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Not a Centerfold, but Close!

I’ve always wanted to be a magazine centerfold, fodder for the tabloids, or a great read for your time in line at the grocery store. And this is as close as I may ever get:

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Thank you to Better Homes and Gardens editor James Baggett, my longtime friend and garden “personality”/writer Shirley Remes, writer and editor Beth Botts, and photographer Bob Stefko for making our farm in Richmond, Illinois seem like the most romantic old farm EVER!

Please find and buy a copy–and then ask me to autograph it so that I can get the full experience of bein’ a glamour girl. A STAR IS BORN! A STAR IS BORN! Move over Meryl and Julia and Sandra and Angelina and all you glamour has-been’s: Rommy has launched! ##

Garfield Park Conservatory and Mothers Trust Foundation: Congratulations

Garfield Park Conservatory, located on the far west side of Chicago not too far from Oak Park, is one of my favorite places. I love love love the fern room there–it’s a wonderful respite from the “concrete jungle”:

“Designed by Hitchings and Company, with the brilliant assistance of Jens Jensen, the Conservatory was completed in 1907. It is still one of the largest conservatories in the world. Jensen’s use of native limestone in layers is used to create ponds, waterfalls, cliffs, and lush winding paths. The total effect seems to overwhelm one’s senses as the sound of the water, the verdant greenness, and the pleasant aromas calm the nerves and transport me to another time and place, when the prairie was a nearby paradise..”. (Cindy Mitchell, The Weedpatch Gazette, Summer, 1998).

 

Garfield-Park-Conservatory

The Garfield Park Conservatory won a 2013 Philanthropy Award from the Make It Better Foundation:

 

Congratulations!

And congratulations is in order for Mothers Trust Foundation which also won a Make It Better Philanthropy award. Take a look at this excellent video and see if you can spot me, in good company at a meeting with other wonderful volunteers.##

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

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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P1000109 winter lake

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P1000116-1 winter sunset

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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.#

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

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…

P1080969 do not mow

…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!##

Open Days this Sunday for Gardens in Lake Forest, Highland Park, and Winnetka

The Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program – June 23:

On Sunday, June 23rd, make plans to become inspired by five private gardens in Highland Park, Lake Forest, and Winnetka, opening to the public to benefit the Garden Conservancy, a national non-profit whose mission is to preserve exceptional American gardens across the country. Admission is $5 per garden and children 12 & under are free. No reservations needed, tours are self-guided, and are rain or shine. Visit www.opendaysprogram.org or call toll-free weekdays, 888-842-2442.

The two Lake Forest gardens are NOT TO BE MISSED. Incredible: one of them has a grape arbor said to date back to Frederick Law Olmsted. Visitors will see modern and classical sculpture within the landscapes, classical garden arches creating a passage through a parterre, enclosed garden rooms, a topiary garden, views of Lake Michigan, a garden designed by Rosemary Verey, colored waves of native plants, and the ancient precision of labyrinth geometry.

Fairlawn-Arbor

2-CIMG6899-1 fairlawn arbor

 

Additional area Open Days will take place on July 21 in Elburn and West Chicago; and July 28th in Lake Forest and Mettawa – mark your calendars!

A Few News Briefs…

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.##