Wonders and Weeds
By PAULENE POPARAD
September is for ...... still a lot of great gardening to enjoy.
Oh, the warning signs are there that Fall is on its way -- cooler day and
night temps, some leaves beginning to turn, and my own personal barometer,
the earlier sunsets that mean fewer daylight hours.
No more gardening until 8:45 p.m. Now, by 7:30 p.m. it’s too dark. I don’t
even want to think about turning the clocks back next month.
Someone recently said to me they are tired of maintaining their gardens and
are ready to pack it in until next spring. That’s how I generally feel in
late October, burdened by jackets, a scarf, a hat, warm socks and heavier
gloves to ward off the punishing wind as I work.
Until then, I am thankful for every day the sun is still hot, a cloudless
sky is still blue, and a light wind provides just enough relief to stave off
the sweat. Especially so in light of the mosquito-born West Nile Virus, a
rarely fatal but potentially serious health threat for those with
compromised immune systems.
Birds infected with the virus have been found in Indiana’s Marion County and
in some Chicago suburbs. According to environmental health specialist Kelly
Cadwell of the Porter County Health Department, “West Nile Virus will be a
huge issue next year.”
This fall, she recommends anyone finding a newly dead crow, blue jay or
raptor like hawks and eagles to call the Health Department at 465-3525. Do
not touch the bird. We’re also asked to eliminate any standing water in our
yards, and when outdoors to wear both a good commercial insect repellent and
clothing that covers exposed areas; indoors, be sure there are no holes
through which a mosquito could enter the home.
Cadwell said the spread of the virus in birds is moving a little faster than
anticipated. West Nile likes urban areas where sluggish sewers and septic
systems promote standing sewage-tainted water, a richer organic breeding
County health nurse Nila Grube said only 25 percent of people infected with
West Nile Virus will show mild symptoms within three to 15 days after a
bite, generally flu-like complaints of fever, head and body aches, a rash
and swollen glands. Very rarely a high fever and more serious complications
On a happier note, a group of us in the regional Hosta and Friends Garden
Club recently visited Porter County’s own Taltree Arboretum, a 300-acre gem
that holds great promise just 1.8 miles south of U.S. 30 at 71 N County Road
500W. Reservations currently are being taken at 462-0025 for seven different
Taltree fall classes including a three-hour discussion Oct. 20 on preparing
our gardens for winter.
Taltree has hundreds of varieties of trees, many of them unusual oaks. A
wonderful addition to the Japanese-inspired garden are snakebark maples
whose striped green bark looks like garter snakes.
Taltree also had mature hip-high hostas. Our Hosta and Friends’ meeting
included a hosta auction of our own and donated plants; Mary Kay bought many
of the choicest. She later asked some of us to visit her home, just around
the country corner from Taltree, to see her nearly 200 hosta plants.
Mary Kay has the perfect high, dappled shade for hostas. She said her
favorite is the montana hybrid “Frosted Jade,” a big blue/green with a
prominent white edge that hosta guru Tony Avent describes as “one of the
best but least known hostas ever introduced.” I was taken with the very dark
green “Black Beauty” and with “Summer Joy,” whose blue/green margins
surround a white center.
Now’s the time to cut off those tattered hosta-flower stalks and deadhead
other spent perennials, unless you want them to self-sow.
Those of you who’ve passed the Chesterton Tribune this summer may have
noticed the tall, exotic red-flowered maroon plants blooming in the flower
box in front. And in the crack in the sidewalk next to it.
Those are progeny of the half-hardy annual showstopper “Love Lies Bleeding”
(who names this stuff?) variety of amaranthus grown by Tim Miller last year.
Like the spidery annual cleome, a little of the wildly fertile amaranthus
goes a long way for several years.
But that’s OK because it makes such a bold 36-inch color statement, its
ropes of flowers, sometimes over a foot long, dangling from the foliage. The
fine seed purveyor Thompson & Morgan (www.thompson-morgan.com) offered this
year amaranthus “Fat Spike” with thicker, more erect deep purplish/red
flower stalks, as well as A. “Joseph’s Coat” having cream, scarlet and green
Our gardening mindset shifts in September from promoting our roses to bloom
to letting them shut down naturally by not feeding or deadheading them so
the plant can prepare itself for winter. That doesn’t mean we can’t snip off
blooms for the house, any stem cuts on the plant always protected by white
Elmer’s glue or clear nail polish to discourage pests and disease from
We still have several late-season flowers yet to open, and those
long-blooming dahlias like the screaming red “B-Man” and mauve/purple
“Lauren Michele” not ready to quit any time soon.
In addition to the late hardy mums, I’m waiting for the trendy cimicifuga
(snakeroot) to bloom, its flowers looking like white baby-bottle brushes but
smelling wonderfully sweet and reminding me of the white ginger perfume a
boy gave me in grade school. Moisture-lover cimicifuga comes in the pricier
dark maroon/purple-leafed varieties like “Hillside Black Beauty,” too.
Fall-blooming anemone is making a splash, its daisy-like white or pink-hued
blooms, some double, dancing in the breeze on tall stems that give this
windflower its common name. These anemone varieties (like “Hadspen
Abundance,” “Honorine Jobert,” “Pamina” and “Serenade") will grow in full or
part sun; given room, they are lovely. In a spot they like, they can sprawl,
especially “Robustissima.” Pull or transplant invaders in the spring.
Under upcoming events, the Duneland Garden Club will host its Fall plant
sale Sept. 22 from 9 to 11 a.m. in downtown Chesterton in the public parking
lot at Third Street and Broadway. Sept. 21-23, Chicago’s 18th annual Fall
Home and Decorating Expo moves to Navy Pier, home of the Spring Flower and
Organizers say the Chicago home expo will have over 200 exhibits and three
stages for how-to clinics including gardening and plants. There also will be
a landscaped model railroad layout, and experts from the fine publication
Chicagoland Gardening magazine will answer questions.
Visit www.towershow.com for more info.
Last month the Duneland Garden Club hosted a bus trip to the Oliver Mansion
and gardens in South Bend. A plant there stumped both the tour guide and
local visitors. A little research showed the plant likely to be adenophora
or Ladybells, according to the White Flower Farm catalog similar to but
hardier than the campanula bellflowers.
The tops of the 40-inch Ladybells stems were clothed in rows of attractive
purple flowers, the Oliver plants growing in partial shade. I was told
Ladybells, which tolerate sun, can be somewhat invasive, but that doesn’t
stop us from growing the prolific rudbeckia Goldstrum Black-eyed Susan, does
One reason I garden is to witness and celebrate the renewal of life under
the most trying circumstances. Amaranthus doesn’t need to overcome such
great odds to survive from year to year, but somehow it does.
Someone recently said there’s an unexplored territory in the soul of every
person that belongs to God. I’d like to think there’s a corner in the heart
of every garden that belongs to God.
If there is, next time He can weed it.