Thursday, January 31, 2008

Natural Landscaping Seminar

Mark your calendar,
The Wildflower Preservation and Propagation Committee's 16th annual seminar 'Backyard & Beyond' is Saturday, February 23, 2008 at the McHenry County College Conference Center

Informational Topics include:

  • 'Project Quercus: The Future Mighty Oaks of McHenry County' - Ed Collins of MCCD and Lisa Haderlein of The Land Conservancy
  • 'The Home Landscape, Naturally'- Keith Nowakowski, author of 'Native Plants in the Home Landscape'
  • 'Birds of the Chicago Region'- Joel Greenberg, author and naturalist
There will also be exhibitors of natural landscaping products, services, art and books.

Beauty in the Winter Landscape

From the New York Times, an article on Piet Oudolf- garden designer, nurseryman, author, and leader in the naturalistic and sustainable gardening movement. Oudolf designed public and private gardens around the world, and was a part of the design team for gardens in Millennium Park in Chicago. The articel describes Oudolf's work with North American native prairie plants to create well-composed gardens that are beautiful not only in bloom but also in the dead of winter.

Looking out over his perennial meadow, Mr. Oudolf articulated it this way: “You look at this, and it goes deeper than what you see. It reminds you of something in the genes — nature, or the longing for nature.” Allowing the garden to decompose, he added, meets an emotional need in people. “You accept death. You don’t take the plants out, because they still look good. And brown is also a color.”
A Landscape in Winter, Dying Heroically
By Sally McGrane, Published New York Times: January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Green is the Color of Money

Defining Sustainability- In a letter to the Greenhouse Grower BenchRunner one grower commented on the overuse of the word ‘Sustainability’

“...Right now with the economy, drought, high fuel prices, soaring health costs and insurance, it's not sustainability anymore, it's "SURVIVABILITY." How can y'all keep asking growers to spend money to just about totally revamp their operations when they are on the verge of closing or getting gobbled up by a mega grower?”

The editor responds with more information and suggests
“It would be good for the industry to adopt common language or a definition of sustainability that puts profit front and center instead of a quiet assumption”
and offers a definition for the green industry
“Producing and selling greenhouse or field crops in a manner that provides a profit for the business, minimizes the impact upon the environment, maximizes employee well-being and benefits the community."How do we promote sustainability without it coming off as Greenwashing? (see Project: Green Industry’s take on the term)

A big part of The Midwest Ecological Landscaping Association is finding answers to that question. MELA, (an organization of industry professionals and individuals that promotes environmentally responsible landscaping and practices) is bringing people together to discuss how to educate the green industry and the public.

MELA’s annual Conference is Thursday, February 28, 2008 at the Chicago Botanic Garden. ‘Healthy People, Healthy Profits, Healthy Planet’ will offer information on how sustainable landscaping can be good for people and good for your business.
The confusion most businesses have with sustainability is not understanding that it means ‘Efficiency’, which is a ratio of Inputs/Outputs. The more efficient a company the more sustainable the practices of the company. When we look at the Inputs we must ask what are the True Costs, not just the price. By starting at the beginning of the manufacturing process, including the extraction of minerals, production of energy, and treatment of labor we can look at what pollutants (what economists call ‘externalities’) are being created and ask if those costs are being included in the price.

If ‘sustainable’ practices are followed there should be less ‘pollution’ created that society must pay for, either in pricing or increased social costs (such as health care, global warming, or increased mortality) If all businesses attempted to follow ‘sustainable’ (most efficient) practices the overall costs to everyone would decrease even as our populations continued to grow. (The biggest sustainability question is of course population growth.) For small businesses who are concerned about survivability on a short term basis sustainable practices have to translate into immediate efficiencies that can be implemented.

Never forget that ‘Green’ is the color of money.

More EAB News

Ash borer found in Homewood trees
January 28, 2008 by Carla A. Mullady, Southtown Star

The emerald ash borer has been found in three trees in the Calumet Country Club area in Homewood....
Invasive pest threat prompts state ag department to ask consumers to check wooden planters
January 25, 2008 Winona Daily News
ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota Department of Agriculture is asking consumers for help in tracking down wooden planter boxes from Indiana that might be hiding a tree pest called emerald ash borer.
Officials made the request after learning that the boxes made from potentially infested ash wood were improperly shipped to Minnesota in violation of a federal quarantine.
The planter boxes in question are labeled “Nature’s Own Planters” by Lawson Products. They are about 24 inches by eight inches in size, and made from ash tree slabs with bark attached...
Ash borer fells a Wilmette tree -- and 90 more are set to fall
Winter proves a good time to inspect leafless limbs, take action against insect
Tribune reporter
Less than two years and a half-mile from where the metallic-green pest first appeared in Wilmette, arborists this month took down another tree infected by the ravenous emerald ash borer beetle.

A 50-foot tree that overlooked Lake Avenue for more than three decades was sliced apart and fed into a wood chipper stationed along the residential street. It was the first of at least 90 Wilmette ash trees that are being removed from public land in the coming weeks -- a big loss that's an urgent reminder of the borers' widespread reach across the Chicago area and the Midwest...

Monday, January 21, 2008

Timber Thieves

Timber Thieves Strike at Heart of Lands Held Dear
Published New York Times: January 20, 2008

"Across the country, trees are disappearing in cases that are often small in scale but largely unsettling, probably prompted by the rise in timber value and the increase in worldwide demand for American hardwood — particularly from builders in Europe and China. The total value of the American log export market has more than doubled since 2000, industry experts said, and it continues to grow.

In the United States, forests are not being illegally logged on a systemic scale, as is the case in countries like Indonesia, Malawi and Brazil, where unauthorized harvesting has led to serious deforestation and attendant environmental problems. Here, the issue is often scattered and intimate, and often affects homeowners, parks and public forests.

In Flint, Mich., for instance, thieves last month stole black walnut trees from the grassy landscaped edge of a main city street. Earlier last year, people were snatching saplings from a city park there as soon as they were planted." MORE

Most Wanted:
Arkansas- Pine
Kentucky- Oak, Chestnut, Cherry
Northeast- Maple
Midwest- Walnut

Monday, January 14, 2008

The History of Our Native Oaks

The oak-hickory forests and oak savannas of northern Illinois historically supported a world of living things- thousands of species of plants, animals, insects and other creatures. Open woodland communities dominated by White, Bur and Red Oaks, as well as other nut bearing trees, were teeming with life. Natural fires kept understory plants in check, allow enough light to filter through for acorns to germinate and oak seedlings to grow slowly but steadily to dominate the canopy.

Today only a fraction of these old woodlands remain. In the next 15-20 years, most of our oak-hickory woodlands may be lost. The remaining trees are old, and many are 200 or more years old. The life cycle of a naturally growing oak can be measured in 100’s of years.

What happened?
Established oaks+ new construction= dead oaks
We try to save the old oaks by building around them, but we irreparably disturb their root systems by filling, compacting and drainage changes. We prevent the tree from taking up water and nutrients it needs to survive.

When humans curbed the natural fires of the woodlands and savannas, other fire-sensitive native trees that were previously kept under control (such as box elder, ash, and sugar maple) move in along with invasive exotics like buckthorn. The understory grows denser, altering the habitat, and the old oaks that survived are now unable to reproduce, and the savannas and woodlands as they were, begin to decay and die. This not only decreases the tree diversity of the region, but it also eliminates one of the best food sources for wildlife. Acorns are a valuable food source for multitudes of birds and animals.

The Chicago area is still booming with growth, with homes and facilities expanding to support the population. The oak woodlands and savannas and the community of life they support are under pressure from the changing land use surrounding their habitat. They rarely survive development, and they are not reproducing successfully in the natural areas that are left.

The oaks we see today are ancient survivors of drought, heat, cold, fire and human interference, but they are dying out due to age and environmental stress. With few young trees to take their places, we are likely to see a dramatic change in the landscape across the region, which will impact the health, character and economy of the region- and the entire Chicagoland area.

The Next Generation of Oaks - January 2008 Green Buzz- Research and Development article

The Chicago Wilderness- Atlas of Biodiversity

Native Trees for North American Landscapes by Guy Sternberg
The Land Conservancy of McHenry County

The Land Conservancy of McHenry County Illinois or
Glacier Oaks Native Plant Nursery (Container Oak Grower) for more information on Project Quercus

Friday, January 11, 2008

2008 Urban Tree of the Year

Nyssa sylvatica (black tupelo or black gum) is the Society of Municipal Arborists' Tree of Year for 2008

  • spectacular fall color
  • fissured coal black bark
  • tolerates shade, wet sites, salt spray, heat, drought, pollution
  • relatively pest and disease free
Nyssa is a beautiful native tree, but like many native trees has a taproot that makes it difficult to transplant, but can be successfully grown and transplanted in containers.
More information on GO Trees-Container Trees

Past Trees of the Year:
2007- Baldcypress
2006- Kentucky coffeetree
2005- Chanticleer pear
2004- Autumn Blaze maple

Thursday, January 10, 2008


We survived the tornado without a scratch, however, some of our neighbors were not so lucky . Thankfully no one was injured.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Battling Buckthorn

On January 4, 2008 Chicago Public Radio aired a segment:
Hainesville Residents Fight Off Buckthorn

Residents of Lake County’s oldest village, Hainesville, have declared war. They’re doing battle with chain saws and herbicides – hoping to recreate the landscape that charmed settlers in the early 1800’s...
In the segment, Dave Coulter of Native Restoration Services in Round Lake IL, was interviewed on his experience with battling buckthorn and his 5 year contract with the Village of Hainesville to restore and maintain the habitat around the lake. Great work Dave! Click here to listen

Monday, January 7, 2008

Atlas of Biodiversity

Chicago Wilderness has available for download (or print)
'Atlas of Biodiversity'

The publication includes color maps and photos, and loads of information on the history of living things in the Chicago region, including the Geology, the plant and animal communities of the Prairies, Woodlands, Wetlands, and Water, and the effects of humans on the natural world.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Secrets of the Forest

Harvard Forest, a 3,000 acre forest labratory in north central Massachusetts, is tracking the forest's breathing to determine how carbon dioxide flows in and out. Scientists found that more carbon is being stored than released, and much more is being stored in the soil than previously thought. The questions they would now like to answer are why the forest is storing carbon faster and faster over time, why the carbon is going into to soil, and how long it will continue to do so.

"The forests of the world are currently taking up 25 percent of all the carbon from burning fossil fuels, and we would very much like to know whether that's going to continue or whether it could turn around, and the forests put that back into the atmosphere."
In a Forest's Breath, Deciphering Climate Clues
by Dan Charles, NPR, All Things Considered, December 31, 2007