Sunday Garden Chat

misamericanthrope kew blue
From occasional commentor Misamericanthrope:

I live in Chicago and my garden is a true urban one. The El tracks are right behind it and it is fenced off with razor wire! I have managed to carve out 2 beds from a parking area and have installed planters boxes and self-made concrete planters throughout the back lot of my building. The first photo is of my Salpiglossis ‘Kew Blue’ (AKA known as “Painted Tongue”). The second is of a long planter box featuring Trailing Coleus, Purple Heart, Draceana, Dichondra Falls and Blue Pimpernel. The vine is a Moonflower Vine (blooms are on the way!). The third is my Coleus set. Did without Coleus last year and missed them. They are certainly thriving…

I am a long-time reader of Balloon Juice (one of the sites that helps keep me sane!), but a rare commenter.

What’s going on in your gardens this week?

misamericanthrope planter box

misamericanthrope coleus

30 replies
  1. 1
    raven says:

    Pretty in the city! It’s way too dry here, it rained like hell in Atlanta but nothing here.

  2. 2
    PurpleGirl says:

    Pretty pictures.

    Good morning folks.

  3. 3
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    I started my moonflowers way behind Misamericanthrope. Wondering if I will get any blooms before January. And I love coleus, the colors, the texture, when I finally get garden pond in, I expect I will have way too much coleus around it.

    Job well done, Misamericanthrope. Just Beautiful. So much work for so little, but the results give back so much.

  4. 4
    Misamericanthrope says:


    Thanks, OzarkHillbilly! The Moonflowers just started blooming a few nights ago. Glad that I planted them again this year. They certainly put on a show. And, good luck with your garden pond!

  5. 5
    Talentless Hack says:

    Now is the time of year when, if you planted cucumbers, the vines grow outside the box designated for them, and onto your lawn. I’ve been careful not to mow there, and the grass has gotten a little tall. Yesterday, while the honey wagon people were pumping out our septic, I went over there and found a couple of rather large cucumbers hiding out in that tall grass. Big muthas.

    After they left, I had to rip up an old T-shirt and stake up the tomato plants some more. We grew these from some seed we got at Aldi and had no idea they’d get quite that big. I think I’m going to just go to Lowe’s and get me the longest metal stakes I can find, just to stake up tomato plants. Anyway, they’re giving me dozens of these golf-ball sized tomatoes, too large to be called “cherry” tomatoes, yet too small for slicing. What the hell do you call those?

  6. 6
    MomSense says:

    @Talentless Hack:

    they’re giving me dozens of these golf-ball sized tomatoes, too large to be called “cherry” tomatoes, yet too small for slicing. What the hell do you call those?

    Delicious!! Throw them on the grill or in the oven.

  7. 7
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Talentless Hack: I have some about that size called Red Calabash. The wife loves them as they have a little bite to them at the finish. But I got them from Seed Savers so I doubt they are what you have.

  8. 8
    satby says:

    @Misamericanthrope: Really beautiful! And happy there’s another Chicagoan on, when are we doing a Balloon-Juice meet up? I’m down for one!

  9. 9
    satby says:

    I’m not going to get much in the way of a harvest this year, every week my tomatoes get more spindly from blight even though I broke down and sprayed to save them. A farmer down the road said it’s bad here this year. And the bunny decimated the last of my blue potatoes but so far hasn’t figured out that the other grow sacks have sweet potatoes, so those might have a chance. Bumper crop of onions though, and I normally don’t use as many in a year as I grew.

  10. 10
    Misamericanthrope says:


    Hmm, satby. I’d be one for one, too, but I think the organization skills required to set one up might be beyond me! :)

  11. 11
    Talentless Hack says:

    @MomSense: They are yummy.

  12. 12
    JPL says:

    @Misamericanthrope: You certainly have a green thumb! Your arrangements are gorgeous and I for one, am envious. I don’t have that talent.

  13. 13
    Misamericanthrope says:


    Thanks, JPL! Lots of trial and error. Many, many failures of combinations. And, photo-cropping does wonders. Awkward spots can simply be left out! :)

  14. 14
    WereBear says:

    Awesome stuff, Misamericanthrope! Excellent demonstration of how a garden can go UP when space is limited.

  15. 15
    Misamericanthrope says:

    Thanks, WereBear! I just need to convince my landlord to expel the cars and then I can turn the parking spaces into a true garden.

  16. 16
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    My own garden is deep in the summer doldrums. Beans are down to about 1 1/2 #s every other day. Summer squash is way down to just 2 or 3 Zuchs a week and the same with crookneck. The winter squash have stopped setting fruit and are just maturing what is there. Eggplant are still doing well (made some eggplant parmesan earlier this week, mmm mmmm good). Same for hot peppers. Sweet peppers are just overflowing tho. Never had plants produce like these. I am now looking/developing recipes for cold stuffed peppers as the wife is not overly fond of mushy cooked peppers. Got to do something with them all. Dug up the last of the potatoes (all blues) and got another 15-20#. Not too shabby.

    The critters are just decimating my tomatoes. Squirrels, and chipmunks are doing most of the damage I suspect, but I had a family of coons that had a real taste for tomatillos. I say “had” because I have caught 2 so far and momma’s still out there somewhere, hopefully in my trap right now. Probably going to have to get the .22 out if I am going to get anymore maters this year, as squirrels are just too smart or too quick for the live trap.

    Still, even with all that I have 4 gallon Zip-Loc bags of beans to can and freeze, plus another 20-25 #s of maters to work with. I was going to make another batch of salsa but the store was out of cilantro (!!!!) and mine is done for now. Now I’m thinking some creole sauce, some hot sauce, and maybe some barbecue sauce if there is enough.

    Gonna make bacon wrapped creme/cheddar cheese stuffed jalapenos tonight. My mouth waters just thinking about them.

  17. 17
    Scout211 says:


    I only plant bell peppers every other year because they do so well here.

    I chop the peppers and freeze them overnight on cookie sheets. Then I fill ziplock bags and place them back into the freezer.

    I have ready made chopped pepper all winter for soups, stews and pasta dishes.

  18. 18
    gelfling545 says:

    That is really a beautiful & creative city garden. There is a lot of enthusiasm for gardening just now in my city (Buffalo) and it is a more pleasant place because of it. My house is in a working class neighborhood of vaguely bungalow style houses thrown up on the edge of the suburbs in the 20’s & for a long time the “landscaping” was imitation suburbanite: barberry, arborvitae & a lot of grass. That was the norm & it was enforced (to the extent that I was ticketed yearly in the early 00’s for not “maintaining the lawn” of which I had none). Now a lot of folks have been inspired to do something interesting with their front yards. Many of the designs are quite simple – not nearly as impressive as those pictured – but genuinely lovely. What charms me about the pictures of Misamericanthrope’s garden & my neighbors gardens is that they are something the gardeners created from their own ideas, tastes, work & love, not something a landscaper pre-program for them. Why, yes, I am a (reverse?) garden snob in that respect. I just love “homemade” gardens.

  19. 19
    JPL says:

    @gelfling545: That would be!. Although I have a adequate lawn because of a tree, I had to come up with an alternative plan. I filled in an area with coral bells and different types of hosta. A landscaper was installing a lawn next door and complimented me which is hilarious. I don’t have a green thumb. I just stared at the space a long time and ordered roots.

  20. 20
    Josie says:

    The plants and photos are lovely. I am jealous because all of my plants are suffering in the searing south Texas heat. I cheer myself with the thought of what my winter garden will look like.

  21. 21
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Scout211: Good idea, thanx. (for some reason freezing them did not even occur to me, but yeah, for cooking. DUH!) I didn’t even (knowingly, one seed snuck into the package) plant bell peppers, I planted a mix of Italian peppers that looked really beautiful. Other than bananas, my sweet peppers have never done all that well but these guys are blowing me away. I have had to stake the cages because the weight of all the fruit is making them fall over.

  22. 22
    Kristine says:

    Lovely flowers, Misamericanthrope!

    Horrible tomato harvest this summer in far NE Illinois. Too cool, according to the farmshare guy, who was in charge of doling out what tomatoes they did manage to grow. My two raised bed cherry tomato plants have a handful of fruits between them, just beginning to ripen. As soon as they’re ready, I’m going to break down the raised bed.

    Plants that like shady and cool–astilbes, ferns–did well earlier this summer. Now they’re past it, and the garden is entering the late summer doldrums. All passion spent.

    I guess you could say that I’m not looking forward to autumn, given that we didn’t really have that much of a summer.

  23. 23
    Violet says:

    Lovely photos! I always say anyone can have a garden, even if it’s just some indoor plants. It’s possible.

    We had a garden club meet n’ greet the other day and a new guy showed up. He and his wife live in a townhome and he’s turned the roof into a native plant extravaganza. He says he’s got lots of bees and butterflies. He loves it. He said his wife thinks it looks like a mess. But he’s doing what he can with his very urban landscape.

    We’re in the summer doldrums here. I’m still getting a few melons–just harvested one this morning. It’s an odd one I haven’t gotten to try yet–a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe. Smells good. Weird shape this one, though. We’ll see how it tastes.

    The poblano peppers are going nuts. Big plant and lots of peppers setting. Now have to figure out what to do with them. I was given the plant so hadn’t planned on it. Any suggestions?

    I need to get my fall tomatoes in. It’s a bit late but needs to be done or it will be too late.Have to dig out the spring ones first and I’m not in the mood to be working outdoors. Too damn hot.

  24. 24
    tybee says:


    3.2″ here yesterday afternoon. and the seine retrieved nothing worth talking about.
    more flash flood warnings out for today.
    did catch a box tortoise in the roadway this morn. it now wanders the veggie garden.
    it was a beautiful orange and brown striped. probably see it a few more times before winter.

  25. 25
    WaterGirl says:

    This is my second year of growing hot peppers, and I have a question. Probably a dumb question.

    Last summer was the “tree fell on my house + 6 months of repairs summer”. It was all I could do to keep my vegetable garden watered, and I was thrilled to have a wonderful crop of peppers. This year I have a ton of peppers, but no new ones are coming on. Are the pepper plants done making new flowers and peppers for the year, or is there something I can do to get them started with new flowers/fruit again for this year?

    I live in East Central Illinois, if that helps.

  26. 26
    WaterGirl says:

    I tried making chiles rellenos from my mildly hot peppers last week. I used anaheim, poblono and krimson lee – they all tasted great, with varying amounts of heat. But the batter was not good, way too eggy and heavy.

    So this morning I thought I would try roasting the peppers in the oven for awhile, then filling the naked peppers with cheese, baking them in a flat pan for awhile, and then pouring a batch of corn bread on top and then baking that.

    I am still in the “roasting the peppers in the oven for awhile” stage, so all suggestions are welcome!

  27. 27
    Josie says:


    JeffreyW posted a recipe for stuffed Anaheim peppers that looks really yummy. I haven’t tried it yet but plan to very soon.


  28. 28
    Yatsuno says:


    The poblano peppers are going nuts. Big plant and lots of peppers setting. Now have to figure out what to do with them. I was given the plant so hadn’t planned on it. Any suggestions?

    Any recipe that calls for a bell pepper you can sub the poblano. It works amazingly well and tastes even better IMHO. Plus find a good Mexicano recipe for chile rellenos!

  29. 29
    Violet says:

    @Josie: @Yatsuno: Thanks! I will have a look at the recipe. And yeah, I love chile rellenos. Haven’t ever made them so that would be new.

  30. 30
    Gretchen says:

    Water Girl: if it’s been very hot there that can stop flowering. It should start up again when it cools off.

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