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May 2021 Sue Groshong 1.jpg
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Iris Slide 1 cropped
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August 2021 Joshua Kaiser
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2021 October Conifers 2 - Copy
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Bob Iiames, Jr

Mr Al DeReu, program manager of TreeKeepers, was our guest speaker.  He discussed  the TreeKeepers course, Openlands TreePlanters Grant, tree pruning (with a brief discussion of the Derecho of last summer),and shrub pruning, 

Here are some links to organinzations he discussed:


Openlands TreeKeepers


Nancy Wieting

 NGS Program Chair

Conifer Garden

Witches Broom


Conifers 101 plus Dwarf, Rare and Witches Brooms

Our guest speaker was  Bob Iiames, Jr. who spoke to us in a Virtual Presentation from Englewood, Ohio.

Bob Iiames, Jr. is a groundskeeper at the 173-acre Lange Estate in Ludlow Falls, Ohio. He shared his considerable knowledge about the types, uses and care of conifers.

Conifers are:

  • Woody plants
  • Usually evergreen trees or shrubs
  • Reproduce by seed that is usually protected by a cone
  • Conifer means “cone bearer"


Their leaves are usually in the form of needles:

  • Thick (Colorado Blue Spruce) 
  • or thin (Eastern White Pine)
  • Stiff (Tiger-tail Spruce) 
  • or very flexible (Korean Pine)
  • Flattened (Canadian Hemlock)
  • or Scale like (Japanese Hinoki Cypress)


Conifers come in an infinate variety of shapes, sizes and colors of the needles and cones. The dwarf varietiies can be inches in height,

They can be used in beds and borders, focal points, rock gardens, ground covers, containers and as topiary. They add winter interest to a garden.

Witches’ brooms are:

  • Abnormal growths on normal branches
  • Usually, tight congested groups of small needles
  • There were various explanations: insects, fungal, virus or parasite infections
  • Usually remain dwarf
  • Can also have color and growth rate changes
  • Can be used to start a new variety of conifer
  • Harmless to the host but can be removed



  • Dwarf and Unusual Conifers Coming of Age by Sandra McLean Cutler
  • Conifers: The Illustrated Encyclopedia by D.M. van Gelderen and J.R.P. van Hoey Smith 
  • Conifers for Gardens by Richard L. Bitner
  • Dirr’s Hardy Trees and Shrubs by Michael A. Dirr
  • Small Conifers for Small Gardens by Robert L Fincham

Masked up and 6 feet apart

Ellen LeBedz wins a door prize

Joshua Kaiser


Growing Irises

We were captivated by the presentation of Diane Ahshakov, President of the Northern Illinois Iris Society,  and her vast knowlege of growing irises.

Diane currently grows somewhere between 600-700 different varieties of iris on her 10-acre Black Cat Farm, in rural LaSalle County, near Sandwich. She and her young daughter also enjoy growing vegetables, herbs, fruit, flowers, and native plants, and our animal friends include 3 horses, 4 cats, and a whole bunch of chickens and ducks.



Photos are from Diane's slide presentation.




Houseplants and Tropicals

At our first in-person meeting since February, we were delighted to have Joshua Kaiser from the City Grange speak to us about houseplants and tropicals. 

Here are some helpful hints:

Light requirements defined:

  • High light - south windows
  • Bright, indirect light - north windows 
  • Low light - 6 ft away from windows


Good plants for light conditions:

  • High light - philodendrons. spider plants, monstera
  • Indirect - orchids, pothos
  • Low light - ZZ plant, rattlesnake calathea, dracaena, snake plant, Chinese evergreens, polka dot plants


Fertilize plants every two weeks in the growing season


Check soil moistue level by using a bamboo skewer


Fertilize orchids every week when blooming


Some pet-safe plants are orchids, pepperomia and spider plants

Sue Groshong

Zoom meeting participants..Ines Sommer is left on 2nd row.


Chicagoland Invasives

Our guest speaker was  Sue Groshong, an Illinois Master Gardener and volunteer at the Chicago  Botanic Gardens. The definition of an invasive plant is "one that is usually non-native to an ecosystem and whose introduction causes or is likely to cause harm to the economy, the environment or human health". So, those dandelions we find in our yards are not considered invasive even though we may not like them.

Plants become invasive  through faster and more efficient  acquisition of limited resources: water, sunlight, nutrients and/or space. They may have high seed production, longer growing seasons, effective seed dispersal, early growth or reproduction, fast growth or the ability to give off chemicals in their roots  that kill or inhibit other plants (Allelopathy).

In Illinois, bush honeysuckle is the worst followed by garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed, lesser celandine which is invading Chicago lawns and wild parsnip which can cause serious contact dernatitis. Wild parsnip is not common in the city. Illinois is on the lookout for the insect, spotted lanternfly, which is already in Michigan and Pennsylvania and goes after fruit trees,

Things you can do:

  • Clean your gear
  • Monitor your environment and report sightings
  • Plant native species
  • Spread awareness
  • Don't move firewood
  • Volunteer


Resources in Illinois:


Resources in Chicago


General Resources

  • Chicago Botanic Garden Plant Information
  • iNaturalist app


Would it kill you to compost?



Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm

Our guest speaker was Ines Sommer, a longtime resident  of Rogers Park, who is the director and producer of the full-length documentary film, Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm. You may be familiar with Henry's Farm if you shop at the Evanston Farmers Market.  Henry's farm is an organic farm located in southern Illinois. After reading the book by Tara Brockman, the sister of Henry Brockman who owns the farm, Ms Sommer received permission to film a documentary over the period of a year. The film covers the joys and challenges of managing a successful organic farm including the effects of climate change in farming.

Henry's Farm has a website with lots of information about the farm, including a list of the over 600 vegetables that he grows and essays about his farming ethic and philosophy.  To subscribe to their Evanston Farmer's Market weekly newsletter of farm news and what he's bringing to the next Saturday morning market, go to this page and scroll down to the second section about their blog and communications:

The website also has a page devoted to Terra Brockman's writings.  She is Henry's sister and the author of Seasons on Henry's Farm, a book describing the full annual cycle of the farm, with recipes.



Our monthly programs are usually held on the 1st Thursday of the month at 7:00 PM in the Warren Park Field House, 6601 N. Western Ave. Chicago.


We usually feature a social get-together with refreshments followed by a guest speaker.


Loyola Beach Dunes Restoration


Our guest speaker, Ann Whelan, is a long time resident of Rogers Park who took on the challenge of leading  the dune habitat restoration at Loyola Beach  on Lake Michigan on the north side of Chicago. Known as the Dune Steward, Ann leads a group of over 200 volunteers who have worked since 2003 to protect and restore the dune habitat at Loyola Beach Dunes, 1230 W. Greenleaf. The mission is to maintain a native wilderness in the city and restore the dunes as a native shoreline. 

Ann's presentsaion was totally captivating as she discussed the process of replacing non-native vegetation with grasses, flowering plants and trees that are native dunes inhabitants. Through the efforts of Ann, her volunteers and the Chicago Park District, beach erosion has been arrested in places and migratory birds  and wildlife are returning. They are continuing their efforts as they move north along the shoreline to tackle more beaches.

For more information and photos, you can visit the website, Loyola Dunes Restoration  which includes a link to their Facebook page.

Read more about it in the RogersEdge Reporter article  here



Our guest speaker, Michael Orr, is a native Chicagoan—grew up in Rogers Park and attended Whitney Young HS. Currently, Mike is Recycling Director for the City of Cambridge, home to Harvard and MIT. He oversees all waste diversion programs, with the goal of reducing trash 80% by 2050, with 2008 as a baseline. With a $1 million budget, he oversaw the expansion of curbside composting to 32,000 households in 2018. He has also implemented the City’s Zero Waste Master Plan, the plastic bag and polystyrene ordinances, and mattress recycling. Previously, Mike served as the sustainability coordinator for Lesley University. Mike is a Board member of a nonprofit, MassRecycle.   

Mike spoke about the Do's and Don'ts of home recyling and what happens to our recylclables after they leave our homes. To learn about Chicago's recycling rules, you can go to RecycleByCity.

Some recycling general rules are:

  • No p;astic bags or film should be recycled. If it's rigid plastic and a container, it can be recycled.
  • No shredded paper, napkins or paper towels should be reycled. They can be composted.
  • No styrofoam should be recycled
  • Leave small plastic caps on containers (like the caps on milk jugs) because they jam up the ecuipment.


Our trash goes to landfill so it's important to recycle that which you can.


If you want to see what happens at a recycling center, go to this YouTube video.



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