Intimate gardens of Spring Fling

Mr. McGregor’s Daughter’s garden

On Thursday before Chicago Spring Fling, Mr. McGregor’s Daughter invited those she knew were arriving early to visit her garden, Squirrelhaven.

Several of us took the train from the hotel that afternoon and were met at the station by an open-armed, excitedly yelling MMD, who squeezed us into her car and drove us to her home, where we spilled out into her garden and started oohing and aahing and snapping photos. Above is a rabbit’s-eye view of her entry garden with phlox. The photo at the top of the page is from her back garden.

I hadn’t realized from reading her blog just how long and skinny her garden is. It’s a challenging layout, but she’s created a garden that draws you through it with paths and trellises. I knew it would be shady, and I love the way she uses bright leaves to lighten up the dark corners.

Her irises were in bloom, putting her garden squarely in spring, whereas Austin has already moved into summer. It was wonderful to revisit spring again, especially the cooler temperatures that prevailed during our visit (generally low 70s for the high).

Thanks for your hospitality, MMD! Nary a squirrel did I see, but your garden is truly a haven.

Carolyn Gail’s garden

Another intimate garden visit occurred on Saturday, during the official Spring Fling bus tour. Garden designer and blogger Carolyn Gail met us for a delicious Mediterranean lunch at Andies and then graciously welcomed us into her small town-garden—all 50 or so of us. If that many tromping feet and snapping cameras made her nervous, she didn’t show it, and we all made our way into her back garden for a brief rest, a painting giveaway (lucky Frances won Carolyn’s lovely painting), and a free potted petunia from Proven Winners.

It was so crowded with Spring Flingers that I slipped back out to the charming front garden, where this Japanese maple was stealing the show with autumnal-looking spring foliage. I ran into Dee there, who knows all about growing Japanese maples in Oklahoma and hotter climates, and we talked for a bit. She can give you the scoop on this one, I bet. I’ve already forgotten the name.

Update: The name is Acer japonicum ‘Autumn Moon’, a hybrid of ‘Full Moon.’ Thanks for the ID, Carolyn Gail!

This cute rabbit ornament is better than having the real thing in your garden.

Thank you, Carolyn Gail, for welcoming us into your restful garden oasis in the city.

Ginkgo Organic Gardens

Another stop on Saturday’s tour was Ginkgo Organic Gardens, a community garden squeezed into the footprint of a torn-down brownstone. I like seeing bikes in gardens—sustainable, non-polluting transportation to go with the sustainable gardening, right?

Volunteers at Ginkgo grow around 1,500 pounds of produce annually, which they donate to nonprofit organizations serving low-income Chicago neighborhoods. One of the founders gave us a tour of this remarkably successful community garden. Check out the blog Ginkgo Gardens Journal about its operations.

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

16 Responses

  1. Randy says:

    How lucky you are to see their gardens in person! They both look just lovely from the pictures!

  2. What a wonderful tour you had! Such pretty gardens — I’m sure it does feel like going back a season, too!


  3. Pam, The aftermath of Spring Fling, for all of us who didn’t attend, has been the wonderful holographic picture of the Flingers and their gardens. Thank you all. And did you get the name of that Japanese maple?

    Helen, see Carolyn Gail’s comment below for the name. —Pam

  4. gail says:

    You’ve captured all three gardens deliciously! I am so glad I made it to MMD’s beautiful wildflower garden. She was truly a gracious host. Carolyn Gail was totally at ease with us, too….and there were a lot more bloggers and feet! I’ve already planted the petunias…my first, ever! gail

  5. carolyngail says:

    With that wonderful magical camera of yours why didn’t you make me look 10 years younger and 10 lbs. thinner, Pam ? Just kidding. So glad to meet you and welcome you to my small urban oasis.

    Thanks for the great coverage on the Chicago gardens. It’s very special to see it through a visitor’s eyes, especially creative ones such as yours.

    The photo you took of my maple is outstanding. This variety is Acer Japonica ‘autumn moon, a hybrid of the ‘full moon ‘. It is extremely slow growing and is hardier than the Acer Palmatum. I just adore it and everyone who sees it remarks on its unique beauty.

    It seemed that the hour the Spring Flingers spent in my garden just whizzed by. Wish I’d had more time to chat with everyone.

  6. Seeing MMD’s and Carolyn’s gardens through your lens is ‘almost’ as good as being there. They both look fabulous (and their gardens aren’t so bad, either!) hehe!

  7. You are a lucky girl! It must have been just wonderful to meet all the bloggers and visit their gardens and then this Chicago Spring Fling I so wish I could have been there. I’m so jealous! Anyway thank you for the very guided tour.

    Greetings from Stockholm / Tyra

  8. I just knew you could make my garden look better in photos than I could. Yes, my garden is long and skinny, just like me. ;^) I swear there are lots of squirrels in Squirrelhaven, but they are most active in the morning. Or maybe the crowd scared them off.

  9. Susie says:

    What beautiful photos, I especially love that yummy Japanese Maple.

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Pam, your descriptions of the private gardens we saw is just perfect. They were lovely in their own right and it was a treat to see them all.

  11. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Wasn’t MMD’s garden a delight? It was such a treat to see the plants we’ve read about all this time! Her enthusiasm for her garden is definitely contagious!

  12. Jenny B says:

    I am enjoying all the pictures and descriptions from Spring Fling–I can tell you all had a wonderful time. It’s always nice to see the garden up close and personal, and you have managed to do that admirably! Thanks, Pam!

  13. Frances says:

    Hi Pam, your rabbit’s eye view brought a wide smile. MMD’s garden was a grand use of an unusual space, it was welcoming and soothing. That lunch at Andie’s was so good, it would be a favorite haunt of mine. Thanks for the link love, Carolyn Gail’s painting hangs proudly right in front of the lazyboy where it can be admired regularly, I love it, and the artist who painted it. Her home was as delightful as her gardens too. Imagine that many people traipsing around their home, oh that’s right, you did that last year! :-)

  14. Dee says:

    Pam, it was lovely talking to you out front. A nicer surprise I can’t imagine. Weren’t all of these very personal gardens amazing? Thanks for the link love.~~dee

  15. Can’t believe you snapped MMD in such a calm, relaxed pose sitting down; very sweet portrait of a veritable whirlwind!

  16. Bob Walton says:

    Pam, thank you for these beautiful photographs. They capture the essence of the subject. I am writing a novel about a Texas girl in prehistoric Africa and was looking fot information about the indegenous trees of east Africa and happened to click on an image from your site and as I looked through these inmages, I was struck by the depth of your talent.