Friday, August 31, 2007


The notion, that a childhood spent in the outdoors leaves a lifelong imprint, is not new .

The River
And I behold once more
My old familiar haunts; here the blue river,
The same blue wonder that my infant eye
Admired, sage doubting whence the traveller came,--
Whence brought his sunny bubbles ere he washed
The fragrant flag-roots in my father's fields,
And where thereafter in the world he went.
Look, here he is, unaltered, save that now
He hath broke his banks and flooded all the vales
With his redundant waves.
Here is the rock where, yet a simple child,
I caught with bended pin my earliest fish,
Much triumphing,--and these the fields
Over whose flowers I chased the butterfly,
A blooming hunter of a fairy fine.
And hark! where overhead the ancient crows
Hold their sour conversation in the sky:--
These are the same, but I am not the same,
But wiser than I was, and wise enough
Not to regret the changes, tho' they cost
Me many a sigh. Oh, call not Nature dumb;
These trees and stones are audible to me,
These idle flowers, that tremble in the wind,
I understand their faery syllables,
And all their sad significance. The wind,
That rustles down the well-known forest road--
It hath a sound more eloquent than speech.
The stream, the trees, the grass, the sighing wind,
All of them utter sounds of 'monishment
And grave parental love.
They are not of our race, they seem to say,
And yet have knowledge of our moral race,
And somewhat of majestic sympathy,
Something of pity for the puny clay,
That holds and boasts the immeasurable mind.
I feel as I were welcome to these trees
After long months of weary wandering,
Acknowledged by their hospitable boughs;
They know me as their son, for side by side,
They were coeval with my ancestors,
Adorned with them my country's primitive times,
And soon may give my dust their funeral shade.

June, 1827 Ralph Waldo Emerson

Muse \Muse\, v. i. [imp. & p. p. Mused; p. pr. & vb. n. Musing.]
[F. muser to loiter or trifle, orig., to stand with open mouth, ]
3. To wonder. [Obs.]

P. S. Poem
This evening I came across a playful poem .

The Cloud

I bring fresh showers for the thirsting flowers,
From the seas and the streams;
I bear light shade for the leaves when laid
In their noonday dreams.
From my wings are shaken the dews that waken
The sweet buds every one,
When rocked to rest on their mother's breast,
As she dances about the sun.
I wield the flail of the lashing hail,
And whiten the green plains under,
And then again I dissolve it in rain
And laugh as I pass in thunder.

I sift the snow on the mountains below,
And their great pines groan aghast;
And all the night 'tis my pillow white,
While I sleep in the arms of the blast.
Sublime on the towers of my skiey bowers,
Lightning, my pilot, sits; In a cavern under is fettered the thunder,
It struggles and howls at fits;

Over earth and ocean, with gentle motion,
This pilot is guiding me,
Lured by the love of the genii that move
In the depths of the purple sea;
Over the rills, and the crags, and the hills,
Over the lakes and the plains,
Where ever he dream, under mountain or stream,
The Spirit he loves remains;
And I all the while bask in Heaven's blue smile,
Whilst he is dissolving in rains.

The sanguine Sunrise, with his meteor eyes,
And his burning plumes outspread,
Leaps on the back of my sailing rack,
When the morning star shines dead;
As on the jag of a mountain crag
Which an earthquake rocks and swings,
An eagle alit one moment may sit
In the light of its golden wings.
And when Sunset may breathe, from the lit sea beneath,
Its ardors of rest and of love,

And the crimson pall of eve may fall
From the depth of Heaven above,
With wings folded I rest, on mine aery nest,
still as a brooding dove.
That orbed maiden with white fire laden
Whom mortals call the Moon
Glides glimmering o'er my fleece-like floor,
By the midnight breezes strewn;
And wherever the beat of her unseen feet,
Which only the angels hear
May have broken the woof of my tent's thin roof,
The stars peep behind her and peer;
And I laugh to see them whirl and flee,
a swarm of golden bees,
When I widen the rent in my wind-built tent,
the calm rivers, lakes, and seas,
Like strips of the sky fallen through me on high,
Are each paved with the moon and these.

I bind the Sun's throne with a burning zone,
the Moon's with a girdle of pearl;
The volcanoes are dim, and the stars reel and swim
When the whirlwinds my banner unfurl.
From cape to cape, with a bridge-like shape,
Over a torrent sea,
Sunbeam-proof, I hang like a roof,--
mountains its columns be.
The triumphal arch through which I march
With hurricane, fire, and snow
When the Powers of the air are chained to my chair,
Is the million-colored bow
The sphere-fire above its soft colors wove,
While the moist Earth was laughing below.

I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky;
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
For after the rain when with never a stain
The pavilion of Heaven is bare,
And the winds and sunbeams with their convex gleams
Build up the blue dome of air,
I silently laugh at my own cenotaph,
And out of the caverns of rain,
Like a child from the womb, like a ghost from the tomb,
I arise and unbuild it again.

Percy Bysshe Shelley

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Wildlife Garden Design Also Child Friendly.

Reading 'Last Child In The Woods' by Richard Louv has been a real eye opener. While I have understood for a long time that this current generation of children are detached from nature, it never dawned on me that it is our fault. Not Television or computers or video games, but parents and adults that supervise children. We are so often either afraid for our children or annoyed by their ideas of outdoor play. Kids make noise and are so messy.

Example... it is raining,hard. The wind is blowing. Thunder and lightning abound. Your child wants to run out into it, get wet, feel the wind, watch the sky light up. Would you let them?
Would you let them it there were no lightning?
Still skeptical? If you have a large tree in your yard that has grown with several, rather than one, leader trunk and it makes a perfect place in the center about four feet up for a child to sit and other children may join by sitting higher on slightly leaning but very strong branches would you let them play there?
Have you ever even thought about an area where kids can dig a hole? Can they take the rocks or fallen sticks in the yard to stack into walls or play campsites? Do they get to leave action figures set up for another day of play, projecting scenarios into the future? What happens if they use the hose to make a mud puddle? If you have a pond is there a place for a child (or adult) to dangle feet in cool water and watch the dragonflies ?

Play for children often involves sensation. They like touching stuff, using what they find to build something , hiding,running,chasing. Throwing, hitting or catching a ball is only one way to play.
Paths through tall plantings and open areas surrounded by shrubs or tall grass, hidden somewhat from the house and neighbors make excellent spots for young ones to use their imagination to play. Thick logs lining a bed or path will be walked precariously, developing balance. Places to explore need not be expansive just slightly out of sight. Children like to find a space to make into their own rather than one designated by adults. Where in the average yard are they allowed to do this?

Our fears for our children while often exaggerated have to be dealt with. But not at the expense of their independence or creative ideas. Strong, thinking children are safer because they have developed the personal tools needed in difficult situations which may arise dispite all our precautions.

Landscape designers, school officials,political leaders and parents are capable of figuring out a way to design areas that take these new ideas into account. The movement to protect land and wildlife must also include our children.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Latest Pictures Of Our Hobbit Garden

The only section of the gardens with a name is The Hobbit Garden. With a name comes a story which has been told in a previous post.

Early in spring and then summer flowers bloom from ajuga and gentian blue to columbine and heuchera red,tiny white spots on the thyme, frilly pink dianthus and fragile purple violets.

But late summer is a cool green and bronze than turns to autumns hue as light fades and temperatures fall.
An enchanted space even in winter.

For fun if you're a Lord of the Rings fan.

flash files - They're Taking The Hobbits To Isengard by Erwin Beekveld

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Blog Reading For Reliable Book Recommendations.

Having always been an ardent reader the local library is a bi-weekly stop to pick up books ordered online from the Library catalog. A great idea making a system wide catalog available that can be searched by author,title,subject or medium(book,audio,etc).

Waiting to be picked up this week is 'The Savage Garden' by Mark Mills. Mentioned by a blogger somewhere (sorry,I have forgotten where) it sounded interesting. I am a mystery buff as well as an avid garden book reader.
Just bought 'Last Child in the Woods' by Richard Louv A book mentioned at the Rachel Carson blog and Bev at Burning Silo has recommended a series of field guides, written by John Eastman and illustrated by Amelia Hansen, that sound very useful.
An excerpt on
Square Metre Patrick Roper
from 'The Humble Bee' written in 1912 by F.W.L Sladen is surely reason enough to go looking for a hard to find copy.
A single copy is available on Amazon at $138.00. Expensive for a book I still know too little about. Maybe the wonderful librarian that found 'One Straw Revolution' for me will have more luck.


On a cold wet evening in July when the news bulletins were full of reports about the disastrous floods in the Midlands, I found a dying bumble bee on Troy Track. She was the epitomy of coldness and wetness and I picked her up on my finger tip and put her out of harm's way among the leaves of one of the hypericums.
By the morning she would be dead and the whole episode reminded so much of a wonderful passage in F. W. L. Sladen's 1912 book on the Humble-bee:

In the case of B. pratorum, and probably of other species whose colonies end their existence in the height of summer, the aged queen often spends the evening of her life very pleasantly with her little band of worn-out workers. They sit together on two or three cells on the top of the ruined edifice, and make no attempt to rear any more brood. The exhausting work of bearing done, the queen’s body shrinks to its original size, and she becomes quite active and youthful-looking again. This well-earned rest lasts for about a week, and death, when at last it comes, brings with it no discomfort. One night, a little cooler than usual, finding her food supply exhausted, the queen grows torpid, as she has done many a time in the early part of her career; but on this occasion, her life-work finished, there is no awakening.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Garden Of The Gods Shawnee National Forest

If you want to interest children in nature then the local botanic gardens or arboretum may not be enough. An occasional foray into the woods may be called for to find adventure.

Shawnee is at the southern tip of Illinois and a several hour drive from Chicago but a nice weekend get-away distance.

We spent the day hiking and exploring the caves along the Ohio River.

That night we camped nearby.

The children had loved the caves and wanted to go back after dark. We found a frog making his way back into the cave and then we all turned our lanterns off for a moment. The moon on the river outside the cave gave off quite a bit of light so it was not totally dark but a bat took that moment to fly through and everyone ran for the entrance shrieking and laughing.

Nothing in the world like a campfire and the night sounds of a forest or waking to a misty dawn and the call of birds in the trees.

We found out that every spring and fall a local road is closed to traffic for a couple of weeks for snake migration. Would you not love to hike that 2 1/2 mile road to see what crosses?


snake migration


Wednesday, August 15, 2007


The garden has a late summer look. Seedheads are numerous. Leaves on the ornamental gourds that had been large and showy are getting powdery mildew and need to be removed. In a few short weeks it will be fall. This August is hot and humid with many sudden downpours that are tough on flowers. Today is cloudy and drizzly. The camera does not like this weather.
For a list of other bloomers about the bloggers neighborhood check out May Dreams Garden .

Blackeyed Susans amid the remains of liatris. I don't deadhead much.

The orange gaillardia have started blooming.

The yellow gaillardia started blooming first and I thought there was not going to be any other color for awhile. I love the heavy texture and gray green color of the foliage. The first leaves at the base are shaped like oak leaves and grew all summer before flower buds formed. These gaillardia were winter sown in a milkjug from a couple of seedheads.

Yellow coneflowers behind a wild panicum.

A trailing verbena that would flower heavier if I remembered to deadhead more often.

Rattlesnake Master with panicum.

An autumn clematis.

A white dwarf buddleia 'White Ball' maybe? only a couple of feet high fits well into a perennial garden. Got a late start this year.

Garlic chives have such pretty flowers. They open into white balls then get black seeds throughout. Self sows way abundantly so I'll regret it, but they hold up well in fall. Right behind the chives is another self sowing herb, a variegated lemon balm that has gone to seed. Yikes!

The chelone will be moved to the rain garden when the weather cools. The soil stays too dry along the garage for this moisture loving native.

The berries have been ripening on the Virginia Creeper and a few touches of red are begining to appear in the leaves.

An annual cicada sits in the garden seeming to watch, maybe ready to molt...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Where to see what to plant in a wildlfe habitat garden.

Area nature centers and restoration projects are very good places to go and get a feel for what certain habitat should look like. Not only the plants but the feel of the whole.
Woodland edges, deep woods, meadows ,fens,bogs, prairie remnants, all abound in most states.

Here in Chicago there are many places to go. Recently we took the children for a walk at the Little Red Schoolhouse. It has a pond and woods with marked trails and a Center building where one can arm oneself with ideas of what to look for on your hike.

Little Red Schoolhouse

If you are looking for more open areas like meadows and prairies remnants those can be found as well.
Here in Chicago the Chicago Wilderness group puts out a magazine and have a website to help locate these areas.


Explore More

Current issue

In the shade of several mature trees I like the look of a woodland so nature centers have been helpful in deciding what to plant that would feed the creatures and give that airy cool feeling one gets walking in a woods.

For pictures to get an idea of what I am talking about check out the website for biodiversity on the upper east coast. It shows pictures from a nature center called Cranberry Lake.... in NY state.


Baneberry is a favorite


Christmas ferns

Osmundo fern

mianthemum canadense

Nature Center Website

Cranberry Lake is a 190-acre nature preserve comprised of forest, wetlands, and a 10-acre lake that was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. There are three miles of trails, including a loop around the lake, and others that traverse the predominantly northern oak-hickory forest. The area is part of the Kensico Reservoir watershed, which provides drinking water for residents of Westchester County and New York City. The name Cranberry Lake is derived from the growth of wild cranberry, which still exist in various parts of the fen.

On a couple of federal websites I found information about the percentages of various ground covers on wooded sites where studies were taking place. This was interesting as deep woods have very different amount of cover than woodland edge. While being exact is not important having an idea to work with helps.

Federal publications

We documented the range of percent cover for dominant ground-cover structural components in burned and unburned habitat (stand ages 7-23 y) occupied by Kirtland?s warblers. The mean percent cover for the dominant ground-cover structural components was

lichen/moss (12.1%),

blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium) (9.5%),

bare ground and litter (5.6%),

sedge/grass (5.2%),

deadwood (4.3%),

sand cherry (Prunus pumila) (3.3%),

sweet fern (Comptonia peregrina)(2.3%)

coarse grass (1.8%)

and bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursai) (1.2%).

Burned sites had significantly more deadwood, sweet fern and lichen/moss cover, while unburned sites had significantly more bare ground and sedge/grass.

Prevalent in the understory were Bebb's willow (Salix bebbiana);

bog birch (Betula pumila) (var.);

red osier dogwood (Comus stolonifera);

and speckled alder (Alnus rugosa).

The other three intensively studied nests were in the fir- spruce-pine habitat.

Ground cover included

blueberry (Vaccinium an- gustifolium);

sourtop blueberry (V. myrtilloides);

arrowwood (Viburnum rafinesquianum);

serviceberry (Amelanchier humilus);

spreading dog bane (Apocynum androseamifolium);

and the common bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum var. latiusculum).

Dominant shrubs were honeysuckle (Lonicera canadensis),

and wild sasparilla (Aralia nudicaulis).

Black spruce (Picea mariana) were dominant in the bog study areas and ranged from 17- 20 m in height.

Tamaracks were primarily around the edges of the bog.

There are other ways to go about finding out what to plant and you may have a more traditional garden in mind but nature centers are still a good place to start...

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

by Charles Dudley Warner 1829-1900

Garden Blogger's Book Club selection June-July 2007

Visit May Dreams Garden for the virtual meeting and other contributions.

Charles Dudley Warner grows tomatoes and beans, visits with a president, has disagreements with neighbors, and tries to protect his harvest (with some limited success) from wild creatures and children.
He is a real life gardener. Even though admitting to hiring out some of the work he is proud of his contributions of hoeing and weeding and is jealous of the credit.

Like all good gardeners confronted with a visitor the garden gets a going over...
"I, however, hoed diligently on Saturday: what weeds I could n't remove I buried, so that everything would look all right. The borders of my drive were trimmed with scissors; and everything that could offend the Eye of the Great was hustled out of the way. "

Insists to not needing designers to enjoy a great garden...
"He asked me if I pursued an original course, or whether I got my ideas from writers on the subject. I told him that I had had no time to read anything on the subject since I began to hoe, except "Lothair," from which I got my ideas of landscape gardening; and that I had worked the garden entirely according to my own notions."

Warners compassion for fellow creatures is put to the test and wavers...
"When I went to pick them, I found the pods all split open, and the peas gone. The dear little birds,who are so fond of the strawberries, had eaten them all.
I petted Calvin (his cat). I lavished upon him an enthusiastic fondness. I told him that he had no fault;that the one action that I had called a vice was an heroic exhibition of regard for my interests."

I must admit to ignorance of some wit. ..
"A man of war, he knows the value of peas. I told him they were an excellent sort, "The Champion of England." As quick as a flash he said, "Why don't you call them 'The Reverdy Johnson'?" It was a very clever bon-mot; but I changed the subject."

While understanding much all to well...
"The sight of my squashes, with stalks as big as speaking-trumpets, restored the President to his usual spirits. He said the summer squash was the most ludicrous vegetable he knew. It was nearly all leaf and blow, with only a sickly, crook-necked fruit after a mighty fuss. It reminded him of the member of Congress from...; but I hastened to change the subject."

I liked Warner's philosophy...
"The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the World. He belongs to the producers. It is a pleasure to eat of the fruit of one's toil, if it be nothing more than a head of lettuce or an ear of corn. "
"It is not much matter if things do not turn out well."

The book was easy and quick to read, capturing attention from the start with an excellent introduction letter.
Garden Blogger's Muse Day

Osage Moon

Prairie Preserve,
Pawhuska, Oklahoma

The moon
is a soft pinprick
in a sky
so expansive
even Ursa
Major seems minor.
A dog barks
and ghost voices
echo down Indian song—
piercing the Osage hills.
Grasses are weather-worn
and wild; wild-
flowers lay dormant—
everything abides green days.
Besides, cold weather slants
in from the north, taking the plains,
where a few days ago
hot winds came
up from the Gulf of Mexico,
fooling the dogwood,
and fires seared the earth
the color of burnt toast.
Miles, miles of dry grass
and sky
in every direction--
binding grasses,
four-color wildflowers,
and forbs pressed between pages,
tangled in bluestem.
And there, where bison stood
at noon, sheltered
by blackjack oak,
only shadows—
unruly apparitions,
under the Osage moon,
awaiting the culling
of their existence.

Scott Edward Anderson

Muse \Muse\, v. t.
1. To think on; to meditate on.
Come, then, expressive Silence, muse his praise. --Thomson.

NPS History tallgrass Prairie

Nature Conservancy

Pictures Tallgrass Prairie