{in the Garden} An Excursion to Northwind

Since the mid-90's, Northwind Perennial Farm has been a destination for inspiration, the best of the newest garden plants, a little antique shopping, and overall just a day in the country. This gem, located about 90 minutes north of Chicago in the town of Burlington, Wisconsin, doesn't just sell plants, they grow them on site on their farm. In addition, they have large display gardens (sun and shade) that are both jaw dropping and inspirational. The display gardens wind thru the barn and outbuildings and around the sales area. Chickens roam the grounds constantly eating up bugs; a natural way to keep pests under control with the benefit of fresh eggs to boost ... wish I could do that in my Chicago garden. Occasionally you duck for a Barn Swallow dive bomber upset that you came to close to his brooding nest. A gift shop set up in the old barn has the most creative display of cut flowers in antique urns I have ever seen! My favorite is the antique urn display in the middle of the silo. A few years back I asked if I could purchase the urn, but alas, it was not for sale ... the hunt continues for that antique urn.

This year I went with nothing specific in mind ... just wanted to walk the gardens for design ideas on a beautiful sunny Spring day. Of course, I could not leave with an empty trunk, today's HAUL included:
  • Agastache 'Blue Fortune' (Giant Hyssop). I tried one of these last year and was impressed by its performance. For about 10 weeks from mid-June until early-September this plant had 2' tall purple flower spikes. It never stopped blooming thru heat and drought. In the fall, the foliage turned a shade of butter yellow that added to the fall display. This spring it came back twice as large and is already a good 2' tall with no flowers yet. With that kind of performance I had to have more ... now, where to put them?
  • Bronze Fennel and other herbs. With little room to grow fruits or vegetables, I grow herbs in pots to supply my kitchen with fresh herbs most of the year. In the summer the fennel fronds get used to season stocks, sauces and the occasional grilled sea bass. In the fall, I saute up what little bulbs I get and make a fennel tart. When I saw this bronze fennel I had to get it. Check back at the end of the summer to see its success.
  • Nepata Walker Low (Catmint). Another herb plant breed for the perennial garden. Starting in late May (this year) this perennial blooms with clouds of purple flowers for almost 4 weeks. It gets a little weedy after that, so I cut it back and let it send out new growth that carries it thru the rest of the season. Sometimes, it even re-blooms in September. This is a workhorse of a perennial, it needs little attention and manages well in heat and drought.
With the trunk loaded and little room for anything else, I head back to Chicago thru Slades Corners where there is a mushroom farm that is open 364 days a year. Wait until you see what I came out with?

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