When looking at different bonsai trees, you might notice the stylized beauty of their shapes and textures. A lot of thought and work are put into raising bonsai trees and pruning them just so, but for many bonsai artists, their containers are just as important as the plant itself. “The pot and the soil have a relationship just as much as the tree and the pot have a relationship. The tree-to-pot relationship is aesthetic and functional too,” said Chris Baker, curator of bonsai at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Plants and Gardening
Even when the Chicago Botanic Garden was buried in snow, our horticulturists would look for signs of spring and trade tips—did you see that winter aconite blooming underneath the crabapples? Spirits are high as early blooms emerge, well ahead of the first day of spring on March 20.
Even when snow is falling and temperatures plummet, I’m working on my backyard vegetable garden. I might not be harvesting tomatoes and zucchini yet, but I am still strategizing and prioritizing so I can squeeze the most out of the upcoming growing season.
My top pick for cool new plant species? The media has called it grotesque and compared to an eyeless worm. And our friends at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London described it as “the ugliest orchid in the world.”
In other seasons, people tend to breeze right by conifers in favor of, say, roses that scent summer evenings or crabapple trees that flower in the spring. But in winter—especially after a dusting of snow—pines and other conifers are the plants that shine.
Sometimes, it’s bright red holly berries that turn my head on a winter walk. Or, on a quiet day, it’s the sound of pine cones popping open to spread their seeds.
The gorgeous colors and geometry of dahlias always turn my head when they’re in bloom in my home garden from June through October. Recently, I decided to revisit an old goal and bugaboo of mine—learning to overwinter the tubers so I can plant them again and enjoy the blooms next year.
As a long winter approaches, I’m thinking ahead about comfort plants—ones that lift your spirits. As senior horticulturist for the Regenstein Center Greenhouses at the Chicago Botanic Garden, I talk to a lot of people about indoor plants. I get that you want potted plants that are easy to take care of (hello, spider plant). But there are other reliable ones with a bit more charm to help brighten the days ahead. Here are my recommendations:
Summer-blooming lavender is everywhere these days—in botanical cocktails, in aromatherapy mists, on fruit salads. The National Garden Bureau, in fact, has named 2020 “Year of the Lavender,” based on the plant’s texture, scent, beauty, and versatility.