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Hosta and Heifers: We Salute Margaret Eyre…”our” ambassador of world peace.

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Plants, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Can you imagine being thanked by an international organization for helping to end hunger and poverty and care for the Earth?

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That is the story of Margaret Eyre, who died recently at age 97. John and I had the remarkable luck of knowing Margaret for twenty years, meeting her not long after she became active in her son, Rich Eyre’s, business, Rich’s Foxwillow Pines Nursery, in Woodstock, Illinois.  Her specialty was hostas and she propagated the plants and sold them for Heifer International. She raised at least $500,000 for world hunger, allowing Heifer to buy farm animals for people around the world with the agreement that those farmers would give what they received and pass on the gift to others in their community.  Some of those funds were donated to Heifer International Foundation, where the funds remain in perpetuity and the interest is given to projects in Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bolivia.

Margaret was known as the ‘Hosta Queen’.  Margaret was thrilled when Tom Micheletti, former president of the American Hosta Society, hybridized a hosta and named it ‘Margaret Eyre’.  She worked every day at the nursery until she was 93 years old.

On December 21, 2015 with admiration and recognition, Mano a Mano International presented Margaret with a plaque for a 4-classroom school in Sora Sora, Bolivia, dedicated in her honor for her years of work on behalf of the people of Bolivia. This school will be completed by April 2016. Here’s the old school that Margaret’s hosta money will replace:

Bolivia old school

Thank you, Margaret, and thank you to all who bought Margaret’s hostas and, in so doing, contributed to BEAUTY AND PEACE ON EARTH. Margaret was a rare and wondrous bird. She will truly be greatly missed.#

Margaret-Eyre

 

 

Brussels Sprouted…into a topiary!

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

Thanks to Chicago Botanic Garden veggie garden manager Lisa Hilgenberg for sending us a photo of her Brussels Sprouts topiary, which she says was inspired by chefs at The White House. (Recently Lisa was a special guest for a tour of the First Lady’s organic garden and the White House kitchen(s)(s)(s). How cool is that?)…

Brussel Sprout topiary

It’s a lovely thing, this topiary, and it makes me happy to look at a thing of beauty because I was just watching TV news. Another gun massacre. Which means another call to Mark Kirk, who I called this morning to say that Mitch McConnell cancelling health money for the 9/11 first responders is shameful. And I spent all day finding new health insurance (which I didn’t finish yet because I can’t figure it out) because my $900/month Gold Blue Cross policy is now useless at all Northwestern hospitals and “out of network” at Rush (check your policy if you go to Rush). Grumpy? YES, I AM, aren’t you? Makes me want to throw a Brussels Sprout at a Republican.##

“We Say What You Think”

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Historic Places, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Having recently spent a month bouncing around the Lower Keys (we rented a place via VRBO. Don’t get me started on horrible landlords; then again, the sunset from the porch was awesome), I was intrigued to read this essay about Naples, Everglades, sugar plantations, and the Keys. Lucia does “say what I think” (her motto). In fact, she does a better job thinking through what I think than I think I could ever think. Read Lucia’s Symposium #31: Old Florida and The Everglades. Someday somewhere I hope I find a spot than doesn’t want (and doesn’t even take time to think about) to take paradise and put up a parking lot…##

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The Polish Garden Writers Club (2 members so far)

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 4 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]

 

Watch Jens Jens Documentary (complete with his voice) TONIGHT

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Gardeners & Designers, Landscape Architecture, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Hi, Weedpatch fans. So sorry I’ve been SO SO out of touch: I am devoting a lot (!) of time to trying to save 400 mature and reproducing oak and hickory trees on an 8 acre site in Lake Forest. A shopping center developer, Bill Shiner, has arrived in town and wants us to waive or s-t-r-e-t-c-h every ordinance to accomodate four outbuildings (maybe Chase Bank, Starbucks, ChickFilA, don’t know he’s not sayin’) plus Whole Foods (maybe). The lure of tax $$ is great, but to me the lure of saving trees and protecting our laws should be greater. Anyway, it’s taking a lot of time. Please help out by making comments on Whole Foods’ website: how come the company says it’s “sustainable” if it wants to take paradise (did I mention demolishing a landmarked mansion?) and put up a parking lot?

Of course, if you are a responsible gardener in the Chicago region, you must know the name, Jens Jensen. Last night I saw on WTTW a preview of what looks to be a wonderful documentary on the contributions of Jens Jensen (1860-1951) to parks and landscape in the Chicago region. The documentary airs tonight, both on TV and at Millenium Park. Here’s the link: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/06/18/film-documents-life-and-work-jens-jensen

Please watch and share what you learned. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I lash myself to yet another 200 year old oak tree. Could this really be happening–in Lake Forest? Don’t they call it “slash and burn” or “deforestation” in other countries? Sigh. Pretty depressing.

Here’s a photo I took today of a landscape in Lake Forest which was designed by the Olmsted Brothers and later Jens Jensen…

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And Now for my Substitute Guest Editor or…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A View from A Broad!

I have always been a HUGE fan of the Divine Miss M’s and, obviously having too much time on my hands today, I landed on Bette Midler’s website. Actually, I was looking for tickets to the Carole King show in NYC, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Queen Bee burst a gut reading Miss Manifesto’s bloviating blog: she thinks like I do. (And you do.) So here it is for you: http://bettemidler.com/.

Oh, what I wouldn’t do to share a laugh and a Cosmo with her. Enjoy! #

And another thing: Here’s an example of how goofy the world is. For thousands of years, maybe eons, Canada geese have been migrating from Canada to Florida, from Florida to Canada, back and forth, forth and back. All that time, they’ve had all their favorite watering holes along the way, each goose parent teaching their goslings where to stop, especially when they are old enough to lay eggs and want a nice lakeside location to nest by. But then along come humans, and decide to fill in the lake and build a nice big Costco instead. But that goose just doesn’t stop wanting the old scenic location…God bless her.

Goose close up

 

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…”.

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  • 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.#

 

Polar Plunge!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Here’s a brief but spiritually invigorating (brrr, especially today!) video sent from subscriber and great humanist Mordechai Levin, who lives along the Nippersink Creek in Richmond, McHenry, Illinois. He suggests that the creek be renamed, the “NipperMink”…

 

If you know of the wonderful work of the poet, Mary Oliver, you will enjoy this poem of her’s (I don’t have permission to publish it, but I hope she will forgive me when each of you buys her latest book, A Thousand Mornings, or Evidence, the earlier book containing this poem, entitled, It Was Early:

It was early, which has always been my hour to begin looking at the world and of course, even in the darkness, to begin listening into it, especially under the pines where the owl lives and sometimes calls out as I walk by, as he did on this morning.   So many gifts! What do they mean?   In the marshes where the pink light was just arriving the mink with his bristle tail was stalking the soft-eared mice, and in the pines the cones were heavy, each one ordained to open.   Sometimes I need only to stand wherever I am to be blessed.   Little mink, let me watch you. Little mice, run and run. Dear pine cone, let me hold you as you open.”

HAPPIEST NEW YEAR, FULL OF BLESSINGS, WHEREVER YOU FIND YOURSELF STANDING.

Potorius vison [Mink] by John James Audubon, printed 1844.

Potorius vison [Mink] by John James Audubon, printed 1844.

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STOP the presses and read this!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Many of you know that I volunteer with a GREAT charity called Mothers Trust Foundation (MTF). It is so great that it won the “2013 Human Services Philanthropy Award” by Make It Better magazine, and the prize was a free professional videotape for marketing our organization. This week the tapings were done, which included testimonials by social workers from Lake County (IL) and some of the oh-so-desperately-poor kids they help, each discussing how MTF came to the rescue.

Today MTF’s Executive Director, Cheri Richardson, received two emails, which she forwarded to volunteers and I want to share with you. The first comes from the movie director, Adam, describing his experience with “Henry”. But make sure you keep reading…read down and take in the email from Brenda, the social worker from an elementary school that suggested that Henry’s story might be just right for the movie. And then believe in all things right and good. There is a Santa…or is there an angel among us?

From Adam the Director:

“Cheri: Wow – what a story.  And two incredible interviews!  That kid was something else – such a little character!  He has been through SO much and yet he was so resilient and funny.  We’ve been quoting him nonstop.  He was just a piece of work.  The first thing he did was challenge himself to conduct the first ever blooper-free interview.  Next, he told us about his design for a perpetual motion machine.  Free energy!  He described it in great detail, then asked me, “do you know how many schools you could power with a machine like that?”

I responded, “all of them?” His answer: “35.”

We were dying…so cute and funny!

And Brenda was amazing.  She cried.  And pretty much had us on the verge of tears.  That’s a social worker who cares!

I’ll tell you what – MTF has some fans out there.  The challenge will be cutting this thing down to a manageable length – there are so many gems of wisdom and insight “in the can” – we have an embarrassment of riches”.

And here’s the show-stopper from Brenda the Social Worker:

“Hi Cheri!

It was a blast watching Henry and hearing him tell his “Life Story”!  I didn’t know if I should have laughed or cried….so I did a little of both!  The crew was really fantastic, just like you said they’d be.  I hope we were able to represent Mothers Trust Foundation in a way it should be represented!  Thanks for giving us the privilege!

It was quite a day for Henry….right after his interview, he had to go to the police station to meet DCFS.  They were planning to take him into custody and put him in some type of temporary foster care.  Well, long story short, they couldn’t find family or foster care setting that would take him immediately—so I have him!  Yes, he is at my house right now.  It looks as though he will be here for the holidays!  The family was evicted from their house because of squalor-like conditions (sewage backup) in the home.  It’s condemned and no one can get in.  Family is split up right now.

It’s very interesting…my hubby and I are usually alone and not used to entertaining a 12 year old.

Hope you have a very special Christmas season.  Take care, Brenda

 P.S.  If you know of anyone who is a foster parent in the Waukegan/Zion area, please let me know”!

Merry Merry Christmas, Weedpatch readers. May your hearts be full of peace and love for all the Henry’s and Brenda’s in the world. xxx’s Rommy ##