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The Fairy Gardener
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jim Edminster

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Greed has done me in!

Ordering gorgeous send-away-for plants from catalogs for the already over-stuffed garden I, ahem, neglected to think all four large orders would come at the same time, screaming in plant braille: "Put me in the ground, now!" So we ( the royal "we," meaning "I" ) have been planting the whole Memorial Day weekend. A friend at school brought me offshoots of his glorious canna and as I potted them up this little voice was tickling the back of my brain. What is it? What is it? In the middle of the holiday's night # 2, I got it! OMG, I have two tubs of amaryllis and other tropicals stored in the basement, so they had to be hauled out and planted, too.

Here's what went into the ground: 13 lilies, 5 heuchers, 25 lilies of the valley, ( I ordered 5 pink ones; the company ran out and sent me these instead. ), 3 blue-leaved sedums, 5 Siberian iriis of purples and blues, 3 purple hardy geraniums, 3 different clematis, a bottlebrush plant, 6 hostas ( 3 bottle gourd variety, 3 stirfry variety ), 2 pink plumed grasses, 2 blue campanulas, and several Phaison cannas ( orange flowers with pink,red, orange, and dark green leaves and 3 hardy orchids. Planting up the mystery bulbs from my basement I recognized ( red ) cannas, and some mystery bulbs—probably dahlias and callas. I have lined the whole top of my 2 foot tall, 20 foot long compost "heap" with potted plants. There are also enough pots to set on my "woodland" path around the yard. I also marked my 3 hardy hibiscus which don't even come out of the ground till June. ( They're in the alcea family with hollyhocks and rose-of-Sharons, some of whom also are latecomers. ) I also tied up several already established clematis vines which wanted to run off to the neighbors. and trimmed dead branches off my climbing hydrangea. ( She's awaiting a haircut from a friend who wants to start a cutting. )

I had to pull a considerable number of yellow jewelweed babies,very prolific and shading to death a large number of new lilies and other flowers. I planted some red four-o-clocks in a ground level planter; I seeded some Jonny-jump-ups here and there, and a section behind my waterfall with columbine. I carried out all the house plants. ( Mea culpa: I've been saying I have 200. I counted them this time. There are seventy but some are taller than me. ) They all need grooming but I'll do that later. ( The major grooming rule: Dead leaves do not resurect—take them off! )

An item from the news: You may have heard of the big extinctions of plants and animals due to human interference with the environment, but a whole other extinction has slipped under the radar—insects, and not just bees, seem to be getting fewer and fewer across the board. This bodes badly for other animals ( which eat them ), plants ( which they pollinate ) and us. ( Who would want a world without butterflies? )

Here's a couple of plants you might want for your yards. ( I filched them from the new issue of "Fine Gardening." 1 ) 'Elizabeth' Korean bellflower—purple-red, 2 ft. tall, grows well in shade around trees & shrubs; 2 ) 'Monarch's Velvet' potentilla—cherry-red with black eye, 1-2 ft. tall, sun to some shade; 3 ) 'Rosenkuppel' oregeno ( better looking than eating ), purple and red flowers, 12-18 inches, full sun, perennial.

Here's your recipe for this month: cold cucumber yogurt soup. Ingredients: 6 large cukes ( about 5 lbs. ) peeled & seeded, 8 Tbsps minced mint, 4 Tbsps olive oil, zest & juice from one large lemon, 4 cupss chicken broth, 4 cups plain yogurt, 2 small cloves garlic minced, S & P. To Do: Cut one cuke up finely & press between paper towels to dry. Put in bowl. Add 2 Tbsps mint and one Tbsp of oil. Refrigerate. Cut other cukes in large chunks and puree with rest of mint, zest, 2 cups broth, in blender. Put everything in large bowl and mix. Stir and refrigerate at least 4 hrs.

Steven Pinker's new book, Enlightenment Now, contains a vigorous defense of science, among other things. He takes on the anti-genetic fiddling with plants groups by saying all human crops have been changed drastically over the centuries and if governments forced people to stop eating genetically modified plants, humanity would starve!

Happy gardening as I'm off to the garden center for bags of dirt; my compost heap didn't make as much dirt as usual. Possibly the warm dry winter kept things from happening. I also need a flat of false lamia for a shade area where nothing grows. ( Thanks to horticulturist friend Steve for this advice. ) Here's some exterpolated advice from Marie Kondo ( the neatness lady ) and me: Give away some of those extra summer potted plants AND some of your houseplants ( unless your dead Aunt Ermitrude willed it to you ).

Speaking of strange weather, perhaps it is the cause of no crocus at all this year, no altruist daffs and no reseeded perilla. I hope the rest of our summer goes, well, better.

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