Saturday, May 21, 2011

WFT Extra 008: Chicago Balcony Gardening

I just thought it would be nice to share my recommendation of perennial plants that you might want to consider growing on your balcony.  I am not a professional gardener, so these are just from four years of my limited experience of balcony gardening in the Windy city. 

- Clematis -> needs leading and trimming but pretty low maintenance.  almost impossible to kill it. 
- Phlox -> very strong.  grows a lot. 
- Campanula  -> it grows at decent rate. 
- Dianthus  -> depending on the specie, some gets weaker over the years. 
- Blue Salvia  -> it pretty much sustains the original size. 
- Iris ->  very strong.  it should not be planted with other plants. 
- Lily -> not over powering but very durable. 

- Muscari -> it came back every year but got weaker each time. 
- Lupine -> it was fine for the first 2 years.  do not like humidity.  
- Mum -> some looked very weak the second year. 

- French Lavender -> totally died after the first winter.  
- Any potted tree -> we killed two firs and a plum tree.
- Oswego Tea -> cannot stop growing.  it'll take over your entire balcony.  it looks like a weed. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

015: Flower Island

I was doing spring cleaning this past weekend and found a vase that I got from our friends' wedding that I totally forgot where I placed.  So I took the opportunity to used this vase as an inspiration of this week's WFT.  It's a shallow bowl that they used for center pieces.  We had the original plant (it was Japanese Peace Lily) for a while but it died when we went abroad.  We couldn't ask our cat sitter to sit plants as well... 

I went to Fleur de Lis this week for the first time in a while.  They had so many handsome flowers and I couldn't decide what to get again!  I got a stem of these pink flowers, which I forgot the name of, some purple Anemones and a stem of Dianthus.  My idea was to create an island with Dianthus in the center of the vase surrounded by water and the flowers were growing out of it.  Since we live in a condo and can't have a pond on our terrace, this is a quick alternative for a little urban oasis;)  I used a flower frog in the middle to make the island.  The vase was bigger than I thought compared to what I came back from the store, so I cheated a bit again and used my garden flowers.  I added Pansies and Phlox and made them floated on the water.  This is a trick I learned recently from a TV show to make an arrangement with a tight budget.  In the show, they used a mirror to reflect the floating petals.  I didn't have a large enough mirror to try it out but I thought it was quite brilliant and would like to try it sometime.

It was very quick from the start to finish but I am very satisfied with.  I think the key to make a quick good arrangement is not to have a very strong idea from the beginning.  If you do, then, you get stuck with what you want it to look like so much that you might kill the natural beauty of the flowers.  Now, the only concern that I have with this arrangement is my cats might try to drink water out of it!  Let's hope not.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

014: Fragrant Capsule

I had been looking for English roses to do some experimental arrangements by accentuating it's fragrance.  I just happened to be at Prentice Women's Hospital to see my friends and their new born baby and realized that when I was there to give birth to my son last summer, I always wanted to stop in to the flower shop but never got the chance.  Finally I got to check the shop out and it was very nice.  They have a good size inventory and the store set up is really interesting.  It is in the lobby and basically have no designated "retail space" but they are at one corner of the lobby and have a large exterior iron gate that separates their area and the rest of the lobby.  
I went in not expecting that they would have English roses but they had one!  And it's the light pink one that I really wanted get.  The shop clerk told me that it smells so good.  I was truly lucky:)  I got one stem that had a big blossom and a couple of more buds.  I also got stems of similar color Alstroemeria and some greens.

My idea came from a candle display at a flower shop in Paris called Odorantes that they had each one in separate glass domes and that captures the fragrance.  I was wondering if I could capture the fragrance of English roses in a glass capsule.  I only had various size glass vases and decided to use them upside down on a teacup saucer.  Because of the size of the vases, I was able to make three arrangements.  Though it took me about three attempts, I realized that I NEEDED to make more than one and killed some Alstroemerias.

At the end, I don't know if these were a success or not...  In terms of capturing fragrance, I did succeed.  It smelled so good.  But, I noticed that because they are living thing, it condensates in the glass.  Oh well, making unconventional object is not an easy thing to do;P

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

013: Gardening Season Begins

FINALLY!!!  The gardening season has arrived after months and months of cold grey winter.  This week, I didn't do $10 arrangement but I went to my favorite nursery called The Growing Place in Aurora, a far west suburb of Chicago, to get some plants to fill up my dead terrace.  The weather was wonderful and my son had an awesome time with his grandma walking around a beautiful garden while his mama being busy shopping.

I had been buying a lot of perennials since we moved into our current place in the city, which has a good size terrace with planters along the edge so that the flowers would come back every year.  But after trying this for several years and not being completely successful each year because the winter here is way too brutal for any plants in planters, I basically gave up on adding more perennials and went with all annuals.  I was ignorant enough not knowing that even though perennials come back each year, their blooming period is very short and you cannot enjoy them for a long time.  On the other hand, annuals are obviously not coming back next season, but they tend to have a longer blooming period and a lot of them bloom all summer long.  So this year, I decided to add more annuals to my "garden".

I wanted to get Rananculas every season but never got one because it's an annual flower, so I grabbed a yellow one first even though it is a spring flower and won't last incredibly long.  The reason why I chose yellow was that my mom told me that yellow flowers bring you wealth according to Feng shui;P  And I was going crazy going back and forth in the annual section and got about eight various flowers.  Of course I color-coordinated them imagining what goes where.  In addition to the planters on the edge of our terrace, I had several pots available this year that contained dead plants, and choosing the flowers for them was basically the same procedure as making bouquets.

The last item that I got was a bush of roses.  For a long time, I wanted to try growing roses but was hesitant to do it because it seemed like so much work and didn't think it would grow in a pot or a planter.  But I re-read an old magazine I got a long time ago that had some articles about growing different types of roses and they encouraged me to get one.  I was going to get a pot of English roses because one of the articles said it can be grown in a pot fairly easily.  As I was about to get it, I decided to ask a shop clerk there for her opinion.  She told me that English roses are very fragrant but only bloom once during the season, whereas spray roses bloom all season long.  She actually grew one herself once in a pot and was very easy and enjoyed it a lot.  So I went with spray roses.

I planted everything and now I can't wait to see everything settles and grows bigger.  I love cut flowers a lot but I also LOVE planted flowers.  They have a different kind of enjoyment.  They change everyday and grow more beautiful over time.  Also, you can enjoy some of them as cut flowers as well.  I am hoping that I can add them to my WFT arrangement sometime!  If you are hesitant to grow flowers or plants in your garden, please try it.  I love to garden because it makes me forget everything that's bothering me while I'm touching the plants and it works as a true therapy for me.