Welcome! My favorite part of this blog is the interactive aspect of it. Double click on the blue title boxes to view the full article and the social media section. That's where you can share, tweet, pin, and best of all, COMMENT. I like comments!

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:












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.#

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

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Plants | Leave a comment

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

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

cauliflower veronica romanesco

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

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

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

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.”


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

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


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 ##

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

Mississippi Flyway Used by Half of All North American Birds! Hear more next Monday…

Posted on by weedpatchgazette in Conservation and Ecology, Environmental Protection, Events, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lake County Audubon Society welcomes all to attend a very important presentation on Monday, December 2, 7:30 pm, at the Libertyville Village Hall, 118 W. Cook Street, Libertyville, IL.

Chris Canfield, Vice President of the Mississippi Flyway and former VP Gulf of Mexico Conservation and Restoration, will discuss the National Audubon Society’s Mississippi Flyway, the role it plays in Audubon’s integrated conservation model, and the essential role that local Audubon chapters play in advancing National Audubon’s conservation priorities and success stories for birds.

Audubon is proud to have played a role in making a difference in the restoration plan that followed the Gulf oil spill as well as “working on the diverse team that helped make the RESTORE Act a reality [Queen Bee says: This act wisely gave all the BP money back to the Gulf instead of the US Treasury.] “ That funding will help revive vital wetlands that have been mismanaged for years as well as supporting a “river of birds,” since about half of North American species use the Mississippi Flyway at one time or another.

QUEEN BEE SAYS:  OPEN this link and LISTEN to this bird! http://birds.audubon.org/birds/greater-prairie-chicken. Wouldn’t you just die if a prairie chicken (a bird that counts on a healthy Mississippi and no bullets. Ahem.) was outside in your yard making his crazy noises?!


Canfield did his undergraduate work at Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama and graduate work at the University of Oxford in England, where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Until September 2010, he was executive director of Audubon North Carolina, a National Audubon Society program he led for more than a decade.

All along its length, the river has been controlled and manipulated to the detriment of natural systems and the birds and other wildlife that depend on them. The upper river is governed by a series of dams and locks; the lower river is channeled by more than 1,600 miles of levees. Together, these structures confine the Mississippi to less than 10 percent of its original floodplain, and the sediment that historically fed the river’s vast delta in Louisiana no longer reaches marshes and coastal forests. As a result, 19 square miles of delta wetlands disappear each year.

But Audubon is making a difference for the birds, habitats, and communities of the Mississippi Flyway.

Support Audubon. These people (mostly volunteers) do great work! ## PS And turn off all the damn floodlights in your buildings and yard. Birds do not read books.

Butterflies, Bees and Trees: What’s Your Legacy?

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

monarch on milkweed

Yesterday I was ferreting through a pile of my husband’s “paperwork” and came across a lost treasure: a faded pamphlet of “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness”, written by French novelist, Jean Giono (1895-1970) and first published by Vogue Magazine in March, 1954. This is the most precious and inspirational true story you could ever read. I read it first on a sunny summer afternoon when I had the honor of being able to visit the Wisconsin farm of the late landscape architect, Alfred Caldwell. I found the little booklet on his bookcase. It was just about the only thing on his bookcase. Intrigued, I hid for a time and devoured the story. I’ve never been the same since.

So this morning I sat down and re-read the story, which in subsequent American re-printings was retitled, “The Man Who Planted Trees” (a far less compelling title, n’est-ce pas?). The tale is so simple and lovely. And then–I just LOVE when “synchronicity” happens–I switched to email and opened one from the McHenry County Wildflower Committee. It contained the following link:


Which was really crazee to see because the article was written by Jim Robbins, author of The Man Who Planted Trees, a book which I have not read (I ordered it) but which apparently starts with the story of “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness”.

Full circle, oui? I implore you to read the NY Times article and make an early New Year’s Resolution to be the person who saved the bees and butterflies…to be the person who planted hope and grew happiness. Please plan to plant an oak tree and some milkweed next year or if you are “property challenged”, to plant some parsley to feed the caterpillars. Think of it as your legacy. Or simply your first donation to the food pantry of starving animals.##

PS Ironically, the ‘Jean Giono’ Rose is a lightly scented tangerine color beauty. It will do nothing to feed a bee, but it is lovely:

Rose 'Jean Giono'

Rose ‘Jean Giono’


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

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

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

Is this Pear the next Buckthorn?

Is this Pear the next Buckthorn?

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

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

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

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

Illinois Exotic Weed Act

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

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Multiflora Rose (Rosa multiflora)

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

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

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

Illinois Noxious Weed Law: 

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

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

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

Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense)

Perennial Sowthistle (Sonchus arvensis);

Musk Thistle (Carduus nutans);

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

Kudzu (Pueraria lobata).

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

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

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

Callery (Bradford) Pear (Pyrus calleryana)

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

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

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

Oriental (Asian) Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus)

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

Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria).

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

Talking Landscapes: Indiana Dunes Poems, by Paula McHugh

Great Lakes Shipwrecks & Survivals, by William Ratigan

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

Roadside Geology of Indiana, by Mark Camp and Graham Richardson

Nature Walks in Northern Indiana, by Alan McPherson

The Nature Conservancy’s Guide to the Indiana Preserves

60 Hikes within 60 Miles: Chicago, by Ted Villaire

Birds of the Indiana Dunes, by Kenneth Brock

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

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