Creating a wildlife haven one plant at a time

Saturday, July 30, 2011


What happens when you are away from your garden for three weeks in the heat of the summer? Well the reality is that the garden is in a pretty sorry state. Temperatures have been in the triple digits with severe heat index warnings and virtually zero rain. This translates to stressed plants and trees and sometimes death in the garden.

Looking into the woodland garden is more representative of fall than summer. The paths are littered with fallen leaves. 

The trees are highly stressed. This dogwood's leaves tell the whole story.

Sadly, despite having hired someone to water while I was away, I lost several ferns from lack of water including two Ostrich Ferns (one of my favorites!) and 4 Beech Ferns.  There is one green frond left on this Cinnamon Fern. I hope that with some pampering I can save it.

The faithful daylilies are even suffering severely.

Many of the plants such as the Bee Balm and Shasta Daisy need some serious deadheading.

The roses don't like the heat at all and have been assaulted all summer by the Japanese beetles.

And the lawn which has either gone dormant or dead could really use some rain!

But it is not all doom and gloom. Some plants are performing splendidly despite the heat and drought.

Salvia greggii 'Navajo-Rose' and 'Hot lips'

Agastache cana 'Heather Queen'

Black & Blue Salvia

Coreopsis 'moonbeam'

Black-eyed Susan

This is the reality. Vacation is over. And it is summer in Georgia when I expect most everything to look tired and stressed but it is still shocking after returning from Michigan were the landscape was green and full of blooms. The good news is that even the weeds aren't growing in this heat and most of these plants will bounce back for a second round of blooms this fall when the temperatures cool and hopefully we will get more rain.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lurie Garden

Known as the world's largest rooftop garden (it sits atop Millennium Park Garage) Lurie Garden is an experience in leading edge landscape design and responsible gardening practices in the heart of downtown Chicago.

Lure Garden with view of the Art Institute of Chicago

It is 5 acres showcasing 240 varieties of drought tolerant (mostly native) perennials and grasses amongst hard diagonal lines. It is an example of the "new wave planting" movement which is a Piet Oudolf signature.

It is a relaxed style and a study in how plants work best together in groups.
The perennials are grouped together purposefully to show off the plants throughout the seasons.

The 15ft. shoulder hedge encloses the garden on two sides and protects the perennial garden. It also provides a little seclusion and serenity in the Windy City.

Shoulder hedge (living wall) and frame

The shallow water stream divides the garden diagonally and provides a hard break between the "dark plate" symbolizing the early landscape history of the site and the city which was once flat marshland and the "light plate" which represents the future landscape (innovative green city) in its contoured and controlled design.

My youngest boys with their aunt

We cooled off in the stream while listening to the Grant Park orchestra practice in Pritzker pavilion located directly behind the garden.

view of Millennium Park concert pavilion from Lurie Garden

Lurie Garden is an urban oasis which provides respite and inspiration to those that visit. It is a piece of living art that is constantly changing with the seasons...the plants' changing colors, textures, movement and growth, the various wildlife visitors and contribution of nature's elements.

For a complete list of plants in the garden click here or to see another example of innovative public spaces see my post on the High Line

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

The Shores of Lake Michigan

I have escaped the heat and humidity! Temporarily anyway. We are visiting family in southwest Michigan and absolutely enjoying the cooler temperatures ranging from the upper 70s to upper 80s with sunshine. It is splendid!

One of the biggest attractions is the lake shore. The breathtaking beaches, towering sand dunes and panoramic views of Lake Michigan's bold blue waters are impressive. So I thought I would share some of this spectacular place.

Lake Michigan is the third largest (by surface area) of the Great Lakes; however, it is the only one of the 5 Great Lakes that is entirely located within the borders of the United States making it the largest freshwater lake in the country.

The lake is so immense that when you look at it you really feel like you are at the ocean (minus the salt water).

They say on a crystal clear day one can see a bit of the Chicago skyline. I am not sure, I can't get passed the gulls.

The water circulates slowly in Lake Michigan before it leaves through the Straits of Mackinac. Because of this, it would take 99 years before water could be replaced...almost an entire lifetime.

There are 1,638 miles of shoreline along the lake and many birds and insects use it as a navigational pathway for migrating. The ring-billed gull takes full advantage of this habitat. The beaches are lined equally in number of beach goers to gulls.

They are omnivorous birds and have adapted well to taking food discarded by people. They will scavenge and I witnessed a gull eating fries that a beach goer left unattended while swimming. Their loss because the gull had quite a feast.

Michigan is home to the world's largest freshwater dunes comprising of 275,000 acres. This is vast enough that they can be seen from outer space. 

The dunes are formed  by wind and waves that sort the sand by pushing the small and medium sized particles inland and leaving the larger cobbles and particles along the beach. This makes for very soft and fine sand in the dunes and feels wonderful under the feet.

This dune in Warren Dunes State Park is a favorite to climb. One can get an idea of the size of this dune just by looking at how small the people are in the front  center of the photo (click on photo to enlarge). It is quite the workout to climb up with the sand slipping away under your feet. However, it is all worth the effort to feel the wind in your face as you run down the dune at break neck speed.

We have been enjoying long relaxing days with family and friends at this great place. The sunsets on Lake Michigan are really stunning too. Here are a few I took on different nights.

By clicking on the video below and you can hear the waves crashing on the shore. To get a full screen click on the square in the right corner and enjoy watching the sun set over Lake Michigan.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Ta-Da!

Eastern Amberwing (male)

There are many variations of handstands but in all cases a handstand performer must posses adequate balance and upper body strength.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Hope Grows: July 2011

The heat is on. We have had 4 straight months of above normal temperatures and very little rain. The heirloom tomatoes do not like this heat nor dry conditions so they are not producing any worthwhile fruit. The Japanese beetles are devouring my roses and the task of de-beetling 55 rose bushes is a little overwhelming so their life cycle continues. You see, this is not a pretty sight.

And to add insult to injury, four more plants fell victim to the voles...a butterfly weed, woodland poppy, sedum and columbine. Drat!

I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.
~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

And so onward to the brighter side of life...

Last month I was looking forward to harvesting all the fruit that was starting to ripen in the garden. We have been enjoying fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries. There is nothing sweeter and more rewarding than picking fruit from ones own garden.

The summer faithfuls have performed despite the drought and heat. This is truly a lesson in why natives and drought tolerant plants are so important in the garden.

Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer' which was newly planted this spring is showing off.

Purple Heart is constantly covered in the tiniest of pollinators.

The Monarda is covered in pollinators from dawn to dusk! I recently read that it is an excellent companion plant to tomatoes improving both the flavor and health of tomatoes. (Noted for next year...I will need to move some to the vegetable garden.) And, since it is such a bee magnet it also attracts the pollinators to the vegetable garden (double duty!)

And of course the ever dependable (at least for one day) daylilies.

The flies seem to love this particular daylily. There are 4 or 5 on each bloom at any given time.

Canna (a pass along plant from my in-laws) is beginning to bloom. I love the orange and yellow pattern of these blooms.

But there are also some exciting discoveries to be found. The columbine has reseeded itself  profusely this past year and sometimes in unexpected places like this one growing in the pathway in the woodland garden. 

The butterfly weed (that didn't fall prey to the voles) has recovered after being devoured by the monarch caterpillars earlier this spring!

And one of the Echinecea that were completely consumed by Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail is trying to make a comeback (with the help of a little bunny proof netting).

This I understand: Mother Nature is a maniac. That is to say, she has a mania for reproduction. She maintains life within an organism so long as there is hope of it s reproducing itself. Then she kills it off, and does so in the most diverse ways because of her other mania of remaining mysterious. ~ Italo Sveo

I have had noticeably fewer large butterflies, swallowtails and monarchs, in the garden so far this summer. Apparently they don't care for the heat and lack of water either. However, I have noticed a few other smaller butterflies for the first time...a Pearl Crescent (Brushfoot Family)

and this red-banded hairstreak (Gossamer-wing family). I love her stripped little legs and antenna! It is rather Dr. Seuss like.

I am hoping that this is just the beginning of the vegetables...

Sweet Banana Pepper

Sweet 100 tomato

and that the figs will start to ripen and I can pick them before the birds get to them. I am willing to share a few but hopefully the birds won't gorge themselves again.

But what I am really hoping for is some RAIN! Fingers crossed!

I am linking to Sweet Bean Gardening for Hope Grows! Thanks Hanni for hosting!