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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Following a rather busy June and early July, I decided to make the most of some much appreciated down time to just be me.

This, of course, translates easily into me wandering off to explore nature.

So it was on an overcast Saturday afternoon that the I opted for a walk at the Dean Nature Sanctuary in Oak Brook.

The sanctuary is a wildlife habitat – hidden in plain view. It was through the generous endowment of one of the early founding residents of Oak Brook, Dorothy Dean. With the assistance of the Conservation Foundation, Dorothy Dean generously donated this expanse of land to the Oak Brook Park District.

The story of this sanctuary is an interesting history lesson as well as a unique example of land preservation and stewardship. It also provides insight into the personality and foresight of Dorothy Dean, who used the advance of the Illinois Tollway system to her – and now our – advantage and resulted in the large pond at the site which is a refuge to waterfowl and wildlife. The story is rendered with more perfection than I can do here on my little blog. I encourage you to click on the link below to learn more.

Under the threat of rain, I parked the car, and scurried to one of the paths to make a quick loop around the pond and to rejoice in midst of a riot of prairie bloom! Cone flowers and bergamot, Culver’s root and brown-eyed Susan were bending in the breeze – or stretching toward sunlight, while a

 pair of mourning doves shared a branch high atop of tree.

As I walked, I noticed plant stems bending ever-so-slowly to the will of pollinators; bees and wasps and butterflies spreading the secrets of summer. From stem-to-stem they worked their way among the blooms of the sanctuary, while a heron stalked the edge of the pond and red-winged blackbirds taunted each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

While I often walk the paths of the Dean Nature Sanctuary, it seemed particularly special for me on Saturday afternoon. I enjoyed getting some exercise, clearing my mind, and observing the living things surrounding me. A dog was walking its master while a gaggle of pre-teen girls passed by, giggling at something on one of their phones. Something splashed loudly in the pond and a hawk circled overhead, looking for dinner, I supposed. I needed to head home to do the same so headed to my car feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.

Later, at home, checking out the website for the Dean Nature Sanctuary, a visual caught my eye. Oh! Bee Parks Honey. The Oak Brook Park District was selling honey harvested from the Dean Nature Sanctuary! I prefer to use local honey whenever I can, as you may recall, and dug a little deeper into the site. I sent an email to the Park District, and promptly received a very nice response thanking me for my inquiry and informing me that I could buy the honey at the park district office. All honey money (my term) will be used to support their universal playground project. I wish them well in this endeavor. Parks that are accessible to everyone benefit all of us.

Guess where I went the next afternoon?


https://www.obparks.org/history

 

 

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Dawn could not have arrived any more brilliantly than it did on the second Sunday in July!

Clear skies, pleasant temperatures, and low humidity greeted the Chair of the Faire (I just like how that rings) and a dedicated group of members. Elmhurst Park District staff were already on site and on task. Red Barn Greenhouse, a long-time participant in the event, were diligently unloading their plants in a display of horticultural splendor that is eagerly anticipated every July.

While there is a great deal of prep work leading up to the opening of the Faire, it is also exciting to watch the vendors unload their wares as tents and tables and a strong sense of purpose transforms Wilder Park into an elegant affair.

Concurrently, a small contingent of counterparts were at another park, Marjorie Davis, were the newly established community gardens would be one of the featured stops on the Garden Walk. How enlightening it was to have one of our members, Chloe, give us her own personal historical reference of Marjorie Davis, a beloved educator at Roosevelt School, and of Roosevelt School, which once stood at this location. Another member, Mary, who grows her vegetables in one of the plots, gave insight and information on the gardens.

. . . on to the five private gardens!

(Honestly, these gardens were so spectacular I’m tempted to just do posts, but, will not and hope these photos do them justice.)

This garden gave visitors a pleasant surprise as they walked down a long driveway and paradise opened up before their eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is an interesting feature. If you click onto the photo, you can see the bowl of the a birdbath. A vine (clematis?) has been trained around wired and supports to enclose the mechanics of the birdbath, giving birds a safe place to stop while enhancing the garden. It resembles a very lush basket to me. How clever!

A renovated two-flat, the homeowners repurposed salvage, especially bricks, and used other reclaimed items in their charming garden.

This garden was a big attraction, with an expansive lawn, custom crafted deck, and the historical interest of the home, which is a Sears Roebuck kit house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a charmer this garden was. With a sedate and welcoming front garden, it is the tranquil, surprisingly large garden beyond the garden gate that entranced visitors.

From a large vegetable garden that replaced a swimming pool, to every manner of repurposed artifacts along with plants, trees, and bushes, this was certainly a garden that illustrated for all in attendance that garden walks are for both men and women!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a wonderful day it was and how gratifying for all to know that we will be able to grant scholarships again this year. I hope you enjoyed some of the photos.

Bye, bye!

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On the first Sunday in July, Elmhurst Garden Club members begin to monitor the weather forecast. The Garden Guide has gone to print, posters and yard signs have blossomed like daisies in the summer heat, and a “buzz” is in the air. Up and down the streets of Elmhurst, inside businesses, on fences  and road signs, visuals remind locals and visitors alike that this annual gardening event is about to bloom. Phone calls, emails and texts inquire “where can I get a ticket” as boutique vendors replenish their inventory of plants, jewelry, yard art, and all things garden related for the elegant Faire in Wilder Park.

Proceeds from Walk benefit worthy students of horticulture and science related studies, as well as many local endeavors. To date, the Elmhurst Garden Club has raised more than $150,000.

Streams and ponds, a Sears Roebuck kit house and a “scrabbled” vegetable garden are features amid landscape, hardscape, plantscape and more to provide a feast for the senses. There is something for everyone on Sunday, July 8th at the Elmhurst Garden Walk and Faire.

If you are in the Chicagoland area on the second Sunday in July, July 8, please join us for An Afternoon in the Garden.

Information: Elmhurst Garden Club

Is there a garden walk where you live? 

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When I noticed a few “dots” on the leaves, I guarded myself against excitement. I had been fooled many times before. Still-in-all, most mornings and afternoons, in between raindrops and temperature variations, dawn or dusk, I tiptoed around the milkweed. I was hoping no one could see me amid the giant ferns and parked car, in my pajamas and yellow rain slicker, or my Sunday best. The neighbors are accustomed to my quirky behavior. If they noticed me, on the very first morn, hopping about and squealing with glee, they have not mentioned it – at least not to me.

On that first, dewy morn, huddled inside the yet un-opened leaves, were two, very small, Monarch caterpillars! They were slowly, methodically munching away, feasting on milkweed, an early June surprise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you might imagine, I followed their journey, my camera in hand. From leaf to leaf., often together, they munched. They also ventured, separately, to other milkweed plants. Like Eric Carle’s “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, they ate and ate and grew, doubling and tripling their size. From June 2 until June 12, they ate, in what is the larval stage. On July 12, at dusk, I found them both at rest on separate leaves and on different milkweed plants.

 

Early in the morning,  on July 13, I could not find them. They might have been frightened by my newly acquired mosquito repellent.

I went inside, made a cup of tea, sweetened it liberally, just because, then went out again, in search of the caterpillars – and I found them!  Can you?

 

Here is one, closer up, on the floor of the garden.

They were not far from each other, but much harder to see as they traveled, inch by inch, looking for the perfect spot to enter the next stage. Chrysalis.

 

Last night, June 13, and again this morning, the two caterpillars are nowhere to be found. I have carefully, but unsuccessfully, looked for a chrysalis. All I can do is hope that they have both found a place to hang out for a bit, to grow, change, and emerge.

Here’s hoping to see a Monarch, or two, flitting about in a few weeks. I promise to let you know.

In-the-meantime, I am carefully watching what I DID find on the meadow rue – a swallowtail caterpillar!

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Conspicuous Crannies

It seems to always rain when the peonies open; not slowly and reverently in a soft spring shower, but rather as headstrong as a toddler wanting his way.

The newly potted plants needed water after the 90+ degree temperatures we’ve been experiencing, so, I couldn’t complain as the rains did the watering for me. I did wince a wee bit and wring my hands for our peonies had just bloomed and were resplendent in our front gardens; pinks and purples and mauves of magnificence.

The “wringing of hands”, of course, accomplishes nothing, so, out I went, clippers in hand as the sky darkened and threatened to let loose at any moment. A snip here, another there, a gentle shake of the petals to hopefully release whatever ants were still on doing their springtime chore of opening the petals and, voila, a bouquet was in hand to brighten the kitchen counter.

We weathered the storm, though the roof sprung a leak just as we sat down to supper – and a supper it was with leftover everything! I reflected, a bit, on how fortunate we are for others around the world are battling storms and fires and eruptions that are horrific, devastating and life-threatening. A leaky roof and water-logged peonies are small drops of worry when one looks at the bigger picture.

None-the-less, early this morning, in my typical, fashionable style, I rushed out in my jammies, carrying my cell phone while the teakettle waited to whistle. I was anxious to capture the photo above while the light was just so. I cannot recall her name, but, she puts forth the most marvelous, wispy blue blossoms at this time of year and looks her best in the morning light.

As I was attempting the shot, swatting mosquitoes, my eye caught something else nearby. A spot. A spot on a plant that the Antler Man almost pulled, thinking it was a weed. Actually, it is a weed – milkweed – and it has lodged itself in a conspicuous cranny near a spot where Monarchs laid eggs last year. Upon closer inspection I found the spot to be not a spot at all, but, rather, a hole.

A hole in a milkweed leaf!

Slowly, ever-so-slowly, holding my breath, I held the leaf. I turned it around, cautiously, carefully, and this is what I found.

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February can be a heartless month to those living in a cold climate. Positioned at half-past winter and a quarter to spring, February’s single digit temperatures and snow might swirl in the wind one day and be followed by 60 degrees (F) the next. Warm temperatures bring fast melting snow – over a foot in our neck of the woods – followed by rain, rain, and more rain. We tire of winter in February and we long for green instead of gray.

A bright spot in winter comes, hereabouts, on the last weekend in February and the first in March when Orchids by Hausermann hold their annual open house. I went last Friday; a dour day with leaden skies and a muddy parking lot. As I was directed by employees to a parking spot, visitors leaned into the wind with boxes of greenery, long arching stems of glorious orchids peeking out. Inside the doors was a feast for famished senses, attracting orchid lovers, gardeners, and winter weary wanderers.

Oh, what a glorious adventure on a grim afternoon!

Aisle upon aisle of orchids were displayed in the Hausermann greenhouses. Every color imaginable, scents and textures, potted plants and air plants: splendor as far as the eye could see.

The yellows were radiant,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

as were the reds.

Moustaches, whiskers, and other accoutrements- pretty in pink!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What a joy it was roaming Hausermann’s, chatting with orchid lovers, photography buffs and even running into a few Elmhurst Garden Club friends.

My green thumb does not extend to orchids, so, I did not purchase a plant. I did, however, buy a small cut orchid arrangement, eager to bring a bit of Hausermann’s beauty home. The arrangement was small, as was the price, with an orchid and ferns nestled into a small container. The sun managed to come out and kiss my little arrangement, which is perched prominently on the kitchen counter.

 On Saturday, I noticed a small puddle of water on the countertop, under the arrangement. I wiped it off and went about my chores. A short while later, there was another puddle. On closer look, there was a teardrop on the tip of a fern leaf. I watched it. Really!  Who watches tear drops on ferns? 🙂  Soon, the swollen droplet let loose and filled the formica lake.

Click onto the photos for a closer look. I don’t want to be alone in watching a fern weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
~ E.B. White

One such day, which was already planned, was not a particularly seductive one, but, it was a challenging one filled with the usual chores, responsibilities, and the this-and-that of life to attend to. There was someone to visit and a stop at the vegetable/fruit market before returning home where I set about preparations for our supper.

While the chicken was marinating, I checked my emails, my blog comments and your posts, then suddenly realized that there was a lecture I had hoped to attend; The Pen and the Trowel with Marta McDowell. When I first read about it, the lecture sounded interesting and the name of the speaker was vaguely familiar. Funny, isn’t it, how life’s tidbits of information marinate as we wander along in life?  I clicked onto the saved informational link, which still sounded interesting, and wondered aloud if I could still attend.

Explore the ways that writing and gardening intertwine with author and speaker, Marta McDowell. For years, McDowell has been occupied with writers who garden, and how their horticultural interests have changed her planting beds as well as her bookshelves. Starting with Mark Twain, and connecting to authors ranging from Henry David Thoreau to Louisa May Alcott, this lecture explores that rich, writing-gardening connection. Instructor: Marta McDowell, author and horticulturist. *

The lecture was at 7pm. It was already 4:30. Could I make it? I scurried about like the little chipmunk who gathered the stuffing out of the pillow on my porch rocker (not the one pictured above). I registered online, changed clothes, made sure all was in place for Tom’s supper and off I went to one of my favorite places, the Morton Arboretum.

I parked in the lot behind the Sterling Morton Library and enjoyed the short walk to its doors. If you have not visited this library you should. Membership to the Arb allows you to check out books but all visitors may enter, browse the stacks of books, learn something from the curated displays and more! The Sterling is, indeed, sterling in its embrace of nature.

Like the seasoned gardener and horticulturist she is, Marta McDowell sowed her words like flower seeds through the garden writings of such notables as Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) and Emily Dickinson, Louisa May Alcott and Ralph Waldo Emerson. She shared photos of her own garden’s many transformations after being influenced by the writings of many authors, as well as having visited many of their gardens while researching her several books.

In the course of Ms. McDowell’s lecture, I learned of the friendship between Samuel Clemons and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Stowe would often cross the lawn between their two homes and take plants from his large conservatory. Their neighbor was Charles Warner, who wrote “My Summer in a Garden” (note to self, check this out). She reminded us that before Louisa May Alcott’s  “Little Women” there was “Flower Fables” and that Beatrix Potter used features of her own Lake District home and gardens in her adored illustrations. The web of writers, illustrations, photographs and more cast a spell upon me that made me want to learn more about writers who did, indeed, improve the world while also enjoying it. It also reminded me of the shelves of books I have about gardening; shelves groaning with poetry, essays, literature, and lifestyles and I am filled gratitude for how words and photographs have shepherd me along my own garden paths.

My “aha” moment came when I saw Marta McDowell’s newly released book, and I realized she had authored such books as “All the Presidents’ Gardens”, “Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life” and “Emily Dickinson’s Gardens”. It was my dear friend Janet, aka Country Mouse, who recently alerted me to a book giveaway she knew I would be interested in, which I was, and which included some of these books as well as her newest book, “The World of Laura Ingalls Wilder”.

Do you have a favorite gardening writer or author who influenced your garden or your lifestyle?

The link to that giveaway can be found here

Here is a link to Marta McDowell’s lecture schedule. She might be in your area, in case you are interested: http://www.martamcdowell.com/events

*From the Morton Arboretum website.

 

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