Select Page

Hello, You Beautiful Bird!

Look who showed up on our dock at sunset yesterday!

great blue heron

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.#

Perennial Professionals!

If you’ve ever shopped at Chalet Nursery in Wilmette, or watched Channel 7 TV in the morning, or listened to Mike Nowak’s Garden Show (lamentedly it is no more), or well, just been around the plant world, you have seen the ever-enthusiastic Jennifer “Who Knows More Than God About Plants” Brennan.

Jennifer’s energy and exuberance knows no bounds. The woman doesn’t ever snooze. In addition to all else, she is now serving as the central region director of the Perennial Plant Association (PPA), which is the group which designates the “perennial plant of the year” for retailers to type. In 2014 it was Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind” which was grown from wild-collected seed from South Elgin, Illinois. This blue-green, erect grass was found by Chicago’s “very own” Roy Diblik, co-owner of Northwind Perennial Farm in Springfield, Wisconsin and author of The Know Maintenance Perennial Garden.

The PPA also holds seriously great conferences, most often attended by pro’s but they are nice people so anyone can go. So great that I’m still laughing about one that I attended in 1998 where a very famous landscape architect–old as the hills!–tried to kiss me out behind the hydrangeas. When I got back on the bus, I told my friend Pam about the incident. She laughed so hard, then said, “Ha! I was 1996!”

But I digress. Jennifer has organized a conference which every one of you MUST attend if you like perennials. And who doesn’t? Plus you get to go to The Morton Arboretum, which it’s time for you to revisit. It’s fantastic! Here’s the announcement of this wonderful conference. You will learn so much! Here’s the direct link for registration: http://www.mortonarb.org/events

 

regional perennial plant symposium

regional perennial plant symposium-2

 

All in a Day–in Florida

Last week I took a very chilly but beautiful walk in the forest preserve at Fort Sheridan, Illinois. Great shadows! fort sheridan 1 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: florida keys 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?): florida keys 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. sea turtle 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!#