Tag Archives: Morton Arboretum

The arts of Bonsai and answering gardening questions

September 23, 2012

Sarah, Dan and Bon-saiiiii!!!

Please note that I didn’t write “Bonzai!” As my buddy Dan Kosta, from Vern Goers Greenhouse in Hinsdale has often reminded me, bonsai is the art growing miniature trees in containers. “Bonzai” is something you yell when you jump out of an airplane. I suppose you could use it for bungee jumping, too. Whatever. Please note that Wikipedia calls it an art–not horticulture. Although, as I have discovered the hard way, it is a little of both.

When I say “the hard way,” I mean that I have managed to kill both of the bonsai plants that I have owned. But then, I’ve been known to kill orchids, too. Just sayin’.

Anyway, Dan joins Sarah Batka and me in the studio today to talk about the Annual Prairie State Bonsai Show next week at the Morton Arboretum. The show runs from 10am to 4pm on Saturday, September 29 and Sunday, September 30.

But we’re not going to spend the whole show talking about bonsai, as much as that would make Dan the happiest man on the planet.

Part of the reason I invite him to share air time with me is because he knows so much about plants of all shapes, sizes and genuses. We’ll open the phones and and see how good my listeners are at “stump the horticultural experts.” Some people tell me that’s what makes good radio. I’m dubious.

Meanwhile, some other events of interest

Event #1 – Green Town Valparaiso

I’ll bet you didn’t know that Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was the 2010 Public Official of the Year, in part because he decided he was fat and so was his city. So, according to the United States Conference of Mayors, Cornett decided to “remake Oklahoma City as a walkable urban center. His ambitious $777 million plan included an extensive new downtown streetcar system, sidewalks throughout the city, a 60-mile network of bicycle trails and walking paths, a new convention center and a new 70-acre park downtown.”

As a result, Cornett was named a “Champion of Health and Fitness” by Fitness Magazine in 2010 for his work in transforming Oklahoma City into a healthier community, Mick Cornett has garnered national and international attention for his leadership in creating an effective model for addressing America’s obesity epidemic. Today, Oklahoma City is off the list of fattest cities and comes in at number 23 on the list of America’s fittest cities.

This Friday, September 28th, he speaks at Green Town Valparaiso on the campus of Valparaiso University in Indiana. Green Town attemps to bring the public sector together with the private sector to foster the development of sustainable cities

Event #2 Global Citizenship Green Apple Day of Service

A couple of years ago, I interviewed Dan Schnitzer, Director of Sustainability and Operations at the
Academy for Global Citizenship (AGC) on Chicago’s south side. First, how many schools have a “Director of Sustainability and Operations”? And exactly how many of them do you think are on Chicago’s south side? Yeah, I thought so.

Next Saturday, the Illinois Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council is partnering with the AGC and the national Center for Green Schools  to host the first annual Green Apple Day of Service . On Satirday. September 29th, AGC students, teachers and administrators will take action in their community with support from parents, volunteers and local sponsors.  Participants will rotate stations around campus and work on projects that extend from gardening to education and eco-art.  Sign up to volunteer at AGC today, OR find a project near you.

Event #3Gibson Woods Wild Ones 4th Biennial Native Plant Symposium

Gibson Woods Wild Ones will sponsor their 4th Biennial Symposium on Saturday, September 29, 2012, from 8:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m., at the St. John Township Center, located at 1515 W. Lincoln Highway (US 30) Schererville, IN. Continental Breakfast from 8:00-9:00 a.m. and a box lunch will be provided.

I’ve spoken to these great folks and, if you’re in the area, take advantage of this opportunity to learn about natives. Marti Brennan, who has served as Director of Community Gardening Programs for the late, lamented Chicago Department of the Environment, teaches you how to bring natives into the city with her talk, “Natives on a Small City Lot”

Then, Marianne Hahn from Wayne State University speaks on “How to Feed Birds Using ONLY Native Plants.” She has served as President of Thorn Creek Audubon Society and as President of
Midewin Tallgrass Prairie Alliance. Marianne currently owns and manages Sweet
Fern Savanna Land and Water Reserve, about 100 acres of high quality black oak savanna and
sand prairie located in the Kankakee Sands ecoregion.

For more information, call 219-844-3188 or Pat at 219-865-2679.

Beth Botts and Heather Frey step up to the plate

September 2, 2012

I’m on vacation. Soooo…here’s Beth Botts and Heather Frey!

I have to take at least ONE Sunday off each year, don’t I? But I’m happy to turn the whole shebang over to garden writer extraordinaire Beth Botts and the ever-so-energetic Heather Frey, who returns to the scene of the crime.Technical assistant Denny Schetter completes the deal. I hope you’re listening this morning. I’ll be back next week.

Meanwhile, here’s Beth’s report on today’s show:

I’m hosting The Mike Nowak Show this morning

It’s been a busy summer, during which I have shamefully neglected many things, including this blog. As penance, I have to spend the Sunday morning of Labor Day weekend filling in for Mike Nowak on his gardening-and-greening radio show, the Mike Nowak Show , from 9 to 11 a.m. tomorrow, Sept. 2. The show airs on WCPT, 820 AM and 99.9 FM south, 92.5 FM west and 92.7 FM north. Heather Frey, formerly the show’s producer, will return to co-host.

Of course the big garden issue this summer has been the drought. Recent rains, including the remnants of Hurricane Isaac, may have taken the edge off, but that doesn’t mean we can forget about the effects of the blisteringly hot and dismally dry summer, especially for trees and shrubs. Doris Taylor, who runs the plant clinic at The Morton Arboretum, will be with us to talk about how we can help trees, especially, recover and how to care for them through the fall. (Full disclosure: I’m about to start a new job as a writer at the arboretum. I’ll still be freelancing and speaking on the side; learn more at thegardenbeat.com.)

We’ll also hear about the Green Arts Show  starting next week in Evanston. Ideas about sustainability and the environment provide both ideas and materials for the artists in this show – last year the big hit was a portrait made from salvaged plastic bottle caps. Peter Athans and Anne Berkeley will be in the studio to give us the highlights.

Apple-picking time has come a little soon this year, another gift of our extreme weather. Fruit crops took a big hit from that bizarre week of 80-degree days in March and the survivors are ripening early. We’ll hear about the state of the apple crop from Wade Kuipers, whose family has a farm and you-pick orchard in Maple Park, out west of Aurora.

Sitting in for the goofing-off Rick DiMaio to deliver the gardener’s weather report will be Patrick Skach, who contributes climate data for the National Weather Service and the College of DuPage Meteorology Department.

What about Mike? He’s out West, doing some filming for his TV show, Dig In Chicago, in Denver and hiking in the Dakota badlands and I don’t know where else. He will be back, no doubt snakebit and sunburned, next week.

If you have a comment or a garden question during this week’s show, please call in while we’re on the air at 773-763-9278 (773-763-WCPT for those who like to get cute with phone numbers). Or you can tweet at @mikenow or to me at @chicagogardener. I’m especially looking for apple memories and ideas from listeners. Apples are strongly associated in my mind with the change of seasons — at least they were, back when fruit had seasons and apples weren’t shipped in from Chile in June. We would pick apples every fall when I was young; my mother was fond of piling all the kids in the station wagon several times a year for rambling fruit and vegetable foraging expeditions all over northern Indiana and southern Michigan. There used to be a lot more family-owned orchards and fruit and vegetable stands where you could buy or pick many different varieties of not only apples but plums, peaches, nectarines and pears.

One favorite dessert in my family is a simple, moist, fruity apple cake, almost more apples than cake, that was one of the first things I learned to bake. Since it can be mixed up in a large bowl by a small child with a wooden spoon (as long as a grownup dices the apples and handles the oven part), it has long been a gateway recipe in my family.

My mother, Lee Botts, has a vivid memory of learning to make apple cake in the middle of a huge dust storm in Oklahoma in 1936 or 1937 (drought summers are not a new thing), stirring it in a bowl with a wooden spoon, with sheets covering the windows and dust blowing in under the kitchen door. We think my great-grandmother probably brought the recipe when the family moved from Missouri to homestead in Oklahoma at the turn of the 20th Century.

The recipe has changed a bit: We no longer peel the apples – the bits of peel add flavor and color and maybe even some vitamins — and we’ve reduced the sugar.

Use firm, not-too-sweet, flavorful apples, not candy-sweet ‘Red Delicious’ or mushy ‘Macintosh.’ I use ‘Jonathan’ apples whenever I can get them. Jonathans are my favorite all-purpose apples for their perfectly crisp texture and intense flavor, bright and spicy and not too sweet, but they are not the best keepers. Sometimes I use a mix of apple varieties.

It’s a good idea to make this in a heatproof glass pan if you’re not going to eat it all right away, because if you make it in a metal pan and it sits a while, the acid in the apples will cause both the pan and the cake to discolor.

The recipe  doubles just fine in a 9-by-13-inch pan. I’ve also been known to bake it in paper-lined muffin tins, like cupcakes; that’s a good way to take it to the office or for potlucks. Also good for breakfast.

Apple cake From Lee Botts and her Rutledge family forebears

Preparation time: 45 minutes Baking time: About 30 to 40 minutes Yield: One 9-inch-square cake pan

1 cup flour 1 teaspoon each: baking soda, ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves 1/2 teaspoon each: freshly grated nutmeg, salt 3/4 cup sugar 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) butter, softened 1 egg, beaten 1 teaspoon vanilla 2 1/2 cups unpeeled, cored, diced apples
1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt in a bowl; set aside. Beat sugar and butter with a mixer on medium speed (or use a wooden spoon and a large bowl) until creamy. Add the egg and beat until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla.
2. Add 1/4 cup of the dry ingredients to the mixture, beating just until mixed. Repeat with remaining dry ingredients. Stir in the apples. The batter will be quite thick. Spread the batter in a buttered 9-inch-square pan. Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 to 40 minutes, usually, depending on your oven. Cool in pan on a rack. Cut in square or rectangular pieces to serve.

Fall gardening tips, dealing with food waste, and a lot more

August 12, 2012

A little bit of this and a little bit of that…

On this Sunday morning, I’m covering a number of different topics–including gardening, composting, Illinois environmental issues and more. So let’s get started.

…Jennifer Brennan has help for late summer gardens…

It’s always a pleasure to have my co-host from Dig In Chicago join me on my radio show. Jennifer and I just finished shooting our final three TV shows of the season, which included stops at the Peterson Garden Project, Jack Pizzo‘s personal prairie in Clare, Illinois and even a talk with Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who talked to us about the ever-expanding garden at the Cook County Jail.

As we roll into the final couple months of gardening in the Midwest, Jennifer talks about some things that you need to get your plants to the finish line this year, and ready to start a new race in the spring. Says Jennifer:

Since it has been so hot, the plants have not been metabolizing new roots. We need to tell how to help woody plants catch up on root growth by planning on fertilizing in October and watering until the ground freezes, if we do not get rain. We need to remind people to avoid fertilizing after August 15, which will produce new soft wood that will not harden off before the first frost. (I like the analogy of not giving children chocolate 30 minutes before bedtime. Otherwise, they stay up giggling when the lights go out.)

Of course, your questions are welcomed, whether you call us at 773/763-9278 or send a Tweet to @MikeNow or post a query on my Facebook page.

…The Morton Arboretum figures out how to compost food scraps…

Organic materials–landscape waste, food scraps and other substances–account for about one third of what goes into landfills. In 2010, Illinois passed SB 99, which was supposed to clear the way for composting much of those materials, which would not only remove them from the “waste” stream, but create valuable soil amendments. However, as has been chronicled in numerous articles, it hasn’t exactly created composting nirvana.

Which is why it’s welcome news to hear that, beginning this month, food waste generated through the Morton Arboretum‘s restaurant and catering efforts will be composted at an off-site composting facility, which means it will no longer be taking space in local landfills.  Arboretum food service probably generates an average of 90 to 100 pounds of food waste per day, which equates to about 16-18 tons during the course of a year.  That’s a lot of trash that we’ll keep out of the landfills. Currently, there are fewer than 100 businesses in DuPage County that are composting their food waste, and most of those are Jewel and WalMart stores.

Here’s how Rick Hootman, Director of Visitor Programs at the Morton Arboretum, explains the program.

In our program, which we are starting this week, we can compost virtually all food items, including the vegetable materials that we typically associate with composting, as well as meat and bones, bakery items, tea bags, and paper napkins.  The Arboretum also has compostable paper cups provided in our restaurant and cafe, and we provide serving utensils made from plant-based compostable materials (they have to be “compostable”) in our cafe only.

The Arboretum restaurant and catering service utilizes reusable china and metal silverware, and catering also uses reusable glassware, all of which is returned to the kitchen for cleaning in a dishwasher.  Using reusable items, of course, reduces a lot of waste.  Left-over food, napkins, compostable cups, and other compostables from the used plates are scraped into a 64-gallon “compost container” (which has a compostable collection bag) in our dishwashing area.  Food preparation scraps from the kitchen also are put into the container.  When the container is full, it is moved outside to our waste pick-up area.  We have several containers, and the compost materials will be picked up twice a week.  Our composting facility is operated by Waste Management in Romeoville.

Part of the problem to this point has been that there are no composting sites in DuPage County. However, the Morton Arboretum and Jewel Food Stores use the same waste hauler–Waste Management–and because the Arb is on a route between Jewel stores, it made sense to add it to the route, thus reducing transportation costs.

The Arboretum has also been on a mission to rid itself of as much plastic as possible. I was there last week and was pretty amazed to be be able to buy water in a glass bottle. There was even a bottle refilling station. I’m impressed.

Rick Hootman joins me on the show this morning to talk more about sustainability at the Morton Arboretum.

…the Governor steps to the plate and hits it out of the park…

I was happy to see an email message show up in my inbox on Friday. It was from Josh Mogerman of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and it read, in part:

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn chose to veto a bill today that would have forced natural gas utilities, and ratepayers across the state, to purchase expensive synthetic natural gas derived from coal. Following is a statement from Henry Henderson, director of the Midwest program of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former Commissioner of the Environment for the City of Chicago: “The Governor did the right thing today in standing up to special interests and looking out for communities already choking through some of the worst pollution loads in the country. “The Leucadia bill was not good for anyone in Illinois…aside from Leucadia, which would take in guaranteed profits by foisting overpriced, fake natural gas on almost every utility customer in the state while the real stuff is selling at historic low prices. “This project is the sort of dirty, expensive boondoggle that impacts Illinois’ reputation nationally. Governor Quinn was wise to stop it in its tracks.” More information on the environmental and economic costs of the Leucadia project can be found on NRDC’s Switchboard blog.

Immediately, the Southeast Environmental Task Force put out a jubilant message. And the Illinois chapter of the Sierra Club reminded us that we need to thank the governor, which you can do here.

Now we’re waiting to see if he will veto SB3442, the bad plastic bag recycling bill that led to 12 year-old Abby Goldberg to collect 154,000 signatures against it. Call the governor today and tell him to finish the environmental “hat trick,” including his signing of the landfill ban in Cook County. The number in Chicago is 312-814-2121.

…the City Water Dept. continues to damage trees on my block…

For the past two weeks, I’ve posted photos of the damage to trees on my block caused by the Chicago Department of Water Management, which has been installing new water mains along my Logan Square street. I wish I could say that things have gotten better, but they haven’t. In fact, this work crew inflicted its worst damage on the largest, most impressive tree on the block this week. The photo is on my home page.

I’m done messing around. Next week, I will have have Chicago Bureau of Forestry aborist Joe McCarthy on the show to talk about the ongoing problem of how to protect trees during utility work.

…and it’s the final day of the Renewable Energy Fair

Last week I talked about the 11th annual Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair at the Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, IL.. It’s sponsored, of course, by the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA). Today is the final day, and it goes from, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Here are the admission prices:

Adults: $5/1
Youth: $3/1day
Children: (under 12 in the company of a parent) Free
IREA Members: Free