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Connecting to Our Food Web

Dedicated to educational resources towards building and sustaining viable food webs and ecosystems
Elizabeth Wahle's Welcome to My Jungle
Great Blue Lobelia - Lobelia siphilitica
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Welcome to My Jungle -- September, 2018

Late summer flowering perennials may be less common but they are still an important addition to any garden, both for adding color in an otherwise drab time of year, and possibly as valuable pollen/nectar sources for visiting insects and birds. Great Blue Lobelia ( Lobelia siphilitica ) is native throughout much of Illinois and is happiest in a uniformly moist soi...

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 Pounds  Pecan
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Welcome to My Jungle - August 2018

It is amazing how just putting the emphasis on a different syllable can almost turn a normal common word to you into a foreign language…just try saying "em-PHAS-is on a different sill-LAB-ill" to see what I mean. Case in point, I just attended a fruit and nut conference that had attendees from across North America. In a setting like this, you quickly realize that some fun can be had just learni...

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My Jungle Early Spring
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Welcome to My Jungle - July 2018

What a difference the heat of late spring and early summer has on my jungle. I like a changing garden. Gone are all remnants of spring flowering plants; replaced with summer blooms, the likes of shasta daisy, bottlebrush buckeye, monarda, skullcap, oakleaf hydrangea and daylily. Everything has filled in and the entire garden has taken on the feel of secret, enclosed spaces. Gardens like...

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Douro Valley
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Welcome to My Jungle - June, 2018

Portugal is a beautiful country and I wish everyone the opportunity to visit as I did just recently. Portugal is famous for many products but probably port wine come to mind first. Port wine is a Portuguese fortified wine produced exclusively in the Douro Valley in the northern provinces of Portugal. It is hard to grasp the human effort over the eons that have gone into building rock walled ter...

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Welcome to My Jungle - May, 2018

With some plants gardeners are quite happy to see spread around in the garden, while others not so much. Maybe the "not so much" plants aren't as coveted, not as showy or maybe they spread a bit more than considered polite. But are the negatives overshadowing the potential benefits for some of these plants? Take our native violets for example. Many gardeners view our state flower as an aggressi...

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Transplants Lactuca sativa cv Tropicana - Standard Heat-tolerant Green Leaf Lettuce IMG 3168

Welcome to My Jungle - March 2018

Signs of spring are everywhere, but the "peep, peep, peep" of the spring peepers ( Pseudacris crucifer ) is what truly heralds its coming. These quarter-sized frogs are members in the Anura order of amphibians comprising the frogs, toads, and tree frogs, all of which lack a tail in the adult stage and have long hind limbs often suited to leaping and swimming. Spring peepers come...

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Welcome to My Jungle - January 2018

You know, one of the inherent problems with hanging out with other plant fanatics is that they tend to suck you further into your own fascination with and addiction to plants. Case in point, I was recently enjoying a night out with colleagues when one fellow plant enthusiast mentioned she was planning a workshop on marimo moss balls ( Aegagropila linnaei ). My ears perked right up. Marim...

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Dec17 WTMJ
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Welcome to My Jungle - December 2017

The medlar ( Mespilus germanica ) project was a success. I had enough bletted (very ripe but not rotted) fruit from one tree to make a small batch of jelly and try a new dessert bar recipe featuring medlars and walnuts. Having never tasted medlars before, I was worried I would hate the taste and had wasted my time, but I really enjoyed the unique, stewed-apple-like flavor created in both...

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Tree Dolly to Move Large Pots IMG 9931r
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Welcome to My Jungle - November 2017

My 'to do" list seems to be getting longer rather than shorter as I prepare my Jungle for the coming of winter. Some items on the list have been relatively simple, while others have presented some interesting and humorous challenges. One of my easy tasks was collecting and washing gazing balls. Some gardeners leave them out for a bit of color in the winter garden but I prefer to bring mine in t...

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Hyla versicolor-chrysoscelis Gray Tree Frog IMG 2462
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Welcome to My Jungle - October 2017

It's that time of year when all gardeners need to start thinking about tender perennials and what their fate is to be. Do you overwinter them or do you let Mother Nature shorten their life? How much time do you have? Well not much. In the St Louis Metro East, about 90% of the time, the first frost has occurred by October 27 th . The earliest we have had is September 20 th and...

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21Aug2017 Eclipse Clifftop IMG 8771
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Welcome to My Jungle - September 2017

A personal thank you to the staff and volunteers of Clifftop. I could not have asked for a more beautiful site to view the solar eclipse with my family and friends on Monday, August 21 st . A 360° sunset is a site I will never forget. Thank you for all the time and effort you put into making this such a special day for so many. As quoted on Clifftop's Facebook page "It was a long, hot...

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Bald-faced Horbet Nest IMG 8551r
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Welcome to My Jungle - August 2017

Did you know grape berries reach physiological maturity well before they taste good? Grape berry maturity occurs when seeds are able to germinate, which is immediately after véraison, or initiation of fruit ripening (start of color change). Try tasting a grape berry at this stage. I can guarantee the experience will pucker you up. Grapes are actually harvested at what is termed their technologi...

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Softneck Garlic IMG 8173
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Welcome to My Jungle - July 2017

It is one thing to see food in the produce isle, it is altogether different to see that same edible portion growing on the plant. I have worked with specialty crops much of my adult life, but I have never lost my fascination of plants that produce food. Who can't stare in awe at a tree full of peaches or smile in excitement when pulling up peanut plants to reap the hidden rewards. I rec...

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Penstemon tubaeflorus - Tube Beardtongue IMG 5570

Welcome to My Jungle - June 2017

June begins the season of green, when the trees and shrubs are fully leaved and spring blooms have faded. My Jungle is primarily an iris garden, but it would be boring right now if made up of only green swords of foliage. Not to worry though, numerous late spring and early-summer blooming plants pick up the color standard so the Jungle does not suffer summer blahs. One of my favorites is trumpe...

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Welcome to My Jungle - May 2017

Birds are arriving from their winter home to add their beauty and song to my landscape. I hope that I have created a suitable environment for them to complete a successful breeding season. A ruby throated hummingbird alerted me to his presence very recently, so I dropped everything to put out feeders. He seemed rather pleased. I have also sighted two pairs of rose-breasted grosbeak, indigo bunt...

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Welcome to My Jungle - April 2017

Sticker shock, but definitely worth it! Some plants like lady slippers, a.k.a. hardy terrestrial orchids, can be relatively pricy in the world of herbaceous perennials (think ITOH and herbaceous yellow peony prices), and when combined with some very exacting growing conditions, most gardeners aren't willing to risk the added investment. This is definitely a species to research thoroughly before ca...

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Cherry Rootstocks Gisela5 Mahalab Seedling

Welcome To My Jungle - March 2017

Dwarfing rootstocks have always fascinated me, and the sweet cherry trees in my jungle really demonstrate their useful versatility. I have three sweet cherry trees and they are all similar in age, but they are all on different rootstocks, making them extremely different in size. My largest sweet cherry tree grew from a cherry pit a friend of mine had chucked into his garden, resulting in a stan...

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065 Pieris japonica cv Shojo - Japanese Pieris

Welcome to My Jungle-February 2017

Winter is still with us but a number of winter interest plants are already brightening an otherwise sleeping garden. Winter blooming plants like witch hazel ( Hamamelis ), hellebore ( Helleborus ), mahonia ( Mahonia ), Japanese pieris ( Pieris ), and paperbush ( Edgeworthia ) are especially good at harking the coming of spring. If you are unfamiliar wi...

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Soil Blocker IMG 0918

Welcome to My Jungle-January 2017

Winter has barely started, but it is already time to begin the planning process for starting vegetable transplants. Very hardy vegetables like broccoli and cabbage can be planted outdoors without protection 4-6 weeks before the last average frost-free date, which means transplants need to be seeded well in advance of this date. The Illinois State Water Survey...

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Red-seeded asparagus bean

Welcome to My Jungle-December 2016

Most gardeners can relate to the giddy anticipation generated this time of the year when nursery catalogs start filling the mailbox. Aside from all the wonderful nursery stock that inspires oohs and aahs, I spend an equal amount of time studying seed catalogs. I plant seeds for a number of reasons. The most obvious reason is some plants, like pole beans, grow very reliably from seeds and it is...

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Pinus strobus - Eastern White Pine Reduced IMG 2483

Welcome to My Jungle - November, 2016

Using the term "evergreen" to refer to all conifers can be somewhat misleading. Not all evergreens are conifers, just as not all conifers are evergreen. Bald Cypress ( Taxodium distichum ) is a good example of a deciduous conifer, but you would never refer to as a deciduous evergreen! The term "evergreen" can also be somewhat misleading when applied to pines ( Pinus ). Pin...

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Fall Vegetable Garden Harvest IMG 2411

Welcome to My Jungle - October, 2016

I harvested squash this weekend and it definitely turned out to be a serendipitous event. I had noticed around mid-summer that several volunteer cucurbit vines were growing around my composting area, of which I decided to leave in place just to see what type of fruit would develop. About a month ago, it was pretty clear the vines were producing several 2-4-pound round squash with skins similar...

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Hemaris thysbe - Hummingbird Clearwing on Sutellaria - Scullcap DSC04611

Welcome to My Jungle - September, 2016

I'm always so torn when I realize hornworms are feasting on my tomato plants. If I leave them in place, they will totally defoliate the plant. If I kill them or move them well away from the tomatoes, they will most likely die and never have the chance to transform into it's equally large adult form, a hawk moth. This year, my tomato plants were inundated with tobacco hornworms so I decided I wa...

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Allium cv Forelock - Ornamental Onion Reduced IMG 8485

Welcome to My Jungle - August, 2016

I recently returned from "The Gardens of England" tour coordinated for Illinois Master Gardeners, which included the Royal Horticulture Society (RHS) Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, the largest flower show in the world. Imagine a flower show that encompasses 25 acres and offers an opportunity for guests to see every possible herbaceous perennial (not really, it just seemed like it) throughout...

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Oxydendrum arboreum - Sourwood Reduced IMG 5134

Welcome to My Jungle - July, 2016

It is not surprising that the very fine, soft, bright green feathery leaves of Eupatorium capillifolium 'Elegant Feather' (dog fennel) stumps even some plant nerds as to its identification. Well, at least this plant nerd was stumped. At first glance, it appeared somewhat reminiscent of Amsonia (Blue Star) but taller (5'), and the foliage significantly more soft and fine. If th...

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