Thursday, June 28, 2012

Most Asked About Features at the Bridge Communities Glen Ellyn Garden Walk

I told you how incredible my experience was at the Bridge Communities Glen Ellyn Garden Walk, right? I also promised to share the most commented on or asked about features of my garden. Here goes!

1. The potager. People seemed to appreciate the way it was organized and already producing!

2. Gooseneck Loosestrife. SO many people asked about this one. I felt I had to be responsible and let them know it would take over Glen Ellyn if not in a space where it can be contained.

3. Stachys monnieri 'Hummelo'. Not your grandmother's stachys!

4. Wine bottle edging. "How long did it take you to drink all that wine?"

5. Ligularia 'Brit Marie Crawford'. Always stunning with or without flowers.

6. Mini veggie vignette. I think folks were inspired to take old or found objects to grow things in.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Leaf Magazine - Summer 2012 Issue

The latest issue of Leaf Magazine is out, and it's a great one. So much eye candy here for the garden-obsessed. Leaf is a free online publication, check it out here:

Photo credit: Leaf Magazine Leaflets

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Building Butterfly Habitats

There are a few things to remember if you want to attract butterflies to your gardens. You must think about the entire lifecycle of the butterfly, instead of simply planting nectar plants. You want them to be able to meet all their needs in your yard so that they stay nearby. To do this, you must provide them with caterpillar host plants, food sources, protection, and sunshine and warmth, and nutrients.

Caterpillar host plants
These are those plants that a butterfly will select to lay eggs on, and where the baby caterpillars will eat. They are often quite specific to the butterfly. Milkweed for monarchs, spicebush for swallowtails, joe-pye weed for the fritillary. A good source for more information on host plants here.

Food sources
Food sources for adult butterflies include flower nectar, sap, and rotting fruit. Butterflies are nearsighted, so larger groupings of flowers are best to attract their attention. Flowers with "landing pads", like coneflowers, will provide them with a large spot to land and settle in for a drink.

Butterflies require nutrients that nectar can't provide. Sand and mud are good sources, so a dish with either of these, wetted and placed in the garden will help.

Trees and shrubs, a woodpile, and even piles of rocks can provide protection from preditors and the elements.

Sunshine and Warmth
You won't see many butterflies early in the morning, because they need sunshine and warmth to get going. When the temperature is below 55-60 degrees, fluid in their wings thicken and they can't fly. Provide some large stones in your butterfly garden so they can absorb those warming rays!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bridge Communities Glen Ellyn Garden Walk - A Great Experience

Looking back on my Bridge Communities Glen Ellyn Garden Walk experience this past weekend, I can say that it was a truly great experience. On Friday evening, after scrubbing our garden-dirtied hands and feet, my husband and I got all dressed up and attended the Garden Party, held in the garden of a Bridge board member. What a lovely party, with drinks, appetizers, music by the Michael Brazan Jazz Band, and friendly company. We met lots of Bridge board members and staff, as well as volunteers and other Garden Walk hosts. I was excited (and nervous) to learn that that Bridge had sold over 400 tickets to the Walk!

Garden Party. See the band on the balcony?

On the day of the walk, we mowed the lawn and put the finishing touches on the landscape, eradicating any weeds that had the nerve to pop up overnight. Then the volunteer ticket-takers came, who I was very happy to meet. They told me all about the volunteer opportunities with their Bridge Builders group, and I hope I can join them in some future projects. The Garage Party sounds particularly fun!

My garden, primped and ready for guests.

At 10am, the walkers arrived. And arrived. And kept arriving! It was very exciting to see a few hundred people walking around my yard that day. I was glad to be there to answer questions and talk plants with fellow enthusiasts. In a future blog post, I'll share what the most asked about plants were. They really seemed to enjoy my wine bottle edging in the back shade garden, asking me how long it took to drink all that wine! "We just started last week," I joked, then let them know that I'd picked up most of the bottles from Cab's Wine Bar and Bistro. My potted plants, designed by Cook Container Designs, also received lots of positive comments.

The wine bottle edging was a hit!

At 2pm, Connie from The Growing Place in Naperville gave a talk about growing vegetables, and discussed varieties that work well in our zone.
Connie, talking about the Egyptian Walking Onion

Soon after, Bridge Communities CEO John Hayner presented us with a beautiful framed drawing of our home by local artist Kay Wahlgren. What a special gift, considering I had taken a watercolor painting class given by Kay a couple of years ago and love her work.

That's mine on the far right. Such beautiful work by Kay Wahlgren

So, now the planning, planting, pruning, mulching, weeding, deadheading and general yard-primping is done for the year, and I can start planning summer getaways with family and friends. I feel so honored to have been included in the Garden Walk, and glad that in a small way was able to contribute to the success of the event, which in turn benefit area homeless families. My only regret is that I did not have a chance to get away and see the other gardens. But I'll participate in next year's event, this time as a garden walker, and hope you will support it too.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ecological Benefits of Native Plants

Illinois native Aquilegia canadensis (Columbine)
Native plants are hot, hot, hot! So many people are buying and planting native plants because they know the benefits to the environment that native plants bring. Here are just a few.
  • Native plants need less water once established. Because they've grown here for thousands of years, they are well-adapted to our weather patterns. Native plants often have deep, extensive root systems that can obtain water when non-native plants can't. They will still need to be watered  well in the first year so that the root system can develop.
  • Plant a native plant garden and reduce weekly mowing. Enlarge your garden beds and include native plants, and you'll spend less time mowing and more time enjoying the fruits of your labor.
  • Native plant gardens complement vegetable gardens by attracting necessary pollinators. Many of our native bees and butterflies are not adapted to feed from non-native plants. Plant natives near your vegetables to get those pollinators to create more food for you.
  • Native plants allow rainwater to soak deeper into the soil. Certain plants are called "clay busters" because they have a strong taproot that will break through tough clay to let rainwater infiltrate and replenish our aquifers.
  • Native plants create ecological diversity by attracting the beneficial bugs, birds, butterflies, and wildlife that are so often displaced by development.
  • You can find a native plant to solve almost any garden problems ("Nothing will grow in that wet spot!").
  • Native plants sequester carbon, keeping it from being released into the atmosphere where it worsens the greenhouse affect.
  • The breakdown and rebuilding of the long and plentiful roots of native plants contribute to healthier soil.
  • Native plants are sustainable, for all of the reasons above.
Plants are not just for decor, they are essential for all life. Choose your landscape plants as if life depends on it. Because it does!

Portions of this post are exerpted from a talk by Jim Kleinwachter of the Conservation Foundation of Naperville, IL.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Can't Contain? Call Cook!

When I learned that my gardens would be one of six featured on the Bridge Communities Glen Ellyn Garden Walk, I immediately called my friend Josette of Cook Container Designs. I knew I would not have time to design and plant my containers, what with all the weeding, pruning, planting, and general sprucing-up of the yard I'd be doing before the walk. Josette was a lifesaver, coming to the rescue with such beautifully designed pots, I couldn't believe it. She knows how I love to grow herbs and veggies, and included these in her designs. Here's a sneak peak, with a look at my favorite one at the end of this post.

Great combination of Caladium, Scaevola, Rosemary, and ornamental millet.
Container on left has Red Rubin Basil, Purple Fountain Grass,
Snapdragon, Alyssum, and Supertunia Bordeaux.

Container on right has Alyssum, Cordyline, Tri-color Sage, Petunia,
and Euphorbia.
My favorite - features Lacinato Kale, Trailing Rose Coleus, 'Twinny Peach'
Snapdragon, Lime Thyme, and Wave Pink Petunia. Love it!

Get your tickets early for the Garden Walk (it's this Saturday!), and contact Cook Container Designs for all of your container gardening needs!

Friday, June 8, 2012

My No-Fail Tomato Cages

You might remember me lamenting about my tomato cages last year. I had to use the cheap wire ones because I was too busy to design and ask the hubby to build some for me, and they fell over in a July storm. Not this year! Check out what I have now!

My very sweet husband has stayed up late two nights in a row building this for me. And he plans to do another for the other side, and also a cucumber trellis! He's pretty new to carpentry, but between the kids playhouse, my potting table, and the window box, he's getting a lot of practice. Yesterday he asked if I wanted him to build an outdoor garden tools storage cabinet. Um, yes! Good man, I've got.

Anyway, there are spaces for six plants to grow, and the trellis is about 48" tall, and no storm is going to take this baby down!

Hello, to all my new Pinterest visitors! I'm happy to have you! I'm a landscape designer in the west suburbs of Chicago, specializing in potager vegetable gardens and full residential landscape design. To learn more about my business, visit:

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Chalkboard Welcome Sign

One of the parts of my job as a garden designer that I love is designing front porch decor. Enhancing the entryway is one of those things that give instant gratification and takes a frequently used spot from boring to smile-enducing. You can create a welcoming spot for guests, or just a nice place to relax and read a book, and it does not have to be expensive.

Nothing says "Welcome" more than a sign that, well, says "Welcome!" I recently came across this post from one of my favorite blogs, Less Than Perfect Life of Bliss, and was inspired to create my own chalkboard welcome sign for my front porch. As she says, this is best for a covered porch. And it's super easy and inexpensive to do, costing me a grand total of $3.88!

I used a 1" x 6" x 8" piece of wood that my husband had as scrap wood in the garage. He sanded it a little, and drilled two holes in the upper corners. I gave it two coats of spray chalkboard paint, and strung a wire laced with beads that I had around the house, and voila! A welcoming hello to friends, special guest, or even the mailman! Maybe for the Bridge Communities Garden Walk (have your purchased your tickets yet?), I will change it to "Welcome Garden Walkers!" This is seriously an easy project that adds a lot of charm and personality to your front porch. Enjoy!

Friday, June 1, 2012

2nd Annual Serviceberry Smoothie

I knew the serviceberries were ripe when I saw my three little trees alive with birds this morning. I hurried the kids outside to pick them, which they were thrilled about. It's not often that we get to pick fruit from a tree and eat it right then and there! We managed to save some to bring in for a smoothie, and left the high ones for the birds.

I believe that everyone should have at least one serviceberry (Amelanchier) tree in their yard. Not only do you get these wonderfully berries that are delicious and nutritious for humans and birds, but you get amazing spring flowers, brilliant fall color, and smooth grey bark in winter. Truly, a four season plant.

As I mentioned in this post from last year, serviceberries taste like a mix between cherries and blueberries. We combined them with a banana, a bag of frozen strawberries, some vanilla yogurt, and because I like to throw at least one vegetable in every smoothie, an avocado. I used orange juice to thin it, and voila! A serviceberry smoothie to split with my two favorite little people.

For us, it's a sure sign that summer is here!

Welcome, birds and butterflies!

Echinacea purpurea 'Alba' with Caryopteris 'Sunshine Blue' and new birdbath.