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Field Notes

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

As I walk past the towering lilies backlit with sun

and enter the field messy with helianthus and brambles

I hear the raucous yells of crows

in the woods near the old spring. What did they find?

Are they mad or jubilant?

Then silence.

Walking down the mowed path I come across one, then two,

then three feathers, turkey by the looks of ‘em.

And suddenly, a rustle. Then many beating wings

flying, flying up into the oaks. Six, seven, eight maybe twelve turkey fledglings

and their mother, scared and startled by human intrusion.

Then silence.#

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Watch Jens Jens Documentary (complete with his voice) TONIGHT

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Gardeners & Designers, Landscape Architecture, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hi, Weedpatch fans. So sorry I’ve been SO SO out of touch: I am devoting a lot (!) of time to trying to save 400 mature and reproducing oak and hickory trees on an 8 acre site in Lake Forest. A shopping center developer, Bill Shiner, has arrived in town and wants us to waive or s-t-r-e-t-c-h every ordinance to accomodate four outbuildings (maybe Chase Bank, Starbucks, ChickFilA, don’t know he’s not sayin’) plus Whole Foods (maybe). The lure of tax $$ is great, but to me the lure of saving trees and protecting our laws should be greater. Anyway, it’s taking a lot of time. Please help out by making comments on Whole Foods’ website: how come the company says it’s “sustainable” if it wants to take paradise (did I mention demolishing a landmarked mansion?) and put up a parking lot?

Of course, if you are a responsible gardener in the Chicago region, you must know the name, Jens Jensen. Last night I saw on WTTW a preview of what looks to be a wonderful documentary on the contributions of Jens Jensen (1860-1951) to parks and landscape in the Chicago region. The documentary airs tonight, both on TV and at Millenium Park. Here’s the link: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/06/18/film-documents-life-and-work-jens-jensen

Please watch and share what you learned. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I lash myself to yet another 200 year old oak tree. Could this really be happening–in Lake Forest? Don’t they call it “slash and burn” or “deforestation” in other countries? Sigh. Pretty depressing.

Here’s a photo I took today of a landscape in Lake Forest which was designed by the Olmsted Brothers and later Jens Jensen…

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Garden Markers: The Best Product Yet

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Who among you hasn’t been really really irked about plant “markers”? You know, the ubiquitous white plastic tags that snap in half after a season stuck in the dirt next to your plant? Or the sales tags that don’t offer botanical names and are stapled to pots? Or the ones that are threaded thru a slot in the pot and break off when you try to remove them (and/or are bigger than the plant itself)?

Or…there’s the disappearing marker. I have never actually caught one of our dogs making off with a white plastic tag, but I find them lying all over the garden, but never near the plant they are supposed to be identifying. If not the dogs, who then? Squirrels? Chipmunks? Or do the tags spontaneously jump out of the ground on their own?

And don’t get me going on the metal tags that bend, twist and tear, or the stakes that do the same. Or the “permanent” Sharpies that fade…or the waxy pencils that are too fat to write legibly.

Or did I mention the “helper” I hired who decided to “tidy up” the garden and removed every marker from every tree, shrub and plant?  I still have most of these tags in a box (retrieved from the garbage bin that I just happened to look in) because I haven’t the vaguest idea on which hosta or dwarf conifer they belong. Need I say that the relationship with my helper ended rather…abruptly?

Nonetheless, I am pleased to report that the best garden marking system I’ve found (well, yes, I would like to own an embossing machine like those used by botanic gardens but I’d rather fly to Europe with the same money) is from IDeal Garden Markers. The system is comprised of a unbendable steel stake, a rigid black plastic nameplate, and a white fine-point paint pen. I bought the 11 inch, 45 degree stake for most plants; the 7 inch, 90 degree stake for ground hugging plants especially miniature hostas; the “small” size black nameplate, and 4 marking pens (I bought extras because I’ve learned that sometimes the nib gets crushed when writing). After a summer and a harsh winter of use, my IDeal Garden Markers look just fine. I’m re-ordering!

Of course, then there’s the far more irksome phenom: when the tag survives the winter but the plant does not…as in the expensive Primrose in this photo. Why was it sold here if it’s not hardy? Let’s not even THINK about that! Grrrrr…..##

Where’s the darn Primrose I bought last year?

 

Trout Lilies: Durable Little Woodland Stalwarts

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This is a very sweet and interesting post about our woodland Trout lilies by Elgin blogger Pat Hill, who is also the author of the 2007 book, Design Your Natural Midwest Garden which you can buy via her website, naturalmidwestgarden.com. I don’t think I’ve ever met Pat, but judging from her website, we are complete birds-of-a-feather. She was nice enough to feature on her website another new Chicago blogger, Monica Buckley.

Monica is owner of Red Stem Landscapes in Chicago. About her company, she says, “With the encouragement, shared secrets, and guidance of so many, including most notably several years with Art Gara as the oldest intern ever at Art and Linda’s Wildflowers, I left the publishing world to found Red Stem Native Landscapes, Inc., following my passion for creating settings where natives, wildlife, and people can thrive in gardens all over Chicago’s North Side and near suburbs”. Hurrah for her, a fellow member of the Landscape Design Association whereby all of you can find and hire fabulous designers to help you plan, install, and maintain gardens.

For her blog debut, Monica interviewed another favorite person of mine (because he loves plants just about more than anybody on earth), famed botanist Jerry Wilhelm. Please read this interview. Here’s a snippet of what Wilhelm warns us to do in Monica’s article:

“It’s almost as if the whole earth skin has third degree burns… If we don’t put organic matter back into the soil and allow natural thermo-regulation to occur, we will keep having broad climate fluxes, we will face extinctions, and we will be in for a very bad time. Slowly but surely, we have to go in that direction, to preserve the remnants that are left, and to try to return health to the soil. But the remnants are important, you have to have some living tissue, you can’t start it from nothing.”

I am helping as time allows to raise money for finishing the work on Wilhelm’s 5th Edition of Plants of the Chicago Region, which most of you will recognize as the bible of native plantspeople throughout the Chicago region (by which I mean the 25 or so counties in WI, IL, IN, and MI that surround Chicago, plantwise). Now this amazing book will also include the insects, butterflies, and birds that hang out with individual species of plant. Isn’t that just astonishing? So go to Wilhelm’s website, look for sponsorship information, donate $50, $100, $1000 or whatever you can spare, and feel like you are contributing to the preservation of the earth, because you are. Thanks!##

[PS John and I just returned from Cuba--yes, amazing head trip type place--and now we are off to see the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where Rachel Carson once hung out. I think I should become a garden and history travel writer who also loves to find places to stay that are worth leaving home for, especially in spring. Or maybe I just want to avoid gardening in the cold and damp.]

 

And Now for my Substitute Guest Editor or…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A View from A Broad!

I have always been a HUGE fan of the Divine Miss M’s and, obviously having too much time on my hands today, I landed on Bette Midler’s website. Actually, I was looking for tickets to the Carole King show in NYC, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Queen Bee burst a gut reading Miss Manifesto’s bloviating blog: she thinks like I do. (And you do.) So here it is for you: http://bettemidler.com/.

Oh, what I wouldn’t do to share a laugh and a Cosmo with her. Enjoy! #

And another thing: Here’s an example of how goofy the world is. For thousands of years, maybe eons, Canada geese have been migrating from Canada to Florida, from Florida to Canada, back and forth, forth and back. All that time, they’ve had all their favorite watering holes along the way, each goose parent teaching their goslings where to stop, especially when they are old enough to lay eggs and want a nice lakeside location to nest by. But then along come humans, and decide to fill in the lake and build a nice big Costco instead. But that goose just doesn’t stop wanting the old scenic location…God bless her.

Goose close up

 

Spring Has Sprung–and my dam is leaking!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Way, way, way oversubscribed–that’s me. But that’s IS me–God better be careful about letting me into heaven, because I will find a zillion projects to distract myself from enjoying, well, joy. Even when joy is partaking of all life has to offer. As happens in springtime.

There’s a zillion gardening topics floating around in my head to tell you about–plus an awesomely interesting trip to Cuba, but I just wanted to let you know that I’m alive and kicking and I’ll post more gardening stuff soon.

Meantime, tonight I was watching public TV, and just when I was wondering if the world is totally off its rocker and we are doomed, I got really PUMPED by listening to a description of this effort: ocearch.org. If you have a place on Cape Cod, North Carolina, Virginia, Florida (esp north, like Jacksonville), Mexico, etc., poke around this website and you can see the routes of (highly elusive) sharks. Given that they are key–as in vital–as in essential–to saving the ocean, and those in the world that like to cook by using their fins are killing 750,000 sharks a day (! is that possible?) and littering the ocean floor with dead shark carcasses, this website is vitally needed to monitor sharks. Now we can know where they spawn and eat and hang out. OCEARCH’S WORK IS COMPLETELY FUNDED BY CATERPILLAR CORP (thank you, Caterpillar, we are happy you connected your boat engines with ocean conservation work).

Ocearch is about to start tagging ocean turtles and watching them in real time, which a lot of you got interested in following my report on my trip to the Florida Keys… This means that the turtles do not have to be killed by motorboats. Any boat guy with a phone and wifi can know where the turtles are–and can avoid hitting them. No excuses anymore, boys.

Flora and fauna, it’s inseparable. More to follow. ie I want you to know about a new book that’s being written to locate and understand the interactions among our native plants, birds, and insects, or another (scary: are frogs extinct?) book called The Sixth Extinction… xxx’s SO GLAD SPRING IS STARTING TO SPRING! Queen Bee

Shark

What Does Your Veg Garden Grow?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants | 1 Comment

I lost a month! Somehow with all the gloom and gray and snow, I was totally shocked the other night when I started thumbing through the Chicago Botanic Garden’s course guide, picked out a “spring” class that sounded good, and realized that the class had been held two weeks ago! OMG, it is the end of March and I haven’t given the vaguest thought to gardening (usu in February I’m even starting some seeds)! Foof, get it together, Queen Bee!

One good way to get the month back, vicariously, is to ask people whose livlihoods depend on keeping organized, seasonally speaking, in the garden. One of those people happens to be my friend, Lisa Hilgenberg, who runs the Fruit & Vegetable Garden at (wait for it) the Chicago Botanic Garden. Awesome job, right?

So…what is Miss Lisa–one of the most enthusiastic people I know–choosing to grow in 2014?

Wild Boar Farms blue tomato“This year, it seems to be the unusual color of veg (Queen Bee: it’s spelled veg but pronounced vedge) that appeals to me and seems to also appeal to chefs. An example is ‘Blueberry Blend’ tomato, the new release from Wild Boar Farms in Napa, CA. created by Baker Creek. Wild Boar Farms offers not just one, but three blue anthocyanin varieties!

“We are also going to grow ‘Oaxacan Green Dent’ corn grown in Mexico for green flour tamales, which will be part of our ‘Three Sisters and a Sunflower’ planting. Oaxacan Green Dent CornAnother new veg is the ‘Falstaff’ Brussels sprout, which is purple with a mild, nutty flavor. I’m guessing from its name that is was discovered in England?

“‘Boothby’s Blonde’ cucumber has a nice story. It’s been grown by the Boothby family for five generations in Maine. This cuke is a fashionable old variety that the current Organic Gardening magazine highlights as pale yellow with bumpy skin and tiny black spines, like a science experiment. Boothby Blond CucumberThe Plant Giveaway in May are seeds of Boothby’s Blonde so you can see for yourself if it is.

“There is a bush watermelon too that I’m pretty excited about. It’s called,’Jubilee’, and it has a mere 3-5’ spread producing an oblong 10-12 lb fruit!

“And I’m really excited to grow a culinary collection of stir fry vegs: Evergreen Hardy white onion, cutting celery, Kailaan, Hon tsai tai, Joi choi, Osaka Red mustard, tatsoi and Dwarf Grey snow peas.

Claytonia perfoliata, Miner's Lettuce“And do you know Claytonia perfoliata? We are growing it right now, because it’s so tolerant of the cold spring weather”.

“Oh, and Weedpatch readers should know that the Garden’s newly redesigned Garden View Cafe opens April 8th. Come eat!”.#

A March Sunset just a stone’s throw from the Atlantic Ocean…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“They captured in their ramble all the mysteries and magics of a March evening. Very still and mild it was, wrapped in a great, white, brooding silence — a silence which was yet threaded through with many little silvery sounds which you could hear if you hearkened as much with your soul as your ears. The girls wandered down a long pineland aisle that seemed to lead right out into the heart of a deep-red, overflowing winter sunset.”  ― Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), author of Anne of Green Gables and 19 other books which extol Prince Edward Island, Canada.

Thanks to WG reader Dr. Kate Drummond for sending this photo of a Cape Cod evening in March:

photo (37)

Not a Centerfold, but Close!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Historic Places, Plants, Uncategorized | 16 Comments

I’ve always wanted to be a magazine centerfold, fodder for the tabloids, or a great read for your time in line at the grocery store. And this is as close as I may ever get:

Country Gardens cover 3-10-2014 1-56-20 PM 1920x2560

Country Gardens inside 3-10-2014 1-55-57 PM 2560x1920

Thank you to Better Homes and Gardens editor James Baggett, my longtime friend and garden “personality”/writer Shirley Remes, writer and editor Beth Botts, and photographer Bob Stefko for making our farm in Richmond, Illinois seem like the most romantic old farm EVER!

Please find and buy a copy–and then ask me to autograph it so that I can get the full experience of bein’ a glamour girl. A STAR IS BORN! A STAR IS BORN! Move over Meryl and Julia and Sandra and Angelina and all you glamour has-been’s: Rommy has launched! ##

Garfield Park Conservatory and Mothers Trust Foundation: Congratulations

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Gardeners & Designers, Historic Places, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Garfield Park Conservatory, located on the far west side of Chicago not too far from Oak Park, is one of my favorite places. I love love love the fern room there–it’s a wonderful respite from the “concrete jungle”:

“Designed by Hitchings and Company, with the brilliant assistance of Jens Jensen, the Conservatory was completed in 1907. It is still one of the largest conservatories in the world. Jensen’s use of native limestone in layers is used to create ponds, waterfalls, cliffs, and lush winding paths. The total effect seems to overwhelm one’s senses as the sound of the water, the verdant greenness, and the pleasant aromas calm the nerves and transport me to another time and place, when the prairie was a nearby paradise..”. (Cindy Mitchell, The Weedpatch Gazette, Summer, 1998).

Garfield Park Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory won a 2013 Philanthropy Award from the Make It Better Foundation:

 

Congratulations!

And congratulations is in order for Mothers Trust Foundation which also won a Make It Better Philanthropy award. Take a look at this excellent video and see if you can spot me, in good company at a meeting with other wonderful volunteers.##

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