Today we’re visiting with Rachel, a gardener and artist living in Elgin, Illinois (Zone 5b). She moved in 2022 to 1.5 acres and is in the process of designing and planting a fabulous front garden. She’s also diving into forest restoration for the back half-acre—making it beautiful for wildlife and her kiddos.
She also visits and draws beautiful gardens whenever she can, and designs and installs gardens for clients.
It is the question every gardener gets asked: What’s your favorite plant? Rachel says hers is probably nasturtium (Tropaeolu majus, Zones 9–11 or as an annual). She loves it because the big seeds are easy to sow; it’s easy for her kids to handle and help plant; it vines and trails, helping to pull a new garden together; and every part of the plant is edible.
Rachel took a trip to Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania recently and sketched some of the beautiful garden sights she took in.
The kids make tiny houses while Rachel pulls out invasive weeds to help the forest thrive. She says that the time spent out in nature is so worth it, even with the checks for ticks and showers in case of poison ivy.
Rachel holds a stunning gladiolus (Gladiolus hybrid, Zones 9–11 or as a tender bulb). It’s amazing how something so gorgeous can grow from a small, unassuming corm.
Speaking of growing something wonderful from something unassuming, here’s a shot from February of winter sowing—seeds of native perennials, planted out. The cold weather will signal the seeds to germinate come spring, and the old milk cartons give them protection.
A sweet, fragrant little bouquet of sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus, annual) adds some perfume to the work space. Rachel says to remember to cut the flowers from your sweet peas so they’ll keep blooming. If you let them go to seed, they’ll fizzle out and stop flowering.
In spring these cool-season flowers in a planter really showed off: pansies (Viola × wittrockiana, cool-season annual or short-lived perennial), ranunculus (Ranunculus asiaticus, Zones 8–11 or as an annual), and a some grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum, Zones 3–9).
If you want to see more from Rachel, check out her Instagram: @gardenrach
Have a garden you’d like to share?
Have photos to share? We’d love to see your garden, a particular collection of plants you love, or a wonderful garden you had the chance to visit!
To submit, send 5-10 photos to [email protected] along with some information about the plants in the pictures and where you took the photos. We’d love to hear where you are located, how long you’ve been gardening, successes you are proud of, failures you learned from, hopes for the future, favorite plants, or funny stories from your garden.
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