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Brussels Sprouted…into a topiary!

Thanks to Chicago Botanic Garden veggie garden manager Lisa Hilgenberg for sending us a photo of her Brussels Sprouts topiary, which she says was inspired by chefs at The White House. (Recently Lisa was a special guest for a tour of the First Lady’s organic garden and the White House kitchen(s)(s)(s). How cool is that?)…

Brussel-Sprout-topiary

It’s a lovely thing, this topiary, and it makes me happy to look at a thing of beauty because I was just watching TV news. Another gun massacre. Which means another call to Mark Kirk, who I called this morning to say that Mitch McConnell cancelling health money for the 9/11 first responders is shameful. And I spent all day finding new health insurance (which I didn’t finish yet because I can’t figure it out) because my $900/month Gold Blue Cross policy is now useless at all Northwestern hospitals and “out of network” at Rush (check your policy if you go to Rush). Grumpy? YES, I AM, aren’t you? Makes me want to throw a Brussels Sprout at a Republican.##

“We Say What You Think”

Having recently spent a month bouncing around the Lower Keys (we rented a place via VRBO. Don’t get me started on horrible landlords; then again, the sunset from the porch was awesome), I was intrigued to read this essay about Naples, Everglades, sugar plantations, and the Keys. Lucia does “say what I think” (her motto). In fact, she does a better job thinking through what I think than I think I could ever think. Read Lucia’s Symposium #31: Old Florida and The Everglades. Someday somewhere I hope I find a spot than doesn’t want (and doesn’t even take time to think about) to take paradise and put up a parking lot…##

sunset on the lake

The Polish Garden Writers Club (2 members so far)

I have a friend named Mike Nowak, a fellow hale & hearty Pole and (hail and hardy) garden writer (although Mike is way way way more prodigious than I). He just sent me his new book, in which he wrote the following inscription (which I suspect he writes in every book he autographs, even when the book was not written by him): “To _____: who is almost as funny as I am”. This made me laugh. A rare thing, these days, what with beheadings, floods, social injustice, and difficulty finding the Alpo dog food my dogs prefer.

Um, back to Mike’s book. One thing I realized about myself after I read most of his essays is that I mostly read backwards. That is, I don’t start at the beginning and go forward. Instead, I randomly thumb through a book, breaking the spine at not-the-middle, let my eye alight on a line of text, and then I read from that point forward. If I like it (which in this case I did, a lot), I will page back to the first paragraph of the essay and then read all the way through. This bad habit probably started in college when I learned to read only the first chapter, last chapter, and last paragraph of every chapter in a book. This trick sped up the Russian Revolution considerably….

Mike also helped me discover another bad habit: I am a page corner “folder-over”. (Hmm, maybe it’s “fold-over-er”?) That’s how, like a dog, I mark territory I like. And I folded over an awful lot of pages in this book. Not because I was learning anything about gardening (no one, not even Mike Nowak, actually KNOWS anything about gardening), but because so many pages are very funny. Out loud funny. Being Polish, of course, I especially enjoyed his description of his long-departed relative, Telewizja Kablowa “Cable TV” Nowakowa, who, operating out of a small village near Krakow, is said to have created cooking recipes for over 12,000 insect species…” This made me guffaw, which in Polish, is spelled, guffav. Or guffow. Never mind.

Last, I found out that Mike and I have distinctly different views of only one thing: the color pink in the garden. Oddly, I spent yesterday taking photos of pink flowers to show you in their dazzling array. Then I opened Mike’s book and read that pink is “ubiquitous, relentless, abhorrent, insidious, formidable, unyielding, despotic, and pitiless.” Tell us what you really think, eh, Mike? Mike blames his horror of pink flowers on early color TV sets, but I? I LOVE pink. PINK, PINK, PINK. PINKETY PINK PINK, can’t have enough. It’s a word that’s fun to say! It’s fun to wear (ok, not if you are manly Mike Nowak.) Or maybe I came to love pink flowers because “I Love Lucy’s” hair was so extraordinarily PINK and GREEN on our tv… Nonetheless, I present PINK IN THE GARDEN:

pink hydrangea

tiger swallowtail on shrub

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What more can I say about Mike’s book, Attack of the Killer Asparagus and Other Lessons Not Learned in the Garden? I can say that if I was inclined to spend a lot of time in a bathroom, this would be the book I would want to read there. (Way way better than Reader’s Digest.) Instead, I think I’ll take it to bed with me and let my husband try to figure out why I’m laughing. Out loud. This time.#

[Buy many copies of Mike’s book here: http://www.aroundtheblockpress.com/Onlinestore.htm]

 

Watch Jens Jens Documentary (complete with his voice) TONIGHT

Hi, Weedpatch fans. So sorry I’ve been SO SO out of touch: I am devoting a lot (!) of time to trying to save 400 mature and reproducing oak and hickory trees on an 8 acre site in Lake Forest. A shopping center developer, Bill Shiner, has arrived in town and wants us to waive or s-t-r-e-t-c-h every ordinance to accomodate four outbuildings (maybe Chase Bank, Starbucks, ChickFilA, don’t know he’s not sayin’) plus Whole Foods (maybe). The lure of tax $$ is great, but to me the lure of saving trees and protecting our laws should be greater. Anyway, it’s taking a lot of time. Please help out by making comments on Whole Foods’ website: how come the company says it’s “sustainable” if it wants to take paradise (did I mention demolishing a landmarked mansion?) and put up a parking lot?

Of course, if you are a responsible gardener in the Chicago region, you must know the name, Jens Jensen. Last night I saw on WTTW a preview of what looks to be a wonderful documentary on the contributions of Jens Jensen (1860-1951) to parks and landscape in the Chicago region. The documentary airs tonight, both on TV and at Millenium Park. Here’s the link: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2014/06/18/film-documents-life-and-work-jens-jensen

Please watch and share what you learned. Thanks for hanging in there with me while I lash myself to yet another 200 year old oak tree. Could this really be happening–in Lake Forest? Don’t they call it “slash and burn” or “deforestation” in other countries? Sigh. Pretty depressing.

Here’s a photo I took today of a landscape in Lake Forest which was designed by the Olmsted Brothers and later Jens Jensen…

Jens Jensen

#

And Now for my Substitute Guest Editor or…

A View from A Broad!

I have always been a HUGE fan of the Divine Miss M’s and, obviously having too much time on my hands today, I landed on Bette Midler’s website. Actually, I was looking for tickets to the Carole King show in NYC, but that’s another story.

Anyway, Queen Bee burst a gut reading Miss Manifesto’s bloviating blog: she thinks like I do. (And you do.) So here it is for you: http://bettemidler.com/.

Oh, what I wouldn’t do to share a laugh and a Cosmo with her. Enjoy! #

And another thing: Here’s an example of how goofy the world is. For thousands of years, maybe eons, Canada geese have been migrating from Canada to Florida, from Florida to Canada, back and forth, forth and back. All that time, they’ve had all their favorite watering holes along the way, each goose parent teaching their goslings where to stop, especially when they are old enough to lay eggs and want a nice lakeside location to nest by. But then along come humans, and decide to fill in the lake and build a nice big Costco instead. But that goose just doesn’t stop wanting the old scenic location…God bless her.

Goose-close-up

 

Saving the Planet…read it and weep OR become a better gardener?

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…”.

drought

  • 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!##

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