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In Your Garden, Choose Plants that Help the Environment

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.” #

monarch on milkweed

 

 

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!

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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

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!#

Good Conference on Native Gardening: Nov 15th

Hi, everyone. If you want to hear some excellent speakers, check out this conference, sponsored by The Wild Ones, to be held at the College of Lake County on Saturday, November 15. I loved the book on pollinator plants by Doug Tallamy who speaks at 9 am, and Ray Wiggers knows all about WHERE (ravines, gravel, sand, limestone, glacial ridges, lake bottoms, etc) plants grow best (and what fish and birds and insects are where) since he’s a geologist and naturalist. I read his book over and over because there is too much about Chicago’s natural history to absorb all at once. I wish I could attend this conference but I am committed to going to a meeting for my favorite children’s charity: Mothers Trust Foundation. Two good choices, but can’t do it all… Rommy

PS Probably the last of the beautiful autumn leaves will succumb to the wind today….here is a yellow witchhazel against a reddish Viburnum prunifolium. Great shrubs for everyone’s yard! Get rid of the dreaded buckthorn and plant these beauties instead!#

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Darn Those Landscape Architects!

If I heard it once, I heard it a million times: “The final landscape plan shall strive to be a model for the community with a focus on removal of invasive species and planting of indigenous species”.

And then something like this follows: “Species Palette: Birch, Eastern Red Cedar…” NOT indigenous (birch) except maybe to a ravine, and thisclose to invasive (cedar).

Or I read, “Our plant palette includes coneflowers, black eyed susans, sky blue asters, and prairie dropseed”, as if they were the only plants in a woods, a wetland, or a prairie. Could we at least hear that you are planting a milkweed for the Monarch butterflies?

AAAAAGHHHHH. Can you landscape architects get it right, please? Do you ever crack a book on ecology or take a botany seminar?

Landscape architects and municipal foresters who let landscape architects get away with nonsense should know better and do WAY better. And they should stop planting crap in our ecosystems. Especially when saying that they are “models” of ecologic design.

Between Forest Park, Northwestern Hospital, and Whole Foods–all in Lake Forest–I can’t even fathom what might be happening in the larger region. Help us all to call their bluff: the Emperor has no clothes.##

How Did July Come Around So Fast?

Thanks for your patience, everyone, while I (and others) wrestled with a developer who wants to bring Whole Foods to Lake Forest. Yes, the same Whole Foods which, “in an effort to save trees” doesn’t publish quarterly shareholder reports, is asking us to let them (wait for it) CHOP DOWN 400 mature oaks and hickories to build a new store. The company also wants to DEMOLISH a landmarked house. There are technicalities in the zoning law that might still allow the developer to build WF’s store (and others ie a bank drive through), but for the moment the Lake Forest City Council agreed with us that a large green setback from Route 60 cannot be decreased by the developer.

If you want to write to Whole Foods (550 Bowie St, Austin, TX 78703) or you happen to know Chicago real estate moguls Mike Supera and Bernard Leviton (who are the owners of the property in question) tell them the world CONSERVES oak woods now. Clear cutting is sooo…OVER. Here’s what they want to demolish (house plus 8.5 acres of trees):

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See why the idea made many Lake Foresters crazy?!

But here we are with July practically done. How is that possible? Anyway, as I type this, I am looking through the window at 7′ tall single pink hollyhocks swaying in the wind next to pure white Asiatic lilies. Pure loveliness…

Hollyhocks and Lilies 2 horizontal

This is the best year ever for Chinese trumpet lilies in our garden. They are amazingly majestic–maybe 8 or 9′ tall, strong stemmed (no staking), and full of buds. They have names like, ‘Pink Perfection’ and ‘Golden Splendor’. All I can say is, “order some” for your own garden. I get mine from Van Engelen Bulbs. #