Rain, rain, rain

We’ve had a lot of rain this spring, and this past weekend added another 3 to 5 inches in our area. While we wait for drier conditions, sunnier skies and warmer temperatures that are inevitable sometime this month, remember not to work the garden when it is very wet, and especially, do not walk on wet garden beds! Now is a good time to observe where water is pooling in your yard, and determine if you should consider a rain garden in the area to help absorb excess water. The pictures above show a rain garden in winter, when it is apparent, and in summer, when it blends into the garden border. If you feel it’s time to consider a rain garden, keep track of how long it takes for the water to drain away and note the size of the pooling. Then call Sage Advice!

Spring ephemerals! Spring what?

This term refers to spring wildflowers that appear quickly in early spring when sunlight, moisture and soil nutrients are just right. Ephemerals  bloom, fruit, die back, and then disappear completely from the garden before the spring season has even completed its run. Novice gardeners may think the plants have died, but they have not! Spring ephemerals return each year only at the exact right time given the conditions mentioned above. Why spring? Because that’s when the sunlight can still reach the forest floor – and ephemerals are native to the woodland. Ephemerals must bloom before the leaves of overhead trees unfurl and block the light. They are able to do so because they grow close to the ground, where soil moisture protects them from the cold temperatures we sometimes experience in spring.

Why Sustainability Matters

Sustainability will help us educate our children (and ourselves) about the needs of our land for the future, primarily these days by getting involved in programs to help the bees and butterflies survive. In so doing, we also protect our own survival as a species. This may seem surprising, but its true. Entomologist Doug Tallamy at the University of Delaware has stepped out boldly to tell us that the benefit of diversity at the bottom of the food chain — among insects and birds — flows upward and has a direct effect on human life and health. His website is worth a look! What he’s telling us is important because in just the last 40 years we have lost half of the songbird species, and though the bee population is beginning to stabilize, we still have a long way to go.

It takes a village to help the Monarchs

Carol Becker and Cindy Grau, from the  Go Green Park Ridge Committee
Carol Becker and Cindy Grau, from the Go Green Park Ridge Committee
A single seedling with great rooting!
A single seedling with great rooting!

Sage Advice pleased to be able to offer help to an energetic committee in Park Ridge Illinois that is working to increase awareness of sustainability in our home suburb! One of the major projects of the committee this year is their Milkweed Project. The goal is to distribute 500 milkweed plants throughout the community this summer to help support Monarch butterflies. Committee members collected seeds last fall and this spring worked with Pizzo Native Plant Nursery who generously offered to stratify and germinate the seeds at their facility in Leland, Illinois. Plants will be ready in June for distribution throughout the community. Lurvey Landscape Supply in Des Plaines has offered to provide individual pots for seedings, and plants will be ready for distribution throughout the community in June. Committee members recently donated a day to help Pizzo Nursery transplant more than 8000 seedings into plug trays.

Thousands of plugs are replanted each day in spring.
Tens of thousands of plugs are replanted each day in spring.

Daylilies always brighten the garden

We had the rare privilege of visiting recently with daylily expert Ann Redmon from Manhattan Kansas. Ms. Redmon has cross-bred many daylilies in her acerage to create new varieties, and has registered four of them. Pictured here is one of her registered lilies, called “Hannah Banana.” Daylilies are great in any garden. But remember, you want cultivated varieties, not the common and very tall orange “ditch lilies” that spread by rhizomes and crowd out cultivated plants.

Daylilies are easy to care for and add bright spots of midsummer color in shades of yellow, orange, red, white, pink, even green like this one, and combinations of these colors. Ms. Redmon specializes in creating new lilies with narrower petals and a more modern look.

hannah banana

Sage Advice teaches Landscape for Life™ Classes

Carol Becker, owner at Sage Advice, will once again be teaching Landscape for Life™ this spring.

This series is designed for homeowners, and will teach you how to attract beneficial insects and birds, eliminate water problems, build healthy soil, cultivate a safe lawn, and reduce maintenance time in your garden.

Lurvey Landscape Supply 2550 Dempster St., Des Plaines, will offer the series in their new garden center starting April 2 and running for four consecutive Saturday mornings from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Ms. Becker will teach all classes. Sign up HERE

The Morton Arboretum will offer the series starting April 19 in four evening classes from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. and a final class on Saturday April 30 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Ms. Becker will be teaching the final class in this series. Sign up HERE.

Join us to learn how to create a great looking garden that’s healthier for you, your family, your pets, you pocketbook and the environment.

Here’s how you can support pollinators

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Native plants play a special role for pollinators in providing habitat for their own life cycle. We are all most familiar with the necessity of having milkweed available to support the life cycle of the Monarch butterfly. Monarchs cannot survive without milkweed to support the caterpillar that eventually becomes a Monarch butterfly. Other insects, including the all-important pollinating bees, also require specific native plants for their life cycle. We can help them by including some native plants in our gardens.
Here’s a list to get you started: milkweed, including butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, and common milkweed; thistle (as pictured); coneflower, particularly the native purple coneflower; monarda, coreopsis, foxglove penstemon; black-eyed Susan, and several grasses including little bluestem, panicum, prairie dropseed, and June grass.