Tag Archives: hydrangea

First Frost Warning is Coming Tonight!

I feel pretty lucky that we’ve squeaked out an extra week or so before the first hard frost has hit the Chicago area.  NOAA has issued it’s first freeze watch for the area for tonight, almost a week my after the average date for my area.  We might even get some flurries!  Chicago is a little difficult to know what will really happen weather-wise at any one spot in the region, since Lake Michigan  and other land features create a lot of micro-climates that skew local temperatures and precipitation.  Check out this map of Chicagoland’s variations from WGN-TV in average first frost dates.

Even so, I think tonight will be it for the plants.  I went around yesterday and took some last pictures of the flowers and harvested the last of the vegetables in preparation.  I’m always a little sad this time of year, when the garden still looks so inviting after having finally recovered from the harsh mid -summer conditions. Yet I know it is only a matter of time till it’s over.  It’s like the plants want that last hurrah before going to sleep for the winter, or for the annuals, to go out in a blaze of glory.

Final Garden Harvest–having just been in Charleston, I am going to use those green tomatoes!
 The garden is still in bloom




petunia geranium




Some of the trees are showing their colors, but not very uniformly or brilliantly.  Some are showing the stress of  2 harsh summers and disease, while others haven’t even begun to change.

purple ash

branched maple


It’ll be interesting to see what it al looks like tomorrow. I’m torn as to whether I should bring in that beautiful single rosebud to protect it, or see what happens if I leave it.

The Garden in Fall: The Good

It’s the beginning of October and the days are getting shorter, the nights growing colder. These are the last gasps for the garden before it settles into the winter hibernation. In some ways, fall gardens can be very pretty. I’m always surprised at the plants that continue to bloom well in to fall, some even looking their best. And of course, there are the things that take all summer to finally show their colors. Here’s some of the plants and areas of my garden that make me smile.


One of my favorite flowers is the marigold. I love the smell (although I might be the only one) and the colors. They always seems to just come alive in the fall and it has always had a place of prominence in my garden. I’m also reminded of a trip to Taos, NM, where I saw the prettiest marigold chains.  One year when an early frost was going to wipe out the flowers prematurely, I made one myself that hung beautifully in the kitchen.



(There were also  lots of bundles of hot peppers that just looked pretty hanging there)


There’s lots of color in the garden...



And interest…



And vegetables are still coming, as long as we don’t have a frost!



Yet another problem area addressed

As I’ve worked on the problem areas in the front yard, I created another sore spot in the area where we moved the Annabelle hydrangeas from. On the north side of the house were the 4 hydrangeas and a row of Hicks yews. The hydrangeas had to go because they were just too big for the space, leaving big gaps at either end. They look great where they are now!



It’s is a difficult place to plant because it is on the north side and under the soffit of the house. Therefore very shady and somewhat dry. The yews have done just fine, but I do give them at least about a watering can full of water dumped right down the center every 2-3 weeks during the summer and into fall. I didn’t want to add more yews, but instead wanted a deciduous plant that could take those conditions. I watched the location for a few weeks and decided it gets about 3 hours max of full sun. I settled on Wine and Roses Weigela. While it would flower better and have darker leaf color in full sun, I think it will look good in the space, and be a good contrast to the yews, even in this less than ideal location. If it does awful, I like the plant enough to move it to a different location after a couple of years.




This area still looks a little sad, especially without the mulch in yet, but I’ve learned in the past to be patient and let plants grow into the space. I’ve had to dig too much up after a few years because too many flowers, shrubs and even trees were planted too close together. Money down the drain! In a few years this will grow to be a healthy plant and not be overflowing the space.

Problem Areas

Everyone has problem areas in their yard.  This week, I’m going to show some of ours and some of the solutions we’ve finally come up with.  First was an area off the corner of the house.  When we first moved in, the landscaper designed the space to have 3 large Austrian Pines in the corner with some yews and junipers in front of the window.

Little did we know that a self-planted maple was growing right next to it in my neighbors yard. It grew extremely rapidly to become one of the biggest trees around the property. It was so dense that it created too much shade for the Austrian Pines to grow properly (and killed off all her shrubs as well). So, last year we finally threw in the towel and had our trees removed to try and fix up this very noticeable part of the garden and house. In the process, we also took out the creeping junipers that were half dead as well from lack of sun.


IMG_0375 - Version 2

In the new garden we wanted some type of visual distraction from the neighbors fence since that’s where your eyes would go as you walk up the front walk. But, also wanted to keep it fairly low budget and therefore decided on 3  Arborvitaes. They’re one of the few evergreens that will tolerate shade, although their growth will be very slow. We didn’t want a full privacy hedge, just something to distract your eyes.  We happened to have 4 Annabelle hydrangeas on the side of the house that are far too big for the space and by mid season flop over into the main brick walkway to the back of the house. In this new shade garden we created, the hydrangeas would be a perfect plant. They can obviously tolerate the shade and can finally just grow as they want in an appropriate space. Of course, to fill in the rest, I moved some hostas from elsewhere in the yard. We also had some boxwoods added to give the space a more finished, less wild look.





We think this was a great improvement to the front yard. The only problem we had was that everything was planted/transplanted right before the drought hit last summer. I did a lot of watering to keep all the plants alive and they all survived the drought and the winter.