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  WINDY CITY TIMES

The fairy gardener
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jim Edminster
2017-04-04

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Although not everything at my age is annoying, the fact that I ordered plants from catalogs specifying they be sent in late April, and that have arrived in late March, is obnoxious.

Fortunately, nothing is a little miniature leafed plant—they're all bulbs, corms, seeds or dry roots. They're hibernating on the cool back porch. I was careful not to order anything that was full sun and I kept my total sum order under $100. So here's what I have to find places for: a couple of purple poppies, 3 bottlebrush plants ( their flower looks like a pink foxtail ), 3 astranias ( rose-colored flowers with multi-colored leaves ), a bunch of pink/red hardy ( we'll see! ) glads, 25 dichelostems ( which are supposedly a hardy native blue bulb ), some carmencita castor beans ( red leaves, bright red seed pods ) for a giant blue pot in the center of the yard, some blackberry lily seeds ( they're really a kind of iris ), several packs of rose campion seeds ( they've eluded growing for me the last several years ), regular and wild columbine seeds, 3 purple Siberian iris, 3 ( white ) Casa blanka lilies, 6 orange candleflowers ( variations of Italian arums ) and some assorted liatris ( gayfeathers ).

The yard, as is, is coming up apace: pushkinians, crocus, squill, snowdrops and early daffodils are blooming. I can see Virginia bluebells and heuchers appearing as well as tulips. I wonder if the new orange daffs are up? A friend has christened them "The Ayn Rand Memorial Garden" because the daffs' name is "Altruist." The late Ms. Rand loathed altruism and so she probably wouldn't care for this spring flower. Walking around on the soggy ground I'm looking for open spaces for about 125 plants. Some older plants, especially the uninvited Virginia waterleaf and species day lilies, may have to go. The books recommend waiting till May to plant. ( It snowed May 10 once in my memory ). I'll try to wait till late April.

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There are 20,000 varieties of apples in the world. The plant came from a province in China and get a load of this—it was cultivated thousands of years before people came on the scene by wild bears and wild horses! The bears would climb the trees, pick the sweetest and knock many down whereupon horses helped spread them.

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I'm quite ticked that because of the flu I missed the garden club presentation of Jim Angrabright's vertical indoor garden. I'm hoping I get filled in on the info. I noticed by the way new garden catalogs are selling small fairly inexspensive hanging vertical beds for indoors and out.

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I hate to be snarky, but in some of the organic gardening mags there is no visual difference between salads and compost!

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The Cabaret of Plants, by Richard Mabey, is the story of 40,000 years of plant and human interaction. It is full of wonderful tidbits: The original name of the well known General Sherman sequoia in California was "Karl Marx"—a utopian socialist group got to it first. The National Park Service changed the name for some reason. FYI it was ( and is ) a bad idea to prevent forest fires in sequoia groves: 1 ) Fire doesn't hurt the big trees and 2 ) their seeds will not pop out of their cones unless they're in a fire!

*****

You got an aphid problem in your garden? Citrus peels will drive them off. ( It'll probably keep cats away too, since they don't like the smell. )

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Organic way to control slugs? Put discarded big outside leaves of kale, cabbage or other greens around your put-upon babies. In the morning the slugs will be on the bottom of the greens so turn 'em over for the birds.

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Well, if you want to weed and also cook organic here's a Greek receipe: Braised Dandelion Greens with fried Eggs. Ingredients—half cup plus 2 tbsp. olive oil, 2 lb dandelion greens ( about 4 8 oz bunches ), cup chopped parsley, cup chopped mint, 6 cloves minced garlic, s and p, 6 eggs. ( Crusty bread for serving. ) To do—in pot heat 1/2 cup oil—med heat. Add Dandes, parsley, mint, garlic, and 1/2 cup water, s and p. Cook about 20 min.Use rest of oil to fry eggs in a skillet individually till yolks just set. Divide greens on plates, egg on top.

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Go out and talk up gardens—there is an amazing amount of ignorance out there.

Talking to a new acquaintance at contra dancing who was going to start her own 1st garden and asked where she could get tulips and daffodils for, ahem, next week. She also asked what I thought of roses for her totally shaded front yard.

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There'll be some amazing plants on sale at the Big Box stores soon but get there quick—their help is often lax in watering and care. Go rescue a few floral orphans but make sure you know your garden's limitations.

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Think about taking your houseplants outside , but not for at least a month.

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Is this a good deal or what? Because of the success of the 606 High Line trail/park the city is scouting other mini-park possibilities, such as under the els. I've seen other abandoned rail lines including one that crosses Elston north by the expressway.

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As soon you can go outside and wander through the plants you've collected over the years, listen to the waterfall and to the mourning doves. ( And, in my case, look at a herd of blue horses. )


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