Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Changing of the update on Chicago Streetscaping

Last June when I wrote about the streetscaping and plantings around downtown Chicago, I mentioned that it would be fun to watch these evolve over the summer. Evolve they did. Now with the return of fall's cooler weather and frost imminent, that evolution has dramatically accelerated as crews mysteriously rip out the old and replace with the fall mums, kale, pansies, etc. Somewhat sad that the planter outside of Union Station was switched to mums last week, before I could re-stock my supply of Verbena Bonariensis seeds. Or that the masses of coleus along Willis Tower and on Michigan Ave were replaced before I could put my "grab some cuttings at the last minute before frost" stealth operation into gear.

I've had several trips into the city since June, and on each one have discovered new plantings, new gardens. And on each visit, I have snapped many, many pictures with my phone. All within downtown, all walking distance from Union Station. Thought I'd share some of my favorite spots, and how they've changed since June....

I am especially taken with the series of annual beds along Michigan Ave, just south of the Art Institute. On my first trip they had just been planted. This is them on June 23, August 1, September 9, and today the last day of September. The Castor Beans are stunning. Taller than me, providing strong interest in the center.

Of course a visit to those beds requires a quick hello to the lions outside of the Art Institute and the grand plantings they watch over. In their summer glory and today in the new fall look.

The Willis Tower outside patio used one of my favorite garden combos - yellow and blue. Here it is as it was last week with the blue Salvia and yellow Cannas sharing the stage with the chartreuse Ipomoea batatas or sweet potato vine, and today in fall colors, salvias gone replaced by mums and kale:

An early morning walk on my trip the 1st week of September had me stumble upon this grand example of an ornamental kitchen garden.

And of course, that wonderful dark leaved, yellow flowered Dahlia that enchanted me back in June, continues to pull at my heart. So much so, that during the Rock-n-Roll Chicago half marathon, I paused for a second to grab a picture when I realized I was running on Michigan Avenue right next to the plantings.

Finally a single planting, outside a business, a perfect example of a balanced fall grouping.....

There's so many more...but another time, another post.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pushing my limits.........

Sometimes the universe just aligns....hubby out of town, son at a friend's house, bike already loaded in the car.... rare afternoon with no plans, no deadlines. My first thought was "naptime"; but that thought was followed quickly by "go for a bike ride". I've been doing my riding on the roads in an 8-10 mile radius of my house. Busy roads, many with bike lanes but still lots of cars. Sure, I've found a couple of parks with trails, but those are short, barely 1 or 2 miles. I've wanted to give the Glacial Drumlin trail a go, and I seemed to have the perfect opportunity.

While I like and appreciate the social aspects of cycling, the Sunday morning long rides with my husband, the shorter leisurely rides with my son; what I really I love about cycling is the solo aspect. How I can use it to tune out the rest of the world, connect with myself, push myself; get lost in the mental dialogue to go further, go faster, push through wanting to quit, push past the muscle fatigue. I find the same thing with running (though my body, esp. my hips, doesn’t seem to appreciate it), with training for or doing the half marathons, with yoga.

Left out from the Fox River Sanctuary in Waukesha, WI which is at the east end of this 52 mile trail. The first 12 or so miles are paved, the remainder hard packed gravel. My goal was to ride the entire paved portion, an approximately 25 mile ride out and back. This would be my longest ride to date. A decent test for what I could do. Looking at my training log, it was just three weeks ago that I was wondering if I could ride 10 miles, and here I was determined to go 25. This is an out and back ride, so if I made it to the end of the paved portion; I had no choice but to ride the whole way back. Seemed like the perfect opportunity to push to my limits.

On entering the trail, I immediately fell into a rhythm. Loved that I could just ride with no cars or traffic to worry about. Could wear earphones and listen to my music. Dutifully stopped at the self-pay box for a trail pass, but after that didn’t stop until I hit the halfway mark, was able to just ride. Passed a few leisurely riders along the way. Got passed by a “real rider” hunched over on his road bike. That just pissed me off, pushed me to ride faster. Discovered that I could maintain his pace, which was a pleasant little jolt.

Enjoyed the views of the hills around me, the trees, and the occasional stream to cross.

The town of Wales at the 7 mile mark offered restrooms and tables if I had chosen to stop.

Dousman had a quaint feel with its gazebo, and aptly located “Bicycle Doctor” shop.

Shortly, out of Dousman the pavement stopped. I’d made it to my planned halfway point, but wasn’t ready to stop. Continued on the gravel portion.

Realized shortly after passing the 14 mile marker that while I still felt fresh, I had the ride back, decided to turn around.

Last couple of miles was a little tough; legs were rubbery when I got to the car. But damn I felt good! Loved this first trail ride. Love knowing I can go further than I thought possible, but a bit sad that I’m making these discoveries in the fall, and will soon have to stop for a bit…because as this sign reminds me, there are other uses of this trail.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

"Fall"-ing for new things....

Wow, has it really been two months since I posted? Continue to struggle with getting my garden mojo back, that passion just isn't hitting me. Dunno why. Think I remain overwhelmed, unable to find a path, a place to start, a vision for this space. I keep reminding myself, "You've created three great gardens", but then the demon voices say, "Yeah, but those were blank slates, easy beginnings, this, this, this is, well, uh, a mess". And that is as far as it gets.''Which makes posting in a blog under a name of "GardenKim" difficult.

Then it hit me.....I say in my profile, "striving to maintain balance through lifestyle changes, fitness, gardening, and travel.". Well, heck, that gives me options, other things to write about. And suddenly I have so many posts in my head. I realized I've never done anything with those pictures from my trip to San Antonio and those lovely walks along the river, or the pictures from Grand Cayman and those beautiful gardens under the sea on my first scuba adventures, or the updated pictures of the beds in Chicago from this post, or my new found love of cycling that fits into that whole fitness and lifestyle changes heading.

Through the cycling, I've discovered a couple of county parks I'd never really visited. Fox Brook and Mitchell in Brookfield, WI. Both along the Fox River, both with good bike paths. Both with sights that cause me to pause, to smile, to slow down, even if only for a moment. First it was the surprise of a beach. The bumpity bump of riding the boardwalk paths through the marsh. The crunch of leaves under the wheels.

This cluster of purple asters, milkweed, golden rod caught my eye as I curved around the lake, slowing just enough to also catch the surprising sight of a sign for scuba diving. Really, here, in a county park? Will have to check that out next summer.

The brilliant red of the Virgina creeper slowed me down enough to catch another interesting sign, "Dog Swimming Area", where on a ride with my son tonight we paused to watch a chocolate lab retrieving balls before heading back down the boardwalk path, across the Fox River to our car.

Of course, in all of those potential topics that love of plants, of gardens still is there. Perhaps by not worrying about writing about gardens and instead letting this blog lead me down any path, I can find the way back to the garden.