CityDiggity

A green space for urban gardeners

Archive for Flowering plants

Trumpeting in the new: Vine announces itself and season

DSC02341(3)It’s not officially summer yet, but here in Florida, I think we can call it early. If the temperatures and tropical storms on the horizon aren’t enough of a giveaway, leave it to nature and the garden to provide the ultimate testimony. In living color.

Here in Zone 9, seasonal changes are not as pronounced as in cold weather climes, but nonetheless there still are plants that rest and go dormant while waiting for “summer” to make a triumphant return. And seeds can take root in short order—whether you plant them yourself or they blow in on a balmy tropical breeze. (Not a bad metaphor for a returning transplant like myself!)

Case in point: I recently observed the phenomenon in a hedge along the front of the house… It hadn’t been trimmed in a while and isn’t known to flower, yet suddenly  towering shoots appeared to be sprouting from it with clusters of orange flowers bursting forth. After a closer look I realized that the shoots weren’t part of the hedge, but a vine not included in the original landscape plan that had arrived of its own accord, in a defiant act of self-propagation. Now it was entwined Read the rest of this entry »

Weather or not: If your garden’s taking the heat, you’d better count your blessings

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It often feels like so much of balcony gardening comes down to waiting on the weather. More than one post on this blog has pivoted on the intemperate turns the weather has taken here in Chicago.

And some of my weather adventures in my small-space balcony garden high above the city streets have bordered on slapstick—at least in retrospect (smile). Not quite as funny in real time when I was scurrying about in overpowering winds trying to right terracotta pots only to have them Read the rest of this entry »

Period of adjustment: Plants sometimes look worse before they look better

DSC02091It looks like my caladium has finally made peace with the full-sun exposure of my balcony garden.

For the longest time, I wasn’t sure if it would make it. Many of the vibrant leaves—a splattering of ruby red over white over lime green (a little like an abstract canvas)—had turned brown and shriveled at the edges.

But remarkably, it’s rebounded! The sickly looking leaves have fallen away, and the new leaves are healthy and standing proud.

Of course, too much or too little sun isn’t the only thing that stresses garden plants. Just changing
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If garden is a work in progress, then start by working with what’s already there

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Confession time. I didn’t clean up the wilted and battered relics of my balcony container garden at the end of last season before the soil froze over. I also have been slow to get this season’s garden up and running. I add a random plant here, sprinkle a few seeds there, sweep up one corner of my deck one day, bag up a broken pot the next.

As you can imagine it’s been slow going and frankly, it’s still a work in progress. But I suppose a garden always is, right? You’re constantly making changes and additions, and of course marveling at the surprise changes not of your own making.

PetuniareturnsOne of the advantages of procrastinating with my small, urban garden is that it gives some of the plants that have re-seeded on their own a chance to pop up and perhaps set the basis for the overall arrangement. I recognize the leaves of one of my standard bearers, petunias, at their very early stages so it was easy to begin work from there.

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Garden payoff: On an evening like this, it all makes sense

A gentle breeze, temperate weather and thriving container plants — some in full flower, others on the cusp of revealing their beauty… Such was the scene  this evening on my downtown Chicago balcony.

And alas, dear gardeners, if you were steadfast in your watering through the oppressive heat of the past couple of weeks, you, too, are likely enjoying the fruits — and flowers — of your efforts. (And openly marveling at just how much your plants have grown.)

The 100-plus thermometer readings created an outdoor hothouse effect that had varieties like the yellow and orange lantana (in the second photo) reaching out with arm-like chutes — happy to receive the sunshine being offered.

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Beating the sweltering summer heat in your urban garden

“Hot town, summer in the city.”

Mercifully, after several days of extreme, upper 90s heat, Chicago received relief today.

Not only was it about 10 degrees cooler, but we also were treated to a nice drenching rain. For urban container gardeners who’ve had to be super vigilant about keeping those plants hydrated, it’s good to get a night off.

Yes, I said “night,” because as we’ve covered previously, that’s the absolute best time to water. “…at night it’s a different world.”

Plus, in this case, it saves the dedicated gardener having to labor beneath the day’s ultra-violet rays.

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Unearthing old seeds for a brand new garden

When I pull out my bag of stockpiled seeds it’s like hitting the reset button on the thrill of a new garden.

I get to pick through the wacky assorted packets I just couldn’t pass up when the grocery store decided to clear its shelves, the splurge purchases from the garden center that were never opened, previously opened envelopes that still have seeds left over, and, not least, the seeds I harvested from gardens past.

The first order of business is creating two stacks — one consisting of seeds for edibles, the other of seeds for flowers.

The edibles cache turned out wonderfully; I found seeds for herbs, lettuce and heirloom tomatoes. In fact, I had an embarrassment of riches and was able to choose from multiple tomatoes for the two pots I’ll eventually set out on the balcony for my container garden. Black plum and Ildi were the heirlooms I decided to plant this year — both small fruit varieties sized right for a small urban space.

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Got riddles? Gardens — even small-space ones — hold the answers

I’m an unabashed movie buff. And, one of my all-time favorites is Lawrence Kasdan’s “Grand Canyon,” built around the powerful story of two seemingly different men who meet under trying circumstances and wind up connecting as friends.

There is one scene where a third character, a Hollywood producer, intones “all of life’s riddles are answered in the movies.” Nicely put, right?

I think many of life’s riddles are answered in the garden, as well. And while I don’t usually pound the “garden as metaphor for life” drum, as I said in my last post I’m feeling a little Zen right now, so I’m going to indulge.

Today’s riddle: How do you cope when you’re beat and the number of hours needed to complete your ever-growing to-do list are in inverse correlation to the number of hours available?

Here is the answer (plucked from the garden), which I’m happy to say has been affirmed in my life more than once:

Occasionally, when you’re too tired to water, you’re blessed with rain.

Meaning, sometimes the planets align at exactly the right time, and an outside force intervenes to get you through the moment and lighten your load.

It’s at one of these times when you can just sit back and smell the roses — or, gaze upon your angelonia serena purple (pictured) at dusk.

[I’d love for you to share some of the riddles demystified in your garden through your comments!]

Garden is the perfect antidote for the stress of long days

As the sun set on the first day of summer, I reflected on the state of my balcony garden — which, sad to say, is still in its infancy.

The crush of months of unrelenting work, plus a stubborn bug that zapped any remaining energy I had at the end of the day, has resulted in a slow start. I’m still adding plants as the days progress, and I have to admit that for once I didn’t go into the season with a well-crafted plan.

I had the usual abundance of seed packets, and even picked up a few more that displayed photos which struck my fancy… But, the visions of color

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With winter in the rearview, new garden season is on the horizon!

It’s been a long winter.

But it looks like my garden’s hibernation can soon give way to resurrection and a return to the halcyon days of seasons past.

The cold and snow is being replaced by April’s showers and a few green things are already sprouting amongst the soil remaining in the pots and planters from last season.

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