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Memorial Day!

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Environmental Protection, My Gardens, Plants, Weather | 2 Comments

It’s a picture perfect, sunny, cloudless Memorial Day, but the weekend started with a huge lightning storm that held all the classic signs of tornado:

Geneva Lake, Wisconsin

Geneva Lake, Wisconsin at 7:22 pm, Saturday, May 28

 

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:13 pm, on May 28

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:13 pm, on May 28

 

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:17 pm

South of Lake Geneva, WI, at 8:17 pm

The drama of Midwest topography and weather can create powerful visual displays, made all the more dramatic when contrasted with the detail of the flowers on display in the morning after the rainstorm:

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Welcome to summer, oh Weedpatch readers…Should be the best ever.#

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

 

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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/

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

Coral Restorations (And You Thought Restoring Oak Savannas Was Tricky)

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

Good morning from sunny, 80 degree Islamorada, Florida, which I first learned means “purple island” but later learned means the “little drinking village in the Florida Keys with a fishing problem”.

I had the great good fortune of going fishing (no, I didn’t catch anything except an oversized minnow, aka extremely undersized fish) and also snorkeling (the closest I come to “sport”). The snorkeling is wonderful in the Keys, which is because all the individual reefs here are part of the Great Florida Reef, the third largest coral barrier reef in the world, after Australia and Belize. The reefs are vigorously protected by the State of Florida (1960) and the Federal government (1990).

The fish are the big draw off the Keys, but the real story is the coral that live in these waters. First, gardeners gotta love the names of the corals–flower, knobby brain, star, fat fungus, Gorgonian, elkhorn, staghorn, leaf, cactus, purple fan and golf ball. And then there’s their biology…

For those of you who, like moi, “forgot”, coral is not a plant, despite the names given to them. Coral is an animal that feeds on algae and plankton, but maybe on little fishes or urchins also, mostly at night. Yes, coral is a NOCTURNAL ANIMAL. Another surprise is that a coral may look like one large organism, but it is actually a large colony of identical attached polyps, each one of which are usually only a few centimeters tall. Each polyp has a mouth, surrounded by tentacles. In between the polyps is calcium carbonate (limestone rock) secreted by the polyps themselves.

Amazingly, the polyps reproduce by spawning (yes, sperm fertilizing eggs) during a full moon. In August. (Once in a while, July). This phenomenon bears repeating: their reproduction is HIGHLY SYNCHRONIZED TO A FULL MOON IN AUGUST. This makes me reconsider what I thought was mythology; in other words, I should buy a copy of The Farmer’s Almanac and start planting my vegetables in tune with the moon. If coral knows to do this to assure success, we should too, n’est-ce pas?

After fertilization, corals’ larva spread by the ocean’s currents throughout a reef. They settle, replicate asexually (!) during the year, grow into fantastic shapes, and create protected homes for the world’s fish. (By the way, the “full moon spawn thang” has become a big event for America’s best research aquariums, who come to the Keys to capture the gametes, take them back to the lab, and hope like hell a coral grows. To this I say, “good luck” but it makes for a great party in the Keys, I’m sure.)

Plants are often raised in nurseries, and so are animals, including corals. Beginning in 2003, the Coral Restoration Foundation [CRF] began to take “cuttings” of live elkhorn and staghorn coral, created ocean-floor nurseries of these “mother” segments, and are now raising thousands of new corals. When large enough, volunteer scuba divers “transplant” the corals back onto reefs. So far, the experiment is working. The corals are growing in their new homes. Nonetheless, the restoration hopes of the CRF are big: 98% of the elkhorn and staghorn coral have died in the Keys in just the past 20 years.

Photo courtesy of Coral Restoration Foundation

A coral nursery created by the Coral Restoration Foundation

One reason for this death is that coral appears to have, ahem, an eating disorder, cause unknown but culprits include warmer seawater or yes, even sporadic very cold water temperatures. When this happens, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, all the corals expel a particular microscopic algae that live in their system. This event removes the green/brown chlorophyll color contributed by the algae and turns the coral a dark white. While the coral may not die from one event, the animal becomes stressed and vulnerable. This “bleaching” phenomenon is a natural occurrence, but was seen for the first time on a massive scale in 1973, when it snowed in the Keys.

Oceanographers may be spending time worrying about the effect of warmer/colder water and climate change, but I’m even more cynical about human interference with ecology. As a former regional planner, I wondered about a different culprit, especially after a CRF scientist mentioned to me that the degraded reefs are usually covered in too much algae. What have humans created that would cause too much nitrogen? Either fertilizer run-off or sewage, right? One Google search, and it was easy to find articles about Keys’ beaches closing in 1999 because of e.coli outbreaks. Soon thereafter, a Comprehensive Plan was written that decreed that by 2010 all Keys’ towns had to eliminate septic systems. From the look of the sewer pipes being placed along Route 1, it appears that  the project is taking longer. Nonetheless, the captain of my snorkeling boat yesterday told me that he can already notice how much more clear the water is than 10 years ago when he moved here.

But is it too late for the coral despite the very best efforts of restorationists? Which will recover faster–degraded oak woods or degraded coral reefs? Don’t know, but kudos to all the people who are working hard to save both.##

"Transplanting" coral. Thank You to Coral Restoration Foundation

“Transplanting” coral. Thank You to the Coral Restoration Foundation

 

 

 

This Land is Your Land! And so is Lake Michigan…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Historic Places, Weather | 3 Comments

I know, I know, it’s gray outside. Waking up in the morning to “no contrast” is a struggle. But let’s be optimistic and say that the monochrome makes us appreciate the sun and chlorophyll so much more than those people who never see seasonal change. Here’s a few photographs of the Openlands Preserve at Fort Sheridan. We are so lucky that people stepped up to the fundraising challenge and funded the preservation of this 77-acre parcel of lakefront property after the US Army decommissioned it in 2004. Walking in this natural environment–really not a house in sight–is a real treat. Here are a few photos from a recent morning walk:

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Ice and water, seagulls cawing, a few souls walking about with their dogs, one man sitting on a cold bench staring at the lake. Yet the waves still wash up on the shore, relentless, energetic.#

Coldest Day on Record–Not So. Maybe. Go Figure.

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Uncategorized, Weather | 6 Comments

This morning I heard a TV weatherman say this is the coldest day (-16) on record in Chicago. Of course, I had to Google that assertion, especially because I wondered if, in my lifetime, I had now lived through the hottest and the coldest days on record in Chicago. Not surprisingly, I found out that the Cable TV was mistaken (large gasp!) or at least, misleading. Turns out, the coldest recorded temperature day in Chicago occurred on January 20, 1985 when it was -27 with a -60 wind chill. In the city (note: CITY) of Chicago.

The Tribune is no better than Cable TV at creating confusion: “The Chicago area hit a new record low for today. At 8 a.m., it was minus 16 at O’Hare International Airport, according to the official recording station for the city. The old record was minus 14, set in 1988 and 1884”. Interesting, since there was no O’Hare Airport in 1884 so there was no official recording station at O’Hare to know it was -14 in 1884. (Note: Chicago AREA hit a new record.)

And, of course, the coldest day (-36) in Illinois (note: STATE of Illinois not CITY of Chicago or Chicago AREA) occurred in 1954, but that was in Congerville, Illinois, which may have disappeared into vapor that day because no one has ever heard of it since.

Here’s the best source of historic high/low temperature information for you weather geeks: http://www.crh.noaa.gov/lot/?n=chi_temperature_records

And for those gardeners who miss summer, the hottest summer was in 2012, when we had four days over 100 degrees, but the hottest day ever was on July 24, 1934, when it reached a truly sweltering 105 in Chicago (but in 1954 East St. Louis climbed to 117!).

BIRD WATCH UPDATE: Despite the cold, it’s sunny outside today with little wind. At 10 am, our bird feeders were in full frenzy, with all kinds (even cardinals and a red-bellied woodpecker) in a hungry mob. At 10:30, virtually every one flew away but into the same evergreen: a large Western Red Cedar [Thuja plicata] and only a few Dark eyed junco’s returned until 2:30 pm when they all appeared again. What’s that about? Do they take a noontime siesta together?##

Photo by Carolina Bird ClubPhoto:  Courtesy of Carolina Bird Club

Silence All Around

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Birds, Bugs & Butterflies, Conservation and Ecology, Uncategorized, Weather | 7 Comments

I was thinking about what I could write about while driving home from the dentist today. I looked into a forest preserve I was passing and thought, “Nothing. I can’t think of anything to write about gardening. It is just so damn gray today”. But inspiration sometimes comes out of being quiet and letting the silence in, you know? So here I was, sitting at my desk, quietly, a little somber, when I looked at a book winking from the shelf, and instinctively knew that Donald Culross Peattie would have something to offer.

For those of you who may not know Mr. Peattie, he was a naturalist and author who was born in Chicago in 1898, went to the University of Chicago, worked for government and newspapers, but spent much of his life in France. He wrote about the inter-connectedness among all living things, about nature’s “head scratchers”, and about wonder, the big picture, the tiny aspect (maybe the little gasp we make when we glimpse a first bloodroot in spring), oddities, and even ugly dis-pleasures. Mr. Peattie also wrote about utopians, botanists, wilderness plantsmen, and the romanticists. Take this sprig of his thoughts, for example: “[Compared to Romanticism]…our aims today are cautious, niggardly, unattached to fundamentals. One science is out of touch with another, and they are all shockingly out of touch with philosophy, art and religion. There IS one-ness about Nature, but scientists are lazy about looking for it. Take the sexuality of plants, for example…”. Ah, Mr. Peattie, you must have been a Scot. Poetic yet scientifically demanding.

Maybe I like Mr. Peattie so much because fabulous black and white woodcuts illustrate his nature books.

Anyway, Mr. Peattie must also have been staring out the window onto a gray December day, for this is what he wrote about today in his book, An Almanac for Moderns [1935]:

“Now everywhere in the woods, silence. There is not a single hum from the fields, of insects tuning up their tiny orchestras. I cannot think what can have become of even the crows; the squirrels today have fled the boughs; there is no scampering of chipmunks; there are no brooks that speak, only a slow dwindling of rivulets, and no pods that click, no sudden whirring of pheasant from under foot. The sky is heavy with unshed snow, and even when it falls, it will make no sound, spinning down in the first great, starry flakes, in silence. Everywhere, only silence…silence”.#

December 2, Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest, Illinois

December 2, Silence in the Middlefork Savanna, Lake Forest, Illinois

News Briefs from around the World…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Social Impact of Horticulture, Uncategorized, Weather | 2 Comments

In case you missed these stories…

. TWIGITECTURE: my new favorite word and my new favorite garden idea. Gotta have my own nest! Check out this NYTimes story by Penelope Green. People are soooo creative…

Jayson Fann's nests

. Conserving water is very important, especially when Illinois is in drought and, despite a lot of rain this year, Lake Michigan is 19″ below where it should be. I live in Lake Forest, which borders Lake Michigan, where we have a daytime “sprinkling ban” by which half the town (even-numbered houses) gets to irrigate between midnight-10 am or 8 pm-midnight on one day, and then the other half of homes gets to irrigate the next night. We don’t have automatic sprinklers at our house because I think they waste more water than they save, and my plants don’t need equal amounts of water. Thus I hand-water–in the morning. Usually. Maybe on an even day. (So arrest me.)

But, according to the NYTimes, the water-parched City of PHOENIX, AZ doesn’t have such restrictions. “There is no limit to how many times someone can wash a car or water flowers in a yard…that’s just myopic”, says Phoenix’s Policy Advisor for Sustainability. Instead, it uses strategies such as “graywater” from bathrooms and washing machines to irrigate, or uses treated wastewater to cool a nuclear power plant and a man-made wetland. Water use is a factor in zoning decisions. While Phoenix does not, other cities such as Mesa, Las Vegas, and Tucson give rebates for residents who remove grass and xeriscape, harvest rainwater, or use graywater for landscaping. Some towns regulate homeowners’ trees, shrubs and flower choices. The article does not say how much residents pay per gallon of water, but these strategies appear to be working: in 1990, Phoenix residents used 250 gallons of water/day. Now they use 123. H’mmm…

Los Angeles' residents use 123 gallons/H20/day. How much do you use?

Los Angeles’ residents use 123 gallons/H20/day. How much do you use?

. NYC aims to make recycling mandatory by 2016. Wow, good! That means 1.2 million tons of food waste will be made into COMPOST!

. CHINA is moving 250 million (yes, you read it right) farmers off their land and into high-rise apartment buildings in newly-made “cities”. The hope is to create 250 million CONSUMERS. Can you say, “worldwide social, moral, cultural, and economic DISASTER”?

. NYC has released its Climate Change report which predicts that 800,000 people will live in the 100-year flood plain by 2050, more than double the current 398,000 currently at risk. The number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees is expected to jump from 22 to 48/year by 2050.

. LOURDES, FRANCE is under flood water. They are hoping for a miracle.##

Lourdes photo

A Potpourri of News…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Landscape Architecture, Plants, Uncategorized, Weather | Leave a comment

Can you believe it’s June 1st already?! Sorry to have been out of touch…planting season…our farmhouse gardens to be photographed for Country Gardens Magazine

Country Gardens magazine's photographer shooting June garden

Country Gardens magazine’s photographer shooting June garden

…family…volunteerism…Leah’s college graduation…technical issues with this website…such a busy time of the year. Even the local wildlife is busy. When I drove into our driveway today, there were six (!) chipmunks running around like nut cases on the asphalt. They were glutinous, eating the seeds of maples, a phenom I had never seen before.  BTW, we are assured that those little seed nuggets are entirely edible, tasting like peas. You first.

Gardening world good news: tulips, redbuds, and big lilacs are done, but smaller (Syringa meyeri Palibin, Miss Kim, and ‘Boomerang’) lilacs are blooming with the azaleas. Huge amounts of foliage clothe all the shrubs and trees this year–even a lot of the ash trees aren’t as dead as I expected them to be. Wild geraniums, iris, wild phlox, hawthorns, variegated Solomon’s Seal, shooting stars, tree peonies, primroses and dogwoods are glorious. Fringe tree [Chionanthus virginicus] is about to “feather”. Did I mention the foliage and growth of the Beech trees–amazing! The bad news is that my (formerly) incredibly shaped Seven Sons Flower tree (Heptacodium miconoides–I love saying the name of this amazing tree which you must put in your garden) took a big hit from the winter wind (I think) and I had to chop it all to hell. Also, a big Redbud, a fragrant Viburnum carlesii, and a Juniper s. ‘Skyrocket’ died from drowning.

Did I mention the elegance of my all-time favorite shrub: Viburnum plicatum? Read more

Too Much Water and a Cold Snap

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Plants, Uncategorized, Weather | Leave a comment

This morning’s simpering heat, combined with a brief uptick in the wind and quickly clouding dark skies, made it easy to think about the tornadoes that ripped across Oklahoma and Kansas yesterday. Sadly, more tornadoes, hail storms, and slow-moving thunderstorms (ie a lot of rain in one place), including some aimed near Joplin, Missouri and north to Minnesota, may occur today (Monday). Remember that the Chicago region [link to map] is already in a Federal Disaster Zone because of the devastating rain storms of April 18th, just a month ago. Lots of Chicagoans are still mopping up and cleaning out, unfortunately. [Here’s a link about how you can help and/or donate to Chicago flood clean-up efforts by the American Red Cross.]

Profuse blossoms on 2013 fruit trees

Profuse blossoms on 2013 fruit trees

There’s good news and bad news about the amazingly full blossoms you are noticing this year on crabapple trees and other fruit trees. Read more