Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lil Chitweed in the Big City

I'm back from my visit to the big beautiful city of Chicago, Illinois.

I did not have an internet signal strong enough to allow me to post to the blog with any ease (I lugged my laptop along for just this purpose), but I did have my camera with me to share the sights of the city when I got home.

I went to Chicago for work (poor me), to the Chicago Gift Show at the Merchandise Mart. I finished up the shopping for our Market's Fall and Christmas seasons, and started a bit on Spring '08. This show is always easy to navigate, the displays are wonderful, and the reps who work it are among the nicest people you'll meet anywhere (this goes for the people of Chicago as well...such nice people in general).

I will say the show was not the busiest I've ever seen it. It was almost too easy to navigate...there weren't any buyers I had to wait in line behind at any showroom.

Hmmm... Was it the weather that was, shall I say 'perfect' mid 70's that kept people from the showrooms? Were they busy reading their copies of Harry Potter? (I was so jealous of Hubby sitting in the hallways reading one of our 2 copies as I worked each showroom) Or were they out enjoying the gardens?

Along with the Gift Show, I love going to the City of Chicago in the Summer for a multitude of reasons:

  • The food is fantastic, I've never had a bad meal. (Greek town is always a must, and sushi, and deli, and Tai, and steak, and Italian, and Brazilian, and, and, and...). I gained 4 pounds in the 6 days we were gone...and I walked almost non-stop everyday (in the hotel 'til midnight reading Harry Potter doesn't count).
  • My good friend Steve lives there (Holla! Steve G...)
  • The Magnificent Mile is the place to shop (even if it's only of the window shopping variety).
  • Navy Pier is a nighttime treat (although a hairdo whipped up by the the famous Windy City out on the Pier is a fright to behold).
  • The gardens. (?) Yes, the beautiful gardens.

This purple is a plant I didn't recognize...anyone know it? It's not a reminded me of a non-vining sweet potato plant...sort of)

The gardens are everywhere. They are in front of hotels, restaurants, shops, museums, churches, and city buildings. There are private rooftop gardens we could only see from our hotel windows. Gardens are on top of buildings, along edges of buildings, and filling balconies where people live.

These Hydrangea flowers must have been 10-12 inches across, and were the most beautiful shade of green. They were part of a flower bed we passed while walking to the 'Brazzaz' restaurant.

Gardens line the streets, and are in the middle of streets. There are even gardens in places where people couldn't possibly enter, the gardens are there just because people can see them from other very public places.

There are gardens all along the river. This was a shot I took from a across Wacker Avenue. The people on the tour boat are looking back a a couple getting married on a bridge over the river (I hope the happy couple's photographer had better luck better than me in getting their picture).

Here is the surprise I had this year:

'Allegory', by Theresa North, International Academy of Design and Technology

I just love them!

In the middle of beautiful gardens along Michigan Ave. were these torso dress mannequins.

These gardens were along the Magnificent Mile a.k.a. Michigan Avenue., the shopping Mecca of the City.

A close up of caladiums in another bed along Michigan Ave.

It is a public art installation created by fashion design students from the The Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago, and the International Academy of Design and Technology, and well known designers located along the Magnificent Mile. Each torso dressers mannequin is 'planted' in a garden bed and is sponsored by an organization or business in The Magnificent Mile District.

This one is called 'Cultivating Knowledge', by Stanley Smith, Oak Street Design, Loyola University Chicago

There are 30-some torsos all told, I saw about 12 in our evening walks. They are so unexpected, and interesting. The gardens they are set into are colorful, thoughtfully designed to look good from all angles, and well maintained.

For more and much better pictures than mine, check out this website.


  • I go to the big city and get great ideas for my garden? Yep.
  • I go to the big city and find new plants I need to get my into yard, and for the the Market to sell? Yessiree.
  • I go to the big city and decide I need to add a dressers torso mannequin to my garden? Well, no. But it does make me think the unexpected should be a part of every garden...and what I want that unexpected 'something' to be is totally up to me. A lil' bit of the big city, in my lil' garden.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Murphy's Law?

Know how they say "The best laid plans can go awry"?
Or Murphy's Law about "Anything that can go wrong will"?
My garden is the picture in the dictionary that demonstrates both of these.
It's not always a bad thing...

This is a zinnia that reseeded from last year. Last years were a reseed from the year before. The year befores zinnias were Profusion Apricot. This is not Profusion Apricot.
This is not what I expected. Still, I like it. Maybe the Profusion Apricot is an offspring of Profusion Cherry, as I think that is what this flower color looks like.
Don't count your zinnias before they

This beautiful snap dragon is white. Right? see a bright salmon flower, too?

Whew, I thought maybe it was just the sunstroke I might be suffering from in the 90F temps we had today. I planted white, which 11 of the plants are (part of the all white plantings this year), the 12th has managed to not be white. 'Tis OK, I like it.

This is a very tender annual, coleus. It hates the cold. Its the first to take a dive in the fall with a light frost. It is a reseed from last year, but who am I to tell it that it shouldn't have come back? I like it. I just wish I remembered what the name of it is? I can't at all remember the name at the moment...Florida SunSpot...maybe?
It's 'Chitweeds Law' in my garden instead...
"What can go wrong will,
the best laid plans will certainly go awry,
but dude... it's all good".

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Tropical Parking Lot

This is what you would see if you came to the greenhouse where I work, this week. The parking lot out front is crazy with flowers. The tropical flowers we have out there can take the brutal sun and where they are.
We sell a lot of tropical plants at the greenhouse. I just love the blooms and the color. While I enjoy them very much, I've finally learned not to buy them for my own home. My deck area which practically screams for plants like these (I think), can't sustain them, because there is no sun.
I have some tropical Jasmine I sneak into some beds out front, and into some planters, other than that I just can't have them.

No purple bougainvillea. (sigh)

No gorgeous Oleander. (arrgghhh)

Perennial Hibiscus.

Yeah, perennial. I might have to start a new garden for this one next year, out front. I've been eyeing them for a few years now. More varieties are available every year. There are lots of colors... from reds, to yellow, to pinks, and plums. There are solid color flowers, and flowers with accented 'eyes'. Some have big fat leaves, and some have lacy delicate leaves. Believe it or nor, this is not a tropical! Sure does look like it would be, yes?

I do not have enough sun near the deck. There may be enough sun near the area where we park our cars. Then, I could have my own tropical looking parking lot.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I Feel a Threat Coming On...or maybe a Prayer

I am having a very hard time waiting for this plant to bloom. It is a Moon Flower Vine. It is part of my only white plantings this year.
While I've not grown this plant in my garden before, I have seen them in other people's gardens, and I sell tons at the market. It gets a huge white bloom about 6"-8" across. It is fragrant. I know it to be a great flower, and I want to experience its greatness.

So far I am not.

I didn't realize it would be this late in the season and it would still be bloomless. Lacking. Scant. Barren. Without. Devoid. Less than endowed. (you get the picture)
I feel a threat coming on...not yet tho...maybe give it another 2 weeks...before I yell at it. In the meantime I will be complimentary of its growth (it is growing everyday). I will continue to train its vines and tendrils along the fence (as I have been doing every other day). I will give it a shot of fertilizer (for a 2nd time). I will say a little prayer to St. Fiacre (the Patron Saint of gardeners) to help along in the quest for some moon flower action. (and my Mom would love the fact that I asked a Saint's help...I love you Mom!)

So let's not waste time...
"Dear Saint Fiacre, Patron Saint of Gardener's (and Taxi's) it's me, Chitweed. Please help my little Moon Flower to get over its blooming issues. (You might take a gander at the variegated Hydrangea while your at it.) Thanx. "

Hey, I'm a good gardener...not-so-good a pray-er...but why not hone both skills?

Monday, July 9, 2007

Hydrangea Heaven

The Hydrangeas are blooming beautifully. I am watering them deeply about every other day. They are rewarding me...
Here are a few of the plants in their full glory at the moment.

The variegated Hydrangea has grudgingly given me 4 blooms.
2 aren't worth taking a picture of, another is just OK,
and this last bloom is actually quite loverly.

Recent Grand Openings

The blooms have been popping in the garden while I've been playing with the recent pond addition.

I have to try and capture the photos early in the day if I can, because the weather has been so brutally hot they are not their best when I get home from work.

'Vanilla Fluff' Daylily.
Big very fluffy blooms. Like a meringue out in the garden. The plant is quite large as well, I will divide it next year or it will be too big for its spot.

'Krakatoa Lava' is a hot orange.

I love red daylilies, and 'Rooten Tooten Red' does not disappoint.

'Mauna Loa'. I thought it would be a bit brighter, but I still like it.

' Big Snowbird'

This is a 'Nosferatu' Daylily.

I love the name, but its not scary at all. It's darker than the photo looks. One of the petals kinda hooks up like a vampire's turned up cowl on a cape...maybe? I wonder where the name came from? The plant is large, with lots of buds coming. I like it, especially because of its name. I think I might move it over near the 'Night Coming' Daylily. I bet they would be great buddies color and name-wise.

The fresh 'Nosferatu' flower is not scary.. what IS scary is what the bloom looks like the next its life's blood had been sucked out.


Speaking of scary...

While I've been playing with the pond, the Japanese Beetles have been hard at work in the garden. Time to get back to work on keeping the damage at a minimum. They are as busy as I am!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Pond I can Live with?

I can!

It's Official. It is in the ground, level, filled, and (mostly) all done.
'It' is the pond my husband and I started to build, each thinking the other was the one who wanted it. We are still laughing about it. How did we each think the other wanted a pond? It's just one of those things I guess.

It was a lot of work, but has turned out surprisingly well, considering we've never done this sort of project before.

Here is the 'dry run'. We placed the largest stones where and how we wanted them. The mound of dirt we started with was packed down, and then the levels were carved for each drop.

The more space between each drop of the waterfall, the more sound. Figuring there would be plenty of sound when it dropped into the pond itself, the other 2 drops are about 2" and 3" each.

When we had the stones like we wanted, I took this picture so we could remember it, and recreate the effect. It was a good thing I took the photo, because we looked at it several times!

We added the liner the waterfall was to go down. The liner is a very heavy rubbery kind of thing, and it was 5'x15'. The flat stones for the falls were mortared in and made level. This is the second of the 3 drops being installed.

Hubby put the 3 large flat stones in, mortared them, and made sure they were level. We let the cement dry overnight.

The next day I played with the placement of the stones while Hubby was at work, so we would have a head start. I ended up liking it after a while, and then I took the plunge! I installed the rocks along the edges using the expanding pond foam that keeps the water from running under them.

Hubby couldn't believe I did it all by myself. Me either! I didn't tell him until I was all done. I'm so glad he liked it. I'm even more glad I like it! (is that terrible?)

I trimmed the excess liner. I left about 12" around the stones and hanging into the pond.

We added a few plants for accent...a 'Pacific Blue' Juniper, a Pieris Japonica, a Red Rhododendron, and a Japanese Maple.


Here is the great unveiling...


(music swells in the backgound...lots of horn action)


(don't you hate when people do this?)





(the effect is lost a bit with the hose still filling...but you get the idea)

The waterfall end with the Juniper, Maple, and Pieris.

Here is the other end. It is where the Red Rhodie, and oops, forgot to mention the new Hosta 'Fragrant Dream', were added.

After running the waterfall for the first time we discovered one side leak. So we filled the pond, but let the fall dry out. I will add more of the pond foam tomorrow when I get home from work, and let it dry once more.

To this end of the pond we still will be adding a stone shelf inside to put some water plants on. I have of course already got my eye on some at the market. (did you doubt that?)

Yes...this is a pond I can live with...even if at one time I didn't want it. As Hubby and I sat outside this afternoon on the deck near it, we decided we do indeed like it. It is so relaxing, so calming, so cool, so attractive...yes, we like it.

Maybe we didn't either one choose to have the pond, but the pond chose us?

Friday, July 6, 2007

The Unwanted Pond

The Saga and the work continues...

It is in the ground and level.

A view from the opposite side. The edge and surround gets filled with pea gravel.

Trying out some possible edging blue stones.

The waterfall gets started with a pile of dirt at the back edge of the pond. There was not enough dirt excavated from the unwanted pond-hole to make the we brought in extra bags of top soil. It is a much bigger mound of dirt now. This is a LOT of work!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

My Aching Back

Truth be told...
"My Husband's Aching Back" should be the name of this entry.

It could also be called "The Ballad of the Pond No One Wanted". Maybe, "The Hole that Hubby Built"?

Somehow we came upon the idea to have a pond in the back yard. The pond form was in the yard all winter (a cheap buy from the market as it had spent quite some time in the barn). Hubby brought it home in the back of the pickup. The space was chosen last year. Most other yard work this year has been done. The weather was bound to get disgustingly hot any second, so it must be time to break ground on the pond.

All along I've thought the pond idea was his idea. He thought it was my idea.

As we sat down and were discussing some stone choices for the waterfall feature we (OK, I) decided to add, I said "I don't know why you wanted this pond in the first place."
His response? "Me? I thought you wanted it it?"
Well, by this point the hole was dug, bags of pea gravel and sand in place, the preformed pond in place and leveled, a pallet of stone purchased, water pump, cement, pond foam, and let's just say the whole shebang. It was to the point of no return we agreed. We now are working on a pond we neither one apparently want. (it WAS his idea)

This is the 'pre-hole' we didn't want. It was roughed out tracing the upside down pre-formed pond liner. It rained the night before, so the digging went better than first thought.

This is the spot for the pond, just off the back edge of the deck. Just enough room to have a few plants and walk on each side of it once the form goes in.

This is the preformed pond liner moved out of the way so the 'unwanted pond' could get dug. It wintered in the back yard upside down so it wouldn't fill with water. When we lifted it up from the 'winter spot' there was the ugliest patch of grass/weed/ick underneath you ever didn't want to see. I didn't take a picture of that...but believe me when I just don't want to know.

This is Hubby digging the hole for the pond we neither one wanted. (He did, I'm telling you!) This picture was taken at the beginning of the project, when he still had a back. That back is now under one of the huge pond stones that were moved several times in the making of the undesired pond.

He is such a great guy.

I supervised, he dug.

I gave my 2 cents, he said "Whatever you want Babe."

I said "How about moving it over there a couple of inches?" He said, "Don't you need to put a few more bags of mulch out front???"

It's still a work in progress. Even a pond that isn't wanted needs to be done right, or its more work to take care of. I'll have more pictures to come...but right now... my back hurts, too.