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DSCN5973Shall I tell you a story of linen and ink, gardens and waterfalls, sunshine and splendor?

It occurs at the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, Illinois.

Our garden club’s adventure started with a private tour of the Lenhardt Library; a treasure trove of horticultural books, journals, periodicals, reproduction prints and more. There was an amazing display of noteworthy bookplates, including those of Charles Dickens and Eugene Field.  Several of us were particularly interested in Field’s bookplate as we first met long before joining the garden club, when our children attended Field School, named for the poet. (you know him – Wynken, Blynken and Nod).

After our introduction to the wonders Lenhardt has to offer, we were taken into the June Price Reeder Rare Book Room. It was as if a hush fell on my soul, so enthralled was I in the presence of four centuries of bound and conserved horticultural wisdom, some of which became the template of remedies for modern medicine.  To touch the linen pages that predate the anniversary of Columbus’s discoveries, the day before Columbus Day is commemorated here, is rather awesome, indeed. The library is in the painstaking process of digitizing  these books and journals, some truly tomes, for all to access. You can see some of them by clicking the link to the rare book room above.

No garden club event seems complete without food, so, we stopped for lunch at the Cafe. We commiserated over sandwiches, soups, salads and sunshine, then separated, some taking a tram tour of the grounds, others walking the paths.  I suspect most of us also ended up in the bountiful gift shop before heading home.

The groundskeepers were busy, hauling this and that, flowers and soil, pumpkins and gourds, readying the Botanic for this weekend’s fall festivities. It was a pristine day; the best kind for visiting such an expansive garden. The Chicago Botanic Gardens is a destination for grade school field trips as well as an international destination to world travelers.  It pleased me to no end to hear the many languages that were being uttered and the universal joy of horticulture.

Here are a few photos taken in the Rare Book Room.  Our guide was Leora Siegel, the library’s director. It is an understatement to say that she was exemplary as she guided us through the centuries of books. I felt a tinge of regret when the tour concluded as I longed to hear and see more.

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Finally, a few photos of the grounds, which include the Japanese garden, the vast vistas, waterfall, and stunning chrysanthemums dripping from the main arbor leading out to the Botanic’s grounds.

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It is that time of year for the gathering of seeds, the raking of leaves, the cutting back of perennials and the discarding of annuals.

It is that time of year for “putting the garden to bed”.

DSCN5944. . . and so, we did at our Garden Club meeting on Monday.

We didn’t actually put any gardens to bed; we had an informative presentation about chores to do in the Autumn garden in preparation for winter.  No matter how long one gardens, there is always something new to learn. New tools. New techniques. Reminders of tried and true ways. Our presenter, a well known and respected owner of a local feed store, Pioneer Feed in Villa Park, showed us examples of diseased plants, explained soil additives, talked about plant treatments, and even explained how a Sawzall can be employed to rejuvenate Miscanthus grass.

This presentation followed refreshments and our business meeting.  Finger sandwiches and gelatins molded with fruits or vegetables was just what we needed on a cool Autumn afternoon, with cookies and brownies for desert.  A fulfilling meal, followed by the informative lecture, all centered around putting our gardens to bed.

These centerpieces were crafted and arranged by club member Nan. A smaller bed (above) was on each table.A larger one (below) brought out the Goldilocks in me. All were given out as door prizes, much to the pleasure of those who won them, and I think we all stepped a little lighter as we left, our gardening chores awaiting us in the weeks ahead – and the comfort of knowing we all had a place to rest our heads at day’s end.

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DSCN5900I should have shown you what was IN the jar first, but, I was too busy playing Goldilocks and ate the whole thing up. 

Only fooling you. Here is what it looked like before I attacked my yogurt and granola with unfettered glee,

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while scoping out the Chicago Botanical Gardens for an outing the gardening group is taking later this week. 

Have you had any jarring experiences lately?

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DSCN5809I seem to be drifting under panels of panes lately; and so it was at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan last weekend.

As we toured this inspiring living gallery of plants and art, in and out of rooms of glass and paved paths of wonder whilst under a stormy sky, I could not help but wonder in awe at how art and horticulture articulate so well with each other.

The sculpture below changes as one walks around; first a man, then a woman, surrounded by shrubs and greenery.

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A queen bee rules from her throne, frogs guard benches, and conservatories house exotic plants that thrive in the upper midwest lakes region.

I’ll stop writing now, dear reader, and just show you a few photos of the delights of the Meijer gardens.

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Wednesday, there was a rare opportunity to tour the greenhouse in the Biological Sciences Learning Center at the University of Chicago . It was a brilliantly clear day in Chicago with calm waters along the many miles of lakefront and an azure sky tempting the skyscrapers and architecture.

Susan, our guide and sister-in-law of one of our Garden Club members, was extraordinary in her knowledge, commitment, and sense of humor as she took us through prep areas, down hallways, one glassed room after another, and atop the greenhouse roof hosting cold frames. It was an illuminating tour amid one of the most respected institutions of higher learning, research, and development in the world.

Can you find the greenhouse? It is mid-right, about 5 stories up, shot from a passageway leading to the facility. The greenhouse needed to be rehabbed because of the emerging structure behind it. This is Chicago, my friends; always changing, rearranging the sky along its magnificent lakefront.

After our tour of the greenhouse, we went for lunch in the Sky Lobby Food Court; a seventh floor cafeteria that is always open, 24/7. You can see it below, viewed from the rooftop area of the greenhouse, it is the glassed rim trimming the building across from where we were standing.

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DSCN5512What better way to start or end one’s day than with a little dip into the honey pot, especially in September, which is National Honey Month?

During the harvesting season, I seek out vendors at local farmers markets and farm stands for jars of this liquid gold. It is said that consuming local honey has health benefits, especially for those with seasonal allergies. I don’t know how scientifically true this is, but, I do know that I don’t sneeze as much when I’ve had a wee tad of local honey on a regular basis.  I always find honey farmers are eager to talk about their honey and that this year they say their bees are producing more.

My gardening friends and I all agree, we are seeing more bees in our gardens. A good sign that leaves one hopeful, in a very tentative way.

I’m a romantic, at heart, dear reader, but, a realist in mind, and the plight of the bee is precarious. This should be alarming to all of us, for without bees, we no longer have the pollination we need to grow fruits and vegetables. Our food supply is in danger in a very large way.

It is more than honey, and More than Honey is an intriguing, stimulating, frightening film that I would like to encourage you to view. Celestia, my co-chair of our garden club’s conservation and education committee, arranged for our club to have a viewing of More than Honey before a recent club meeting. It is a fascinating documentary of bees; their origin in Europe, colonization in North America, how bees are being genetically modified, the plight of migrant bee farmers (I didn’t know there were migrant bee farmers), and much, much more.

Through modern technology, we enter the beehive and soar with the queen. We cringe as we see, first hand, colony collapse and disease, and ooh as a minuscule camera is attached to a bee that we follow as it seeks a new hive. We watch hand pollination in China and explore the lives of killer bees, which may give us hope rather than something to fear.

Please take a moment to click below to see the trailer for the film. I’m sorry if there is an advertisement. It is the trailer you want to click.  You can, of course, buy it from the website or rent it from sources such as Netflix.

This trailer for the film was on YouTube.

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DSCN5391It is the in-between time, here on the Cutoff;  not quite the end of summer, nor yet the beginning of fall.

The ornamental and prairie grasses are reaching their peaks and starting to show their plumes. A few late-blooming hostas are holding court, issuing their intoxicating fragrances, and the Sweet Autumn Clematis is promising a splendid display atop the arbor . . .  the days grow shorter and shorter.  Bittersweet days of August, these are, and none the more so than today and yesterday, as I snipped the last of the daisies.

Deadheading is always such a painful chore.

A week before the Fourth of July, I fretted, hoping that the daisies would last for the holiday. They did! Now, some six weeks later, they are finally spent. To say they put on a good show, and stayed for an encore performance, would be an understatement. The snip, snip, snipping has finally brought the curtain down on their long performance.

The flower beds are a bit tidier now that the daisies are tamed. There is more to do, however, as we begin the long goodbye to summer. Just for a while, though, I’ll dream again of daisy chains and the sunny centers of my imagination.

DSCN5070The daisy follows soft the sun . . .  Emily Dickinson

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