Thursday, December 15, 2011

December Bloom Day

OK, so they're not really blooms. In December we get a little creative finding blooms in a zone 5 garden.

Most of the blooms are indoors this month. Still, we did manage to find a few in the garden, like these broccoli raab flowers blooming in one of our raised beds turned hoop house for the winter . . .

. . . and this last bellflower. It may not be upright anymore, but in December, a bloom's still a bloom no matter what shape the rest of the plant is in. These tall bellflowers, brought here from Mom's garden a couple of years ago, win the prize for longest-blooming plant in our garden this year. They started in May, bloomed non-stop through mid-November, and eked out a final few December blooms.

Except for a couple of frigid days, this December has been much milder than last year's. Instead of snow, yesterday we had a couple of inches of rain. It's just past midnight here, and it's 54 degrees outside, with temperatures expected to be more seasonal over the next few days.

George and I will head out one more time this evening to enjoy the relative warmth and humid air before it's gone. It will likely be months before we enjoy such balmy temperatures again, and it's a treat to have them even now. So Happy Bloom Day all, and for more December blooms, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

November Bloom Day

We had our first frost last week. The pickins are slim out there these days, yet we can still find a few blooms in the garden.

The mini-rose has been known to bloom in December, even in the snow. This might be the last flower of the season though, since there are no more buds.

Geranium 'Rozanne' blooms from late May or early June until frost. She's looking a bit bedraggled, but I'll say she deserves a shoutout for making it to mid-November.

Bunnies like heuchera blooms this time of year. This nice, fresh bloom scape on a small division of 'Autumn Bride' heuchera has eluded them so far.

'Blue Hill' salvias have been churning out blooms all summer. No busy bees hanging around here anymore as they did in warmer days.

The only mum left with blooms. All the rest have succumbed to the bunnies. I like how Heuchera villosa 'Mocha's bloom scape is mingling with the mums.

The tall bellflowers have been blooming since May.

A native Great Blue lobelia seedling still has a couple of blooms left.

A few native asters remain, and the hardy cyclamen in the header photo is still blooming too. There's a beautiful cimicifuga (I prefer the old name) here that blooms in November, but our hot, dry summer melted the buds. Oh well, maybe next year!

Happy November Bloom Day! To see more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, please visit our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Old Neighborhood

Funny how certain details stick in one's mind. I still remember the phone number and address from my childhood home.

A social media party at The Yarden on the eve of the 2011 Independent Garden Center Show in August provided an opportunity to visit Albany Park, the northside melting-pot immigrant neighborhood where my family lived during my early years. Wanting to avoid Chicago's infamous rush hour traffic, I headed up north early enough to visit the Peterson Garden Project, and to take a walk through the old neighborhood, just a few minutes' drive from the event later that evening.

The neglected front yard would probably mortify our old landlord. He took great pride in his postage-stamp front lawn, mowing it every week with his green rotary mower whether it was needed or not.

Going back to the old neighborhood last summer brought a flood of happy memories. Although the Jewish bakery our delicious challah and onion rolls came from, the ice cream shop Dad took us to every time we lost a baby tooth, the school store where a child's allowance could buy a big bag of penny candies, and the Treasure Island our groceries came from are all gone now, the neighborhood where our family spent our early years looks much the same as it did over forty years ago.

the dining room window

Back then breakfast and lunch were sit-down family meals, usually in the kitchen on weekdays, and in the dining room on the weekends. Sometimes our milkman would be invited to join the family for breakfast. Dinner was always in the dining room. Even with the shade drawn, the dining room window evokes memories of our antique, upright piano piled high with sheet music, and the beautiful dining room table and buffet with thick, hand-turned legs where we found nooks and crannies to hide the peas and lima beans on our plates when Mom wasn't looking. (That is, until we were busted by that funny smell she noticed.)

I remember sleeping in the dining room under that window with my sister so Aunt Natalie could have our room the week she came to help Mom take care of us after our youngest brother was born.

Across the street where Rachel, one of my best friends lived, is a front yard much like the ones I remember - neatly-manicured lawns, and lots of flowers. New windows and siding were added to many of the buildings, and most of the front yards are now fenced. Otherwise, the old block looks much as I remember it.

My first sleepover ever was at Rachel's house. I've always thought "sleepover" was a misnomer - we were up all night.

Rachel's mom made the best tamales in the whole neighborhood. She and Mom were good friends, and, Rachel's mom always shared a big batch of her tamales with us. Some were savory, and some were sweet, and besides Mom's cooking and Dad's chocolate chip cookies, they are among my favorite food memories growing up here. That's saying a lot in a neighborhood where moms from all over the world made their specialties and shared covered dishes with each other so we kids could grow up loving those wholesome and delicious from-scratch ethnic foods. Fast food and sit-down restaurants were rare treats in our world. We grew up loving real food made in our mothers' kitchens, and learning to cook when we all pitched in to help with dinner.

I haven't seen Rachel since we were kids.

I wonder how her life turned out. I still see her as a sweet, carefree, smart, pretty girl with shining dark hair and big brown eyes.

Our neighborhood was religiously and ethnically diverse. We had a synagogue at the end of our block, but my siblings and I went to church and Saturday catechism a few blocks away. Standing atop a gleaming copper dome, Our Lady was a beacon in the distance as we walked to church.

As a child I thought she was beautiful and mysterious. (That was before I had a zoom lens.)

I was never too excited about the outside of our church. It seemed kind of imposing, austere and dreary.

Once inside though, it felt completely different. I thought it was a beautiful, magical, spiritual place where I could feel close to God.

I remember feeling awed by the scale of things, the stained-glass windows, and the ornate altar. Even though I didn't speak Latin and understood little of what the Mass was about, I was never bored since there were so many interesting things to look at.

Nearly everything seems just as I remembered, including the baptismal font. I expected it all to be much smaller than I recalled. Instead I came away surprised at how big it still seemed.

Father Reardon lived here, in the rectory. He was young, handsome, compassionate, and gave the easiest penance. The line outside his confessional was always the longest!

As a little girl, I wanted to grow up to be a nun so I could marry Father Reardon.

I changed my mind about being a nun when I found out they couldn't get married.

Nuns could garden . . .

. . . but I could garden too, and still get married and have kids. That was about the time I fell in love with Mitchy Braun next door. For our first date we went to the soda shop. He bought a hot dog and a malt. We split the hot dog and had two straws for the malt. Allowance only went so far for seven-year-olds, even in the 1960's. Mitchy's and my love life consisted of picking out furniture and baby toys from the Sears catalog for our future family, and hanging out on the front stoop with the other kids until our moms called us in for dinner.

The school at the end of our block, where I spent my early elementary-school years. At least from the outside, the school was every bit as big as I remembered.

In kindergarten, we sat on this little ledge when the bell rang, waiting for Mrs. Meyerbach to shepherd us up the stairs and into our class. She was a stocky, grandmotherly woman who wore bejeweled cat-eye glasses, stockings with seams, and thick orthopedic shoes with black laces. I loved Mrs. Meyerbach, until, at the end of my first year of school, she told Mom it wasn't good for me to be left-handed, and she should teach me how to use my right hand before sending me back to school in the fall. Thankfully, Mom ignored her well-meaning advice. It took a while, but eventually I forgave Mrs. Meyerbach.

All of our teachers played piano, and there was a piano in every classroom. Music wasn't a special class. It was part of the curriculum throughout the day. Since we lived so close to school, we went home for lunch every day.

While the school looks much the same as it did over 40 years ago,

the gardens are new.

It was wonderful seeing prairie blooms and grasses growing where once there was only lawn. After enjoying the school gardens, I took one last walk to the middle of the block to say goodbye to the old house before heading off to party at The Yarden.

Kindergarten class photo. That's me - top row, first on the left, in a dress Mom made me.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Trip to Moss Mountain

Sometime in August, just for fun I submitted a photo to a Garden Safe photo contest. Three winners would receive a weekend trip to P. Allen Smith's Garden Home Retreat outside Little Rock, Arkansas on a ridge called Moss Mountain for an October harvest festival celebrating the (organic) harvest from the farm, and celebrating local food. Those of you who know me, know a local, organic food harvest festival is right up my alley.

Much to my surprise, I was one of the three contest winners. Last weekend The Lawn Man and I flew into Little Rock National Airport to stay at the beautiful, historic, 5-Star Capital Hotel, (with an elevator big enough to accommodate, as the concierge explained, General Grant and his horse.)

Everything was world-class. Every detail was attended to. It was an absolutely wonderful experience from the turbulence-free flight late Saturday morning until we crossed the threshold of Home Sweet Home late Sunday afternoon.

Thank you to Garden Safe for sponsoring this event, and thank you P. Allen Smith for an absolutely wonderful time, fantastic company, delicious food and drink, beautiful sights, great music, gorgeous weather, . . . all of it. Such a memorable experience!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wildflower Wednesday - Late Bloomers

Lobelia siphilitica

It might be fitting that this Wildflower Wednesday post on our late bloomers is a little late too. The late blooms are welcome, while the cold I picked up this week, draining sinuses and energy and delaying posting, has been far less welcome.

Lobelia siphilitica
would typically be finished blooming before now. This one, started from seed this spring, decided to surprise us with a few late-season blooms. (Notice the cluster of buds on the ground, complements of the bunnies?)

female winterberry holly

The winterberry holly Ilex verticillata is unlikely to have any berries left by winter. Here, birds enjoy them in October. Winterberry hollies need both male and female plants for pollination and berries. While the berries are toxic to humans, winterberry hollies are easy-care native shrubs great for a wildlife garden. Although the blooms are inconspicuous, the berries are ornamental and the foliage has nice fall color.

male winterberry holly in a less sheltered spot, showing its fall color

Possibly Symphyotrichum racemosum, these are the last asters, and the last wildflower blooms of the season in our garden. Asters are rabbit food here, and are fenced to protect them from the bunnies so they may be enjoyed by pollinators and us.

Over this season a number of new native plants found homes in our garden. Some were started from seeds like blue lobelias and a lone new prairie smoke. Others were started from cuttings: another blue lobelia, a purple milkweed, and two more Indian pinks. Still others, like wild ginger, Short's aster, blazing star, spiderwort, and sweet woodruff were passalongs from gardening friends. It's been a good year for wildflowers in our garden in spite of our hot, dry midsummer and the usual rodent shenanigans. As the season draws to a close here in Chicagoland, we're savoring the late bloomers and looking forward to spring.

For more Wildflower Wednesday posts, please visit our gracious host, Gail at Clay and Limestone.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

October Bloom Day

Happy Bloom Day from Chicago's blustery south suburbs, where tomatoes are still ripening and top-heavy pots have been moved to sheltered spots. Wind is blowing, leaves are falling, and the summery first week of October is but a memory now.

hardy cyclamen

It's time for moving and dividing, harvesting and preserving, and time for bringing in tender plants and cuttings for rooting.

This fall the garden saw a major overhaul as lots of stuff was moved around to create a path. It seemed like a good idea at the time. It's fortunate the amount of work it would take was underestimated, for otherwise it surely would have remained undone yet another season.

Short's aster, new this year, nearly naked complements of the bunnies,
valiantly blooming anyway.

the last rudbeckias


Chocolate Joe Pye Weed blowing in the wind

First-ever toad lily

'Autumn Joy' in the shade

purple oxalis

Strawberries - :) seeds courtesy of Renee's Garden.

a lone geranium ('striatum') bloom

'Autumn Bride' heuchera, my friend Meg's signature plant

I hope you're enjoying beautiful autumn weather and the pleasures of autumn (or spring, if you're visiting from the southern hemisphere,) gardening. Happy Bloom Day, and thank you for visiting. For more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.