Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wine Crate Container Garden - DIY up-cycle

Earlier this week I was giving a presentation on container gardening with a focus on Herbs. When I give garden workshops I like to have something live to use as demonstration so I decided to up cycle a wine crate into a container garden. 

Wine Crate Herb Container Garden - DIY
There are a number of how-to websites that simply treat - drill holes - plant. This didn't seem to be quite sufficient for a container that I hoped would last all summer outside. I keep in mind that wine crates are designed for one time use; they are not the best wood out there and are usually not constructed very well. Therefore, I decided to do a few things differently than others propose. My technique includes:

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Grand Reopening - Desert House at Garfield Park Conservatory, Chicago

I've previously reported on damage and closure to Chicago's historic Garfield Park Conservatory, designed by Jens Jensen over 108 years ago. Several portions of the conservatory were repaired relatively immediately while other updates were done over time. This month (April 2015) the conservatory celebrated it's grand reopening. 

One of my favorite spots in the Conservatory is the Desert house. Here there used to be many pencil cactus and ponytail palms. Tucked in-between these tall succulents were some very unusual and rare plants.  When I give tours of the site, this room is always one where people want to linger and get closer to the "non-native" plants. It's also where children want to touch but parents are nervous!

Garfield Park Conservatory
Desert House - 2009

Garfield Park Conservatory
Desert House - 2009

So it was with much anticipation that I visited to see the renewed Desert House!  At first I was startled by how much more open the room seems - without the pencil tree that used to anchor the north side (all the way up to the ceiling) and with one of the large cactus severely cut back, the room is so much brighter!  There are also a wider variety of cactus and succulents as a result. Many plants which were previously maintained in the back-greenhouses and put on display at the reception desk, are now in the collection.  Plus the plants are spread out more - enabling viewing of each item more fully. This also makes it feel more desert-ish :)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Kitchen Scraps to Garden Treasure - Easy Plant Propagation

Starting plants from leftover scraps
Springtime and fellow gardeners are getting excited about planting seedlings. Seed starting is a key activity. This year I'm excited to be planting food scraps. Yes, there are a number of foods that you can grow from kitchen scraps. That's pretty great. The next best thing to buying local is not buying at all. Is this food recycling? It's nice to always have a home-grown supply of these items on my kitchen window sill or garden.  While it saves a little bit of money - it is also easy and fun! Kids that come over find it amazing.

To facilitate the process I use a plastic container from Costco apples. These little impressions are the perfect place to put the root end of celery, carrots, lettuce. Take a look at how this all works with examples of specific veggies. 

Here's my list herbs and veggies that I've (tried to) regrow from the scraps. Others listed at the bottom can be grown from seeds - but that's another story :)

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Morton Arboretum - Springtime Woodland Beauty

Daffodils naturalizing the woodland
Today I had the pleasure of visiting the Morton Arboretum - just west of Chicago. I was a tad worried that it was too early in the year to visit - but I was so wrong!

The woodlands and grounds are awash in native woodland spring blooms! Miles and miles of trails - be that pavement or with mulch.

People young and old enjoing the grounds. It was interesting to hear people talking about the shape and form of trees and would they look right at their home. That's great to take a long view to support trees! So many old growth trees needed to be removed - ash and elm disappearing in favor of maples I guess.  Nice that people are thinking about some diversity!

At the arboretum it's easy to identify the different species. This spring the fruit trees and flowering shrubs add to the ambiance.  This was such great inspiration for my own woodland restoration efforts!

Thousands of Trout lily and groves of May-Apple were so beautiful. Not a single buckthorn tree in sight!

Open Woodland - No Buckthorn!
Mayapple flowers in Spring

Highly recommended :)

Here are just a few shots from the day.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Review: Cloisters New York

In early spring I had the opportunity to visit New York city and went up to visit The Cloisters Garden and Museum.  My New York friends were very skeptical of taking the long train ride. However, noting that they had lived in NYC for nearly a decade and needed to do something new, they acquiesced with my request :)


The Cloisters, New York Mar 2015
The 66.5-acre Fort Tryon Park was kicked off by the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. in 1917, when he hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., to create the park, which he later donated to New York City in 1935. The museum and adjacent gardens were built in 1934-39 on 4 acres of the park and were created through grants and endowments from Rockefeller. With insight to future development, Rockefeller bought and donated hundreds of acres of the river front property across from the museum, the New Jersey Palisades to the State of New Jersey. The view is awesome.

The building itself looks original to the rocky point and so old. With good reason, the building was designed by Charles Collens using parts of five cloistered abbeys. Talk about repurposing :)  . Further old building from Europe were disassembled and shipped to the site where they were reconstructed and integrated into this beautiful museum.  The photos below give a small sense of the integrated feel and medieval ambiance!