Clematis ‘Rouge Cardinal’

When we moved into our current home 12 years ago, a large ‘Jackmanii’ Clematis grew up the light pole in the front yard. ‘Jackmanii’ vies with ‘Nelly Moser’ for the title of most common Clematis in American gardens, and for good reason. It is an amazing performer that continues to get better with age. It is not uncommon for our ‘Jackmanii’ to morph into a giant mass of purple flowers in late May and early June. In fact, this spring it grew so vigorously, it completely destroyed the glass housing at the top of the light pole.

Clematis ‘Jackmanii’

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Narcissus ‘Barrett Browning’

It has been a crazy spring here in Central Illinois, with a continuous string of record-breaking temperature. The plants are in absolute fast-forward. Spring ephemerals, trees, shrubs and perennials alike are budding out and bursting forth all at once. I wouldn’t be surprised if I look outside this morning to see my garden in its full summer glory.

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Picea pungens ‘Fat Albert’

When my wife and I first bought our home in 2000, the central focus of the front yard was a Littleleaf Linden (Tilia americana) that would get decimated by Japanese beetles each summer, becoming completely defoliated by the end of July. When our son was born in 2002, we decided we would remove the Linden and replace it with an evergreen so he could have a Christmas tree outside his window each holiday season.

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Viburnum lantana ‘Mohican’

Years ago, my good friend Laura Hayden (who blogs over at Durable Gardening) let me in on a little horticultural secret. When you come upon a woody shrub that you can’t identify, it behooves you to guess Viburnum. Despite the apparent breadth of this genus implied by Laura’s advice, until recently I knew very little about Viburnum and grew none in my own garden. I cannot think of a better genus for my inaugural Linnaeus Day post. As Michael Dirr shares in his work on the genus[10], Linnaeus himself classified Viburnum in Species Plantarum (1753).

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Anna’s beans

I planted hyacinth beans today. These beans didn’t come carefully packaged and labeled. I didn’t buy them at the store. In fact, I didn’t buy them at all. These beans were generously sent to me by Ruth Ann, a former colleague who knew of my love for plants and the human stories that surround them.

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An Iris with history

When my in-laws moved to Illinois from Michigan, they dug up some of the plants from their landscape to bring some of their garden with them. When my mother-in-law asked me if I wanted a division of an iris that had been in their family for nearly 60 years, I jumped at the opportunity. She told me that this iris had been growing on the farmstead her family purchased in the late 1940s, and had been transplanted to different family homes over the years.

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Flora! illuminated at the Sterling Morton Library

This past weekend, I visited Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. I’ll write about my rain-shortened visit to the Arboretum in another post, but while the rain chased most of the Aboretum’s guests into the visitor center, I took the garden path less followed to the Sterling Morton Library to view the Flora! Illuminated exhibit that runs through June 30.

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A double late mea culpa courtesy of a tulip named Herman

Just two weeks ago, after visiting the Missouri Botanical Garden and its wide selection of tulip cultivars, I wrote a post about how I thought tulips should look like traditional tulips — single flowered tulips along the lines of the Darwin and Triumph lines. Little did I know when I hastily typed that piece that my whole attitude towards tulips was about to change. For growing in my garden was a new tulip I had planted last fall called ‘Herman Emmink’.

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Feeling a little more Southern than the day before

A week ago, I planted twelve cotton seeds, four each in three 20 ounce party cups filled with soil, as I started my quest to grow Alabama cotton in my Illinois garden. I wasn’t even sure if it was hybridized seed that would likely be sterile. So when I stood up from my desk last night and glanced over at the seedlings growing across the room under the plant lights, I was overjoyed to see four seedlings in each cup standing proudly above the soil.

Looking at them makes me want to try growing each of the main American agricultural crops at least once in my life. I know it sounds a bit foolish, but those twelve little plants make me feel a little more rooted in the history of this country and its agricultural heritage. Today, I’m feeling just a little more southern than the day before.