Wednesday, July 25, 2012

EcoMyths: Worldview July 30, 2012

We're shortly off to Sweden for a few weeks where I will have no internet access. So, I am counting on some of you to listen to this dialogue taped recently for the EcoMyths segment on Worldview at WBEZ. It will air on Monday July 30th at noon, but if you miss that you can hear the Podcast. Several of us examined the issue of whether or not municipalities, in the fact of changing climate, are doing enough for the rest of us to sit back and let them manage our water distribution systems. Hope you enjoy and let me know what you think.

Meantime, have a great few weeks, keep cool and enjoy this recent New Yorker cover above...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Robie House

 Last Saturday I was lucky enough to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's exceptional Robie House. Even better, I toured in the company of a favorite 13-year-old (who is always teaching me new vocabulary). He said he dressed for the occasion in these socks and shoes because he felt it would run contrary to the prevailing aesthetic. That approach bonds us often.

Ironically, in this window detail, I think he may have met his match!
The glass was not iridescent on the interior, which, like many of the Wright interiors, you can not photograph. But their photographers have the right light, angles and cameras, so it's worth getting a postcard or book and supporting the restoration.

Given that I spent my first year of college in a dorm directly across the street (there is the fabulous new Booth Business School in its place now...and as a U of Chicago College graduate, I have to hold mixed feelings about that...), I wondered why I had no memory of the inside. But the tour explained that all since the renovation effort didn't begin until the 1990s. Before that it was variously functioning property.

Apparently, this was the only creation that FLW fought actively to have maintained (it has a pretty fascinating history) because it was the epitome of Prairie Style. I have visited the Oak Park Home & Studio, Taliesin, Fallingwater, Westcott House and the Dana Thomas House so, it is interesting to address that in context.

 As a landscape designer, I know I would have wanted to strangle the architect (just kidding) because his drainage idiosyncrasies, while good for the "perfect" house, are quite challenging for the garden! I wonder what the solution was at the time the house was built around a century ago? Anyway, it is always amazing for me to be able to experience uniquely creative places. My friend allowed that there were some interesting details.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Real Rain at last

You can see the radar around 6:30 this morning as the thunderstorms, that began around 10 pm last night, headed East. Great lightning shows during the night, but this time they were accompanied by rain. This is the first substantial rain we've had that I can remember this summer. If you look closely below, you can see the raindrops on watering can and plants on edge of back porch. Hope can is full...every drop helps!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Miracle #2: Rain!

Yesterday afternoon was so exciting because we had not only unexpected rain, but enough of it to actually soak it! Above is an obscured window in the hallway outside my office and below looks out the front door of the building. You can see missed opportunities to better absorb water (at private and public levels) in both pictures. More exact climate statistics are available on the U of Illinois State Climatologist Office here. Tool around and you can find very useful comparative information about our region's current drought.

Given my profession, I have drought on the brain. The day before yesterday, I was trying to be articulate about these climate conditions with a local landscape architect during a taping for a WBEZ Worldview segment. It was put together by Eco Myths and the topic was whether municipalities are adequately taking care of our water systems or whether homeowners can do something too. I am not yet sure when they will run the broadcast, but I will try to get a link up here...that may be in Podcast form since we are soon to leave for Sweden where they are having, says my mother-in-law, their coolest wettest summer in 20 years. I guess extremes is what scientists say is one of the defining factors of Climate Change. But even with highs only around 60 degrees F, I'll take that Scandinavian break from our dry heat! Not sure about the 3:30 am sunrise though...

Miracle #1: Containers

Normally I manage to get my back porch containers planted around July 4th. This year's extreme heat and lack of snow & rain moved everything up. So I have been watering a lot of little pots...I finally planted the left-overs from client jobs on July 8th (with the help of the marvelous friend An G.). I've been watering some of these plants since mid-May when we began annuals installations, so I was happy to get them into larger amounts of soil. That Little shrub in the corner (on top of the orange) is Gro-Low Sumac. It's one of my favorites because it is so tough in terms of light & soil conditions, but also because the leaves are glossy and reflect light nicely.

My favorite recycled element here are the two chartreuse Lollipops above...they are remainders from some kids favors on the 4th: bubble blowers. But I love how they amplify the little bit of light on our North-facing covered porch. I also stuck a chartreuse watering can in the yellow container that split in half during installation and I was too lazy to unscrew and remove.

Just outside the back steps, I was able to fill this great concrete planter. Two of these plants want full sun, which they won't get here, but at least they'll get more air and a pinch more light. This was taken the afternoon we planted. Of course, since then (5 days), the squirrel has dug it up 2 - 3 rest for the wicked!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Patriotic thoughts on July 4th


If you are a patriot, I hope you will be thinking of your part in the water system, lovingly depicted here by Nikki McClure.