March 7, 2007


Mid-Autumn in the Sweet Home Chicago Garden 2006

Since my backyard is small I select perennials that will give me the longest bloom period. In the photo above are two of my favorites : Pink Coneflower in the center , yellow Blackeyed Susans rear, and white Phlox. Other easy to grow and long blooming perennials in my garden are 'Autumn Joy ' Sedum, Korean mums, Catmint, ornamental grasses, Ajuga, Plume Poppy, Korean Bellflowers, Bee Balm , lilies, and the repeat blooming Daylilies. With this combination, I have perennials in bloom from early Summer to late Fall. I mix in annuals to provide a continuous color.

The evergreen backbone of my garden is the Taxus x Media 'Densiforma', or the much-maligned Japanese Yew. I say much-maligned because a lot of people despise it as it is so common and is usually over-pruned or over-grown. There is a reason, however, that it is so popular and that is the fact that it is evergreen ,relatively easy to maintain, and thrives in a great deal of shade. The 'Densiforma' will only grow 4 feet high and 6 feet wide, but can be kept smaller by light pruning. When allowed to grow into its natural form it is a very lush, deep green shrub that will give you four seasons of interest.

The other evergreen shrub that I adore, a much more artistic, and therefore expensive one , is the Japanese Cypress. It needs no pruning and its erratic growth habit is very unusual.

Many people give up on Tulips because they have a tendency not to come back year after year. I've discovered, by trial and error, that its the species you select that is important. Darwin hybrids, single late Tulips and Lily-flowering Tulips work the best and have been returning in my garden for at least 5 years. A perennial Tulip selection is available from
Daffodils are another perennial that come back every year, and even colonize. I also love Siberian Squill for that reason - it spreads its blue beauty over a wide territory.

I planted the perennial vine 'Sweet Autumn ' Clematis at the base of my pergola and in one season it climbed to the top. The second season it spread across the roof of the pergola and its intense fragrance could be appreciated throughout the garden. I love this vine - it has thousands of star-like white flowers from early to late Autumn. It also covers the fence that I share with my neighbor and she loves it as well.

My garden's small space doesn't allow for many trees, so I had to chose carefully. The tree I had my heart set on was a Wisteria Standard and the price was dear : $500. Much to my surprise at the end of the season sale it was marked down to $100 so I grabbed it. The Wisteria standard is a graft and as most grafts tend to revert to their natural habit, it wants to be a vine, therefore it takes attention to keep it in check as a tree. It took two years after planting before it bloomed but it was well worth the wait. It's fragrance and beauty is a sight to behold.

My next tree purchase was an Asian Pear that had two different types of pears grafted into one tree - one side of the tree has an early fruiting pear and the other a later one. This tree is amazing-it's a dwarf and bore 17 pears in its second season. I love its shiny glossy green leaves, flowers and fruit.

For my last selection I chose another small ornamental tree that blooms for 3 months. Rose of Sharon ( Hibiscus Syriacus ) comes in a variety of colors : pink, blue, purple and white and is one of the longest flowering ornamentals in Zone 5. It is also the national flower of Korea, something my husband appreciates.

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