Everyday Gardeners

Plant. Grow. Live.

October 2011

Anyone who has visited Lurie Gardens at Millenium Park in Chicago has a connection to Northwind Perennial Farm. Roy Diblik, one of the business partners in Northwind, supplied the plants for Lurie Gardens. Roy also designed and planted the landscape at Grand Geneva Resort in Lake Geneva, WI, just a few miles away from the nursery.

It’s certainly worth detouring off the main highway to visit Northwind Perennial Farm. On a recent press trip to the area as a guest of Lake Geneva and the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, I managed to sneak away from planned events for a quick visit to the nursery. And although I arrived just at closing time, Colleen Garrigan, who runs the garden shop, welcomed me and graciously allowed me to stroll the grounds at my leisure. The garden center season was winding down, but I was able to see much of the handiwork of Steve Coster, landscape designer, and the third partner in this outstanding operation, as well as the artistic flair Colleen brings to displays, expertly combining plants and garden ornaments.

The trio of owners draws on the heritage of the farm and area, specializing in native perennials, local materials, and country cottage garden accessories. Next time you’re in southeast Wisconsin or northeast Illinois, see for yourself what Northwind Perennial Farm is all about. Here are a few photos that I took to whet your appetite.

It appears that everyone is headed to Northwind Perennial Farm, including this bantam rooster leading a parade of statuary chickens!

An open barn door frames a fall floral arrangement displayed on a grand piano.

A white picket fence draped with black-eyed Susan vine defines the border of the cottage garden display garden.

Vintage finds are displayed on the wall of a shed.

Miscanthus and persicaria bring color and texture to the display garden in autumn.

Leaf imprints in concrete birdbaths are permanent. The fallen leaves are temporary.

I love how this pyramid of field stone echoes the shape of the baldcypress and spruce trees behind it.

Brilliant orange sugar maples provide a backdrop to the pier at Covenant Harbor Bible Camp on Geneva Lake.






















Last week I went to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin in search of fall color to photograph for an upcoming book on trees and shrubs. As a guest of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism and the Walworth County Visitors Bureau, I was treated to gracious hospitality and peak fall color. The wealthy of the Midwest who built their summer homes around Geneva Lake employed famous landscape architects such as Frederick Law Olmsted to ensure that they would have beautiful, extended fall color on their waterfront estates.

Current visitors to the area can take advantage of this planned color extravaganza. In a unique twist in local regulations and covenants, the public has direct access to the lakefront yards of these estates by means a footpath that encircles the entire lake. I hiked several sections of the 21-mile-long trail, took advantage of more distant views afforded on the mail-delivery tour boat run by Lake Geneva Cruise Line, and split the difference by kayaking along the shore, too, in a kayak supplied by Clear Water Outdoor. Scroll down to see more of the autumnal beauty that I was treated to on these jaunts.

Even the Baker House, the lovely boutique hotel where I stayed, got into the fall color act. Right outside their main entrance, they have witch hazel which was in bloom as well as sporting a healthy display of autumn gold. The entire press tour group got a taste of Baker House hospitality at a reception in their restaurant and on the hotel grounds on Tuesday evening. But I was fortunate enough to enjoy the superb service of their staff for my entire stay in Lake Geneva. The hotel is conveniently located just a couple of blocks from downtown and the Riviera boat docks. The public boat launch (where I put in with the kayak) is almost directly across the street. And, it’s right on the lake path. It made for a wonderful combination of convenience and luxury!

The Baker House has a restaurant on the lower level and luxurious French-themed guest rooms on the second floor. Owners Bethany Souza and Andrew Fritz live with their family on the third floor.

The yellow straplike blooms of witch hazel are often overlooked because they bloom at the same time that the leaves turn gold.

Purple, maroon, and red Boston ivy foliage dresses up this concrete wall.

Weeping willow leaves catch the golden glow of late afternoon sun.

Golden leaves of green ash stand out against a pure blue sky.

A fiery sugar maple shades the Lake Geneva footpath.

As the season goes in Iowa, temperatures have started to drop and it’s evident with this week’s stroll through the BHG Test Garden.  Some plants have completely lost their luster, while others are thriving. Take notes to know what to plant next year for  a long season of color.

Here fall-blooming mums mixed with pansies work well along a pathway.

Here’s a shrub you don’t see often in the landscape, but is perfect for adding color to  a shady garden: Dwarf fothergilla.

Depending on the season, fothergilla fall foliage can turn yellow, orange, or red.

Although the Test Garden is closed for the year, you can still enjoy the season’s colors! Right outside the east doors of Meredith several clump ginkgo are planted and have started to turn golden yellow.

Just a quick tidbit: it’s a rarity to find such awesome specimens of ginkgo in Iowa, let alone with multiple clumps. I’d highly suggest if you have a chance to see for yourself the magnitude of these trees, you do!

How’s you’re gardening looking this fall? What’s your favorite fall plant? I have to say Little Henry sweetspire is my favorite.




Last week I took a stroll through the BHG Test Garden and as I alluded, the colors have changed in just a sort time.

The tips of the serviceberry leaves are starting to turn their usual orange and red.

Ajuga is a great groundcover for any garden from full sun to full shade! I particularly enjoy the dark, dramatic foliage of  ’Black Scallop’ shown here.

Generally more upright in habit, the Golden Pillar barberry shows great promise this fall as its golden yellow foliage turns reddish orange.  Here’s a closer look:

This is the LAST week the Test Garden will be open! Be sure to get in while you can, speak with Sandra, the BHG Test Garden manager, and snag any snippet of garden knowledge she’s willing to share!

Pumpkins, spider webs, ghosts, witches, and zombies are making their annual appearance up and down the streets of the neighborhood as Halloween decorations pop up everywhere. My front porch sports Hijinks with Baby Pam in a Field of Dreams.

That’s Hijinks pumpkin, an All-America Selections Winner in the center of the photo above. Hijinks is a small (7 to 9 pounds) pumpkin that develops brilliant orange color just 100 days from planting. The plant has good resistance to powdery mildew, but I found that squash bugs love it just as much as any other pumpkin or squash variety. It’s flanked by Baby Pam pumpkin, which matures even sooner. Its 4- to 5-pound fruits are reportedly excellent for cooking and baking, too. (Pumpkin pie, anyone?) Both varieties are an excellent size for little kids to handle.

Field of Dreams ornamental corn rounds out the display. This new variety is extremely decorative. Through the growing season, it brightens the garden with striped foliage (see below). The mature ears of corn are solidly one color but vary from shades of mahogany and maroon to deep yellow orange. The ears filled well in my garden, even though my granddaughter and I planted only two rows about 8 feet long. As you can see, the tiny plot yielded ears with mostly dark kernels. As a bonus, Field of Dreams can be used as popcorn, too! The initial test of its popping quality earlier this week at our household was pronounced, “Delicious!”

We’ll be sharing the pumpkins and popcorn with our grandchildren. After all, Halloween is for kids of all ages, isn’t it?

Field of Dreams ornamental popcorn in the garden

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