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Rain rain go away, let the interns play or should that be learn maybe work?

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 4:17pm

As the title says we have had much rain here in the sleepy town of Buffalo, WY. The first two weeks here have been amazing and slightly overwhelming. Within the first week of working Katie and I met 80+ employees, were trained in CPR and First Aid, Defensive driving, ATV/UTV training, GPS/GIS, and began our crash course in the flora of the west and how it pertains to rangeland management.

Our second week we were unexpectantly trained in emergency flood response when our office flooded, leaving our part of the building with 0.5″ of standing water. Almost half of the building had to be packed up and moved out or thrown away. We are now located in the annex building just down the road from the main office. Us interns are set up in the cozy conference room now!

We received ~3" of rain in one night that overwhelmed our pump resulting in 0.5" of standing water in our cubicals after the water receded.

We received ~3″ of rain in one night that overwhelmed our pump resulting in 0.5″ of standing water in our cubicles after the water receded.

Removing all furnitureOffice repairs currently

 

UTVRange MonitoringRange health

Katie Pacholski and I performing a soil stability test as part of range health monitoring

Katie Pacholski and I performing a soil stability test as part of range health monitoring

Sara Burns, Katie Pacholski, and I were doing range monitoring when we looked up and this female pronghorn was stolling by. She gave us a little "bark" and went on her way!

Sara Burns, Katie Pacholski, and I were doing range monitoring when we looked up and this female pronghorn was stolling by. She gave us a little “bark” and went on her way!

 

Collecting and Hiking My Life Away

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 4:15pm

The first week back from Chicago has been jam packed. We’ve completed 3 collections this week, which have given us the opportunity to surpass the recommended 10,000 steps per day. The first collection left our hands sweet smelling after the once vibrant purple flowers had dried into a light pink. Purple Sage (Salvia dorrii) scent now fills the office shelves while the seeds dry, as we continued to fill the shelves with Thurber’s Needle Grass and another seed, so white and fluffy, Taper’s Hawksbeard (Crepis acuminata).

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After hiking and collecting all week, we decided to head out to hike some more at Lassen Volcanic National Park. We set up camp and went out to Bumpass’ Hell, and checked out the sulfur filled streams and watched the vapors pour out of the rock. We made s’mores, hobo dinners, and waited for the stars to come out before heading to bed, setting our sites on hiking Mt. Lassen in the morning.

Much needed selfie

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At the summit, 10,000 something feet, with freezing hands, we had to enjoy the perfect moment for yet again using the selfie stick. I feel like these two pictures easily encompass the honest joy and comfort that we all find in nature, and that I find when finally having that feeling of accomplishment when you complete what you have set out to do.

The views were astounding, and there was even the little educational signs along the way, letting us know about the volcanic history of the mountain, 100 years after the last eruption. The signs also let us know how much longer we had to the summit, I don’t know which part was better. DSC_0581Until next time.

Andrea Stuemky, Eagle Lake Field Office, BLM

Susanville, CA

And the real work begins

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 4:12pm

Got started surveying the local airport for an endangered flower called Applegate’s Milk-vetch. The airport has the largest population of the flower so its vital to gather data on the population. The airport is proposing an expansion of their taxi way and to do so they must conduct a biological assessment. We worked together with private contractors hired on by the airport to conduct the survey. Surveys were done doing random transects in each area of the airport. With one person walking a transect with a 3 m pole while another walked behind to search and count plants.

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Applegate’s Mik-vetch (Astragalus applegatei)

To add to the excitement of surveying, we got to experience F-15 jets take-off, train and land right next to us. The airport is the last base in the U.S. to train F-15 pilots.

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F-15

There’s plenty of wildlife on the airport as well. Even found a horned larks nest that had survived the mowers.

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Baby horned larks

At the Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in California, ponds were made to raise sucker fish for 2 years in another strategy to save the species. Before placing young fish into the ponds, traps have been placed to see if any other fish have made it into the ponds, which may be possible from the ponds’ water source. Predator surveys of mammals and piscivorous birds were conducted as well.

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Nicki and Erica collecting traps at one of the ponds.

We began building our net pens to raise young sucker fish in for the summer. Construction of the dock took all day, but finally git it pieced together. The dock was then towed out into the bay.

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Dock being towed

Then two nets were placed into the dock to hold the fish.

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The fish will be raised till about September, then released back into the lake with the hopes of increasing recruitment into the adult population.

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View from the dock

 

Badger Creek Restoration Update: No Snakes!

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 4:08pm

Hello everyone,

Another week is nearly over at the Cosumnes River Preserve and I am happy to say that things are progressing quite well on the Badger Creek Restoration Project. Though, everything is moving forward at a rate which still fits our timeline, I often have the feeling that I am sliding down the blade of an ever-sharpening knife. So far, I have managed to avoid any metaphorical life-threatening wounds.

Our team of biologists finished up their thirty days of trapping, and while they produced some interesting data, as expected, no giant garter snakes were trapped during this cycle. The yellow water primrose in Horseshoe Lake has continued to progress at an astonishing rate. As of my last visit on Tuesday, there were no areas of open water left within the lake. It is rather impressive, yet ultimately quite upsetting, that this lone weed has managed to consume nearly all available water in a 155 acre lake. The photo below was taken just a few weeks ago and in that time the primrose, has now covered the last visible areas of water on the surface.
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I am currently working on the numbers to see if it is more advantageous/cost effective to have a helicopter spray the site instead of the highboy or tow behind tractor rig as originally planned. I have contacted local contractors and am waiting for the estimates to come in so we can reach a final decision.

On the positive side of the equation, the joint NEPA/CEQA document I wrote for the project is entering the last days of the public review period, and to this point we have received little to no resistance regarding the proposed restoration. However, I have been warned that comments often come towards the end of the review period, typically on the last day, so the minor celebration for reaching another completed stage will have to wait until next week. If anyone has interest in reading the document (and I say this with a certain level of sarcasm given your busy schedules/lack of desire to read a 70 page environmental document) it can be found using the link below. While much of the content (air quality, water quality, cultural resources, etc.) may seem dull/long-winded/unnecessary, it may be of benefit to those who will have to write documents like this in the future.

http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/ca/pdf/folsom/cosumnes_river_preserve1.Par.80515.File.dat/BadgerCreekRestoreInitialStudyFonsiEA_Appendix_Reduced508c.pdf

Next week I will be meeting with potential contractors who will be bidding on the earthmoving/excavation work which will start (if all goes well) in early September. I hope everyone is having a great time out there in the field (wherever you may be). Since my photos of the project have been admittedly lackluster in this and previous posts, I thought I would leave you with a couple of photos of some of the splendid daily interactions/observations we have here at the Preserve.

Crayfish ready to throw down

Crayfish ready to throw down

Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)

Short-eared owl (Asio flammeus)

Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)

Great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)

Monitoring at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 3:41pm

This week I had the pleasure of traveling up and down the coast of Virginia and Maryland with the rest of the North Carolina Botanical Garden SOS East interns and our “fearless leader” Amanda. One spot in particular that caught my attention was Back Bay National Wildlife Reserve on the coast of Virginia just south of Virginia Beach. The land is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and encompasses 4,589 acres of protected area. Although birds are the main target as far as protection is concerned, there is a vast array of plant species, as well as some interesting animals. One such creature we encountered was this little guy:

Cool spider at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay offers stunning views along the marsh lands as well as great spots for fishing along the Atlantic side.

Sound side at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Sound side

We picked an incredible day to visit Back Bay. We started out around 8 AM and got to feel the cool breeze coming off the Atlantic before the heat of the day took over.

Sand dune communities at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Sand dune communities

We saw many species of plants that are on our list for seed collection, including, but certainly not limited to: Juncus effusus, Cakile edentula, Smilax rotundifolia, Typha angustifolia and Typha latifolia. Each of those listed will provide plenty of seed for us to collect in the coming months when they mature, especially the two Typha’s!

Sound at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Sound

I cannot blame the many families we saw out there for visiting the site. It is a gorgeous place for biking, hiking, picnicking, birding, you name it! I can’t wait to visit time and time again for both seed collection and leisure!

Mojave

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 3:37pm

Well, it’s been awhile since my last post. But indeed our schedules are pretty tight, almost without office work – all in the field. Based on what I hear around, it’s been a very long and cool spring for the Mojave, which of course favored us in a couple ways – nice and pleasant field work, and more time to get some of our projects done before the coming high temperatures. As a matter of fact we have had a few weeks already which were above a hundred degrees. I must say that without an acclimation time, it is pretty hard to stay active as usual, especially in town where all the concrete and roads contribute to a temperature rise. With that said, last week I was lucky to attend my training up north and reveal for myself at least a tiny bit of Bryophytes’ diversity. The workshop focused on identification of different non-vascular plants – Liverworts, Hornworts, and Mosses, which was very exciting for me. It was very new to me, because even having a general idea about mosses and its main taxonomical groups I never had a chance to get deeper into the subject. Discovering characteristic features of different groups of mosses and liverworts, seeing them under the microscope was very interesting, exciting, and certainly rewarding. I would highly recommend to all botanists who are not particularly familiar with non-vascular plants, of course given some extra time and a good opportunity, to pay a little more attention to this subject. In the meantime I will definitely keep exploring them myself wherever I am. Until next time,

Andrii

WERC, Henderson, NV

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The Adventure Begins!

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 3:35pm

My internship at the BLM Buffalo Field Office certainly started off in a rush, as I arrived in Buffalo, Wyoming the day before my first day of work. It was quite the whirlwind to get my apartment settled and myself prepared for work the next day, but Tuesday came and I hit the ground running! The first two weeks of my internship were quite the blur to be honest- on the first day alone, myself and the other new intern Jade, met 80+ employees at the Buffalo Field Office- I wish I could remember everyone’s name! The rest of that week was then spent getting trained in First Aid, Defensive Driving, GPS and GIS. My favorite day was the First Aid training because I had never been CPR certified before and now I can safely say that I am! woo :D

The next week involved more fun training in activities like driving ATVs and UTVs. I personally loved the ATV training; I have never driven these vehicles before and it was a blast learning how to maneuver these guys over hills and different obstacles. At the end of that week, we were supposed to finally get out into the field and start learning how to monitor range land and identify the many plant species found within the BFO’s territory. Unfortunately however, on Wednesday night a huge storm came through town from the Bighorn Mountains, and the office was completely flooded. So, obviously that put a bit of a damper in our original plans…Instead, Thursday and Friday were spent helping the office to get sorted and moved as certain areas require new carpet and even drywall in result of the water damage!! Honestly though, it ended up being kind of fun! I got in a good workout lugging all those heavy desks out (lol) and good bonding time with the other interns and the BFO employees :)

Returning from the workshop back home in Chicago this past week, we have been very busy getting started on monitoring range sites for this season, as well as determining good populations for plants to collect on the SOS list (that’s my job). Almost every day has been 10 or 11 hour days, and I’ve been coming home completely exhausted!! I’m definitely looking forward to resting up this weekend, but it also feels great to be getting out in the field every day. All in all, I’m loving my time here in Buffalo, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months have in store!

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Testing soil stability at one of our sites- talk about an office with a view!

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Views of the Bighorn Mountains while getting trained to drive ATVs (plus a very observant cow watching our training from a safe distance! :P )

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Buffalo’s Clear Creek flowing mightily after all the rain we’ve been getting!

 

-Katie

Plant City

CLM Internship Blog - Tue, 06/23/2015 - 3:33pm

My internship situation is quite different than many in the CLM program.  Having been born and raised in the country about 10 miles outside of the ‘city’ of Grants Pass, Oregon and then going to school at Oregon Tech (about 4000 students) in the ‘city’ of Klamath Falls, Oregon (twenty-something thousand people), I have little-to-no big city experience. Getting stationed in Boise, Idaho meant that for my internship I was going to be living in a city far more populated than anywhere I had lived before.  Boise has a population of more than 200,000 with a metropolitan area population of close to 700,000.  I feel lucky to have found a relatively inexpensive apartment ideally located between, and easily within biking distance of the BLM office and downtown.  I moved in about a week before my start date of May 18.

As expected, the first week was largely spent on training, introductory information/preparation, and getting acquainted with BLM processes and locations.  After the first 3 weeks, we had already collected vouchers for Eriogonum heracleoides (wyeth buckwheat), Eriogonum sphaerocephalum (rock buckwheat), Pseudoroegneria spicata (bluebunch wheatgrass), Elymus elymoides (squirreltail), Festuca idahoensis (Idaho fescue), and likely a few others whose names escape me at the present moment.  We have also made 3 seed collections: Balsamorhiza sagittata (arrowleaf balsamroot), Crepis occidentalis (western hawksbeard), and Lomatium triternatum (nineleaf biscuitroot). Enough plant names already!

Here's me assessing the buggy-ness of some seeds

Here’s me assessing the buggy-ness of some seeds

In addition to feeling lucky about my housing situation and location, I am also very thankful for the great people that I get to work with.  The three of us get along very well, and I think there is a pretty great group dynamic between all of us.

Emile (my internship partner) and Joe ( our mentor)

Emile (my internship partner) and Joe (our mentor)

Our mentor Joe is actually a wildlife biologist, so we aren’t solely focusing on plants and/or seeds.  We have also been doing some habitat assessments, some of which have been in extremely beautiful and remote areas a few hours outside Boise.

Approaching the top of the first ridge on one of our beautiful and steep hikes

Approaching the top of the first ridge on one of our beautiful and steep hikes

Because many of our drives are 2 hours or more from the office, camping near sampling sites is a good way to maximize work hours spent on collecting data and minimize those spent in the truck.  We spent 2 nights and three days based at this inviting spot, central to a few habitat assessment sites.

My hammock tent in an Aspen grove on near a creek

My hammock tent in an Aspen grove  near a creek

After three weeks in the field, we headed off to Chicago for a week of training with about 62 other interns.  There was some great information at the workshop, and Chicago has many fun and interesting things to offer.  In an effort to keep this post concise and interesting, I will finish it off with a few of my favorite photos.

Picturesque Lewisia

Picturesque Lewisia

Pollinators rock!

Pollinators rock!

A species of Blues enjoy some Eriogonum umbellatum

A species of Blues enjoying some Eriogonum umbellatum

Some fritillaries enjoying more sulphur buckwheat

Some fritillaries enjoying more sulphur buckwheat

Lark sparrow nest hidden under an Eriogonum elatum plant

Lark sparrow nest hidden under an Eriogonum elatum plant

A super-sweet caterpillar

A super-sweet caterpillar

Nature's neat!

Nature’s neat!

Thanks for reading/looking!  To all of you who I met, I say hello again, and I look forward to reading your posts.  To anyone stationed near Boise or planning a trip near here in the next 5 months, don’t hesitate to look me up if you want to do something or need a place to stay for a few nights.

Cheers,

Dan King

CLM Intern – BLM Boise, ID

 

 

 

 

Summer Comes to the Dwarf Conifer Garden

Garden Blog - Mon, 06/22/2015 - 9:13am

Early summer in the Dwarf Conifer Garden is all about the new growth. Everything is bursting forth with fresh new growth in vivid shades of green, chartreuse, yellow…and blue!  

 Dwarf Conifer Garden in spring.

Layers of color draw you into hidden paths throughout the Dwarf Conifer Garden.

Many of the trees feature entirely unexpected colors. For most of the year, Spring Ghost blue spruce (Picea pungens ‘Spring Ghost’) looks like your average Colorado spruce. From early spring through midsummer, however, the tips of every branch shine with the palest yellow—nearly white—new growth. Likewise, Taylor’s Sunburst lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’) is a handsome green tree for most of the year—until spring, when radiant yellow new growth bursts forth, bringing a welcome dose of sunshine to the garden.

 Picea pungens 'Spring Ghost'.

Picea pungens ‘Spring Ghost’

 Pinus contorta 'Taylor's Sunburst'.

Pinus contorta ‘Taylor’s Sunburst’

 Pinus cembra 'Blue Mound'.

Pinus cembra ‘Blue Mound’

New needles aren’t the only attraction this time of year. Many conifers have cones that start out in surprising shades! Blue Mound Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra ‘Blue Mound’) would be a beautiful plant in its own right, with its long, soft, blue-green needles. But when you throw in dusky purple cones, you get a plant that is truly a gem. As the cones age, they’ll slowly turn into the more typical brown of a ripe cone, but right now, they’re as pretty as any flower.

Red can be a difficult color to find in conifers, but Acrocona spruce (Picea abies ‘Acrocona’) has cones that start out a vivid ruby red and slowly fade to a soft tan. The cones start out upward-facing, but slowly begin to droop as they age.

 Picea abies 'Acrocona'.

Picea abies ‘Acrocona’ has cones that start ruby red, and slowly fade to tan.

 Abies koreana 'Silver Show'.

Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’

Another unique plant is Silver Show dwarf Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Silver Show’). Unlike other conifers, the firs (Abies sp.) have cones that always face upward. ‘Silver Show’ is beautiful any time of the year, but its purple upward-facing cones really make it special in spring. The cones start out small and green, but as you can see in this picture, they begin to turn purple as they grow until you’re left with dozens of dark purple cones set against perfectly tiered, silvery green foliage. There really is nothing else like it in the Garden.

 Male cones on Pinus leucodermis.

Male cones on Pinus leucodermis

On most conifers, it’s the female cones that are most showy and most often noticed, but on Bosnian pine (Pinus leucodermis), it’s the male (pollen-bearing) cones that steal the show. Arranged in groups at the end of every branch, they light up the tree like little Christmas lights. Even on a gloomy day, the bright orangey-tan color stands out against some of the deepest green needles in the garden.

All of these colors are a seasonal show that is best appreciated before things start to heat up for the summer, so now is your best time to come see them!

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Summer Infographic

Garden Blog - Fri, 06/19/2015 - 9:30am

What does June 21 mean to plants? Day length, temperature, sunlight, and water trigger all sorts of behavior in the world of plants…

Summer Infographic

Another Outstanding Year for the Chicago Botanic Garden

Garden Blog - Thu, 06/18/2015 - 2:18pm

Halfway through its ten-year strategic plan, “Keep Growing,” the Chicago Botanic Garden has never been stronger. Since the plan was launched in early 2010, the Garden’s science, education, urban agriculture, and horticultural therapy programs have grown significantly. Our wide array of programs, classes, and exhibitions—including the new Orchid Show—attract more visitors each year, and in 2014, more than a million visitors came to the Garden for the second year in a row. We have had five years of record-breaking fundraising and operating budget results. Last year was particularly important as we broke ground for a new nursery on the Kris Jarantoski Campus and finalized plans for the Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus; we broke ground for Learning Campus and its centerpiece, the Education Center, this past April.

Please take a few minutes to review the Garden’s strategic plan update for 2014, which includes our Annual Report and the wonderful new video of the year’s accomplishments below. On the strategic plan website, you will also find an array of supporting documentation, including operating plans for various Garden departments. In every way, the Garden’s achievements exemplify its mission: We cultivate the power of plants to sustain and enrich life.

Click here to view video on youtube.

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Get Ready, Get Set, Grow! New Windy City Farm Launches

Community Gardening - Sun, 06/14/2015 - 9:37am

Something is growing in a food desert on Chicago’s West Side. A farm designed, built, and managed by Windy City Harvest for the PCC Austin Family Health Center began operation in the spring to help provide more of what the challenged Austin neighborhood lacks—ready access to produce that is fresh, affordable, and nearby—and enable the center’s patients to more easily fill the prescription for healthy living they receive in the examination room: eat more fresh vegetables. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and other produce grown at the farm will be sold on-site.

 Creating the raised beds at PCC Austin Farm last fall.

Creating the raised beds at PCC Austin Farm last fall

The project finds Windy City Harvest, the Chicago Botanic Garden urban agriculture and jobs-training program, partnered with an urban health provider, PCC Community Wellness Center, in paired missions of feeding communities and improving the health of those living in them. The Austin location is one of the PCC system’s 11 Chicago-area centers.

“We needed to come out of the four walls of our medical center and look at ways to give back to the community, get the community involved, explore ways to change the environment, and let people learn about gardening,” said Bob Urso, PCC president and CEO, explaining the project’s genesis. Funding comes from a $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grant awarded to PCC Wellness Community Center by the Humana Foundation.

The farm’s groundbreaking took place in October on a grassy vacant lot a few steps from PCC’s modern LEED Gold-certified building at Lake Street and Lotus Avenue. Called the PCC Austin Community Farm until neighborhood residents choose a permanent name, the 8,000-square-foot site comprises more than 20 raised beds that include plots where eight families each year can grow food for their own use, a hoophouse (similar to a greenhouse), and a small outdoor seating area surrounded by fruit trees for gatherings and relaxation. Housing flanks the 50-foot-wide, fenced-in farm on two sides, with a parking lot on the third and more homes across the street. Trains rumble by on the Chicago Transit Authority elevated tracks a half block away.

 Harvesting carrots.

Carrots: a late spring crop, and one of the first to come out of the PCC Austin Community Farm.

The farm’s seasonal coordinator is Windy City Harvest’s Brittany Calendo, whose role dovetails with her background in public health and social work. “It’s exciting to look at the farm as a away of promoting health and preventing disease rather than just treating symptoms,” she said. Plans include monthly workshops on nutrition and gardening for neighbors and patients led by Windy City Harvest and PCC. “Preventive medicine is some of the best medicine,” agreed Humana spokesperson Cathryn Donaldson. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with PCC on this important initiative.” Looking ahead, Urso said he will know the farm has achieved success when he meets patients who say they feel healthier and whose chronic conditions are under control after learning to eat better.

While it is among Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, “Austin is beautiful,” Tyrise Brinson said of the people in the place where she grew up and lives now. Although no one believes the project can by itself meet the area’s produce needs or change lifelong eating habits overnight, “It breaks cycles within the community,” Brinson said. “It’s the beginning of a chain of beautiful events to come.”

This post by Helen K. Marshall appeared in the summer 2015 edition of Keep Growing, the member magazine of the Chicago Botanic Garden. ©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Get Ready, Get Set, Grow! New Windy City Farm Launches

Garden Blog - Sun, 06/14/2015 - 9:37am

Something is growing in a food desert on Chicago’s West Side. A farm designed, built, and managed by Windy City Harvest for the PCC Austin Family Health Center began operation in the spring to help provide more of what the challenged Austin neighborhood lacks—ready access to produce that is fresh, affordable, and nearby—and enable the center’s patients to more easily fill the prescription for healthy living they receive in the examination room: eat more fresh vegetables. Spinach, lettuce, tomatoes, and other produce grown at the farm will be sold on-site.

 Creating the raised beds at PCC Austin Farm last fall.

Creating the raised beds at PCC Austin Farm last fall

The project finds Windy City Harvest, the Chicago Botanic Garden urban agriculture and jobs-training program, partnered with an urban health provider, PCC Community Wellness Center, in paired missions of feeding communities and improving the health of those living in them. The Austin location is one of the PCC system’s 11 Chicago-area centers.

“We needed to come out of the four walls of our medical center and look at ways to give back to the community, get the community involved, explore ways to change the environment, and let people learn about gardening,” said Bob Urso, PCC president and CEO, explaining the project’s genesis. Funding comes from a $350,000 Humana Communities Benefit grant awarded to PCC Wellness Community Center by the Humana Foundation.

The farm’s groundbreaking took place in October on a grassy vacant lot a few steps from PCC’s modern LEED Gold-certified building at Lake Street and Lotus Avenue. Called the PCC Austin Community Farm until neighborhood residents choose a permanent name, the 8,000-square-foot site comprises more than 20 raised beds that include plots where eight families each year can grow food for their own use, a hoophouse (similar to a greenhouse), and a small outdoor seating area surrounded by fruit trees for gatherings and relaxation. Housing flanks the 50-foot-wide, fenced-in farm on two sides, with a parking lot on the third and more homes across the street. Trains rumble by on the Chicago Transit Authority elevated tracks a half block away.

 Harvesting carrots.

Carrots: a late spring crop, and one of the first to come out of the PCC Austin Community Farm.

The farm’s seasonal coordinator is Windy City Harvest’s Brittany Calendo, whose role dovetails with her background in public health and social work. “It’s exciting to look at the farm as a away of promoting health and preventing disease rather than just treating symptoms,” she said. Plans include monthly workshops on nutrition and gardening for neighbors and patients led by Windy City Harvest and PCC. “Preventive medicine is some of the best medicine,” agreed Humana spokesperson Cathryn Donaldson. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with PCC on this important initiative.” Looking ahead, Urso said he will know the farm has achieved success when he meets patients who say they feel healthier and whose chronic conditions are under control after learning to eat better.

While it is among Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods, “Austin is beautiful,” Tyrise Brinson said of the people in the place where she grew up and lives now. Although no one believes the project can by itself meet the area’s produce needs or change lifelong eating habits overnight, “It breaks cycles within the community,” Brinson said. “It’s the beginning of a chain of beautiful events to come.”

This post by Helen K. Marshall appeared in the summer 2015 edition of Keep Growing, the member magazine of the Chicago Botanic Garden. ©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Ten Romantic Spots to Pop the Question

Garden Blog - Thu, 06/11/2015 - 1:14pm

Gardens are romantic by nature. That’s why one of our most frequently asked questions is, “What’s the most romantic spot at the Garden?”

So we scoped it out, asked around, and compiled a list of our top ten most romantic spots. Now it’s up to you to…
Pop the Question.

Daisy Chain

 Rose Garden arbor.

The Krasberg Rose Garden’s arbor is the perfect place to pause on a romantic stroll.

1. “Doesn’t it smell wonderful?”

Claim a bench under the Krasberg Rose Garden’s arbor and take a deep breath. Then another. Soon you’ll be discussing the bouquet of roses—one smells of musk, another of tea, a third of myrrh—just as you do a fine wine. (Which, by the way, is available at the Garden View Café.)

 The blue bench in the niche at the English Walled Garden.

“Something borrowed, something blue…” sets the tone in the English Walled Garden.

2. “Would you like to sit here?”

With climbing hydrangeas overhead, a pergola of white wisteria just ahead, and a romantic morning glory tile inset behind you (are those leaves or hearts?), the vividly blue bench tucked into the niche at the English Walled Garden is the prettiest seat at the Garden.

3. “Shall we cross that bridge?”

On summer evenings, the bridges to Evening Island—the Arch Bridge and the Serpentine Bridge—are lit at night. A bridge is such a splendid place for a private conversation and…reflection.

 The Serpentine Bridge at night.

The dramatically lit Serpentine Bridge is the path to summer evening romance.

4. “Can you top this?”

The top of the Waterfall Garden has it all: rushing water, a sweet arbor, birds chirping in shady trees. It’s one of the best spots at the Garden to sit…very…close.

 Arbor at the top of the Waterfall Garden.

The peaceful hideaway atop the Waterfall Garden is a romantic destination in any season.

5. “Pics or it didn’t happen?”

Romantic memories need a great background. At the top of the Sensory Garden is the photo-worthy frame you’re looking for.

 The view from the top of the Sensory Garden.

Tucked away in the Sensory Garden is this shady arbor, ready for a romantic moment.

6. “Want to try a new place?”

One of the newest—and therefore least-discovered—spots in the Garden is Kleinman Family Cove. (Yes, it’s open during construction on the Regenstein Foundation Learning Campus across the road.) Take advantage of the quiet, the deck that hovers over the water, and the natural chorus of frogs…

 The Cove at dusk.

A shoreline chorus is the perfect accompaniment to your proposal at the Cove.

7. “Doesn’t that sound amazing?”

On Monday nights, carillonneurs from around the globe transform Evening Island into an outdoor concert hall. Not coincidentally, it’s also picnic night. Got the picture? A romantic picnic, the music of bells, and a secluded spot on Evening Island, where two perfectly placed rocks make a perfect seat for a perfect couple.

 Sitting boulders at Evening Island.

Enjoy a concert for two on Monday nights from this secret spot on Evening Island.

8. “Which path do you want to take?”

A summer walk through the Dixon Prairie is inherently romantic, with grasses and prairie flowers taller than your head, and late-day light filtering through the foliage. Take the boardwalk bridge across the water to tiny Marsh Island for a memorable sunset moment.

 The boardwalk to Marsh Island.

Prairie plants grow tall enough to hide stolen kisses off the beaten path on Marsh Island.

9. “Do you feel like a beer?”

There’s something different about this arch: it’s made from hops—which, of course, are the key ingredients in beer. Take photos under the archway, sit for a while in the Circle Garden’s very romantic “secret” side gardens, then ask the beer question. The answer will be “Yes.”

 Arch at Circle Garden side garden.

Pop the question in one of the side gardens of the Circle Garden for a “hoppy” answer!

 A sunset samba on the Esplanade.

Pop the question after a sunset samba on the dance floor with the best view in town: the Esplanade.

10. “May I have this dance?”

Dancing is romantic. Outdoor dancing is super romantic. Outdoor dancing at the Garden is meta romantic. And it happens every weeknight during the summer. Salsa, swing, big band, bluegrass, and jazz rock the most beautiful “dance floor” in town.

After you pop the other question…

Wonderful weddings happen at the Garden. Find out more from Mary or Connie at events@chicagobotanic.org.

Wonderful weddings happen at the Garden.
Daisy Chain

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

What I learned at World Environment Day

Garden Blog - Tue, 06/09/2015 - 11:34am

World Environment Day at the Chicago Botanic Garden was a success! Visitors all over the Chicagoland area came to learn environmental and sustainable tips and tricks, and enjoyed educational displays and family activities throughout the day.

[View the story “Highlights of World Environment Day” on Storify]

Glorious Mysteries in the World of Plants

Garden Blog - Sun, 06/07/2015 - 8:55am

Popular culture moves in strange ways. Since the release of the eponymous movie, the idea of a “bucket list” has quickly become part of our modern vernacular.

My botanical bucket list includes plants like the ancient bristlecone pines of Nevada and the cobra-lilies of Northern California. Recently, in the Peruvian Amazon, I checked off my list the giant Amazonian waterlily. I’ve seen it many times before; it is grown all over the world. But coming across it in an Amazonian backwater, untended by people, is quite a different experience. 

 Victoria amazonica, the giant Amazonian waterlily.

The giant Amazonian waterlily (Victoria amazonica), with its magnificent leaves beautifully arrayed like giant solar panels in the tropical sun

Plants like Amazonian waterlilies, bristlecone pines, and cobra-lilies have a presence. Even brief contemplation invokes a sense of wonder, and sometimes an emotional, even spiritual, connection. These charismatic plants are tangible expressions of the glory and mystery of nature. And paradoxically, that sense of mystery is undiminished by scientific understanding. As Einstein once said, “What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of ‘humility’.” 

The Amazonian waterlily is one of the botanical wonders of the world, but look closely and every plant has its own mysterious life story full of evolutionary twists and turns. Whether in the garden, in the forest preserve, or along the roadside, even the most inconspicuous weed is a twig atop the gnarled and much-ramified tree of life. Every plant is a living expression of the vicissitudes of thousands, often millions, of years of history. 

 Guest columnist and Garden board member Peter Crane, Ph.D.

Guest columnist and Garden board member Peter Crane, Ph.D.

Over the past three decades the evolutionary tree of plant life has come into clearer focus, as we have learned more about living plants, including about their genomes. We have also learned more about plants of the past by exploring their fossil record. There is still much that remains beyond our grasp, but scientists at the Chicago Botanic Garden are at the forefront of current research, including efforts to integrate information from fossils and living plants toward a more complete understanding of plant evolution. And viewing the world’s plants through an evolutionary lens only accentuates our sense of wonder. The leaves and the flowers of the Amazonian waterlily are massively increased in size and complexity compared to those of its diminutive precursors, which begs further questions about why and how such dramatic changes occurred. 

To borrow a phrase from Darwin, “There is grandeur in this view of life.” Such perspectives, rooted in deep history, emphasize the power and glory of evolution over vast spans of geologic time, as well as its remaining mysteries. In the face of rapid contemporary environmental change, they also underline the need for enlightened environmental management. Looking to the past to help us understand the present sharpens our view of the glories of nature. It also reminds us of our place in the world, and the value of humility as we together influence the future of our planet. 

Renowned botanist Sir Peter Crane is the Carl W. Knobloch, Jr. Dean, Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and former director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Dr. Crane received the 2014 International Prize for Biology, administered by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, for his work on the evolutionary history of plants. The award, created in 1985, is one of the most prestigious in the field of biology.

This post is a reprint of an article by Sir Peter Crane, Ph.D. for the summer 2015 edition of Keep Growing, the member magazine of the Chicago Botanic Garden. ©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Pest Alert: Viburnum Leaf Beetle

Garden Blog - Fri, 06/05/2015 - 8:30am

Viburnum leaf beetle is here, and he’s not a good neighbor!

Yesterday was an exciting (yet worrisome) day for me here at the Garden. We found viburnum leaf beetle here for the first time ever—although his arrival was not unexpected. Two separate discoveries were reported to me within just a couple of hours. One of our horticulturists made a discovery in one location, and one of our trained plant healthcare volunteer scouts found the beetle in another location. Both finds were on arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum), the beetle’s preferred host (and high on our watch list).

Tom Tiddens will be available at World Environment Day on Saturday, June 6, for Q & A about viburnum leaf beetle in your neighborhood.

If you live in the area, I suggest you monitor your viburnums for our new foreign friend. The sad thing about this critter is that once he moves in, he will become a perennial pest, just like Japanese beetles.

In ornamental horticulture (your home landscape plants), the viburnum leaf beetle seems to be on the verge of having a great impact in our area, as nearly everyone’s home landscape has viburnum. I’d like to take a moment to review this new critter.

Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni)

The viburnum leaf beetle (VLB) is native to Europe and was first found in the United States (in Maine) in 1994. It was first found in Illinois (Cook County) in 2009. In 2012 and 2013, the number of reports increased from Cook County and also from DuPage County. In late summer 2014, there were numerous reports from Cook County and some specifically from neighboring Winnetka, where complete defoliation was reported—only five miles from the Garden!

 Leaf damage to Viburnum dentatum at the Chicago Botanic Garden by viburnum leaf beetle larvae.

Leaf damage to Viburnum dentatum at the Chicago Botanic Garden by viburnum leaf beetle larvae.

 Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) larva.

Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) larva

 Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni)

Viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni) by Siga (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The VLB larva and adult both feed on foliage and can cause defoliation, and several years of defoliation can kill a viburnum. If you live in the area, I strongly suggest you begin monitoring your viburnums for this critter. There are many great university-created fact sheets for VLB that can be found online, or contact the Garden’s Plant Information Service for additional information. Please report new finds to the Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois Department of Agriculture, or University of Illinois Extension Service.   

 Plugged cavities on a viburnum twig containing egg masses of the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni).

Plugged cavities on a viburnum twig containing egg masses of the viburnum leaf beetle (Pyrrhalta viburni). Photograph by Paul Weston, Cornell University, Bugwood.org

The Garden is a member of the Sentinel Plant Network, a group that unites botanic gardens in monitoring and providing education on exotic plant pests and pathogens, and works in partnership with the National Plant Diagnostic Network (NPDN).

If you are a plant and bug person like me, please consider becoming a NPDN First Detector and help be on the lookout for these exotic invasive plant pests and pathogens. The NPDN offers an online training course to become a First Detector at firstdetector.org. It’s free, and upon completion, you even get a printable certificate!

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Five Things To Bring to the Chicago Botanic Garden for World Environment Day

Garden Blog - Wed, 06/03/2015 - 2:20pm

World Environment Day (WED) will take place on June 6, 2015. The United Nations started WED as a global platform for raising awareness around pressing environmental issues and motivating collective efforts for positive change. Activities will take place around the world including in Milan, where global leaders will host a conference to focus on the links between water and sustainable development.

In Chicago, the Chicago Botanic Garden is hosting a day of action around WED. The theme of this year’s event is “Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care.”

 Learn sustainable gardening techniques and more from a variety of experts around the Garden on World Environment Day.

Learn sustainable gardening techniques and more from a variety of experts around the Garden on June 6.

Here’s what you’ll need to bring for a fun-filled, zero-waste day of environmental activities:

Recyclables: Don’t forget to bring your electronics, plastic pots, vases, and baskets with liners, which can be donated for recycling from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in parking lot 4. Learn more zero-waste life hacks here.

 Items accepted for recycling at WED.

Click here for a list of acceptable electronics items for recycling.

Reusable Bags: Windy City Harvest will be hosting a farmers’ market featuring local and organic produce on the Esplanade. Bring a taste of Chicago back home with you!

Notebook: Danielle Nierenberg, president of Food Tank, will discuss the role of urban agriculture in the food system as the keynote presentation. Nierenberg will host a panel of Chicago’s leaders in sustainability to engage others in the discussion. Take advantage of their expertise, ask your burning questions, and jot down notes for later!

Appetite: Watch a demonstration by Chef Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead, The Bar on Buena, and The Northman at 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. in the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden’s open-air amphitheater.

Bright Clothing: Beneficial insects are pollinating the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden! Be sure to wear colorful summer clothing so you can make friends with hummingbirds, butterflies, and ladybugs. Several plant scientists will be giving demonstrations and presentations at the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center, through which you can explore the science behind nocturnal pollination and prairie management. Beekeeper Ann Stevens will provide lessons on apiculture.

 Bees transferring to new comb.

Learn about apiculture with beekeeper Ann Stevens.

Don’t miss family-friendly performances by the Dreamtree Shakers (11:30 a.m.) and Layla Frankel (1:30 and 2:30 p.m.) on the Make It Better stage. Younger visitors will enjoy learning about plant parts, pollination, and making stick sculptures.

You can share your pledge for World Environment Day with people around the world and come together for #7BillionDreams on June 6, 2015. Join the Dream Team and inspire others to do the same!

Join the #WorldEnvironmentDay conversation online! Follow the Chicago Botanic Garden on Twitter and Facebook using #CBGWED2015 or #WED2015.

Continuous shuttle service is provided throughout the day from the Visitor Center to the Daniel F. and Ada L. Rice Plant Conservation Science Center. Sign up for membership at the Chicago Botanic Garden or donate to their mission.

—Guest bloggers Emily Nink and Danielle Nierenberg

 

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Environmental Benefits of Backyard Chickens

Garden Blog - Mon, 06/01/2015 - 4:18pm

Sure, they are fun pets and a good educational tool for your kids, as well as a great source of fresh eggs. But what do chickens have to do with the environment? There are a number of ways that having hens in your backyard can be environmentally beneficial.

 Jennifer Murtoff with one of her pullets.

Jennifer Murtoff with one of her pullets

Poultry Pest Patrol

Forget those nasty pesticides! Chickens are omnivores by nature and thoroughly enjoy chasing down plant-destroying insects like grasshoppers, grubs, beetles, and larvae. 

Betsey Miller and her colleagues at Oregon State University recently conducted a study with red ranger chickens to test the insect-finding power of poultry. They placed hundreds of insect pest decoys in leaf litter. They put some of the litter in the chicken pen and some outside. A day later, they examined both piles and recovered any remaining decoys. The results: all the decoys remained the control pile, but there were no decoys to be found in the chickens’ pile. The birds had gobbled them up! This study illustrates the chickens’ persistence in ridding an area of potential pests in a very short time.

Poultry pest patrols can be applied to flower and vegetable gardens. In addition, business enterprises are also reaping the benefits of chickens: Earth First Farms, run by Tom and Denise Rosenfeld, is a local organic orchard that uses chickens as natural “insecticide.”

Biddie Biorecycling

Many eco-minded individuals tout a zero-waste trash stream as an important part of their green living plan: no materials leave the home as trash to be added to a landfill. Many people recycle waste, repurpose materials, and compost their vegetable matter. Chickens can be included in this schema as well, helping to reduce the amount of organic waste.

 A mother hen teaches her chicks to forage.

A mother hen teaches her chicks to forage. By fir0002 | flagstaffotos.com.au [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

An adult chicken eats around 9 pounds of food per month. For the sake of argument, let’s say that 75 percent of that is layer ration (which I recommend for a healthy, balanced diet). That means each bird can biorecycle more than 2 pounds per month in vegetable matter and table waste. A flock of four birds, if fed a diet of 75 percent layer ration and 25 percent food waste, can eat more than 100 pounds per year in waste. If you take layer ration out of the equation completely, four birds can power through more than 400 pounds of food waste in a year. (As an aside, only fruit and vegetable matter should be fed to the chickens on a regular basis; too much pasta, dairy, bread, etc., can lead to obesity and health problems.)

The idea of chickens as biorecyclers was so appealing to officials in the villages of Pince in northwest France and Mouscron in Belgium that they are offering chickens to residents. Says the mayor of Pince, “To begin with it was a joke, but then we realized it was a very good idea. It will also reinforce community links: just as people look after their neighbors’ cats and dogs while they’re away, they’ll also look after the chickens.”

Fowl Fertilizer

All the natural waste byproduct, better known as poop, comes out the back end of the bird to the tune of 1 cubic foot of manure every six months. While chicken manure can be messy, stinky, and just all-around not desirable, this “black gold,” as some call it, is very high in nitrogen. However, it contains ammonia, which makes it “hot” compost: it needs time to break down into a usable format. When mixed with organic “brown” material such as grass clippings and leaves, the waste eventually decomposes into nitrites (which are toxic to plants) and finally into nitrates (which can be used as fertilizer). This chemical process can take anywhere from six to nine months. The mature compost can be added to the surface of a flower bed or worked into the soil. So a flock of chickens can turn all that vegetable matter from your kitchen into highly effective, free fertilizer.

 Chicken feet at work! These feet are made for scratching—and ridding your yard of insect pests.

Chicken feet at work! These feet are made for scratching—and ridding your yard of insect pests.

Hens and Humus

While chicken manure contributes to your compost bin, the birds can enrich your garden in other ways—with their feet. Chickens are ground birds, with strong, sturdy feet that are meant for digging and scratching in search of food. Turn your birds loose in the garden or on a raised bed and they will till the soil with their feet in search of grubs, worms, bugs, tender shoots, and other tasty tidbits. All this activity will turn leaf litter and dead biomatter into the soil while providing an easy aeration solution. If your soil is in need of a boost, put your chicken to work. When the birds have worked over a garden plot or raised bed, it will be tilled and ready to plant!

Environmental Egg-sistence

Envision an agribusiness egg farm with stack upon stack, row after row, of hens in cramped cages. You’ve no doubt questioned the system and its humanity and viability. Chicken houses produce tons of manure per year, and the hens who live in these barns may be force molted by withdrawing food and water in order to keep up egg production. These barns are considered concentrated animal-feeding operations, and the U.S. EPA cites them as being “a significant source of water pollution.” In addition, the air around these farms “can be odorous,” and the nitrogen can leak into bodies of water, causing algal bloom and destroying the natural habitat.

 Eggs in straw.

The best benefit of backyard chickens—the eggs!

Backyard chickens provide a better alternative to the excessive environmental impact of factory farming. Compared to a factory farm, backyard hens produce a fraction of the manure in a much smaller footprint. You can handle their waste properly, returning it to the environment in an eco-conscious manner. If the coop is kept well, there will be little to no odor. In addition, the birds will also be happier and healthier. Their eggs, too, will contain better nutrition due to the birds’ ability to forage and eat a varied diet.

Chickens, like most critters, are at their happiest when doing what comes naturally to them—eating veggies and bugs, digging in the dirt, pooping, and living a happy, carefree existence on the open range. So consider adding these delightful birds to your garden as part of an eco-conscious living plan. You’ll be thanked with hours of entertainment and the best eggs you’ll ever eat!

Join me on World Environment Day, Saturday, June 6, and come learn more about keeping backyard chickens!

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

A Taste of the Garden

Garden Blog - Mon, 05/25/2015 - 8:30am

On an early spring day in the offices of the Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, Lisa Hilgenberg, Garden horticulturist, is seated at a rustic conference table sorting through pencil drawings of garden beds and photos of vegetable plants. Across the Garden, in the Garden View Café kitchen, chef Peter Pettorossi is considering a cabbage slaw recipe inspired by those same plants.

The concept of serving fresh, seasonal, local food at the Garden was key to café renovations completed one year ago. Produce and fruit from the garden, as well as from Windy City Harvest plots in the area, and other local vendors, is increasingly available in many dishes including salads, calzones, daily soups, and other specials.

 The bountiful Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden in 2014.

The bountiful Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden in 2014  ©North Branch Communications

Although the café and the Fruit & Vegetable Garden are physically separate, they come together in the growing season through an intricate network of connections that bring garden to table.

“It’s such a unique opportunity,” said Harriet Resnick, vice president of visitor experience and business development. “It opens people’s eyes to what we offer here.” New signage in the garden indicates which plants are on their way to the café. It also feels right, she explained. “If you are a true gardener, that’s how you live your life—by the plants of the season.” She added that the café has only grown in popularity, seeing about 200,000 unique food purchases last year.

Hilgenberg spent much of her lifetime learning how to match seeds with soil and growing conditions, perfecting each step. She lives with the rhythm of the seasons. “We are moving back in the right direction,” she said. “There’s something exciting about eating freshly grown vegetables seasonally. It’s always new and nutritious.”

Hilgenberg begins planning a year in advance for each growing season, mapping out what she will plant and how it will be arranged for display. Seeds for cool-season plants begin to grow in the Greenhouses in late winter, go into the ground in April, and are harvested in May and June. A similar cycle follows shortly after for warm-season crops.

 Chef slicing fresh cabbage.

Fresh cabbage from the Garden is put to use at the Garden Chef Series. Join us on Saturdays and Sundays, May 23 – October 4.

This is Pettorossi’s first spring at the Garden, after beginning in his role in November. He eagerly welcomes the arrivals of produce this spring. “If you can get something at the peak of freshness it always tastes better,” he said. As for the menu, “the season definitely dictates it,” he explained. “The menu features a lot of specials, depending on what we have in house.” No matter the season, he said the menu is always “fresh, mostly organic, local, and garden-inspired.”

Cool-season crops such as heirloom Tennis Ball butterhead lettuce (Lactuca sativa ‘Tennis Ball’) are the first to be ready this year. They will soon be joined by French Breakfast radish (Raphanus sativus ‘French Breakfast’), Hakurei salad turnips (Brassica rapa ‘Hakurei’), beets, and bunching onions. “All of our ingredients are very simple based on what they tell me they can grow,” he said, indicating that the most seasonal foods can be found in daily specials that he plans a day ahead.

 Staff and volunteers plant the Fruit & Vegetable Garden terraces with fall season crops.

Staff and volunteers plant the Fruit & Vegetable Garden terraces with fall crops.

The connection from garden to table extends to connect people as well, from garden mentor to student, or from an individual to their culture or family traditions, for example. Hilgenberg loves hearing from garden visitors about their connections to the garden crops. She spent much of her childhood on her Norwegian grandparent’s farm in Iowa, building her own such connections.

Hilgenberg makes a point to grow widely recognized plants in the garden each year, including herbs, edible flowers, and vegetables. She grows annual small fruits such as strawberries, gooseberries, and currants in addition to blueberries and bramble fruit. She also grows less common plants such as Marshall strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa ‘Marshall’), which she and her team propagated from three donated plants. Everything grown in the garden is done so organically. “I think it’s interesting for people to try different local varieties,” she said. Many, she explained, cannot be found in a typical grocery store, especially in organic form.

This year, several beds have been planted in the French potager style, and others laid out to mirror the gardens of Monticello. There are two beds planted with vegetables people may have seen in seed houses in 1890, the same year the Chicago Horticultural Society was founded. In honor of the Society’s 125th anniversary, seeds were made available through seed catalogs, the Seed Savers Exchange, and other sources. Edible flowers, such as Empress of India nasturtium (Nasturtium ‘Empress of India’), artfully border beds of radish, rutabaga, and turnips, for example. In addition, she included carrots, kale, collard, and three varieties of cabbage (Brassica oleracea): ‘Mammoth Red Rock’, ‘Early Jersey Wakefield’, and ‘Perfection Drumhead Savoy’. Each one was selected because it is adapted to our local growing conditions, a process Hilgenberg and her staff, volunteers, and interns have mastered over the years. Last year, they grew and harvested two tons of produce. The year before, that was combined with a bumper apple crop for 6,000 pounds of production.

 The Herbs de Provence garden bed in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden.

The Herbes de Provence garden bed in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden: what is not used fresh can be dried in one batch at the end of the season.

How does the chef manage to find a way to serve even the most unusual varieties with style? “I always try to add a little acid [such as lemon or vinegar] to food because acid makes flavors pop,” he advised. “A lot of lettuces are sweet, but others have a bitterness to them,” he added, “so you would have to find that perfect vinaigrette to go with that bitterness,and maybe add a touch of honey or something sweet.”

In addition to growing and preparing food at the Garden, “we are also this amazing workforce and training program for underserved youth and adults,” said Resnick, who explained that participants in the Windy City Harvest program, with large growing beds off-site, provide a significant amount of produce for the Garden View Café and learn to sell their produce at farmers’ markets. On-site each year, a few Windy City Harvest interns work directly with Hilgenberg.

Anyone walking through the Fruit & Vegetable Garden today may see the beginnings of a dish they can enjoy in the café by early summer. The season will continue to evolve in coming months, with the Garden Grille opening in late May. In June, warm-season crops such as heirloom corn, Japanese Nest Egg summer squash (Cucurbita pepo ‘Japanese Nest Egg’), White Patty Pan squash (Cucurbita pepo var. melopepo ‘White Patty Pan’), Yellow Pear tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Yellow Pear’), and Blueberry Blend tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Blueberry Blend’) will replace the spring plantings in the Fruit & Vegetable Garden, giving way to new edible discoveries.

©2015 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

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