Wednesday, September 21, 2005

8 July 2005 Garden walks, Brambles, Fall gardens

Ecological Gardeners had a visit to JV's garden. It is an oasis in the city, the eastern side of Oak Park, surrounded by mature Pines with a large maple in the back yard. Paths of limestone wander around front and back. There are a few Japanese Maples here and there. JV has been gardening for years, says this began as a low maintenance landscape, but she has become interested in ecological gardening and is replacing Pacasandra and Myrtle with native ground covers. Plumbago competes with the Myrtle in the front yard and seems to be winning.
I noticed the elegant pruning right away. It creates a dappled shade that is not oppressive, lets the air move in and around. Proper pruning creates a shady oasis. There is a little patch of grass in the back. JV says this takes ten minutes to mow with a push mower. She moved to this spot twenty years ago and made this magic place over twenty years. At the back door on the north side is a patio of limestone with large pots of coleus, which she holds over inside in winter, and a few sumptuous annuals. In her sunniest spot, along her neighbors fence, are three hanging pots of geraniums. Today, during lily season, the front yard is blessed with many colors of lilies. There is a Holly growing next to the house on the east, looking untrimmed and some Korean Dogwood, interesting in it's growth habit, lots of lower limbs left.
The pond in back was there when she moved in and has goldfish, although her favorite one was stolen by a crow for his dinner. She watched the crow fly off with the fish in it's mouth. There were areas mulched with leaves in the "back 40" with wild columbine and butterfly weed.
Gardeners mentioned that the feel of the place was like being "Up North". Amazing because the lot was maybe 50' wide with close neighbors on either side. The neighborhood has mature trees, planted along with the houses in the 50's or early 60's. But JV's garden is timeless, an oasis.
There didn't seem to be anything in the garden that was done for just one reason. Mulch, for instance, cuts weeds, enriches and makes the soil more absorbent , feeds earth worms and microorganisms. Paths make a place for walking so the beds aren't compacted, separates and defines areas, provides places for chairs, furniture and pots, provides the basis of the design. The garden itself is an ecosystem.

It was another day to pick raspberries. We got thunderstorms in the afternoon. I started flats for the fall garden, a flat of Early Green Broccoli and Black Seeded Simpson Lettuce, one of Charlotte and Broadstem Green Swiss Chard and Lutz Salad Leaf Beet, and a whole flat of Provider Snap Bush Bean. I transplanted the last of the Zebrina Mallow plants out to the front. I have two containers of Salvia left to put in when I get the front walk done. It feels good to finally have everything in the ground. I took photos of the high summer garden for my garden archives too. I really like the scented geraniums in a large pot on the porch. Come winter, I don't know what will become of all the over flowing exuberance. I'd love to root the geraniums and make potted plants for the world, or maybe just the rummage.


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