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A Potpourri of News…

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

Can you believe it’s June 1st already?! Sorry to have been out of touch…planting season…our farmhouse gardens to be photographed for Country Gardens Magazine

Country Gardens magazine's photographer shooting June garden

Country Gardens magazine’s photographer shooting June garden

…family…volunteerism…Leah’s college graduation…technical issues with this website…such a busy time of the year. Even the local wildlife is busy. When I drove into our driveway today, there were six (!) chipmunks running around like nut cases on the asphalt. They were glutinous, eating the seeds of maples, a phenom I had never seen before.  BTW, we are assured that those little seed nuggets are entirely edible, tasting like peas. You first.

Gardening world good news: tulips, redbuds, and big lilacs are done, but smaller (Syringa meyeri Palibin, Miss Kim, and ‘Boomerang’) lilacs are blooming with the azaleas. Huge amounts of foliage clothe all the shrubs and trees this year–even a lot of the ash trees aren’t as dead as I expected them to be. Wild geraniums, iris, wild phlox, hawthorns, variegated Solomon’s Seal, shooting stars, tree peonies, primroses and dogwoods are glorious. Fringe tree [Chionanthus virginicus] is about to “feather”. Did I mention the foliage and growth of the Beech trees–amazing! The bad news is that my (formerly) incredibly shaped Seven Sons Flower tree (Heptacodium miconoides–I love saying the name of this amazing tree which you must put in your garden) took a big hit from the winter wind (I think) and I had to chop it all to hell. Also, a big Redbud, a fragrant Viburnum carlesii, and a Juniper s. ‘Skyrocket’ died from drowning.

Did I mention the elegance of my all-time favorite shrub: Viburnum plicatum? Read more

A Few News Briefs…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Gardeners & Designers, Historic Places, Landscape Architecture, Plants, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Having grown up in Weston, Connecticut, there are a few East Coast preferences that I will never shake. One is the New York Times. I read it assiduously. So from time to time I’ll post some news and/or links that gardeners, conservationists, environmentalists (yes there is a diff between conservationists and environmentalists), land use planners, and whoever else is reading this blog might be interested in. And please, comment or write a follow up article…this blog is not supposed to be just the Queen Bee sounding off. It is here to exchange information, questions, and great commentary (emphasis on “great”).

Here are some snippets:

  • Sally Jewell is the new 51st Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. Who, you ask? Sally Jewell, 57 (young!) former CEO of REI, an outfitting store that is hard not to like. Jewell has no political experience, but she is a mountain climber so that bodes well for running an agency in Washington DC with 70,000 (!) employees, an $11B budget, and stewardship of 20% of the land in the U.S.. Why are you, a mere backyard gardener or landscape professional, interested in Interior? Because the US Fish and Wildlife Service in 2012 designated the country’s newest National Wildlife Refuge, called “Hackmatack”, in McHenry County and overlapping towards Lake Geneva, WI.. You are also interested because Interior administers the Endangered Species Act (thanks to Tricky Dick Nixon, 1973). Also, Interior regulates the private leasing of our national lands for oil wells and the like (pipelines). And it sells Duck Stamps (thanks to Herbert Hoover, 1929) to duck hunters, which raised $700 million for wetland conservation in 2013. Interior makes a difference in each of our lives.
  • Columbus, Indiana, is an “unlikely trove of midcentury modernism”. Oh, how I want to make a road trip here and see not only 70 examples of great architecture, but great landscape architecture. For example, you can tour the 1957 house designed by Eero Saarinaan and Kevin Roche [oooh, a fuchsia conversation pit!] but the gardens designed by landscape architect Dan Kiley. Alas, the Monet water lilies that was in this house was sold in 2008 for $40 million. Did any of you happen to purchase it?
  • A future post will cover the gardening impact of 400 ppm CO2 levels. We know we must plant trees and more trees, but should we be burying the dead ones instead of chipping, burning, or letting them lie on the ground to disintegrate? The latter options are ways to accelerate the release of more carbon. What do you think?

Anywho, this NYTimes article explains that average worldwide warming has now been proved to be 5 degrees, warmer over land (such as Chicago) and even higher at the Poles (15 degrees). Actually, a 2008 article about weeds loving CO2 (REQUIRED READING!) says that the average city condition NOW compared to the suburban temperature is exactly what is predicted worldwide…. This is what I know. There is no question that Santa is shaving his beard cause he’s too hot: the NYTimes reports that in 2010, only four ships carrying 110,000 tons of cargo made the northern passage between Asia and Europe. In 2012, 46 did, carrying 1.3 million tons. Less ice? Scary.##

 

 

 

 

Thinking Spring Means a Trip to Chalet Nursery in Wilmette, IL

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Landscape Architecture, Plants | 1 Comment

Beautiful spring day. I swung over to Northfield, IL to check on the seedlings that I’m growing  in 90 year old Aunt Sue’s greenhouse, and then I couldn’t resist a detour to Chalet Nursery in Wilmette. It has the best selection of plants on the North Shore, and before opening for the season it underwent a needed facelift inside and out. Well done: someone is very talented at merchandising displays.

Here are a few new plants that caught my eye:

Syringa Tiny Dancer

Syringa vulgaris ‘Tiny Dancer’: grows only 3-4′ high and wide, smaller than another full-scented small lilac that I’ve used over and over: Syringa v. ‘Little Boy Blue’ which grows to about 5′. ‘Little Boy Blue’ is pretty hard to find, even wholesale, so I was glad to see it for sale at Chalet.

Spirea Double Play Big Bang

Bright orange foliage? Whoa, look at this bad boy: Spirea ‘Double Play Big Bang’ (which is also called ‘Tracey’, go figure). It’s orange now, but is yellow the rest of the summer, with bright pink blooms. That’s where I get off the bus. Bright pink on bright yellow? Combine with bright red cedar mulch, and you have….vulgar!

Forsythia Show Off

But I digress. I saw a Forsythia that was awesome. Brightest yellow I ever saw: like a fake flower. Evaston, IL landscape designer Karen Koerth emailed to say that Forsythia ‘Show Off’ has the largest flowers she’s ever seen on a Forsythia as well. She says it looks like a small yellow single rose.

locust-twisty baby-branches-tree

I spied a Black Locust ‘Twisty Baby’ [Robinia pseudoacacia ‘Lace Lady’] that grows 15′ high and wide and has the Locust’s usual fragrant white flowers. My honeybees love our Black locusts. I wish “conservationists” wouldn’t be in such a hurry to cut them down. I know they sucker, but that means that they also hold soil on steep slopes. AND they fix nitrogen. So what’s not to like? Huh? Huh?

One more fine occurence at Chalet: I ran into Jennifer Brennan, who has worked at Chalet for 20 years and hands-down is the most enthusiastic garden geek (also, voted most enthusiastic human) I’ve ever met. She has linked up with Mike Nowak, similarly crazed person, to create a TV show, Dig In [MyDigInChicago.com]. Watch them on Saturday mornings at 8:30 am on WCIU or on Infinity channels 248,360; RCN, channel 35; or WOW channel 170. Such nice people–please support their work! Find them on Facebook under their names or at diginchicago.

Chalet Larch bridge for roots

Last, thanks to Chalet for protecting the roots of the huge ol’ Bald Cypress [Taxodium distichum] when they moved the old check-out shed and installed a new garden there. Chalet had a damn fine idea and built an arcing pedestrian “bridge” (barely noticeable) instead of taking the cheapo route and putting pavers right up against the aging beauty. Bald Cypress, by the way, is a great tree: tiny female cones release tasty seeds eaten by squirrels, songbirds, wild turkeys, egrets, herons and ducks. The wood of this tree is so hard it is used for building water tanks–like the ones on rooftops in Manhattan.##

Garden Columnist Anne Raver speaks up on Impatiens “Blight”

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Landscape Architecture, Plants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Impatiens-walleranaDo you read the New York Times? If you do, you have likely read the excellent writing of Anne Raver. Anne’s most recent column, “In the Garden”, describes at length the downy mildew that has killed Impatiens and which means you probably will not see it in garden centers this year. (Remember last year (?) when tomatoes were full of greenhouse disease?). Anyway, Anne’s opinion about Impatiens (“Impatiens is an overused plant I love to hate, so I am shedding crocodile tears…Maybe nature is doing us a favor by forcing those addicted to the plant to find an alternative.”) reminded me of the famous Chicago “Prairie School” landscape architect Alfred Caldwell. He was in his last years when he gave a keynote speech at the annual luncheon of Friends of the Parks. He showed some slides of his work, including one of a park he designed in Detroit. It was a recent slide, with red Impatiens figuring prominently in the shrub border. Mr. Caldwell looked hard at the slide, raised his cane and shook it angrily in the air, and cried, “Impatiens? RUBBISH!”. ##

Sunday, April 28: Garden Open in Winnetka, IL

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Landscape Architecture | 1 Comment
Beauty without Boundaries garden. Photo: Linda Oyama Bryan.

Chicago’s North Shore Open Day
Photo by Linda Oyama Bryan

If you have the opportunity, there is a wonderful garden in Winnetka open for visits through the work of The Garden Conservancy:

http://www.gardenconservancy.org/opendays/open-days-schedule/venueevents/1029-beauty-without-boundaries

 

The Charles Dawes Mansion: A Landscape Designed by O.C. Simonds for a Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Landscape Architecture | 2 Comments

In 1911, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gates Dawes asked Ossian Cole [O.C.] Simonds to design a landscape for their new home at the corner of Greenwood Street and Sheridan Road in Evanston, Illinois. The couple, along with their twenty year old son, Rufus, moved into the mansion in 1909.

East Facade of the Dawes Mansion
The East Facade of the Dawes Mansion

Mr. Dawes was an important banker, president of the Central Trust Company of Illinois. He also spent time in this nation’s capitol when called by President William McKinley to become Comptroller of the Currency. Dawes did much to reform banking after the devastating Panic of 1893. He ran for Illinois Senator in 1902, but lost. Experts believe that Theodore Roosevelt, who became President following the assassination of President McKinley in 1901, pragmatically sided with Illinois’ “Old Guard” Republicans against “reformers” like Mr. Dawes, who disliked the machine politics of Cook County.

Dawes Mansion

Dawes Mansion, Evanston, IL (1915)

The Dawes’ residence (now the home of the Evanston History Center] sits high on the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. It was designed in the French chateau style by architect Henry Edwards-Ficken of New York for Northwestern University’s treasurer and business manager, Robert Sheppard. Mr. Sheppard bought this beautifully-sited property in 1882, but the house was built in 1894-96, just after the World’s Columbian Exhibition of 1893. The Sheppards were unable to keep the house after a financial scandal (it appears that he took out a loan for Northwestern University but put only his name on the real documents) whereupon the Dawes’ bought it. Thus, it had little landscape. Mr. and Mrs. Dawes preferred a naturalistic style of design, although they asked for a terrace for entertaining. While the residence’s front door faces south, the east facade faces Sheridan Road and just beyond that, Lake Michigan. The views of the lake are lovely, particularly from the second floor bedrooms.

  • Dawes Mansion
    Dawes Mansion, Evanston, IL (1915)

Simonds’ plan for the landscape created small views through the trees to Lake Michigan and asymmetrical masses of shrubs at the base of the house to reduce its immensity. The plan created an important sense of arrival in the south-facing front yard by planting elms along the front walk. The main perimeter of the two acre property was enclosed with a privet hedge and groves of spruce, ash, elms, sugar maples and evergreens that allowed pedestrians to glimpse the house but which assured the privacy of its occupants.

Simonds added a wild garden with oak, elm and snowberry on the north side, east of the stables. The east slope of the terrace features hawthorn, honeysuckle, barberry, roses, and Japanese lilac, and along the foundation are forsythia, roses and hydrangea. It appears that Simonds was trying to marry French formality and American informality.

Today the landscape has deteriorated but its “bones” are intact. Some years ago, a group of students, led by landscape architect Barbara Geiger, who is also Simonds’ biographer, created a historic survey and restoration plan. We hope that a sponsor (Evanston Garden Club are you reading this?) comes forward to restore this iconic landscape architect’s vision.##