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Chicago Garden

Welcome, to all the new followers of the MrBrownThumb garden blog. And "hello" to all the followers who have been reading for a while. If you live or garden in Chicago, or know someone who does, make sure to read the end of this post. Heck, even if you have no connection to Chicago make sure to read the end of this post.

Raise your hand if you've been watching the Life After People special on the History Channel. I love it! I could spend days watching this thing and never get tired of it. One of the things in particular that really interests me about the special is watching how plants will one day grow over everything that people have built. One of the episodes focuses heavily on Chicago and it has a few segments on how Wrigley Field will look once grounds keepers aren't around to maintain it.

Pictures I took of the television while watching the show.

In the segment that covers Wrigley Field, the show's writers theorize that the ball park will one day be overgrown by the ivy that grows there now decorating the outfield walls. If I remember correctly the narrator states that ivy, in Chicago's climate, can grow at a rate of fifty feet a year.

I know in other climates ivy can be a problem and becomes an invasive plant but I don't think I've seen evidence in gardens around Chicago of ivy growing that much in a single year. I personally love ivy and have this dreams of one day having a garden filled with ivy. Ivy, everything-ivy walls, ivy topiary, an ivy gazebo. If you hate ivy, my fantasy garden would not be one you'd ever want to set foot in. Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yeah, ivy. With the exception of how much it will grow in a year I don't have a problem with the fear mongering about the ivy and how it will end up destroying the historic scoreboard and blah, blah, blah. Mostly because it is true-ivy is beautiful, at least to me, but can be a very destructive plant.

When the narrator started going on about how the field would be taken over by buckthorn, that would become these mounds of interpenetrate greenery, my BS meter went off. They showed some dilapidated buildings somewhere in Indiana to illustrate what it looks like when nobody is around to take care of the buildings and nature is left unchecked--and what life after people has in store for Chicago. When I failed to spot any mounds of buckthorn in the video of the abandoned town in Indiana I started to wonder who the consultant was that predicted all this buckthorn taking over Wrigley Field was.

I've spent way too much time thinking about buckthorn and the consultant who told the producers of Life After People that buckthorn would take over Chicago. I've been looking around Chicago at abandoned lots and undeveloped areas to see any evidence of this monster buckthorn and I've come to the following conclusion(s): 1. I really need to stop thinking so much about plants I see on shows that have nothing to do with plants or gardening. 2. The horticultural consultant for Life After People probably doesn't live or garden in Chicago.

One could probably bet good money on #2 and win because everyone who lives and gardens in Chicago knows that dandelions and maple trees will take over at Wrigley Field.

Recently, after a few good rains in Chicago I've had a bumper crop of maple seedlings all over my garden. Seeds are germinating all over the place and I can walk out on any given day and pull out a handful of them that I swear were not there the day before. If I didn't garden on such a tiny plot of land I'd be inclined to let the little seedling grow. I've developed a catch and release program for the seedlings that I manage to pull out of the ground before the tap root develops too far. I'll pot them up and keep them around for a while and then plant them in an empty lot or two. I can't brinng myself to kill a tree.

What are the plants that will take over your garden when nobody is around to maintain it?

If you live or garden in Chicago: Today the Tribune launched and I've got a new garden blog over there called 'Chicago Garden'. It is a blog about--well, gardening in Chicago. The website is still in beta but when it is completed it will be like Facebook for Chicago by Chicagoans. I've put up a number of posts there already and that garden blog will be a little different than this one. It won't be as much as a personal garden journal like MrBrownThumb has been. It will be about and for Chicagoans. Once all the features are set up for you'll be able to create profiles and even start a blog. It's going to be really cool. So come on over and sign up for an account and say hello. If you don't live or garden in Chicago come by for a visit anyway and tell your friends or family who may live in Chicago about the new garden blog.

This is my first gig as a "garden blogger" and really an experiment for companies like the Tribune. I'm glad the Tribune folks gave me this opportunity and that they saw a benefit in launching the site with a garden blog and that they went with a nobody (me) when they could have picked from any number of great horticultural writers in Chicago. Don't let them regret it and keep me employed by visiting Chicago Garden and joining up and participating.



  1. Cool! I signed up. FYI the box to acknowledge that we've read the terms of service was kind of a weird place on my screen.

  2. Congratulations!! I wish you success :-)

    I'll sign up to help the blogging cause.

    If left unchecked, my yard would be overtaken by clover and thistle! Thistle is the worst!!!!

  3. In Southern California we have Mexican Fan Palms, Washingtonia robusta. They are like aliens; give them a crack in the sidewalk or asphalt and they send forth a palm.

    Good Luck with the blog.

  4. I wish you success! Congratulations and hope you have lots of fun, I really enjoy reading your post.


  5. Going over to check your new garden blog now, already bookmarked it while reading this one :) Believe it or not I pulled a tiny maple seedling from one of my containers on the roof today, it took root in my zucchini pot ... we have so many trees around us I imagine that this area would go back to the hardwood forest it once was. And, yes, I love Life After People!

  6. Stacy, Thanks for signing up. I really appreciate it. Hope you get a second or two to leave a comment. I've got a few posts on the archive already.

    Hit 40, Thanks for signing up and commenting. I hear you about the thistle but the clover sounds awfully nice to me. I encourage it as much as I can.

    Moon, Thanks for the well wishes. To me the idea of palms growing like weeds sounds really appealing. But I guess that's because I don't have to deal with them.

    Outside In, Thank you and I can't wait to meet you on Saturday.

    OhioMom, Oh I believe it I see a few seedlings trying to make themselves at home in our gutters.

  7. Your 4 year old ... 5 foot nephew that you probably fertilized cracked me up!!

    You won a shout out from me tomorrow!! I don't know if it will help? But, it can not hurt.

  8. Congratulations Mr.B! That is wonderful that they picked you! Pfffsssh at your referring to yourself as a nobody! How many people in this world have a catch and release program for tree seedlings? They couldn't have chosen a finer horticultural writer, and gardener! Once again congrats, and keep up the good work! xo~

  9. Hit 40, That's really nice of you. Make sure to send me a message, it could only help :0)

    Marcy, Thanks for the kind words and well wishes.

  10. Well I actually saw that episode of Life After People and I noticed that he said that Ivy can grow 50 feet long, not 50 feet per year. And I was also wondering why there were no trees in the stadium. I also laughed when the narrator said that Buck thorn gives birds diarrhea; I'm not planting that in my yard.

  11. I agree, dandelions and maple saplings would take over for sure! I'm not as kind as you to replant them. I know in another week or so all these helicopters I have will be MORE saplings. Plucking them out is an every day event.
    I will go to your Chicago Blog. Looking forward to it.

  12. I've not heard of that series (I have only basic basic cable and don't get the History channel), but coincidentally, a friend of a friend has a project called "In A 1000 years" where she sends out blank postcards and you have to draw or write (or in my case, collage!) what you think the world will look like in 1000 years... and I picked plants growing everywhere. You can see my entry here. See you Friday!!!!

  13. Congratulations on the gig! And don't forget about the existing "Facebook for gardeners" over at for a worldwide look at home gardeners. There's a bunch of us Chicagoans on there too!

  14. The new blog looks great! Will you still be posting here too?

    We have a big problem with English Ivy here in the east. It can really run rampant and smother everything in its path when it escapes to the woods. I found an English Ivy seedling in one of my flower beds this year (amongst all the maple seedlings) and I don't know of any plantings of it very close by.

    The ivy in Wrigley Field is Boston Ivy, right?

  15. @Jordan, Welcome back! You've taken a break from garden blogging, haven't you? I guessed you were busy with school and it was keeping you from posting on your blog. Anyway, thanks for the fact checking, I could have sworn he said 50 feet a year and then it uses the leaves from the previous years as soil for the next year to grow on. I forgot about the bird diarrhea-lol.

    @Debbie, I appreciate you looking hope you participate.

    @Monica, I'll take a look at the entry the project sounds really cool. See you on Friday!

    @Xan, I'll have to go there and see if I can get some of those folks to come over to Chicago Garden. I appreciate you letting me know about it.

    @Entangled, I technically am only under contract until July and I'll be keeping this blog active--in case Chicago Garden is a flop and they let me go. Yep, the ivy on the walls is Boston Ivy.

  16. Wow...I have no idea that dandelions'd cause much trouble.
    Anyway, love reading your blog. It's sooo chicago that I really miss it. :) And your story about gardening are so interesting! Thanks for writing it!! ^^"

  17. Congrats on your new garden blog. That is fantastic!

    I've seen a few episodes of Life After People but then I start to panic about it and think, "But...what happened to all of us???"

  18. They couldn't have picked a better choice, MBT! Congratulations...I'll sign up when I have a chance (sneaking in here to post from work). Wishing you all a blast this weekend with the Spring Fling...wish I could be there but will be in spirit.

  19. Congratulations on your new gig! I wish you success, though I doubt that's necessary-you are an entertaining and informative blogger already! Have fun at the Spring Fling, I wish I could be there! :( The plants that would take over my yard are honeysuckle, heal-all, and blue fescue grass.

  20. Now come on, we both know they aren't using plant consultants on that show. But, it is fun to watch--I remember hoping to like the Will Smith movie "I Am Legend" because of the premise.. I just love all that kind of stuff, though the movie could have been better with a few tweaks.

  21. Hi everyone thanks for visiting and commenting. I think I've gone and returned comments at all of yours. Sorry for the delay.


    Those are my favorite kind of movies next to Superhero movies. I was really disappointed in 'I Am Legend.' I checked out the original with Vincent Price and couldn't stop laughing at how silly it seemed.

  22. Anonymous6:34 PM

    thx for visiting & commenting my blog or else i probably would have never known about this blog & the chgo garden blog. its good to learn from each other as we are tackling the goofy weather chicago brings us. ha!



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