A Few News Briefs…

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

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

Here are some snippets:

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

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





Last Minute Garden Snoop Event…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Historic Places, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Oh, if you can re-arrange your whole life to attend the Rare Breeds show at Garfield Farm Museum (west of St. Charles) on this Sunday, by all means you should do so. If you love animals, you will love this show. The show features some kind of Colorado Mountain horse that is the prettiest thing I ever saw. I’m going to try and go to this show because our farm really really needs some new chickens (we now only have one, poor lonesome hen) and Garfield is where Black Java chickens were bred back into existence. Besides, if you’ve never been to Garfield, you don’t know nuthin’ about Chicago and you should be ashamed of yourself!


Here’s what Jerry Johnson, Exec Dir of Garfield, informs: “Staff and volunteers have been busy setting up for Sunday’s Rare Breeds Livestock & Poultry Show. Over 27 exhibitors plan to come and there will be lectures and demonstrations on Lippitt Morgans, dog sheep herding, and sheep shearing. The schedule for lectures and demos is as follows:

Gate Opens: 11:00 AM    Lunch by Inglenook Pantry
Tours of the Inn: 12-4 PM
Sheep shearing: 11:30 am until done.
Demos/Talks 11:30:am   Lippitt Morgan demo
12:00 pm    Dog sheep herding
12:30 pm    Lippitt Morgan demo
1:00 pm     Dog sheep herding
1:30 pm    Lippitt Morgan Lecture (1842 Barn)
1:30 pm     Ox Driving in Paddock
2:00 pm     Dog sheep herding
2:30 pm      Lippitt Morgan Lecture (1842 Barn)
3 & 3:30 pm    Dog sheep herding


The Garden Snoop’s Calendar…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I do not promise to report every plant sale or garden tour, but if they look oh-so-interesting, I will post them as you alert me to them. Here are a few:


Nautilus by Deidre Toner

Nautilus by Deidre Toner

Adler Pike House 955 street shot 5-16-2013 1-23-40 PM 512x341


  • May 18: Native Plant Sale to benefit Lake Forest Open Lands Association. I just came home from attending LFOLA’s Annual Meeting. This is a land trust whose organization should be emulated nationwide. Amazing programming and ability to excite people about land conservation. Anyway, one reason to come to this plant sale is to see the original gates and gate house to the famed Armour Estate, “Mellody Farm”. (The original mansion is at Lake Forest Academy–find it off Route 60) and to walk on some beautiful trails. The original estate was designed by landscape architects O.C. Simonds and Jens Jensen. [Please help Queen Bee to promote the preservation of the amazing original brick/green tile capped wall that is getting destroyed by sending a note to the Lake Forest Academy.]
Gates at LF Openlands "Mellody Farm"

Gates at LF Openlands “Mellody Farm”

Gate House at Mellody Farm

Gate House at Mellody Farm

Save this amazing brick wall!

Save this amazing brick wall!

  • June 27:Tour of Ragdale. Ooooh, I swoon when I visit Ragdale, the summer home of iconic architect Howard Van Doren Shaw and now an international writers retreat. Sponsored by the Lake Forest / Lake Bluff Historical Society, this tour is a rare chance to see this “farm”. BTW, thanks to all who are donating toward the $3m restoration of the original Ragdale house. Make sure to see the beautiful elm tree with branches that drape to the ground, the amazing vegetable garden, the log cabin and the original Shaw prairie.
  • June 30: A bike tour of the former Lasker Estate is not to be missed. Get your tickets asap from the Lake Forest / Lake Bluff Historical Society. Albert Lasker was the founder of modern advertising. He invented copywriting that convinced consumers that products could work magic: for example, Lucky Strikes could make women skinny. His radio campaigns for Pepsodent, Palmolive, and Kotex added up to a 480 acre gentleman’s estate and 18 hole golf course in Lake Forest. Thirteen of the buildings, including the original mansion, still exist. I’ve been on this tour (sans bicycle) and it is fabulous.
  • July 13: Come meet…MOI! The Queen and King Bee’s 7 acre farm in Richmond, IL will be on a tour hosted by the McHenry County Master Gardeners. Here’s a photo of our “weedpatch” to whet your appetite. Our house was built in 1852, so that in itself makes our landscape auspicious, yet still a modest farm-ish place.##

Richmond Veggie Garden 5-14-2013 1-58-31 PM 4320x3240

The Baltimore Oriole is Back!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Thanks to subscriber Nancy Coolley for photographing this stunning Baltimore oriole [Icterus galbula] in her backyard. Look at the clever rig Nancy devised for hanging the oranges. Great idea! And after they eat the oranges in early May, they want a chaser of grape jelly, but how in the world do you hang up the jar?

Baltimore Oriole 5-12-2013 3-28-59 AM 480x360This bird has probably the prettiest nest of all our northern birds. It’s a finely-woven silvery pouch that hangs about 25′ up on the branches of oaks, lindens, elms, maples and birch trees. The Orioles return to the same site year after year. These birds love to eat insects, especially caterpillars (ie tent caterpillars-ugh), aphids, borers (ash borers!), ants and beetles. They also eat the delicious berries of Serviceberry [Amelanchier], red mulberry, wild cherry, and blueberry. By the way, the blueberry is a highly underutilized shrub in the landscape. It is beautiful red in the fall!

The Baltimore oriole is the state bird of Maryland. Why? Because it was named for Sir George Calvert, the first Lord Baron of Baltimore, who thought Maryland (named either for the King’s wife or the mother of Jesus, or both, no one seems to know) would be a fine place for English Catholics such as himself. The colors on his family crest were…orange and black. As it would happen, everyone who arrived from England to work tobacco was either Protestant or criminal, but the English Catholics got to be in charge. Anyway, the good news is that in 1649, Maryland passed the first law ever to guarantee the right to worship regardless of denomination. So whenever you see this beautiful bird, please also appreciate the idea of religious toleration.

Oh, there are three books I like about “birdscaping”: Wild About Birds: the DNR Bird Feeding Guide; Birdscaping Your Garden by George Adams; and The Bird Garden by Stephen W. Kress. Oldies but goodies, just like me.##




Fave-rave spring plant, but what is it exactly?

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized | 4 Comments

lathyrus 5-1-2013 12-02-36 PM 4320x3240

Listen up, people! Queen Bee orders you to purchase this plant: Lathyrus. But even the Queen, in all her excellence, does not know exactly which Everlasting Pea she is recommending. It is not a fragrant Sweet Pea [Lathyrus odoratus], as alas, this flower has no fragrance. It is not Lathyrus latifolius, which has no fragrance but is a vine. It could be Lathyrus vernus, aka Spring Vetchling, but the garden center catalog I’m consulting says that Spring Vetchling blooms in June-July, and my Lathyrus definitely blooms in April-May. And it blooms its little head off for weeks. Which is why it’s a favorite plant and you MUST HAVE IT.

[This is where garden centers are supposed to comment that they not only know it but they stock it.]

So…a little botanical background. This plant is cool because it is a Lathyrus. Which means it is a Pea, which means it is a Legume, which means it fixes nitrogen in the soil which everyone knows is important but no one knows why. Lathyrus is in the Fabaceae family of plants, putting it with cousins like chick peas and soybeans and clover and redbud trees and wisteria. Which makes it WAY BETTER company than my cousins, except for the evil Crown Vetch which has the same disqualifiers as my cousin Peter who is a real overreaching hanger-onner too. But I digress. If you consult a botanical tome, you will find out something wonderfully arcane but useful on the garden tour: the leaflets of legumes open in the day and close at night, but this sleepytime movement is actually a circadian phenomenon not dependent on light or dark. OOOH, that’s cool, man, what’s it smokin’?!

To continue, this is one great plant. It is one of the first to bloom in my garden. It throws off seed out of its green, then brown, seed pods and little babies are born and they transplant really easy and then you have my really really favorite thing: a FREE PLANT! What is not to like here, folks? And did I mention the pollination aspects? Oh, well I don’t know what those are because it’s too early for butterflies but possibly bumblebees are gulping its nectar. [Readers, inform me!]

PS What is not to like? Well, I’ll name one thing…if you follow Internet links far enough you may, as I did, come across the caution, “The seeds…if eaten in large quantity, can cause lathyrism.” Oh, really? What the heck is lathyrism and do I have it? Search some more, and Queen Bee will find out that apparently she has been ingesting a few too many Lathyrus peas. Uh-huh, uh-huh, we know this because lathyrism is the “inability to move the lower limbs and the atrophy of the gluteal muscles”. OMG: that’s why Queen Bee wants to lie on a couch and she got a saggin’ ass! But isn’t it nice to know that it’s the plant’s fault?!##

Lathyrus plant 5-12-2013 4-00-31 PM 4320x3240

Get Thee to the Dane County (that’s Madison, WI) Farmers Market!

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I am such a dope sometimes. I’ve been writing The Weedpatch Gazette since 1991 and yet never took the time to visit the Farmers Market in Madison. How is that possible? But I’ve now made up for lost time and, even as early in the year as it is for northern gardeners, the market was stupendous. So many vendors! So many hippies! Like my own personal favorite time machine…

Having had the fun of visiting farmers markets in Santa Monica, CA; Carlsbad, CA; Asheville, NC’s (where it’s called a “tailgate market”); Coconut Grove, FL; Chicago’s http://www.greencitymarket.org; many towns in Provence; and Union Square in Manhattan, I think this one rocks them all. Maybe it’s because it’s just so, so “Wisconsin”. Care for some cheese bread, cheese head?

P1040599 P1040598 P1040594 P1040591 P1040589 P1040585

AND I had the extra added pleasure of re-meeting David Nedveck. He and his wife, Nancy, own The Flower Factory in Stoughton, Wisconsin. It is THE BEST GARDEN CENTER for a plant maniac. Don’t believe me? How about that they have 234 new plants for 2013?! Their catalog is my Bible. I go there with a trailer on my car. If this place were any closer, I would be in deep, deep financial trouble…

So…drive up to Madison for a long weekend. Go on Friday, visit all 15 species of the world’s cranes at the International Crane Foundation. See Devil’s Lake and learn about glacial geology and see quartzite rocks. Check into a bed & breakfast. On Saturday, go to the Farmers Market and load up with veggies and jams and puzzle through the weird guy’s argument that 9/11 was a conspiracy of the US government. Take a break and hike over to the Daily Scoop at the UW Student Union to slurp some homemade Ag School (motto: “cheese will not be shipped until after October 1st!”) ice cream (which is available at this site on the internet by the way). Then on Sunday go to the Flower Factory and spend the whole day, 9-6, in heaven. That’s the same as going to church, n’est-ce pas?##

Tulip Mania!

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P1040568I snapped this photo of tulips while passing by the gatehouse at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I’m usually not a fan of tulip mixes (too gaudy), but I thought the yellow/orange and blue/purple combo used here was excellent. If you want to copy the example, the tulips used are: Tulipa ‘Big Smile’, ‘Blushing Apeldoorn’, ‘Caravelle’, ‘Gavota’, ‘Golden Parade’, ‘Jenny’, ‘Negrita’, ‘Salmon Pearl’, ‘Yellow Present’), backed by fragrant viburnum (Viburnum farreri) and underlaid with Fizzy Fruit Salad pansy (Viola wittrockiana ‘Fizzy Fruit Salad Mix’).

And then all you need is lotsa money and a musclebound hunka-hunka to plant 1,000 bulbs, but no problem with finding those, right?##

Little Bird, Big Threat

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

KildeerThis little Kildeer was very upset with me when I walked too close last evening in the Middlefork Nature Preserve in Lake Forest. He (she?) spread its tailfeathers and kept lurching at me–a sure sign that it wanted me–gone! Story of my life….

Here’s what Cornell says about this ubiquitous shorebird: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Killdeer/id. Listen to its call as well. I can’t pick up the sound of “Kil-deer, Kil-deer” but maybe you can?


A Gardener’s April Musings

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

This is the way my mind works, on fertilizer…

  • Dream of the day when I whip out my wallet and plunk down $20,000 so we can go on a garden tour of England. Scotland, too. H’mmm…maybe the kid’s life-saving operation could wait…
  • Regret that I bought 1,000 daffodil bulbs and planted only 5 before the hard frost arrived. They woulda looked nice.
  • Consider if this year the tomatoes will have time to ripen, unlike last year. And the year before that. Or will it be 100 degrees for 60 days and it’s too hot to go outside and pick the damn things?
  • Send in a seed order from one catalog, then another. And another. Later realize that I ordered the same seeds over and over. I sure love basil.
  • Variation on above: Order $300 worth of seed after looking at all the pretty pictures. Plant only the marigolds.
  • Congratulate myself on planting 1,000 tulip bulbs. Ponder whether the insanity defense will apply after the deer eat every last one, the day before they bloomed.
  • Vow I will weed every week this year no matter what. Then learn to spell h-e-r-b-i-c-i-d-e. [Just kidding, don’t send hate mail.]
  • Part 1: Resolve that this year I will hire a landscape designer.
  • Part 2: Finally get around to calling several landscape designers only to find out that all are completely booked until 2016.
  • Part 3: Decide to design the garden myself. Then realized it’s an awful lot of trouble to measure everything and find a big piece of paper to draw on. Much easier to buy the plants and then decide what to do.
  • Think about calling an arborist and having him prune that BIG limb hanging over the roof. (What was it I heard about ash trees?) While writing “tree guy” on my to-do list, hear a loud crash.
  • Wish that I had built a coldframe for growing seedlings instead of growing them on the windowsill, which is sagging from rot caused by watering the seedlings. While wishing, watch the seedlings wilt from too much watering.
  • Invest big bucks in lights, plant stands, trays, soilless mix, seeds, i.d. tags, and heating mats. Later realize that that itsy-bitsy head of lettuce set me back $840.
  • Haul out the dirt, the trays, the water, and the ever-so-carefully transplanted seedlings. Next day, come downstairs to find the cat is very happy and the floor is very messy.
  • Decide to replace the lawn with wildflowers. Buy a big bag of seeds and after killing the grass and sowing the seeds, be told it’s full of wildflowers that won’t survive in Chicago. The ones that will survive are noxious weeds.
  • Wonder why I didn’t manage to go on even one garden walk last year. Vow to do better this year. Hope that no one EVER wants my garden on their walk.
  • Wonder if 85 degrees on May 1st is “climate change” and we’d better get used to it. Feel overwhelming fatigue coming on…better go inside and sit down. Thank God for ice cubes–which count as gardening because they involve “water” and “hoses”. And vodka is made from a garden product, right? ##

Today’s Favorite Flower: Bloodroot

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Bloodroot 4-27-2013 1-57-54 PM 4320x3240 I know each of you is walking around outside in this 80 degree weather–it’s actually HOT, almost unpleasant (it got really unpleasant when the Lawn Guy got me good with the leafblower. Was that deliberate or an accident?). Anyway, the bloodroot [Sanguinaria canadensis] have s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d their little faces to the sun and are delightful delightful. Do you have them in your woods? Or in your garden? Yes, of course you do or you will be driven out of the coven… Love, Rommy