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Hello, You Beautiful Bird!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Look who showed up on our dock at sunset yesterday!

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The Great White Heron (which is a white form of the Great Blue that we see in the north) can only be found in the lower Florida Keys according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Of course, a local Florida website disagrees with the Feds’ geographic assessment, but those nice Audubon folks have tried to clear up the confusion. Does the white turn blue or not-I still don’t know but this Queen Bee thinks that claim sounds highly unlikely. Anyway, if you are interested in herons and egrets, check  out the Heron & Egret Society website. Audubon art and literary references. Nice!

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The house we rented is near the 200,000 acre Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, which includes lots of boat-access-only islands that provide “critical nesting, roosting, wading and loafing habitat” for 250 species of birds. Loafing? Do birds loaf? Are there special couches?

The Great White Heron NW Refuge was dedicated because the heron was threatened with extinction because so many Victorian matrons (yes, including those from Chicago) wanted to adorn their hats with the heron’s feathers. If you want to get totally grossed out, check out these photographs of women’s hats dating from the 1900 era. It is claimed that a single order of plumes in 1892 required killing 192,960 herons.

While National Audubon was created in protest, and Iowa Republican Congressman John F. Lacey got our first national law protecting wildlife and plants passed in 1900 (it’s still going strong, being last amended in 2008 I think for the better but I’m not really sure as it was mixed up in the FARM BILL need I say more), that didn’t stop the feather trade especially in the Everglades and lower Florida. (I hope one of you can send me a great book that explains all the politics behind conservation over the years.)

If the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge was dedicated in 1938, that would mean that Franklin Roosevelt was President and Harold Ickes was Interior Secretary. Here’s your cocktail party factoid: Ickes was our longest serving Interior Secretary and he was a progressive Republican–from Chicago. Let’s find more like him to send to Washington!#

The Heron 

by Wendell Berry

While the summer’s growth kept me
anxious in planted rows, I forgot the river
where it flowed, faithful to its way,
beneath the slope where my household
has taken its laborious stand.
I could not reach it even in dreams.
But one morning at the summer’s end
I remember it again, as though its being
lifts into mind in undeniable flood,
and I carry my boat down through the fog,
over the rocks, and set out.
I go easy and silent, and the warblers
appear among the leaves of the willows,
their flight like gold thread
quick in the live tapestry of the leaves.
And I go on until I see crouched
on a dead branch sticking out of the water
a heron—so still that I believe
he is a bit of drift hung dead above the water.
And then I see the articulation of a feather
and living eye, a brilliance I receive
beyond my power to make, as he
receives in his great patience
the river’s providence. And then I see
that I am seen. Still, as I keep,
I might be a tree for all the fear he shows.
Suddenly I know I have passed across
to a shore where I do not live.#

 

 

 

Perennial Professionals!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Events, Gardeners & Designers, Public Gardens and Parks | Leave a comment

If you’ve ever shopped at Chalet Nursery in Wilmette, or watched Channel 7 TV in the morning, or listened to Mike Nowak’s Garden Show (lamentedly it is no more), or well, just been around the plant world, you have seen the ever-enthusiastic Jennifer “Who Knows More Than God About Plants” Brennan.

Jennifer’s energy and exuberance knows no bounds. The woman doesn’t ever snooze. In addition to all else, she is now serving as the central region director of the Perennial Plant Association (PPA), which is the group which designates the “perennial plant of the year” for retailers to type. In 2014 it was Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind” which was grown from wild-collected seed from South Elgin, Illinois. This blue-green, erect grass was found by Chicago’s “very own” Roy Diblik, co-owner of Northwind Perennial Farm in Springfield, Wisconsin and author of The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden.

The PPA also holds seriously great conferences, most often attended by pro’s but they are nice people so anyone can go. So great that I’m still laughing about one that I attended in 1998 where a very famous landscape architect–old as the hills!–tried to kiss me out behind the hydrangeas. When I got back on the bus, I told my friend Pam about the incident. She laughed so hard, then said, “Ha! I was 1996!”

But I digress. Jennifer has organized a conference which every one of you MUST attend if you like perennials. And who doesn’t? Plus you get to go to The Morton Arboretum, which it’s time for you to revisit. It’s fantastic! Here’s the announcement of this wonderful conference. You will learn so much! Here’s the direct link for registration: http://www.mortonarb.org/events

 

Regional Perennial Plant SymposiumRegional Perennial Plant SymposiumRegional Perennial Plant Symposium

 

All in a Day–in Florida

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

Last week I took a very chilly but beautiful walk in the forest preserve at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Great shadows!

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But today I saw great shadows when we took a walk along the “Old Overseas Highway” (opened 1939, thank you President Roosevelt) that runs only in bits and pieces along the far east side of the Florida Keys:

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Here’s a few more photos of tropical delights. I don’t know the name of this fantastic flower (does anyone want to offer a guess?) that was growing by the side of the “road”…but I think the bird is a White Ibis (yes?):

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But for those of you who remember our 2014 trip to Florida, the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, FL was a must-stop, again. They had more sick or recovering turtles (all species are endangered) than ever (something like 150!), including some Kemp’s Ridley turtles that were flown down here from Cape Cod Bay, where they were stranded in November, poor dears.

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This is Tiny. He is a loggerhead that got hit by a boat, which means his shell fills up with air and then he can’t dive anymore…Slow down, boaters!#

 

 

The Governor’s Palace: New Bern, NC

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

If you find yourself in New Bern (eastern) North Carolina, as we did for a 2014 graduation, take the opportunity to see the 1770 Tryon Palace. Unforgettable. And amazing that it not only burned down completely and was reconstructed from drawings found in London but also had an entire highway and town moved so that the palace and grounds could be reconstructed. (Leave it to strong 1950’s Southern matrons to achieve such a feat.)

The 16 acres of gardens, which run all the way to the Trent River where ships would once have brought arriving visitors, are extensive and immaculate.

Amazing that this building burned down in 1798 and the site was filled in for over 150 years. It was reconstructed from its original plans in the 1950’s.

Formal boxwood gardens at Tryon Palace

Designed by Morley Jeffers Williams in the 1950’s from designs based on 18th c British gardens.

Two plans for the house dating from 1769 were found in London back in the 1950’s, but more recently, in 1991, Palace researchers discovered a garden plan in the collections of the Academia Nacional de la Historia in Venezuela. There they found a garden plan that Palace architect, John Hawks  apparently gave to Venezuelan nobleman Francisco de Miranda (Editor: don’t miss reading his bio: he wrote 63 volumes of journals, was the lover of Catherine the Great, and was the only “American” who has his named carved in the Arc de Triomphe, etc etc, etc. In short, what a guy!), who admired the Palace greatly during his 1783 visit to New Bern.

The Miranda plan suggests a strong French influence instead of the more-to-be-expected English garden style. But who created the plan? Some attribute it to Claude Sauthier (1736-1802), a French cartographer who in 1763 wrote his first great work, A Treatise on Public Architecture and Garden Design.  His map of New York is astonishingly beautiful and should have won the Revolution for the British. But I digress. Sauthier mapped all the towns of North Carolina including one of New Bern in 1769 for Governor Tryon. But, “when compared to plans of the Palace and other documents he created for Tryon, the handwriting in the Miranda plan is clearly that of John Hawks. The Miranda plan, furthermore, contrasts with Sauthier’s more rectilinear design…” [Source: tryonpalace.org]. When Williamsburg’s colonial gardens were re-created by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff (1870-1957), it was Sauthier’s 1700’s renderings of colonial gardens that he most consulted.

None of the historic garden plans have ever been implemented at Tryon Palace. Morley Jeffers Williams (1877-1977) conducted the Palace archaelogical dig and designed the subsequent garden restoration. Before undertaking the Palace project, Williams had served on the faculties of Harvard and North Carolina State Universities and was hired by the Garden Club of Virginia to research, inventory and design the gardens at Mount Vernon (it was Williams who theorized that the landscape was designed to mimic the shield in Washington’s family crest), Monticello, and Stratford Hall (home of the Lee’s). Professor  Williams also restored “God’s Acre”, the Christ Church Cemetery, at Harvard Square.

Nice landscape design contracts, eh? (The Queen is envious!)##

By the way, in researching this article, I came across a website describing the 1820’s Foscue Plantation that’s just ten miles southwest of New Bern, NC. Too bad we didn’t have more time since I would have enjoyed seeing that as well. This historic site is open for tours on Thursdays…still owned by the same family, which had plenty o’ slaves right up until the “War Between the States”. Yes, that’s what their website calls the Civil War. The Queen will try to be “civil” about the whole damn mess when she visits…##

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The Queen Loves Garfield Farm

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Historic Places, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

It’s been forever since I wrote to you, and I apologize for the absence. I’ve been spending a lot of time writing house histories and family genealogies, advocating for better municipal land use decisions (hellooo, City of Lake Forest, even contemplating cutting down 400 oak trees to build a Whole Foods store is shameful) and thinking about what to write about in 2015. Hold onto your hat, the topics may not be limited to gardening or conservation. Hopefully, they will interest you…

So, let’s begin 2015.

Recently, I made some discoveries. First, it took me sixty years, but now I know that I hate big chunks of potatoes in soup. On the other hand, a larger revelation is just how much I enjoy visiting “living history” farms, historic houses, and preserved landscapes and lands. I fall a little bit in love with every place’s history. I imagine myself being one of those ancestors whose were determined to survive and thrive yet always seemed to bring beauty into the picture.

Naturally, I also invariably conclude that I would have keeled over early from cold, outhouse, traversing never-ending mountains and canyons, and too many damn potatoes in the soup. Unless I were Queen, which in my case seems likely, whereupon I would have thrived. After all, I love cake. And I would have been carried everywhere.

I was reminded of my passion for living history farms when I opened the mail two weeks ago to find a precious gift–a middle-school children’s book written by my friend, Anne Brack Johnson.

 

Angie of Garfield Farm

Anne is married to Jerry Johnson, who some of you may know because he is the erstwhile, intrepid, and longtime Executive Director of Garfield Farm and Inn Museum in LaFox, Illinois, which is just west of Geneva. Near St. Charles. Not as far as DeKalb. Twenty years ago it was cornfields and now it’s changed to McMansions and Meijer’s Grocery stores every mile. But nestled in the middle–like a time machine–is delightful Garfield Farm.

Garfield Farm

Garfield Farm is a treasure dating to the 1830’s. Anne’s book, Angie of Garfield Farm, is based on a little girl who was an actual Garfield family member. This pioneer family was smart enough to save EVERYTHING (diaries, tools, buildings) for posterity. And even luckier for us, the more recent residents of the LaFox area have been wise enough to donate money for Garfield’s preservation. The brick house–once a tavern on the route west–the barns, the sheds, the oxen, the way of life…they are all there for you to experience. Please do visit and become members. I try not to miss the Rare Breeds Show in May, but if you would like to learn about restoring an 1842 (!) barn, sign up for the restoration seminars on February 14.

One of my favorite–and certainly most enthusiastic–gardeners will be at Garfield on March 22. Vicki Nowicki is not to be missed. She will be giving a seminar called, “Historic Perspectives on Organic Gardening”. Vicki knows more about organic gardening than anyone I know AND she is the “(DuPage) Queen of Organics” through her heirloom vegetable garden design and education business. Sign up! You’ll have the rare opportunity of a wonderful, romantic venue and a wonderful learning experience.

Methinks I might like chunks of potato in my soup if they were always organic? And slow-cooked in a fireplace dating from 1842?##

 

 

Good Conference on Native Gardening: Nov 15th

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Events, Plants | Leave a comment

Hi, everyone. If you want to hear some excellent speakers, check out this conference, sponsored by The Wild Ones, to be held at the College of Lake County on Saturday, November 15. I loved the book on pollinator plants by Doug Tallamy who speaks at 9 am, and Ray Wiggers knows all about WHERE (ravines, gravel, sand, limestone, glacial ridges, lake bottoms, etc) plants grow best (and what fish and birds and insects are where) since he’s a geologist and naturalist. I read his book over and over because there is too much about Chicago’s natural history to absorb all at once. I wish I could attend this conference but I am committed to going to a meeting for my favorite children’s charity: Mothers Trust Foundation. Two good choices, but can’t do it all… Rommy

PS Probably the last of the beautiful autumn leaves will succumb to the wind today….here is a yellow witchhazel against a reddish Viburnum prunifolium. Great shrubs for everyone’s yard! Get rid of the dreaded buckthorn and plant these beauties instead!#

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The Polish Garden Writers Club (2 members so far)

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

I have a friend named Mike Nowak, a fellow hale & hearty Pole and (hail and hardy) garden writer (although Mike is way way way more prodigious than I). He just sent me his new book, in which he wrote the following inscription (which I suspect he writes in every book he autographs, even when the book was not written by him): “To _____: who is almost as funny as I am”. This made me laugh. A rare thing, these days, what with beheadings, floods, social injustice, and difficulty finding the Alpo dog food my dogs prefer.

Um, back to Mike’s book. One thing I realized about myself after I read most of his essays is that I mostly read backwards. That is, I don’t start at the beginning and go forward. Instead, I randomly thumb through a book, breaking the spine at not-the-middle, let my eye alight on a line of text, and then I read from that point forward. If I like it (which in this case I did, a lot), I will page back to the first paragraph of the essay and then read all the way through. This bad habit probably started in college when I learned to read only the first chapter, last chapter, and last paragraph of every chapter in a book. This trick sped up the Russian Revolution considerably….

Mike also helped me discover another bad habit: I am a page corner “folder-over”. (Hmm, maybe it’s “fold-over-er”?) That’s how, like a dog, I mark territory I like. And I folded over an awful lot of pages in this book. Not because I was learning anything about gardening (no one, not even Mike Nowak, actually KNOWS anything about gardening), but because so many pages are very funny. Out loud funny. Being Polish, of course, I especially enjoyed his description of his long-departed relative, Telewizja Kablowa “Cable TV” Nowakowa, who, operating out of a small village near Krakow, is said to have created cooking recipes for over 12,000 insect species…” This made me guffaw, which in Polish, is spelled, guffav. Or guffow. Never mind.

Last, I found out that Mike and I have distinctly different views of only one thing: the color pink in the garden. Oddly, I spent yesterday taking photos of pink flowers to show you in their dazzling array. Then I opened Mike’s book and read that pink is “ubiquitous, relentless, abhorrent, insidious, formidable, unyielding, despotic, and pitiless.” Tell us what you really think, eh, Mike? Mike blames his horror of pink flowers on early color TV sets, but I? I LOVE pink. PINK, PINK, PINK. PINKETY PINK PINK, can’t have enough. It’s a word that’s fun to say! It’s fun to wear (ok, not if you are manly Mike Nowak.) Or maybe I came to love pink flowers because “I Love Lucy’s” hair was so extraordinarily PINK and GREEN on our tv… Nonetheless, I present PINK IN THE GARDEN:

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What more can I say about Mike’s book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus and Other Lessons Not Learned in the Garden? I can say that if I was inclined to spend a lot of time in a bathroom, this would be the book I would want to read there. (Way way better than Reader’s Digest.) Instead, I think I’ll take it to bed with me and let my husband try to figure out why I’m laughing. Out loud. This time.#

[Buy many copies of Mike’s book here: http://www.aroundtheblockpress.com/Onlinestore.htm]

 

Pity the Poor Arboretum

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

“Sign of the Times” (or not). Imagine the woe of the arborist who collected and lovingly tended this collection at the Boerner Botanical Gardens, only to see it possibly destroyed  by a bug. Perhaps the Gardens have committed to long-term treatment of the trees with pesticide? ##.

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Darn Those Landscape Architects!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Public Gardens and Parks | 2 Comments

If I heard it once, I heard it a million times: “The final landscape plan shall strive to be a model for the community with a focus on removal of invasive species and planting of indigenous species”.

And then something like this follows: “Species Palette: Birch, Eastern Red Cedar…” NOT indigenous (birch) except maybe to a ravine, and thisclose to invasive (cedar).

Or I read, “Our plant palette includes coneflowers, black eyed susans, sky blue asters, and prairie dropseed”, as if they were the only plants in a woods, a wetland, or a prairie. Could we at least hear that you are planting a milkweed for the Monarch butterflies?

AAAAAGHHHHH. Can you landscape architects get it right, please? Do you ever crack a book on ecology or take a botany seminar?

Landscape architects and municipal foresters who let landscape architects get away with nonsense should know better and do WAY better. And they should stop planting crap in our ecosystems. Especially when saying that they are “models” of ecologic design.

Between Forest Park, Northwestern Hospital, and Whole Foods–all in Lake Forest–I can’t even fathom what might be happening in the larger region. Help us all to call their bluff: the Emperor has no clothes.##

Sure Signs of Summer

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Plants | 2 Comments

9:33 am. Location: Lake Forest backyard, sunny perfect day, having coffee and reading Chicago Historical Society journal and the NYTimes, while texting to see if anyone wants to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream with me tonight (no one (so far) does, how is that possible!?) being staged by Lake Forest Openlands Association and Citadel Theater Company.

Action: a movement across the way, in the birdbath, a robin taking a rambunctious bath, lots of splashing, flies off.

9:35 am. Same Location. Same circumstances.

Action: a movement across the way, in the birdbath, Mr. Cardinal takes a bath, but with longer and more restrained splashing than the robin’s. Flies to pine tree, misses, flies on to tulip tree.

Thought: Do birds schedule their bath times for 9:30 on Sundays?

Here are a few more signs that it is, indeed, summer in Chicago:

Currants in a Bowl

Currants from my Garden: Muffins to Follow

Daylilies Ernst 7-17-2014 1-49-59 PM 1510x1952

Daylilies in Ernst Harboe’s parkway, Northfield, IL

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly. Check out midewinrestoration.net

Male Widow Skimmer Dragonfly at Richmond, IL. Check out midewinrestoration.net for more info

Thank You to Bernard Rosauer, landscape architect, for this photo, taken in Genoa City, WI

Thank You to Bernard Rosauer, landscape architect, for this photo, taken in Genoa City, WI

Last but not least, here’s the start of peach and blueberry cobbler. Thank you, God, for summer!##

Peaches

 

 

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