Tag Archive | gardens

In Search Of Dahlias

The last time I was at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I discovered a nice collection of dahlias. They are one of my favorite garden flowers with such a variety of colors and shapes.

I know I left it a bit late in the year to go looking, but I was trying to think where else I’d seen such lovely flowers. The answer was our local conservatory at Friendship Park.

You need plenty of space to grow dahlias effectively and my garden is so full of flowers and plants of all kinds that they nearly always get crowded out, but still I like to try and grow at least a couple. Once again they were pushed aside, this time by the Brazilian blue sage but not before one of them managed to put out some beautiful blooms. This one is called Caribbean Fantasy.

Summer’s Progress

Meanwhile, back in our garden, summer’s progress has provided us with an array of colorful flowers and interesting creatures.

The butterflies, bees and dragonflies are a welcome sight, the Japanese beetles not so much.

Sunflowers and nesting material continue to attract the goldfinches, and the hummingbirds love that Brazilian Blue Sage!

The rabbit has been busy as there are baby bunnies dashing about all over the place when I go out to work in the garden. It’s one of the reasons I let a few weeds grow in between the plants. I hope the rabbits go for the weeds. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

Cantigny Gardens

As I mentioned in the previous post, the gardens at Cantigny Park are magnificent, even without the weird and wonderful creatures. They are still in the process of renovating the McCormick Mansion Museum but the rest of the park is now fully open and the improvements they made over the past couple of years have made it much easier to get about and see everything.

There is a parking fee of $5 for week days and $10 at weekends, which gives access to the park and gardens and also the First Division Museum and the McCormick Museum which will reopen later this year. Cantigny Park is open all year round except for the month of January.

Areas of interest include the Display Gardens, the Rose Garden, the Rock and Gravel Gardens, the Hosta Garden and the Idea Garden as well as Gold Pond, Butterfly Hill and Prairie View.

There are picnic areas and other dining options, play areas for the children and even a splendid 27-hole championship golf course. Cantigny also hosts private events as well as school and scouting activities and has a calender full of interesting events. In fact, there is something for everyone at Cantigny.

Paine Art Center And Gardens

Naturally, I coudn’t visit Oshkosh without seeing some kind of public garden and the gardens at the Paine Art Center were a delight.

The gardens cover more than 3 acres of the Paine Estate and require a paid admission to the Art Center to view. Both were well worth the price but of course the gardens were my main interest. They featured ‘outdoor rooms’ with a pleasing aspect at every turn.

Nathan & Jessie Paine planned their new home in the mid-1920’s and their English heritage is reflected in the design and plantings in the garden, although the formal garden, pictured above, was added in 2017.

The mansion, in which the Art Center is housed, is certainly worth a visit. Nathan Paine commissioned architect Bryant Fleming to design the Tudor Revival-style estate. Most of the stonework is Kasota limestone quarried in Minnesota and the magnificent interior woodwork is primarily oak and walnut.

Sadly, the Great Depression took its toll on the Paine Lumber Company and in 1932 all work on the house ceased. Nathan & Jessie Paine never lived in the beautiful house that they had created but in 1946 they established the Estate as a museum. Nathan died in 1947 but Jessie oversaw the remaining work on the house and it opened to the public in 1948.


Back in our garden, although I may have moaned about it at the time, the copious amounts of rain that we received earlier in the Spring really paid off. Everything has grown splendidly, and the flowers are looking even lovelier than ever. Mother Nature really knows how to put on a show!

Of course, these two visitors didn’t mind the rain and were so bold, they were practically knocking on the back door, waiting for me to come out and feed them.

Although it can be hard work at times, the garden has been a constant blessing. Right now, the poppies are popping, and the irises are looking radiant. Luckily, the peonies are not all blooming at the same time so we can enjoy their fragrance for a longer period of time.

The growing season is so short here in Chicago, but we manage to pack a lot into that time. Still to come are day lilies, oriental lilies, blue Brazilian sage (great for attracting hummingbirds,) dahlias (hopefully,) zinnias, cosmos and much more.

Winding Down

Although there are still one or two patches of color in our garden, things are gradually winding down now. For me, this is the busiest time of year, clearing away the dead growth, collecting seeds for use next year, moving plants and discarding others.

The pink and orange cosmos, both grown from seed, did very well this year, even towering over my husband, who is 6ft 3ins tall.

The blue Brazilian sage is still going strong although the hummingbirds have moved on to warmer climes now. We had at least one pair, that I know of, that stayed the entire summer. I know they are a pair because I caught them canoodling on one of the cables that runs to the roof of our house. It was quite a high-wire act with the male hovering up and down in front of the female until she adroitly flipped upside-down and he made his move.

Butterflies have been few and far between in the garden this year and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered one lonely swallowtail caterpillar on a sprig of dill. Since the last two batches that we hatched turned out to have been infested with parasitic wasps, I left this one to its own devices.

Another garden guest that was with us all summer was the praying mantis. Although we would occasionally lose track of her, she would invariably pop up again. I don’t know what she was living on but it certainly wasn’t butterflies. Slim pickings!

Apparently she wasn’t the only mantis on the block. These two gave me quite the look when I caught them in flagrante delicto amongst the Joe-Pye-Weed. Not surprisingly, I found two egg cases which I have brought inside for the winter. I thought my 3-year-old granddaughter might be interested to see them hatch out as they have been studying bugs at school.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Going Wide

This week, Patti is asking us to Go Wide for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. So often we focus on a single item and fail to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. When we visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford recently, I felt as though there were some shots that just couldn’t hold everything that I wanted to include. I don’t own a wide angle lens for the Canon EOS so I tried using the camera on my Galaxy phone and the results were quite pleasing.

Sinnissippi Gardens in Rockford lies on the banks of the Rock River. Usually when I take a picture of a river, I like to do so at an angle, so the phone camera came in useful for this shot too, as well as some wider-angle pictures of the gardens and lagoon.

Colors of Summer

It has been rather stormy here over the past week or more so I haven’t spent as much time outdoors as I would like, but in between the showers I’ve been able to enjoy the colors of summer in our garden.

Sage Advice

Earlier this year, I made a daring decision to go online and order some plants for the garden. I recalled that I’d had some success in attracting hummingbirds on a previous occasion with Blue Brazilian Sage so I purchased 4 plants and anxiously awaited their arrival.

Because they were rather expensive, when you factored in the cost of shipping and handling, I was quite nervous about them being tossed about in the mail, but when they eventually turned up on the doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised. Each plant was carefully wrapped to protect against buffeting and all four were in excellent shape.

I’d picked out a spot in the garden but despite my eagerness to get them into the ground and growing, I assiduously followed the directions on the accompanying leaflet, allowing them to acclimatize to our uncertain Chicago climate by having them stand for a few hours each day, out on the patio. Meanwhile I supplemented the ground with fresh topsoil and compost, turning it over and working it into our rather heavy clay soil.

When I figured the time was right, I planted them with all the care and concern that a mother lavishes on a newborn babe.  I watered them generously while allowing only a very gentle stream to trickle from the hosepipe so as not to swamp them, and having made sure that everything was just right, I wished them goodnight.

The following morning, I went out to see how they were doing and ……… horror!  A picture of devastation met my eyes. Something had eaten them practically down to the nubs. I consider myself too much of a lady (ha-ha!) to repeat the words that past my lips at that dreadful moment but suffice it to say the air was bluer than the flowers on a Brazilian Blue Sage.

But despite this setback I was not deterred. In the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.…..”  Well, you get the picture.

I wasn’t sure if they had succumbed to the attentions of a gang of marauding rabbits, I wouldn’t put it past them, or if some ravenous bug had decided to tuck in. There probably wasn’t much I could do about it, either way, so I decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

Goodness knows what the neighbors thought as I knelt beside those plants every day, whispering words of encouragement to their few pathetic stalks. They probably figured I’d joined some obscure religious sect. No matter. Encouragement was all I had to offer. That and a liberal dose of Miracle Gro. It would take a miracle, I thought sardonically, to produce anything remotely resembling the plant on the literature provided.

But eventually, little microscopic leaves began to appear, urged on, no doubt, by my exhortations, until it looked as if there might indeed be cause to celebrate. I waited on tenterhooks. Would the rabbits come back? Could I keep the bugs at bay long enough to see actual flowers developing?

It was at about this time that I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden to see how similar plants were faring. Their salvias, I noticed with envy, were much more advanced, larger and with flowers. Of course, they’d probably kept theirs in the greenhouse with all the advantages that a top-class garden had to offer.

Still, where there’s life there’s hope. My plants were growing stronger by the day and with continued blandishments such as, “You can do it!” and “Nice work!” they finally flowered.

But where were the hummingbirds?  For a couple of weeks, nothing larger than a bee approached the blue blossoms. I was somewhat consoled by the fact that they didn’t seem any more interested in the flowers at the Botanic Garden, so I waited. And then, a few days ago, the first of the hummingbirds showed up.  Persistence paid off!  Thanks for the sage advice, Winnie!

It’s A Jungle Out There!

It’s a jungle out there! A jungle of sunflowers, that is. These are the plants that come up every year around the birdfeeder, sprung from seeds that have somehow miraculously been missed by the many creatures that feast in our garden.

Of course, the birds love them! The goldfinches, especially, seem adept at catching onto the stems and digging out the seeds with their eager beaks. But others, like the sparrows, have to really work hard to hold on.

The bees and butterflies are also at home here among these sunny, golden petals, drawn by the abundant pollen supply .

I’m pretty sure there are other plants in there somewhere, but they haven’t seen the light of day for some time. I’m not even sure what’s on the other side but if I push some of these leaves aside and squeeze through………

Ah! “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”