Author: The Naturarian

Holly grew up growing veggies with her Father & flowers with her Mother. She has a horticultural degree in Natural Area's Management & certificates in Landscape Design, Landscape Maintenance & Urban Forestry Management. Holly is a licensed arborist through the International Society of Arborists. She has taught Computer Landscape Design (DynaSCAPE) at the College of Lake County and has over 15 years of experience in the high-end landscaping industry. Her heart lies with volunteering for many organizations including the Illinois Extension Master Gardener program, Illinois Extension Master Naturalist program, 4H and multiple wildlife rescues. Any free time is spent camping or kayaking.

Finally! Happy Spring!

white daisies and light green carnations in a vasecandle, shamrock plant and driftwood on bamboo placematt Mother Nature may not feel the same way, but my calendar tells me it’s so! I really want to burn my winter coat and move south… Reeeeally far south, as most of our nation got to experience winter this year.

Happy Spring to all!!

Remember, I’m still taking orders for Spring Annual Pots! Contact me for a quote.

© The Naturarian

St. Patrick’s Day Limerick

green flower bouquet

I once met a flower that was green,

She blended right in and was not seen.

But, now it’s St. Patty’s,

And green is the fancy.

The wallflower now shines like a Queen.

Limerick – A short sometimes vulgar, humorous poem consisting of five anapestic lines. Lines 1, 2, and 5 have seven to ten syllables, rhyme and have the same verbal rhythm. The 3rd and 4th lines have five to seven syllables, rhyme and have the same rhythm.

Some Saint Patrick Fun Facts (SPOILER! These facts are not St. P Day friendly…)

St. Patrick wasn’t even Irish! Born in England circa 385, St. Patrick didn’t arrive in Ireland until Irish pirates kidnapped him at age 16. After escaping and becoming a priest, he returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity and became an Irish patron saint.

The original color for St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t green.  The odd thing is that green wasn’t even the original color used to represent St. Patrick; it was blue. After the Order of St. Patrick was established in 1783, the organization’s color had to stand out from those that preceded it. Since dark green was already taken, the Order of St. Patrick went with blue.

There were no snakes for St. Patrick to banish in Ireland. St. Patrick was known through folklore for having chased away snakes in Ireland, thus protecting townspeople from the mysterious creatures and sending them to the sea. However, Ireland didn’t have snakes at the time. Surrounded by icy water, Ireland was the last place that these cold-blooded reptiles would want to go. It’s much more reasonable to think that the “snakes” that St. Patrick banished were representative of the Druids and Pagans in Ireland since they were considered evil.

St. Patrick was never canonized by a pope. St. Patrick never got canonized by a pope, making his saintly status somewhat questionable. But in all fairness, St. Patrick wasn’t the only saint that didn’t go through a proper canonization. In the Church’s first millennium, there wasn’t a formal canonization process at all, so most saints from that period were given the title if they were either martyrs or seen as extraordinarily holy.

St. Patrick used the shamrock to explain the holy trinity to the Pagan believers who already believed in a multi-god religion.  He also utilized the sun, a strong presence in the Pagan religion and incorporated it into the cross, now known as a Celtic cross. Many Christian’s bastardized Pagan holidays to help convert Pagans to Christianity.

It wasn’t arbitrary that the day honoring Saint Patrick was placed on the 17th of March. The festival was designed to coincide, and (it was hoped), to replace the Pagan holiday known as Ostara; the second spring festival which occurs each year, which celebrates the rebirth of nature, the balance of the universe when the day and night are equal in length, and which takes place at the Spring Equinox. In other words, Saint Patrick’s Day is yet another Christian replacement for a much older, ancient Pagan holiday. Although generally speaking, Ostara was most prominently replaced by the Christian celebration of Easter (the eggs and the bunny come from Ostara traditions, and the name “Easter” comes from the Pagan goddess Eostre).

© The Naturarian

Mr. Robin Singing His Love Song

Let me translate:

Hello my Love, wherever you are!

I will sing until I find you.

I’ll bring you worms and seeds for our babies!

To you I will always be true!!

I’m so happy to see the Robins back! We hoomans like everything in order, which is why we had to place Spring on a calendar. In my opinion, Spring happens when nature tells us its happening!

Have a Happy Spring Everyone!!

Shelf and Bracket Fungus

Shelf or bracket fungi tend to grow in somewhat circular shapes. They can be parasitic, saprotrophic (decomposing) or both. Many times these fungi can kill the tree they infest and then continue to live on it for years after its death. Some species have multi-colored growth rings just like the trees they eat.

A few of these are edible! Pleurotus ostreatus (oyster mushroom) is commonly cultivated for food. Polyporus squamosus, or Dryad’s Saddle is listed by many sites as an edible. Be sure you learn your Shroom ID before gnawing on one of these. I AM NOT a shroom IDer… That is why I did not caption the above photos 😉

Sadly, once a tree is infected, the fungus cannot be killed. These fungi cause either white or brown rot in the heartwood; both are structurally weakening. The brown rots are the result of a fungus not being able to break down lignin in the cell walls (Lignin is what makes cells strong). White rots attack both lignin and cellulose. Sometimes, the tree becomes hollow, yet remains stable, however decay usually leads to weakening of the trunk, eventual limb fractures or toppling. Top rots which affect upper parts of the tree are less hazardous (dropped branches) than the root or butt rots which can be quite damaging because the whole tree may fall!

Bracket fungi cause millions of dollars in damage through lost wood production in the lumber trade. The only mitigation is to harvest the tree before the rot spreads too far. Income is lost because foresters need to harvest more wood to make quotas. Removing the infected trees decreases nesting sites for birds and animals, also. The rotten wood is easier to excavate and fallen logs provide cover.

There is a good side to these fungi!

The Chinese and Japanese continue to use many types of bracket fungi as a way to prevent and treat a number of diseases, including hepatitis, hypertension, bronchial asthma, chronic bronchitis, rheumatism, cancer, reduce saracoma 180 (cancer in connective tissues), esophageal carcinoma (malignant tumor with epithelial cells), hyperglycemia and to treat rheumatic tuberculosis. They have also been used to relieve pain, reducing fever, indigestion and hemostasis, and reducing levels of phlegm, steroids, fatty acids, applanoxidic acid, ganoderic acid, ganoderenic acid, and furanoganoderic acid. Studies have been conducted which show the fungi has antitumor, antimicrobial, antibronchial asthma, immune-stimulating, immune-regulating, liver- protecting, anti-hypertensive, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-allergic and anti-oxidative properties. Antibacterial properties are also found in the tube layers of Artist conk (Ganoderma applanatum). It prevents tumor growth and increases white blood cell activity. Extracts from Ganoderma applanatum lower glucose, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels significantly.

I brought up Artist Conk, want to know why it is called that? When the bottom is touched, it bruises the tender white underbelly a dark brown. Many folks have some beautiful art with Artist Conk as their medium.

Remember, mycelium, the body of the fungus, decomposes chemicals in the tree cells. White rots attack both lignin and cellulose, which are the molecules found in paper. The rotted wood is white because that is the color of the cellulose left behind. Scientists are experimenting using white rot fungi to convert wood chips to paper pulp. This process reduces energy use and pollutants. White rot fungi can also destroy toxic chemicals like PCB’s in soil. Go Go Fungi power!

Fungi are just the suckerfish of the woodlands. Someone has to do the dirty, clean-up work so the cycle of life can go on in the forest.

Here are some interesting sites I came across while researching this topic:

YES!! Fungi are great cures for many ailments.
I do investigate these ‘medical alternatives’, as a true cure may be found in them!! Burdock root (burr plants) & Turmeric (ginger) keep my skin issues in check. They are affordable, don’t destroy my system (like antibiotics) and no need to go to the doctor.

The U.S. GOV site on alternative meds

A list of every medical mushroom

A well written piece about shrooms with a bit of history

Dr. Mercola writes many articles about alternative health, good stuff)

© The Naturarian

McHenry Lock & Dam

Last weekend, when we had a tease of Spring in the air, we took a hike at Moraine Hills State Park with a quick trip to the McHenry dam. It was a dam great day to go!

Stolen directly from the Moraine Hills Website, an excerpt on the local geology:

The 48-acre Lake Defiance, located near the center of the park, was formed when a large portion of ice broke away from the main glacier and melted. Lake Defiance is gradually filling in with peat from its unstable shoreline. The lake is one of the few glacial lakes in Illinois that has remained largely undeveloped, maintaining a near-natural condition.

Pike Marsh, a 115-acre area in the southeast corner of the park, is home to many rare plants. Its outer fen area (a very rare marsh wetland) includes Ohio goldenrod, Kalm’s lobelia, dwarf birch and hoary willow, while cattails and bulrushes grow in its interior. Pike Marsh also supports one of the state’s largest known colonies of pitcher plants, which attract, trap and digest insects.

The 120-acre region known as Leatherleaf Bog is an excellent example of kettle-moraine topography. In geological terms, a kettle is a depression formed when an isolated block of glacial ice melts. The bog consists of a floating mat of sphagnum moss and leatherleaf surrounded by a moat of water. Marsh fern, marsh marigold, St. John’s wort and several species of willow put down roots here. Because both Pike Marsh and Leatherleaf Bog are dedicated nature preserves, they are protected by law.

Moraine Hills offers three examples of wetland enhancements. Yellow-head, Black Tern and Opossum Run marshes are samples of what can be accomplished with a little help from man.

© The Naturarian

Houseplant Scale on Schefflera Arboricola

The Schefflera Arboricola is a fairly easy Midwestern houseplant to care for. When I lived in Florida, there was one growing in my front yard, right in front of the chimney. My Midwestern version is a smaller scale!

This time of year my butt has just about been kicked by Old Man Winter. I’m soooo over winter. My houseplants have had it also. Here I am, a horticulturist and should have noticed this earlier. I did see the shiny leaves, but I thought it was just where I had over-sprayed some horticultural oil. Nope, not that lucky. From a distance, these guys are hardly noticeable. However, just get a bit closer and you’ll see them all… Huddling on the midrib.scale insect on houseplant leaf

houseplant

Next I noticed my sock stick to the floor… The floor was sticky. Remember there are signs and symptoms to all plant problems. The shiny leaves and sticky floor are signs of a honeydew producing pest. Signs are observations that are directly related to the problem. A symptom would be the leaves showing some spotting.

Here’s the little guys close up, along with their honeydew which is just a sweet name for poop. In the wild, opposed to the tame of my living room, ants would be attracted to the sweet honeydew and protect the producer. Ants have been known to herd aphids (another honey-doer!) and protect them in little colonies. I’ve seen it, pretty weird!

scale insect on leaf

We’re not going to have freeloaders on my plants! I promptly dragged ‘Sheffy’ into the shower for a rinse. I would have preferred to use horticultural oil, but I was out. I did have an organic insecticidal soap.

houseplant getting rinced off in bathtub

Spray the plant down with water first, as the longer the soap spray stays liquid, the better job it will do smothering the pests.

Just for the record, using dish soap is not acceptable for a cheap substitute for horticultural soap. Now-a-days, the dish soap is not soap anymore, detergent is the main ingredient and modern soap lacks the fatty acids that are helpful in killing the insect.

Another few good tips to aid the recovery of your plant from scale:

  • Don’t over-water.
  • Don’t fertilize – forcing fresh growth is stressful on the plant and the pests like the new stuff better!
  • Place in sunny location.
  • Try to remove the honeydew, as sooty mold will grow on it.
  • Don’t be afraid to prune when needed – I cut many branches down to just lessen the surface area.
  • About once a week, spray off the plant and reapply the soap or oil.

© The Naturarian

 

Start Thinking About Spring Flower Containers!!

Happy Spring!… ? OK, Really, is it Spring?

No. However I’m optimistic that Woodstock Willie (my local groundhog) got it right, and I’m looking forward to an early spring!

In the meantime, it’s time to start thinking about your outdoor spring container displays. “How early can I plant?” will surely be your next question. Depending on your ‘love and devotion’ level, is how early you can plant. Factors:

  • Availability of plant material? Hard to plant what you can’t get.
  • Is your irrigation turned on? If not, you’ll need to water regularly.
  • A well-watered pot holds heat – water right before a freeze.
  • Fabric (NOT plastic) to cover in case of frost. Be sure to remove the next day.

Be sure your container / pot is very clean to start the season. A good, stiff brush dipped in a 10% bleach solution will do the trick. This will kill off any of the nasties waiting to infect your flowers. This cleaning should take you through the season also. No need to disinfect after each season change. (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter)

Spring flowers such as; Petunias, tulips, hyacinths, primrose, cyclamen, hydrangea, muscari, snap dragons, ranunculus, helleborus, viola, ivy and diacia are just a few cool weather choices.

Give your display a bit of height with pussy willow or forsythia branches. If cut at the right time (pretty much right before placing in display) they will also bloom, adding to the WOW factor.

These flowers will last until the weather turns hot & then it’s time to switch over to your summer display.

I’ll be taking requests from now until April 15th. After that date, most things are so picked over, it’s hard to be creative. You’re also almost into summer pots by then….

Want a FAST quote? Attach a photo in the comments or Email me for a quote!

Anticipated installation start this year is April 1st, possibly one week earlier. This is all based on weather forecasts.

© The Naturarian

The Skinny on Skinny Trees – Columnar / Fastigiate Trees

evergreen bushes that resemble male peepee

Columnar or fastigiated trees make great candidates for landscape areas where space is restricted such as in parkway strips, between the sidewalk and driveway, or near the corner of a building. Many of these trees can also be used as a privacy screen. Columnar trees are also recommended for parking lots where outward branching can get in the way of vehicles. Be sure to check the salt tolerance factor of the tree before planting in a parking lot. And of course, be sure you think about the over-all look you’re going for…..

If you click on the Latin Name, the link will take you to Google Images for that species.

INTERMEDIATE & SMALL TREES (15′ – 30′ feet tall):

White Japanese lilac shrub tree white blooms
Japanese lilac trees bloom white, in mid-summer

Amelanchier laevis ‘Cumulus’ – Serviceberry – 20’H x 18’W

Amelanchier laevis ‘Ballerina’ – Serviceberry – 20’H x 15’W

Malus ‘Red Jewel’ – Red Jewel Crabapple – 18’H x 12’W

Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ – Chanticleer Pear – 30’H x 15’W

Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’ – Ivory Silk Lilac – 20’H x 15’W

LARGER TREES (Over 30′ feet tall):

Acer x freemanii ‘Armstrong’ – Armstrong Freeman Maple – 40’+H x 15’W

Acer x freemanii ‘Marmo’ – Marmo Freeman Maple – 50’H x 30’W

Acer saccharum ssp. nigrum ‘Greencolumn’ – Greencolumn Black Maple – 40’H x 25’W

poplar tree windscreen
Poplar tree windscreen

Carpinus betula ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright European Hornbeam – 40’H x 20’W

Fagus sylvatica ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright European Beech – 40’H x 10’W

Ginkgo biloba ‘Princeton Sentry’ – Princeton Sentry Ginkgo – 60’H x 20’W

Populus tremula ‘Erecta’ – Upright European Aspen – 30’H x 8’W

Populus nigra – Lombardy Poplar – 50’H x 12’W

Quercus x warei ‘Long’ – Regal Prince English Oak – 60’H x 20’W

Taxodium distichum ‘Mickelson’ – Bald Cypress Swanee Brave – 50’H x 20’W

EVERGREENS:

Juniperus scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’ – Skyrocket Juniper – 12′-18’H x 2′-3’W

Evergreen hedge
Pyramidal Eastern Arborvitae

Picea pungens’Glauca Fasigiata’ – Upright Blue Spruce – 15′-20’H x 5’W

Pinus strobus ‘Fastigiata’ – Upright Eastern White Pine – 30′-50’H x 10′-15’W

Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd’ – Emerald Eastern Arborvitae – 20′-30’H x 5′-8’W

Thuja occidentalis ‘Pyramidalis’ – Pyramidal Eastern Arborvitae – 15′-20’H x 5′-8’W

© The Naturarian

How to Read the Midwestern Landscape

Understanding what you see and observe in the landscape and knowing key indicator plants (axiophytes) aid in identifying each Illinois region community. Learning a few characteristics of each area can help with this identification.

Each area has its separate restoration challenges, however the wetland communities are the most frequently restored regions, followed by prairie, savanna, and woodland, respectively.

Wetlands

Some of the main, topography indications of a wetland are:

  • Standing water during growing season
  • Drift lines
  • Watermarks
  • Sediment deposits

Sometimes because of drain tiles, dams/dikes, or channeling of streams, this might not be as reliable of an indication.

Conducting a soil test is the next test. Wetlands have a hydric soil characteristic described as one or more of the following:

  • predominantly peats or mucks
  • have bluish-gray coloring
  • contain dark streaks of organic material
  • include decomposing plant material

Plant indicators include cattails, bulrushes, cord grass, sphagnum moss, bald cypress, willows, sedges, rushes, arrowheads, and water plantains. Additionally, several types of oak, tamaracks, and pine trees occur in wetlands.

Wetland restoration relies heavily on the hydrology of the location. Generally, when natural water patterns return to an area, the usually, highly viable seed banks of the wetland overwhelm invasives. This makes for the easiest restoration, as most invasives cannot thrive in the wet conditions. Volo Bog is an example of how the returning of hydrology (breaking of drain tiles), along with overseeding, can restore a wetland.

Prairies

prairie land with yellow flowers

Identifying a prairie area should begin with an observation of the layout. Prairies are flat or gently undulating, dominated mostly with grasses, and generally treeless. Some of the plant indicator species include (but not limited to) big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, switch grass, black oak, round-head bush-clover, butterfly milkweed, lead plant, heath aster, grey headed sunflower, compass plant, and cup plant.

Prairie soils (Mollisol) are very rich in nutrients. This is why many prairies are destroyed to grow other crops.

One challenge of prairie restoration lies in the condition of the site when presented for restoration. This will dictate the amount of time and money needed for the task. Another dilemma is the ability to burn. Many smaller restorations near communities that have banned any type of burning, must use alternate methods for restoration, which may delay the re-establishment for years.

Savannas

savanna land with wildflowers and trees

Savannas are recognized by grassland-like features, with scattered trees that are few enough in number not to affect light penetration to the ground.  Indicator plants consist of: yellow & purple giant hyssop, tall anemone, purple milkweed, prairie brome, cream wild indigo, woodland boneset, oaks, and Jacob’s ladder, to name a few.

Savanna’s restoration issues also lie with ability to burn, but time is also a huge factor. Reconstruction may require the planting of oaks and other native trees, which take years to mature.

Woodland

wooden bridge in woodland area

Woodland is an area with dotted trees where the portion of the land surface covered by the crowns is more than 30% (open woodland) but less than 60% (forest). Indicator species can include; oaks, shagbark hickory, black walnut, bitternut hickory, bottlebrush grass, woodland phlox, elm-leaved goldenrod, cut-leaf coneflower, brown-eyed susan.

The main challenge of restoring woodlands is time. Canopies need time to develop, and the understory elements might need to develop later because of this. Many times money and long-term dedication are the biggest hurdles.

© The Naturarian