Archives For September 2017

Inspired by the plants and insects in their garden, jewelers Roberta and David Williamson will be among 145 artists from across the country showing their handcrafted work this week at the American Craft Exposition (ACE). The juried exposition at the Chicago Botanic Garden is also a fundraiser for the Auxiliary of NorthShore University HealthSystem.

Roberta recalls the early days of her work, when, shortly after her daughter was born, she peered out the window and observed a mother bird feeding its young. She marveled at its instinctual behavior and how the scene symbolized her own experience. The artist was inspired to create a series of charms for necklaces depicting stories of nature such as that one, which she later told to her young child. “I always see those kinds of connections between people and nature and how inspiring that is,” she said.

It is that type of inspiration that has energized her work each year, leading to new creations that she and David craft with much thought and care. “We are great observers of nature and incorporating that into the work,” she noted. “People who collect our work come year after year and we think about them as we are creating the work, and know who will love which piece…they are growing with us and that’s amazing.”

Dave and Roberta Williamson

Dave and Roberta Williamson

Based in Ohio, the Williamsons are also professors of art at a liberal arts college near Cleveland. The natural-born teachers enjoy sharing the stories of their art with students and visitors to ACE. At home, they are avid gardeners, working across their one-acre property as much as possible to plant urns and work with their favorites—foliage and flowers. “We plant and really enjoy that process,” said Roberta. “We are passionate about it and just being so in touch with nature, we bring that to the work. Many of our pieces are about plants and the insects that inhabit the garden.”

As much as nature enhances their work, the jewelers also find inspiration in other sources. “I think besides the garden and any insects and birds, the other part that we are really interested in is antique etchings, but primarily the early costumes of royalty and the embellishment on the clothing that they wear,” said Roberta. Both interests can be seen in much of the body of work they create each year.

Just as their own stories have evolved over the years, such as Roberta finding a love of nature after moving from Chicago to the suburbs as a child, the story of each piece of their jewelry evolves from the time they begin to create it to the life it takes on when it is in the hands of a new owner.

ACE cannot come soon enough for the couple, who are energized by the atmosphere of the event, the presence of their fellow artists, the event committee, and the lush setting of the Garden. “I just hope that a lot of people will be able to come to see how spectacular the combination of the art in the show is beside the Botanic Garden. I think their spirits will be so lifted that it will be really magical,” Roberta said.

Roberta & Dave Williamson, Abundance, 2010. Photo by James Beards

Roberta & David Williamson, Abundance, 2010. James Beards photograph, via craftinamerica.org

The American Craft Exposition opens with a Benefit Preview on Thursday, September 14, and is open to the public Friday through Sunday, September 15 to 17. Proceeds from ticket sales support research into orthopaedic regenerative medicine and pharmacogenomics, or how changes in one’s DNA affect the way the body responds to medication.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

The Supreme Court has been asked to opine on many critical issues of its time. These cases have had profound impacts on our society and even the progression of democracy. But perhaps the most important Supreme Court case of all time—at least if you are a hard-core plant geek—was Nix v. Hedden, 1893, in which the Court ruled that the tomato is, for the purposes of taxation, a vegetable.

In the spring of 1886, the Nix family made their living importing tomatoes into New York City from the West Indies. Based on the Tariff Act of 1883, the New York Port tax collector assessed a duty on these imported tomatoes. The Tariff Act required a 10 percent duty on “vegetables in their natural state…” But, the Nix family contended, a tomato is a fruit, botanically speaking, and should not be taxed as a vegetable. The New York tax collector was unmoved by this argument and forced the family to pay the tax, though he did record that the tax was paid under protest.

Blindfolded Lady Justice weighs a tomatoPeople were just as reluctant to pay taxes in 1886 as they are today, and as any good botanist of the nineteenth or twenty-first centuries would tell you, the tomato is indeed a fruit. Its tissues derive from the reproductive organs of the plant (and contain seeds), making it a textbook fruit. It’s not even botanically confusing like the oddball strawberry, which is technically a swollen receptacle that holds fruits (the little black achenes on the strawberry’s surface). A tomato is about as clearly a fruit as there is, botanically speaking.

Yet, in common language, we tend to think of fruits as sweet and vegetables as savory. Or perhaps more basically, fruits are for dessert and vegetable go with the main course.

When the tax assessor for the New York Harbor used the common language meaning of tomato as the rationale to levy a tax, in opposition to the botanical definition used by the Nix family, I doubt he knew he was opening a legal can of worms that would end up in the Supreme Court.

The Nix family sued the tax collector. The case was heard by the Circuit Court of the Southern District of New York. The case primarily consisted of entering into testimony the dictionary definitions of fruit and vegetable. The court sided with the tax collector, and the Nixes appealed. Somewhat amazingly, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, and registered judgement on May 10, 1893.

By this point, the case was not so much about whether or not a tomato is botanically a fruit. In fact, in his opinion, Justice Horace Gray of Massachusetts freely admitted that “botanically speaking, tomatoes are the fruit of the vine…” But he made a distinction between the common language of the people and the botanical definition. Specifically, he noted that tomatoes are “usually served at dinner in, with, or after the soup, fish, or meats which constitute the principle part of the repast, and not, like fruits generally, as dessert.” He even cited from Supreme Court precedent. In 1889, Robertson v. Salomon, the Court held that, again for tax purposes, white beans (which definitely are seeds) should be taxed as vegetables, and not classified as seeds, which were exempted from taxation. Justice Joseph P. Bradley of New Jersey wrote of white beans, “We do not see why they should be classified as seeds, any more than walnuts should be so classified. Both are seeds, in the language of botany or natural history, but not in commerce nor in common parlance.”

Grape tomatoesRead more about cultivating tomatoes in our Tomato Talk series on Facebook (#CBGTomatoTalk) and at chicagobotanic.org

The Supreme Court unequivocally stated in Robertson v. Salomon and then reaffirmed in Nix v. Hedden that a technical definition should not necessarily stand in the way of an ordinary or common meaning. According to the high court, tomatoes and white beans are not fruit and seeds, respectively. They can, and should, be taxed as vegetables.

These cases are important to legal history in delineating the differences between technical and common usages of words under legal dispute. But what should a botanist learn from this legal tomato obscurity?

Principally, science and the law are quite different systems. You may conflate them at your own peril. Scientific logic is not always compatible or supported by legal doctrine. Under the law, up can be down, black can be white, and tomatoes aren’t fruits.

And above all, it’s very hard to avoid paying taxes.


Dr. Ari Novy

Dr. Ari Novy

Guest blogger Ari Novy, Ph.D., is chief scientist at the Leichtag Foundation in Encinitas, California, and a research collaborator at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. He’s interested in pretty much everything about plants, including obscure legal minutiae.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

At Windy City Harvest Youth Farm, our young workers are exposed to nutrition in ways that relate directly to their work. As the season progresses, new crops are harvested and introduced to our staff.

A lot of these are vegetables they have never eaten or seen before.

They also are surprised at the nutritional benefits in some of these vegetables. Here are three vegetables we are harvesting at Windy City Harvest that are nutrition powerhouses:

#1—Scallions

 They grow easily and can be used in many dishes. Scallions, or green onions, are never the centerpiece of a meal. They are pungent and crisp, and most often are used as a garnish or topping.

Scallions

Scallions (Allium sp.)

Scallions are a part of the allium family, meaning it can call the garlic, onion, and leek its brothers and sisters. Like other alliums, scallions contain special properties like organosulfur compounds and allyl sulfides, as well as thiosulfinates. Those are complicated words, but what they mean is that these compounds are being studied for their effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, and cancer. Most importantly, they taste great on everything from mashed sweet potatoes to chicken tacos.

#2—Purple Potatoes

The nutritional reputation of potatoes has suffered due to their high carbohydrate content. However, potatoes can be very nutritious. An especially nutritious potato variety is the purple potato. Purple potatoes taste like other potatoes, but they have an undeniable rich purple color. This is because they are abundant in the antioxidant flavonoid anthocyanin. This is the same flavonoid, or plant pigment, that colors blueberries and pomegranates. 

Purple Peruvian potatoes (Solanum andigenum)

Purple Peruvian potatoes (Solanum andigenum)

Here’s how antioxidants are thought to work: Reactive and unstable molecules called free radicals enter our bodies when we inhale cigarette smoke, breathe polluted air, or even eat an unhealthy diet. Antioxidants bind to them and make them less reactive.

Purple potatoes also contain high amounts of of potassium, even more than bananas. Potassium is important to counteract the effects of a high-sodium diet. 

Purple potatoes are a welcome upgrade from the common russet potato. Just don’t deep fry them.

#3—Red Bell Peppers

Red bell peppers can be crisp and crunchy when raw or savory and sweet when cooked. Green bells are not a unique variety of pepper. They are the same variety as red peppers, but they are picked before ripening. When you let this vegetable ripen to its full potential, the nutrient content increases.

Red bell peppers

Ripening bell peppers turn from green to red.

Red bell peppers are best known for their powerful antioxidant properties. Just one pepper contains twice the daily requirement for Vitamin C, making bell peppers one of the richest foods for Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps grow and repair tissues in the body and helps the body absorb iron. The Vitamin A content comes in at a close second in this sweet pepper. Vitamin A is essential for healthy eyes, skin, and neurological function. One pepper gives you about three-fourths of your daily Vitamin A needs.

Red bell peppers also feature their own flavonoid antioxidant. Just like the purple potatoes, this antioxidant is responsible for the vegetables’ brilliant red color. A colorful plate is truly a healthy plate.

Our Washington Park Youth Farm participants learned a lot this summer as well:

Ryan Hutchinson

Ryan Hutchinson
Windy City Harvest Youth Farm 2017

When I asked Ryan Hutchinson what nutrition fact he was most surprised about, he said, “I was shocked that foods like scallions could help lower blood pressure and can be preventative. My auntie had to go to the hospital for high blood pressure so it was good information to have.”

Caleb Peacock

Caleb Peacock
Windy City Youth Farm 2017

When asked if he had tried any of the veggies from the farm, Caleb Peacock said,”Yeah, all the time. This week, for dinner, my dad made a ‘symphony of squash.’ It had bell peppers, carrots, summer squash, zucchini, and onions cooked in a pressure cooker. It was good! My whole family liked it and went back for seconds…My dad also made zucchini pancakes. They were better than regular pancakes because the zucchini made them super moist.”

Shayna Jackson

Shayna Jackson
Windy City Harvest Youth Farm 2017

Shayna Jackson’s family has incorporated veggies from the farm, too. “I was most surprised by the garlic and scallions. I didn’t know they were healthy. Last week, I took a box of vegetables home from the farm. It was the first time my mom cooked with scallions. We liked them so much that we went to buy more from the store. We had never had them before.”

Shekinah Price

Shekinah Price
Windy City Harvest Youth Farm 2017

Shekinah Price said, “I was surprised that red bell peppers have more vitamin C than oranges.”

At Windy City Harvest Youth Farm, we harvest something seasonal and fresh every week. And every week we harvest something healthy. If you are interested in trying scallions, purple potatoes, or red peppers while meeting our bright youth, come visit Windy City Harvest at our community markets.


Demi Maropoulos

Demi Maropoulos

Demi Maropoulos is a bachelor of science student in the Coordinated Nutrition Program at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Demi is in the midst of completing her supervised practice hours in order to become a registered dietitian. Cooking, gardening, and farming is what brought Demi to the profession of dietetics, so it is only fitting that she worked with Windy City Harvest for her community nutrition internship.


Thank you to Conagra Brands Foundation for supporting Windy City Harvest Youth Farm’s healthy eating initiative.


Resources:

  1. http://journal.waocp.org/article_24263_9e02c0447a9eaf4262706d4452473091.pdf
  2. http://udop.uwimona.edu.jm/lifesciences/hortlab/papers/FOOD_1(2)193-201.pdf
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC139960/
  4. http://www.agriculturejournals.cz/publicFiles/48446.pdf
  5. http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/tc/antioxidants-topic-overview
  6. http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f1378
  7. http://www.mayoclinic.org/symptoms/low-potassium/basics/when-to-see-doctor/sym-20050632
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075694/

©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

What is it about dahlias?

Guest Blogger —  September 7, 2017 — 1 Comment

When it comes to showstoppers, Shakespeare may have elevated the rose to star status with his line, “Of all the flowers, methinks a rose is best.”

But what is it about dahlias that has attracted so many fans and admirers? In our effort to describe the joys of dahlia gardening, members of Central States Dahlia Society were recently asked why they are so enthusiastic about these dramatic floral divas, which will be on display September 9-10 at the Chicago Botanic Garden. Here’s what we found.

Dahlia 'Hollywood Spiderwoman'

Dahlia ‘Hollywood Spiderwoman’

Dahlia 'Hissy Fitz'

Dahlia ‘Hissy Fitz’

Dahlia 'Harvey Koop'

Dahlia ‘Harvey Koop’

Size does matter.  Of the 70,000 varieties developed, dahlia blooms range in size from the miniatures, just 12 inches tall with 2-inch blooms, to the huge “dinnerplates,” the dense, glossy-leaved plants that grow up to 6 feet tall and bloom with flowers 10 to 12 inches in diameter.  As one member said:  “I love giant flowers! The ‘dinnerplates’ are showstoppers!” Another praised the benefits of smaller varieties, which can be used in containers when space is limited. “Sometimes, you don’t realize they are all part of the same family,” she said.

Miniature dahlias sport 2-inch blooms

Miniature dahlias sport 2-inch blooms.

A "dinner plate" dahlia

A “dinnerplate” dahlia…

A "dinner plate" dahlia

…can measure up to a foot across!

They come in a range of colors. Color and beauty ranked high in members’ reviews. The wide range color range means dahlias will complement any gardening color scheme and co-star with both annuals and perennials in a garden. Recognized by one member as “The Las Vegas of flowers,” dahlias range from the darkest red or purple to many shades of pink, orange, yellow, and white. There are also blends, variegated, and bi-colored cultivars. The only color missing from this palette is blue. Many admired the range of color in the foliage as well. 

Informal dahlia arrangement

Informal dahlia arrangement

Informal dahlia arrangement

Informal dahlia arrangement

Informal dahlia arrangement

Informal dahlia arrangement

Formal dahlia arrangment

Formal dahlia arrangement

These prolific bloomers offer a lot of choices. Form and size are categorized by the American Dahlia Society (www.dahlia.org) into 21 classifications, and members are drawn to the diversity, describing the blooms as “gigantic,” “elegant,” and “perfection.” The plants provide continuous blooms from July to frost. As a cut flower, dahlias are superstars. The more you cut them, the more prolific they become.

Formal decorative form dahlia

Formal decorative form dahlia

Pompon form dahlias

Pompon form dahlias

Incurved cactus dahlia form

Incurved cactus dahlia form

Code Description
AN Anemone-flowered
BA Ball
Straight Cactus
CO Collarette
FD Formal Decorative
IC Incurved Cactus
ID Informal Decorative
LC Laciniated
MB Miniature Ball
MS Mignon Single
Novelty
NO Novelty Open
NX Novelty Fully Double
Orchid-flowering 
OT  Orchette 
Pompon
PE Peony-flowering
Single
SC Semi-Cactus
ST Stellar
WL Water Lily 

Copyright ©1995-present, American Dahlia Society, all rights reserved.

Other members cited the unique features of dahlias. There are 1,500-plus named varieties, with names like Prince Charming, Blondee, Cutie Patootie, and Diva. The availability of low-growing varieties makes them perfect for containers. While dahlias receive a standing ovation for their color and form, they have no scent, making them an ideal bloom for people with allergies.

Devoted followers highlighted ease of growing as an attribute. Tubers can be saved and propagated from year to year, making them very efficient.

Then there is the “wow” factor. Our members found a special place in their hearts for these plants, like old friends, that deliver on their promise. Whether it is the opportunity to share the beauty and harvest of the garden with family, neighbors and friends, the occasion to find personal happiness or endure sorrow, or the chance to compete with other gardeners for the perfect bloom, dahlias provide a formidable scene. Dahlias offer something for everyone. In the words of the Bard, “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

P.S.  Will, what were you thinking? The rose has thorns! Pick dahlias!

Dahlia arrangement at the Central States Dahlia Society Show

Join us September 9-10, 2017, for the 51st Central States Dahlia Society Show.

ILLUSTRATION: dahlia artWe hope you will join us at the 51st National Dahlia Show hosted by the Central States Dahlia Society at the Chicago Botanic Garden on September 9-10, 2017. For additional information on the Central States Dahlia Society or the 2017 National Dahlia Show, visit centralstatesdahliasociety.com/2017-national-show.

 

By Andrea Basalay, with thanks to the CSDS members for sharing their thoughts and experiences.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org

Getting That Tropical Look

Tom Weaver —  September 6, 2017 — 1 Comment

This season’s Brazil in the Garden exhibition features a bold tropical look at the Chicago Botanic Garden—you can get that same vibrant feel in your home garden, using perennial plants.

Surprisingly, there are a number of plants that thrive in the Chicago area in spite of their tropical looks. With attributes ranging from huge leaves, delicious fruits, or potent fragrances, these trees and shrubs will add a tropical splash to your backyard year after year.

Magnolia ashei is one of the most tropical-looking plants at the Chicago Botanic Garden. It features huge leaves, huge flowers, and huge fruits. The leaves can grow up to 36 inches long, the flowers can be more than a foot across, and the fruits are up to 5 inches long and turn bright red. Magnolia ashei has an irregular growth habit and makes a bold specimen. Look for this one in the Native Plant Garden (however, this plant is not an Illinois native).

PHOTO: Magnolia ashei

Magnolia ashei has beautiful leaves and intriguing fruit.

Another large leaf magolia, Magnolia tripetala x obovata, is similar in most respects; however, it features a broad, round form and is a bit more formal in the landscape. This magnolia can be found in the Waterfall Garden.

PHOTO: Magnolia tripetala x obovata

The blooms of Magnolia tripetala × obovata can be up to a foot across.

Campsis radicans is a native vine with large, orange-red, trumpet-shaped flowers all summer long. The flowers are a hummingbird magnet, which just adds to the tropical allure, and are available in numerous colors, including red, orange, and yellow. This is a large, growing vine so give it room to grow. It does tolerate pruning but blooms best when allowed to grow uninterrupted. Even the seed pods are ornamental, looking almost like green bananas hanging from the flower clusters. Look for it in the Waterfall Garden, and the fence surrounding the Graham Bulb Garden, where we have red and yellow varieties mixed together.

PHOTO: Campsis radicans

Campsis radicans grows in the Waterfall Garden.

PHOTO: Asimina triloba

Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) fruits hang high in the tree.

Another native plant that wouldn’t look out of place in the rain forest is the pawpaw tree (Asimina triloba). This native tree has green leaves that can reach a foot long. It’s a beautiful understory tree that will grow well in dappled shade with ample moisture (but never standing water). However, the real reward with pawpaws are the fruit. These large fruits have an incredibly tropical flavor, like a mix of mango, pineapple, and bananas. The fruit are among the last to ripen in the late summer and well worth the wait. To get a good crop of fruit, make sure to plant two varieties.

Pawpaws also get beautiful golden fall color, which only adds to their appeal. One note of caution however: the trees can sucker, so make sure to plant your pawpaw somewhere where this isn’t a problem, or make sure to remove the suckers as they sprout. Look for pawpaws in the Bulb Garden, Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden, and Native Plant Garden.

And finally, what is a tropical garden without lush fragrances? Clethra alnifolia is a hardy shrub that thrives in partial shade and boasts intensely fragrant blooms in late summer.

PHOTO: Clethra alnifolia 'Rosea'

Clethra alnifolia ‘Rosea’ has cheerful pink flowers that hummingbirds love.

PHOTO: Clethra alnifolia 'September Beauty'

Clethra alnifolia ‘September Beauty’ is one of the latest-blooming summer-sweet cultivars.

Clethra flowers have a rich smell similar to gardenia, but with spicy undertones. The flowers are tall spikes of white or pink and are a magnet for pollinators such as honeybees and hummingbirds. With careful planning, you can mix varieties of clethra and have blooms that last from mid-July through late August. Several varieties of clethra can be found in the Sensory Garden.

See Brazil in the Garden through October 15, 2017.


©2017 Chicago Botanic Garden and my.chicagobotanic.org