I’m not one to know the Latin names of flowers or how often to water a cactus as opposed to an orchid or a daisy. In my world, the best tulip bulbs are merely expensive rabbit food, and one summer I spent over $700 to grow two ears of corn. But I do know enough to steal a good idea when I see one.
Ravinia’s award-winning gardens are filled with good ideas. But unless your Johnny Knoxville, you won’t want to repeat some of these stunts at home. It all started for me with a bed of Brown-eyed Susans just inside the west gate. They were tall with beyond-yellow petals surrounding smiley-face heads, looking the way God and Crayola-armed kindergarteners intend flowers to look. I spoke with the guy who planted them. Copied down the plant’s name and headed to the best garden center near my home. They had about eight different species of the plant. Not wanting to make any mistakes, I got a couple of each. As I got onto my knees in the soil—and believe me I’d rather spend the weekend watching Facts of Life reruns—then getting down on my knees in the soil—I imagined myself winning gardening awards, perhaps even for cross-pollenating these eight kinds of daisies into a new Super-Susan who could water herself and help me tend to the single corn stalk that survived the crows. Instead when the flowers finally did emerge—in the very last seconds of summer—they were small, pale and quite accusatory. Despite being perennials, they didn’t bother to come back.
When you fail, steal another idea. Something from Ravinia’s gardens were bound to take root. So by trial and error, I’ll tell you about a couple of the plants that look great at Ravinia and equally good at my house. That means they’re damned easy to take care of:
·Plantation Lilies—for my money, the best looking hostas out there. This hardy shade-loving plant has elephant-ear leaves and tall stalks of white to purplish flowers.
·False Spirea—I don’t know what true spirea is, but it can’t be any better than this great flowering border plant, which shoots up a beautiful plume of small-bud flowers (in a variety of colors from purple to red to white), but looks equally beautiful when not in bloom at all.
·Coral bells—Out of the shade and into the sun, these plants work best in mounds. The leaves are big and they have slender stalks with handing flowers. Put them in the ground and stand back.
Remember, just add water. I’m not a big water drinker myself—I had a glass in the ‘70s—preferring Diet Coke for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it’s sometimes hard for me to remember that even these easy-living plants need H20. So get a hose and live it up with your Ravinia-at-home garden.
Director of Communications