from Past Shows





Mushrooms in the trees
in McHenry County































Flower containers in front of the west garden
at the Cook County Jail


















The Lincoln Park Conservatory













September 28, 2008

She’s the fastest talking woman in horticulture. At least that’s what I call her. That may or may not actually be true. You may have seen her talking about plants on Channel 7. That is definitely true. Regardless, Jennifer Brennan sure knows a lot about horticulture and it’s always a pleasure to have her on my show to chat and to answer gardening questions. She also happens to work for one of my great sponsors, The Chalet. So the next time you’re up in Wilmette at Lake Avenue and Skokie Boulevard, stop in and try to stump the Jennifer. I don’t think you can.

I don’t think it’s an accident that the initials for The Land Conservancy in McHenry County are TLC, because that’s what this organization gives to threatened natural areas. This not-for-profit organization is dedicated to preserving and protecting open lands, farmland, prairies, wetlands and oak-hickory groves. Lorna Gladstone, who I’ve known for a couple of decades from my work in radio (you’ll have to ply me with wine to get the details), stopped by to talk about their upcoming benefit at Boulder Ridge Country Club in Lake in the Hills on Sunday, October 12 from 11am to 3pm. I don’t mind telling you that WGN Radio’s Spike O’Dell and former WGN and WSCR personality Anne Maxfield will be featured, if only because it for such a good cause. However, I promise never to mention those call letters again (I already have a headache). Anyway, for more information go to the TLC website or call 815/337-9502.

One of the new jewels of Chicago is the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park. In a short few years, this oasis of perennials in the heart of downtown has taken its place among the best attractions that the city has to offer. Head horticulturist Colleen Lockovich took me on a tour of this stunning garden last week and that conversation is the basis of the second hour of my show today.

By the way, just because the growing season is coming to a close doesn’t mean that there won’t be anything else to see or learn in Millennium Park as we head into winter. You can check out the free fall and winter programs at the Lurie Garden HERE (it's a pdf)–and you can take advantage of them all the way through February.

Finally, Pivot Eco-Fashion Boutique is the Green Business of the Week. You can find out more about this eco-friendly company by going to the Green Business of the Week on my home page.

September 21, 2008

There’s a new feature on the show today, the Green Business of the Week. Each Sunday my highly paid and horribly overworked staff (and only half of that statement is true) will help me introduce a local company or organization that is helping to make our planet a little greener.

Our initial offering is Greenmaker Supply, located on North Pulaski Road in Chicago. I know something about them because Kathleen and I bought no VOC paints and a few other products from them recently to do some badly needed work on the homestead.

You can find the link on the home page of this website, under Green Business of the Week, ‘natch.

Joel Greenberg knows a lot about nature. And history. And, I suspect, I bunch of other things. You can tell just by cracking the cover of one of his books. His latest is Of Prairie, Woods, and Water: Two Centuries of Chicago Nature Writing. Now, aside from the introduction and a few footnotes, he didn’t actually write this one. He just decided which prose about the Chicago region during a two hundred year span should be included. That makes him the editor of this book, of course. If you want an example of his actual writing, you should pick up a copy of A Natural History of the Chicago Region, which he wrote in 2002.

I’m not really a fan of lawns...but... if you’re going to have one, I suggest that it be organic. In fact, in February of this year, I attended a two day organic lawn care workshop sponsored by Safer Pest Control Project. It was remarkable in the depth and breadth of the information presented. Well, Steve Pincuspy of SPCP says that they’re offering that workshop again, though they’re each a day long this time.If you’re a lawn care professional–or you just interested in the subject, like I am–the October 1st (College of DuPage) and October 3rd (U of I at Springfield) gatherings will feature in-depth look at natural lawncare for school fields and athletic turf. On October 2nd (College of DuPage) the seminar will be geared towards helping landscape professionals make the transition toward a new business model based on natural lawn care principles. If turf is your thing, I highly recommend this intensive day of classes. Register at or contact SPCP at or call 773-878-7378 ext. 207.

A couple of the interviews today might sound familiar. That’s because they’ve already been broadcast. I’m still doing performances of Dashiell Hamlet (which has received quite nice notices, thank you very much) at City Lit Theater and that includes Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm. Which means that I have to hit the road a little early. Which means that for about the next six weeks, you’ll be hearing some of my favorite interviews of my first five months on WCPT 820AM. Today, I’m replaying a talk with former astronaut Dr. Mae C. Jemison which first aired on June 1, followed by my talk with Brian Urbaszewski of the Respiratory Health Association of Greater Chicago, which aired on May 4. If you want more information and links, click on to Information from Past Shows on the left side of this page and scroll down to those dates.

September 14, 2008

While the remnants of Hurricane Ike pour down around us, think about these facts:

  • An average roof (1,000 SF) sends down 630 gallons of water for every 1” of rain.
  • During summer months, 40% of our water usage is for outdoor and landscape activities
  • In the U.S., the average person uses about 80-100 gallons of water per day
  • That comes to 36,000 gallons per year.

No wonder rain barrels are becoming popular again. They’ve been around for more than a hundred years, capturing the rain water that would otherwise end up as part of a toxic stew in our sewers. And since rainwater contains no dissolved minerals, chlorine or fluoride, plants respond favorably to rainwater (when compared with well or treated municipal water).

Best of all, the water in your rain barrel is free.

Mike Schatz’s company, Chicago Rain Barrel,uses 50-60 gallon food grade barrels, previously used to store pickles, olives and syrups. If not converted to rain barrels, many of these barrels would end up in our landfills. If you haven’t gotten your rain barrel yet, you might want to log onto his website and take a look at part of the future of water conservation.

A few weeks ago I went to Cook County Jail. No, it’s not what you think. I visited the garden, which is part of a program designed to rehabilitate non-violent drug offenders while providing food for Chicago’s poor and the homeless. The garden is run by the Department of Community Supervision and Intervention (DCSI), a department in the Cook County Sheriff's Office, and was the brain child of Executive Director David Devane. For sixteen years, educators and Master Gardeners from Cook County Extension have worked hands on with the inmates to turn teach them about gardening both in the field and in the classroom. This year, their efforts produced 38 new Master Gardeners. Congratulations to all who work with this program

September 7, 2008

There are still tickets available for the benefit performance of the play Dashiell Hamlet at City Lit Theater, this Thursday, September 11 at 8pm. Don't forget that the $30 ticket goes towards the great work of the Chicago Recycling Coalition, of which I am a board member (non-paid, of course). City Lit is at 1020 W. Bryn Mawr in the Edgewater Neighborhood of Chicago. For tickets, call 773-293-3682 and reference the Chicago Recycling Coalition. After the show, there will be an opportunity to talk to Mike Nussbaum and the actors over a glass of wine at Francesca’s Bryn Mawr just across the street

Dashiell Hamlet is a retelling of Shakespeare’s most famous play as a film noir mystery set in 1945 post-war Hollywood. Chicago acting and directing legend Mike Nussbaum directs.

As I mentioned last week, yes, I'm one of the authors. Yes, a have a role in the play. And, yes, if you can't make the benefit, it's really okay if you show up to see the show sometime before it closes on October 26. Performances are Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 3:00 pm.

When I took my Master Gardener training eleven years ago, one of my instructors was Illinois Extension specialist Jim Schuster. Jim is something of a legend in horticultural circles in this state, especially when it comes to talking about his remedy for trees that he declares doomed: "One cut--bzzzt!" he says, swiping his hand at ankle level. I have to confess that I've stolen that line for a number of my garden talks.

At the same time, he's one of these guys who is a bit intimidating because he knows so much about plant pathology...and I know so little. Oh, well, c'est la vie. It's great to have him on the show. By the way, if you're looking for some answers for your gardening questions and Jim won't come to your house, you can always go online to the University of Illinois Extension Hort Answers site. You can search by plant or problem. Another terrific site from Illinois Extension, and one that I've recommended for years, is the Hort Corner. Both are great gardening tools.

The Lincoln Park Conservatory is one of Chicago's great treasures. If you want to learn more about it and impart that information to others, you can join the docent program, sponsored by the Lincoln Park Conservancy and the Chicago Park District. LPC board member Norm Raidl says docents receive six weeks of training from area experts on horticulture, interpretation, the history of Lincoln Park , and landscape design. The training starts on Saturday, October 4, 2008 and ends November 11, 2008 . Classes are 8:30 AM to 12:00 noon .

Once docents have their history and horticultural knowledge down pat, they give free tours of the Lincoln Park Conservatory on weekends and some weekdays. Tours are available to the general public and organizations during the week by appointment.

The first docent program started in the Fall of 2003. Currently there are 70 docents who volunteer their time at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool and the North Pond Nature Sanctuary.

For more information, please call Julia Bachrach , Chicago Park District Historian, at (312) 742-4698 or or write Norm Raidl at

Did you know that Cook County has a county fair? Complete with live animals, pony rides, a farmers market, recipe swaps, kids' activities, music and storytelling? Yes, Virginia, it's a real county fair, right in the heart of the big city.

And if you enter the Harvest Competition, you could win a ribbon for flowers or vegetables that you or your kids grew in your own garden this summer. Robin Cline, Public Programs Manager for the Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance, says that now is the time to register. You can do that by logging on to The Garfield Park Conservatory and filling out the form online, or by picking up a form at the Conservatory.

The 8th Annual County Fair is Saturday, September 20 from 11am to 5pm, in and around the Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N. Central Park Avenue in Chicago.

Oh, by the way, I'm one of the judges for the Harvest Competition. And I can't be bribed. Well, probably not. I don't really know. Nobody's ever tried.