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.

Happy Birthday Rachel Carson – Author of ‘Silent Spring’

Rachel Louise Carson, author of “Silent Spring” (May 27, 1907 – April 14, 1964) was born in Springdale, Pennsylvania and credits her mother for instilling her with a love for nature. In 1932, after many hard personal life problems, she graduated with a master’s degree in zoology. She taught for a few years, then in 1935, she obtained a part-time position with the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries as a writer of the radio show, “Romance Under the Waters”. After being the first woman to take and pass the civil service test, she was promoted to full time with a title of junior aquatic biologist.

Her writing career started in 1951 with, “The Sea Around Us”. Followed by other books titled, ”The Edge of the Sea” & “Under the Sea Wind”. She wrote multitudes of articles on topics from pesticides to ecosystems. In 1958, her work started on the famous, “Silent Spring”, which basically implied if we continue with the pesticide use (DDT), it would cause the death of songbirds, hence no singing = silence. The book was released on September 27th, 1962 with much controversy.

In 1960, after some other health ailments, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. This caused the delay in the publication of “Silent Spring”. After the book was released, many critics downed the book as being inconsistent & that research was not backed. This didn’t stop the government from banning DDT shortly after it’s release though. The pesticide industry took great measures to discredit her. Carson responded to these attacks by speaking to organizations, testifying at Congressional hearings, appearing on television, and conferring with President Kennedy and his Science Advisory Committee. In letters, she continued to defend her life’s work and urge that man use restraint and knowledge in his treatment of the environment.

Rachel Carson also started many influential, grassroots environmental movements, giving the start of the Environmental Protection Agency. She won many awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Her research was the vehicle for the banning of DDT worldwide, though again, is still debated today.

She died of breast cancer at the age of 56. Way too young for such a defender of the universe!!

© The Naturarian

 

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle ~ Glischrochilus quadrisignatus

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!! If you’re enjoying your libations during the weekend and notice you’re not drinking alone anymore… This guy may be your buddy!

Four-Spotted Sap Beetle (or picnic beetles, picnic bugs, or beer bugs) feed on sap from injured trees, decaying vegetables or fungal matter. They love ripened fruit, as well as beer, wine, fruit juice and fermented beverages. The beetles like to party in large numbers wblack sap beetlehen these beverages are present, often drowning while enjoying their libation. Then I get to enjoy protein in my wine =-P

They can be a nuisance to farmers, however they don’t generally bother crops until something else causes the crop to be damaged in some way. Once damage is done, like Japanese beetles nibbling on tomatoes do they come from miles around. They aren’t strong fliers, however scientists have tested marked beetles by placing a basket of rotten tomatoes 200 yards away, and the beetles found the prize in less than two hours.

Researchers have also found that their favorite food is beer mixed with bananas. Hmmm, I do peanut butter and bananas.. However, I wouldn’t think to down my meal with beer, yuk.

© The Naturarian

Are My Plants on Crack? Powdery Mildew on Plants

mildew grape leaf.JPG
On grape leaf – Credit: David B. Langston

There are many species of fungus that cause powdery mildew on plants. Most only infect the leaf surface or stems and do not attack the leaf tissue of the host plant. Powdery mildew is not usually a serious problem, but to avoid severe damage to plants, quick control methods need to be taken.

Symptoms of powdery mildew:

Powdery mildews are observed in late spring and early summer as a white or gray powdery growth on leaves, stems, flowers, and fruit. As the fungus developments, buds fail to open, leaves can become distorted, turn yellow, brown or become chlorotic, or may drop prematurely. Fruits may develop blemishes or abort early.

white mildew on peony leaves
Powdery mildew on peony

Powdery mildew grows predominantly on leaf surfaces and does not require water to infect the plant. Powdery mildew fungi overwinter in tiny black bodies called fungal threads, which can be found in leaf litter, twigs, and dormant buds. In Spring, the fungal threads produce spores that start the cycle, especially during periods of high humidity when days are warm and nights are cool, ideal temperatures range between 60F to 80F. Vulnerable plants are most susceptible while new shoots and leaves are expanding. Fungus is host specific, meaning the powdery mildew on phlox does not infect crabapples.

 

How to manage the mildew!

Cultural

Many powdery mildews, especially those that attack woody plants, are more unsightly than destructive. Good sanitation is highly important to reduce infections the next season. Powdery mildews can hibernate through the winter on dead and living plant tissue.

  • Be proactive and purchase disease resistant plants.
  • Space the plants properly, in-well drained soils where plants receive good air circulation.
  • Dispose of diseased leaves as soon as they drop.
  • Do not compost or use as mulch.
  • Always avoid working among plants with wet foliage. Stay inside on rainy days!

Chemical

Since most powdery mildew symptoms occur late in the growing season, it is usually not considered serious enough to justify chemical control. However, some plants may warrant protection and successful chemical control requires applying a fungicide properly and at the right time. Fungicides are a prophylactic, meaning it has to be sprayed on the plant before the infection occurs. Depending on what species or part of the plant (leaves, flower or fruit) you are trying to protect, spray times may be different.

One of my favorite, efficient fungicides to use is the Bordeaux mixture. In the early 19th century, many of the European grape vines were infected with blight caused by the aphid Phylloxera vastatrix (argued to have come from American grapes), but also mildew and other diseases caused by fungi.

In 1885, botany professor Pierre-Marie-Alexis Millardet of the University of Bordeaux studied powdery mildew in the vineyards of the Bordeaux region. He noticed the vines sprayed with copper and lime to keep nibblers away along the roads showed no signs of the disease. To this day, his solution is widely used in vineyards.

© The Naturarian

American Robins (Turdus migratorius) Nesting Outside My Door

robins nest in my flower pot attached to houseRobins are the largest North American thrushes. They are named after the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), however they aren’t in the same family.

Females have paler heads with a grayer back than the male.robin's nest with blue eggs

Robins are not cavity nesters and prefer to nest in evergreens and eaves. They also like to nest near humans. In the below photo, that is our main entrance in the background, with our driveway/parking to the right.

Robins build their nests with long coarse grass, twigs, paper, feathers and is fastened with mud. The inside is softened with grass or other materials. An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year.

I left a pot on the side of my house and Ms. Robin took advantage of the situation.

baby bird robins in nestRobins eat different types of food depending on the time of day: earthworms in the morning and fruit later in the day. Because the robin forages largely on lawns, it is susceptible to pesticide poisoning and can be an important indicator of chemical pollution.Baby robins in nest

There were five bundles of joy in her nest.

Robins are among the first birds to sing at dawn. This possibly relates the saying, “The early bird gets the worm”.

Robin bird trying to be scary
Mom sometimes thought we were getting too close to the nest. INCOMING!!

The Robin uses sound, smell and possibly feels its prey moving in the ground with its feet, however vision is the major method of prey detection. In addition to hunting visually, it also has the ability to hunt by hearing. Experiments have discovered that Robins can find worms underground by simply using its listening skills. So all the cute running, stopping, hopping, and cocking of the head is how a Robin find its breakfast.

mom robin sitting on nestRobin roosts can be huge, sometimes including a 250,000 birds during winter. In summer, the females sleep in their nests and males gather at roosts. As young robins become independent, they join the males. Female adults join the roosts only after they have finished nesting. These guys left one by one, until there were none!

© The Naturarian

 

Epic Fail in My Landscape

dead shrubsIn 2017, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for me!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Common Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves in this variety would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2017, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.

© The Naturarian

Help With Volutella Blight on Pachysandra

pachysandra ground cover with blight diseasePachysandra terminalis is a beautiful, lush, evergreen ground cover for a semi-shady spot. One of the most common problems with pachysandra is a fungal infection called, Volutella Blight. Generally, pachysandra has very few issues when well cared for. However, when other situations stress the plant out, opportunistic pests can take over.

Volutella Blight has a fungal ring associated with the damaged lesions. Winter damage has an even-toned brown to the damage.

How to not stress out your pachysandra:

    • Plant it in a partial shade or shade area. Not in the sun.
    • Do not overwater, water in the morning and use drip irrigation, not overhead.
    • Be sure to do a fall cleanup to remove any fallen leaves or plant debris from the bed to improve air circulation and reduce moisture levels. Blow lightly with blower.
    • It is also helpful to periodically thin the planting to prevent dense growth and increase air circulation. Use leaf mulch, not woody chips.

blight on pachysandrapachysandra with winter injury

Blight on the left / Winter damage on the right

Fungicides such as mancozeb and maneb can be used to protect remaining plants and the new growth of any pachysandra that have been cut back. These treatments can help deter infection but will not cure infected plants. You would need to spray at 7 to 14 day intervals from spring until early summer. Generally this time would coincide with the blooming of serviceberries (Amelancheir) and Redbuds (Cercis canadensis).

© The Naturarian

Summer Annual Containers 2019

Summer annual container time!!! Please contact me if you’d like your containers planted.

 

If you’re looking for sensational summer color, look no further! Summer pots are the way to go. Not only are they full of pizzazz, the color is often right in your face, literally, especially if your favorite container is on a pedestal.

Be sure your container / pot is very clean to start the season with. 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)

You don’t need to remember a bunch of annual names. The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller! The Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest. Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of ‘fatter or fuller’ stature. Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

Here’s where your imagination needs to run free through the flowers. In many of the containers below, the photos are of the plants after there has been a bit of growth put on them. You can also get instant height from a trellised plant such as a mandevilla, jasmine or other vine.

Another tip ~ Flowering can be increased if the plants are kept on the drier side. This takes a bit of skill, as you don’t want them to dry-out, but keep them on the brink of drying. Why?!? Because. Think of it this way. If you’re kept all fat and happy without doing anything, why not just enjoy the hand-outs? (can you say ‘vegetative growth’? Haha!) However, if you need to work for everything you’re getting, you fight to survive and multiplying is surviving in a plants eyes. Thus, more blooms = more seeds.

©The Naturarian

Ring Around the Lawn – Fairy Rings

fairy ring fungus in lawn a ring of darker colored grassFairy Ring fungi are in the soil to break down old tree stumps, roots, logs and other larger pieces of organic material in the soil below the lawn. The uniform outward growth of the fungus results in the development of rings. Once the material is exhausted, the fairy ring will disappear. This may take many years. Several fairy rings may appear close together, especially in lawns that were previously wooded areas.

When these fungi digest the organic material, they expel nitrogen. This is why the grass looks seemingly happy in the fairy ring. However, sometimes the opposite effect can happen, which depletes soil nutrients and produces toxic levels of hydrogen cyanide.

Fairy ring with mushrooms bloomingApproximately 50 species of fungi in the Basidiomycetes family are known to cause fairy rings in turf; however, there are only three outcomes:

  • Variety A: The most inconspicuous type of fairy ring. The dark ring of grass is absent. Only parts of the ring will show fruiting bodies (mushrooms) at different times of the year, mostly during wet springs.
    • Remove the mushrooms to help retard the spread in the area. Don’t over-water.
  • Variety B: It’s the dark green rings, with or without mushrooms, which identify these varieties of fairy rings. At worst, this type of ring can appear unsightly with its lush growth, accompanied with mushrooms.
    • Remove any mushrooms and use a balanced fertilizer to green up the rest of the lawn so the ring is not as obvious.
  • Variety C: This variety of fairy ring is the most destructive and damaging as it produces a ring of dead grass. The dead area can contain fruiting bodies. If a soil profile is pulled from the dead area, white thread-like structures called mycelia will be visible in the soil. Mycelium is hydrophobic. Because of this property, it causes water to move away from the circle, thus drying out the grass.

There are really no fast cures for fairy rings that aren’t extreme. Digging up the area to remove the organic matter the fungi is feeding on, along with all of the adjacent soil is one method. It’s been said that fairy rings do not cross. Some have said that digging up soil from one fairy ring and exchanging it for another has worked. Spraying fungicides are ineffective and a waste of money.

It is best to just be proactive in how you maintain the lawn. Do not over-water or over-fertilize, and be sure to aerate in the spring.

dancing fairiesThere’s another theory about how fairy rings are created…

Fairies create the circles by dancing within them.

Some cultures believe these circles to be dangerous to humans. Those violating fairy perimeters become invisible to those outside and may be unable leave the circle. The fairies then force the intruder to dance till exhausted, dead or in the throes of madness.

The only safe way to investigate a fairy ring is to run around it nine times. Doing this permits the runner to hear the fairies dancing underground. This must be done under a full moon and in the direction the sun travels.

Other cultures still believe in fairy activity and that fairy rings are omens of good fortune. Some legends see fairy circles as places of fertility and fortune. The Welsh believe that mountain sheep eating the grass from a fairy ring flourish and crops sown around tend to grow better. European folklore believe fairy rings are gateways into elfin kingdoms.

© The Naturarian

The Hunt for Garlic Mustard is ON!

Now is the time to hunt for garlic mustard!! Otherwise known as Alliaria petiolata, a biennial flowering plant in the mustard family (Brassicaceae).

Spring rain has made the ground soft which helps with removal of garlic mustard’s tap root. This root only goes down for about an inch, then takes an abrupt turn. When you pull slowly, you can feel which way the root goes and pull accordingly. If all of it is not removed, it will grow back like a dandelion. It will also start blooming in our area soon, making it easier to find.

Garlic mustard plant witth white blooming flowers

It is native to large areas of Europe, western and central Asia, and northwestern Africa. It was brought here by early settlers as a garden herb, but has broken free of the gardeners patch and is now considered an invasive species.

During the first year of growth, plants form rosette clumps of heart shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves that smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing white flowers, and as the flowering stems bloom they stretch into a spike-like shape. This pain-in-the-butt plant has enough energy in it, that if you pull it while it’s blooming, it can still produce seeds, which are released during the early summer. You’re best bet is to burn it ASAP or bag it. Do not compost, unless you’re very attentive to your pile.

So what can be done about this invasive species? EAT IT!

Garlic mustard can be found growing almost anywhere, but prefers a shady location. Procuring this herb is as easy as traveling to your nearest forest preserve. Removing native plants from protected parks is illegal, however because of garlic mustard’s invasive status, most parks will encourage you to take all you’d like.

Garlic Mustard Recipes:

Garlic Mustard Pesto

garlic mustard pesto

2 cups garlic mustard leaves, 1/4 cup walnuts, 2 cloves garlic, 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/2 cup pecorino romano (or Parmesan) cheese, grated

Use a food processor to combine the garlic mustard leaves, walnuts and garlic – pulse until very finely minced. With the processor running, slowly pour in the olive oil and blend until smooth. Add the cheese – pulse to combine.

Garlic Mustard Scallion Cakes

2 eggs, 1 bunch scallions/chopped, 1 pkg flour tortillas, 1 cup garlic mustard/chopped, 2 tsp sesame oil, oil for frying. Mix scallions and garlic mustard. Beat together eggs and sesame oil. Brush on side of a tortilla with egg mixture. Sprinkle on scallion/garlic mustard mixture. Brush egg mix on another tortilla, then put on top of 1st tortilla with egg side down. (Separate cakes with wax paper, repeat until all tortillas are used. Cover with plate and weigh down with cans to seal tortilla (about 15 minutes). Heat oil in heavy pan. Brown cakes on both sides (~2 minutes total). Drain on paper towel. Cut into wedges and serve.

Garlic Mustard Tossed Salad

4-6 leaves ruby red leaf lettuce, 4-6 leaves Romaine Lettuce, 1-2 handfuls tender garlic mustard leaves, French sorrel and bronze fennel (one leaf each), 1/3 cup mandarin orange slices, drained 1 slice of smoked salmon, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, croûtons.

Wash and crisp all the leaves and tear the lettuce leaves into a salad bowl. Cut the garlic mustard leaves, the French sorrel and the fennel into narrow strips and add to the salad. Cut the oranges and the smoked salmon into thin strips and place in the salad. Sprinkle on sunflower seeds and croûtons. Dress lightly with Italian dressing. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Garlic Mustard

20 medium garlic mustard leaves + 1/4 cup of chopped leaves, 1 cup of (any type of) sausage, 1 cup of rice, 2 Tbsn. chopped garlic, 1 Tbsn. lemon juice.

Mix rice and sausage and stir well. Add chopped leaves and lemon and toss. Put a teaspoon of this mix on a medium leaf of garlic mustard. Roll & hold leaf together with a toothpick. Serve on a plate.

© The Naturarian