Rake or Leave the Leaves? It All Depends

It seems that if you scratch the surface, almost any aspect of gardening can generate some controversy. On the question of leaves, controversy was apparently sparked by a post on the website of the National Wildlife Federation entitled “Why You Should Leave the Leaves”.

The NWF advocates using fallen leaves as a resource instead of bagging them to be carted away like trash:

Let leaves stay where they fall. They won’t hurt your lawn if you chop them with a mulching mower. 
Rake leaves off the lawn to use as mulch in garden beds. For finer-textured mulch, shred them first. 
Let leaf piles decompose; the resulting leaf mold can be used as a soil amendment to improve structure and water retention. 

Keeping your leaves around enriches the soil, insulates plants, and helps insects and other wildlife to overwinter.

Piles of leaves ready for removal in the Back Garden. Surplus leaves end up in compost or spread around behind that Siberian Elm in the upper right. By the way, this corner is where I’m trying to develop my mini “sedge meadow”.

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Crabapple Surprise

I’ve been disgruntled lately about the garden’s lack of fall ornamental fruits. This year in particular has been almost entirely fruitless. Then suddenly our ‘Golden Raindrops’ Crabapple dropped its bright yellow leaves, and – boom! Clusters of bright yellow fruits emerged, no longer camouflaged by the foliage.DSC_0727

I’ll be curious to see how long these golden fruits last before the birds get at them. Birds are supposed to prefer the smaller Crabapples. The fruit of ‘Golden Raindrops’ is about 1/4 inch in diameter. Even so, a mass of these fruits is conspicuous from a distance.

We have another Crabapple, ‘Donald Wyman’, with larger red fruits. Most years the fruits of ‘Donald Wyman’ are left uneaten, eventually just falling to the ground. This year, strangely, all were eaten by the end of October.

That’s the neighbors’ house across the alley.

Now my only complaint is that only part of ‘Golden Raindrops’ is covered in fruits. It’s a young tree, though, so perhaps as it matures that problem will take care of itself. This tree if completely covered with golden fruits would be a truly stunning sight. I can’t wait!


Another Couple of Bulbs You Really Need

In a recent post I concluded an orgy of bulb buying by buying some more bulbs. Specifically, two bulbs which you should consider for your own garden, assuming 1) you don’t have it already; and 2) the conditions are appropriate. The two bulbs of which I speak are Tulipa praestans ‘Fusilier’ and Camassia quamash, also known as Quamash or Wild Hyacinth.

Species tulip 'Fusilier'
Species Tulip Tulipa praestans

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Gently Fading Fall at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Autumn seems like it was slow to arrive this year and in a hurry to leave, like a guest visiting out of a sense of obligation.


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Forcing Crocus for Winter Blooms

So I planted the last of the new Tulip bulbs in their pots. But then last year’s bulbs were sitting in a bucket and demanding, “What about us?”

file-27 (1)

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Where The Bulbs Are

There comes a point with every garden where it starts getting difficult to figure out where to put all the plants that you (meaning, in this case, I) must have. It’s kind of like the irresistible mass meets the inflexible property line.

Geranium sidewalk border
Wild Geranium blooming in the Sidewalk Border on May 29. With luck, these blooms should be preceded by Glory-of-the-Snow, and followed by Drumstick Allium.

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Time Again To Pot Up The Tulips

Yesterday I potted up 160 Tulip bulbs in 8 containers. This is 2/3 of the total, so not too bad. There’s 80 Tulips and 4 containers left to go.


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A Pocket Meadow of Pennsylvania Sedge

There’s a small area between our Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum) and the border along the back fence that is like the Valley of the Shadow of Death for standard turf grasses. The moisture gets sucked out of this shaded patch by the Maple and also by a Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata) that grows against the fence.

sedge lawn
Photo from Prairienursery.com. This is a Penn Sedge lawn that looks nothing like my sedge pocket meadow, which looks so awful right now that I’m not including any pictures of it. But I promise to post pics in spring, regardless of how it looks. 


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Gardening for Native Bees: Interview with Heather Holm

A couple of months ago I heard Heather Holm speak on gardening for native bees at a forum organized by the Lurie Garden. Heather is an award-winning author and widely-recognized advocate and educator for native bee conservation. Educated in Canada, she currently lives in Minnesota. She was nice enough to agree to respond to some written questions for this blog. 

bee and baptisia

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The Lurie Garden in October 2018

August and September were busy months, and I’m afraid that I neglected my Lurie Garden posts. But now I’m ready to get back on track with October.


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