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Silence All Around

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”.#

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News Briefs from around the World…

In case you missed these stories…

. TWIGITECTURE: my new favorite word and my new favorite garden idea. Gotta have my own nest! Check out this NYTimes story by Penelope Green. People are soooo creative…

Nest-of-Twigs

 

. Conserving water is very important, especially when Illinois is in drought and, despite a lot of rain this year, Lake Michigan is 19″ below where it should be. I live in Lake Forest, which borders Lake Michigan, where we have a daytime “sprinkling ban” by which half the town (even-numbered houses) gets to irrigate between midnight-10 am or 8 pm-midnight on one day, and then the other half of homes gets to irrigate the next night. We don’t have automatic sprinklers at our house because I think they waste more water than they save, and my plants don’t need equal amounts of water. Thus I hand-water–in the morning. Usually. Maybe on an even day. (So arrest me.)

But, according to the NYTimes, the water-parched City of PHOENIX, AZ doesn’t have such restrictions. “There is no limit to how many times someone can wash a car or water flowers in a yard…that’s just myopic”, says Phoenix’s Policy Advisor for Sustainability. Instead, it uses strategies such as “graywater” from bathrooms and washing machines to irrigate, or uses treated wastewater to cool a nuclear power plant and a man-made wetland. Water use is a factor in zoning decisions. While Phoenix does not, other cities such as Mesa, Las Vegas, and Tucson give rebates for residents who remove grass and xeriscape, harvest rainwater, or use graywater for landscaping. Some towns regulate homeowners’ trees, shrubs and flower choices. The article does not say how much residents pay per gallon of water, but these strategies appear to be working: in 1990, Phoenix residents used 250 gallons of water/day. Now they use 123. H’mmm…

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. NYC aims to make recycling mandatory by 2016. Wow, good! That means 1.2 million tons of food waste will be made into COMPOST!

. CHINA is moving 250 million (yes, you read it right) farmers off their land and into high-rise apartment buildings in newly-made “cities”. The hope is to create 250 million CONSUMERS. Can you say, “worldwide social, moral, cultural, and economic DISASTER”?

. NYC has released its Climate Change report which predicts that 800,000 people will live in the 100-year flood plain by 2050, more than double the current 398,000 currently at risk. The number of days with temperatures above 90 degrees is expected to jump from 22 to 48/year by 2050.

. LOURDES, FRANCE is under flood water. They are hoping for a miracle.##

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A Potpourri of News…

Can you believe it’s June 1st already?! Sorry to have been out of touch…planting season…our farmhouse gardens to be photographed for Country Gardens Magazine

Country-Gardens-cover

…family…volunteerism…Leah’s college graduation…technical issues with this website…such a busy time of the year. Even the local wildlife is busy. When I drove into our driveway today, there were six (!) chipmunks running around like nut cases on the asphalt. They were glutinous, eating the seeds of maples, a phenom I had never seen before.  BTW, we are assured that those little seed nuggets are entirely edible, tasting like peas. You first.

Gardening world good news: tulips, redbuds, and big lilacs are done, but smaller (Syringa meyeri Palibin, Miss Kim, and ‘Boomerang’) lilacs are blooming with the azaleas. Huge amounts of foliage clothe all the shrubs and trees this year–even a lot of the ash trees aren’t as dead as I expected them to be. Wild geraniums, iris, wild phlox, hawthorns, variegated Solomon’s Seal, shooting stars, tree peonies, primroses and dogwoods are glorious. Fringe tree [Chionanthus virginicus] is about to “feather”. Did I mention the foliage and growth of the Beech trees–amazing! The bad news is that my (formerly) incredibly shaped Seven Sons Flower tree (Heptacodium miconoides–I love saying the name of this amazing tree which you must put in your garden) took a big hit from the winter wind (I think) and I had to chop it all to hell. Also, a big Redbud, a fragrant Viburnum carlesii, and a Juniper s. ‘Skyrocket’ died from drowning.

Did I mention the elegance of my all-time favorite shrub: Viburnum plicatum?Look at how beautiful this shrub is:Viburnum plicatum Mariesii-001:Viburnum plicatum Mariesii close up

Sometimes (well, ok, so often that I’m shocked not to have caused an accident) I’m driving around and see a sight that I am compelled to photograph. For example, this small conifer garden outside the investment house of VennWell in Lake Forest is fantastic. Small, deceptively simple, and a great contrast in textures. Voila! This is really all one needs to enjoy a garden. Kudos to its designer, Brent Markus, who specializes in four-season landscapes featuring Japanese maples and dwarf conifers. Brent mostly specializes in finding the most unique trees. I nearly drove off the road when I saw Acer palmatum ‘Lions Head’–a fantastic mop of leaves with red seeds that Dr. Seuss would love. Look at this crazy wonderful tree:

Acer palmatum Lions Head

Acer palmatum Lions Head

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ALERT! PERENNIALS ON SALE: Didier Farms in Lincolnshire has a wonderful selection of perennials–not limited to the “usual suspects”. Those very same perennials are on sale for $6.99 through July 12. Which makes me a little crazee because I just paid retail for some plants at Didier for one of my design customers. (Well, I couldn’t find the plants anywhere else at wholesalers.) But I’m definitely making another run to Didier’s soon…cool stuff.

Now I have to go outside to wrap our pear tree in nets so maybe the squirrels will be deterred. Last year, they managed to get in and eat all the pears despite the nets. Maybe this year will be different?##

Too Much Water and a Cold Snap

This morning’s simpering heat, combined with a brief uptick in the wind and quickly clouding dark skies, made it easy to think about the tornadoes that ripped across Oklahoma and Kansas yesterday. Sadly, more tornadoes, hail storms, and slow-moving thunderstorms (ie a lot of rain in one place), including some aimed near Joplin, Missouri and north to Minnesota, may occur today (Monday). Remember that the Chicago region [link to map] is already in a Federal Disaster Zone because of the devastating rain storms of April 18th, just a month ago. Lots of Chicagoans are still mopping up and cleaning out, unfortunately. [Here’s a link about how you can help and/or donate to Chicago flood clean-up efforts by the American Red Cross.]

Profuse blossoms on 2013 fruit trees

Profuse blossoms on 2013 fruit trees

There’s good news and bad news about the amazingly full blossoms you are noticing this year on crabapple trees and other fruit trees.

The good news is that after last year’s sustained cold damage to their blossoms (which killed the apple crop from IL to NY], the trees seemed to cope by becoming ultra-productive in flowering this year. Therefore, states like Michigan, which experienced 27 degrees on May 13th, had their blossoms badly damaged but will likely still have a bountiful fruit crop, although growers in a few local communities where it stayed cold for hours probably got wiped out. Along with fruit growers, other types of nursery crops took a hit. For example, today I went to buy some lemon thyme at Pasquesi’s Garden Center in Lake Bluff, IL, and was surprised that there was not one thyme plant of any kind to be found. Why? Because Pasquesi’s Michigan-based herb supplier had put its herbs outside and the frost burned them up. They have to start slips all over again. So please be patient, customers! P.S. Doesn’t it make you frantic and sad to visit Home Depot in April and see them putting basil and hibiscus, among other tender plants, outside just so that they can get killed by cold? ##