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INSIDE THE SWEET HOME CHICAGO GARDEN

Posted Jan 22 2009 6:30pm

Viburnum Plicatum'Mariesii'

My backyard is a typical Chicago- sized plot with a detached garage facing the alley. When we moved into our house it looked like WWII had taken place there. The former homeowners raised Afghan Hounds and the backyard was their play pen.

My kids were young then and I held a full-time day job, so gardening was the last thing on my mind. Besides that, I had spent my entire youth tending a labor-intensive vegetable garden and picking cotton, corn, peanuts and potato crops.

Once the children were a little older and I had more time on my hands, my old green thumb reappeared with a vengeance and I tackled the back 40. I knew from my days on the farm that the soil was the first priority and after leaving the red clay of Alabama behind I was shocked to find that I had gray Chicago clay covering the entire backyard. I knew right away that my work was cut out for me.

So I tackled what became a very big project involving a lot of back-breaking work - digging out a lot of the clay and incorporating compost and fine pine bark into it. Now it was time to plant.

My garden has gone through multiple changes over the years. One summer I went crazy and turned the entire backyard into a vegetable garden. What was I thinking ? That's a full-time job, and I already had one, no, make that two, thank you. My hubby Simon still smacks his lips to this day about the fresh leaf lettuce, squash and green onions.

Then I put in a lawn and curved beds around it. My German Shepherd Duke made short work of the lawn and garden. Back to the drawing board. I don't give up easily. I have that stubborn Taurus- Irish- Southern -determination .

I read an intriguing book on small gardens and was inspired by a plan that didn't allow a view of the garden all at once, which not only makes it appear larger, but more mysterious. I liked that.

So, I dug out the lawn and made a sitting area out of wooden patio blocks. I was now ready for my first major shrub purchase, which I wanted to use as a focal point right next to the sitting-out area. The eye would be drawn to it first and prevent viewing the garden all at once. I also created a sense of intrigue by putting in a natural stone path going from the wooden patio to the garage, which leads the eye to another vista .

I fell in love with a Viburnum Plicatum'Mariesii' and selected it as my first major shrub. and focal point. It was small at the time I planted it but several years later it came into it's full glory as you can see from the above photos. It's still my favorite to this day. It has four seasons of interest : In Spring it's beautifully- veined leaves emerge, Summer, beautiful white flowers that look like Hydrangea, in Fall, bronze purple leaf color and in winter it's horizontal Asian-like woody shape is beautiful. Who could ask for anything more , except maybe that it be evergreen .

More on my garden later.
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