Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April Bloom Day--Spring at Last!

April--the month I consider true spring here in Illinois.  We've had our share of April showers, of course, along with some wild weather including hail and threat of tornadoes.  But in between, the calm days have been sunny and warm, including Easter Sunday, which had to be one of the most beautiful Easters we've had in a long time, a perfect day for the grandkids to run through the yard hunting Easter eggs.  It is also the time when the garden finally wakes up, and each day seems to bring a new surprise.

For this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, I am sharing a few photos that were taken last week.

The crocuses are fading fast, but they were a welcome sight to begin the gardening season.

Every year I plant more, and my efforts have been rewarded with some nice big clumps.  I love these striped crocus--'Blue Pearl,' maybe??--and must remember to add many more of these this fall.

The daffodils first opened up on Easter Sunday, appropriately enough.  The standard yellow NOID's are the first to bloom, but there will be many more of different colors and forms in the coming weeks.

One of my favorite small blooms of spring are these Scilla in the shade garden.  I don't remember if I planted more last fall or they have multiplied somewhat, but either way, more of these will be ordered this fall, too!

The Hellebores have taken awhile, but they have finally opened up, too.

Part of a collection I ordered from a mail-order company several years ago, they're all "ladies" of some type--'Red Lady,' 'Green Lady,' etc.--but I really don't know which is which, because they're all either white or deep red/burgundy.

The warmer temperatures last week really jump-started the hyacinths, which went from tightly closed buds to fully opened blooms in a matter of days.

I'm still not completely finished with gardening clean-up. due to rainy days and some other commitments.  But I couldn't resist planting a few pansies and violas in one pot.

One of the many delights of the spring are the surprises in the garden--surprises because I can't remember what I had planted the previous fall!   I had completely forgotten I had planted a few more miniature narcissus near my miniature Japanese garden until they appeared a few days ago.  On checking my notes, I found these are 'Topolino,'

Sasha kindly helped to show a sense of scale here so you can see just how diminutive these are.

Another surprise--some Chionodoxa, also known as "Glory of the Snow," under the lilac.  Actually, these bloomed last year, too, but once again, I had forgotten all about them.

Another new bloom this year--and one I had also forgotten I had even ordered, much less planted--are these Iris reticulata.  These are also planted by the miniature Japanese garden, and I think 'Harmony' is a perfect addition here.

 But my favorite surprise of all--Puschkinia scilloides, or Striped Squill.  I have admired these on other people's blogs for several years, and I can't believe I finally remembered to order some last fall.  Ten of these little beauties are blooming now, and I think they'll need some more company next year.

As I said at the beginning, all these photos were taken late last week, because by the time this posts, I will be in Texas cuddling my youngest grandson once again--no doubt posting lots of photos on Facebook:)  When I left, the lilac was leafing out, one flowering crabapple and the small serviceberry (above) were budding, and some tulips looked about ready to bloom.  Who knows what I will find when I return next week?  I am going to enjoy every minute of cuddling with Grandson, now almost four months old, but I'm looking forward to even more surprises in the garden when I return!

Thanks to Carol at May Dreams Garden for hosting GBBD each month and for her constant inspiration.  I expect this month will see a host of people joining in celebrating the arrival of spring.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Early Spring at The Chicago Flower and Garden Show

One of the things I look forward to every March is going to the Chicago Flower and Garden Show with my friend Beckie.  It's a welcome breath of spring, especially when winter has dragged on too long, and it's a good way to get inspired for the coming garden season.

Being "country girls," we enjoy the sights and sounds of the Big City.  The show is held every year at Navy Pier, giving us a chance to see the the expanse of Lake Michigan as well.  I suppose seagulls are a common sight to locals, but not to us living in land-locked Downstate.

But as much as I enjoy visiting the Windy City, I don't enjoy the traffic, so Beckie and I travel up the evening before just south of the city to spend the night and take the train into Chicago the next morning.  It also gives us a chance to talk and catch up with each other--except on the train ride home, when we accidentally got into the Quiet Car at rush hour.  I don't think the two of us have ever refrained from talking for a whole hour ever before!

Going up a day before also gives us a chance to be refreshed and raring to go for a day of nonstop garden viewing.  This year a friend of Beckie's met us at the show; it was her first time attending the show, so it was fun to see everything through the eyes of a first-timer.  The entry display above did not disappoint as we walked through the doors.

Surrounding the entry display was a tall trellis filled with flowers.  We debated at first what they were, but my guess was camellias.  Apparently we weren't the only ones who were confused; later in the day, I noticed a handwritten sign someone had stuck in front of them reading, "Yes, these are camellias."  It did seem a little strange that designers had chosen a plant, lovely as it is, that we can't even grow in the Midwest!

The theme of this year's show was "Do Green, Do Good." This display garden called "A Little Bit of Ireland" showed a different kind of "green."

It included several authentic, if rather different, garden accessories.  I don't think any of us would add this to our garden!

An interesting part of the display that drew everyone's attention was this round stone hut.  It reminded me of a very small Hobbit house.

One feature of the show each year is called "Tablescapes," different dining area tableaus created by local floral designers.  This one was rather over the top, but we enjoyed seeing all the succulent arrangements.

Most of the table displays were rather elaborate, but this designer decided to appeal to a different audience.  I wonder if any of the visitors turned to their spouse and said, "Honey, we could do this on our patio!"

Another yearly exhibit is by a group of female textile artists, Women's Journeys in Fibers.  This year the assignment was creating a mask as a self-portrait, and each work was accompanied by an explanation by the artist.  This piece was entitled "Ma Bell Transformed."

My favorite, though, was this garden-themed piece entitled "Maia, Goddess of Spring."

We have gone to the Chicago show for the last six or seven years and have developed a little more critical eye, I suppose.  No longer are we those garden innocents who walked around oohing and aahhing in wonderment as we did our first year.  But the truth is, the exhibitors have downsized since the first two years we attended.  There was the usual creative and large waterfall pictured above.

And one company which specializes in water features had its customary large exhibit of ponds and small waterfalls.

They include a lot of stone as well in their designs; not sure what this was supposed to be--a mini-Stonehenge?

But this exhibitor was the exception, rather than the rule. I remember one year talking to a representative at one of the exhibits who told us about the tons of stone they brought in just for the week-long exhibit.  Most of the displays now are much smaller and less elaborate.

One interesting display garden highlighted the plight of the Monarch and was designed to educate visitors on how to create a butterfly-friendly garden.  But as I looked around, I noticed the plantings were mostly annuals with no natives or specific host plants for the butterflies.  Plant selection throughout the whole show seemed less imaginative in past years with few that caught our eye and sent us scrambling for an i.d. tag.

But enough with the criticism!  There is still so much to see at the show that it is well worth the trip. One exhibit that was different from any I've seen in past years was simply called "A Classic Rose Garden."   Filled with a variety of roses, it was a rosarian's delight.  I don't have many roses in my garden, but I've heard so many good things about 'Julia Child' (above) that I might have to find room in my garden for this one.

The Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences always has an interesting display.  This year to follow the theme of "Do Green," their exhibit was called "Tiny House, Big (Little) Garden."  The focus of the exhibit was the tiniest house I've ever seen, showing how one could live in a much smaller space reducing our ecological footprint.  The gardens around the house showed how one could make the most of limited garden space, too, including many compact plants and several miniature gardens.

Note the pine cones used to build this miniature house.  I never got the chance to ask if the students had built this themselves, but it certainly was creative.

Another display garden also included some miniature gardens with lots of attention to detail:

Certainly plenty of ideas for any fairy-garden lover!

After seeing all the different exhibits, we always make sure to leave an hour or more to visit the vendors before having to leave.  I made a beeline for my favorite vendor, the bulb company, where you can purchase any of the bulbs seen in their gorgeous tulip exhibit.  This year I succumbed to the charms of 'Mata Hari,' pictured above.

Although I didn't buy any more of these, I was happy to see 'Patrick's Mix' in their display garden.  I purchased these bulbs last year and am looking forward to seeing them blooming in my own garden very, very soon!

We spent the better part of the day at the show, but still didn't see everything.  Somehow we missed the window box exhibit this year and didn't take time to go through the photography exhibit.  There are also cooking demonstrations, activities for kids, and different gardening seminars throughout every day of the show.  The Chicago Flower and Garden Show is well worth visiting, and yes, we do plan to go back next year!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ready for Spring, But First a Few Lessons From Winter

Hooray! It's Spring!  My favorite season of the year.  The snow has melted, and a little garden clean-up has revealed some emerging bulbs and even some crocus blooming this week.  But those of us who have lived in the Midwest all our lives, like me, know that Mother Nature might still have some unwelcome surprises in store for us.  Before I get too excited and while I wait for the perennials to start showing some new growth, it's a good time to reflect on the past season and participate in Beth at Plant Postings' seasonal meme, Lessons Learned in the Garden.

I have to admit gardening was pushed to the back of my mind for the last few months, so I'm not sure how much I actually "learned" this past winter.  Still there were a few little lessons worth remembering next year:
  • I can grow orchids!  Well, actually time will tell if they survive through another season.
  • Don't bring succulents indoors to over-winter, only to forget about them and leave them in the garage.  (Enough said.)
  • You can kill air plants.  I guess I should have read the instructions on these little freebies I got last summer at the Portland Fling.  Apparently, they need air and some weekly water.
  • Plan ahead for forcing bulbs.  Waiting till mid-January to plant them means they probably won't bloom till the outdoor bulbs are blooming anyway.
Every winter is different.  This year we didn't have nearly as much snow as some years, and as a result, I've noticed some heaving of a few plants as I have been cleaning up the garden.  Most of the garden was covered with a thick layer of leaves as mulch over the winter, but most of the leaves on my shade garden expansion apparently blew off.  I won't know for a few weeks if I lost some plants there, but it's a good reminder to make sure I mulch this area better before next winter.

There is something so beautiful and pristine about the garden covered in a fresh blanket of snow.

This may surprise some of you, but I actually kind of like winter.  You probably wouldn't have heard me say that last year, but this winter wasn't nearly as bad as 2013-14.  Sure, we had some very cold days, but the really cold stretches didn't last too long.  And we certainly didn't have as much snow as last year, meaning I could get out most days I had to without facing treacherous roads. The most snow we had all season was on March 1, late enough in the season that I didn't really get tired of it. 

Tulip Display at this year's Chicago Flower and Garden Show.
 Of course, I had to order more tulips for this fall after seeing these:)

Winter gives me more time to relax and complete some indoor projects.  I mean, who wants to clean out the basement on a sunny June day??  It's also a good time to look through garden books and magazines and plan that elusive perfect garden for the coming season.  A great escape as winter draws to a close is the Chicago Flower and Garden Show held last week at Navy Pier.  My friend Beckie and I have attended for several years now and find it a perfect way to get our spring "fix" and find new ideas for our own gardens. (More on this in a later post.)

But the best part about winter is simply this:  it makes me appreciate Spring so much more!

I don't think I could live in a climate without the four seasons.  Unless you have suffered through endless days of cold and a garden either muddy brown or buried under snow, I'm not sure you could appreciate a scene like this.  As the snow melts, it's so exciting to find little surprises like this.  And I'm not just talking about the emerging daffodils--Sophie is so excited, too, to find some of her favorite toys that have been buried under the snow all winter:)

The winter has held other secrets, too.

After a dull landscape all winter, tiny blooms are so much more appreciated.  An update on my snowdrops, by the way--they have multiplied a little, after all.

Tiny crocuses that would get lost in the riot of colors in late spring and summer are objects of wonder and happiness as they herald the end of winter.

It doesn't take much to make me happy--and a sight like this is one of them.

Yes, the best part of winter is that it is followed by Spring!

I'm linking this post to Beth's Lessons Learned and also to  Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View.  I hope that Spring has arrived in your garden, too!