I have the pleasure of knowing Angie Mead through the music world of Chicago. Luckily, this lady is also into plants!!! She has a garden and container business that keeps her busy year round, Hemlock Garden and Floral. She was nice enough to come down to Puerto Rico last winter and help me clean up my veggie garden mess (it was basil bonsai world and so many overgrown things). That portion of the garden is relatively under control now. Ha! Angie took some time out of her busy schedule to describe the gardens in her life. Here is what she had to say.
Tell me about your perfect, personal garden.
“My perfect, personal garden doesn’t necessarily have the most exotic plants or a grandiose design. Odds and ends from family and friends and orphan plants left over from jobs make up the bulk of my outdoor space. Most of the gardens I’ve had throughout my crazy rental life in Chicago have consisted of just that- odds and ends that don’t necessarily make much sense to probably anyone but me! But my garden is always well maintained, relatively cheerful, peaceful, and just being able to have a garden brings me joy.
My perfect garden is more of a peaceful oasis and a comfortable gathering spot to host friends. Cozy seating, a lawn or a patio, a fire pit, and a grill to cook a meal are basically essential. My perfect garden also keeps me busy, healthy and productive. The bigger the garden the better, because bigger means more exercise, which is a huge reward in itself. Mowing the grass every Saturday morning while I’m listening to music is actually one of my most favorite things to do in my perfect garden.
I consider myself very fortunate- I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t offer some sort of outdoor space that could be transformed into a garden. All of the gardens I’ve had have been perfect in their own way, because just being able to have a garden is perfect in itself! I’ve never really felt like I’m going without, or that my garden is lacking in anything as long as I have an outdoor space to get creative with. Also, a perfect garden would not be perfect without my cat of 13 years, George, who follows me around outside every morning in the summertime while I water the plants. He and I have lived through 3 perfect gardens together.”
What about your garden in a co-living space?
“I’ve lived in my building in Humboldt Park for about 9 years now, and since I’ve been here, I’ve made it a priority to keep a clean and relaxing outdoor space for everyone in our 3-flat and their friends to enjoy. I plant annuals in containers for all of the common areas for every season, and I keep the yard well maintained all year round. (Our yard is filled with gazillions of trees- the ongoing maintenance of just clearing fallen leaves and sticks never ends.) Because of all of the sadness and craziness in the world we’re all experiencing, I’ve actually been going nuts with planting outside of the common areas this year in hopes that having as much color and life around the house brings everyone in the building a bit of much-needed happiness and comfort. I also like to think I keep a garden inside our enclosed back porch connected to the kitchen. During the summer months, I keep various house plants and ferns along with assorted weird lamps and candles around a seating area I created for both my roommate and I, and more recently, our downstairs neighbor to enjoy. We spend a lot of time there listening to music and hosting friends all year round. When winter hits, I move the plants into the house and replace them with assorted evergreens and fresh garland draped around the windows; the porch is decked out through the holidays well into the winter months. The evergreens give the back porch a warm and cozy feel though the cold Chicago winters, and they’re also very fragrant into the springtime. When spring hits, I clear out the evergreens to make room again for the summer house plants. It’s a fun cycle!”
What are the cycles of gardening with your clients?
“Most of my clients are using my services 4 times a year; I’m creating container gardens for their outdoor spaces for every season. In the summertime, clients generally want colorful flowers and vibrant foliage. Summer annual flowers generally start to die off in September or October here in Chicago, at which time they’re replaced with assorted fall annuals like cabbages, kale, mums, and celosia. Fall arrangements typically last into Thanksgiving, then they’re replaced with winter greens like spruce and evergreens that last into the spring. Winter greens are replaced with spring flowers including tulips, hyacinth and daffodils around mid to late March. I start planting summer arrangements in May and June. Essentially, I’m designing and installing from Mid March until Mid December every year, with a few weeks of down time at the end of every season.”
Do you feel any of your client requests ever change your perspective on plants and gardens?
“Being the sole proprietress responsible for designing up to 20 gardens in a season four times a year has its challenges- sometimes I find myself repeating designs. Because of budgets, time constraints, available materials, and a wide array of other variables at play, certain foundational elements inevitably show up and designs get repeated. I really do love it when a client knows exactly what they want planted (assuming their ideas are within reason) because it’s a chance to gain a new perspective. Any chance I’m introduced to a new plant or design idea is always exciting. I’m constantly looking at gardens while I’m walking or driving around the city for new ideas and inspiration. I think most gardeners do the same. There is ALWAYS something to learn about gardening if you’re tuned in and open to it. Just this month, there was a rare week when I was assisting another designer; we planted astilbe and liriope together-a combination I never would have thought of myself. Now it’s one of my most favorite mixtures and I’m looking forward to tying it in a future arrangement!”
You can find Angie for all your container and garden needs at Hemlock Garden and Floral. Happy gardening everyone!