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.

Use fallen leaves to nourish the garden

I’ve posted this before, but it bears repeating!

Your leaves are gold! Don’t throw them away. They contain nutrients that, when returned to the soil, improve pH, build organic matter, and literally feed your plants.  Here’s how you can turn that gold into green:

Mow high without raking to mulch leaf matter right into the lawn. Doing this frequently throughout the fall will save you a lot of time behind the rake. If you have a lawn service, make sure they are equipped with mulching mowers to do this for you.

If raking or blowing is necessary, collect the leaves into a pile and run the mower over them. Then spread these leaves on top of garden beds to nourish the soil and provide a light winter mulch.

Excess leaves can be stored in a winter compost bin, where they will decompose slowly and provide a soil amendment for future use. To speed the rate of decomposition, shred the leaves first with the mower, as described above, and mix with garden debris that is free of weeds, a small amount of bagged compost, and even small twigs. Cover with black plastic at the end of fall clean-up season, and viola! Your recipe is done.

If you have plants to protect, use chicken wire or cardboard to make a protective ring and fill this with shredded leaves to provide winter protection.

What Blooms in Fall?

A neighbor recently asked me what she can add to her garden that will bloom after the Black-Eyed-Susan blossoms die in mid to late August. Here are two great ideas:

Anemone 'Honorine Jobert'
Japanese Anemone is just getting ready to bloom now, and it’s late August. The sample pictured here (bearing the honor of being Perennial Plant of the Year for 2016) is called ‘Honorine Jobert’. It’s pure white flowers bloom on stalks that can reach 5 feet in height. It’s a showstopper. If you want a colored blossom, ‘September Charm’ is pink. Both continue blooming until well into October.

‘Firecracker” Goldenrod will bloom in September with delicate fronds of yellow blossoms on tall stalks. It really looks like a firecracker that has just exploded in the garden. We’ll post a picture when it starts blooming in our test garden.

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


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.