Garden Tours: jmorth

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Posted by @Sharon on
It's an amazing garden we're touring today, the creation of a man, his plants and his flying friends. We think you are going to enjoy this trip to Illinois. Come join us and be sure to click the images so you can enjoy the full view.

(Editor's note:  Symbiosis is close and often long-term interaction between different biological species.

We don't usually show close images of individual plants in our most recent Garden Tours because we have the same images in our Database; but jmorth's gardens are beautiful year round because of the symbiotic relationship with which they have been created. We thought you might enjoy seeing the results of a close connection between man, flying creatures and plants.)

My garden is a source of discovery and satisfaction. I get a thrill from seeing new plants and I get a hefty dose of satisfaction when walking in the garden or resting on a bench reflecting on everything around, thinking, “I made this; pretty neat!"
Also, I like the way it invites nature up close - I find butterflies, dragon & damselflies, hummingbirds, hummingbird moths, and many insects to be quite fascinating.

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My garden's age - present incarnation is 15 years old.


I use a computer program (Paint) to map and note my garden’s historical trends.  Using Paint I can update changes in the garden on a daily basis. I periodically save changes into a separate folder for historical reference. At season‘s end, the final map incarnation is also saved. Over winter I erase all the annuals and potted containers to give me a new working map for the next season.
The columns on the top delineate what’s growing in front of the house (not mapped), wildflowers, containers, seed started plants, self-seeding plants, vines growing, and ground covers. The top portion to the right tracks newly sighted butterflies, dates of Hummingbird and Hummingbird Moth sightings as well as a log of field expeditions into the wild.

The boxes under the garden diagram have lists of pro-active tasks to complete, selected lengths of blooming times, listings of bulbs, annuals, and perennials. A couple of the boxes are dedicated to yearly tomato into ground dates and first harvests. Those boxes comprise maybe a fifth of the bottom space. The rest of the area is pretty much devoted to Lilies. Lily blooming times are noted by name and date yearly. The illustrated map notes these progressions from 2006 to 2011 (ran out of room last year so made the record in the open area of the house diagram).

My early gardening experiences were with my parents and grandparents who were avid gardeners all (mostly vegetables, laid out in perfect grids).
In the 80’s I worked for a seed company as an assistant field rep, field inspector, and liaison to the trucking companies utilized for processing grain. During that span of time I had access to the company’s research greenhouse and really got into seed propagation.

One year I was placed in charge of 5000 acres of seed corn contracted to growers with irrigation systems along the Illinois River in Mason and Tazewell counties (quite rural with a lot of land forested). I drove a company pickup to and from those areas pretty much daily that summer. To occupy my mind during those travels I learned to identify around a hundred plants (weeds and wildflowers) observing them in passing. One day I happened to come upon a wild lily, L.phildadelphicum, the 'prairie lily'or 'wood lily' out in the middle of nowhere. It looked interesting and at that time I wasn’t really familiar with the genus Lilium so I got out and went for a closer inspection. I walked over to it and just stared, it was beautiful. I think that experience helped propel a newly emerging appreciation of flowering plants to a new level culminating in the obsession it has developed into today.

Walking out the back door one might think ‘some kind of tropical’ for the driveway and garage area are concrete and are where the large pots and containers host Gloriosas (growing up trellises) and other exotic bulbs (Pineapple lilies, Peruvian daffodils, Rain lilies, Blood lilies, Crinums, Tuberose, and dwarf lilies.)


Driver's view pulling into garage by back door in mid summer.

Two images as seen from my back door.

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The very shaded north side of the house is home to ferns, hostas, and forest wildflowers.  Main garden area is typically reflective of Midwestern zone 5/6 environment, though I must admit there are a lot of rocks out there. (Rock collecting is another passion I cultivate).

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  My favorite plant that grows well and will always be a part of my garden?
I can realistically only answer that query with a plural response..
a) Lily - 125 different varieties:

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Mint Fizz Grand Cru & Kentucky

b) Rudbeckias (self-seeded crosses) - Definitely one of my favorite flowers. Years ago my garden received its first Rubeckia hirta, I'm not sure which variety came first; it performed well and to my delight some of the originals survived that winter. The following spring I noted quite a few new seedlings and ascertained it was a self-seeder. The winter before that spring I'd started a couple different varieties under lights in the basement, subsequently transplanting them into the garden where they (and the few survivors and their offspring) again made a most favorable impression on me. Next season I started yet another variety or two and translocated those new plants in amongst the ones already in the garden. This was probably the first time I noted some of the self seeded ones weren't necessarily like their parents in form or bloom. Some of these new forms displayed distinguishable characteristics of different parental lines on the same plant! I concluded the original varieties were getting crossed naturally and their offspring would inevitability present different characteristics. The originals planted in those formulative gardening year's were Cherokee Sunset, Green Eyes, Prairie Sun, Chim Chiminee, and Irish Eyes.

Every season thereafter has found me in a state of eager anticipation as to what new presentations I would discover where the 'Rudy's' grow. Every year since, something new has blessed my visual palette. Some are amazingly beautiful, some downright bizarre, but always something new.

Perennial variety


c) Gloriosas - started out with 2 from Mobot, last year’s tally was well over 300. At least 15 large and very large containers are utilized every year.  Hummingbirds love them.

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 d) New England Asters (wild type) - Butterfly Magnet.
My New England Asters reach their zenith during September which corresponds with the Great Monarch migration. Monarchs use the asters to supercharge their energy reserves to fortify them for their grand journey back to Mexico over winter. Monarchs certainly are not alone in their use of these asters in early fall; there's at least a dozen other butterflies noted sampling this aster's nectar.

Red Admiral
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Checkered White Painted Lady

I call this photo 'Convergence', Sulphur, honey bee, and smaller bee (from the left) about to come together.


Asters and Goldenrod

Basically my garden would fall into the cottage garden classification. It evolves according to whim and fancy but remains firmly tied together with it’s core of 4 (lily, coneflower, gloriosa, and wild aster).
I hope it reflects myself in that as the season progresses, it just keeps getting better.

Summary of garden progression: Outside season commences with spring bulbs and flowers blooming

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Tulips Blue Phlox

By June, the lilies take over and constitute garden’s backbone (aided by coneflowers) for 2 months.

Mass of red lilies - early blooms for lilies, and a week later:

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Classic shot of back bench from '09


Midsummer when
Lilies and Rudbeckias combine together well.


By now, the Gloriosa show is in full stride and will carry on through August and a bit beyond.
Hummingbirds are a common sight on a daily basis now


A lot of gardens around here start to decline in the dog-days of summer, but here the stage is set to only get better. Magic lilies suddenly appear in early August
supplemented by dahlias and giant sunflowers (bird magnet).


 Vista illustrating sunflower extent (some magic lilies visible too). Sunflower seed acts as a bird magnet.


Then in early September, the fall clematis show sets the stage for the culminating presentation, vast stands of New England Aster.

Sweet Autumn Clematis and Aster and Goldenrod Arch

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The asters are supplemented by chrysanthemums, goldenrod, and annual self-seeded Nicotiana (enticing hummingbird moths as the sun sets).

Chrysanthemum 'Mary Stoker' w/ Buckeye  and the Flowering Tobacco w/ Hummingbird Moth

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This month should see a new fence along the north and east boundries of my gardens.

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One dilemma faced every spring is where next to place tomato plants (recommended to rotate sites every year).
Tomatoes are grown in 5' cages made of heavy gauge steel wire. Here is one fall day's harvest.


And to answer your last question 'do your gardens reflect your personality'?
I hope it reflects myself in that as the season progresses, it just keeps getting better. 


jmorth, your Garden Tour is an education in itself. Thank you for sharing your garden views, but also thank you for the powerful example of symbiotic relationships that can take place very nearly year round with careful planning and loving attention.

Our best wishes to you and to all who dwell in your gardens.


Join us again soon when Trish and I take you on another Garden Tour.


Comments and Discussion
Thread Title Last Reply Replies
Beautiful! by plantladylin Apr 21, 2022 9:20 PM 2
Untitled by evelyninthegarden Jun 5, 2021 11:08 PM 0
Amazing! by flaflwrgrl Jul 13, 2012 7:11 AM 20
Does this reflect gardeners personality? YES by vickidee4 May 23, 2012 11:10 PM 2
I am speechless!!!! by flowersrjen May 21, 2012 1:11 PM 1
Inspiring! by maryann May 21, 2012 1:11 PM 1

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