. That is because I'm eating lots more veggies this year :) and my neighbor cut down mature ash/elm trees which were along the property line and reducing the sun available to my garden.

Last year I broke my wrist in the spring so the vegetable garden never really got planted. It sat fallow all year. So this year it should be ready to burst forward with an abundance of produce!

There are many great resources for planning a vegetable garden. Advice for site selection, soil preparation, and more available. My task was selecting the plants and arranging them.