In My Garden: Dragonfly Farm, Mequon, WI

Cheryl Brickman, Mequon, WI
Open Days Garden and Milwaukee Regional Ambassador
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In My Garden, October 20, 2020

"We are all decked out for autumn here at Dragonfly Farm," says Cheryl this week. "The fall picture postcard (above, right) is our main entrance."

"Our Seckel pear trees were just loaded with pears this year. So, with the smaller ones, we made our first batch ever of spiced pear cider!" Above, right, is Cheryl's final harvest of tomatoes for the season.

In My Garden, October 6, 2020

Cheryl reports, "As fall color shows up behind in the tree line, some of our summer containers (below, left) make the color transition into autumn." Meanwhile, in the vegetable garden, Cheryl's homegrown 'Tango' celery (below, right) is ready to be picked. 

Picking the antique apples (below, left and center) is next. Among Cheryl's antique russeted apple types are 'Golden Russet', 'Ashmead's Kernel', 'Hudson’s Golden Gem', and 'St. Edmund's Golden Russet'. On the right is a dwarf 'Seckel' pear tree, and below the apples and pears is a quince. Cheryl comments that she was "surprised and happy to finally get quince fruit in Wisconsin!"

 In My Garden, September 29, 2020

Fall time is aster time. "Seeing asters and goldenrods glowing in the September sun is a perennial favorite of mine," Cheryl reports.

In My Garden, September 22, 2020

In Wisconsin, the season is also turning quickly. Cheryl reports, "Remember those ‘Reliance’ peach blossoms from the spring? Well, Friday was pick-the-peaches day, as they had started to drop. [Below, left] is what we picked." All of the peaches came off the little tree on the right. Cheryl adds,"I think I heard her sigh after we took all that weight off of her. She actually looks a little tired, doesn’t she?"

Friday's harvest may have been in the nick of time! Below is a mature musclewood tree (Carpinus carolinianus) on the lawn Friday afternoon. Cheryl photographed it "because it is such a beautifully shaped tree and it looked so pretty in the afternoon sunshine." By the next morning, it looked very different (second photo below), with the first frost of the year on the lawn.

In My Garden, September 15, 2020

"We are getting into rosehips season, one of my favorite things about roses," says Cheryl. Above, "the arching canes and (left to right) bright orange hips of the redleaf rose (Rosa glauca), the kaleidoscope of colors of the Carolina rose (R. carolina), and the large voluptuous cerise hips of Rosa ‘Scabrosa'."

"The seven sons tree (Heptacodium miconioides), one of the few trees that flower in the fall, is coming into bloom (above, left). The heavily scented white blossoms attract a huge variety of pollinators (above, right). I have been meaning to get out to the grape arbor (below) all summer for an evening photograph; it's a wonderful place for a 'sit,' day or night, to take a load off!"

In My Garden, September 8, 2020

"We are now in the late summer phase of our perennial border and gardens," says Cheryl. "Who doesn’t love purple and orange together? Tithonia and Phlox ‘Zion’ is a combination that I am likely to repeat; soon to be joined by Solidago ‘Fireworks'."

"Can you say Phlox?!" ‘Bright Eyes’ is pictured on the right, above. 

"And the canning madness continues," says Cheryl. Pictured above are 26 quarts of honey-spiced pears she made this week.

In My Garden, August 25, 2020

Flowers and butterflies are also busy at Dragonfly Farm. Cheryl says, "I often almost forget about the Annabelle hydrangeas that surround our deck on three sides, probably because they are essentially so carefree. But at this time of the year they are so soft and beautiful (above, left). Zinnias and amaranth (center) from the cutting garden. If you look closely, you can just make out the double rainbow (right) we had after a recent, much needed rain."

"One of many monarch caterpillars (left) munching happily and one of the many adults on Liatris ligulostylus (right)."

In My Garden, August 18, 2020

"Happy August, fellow gardeners! Recently I was referred to as a 'vignetter' by a very creative person who happened to be walking through our gardens. Apparently, I have a penchant for creating 'rooms' and 'arrangements' in my gardens," says Cheryl.

"I was doing some much needed tidying of the front perennial border this week and noticed a tiny jewel box of colors, made up of Zinnia 'Persian Carpet' mix, Rudbeckia 'Chim Chiminee' mix, and a couple of random Echinaceas whose names I have long forgotten. It reminds me of a tiny painting (above, left). The front border is looking much tidier; some current standout performers include Liatris ligulostylus (below, left)."

"Also in full bloom is the Eupatorium ‘Gateway’ (above, right). And the prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) have started to bloom (below). Some say the fragrance is like buttered popcorn, some say cilantro."

In My Garden, August 4, 2020

We have spent 22 years seeding, plugging, mowing, burning, cutting, and pulling our 13.5 acres of meadows and wetlands," Cheryl tells us. "This year we had amazing amounts of rain, and then THIS (above). I did not plant these blazing stars (Liatris spicata), so they had to come from seed. The meadows are spectacular this year!" Below is a breathtaking photo of Dragonfly Farm after a recent rain.

In My Garden,
July 28, 2020

Cheryl reports that midsummer flowers, bees, and berries are out in full force at Dragonfly Farm.

Above left: "The buttonbush have started to bloom in the low moist spots. This one is 'Ping Pong'. The number of pollinators attracted to these is amazing!"
Middle: "Layers..... The prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) are really exuberant from all the rain, shown here with 'Happy Returns' daylily in the foreground and native bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), and daylily 'Hyperion' in the background. The blown glass 'tendrils' in the container are a nice pop of color. And the aspens provide vertical white stems and some relief from the sun."
Right: "As the meadows get taller and taller, architectural masterpieces like compass plant start to flower. It is named for its north-to-south orientation so its leaves escape the midday sun."

"With all the berries coming on, this week was a mad dash to get some of them processed. Shown above are peach-raspberry and raspberry-rhubarb jams."

In My Garden, July 21, 2020

This week, Cheryl reports that "We are having a heat wave in Wisconsin. So the shade of the chestnut crabapple alleé is a great place to get a little relief from the sun and the heat."

"The cutting and herb garden (below, left) is coming along nicely. Time to pull the peas and replant! This year's baby chicks (below, right) have now moved into the coop, but still have their own 'safe space' in which to roost, eat, and stay cool. We have been running fans 24/7 during this heat wave."

"In the berry garden (below), strawberries are finished, but currants, gooseberries and raspberries are keeping us busy!"

In My Garden,
July 14, 2020

It’s boxwood shearing season at Dragonfly Farm! "Visitors to the farm often ask us how we get our boxwood hedges so healthy and perfect, says Cheryl. "We shear once a year between mid-June and mid-July when the new growth is hardened off. We shear by hand with manual hedge shears, which are sharpened just for this task."

"We allow some of the previous year's growth to remain. We choose hardy, disease resistant varieties. For us, in Wisconsin, that is 'Green Gem' and 'Green Mountain'. Some are best left as specimens and hand pruned, like this 'Green Gem' (above, left). We use correct spacing so the plants are not stuffed together. We start shaping the hedges when they finally start to grow together. We have different shaped hedges for different garden locations, functions, and design. It's also time to shear all the containers (above, right)."

In My Garden, July 7, 2020

Today we're catching up on two weeks' worth of updates from Cheryl. On July 4, Cheryl took an early morning photo of her little backyard and notes that "it's almost time for this year's five-week-old chicks (below, right) to join the flock."

On July 29, Cheryl was all about roses. She reports, "In Zone 5, some roses can be a challenge to grow successfully. Over the last 22 years, I have killed off my share. They don’t like our heavy clay soils, the meadow voles and rabbits eat them down to nothing in the winter, and the deer never fail to browse the tops RIGHT before the buds open. My successes with roses have come down to two basic rules: grow natives and own-root roses. Wisconsin and the Midwest actually have a pretty expansive list of native roses, as it turns out, including Rosa setigera, R. blanda, R. carolina, R. palustris, R. acicularis, and R. arkansana. Depending on what growth habit you are looking for, they offer a great variety of hardiness. My other "must have" is own-root roses, which are grown on their own rootstock rather than being grafted. As I went through the garden, I photographed a number of my favorites, both native and hardy own-root."

Above, from left to right: Rosa 'Golden Wings', Rosa 'Above and Beyond', and a bouquet of Rosa 'Iceberg' with Alchemilla 'Thriller'. Below: Rosa carolina


In My Garden, June 16, 2020

In Cheryl's garden this week, peonies, roses, and some stellar June companions are stealing the show. 'William Baffin' roses on the front fence are just getting started (above, left). Current standouts in the perennial border are flowering shrubs and choice small trees, including Diervilla 'Champagne Bubbles' and old-fashioned favorites deutzia and bridalwreath spirea, along with Nootka cypress, native hazelnut (Corylus americana), and arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis) ‘Sunkist'. This bed also features a three-stem hackberry (Celtis occidentalis) underplanted with daylilies, astilbe, and lady's mantle (Alchemilla mollis) 'Thriller'

Scarlett O'Hara, an award-winning and heat-tolerant peony (above, left), is making an outrageous display in the house. A grouping of willow amsonia (Amsonia tabernaemontana), Nepeta 'Walker’s Low', and salvias 'May Night' and 'Caradonna' (above, right) is a study in the indigo-violet range.

In My Garden, June 2, 2020

We start the week off in Cheryl's garden with a foraged arrangement of copper beech, variegated Solomon's seal, and Leucojum 'Gravetye Giant' (below, left). "All will be finished blooming in the next week or so, so I brought some inside to enjoy them," says Cheryl. "Meanwhile, under the 'Royal Star' magnolia, in the sweetest combination of late daffodils, the diminutive 'Hawera' happily blooms alongside Anemone sylvestris. Behind is the chartreuse of Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate' and, in the front, the beginnings of Hakonochloa macro-aureola (below, right)."

Below, left, the "must-have" hummingbird pot is located right next to the nectar feeders and is planted with cardinal climber, Spanish flag vine (lpomea lobata), and Cuphea 'Vermillionaire'.

"Oh... hello!" Cheryl exclaims as she visits her chick incubator. "Today I picked up this year's day-old baby chicks. Welcome to Dragonfly Farm, ladies; you are going to have an amazing life!" All have settled into their brooder (below, right). Cheryl uses kiddie pools for rearing her baby chicks, starting with the smallest pool and working her way up as they grow. "They are easy to clean and sanitize, and lightweight so they are portable. Plus they can be used wet or dry. We also use them for the geese for preening and swimming. A hardware cloth enclosure keeps curious visitors to the barn garage from getting too close."

In My Garden, May 26, 2020

This week Cheryl takes us on a tour to see some of her favorite plants and general happenings at Dragonfly Farm.

"The meadows here are growing and greening with the five inches of rain we had a week ago. We mowed the nearly two miles of paths before the next round of rain. On the right, Chestnut crabapples bud pink and open white. Their scent is pure cinnamon!"

"Twenty-two years ago we planted ten Chestnut crabapples in an allée on the path from the house to the barn. It was one of the smartest decisions we ever made. Chestnut crabapple, in addition to being one of the tastiest little apples EVER, is a beautiful landscape tree. We planted ten in the allée and kept two from the same nursery block as an “heir and a spare” just in case we ever needed them. The ten now form a shady canopy to walk through four seasons of the year. They are pruned yearly to continue the arching canopy and even skirting. Talk about the “bones” of the landscape...

"We do have to do some reseeding of the turf underneath the trees each year as the shade increases, but it is totally worth it."

"Above are some of my favorite evergreen accents. From left to right: Picea 'Hillside upright', Juniperus 'Gold Cone' (The deer have not touched this... ), Chamaecyparis 'Nootka', and my weeping Norway spruce."

"I had a low spot in the long perennial border that was just too wet in the spring to grow even daffodils. They rotted out each time I planted them. Last year I planted five good-sized bouquets of Leucojum 'Gravetye Giant'. They handle the wet ground much better, make a great cut flower, and who can resist the white upside-down flowers with the lime green squares!"

"Reuben, our handsome black Australorp rooster. Out of a clutch of eggs, our Toulouse tribe hatched one little pandemic gosling, who is being heavily protected by four co-parents. Tree swallows are getting down to business and have made nests in many boxes. The swallows line their grassy nests with feathers that they find from our poultry flock."

In My Garden, May 19, 2020
An early morning tour around Dargonfly Farm on Saturday, May 17:

"I got a few pictures when I went up to let the birds out. It is just so green and beautiful after all the rain and cold. Check out the bluer-than-blue skies! This is the freshly closed off and finished compost. Everyone is getting to it this morning."

"We have been doing a lot of spring touch-up painting. The outhouse shutters and window boxes just got done."

"I was so happy to see that our 'Reliance' peach blossoms did not get zapped by recent frosts. Looks like it could be a good year! Last year, we got one peach. But that is gardening, isn’t it?"

"Early crops are up in the herb and cutting garden, and containers full and ready for planting. On the right is a 'Spartan' apple espalier, just pruned this week."

"I love the little green mounds of prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis) when it starts growing in the spring."

In My Garden, May 5, 2020

"The acorn fountain is up and running! It takes a full month of some pretty intense tasks to get the entire property ready for the season. Furniture out, containers planted, dingy in the wetland, and so forth. Then it takes a month in the fall to put it all away again..."

"I planted this Thuja 'Sunkist' as a replacement in my front garden which needed a redesign. I am surprised at how much it has grown on me. The forced tulip pots and the citrus mix pansy were a happy accident, as I had completely forgotten which tulips I had leftover in pots from the fall."

"The first orioles (Baltimore and Orchard) have already visited the feeders, set up for a nice weekend after a rainy (3”) week. Welcome back!"

In My Garden, April 21, 2020

"If you ever want to turn compost or spread soil or mulch, hire a flock of chickens!!! Ours turn the compost piles, dust bathe in them, and add additional fertilizer! We use straw bales to contain and protect our composting operations. They hold nutrients in place and keep the pile contained."

"And here is what it becomes. Poultry manure compost needs to be well composted, as it is very nutrient rich and 'hot' if it is not well-rotted. Happy Earth Day on April 22!"

"Berry and soft fruit garden pruned and composted for the season. And the vegetable garden plots tilled and dressed with our compost." 

IN My Garden, April 14, 2020

"Taking delivery on various trees in Rootmaker pots from my friend Chad Johnson, owner of Johnson’s Nursery. (Rootmaker pots have holes in the sides so that you don’t get a pot-bound mess.)"

Just in time for Easter: one of the 42 bird boxes at Dragonfly Farm

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Cheryl Brickman

"Visitors tell us they watch for the Open Days Directory each year to see if we are participating; they now feel like friends.”