Greetings Friends! 

Ah, the month of giving thanks! Among the many reasons we have to be thankful at Johnson's Nursery is another stellar year of bringing high quality, locally grown landscape plants to your yard, and for you returning to read our free, monthly e-newsletter, The Leaf in Brief. In this month's feature article, Carrie Hennessy writes about what she has to be thankful for this year.

The plant of the month is Gymnocladus dioica, Kentucky Coffeetree. Like last month, we've chosen another massive Wisconsin native. But instead of a stunning conifer, we chose a tree that begins as an ugly duckling and ends up a swan. Leaf lore explains that the seeds were once roasted and ground like coffee. 
Thank you for reading. Enjoy!
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On October 21st, I saw a lone Monarch on some purple asters in our butterfly garden, outside my office window. The poor little guy had missed the caravan with his friends and was all by himself, getting nectar on a warm fall day for his long journey south. Today, I saw him again, sitting on my car basking in the sunlight of an unusually warm November morning. Pretty sure he has no intention of heading south at this point. But seeing this rogue butterfly reminded me that November is a season of thankfulness. I am thankful that Monarch Butterfly populations, which were in steady decline over the last decade, rebounded this year. I'm also thankful that I don't have to migrate the way Monarchs do, buffeted by wind, rain, and car windshields.

For the month of November, I encourage you to sit down and make a list of what you've been thankful for this year. Here's mine:

I'm thankful that we are having a mild fall transition. This kind of climate change is alright.

I'm thankful for the extra hour of sleep I got when Daylight Savings Time ended Halloween weekend.

I'm thankful for 50% off Halloween candy.

I'm thankful for my husband. Especially since he let me rescue a little black kitten that we found trapped in a barrel at the nursery two days before Halloween. He's thankful that it only stayed in our spare room for two days before I found it a home.

I'm thankful we hired a new landscape designer this year, Lynda Lowry, who helped me get through my busiest year since I started at Johnson's Nursery over 7 years ago.

I'm thankful the Milwaukee Brewers season is over. The most hopeful time for a Brewers fan is winter, when we can still believe they might have a winning season.

I'm thankful for Rob Lucas, our Marketing Coordinator, without whom, the Leaf in Brief wouldn't be possible and my Dirt and Quick Tips videos would be glorified selfies.

I'm thankful for the autumnal colors of Sugar Maples, the smell of dried leaves, pots of chili with Packer games, and apple pie in the oven.

I'm thankful for our hard-working landscape crews, because Lord knows, I'd never be able to install all those plants myself.

I'm thankful for customers who are contacting me now about spring projects, so I can perform consultations without danger of frost bite and get site measurements without trudging through snow. They, in turn, will be thankful for their foresight, which will put them on our installation schedule ahead of those who wait to contact me in April.

I'm thankful for Montrose White Calamint, Blue Heaven Little Bluestem Grass, and Summer Peek-a-Boo Allium- my three favorite perennials for a sunny area.

I'm thankful for the August trip to Door County I took with my husband, and that we were finally able to visit and hike around Rock Island State Park.

I'm thankful that the 2015 landscape season is drawing to a close...because I am tired. I am looking forward to working "normal-people" hours and spending more time with friends and family. But as soon as this wish is granted, and I'm tethered to my desk for the next 4 months, I will be eagerly anticipating spring. And I will worry that my winter to-do list won't get done before the snow melts and daffodils are popping up. But...for now...I am thankful.
Monarch on Aster, picture taken this past week.
Rescued a kitten
Ryan Braun biting his fingernails.
Be thankful for autumn colors.
Carrie playing in Montrose White Calamint
Rock Island State Park - Door County

PLANT OF THE MONTH:PlantofMonth Gymnocladus dioica
Kentucky Coffeetree
Gymnocladus dioica
Though its name may suggest otherwise, Kentucky Coffeetree has a very wide range and is native throughout the United States, including Wisconsin. The Latin name, Gymnocladus means "naked branches". In its youth, Kentucky Coffeetree has an ungainly "ugly duckling" appearance with coarse, sparse branching. But patience and time will reveal a stately tree with deeply grooved bark and delicate leaves that cast a dappled shade, allowing for lawn, wildflowers, and other landscape plants to grow underneath. They are especially spooky when bare of leaves, against a blood red Halloween sunset. These trees are ideal for replacing Ash Trees that are in decline: they have no notable pest or disease problems and are very adaptable to soil type, wet or dry conditions, and compacted soil.

Coffeetrees have such a wide range across the United States, because they were carried by nomadic Native American tribes. The raw seeds are toxic, so they are not dispersed by animals (though there is evidence that pre-historic mastodons could safely ingest the pods and then defecated the seeds along their migration trails). Natural stands of Coffeetrees are usually found along riverbanks, which is a good way to determine an old Native American campsite. Female trees produce large, flat pods that encase the large, dark smooth seeds. Surrounding the seeds is an edible, fleshy pulp that was used as a sweetener and the roots were ground for medicine. The toxic seeds were very popular amongst tribes as wagers for pre-colonial versions of dice games.

The common name of Gymnocladus comes from early European settlers roasting the beans inside the pods ("150 degrees for at least three hours to be safe for human consumption") to create a coffee substitute (since real coffee was hard to import and very expensive). "Land developers [wanting to get settlers out to the 'far west'] advertised Kentucky as a place where a tree grew with beans that could be roasted and brewed to make a fine coffee substitute. Although drinkable, the beverage was no substitute for coffee, and the early settlers quickly dropped it as soon as the real thing became available". It's kind of like now, when land developers build a new subdivision, then down the road pops up a strip mall with a Starbucks.
Click here for more delightful information.
Distinct pods make this tree easily recognizable.
Female trees produce large, flat pods.
Kentucky Coffeetree beans
NEW!! - Fall Harvest
The Dirt with Carrie Hennessy
Duration: 2:09
from Carrie's Quick Tips  
Duration: 0:53

Is it too late to plant? You want to give perennials enough time root so the frost doesn't pop them out of the ground. But, it is a good idea to get perennials and evergreens in the ground by... Learn more.

from Carrie's Quick Tips
Duration: 1:10

Deer can be lovely to look at in the wild, but when they are dining on your most valuable landscape plants they can raise the blood pressure of even the most ardent nature lover. Learn about deer resistance... Learn more.
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Offering the expertise of our Horticulturists, this custom design service is provided at no cost to you.   
This is the best do-it-yourself program if you're a homeowner looking to design and plant your own project. We Plan-You Plant offers the helpful assistance of our experts, who will create a professional landscape design--at no cost--when you purchase your plants at Johnson's Nursery. Watch the videos on our website and get started today. Learn More.

We encourage you to bring your empty plastic containers and trays back to Johnson's Nursery.

If thrown in the trash, these materials will sit in the landfill and will not get recycled. You can return them to us, for free, all year long. Simply pull up to the bins and place your plastics in the bin with the corresponding recycling symbol.

Recycle. Act locally, think globally. Learn more.
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