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FAIRY GARDENER Free Library boxes, spring growth, recipes
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jim Edminster

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Good God, Gertie! What is that three-and-a-half-foot-tall package on my front porch? It is wrapped in soggy cardboard and covered in plastic wrapping tape with Cyrillic writing on it!

It is, after I hauled it in, the "Free Library" box my sister had gotten me at Xmas. You may have seen other ones around the city in parkways. They look like large birdhouses mounted at eye level. They have glass doors and books inside. Folks can take some or leave some. My sis ordered it from the Ukraine and my friend Steve in Indiana said I should paint it in the Ukrainian flag colors of blue & yellow.

This whole shebang is in a garden column for several reasons: 1 ) I plant the parkway, 2 ) I have to check with the city to see if any cables, wires, pipes, etc. are buried there because the post the house sits on has to go two feet into the ground, 3 ) I put in some new hostas there last summer and they're not marked so I have to wait till they come up.

So do I have extra books to give away? Oh, maybe. Say five or six—hundred.

Try one of the uncommon philodendrons for a house plant. They're not any harder to grow but they're pink and purple and variegated. Varieties include Red Moon, Ring of Fire and Pink Princess, but you'll probably have to send away for them at Ken's Philodendrons ( ) or Logee's Prime ( )

The rain has washed away the snow, and here and there are snowdrops pushing thru the mulch ready to bloom. ( More than I remember. They've been busy underground. ) I'm going to flank my lone seven-foot-tall zebra grass clump with two smaller perennial grasses with pin plumes and put some purple campanulas in front of the zebra. By the way you can soon cut down your dry grass plumes if you haven't.

A large blue Rose-of-Sharon shrub has given up the ghost in my yard to a thug vine. I've never seen an r-of-s die in this way. They're pretty thuggish themselves. I also seem to have an empty spot in front of my tree peonies—I'll try some pink bottle brush plants there.

I saw some multicolored Lords and Ladies ( Italian arums ) in a catalog. I really need them on my shady yard's side perhaps backed by some black cimicifuga.

I found a large dresser mirror with a fancy wood frame. It's next to the neighbor's house on my yard's south side. Mirrors are useful to brighten up dark yards. I have 5 in mine. All foundlings and if they weather a bit they just have more character.

My fish pond's new deicer works more than fine. The old deicer kept a ring of free water several inches around it and the rest of the pond froze. The new one has not let a speck of ice appear on the pond. As a result the fish are more active than usual and get fed more. The yard cats are using the fish in the pond as cat television. By the way several more people in the 'hood have joined the Feral Cat Rat Abatement program and, like me, are reporting no rats!

Here's a couple easy recipes for you: Quick pickled red cabbage & Quicky, tricky ice cream sundaes—

Pickled red cabbage: Ingredients—( Get these things already chopped, if you can ) 5 cups shredded red cabbage, 1 &1/2 cups shredded carrots, an onion thin sliced, 4 garlic cloves sliced, 3 cups cider vinegar, 1 & 1/2 cups brown sugar, 1 Tbsp celery seeds, 1 Tbsp salt. To do: mix veggies & garlic; put in pint canning jars ( maybe 5 ). In saucepan bring vin, sugar, seeds & salt to boil to dissolve sugar. Pour over veggies in jars; let sit 30 min. Seal & chill.

Quicky, tricky ice cream sundaes. Ingredients & to do—top vanilla Hagaan-Dazs ice cream with crushed oreos or fresh fruit or candied ginger and any sweet liquor.

Damn these catalogs! I was all set to be abstemious when one arrives with ceramic fish on stakes to look like they're swimming thru your garden! In cobalt. I suppose I could sell a few antiques to raise the cash.

Oh, well: Summer's coming and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well!

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