Tag Archives: morton arboretum

Nature Walk on Earth Day

It was a beautiful day for a walk, so I headed out to the Morton Arboretum to walk and celebrate Earth Day.  Spring flowers were in abundance!

Here’s what I saw:

White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)
Immature plants produce a single leaf and no flower, while mature plants produce a pair of leaves and a single flower. Colonies often have far more leaves than flowers.

Prairie Trillium (Trillium recurvatum)

This poisonous plant never really “opens” like other trilliums. The drooping sepals and stalked leaves are clues that you have this trillium and not the very similar Toad Shade.

Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica)

This small flower is a sure sign that spring has arrived! You’ll find them open on warm sunny days and closed during cloudy weather and at night. These are stunning as a sweeping sea of pink in the forest.

Wild Geranium (Geranium maculatum)

Wild geraniums are easily identified by their large palmately lobed leaves and their beak-like seed capsules that point upwards.

Cutleaf Toothwort (Cardamine concatenata)

This fragrant flower is easy to spot and identify by its toothed leaf pattern. By the end of spring, both the flowers and foliage will disappear until next year.

Common Blue Violet (Viola sororia)

While I often find these as weeds in my yard, their deep purple flowers are a cheerful find amidst all the decaying fall leaves.

Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)

This escaped ornamental plant, which can be mistaken for Wild Leeks (Spring Leeks (aka Ramps), will soon show it’s distinct white flowers.  Unlike leeks, all parts of this plant are highly toxic.  If it doesn’t smell like onions or garlic, don’t eat it!

After my hike in the spring woods, I stopped by my local Wild Birds Unlimited store to stock up on sunflower seeds and suet for the birds and to buy a bat house to encourage bats to our place in Wisconsin. The staff at WBU is a great source of info for what’s going on in your local bird world, and I find the best birding supplies there. Today, I heard the hummingbirds are back already so time to get the feeders out (Hummingbird Nectar)!

Then as a last fun nature day stop, I went by a local nursery to buy some Summer Beauty Allium (Allium tanguticum).  I have a hot, dry sunny spot where oddly nothing seems too happy to grow.  I’ve been seeing these in similar locations in public gardens so I’ll give them a try. They produce a pretty pom-pom flower display mid-summer, are sterile so aren’t invasive, are pollinator favorites, and rabbits stay away from them.  All around sounds pretty good to me.

Did you get out and enjoy this spring day!

 

 

Enjoying a Glorious Spring Weekend

We have had a crazy spring to say the least!  Temperatures all over the place, snow, rain, sleet, you name it we’ve had it.  But this weekend was truly a glorious one and made us forget all the bad stuff Mother Nature has thrown at us the last few weeks (or maybe months).  In between catching up with the yard work, Steve and I got out to enjoy the spring that has finally arrived.

We started off with a hike off the beaten trail at the Morton Arboretum.  The spring bulbs were in full color.

Morton Arboretum

But what really caught my eye were the spring wildflowers we found.  Some of these I haven’t seen in years, so it was fun to keep our heads down and see what early spring wildflowers we could find.

Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis)–The sun was shining on this patch so the flowers were wide open.  They’ll close up at night and last only a couple of days.

Morton Arboretum

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris)–This area is usually flooded, but not much rain this week so a nice big patch of Marsh Marigold glowed in the distance.

Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica)–This flower that just screams spring covered a woody hillside making it look almost cloud white.  Stunning!

Morton Arboretum

White Trout Lily (Erythronium albidum)–There were trout lily leaves everywhere, but it wasn’t until almost at the end of the walk we finally saw a few flowers.  Trout Lilies, or Adders-tongues as I used to know them by, take years to finally mature and bloom, and then it’s only for a few days.

Morton Arboretum

Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) -This has to be my favorite of the day!  The flowers truly look like pantaloons with the ankles upward hanging from a clothesline.

Morton Arboretum

May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum)--Not quite blooming yet, but soon.

Morton Arboretum

Besides the flowers that were enjoying the spring warmth, so were the turtles.  In this pond, every log had multiple turtles sunning themselves.

Morton Arboretum

We finished the day by exploring the 2016 special exhibit “Ribbit! The Exhibit“.  There are 23 larger-than-life copper frogs taking part in a variety of activities, all centered around the visitors center.  J.A. Cobb, a North Carolina-based sculptor, fashioned these fun sculptures from sheets of copper around steel armatures.  Here’s my favorite–

Morton Arboretum

And in keeping with this frog’s theme, I did see and hear many birds on our walk, including a pair of Wood Ducks and a Pileated Woodpecker.

What’s your favorite spring flower?

 

Beautyberry Bushes–Did They Survive The Winter?

Callicarpa

Last year, I wrote about buying three Purple Pearls Beautyberry Bushes (Callicarpa x NCCX1) at the Morton Arboretum Plant Sale.  I had seen them the fall before in the parking lot there and thought they were just stunning with all those amazing, unusual purple berries (see Purple Beautyberry Bush).  I had to plant them in my yard!

Beautyberry Bush

For a first year plant, they looked fine last fall and I was looking forward to even healthier, bigger shrubs this year.  Like many of us around the country, this was a tough winter and of course I worried about what would survive and what wouldn’t.  So as everything awakened from winter, I was mostly happy to see things leafing out and looking healthy.

But not the Beautyberry Bushes.  By late April, they looked like nothing more than 3 dead sticks when everything else was already leafing out.

Callicarpa

But, it just didn’t seem like they were dead.  The branches had some spring to them and if I scraped a small piece of bark it seemed fleshly underneath.

Callicarpa

But they really looked dead.  I was worried, but not ready to yank them out yet.

One of the great services that the Morton Arboretum provides is a free plant clinic where you can call or bring in a specimen and they can try to help you.  I finally got around to calling and spoke with the nicest women who happened to have them in her yard too.  She said hers looked just like mine and that they tend to leaf out a lot later than most shrubs.  The also regrow mostly from the base.  so I should be patient.

It had been a couple of days since I had looked at them, so now I was curious.  Lo and behold, little sprouts of green had just emerged!

Callicarpa

Callicarpa

They were alive!  Even now, 3 weeks later they are still way behind many of the other shrubs, but I can be patient.  At least they survived!

Callicarpa

 

Callicarpa

 

Making My Own Pumpkin at the Pumpkin Patch

glass pumpkin

During the Morton Arboretum Pumpkin Patch this year, my friend Susan and I signed up for a Glass Pumpkin Workshop where we would learn to make our own pumpkin paperweight.   So on a drizzly, cold October morning, six of us gathered by the demonstration tent to learn how to work with molten glass to create our own glass pumpkin paperweights.  Our great instructors, Sandy and Hillary from the Girl Glass Studio in Sacramento, CA, first demonstrated how we were going to make our pumpkins, then helped each of us make our own creations.  It was far more complicated than I though it would be, but they expertly led each of us through the steps.

The first thing we all had to decide was what color(s) we wanted our pumpkin to be.  I wanted one to compliment the others I had, and settled on something similar to one of Sandy’s own designs that was a beautiful combination of green and yellow.  Susan was just starting her collection and went with a more traditional orange pumpkin.  The others ranged from choosing her favorite color, to another who wanted to match the beautiful fall red color of a nearby tree.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

Then it was time to begin.  Using a pipe, it was time to do the first gather of glass. In the furnace was clear glass, molten at a temperature of 2000° F.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

Constantly rolling the pipe (and keeping it level), we walked the pipe over to the marveling table.  There we rolled the glass into a cylinder, while also letting it cool slightly.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

We repeated this to make the gathered glass the size and shape that was desired.  After the final gather, we rolled the glass in the first “frit” or color.

glass pumpkin

Then is was back to the furnace to reheat the now color coated glass.  Once the glass is colored, it is reheated in the reheating chamber that is in the front of the furnace.  It’s used during reheating so someone doesn’t contaminate the clear molten glass in the furnace accidentally with colored glass.  You don’t want to be that person!

After reheating, its time to shape the glass in a mold.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

Then the glass is rolled again in frit to add a contrasting color to the points.

glass pumpkin

Back to the furnace one last time and then to the bench for final shaping.  This is where things speed up.  The glass can’t be allowed to cool very much or we run the risk of it shattering.

glass pumpkin

First rule was we had to sit on our left hand until Sandy was ready to guide our hand to a safe position.  It is deceivingly tempting to grab the pipe placed in front of us, but it’s hard for us to know visually where it is cool and where it is crazy hot, so to keep us safe we sit on our hand.  Using jacks, the pumpkin is shaped and the top prepared for breaking off the pipe.

It’s hard to see, but Hillary is holding a board under my arm to help keep the heat from the glass off my skin.  Throughout the process I was amazed at the heat that was pouring out of the furnace and off the glass and rod.  It didn’t necessarily always look hot, but we could feel it.  That is also why we needed to have our hair tied back and wear only natural fiber clothing.  Finding something to wear was actually harder than it sounds 🙂

glass pumpkin

At this point, Sandy and Hillary took over since every minute the pumpkin is cooling, shattering becomes a bigger reality.  Hillary brought the pipe with the now shaped pumpkin to a heating table where Sandy was ready to help heat up the pumpkin with blow torches.  A few taps and the pumpkin was broken free from the pipe and it was time to prepare the stem.

glass pumpkin

Glass is gathered, colored frit is layered on and the stem is shaped in a mold.  The stem glass was pushed onto the pumpkin and then drawn and twirled, making a beautiful unique twisted stem.

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

The pumpkin was then whisked away to anneal in a kiln overnight. The temperature controlled kiln was set to 920° and overnight the temperature dropped slowly, about 60° an hour, until the pumpkins were cooled and hardened.  Now they’re ready to go home.

Here’s all our creations…

glass pumpkin

glass pumpkin

pumpkin 067

I wish I could do it again, but the class is so popular they have a one time rule.  If you’re in the Sacramento area, check out the Girl Glass Studio classes.  Based on my experience here, I’m sure it’d be fun and you’ll learn a lot.  I’m going to try and  look for something near me.  It was also fun use my new-found knowledge of glass blowing techniques to understand a little better the different styles and techniques the artists used to make their own pumpkins.

Thanks Sandy and Hillary!

IMG_7971

 

Visiting the Pumpkin Patch 2014

A couple of weeks ago, it was time to visit the Glass Pumpkin Patch at the Morton Arboretum again.

glass pumpkin

This has become one of my favorite fall things to do.  The weather wasn’t great, but at least on the day I went it wasn’t raining.  I also had the chance to make my own glass pumpkin paperweight in a class earlier in the week.  I’ll describe that super fun experience in the next post.  But as a teaser, here’s the pumpkins my friend and I made, along with everyone’s in the class.  Mine is the green one, hers is the orange.

So many different pumpkins!  We each got to pick our own colors, and each turned out beautiful and unique.

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

As always, there are so many to choose from in the patch.  Each artist has their own style and unique methods of making the pumpkins their own.  After taking the class and learning some basic techniques, it was fun to talk to the artists about how they make theirs.  Some of the artists are local, but many travel from the Girl Glass Studios run by Shannon Jane Morgan in Sacramento.  They travel from California with their pumpkins, and a furnace, kiln and all their equipment to run classes and glass blowing demonstrations.

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

There was even a “vegetable garden” this year.

glass pumpkin

 

glass pumpkin

Of course, I added to my collection. This year I chose a pumpkin by  Matthew Urban of Furnace Urbini that can be lit up and glows a beautiful golden bronze.  I love the twisting of the spines and spiderweb appearance of this pumpkin.

glass pumpkin

Here’s my collection…

glass pumpkin

Visiting the Morton Arboretum Annual Plant Sale

Morton Arboretum Plant Sale

For me, the yearly Morton Arboretum Arbor Day Plant Sale is like sending a kid into a candy store. So many wonderful plants to pick from, some special ones that can be pre-ordered by members, and others that everyone can just go and select.  Many of my best plants have come from there.

Morton Arboretum Plant Sale

Back in early February, still in the throws of winter, comes the flyer detailing all the pre-purchase offerings.   That’s when I wish my yard was bigger so I could buy every tree, shrub and perennial in the booklet.  But, no, every year I buy less and less, since I have less and less room to plant.  I guess that’s a good thing, just not as much fun 🙁

On pick up day, coinciding with Illinois’ Arbor Day (the Arboretum’s signature holiday),  the Arboretum also has a huge tent full of other plants that come highly recommended that can be bought both by members and non-members.

Morton Arboretum Plant Sale

 

Morton Arboretum Plant Sale

I stopped there first, since this part is first come, first served and they often run out of varieties. What is tops on my list to find: a Purple Beautyberry Bush!  Ever since I saw them last year in the Arboretum parking lot (see Purple Beautyberry Bush post), I’ve been planning to look for them this spring.

Beautyberry Bush

Then I shopped for a bit more, finding some interesting perennials (Little Vision in Pink Astilbe,  Hosta Independence, Early Sunrise Tickseed), vegetables (tomatoes and peppers), herbs (basil, parsley, sage, mint), strawberries, and… Creeping Thyme.

Creeping Thyme

 

If you read my recent post on the problems I was having with my Creeping Thyme, I saw these and decided to add a few plants to try and help fill in the space a little quicker as the older plants recover from their inattention. It’s not exactly the same as what is there, but I think the varieties will look good together.

Then I went over to pick up my order,  which contained Peek-a-Blue Russian Sage, a Flutterby Petite Tutti Fruitti Pink Butterfly Bush, Jeana Garden Phlox, and a Primal Scream Daylily.

Peek-a-Blue Russian Sage, Flutterby Petite Tutti Fruitti Pink Butterfly Bush, Jeana Garden Phlox, Primal Scream Daylily, Little Vision in Pink Astilbe, Hosta Independence, Early Sunrise Tickseed

 

Morton Arboretum Plant Sale

 

The shrubs I can plant right away (or at least as soon as it stops raining) and the other perennials and annuals I’ll wait for a couple of weeks. Mother’s Day weekend usually is the safe, no more freeze danger mark. Until then, the perennials will hang out outside in a shady spot and the rest I’ve moved into the screen room for a little more protection from the cold weather we’ve been having. Now I just need to remember to water them!

Do you have any local plant sales in your area?

Trips Down Memory Lane

One of the things I’ve really enjoyed while blogging is having my memory jogged by reading other blogs.  For example, reading about lichens and mushrooms on  another site brought back memories of when I was in high school and my family went to a huge Audubon gathering in the Allegheny State Park called the Allegheny Nature Pilgrimage.  Even though we went more than 30 years ago, I remember it being an amazing weekend gathering of nature enthusiasts.  Everyone got to choose from lots of interesting walks led by specialists in their areas and participate in scheduled group events.  I was really surprised to see that it is celebrating its 56th year.  If I lived closer, I would definately be going!

Turkey Tail Fungi

One walk that really stood out and stuck with me was one on mushrooms and ferns.  I really enjoyed learning about their biology and how to identify them in the field.  That afternoon was probably one of the reasons I sought out taking Botany as a biology elective in college.

Puffballs

Then somewhere along the line that interest was forgotten.  I still have a bookshelf full of bird and flower books and always carry them along with me on hikes and trips.

IMG_2570

But the ferns and mushrooms, forgotten.  There on the bookshelf is also my fern book, bought in 1984 according to the date written on the inside cover, but barely touched.  I guess I never actually bought any of my own mushroom and lichen books either.  I must have just used my mom’s “library”.

IMG_2573

I think it’s time to open this untouched book and see what is inside.  I think it’s also time to take a trip to a local bookstore and see what local reference books they might have to offer.  I find that specialized bookstores, like the one at the Morton Arboretum or in a National Park, carry the best local flora and fauna books.  They tend to stock what their local experts recommend.  I’ll let you know what I find—

 

Winter Visit to the Morton Arboretum

The other day, before the polar vortex descended into the Chicago area, Steve and I went out for a walk and lunch at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL.  The Arboretum is a real local treasure where we can always find something interesting every time we visit.  Today we walked around one of the very snowy and quiet trails, and then took time to walk through the Children’s Garden.  Even though we had no kids with us today, it’s a beautifully laid out garden, easy to explore on a snowy day.

Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum/Bird Nest

You never know what you’ll find when walking around.  I’m still not sure who made these beautiful nests, but I’m leaning towards a Red-Eyed Vireo.  The nest is pretty small, would fit in the palm of my hand, and was about 6 ft off the ground.  Any thoughts?

Morton Arboretum/Bird Nest

Morton Arboretum/Bird Nest

Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum

Once we had enough outdoors, we were lucky enough to get tickets to the last day of the 12th annual Enchanted Railroad Model Train display.  It’s definitely for all ages, no kids are necessary to enjoy.

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Model Railroad/Morton Arboretum

Thanks LGB Model Railroad Club of Chicago for such interesting displays every year.

And of course, the trip was topped off by lunch in the Gingko Cafe and a trip to one of the best gift shops around.  Whenever I stop in there, I am reminded that the book “Man of Salt and Trees: The Life of Joy Morton” by James Ballowe is on my “to read” list.  

A Man of Salt and Trees

Purple Beautyberry Bush

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Morton Arboretum for the Glass Pumpkin Patch. In the parking lot, right next to the car was the most gorgeous bushes with brilliant purple berries on it.

Beautyberry

Beautyberry

Thankfully, the Arboretum does a great job in labeling everything, and I could find the tag telling me what it was.

Beautyberry

 

Callicarpa dichotoma is a native of China, Japan and Korea and grows best on full sun-part shade in zones 5-8.  It seems to be pretty hardy, generally free of serious pests or diseases, and is a fairly small shrub growing full size to about 4 ft x 4 ft.  It has small unimpressive pinkish-lavender flowers that bloom in late summer, but the berries that ripen in September and October are quite dramatic. A favorite of the birds, it holds its berries well into winter.  It should heavily pruned down to about 12 inches in late winter or early spring to have the best berry production.

This shrub looks like an excellent and interesting choice to replace my half dead redtwig dogwoods.  My local nursery carries C. dichotoma “Issai” which seems quite similar to the variety at the Arboretum.  Might be a little late now, but I will check into it in the spring.  Have you seen this stunning shrub?

Visiting a Glass Pumpkin Patch

This week we visited the third annual Glass Pumpkin Patch at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL.

glass pumpkin 10

There are lots of artists, each with their own signature style.  Shannon Jane Morgan, who we had the chance to speak with at the First Pumpkin Patch, comes all the way from California to headline the event and has mentored many of the artists who also display their creativity with glass.  There are over 3000 pumpkins for sale, live glass-blowing demonstrations and workshops.  Enjoy some of these beautiful works of art.

glass pumpkin
glass pumpkin
glass pumpkin
glass pumpkin
glass pumpkin

I found my favorite!

glass pumpkin

 And I added it to my collection…

glass pumpkin
glass pumpkin
glass pumpkin

Photos by Steve