Goebbert’s Garden Party

On an unseasonably cool Wednesday, my mother-in-law and I headed to the Goebbert’s Garden Party, an invitation-only party at a local nursery.  It seemed like the hoards of invitees (far more than I had ever expected) were interested in the appetizers–not the plants, sadly.  I liked the idea of the the event: wine tastings, prizes giveaways, and appetizers among the plants.  The reality was a bad wedding where people were gorging themselves then dosing sleepily at the tables after one too many wine samples.  We, unlike most, did tour the grounds, finding many an insanely over-priced hanging basket and equally over-priced hidden fairy gardens.

We did happen upon this unusual-looking “Sea Holly” perennial secreted among the nursery staples coneflower and salvia.  And, as we made our way to the checkout counter (no easy feat with all the overly satiated party guests), I lost count of just how many people asked us where we got it as it is so very out of the ordinary.


Flea Market Find

The first weekend of each Summer month, the Kane County flea market brings hundreds of vendors hawking their wares: antiques, garden accessories, homemade jar goods, trinkets, vintage jewelry, and just about anything else one can imagine begin sold in at outdoor market.  When I first went regularly four years ago, the market was rather modest: maybe 50 vendors with a focus on dusty antiques.  Last weekend though, whew! J— and I left after 3 hours because we were plain tired of looking at stuff.

Our intention (because one always needs a checklist when entering to avoid being overwhelmed) was vintage whiskey paraphernalia for J— and garden planters and vintage jewelry for me.  Well, he did find a c.1900 keg tapper, but the $300 price tag was not worth it; and the planters were far more than I was willing to pay, really well-done by local metal artists, but still too much.  So, we came home with a modest $5 birdhouse that is currently being ignored by the birds on the back of the garage.

At least we got to walk around for a few hours and settle down with $4.50 pitchers in the St. Charles Beehive pub.

Geneva Pie Bake-Off

I not-so-secretly desire living in Geneva, IL–with the perfectly manicured lawn, freshly stocked weekly French Market, locally made wine stores, sweet downtown area, and (of course) the annual Swedish Days Festival.  I can, however, say that this year (my first time entering) I won 3rd prize in Geneva’s AID Pie Bake-Off with my Apple-Raspberry Pie.  Yeah for me!  If the title of winning wasn’t enough (which it really is for me as I like lording it over others like a five-year-old with the better toy), my prize was a $50 “spice box” from one of the local gourmet shops, so I can set my sights on cooking other yummy delectables.
I made my “test pie” last weekend to get a consensus what people liked and wanted changed; the pie met with applause and a “damn good” only, so I knew I had a winner.  The day dawned warm and sunny, but I put on a Pucci-inspired vintage dress and some sunblock and was off to meet my fate as a pie challenger.  While the judges performed their duties, J— and I walked the town of Geneva peeking into to shops and walking the creatively maintained street gardens on the cityscape.  Below I posted photographs one of the more artful landscapes located in an outdoor shopping atrium.

My Sister’s Out-of-Control Roses

About six years ago, the year before I bought my very-own project house, I planted my first ever roses at my parents’ house.  At the time, I knew nothing about growing roses or varieties of roses or the care needed for them; I simply opened a gardening magazine, and said, “I like that one.”

In the past few years, my sister T— has on-again-off-again cared for them, going from three ramblers to one lone survivor.  One Summer baby-ing them (and I say that loosely), the next Summer letting them grow wild and out of control.  Even now, these roses are a great source of contention between T— and my father as he likes plants nice and tidy, not seemingly wild-growing roses.  Every so often, my father takes a set of sheers and cut it all but to the ground, and rightly so: it’s still his house no matter what T— feels.

With the mass amount of magenta roses that appear to be flourishing under various stages of neglect, I cannot understand why gardeners are intimidated by growing roses.  Some are definitely more difficult than others, but look at this beauty!

Chicago Tribune Post: Close to Enchantment

By Nina A. Koziol, Special to Tribune Newspapers

4:36 p.m. CDT, April 26, 2012

Although the mild winter and unusually warm spring have many gardeners scratching their heads wondering what to expect this summer, Ted Nyquist is not concerned: “I watch the weather, but I don’t agonize over it.”

He and his wife, Gidget, have followed the whims of weather — including a devastating lightning strike that damaged a very large oak — in their rambling Bartlett garden for 24 years.

“There’s always something to see, and it’s always changing,” Gidget says.

They’re opening their garden to the public May 20, part of this year’s Garden Conservancy Open Days program. (It will be one of four private, stunning gardens on display that day; the Illinois series officially begins May 6. See “Open Days, glory days,” next page, for information.)

Four of the property’s gently rolling seven acres feature spectacular views, including beds of rhododendrons, a free-standing bed of conifers (some with green, gold or blue needles) and three types of cacti, more than 100 roses, a cutting garden, woodland paths, a meandering creek and much more.

Ted Nyquist, president of the Midwest Chapter of the American Rhododendron Society, prides himself on designing the garden’s ever-expanding beds and borders and planting ornamental trees, such as Kousa dogwood, Korean maples and magnolias, as well as countless shrubs, perennials and annuals. He also built the pergola, playhouse and several arbors. The garden rooms they’ve created offer a place for their 14 grandchildren to play and for adults to relax when they’re not strolling among the plants.

Spring in the couple’s garden begins with Virginia bluebells and other native wildflowers, narcissus and hellebores carpeting the ground under redbuds, hickories and oak trees. The rhododendrons — several varieties include many from the Northern Lights series — come into bloom next, along with iris, ligularia, weigela, butterfly bushes, and drifts of sun- and shade-loving perennials.

“When we moved here, the land was equal or more important than the house,” says Ted, who often travels to Michigan nurseries for unusual plants for his ever-expanding collection of rhododendrons and azaleas. “One of my passions is trying to show people that you can grow rhododendrons here. You don’t see many private gardens with them.”

Deer, raccoons, ducks, hawks, herons and songbirds are regular visitors. Dragonflies dart over the pond where a lone muskrat routinely glides across the surface. A towering blue spruce is a focal point in a side border.

“The very first year we were here, I was so gung-ho,” Gidget recalls. “We were going to have a real Christmas tree — it was balled and burlapped and dirty and messy (indoors), but we eventually planted it, and I can’t believe it’s grown so well.”

Their first gardening efforts began in the front yard with daffodils. Over the past two decades many plants have come and gone. In recent years, gypsy moths did irreparable damage to several towering oaks. Once the trees were removed, more sun reached the ground, which created a perfect spot for the circular rose garden. A fountain sits at the center of the circle surrounded by Lady Elsie May, Easy Elegance, “Nearly Wild” and Knock Out roses.

A cutting garden not far from the front door of their midcentury modern house features zinnias, sunflowers and other annuals. Primroses, astilbes and many varieties of hosta (including some like “Elatior” and “Empress Wu” with wingspans of 4 to 5 feet) along with epimedium, ferns, ornamental grasses and other perennials provide contrasting textures and colors throughout the woodland and along the pond’s edge.

“I had perennials by the driveway but got frustrated,” Ted says. “I wanted something to draw the eye, and the “Limelight” hydrangeas did that. They’re big, they bloom nicely, they change color — so it works.”

Native cup plant (Silphium) is one of their favorites. “One reason I like it is that it’s a favorite of the goldfinches,” he says.

“I think if you stood here (for a few minutes), you could almost see it growing,” Gidget adds.

Spring, which arrived very early this year, is the couple’s favorite time in the garden. “I try to design the garden for all seasons,” Ted says. “But in spring, there’s the anticipation. Life is renewed.”

Glory Days: Gardeners open their gates for gazingThe Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program provides a peek at some of the loveliest private gardens in the country. Ted and Gidget Nyquist’s Bartlett garden, along with three other gardens in Barrington Hills and Elburn, will be open to the public 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 20.

The Conservancy’s Illinois program begins next week, with a Winnetka garden on view 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 6. Additional dates are June 23-24, July 22 and 29.

For a list of all the gardens, and driving directions, visit Admission is $5 per garden (cash or check), payable at each site; a booklet of six tickets can be purchased in advance for $25 at the Chicago Botanic Garden or by visiting the Conservancy website; for additional information, call 888-842-2442.

The Day Dawns Dark and Dreary

After an early-season warm spell, the mornings have dawned dark and dreary the past week; the bitter cold reminding us that Spring will not arrive without a fight.

This weekend dawned no different as I went to an almost rained out plant sale with the intention of purchasing a few choice plants, and I, of course, purchased more than I had intended–but a few unique varieties at that.

As an bonus to my plant sale visit, I needed no prompting when the homeowner offered us a tour of her magnificent garden, the likes of which are usually restricted to glossy magazine photos.  Each bed was stuffed (yes, “stuffed”) with perennials, each reaching their maturity within the confines of the next plant.  No weed would dare raise its ugly head to the sun in this garden!

The garden’s owner is a lovely woman who tirelessly removes unwanted upstarts from her beds to share with the public through her annual sale, everything from the ordinary (phlox and hosta) to the unusual (chocolate mint).  These unusual varieties are generally found only in high-priced catalogs, not mere garden centers, so I eagerly spent a few dollars to fill out my own newly-dug beds.  And, as these perennials were grown successfully in a neighbor’s garden, I know I will likely have success with them as well.

My fringe benefit of the day was taking an abbreviated tour of the Spring-Douglas Historic District with its painted ladies and perfectly manicured lawns, ahhh . . . one day . . .