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All in a Day–in Florida

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Plants, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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!#

 

 

Darn Those Landscape Architects!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Public Gardens and Parks | 5 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.##

How Did July Come Around So Fast?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Gardeners & Designers, Historic Places, Plants, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Thanks for your patience, everyone, while I (and others) wrestled with a developer who wants to bring Whole Foods to Lake Forest. Yes, the same Whole Foods which, “in an effort to save trees” doesn’t publish quarterly shareholder reports, is asking us to let them (wait for it) CHOP DOWN 400 mature oaks and hickories to build a new store. The company also wants to DEMOLISH a landmarked house. There are technicalities in the zoning law that might still allow the developer to build WF’s store (and others ie a bank drive through), but for the moment the Lake Forest City Council agreed with us that a large green setback from Route 60 cannot be decreased by the developer.

If you want to write to Whole Foods (550 Bowie St, Austin, TX 78703) or you happen to know Chicago real estate moguls Mike Supera and Bernard Leviton (who are the owners of the property in question) tell them the world CONSERVES oak woods now. Clear cutting is sooo…OVER. Here’s what they want to demolish (house plus 8.5 acres of trees):

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See why the idea made many Lake Foresters crazy?!

But here we are with July practically done. How is that possible? Anyway, as I type this, I am looking through the window at 7′ tall single pink hollyhocks swaying in the wind next to pure white Asiatic lilies. Pure loveliness…

Hollyhocks and Lilies 2 horizontal

This is the best year ever for Chinese trumpet lilies in our garden. They are amazingly majestic–maybe 8 or 9′ tall, strong stemmed (no staking), and full of buds. They have names like, ‘Pink Perfection’ and ‘Golden Splendor’. All I can say is, “order some” for your own garden. I get mine from Van Engelen Bulbs. #

 

 

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

This is what happens when you cut down all the trees!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection | 3 Comments

Cartoon look what happens dogs

Thanks to Jon Henricks for sending this my way, and thanks especially to whoever created this (unattributed) photo and put it on the Internet… I love your sense of irony!##

Saving the Planet…read it and weep OR become a better gardener?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized, Weather | 2 Comments

This snowy morning I opened the newspaper to find:

  • a story about California’s drought: 600,000 acres of farmland will receive no water from reservoirs or canals this year because there is no water in them. What a weather disaster. It’s a drought fifteen years in the making but made worse by Arctic melting which allows heat to escape into the atmosphere and park as a high pressure ridge off the California coast, forcing rain to go way north. The water resources are strained, of course, by the water needs of California’s population and housing growth. This made me think, “Plant More Vegetables in the Garden this Year.” And, “Despite all the snow, we are just coming out of drought. Lake Michigan is still historically low so turn off the lawn sprinklers…”.

drought

  • a story about the huge (82,000 tons! tons! More than Love Canal!) coal ash spill by Duke Energy into the usually beautiful 200-mile Dan River in Raleigh, North Carolina. Really, coal companies? Again? Didn’t we just go through the same thing in West Virginia? Don’t we all know that we cannot invent the precious asset of water? California certainly believes water is its #1 priority. Texas legislators agreed to take $2B of their oil revenue to build water infrastructure.  We as a nation must stand tall and keep clean what remaining water we have, including by guaranteeing that private infrastructure is in good repair or that septics are replaced with high caliber water treatment facilities. [By the way, Duke is a huge conglomerate which in November, 2013, paid out $1 million in penalties for knowingly violating the Migratory Bird Treaty Act when it killed 14 golden eagles and dozens of other birds in the way it constructed a wind turbine farm in Wyoming.] And this company is run by two women–where are their values? I expect better of gals…

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  • and a story about President Obama attending a summit this coming week with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, and other North American leaders in Toluca, Mexico, just an hour’s drive from the mountains where Monarch butterflies overwinter. The world’s science and writing community is asking the leaders to pay attention to this area because of the ecological havoc we’ve created for Monarchs (ie non-human migrants). The butterfly area HAS SHRUNK TO 1.19 HECTARES (yes, you read it right) from 45 hectares (1 hectare=2.5 acres)  in 1996. While the area has been greatly deforested despite the creation of a biosphere (it gets “timber poached”), the small and shrinking habitat size actually means something else. It means that very few Monarchs arrived from the United States last year. Why? Because we Americans converted 15 million MORE acres of land to RoundUP Ready corn and soybeans, so every time we spray the corn we kill the Common milkweed–which grows best in disturbed areas like (hold it, get ready) CORNFIELDS!

Monarch forests

Here’s some “guerrilla” efforts for you to do if you feel otherwise helpless to fight the biggest issues confronting Monarchs:

First, spare one hour of your time (oh, stop complaining and just do it) and watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fh42KGh-TkE. This is a lecture by Univ of Kansas professor Chip Taylor, who started Monarch Watch. I learned so much from this video–it totally explains what’s happening to the Monarchs. It also made me a much more aware (and activist) conservationist. This is required viewing. Please let me know of your reaction.

Second, write The White House. Michelle has a symbolic garden…does it have Milkweed in it? Also, the US can give Mexico some money so locals don’t cut the trees for firewood. Ask the President to direct the US Dept of Transportation to “rescue” an acre of roadside milkweed habitat for every acre the US Depts of Agriculture and Energy allow to be destroyed to plant corn and soybeans for biofuel production. In addition, ask the USDA to stop calling Milkweed, “weedy and invasive”, on its website. Last, amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to include Butterflies.

Second, ask your Garden Club, wildflower group, botanic garden, and your self whether you have planted enough pollinator plants in your garden and community. Create a Monarch Waystation. Put a sign up and register it, for science sake. Understand the lifecycle of a Monarch. Stop calling Milkweed, “weedy and invasive”, on gardening and botanic garden websites! Watch Weedpatch subscribers (yeah!) Mike Nowak and Jennifer Brennan in this video as they visit an incredible butterfly garden (including a screened enclosure) in Chicago.

Third, are you a landscape designer? Have you specified Common Milkweed [Asclepsias syriaca] in your clients’ drawings, especially for large commercial or industrial projects? Take part in the “Bring Back the Monarchs Campaign”. Not only will you be helping butterflies, but you will be storing a lot of water on site. Milkweed is very drought tolerant because it has very long roots. Planting it means far less run-off from properties.

Fourth, join scientists AND the children of North America in tracking the migration of butterflies and lots of other critters (hummingbirds, robins, bald eagles, orioles, whoopers) and the emergence of Milkweed and Tulips–thus keeping track of spring. Enter the existence of your “climate test garden” into the database. Have fun and help the world’s wildlife (scientists use your data to understand the geographic dispersal of species) by using this cool website:  http://www.learner.org/jnorth/maps/Maps.html

Fourth, send a few bucks to groups like Forests for Monarchs, which uses every donated dollar to plant two conifers and teach sustainable forestry in Mexico. Twenty dollars means forty new trees. Sweet!##

monarch on milkweed

The Turtle Hospital

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

One more afternoon in the Florida Keys before I have to return to snowy Chicago…In the meantime I want to tell you about an incredible facility in Marathon called The Turtle Hospital.

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Here’s what I now know. There are seven species of seawater turtles in the world, and while they all inhabit (see map) the world’s oceans, five of them can be found off the coast of Florida. Four species are endangered–meaning they risk extinction from being able to live in the ocean. Only the Loggerhead has enough population to say it’s “threatened” instead of endangered. A fine line.

They range from a foot or so in shell length (the rarest turtle: Kemp’s Ridley) to the Leatherback, which can be 6′ long, weigh 1,500 pounds, dive 1,000 feet down into the cooold ocean, and travel 13,000 miles (one-way) in its migration. If it is sick or injured, the Leatherback is unable to be brought onshore because its soft shell, made only of cartilage, would disintegrate. Below is a photo I took of a Green Turtle, recovering after swallowing a latex glove. Green turtles were once prized (heck, they probably still are) for their meat (ie turtle soup).

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It’s not hard to imagine that turtles are brought weekly to The Turtle Hospital because they have been hit by a boat hull or propeller, or caught in a fishing net. But at The Turtle Hospital, the turtles are often operated on for removing fish hooks (ever see a 6″ fish hook next to an operating table?), swallowing plastic bags, deflated helium balloons, or large “nests” of fishing filament line. And then there’s surgery for removing tumors–fibropapillomas–which are disgusting cauliflower-like growths which are spread by a virus (like herpes). These infectious tumors, benign but terribly debilitating or fatal, are “the only known disease affecting wild animals on a global basis”. Ugh.

Tumors on a turtle at The Turtle Hospital

Tumors on a turtle at The Turtle Hospital

So for all us “Snowbirds”, here are some things we can do when visiting coastal waters (including places like Georgia, where 43% of turtle injuries were caused by boats in 2012):

  • Properly dispose of your garbage. Turtles may mistake plastic bags, styrofoam, and trash floating in the water as food and die when this trash blocks their intestines. (The Turtle Hospital uses a lot of Metamucil and vegetable oil to dislodge this junk from the turtles.)
  • Wherever you live or visit, pick up fishing line (600 years to biodegrade!), nylon rope, latex gloves, bikinis, and plastic six-pack holders. They get swallowed or cause flippers to be amputated (I decided not to post a photo of a rope twisted around a flipper: way too sad.)
  • Celebrate events without the use of helium balloon releases. Like plastic trash, balloons end up in the ocean, especially when released near the coast. Sea turtles mistakenly eat the balloons and die.
  • Remove recreational equipment, such as lounge chairs, cabanas, umbrellas, and boats, from the beach at night. Their presence can deter nesting attempts and interfere with the seaward journey of hatchlings (all summer thru October).
  • Protect beach vegetation that stabilizes sand and the natural coastline.
  • Minimize beachfront lighting during the sea turtle nesting season (May-August) by turning off, shielding, or redirecting lights.
  • Close blinds and draperies in oceanfront rooms at night during the nesting season (May-August) to keep indoor lighting from reaching the beach.
  • When boating, stay alert to avoid sea turtles. Propeller and collision impacts from boats and ships can result in injury and death of sea turtles. Also, stay in channels and avoid running in seagrass beds to protect this important habitat from prop scarring and damage. Avoid anchoring boats in seagrass beds and coral reefs, which serve as important foraging and resting habitats for sea turtles.
  • Use your natural vision when walking on the beach at night. The use of flashlights and flash photography can deter turtles from coming ashore to nest or cause them to abort nesting attempts.
  • Ask your boat captain if he has a propeller guard on his motor. This is controversial (the industry says it is worthless, h’mmm) but asking may alert your captain to how much you care about protecting wildlife, including manatees and turtles.

Last, while Florida made a great decision and created a license plate to support this turtle rescue facility and other efforts, this particular hospital was started by a northerner (still going strong) who moved to Florida and used the revenues from his motel to help these injured reptiles. When Hurricane Wilma wiped out the motel in 2005, he converted the whole building to a hospital. People like him deserve our greatest praise.#

 

Coral Restorations (And You Thought Restoring Oak Savannas Was Tricky)

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Uncategorized, Weather | 5 Comments

Good morning from sunny, 80 degree Islamorada, Florida, which I first learned means “purple island” but later learned means the “little drinking village in the Florida Keys with a fishing problem”.

I had the great good fortune of going fishing (no, I didn’t catch anything except an oversized minnow, aka extremely undersized fish) and also snorkeling (the closest I come to “sport”). The snorkeling is wonderful in the Keys, which is because all the individual reefs here are part of the Great Florida Reef, the third largest coral barrier reef in the world, after Australia and Belize. The reefs are vigorously protected by the State of Florida (1960) and the Federal government (1990).

The fish are the big draw off the Keys, but the real story is the coral that live in these waters. First, gardeners gotta love the names of the corals–flower, knobby brain, star, fat fungus, Gorgonian, elkhorn, staghorn, leaf, cactus, purple fan and golf ball. And then there’s their biology…

For those of you who, like moi, “forgot”, coral is not a plant, despite the names given to them. Coral is an animal that feeds on algae and plankton, but maybe on little fishes or urchins also, mostly at night. Yes, coral is a NOCTURNAL ANIMAL. Another surprise is that a coral may look like one large organism, but it is actually a large colony of identical attached polyps, each one of which are usually only a few centimeters tall. Each polyp has a mouth, surrounded by tentacles. In between the polyps is calcium carbonate (limestone rock) secreted by the polyps themselves.

Amazingly, the polyps reproduce by spawning (yes, sperm fertilizing eggs) during a full moon. In August. (Once in a while, July). This phenomenon bears repeating: their reproduction is HIGHLY SYNCHRONIZED TO A FULL MOON IN AUGUST. This makes me reconsider what I thought was mythology; in other words, I should buy a copy of The Farmer’s Almanac and start planting my vegetables in tune with the moon. If coral knows to do this to assure success, we should too, n’est-ce pas?

After fertilization, corals’ larva spread by the ocean’s currents throughout a reef. They settle, replicate asexually (!) during the year, grow into fantastic shapes, and create protected homes for the world’s fish. (By the way, the “full moon spawn thang” has become a big event for America’s best research aquariums, who come to the Keys to capture the gametes, take them back to the lab, and hope like hell a coral grows. To this I say, “good luck” but it makes for a great party in the Keys, I’m sure.)

Plants are often raised in nurseries, and so are animals, including corals. Beginning in 2003, the Coral Restoration Foundation [CRF] began to take “cuttings” of live elkhorn and staghorn coral, created ocean-floor nurseries of these “mother” segments, and are now raising thousands of new corals. When large enough, volunteer scuba divers “transplant” the corals back onto reefs. So far, the experiment is working. The corals are growing in their new homes. Nonetheless, the restoration hopes of the CRF are big: 98% of the elkhorn and staghorn coral have died in the Keys in just the past 20 years.

Photo courtesy of Coral Restoration Foundation

A coral nursery created by the Coral Restoration Foundation

One reason for this death is that coral appears to have, ahem, an eating disorder, cause unknown but culprits include warmer seawater or yes, even sporadic very cold water temperatures. When this happens, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all the corals expel a particular microscopic algae that live in their system. This event removes the green/brown chlorophyll color contributed by the algae and turns the coral a dark white. While the coral may not die from one event, the animal becomes stressed and vulnerable. This “bleaching” phenomenon is a natural occurrence, but was seen for the first time on a massive scale in 1973, when it snowed in the Keys.

Oceanographers may be spending time worrying about the effect of warmer/colder water and climate change, but I’m even more cynical about human interference with ecology. As a former regional planner, I wondered about a different culprit, especially after a CRF scientist mentioned to me that the degraded reefs are usually covered in too much algae. What have humans created that would cause too much nitrogen? Either fertilizer run-off or sewage, right? One Google search, and it was easy to find articles about Keys’ beaches closing in 1999 because of e.coli outbreaks. Soon thereafter, a Comprehensive Plan was written that decreed that by 2010 all Keys’ towns had to eliminate septic systems. From the look of the sewer pipes being placed along Route 1, it appears that  the project is taking longer. Nonetheless, the captain of my snorkeling boat yesterday told me that he can already notice how much more clear the water is than 10 years ago when he moved here.

But is it too late for the coral despite the very best efforts of restorationists? Which will recover faster–degraded oak woods or degraded coral reefs? Don’t know, but kudos to all the people who are working hard to save both.##

"Transplanting" coral. Thank You to Coral Restoration Foundation

“Transplanting” coral. Thank You to the Coral Restoration Foundation

 

 

 

Mississippi Flyway Used by Half of All North American Birds! Hear more next Monday…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Events, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lake County Audubon Society welcomes all to attend a very important presentation on Monday, December 2, 7:30 pm, at the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street, Libertyville, IL.

Chris Canfield, Vice President of the Mississippi Flyway and former VP Gulf of Mexico Conservation and Restoration, will discuss the National Audubon Society’s Mississippi Flyway, the role it plays in Audubon’s integrated conservation model, and the essential role that local Audubon chapters play in advancing National Audubon’s conservation priorities and success stories for birds.

Audubon is proud to have played a role in making a difference in the restoration plan that followed the Gulf oil spill as well as “working on the diverse team that helped make the RESTORE Act a reality [Queen Bee says: This act wisely gave all the BP money back to the Gulf instead of the US Treasury.] “ That funding will help revive vital wetlands that have been mismanaged for years as well as supporting a “river of birds,” since about half of North American species use the Mississippi Flyway at one time or another.

QUEEN BEE SAYS:  OPEN this link and LISTEN to this bird! http://birds.audubon.org/birds/greater-prairie-chicken. Wouldn’t you just die if a prairie chicken (a bird that counts on a healthy Mississippi and no bullets. Ahem.) was outside in your yard making his crazy noises?!

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Canfield did his undergraduate work at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and graduate work at the University of Oxford in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Until September 2010, he was executive director of Audubon North Carolina, a National Audubon Society program he led for more than a decade.

All along its length, the river has been controlled and manipulated to the detriment of natural systems and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them. The upper river is governed by a series of dams and locks; the lower river is channeled by more than 1,600 miles of levees. Together, these structures confine the Mississippi to less than 10 percent of its original floodplain, and the sediment that historically fed the river’s vast delta in Louisiana no longer reaches marshes and coastal forests. As a result, 19 square miles of delta wetlands disappear each year.

But Audubon is making a difference for the birds, habitats, and communities of the Mississippi Flyway.

Support Audubon. These people (mostly volunteers) do great work! ## PS And turn off all the damn floodlights in your buildings and yard. Birds do not read books.
 

Butterflies, Bees and Trees: What’s Your Legacy?

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

monarch on milkweed

Yesterday I was ferreting through a pile of my husband’s “paperwork” and came across a lost treasure: a faded pamphlet of “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness”, written by French novelist, Jean Giono (1895-1970) and first published by Vogue Magazine in March, 1954. This is the most precious and inspirational true story you could ever read. I read it first on a sunny summer afternoon when I had the honor of being able to visit the Wisconsin farm of the late landscape architect, Alfred Caldwell. I found the little booklet on his bookcase. It was just about the only thing on his bookcase. Intrigued, I hid for a time and devoured the story. I’ve never been the same since.

So this morning I sat down and re-read the story, which in subsequent American re-printings was retitled, “The Man Who Planted Trees” (a far less compelling title, n’est-ce pas?). The tale is so simple and lovely. And then–I just LOVE when “synchronicity” happens–I switched to email and opened one from the McHenry County Wildflower Committee. It contained the following link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/sunday-review/the-year-the-monarch-didnt-appear.html?smid=pl-share.

Which was really crazee to see because the article was written by Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Planted Trees, a book which I have not read (I ordered it) but which apparently starts with the story of “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness”.

Full circle, oui? I implore you to read the NY Times article and make an early New Year’s Resolution to be the person who saved the bees and butterflies…to be the person who planted hope and grew happiness. Please plan to plant an oak tree and some milkweed next year or if you are “property challenged”, to plant some parsley to feed the caterpillars. Think of it as your legacy. Or simply your first donation to the food pantry of starving animals.##

PS Ironically, the ‘Jean Giono’ Rose is a lightly scented tangerine color beauty. It will do nothing to feed a bee, but it is lovely:

Rose 'Jean Giono'

Rose ‘Jean Giono’

##