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Garden Columnist Anne Raver speaks up on Impatiens “Blight”

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Landscape Architecture, Plants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Impatiens-walleranaDo you read the New York Times? If you do, you have likely read the excellent writing of Anne Raver. Anne’s most recent column, “In the Garden”, describes at length the downy mildew that has killed Impatiens and which means you probably will not see it in garden centers this year. (Remember last year (?) when tomatoes were full of greenhouse disease?). Anyway, Anne’s opinion about Impatiens (“Impatiens is an overused plant I love to hate, so I am shedding crocodile tears…Maybe nature is doing us a favor by forcing those addicted to the plant to find an alternative.”) reminded me of the famous Chicago “Prairie School” landscape architect Alfred Caldwell. He was in his last years when he gave a keynote speech at the annual luncheon of Friends of the Parks. He showed some slides of his work, including one of a park he designed in Detroit. It was a recent slide, with red Impatiens figuring prominently in the shrub border. Mr. Caldwell looked hard at the slide, raised his cane and shook it angrily in the air, and cried, “Impatiens? RUBBISH!”. ##

Sunday, April 28: Garden Open in Winnetka, IL

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Landscape Architecture | 1 Comment
Beauty without Boundaries garden. Photo: Linda Oyama Bryan.

Chicago’s North Shore Open Day
Photo by Linda Oyama Bryan

If you have the opportunity, there is a wonderful garden in Winnetka open for visits through the work of The Garden Conservancy:

http://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays/open-days-schedule/venueevents/1029-beauty-without-boundaries

 

That Little Blue Flower From Siberia. Or Not.

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Scilla sibericaIsn’t this a lovely spring scene? And in looking at it, the “Queen of the Arcane” (as my friend Patti calls me) thought, “Ah, Scilla siberica”. Great name—fun to say—but I wonder. Did  it really originate in Siberia as its name implies?

This ridiculous question led me straight to Wikipedia, which let me know that I was barking up the wrong tree, so to speak, by thinking “Siberia”. Not even close. This little blue beauty is Persian, wouldn’t you know, with forays north into Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Which means it comes from a slice of the world north and south along the Volga River. Check it out—nothing to do with Siberia whatsoever.

Map of Siberia

But wait, there’s more! The Queen of the Arcane has an additional geography lesson based on that cute blue flower.  According to Wikipedia, there are 80 different species of Scilla. In addition to our little Siberian impersonator, several others have confusing geographies. For example, there’s Scilla mesopotamica, which seems geographically this.close to Siberica. This.close means they’re probably the same damn plant. And even more confusing? Scilla peruviana.  From Peru, right? Except that it’s called the Portugese squill by some and the Cuban Lily by others. Peru? Portugal? Cuba? Which is it? Maybe these Scilla botanists are simply as geographically challenged as most Americans.

But then there are my personal favorite species: the Scilla flaccidula and even better, Scilla haemorrhoidalis. So what countries do they come from? Or, put another way, what countries actually want to claim those two as natives?

SEND ME GREAT PHOTOS OF LARGE CARPETS OF SCILLA and don’t forget to say WHERE you took the photo… presumably not in Siberia!

The Charles Dawes Mansion: A Landscape Designed by O.C. Simonds for a Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Landscape Architecture | 2 Comments

In 1911, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gates Dawes asked Ossian Cole [O.C.] Simonds to design a landscape for their new home at the corner of Greenwood Street and Sheridan Road in Evanston, Illinois. The couple, along with their twenty year old son, Rufus, moved into the mansion in 1909.

East Facade of the Dawes Mansion
The East Facade of the Dawes Mansion

Mr. Dawes was an important banker, president of the Central Trust Company of Illinois. He also spent time in this nation’s capitol when called by President William McKinley to become Comptroller of the Currency. Dawes did much to reform banking after the devastating Panic of 1893. He ran for Illinois Senator in 1902, but lost. Experts believe that Theodore Roosevelt, who became President following the assassination of President McKinley in 1901, pragmatically sided with Illinois’ “Old Guard” Republicans against “reformers” like Mr. Dawes, who disliked the machine politics of Cook County.

Dawes Mansion

Dawes Mansion, Evanston, IL (1915)

The Dawes’ residence (now the home of the Evanston History Center] sits high on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. It was designed in the French chateau style by architect Henry Edwards-Ficken of New York for Northwestern University’s treasurer and business manager, Robert Sheppard. Mr. Sheppard bought this beautifully-sited property in 1882, but the house was built in 1894-96, just after the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893. The Sheppards were unable to keep the house after a financial scandal (it appears that he took out a loan for Northwestern University but put only his name on the real documents) whereupon the Dawes’ bought it. Thus, it had little landscape. Mr. and Mrs. Dawes preferred a naturalistic style of design, although they asked for a terrace for entertaining. While the residence’s front door faces south, the east facade faces Sheridan Road and just beyond that, Lake Michigan. The views of the lake are lovely, particularly from the second floor bedrooms.

  • Dawes Mansion
    Dawes Mansion, Evanston, IL (1915)

Simonds’ plan for the landscape created small views through the trees to Lake Michigan and asymmetrical masses of shrubs at the base of the house to reduce its immensity. The plan created an important sense of arrival in the south-facing front yard by planting elms along the front walk. The main perimeter of the two acre property was enclosed with a privet hedge and groves of spruce, ash, elms, sugar maples and evergreens that allowed pedestrians to glimpse the house but which assured the privacy of its occupants.

Simonds added a wild garden with oak, elm and snowberry on the north side, east of the stables. The east slope of the terrace features hawthorn, honeysuckle, barberry, roses, and Japanese lilac, and along the foundation are forsythia, roses and hydrangea. It appears that Simonds was trying to marry French formality and American informality.

Today the landscape has deteriorated but its “bones” are intact. Some years ago, a group of students, led by landscape architect Barbara Geiger, who is also Simonds’ biographer, created a historic survey and restoration plan. We hope that a sponsor (Evanston Garden Club are you reading this?) comes forward to restore this iconic landscape architect’s vision.##

 

Ice in March

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Ice in March

“Every winter the liquid and trembling surface of the pond, which was so sensitive to every breath, and reflected every light and shadow…closes its eyes and becomes dormant for three months or more. Standing on the snow-covered plain, as if in a pasture among the hills, I cut my way through the snow and then a foot of ice, and open a window under my feet, where, kneeling to drink, I look down into the quiet parlor of the fishes, pervaded by the softened light as through a window of ground glass… there a perennial waveless serenity reigns as in the amber twilight sky, corresponding to the cool and even temperament of the inhabitants. Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.”

–Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862), Walden, written 1854.

  Icy Patch

Meet Jelena!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
Witch Hazel, Jalena

It’s March 10 and a very gray day (did you turn your clocks ahead?), but I want you to meet ‘Jelena’. She’s a fiery orange flower blooming right now, unaware that there’s still a lot of snow on the ground and more planned to come.

Jelena blooms on what is arguably my favorite shrub, the Witchhazel. Some call this bush, the Snapping Hazel, a name I prefer not only because it captures the look of this exploding, “bad hair day” flower but also because “Snapping Hazel” sounds like a dame I’d like to share a martini and a political argument with. But never mind, the name, Witchhazel, has its own charms.

Witch Hazel, Jalena

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