Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Botanic Garden’

Myth: Composting Stinks!

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

“Hold Your Nose!”—Said Pretty Much No Composter*, Ever

Every nose has its own unique point of view, er, smell—but all are likely to turn themselves up at the smell of rotting trash. Why then would we assault our nasal passages by composting, aka, piling up a bunch of food and plant waste with the express goal of, gasp, purposefully letting it rot?

Answering the why is easy: For one thing, composting turns nutrient-rich food waste back into food for the garden, and, by reducing food waste headed to landfill, takes some heat off the earth’s atmosphere by reducing methane emissions.

But before we get into a full-blown love song about composting, it’s time to set the record straight about the stink. (more…)

Behind the Fence: 7 Gorgeous Gardens That Save Seeds

Posted by Jessica B. Turner on

Mary, Mary, quite contrary…how does your garden’s plant diversity grow? As we recently explored in Myth form, preserving seeds is critical to ensuring we don’t lose entire species to threats like disease spread and climate change. Seeds are super cool when you think about it—especially when you can actually visit the gardens and arboretums that house seed banks.


Every species’ seeds matter! These milkweed seeds, for example, are critical to monarch butterfly survival. (Chicago Botanic Garden)

What makes seeds so cool? Christina Walters, a researcher leader at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, says that most people think of seeds as little rocks, and not as plants. But guess what: “Seeds are the perfect experimental material. There are a lot of secrets that no one really explores.” (more…)

Myth: Seeds Never Expire

Posted by Jessica B. Turner on

Date Check: Do Seeds Last Forever?

It’s a classic blind date story…in the garden. You find a packet of mystery seeds in the back of a drawer, unmarked, no expiration, and you think, I’ll plant these next year, no problem! Come summertime, you’re swooning over fresh juicy tomatoes atop margarita pizza. Way to be immortal, seeds, you think. Even people without a “thing” for planting might assume seeds last forever, thanks to news like this about the crazy-old date seed from 1 CE (AD) that was still viable two thousand-plus years later.

But while it can seem like seeds might grow anytime conditions are favorable (they just need decent dirt, water, and sun, right?)—most don’t stay viable indefinitely, unless they’re stored in super-special conditions, according to a bevvy of experts we consulted, from the Chicago Botanic Garden and the Morton Arboretum to Botanic Gardens Conservation International and the USDA-ARS’s National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation. (more…)

On the Air: Soil 101 Can Turn Any Thumb Green

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

The long, harsh winter may have delayed things a bit, but it’s now time to get moving on your garden. For this week’s EcoMyths segment on Worldview, Lauren Umek of Northwestern University/Chicago Botanic Garden and Bryant Scharenbroch of the Morton Arboretum, joined us in studio to tell us why soil matters in cultivating your green thumb.

WBEZ April 29, 2014 002 As part of our partnership with Chicago Public Media, this content also appears on the WBEZ Worldview page.

Learning to Save Water – and Love Nature – at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Posted by Mary Beth Sammons on
Rylee is a big fan of the Krasberg Rose Garden fountain at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Rylee and I are big fans of the Krasberg Rose Garden fountain at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Growing up in Northbrook during the 1960s, I often took for granted the simple pleasures that many of us enjoyed during our childhood, such as running through the sprinklers and splashing around in our neighbor’s built-in pool, which was always filled to the brim. My parents were very mindful of the environment, but water conservation just wasn’t on my radar. I didn’t even know it was an environmental issue.

Riding our bikes east on Dundee Road, my friends and I would pass the mountains of mud that were just a vision of the magnificent living museum the Chicago Botanic Garden has become today. We’d glance at it quickly, then pedal our bikes onward to Glencoe Beach where we spent most summer days, swimming and crushing on the lifeguards. Summers were all about water play.

It wasn’t until years later that I realized my children and grandchildren might experience a water crisis. (more…)

The Bee Chronicles 2: Pollination Nation

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Why pledge allegiance to bees? For starters, they’re among the most important pollinators we’ve got. Check out the latest installment of The Bee Chronicles, to see Chicago Botanic Garden bee expert Becky Tonietto school EcoMyths’ own inimitably inquisitive Cliff Miller on pollination.

Pollination Nation from ecomyths alliance on Vimeo.

This is the second of three in this video series (here’s the first one!), so please stay tuned for more forays into the marvelous world of bees.

Myth: All Bees Sting

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

Buzz-kill: Afraid Bees Are Out to Sting You?

It’s criminal—every day, in yards, picnic areas, and outdoor cafes across the country, scary bees stalk unsuspecting humans, slap-happy with sting power and thirsty for blood. Or…at least that’s how lots of people think of bees. Who among us has not frozen in cartoonish fear at the sound of a nearby buzz? Bug scientists, however, say we’re wrong to give bees such a bum rap.

A little sniffing around shows the odds of getting stung by bees are pretty slim. Experts report that virtually all bees one is likely to encounter flying from flower to flower are non-aggressive, and only 50 percent (i.e., only the females) have the capacity to sting in the first place. In fact, most stings don’t come from bees at all—they’re much more likely to come from yellowjackets, or, to a lesser degree, hornets or paper wasps.

Moreover, bees are a critical part of our food chain: They pollinate one in three foods we eat, after all. (more…)

On the Air: A Honey of a Tale

Posted by Kate Sackman on

Did you know that one out of every three bites of food you eat was created, at least in part, by the pollination of a bee? Really, one third! I was startled to learn this and many other surprising facts from the bee scientists I have had the pleasure to get to know recently.

This summer I followed around an enthusiastic ecologist from the Chicago Botanic Garden, Rebecca Tonietto, who studies native bees. She is a PhD candidate in the conservation graduate program offered jointly by the Garden and Northwestern University. Her research focuses on how different restoration practices and landscapes impact different species of bees. Since there are more than 500 species of bees in Illinois, that is a tall order! (more…)

The Bee Chronicles: There’s a Bee in My Bonnet

Posted by Daisy Simmons on

You better bee-lieve we’re proud to present the very first EcoMyths video, starring Chicago Botanic Garden bee expert Becky Tonietto and the inimitable landscape designer Cliff Miller as they discuss the fact that, contrary to popular opinion, bees are definitely not out to sting us. This is the first of three in The Bee Chronicles series, which takes intrepid viewers on a journey through the marvelous world of bees. Please enjoy, share, and stay tuned for the next installment!

There’s a Bee in My Bonnet from ecomyths alliance on Vimeo.

Huge thanks to Becky, Cliff, and superstar editor Megan Erskine for making this video magic happen.