Sunday, May 30, 2010

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones. ~ Albert Einstein

Every year we have set aside a day to remember the men and women who have fought and died to keep us safe and free. Every year we pray that soon the world will change and become a better place where the bravest and best no longer fight and die. Somehow, things never change. War continues to rage and men continue to die.

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.”
-- General George Patton

In World War II, General Patton made a decision to send troops to the left instead of to the right. In doing so, he saved a small group of airmen trapped behind enemy lines, among them my father. I honor Patton for that but can't completely agree with his sentiments on the death of soldiers. As much as we have gained from their sacrifice, we have lost much and should remember and mourn the loss.

God bless everyone who has fought and died for our homeland and bring our troops home safe and whole.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ornamental onions and a soap box rant about puppy mills

Some onions are pretty enough to plant in the flower bed. Chives for example are very attractive when blooming. I like their tubular, bluish leaves even after bloom is finished. My onion chives have pale lavender blooms and garlic chives bloom in white.

Garlic looks a lot like chives. I planted one garlic bulb about 4 years ago and now have a nice little patch.

Most of my allium flower in mid spring.

Allium Purple Sensation is not edible but it certainly is attractive.

The unusual allium karataviense. The best thing about this allium is the foliage.

A. karataviense are very low to the ground. They aren't particular about soil except that it drain well. In my garden, allium has no pests or disease.

Another Purple Sensation beginning to bloom. PS seeds freely, the seedlings look like grass. It takes at least three years from seed to bloom.

Wednesday morning the Associated press broke a truly heartrending story about the death and suffering of puppies in puppy mills. This topic always disgusts me. Seems that the USDA inspectors who are charged with protecting the welfare of animals in puppy mills haven't been doing their jobs. They've been ignoring violations, waiving fines, allowing repeat offenses, and turning a blind eye to neglect and cruelty. The result has been the death of several hundred puppies in various kennels around the country. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack admits to these charges and promises to make some big changes. Right, isn't that what they always say? We can all be absolutely certain that nothing will change and that these helpless animals will continue to suffer and die.

If you have a little extra time, I would urge you to write to your congressman and demand the Dept. of Agriculture do a better job of protecting companion animals. If you are thinking of getting an animal, please adopt from a rescue organization. Don't buy from a pet shop, breeder or kennel. There are already far too many dogs in need of homes, none of us want to encourage breeding for profit.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Conversations in a garden

Sunday was a furnace, 90-degrees and pretty much the same is expected all this week. That is a drastic change from last weeks 60-degree temperatures. The soil is dry and my garden is pretty much in shock. Even the tough-as-nails sedum was limp and wilting in yesterday's heat.

I've seen very few bees so far this season. Yesterday two red admiral butterflies and one skipper were busy in the dames rocket.

To take my mind off the miserable heat, I sat outside and watched a pair of chickadees discussing the good and bad qualities of a bird house. One of them peeked into the entrance and studied the carving above the door while carrying on a conversation with the other who sat on a branch above.

Mrs. Chickadee: What a lovely little cottage this is.

Mr. Chickadee: It’s a wren house, precious, much too small.

Mrs. Chickadee: Not too small, dear, cozy.

Mr. Chickadee: Sweetest, the door is too small.

Mrs. Chickadee: Are you saying I'm fat?

Mr. Chickadee: No, never, my love, you are perfection. I’m just saying, there are holes in the wall.

Mrs. Chickadee: Those are decorative windows, dear.

Mr. Chickadee: Yes my little pumpkin, but it looks shabby. It needs painting.

Mrs. Chickadee: Shabby Chic, dear, and the house you liked was cedar with no paint. I love the view. From here, I can look through the door and see the bleeding heart and the foxgloves across the garden.

Mr. Chickadee: Before we decide, can we just look at a few more houses, love.

Mrs. Chickadee: We can look, but I really like this one.

Thursday, May 20, 2010


I like hosta, especially this time of year. In May the leaves are still perfect. No tears or holes from wind and slugs. No brown sunburned edges.

In August, I would happily waive my magic wand and have all the battered and tattered leaves disappear until next May.

Most of my hosta were give to me by friends and family.

I never knew their names and I'm not enough of a hosta fancier to worry over not knowing.

I like the ones with blended colors like a water color painting.

And the ones with textured, crinkled leaves.

The more white the better.

This was my first hosta. Very old fashioned and common.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gardening is a long road, with many detours and way stations, and here we all
are at one point or another. It's not a question of superior or inferior taste, merely
a question of which detour we are on at the moment. Getting there (as they say)
is not important; the wandering about in the wilderness or in the olive groves
or in the bayous is the whole point.
- Henry Mitchell, Gardening Is a Long Road, 1998

I wandered about in my garden yesterday and photographed a few of the blooms.

A stray seed dropped by bird or wind. This is just one Dame's Rocket plant that shot up like its namesake among the coneflowers and phlox.

Max Frei geranium. Give this one a pass, a very, very neat and tidy mound with very few blooms.

Columbines drift around my garden and turn up in different places every year.

Immortality has been blooming for weeks and will bloom again in the fall.

Jupiter's beard almost blooming.

This clematis blooms among the English roses.


Old faithful viburnum opulus

Spiraea vanhouttei was one of the first things I planted just after I moved here.

One of our native dogwoods, Cornus alternifolia or Pagoda Dogwood, has a very graceful horizontal, layered habit. Two of them shade my porch on summer days.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

How amazing these delicate beauties. In spite of their fragile appearance, columbines are very tough. They often grow from cracks in the rocks in their native environment.

I have no memory of ever planting this pink columbine so it may be a hybrid cross between the Alpine blues and some other variety growing in my garden. Columbines hybridize easily and reseed well.

Alpine blue can also be white or have white petals. Mine are all the solid blue and don't show up very well against the green background.

Two more tough plants that thrive on neglect, allium and tall bearded iris. Both tolerate drought, have few pests, and multiply rapidly.

I'm getting really impatient to get my annuals planted but I'm afraid it will frost again, so I wait. It was much warmer here in March than in either April or May. We actually had several days of 80-degree heat in late March. This month the daytime highs are hovering in the 40's and 50's.

We finally got caught up on our rain. After getting almost none in April, we have had over five inches in the last two days.

Weather is a great metaphor for life - sometimes it's good, sometimes it's bad, and there's nothing much you can do about it but carry an umbrella.
~Terri Guillemets

Monday, May 10, 2010

Saturday was Klehm Arboretum’s annual fund raising plant sale. Déjà vous, exactly like the 2009 sale day—damp, cold and windy.

Last year I remember walking across the parking lot, the wind cutting through my light weight jacket, making me shiver. This year I'm more prepared in a heavy winter coat. The sale begins at 9:00 but the volunteers aren’t ready so we must stand in the lobby for a half hour.

While we wait we chat a little about plants and previous sales. I tell them about two new favorites found here last year. It’s exciting, not like visiting a garden center (although that can be exciting too). Here you will find some unusual plants. Many gardeners specialize in native wild flowers that can’t be found in box stores or even greenhouses.

Last year I found rudbeckia triloba by accident. I had been talking with a volunteer who brought a box of plants to the sale. I followed her to a table in the corner where she pointed at a group of tiny plants and told me these were very nice. She didn’t know the name and just called them black eyed Susan’s. The little leaves didn’t look familiar, certainly not one of the more common rudbeckias. For a buck and a quarter, why not try one? (It was late July before these little leaves suddenly grew into a 28 inch clump and burst into a spectacular yellow display. The flowers lasted throughout the autumn season.

(Rudbeckia triloba native to the eastern US)

This year I picked up several more r. triloba.

Another great plant from last year’s sale was Fireworks, a hybrid goldenrod.

(Solidago Fireworks another native plant.)

Found another Fireworks at this sale. Also picked up a huge clump of chives, a white woodland phlox, a few miniature bearded iris, a jack in the pulpit, and a bloodroot.

(A few early gardeners check our the display tables)

(Crows in front of Klehm's visitors center.)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Oh, spring came to my garden And caught it unaware Wearing just a few old leaves And a dejected air. ~ Velma Bates

I always buy annuals early, favorites and the more unusual varieties are gone by mid April. Since I’ve had terrible luck starting cosmos from seed, my only alternative is to buy a flat or two. Didier greenhouse grows a very limited number, so I grab them the minute they become available. I was never able to find any yellow or orange cosmos but love these pink.

Plum Crazy is my favorite petunia color. It sells out pretty quickly too so I pick mine up early. Our last frost date is May 15th so plants, in their tiny cell packs, must be babied along until they can safely go into the garden.

I spent more than half an hour hovering around the flats of annuals and hoping this red admiral butterfly would land on one of the blooms and let me get his photo against a pretty background.

He was determined not to cooperate. He spent his time sunning on the ugly brown leaf mulch, on the concrete driveway, and on a torn dogwood leaf. He never went near the flowers.

Last year was so wet we saw almost no butterflies until August. This year is the opposite, very dry so butterflies are out early.

In addition to the lilacs and flowering fruit trees, viburnum x Burkwoodii is in bloom. This is the first viburnum to flower here. It isn’t the showiest but it has a strong, sweet fragrance.

While I work outside, Toby patrols, keeping me safe from marauding mice and gophers.

Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Monday, May 3, 2010

...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing ~ Shakespeare

Shakespeare's quote seemed apt, our weekend was full of sound and fury as thunderstorms passed over us pushed on by 50 mph winds. Unfortunately we received almost no rain.

This morning the television news is full of stories about the torrential rains and flooding in Tennessee. My heart goes out to all the families caught up in this disaster. This morning I'm hoping our Tennessee blogging friends are online to let us know they are OK.

A few weeks ago I enjoyed seeing photos of cherry trees blooming south of here. So far, I have never been lucky enough to visit DC at cherry blossom time.

For the last three weeks northern Illinois has been blessed with a stunning display of crabapple blooms.

Driving around town, running errands, I snapped a few photos I hope you will enjoy.

I may be prejudiced, but to me, our crab apples look every bit as beautiful as the cherries. They bloom in every shade from pure white to almost red.

This year has been a great year for the crab apples. They like cool, sunny weather and we have had an abundance in April.