I’ve been undergoing chemotherapy of some kind since August of last year, shortly after I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During that same period I’ve continued to be an avid, some would say fanatic, gardener, as I have been for about the last five decades of my life. The two things are linked in my mind. Chemotherapy keeps me alive, albeit with side effects. Gardening enriches my experience of life, an enrichment I require now more than ever.

Peony ‘Abalone Pearl’

Golden Alexander (Zizia aurea) is a plant that provides cheerful color during that quieter period in the garden in late spring, It is perhaps not one of the spectacular garden plants, but it can make a fine addition to more informal beds and borders. It is native to a wide swath of eastern and central North America, from Quebec across the Middle West and as far as Texas.

Golden Alexander in the Left Bank Bed

A couple years ago I did something a little careless in the garden. My intent was to move a couple of plants from the Crabapple Bed to the Parkway Bed. However, I failed to carefully examine the shovel full of roots that I carried from bed to bed. If I had, I might have noticed some bits of Starry Solomon’s Plume (Maianthemum stellatum) rhizome (an underground horizontal stem used by some plants to attempt world domination).

Starry Solomon’s Plume

Drought On My Mind

Lately I’ve been preoccupied much with the prospect of drought. So far, this is the second driest May on record. April was also very dry. Normally, this is a region of fairly generous rainfall, but we haven’t had a good rain in months. Precipitation for this year so far is less than half what we usually get: 5.5″ versus an average of 12″.

Allium leaves turning brown

Turns out that Long-Beaked Sedge (Carex sprengelii) has all the qualities I am looking for in a grass-like plant for the shade garden.

Long-Beaked Sedge

Some may ask, how is a sedge different from a grass? The short answer is that sedges are like grasses, but different. A longer answer is that Sedges belong to a different family of plants, the Cyperaceae, as opposed to the grasses who belong to the Graminaceae. Grasses have round, hollow stems (except for the nodes), while Sedges have triangular, solid stems. The thing to remember is that many Sedges can play the role of short or medium-sized grasses in the garden.

Catching the Crabapple at peak bloom at the Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG) involves some tricky timing, but we gave it another try last week on the first day that worked. Last time we visited the buds looked as if they were just getting ready to burst.

Passing the Regenstein Center, CBG’s building for indoor displays and public education, we noticed that there was an exhibit of the work of Philip Juras, an artist who specializes in prairie remnants. We stopped to look and are we glad we did.

In the spring of 2019 I planted 5 plugs of Golden Groundsel (Packera aurea, also known by the less appealing common name of Golden Ragwort) in our shady Back Garden. Some two years later, Judy and I are happy with the results.

Golden Groundsel, aka Golden Ragwort, at lower right. This is the back of our shady garden, the fence is against the alley.

Tulip season has passed its peak around here, a peak that came early for some reason during this cold, dry spring. While several of my favorite Species Tulips have already come and gone, there are several still gracing us with their cheerful presence.

Tulipa humilis ‘Little Princess’

Only a few weeks ago I was complaining about how our ‘Schubert’ Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana) had never bloomed, and now – it’s blooming! I guess patience has been rewarded, since this tree was planted 6 years ago as a bareroot whip less than 3′ tall (it’s now about 15′).

Chokecherry flowers

I wanted to do just a quick post on the ‘Donald Wyman’ crab blooming now in our Front Garden. For me, the flowering of this tree is one of the most joyous moments defining spring in our garden. For the last two years in a row the bloom has been unusually prolific.

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