It is now officially spring, snow has melted, buds are budding, and it seems like a good time for an overview of recent developments.

Driveway Border, March 21, 2021

So most of the garden still looks like this, but there are green bits emerging and even a few flowers.

Last week Judy had to go downtown to get her second COVID shot (yay!) and while there decided to visit the Lurie Garden. What she found was a bit concerning, especially when combined with other developments at Lurie over the past several months.

Lurie Garden, March 2021

It appeared that no attempt had been made to start the spring clean up, though Crocuses and Snowdrops had started to bloom. Normally, a small tractor is used to cut back the grasses and other stems in this 2.5 acre garden. This is done while the ground is still frozen in order to reduce soil compaction and damage to plant crowns and early foliage. Also, it needs to be done early enough to showcase the Lurie’s magnificent bulb display, which features tens of thousands of spring blooms.

So I thought I was doing a good thing when I planted a purple-leaved Chokecherry (Prunus virginiana ‘Schubert’) in the back garden, and another along the east side of the house. Chokecherry is a small North American tree with great wildlife value. I was looking forward to the flowers, the fruits (small and very sour, but popular with birds), and the butterfly larvae (Chokecherry is a larval host for many butterflies and moths).

Chokecherry ‘Schubert’ in the back garden.

The snow is gone! And the weather has been warm enough that I’ve been out in the garden the last couple days, actually doing garden chores. It feels like I have been sprung from prison.

Hellebore leaves and buds uncovered

Snow is melting, patches of bare ground expanding, and gardeners are chomping at the bit to get started with the growing season. For some of us, that means starting seeds indoors.

I am a newcomer to seedstarting, but I won’t let that stop me from sharing the benefit of my (very limited) experience. Which is this: when it comes to tender and many other annuals, patience pays.

While we are waiting for the snow to finish melting, maybe now is a good time to tell you about our cats.

Walter and Molly with siblings. Walter is second from left. Molly is third from right. Photo from Joanna.

We got our two cats, Molly and Walter, last August. They were part of a litter being fostered by our friend Joanna for a local cat shelter.

They were waiting, under the snow. In a flower bed tucked into the right angle where the brick wall of the attached garage meets the enclosed back porch. A favored spot in terms of sun, where the snow melts early.


The most recent issue of Fine Gardening magazine had an interesting article by Toronto gardener Mary Gore entitled “Continuous Color in the Shade.” There’s a lot to commend in this article, not least the marvelous photos, but among other things it got me thinking about color schemes for shade.

In most shady gardens, color in springtime is not too difficult. There are plenty of woodland flowers that will bloom before the leafy canopy fills in. The bigger challenge comes with summer.

Over the last 2 days the Chicago area has gotten about 18″ of snow. And that was on top of a bunch of other snow, so that we’ve got a total of 44″ for the season, a 40-year record.

The view from our front door this morning, after shoveling twice yesterday.

For the last in my series of posts on seed and plant orders, I’ll focus on plants bound for containers. We’ve got lots of containers – some in sun, some in shade.

Beacon Impatiens at the Gardens at Ball Horticultural
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