Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I didn't expect quite as big a deal as I got putting my garden to bed this autumn. When the new large (large!) house went in to the north of me I knew changes were a-comin' but ... the developers had whacked my 2 old pear trees which went, now, straight up considerably past the 3rd floor of the new house. The trees responded to having no secondary branches by putting out a final no-holds-barred bumper crop of fruit. Fruit which was heavy enough to damage the new house's roof & keep the new tenants awake especially during the recent windstorms.
This situation led to a sidewalk parley between the new neighbors and me: both sides expecting hissy fits and getting (Mirable dictu!) calm, rational, neighborly negotiations. Yes, the trees had to go - they were now ugly & messy. (They'd destroyed my fish pond by bombing the fish and I spent an enormous amount of time cleaning up smashed pears.) I also couldn't afford to have the trees taken down. The neighbors (it's a million $ house) offered to take the trees down, grind out the stumps and buy and plant 2 new trees - my choice. Even flipperty-gibbet me knew a win-win deal when I saw it.
The trees came down, a final crop delivered by the treemen to be saved for a famous lady photographer/canner Dina; pear wood logs saved for a carpenter friend of mine and a Stewartia tree (pale yellow & white peeling bark with camellia-like flowers) and a disanthus (a multi-trunked distant Japanese cousin of redbud trees with oval leaves turning red in sun) went in. A close friend, Edwin, helped me move the pear trees' underplantings (Solomon's seal, hydrangeas, wild geraniums, berganias, roses-of-Sharons) into pots while the trees came down & back after the new trees went in. (Some things had already gone dormant and disappeared for the winter. We'll see if they survived under and/or between the transplanted survivors.) Edwin also helped me drain the pond looking for fish survivors (one). Now if carpenter Jeremy comes and gets his logs I can plant my tulips, aliuums, croci and daffodils & be done for the winter.
You know those bags of leaves people are leaving in alleys? Snag a few for your perennial beds if you don't have enough of your own. (Stomp on the bags if you want faster decaying mulch.)
You've heard it before but if critters eat your bulbs plant fritillarias & daffodils. They're poisonous.
Don't use heavy mulches right next to tree trunks. It encourages fungi and trunk girdling (Your mama coulda told yah girdles are killers.)
Run to those plant clearance sales. I got 4 re-blooming daylilies for $8 total. Did they look awful? Yup. So what -cover 'em with leaves.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Edminster's Musings
Sept. 29, 2010

I may have to get a tame monkey as a garden helper. The developers next door have trimmed my already tall pear trees up even more & not only removed all of the mid-level branches but some of the top ones. The 2 pears have decided that while they may have half as many branches they are going to produce just as much (that's MUCH) fruit almost all out of reach, except as semi-lethal bombs during wind storms. Perfectly edible & cannable as my Polish pal Sophie and friend Jim discovered by using long-handled nets leaning over my top deck.

Check out "The Bucolic Plague" - a memoir by Josh Kilmer-Purcell which tells of 2 gay men, one a former drag queen, the other, a Martha Stewart employee (Yeah, she's in the book but there's only garden dirt. She comes off pretty well.) who move into an upstate NY abandoned historical mansion and restore it and its gardens to a working farm. Funny & bitchy.

R.I.P. One of the most prominent gardeners in the world, Wayne Winterrowd, 68 died in Vt & is survived by his spouse, Joe Eck. Their garden was world famous and they designed high-end gardens all over the continent besides writing garden books together.

Notes from my garden: I looked at the giant crown-shaped pods of my Japanese tree peonies and was surprised to see pea-sized seeds on some & tiny powdery seeds in others. Planted 'em all.

I saw off most of my sun-frizzled ostrich ferns (we're officially in zone 6, instead of 5 now, you know) to their new shady grove home. Their new owner, Edwin, refers to me as their "fern-father." In their places went sent-away-for re-blooming daylilies, re-blooming Siberian iris and some humongous lambs' ears donated at our last garden club meeting by Steve Meyer. I sprinkled some seeds of native black-eyed Susans and tall purple bee-balm among them.

Did anyone else check out the re-seeding impatiens of our hosts, Warren & Bob at the last Fairy Gardeners' meeting? They have a pink and white Policeman's Cap, a pinkish-purple type and a deep purple. All have come back a number of years.

I went off with my friend, Maha, to visit a retired teacher-friend of ours, Elaine, who has advanced cancer. Elaine befriended me at Taft High School when I, a new sub, was plunked into 5 art classes for a whole marking period. Elaine marched next door & gave me enough projects & materials for the entire time. We bonded even more when I gave her, a fabulous gardener, a giant bag of discarded flower & vegetable seeds from the garden center I worked at. Some (heck, most) are still growing in her far South Side yard (& of course, many were annuals. Figure that one out.) She gave me a big beautiful banana plant to take home this time, and I gave her some flying saucer morning glory seeds, purple bee-balm & poke-weed. (The purple New England asters I gave her years ago were glorifying her yard at our visit.) We all knew what these gifts were for. Elaine said that she'd have to live to see those saucers next year and Maha said that Elaine'd have to come visit her banana child at my house. (By the way, I hope you don't think we went & just talked at her: we cleaned her house, washed her clothes, did her dishes, took out the trash, grocery shopped & talked to her!)

Prepare for winter; hope for spring.
Edminster's Musings
Sept. 1, 2010

Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. I have a secret politically incorrect horticultural hobby. I call it the Johnny-Appleseed-City-Project and it is most emphatically not endorsed, sponsored or even approved of by this newsletter, club or blog. I scatter flower seeds where there were none before. And I do not pay attention as to whether they are native or not: pokeweed, Joe Pye weed, sweet Cecily, phlox, columbine, lilies, beebalm, milkweed, wild geraniums, morning glories, rose-of-Sharon and others. There ARE rules: no neighbor's yards, no parks, no nature preserves. Certainly no place where anyone is trying to restore (futilely, in my view) a pre-colonial ecology. Only plant in wastelands - dusty dry back alleys, vacant lots, wrecked factory campuses and the like. I have found & planted a scrub woods on a deserted railroad spur behind an isolated mega-store; I've found & planted the back end of a parking lot behind a dead strip mall; I've found a whole series of burned-down, knocked-down buildings. They'll all be blooming years from now. No, I don't do buckthorn or purple loosestrife but I am following in a certain anarchistic tradition. In England in Victorian times after a certain Mrs. Wilmont visited friend's gardens they later found an incredible flower growing. That plant is now called "Mrs. Wilmont's Ghost." To any who read this and are tearing out their hair in p.c. anguish, get over it. We're all emigrants. Are you going to banish or send home hostas, cedars of Lebanon, wheat, rice, roses, day-lilies, dandelions, dill, Chinese dogwoods et. al., et. al.? Not to mention, by the way, us? Make the deserts bloom.
Once you get over the drama of sending your former shade plants into exile (because of a sudden shocking loss of shade) it can get sort of interesting putting in replacements: the ferns are all going off to an old friend with a shady yard. As ferns go out in go white coneflowers, purple sedums, pink beebalm, and Russian sage. Soon to go in: enormous so-called tree lilies, maybe agastache, hollyhocks, yarrow and salvia. Do we have a plan? We don' do no stinkin' plans! Well, the plan is - if it lives & doesn't look quite right, move it or give it away. Hmm, could I fit in a miniature Japanese Maple or a chartreuse sumac? Should I plant out the largish boxwood (saved from destruction next door)? Should I set up a super grow light situation to try to save one of my pond's tropical water hyacinths? When should I tip over the potted amaryllis (bought 5 for a buck at an estate sale) to put in the basement? Should I clip back & pot up the 2 pink mandavilla vines in the yard? (One is blooming on my top deck climbing up the gilded Japanese-style cross beams I put on the peak of my building.) Should my gardening friend Lucy & I take over the branch of the local garden club that managed to flub up and skip our neighborhood's having a garden walk? An interesting winter looms.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Edminster's Musings

July 30, 2010

This latest spate of hot, hot weather in Chicago thanks to global warming, el nino, glacial melting, big banking fiascos or whatever leads one to conclude we gardeners had better bone up on xeriscaping or at least the upper Midwest version of dry(er) land gardening.
I have an extra helping of lack of shade since the old bat next door removed her shade trees (and my shade). Some of my lessons may be useful to some of you:
Some shade plants can adapt and some can't. My fallopia ("painter's palette") does fine, light colored leaves and all. My wild geraniums bloom in spring and then, unlike in the woods, go completely dormant and disappear till next year. The hostas are mixed as to sun & heat tolerance: blue and green ones tend to burn; yellow ones ("sum & substance") are pretty much okay. Some ("golden tiarras") are doing fine in full sun. If you have a favorite but burned hosta & no place to put it in shade, pot it up and move it onto the porch. Hostas do fine in containers - just put it in the garage or basement in the winter.

Some shade plants are retreating on their own to shadier nooks in the yard: Canadian & European gingers. The ground cover which I thought was for full shade, false lamia, is full shade. And half sun. And full sun. I'm glad it doesn't climb.

My ostrich ferns make it thru spring and the 1st half of summer and then frizzle. I think (shh, they'll hear) they may be replaced with phlox (buy mildew resistant ones, or breed your own. Yes, you can - ruthlessly cut down any mildewed victims. Don't let them go to seed. My phlox don't mildew after this regimen for 15 years.) or Russian sage or tree peonies or Tiger's eye sumac.

The rose of Sharons around the yard do fine, sun/shade/heat. A bonus: one of my friends has trimmed his back yard r-of-s's as trees and they arer close to 25 feet tall.

Some prairie plants are good in dry heat and sun: ironweed, grasses, coneflowers. The plume poppies (7 feet tall) which hung on in partial sun are reveling in full sun. As we go to press Anne Raver in her column in the NY Times writes on these same topics. She also recommends lilies, sylphium, Joe-pye-weed, sunflowers and rudbeckia maxima for the sun garden.

Because of the configurations of houses and yards in Chicago many people may have to research the best plants for dry shade but remember, nothing's forever - we may have to re-do our gardens with science-fictiony newly bred shade tolerant saguro cacti, yucca and a host of north advancing former sun perennials (formerly annuals).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Media Watch - 2/3/10 - Jim Edminster

Harper's (Feb.) has a hilarious memoir by Darryl Pinckney about his obsession with the gay sections of the about-to-be-defunct soap opera "As the World Turns." Who would've believed, A) there are soap opera conventions for fans, B) those playing gay roles (AKA Luke & Noah) have their own (large) group of fans and C) many of these white boys' fans are African-Americans (of which the gay Mr. P. is a member)? The fans are so, so, umn ... fanatic that they have influenced the plot lines, & why have the series' writers listened to them? Perhaps the fact that the 49 second video clip "The Kiss" (of L & N), when posted online, got 2 million hits.

The NY Times (2/04) tells us that Adm. Mike Mullen in testifying that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ought to be tossed into the "Do-Not-Recycle" bin of history, decided at the last moment to use the phrase "gays and lesbians" instead of "homosexuals." This military man is apparently a lot more calm about gay issues than Senator John McCain who, in spite of his long (brave) imprisonment in the Viet Cong gulag is still throwing hissy fits about our soldiers having to face showers in common with - ick - gay guys.

Finally, a real excuse (tho' they're not going to use it) to NOT attend one of those "points-for-politicians-prayer-breakfasts" in Washington, D.C. The NY Times (2/04) says one of the major (hidden) sponsers of the National Prayer Breakfast is "The Fellowship", also called "The Family." As exposed in the book, "The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power" by Jeff Sharlet, the group has direct ties to the Ugandan attempt to execute gays for being gay. Perhaps those attending could pray for the gay folk of Africa and for those in the Family to, ahem, come out since they're very reticent about publicity. Not ashamed or anything, are you guys?

The New Yorker (3/08) has found yet another group (as if we didn't know) which is just crawling with gays & lesbians: the Black Gospel Circuit. Anthony Charles Williams II, known as Tonex (Toe-Nay) is the "... first high-profile gospel singer in history to come out of the closet." Quoting a history of this genre by Anthony Heilbut, "The Gospel Sound": "There's more sissies and bull daggers in ...[these] Sanctified churches and they all think they're the only ones going to Heaven," and commenting on the "flirtatious" atmosphere in the choir dressing room in a large Harlem church, "They all carry on, even the straight ones. But as long as it's kept in the family nobody's gonna say nothing." Tonex has lost many of his fans and is being denounced from former friends' pulpits.

Monday, June 15, 2009

First Post: A Garden Repost from June 1st

You have some time on your hands? Of course not but perhaps you might have a spare moment or two for a neighborhood project. You & your friends/neighbors/ boyfriends could plant the parkway. All over Chicago people are planting mini-gardens there. Technically the space between the sidewalk and the street belongs to the city but nowhere have I heard, do officials forbid the greening (and purpling and redding, etc.) of this semi-public, semi-private land.

You do need to follow some rules:
1.) Leave (better yet, pave, with old bricks or flagstones) at least one & a half feet curbside for
alighting from cars. Otherwise disgruntled drivers will trample your new babies.
2.) No big showy flowers - they'll get picked. Sorry, peonies, large roses et. al.
3.) No eye level thorn anythings - hawthorn bushes for example. One word of warning which
is lawsuit.
4.) Don't fall for the Measles Syndrome: a plant here; another a foot away; a third 2 feet away.
5.) And why do you want to fill the space? A) Looks better; B) Helps keep dogs out.
6.) If you can, put a short fence or wall in front; or even 2 layers of bricks. It'll help keep dogs off.
They don't like to step up. They also don't like short chartreuse or red barberries (low thorns)
cottoneaster (too tangled for Fido's taste). I'd advise some cayenne pepper or cinnamon
powder on corners. This may train dogs from urinating there without permanently damaging
the critters. (Don't use any spices with salt in them - it'll damage plants.)
7.) Left over or extra garden plants are fine in parkways. Check the sun but parkways are often
dappled light suitable for almost anything. Plant your extra hostas (or pieces), some of that
phlox, your daylily's offspring, some seeded-in-the-wrong-place columbines, even some extra
annuals (but you're looking for low maintenance. Perennial is better.) Some self-seeding
herbs like purple perilla are great as is the big-leaved veggie rhubarb.
8.) Be careful about trees. The city has official rules about which types are allowed. No thorned
trees, or the highly messy or fruit trees. If there is already an existing tree don't plant closer
than a foot out from the trunk. Definitely don't bury the base in a foot of dirt.
9.) Try for contrasts in foliage: green/white/purple/red etc. & big/little/pointed/round/curled etc.
10.) If you have, in your block, absentee landlords or elderly folk ask them if you can do their
parkways. The answer from a Lincolnshire owner whose property is one door away from me:
"Are you kidding? I don't have to come in once a week to mow? I don't have to clean up
after dogs? Yes, plant, plant already!"

A personal story - a friend of mine, Richard Sabel, lives in Hyde Park. His parents also lived there - his father an exiled Filipino Anglican bishop (too liberal for Marcos) and his mom, head of the pharmacy section of the U of C hospitals. Mrs. Esclamado, Rich's mom, took it upon herself to plant the entire parkway block in front of their townhouse complex. Shrubs, flowers (Joe Pye, coneflowers,hostas, bishop's weed - of course - , lamb's ears ad infin.) When a member of the townhouse board became annoyed (?) the city rattled in to investigate but instead of reprimanding her they gave her an un-asked-for grant which paid her original out-of-pocket expenses.

Happy mulching and I command (& commend) you to spread beauty thru the 'hood (and beat my record of 40 species in my parkway)!