Sunday, June 7, 2015

My Sister's Neighborhood

Last week I was in Chicago visiting family and had a chance to walk around my sister's
neighborhood. It is an older area on the N.W. side of Chicago.  The homeowners take
pride and pleasure in planting and growing colorful trees, bushes, and flowers in their
yards.  On one afternoon, these are the blooming plants I found her neighborhood.
"Redbud" Tree

This beautiful flowering redbud was beside her municipal building.

White Viburnum looks like a bunch of kids is having a snowball fight in the yard.

White Viburnum

Elderberry flowers are lacy and delicate.

In recent years, after Chicago lost all of its majestic elm trees, the city has made a concerted
effort to plant a variety of trees in the city.  They have chosen to plant a number of
different flowering fruit trees along streets, and in the spring there are long lines of
beautiful white flowering trees along major and minor streets.  These do no bear fruit
and they are not messy with droppings.  This is a flowering pear.

Flowering Pear branches

Cluster of flowers on Flowering Pear

"Bleeding Heart Plants" were in several yards.

Allium seems to be very popular.  This is a huge ball about 7 inches across.  It is in
the onion family, but purely decorative.

The Bearded White Iris were just beginning to bloom.  They are very hardy and
multiply quickly.  This was part of a patch by an alley.

Greek Anemones ( or "Windflowers") are prolific in spring.

Greek Anemones  /  Windflowers

These were new to me, so I went up to the owner who was raking and asked.
They are "Leopard's Bane," one of the earliest flowers to bloom in the spring and a
very cheery yellow color.  The plant has been used for centuries by Native Americans 
for medicinal purposes, but only recently have horticulturalists used them for
pure decoration and beauty.  They are hardy and multiply quickly.

The man with "Leopard's Bane" then invited me to his backyard to show me the birdhouse
he made from scratch in his basement this winter.  He had a bunch of wooden dowel rods
which he notched like Lincoln Logs and made the cabin.

This "Fothergill Bush" is outside the Lutheran Church.  Little brush-like flowers
cover the bush.

A little gnome was keeping watch over a bunch of light blue violas.

Last week was the peak of the lilac season in Chicago.  I have not hit this for many years,
and it was a great pleasure to see the many varieties and colors of lilacs.  They are
frequently used at the back or side of yards, so I walked through several alleys to see
some of the best.  The pale lilac color is perhaps the most common, but there were
many others.  Not a single petal had fallen from the clusters; rain will do them in very
quickly.  I was very lucky to catch them at their best and fullest.

A lilac cluster.

These lilacs are showing above a six foot fence at the back of a yard.  The owner was
working on his truck in the alley, and when he saw me taking pictures, he invited me to
take an armful, as many as I wanted, back for a bouquet.

Clusters of lilac blossoms.

I don't know if I have ever seen lilac bushes so full and luxuriant.  The combination of
plenty of rain early, then sun shine and cool days to preserve them, were the perfect
conditions for the best of lilac growth.

Pure snowy white lilacs

Clusters of white lilacs

Wine red French lilacs.  You can't tell from the photo, but the clusters are smaller and
the individual flowers are much smaller than the others.  But the fragrance is much
stronger than the other varieties.

Very pale pink lilacs alongside a house.  Lilacs sucker profusely = send out underground roots
and then sprout new plants by the hundreds.  So owners are always happy to share shoots
with anyone who wants them and will dig them up.  I once surrounded two large yards
I had in Wisconsin with lilacs which I dug up from the yards of friends.  In just a few years
they are large beautiful bushes.

Clusters of pale pink lilacs.

Profuse blossoms beside an apartment building.

This is a row of lilacs between two houses.  The fragrance can be smelled
throughout the houses for several weeks.

Close-up of blossoms on rows of lilac bushes/

Rhododendron bushes.  Until a few years ago, rhododendrons could only be grown in
more moderate or warm climates.  But researchers, primarily at the U of Minnesota,
have been working on developing new, hardier varieties which can withstand a Chicago
or Minneapolis winter.  And they have succeeded very well.  You do need to plant them
near a building, I believe; you can't just plant them anywhere.  But they bloom as if
they were in North Carolina.

It was the same for their cousins, the azaleas.  But again, special new varieties have
been developed which can withstand the cold of harsh winters and bloom again in
early spring.

Each individual azalea blossom is exquisite.

An azalea bush.

Delft Blue Grape Hyacinths

And of course everyone loves tulips, so many different colors and types of tulips
can be seen in various yards.

A colorful variety of tulips in a front yard.

A bright, cheery bed of tulips in front of a town house.

Huge, luscious cream and raspberry double tulips in another front yard.

"Queen of the Night" is a showy black tulip which makes a great contrast with
the other colors.

Double red and yellow Parrot Tulips, about as showy as you can get.

Creeping Phlox are an old favorite for many people and keep their blossoms 
for a long time, covering rocks or otherwise bare ground.

I hope you have enjoyed this virtual walk through a colorful and typical
Chicago neighborhood.


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