Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Seasonal Change & Return

Several people had interesting guesses and got the third one correct for the previous post. The Plant ID, from top to bottom was 1.) Amelanchier canadensis (Shadblow Serviceberry) 2.) Paeonia suffruiticosa (Tree Peony) and 3.) Rhus typhina 'Bailtiger' (Tiger Eyes Sumac). Since the sumac is pinky-orange when the leaves emerge, we designed its color echo through Heuchera villosa 'Caramel.'

Last year we were, hopefully, the third time's a charm on a client's rooftop garden after two previous landscapers hadn't fared well. We couldn't change the existing structure, but the few inches of soil medium and plants were completely redesigned. One of the big challenges was starting while taking into account the goose that had nested six stories up. She was federally protected while on the nest. When the goslings hatched, mom and the brood somehow made it down to the ground...all except one who landed on the fifth floor and had to be transported by elevator. Then we removed all the previous soil and weeds and planted.

So last week I visited for the first time since October and, no surprise, the goose is back. I happen to live two doors away from this site and from my dining room, can see another goose on the roof of an adjacent ten-story building at the corner.

The plants were installed in a special soil mix set in trays made of coconut husk that eventually biodegrade, a first for us, but not for the wonderful nursery: Intrinsic Perennial Gardens. We have learned so much from them over the years, especially from Brent Horvath. You can see how well the plants were doing last week. Let's hope they survive the goose gestation.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Avatar Plants

Don't you agree that Avatar was the best plant movie? In honor of that botanical animation, here are three plants as they unfurled in the past several weeks. As you know, I find many plants most compelling before they flower.

They all look like they could live underwater, but anybody want to weight in with their earthly names?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In Honor of Earth Day...

Just wanted to thank the staff of WBEZ & Worldview and all the participants of the 2010 Global Activism Expo for doing such great things for the planet!

We had some wonderful responses to our presentation and the Earthways/AFOPADI agricultural project. Above you can see a hand-woven purse from the Guatemalan village of Casaca. Below, the temporal village created at the Expo on 4/17/10.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Plants the Color of the Swedish Flag

Blue: Brunnera macrophylla
Yellow: Tulipa dasystemon

I especially adore this luminescent species tulip. It, along with another favorite, Tulipa turkestanica, are natives of Central Asia, specifically from the Tien Shan Mountains according to text and photos in my treasured "The Random House Book of Bulbs" from the 1980s. The photo of dasystemon shows it along with an Alchemilla mollis. For a colleague, I once took a picture of the alpine version of Lady's Mantle high (10,000 feet) in the Guatemalan mountains (Cuchumatanes) at the Earthways/AFOPADI project. So I conclude that this tulip grows at high altitudes...My yard is flat, but since it is old lake bed, it has great drainage.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sustainable Plant Range: Downtown Chicago

Above: Green roof (Northwestern Medical Center)

Below: Plastic plants (Crate & Barrel)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

More Guatemala: WBEZ Worldview

Speaking about the Earthways/AFOPADI sustainable agricultural project I work with in Guatemala is one of my favorite things. Luckily I will be able to do it again on WBEZ's Worldview on Tuesday April 13th. Listen during the second half of the show (at 12:30 pm or the rebroadcast at 9:30 pm Chicago time or the podcast the day afterward) when Jerome McDonnell and I will discuss some of these sustainable issues in the larger context of the economy and climate change.This is a preview for the presentation "Applying Global Green Locally" that I will give at 12:30 pm on Saturday April 17th at the 3rd Annual Worldview Global Activism Expo. This year, the free event will will held at the UIC forum from 12 - 6 pm. Please stop by our table and say "Hi." You may also meet Kristen Kepnick, one of the fabulous newer guard on the MELA board. Given the 100 projects and the thousands who attend, this is a fascinating event.Good food and music too, but the best part is inspiration about what people are doing around the world.

Instead of Waldo, where's the little girl below in the organic crops?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Urban Habitat Chicago: Guatemala

Look closely through the fog and perhaps you can see one of the AFOPADI agricultural promoters pointing to a small fruit tree he grew experimentally. Experimental because this was at 10,000 feet high in the deforested mountains of Northwest Guatemala.

If you wish to learn more, I will be speaking tomorrow evening at 6:30 at Urban Habitat Chicago.
This vital organization says its goal is
to "educate our members and the public about today’s vital environmental concerns and provide some information and tools on how to address them in ways large and small." My topic lies in exploring what I have learned about sustainable agriculture and landscape during my time as a donor and project director for the Earthways projects with AFOPADI. I hope to explain how some of the Guatemalan project's successes and failures can illuminate local challenges in face of climate change and a difficult economy.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Red Tulip: Childhood Revised

This was Tulipa praestans 'Fuselier' in my garden today after Easter's merciful rain. Most reds tending towards orange get a high five in my book. But pictured tulip sports multiple blooms which counts mightily in this case.

I grew up in a very urban neighborhood long before planting was trendy. Our tiny front yard was in full shade, yet somehow, the few red tulips bulbs my mom planted managed to straggle up through the dirt (to call it soil would have been a stretch). Of course, shortly after opening, the bloom always disappeared either by human hand or critter stealth.

So now my red tulips enable me to relive my childhood garden memories with a positive outcome: wish it were all that simple.

How about you? Care to recount how you have managed to re-do garden history in your life?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Third Time's A Charm...

The old making way for the new: seems a fitting Easter image.

Rose is easy to ID. What about the shrub below?

Friday, April 2, 2010

More Old Growth vs. New

So we are sticking with process...

Above image is a great native plant, I photographed it yesterday in the prairie at the Chicago Center for Green Technology (CCGT). You can see both the remains of the old fruit and the new catkins blowing in the wind. This shrub used to be a great source of food for wildlife and predominated until settlers arrived in the Midwest. Guess its ID?

Below we have a daffodil and some tulips (I would not even hazard a guess as to which ones) nicely contrasted against the remaining winter-interest purple pots. These early tulips totally opened in face of our record-breaking heat: two consecutive days up to 80. It is good for the soul, but not for the plants. I prefer the unfolding more sequenced, but then I know the pacing has nothing to do with me.

Since it is sooooooo dry, I am dancing for rain.