Welcome! My favorite part of this blog is the interactive aspect of it. Double click on the blue title boxes to view the full article and the social media section. That's where you can share, tweet, pin, and best of all, COMMENT. I like comments!

Good Conference on Native Gardening: Nov 15th

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Events, Plants | 1 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!#

IMG_5471

 

 

 

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? ##.

P1110697

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.##

Sure Signs of Summer

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Plants | 3 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

 

 

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):

P1110231

 

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. #

 

 

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?

 

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!”.#

Not a Centerfold, but Close!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Historic Places, Plants, Uncategorized | 19 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! ##

Start to a Cheerful Tuesday

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

Good morning, Weedpatch pals. Here’s a Japanese woodblock created in 1917 to cheer up your morning: gotta love Columbines!

Columbines Japanese_0002

That same year (1917), a native Chicagoan, Neltje Blanchan, who wrote eleven books in her 52 years, said this about columbines in her book, Nature Wonders: Wild Flowers Worth Knowing. The book was published by the company her husband started: Doubleday.

“The Columbine never has the elfin charm in a conventional garden that it possesses wild in Nature’s. Dancing, in red and yellow petticoats, to the rhythm of the breeze along the ledge of overhanging rocks, it coquettes with some Punchinello as if daring him to reach her at his peril. Who is he? Let us sit a while on the rocky ledge and watch for her lovers…Presently a big bumblebee booms along. Owing to his great strength, an inverted, pendent blossom, from which he must cling upside down, has no more terrors for him than a trapeze for the trained acrobat. His long tongue–he is one of the largest of our sixty-two species of Bombus–can suck almost any flower…He is the truest benefactor of the European Columbine (A. vulgaris), whose spurs suggested the talons of an eagle (aquila) to imaginative Linnaeus when he gave this group of plants its generic name.

Fragile butterflies, absolutely dependent on nectar, hover near our showy wild Columbine with its five tempting horns of plenty, but sail away again, knowing as they do that their weak legs are not calculated to stand the strain of an inverted position from a pendent flower, nor are their tongues adapted to these slender tubes. The tongues of both butterflies and moths bend readily only when directed beneath their bodies. It will be noticed that our Columbine’s funnel-shaped tubes contract just below the point where nectar is secreted–doubtless to protect it from small bees. When we see the honey-bee or the little wild bees–Halictus chiefly–on the flower, we may know they get pollen only.

Finally a ruby-throated hummingbird whirs into sight. Poising before a Columbine, and moving around it to drain one spur after another until the five are emptied, he flashes like thought to another group of inverted red cornucopias, visits in turn every flower in the colony, then whirs away quite as suddenly as he came. Probably to him, and no longer to the outgrown bumblebee, has the flower adapted itself. The European species wears blue, the bee’s favorite color according to Sir John Lubbock; the nectar hidden in its spurs, which are shorter, stouter and curved, is accessible only to the largest bumblebees. There are no hummingbirds in Europe. Our native Columbine, on the contrary, has longer, contracted, straight, erect spurs, most easily drained by the ruby-throat which ever delights in any color at all so long as it’s red.”##

Courtesy: birdsnblooms.com

Courtesy: birdsnblooms.com

 

 

 

 

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…

dan-river-plant-greenpeace-304xx553-878-0-0

  • 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