Spirited Gardener Fall 2015 Inspiration

By Julie Bunn

This summer has been one of the wettest on record here in Chicago. In fact, Lake Michigan’s water level has returned to “Normal for the Region” in just two years. Experts say that Lake Michigan has risen more than 3 feet since January 2013! Naturally this can lead to issues for a home owner. One of the properties we transformed this summer had massive backyard flooding, from roof run-off and collecting from neighboring yards. After careful evaluation (and a lot of grading) from the Spirited Gardener, we now effectively manage the 425 gallons of roof run-off that floods this backyard in a 1 1/4″ rain event. We built up berms around the perimeter of our client’s backyard to block the flow coming from neighbors’ yards, and re-used the stones that had been covered in mud from countless years of flooding to edge the new garden and create a winding walk-way.

rainswellA crescent rain swale (pictured left) can beautifully reroute storm water that would otherwise pool in front of your home. The approaching winter’s frost/freeze cycle, which often creates dangerous icy patches on the public walkway, can be remedied by installing rain swales. Instead of creating giant puddles, the rain swale allows that water a place to go, and the deep-rooted plantings there help to absorb the storm water. Rain swales can be easily populated with daylilies and hostas.

September is the time to divide and rearrange your gardens, or start planting a new garden for spring. You can plant and transplant many shrubs and trees during this month with great success. The following are great choices for fall-planted shrubs in the Chicago area:

  • Black chokeberry ‘Iroquois Beauty’ (for a low-medium shrub)
  • Vernal Witch hazel (for a larger look)
  • Azalea Northern Lights series (for exquisite fall color)

September is also the time to order early-blooming spring bulbs, while October is the time to plant those spring bulbs you ordered in September. Many trees and shrubs can still be transplanted, but remember, the average First Frost date for the Chicago area in 2015 falls between October 13th and October 24th (Farmer’s Almanac) depending on whether you live closer to O’Hare (Oct. 13th) or Midway (Oct. 24th). Bulbs should be planted about 3 weeks before the ground freezes to give their roots some time to establish. Don’t have a bulb garden? Let Spirited Gardener design and plant one for you!


Hot Tip! Sprinkle cayenne pepper around your bulbs and work into the soil to keep bulb-loving critters away.

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