April 5


About half of the crocuses are up now. I think, were I to do it again, I’d have doubled the number of minor bulbs I planted, perhaps adding some snowdrops into the mix. I’ll have to wait and see what I think once we’ve seen the full show.


The first perennial in the garden to show signs of life is the columbine, which took quite some time to establish itself last year. I fought hard to keep it alive, and it pleases me to see a cluster of leaves emerge.


Meanwhile, we are keeping busy with our seed-starting projects. My SAD lamp rig is working well. Here is the verbena, which I planted in an egg crate. I read that verbena like a moist environment for sprouting, so I covered the egg crate loosely with plastic wrap. 


The coleus are thriving in their little greenhouse, which is actually two tupperware containers.


I sort of spilled the seeds (they are so small!), which explains the haphazard/overcrowded planting pattern:


My three-and five-year-olds, inspired by a book we recently checked out of the library, have become interested in keeping seeds from the fruit they eat. Today, we planted two of them. The five-year-old helped me with the signs:



This made me nostalgic for a project I used to do as a kid, so I bummed a few toothpicks from a neighbor and we got an avocado pit going:


I also started some black-eyed susan vine, which will eventually go out back. I’m pretty much out of kitchen counter space, but we are having fun.

Signs of spring in the back garden.

One Week of Spring

On the first day of spring, it snowed.

But since then, the temperatures have been (mostly) above freezing, and we are, at long last, starting to see signs of life in the garden.

Here are some crocus sprouting in my back garden.

The sandwort is back and looking quite green, except in spots where the neighbor dogs have relieved themselves (as you can see, I’ve sprinkled the area generously with red pepper flakes in an attempt to encourage them to do their business elsewhere). It seems impossible to me that the perennials will come back but I suppose they will. It’s so different from the gardens I grew up with in California; I have to force myself to be patient.

I feel considerably less patient with the glory-of-the-snow, which ought to be up and blooming right now, filling my front yard with cheer. So far, I see no glory, only snow. Perhaps I messed up the planting of them, somehow.

While I wait, I have started some seeds on my kitchen counter—coleus and verbena. I probably ought to have started them sooner, but I figure they will sprout one way or another. I’m using my handy SAD therapy lamp to help them germinate.

I hope to report back with flowers in the bulb garden and new growth elsewhere soon.

Still snowing/snowing again. 

Still snowing/snowing again. 

What a difference six months makes.

What a difference six months makes.

Winter Garden

We are 32 days into winter; 57 days to go. In Chicago, we’ve seen 44.8 inches of snow so far, and it is snowing again now. Everything is white: the ground is white, the sky is white. The children track snow into the car and it sits on the floorboard, unmelted, even with the heater cranked up.

I never know what to do with myself in the wintertime. Every year, I think I will find a way to appreciate the weather, but then the cold and white overwhelm me and I stay inside. Lately, I have been wondering about forcing bulbs indoors, but I don’t know the first thing about it. Two winters ago, I bought house plants, but I have a brown thumb when it comes to those. And so I wait.

Garden as of November 12, 2013.  About three weeks ago, we put in our bulbs: 60 tulips and 100 crocus bulbs in the back, 100 Chionodoxa in the front. And yesterday, we got our first dusting of snow. As you can see, the front yard is nearly dormant (although the cherry tree has not lost its leaves), but our little perennial bed out back is still hanging in.. the yarrow is even blooming, and has bloomed continuously since we planted it this spring.

Back garden as of October 1, 2013. I guess it really is autumn now.

Front Garden: September 29, 2013. 

My Korean boxwood, which I purchased for a container by the front door, is finally seeing new growth! It spent the summer hanging out, looking ridiculous in the otherwise empty (and quite large) container. So happy to see it establish itself. It’s too late to plant anything alongside it, for now, but come next spring, I hope to have this sort of thing going.

Next, the big news: we moved some plants around. The astilbe, which were previously against the porch, never filled in quite the way I’d hoped, while the Japanese spirea, previously in the back of the house, became too large for their bed. So after a bit of hard work by my husband (assisted by our 5-year-old), the spirea (which I had cut back to about 6”) is now next to the front porch, and our other plants were shifted around to make room. It’s looking rather bare for now, but once things start filling in come spring, we’ll have a better sense of what else we might want to pick up for that space.

It’s not yet October, but already I am dreaming about spring. We have ordered a good number of bulbs for our back garden. They will arrive any day now, and the skinny back garden that houses our day lilies (and, previously, the spirea) will now be home to tulips and crocuses as well. 

Playing catch-up. Here’s our garden on July 26.

July was not kind to my perennial garden. Everything burned in the summer heat and turned dull for much of mid-summer. Once I pulled the cool-wave pansies, the bed with our Japanese spirea was quite boring. We are preparing to move a few things around in the beds with hope for more excitement in 2014.

The shade garden in our front yard, with a mix of ferns, hostas, lettuce, and annuals, fared better. However, the astilbe seeds I planted came up but never did anything. Not sure what happened there.

I also have a notion that I could put English ivy in a pot and let it climb up the brick, to add drama to the side of the house while being easy to remove when needed. But this is probably ill-advised!