Sunday, July 20, 2008

Allium bulgaricum: Bulgarian Onion

About two years ago I came across a package of Allium bulgaricum commonly known as Bulgarian Onion. From the moment I saw the photo on the package at the garden center I was enthralled by the unique bell shaped flowers that hang down. The flowers are pruple and green with a creamy white edge. It is said to be a deer resistant plant but in the inner city of Chicago that isn't something I have to worry about much. But that's where the positive qualities of this cousin of the onion begin and end.
This is how the flowers normally look when not being propped up to be photographed like in the picture above. Not very impressive is it? I often don't even notice that this bulb is in bloom unless I'm pulling a weed from somewhere near it. This drawback (IMO) was compounded by the fact I made the mistake of planting this bulb too far back in the garden bed so it also gets obscurred by other plants. I don't understand why this allium bulb is popular and readily available when so many other plants don't get the same amount of distribution. To truly enjoy this plant you'd have to be about 8-10 inches tall so you can look up and see inside the chandalier like flowers. Unlike other alliums in my garden I haven't noticed that this one is visited by bugs in the garden. Allium bulgaricum does make a good cut flower but it gives off a very pungent scent when cut or broken.

Unless you really love alliums and want to expand your collection of these bulbs I don't recommend this bulb. The flowers while nice, don't stand out in the garden much and don't seem to be attract many beneficial insects. I give this allium two out of five stars.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


I was surfing the web recently and came across a gardening forum I'd never seen listed before. I got curious and followed the link and came across which bills itself as a "Home & Gardening Community." I got curious and started to investigate the forum and see what it had offered that you couldn't find at a large place like GardenWeb or Dave's Garden or a niche forum like YouGrowGirl.

At first I wasn't very impressed with the design of the gardening forum. The landing page looked like your average phpbb portal and it seems to be designed for people with smaller screen resolutions. I don't have a large computer screen but even on my screen there is a lot of empty white space to the right of the portal giving it a bit of a lopsided appearance.

Instead of just judging the site by the skin the forum software used I decided I'd join and experience the forum like a regular person instead of someone trolling for an entry for a gardening review blog. After I signed up I posted in the welcome thread that every forum has to have and was very surprised at the number of responses my "hello" thread received in such a short time. I looked around the forum some more and posted here and there and was surprised yet again. I commented on a thread about a Stapelia (Carrion Plant) and mentioned how I'd wanted to have one of those plants for a long time. Later that evening I got an email in my inbox informing me that I'd had a private message awaiting me back on GardenStew.

At first I was worried that perhaps a moderator, or worse the site's admin, thought I was posting too much in a short period of time or maybe I'd violated some rule after opting not to read the TOS for the site. Imagine my surprise when it was a private message from a forum member offering me cuttings from her Stapelia after reading my reply in the thread.

Aside from the friendly tone of the members I was most impressed with some of the modern add-ons the forum provides for free to the community. Every member gets a free blog and any place that promotes blogs to gardeners is OK by me. The forum also has a feed that you can subscribe to be kept updated of new posts and there is even a tool bar for your browser so similarly keep you updated of the goings on at the forum. The site even features a member's gallery to help you share your pictures on the forum.

The GardenStew forums don't have the depth of a GardenWeb or Dave's Garden or even the hipster feel of YouGrowGirl but it has features that I think speak to a more internet savvy gardener. You could join a large forum like GardenWeb or Dave's Garden and be small fish in a big pond or you can find a smaller forum like GardenStew and be a big fish in a small pond. With a diverse membership that is quick to embrace a new gardener when GardenStew says they're "the friendliest" it doesn't feel hyperbole.

I give GardenStew 4 out of 5 stars for the modern garden forum features and friendly community of gardeners.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Cactus Blogs Hosted By Women

When I think of gardeners that grow cactus and succulent plants I don't always think of women. For some reason I always assume that cactus plants are grown mostly by men. Perhaps, I associate men with cacti and succulent plants because I see more men on forums and websites about these unusual plants. Or maybe it is the fact that cactus and succulent plants aren't always pretty looking plants on the surface. Gardening as a whole seems to be dominated by women where the subset of cacti and succulent plants to me seem to be dominated by men.

But on the blogosphere I've discovered two female gardeners that have helped shape my ideas of who grows cacti and succulent plants. Since I started a gardening blog I've become acquainted with two of them through my blog. While both women host blogs about the same plants and share valuable information on how to grow cacti and succulents their blogs are different. The biggest difference results from geography, one woman grows cacti in Arizona and the other grows cacti in Jamaica.

Jade blogs at "Sticky Fingers" where she shares photos and information on growing cacti plants in Jamaica. Her perspective and information is unique because she lives in a climate that doesn't always suit itself to growing cacti plants. Take her Cereus pernambucensis thats she grew from seed in 2003 that was damaged after Hurricane Dean passed through her area in August. One of the things I really admire about Jade and her cactus collection is that she does grow a lot of her plants from seeds as you can see in the entry on repotting her cacti. Jade's cactus blog is a treasure of information for those looking to identify a cactus or succulent plant in their collection.

The second female blogger that grows cacti and succulent plants is Aiyana from Arizona. Her blog "Water When Dry" is also about cacti and succulent plants but I've only recently become familiar with her blog after we exchanged comments. She too takes some nice pictures of plants and writes detailed information about the cactus and succulents in her collection. As an urban gardener with limited space I'm amazed at the amount of plants she has in her collection. What I particularly like about her blog is that her garden is low water use and great for the Arizona climate. I lived in Arizona for a while and was always amazed at the people who moved there from areas like the Midwestern United States and forced the ideas of lawns on an environment that can't sustain them. I met a lot of gardeners in Arizona who could benefit from reading Water When Dry and taking the plants she profiles and importing them into their gardens.

I have to give these two garden blogs 5 out of 5 stars because they are good resources for people who want to grow cacti and succulent plants. Stop by and be inspired by these garden blogs and be amazed by the variety of colors that a cactus can produce. Yes, cacti do flower.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Sprout Home (Chicago Garden Center)

Recently I had the opportunity to stop in and wander around Sprout Home, a little home decor/garden center in the city of Chicago. I'd passed by it a few times this summer but hadn't gone in because it looked like many pretentious shops in Chicago. Just about as soon as I stepped inside I immediately regretted never have gone in before.

When I stepped inside I was warmly greeted by two women who were in the middle of merchandising a section of the shop. We spoke for a couple of seconds about the trouble people who work in retail create for themselves when they take on the task of organizing something during business hours.

Sprout home carries cool modern home furniture and accessories but I couldn't really pay much attention to those items when I couldn't stop drooling at the selections of houseplants. They've done a good job of blending modern furniture and accessories with dramatic houseplants in their store. I couldn't help but drool over the Platycerium angolense I saw sitting inside of a large vase. I had to muster a lot of strength to keep myself from buying it and bringing it home to live next to my staghorn fern. At first I suffered a bit of sticker shock when I looked at the prices but when I took into consideration how many of these plants aren't available at big box garden centers the prices seemed more than reasonable.

When I stepped outside I was once again enthralled by the selection of annuals and perennials. They had everything from ground covers to trees and walking around I came across a few treasures that I have to add to my garden. I have to go back for a couple of toad lilies and a miniature hosta. The plant selection this garden center carries is a great addition to urban gardeners who are looking for plants to make their garden stand out from the rest in the city. Outside I winced a couple of times when I looked at the prices but when I once again realized that I was looking at unusual plants for a garden that you can't find in your local big box garden center the prices didn't seem that bad.

Sprout Home is a great garden center and it seems like it was tailor made for me. I can't remember the last time I came across such an impressive selection of indoor plants, cacti & succulents, annuals, perennials, trees and shrubs in one garden center in Chicago. As if the plant selection weren't enough they also offer free garden design services and participation in an organic co-op. I'm so impressed that such a little garden centers offers so much for urban gardeners in Chicago that I have to give Sprout Home four out of five stars.

Some of the merchandise can be see on their website Sprout Home and if you need directions see their entry on this Google Map.

Sprout Home
745 N Damen Ave
Chicago, IL 60622
312 226-5950

Sprout Home
44 Grand Street
Brooklyn, NY 11211
718 388-4440

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