Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club Members Paula Van Singel (L) and Kathy Michas are two of many local ladies who serve as foster mothers to Monarch caterpillars in an effort to boost their dwindling numbers.
My first summer job as a youngster was “walking beans,” which involved getting up at the crack of dawn and going up and down the rows of soybean fields near my central Illinois hometown, pulling out noxious weeds by hand. One of those undesirables was milkweed, and it wasn’t until I moved to Long Grove many years later that I learned of this native plant’s importance in our ecosystem. Yes, times have certainly changed, because this year I found myself actually planting milkweed in my garden on purpose–to attract the Monarchs.
At the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club’s September meeting this past week, members Paula Van Singel and Kathy Michas gave a fascinating program on the plight of the Monarchs, and their efforts to help more of the species to survive here in Long Grove. Milkweed serves as the primary food source for Monarch butterflies, and they lay their eggs on the undersides of the plant’s leaves. Only 1 to 5% of the eggs laid in nature will survive, so Paula, Kathy, and fellow “Monarch Mommas” bring the eggs and milkweed plants indoors once they are discovered, to foster the development of the eggs into caterpillars. They are cared for in a special habitat and fed milkweed until a chrysalis is formed, and in about two weeks the butterfly will emerge and be released.
Why do they do this? Recent studies have indicated that we have lost 90-93% of our Monarch population in North America in the last 20 years. According to Paula, her passion was sparked when she retired and started volunteering in the “Butterflies and Blooms” exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Gardens. Besides helping the species boost their declining numbers, Paula says she is further inspired because, “every time a chrysalis opens, my faith is renewed.” Every year at this time the Monarchs from Illinois migrate south to winter in Michoacán, Mexico, where they are losing their natural habitat. The forest in which they hibernate has dwindled from 45 acres in 1995 to 1.7 acres today. Their food source of milkweed has become more scarce due to the use of pesticides, and changing weather may also be playing a role.
Did you know that the Monarch is our Illinois state insect? We can help the species to survive in Long Grove by planting more milkweed in our gardens and open spaces, and by being careful (or eliminating) the use of pesticides and insecticides on our property. Or if you really have a passion, you can follow the lead of ladies like Paula and Kathy and make an even bigger difference by fostering some “cats” next summer. You will have a front row seat to one of nature’s miracles!
Now is the time to pick up some free bulbs at Village Hall. Plant them this fall for springtime beauty!
Long Grove has a long-standing tradition with the daffodil, and if you’ve lived in the Village for more than a year you’ve seen them. Every spring, the roadsides are lined with thousands of yellow blooms signaling the end of the winter season and bringing the promise of warmer days ahead. Each year the Village of Long Grove offers free daffodil bulbs to our residents for planting in the public right-of-way. And I’m happy to announce that the bulbs have now arrived! They can be picked up now while the supply lasts, Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For a little background on this tradition, we reached out to Long Grove Park District Volunteers Jane and Ken Wittig to do some research and I would like to thank them for providing the following history:
Where and when did the Long Grove daffodil tradition start? It has been going on for a long time–this year will mark what may be the 45th anniversary of the daffodil planting practice. No one knows exactly how many bulbs have been provided by the Village over the years. The Village Board allocates a fixed dollar amount to the project annually, and buys as many bulbs as possible with the budgeted funds. Last fall we provided 4,200 bulbs for residents to plant. If that number was consistent over 45 years, about 190,000 daffodils would have been available to beautify Long Grove.
The daffodil idea came from a group of civic minded women who were the founders of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club in the early 1970’s. The moving force at the front of the idea was Betty Coffin, whose husband, long time Village President and Trustee Robert Parker Coffin, convinced the Village to agree. The project launched as a community effort, with volunteers from the Garden Club, Park District, and Scout troops planting the bulbs. Among the enthusiastic participants were Timmie and John Clemetsen, Lee Bassett, and Barbara Turner. Funding came from the Village and from builders who donated bulbs for planting along the right of way in areas where they were developing homes. The idea was popular, has continued through economic ups and downs, and is still going strong today. We now depend on individual homeowners to carry on the tradition.
Stop by Village Hall now and pick up your bulbs for planting this fall. You will be thankful (and so will your neighbors) this coming April!
The White Fringed Prairie Orchid
It is a testament to our ecological stewardship in Long Grove that we still have many varieties of native wildflowers that bloom in public and private woodlands and open spaces. In fact, we even have one variety that is a federally protected endangered species. I have never seen the white fringed prairie orchid, but State officials assure us it is here and have kept the site location confidential. Just one more way in which our Village is rare and special.
This flower has been recently under attack in our boardroom, as the private property owners try to rally Village support against the State’s attempts to further protect this endangered species. Do we side with the residents or the flower? Should the Village be involved at all? Some on the Board are critical of the State and dismissive of the ecological concerns. Emotions are high and accusations have been made. It has gotten so ridiculous that at the recent Village Board meeting one Trustee suggested that if it were his property, he might just take care of the problem with the use of some “agent orange.” Seriously?
I am in solidarity with the environmentalists, and spoke up in defense of the flower. After all, isn’t it a resident too? This species has been blooming in Long Grove for more years than I have, and has been protected by the State at this location for decades. The experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Illinois Nature Preserve Agency have studied the situation for many years and determined the best course of action for the collective greater good. The owners of the piece of property where the orchid lives beg to differ.
There are other factors at play in this; for brevity and confidentiality I have simplified the issue. But in the end, it all comes down to money. And if that doesn’t work, well, the State has something as a last resort called eminent domain. Never underestimate the power of a flower.
Just a small portion of the beautiful gardens created by Jo and Harry Moser of Kildeer.
Today the members of the Long Grove-Kildeer Garden Club brought a little bit of beauty and joy into the lives of others. Five area private gardens were open to the public for tours this morning, to share the wonders of nature and raise a bit of money in the process. Whenever I attend this event I invariably come away with creative ideas and inspiration, and also a healthy dose of garden-envy. We have some seriously talented (and hard working) gardeners in our corner of Lake County! The gardens featured this year in the annual Garden Walk were quite diverse and unique: vegetable gardens, unusual flowers, water features, a serene Japanese garden, fruit trees and berries, wildflowers, orchids, cactus, a garden shed to die for and even a couple of fairy gardens–we saw it all. Thankfully, Mother Nature set a perfect scene today for the gardens in all their glory.
By volunteering and participating in this event I was once again reminded of the best things our Village has to offer. Neighbors working together for a common goal were raising money for scholarships and stewardship work in our public Woodland and open spaces. And in the process, showcasing some outstanding gardens and those who create them; providing beauty and inspiration to fellow green thumbs in our community. Our local garden club is a real asset to Long Grove all year round, but in the summer it truly shines the brightest.