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On Garden Design and Conservation

“Our lifestyles have changed and our houses too, but the stuff beneath our feet has not.  We need to tread carefully for we are only caretakers of it for a very short period.”  _John Brookes, Garden Designer Have you noticed in garden books and magazines lately, how large sweeps of grasses are being featured?  This worries me.  Working as a volunteer in prairies and other ecosystems, I see exotic invasives moving in to former healthy habitats and forming monocultures.  This is devastating to the complex plant communities that evolved here over 10,000 years, and to the insects and animals that depend on them for food and shelter. I am also a gardener… so what is a rabid gardener to do?  May I suggest growing native plants?  In northeastern Illinois, for example, we have several native grasses that are far more beautiful than the miscanthes selections I see in catalogues.  Native plants are robust, well suited to your growing conditions, and so don’t need to be watered or fertilized.  Depending on where you live, there is plenty of room to express your creativity using the plants that evolved to live in your area. An important note is where to get these gems- please make sure you are buying them from a reputable nursery that grows the plants from their own stock, and not dug up from the wild.  The goal here is to help heal the earth, not strip it bare!  Please never take plants from the wild unless a bulldozer is poised over them. Happy gardening!

This lovely shrub gives structure to one of my beds, and will bring gorgeous fall color
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Blowing in the Wind

I don’t know about answers, but trees were certainly blowing in the wind a week ago.  There I was, idling in the cool morning, listening to my radio, when suddenly the DJ burst in with the words, “SEVERE STORM…” That was the last I heard from my radio for a week.  Suddenly wind was hurtling through the trees in the neighborhood, and the air was filled with the sharp cracks of large limbs and entire trees snapping off.  Wide-eyed I watched, transfixed by the sight of the glass of the window bowing in.  The whole thing was over in just 20 minutes.  Not a tornado- just wind.  Elsewhere there was rain, and elsewhere again they experienced thunder and lightening.  Here, just wind.  I ventured out to see my street entirely blocked by large downed trees.  Everywhere I looked trees were down.  By some miracle, very few homes were damaged.  I later learned that a man was struck by a limb, and died a day later.  I am sure there were other casualties- the urgent sound of sirens filled the air the whole day.  Within moments, neighbors were out in force.  Men walked up streets, carrying bow saws, and set to work.  In very short order, our street was clear, with trees and branches piled high along both sides of the street, the whole length.  It was moving to see everyone pitching in to clear away the mess.  However, it would be a week before our power was restored.  I heard there were over 800,000 households without power- that is huge!

I am very, very grateful to have a sound home, and to have my electricity back.  I am also very humble- I had a week to consider life in a refugee camp.  For us it was just an inconvenience.  What, we kept asking each other, if we didn’t have water, or a safe government, or….

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My New Art Supplies?

A new adventure along the painting highway

favorite brushes atop sales fliers

A mail carrier once scolded me for calling fliers “junk mail”… I suppose from her perspective, there is no such thing.  To me, it is unwanted flotsam washing up on my shore headed directly to the recycle bin.  Lately, though, I’ve given more thought to what washes up.  Could it be that treasure comes near, waiting only to be noticed?  Does treasure appear at your feet?  Are we so focused on our planned mission that we miss entirely the people we meet, the birdsong., the treasure in the mailbox?

I don’t know but I have decided to find out.  For some time I have grown concerned at the rising cost of canvas and paint.  Yikes- another price increase?!  Meanwhile, I feel my painting wants to grow a little looser, come from somewhere deeper in my heart.  And so, this can be the launching point of a new chapter in my life.  I’ll gesso the paper; reuse, rather than recycle.  I’ll use water color paint, hopefully contributing less to the plague of plastic we all are flooding the oceans with.  And, since the materials are so unfamiliar, painting itself will become more tentative, more thoughtful.

I wish all of you joy as you explore the possibilities that come your way.