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  • Golden rush

    When golden-yellow forsythias burst into bloom, Chicagoans know winter is finally over.
    This shrub earns its place in so many gardens because it’s such a sign of spring and it’s so hardy and long-lived. Once established, forsythia is “pretty resilient,” says Todd Jacobson, head of horticulture at The Morton Arboretum.
    The ancestral forsythia species are mostly large shrubs from eastern Asia. But many hybrids and cultivars have been developed that are more compact or more cold-hardy, or bloom in different shades of yellow from pale lemon to deep gold, Jacobson says.

  • History and artistry

    A rare volume of botanical illustrations by the artist Pancrace Bessa (1772-1846) has been added to the Special Collection of The Morton Arboretum's Sterling Morton Library as part of its 50th anniversary celebration. It is one of only 10 copies of the work in library catalogs in the world. The book contains 389 of Bessa’s 572 watercolors painted for a periodical called Herbier Général de L’Amateur that was published in Paris between 1810 and 1813. They were copied onto printing plates by skilled artisans. Now The Morton Arboretum has not only the original watercolor of Bess'a portrayal of a mock-orange branch but the engraving for which it was painted. The Arboretum has been collecting rare botanical books since it was established in 1922, and botanical art has been a specialty since the Sterling Morton Library was dedicated in 1963.
  • Exploring the wonders of snow

    A good snowfall is a chance to throw snowballs, build forts, spot animal tracks, and notice how white highlights outline the shapes of trees, says Tifanie Treter, who often teaches about snow in Winter Science Camps at The Morton Arboretum. Treter suggests bringing a sketchbook to capture the shape of a tree outlined by snow. A camera, a magnifying glass, and a field guide to identify animal tracks will add to the fun.
  • Winter is prime pruning time

    Winter is a fine time to prune shrubs. When the leaves are gone, you can see the true form of the plant to help you choose which branch to cut, says Kunso Kim, head of collections and curator at The Morton Arboretum. How you prune will depend on each shrub’s situation.
  • Protect your plants from animals over the winter

    Animals that need food to survive the winter can take a toll on perennials, shrubs, and young trees. Simple steps can minimize the damage, according to Peter Linsner, who is in charge of animal control at The Morton Arboretum.
  • Cones are time-tested packaging

    What is a pine or spruce cone? Think of it as an egg carton. Each of the layered scales once created a sealed compartment for one or two seeds. You can find many sizes and shapes of cones among the more than 100 kinds of trees in the Conifer Collection at The Morton Arboretum. Their ancestry is ancient: Conifer fossils go back 300 million years.