CityDiggity

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Archive for Flowering plants

Don’t forget the KISS principle when mapping out your garden

Petunia baby duck is very dependable and it's small blossoms are adorable.

Petunia baby duck is very dependable, with adorable, small, yellow-centered blossoms.

It’s easy for me to get caught up in the wake of ambitious dreams when plotting my garden. But lest I drown in the disappointment of plans gone awry, I remind myself of the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. And yes, I’m talking to me.

Experimenting with lots of untried seeds — hoping they all sprout, hoping they don’t fall prey to my cat’s midnight munchies, and hoping they go on to grow, thrive and bloom — that’s a lot of pressure. Of course, I go into it knowing that some seeds won’t sprout and some that sprout won’t survive. What can I say, it’s a process.

That’s why I follow the simple rule of using plantlets that are already established to fill in the Read the rest of this entry »

Make no small plans: use time inside to enhance time outside

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Lantana is one of the ready and waiting small plants I've bought to go in my balcony boxes.

My sprouts and plants are lined up like soldiers next to the balcony sliders, my cat has taken to staring wistfully through the glass while making his little bird sounds, and the empty terra cotta pots outside are stacked and waiting to fulfill their destiny. But Zone Five summers won’t be rushed, despite the impatient champing at the bit to shift into full garden mode.

Birds shouldn't get to have all the outdoor fun

When the bird sounds start, summer is on the way.

With the sunshine battling the chilly air and bouts of icy rain for dominance, we won’t get the green thumbs up until total victory over the fluctuating elements is claimed in this seasonal smackdown.

Of course, when you don’t have California weather, a good portion of your garden work is spent California dreaming — better known here as Read the rest of this entry »

Mother of all cleanup days: time for dirty job that has to be done

You can only put off cleanup day in the garden for so long before it has to be done.

You can only put off garden cleanup for so long before the day of reckoning arrives.

Those of you in warmer climes probably spent Mother’s Day Sunday winding down colorful garden paths and smelling the early roses, while here on Planet Chicago I tackled the dirty job of cleaning up the debris from last year’s garden.

I promise the garden duck and bird will stand upright when cleanup is done.

I promise the wooden duck and bird will stand proud again.

I know, many people choose to pull out the old plants in late fall, but for me it’s a pretty sad process at that time, since there always are a few flowers struggling to live on — if but for scant days more. I just can’t bear to deprive them of their extended moment of defiance. Cleaning up now, when I know the best Read the rest of this entry »

Color my world… with lavender – it’s a real ‘scent’-sation, too

Lavender has so many uses, not to mention it smells wonderful.

A new lavender plant, in a well-weathered pot, is set to move out to my balcony for summer.

Lavender. If its loveliness isn’t enough to justify its existence, just wait for a gentle breeze and inhale: the aromatic herb’s knockout fragrance will doubtless seal the deal.

I have a friend who’s been a longtime lavender booster, and about four years ago I joined the fan club. And, as we’ve been discussing using herbs in the kitchen, let me say — modestly of course — that my lavender cookies have become legend.

Lavender can be used in many other baked goods, too. And, I also use powdered sugar flavored with Read the rest of this entry »

The long and short of it: stagger heights for lush containers

The sweet potato vine is a nice trailing plant for containers.

The sweet potato vine with its big heart-shaped leaves is a nice trailing plant for containers.

You must remember this: the rules of an in-ground garden don’t necessarily apply to your containers. One of the things I’ve learned from studying O.P.P. (Other People’s Planters) is that you really need to pack the plants in somewhat densely to achieve maximum effect.

When I set out my very first flower planter on my balcony some years back I had approximately six small cell packs of marigold spaced over the length of a 36-inch planter.

That’s fine if you’re cultivating a garden in your backyard of perennials and plants that will return Read the rest of this entry »

Seeds of time: a couple of fast starters for slowpoke gardeners

Nasturtium seeds are large and they sprout quickly.

Nasturtium seeds sprout quickly, so they'll make up the time lost if you procrastinate.

Winter blew out of Chicago a few nights ago with thunderous exultation. And the rain rained down. The next day temperatures reached 80. Of course it’s cooled off a bit since, but there is the definite feeling that the worm has turned (yes, a pun for you in-ground gardeners).

Even Burpee is on board. Three of the plants I ordered from them arrived on the very day that temperatures soared. So, container gardeners start your engines… we’re just three short weeks or so away from the time when we can introduce our plants to the great outdoors.

If you haven’t started any seeds yet and are lamenting the fact that because you’ve procrastinated you’ll have to spend more money and buy all your plants from a nursery, fear not… Read the rest of this entry »

I’ve got the blues… hope it’s not too much of a good thing

Three shades of blue.

Three shades of blue in a past garden. Even more blue varieties will abound this year, punctuated with yellow, green and orange.

In my mind’s eye, the idea of a monochromatic garden is very intriguing, entrancing even. All-white gardens are quite the rage in certain circles, and, with my adoration of blue flowers, I’ve been oh-so tempted to create an all-blue fantasy.

But I think the reality would be far less satisfying than the dream. Recently, a fellow gardener who shares my love of blue said that if she had her druthers, some day she’d plant a garden of blues Read the rest of this entry »

The good earth: last season’s soil may be right for reuse

Someone forgot to tell these sprouts that they shouldn't survive outdoors in containers over the Chicago winter.

Even though this soil has been subjected to the elements, healthy sprouts are popping up.

I love getting my hands dirty. In fact when I open those big bags of rich, fluffy potting soil mix I don’t even bother to wear gloves — despite my manicured fingernails. It is one of those joyful rituals that mark the start of what will hopefully be another rewarding season of container gardening.

But hold on, what about the soil left in the pots from last year? Isn’t it wasteful to just dump all that dirt? Is there any way to recycle it for this season’s planters? These are questions a curious city gardener posed to me recently. And Earth Day Read the rest of this entry »

The color of water and other splashy container gardening secrets revealed

A little water is a wonderful thing. But don't depend on raindrops alone.

A little water is a wonderful thing. But don't depend on raindrops alone to nourish plants.

Armchair sleuth that I am, I jumped at the chance to gather intel when I saw a crew making its way down one of our city streets attending to the splendid hanging baskets Chicago adorns its lamp posts with during summer.

As the magic wand was extended over the baskets I made a discovery that changed the way I would maintain my container plants in the years to come: the water he used … it was, well, BLUE! Maybe that was the secret to success.

From that point forward every other watering lavished on my plants had just the slightest tinge Read the rest of this entry »

A quest for true blue? Prepare for shades of gray along the way

This hydrangea is blue, but some petals are replete with hints of purple.

Even though this hydrangea is a vibrant blue, some of its petals display hints of purple.

It may not be up there with the search for the grail, but gardeners’ quest for “true blue” flowers can be equally elusive.

For a couple years now, blue has been the object of my garden affection. I’ve built my color scheme around blue and hunted for seeds and plants of that hue.

That passion took hold of me at the grocery store Read the rest of this entry »