Thursday, June 12, 2008

Girls' Day Out

Sometimes a person just has to take a break. I have felt like a workaholic the past week, sinking into my favorite armchair each evening too tired to move. First there was my wet basement, which has finally dried out and been partially restored to order. Then there were all the gardening projects delayed by the rain we had last week. At the top of that list was the vegetable garden, which I would never show you here because the weeds had begun to take control. Carol has recommended you "embrace weeding." Well, my vegetable plot needed more than an embrace; it needed a giant bear hug! For two days I worked during the cooler parts of the day to chop, hoe, and pull every unwanted plant in that plot, and then I mulched the tomatoes to avoid having to work so hard the next time we have a big rain.

In the middle of all this I had a birthday last week. I told my granddaughter, though, that this was going to be an "un-birthday." My theory is that if you don't acknowledge it as a special day, then it doesn't count and your age stays the same. Makes sense, doesn't it? She was quite amused; after all, she's only twelve and is excited about becoming a teenager in a few months. She doesn't yet understand the prospect of growing older. My husband, though, took me quite literally and decided a kiss and a quiet "happy birthday" were all I needed. He still doesn't understand me after all these years; a new piece of jewelry or even a gift card to a garden center would have been gladly accepted even if it were just another day.

All this is a rather lengthy way to explain why I was excited when my friend Beckie called to suggest we go out for lunch and celebrate my belated birthday. This has become a yearly tradition between us, but this year I really was ready for a day out. We had a nice lunch, catching up on family news, her leaky roof, and my wet basement. But more and more our conversations turn to blogging and gardening. So it should come as no surprise when I tell you how we spent the rest of the afternoon--plant shopping and visiting a local garden, of course!

We stopped at two of the nicer garden centers in town just to window shop. I had only one plant, a small caladium, on my list, because I had vowed to buy no more plants until I have planted everything still sitting in their original small pots on my patio. (And of course there's my problem with EWS.) Beckie wasn't going to buy anything. Of course, neither of us stuck to our resolutions, though we showed remarkable restraint compared to previous trips. One nursery had two tables of perennials on sale, and I couldn't resist buying three foxgloves after seeing all of Cheryl's appealing photos of them.

These will make a nice addition to my shade garden, which still has several bare spots, so I don't regret buying them. I did tell Beckie, though, that our problem is that we are both "plant enablers."

After a few other stops, we ended our day by visiting the Master Gardeners' Idea Garden on the University of Illinois campus. We have visited this garden twice this spring, and I posted some photos of it at the end of April. At that time there were a few remaining blooms from spring bulbs and flowering trees, but mostly the growth of perennials was just beginning. This was a photo taken at that time.

This is the same area (although in a different direction) taken yesterday. Isn't it amazing what a difference a month can make?

One of the things I like about the Idea Garden is that every plant is labelled so that if you find something you like and want to plant in your own garden you know exactly what to buy. It also has different sections in it ranging from traditional perennials and Illinois natives to more experimental plots. One section contained tropical plants so popular now, including this plant which was probably labelled, but of course, I forgot to write it down. I think it is some type of bromeliad?

There was a small section, too, called the bog garden. I didn't take any pictures, but I probably should have looked at it more closely since my roadside garden has been more of a bog garden lately.
One of my favorite sections is the children's garden. It includes plants that not only appeal to the eye but also to the sense of touch. It encourages children to stop and look, smell, and touch the flowers. Whimsical additions like the topiaries draw the attention of visiting children. There were several animals including the giraffe below; more are pictured on Beckie's post today.

I thought this metal ornament was cute and would surely appeal to kids as well.

The Idea Garden gives the Master Gardeners a chance to experiment with different plants, and they do include some unusual ones. The plant below was simply labelled "Burnet"; its spikes are topped with reddish plumes. I did find out that it is a member of the rose family and is a native wildflower in some areas.

Two of the more unusual plants were these two: an "Egyptian walking onion" (where does it walk to??) . . .

and an "Adam's Needle."

Interesting, but I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy either of these two very soon.
On the other hand, there was this lovely tree simply labelled "Willow," Salix integra. I wanted to show the whole tree, but this picture doesn't clearly show the attractive foliage which was tinged with pink.
The best part about the Idea Garden, though, is to see the plants in different stages throughout the season and to see how they actually fare in a central Illinois garden. A photograph in a catalog might show these blossoms of an oak leaf hydrangea, but it couldn't capture the size of this plant which must have been six feet tall and just as wide. (I do hope I've identified this correctly; the label was obscured by the plant.)

Obviously, this plant does well in Illinois and would be a good choice for local gardeners if they have a spot big enough to accommodate it.
Beckie and I plan to return to the Idea Garden several more times this summer and fall. We may not be Master Gardeners, but we are learning from all their hard work!
All in all, it was a great day out, all the better because we spent it together. And now it's time for me to get back to work--all those root-bound plants are crying out for care. Wishing you a happy day of gardening!


  1. Your description of our day was wonderful. I like that we can both look at the same thing but see different parts of it. Your pictures were great.

    Spending time with my life-long friend always nourishes my soul. Thank you!

  2. Rose,
    How wonderful to have a life long friend who gardens and blogs...gardenbloggers all over the blogosphere are sighing with delight for you and Beckie! I know I am!

    The perennial bed you photographed is lovely and there are some great ideas...did I see Itea in there?

    Happy un-birthday.


  3. I love foxgloves. Mine are almost finished blooming.

    I always enjoy reading blogs from fellow Illinois gardeners.

  4. Beckie, I have to confess I looked at your post last night before writing mine so that I didn't duplicate your pictures. But you are right--no two people look at the same scene the same way.
    What a lovely comment, and thanks for a wonderful day!

    Gail, Yes, I am fortunate to have such a good friend as Beckie. Yesterday we realized how many years we have been friends and that next year will be a big milestone. We may keep that big number a secret, though!
    You may very well have seen itea in that perennial bed, but I couldn't tell you if it was there or not! Beckie and I are going on a Garden Walk next week that will include the Idea Garden again, so I'll try to look for the itea then.

    Marnie, Thanks for adding your connecting link. I always feel bad when someone comments and I don't go to their blogs. I noticed you like foxgloves too:)

  5. Happy belated unbirthday Rose....

    Lovely foxglove, you won't regret that buy Iam sure. When they have finished blooming cut the stalk down to the nearest leaves and you may get a second flush. Don't forget to save some seeds to scatter around your plot next spring. Before you know it you will have bee paradise.

    I have five salix integra or pink flamingo in my garden, they are delightful little trees but love a damp environment. You can grow them in a barrel as well, we long as they are watered regularly.

    I am glad you enjoyed your day.....

  6. Rose, I have oak leaf Hydrangeas and I just love them. They like a lot of water, which is good because they sit right where our sump-pump discharges into the lawn.

  7. A belated Happy Birthday Rose. We share the same month for our birthday. My Sister also has a birthday this month. Actually I know 3 other ladies with June birthdays. It was a good month for us ladies.

    It sounds like you and Beckie had a great time. I just love to go on garden tours. It is wonderful to be able to go to a garden with labled plants. I always come across something I 'need' when I get to reading those lables. :)

    One good thing about gardening is that the weeds will always be there for you no matter how long you are away.

  8. That looks such a great place to visit and spend some unbirthday time!

    Husbands are mostly useless aren't they?!! How could he take you at your word?! Mine would do the same and then I would hold it against him for a while (!) but he would have no idea what he had done wrong!!

    Thanks for sharing all those lovely plant pictures :)

  9. Ah, but if your husband had not taken you at your word, and had bought you something, you might not have felt so inclined to give into Plant Lust at your birthday lunch - might have worked out better that way ;-]

    We used to have the walking onions, which would fall over so the tops grew new onion plants a foot or so away from the 'mother'. They were always on the move!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  10. Lovely photos. It's so good to visit garden centres and gardens with a girlfriend, I find. My husband is willing to accompany me, but, if he does, the visits are over and done with in no time at all!

    My garden has been particularly hard work, this year. I planted all of my plants, hanging around in pots, a few days ago. Today, I bought 2 more!!

    Thanks for calling in at my virtual party. It was a great day! Belated 'Happy (un)Birthday' for a few days ago! If it's an un-birthday, you should subtract a year!

  11. Cheryl, Thanks for all the info on the foxgloves. I planted some a couple years ago, but they didn't come back. Now I see why!

    Joyce, I love any kind of hydrangeas, but so far only have the blue Endless Summers. Sounds like you have a good spot for yours.

    Lisa, Happy late or early birthday! I always thought the best part of a birthday in June was that I was always on summer vacation then! I think I have a handle on the weeds for now; I tend to lose interest in weeds about August:)

    Suburbia, Yes, it was a great place to visit. Beckie and I used to go clothes shopping for fun, but you know I don't like to do that anymore! I thought Husband understood that I don't always mean what I say; I guess I need to refresh his memory.

    Annie, When I reread this, I thought maybe I sounded too hard on him. You're right--I went out and bought the present I wanted anyway!
    Thanks for the info on the onion; I had never heard of this plant before.

    Mean Mom, Well, my birthday certainly wasn't as exciting as yours! Have you recovered yet? I chuckled at the spam sandwiches; we used to have fried spam for supper sometimes when I was a little girl. And thanks for the suggestion on subtracting a year--I like it!

  12. I happened to read Beckie's post earlier and then responded to your comment by coming here. It was fun to see the day you two spent together from both angles. There's nothing like long-time cherished friends spending the afternoon together.

  13. Happy Un-Birthday to you Rose!

    I wish I had a friend close by that liked to garden as much as I do. You and Beckie are really lucky to have each other!

    I don't remember there being a garden like that at U of I when I was a Hort. student. Of course it has been almost 20 years since then (where the heck did the time go????) I was a member of the Hort Club and we used to have a Mom's Weekend Flower & Garden Show in the Stock Pavillion (I think it was on Pennsylvania Ave. at the time). I don't know if they still do the show or not; if so, have you ever gone to one? It was a lot of work, but we did a great job!

    Maybe in the future I'll post some pictures of it on my blog.

  14. Jane Marie, Yes, we had a great day. We both enjoy gardening, but we share a lot of similar interests as well.

    Laura, Thanks for the un-birthday wishes...
    I'm not sure how long the Idea Garden has been there--it's located off Lincoln Ave. by the Arboretum. There have been several things added there in the last several years, including Japan House, which I've never visited.
    As to the plant show at the Stock Pavilion, they do still hold that, and I've gone a couple times with my daughters on Mom's Day Weekend. It's a fun show to see the different ideas. I had planned to go this year, but something came up and I didn't.

  15. Rose,

    You said, "We may not be Master Gardeners, but we are learning from all their hard work."

    Well, well, well. Don't you realize how much you know???? I'm a non-gardener. I plug plants and flowers in the ground and keep my fingers crossed. I learn from you and Becky and 50 other "real" gardeners in the blogosphere. :o)

    Glad you had a grand day with Beckie. I wish you some dry weather and less weeding. Oh, heck, the weed pulling is like paying the mortgage. They remain.


  16. Oh, and Rose, I intended to comment on your Birthday. Us women need to express ourselves more clearly because men just don't get it. I ignore my birthday and my husband does the same - just a happy birthday is what I got but, around the same time I got a new hose bib and a laundry tub. I think, on my birthday, I would have liked a little something wrapped, if even a Yankee Candle. Nice jewelry would do too! LOL! We need to blow our horns. Go for the gusto.

    Happy Belated Birthday!!!!!

  17. Mary, Thanks for the compliment on being a "real" gardener--what is that quote about "the more I know, the more I realize what I don't know"? That's me with gardening.
    Thanks, too, for the birthday wishes. I think it's part of being a woman and especially a mom; you worry about everyone else's needs before your own. As I get older, I get more assertive--kind of like Kathy Bates' character in "Fried Green Tomatoes." Next year I'll give him a list before my birthday!

  18. Rose !! Happy Belated BIRTHDAY !
    I'm singing the song over here .. good thing you can NOT hear me ?
    I understand your theory on the birthday thing ..
    That was a great girlie day to have. Plant enablers .. now that is a whole new way of thinking about why I buy plants .. the only problem is I have to pin the blame on "on line blog friends" since I don't have garden friends close by.
    I also wondered about where those onions were going to walk to ???

  19. PS .... I have planted foxglove for 4 years .. always the bridesmaid (leaves) but never the bride !!!! no flower stalk, no flowers !!!!

  20. Isn't that always the way? Our female friends understand us better than our husbands. Oh well, I don't think that will change any generation soon.

    Loved your photos of the Idea Garden (Beckie's too).

    Oh, it is sooooo hard to pass up good plants. A sale table of perennials? Oooo - I don't think I'd have been as restrained. I didn't know foxglove was a shade plant? Thanks for the info. Will buy some (oops - not more plants)!
    A very Happy Birthday to you and thanks for including us in your celebration.


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