Posted on August 3rd, 2012 No comments
Japanese Beetles have descended on the Chicago area. Half-inch to three-quarters of an inch long, with an iridecent green head and copper colored wing covers, they are here in greater numbers than usual due to our mild winter and the hot, dry summer. They eat many different kinds of plants, most notably lindens, crabapples, cherries, birch, roses and many perennials and annuals. They will skeletonize the foliage and eat the petals off the flowers. After they have devastated the garden, their grubs will live in the lawn, eating the roots of grass plants and causing severe dieback of the turf. They are difficult to control because they are so numerous and new ones keep hatching.
How to control them? They can be handpicked and dropped into a jar of soapy water, or sprayed with chemical-based insecticides. We have found success controlling them with neem oil. Neem oil is derived from the Neem tree found in India, where it is valued for its many uses. It is available as an organic spray that is as effective as anything we have tried; it may need to be applied weekly but it also works on other insects and fungus as well. Lawns should be treated with an insecticide such as Merit as soon as damage is noticed, or if your lawn has had grubs in the past. There is also an organic control called Milky Spore that can be applied to the turf, but it takes about three years to build itself up in the soil in sufficient amounts… so if you have grubs you will need to treat with an insectide or risk losing your lawn.
New beetles keep hatching out for weeks, so be vigilant during July and August. Your garden deserves to be protected from these pesky pests.
Posted on March 3rd, 2010 No comments
Our clients reside in a charming Dutch colonial on a fifty by sixty-six foot city lot in Evanston. The only location for a living space was in a small, narrow fenced area (35’ x 16’) on the south side. Our clients wanted to make this space usable and increase its privacy from the street and adjacent neighbors. They replaced a window in the dining room with a sliding patio door for ease of access.
Nature’s Perspective designed the stoop, steps and patio to sit at a 45-degree angle to make optimal use of the small yard. To lend permanence and prominence to the new stoop and steps, classic natural stone was used— mortared limestone sides and risers, thermal bluestone treads and a bluestone top. A retaining wall was also needed and constructed of dry-laid natural limestone. The wall does double duty, retaining soil and adding extra seating. The patio shape allowed for maximum use and planting. Brussels Block concrete pavers were chosen for their durability and value.
Lattice panels were set up to add height without volume and screen out selected views for a sense of privacy. The President Clematis vines will climb up these panels and bring beautiful, vertical seasonal color. A Little Gem Norway Spruce accentuates the blue color of the house, as well as the bluestone treads on the new stoop. Allium, Daylily, Coneflower and Russian Sage are some of the long-blooming perennials planted in the garden. Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass and Northwind Switchgrass also bring an element of graceful movement, and complete the transformation of the yard from underused small space to garden oasis.
Posted on September 15th, 2009 No comments
The most commonly used spring flowering bulbs are the ‘major bulbs’ such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. However, there is a whole group of ‘minor bulbs’ that provide such reliable color that most gardens would benefit from including them when planning for early spring color. The bulbs are tiny and the plants are small, rarely more than six inches in height, so a large number of bulbs are needed in order to make a visual impact.
The term ‘bulb’ includes a variety of plants with a large storage root (or stem) from which the plant grows every year. These little wonders of nature require only moisture and rising temperatures to end their dormancy and begin to grow. This means that bulbs are generally an easy and fool-proof garden plant. Minor bulbs also tend to be very resistant to deer and rabbit damage.
Minor bulbs should be planted during the fall, in drifts or masses, about 3”-4” deep. They can be planted in flower beds or shrub beds where they’ll emerge and bloom before the perennials get started and before deciduous plants leaf out.
Some of the prettiest minor bulbs, listed in order of the appearance in a garden, are:
Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) Snowdrops do well in our area and emerge very early. The small three-segmented, drooping white flowers are 5” tall and stand out dramatically above their silver-green foliage. (March)
Winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is another early bloomer. The solitary, yellow buttercup-shaped flowers grow 6” tall and are surrounded by bright green bracts that look like a collar around the blossom. (March)
Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxas) are low growing plants, reaching 4-6” high with grass-like leaves that appear the same time as the flowers. The blue star shaped flowers face upwards and has a central white eye, lasting two weeks or more. (March/April)
Crocus (Crocus) naturalize exceptionally well, creating an expanding carpet of bright colors as the years go by. Their purples, lavenders, whites and yellows are a clear signal that spring in on its way. These are the only minor bulbs that we’ve listed that the rabbits eat. (March/April)
Scilla (Scilla siberica), also called ‘Squill’, this vivid blue flower is about 5” tall. You can see some strikingly beautiful and very large drifts in many North Shore gardens where they have been naturalizing for many years. Some varieties are available in pink and white, but the blues are spring time knock-outs. (April)
Windflower (Anemone) is a charming border plant with daisy-like flowers that comes in a variety of blues, pinks, violets and white. The foliage resembles parsley and the plant stands about 6” tall. (April)
Grape Hyacinth (Muscari armeniacum) is the largest of the minor bulbs with tiny deep blue flowers densely clustered like miniature grapes on a firm stalk. The flower cluster is about 5” long and the plant grows to 7” or 8”. They are long lasting and produce a striking effect when planted in drifts. (April-May)
Posted on September 15th, 2009 No comments
Trying to figure out why you have brown, dying patches in your lawn? It’s possible that you have a white grub infestation. White grubs are insect larvae that feed on the roots of sunny, well-watered lawns during the spring and fall months. They do considerable damage to the root system, causing large, brown areas of dead grass. Untreated lawns will never recover from a severe infestation.
Grubs are the C-shaped larvae of various beetles. Fully-grown larvae are one-half to three-quarters of an inch long. Early indications of grub infestation are irregular patches of dry grass, flocking birds, or entire areas of turf being torn up by raccoons, possums and skunks looking for a tasty treat. Damage can be witnessed by tugging on the grass surface. If grubs have been eating the root system, patches of turf will come up easily from the soil surface, like pulling up a corner of carpeting, and the soil will be full of grubs.
White grubs eventually turn into beetles, e.g., Japanese beetles. If you treat for grubs when they’re smaller, in late summer to early fall, they’re easier to eradicate. White grub life cycles are simple. During summer, adult beetles fly around. Some species (like Japanese beetles) buzz about during the day, while others (like chafers) fly around at night. After these adult beetles mate, they head down into the soil to lay their eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the tiny grubs start to feed on your lawn. This is when they’re so small you often don’t see them or their damage. During September and October, grubs continue to feed and grow. In November, grubs stop feeding and burrow down 3 to 12 inches and make winter cells.
Once spring comes around, the grubs work their way up to your fresh springtime grass to feed on your turf’s tender roots. By this time the grubs have matured, so they can really do significant damage.
What should be done to stop these insects? Typically we recommend a grub-specific insecticide applied as soon as damage is noticed. We recommend following up with a second application at the appropriate time. An organic approach would be to apply beneficial nematodes prior to any infestation. This is not a curative option, but can be used preventively.
Posted on July 7th, 2009 No comments
July is Japanese Beetle Hunting Time
Start looking for Japanese beetles in your flower garden. These destructive pests are becoming very numerous in the North Shore. Not only will they eat all sorts of flowers during July and August but, their grubs will live in the lawn and, by eating grass roots, cause severe dieback.
Insecticide applied to the lawn in the spring may help. However, we highly recommend making frequent forays into the garden and knocking off the beetles into a jar of liquid soap and water. New beetles keep hatching out for weeks, so keep at this during July and August. Do your garden a favor and actively fight these pests!