By PAULENE POPARAD
October is for ..... a changing view from the kitchen window.
The axis of my garden is the 36-inch by 27-inch window above the sink from
which I watch what’s going on in the yard throughout the changing seasons
while I do the mundane tasks homemaking and cooking require. I’ve looked out
this window for 30 years and it always amazes me how one day I will get a
totally new idea about the garden I never thought of before.
This year it was ripping out the 12-foot-tall, multi-truck Rose of Sharon
(hardy hibiscus) that had reached its mature six feet across and, well,
looked pretty ugly. Rather than stand straight it arched over, casting way
too much shade on the adjacent rose bed, attracting Japanese beetles like a
magnet and dropping dead flowers over everything. This wasn’t a lovely,
special hibiscus flower but a rather small, ordinary pink one. The decision
was made: it’s outta here.
Fortunately, my husband is a retired operating engineer and with the right
equipment he skillfully popped the whole tree out in one piece without
disturbing anything around it. Immediately, the entire area opened up
visually and from the kitchen window I could see the tree we had planted
across the yard and the major new perennial area I’ve been developing for
two years. Best of all, the roses would get improved air circulation, more
sun and hopefully, less black spot than they usually develop.
Taking a good look around I realized many, many things were too crowded. In
one area alone I had five plants in the space for just two. That was it. I
embarked on a mission to thin out, divide, pitch or move anything that was
in the wrong place. I’ve only just begun, and it’s a project that will
continue into next year. That’s part of the reason sharp-eyed readers will
note I did not write a September column, the first time I ever missed one.
I quickly saw my fervor to clean out and clear out was causing a problem:
what would I do with the good plants I was taking out? Even if I wanted to
keep some fragrant pink daylily ‘Barbara Mitchell,’ did I need the whole
overgrown clump? Sharp-eyed readers of the Chesterton Tribune classifieds
again may have noticed I had a plant sale last month. It rained and I didn’t
make a lot of money, but it was a good exercise in how to do a sale and
giving my surplus plants a good home was my real goal. Some people stopped
just to look around.
I’m so glad this year we haven’t had a hard freeze yet because it gave my
dahlias time to recover and bloom (albiet smaller than normal) after a big
woodchuck that took up residence under our sun porch ate them (and many
other plants). We paid the deposit and rented a large live trap from
Chesterton Feed and Garden. They suggested we use lettuce as bait and within
hours Woody, as I came to call him because he was becoming unnervingly tame,
Woody looked pretty helpless until he put up a good fight trying to get out.
Woody now lives somewhere in the country, not within walking distance of
This is the perfect time to be planting trees. The International Society of
Arboriculture recommends taking into consideration a tree’s mature height,
width and overall shape before buying. Site selection is important, too,
leaving plenty of room for the eventual canopy and the underground roots.
Since most of a tree’s roots grow horizontally, the planting hole should be
about three times as wide as the root ball but no deeper than the ball
itself. For more information, visit www.treesaregood.com
A friend let me borrow her $18.95 “Tree & Shrub Gardening for Illinois” by
William Aldrich and Don Williamson published this year by Lone Pine
Publishing International. It’s small but jam-packed with great information
like the ginkgo tree sheds all its golden fall leaves in nearly one day. As
for the Rose of Sharon, they recommend I should have pinched it when young
to encourage bushiness or chose one strong stem, cut out the others and made
a tree-form out of it. Now you tell me ....
It’s time to cut the hydrangea flower heads that have turned funky colors on
their bushes to dry them for winter interest and Christmas decorations. It’s
also fun to look really closely at the seed heads that are bursting on many
flowers. I might even take a magnifying glass out or set the camera for
extreme close-up and see what I can’t see with these aging eyes.
Remember when I accidentally broke a limb of a ‘Jade Plate White’ tree peony
and cut off the soft tips, planting them with high hopes in soil and in
water? None rooted, which likely is why tree peonies are so expensive to
propogate and buy. But I did have great luck this year finally figuring out
how to root the little daylily plantlets that sprout on some cultivars along
the flower stalk after the blooms fade.
I broke the plantlets off, put them upright in a small, plastic bottle to
support them with water just touching the base of the green leaves and roots
formed on three different daylily varieties. At first I left the plantlets
on their section of the stalk in the bottle; for the last ones I broke the
plantlets away from the stalk and inserted just the plantlet upright in the
bottle. Both worked, and I’ve begun planting the rooted babies in pots. But
will they transition to soil and survive the winter? That’s the real test.
I also wonder if the stalk-generated plantlets will be identical to the
parent plant? That’s a question I plan to ask Kevin Walek when he speaks
Sunday, Nov. 7 in Merrillville at 1:30 p.m. at the Pruzin Center, 57th
Avenue and Tyler Street in Merrillville. The meeting, sponsored our Hosta
and Friends Garden Club, is free and open to the public. Kevin is current
president of the American Hosta Society, co-authored the AHS “The Hosta
Adventure,” and will talk on “How to know the hostas you want to grow.”
Kevin, a D.C.-area attorney by profession, was founder and president of the
Northern Virginia Daylily Society and has a great interest in daylily
propagation. He also wrote a chapter in Diana Grenfell’s “The Gardener’s
Guide to Growing Daylilies”. In 1995 his own garden won a national Landscape
Design Award, and until recently it was a national daylily display garden.
Besides all this, I once ate lunch with him at a hosta seminar and Kevin’s a
really nice guy.
I stumbled on two fine new perennials this year and they’re both Zone 5 so
they should survive. At Carol Wright’s Lilies of the Field plant nursery in
LaPorte County I purchased a ‘Sonoran Sunset’ anise hyssop or agastache. The
label said extended bloom time and they weren’t kidding. The 14-inch-tall,
delicate blue-green foliage has been loaded with spikes of lavender-rose
flowers. In fact, early this summer a branch broke off, I stripped the lower
leaves, stuck it in the ground, it rooted and now is flowering.
The second plant came from The Planter’s Palette on Roosevelt Road in
Winfield, Ill. I cannot begin to tell you how beautifully the plants and
garden merchandise are displayed here, and their selection was impressive
with a number of unusual plant cultivars and varieties new to me.
Among other things I chose a kalimeris yomena ‘Shogun’ or Japanese Aster. If
the thing never flowered the variegated, cut-leaf green foliage is eye candy
enough. It hasn’t reached its 18-inches by 20-inches at maturity, but the
light lavender tiny daisy flowers starting last month are still plentiful.
It was odd: as the flowers opened, the variegation faded somewhat.
Think we can push the first killing frost/freeze into November? Let’s click
our gardening clogs three times and make a wish.