Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Here is a project updated recently.  I planted this garden was in '06, I believe, and it has held up well as far as the overall structure of the garden.  But two active dogs will take a toll, and there was a rehearsal dinner to prepare for, so starting in May, we added raised beds along the side fences with Green Mountain boxwood, and many, many new perennials.  And a few annuals.  And we got the fountain running!  We also added an irrigation system (irritation system?) because the huge, mature maples suck the life out of everything left after the dogs compromise it.  I am not a big fan of irrigation, since it can be very wasteful when done improperly, but this system is mostly drip lines directly into the roots of plants (actually saves water over usage of an overhead sprinkler, where UP TO 50% OF WATER IS LOST TO THE AIR!!).  But installation is an expensive and destructive headache.

No matter, American National Sprinkler did their best to make things as tidy and surgical as possible, in the wake of a very rainy, muddy week.  And we elves fixed everything, and laid down a new layer of mulch.  See below.  You can see the original garden on my website,

Saturday, August 4, 2012


What a spring and summer! The heat, the wind, it has been exhausting and stressful. I mean for the plants, of course, but I have also never looked so forward to Thanksgiving in my life, when things are slower, dormant and we can cross our fingers for more snow cover and a cooler spring for 2013.
But in the meantime, we have installed some VERY cool jobs - - my guys are wonderful!

Two weeks ago, we completed a local property that had been overgrown and neglected for years, if not decades. Neighbor kids called it "The Haunted House," but really, you could barely even see the house. My neighbor, Trish Stieglitz, a general contractor, bought it, renovated it, and has turned it into the cutest rental ever. New from top to bottom. Neighbors disagreed with the idea to paint it simple white, but once the landscaping was in, it looked just perfect! We put in a compacted bluestone screenings driveway, same material for a round patio in back, privacy plantings, bluestone steppers, some small flowering trees, and even landscaped the parkway, creating a berm for some interest for commuters. In fall, we will put in some perennials and ground cover (pachysandra) so the whole thing will, eventually, be lush, low maintenance and use little water. That's my whole game! See the following photos. Drive into the McCulloch Park neighborhood at Livingston and Green Bay and see this beautiful new welcome mat we have out!
The above photos are "before," but the true "befores" wouldn't even show the house; overgrown with weeds and weed shrubs, rotting trees, a falling down fence, no pathways save one of broken concrete.
"AFTERS" still to be posted.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Hot day, in the garden with a beer.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to all. This is my neighbor's beautiful Japanese maple I "borrow" for my garden. So lucky to have it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Visiting an "old friend"

This is a garden I planted a couple years ago. It is always nice when I happen across a former project and it looks this happy. The request was for a naturalistic garden with a lot of low maintenance and native plants.
And what a perfect spring day.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Today's work

This is the garden we built today. It was a typical urban pit, the neglected yard of a 6-flat. Now we have a woodland with a "stream" and a "pond."

Monday, May 7, 2012

Crazy viburnum!

Check out my doublefile viburnum (v. plicatum var. tomentosum). Always gorgeous but this My dad's ashes are under this tree. Not much of a gardener in this life, but apparently he's got a flair in the next one.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


So...mulch yesterday! I encourage all the peoples of the earth to mulch. Mulch with shredded hardwood bark (dark stuff, looks great) or forest fines, or pea gravel if you're feeling French. "Mulch" with groundcover that keeps the moisture in and sunlight (=weeds) down. Mulch!
Walking around my own garden, I have to say I'm starting to get excited. Here are some beautiful, dark leafed sambucus nigra 'Eva.' Here are my favorite salvia, 'Caradonna,' just really getting started. Here is the side of my house with alliums, giant white ones, about to pop. And the last shot is several lavender 'Hidcote,' which,
normally, I treat as an annual. Don't usually bother with it here, people. It's not that it doesn't overwinter. It's not that you can't amend the soil so it's not so heavy. It's that some things just belong somewhere else. We have nepeta. French people and Californians have lavender.
But see these? Left over from a job, had a rare bare spot, and I was having a party, so I stuck 'em in for color. And look at them. They will be gorgeous. And here's why; easy winter, and right here, between foundation and path, there's 4" of compost and the rest is limestone gravel. Gravel. Grow your lavender in gravel, treat it badly, expect nothing, and it will come back. Like a real Frenchman.
I think I will go back outside and curse at it.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sometimes a little slow, but I do get there eventually; if you want to get more serious about your garden, but don't know where to start, or are serious about your garden already and want unbiased, accurate information, go to  He is a delightful nutjob prone to ranting.  My kind of gardener.  Enjoy.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sweet Lord, a viburnum bud! If this is Armageddon for the planet, what a way to go!

This is a viburnum carlesii that we inherited with the house when we bought it in '98. It was always a treasure. But it really needed to be spruced up, and last summer, I bit the bullet and took it completely to the ground (you can see one of the old trunks at the base). This was really a small tree, not a shrub, maybe 10' tall and spectacularly graceful. And I came along with a sharp saw and a lot of caffeine. Couldn't be helped--the trunks were rotting.
But look at it now! Already 4' in some places. And blooming. Be bold. Be in charge. And forget about the old wood/new wood flowering confusion, just prune as soon after flowering as you can, to preserve the next year's blooms. But then, I just prune when the pruning saw is sharp :) So satisfying, and easier than divorce.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

So, I am trying to avert panic; if it's like this now (83!), will we be frying in June, Oh my god, the watering bill this summer, that whole thing.  But, as in most of life, 1) there's no way out but through; and 2) be where you are.
So what am I thinking about doing in the garden right now?  Already I am weeding, and I marvel at the size of the weeds.  But I also see nepeta springing out of the ground like...weeds.  I plant only the (supposedly) sterile forms, but still they seem to sleep around and reproduce.  As well, the ones actually planted get WAY bigger than the literature says.  So, I am already hacking back and dividing.  If you divide now, or soon, the plants will recover so easily you will never know you did it.  Wait until later, and they seem resentful all season long, and turn in for the winter long before they should.  So go get yer spade on.
OTHER THINGS: I am rereading, as I do every early spring, Roy Diblik's "Small Perennial Gardens: The Know Maintenance Approach."  His plant recommendations make for gardens that are filled with both beauty and common sense.  And he's right here near Chicago's North Shore, in Burlington, WI. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Corneliancherry dogwood (cornus mas) a few weeks early, but...okay!

How can this be March?

Hello World!

Mid spring under the birch tree
Welcome to my blog...
This is the first post that links to  Here's where I might talk about what's going on in my own garden, or something interesting I saw in someone else's somewhere in Chicago or the North Shore maybe, or an aspect of a project I'm installing, or...whatever is in the landscape of my mind.  But filtered.
Check in once a week or so.  I look forward to meeting up with you!