Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Piet Oudolf on the Plantings at Lurie - Video

Not sure how I missed this fantastic video about Piet Oudolf and the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park in Chicago. I'm a huge fan of Oudolf's work, and if you are too, or if you just want to escape to a warm June day at the garden, watch the video. I love how he relates sustainability in plants to durability - plants that live long, perform well with long bloom times and look good through the seasons, come back year after year, and don't overgrow themselves. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Vegetable Garden Quotes

Green Zebra tomato from Suddenly I Seed blog

It's happening already. I'm feeling that itch to get out in the garden and grow food. And I have months (months!) before I'll be able to do so. In the meantime, enjoy these vegetable garden related quotes.
For all things produced in a garden, whether of salads or fruits, a poor man will eat better that has one of his own, than a rich man that has none.
-  J. C. Loudoun

 Let my words, like vegetables, be tender and sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.
-  Author Unknown

 What was paradise, but a garden full of vegetables and herbs and pleasure?  Nothing there but delights. - William Lawson

 Sex is good, but not as good as fresh, sweet corn. 
- Garrison Keillor

 It's difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato. 
- Lewis Grizzard

 Keep as near as ever you can to the first sources of supply—fruits and vegetables.
- B.W. Richardson

Monday, December 10, 2012

Laverne Bohlin Fine Art

While I hate that winter is coming, I love a pastel piece by one of my favorite horticulture instructors and fine artist, Laverne Bohlin. It's called "Winter Blues" and you can see it here. Her work focuses on natural landscapes, which does not surprise me, since she was my landscape design instructor. Her oil and pastel pieces are so serene; perfect for a bedroom, home library, or anywhere in your home that you might retreat to escape and dream. Are you reading this, dear husband? Christmas is coming, you know!

You can visit Laverne Bohlin's blog to learn more about her work and where she will be exhibiting next.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Watercolor in Progress

"You have the potential to make beautiful things. Yes. You."

I read this quote this morning, not sure who it's from, but it's great inspiration to dust off your art supplies and make something. And botanical items make perfect subjects! This watercolor, titled "Grow Your Food," will be used as an incentive in my upcoming Kickstarter campaign for the GardenWorks project, which will provide at least 10 needy families with 4x8 raised bed vegetable gardens.

I'll share the final version when it's done, but in the meantime, you can LIKE GardenWorks on Facebook to learn when the fundraising campaign starts in January.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Pinecone Birdfeeder Gets Modern

While outside enjoying the nearly 70 degree temperatures yesterday, we decided to make some birdfeeders using biodegradable materials. We made a couple using the old recipe - a pinecone smeared with peanut butter and rolled in sunflower seeds.

But we also tried a new take on that old favorite - a toilet paper roll smeared with peanut butter and rolled in sunflower seeds. I like this new and improved version of the peanut butter birdfeeder, not only because it uses an item that might otherwise go in the recycle bin, but you don't have to hang it. It can just be slipped over a branch.

The birdfeeder may have taken a modern twist, but the end result is still the same...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Will My Client Plant a Copper Beech?

So, I have this client, a friend of a friend, and a really incredible graphic designer. And she has this AMAZING piece of property in the south suburbs of Chicago. Her lot is about 125' by 320'. Huge! Part sun in front, and full sun in back. Lots of room, and she could include basically anything in the space as far as landscaping is concerned.

This is the kind of space that makes my heart race a little! I'm used to working in spaces that make the plant palette limited - dwarf this and compact that. I love the types of challenges that those spaces present, and I love making the most out of small spaces so that my client can use every last inch. But this property? I can select something that will get BIG.

The first thought that came to mind, since the client is young, newly married, and wants kids one day - is Fagus sylvatica (Copper Beech). It's purply, coppery foliage is stunning, changing colors at different times of the year. The bark is incredible, smooth in spots and as it ages, it gets wrinkly, like elephant skin. I see this as a "legacy tree," something the client can plant now, right in the middle of the yard where they can see it from the back windows, and have it age with them as their family grows. The Copper Beech will grow to 50-60' tall and 30' wide. I can imagine a super comfy chair underneat it, providing shde and relaxation for a busy family.

The client wants to attract more birds to the property, and will do so with this tree. Copper Beech provides beech nuts, an important food source for birds.

I plan to suggest it when I present the full design, and I hope she goes for it!



Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Euphorbia, Will I See You in Spring?

I consider myself lucky to have been able to enjoy my Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' (Cushion Spurge)for a second year. While this perennial succulent is classified as zone 6, it is frequently sold by the big box stores here in zone 5. I knew it was a gamble when I purchased it, but it was on sale for under $2 a plant, so it was worth the risk. Luckily, we had an unusually mild winter, and I have it placed in a somewhat protected spot next to my potager wall. It survived!

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' has done really well in my garden for the last two years. Its form is distinctive, with the whirled leaf pattern and upright habit. And the color, wow! In spring and summer the leaves are a variegated chartreuse and dark green, turning to pink and burgundy in fall. The summer flower is cream, lime and green, and seems to hover in a cloud above the plant. And it's evergreen and has never needed supplemental watering!

But alas, I might have to say goodbye this year, depending on the harshness of the coming winter. I've given it some extra leaf mulch at the base to give it a better chance. A better choice might have been Euphorbia 'Bonfire', which is used by Roy Diblik in his landscape at the Art Institute in Chicago, and is classified zone 5.

These shots were taken in July, when it's red color really stands out against the bright greens of Sesleria autumnalis (Autumn Moor Grass) and Sporobolus heterolepis (Prairie Dropseed). I might have to use this in my front yard when I go grassless, as it really fills in densly, shading out weeds.

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Sustainable Landscaping at Glenbard West Memorial Field

The Glen Ellyn Women's Club 1927 memorial stone at Memorial Field, Glenbard West H.S.

Last week, work was completed on the installation of a new, sustainable landscape at Glenbard West High School's Memorial Field in Glen Ellyn. I was thrilled to design the landscape for this project, not only because I knew that the new plantings would make a big difference in the look of the west side of the field, but also because of the historical significance of the location and the wonderful people I was lucky enough to work with along the way.

A Brief History
Village President Amos Churchill initiated the purchase of the land where Memorial Field and Memorial Park now sit from the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad in 1895 with the intention to build a park and train depot. The theme of the park turns to honoring Civil War veterans, however, in 1911 when two cannons, a flag pole, and a cast iron horse trough were added.

A ball park was added after Glenbard West High School opened in 1923, and a rich tradition of sporting begins on the site, while veterans continued to be honored there. In 1927, the Glen Ellyn Women's Club has 170 crabapple trees planted in the creation of a Soldier's Pathway in the spirit of environmental conservation and to honor WWI vets. The trees have since died, but the memorial stone was found and returned to the site. In 2010, the Pathway was paved with concrete and dedicated concrete pavers and a state-of-the-art turf field was installed.(1)

Back in early spring, 2012, I worked with a group of interested folks, including school staff, members of the community, and donors, to develop a number of goals that drove my design:
  • To remain true to the original intentions of the Glen Ellyn Women's Club and other interested groups by continuing to honor our local veterans and promote environmental conservation;
  • To add more spring and fall color;
  • To soften the effects of the lights on neighbors; and
  • To include low-maintenance and native plants.
With those goals in mind, I included native plants like serviceberry, switchgrass, prairie dropseed, black chokeberry, amsonia, and sumac. A large, diseased, berry-dropping mulberry tree in the circular patio cut-out was removed and replaced with an 'Accolade' Elm, developed locally by the Morton Arboretum. Improperly planted and dying crabapples were replaced. Dense evergreens and lilacs were added that will eventually minimize some of the light and noise. Lots of low-growing grasses were included to eliminate mowing, reduce water run-off, and provide a long season of interest.

DigRightIn Landscaping, Inc. out of Brookfield, completed the installation of the design. Not only was the owner, staff, and crew exremely knowledgeable, courteous, and conscientous, they also use a variety of sustainable practices. Compost was added to amend the soil, the area was top-dressed with corn gluten for weed inhibition, and a process for planting using spot-tilling disturbed the soil less than tilling everything, thus resulting in less weed seed germination.

So, without further ado, here are the before and after photos. I can't express how much I enjoyed working on this project with everyone involved, and I can't wait to see the plants mature and fill in next year!




And after...




(1) Historical information taken from the Memorial Field Rededication brochure, compiled by Ron Aubrey and the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

Tina Koral is a landscape designer and owner of Tina Koral Gardens.

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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Jamie Oliver: Teach Kids to Cook

Okay, so I'm being a bit of a slacker here on the blog. I've been swamped with landscape design work, starting and co-leading my daughter's Daisy troop, getting GardenWorks 2013 up and running, and the million other things that we all juggle in our daily lives. So, the blog has been neglected a bit.

I'm so excited to share before and afters from my project at Glenbard West High School's Memorial Field in Glen Ellyn. I just have to get the after pics together, so look for that post later this week. Or, if you're in the area, just go have a look!

Until then, I'd like to share a video that I came across while jogging on the treadmill. My husband says I turn up the TV too loud when I'm on it, so I've taken to watching TED talks with headphones on my tablet. This one is Jamie Oliver's 2010 TED Prize speech about the state of obesity in America and how change can happen if people cooked their own food and taught their kids how to do it too. It goes hand in hand with my personal notion that everyone should be growing their own food. Take a look, it's a good way to spend the next 18 minutes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Magnificent Mums

If you follow my blog, you know that I'm not an "annual person." And it's not because I don't like them, I'm just no good at keeping things watered. But when I saw these massive, half-bushel mums at my plant supplier, I had to have one. And, I'll be making them available to my local customers next year.

These mums are HUGE! Mine is about 36 inches in diameter, and makes such a bold statement in the front yard gardens when not much else is blooming.

Technically, these garden mums are not annuals, they are perennials. However, it's tough to get your hands on them early enough in the year to get them planted and established before winter. If I were to plant this one in the ground now, it would be very unlikely to return, since it is using most of it's energy on blooming, not on producing roots. So I'll enjoy it for the season, then will plant it just for the heck of it. If we get another winter as mild as the last, I may see it again in spring!

Friday, October 12, 2012

A Fall Walk, and Photography With Kids

While her little brother is in preschool, and before she goes to kindergarten in the afternoon, my five-year-old and I have a few hours alone, and I like to spend it focusing on art. We often go to parks to draw, take photos, or collect pieces of nature for collages.

She has a flair for art, loves to draw, and can really see the beauty in the everyday. She really loves photography, and I like to let her use "the big camera" because it focuses easily for her. I was surprised to see the files from a recent walk around Lake Foxcroft in Glen Ellyn; it's fun to see the world through her eyes. She sees things that I don't, in ways that I don't.

When teaching her how to use the camera, we really only focus on one aspect, and today is was working with zoom. This park is filled with geese, so we took shots from far away, and zoomed in close. I struggled with being patient as she took about 500 pictures of said geese, but I think it's important to let her experiement with how the camera works. Afterward, we came home and looked at the files and picked our favorites to share.




More resources on photography with kids:
13 Lessons to Teach Your Child About Digital Photography
How to Teach Photography to Children
How to Teach Your Kids Photography (and Learn Something Too)

Monday, October 1, 2012

Out and About: Peck Farm Interpretive Center

A couple of weeks ago, while the weather was still warm, I brought the kids to Geneva Park District's Peck Farm Interpretive Center (4038 Kaneville Road, Geneva IL 60134 (630) 262-8244). We'd been there earlier in the year following a visit to Johnson's Mound, but it was March, and it was cold, and the exhibit I really wanted them to see was not yet open.

The Butterfly House is definitely worth a visit. It was thrilling to see about 15 different species of butterflies so close up. I'm now convinced that every home needs a honesuckle shrub. The butterflies were gaga over it.

At Peck Farm, you can also take a walk through a native plant prairie down to a pond, climb up into a silo, and have a picnic. A nice, inexpensive way to spend an afternoon.