Saturday, January 16, 2010

What Gardeners Do in Winter: Part 1

Not only do we gardeners contemplate the winter landscape, admiring the patterns of branches or the way shadows fall on the snow.  No, we do get out occasionally.

Today I attended Cantigny's first Home Gardening Symposium in partnership with Chicagoland Gardening magazine.  It was a lovely day of two keynote speakers and two multi-session blocks.  The day kicked off with a keynote presentation by Craig Bergmann of Craig Bergmann Landscape Design.  You may have heard of him.  Craig has done more than 600 projects in his 30 years as a landscape architect including many public sites.  He emphasized a practical approach to your landscape including knowing your site, light, soil, and for us in the business, really getting to know your customers.  Craig also firmly advocated for the right plant in the right place and to use elements of your home in the design such as tracing the pattern of the front door's sidelights in boxwood hedges.  It was really lovely to be able to just soak up ideas and get some big picture thinking.

The other keynote speaker was Roy Diblik of Northwind Perennials.  You may have seen Roy's work at the Lurie Garden in Millenium Park.  Roy is a champion of native plants and xeriscaping, that is, using drought tolerant and drought loving plants in challenging spaces.  Roy's designs have the feel of an Impressionist painting with flowing masses of a handful of shapes and textures repeating through the space.  He believes strongly in intermingling plants for an almost meadow-like quality so that weeds don't have a chance.  It creates a soft, wind-rippled effect. Roy emphasized what you can do with a palette of just 20 plants to create thousands of combinations.  My challenge with Roy is that I don't have a full sun dry situation.  I'm spoiled by rich clay loam soil that grows pretty much anything.  My prairie plants tend to be twice their usual size.  No, I'm not necessarily complaining, but it means I'm still learning how plants behave in my garden.

I also attended brief talks on roses and veggie gardening in small spaces.  It was a very nice collection of topics and it meant I got to get out and enjoy some of Cantigny's wonderful big trees in winter.  There is a weeping beech right off the new restaurant space that is stunning in every season.  If you get a chance, there are a number of opportunities for classes and symposia in the coming months.  It's a great way to get out and look at pretty pictures and learn more about our favorite passion.

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