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Why is Santana Playing in my Head?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Plants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Another great find in the 2014 plant catalogs! This time it’s DRUNKEN WOMAN FRIZZY HEADED LETTUCE, sold by Territorial Seed Company. Gotta have it… then this summa I’m gonna crank up some Santana, swing those (svelte) hips, and belt out a new tune in my garden: “…I got a frizzy heada lettuce, got a frizzy heada lettuce, got me so blind I can’t eat, it’s tryin to make a meat eater outa me…Got its spell on me baby…I need you so bad, drunken lettuce, I can’t leave you alone…”. And the catalog even adds, “It’s the last lettuce to bolt”. Well, of course she is! She might be drunk and frizzy headed, but she’ll never bolt from ya, baby.

And, no, I haven’t been to Colorado lately. BUT this reminds me that a fine and noble Weedpatch reader, Patti S, sent me a wonderful book: The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart, who also wrote, Wicked Plants:The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities. My kind of author! Wonder what lettuce she’s planting in 2014?

Drunken Botanist Cover

Methinks I’ve been inside enduring grayness too long…Getting way too loopy. Think I’ll go have a drink. Or some lettuce.##

 

Happy New Year! Time to Dream of (Wacky) Vegetables to Plant…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants | Leave a comment

Need some laughs? An alert reader sent me a fellow blogger’s (“The Art of Doing Stuff”) post about visiting a CSA farm in Canada and some of the wacky plants it’s possible to grow. Take a look at the great photos in this article (and scroll down to get your laugh by reading the text for “spigiarello”!): http://www.theartofdoingstuff.com/heirloom-vegetables-things-youve-never-thought-of-planting/

On cue for January 2, my Jung’s Seed Catalog arrived. I’ve thumbed through, and my personal favorite wacko vegetable for 2014 is…Cauliflower Veronica Romanesco (I even like her name!):

cauliflower veronica romanesco

Won’t your kids think this is an improvement on cauliflower? Eat up, Johnny!

What wacky flower or vegetable do you, dear readers, want to grow this year? OR, for armchair gardeners, is there a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Farm that you want to give a personal “shout out” to, here on these inscrutable (my favorite word today) pages? Here’s an organic CSA farm, “Green Earth Farm”, owned by some friends, Scott & Kathy Mor, in Richmond, IL (get your veggies, eggs, and heritage turkeys from them, if possible!) ##

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’

##

Woe the Ornamental Pear Tree: Invasive, But Does It Make the “Invasive List”?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Plants, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Trouble’s brewing over the fate of Ornamental Pear [Pyrus calleryana] trees. It seems that this tree (you may know its cultivar names such as Aristocrat, Bradford, Chanticleer, Cleveland Select, Redspire, Trinity, or Jaczam) is becoming invasive in northeastern Illinois. In fact, Cathy McGlynn, coordinator of the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, told me that attempts to regulate its sale were recently proposed because conservationists fear that “it may become the next Buckthorn.” In fact, just last week–presumably because nurserymen (with lots of ornamental pear trees to sell) freaked out–the Illinois Invasive Species Council decided to slow down on regulation, opting not to list the pear as an “exotic weed” at this time but instead to do “education and outreach and shift market focus”, according to McGlynn. (Methinks this means that the Ornamental Pears will not be for sale anymore in 3-5 years, so watch for some good $$ deals from nurserymen…).

Is this Pear the next Buckthorn?

Is this Pear the next Buckthorn?

(Note: there is a small 12′ x 15′ pear tree that is of a different species: Pyrus fauriei ‘Korean Sun’. No word on the invasive aspect of this species.)

Now all this is enough to make Queen Bee quite crazy. Why? Because while we should (rightly) worry about pear trees, the elephant in the room is still, even after decades of education,  BUCKTHORN. This tree is without a doubt the most injurious invasive plant in Illinois. Sadly, it is only illegal to sell buckthorn (see the Exotic Weed Act below) but it is still quite okay to continue to grow it on your property, which means it is not on Illinois’ Noxious Weed Law (see below for list of the plants that require eradication).

Why isn’t the disgusting Buckthorn banned? Because homeowners think it is a great screening plant and refuse to spend the money to take it out and plant appropriate shrubbery that stays put. And elected officials who could change the law listen to their whining neighbors. To that I say, “Enough is Enough!”. If we can ban smoking in restaurants and public places, we can insist that Buckthorn be banned too. Start easy if one must (Queen Bee holds her nose here): create a law that only outlaws all the female Buckthorn plants (the ones with black berries that the birds eat and then spread). But move ahead with stating that Buckthorn is a noxious weed. Our legacy as gardeners must be to demand of each other that we all save our wild areas from Buckthorn. And Garlic Mustard. And, yes, Pear trees…

If you want to see where Ornamental Pear trees and other “new” invasives are being spotted in northeastern Illinois, here’s an interesting website: http://www.newinvaders.org/. And here’s a link to an Ohio research study on Pears’ invasiveness: Theresa Culley, Spread and Ecological Impacts of Callery Pear (Pyrus calleryana) and Other Ornamentals in Southwestern Ohio.

Illinois Exotic Weed Act

It shall be unlawful for any person, corporation, political subdivision, agency or department of the State to buy, sell, offer for sale, distribute or plant seeds, plants or plant parts of exotic weeds including:

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Common Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica); Glossy buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula); Saw-toothed buckthorn (Rhamnus arguta); Dahurian buckthorn (Rhamnus davurica); Japanese buckthorn (Rhamnus japonica); Chinese buckthorn (Rhamnus utilis)

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

Illinois Noxious Weed Law: 

It shall be the duty of every person to control the spread of and to eradicate all noxious weeds on lands owned or controlled by him in the State of Illinois.

Marihuana (Cannabis sativa L.)  [Editor: we’re they smoking it while they were trying to spell it??!]

Giant Ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.) and Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisifolia L.) within the corporate limits of cities, villages, and incorporated towns

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Perennial Sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis);

Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans);

Perennial members of the Sorghum genus, including Johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense), Sorghum almumand other Johnsongrass x sorghum crosses with
rhizomes;

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

According to its website, the Midwest Invasive Plant Network is working with the Northeast Illinois Invasive Plant Partnership, Chicago Botanic Garden, Lake County (IL) Forest Preserve District, and The Nature Conservancy to provide information to both nurseries and consumers about ornamental plants that have become invasive plants in native areas.  Some of these ornamental escapees include –

Burning Bush (Euonymous alatus) (this species is banned in Massachusetts and declared invasive in Connecticut and New Hampshire)

Butterfly Bush (Buddleia davidii)  (it’s sale has been banned in Oregon and it is on the Washingston State Noxious Weed List)

Callery (Bradford) Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

Common or European Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) [on the Illinois Exotic Weed Act List]

Japanese Barberry (Berberis thunbergii)  (voluntary phase out of 25 cultivars in Connecticut. Lake Forest IL bans Barberry but no other plant, yet it is ubiquitously planted by residents who apparently haven’t received the no-no memo.)

Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica) (declared invasive in NH)

Oriental (Asian) Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

Porcelain Berry/Porcelain vine/Amur Peppervine (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

Last, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and its Illinois Invasive Plant Council have this REALLY LONG list of nasty plant varmints: http://www.invasive.org/species/list.cfm?id=152 which includes Pyrus calleryana but then splits the difference, listing only ‘Bradford’. Is it just ‘Bradford’ that’s the problem or is it all the cultivars (dopey question–definitely all that set seeds). Another ecological restoration “head scratcher” as this Queen Bee sees it.##

 

Restoration Ecology: Bad Signs, Good Books, and Henry Cowles

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Historic Places, Plants, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

I am not a biologist nor a botanist, merely an interested gardener, but our trip to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore did offer a few “head scratchers”. For example, why is it that so often I notice signs like this…

P1080969

 

…which are then surrounded by non-native plants (in this case, coreopsis and agastache)? In our town, the “Restoration Area: Do Not Mow” signs posted on the publicly-owned Lake Michigan bluff are apparently markers for inviting rampant noxious weeds to invade the hillside.

I wonder if Henry Chandler Cowles (1869-1939)would laugh and shake his head in bewilderment that so often we still “miss the mark”. Do you know Mr. Cowles, the Chicago botanist who was a pioneer of “ecology” and discovered the phenomenon of “plant succession” in large part from his observations of the Indiana Dunes and its hinterland? It was Cowles, along with Thomas W. Allison (can someone provide biographical information on him to me?) and landscape architect Jens Jensen, who formed the Prairie Club of Chicago in 1908 and began to propose the preservation of the dunes via a “National Park for the Middle West”. That was before the National Park Service itself was established in 1916. The group’s promotional efforts were very successful, but regrettably, World War I intervened as a national priority.

There is a most interesting book, Henry Cowles: Pioneer Ecologist written in 2007 by Victor Cassidy. I learned a lot, particularly since Cassidy incorporated Cowles’ own writing about various local-to-Chicago ecologies. Right now, I am trying to learn about what grows within Lake Michigan’s ravines, which are an ecology which Gerould Wilhelm calls, “unique among the world’s ecologies”.

Speaking of good Chicago ecology books, here are some of the intriguing titles for sale at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore:

 Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History, edited by Helen Hornbeck Tanner

The Living Great Lakes: Searching for the Heart of the Inland Seas, by Jerry Dennis

Talking Landscapes: Indiana Dunes Poems, by Paula McHugh

Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals, by William Ratigan

Calumet Beginnings: Ancient Shorelines and Settlements at the South End of Lake Michigan, by Kenneth J. Schoon

Roadside Geology of Indiana, by Mark Camp and Graham Richardson

Nature Walks in Northern Indiana, by Alan McPherson

The Nature Conservancy’s Guide to the Indiana Preserves

60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Chicago, by Ted Villaire

Birds of the Indiana Dunes, by Kenneth Brock

A 1,000 Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman’s Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan, by Loreen Niewenhuis (I heard her lecture on her trek: very very interesting!)

Thanks to all these authors, beginning with Professor Henry Cowles, for writing down all this wonderful research for us. An amazing commitment of time and energy!##

 

 

It’s waayyyy past time to outlaw Buckthorn!

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

The first two emails in my inbox today concern Buckthorn–the scourge of the Chicago region. First, my husband John sent me a photo of the black berries produced by female Buckthorn trees. He suggested that for readers who might be unsure how to identify this weed, the berries are a surefire sign:

Buckthorn's black berries, full of seeds that birds eat and excrete, thus spreading the tree everywhere.

Buckthorn’s black berries, full of seeds that birds eat and excrete, thus spreading the tree everywhere.

The second email was sent by fisherman Paul Bergmann. It appears we now know what’s ruining the ecosystem for amphibians. Buckthorn! (PS I live in Lake Forest, which I think has more buckthorn per square inch than any town on earth. It’s embarrassing and shameful.)

Thorny Situation

Thanks, gentlemen. Now get out there with your chainsaws and cut down this vicious weed! AND call your elected officials and demand that buckthorn be illegal (this is not a joke. In Lake Forest, buckthorn is not illegal but barberry is. Go figure.)##

Save the Raptors, Savor the White (But Don’t Drink the Milk)

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Plants, Public Gardens and Parks, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

A small blurb in the Lake County, IL Audubon Society‘s fall newsletter caught my eye…and as a result I visited a website called, barnswallow.net. What a wonderful thing that Wauconda resident Linda Breuer is doing to care for and raise owls, hawks and other raptors. Don’t you just LOVE LOVE LOVE people who are so devoted to animals? And don’t you just LOVE LOVE LOVE “Boopie”, the owl? He needs your money to care for his amputated foot.

Boopie the Owl

Boopie the Owl

Autumn is the time to savor orange and red and yellow, but this year I particularly noticed a white flower growing prolifically in a local park and also volunteering in my garden. And it’s not just me: bees and insects noticed the White Snakeroot [Eupatorium rugosum] too. Turns out that this native plant is NOT one that you should encourage in your landscape if you are anywhere near cows. This plant’s flowers may be beloved of bees and pollinators, but its leaves and stems contain a toxic oil that can cause cattle to get tremors, especially in the flank and hind legs, and a fatal lethargy. Horses prefer grass and goats seem pretty immune, but cattle eat everything, so this is how cow’s milk becomes poisoned. And you all know the story of Abraham Lincoln’s mother dying of…milksickness. The settlers were drinking raw cow’s milk poisoned by Eupatorium rugosum.

White snakeroot with bee Eupatorium 9-24-2013 10-40-23 AM 480x640

White Snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum

White Snakeroot, Eupatorium rugosum

 

A slope full of White Snakeroot

A slope full of White Snakeroot

What you may not know is that an Illinois woman was the person who figured out the connection between the fatal illness and this pretty white-flowered plant. Her name was Anna Pierce Hobbs Bixby (1812–1873) and she was a physician: that is, as much a physician as a woman could officially be in 1830: midwife, dentist, nurse. She was alarmed by the quick (1 day to 3 weeks) death of her mother, sister-in-law, and serious illness of her father, along with other people in the region around her small town on the IL/OH border. She realized it was seasonal and affected people who drank milk and ate butter, but it was an old Shawnee woman who told Dr. Bixby the connection to the White Snakeroot. It wasn’t until 50 years after Dr. Bixby’s death, however, that she was given credit for discovering that a plant was causing a fatal illness. Moral of the story: do not drink raw milk from cows AND make sure the seeds from your plant are staying put–away from cows, horses, and foraging humans. Speaking of milk, there is a version of this plant named, ‘Chocolate’. Death from Chocolate Milksickness?!

One more white feature in our Midwest landscape. This GREAT EGRET (the black legs tell you it’s an egret), cavorting yesterday in the mist with his friends at Mellody Farm Nature Preserve…

Great Egret and Friends at Mellody Farm, Lake Forest, IL

Great Egret and Friends at Mellody Farm, Lake Forest, IL

###

 

 

Thanks to the Woodpeckers and Nut Hatches

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

Have you all seen this Wall Street Journal article? http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323446404579011172323705040.html?KEYWORDS=ash+trees#articleTabs%3Darticle

May they eat and eat and eat until the Emerald Ash Borer stops its rampage through the Midwest.##

Buy a Hosta, Build a Future

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Events, Gardeners & Designers, Plants | 2 Comments

Saturday, August 24, 9am-4pm Hosta Sale. 

Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery in Woodstock, IL, will have several hundred varieties of hostas for sale to benefit Heifer International. All hostas are $5.00 and up. Heifer International (HI) is a non-profit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending world hunger and poverty and caring for the earth. HI provides livestock, trees, training, and other resources to help struggling families build sustainable futures. The recipients of the animals must ‘pass on the gift’ of the first female offspring and training in environmentally sound agriculture to another family in need. In this manner, an endless cycle of transformation is set in motion as recipients become equal partners in ending poverty and hunger. Heifer International has provided food and income producing animals to more than 8.5 million impoverished families in 125 countries in the last 67 years. Rich Eyre worked with Heifer while in the Peace Corps 44 years ago in Bolivia and he can give testimony to its positive effects in those communities. Rich and Susan Eyre served 6 years on the Board of Trustees of the Heifer Foundation.

Rich and Susan just appeared on one of my favorite radio shows, WBEZ World View with Jerome McDonnell, because they were nominated as outstanding volunteers for a worldwide cause. Congratulations to them! Here’s their interview: http://www.wbez.org/series/global-activism/global-activism-philplanthropy-108432.

Ed Slomski and Mike Krause coordinate volunteers to help divide and sell the hostas. Volunteers will be available to answer any questions about Heifer International on the day of the sale. On the day’s program:

  • 10am-noon Hosta Leaf Identification Tom Micheletti, former President of the American Hosta Society and Midwest Regional Hosta Society, and founder and first President of the Northern Illinois Hosta Society, will be available to identify hostas for people who bring the leaves of unknown hostas.
  • 1pm Hostas in the Landscape Tom Micheletti will do a short presentation about hostas.
  • 9am-4pmBolivian Arts & Crafts Fundraiser for Mano a Mano International Partnerswill raise money to build hospitals, schools, roads, and irrigation projects in rural Bolivia. There will be a variety of items for sale. Mano a Mano was originated by a fellow Peace Corps volunteer, Joan Velasquez, and her husband Segundo. In 2008 she won the Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service awarded to a Returning Peace Corps Volunteer. Rich & Susan Eyre want to help Mano a Mano build 100 hospitals in Bolivia.

Refreshments will be served. Cash or check only! Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, 11618 McConnell Road Woodstock IL 60098. 815-338-7442. coniflora@richsfoxwillowpines.com.##

BELOW ARE THE HOSTAS IN ROMMY’S GARDEN THAT NEED IDENTIFICATION. CAN ANYONE IDENTIFY ANY OF THESE HOSTAS? THE PERSON WHO CORRECTLY ANSWERS THE MOST HOSTA WILL HAVE A DONATION MADE IN THEIR NAME BY THE WEEDPATCH GAZETTE TO HEIFER PROJECT. GOOD LUCK AND THANKS!

 

 

Do Deer Like Milkweed?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Plants, Uncategorized | 6 Comments

“Do Deer Like Milkweed”?

Do Deer Like Milkweed?

Do Deer Like Milkweed?

This is a query received from a Weedpatch reader named Patti S. I LOVE questions from readers because finding answers is my way of avoiding working on any essential tasks (like earning money or calling the health insurance company). Very oddly, the question reminded me that I had recently bought a used book, The Hidden Life of Deer, by naturalist/anthropologist, Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, but had not yet read it. So, now’s the time, right? Honest to God, I randomly opened the book to page 186 and immediately saw the word, “Monarch”. Could I really have an answer so quickly? Well, no, but I did read four riveting pages of Thomas’ observations of a Monarch caterpillar on a Milkweed leaf. Which left me with the question, “Do caterpillars shit only on leaves they don’t nibble”?

But I digress. Next, I googled. Whereupon I came upon a lot of other people looking to answer the same question, but also found my new favorite website, homesteadingtoday.com, which appears to be about as blue state/red state in its opinions as Americans can be. There I read comments claiming that Milkweed is “a noxious weed, just like kudzu” and how best to eradicate it with 2-4D but followed by polite suggestions from obvious blue staters like, “couldn’t you leave just a little bit for the butterflies?”. I also read how Grandpa considered Milkweed to be his cash crop during WWII cuz he sold the waterproof and buoyant floss for stuffing in life jackets and flight suits (methinks Grandpa did not get rich but this CSM article about its WWII uses is REALLY interesting). Then I read that Milkweed “never bothered the cattle”. And that Milkweed should be planted by the front door because it draws bees but the bees “keep the door knockers away”. The same commentator, “Alleyyooper”, answered Patti’s question this way: “Deer like it like a horse eats oats”. H’mmm…

But methinks that Alleyyooper is wrong about the grazing deer. “Milkweed” is MILKweed for a reason (actually, let’s rename it “Silkweed”, much more attractive name). Milkweed refers to its “white juice, which is a kind of rubber”. (Recall that Thomas Edison tried to use it to replace rubber in making car tires. True.). Here’s more from a 1911 book, Handbook of Nature Study, (buy it!) recommended to me by botanist Jerry Wilhelm:

“The most striking peculiarity of the milkweed plant is its white juice. Let a drop of it dry on the back of the hand, and when we try to remove it we find it quite elastic and possessed of all the qualities of crude rubber. We can see that the hollow of the center of the stem has around it a dark green ring, and that outside this is a light green ring. It is from the dark green ring that the milk exudes. The juice will soon fill and heal the wound we made. This milk is not the sap of the pine; it is a special secretion, and is very acrid to the taste. Milkweed is seldom eaten by grazing animals…”.

P1060681

I tested the Milkweed myself, including trying to sniff for its “strong odor” which I thought might deter the deer. I couldn’t smell any odor, although I thought I detected a soft vanilla scent. Deer cookies? Anyhoo, this is what I think. If you were a deer grazing in a salad bowl of vegetation, you might bite off a Milkweed occasionally, but if you got a mouthful of white sticky latex on your tongue every time you would definitely prefer to eat something else. Like a hosta. So, dear Patti, plant the milkweed and watch to see what the deer do to it. Get back to us, okay?

And to alleyyooper–if a horse eats too many oats, a horse gets sick. Same with Milkweed and deer. Please plant milkweed. Make a butterfly come alive.##

monarch on milkweed