A self-proclaimed “plant geek,” Cheryl received her Horticulture degree at Milwaukee Area Technical College. She spent many years working in the Otter Creek Landscape division and at John Michael Kohler Arts Center gardens. She’s now the office manager for The Wreath Factory and Otter Creek Landscape. Check out her blog for tips, travels and things that pop up in her garden.


Getting Ready for Winter
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 10/27/13

I know it’s hard to cut back perennials that are still blooming or empty those containers when the annuals are looking good but you have to do it sooner or later and I would rather do it when the temperatures are above 45 degrees and there is not snow involved.  So this weekend I set out to do all the “have to do tasks” hoping I would be able to then have time to do the “can do tasks” next weekend.  First on my list was to tie up the arborvitaes.  Below is the picture from January  when I remembered that I forgot to do something last fall.

I found the best way to tie them up is with something soft and stretchable like old pantyhose.  These work so well that if you do not have old ones to spare I would suggest buying them new to use for this (the knee high type is the perfect length).  Also remember to gather all of the stems when tying them together as I found out some of mine had 3-5 for each arb.  There were two of us doing this so it didn’t take long to complete 9 of them.

Next I had to protect my fruit trees as this spring I discovered that the rabbits loved chewing the bark off my newly planted trees.  They generally chew up to about 18″ unless there is heavy snow fall so I wasn’t taking any chances and protected about 30″ of the trunk of the tree with some tree wrap and tree guard.  I will also protect the crabapples too.

The rabbits also had a fondness for blueberry shrubs so we protected them using hard wire mesh, rebar and zip ties.  The newly planted blackberry shrubs also got the same treatment.  The rabbits must have liked my backyard for snacking as last year they also took a liking to the dappled willow and burning bush.

Time to also collect seeds from the annuals for next year.  I was able to get cosmos, morning glory and zinnia seeds.  Make sure the seeds are thoroughly dry before sealing the container (that lesson was learned the hard way) as they can get moldy.  I use zip lock baggies but in past years have also used clasp envelopes.  Reminder to label and date them.

I noticed the parsley was still looking good so I chopped some up and put in ice cube trays, added water and froze them.  Then placed them  in zip lock baggies, labeled and dated them so I can enjoy them this winter in stews and soups.  A few weeks ago I also did this with marjoram, rosemary and chives.

Other things we accomplished was to dig up the rest of the parsnips, leeks and rutabagas,  removed the dead canes from the raspberries and trimmed the new canes back.  The garden is pretty empty right now so I am ready to try a new method of controlling the weeds and increasing the production of my garden.  This week we will be laying down cardboard and layering over that with peat moss, compost, straw and leaves.  I checked a few books out from the library on lasagna gardening to get some ideas.  I will keep you informed next year if I am successful.

One last thing to do before dark was to gather all my garden stakes and garden art to store in the landscape shed.  A few years ago I saw this idea for storing garden stakes in a magazine using overturned crates and using zip ties to keep them together.

I like to store all of the garden art from one garden together on a shelf so it is easier in spring to set it out again.  The music playing insects, Bach bust and trumpet are all from the music garden.  My collection of wind chimes (6 of them) are stored on hooks on the wall so they don’t get tangled.  When our garden shed was built two years ago I had lots of shelves installed and a peg board on one wall with lots of hooks.  It’s amazing how fast the shed gets filled in the winter months.

I hope next weekend is as productive as this past weekend as I still would like to cut back more perennials, add compost to the herb garden and raspberry patch, repot the tropicals that were brought in the house and rake the leaves.  Hoping you have plenty of time yet to put your garden to bed for the winter!


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Week 5 - Conifer Garden
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 03/20/13

Welcome to week five and a tour of the Conifer Garden.   The bed is anchored by two very large spruce trees with an assortment of evergreen or conifer shrubs and trees.  Year one the garden consisisted of the anchor spruces, a very lonely, small weeping spruce and a golden larch.  The next four years I had fun collecting unusual and common additions: such as, Pinus parviflora 'Arnold Arboreetum Dwarf' - Japanese White Pine, Juniperus chinensis 'San Jose' - weeping Juniper, Chamaecyparis pisifera'Boulevard' - Boulevard Cypress,  Thuja occidentalis 'George Peabody' - Arborvitae and Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Sungold' - Threadbranch Cypress.  This garden has many textures, colors (many shades of green, yellow and blue) and winter interest. 

This Metasequoia glyptostroboides - Dawn Redwood is one of my favorites.  The soft bright feathery green leaves turn bronze in fall before dropping.  The shreddy reddish brown bark is great for winter interest.  Watch out for the size on this one as it can get 70-80' tall and 30-40' wide.  I look forward to watching the emerging needles in spring of this deciduous confier.  There are smaller cultivars of this one ('Miss Grace' - weeping form and 'Silhouette' - narrow form, 'Jack Frost' - variegated) if you don't have room in your backyard.  Be prepared for your neighbors to think your tree has died when the needles fall off of this confier in fall.

I picked this cute little weeping Norway Spruce - Picea abies 'Pendula' at the well known nursery Rich's Fox Willow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, IL.  It will grow 6' in 10 years and can be staked or left to grow as a groundcover.  It is a conversation piece in this garden.  The new growth is brightly colored and soft.

Everyone visiting my garden love to touch this soft two tone curled up needles of the Abies koreana 'Horstmann's Silberlocke' - Korean Fir.  This conifer also produces unusual violet-blue cones.   

This small shrub looks like it has dreadlocks with it's wild mop-like needles.  The Thuja plicata 'Whipcord' - Western Red Cedar grows 3-6" per year and in ten years will be 3' tall and 2-1/2' wide.  The first time I saw one I knew I had to have it!

Originally this Abies balsamea 'Piccolo - Dwarf Balsam Fir was planted in the Music Garden.  Somehow it just didn't look right among all the perennials so I moved it to the Conifer Garden.  This will get 1-2' in ten years so it looks great in the front of the garden near some large rocks.   

The first time I saw this type of Pine was at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center Gardens in Kohler, WI.  When you look at the end of the branch, the needles with their yellow bands look like a Dragon's Eye so that is probably why it is called Pinus densifolia 'Oculis-draconis' - Dragon's Eye Pine.  It is a unique addition to any garden. 

The addition of this Pinus strobus 'Blue Shag' - Dwarf White Pine was acquired on my birthday a few years ago.  The soft texture and blue-green color looks great in large rock gardens.

Bright silver-blue on the undersides of the needles and green on the top of this flat topped conifer make this a very colorful bicolor dwarf spruce.  It also produces reddish-purple cones when it becomes mature.   It's name is Picea bicolor 'Howell's Dwarf Tigertail'. It will get 4' tall and 6' wide in 15 years.

Here is a small section of the conifer garden on the east side of our lot.  Right now there is no room to add more evergreens (darn) but soon I will have to consider moving some that will get too big for the area.  I know I should have thought of that when I planted them but then the garden would have looked too sparse for me.  Last year we removed the lower non-attractive branches on the large spruce trees and planted pachysandra (groundcover) beneath one and solomon's seal under the other one.  We did this to another spruce on the north lot line and planted hostas beneath.  This look improved the tidiness of the spruces.  There is little maintenance in this garden except for occasional weeding and adding fresh mulch every other year.  I'll be back next week for another garden tour in my series. 

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What’s Blooming?
by Cheryl Walsh - posted 05/20/12

This is one of the best times of the year where you can walk out into your gardens and see something new every day.  A few weeks ago I was gone for three days and it felt like it was longer than that when I revisted my gardens.  The redbuds were just starting to leaf out and the cute small red/pink flowers were dropping.  The poppies were rapidly growing larger and started to form the beginning of the anticipated orange/red flowers.  The cornflowers popped up everywhere......it's amazing how I started with one in the front of my house and now they are on the west and north sides of the house.  Don't plant this one unless you don't mind them traveling all over your yard.  Last fall I planted 100 Spanish Bluebells and was finally glad to see them bloom.  They were much later than the Virginia Bluebells.  Hope you enjoy the pictures of some of my favorites from the backyard. 


 Centaurea montana - Cornflower & Iberis sempervirens - Candytuft Snowflake 

 Solomon's Seal - a shared treasure from a friend and great to plant under a tree. 

 Picea abies 'Pendula' - Weeping Spruce:  This I bought at Rich's Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, IL on a field trip with other MATC students.  It was a great addition to my conifer garden collection.  

 Weigela Shining Sensation & Allium 

 Epimedium x 'Rubrum' - Red-leaved Epimedium, Spanish Bluebells & Hostas

This is the B.J. Garden in honor of my two nephews.  I never heard so much laughing & giggling when they discovered my hammock for the first time.  They both take pigs to the County Fair so I was thrilled to find the cement flying pigs to add to the garden.  I've also added some garden art with blue accents.  My nieces have their own garden at my house and you guessed it......most of the plants are pink in that garden to remind us of the those trying years that Delaney would only wear the color pink.  

 Geum triflorum - Prairie Smoke:  I know I posted a picture of this before but this plant is very photogenic!  This native perennial with red fall color is a must have for your perennial garden.  I would love to hear what's blooming in your gardens.




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