Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Julie & Jensen in Chicago Trib + Windy Willow

Sometimes things turn out better than expected. That was the case when I was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune reporter, Barbara Mahany, . She wanted five Design Tips that homeowners can incorporate when they want to embody Jens Jensen's spirit in their gardens. We had a lively conversation which was faithfully recreated this past Sunday. Read the whole article, "Prairie inspiration," but in particular the second section, "Embracing Jensen close to home." I later heard high praise for Barbara from a client who had been interviewed by her previously. She notes that Mahany is "an unusual reporter in that she wants to tell the story from the people's point of view and weave in her points in and around. She allows herself to be informed by the process."I agree and appreciate.

In my previous post, I noted that you couldn't really experience the wind's movement in the photo. So I amend that here, by showing wind in the willow. Took this about a month ago at Jensen's renovated Prairie River during my last walking tour, the second one I led this year in Humboldt Park as part of Dina Petrakis' A Year In Humboldt Park which I believe only continues through 10/29.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall: Grasses & Foliage

Here's an update from my 10/6/10 post that showed a B & W image of a client's garden in Evanston on Labor Day. Above you can see the Joe Pye Weed upper right. That bolt of yellow front left is Amsonia hubrechtii, a fine native plant known as Thread-leaf or Arkansas Blue Star.

Below its brightness mediates between the green of some Butterfly Weed & a dwarf White Pine and the fully-saturated red of Virginia Sweetspire.

I love the texture the grasses provide in both views. We have a combination of several Panicums, Calamagrostis and Seslaria. You can also see how nice the dried seed heads of Echinacea look against the grass....not to mention the birdseed they will provide in the months to come.

What you cannot experience here is the wind's movement captured by plants that stirs the soul.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fall Texture

I love the fall textures as plants dry and go to seed. These are currently to be found in the wonderful, mostly veggie garden of my friend and colleague, Lynn Bement, the Compost Queen. Above is an unknown (to me) Clematis and below are seed heads of Bee Balm against a fluffy background of Asparagus. The fungus on the Monarda leaves gives you a clue as to their ID.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Exciting Guatemala News!

This was the uninhabited Volunteer House at the AFOPADI compound in July when Wesley and I made our site-visit. I'm delighted to know that it will soon be full of great youthful energy, cooking smells and drying laundry. That's because Eva & Michael will soon arrive.

We met after they attended my presentation on the AFOPADI project at WBEZ's Worldview Global Activism Expo this spring. The result is that they are the first long-term (six months) American volunteers who will be in Guatemala with AFOPADI. Though they have both been studying permaculture
, the artist in me is especially happy because they are also both wonderful photographers...and people, of course. Michael will work with the Agricultural part of the project and Eva with Education. They're currently brushing up on their Spanish in Guatemala and just this week, finally met the AFOPADI folk at the office in Quetzaltenango (Xela is the indigenous name that everybody uses). I was not surprised that both groups bonded immediately, though I was a little jealous and living vicariously.

You can keep track of their adventures on Eva's Blog.
Go to Eva's blog and then click on "anotherwise" top left....Below, you can share the view they will have when they walk from the house to their composting outhouse. What luxury! Inside is a small stove that they will fuel with propane tanks you can get refilled in the town a half-hour walk away. Their sink is outside and they have a few solar light bulbs to illuminate the kitchen and bedroom. When the temps start to heat up in February, they will be grateful for the patio when they take a well-earned siesta.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Joe Pye Weed: Sculpture in the Garden

Here we are in the same landscape as the aforementioned Sumac, but now we are in the garden at the front of the house. Curiously, even though this is next to Lake Michigan, the soil is predominantly clay, as opposed to what you would expect. This front garden is more protected from the winds off the lake and thus, less dry than the planting area with the Sumacs.

From the start, I thought a vertical element would add some rhythm. We weren't allowed to even contemplate a tree as it might shade the solar panels on the garage roof. My suggestion of a flag (something moving in the wind...we don't have gentle breezes here in Chicago!) struck out. But this Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum 'Atropurpureum') does the trick. And, as a native prairie plant, it also attracts its fair share of wildlife. Since it likes wetter soil, we placed it near the fire hydrant: kind of a metaphorical guidepost.

Intrinsic Perennial Gardens (the wholesale nursery where these plants came from) suggests pairing this Eupatorium with other substantial plants like Persicaria polymorpha (Giant Fleeceflower) and Silphium perfoliatum (Cup Plant). While the Persicaria stays in a big mound, the Silphium seeds all over the place: you may need a real prairie to contain all its offspring! These are interesting aesthetic partners, rather a homeopathic solution (matching like with like). We went the allopathic route, contrasting the large coarse leaves, stalks & blooms with the finer foliage and dainty flowers of the native Switch Grass, Panicum virgatum 'Northwind,' (named for one of our favorite retails nurseries. Interestingly, the Intrinsic catalog has a picture of a miniature version of just this same type of contrast. It features two plants together that I really like: Sedum x 'Red Cauli' (Stonecrop) backed by Seslaria autumnalis (Autumn Moor Grass). Neither of these plants are native, but they perform very well and can take it dry...which, in the midst of our drought, is quite enticing.

Black & White photo below for Linda...both these taken around Labor Day.