Sunday Morning Garden Chat: Report from the Midwest

From “long time reader, infrequent commenter” Misamericanthrope:

Guess it’s time for my annual garden review and thought I’d share with the community. I’d give my efforts this year a solid ‘B’ (an improvement over last year’s ‘C’!). I went over board again with the Coleus. Some years I don’t get many and I end up missing their fullness. Next year, the plan is to mix Coleus AND Dahlias.

My garden is a true urban one. I only have (2) 30’ x 2’ beds on each side of a parking bed behind my apartment building, but I have filled up the remaining spaces with concrete planters and planter boxes wherever I can fit them.

The first picture is of one of the early summer stars. A Salpiglossis (from the ‘Bolero’ mix).

#2 is a close-up of a Tassel Flower ‘Irish’s Poet’. Had never grown them before and am still enchanted by the purity of the orange shade (they were taller and more unruly than I expected, though).

#3 is a shot of one of my narrow beds. My Dwarf Joe Pye Weed was a star this year and attracted hoards of honeybees. The bed also includes Echinacea and Amsonia hubriichti (perhaps my favorite plant).

#4 is one of my arrays of concrete planters, with the Coleus dominating. Mask Flower and Alternathera are also in the mix.

#5 is a shot of my shade corner, under the porch stairs. My Rex Hybrid Begonia (‘Gryphon’) went crazy and contorted to reach towards the light. An unexpected, and somewhat hilarious, surprise. Will over-winter him indoors.

#6 is a shot near the rear entrance of my building, featuring Coleus ‘Campfire’ and Dorotheanthus (a recently discovered fave for spilling over the edge of a planter). Am attempting to propagate the Dorotheanthus indoors for next year’s garden.

And, last but not least, in an attempt to secure my “Urban Gardener” bona fides, a shot of my Morning Glory string trellis with a passing El train in the background!

I hope all the other gardeners in the Balloon Juice community enjoy this set and best of luck on plans for next year!


What’s going on in your garden(s) this week?

75 replies
  1. 1
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    Urban gardening can be very challenging, so many micro-climates so close together, and yet the rewards are so much grander. Thank you, Misamericanthrope.

  2. 2
    raven says:

    I was in the Chicago suburbs for my high school reunion last weekend and I’m always struck by the yards and gardens in my home town. Nothing like that black Illinois soil. A couple of years ago I was shocked to find this!

  3. 3
    Mary G says:

    Wow. Gorgeous compositions of plant colors and shapes. I am giving you an A. Love the Salpiglossis, Dorotheanthus, and the entire shade corner in particular. Thanks for sharing!

  4. 4
    Jeff says:

    With the return of summer for this coming week in Philadelphia keeping the arugula planted a month ago happy for the week will be a challenge. It doesn’t like hot weather.

  5. 5
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @Mary G: Thanks, Mary G! I am already plotting improvements for next year.

  6. 6
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Happy to share, OzarkHillbilly! My little garden gets much appreciation by all the building’s tenants. Makes it a little sweeter to get a wider audience.

  7. 7
    JPL says:

    The pictures are amazing, and the begonia’s beautiful. I hope that it enjoys it’s indoor home as much!

  8. 8
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @JPL: i over-wintered the Begonia indoors last year and it lost all but one of its leaves. Wasn’t sure if it would come back. To my surprise it took off and twisted like crazy!

  9. 9
    raven says:

    @Misamericanthrope: Did you click on my link?

  10. 10
    rikyrah says:

    Good Morning,Everyone 😐😐😐

  11. 11
    rikyrah says:

    Beautiful pictures 😄

  12. 12
    Baud says:

    @rikyrah: Good morning.

  13. 13
    satby says:

    @Misamericanthrope: Really interesting mix of plants, well composed and beautiful pictures, and a fellow Chicagoan. Home run! I really like all of them, the tassle flower I have to investigate for next year, because my garden color scheme tends to the yellow and orange range. Thanks for sharing.

  14. 14
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @raven: Yes! Curious that they felt the need to make a garden club just for men.

  15. 15
    Comrade Nimrod Humperdink says:

    @rikyrah: Good morning to you. 8:30 pm here on the ass-end of the world.

  16. 16
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @satby: The Tassel Flowers were a bit smaller than I anticipated, but the color is the most perfect orange. Grew them from seed. They did require substantial staking to keep them upright. Advertised as 1′-2′ tall. Mine were closer to 3′.

  17. 17
    satby says:

    @Misamericanthrope: the first site that had them as seeds for sale had some other great choices as well. I may be going in a whole different direction with my own garden next year now 😆I

    @rikyrah: Good morning 🙋

  18. 18
    raven says:

    @Misamericanthrope: Yea, I have no idea how it came about. Duh:

    Founded in 1936 as the Men’s Garden of Villa Park, we are now known as the Garden Club of Villa Park,
    with a mission to foster gardening and fellowship. These goals continue to be the focus of the Garden Club today,
    which welcomes all men and women gardeners, 15 years of age or older and actively interested
    in home gardening. We are a non-profit group of gardeners, both men and women.

  19. 19
    Currants says:

    @misamericanthrope great photos, and great gardens! Loved the morning glories–are they ‘Flying Saucer’? I can’t quite make out the details on the blossoms (should go get my glasses, yeah yeah).

  20. 20
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @Currants: Yes! ‘Flying Saucer’! I bought 2 and I think one was actually a different variety. Not as much striations of deep blue. My ‘Grandpa Ott’ re-seeds like crazy, but the ‘Flying Saucer’ from last year did not.

  21. 21
    Raven says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: the hated nyt online has a video piece about spelunking for antibiotics.

  22. 22
    mike in dc says:

    Good morning and welcome to NFL Take-A-Knee Sunday, brought to you by the President of the United States.

  23. 23

    Beautiful pictures. Almost makes me wish I weren’t too lazy to garden.

  24. 24
    Baud says:

    @mike in dc:

    Posers. I’m going full prone position.

  25. 25
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Raven: In recent years they have found all kinds of things that previously were never thought could even exist, like rock eating bacteria, or fish living in water so acidic to just touch the water with the bare skin will result in burns. Without looking I’ll bet Penny Boston is involved or…. or…. Brain fart brain fart, Hazel Barton (IIRC). Going there now.

  26. 26
    JPL says:

    Thanks to the photos, and staying away from the news, the day is off to a good start. I just finished watching La La Land, and must say movies can be a great escape, from the real world.

  27. 27
    the Conster says:


    Gorgeous! well done! also your nym is the best.

  28. 28
    Kristine says:

    @Misamericanthrope: It’s all lovely! I’m a new fan of Joe Pye Weed–a friend gave me some this year. It only popped up to 3-4 feet or so, and I thought it was because I planted it in partial shade. But maybe it’s the dwarf variety, like yours.

    In serious need of rain here in far NE Illinois. Shrubs are wilting, grass is browning, and leaves are falling from the backyard oaks without bothering with pretty colors. They’ve just gone straight to brown and crispy.

    The mums I stuck in the ground are in full flower, and the potted verbenas on the deck are in the middle of their 4th or 5th wave of blooms–I keep deadheading them, and they keep bouncing back. I should stop now if I want them to go into cool weather mode, but they’re not hardy to Zone 5.5 and so I need to decide whether to cram them into my too-small dining area-slash-winter greenhouse for the winter, or let them go.

  29. 29
    oldgold says:

    At midnight on the day of autumnal equinox I stood in stoic silence among the briars and brambles of West of Eden. With Keats echoing in my mind, I bid a fond farewell to the maturing summer sun and embraced the new season’s promise of mist and mellow fruitfulness. Looking up into the starry heavens, I had a deep thought. Orion’s Belt is a big waist of space.

  30. 30
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Raven: The video keeps locking up at the 42 sec mark, so I’ll have to try again later. The speaker I don’t know but it’s British Columbia so I doubt either Penny or Hazel are directly involved. Most of their recent work has been in Mexico (Hazel) or the SW (Penny) (or vice versa). Either way, there aren’t many microbiologists doing this kind of work in caves and as such there is always collaboration amongst those who do.

    Thanx for the tip.

  31. 31
  32. 32
    Lapassionara says:

    @Misamericanthrope: beautiful! Thanks for sharing.

  33. 33
    OzarkHillbilly says:


    I had a deep thought.

    Troublesome in such a shallow mind. ;-)

  34. 34
    satby says:

    @Kristine: I have to water before I go to work today, supposed to be the third day in the 90s in a row. I’m expecting that fall color will be less than spectacular, it’s been dry all year and the sugar maple in front of my house is dropping leaves without much color change too. Too bad, I love the colors.

    And, I’m excited, because this was the last week I will be working six days. Starting next week I get my Fridays off too. It’s been a very long summer!
    Edited to fix odd spacing. WTF?

  35. 35
    Lapassionara says:

    @oldgold: Heh!

  36. 36
    oldgold says:

    I would give my jest a 3 star rating.

  37. 37
    satby says:

    @oldgold: 4 on a scale of 5. Extra point for “big waist of space” subtlety.

  38. 38
    bemused says:

    I’m keeping an eye on my perennial flowers when they’re ready for harvesting seeds as I do every fall. Flower gardens are never complete. Every fall I have plans to move some perennials to different spots in beds or to different beds in the following spring. Gardeners always have to change things up.

    We had a surprising visitor to our yard last night. My spouse was outside and our Samoyeds have to be wherever he is when the commotion began. I heard a dog yelp from inside the house and we couldn’t see what critter the dogs were battling on the lawn where the yard light doesn’t reach. We could see they were tossing something up in the air. We were having a hard time getting them to leave it and get them in the house. It turned out to be a muskrat! Why the muskrat decided to come into our yard and not stay in usual wet habitat is a mystery. Once dogs were in house, they were pacing all over and dripping blood everywhere. Finally got them to stop moving around, inspect them and see where blood was coming from. One has a small cut on lip that probably needs a stitch or two. Other one has cut lip that may not need stitches and cut on leg. We’ll call vet this morning. I just want to know why pet emergencies always, always happen on weekends for us.

    To top off cleaning blood off floors last night, our two cats both threw up their breakfast. What the hell!

  39. 39
    Anne Laurie says:


    Orion’s Belt is a big waist of space.


    Since I grew up in the Bronx, Orion’s belt is the only astronomical feature I can identify with any certainty. And I much prefer autumn & winter, so I’m always glad when “he” once again becomes visible in the night sky. The Spousal Unit, who grew up in the Michigan woods, has never stopped pretending to be surprised that I can’t even pick out the Big Dipper or tell Mars from Venus with any accuracy…

  40. 40
    Schlemazel says:

    Nice pictures, what a beautiful garden

  41. 41

    Beautiful! I love the begonias; they remind me of the hanging baskets my mom put up in our backyard when I was a kid. They bloomed like crazy.

    My garden in Miami — such as it is — survived Hurricane Irma with the exception of fallen limbs. The orchids stayed in the garage for the four days I was evacuated, and the philodendrons made it by being put on the floor of the patio enclosure. By the way, my first philodendron marked its 35th anniversary in my care; it was a gift from my sister for my 30th birthday.

  42. 42
    Misamericanthrope says:

    @the Conster: Ha! Thank you.
    When I came up with it and realized that it zoomed past “so bad, it’s good” territory right back to “so bad, it’s awful”, I knew that I had to use it!

  43. 43
    debbie says:


    It’d be nice if they updated their logo.

  44. 44
    debbie says:


    Love the coleus! Hardly anyone uses it around here. I love the zillions of color choices.

  45. 45
    oldgold says:

    As Shakespeare noted, “A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear of him that hears it, never in the tongue of him that makes it.”

    That expressed, my intended jest was at comment # 36. * * *

  46. 46
    JPL says:

    OT It took Kraft awhile, but he issued a strong statement
    “I am deeply disappointed by the tone of the comments made by the President on Friday,” Kraft said in his statement, issued by the team. “I am proud to be associated with so many players who make such tremendous contributions in positively impacting our communities. Their efforts, both on and off the field, help bring people together and make our community stronger. There is no greater unifier in this country than sports, and unfortunately, nothing more divisive than politics. I think our political leaders could learn a lot from the lessons of teamwork and the importance of working together toward a common goal. Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful.”

  47. 47
    chopper says:

    @Dorothy A. Winsor (formerly Iowa Old Lady):

    I’d criticize you for being lazy, but…meh.

  48. 48
    chopper says:


    that’s pretty good. what I want to see is the NFL say something like “seriously, is there any protest more mild than quietly taking a knee during a fucking song? Also, don’t you have a goddamn job or something?”

  49. 49
    Currants says:

    @Misamericanthrope: they’re my favorites–I planted a ton this year, as well as a mix of other heirlooms, and NOT. ONE. blossomed. Only the other types did–and they’re great, but….

  50. 50
    satby says:

    @oldgold: @oldgold: gah, #36 blew right by me. Well played.

  51. 51
    Baud says:

    @oldgold: Got anything low brow for us plebs?

  52. 52
    debbie says:


    Good. I hope it enrages the Dotard.

  53. 53
    satby says:

    @Currants: When I first moved to MI, I planted beautiful soft pink morning glories, but what came up was purple ones. They grew really well and I was resigned to the idea that the seed package had been mislabeled. Imagine my surprise when the next year loads of pink morning glories grew and bloomed along with the purple ones! It took an entire year for the new seeds to sprout, the purple ones had been planted by the previous owner. And from then on, I had a very pretty mix trying to smother every other plant nearby 😆.
    So don’t be surprised if you get them next year. And forever, those puppies reseed like nobodies business.

  54. 54
    debbie says:


    Methinks thou overrates thyself, verily.

  55. 55
    Amir Khalid says:

    @mike in dc:
    I never expected to see a POTUS start a feud with an institution as popular in America as professional sport. Not just with players, but with clubs and leagues and even owners. I didn’t anticipate that anyone could be so stupid, or such an Arschloch.

  56. 56
    satby says:

    @debbie: I hope more and more players in every sport start doing it. I sat out the anthem while Shrub was president and the Abu Ghraib torture was in the news, and people were pretty mean about it.

  57. 57
    satby says:

    @debbie: nah, I LOLed. 3 stars… Orion’s belt. I’m slow sometimes.

  58. 58
    satby says:

    @Amir Khalid: I was thinking of you last night when I was trying to decipher the Deutsche on my Netflix home page. It (Netflix login) was hijacked by someone in Germany.
    Edited for clarity.

  59. 59
    Amir Khalid says:

    Ach, du solltest mich gefragt haben. Vielleicht könnte ich dir geholfen haben, oder?

  60. 60
    oldgold says:


    Out of 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, I gave myself 3. You are a tough grader!

  61. 61
    Amir Khalid says:

    More seriously:
    How do you suppose someone in Germany got hold of your idle account? If you’d secured that information, I would suspect that someone at Netflix gave it away or (more likely) sold it to someone looking for such accounts to exploit.

  62. 62
    Anne Laurie says:

    @bemused: Probably just the excitement, but when you take the dogs in, I’d tell the vet about your cats losing their breakfasts…

    Muskrats can carry the rabies virus, although rarely, and carry tularemia, as well as a kidney related disease called leptospirosis. Consult your veterinarian to make sure that your dog is up to date on their rabies vaccination, and ask your vet about vaccinating your dog against Lepto as well. If your dog is in contact with wildlife on a regular basis, it is a good idea to get vaccinated again Lepto just in case. If the dog has any wounds that don’t stop bleeding, or seem deep, take him to the local emergency hospital, or call your vet’s office to get him the care he needs. Muskrats carry plenty of bacteria in their mouths, so the bite wounds can easily get infected if not cared for properly.

  63. 63
    MelissaM says:

    Fabulous garden and gardener! You do so much with such little space, I feel like a complete slacker. I’ve put the tassel flower in my “try to remember for next year” bookmark.

  64. 64
  65. 65
    bemused says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Talked to vet and going in tomorrow am. Know one dog needs a couple of lip stitches & get both dog’s little cuts checked out.
    I had planned to mention kittie’s puking while at vets but they are prone to that especially the uber hoover cat. Putting 3 rocks in each cat dish has really helped slow down their eating and puking up their meals have significantly dropped. Piggy kitties.

    Vet also said muskrats are considered in the rodent family and rodents aren’t a big risk for rabies. He said labs told them not to bother sending squirrels and other rodents in to be tested for rabies.

  66. 66
    O. Felix Culpa says:

    Happy garden morning! The sun is shining and the air glistening after last night’s thunderstorms. We’ll be doing some garden clean-up and fall preparation after we’re finished savoring our morning coffee. I had a good, full night’s sleep, the first in a long time, and boy! does that make a difference. I have tomato seconds from the farmers’ market to turn in oven-roasted sauce, per satby’s wonderful recipe. Will also roast my beets and serve with local herb-marinated goats’ milk feta. Yum!

    Also, Trump is an Arschloch, Schweinhund, and Scheisskopf. For starters.
    h/t Amir Khalid

    edited for spelling and syntax errors.

  67. 67
    bemused says:

    @Anne Laurie:

    Dogs were lucky they only got minor cuts. Muskrats can slice and dice swiftly which is why we didn’t go near the dogs or muskrat. Once dogs in the house, my husband got his rifle but muskrat had skedaddled. Vet said he was checking his trap that had a muskrat and the thing jumped four feet in the air.

  68. 68
    bemused says:

    @O. Felix Culpa:

    Martin Longman said “The president is a born asshole seeking to lead very born asshole in the country”. Can’t disagree with that.

  69. 69
    Laura says:

    We painted our house “buy your LSD here” green, so the garden plants and flowers are in the flaming hot pinks and purple magenta range, but that tassle flower -wow!

    My zinnias are tip over heavy and so today it’s off to the garden shop for staking materials and sowing sweet pea and red clover cover crop, emptying milkweed seed pods and making milkweed seed balls for friends.

    I love Autumn.

  70. 70
    O. Felix Culpa says:


    “The president is a born asshole seeking to lead very born asshole in the country”.


  71. 71
    Kristine says:


    I just want to know why pet emergencies always, always happen on weekends for us.

    It was always Sunday late afternoon/evening for my crew. and always serious enough that I didn’t want to wait until the regular vet’s office opened on Monday morning. So off to the emergency vet hospital we went.

  72. 72
    MomSense says:

    Gorgeous flowers. Your containers are outstanding. Wonderful!!!

    If I can ever move my arms again (splitting wood is a workout) I need to start putting my garden to bed. Our neighborhood composting and raised beds was a big success this year and more people want to participate next year. A local farmer is going to deliver manure so I have shoveling shit to look forward to.
    A new family moved in. They are from Japan and grew up in farming families. It has been so much fun to see how they organize their garden. Next year should be even better.

  73. 73
    MomSense says:


    That’s when kid emergencies happen, too. Hope the dogs are both ok.

  74. 74
    No Drought No More says:

    I intend to plant a dwarf cherry tree this week myself. I also have a question, any answers to which I can read later tonight. The question: what is the best and largest butterfly-attracting bush that can be grown? I live in Sonoma county, Ca. (zone 9) and intend to plant one, in part to serve as a curtain between my yard and other peoples eyeballs. Bonus question: can butterfly bushes be grown in (large) terra cotta pots? I intend to get one right after the dwarf cherry is is bought and planted.

  75. 75
    Laura says:

    @No Drought No More: yes and yes! You might consider tall narrow containers that act as a wall with the butterfly bush as the fence top.
    Mexican sage would also work.

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