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From the Editor - SeptOct 2016


September has arrived. Sigh.

Or perhaps you say whoopee!

Whatever your response, there’s no denying the change of seasons is upon us so we might as well revel in the joys to come and limit weeping over the loss of past wonders to a minimum.

For me, one of the great marvels of living in Chicago is how the fireflies almost always hatch and start flitting around on the first day of summer. If the spring has been cold, that might be delayed, but generally they appear right on time. So, too, the robins, which I usually notice in my yard hunting worms on the first day of spring. And the late Bill Brincka marveled how the turkey vultures would return to his woods near Michigan City, Ind. on the same day every year. Yes, they’re not especially beautiful, but they’re part of the workings of nature and it’s a comfort to know that it’s ticking like clockwork.

A major worry about climate change is that the clockwork will get out of sync. Birds migrate in response to day length, but plants grow and flower in response to temperature. So as the world grows warmer and plants flower earlier, they may have no pollen or seeds available for birds to eat when they arrive from the south. Just one reason why citizen science research efforts such as Project Budburst (budburst.org) and the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Trees for 2050 research are important (chicagobotanic.org/plantinfo/tree_alternatives).

A person who keeps her eyes on the workings of Nature is Nina Koziol, who has written this issue’s cover story on the fall migration of birds and butterflies. Hummingbirds stop en masse in her habitat-rich garden to refuel as they leave for Central America, often flying across the Gulf of Mexico in one fell swoop – another wonder of nature. Other migrating birds, butterflies and insects fly through as well, and her article highlights what we should do to help them on their way (page 44).

Nina lives in a far south suburb. So does Mark Cramer, whose bird-friendly garden is located on a suburban golf course. Lots of trees and rolling slopes surrounding a 2-acre space whose soil he improved using organic methods (page 56).

And for something completely different in this issue, we have moss, glorious carpets of it in Wisconsin where Dale Sievert grows 50 different varieties. This summer he gave a lecture at the Chicago Botanic Garden that left our writer Susan Crawford astounded with the beauty of moss and the possibilities for using it in her own city garden (page 50). I’ve started pulling the grass out of my lawn and letting the moss stay!

The rest of the issue is a grand potpourri of topics – potatoes, how to turn pumpkins into really original decorations, invasive and non-invasive plants for your water garden, edibles to grow in your front yard, a great new houseplant and a major Frederick Law Olmsted-inspired upgrade of Jackson Park.

Fall is here. Let’s all say whoopee.

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questions

I start ‘Dragon Wing’ begonia from seed under grow lights. What other begonias can I use to cross-pollinate with the ‘Dragon Wing’ so I can collect my own seeds?

I’d like to start composting. Do you have any advice on what kind of bin to purchase/build so that it is successful in the Chicago climate?

After a summer outside, my clivia has returned indoors. Last year it had only one puny flower. What treatment should I give it over winter to bring it into bloom?

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