It’s Always Sunny in San Diego

It’s about that time of year for spring fever.  The annual dose of sun known as Spring Break  to the under 21 crowd and what I like to call “the calm before the storm” brought me to San Diego for a long weekend with my husband.  The goal was to get as south as possible on a budget and since I had been once before on a work trip and was not able to enjoy the sites, I got some redemption, took some plant pictures, and checked whale watching off my lists of things I’ve always wanted to do.  Here are a few of the pictures of the horticultural variety to help satisfy your need for spring.

My favorite stop was Balboa Park, which had more gardens than we had time to view in the waning hours of the afternoon.

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

This is the Alcazar Garden of which this tree provides the focal feature.  The maze of boxwoods are familiar in this formal garden reminiscent of a Spanish palace garden.

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

The center garden planting is a welcome spot of color while in Illinois there is nothing, but brown and white as far as the eye can see.  This was also a very popular picture spot for the many wedding and Quinceanera parties on a busy saturday.

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

Artistic tree roots on a slope.  One of many in a grove overlooking some walking paths for easy strolling.

Becca LaBarre

Becca LaBarre

Rhododendrons in bloom in February, well worth the trip!

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Getting to Know You

Though I spent the weekend in a hotel ballroom with hundreds of other vendors, I was happy to speak with some very interesting people as they came through the “New House, Old House” homeshow at Pheasant Run Resort In St. Charles.  I met people sprucing up their vintage homes, moving to the area from other parts of the country, making updates to their childhood homes, or brand new homeowners excited for their first fixer upper project.

The show reminded me how much I’ve enjoyed getting to know my clients over the years.  From a client who would tell me about his days growing up in North Carolina, to one whose father who had a sparkling wine named after him, the world is never short on interesting people.  The life experiences of my clients help me to understand their lifestyles and how their landscape project can be an extension of that lifestyle.  For an active family with a big backyard, it might be necessary to leave room for two soccer nets, or minimize perennial plantings for the busy couple who do not have time to care for them.

The homeshow has brought us great potential this late winter when we are normally still digging ourselves out.  We met several people beginning their own custom home projects, an ambition we haven’t seen in years.  Here’s to a positive start to our season, and getting to know many more interesting clients.  I can’t wait to help put their personal stamp on their projects.  Oh, and check out our cool, swanky, new booth below.  We’ve really stepped up the professionalism.

Bob Stell

Bob Stell

Horticulture Locavores

The term Locavore, applying to eating local food is a movement that has gained a lot of attention these last few years.  Farmer’s markets, and farm to table cooking are springing up everywhere for the health of it.  The landscape industry uses this concept for purchase of plant material for the plant health of it.  The bottom line…support your local garden centers instead of running to the big box store.  I promise it will make a difference!

1.  Plants are genetically better suited for our environment.

It makes sense that a plant grown in the soil it will be planted in would adapt better.  I’ve actually seen a shrub come out of a pot to expose “red dirt”.  You don’t really have to be a horticultural expert to realize that plant was not grown in Northern Illinois.  It is more than just soil that determines a plants’ survivability.  A Red Oak grown on one side of a large forest will be genetically different from a Red Oak on the other side.  This is the main reason planting local plants will make a difference in how well they adapt.  If you plant a Burning Bush that was grown in southern California, that shrub will grow slower, be more susceptible to disease and cold hardiness issues only because the genetics of that shrub are not as well suited for the freeze/thaw and clay soils of Chicagoland.  We purchase our trees and shrubs from local nurseries from Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin to ensure they are either grown in similar situations or maybe even a little more cold tolerant than ours.

2.  Planting native perennials ensures plant diversity

Native perennial gardens are becoming more common.  They don’t provide the pop of color or length of bloom time that their more genetically altered, alter egos give a garden, but they do provide the most adaptable species that need the least amount of environmentally damaging fertilizers, pesticides, and supplemental water.  The former Natural Garden in St. Charles, IL was one of the foremost caretakers of native plants in the area.  Before going out of business in 2011, the Natural Garden kept files of dozens of types of native carex grasses, for example.  There were so many types some were indistinguishable from one another.  Normally, a garden center would not sell varieties with similar characteristics because of the redundancy.  The Natural Garden, not only made sure to keep alive these various varieties of one species, but also was vigilant in keeping their seeds sources within a 90 mile radius of St. Charles to guarantee they were truly native to the area.  Thankfully Midwest Groundcovers has taken over the task and carries the Natural Garden line of native perennials helping to ensure that no one species can be wiped out by disease or pest.

naturalgardennatives.com

naturalgardennatives.com

3.  They know their plants

Purchasing local can also help ease frustration when you have questions.  I know if I have a question about a new plant or a tree I don’t normally use, the nurseries will be full of useful information to aid in making the right choice.  Many times, the box stores will have little more than a warm body taking care of the plant material and the plants can often look neglected after a few weeks on the shelf.  A local garden center will usually employ professionals or garden enthusiasts who know a thing or two.  They know how to water and deadhead potted plants to keep them looking their best even after an entire season.  They can also make suggestions for types of plants given your specific requirements and desires.

B. Burr

B. Burr