2014 New Perennials

I posted recently on 2014 new plants and thought I would share some additional varieties.  I’m always searching out plants to use in our small city spaces.

lavender phenom edit

The first plant is Lavender ‘Phenomenal’.  Its drought and heat resistant and winter hardy.  Use it in full sun for borders along entry walkways.  It grows  3-4 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide.

 

 

coneflowercolorburstorang editAnother nice one is a coneflower variety called Colorburst ‘Orange’.  They grow to 14 inches and flower early summer through September.  Their sturdy stems keep them from getting floppy.  Their flowers are dense and fragrant.  Mix them with other coneflower varieties ‘Chiquita’ and ‘Rosa’.

 

 

carexeveresteditNext we have Carex ‘Everest’.  It can be used in shade gardens and has a nice low mounding habit.   ‘Everest’ grows 10 to 12 inches tall with an 18-inch spread.  Requires moist, rich soil.

 

 

catmintcatsmeoweditI use Catmint when I need drought and sun tolerance.  They are very tough plants and great for the city.  The problem with some varieties is their tendency to lay down leaving a big hole in the center.  They can also look weedy and wild.   This new variety keeps a tight neat mound.  Figure on a height of 18 to 20 and a spread of between 2 and 3 feet. The long-lasting, all-summer, bee-attracting flowers are purplish-blue in color, and the foliage is gray-green.

lobeliablacktruffleeditLast but not least we have Lobelia ‘Black Truffle’.  First of all, its difficult to find red flowering perennials that have great dark foliage.  Using dark foliage is a great way to achieve contrast in the garden.  Plant with native grasses, Coreopsis and anything that has some yellow or orange.  This plant also is a magnet for hummingbirds.   Grows 3-4 feet tall and blooms in August through September.

Its going to be an exciting growing season after this long winter.   Get out there and dig in the soil and enjoy the days of summer.

 

 

lavender phenom

Robot Lamp 5

Robot Drill Lamp

Robot Drill

I was cleaning up the work shop recently and going through some boxes when I found this old Craftsmen drill.  It was given to me years ago but didn’t get much use.  I have plenty of drills and prefer cordless so this baby went to the wayside.  As I pondered about what to do with it my curiosity got the the best of me.   I really wanted to see what was inside.   Six screws later I had it into pieces.  Now what?  Well,  we really need some more light in our living room and I can’t see going out and spending money on a lamp,  I’m crazy like that.  So I looked over the pieces again and thats when the light bulb went off,  sorry I couldn’t resist.  How about using the drill body as my lamp base and if all goes well I can use the drill trigger to switch the lamp on and off.  I needed to do some more disassembling.   The drill needed to be gutted.  The motor and gears were removed to make space for lamp wire.   As I laid the insides out on the table I then thought,  now what to do with these.   We’ve gone to Artprize in Michigan the last few years and I keep seeing really cool sculpture art.   The pieces that have drawn my attention most are these whimsical characters made from all kinds of different materials.   I love how these characters can be discovered in what some might call junk.  With that inspiration in mind I started piecing things together and right away I saw this robot coming together.   Almost like he was saying “Build me” (robot voice). A couple zip ties, glue and some failed solder attempts and Mr Robot was assembled.

Robot Lamp 5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now for finishing the lamp.   My trigger switch idea would now be put to the test.  I re-wired everything and then it was time for the test.   Being a metal drill with a metal trigger the possiblility of electrical shock was too much for me to just plug it in and pull the trigger.  I’ve been shocked before and that memory dies hard.   So instead,  I locked the trigger in place with the lock button and then stepped far away to plug it in.

Robot Lamp 4

Fingers crossed, drum roll please.  It was like that moment in A Christmas Story when Ralphie’s old man lights up the leg lamp.   As I plugged in I waited for the lights to dim and the sound of the breaker popping but instead the light came on.  Woo hoo!  With that accomplished I pieced everything together and and added a lamp rod and hardware.   I then attached the drill to a cut out piece of old door.  It needed a lamp shade so we took a trip to the thrift store and found a retro lampshade.

Robot Lamp Shade

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With everything in place I couldn’t help but feel the robot was lonely and missing home so I put him back just outside where he came from.  Maybe someday a little robot lady will come along  or maybe he’s a bachelor.   Time will tell.

Robot Lamp 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robot Lamp 2

New Plants for 2014

Well I know it doesn’t seem like it but we’ll be out gardening before we know it.  There are alot of exciting new plants out this year and I thought I would share.   I’m always looking for plants that fit well in our small city gardens.   Growers and suppliers are really starting to come around and are realizing the need for such urban plants.   Here are some of these plants that are new to the market in 2014.

Here are few from Monrovia that would be nice additions to Chicago gardens.

Deutzia x ‘Nikko Blush’ (NA74356)

USDA Zones 5 – 8

Deutzia A delightful new hybrid from the U.S. National Arboretum, this blushing beauty will herald spring with a profusion of soft pink blooms. A compact shrub with an excellent, multi-branched form, it is perfect for foundation plantings or to create a low hedge. Bright green foliage on arching branches displays deep burgundy fall color. Deciduous. Moderate growing to six to eight feet tall and six feet wide

 

 

Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Monmar’ P.P.A.F.

USDA Zone 5 – 9

HydrangeaEnchantress® upstages other reblooming Hydrangeas with her huge mophead flowers atop unique ruby-black stems. Blooming on old and new wood, clusters are up nine inches across; blue in acid soils, pink in alkaline soils. Her tall, dark stems are pencil thick, making excellent cut flowers in an arrangement or for drying. The stems are stunning against as the flowers as they fade to cream-splashed green. The ruby-colored stems look super all winter. Great in warmer climates and cold hardy to Zone 5. A rounded habit, it will reach three to five feet tall and wide.

Tsuga canadensis ‘MonKinn’ P.P.A.F.

USDA Zones 4 – 7

HemlockA dwarf shrub with an outstanding low, mounding form, this new selection shows improved sun tolerance. A wonderful choice for woodland, rock garden or container specimen, plant in mass for a truly dramatic effect. It will reach three to four feet tall and three to five feet wide. Prefers a dappled shade position in the garden. 

 

Here are some other choices from other growers.

(Muhlenbergia reverchonii): Hardy to USDA zones 5-10. 

GrassThis selection of long-lived grass was brought from the southern Great Plains by Lauren & Scott Ogden. Graceful fine-textured gray-green mounds are topped by clouds of tiny ruby flowers that glow brilliantly when backlit in autumn. Persistent winter beauty, superb in mass plantings; also for accents and erosion control.  Plants are 15-18 inches tall; up to 30 inches in flower. Grows in full sun in moderate to dry conditions.

 

(Penstemon x mexicali) Hardy to USDA zones 4b-8.

penstemon mexicaliRuby-red or garnet-colored tubular flowers with striped throats nearly all summer long. Narrow, glossy green leaves form an attractive mound. This selection  was developed by Kelly Grummons and grows 15 inches tall by 12-15 inches wide in full sun to part shade with moderate water.

 

 

 

(Scutelliaria resinosa ‘Smoky Hills’) Hardy to USDA zones 4-9.

ScuttelariaForms tidy mounds of greenish-grey leaves covered with bright purple-blue flowers tipped with white during early summer. Thrives in hot, sunny locations with well-drained soil. This durable shortgrass prairie native was named for the Smoky Hills of north central Kansas where it was first collected and was originally introduced by Great Plants™ in 2004.  Plants grow 8-10 inches tall and 10-14 inches wide.

 

(Iris hookeri) Hardy to USDA zones 3-8.

IrisForms a compact, tidy clump with attractive green foliage framing large, porcelain-blue flowers in late spring and early summer. It is one of North America’s most beautiful native irises, and provides excellent foliage and textural accent for small gardens. Grows 8-12 inches tall and wide.

Allium schoenoprasum ‘Snowcap’ Hardy to zones 2-9

ChivesThis semi-dwarf variety has wispy, pristine white flowers. Fine, grassy gray-green foliage looks nice all season long. Plant it in well-drained soil. Holds up well in the heat and humidity of summer. Deadhead to prevent reseeding. Grows 12-15 inches tall and wide.

I’m looking forward to being able to use some of these in Urban Renewal designs and will be on the lookout for them as soon as things become available.  Happy Gardening!

Spring vegetables for Chicago gardens.

jalapeno-seedlingsI recently started contemplating what I want to grow in the garden this year and figured I’d blog about it and share any ideas/insight with you novice Chicago gardeners out there.

This should be an interesting year for produce because of the California drought and water shortage.  Vegetable prices will inevitability be higher and inventory will be scarcer.   So why not grow your own and know exactly where your food is coming from.  Plus, you will have a great time doing it.

February is a good time to start sowing seeds indoors for later transplant to your garden.   Most summer vegetables can be sown indoors to maximize your yield potential come harvest time.   If done correctly you can be harvesting long before everyone else and enjoying an abundance of vegetables.   The cool season vegetables include broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, endive, lettuces, kale along with many more.   They can be started indoors now and then transplanted to the garden as soon as the soil can be worked which is typically mid to late march.  These vegetables will usually start to decline with the hot July heat and can be re-sown in late July for a fall harvest.    The warm season vegetables can be started indoors also.  They include cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes.  These warm season vegetables can’t be planted for around 8 weeks, which is usually towards the end of May when there isn’t any threat of frost.  This can give you a good sized healthy plant that is bigger then  your options at local garden centers thus ensuring you a sooner harvest and longer harvest duration.

Once we get into March you can start thinking about other vegetables that can be sown directly into the ground.   These include arugula, mache, mustard, peas, radishes, spinach, beets, carrots along with many others.  They can be planted as soon as the soil can be worked. March is also a good time to start cucumbers and melons indoors for transplant later.

In zone 5, after the first week of April passes, beans, squash and corn can be planted outside. They are planted directly in the garden and 1 week before the last frost is expected. After the seed germinates and presses through the soil, be sure to cover the delicate plant if frost occurs. Beans take several months to mature and can be planted in successive planting up until 3 months prior to the first fall frost. In zone 5, the first expected frost date is October 15th. So all beans should be planted by July 15th to ensure they have time to reach maturity before it gets cold.

Hope this info helps.  Now you can’t complain about having nothing to do on the weekend.

 

 

How this winter’s snow may protect and nourish your plants.

berry pic for blogAs all of us midwesterners know its been a cold and snowy winter.   Here in Chicago this winter currently ranks as the 6th snowiest on record.   Our temps have been below average for most of the season too.   Its easy to look at the negative side of winter, and believe me it has its negatives, but there may also be some positives to take away from it.   Our gardens were really dry going into winter with less than average rainfall in the late summer and fall.    All of this snowfall we have had will ultimately help out our gardens and bring much needed moisture to our plants roots systems.  In addition to the snow helping with moisture it will also help to insulate our plants from the frigid temperatures.   Having this amount of snow on the ground also affects the frost layer.  In areas with sufficient snow cover,  the frost layer can be much less significant and shallower.   This will also help out with our gardens.   If you want to maximize the benefit of the extra water, take a look in your garden and note plants that don’t have alot of snow cover.   Take the time to transfer excess snow to the base of the plants that need extra while keeping in mind any potential flooding issues with the thaw.  Getting lots of water to the plants will certainly help with the spring growing season and help to maximize your gardens potential for beauty and health.   Spring will be here before we know it and we can get back to enjoying our outdoor spaces again. Cheers.