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  WINDY CITY TIMES

The fairy gardener
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Jim Edminster
2015-06-16

This article shared 3205 times since Tue Jun 16, 2015
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As a high school teacher, one witnesses some pretty baroque things vis-a-vis the Chicago Board of Education. School libraries receive funds for new books every year. Rules come from on high: Books older than, say, 10 years must be discarded to make way for new books. This includes books that don't need ( and can't get ) updates like Moby Dick, all of Jane Austin, books on art, Greek mythology, etc. Some of these are in excellent condition but still it's off to the dumpster or the shredder.

Fortunately, the wonderful librarian at my school, Ms Lynch, has gotten permission to give them away to anyone, including ( what a concept! ) students. I've snagged several tree identification volumes, a book of line drawings of the flower family, Plants That Eat Animals, Sybil Leek's Book of Herbs, A History of Mistletoe, A City Herbal ( useful plants growing in the city ), A Field Guide to Butterflies, Ancient Plants, Earth Medicine: Earth Foods ( wild plants used by Native Americans ), Folk Medicine and Salt-free Cooking with Herbs and Spices. These are just the gardening-type books I got.

I also got bags of literature and history, including some Carson McCullers, Eudora Weltys and some early sci-fi ( Pamela Sergeant ). ( This situation happens all over the country: My sister in Kansas is a librarian and she has friends in the Catholic school system, which doesn't use this stupid method. Jo packs up her books; they come and get them and use them until 20 years down the road they fall apart. )

There's news afoot that a new hardy small fig tree is available in local garden centers. They reportedly don't have to be buried in leaves in winter.

I was thinking casually of the new plants I've gotten from catalogs and garden centers this year. Probably about 20 I thought since my yard is pretty dense, not much room for more. Then I started adding up the sales slips and order forms .... about 70 so far. ( And good god, Gertie! These are just the perennials. ): white and purple coneflowers, red-stemmed hostas, wild tall blue campanulas, gold-leafed astilbes, three bloody docks ( ornamental but apparently edible ), seven new lilies, two clematis, a purple hardy hibiscus, five primroses, three day lilies, a "peppermint" spirea, three new Lord and Lady arums, two new columbines, a miniature red hydrangea, and others that I can't find the lists for—but they're out there.

Here are the hits in my garden, according to the block's toddlers ( I let all my neighbors bring their kids in as long as they hold their hands ): little girls like the goldfish, especially the glamorous "Gloriana", and the flowers; little boys like "the Monster" ( my "Sasquatch", a Planet of the Apes statue and, a little, the blue horses ). What flowers?

It'll be interesting to see what gardening the city does in the new "606" trail and the other trail ( whose name has slipped my mind ), and also in the new Maggie Daley Park.

Here's this month's recipe borrowed from Heirloom Gardener magazine: It's mint-infused honey: Fill a clean jar, whatever size, half full of fresh mint leaves. Crush them slightly with the back of a spoon to release their oils. Cover the mint with honey leaving about one inch headspace at the top. Seal with a tight lid and leave jar on a sunny window sill for about a month. Turn over every day. At the end of the month strain the honey into a new jar with a fine sieve and store in a tightly sealed glass jar. ( You can eat the mint leaves—they'll be candied. )

People are constantly bringing seeds from unknown ( to us ) tropical plants here. There is a giant red ( really orange ) Hmong cuke out there and a green Thai eggplant and Kang Kob pumpkins ( bumpy and nutty-flavored ). They're all becoming popular.

If you can get ahold of some salsify root, a relative of artichokes, you can grow it as a root vegetable ( said to taste like oysters ) or let it bloom. It has large showy deep purple daisy-like flowers.

A new book for gardeners: Growing the Midwest Garden by Edward Lyon covers our area well. Lyon ought to know; he's worked at Chicago's Botanic Garden and several other botanic gardens and is now the director of Reiman Gardens at Iowa State University. Many recommended plants and garden plans. The pics in the article I looked at makes it seem he has been influenced by the new European wave of gardeners. Think Lurie Gardens in downtown Chicago.

Went to Gethsemane Garden Center and bought three shade and one sun hanging baskets for the four shepard's crooks around my yard: a red-orange New Guinea Impatiens, a hot pink New Guinea, a deep red petunia and a purple-and-red fuschia. I also got some Johnny-Jump-Up seeds for around the base of some new clematis where nothing else was growing. I had a problem shade spot where even the hostas were dying so I'm trying a new tack:I have a big fiberglass classical urn. I'm putting a big blue and green hosta in it surrounded by creeping Jenny. If it starts to fail, I'll move it into more light. ( Hostas grow fine in pots but if you leave them there they have to be taken into the basement for the winter. ) I have some window boxes at the base of my house on the patio. Last year they were wrecked by rats until Orion the cat who is the local rat catcher in our 'hoods feral cat program cleaned 'em out. I'll fill the boxes with homemade compost and seed them with larkspur and bachelor's buttons at the back and—what the heck?—pansies at the front.

Please come to our garden club's Gay Pride celebration meeting on June 21, at 2 p.m. at Glenn Kilbert's home, 6137 W. Barry Ave. Bring an appetizer, side dish or dessert. It'd be really cool if you brought some guests too! RSVP at 773-237-5981.


This article shared 3205 times since Tue Jun 16, 2015
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