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FAIRY GARDENER, planning and surprises
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jim Edminster

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Everything I ordered from catalogs is now planted: astranias, astilbes, ( so-called ) hardy gladiolas. The first two were bareroot and, as one is supposed to do I soaked them in warm water a couple of hours before planting them. I also mixed three kinds of viola seeds ( including Johnny-jump-ups ) and planted them on the edges of various flowerbeds. I'll do the same this week for dill, borage and cornflower seeds.

A couple of surprises in the garden—the mystery peony that popped up still flummoxes me. Where did it come from? Is it a hybrid of the tree peonies and the regular peonies it sits between? Do these plants ever send out runners? The other surprise is in my fish pond. My 13 feeder goldfish are about 10 years old, and eight or nine inches long. My pond has no vegetation which you need if any babies are to survive, The babies hide among vegetation. Goldfish, even my fabulous ones, are not exactly carnivores—they're more like living vacuum cleaners: They suck up everything that's little, including their own eggs and hatchlings. This was why I was surprised when an inch-long orange-with-a-Black-belt baby showed up when I fed them the other day. She must've hidden among the rocks at the bottom all winter.

The tree peonies did their usual display. There're still some late tulips hanging on, as is the redbud. ( It needs some dead lower branches pruned. ) The lilacs just finished. The amphilopsis vine over the front gate is just now greening up. I noticed yesterday it has lots of dead wood under its top layer of green and the dead vines snap off easily. ( If they're bendable, as opposed to brittle, they're probably alive. ) I see that some of the amphilopsis is climbing into the neighbor's parkway ash tree. Generally I'd trim these vines but that tree has been marked by the city to be taken down. ( It probably has ash borers in it which are fatal. ) The flowers of the hour are now the purple alliums. Didn't know I planted so many. The bluebells and wood hyacinths are just starting.

A stewartia tree that neighbors got me in return for removing a pear tree that was dropping pears on their roof ( over their bedroom ) has up and died. ( It hasn't prospered since a rat dug at its roots. ) When I get it removed I may try a miniature red Japanese maple. It will be seen against the backdrop of the neighbor's pale green house—a nice contrast ( as opposed to the doofuses in the 'hood who insist on planting purple or red-leaved plants in front of a red brick residence where they won't show at all. )

I put a new heuchera in a planter surrounded by chartreuse creeping jenny and multi-hued ajuga ( the ground cover ). The heuchera ( coral bells ) is "paprika" and it is supposed to stay its bright red-orange color. I'll plant it out in the yard if it makes it. Heucheras, by the way, are perfect antidotes to a too, too green look in the garden.

Have made a date with a gardening friend to go to the 'burbs to buy some water hyacinths for my pond. The floating flowers not only are beautiful but useful. ( It is illegal to sell them in Chicago because aldermen are idiots. ) Since I opened up my pond's waterfall two weeks ago, I've cleaned the filters four times. Muck and algae in the water cause the filters to gunk up, stopping the falls. Water hyacinths are heavy feeders which pull all the minerals out of the water, thus starving the algae, thus making the pond water clear! And their roots hanging down in the water can help hide baby fish. ( But the floaters die when it hits 40 degrees. )

Your recipe for this month is pineapple-cherry dump cake. Sometimes you want a sweet dessert but you don't want to work too hard for it. Here it is: Ingredients—1 ( 20 oz. ) can crushed pineapple, drained; 1 ( 21 oz. ) can cherry pie filling; 1 ( 90 oz. ) pkg yellow cake mix; a half-cup of chopped pecans; five T. butter, melted. Process—preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease an 8" x 8" baking dish; put in pineapple; put in cherry filling; sprinkle cake mix evenly over fruit; sprinkle pecans on top; drizzle butter over all. Bake 40-45 minutes till golden brown. It's good served a la mode!

I'm stopping by a garden center on the way home from work today to find annual fillers for my Swan Sister planters, Beauty, Grace and Serenity—maybe miniature petunias or nasturtiums. I also have to prepare dirt for beds for columbine and rose campion seeds especially if it rains tonight!

Smudge and Orion, the cats who live in my front yard, are reveling in sunshine and all the rats have fled in terror, as well as the rabbits. The squirrels come in but stay upstairs in the trees, although Ms. Orion is agile enough to keep them on their toes. I'm wondering what happens if raccoons or possums show up ( which HAS happened )?

I suppose I ought to fill up all the window boxes on my building before my garden club meets here in August—something cheap yet stupendous ( and non-plastic ). ( Maybe )

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