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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Fairy gardener
by Jim Edminster
2017-05-09

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The installation of the Empress Wu went well. She is resting her enormous self ( she's the biggest hosta ever bred—approximately six feet long and four feet high ) behind my yard's African sculpture. She is soon to be surrounded by an entourage of chartreuse Hakkone grass ( a Japanese shade grass ) and perhaps a couple of courtiers of the blue hydrangea extraction.

I've made a guessing game of what will, and will not, come back that I planted last year: Japanese spirea—yes; Louisiana iris of various colors—no; American bellflowers—yes; gold astilbes—no; purple autumn clematis—yes; berganias, no. And we have a mystery plant—midway between the Japanese peonies and the American peonies a baby peony with flower buds and all. I did not plant it. It may be a hybrid. Only a few of the columbines are back and no prunella. I mark new plantings with plastic drinking straws and I see many marking nothing so far. My Kerria Japonica, a hybrid shrub which looks like it's covered with yellow marigolds will look like that till frost since it can make flowers but no seeds. It's also overvigorous and has smothered a bluebird rose of Sharon.

What's in bloom? Late purple and red tulips, the redbud tree from my mom's Kansas garden, my little cherry tree, the lilacs, daffodils, glorious Virginia bluebells, a few scattered hyacinths, little species tulips, wild violets, bleeding heart, and a few remaining squill. I must say the ard looks glorious—I do need to touch up the paint of the blue horses scattered around the yard—my signature. I have one horse hanging on the front porch and I noticed, with a start, that its whole in-facing side is bright green! Moss. Perhaps I will have hanging moss dripping of it soon.

I have three swan planters I bought at a yard sale—soon to be filled with bright annuals. I've named the swan sisters Beauty, Grace and Serenity ( to reflect my inner self—not! ).

It has been pouring steadily for three days. Perhaps the Empress Wu will like it and the many Johnny-jump-up seeds I've put in the parkway. My rat-abatement cats who live in the front yard have made it very clear that I ought to stop all this nasty water—it's messing up their hunting and it's hard to find a dry place to lounge ( not to mention a little sun! ).

I still have some seeds and dry roots to plant, not to mention astilbe coming in the mail. I'm trying not to fall into the trap of lots of spring color and not much the rest of the season.

My gay Mennonite friend Steve, who lives in Indiana, was canning rhubarb when we talked on the phone—so I asked him for a recipe for you all. This is Mennonite ( or Amish ) rhubarb syrup used as a topping on coffee cake or ice cream. ( The Amish also use it on biscuits instead of jam. ) First, get a bunch of rhubarb at a farmer's market or an Asian grocery. Remove leaves and de-string the stalks. Cut in 3/4" chunks to make about three cups ( about a pound ). In a saucepan combine 1/4 cup sugar & 1/4 cup water. Bring to a boil to make a simple syrup. Add the chunks and re-boil. Cook about 10 min till the rhubarb is tender. Refrigerate. That's all! Steve says some folks throw in a handful of sliced ripe strawberries.

Have made plans with a gardening friend to make 3 or 4 day trips to out-of-state nurseries or public gardens this summer. It'll be fun and I'll get to ask professionals if anyone is thinking about what Midwesterners like us are going to do re climate change. Some plants won't work any more. Which? Will we grow new things from south of us? Will summers be hotter? Of course this is a moot point for many—I, for example, do not anticipate working in a garden 30 years from now but some of you could be.

Have you noticed how many of the ads that pop up on your phones have to do with cucumbers and pickles? They're supposed to help with your, ahem, love life. I can't believe this ancient superstition is still going strong. It is called among other things, sympathies. If a plant looks like a part of your body ( walnuts/brains; pulmonarias/lungs, etc. ), then it's able to help dysfunctions in that body part. Personally, I've never been attracted to interacting with anything green ( at least in bed ).

The first recorded financial bubble ( boom-crisis-bankruptcy ) was in 17th century Holland and the result is growing in your front yard. It was the Tulip Mania. Dutch folks would pay thousands of dollars for a ( that's right, one ) new color of tulip. The fancier colors & blossom shapes in your yard are the direct descendents of this financial shenanigan.

Anticipate the summer. On a nice warm day, sit out in your garden ( or someone's ) and contemplate it. Buy that weird plant you're attracted to at the garden center and plant it! You're part of nature and you need to practice your horticultural skills!


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