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“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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Here’s a great deal!

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

Weedpatch Subscribers: I hope we have 100% participation in this lovely offer from Kay MacNeil to receive Milkweed seeds. Just send her $2 and a SASE. (I just did. And I will find a great spot along a roadway or park to toss the seed. This is my ‘suburban guerrilla’ planting for pollinators campaign.) But I digress. Here’ s Kay’s offer:

“Hi, Rommy. I am the chairman of the Garden Clubs of Illinois President’s Project, Milkweed For Monarchs.  This is an effort to educate gardeners and others to spread more Milkweed around their yards and community. The idea is that next fall we will harvest and clean milkweed seed  and give it to IDOT and hopefully also the Tollroad.  I also send 3 kinds of milkweed seed to anyone who can’t find another source if they send me a stamped self addressed business envelope with $2. If you go to Milkweed for Monarchs for information, you will also find my new  How To Become A Caterpillar Mother” information”.

Kay’s address is: Kay MacNeil – Milkweed for Monarchs, 689 Golf Club Lane, Frankfort, Il 60423.

Thanks for helping the Monarch Butterflies! And don’t forget to plant dill or fennel or parsley for the Swallowtails.#

Re-Blogging the Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide

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

Benjamin Vogt, a Nebraska landscape designer, has a blog that I recently added to Favorite Places: The Deep Middle. His post on March 17 was a Resource Guide to information about pollinators and native plants.


The Ultimate Pollinator & Native Plant Gardening Guide
I’m [Benjamin Vogt] celebrating 2 years of Milk the Weed with the nerdiest, awesome-ist list of links on butterfly and pollinator gardening I can come up with. It’s certainly not a complete list, but I hope it’s helpful to you as both a practical and philosophical guide. Prairie up!

(from The Deep Middle, B. Vogt)


Here are a few links from the article to get you started:

Basic Steps for Propagating Milkweed

Milkweed & Monarch Concerns

How Monarchs Use Milkweed

Create a Habitat for Monarchs

Butterfly Gardens 101

Pollinator Partnerships

Benjamin’s article contains a wealth (pages!) of resource links.  Visit his site to see them all. Note that his statement sentences do not look like links, but if you hover over the text, it will highlight to show the link. I have also posted a link to his article on the “Cool Links” page, so you can have that resource at your fingertips. Prairie Up!#

Harbinger of Spring

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Pat Hill posted this article recently on her terrific blog, Pat Hill’s Natural Midwest Garden. She and I seemed to be thinking similar thoughts about spring that day… Enjoy! rl

Harbingers of Spring

I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun 

And crocus fires are kindling one by one:

sing robin, sing;

I am sore in doubt concerning Spring.

Christina Rossetti

Spring Begins

March is the drabbest month of the year in the Midwest.  The snow has melted revealing vast expanses of brown grass and a winter’s accumulation of trash that’s been hidden beneath its white blanket.  March is completely unpredictable—warm and sunny in the 50’s or even 70’s one day, cold and raw the next.  Rain, wind, snow, and sometimes ice storms are part of the March package.  Some years Spring starts in March; other years, she stubbornly waits until mid-April.

But spring is in the air, literally.  On warm evenings one can smell spring, bringing back memories of every spring one has ever lived.  Green tips of plants poke through the wet soil; the male cardinal (which has been here all winter) has started his cheery whistle—his courtship song—once again.  The robins have begun to arrive; the snowbirds will leave by mid-April.  The cacophony of great flocks of ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes flying north to Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Canada brings us to the window to marvel at whatever primal instinct causes them to do this every March, flying high in their perfect V-formation.

Harbingers of Spring

pussy willow

Pussy Willow (Salix discolor), every child’s favorite symbol of Spring, opens its furry gray catkins at the beginning of March or some years as early as February.  Easily found on spring walks, it grows in shrubby marshes and wetlands throughout the Midwest, frequently in the company of other willows and Red-osier Dogwood.  With permission, we cut armfuls of branches to bring Spring indoors.  (The Pussy Willow sold in flower shops is usually Salix caprea, a European import.)  Salix discolor grows into an attractive, multi-stem shrub, 10-15’ tall, that is suitable to grow on home grounds in moist to wet areas.  It doesn’t appear to be available at nurseries, but stems root quickly in water.

A source of ornament, sentiment, shade, and aspirin, the willows are a rich part of our history and landscape.

Dick Young

                                                                  Kane County Wild Plants & Natural Areas

The round, furry gray catkins of Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) are the first to appear in spring, sometimes as early as February, even before those of Pussy Willow.  The catkins soon turn into delightful, fuzzy, maroon and gray dangling caterpillars.

quaking aspen timber drive

Quaking Aspen is found in every county in the Chicago area, mostly in low ground, but conversely in sandy areas, as well.   This colony I have photographed is next to a railroad track, in the town where I live.  (These and several Bur Oak trees were cut down a few weeks ago–it seems they interfered with truck traffic.)

Its tall, straight trunk, covered with a whitish bark, marked by black horizontal scars and prominent black warty patches, is topped by an upright oval crown.  The round, glossy green leaves, dull beneath, become a striking golden-yellow in autumn.  Its flattened petioles allow the leaves to flutter and rustle in the slightest breeze.  It colonizes through its root system cloning itself into large groves.

 

popple lake in boat

Every summer, when I was a child, we went to my grandpa’s cottage on Popple Lake,  near Chippewa Falls in Wisconsin for our summer vacation.  Popple is a local term in the Upper Midwest for Quaking or Trembling Aspen .

 

hazelnut catkins 2

American Hazelnut  (Corylus americana)

“One cloudy April day, when threatening rain caused  the west to be in a dramatic  mood, we were scurrying along to reach some shelter before the worst might happen.  A lone hazel bush, perhaps the last of a great colony, made us pause on our way.  Why it had been spared I do not know, but there it was in a festive spring outfit.  We were astounded by the attraction this simple  plant possessed.  The secret of it all was its yellow catkins against the threatening purple clouds in the west, bringing out their exquisite beauty…I had known the hazel since boyhood days, but I had lived almost an average lifetime before I saw its real significance and its charm.  From that time on, a hazel bush, backed by the purple branches of our native plum, has graced a corner of my garden, and every spring I wait for the spring song of its catkins.”

Jens Jensen

Siftings

From early-to-mid-March to mid-April. golden pollen spills from the pendulous male catkins, lighting up savannas, woodlands, and fencerows.  Growing 8-10’ tall, American Hazelnut forms colonies by means of root sprouts.  It makes a splendid hedge, or combine it with American Plum (Prunus  americana )    as  Jens Jensen suggests.   I’ve searched in vain in the  Forest Preserves of northern Kane County where I live to see it in its native habitat. (I once found a Hazelnut growing in the midst of a tangle of Buckthorn in the backyard of a client, much to my delight.)

skunk cabbage 2

This photo was taken at Bluff Spring Fen on March 17, 2009.

The very first herbaceous plant to bloom is the Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).  It creates its own heat, melting the snow that covers it—its unusual flowers may emerge as early as February.  The yellow-green flowers, arranged in a knoblike spadix inside a green and purple-brown mottled, hood-like spathe, are attractive to early pollinating insects and to those of us who are eager for the earliest signs of spring.  Skunk Cabbage grows in colonies in fens and springy places.

With our suddenly warm weather that started last Tuesday, Winter Aconite (Eranthus hymelis) has emerged from the cold earth, and is already in full bloom.   Winter Aconite is native to Europe, but it came along to this garden via some trillium I transplanted from my old garden.  A member of the Buttercup family, its golden cups are the earliest perennial to bloom in our area, sometimes as early as late February.  Plant it under deciduous trees–a spring ephemeral, it blooms in full sun in spring and then its flowers and leaves disappear until next spring.  The tubers increase making an ever enlarging circle.  Easy to transplant, they can be moved to other locations after bloom or given away to friends.

winter aconite 2015

 

snowdrop 2

I have only a tiny patch of Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) next to my back door, but they are always welcome in earliest spring.  Another early bloomer native to Europe, it, too, is an ephemeral that should be planted in sweeping drifts under deciduous trees.  It can be situated within a matrix of sedges.  It does increase, but is not considered invasive.

The temperature was In the 60’s this past week and 70’s is predicted for this afternoon–hooray! I heard the Cardinal’s whistle a few days ago.  I also saw a pair of robins on Friday hopping along in my grassy parkway.  What do robins find to eat this early?  No insects or worms yet.  The only thing for them to eat, as far as i know, are persistent berries which still cling to shrubs and trees.  I have a few rose hips on my Illinois Rose (Rosa setigera) and my Early Rose (Rosa blanda), but, alas, the robins didn’t find them.  Does anyone else have information on how robins survive March when they arrive here?  Please share with us.

 

rose hips and arch

Illinois Rose with rose hips on trellis.  Note previous summer’s robins’ nest on top of the trellis.

rose  hips and arch closeup

March doesn’t zap us with spring, as do April and May.  We have to look for it, but it is there as Nature starts her inexorable cycle once more.  Stay tuned.

A New Way to Look at the World

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Uncategorized, Weather | 2 Comments

Sometimes those forwarded emails are just too good to pass up and need to be shared. When I received a forwarded email about World Maps, I tracked down what might be the original source, at a blog called “The Story Reading Ape”. The Ape shares some unusual ways to look at the world:

the word in seven 1-billion-person sections

 

map-australia population

map-world population

You will find a link to this blog post on my Cool Links page.  Curious about where in the world they drive on the left hand side?  How about how many countries have McDonalds?  See the original blog post:  http://thestoryreadingapeblog.com/2015/01/02/very-interesting-maps-which-help-you-to-understand-the-world/

In Your Garden, Choose Plants that Help the Environment

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

Required reading (use this link to read the article) from Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home , via the NY Times. If the plants (that includes trees and shrubs) in your garden don’t help feed beneficial insects and animals, it’s time to re-think your choices. Which means a visit to the garden center, always a highlight of my week!

A Quote from Doug Tallamy:

“To me the choice is clear. The costs of increasing the percentage and biomass of natives in our suburban landscapes are small, and the benefits are immense. Increasing the percentage of natives in suburbia is a grassroots solution to the extinction crisis.

To succeed, we do not need to invoke governmental action; we do not need to purchase large tracts of pristine habitat that no longer exist; we do not need to limit ourselves to sending money to national and international conservation organizations and hoping it will be used productively. 

Our success is up to each one of us individually. We can each make a measurable difference almost immediately by planting a native nearby. As gardeners and stewards of our land, we have never been so empowered—and the ecological stakes have never been so high.” #

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Hello, You Beautiful Bird!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Look who showed up on our dock at sunset yesterday!

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The Great White Heron (which is a white form of the Great Blue that we see in the north) can only be found in the lower Florida Keys according to the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Of course, a local Florida website disagrees with the Feds’ geographic assessment, but those nice Audubon folks have tried to clear up the confusion. Does the white turn blue or not-I still don’t know but this Queen Bee thinks that claim sounds highly unlikely. Anyway, if you are interested in herons and egrets, check  out the Heron & Egret Society website. Audubon art and literary references. Nice!

map-key-west-area01

The house we rented is near the 200,000 acre Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, which includes lots of boat-access-only islands that provide “critical nesting, roosting, wading and loafing habitat” for 250 species of birds. Loafing? Do birds loaf? Are there special couches?

The Great White Heron NW Refuge was dedicated because the heron was threatened with extinction because so many Victorian matrons (yes, including those from Chicago) wanted to adorn their hats with the heron’s feathers. If you want to get totally grossed out, check out these photographs of women’s hats dating from the 1900 era. It is claimed that a single order of plumes in 1892 required killing 192,960 herons.

While National Audubon was created in protest, and Iowa Republican Congressman John F. Lacey got our first national law protecting wildlife and plants passed in 1900 (it’s still going strong, being last amended in 2008 I think for the better but I’m not really sure as it was mixed up in the FARM BILL need I say more), that didn’t stop the feather trade especially in the Everglades and lower Florida. (I hope one of you can send me a great book that explains all the politics behind conservation over the years.)

If the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge was dedicated in 1938, that would mean that Franklin Roosevelt was President and Harold Ickes was Interior Secretary. Here’s your cocktail party factoid: Ickes was our longest serving Interior Secretary and he was a progressive Republican–from Chicago. Let’s find more like him to send to Washington!#

The Heron 

by Wendell Berry

While the summer’s growth kept me
anxious in planted rows, I forgot the river
where it flowed, faithful to its way,
beneath the slope where my household
has taken its laborious stand.
I could not reach it even in dreams.
But one morning at the summer’s end
I remember it again, as though its being
lifts into mind in undeniable flood,
and I carry my boat down through the fog,
over the rocks, and set out.
I go easy and silent, and the warblers
appear among the leaves of the willows,
their flight like gold thread
quick in the live tapestry of the leaves.
And I go on until I see crouched
on a dead branch sticking out of the water
a heron—so still that I believe
he is a bit of drift hung dead above the water.
And then I see the articulation of a feather
and living eye, a brilliance I receive
beyond my power to make, as he
receives in his great patience
the river’s providence. And then I see
that I am seen. Still, as I keep,
I might be a tree for all the fear he shows.
Suddenly I know I have passed across
to a shore where I do not live.#

 

 

 

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!#

 

 

The Governor’s Palace: New Bern, NC

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Gardeners & Designers, Historic Places, Landscape Architecture, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

If you find yourself in New Bern (eastern) North Carolina, as we did for a 2014 graduation, take the opportunity to see the 1770 Tryon Palace. Unforgettable. And amazing that it not only burned down completely and was reconstructed from drawings found in London but also had an entire highway and town moved so that the palace and grounds could be reconstructed. (Leave it to strong 1950’s Southern matrons to achieve such a feat.)

The 16 acres of gardens, which run all the way to the Trent River where ships would once have brought arriving visitors, are extensive and immaculate.

Amazing that this building burned down in 1798 and the site was filled in for over 150 years. It was reconstructed from its original plans in the 1950’s.

Formal boxwood gardens at Tryon Palace

Designed by Morley Jeffers Williams in the 1950’s from designs based on 18th c British gardens.

Two plans for the house dating from 1769 were found in London back in the 1950’s, but more recently, in 1991, Palace researchers discovered a garden plan in the collections of the Academia Nacional de la Historia in Venezuela. There they found a garden plan that Palace architect, John Hawks  apparently gave to Venezuelan nobleman Francisco de Miranda (Editor: don’t miss reading his bio: he wrote 63 volumes of journals, was the lover of Catherine the Great, and was the only “American” who has his named carved in the Arc de Triomphe, etc etc, etc. In short, what a guy!), who admired the Palace greatly during his 1783 visit to New Bern.

The Miranda plan suggests a strong French influence instead of the more-to-be-expected English garden style. But who created the plan? Some attribute it to Claude Sauthier (1736-1802), a French cartographer who in 1763 wrote his first great work, A Treatise on Public Architecture and Garden Design.  His map of New York is astonishingly beautiful and should have won the Revolution for the British. But I digress. Sauthier mapped all the towns of North Carolina including one of New Bern in 1769 for Governor Tryon. But, “when compared to plans of the Palace and other documents he created for Tryon, the handwriting in the Miranda plan is clearly that of John Hawks. The Miranda plan, furthermore, contrasts with Sauthier’s more rectilinear design…” [Source: tryonpalace.org]. When Williamsburg’s colonial gardens were re-created by landscape architect Arthur Shurcliff (1870-1957), it was Sauthier’s 1700’s renderings of colonial gardens that he most consulted.

None of the historic garden plans have ever been implemented at Tryon Palace. Morley Jeffers Williams (1877-1977) conducted the Palace archaelogical dig and designed the subsequent garden restoration. Before undertaking the Palace project, Williams had served on the faculties of Harvard and North Carolina State Universities and was hired by the Garden Club of Virginia to research, inventory and design the gardens at Mount Vernon (it was Williams who theorized that the landscape was designed to mimic the shield in Washington’s family crest), Monticello, and Stratford Hall (home of the Lee’s). Professor  Williams also restored “God’s Acre”, the Christ Church Cemetery, at Harvard Square.

Nice landscape design contracts, eh? (The Queen is envious!)##

By the way, in researching this article, I came across a website describing the 1820’s Foscue Plantation that’s just ten miles southwest of New Bern, NC. Too bad we didn’t have more time since I would have enjoyed seeing that as well. This historic site is open for tours on Thursdays…still owned by the same family, which had plenty o’ slaves right up until the “War Between the States”. Yes, that’s what their website calls the Civil War. The Queen will try to be “civil” about the whole damn mess when she visits…##

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The Queen Loves Garfield Farm

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Books, Historic Places, Public Gardens and Parks, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

It’s been forever since I wrote to you, and I apologize for the absence. I’ve been spending a lot of time writing house histories and family genealogies, advocating for better municipal land use decisions (hellooo, City of Lake Forest, even contemplating cutting down 400 oak trees to build a Whole Foods store is shameful) and thinking about what to write about in 2015. Hold onto your hat, the topics may not be limited to gardening or conservation. Hopefully, they will interest you…

So, let’s begin 2015.

Recently, I made some discoveries. First, it took me sixty years, but now I know that I hate big chunks of potatoes in soup. On the other hand, a larger revelation is just how much I enjoy visiting “living history” farms, historic houses, and preserved landscapes and lands. I fall a little bit in love with every place’s history. I imagine myself being one of those ancestors whose were determined to survive and thrive yet always seemed to bring beauty into the picture.

Naturally, I also invariably conclude that I would have keeled over early from cold, outhouse, traversing never-ending mountains and canyons, and too many damn potatoes in the soup. Unless I were Queen, which in my case seems likely, whereupon I would have thrived. After all, I love cake. And I would have been carried everywhere.

I was reminded of my passion for living history farms when I opened the mail two weeks ago to find a precious gift–a middle-school children’s book written by my friend, Anne Brack Johnson.

 

Angie of Garfield Farm

Anne is married to Jerry Johnson, who some of you may know because he is the erstwhile, intrepid, and longtime Executive Director of Garfield Farm and Inn Museum in LaFox, Illinois, which is just west of Geneva. Near St. Charles. Not as far as DeKalb. Twenty years ago it was cornfields and now it’s changed to McMansions and Meijer’s Grocery stores every mile. But nestled in the middle–like a time machine–is delightful Garfield Farm.

Garfield Farm

Garfield Farm is a treasure dating to the 1830’s. Anne’s book, Angie of Garfield Farm, is based on a little girl who was an actual Garfield family member. This pioneer family was smart enough to save EVERYTHING (diaries, tools, buildings) for posterity. And even luckier for us, the more recent residents of the LaFox area have been wise enough to donate money for Garfield’s preservation. The brick house–once a tavern on the route west–the barns, the sheds, the oxen, the way of life…they are all there for you to experience. Please do visit and become members. I try not to miss the Rare Breeds Show in May, but if you would like to learn about restoring an 1842 (!) barn, sign up for the restoration seminars on February 14.

One of my favorite–and certainly most enthusiastic–gardeners will be at Garfield on March 22. Vicki Nowicki is not to be missed. She will be giving a seminar called, “Historic Perspectives on Organic Gardening”. Vicki knows more about organic gardening than anyone I know AND she is the “(DuPage) Queen of Organics” through her heirloom vegetable garden design and education business. Sign up! You’ll have the rare opportunity of a wonderful, romantic venue and a wonderful learning experience.

Methinks I might like chunks of potato in my soup if they were always organic? And slow-cooked in a fireplace dating from 1842?##