Friday, March 28, 2008

Organic gardening and a hint of spring

This is Kirsten Akre from Kilbourn Park . Home of the City of Chicago's only organic-teaching greenhouse. Every year they raise vegetables and other plants for the annual plant sale taking place this year Saturday, May 10 at 10 a.m. - 3 p.m. and Sunday, May 11 at 10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
I sat in on the organic gardening class for the new group of Chicago Master Gardener interns for a chance to see Kirsten in action. She is a lively enthusiastic instructor.
Covered was the importance of feeding the soil , growing healthy disease and pest resistant plants, soil testing (especially for lead in the Chicago area),organic fertilizers available and how to use them , hosting beneficial insects and accepting some level of pests to keep predators around. A few of the organic pest controls were discussed. Again she stressed making sure we knew what the problem really was and using non toxic methods.
I think a class at Kilbourn Park Organic Greenhouse is in order this spring. To bad I had not seen the discussion about Jeff Gillman's book 'The Truth About Organic Gardening' at In The Garden Online before the class. I would have liked to hear Kirsten's opinion.
Spending the day in a greenhouse on a cold day is always a pleasure. Here are a few pictures of the Spring Show at The Garfield Conservatory part of this year's 100th birthday celebration.

This opening peony seemed so delicate.

The azaleas were so full of blooms and the stock smelled wonderful.

It was hard to return to the cold gray Chicago weather afterwards.


The city of Chicago is one of many participants in Saturday March 29th's lights out for an hour starting at 8:00 p.m. Use your own local time. Late enough to be dark, early enough to matter.
Prime time for lighting use I'd say.

Earth Hour US


Earth Hour Chicago is a partnership with World Wildlife Fund, the City of Chicago, ComEd and Leo Burnett.
To help with coordination, education and participation, we are pleased to have support from the Chicago Steering Committee, which includes:
the City of Chicago, ComEd, BOMA, Chicagoland Chamber, Metropolitan Mayor's Caucus, CCTB, Labor Unions, MPEA, Chicago Public Schools, Greater North Michigan Avenue Association and many others.
Earth Hour is only one step in Chicago's ongoing commitment to be the greenest city in the nation. Chicago has already demonstrated its dedication to fighting climate change through conserving and protecting its natural resources, promoting environmentally friendly lifestyles with residents, and leading by example by incorporating healthy environmental practices into the everyday work of government. Some examples include: promoting bike-friendly practices, building green roofs, conserving water, adding hybrid buses to the city’s fleet and mass transit system, planting trees and building "green" libraries, public schools and police stations.

What to Expect During Earth Hour
We're asking buildings along the downtown skyline to voluntarily shut off the majority of their lights for Earth Hour. In addition, we will encourage key Chicago landmarks, such as the marquee at Wrigley Field, the marquees for Chicago’s theaters, the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier and the businesses on State Street and Michigan Avenue to participate. These icons will capture Chicago's commitment to participating in this worldwide effort. All street lights and lights vital to public safety will remain on. We encourage as many residents and businesses as possible to voluntarily participate, though people should not expect the city to go completely dark.

While one hour may not seem like much considering our excessive use of energy, it is a place to start.
Since street lights will remain on it will not be totally dark but the difference should be awesome if everyone participates. I await with eager anticipation. Will Chicago and other US states participate in numbers rivaling Sydney Australia last year. Maybe not, the media has been half-heartedly covering the event. But Chicagoan's have a way of knowing what is going on in town so I have high hopes.
Now should we turn everything off early then head out to watch the skyline?


Tuesday, March 18, 2008


April will be here soon...and never fails to bring a few favorites.These pictures I took in springs past remind us of the beauty lying beneath todays snow storm in the upper midwest.

Host plant for Black swallowtail...ZIZIA

Range & Habitat: Heartleaf Alexanders is restricted to NE Illinois, where it is an uncommon plant (see distribution map) .
It also occurs in Hardin county of SE Illinois. Habitats include moist to dry black soil prairies, hill prairies, rocky upland woodlands, limestone glades, bluffs, abandoned fields, and roadsides. Usually, this species occurs in drier locations than Zizia aurea (Golden Alexanders).
heartleaf alexander

Insects visit the flowers primarily for nectar, especially small bees (Halictid, Andrenid, Nomadine) and flies (Chloropid, Tachinid, Muscid, Syrphid, etc.), as well as occasional beetles and plant bugs. The bees collect pollen as well, while some flies and beetles may feed on pollen. The caterpillars of Papilio polyxenes asterias (Black Swallowtail butterfly) feed on the foliage of this and other members of the Carrot family
Golden alexander

The pretty yellow wildflowers of zizia begin blooming in April remaining in bloom long enough to be joined by the blue star shapes of amsonia and the spires of baptisia.

The fine green texture of sporobolus/prairie dropseed will still be growing low like a soft blowing groundcover and the strong structure of rattlesnakemaster/eringium yuccafolium will have emerged.

A picture of phlox divaricata blooming in a slightly shadier location in spring during the latter days of zizia's long spring bloom.

Zizia blooms in the background with shooting star/dodecatheon and geum/prairie smoke. The stalks of a later blooming white baptisia and the tall blue flowers of camasia bulbs lend height.

Click on any photo to enlarge for a closer look at the yellow zizia (or other spring blooming native plants) in each photo. I have a new camera this year so close ups of blooms and their pollinating insects will be taken as they start to appear.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

March 15th GBBD

It has been a long cold winter with lots of snow. Finally temperatures are climbing and daylight hours increasing. March though often blustery shows signs of the awaking of the garden from dormancy.
Find a list of the many participating Garden Bloggers Bloom Day gardens from around the world at May Dreams Gardens

Tiny sedum rosettes appear.

Swirls of columbine foliage push through cover.

Bulbs tips emerge.

Devastated hellebore leaves reveal flower bud formation.

Hyacinth noses test the air.

Daffodils boldly grow.

Tulips testing 1-2-3...

Soon green will be the dominate color with a riot of colorful blossoms to follow.

Tuesday redwing blackbirds began the distinctive call signaling breeding has begun.
Yesterday a bright red cardinal sat in a treetop singing long and loudly of his joy in the warm sun.
Today a robin sang.
Always there are birds announcing a presence in the garden, but at winters end their songs touch my heart.

Take a look at March 2007 pictures.
Actual flowers