Red Hot Poker and Butterfly Weed

I have been trying to attract butterflies to the garden and give them some habitat to survive, since much of their habitat has been destroyed.  This time of year I start looking for caterpillars and butterflies.  I like to put a lot of bright colored flowers in the garden to draw the butterflies in.

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Red hot pokers flowers, butterfly weed, and Russian sage.  I like orange in the garden!  When I sit at my desk by the window I look out at this.

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Pollinator on butterfly weed.  I have two large stands of this plant in the yard.  Today I was standing on the patio when I saw a monarch butterfly on our butterfly weed right by the patio.  I tried to stay still in case it wanted to deposit some eggs, but it flew away.  That is the first monarch I have seen in two years.  I hope it comes back!

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Shasta daisies.  I got rid of almost all the Shasta daisies I had in my garden, but left a couple just because they are cheery.

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Coreopsis ‘moonbeam’ with blue hill salvia.

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‘Incrediball’ hydrangea.

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We took a walk this morning starting out from the Little Red Schoolhouse Nature Center in the forest preserve.  Up ahead is Long John Slough, a little lake where we stopped to watch a variety of wildlife.

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As we stood at the shore we saw something that at first we thought was a beaver.  Then we thought is was an otter.  We finally realized that it was a muskrat.  There was a muskrat couple busy working this morning.  This one is swimming with a bunch of grass in its mouth back to the other muskrat.  We could not see the den, or whatever a muskrat home is called.  The water lilies were beautiful today.  In any case it was a gorgeous day to stand on the shore and watch the activity.

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Toadstools in the forest.

We forgot our bug spray in the car and the horse flies and mosquitoes started chasing us at this point!

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Unidentified butterfly.  The picture is a bit fuzzy, but I included it because it did not look familiar.  I was not sure how to identify this butterfly with its wings closed…

The zinnias are starting to bloom in the yard, so that should start bringing the butterflies in.

Feasting From The Garden

A big goal of our garden is to feed ourselves.  We have been eating a lot of lettuce recently, but now the spring vegetables are coming to and end, and the summer vegetables are getting going.  As far as berries go, the strawberries are mostly done, but all the other berries are abundant.

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This is a picture from about a week ago, so we still had quite a few strawberries.  Today I picked a bowl of serviceberries, mulberries, raspberries, and a few blueberries.  We usually add them to our oatmeal in the morning, but sometimes I eat them in the evening with a little ice cream…  The view from the kitchen window shows you the change from those winter snow pictures!

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Juvenile robin in the serviceberry bush – Amalanchier laevis.  There were several robins in the serviceberry bush having a great snack this morning.  Now that the bush is becoming a tree, and there are a lot of plants near the base, it is hard for me to harvest all the berries without getting eaten by mosquitoes.  Anyway, I am glad to share this abundance with the birds.

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The neighbor’s raspberries are ripening and I am getting a handful each day.  I eat the ones on my side of the fence and sometimes reach over for a few on the other side if they don’t seem to be eating them!

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The vegetable garden is getting crowded now.  I need to clear out some of the spring vegetables to make more room.  In the patch in front that was covered by the hoop over the winter we are still eating a little of the kale and some lettuce, which is starting to bolt.  I have planted a cantaloupe, and if it takes off I will clear out some of these old plants and let the melon take over.  In the main garden you can see how tall one of the tomato plants is already.

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Looking closer in the garden you can see the two tomato plants to the left of the path.  I did not plan very well this year and the zucchini is already blossoming and filling up its spot to the left of the tomatoes.  It is going to be a challenge to get in there to harvest!  I plan to clear out the turnips and lettuce on the right of the path soon.  I am thinking of making a turnip salad, sort of like potato salad, and see how that goes!  On the front left are brussel sprouts and in the very far back the cucumbers are blossoming and getting going.

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Tokyo cross turnips.  It looks like I’d better get these harvested!

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The other day I brought one of these big turnips in for Dan to cook along with his kale and collards.  When I started washing it, four little earwigs crawled out. So we always have to watch what we bring in the house with us.

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Here is a sink full of bok choy we sautéed up with some garlic and soy sauce the other night.  It looks like an earwig or spider was on the back of one of the leaves on the left, too.

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I thought I had bought a nine-pack of collards this spring, but when I got home I noticed the little cauliflower label I had missed earlier.  We ate the leaves as collard leaves for a month or so, but now are leaving them as a little protection for the cauliflower that is developing.  Some of the plants have white cauliflower that looks ready to eat pretty soon.  I have never grown this before, so I need to do some research.

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I planted my pole beans on the usual green teepee poles I have used the last few years.  But every year the teepee gets too heavy and it all starts falling over, so I bought some large stakes and we put up additional material for the beans to grow on.  The incrediball hydrangea is looking great right now.  In the back you can see the orange butterfly weed, which had a visit from a monarch butterfly today.

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I planted a lot of bush beans, that are yellow wax beans.  There are a lot of bean flowers and little beans developing now.  I like these little yellow marigolds, too.

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I was hoping to put some compost on the vegetables this weekend, but it was not quite ready yet, so I turned it and with the coming hot weather it should be ready before long.

Price Park and Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy

Vacation time!  Dan and I decided to explore the area around Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for the first time.  Thursday we explored the lake and the town of Lake Geneva.  Friday, after looking at the parks in the area on a map and guide book, we chose to visit Price Park, northeast of Elkhorn.  We had a fantastic time.  Maybe it was the fact that the weather was a beautiful 75 degrees F, it was a work day and the park was almost empty, the prairie flowers were in full bloom, and it was all-around a perfect summer day.  After going on the usual woodsy path we came out to a meadow with picnic tables and benches, a mowed lawn, and a little lake surrounded by cattails and frog sounds.  We met a lady as we left the park who said they fished in the little lake.

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Small lake at Price Park, near Elkhorn, Wisconsin.

Leaving the meadow and walking through another woods, we came out in another mowed area.

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This eastern comma butterfly was at the edge of the mowed area.

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There were dragonflies everywhere.  Here they have found a nice stick on which to enjoy the sunny day.  It is not a great picture, but you get the idea.

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In another field prairie plants were blooming.  This picture does not show it well, but the blue/purple spiderwort plants were gorgeous and abundant.  There was also orange butterfly weed and white indigo.  My handsome husband posed for me.

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Saturday morning was foggy and cool at the grain field next to our hotel.  We saw these pink thistles here and there in the area.

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Even though it was cool and wet we put on our jackets and headed out to Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy on the summer solstice.  The nature area boardwalk starts near the Lake Geneva beach at Williams Bay, WI.  After we had been on the boardwalk for a while it ended and we stepped off on to a grassy path and soon our shoes and socks were soaked.

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We walked around a bend in the path and came upon a wild turkey and four or five baby turkeys (poults.)

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The turkeys stood perfectly still and we also stood still, while Dan took a few pictures.

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Close up of baby turkey trying to hide in the grass.  After a bit they got up and blended into the tall grass.

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The prairie plants of every kind were blooming beautifully.  This yellow plant looked like the fennel in my garden.  There were also taller plants with umbels that might have been prairie parsley.  There were fields of penstemon digitalis blooming white, and a number of other blooming plants I could not identify.

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We walked along grassy paths and the squirrel noticed us and was trying to decide what to do.

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Male goldfinch in grassy meadow.

When we stood still along the path we could sense wildlife everywhere and a lot of bird noises.

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Common yellowthroat making clicking noise in the treetops. We took quite a few pictures of this warbler and finally realized that it may have been trying to distract us to keep from disclosing the nest site.  This area was across the path from the prairie.

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There were red-winged blackbirds everywhere.  We also flushed out a bright blue bird which we guessed was a male indigo bunting.  He was gone before we were able to take a picture.

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Pearl crescent butterfly.  As we left the sun was coming out and the butterflies were sunning themselves.

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A large mourning cloak butterfly suns itself on the boardwalk.

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I had to put in a picture of a large group of turkey vultures that we saw near Twin Lakes, WI, where we stopped to eat a sandwich near the lake.

Back in Chicago we felt refreshed from our time in these beautiful nature preserves.

Chinquapin, Catalpa, and Berry Season

Trees help take up carbon from the atmosphere and are such a great habitat for wildlife.

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Our chinquapin oak has been growing about 2 feet a year, since we planted it in 2009.  The branches grow so quickly in the spring that they were hanging down to the lawn.    We may have to trim off more lower branches, but we like the low branch look.  We are zone 5B and this is a zone 6 tree, I think, but with global warming and a protected backyard it seems to do well.

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This week when we looked out the kitchen window we noticed that the catalpa tree was blooming in our neighbor’s yard and the flowers all over the tree are so stunning.  This tree is very fast growing – maybe four feet a year – but won’t be long lived like the oak.

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One or two baby robins seemed to have hatched in the robins’ nest and she is busy feeding them now.  The nest is in the crabapple tree outside our kitchen window, but we can see the babies a little from our upstairs bedroom window.

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Robin in the birdbath on a hot day.  The beautiful dark green chinquapin leaves are in the background.

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The raspberry tart viburnum bush is in full bloom and attracting a lot of bees.  On the right is an arborvitae bush.

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The mulberries are just starting to ripen.  I had some for breakfast in my cereal with strawberries and the first serviceberries.

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I try to pick the serviceberries before the birds get them all.

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We have been picking a bowl of strawberries most days now.

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The beautiful yellow yarrow is blooming around the garden now.  Here it is next to turnips and loose leaf lettuce, that we are eating as fast as we can before the weather gets too hot.

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Potato flowers blooming.  In the back is the blooming clematis and the tomato cages.  I was straightening out one of the tomato vines the other day and the smell was wonderful.

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I was looking at the parsley plant to see where the caterpillar was and I noticed this familiar looking plant sticking out of the container.  Then I remembered that for some crazy reason I put potatoes in the bottom of the crazy cornflower container.  I guess I won’t be able to get the potatoes out for a few months, but I don’t think it will hurt anything.

Tree stories:  Our church was planting trees to replace ash trees they had to cut down.  We purchased an American sentry linden tree – Tilia Americana – to add to the new line up and helped shovel in a little dirt today.

Also, we found a hickory tree growing in a corner of our garden and moved it into a new place to see if we could get it to grow.  After one week it is not looking too good, but we will keep babying it to see if it will take root and grow.  I think it is a shagbark hickory.  It had a long tap-root and we heard these are hard to transplant, though it was only about 18 inches tall.

Butterfly, Caterpillar, and a Mystery Bird

If you get out in the garden on a sunny day you can find sun loving insects and flying creatures if you can stand still for a while.

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Little wood satyr – Megisto cymela.  I saw a number of these little butterflies on Saturday morning.  This one was in the unmowed meadow.  While I was standing there I saw what I think was an eastern comma butterfly sunning on the raspberry leaves, but it got away before a was able to focus, so I can’t verify what it was.

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Pollinators on aruncus – goatsbeard, which is just going past prime now.  There were a lot of flies, but also small bees, wasps, and the tiny red creature at the top of the picture is either some kind of spider or tick.

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Black swallowtail caterpillar on curly parsley.  This guy was chewing away one evening.  I did not see it the next morning, so it is either hiding, eaten by a bird, or off to make its cocoon.  I saw a black swallowtail butterfly a while ago apparently dropping eggs on this parsley, so I have been keeping my eyes open for the caterpillars.

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Spike speedwell – veronica spicata ‘royal candles.’  Just throwing in something that is flowering this week.  In the background the black-eyed susan foliage is getting taller, and behind that is miscanthus ‘morning light.’  Pennisetum alopecuroides ‘Little Bunny’ grass is on the right.

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This little brown bird spent about 5 minutes on this spot this morning and I wondered if it was a juvenille version of a common bird from around here.  When I look at the pictures I took the one leg is holding all the weight in all the pictures and I wonder if there was an injury or if that is normal.  In the background sedum in blooming yellow.

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Here is a side view.  If anyone recognizes this bird let me know.  On the right is what I think is a juvenile robin.  They were looking at each other for a while below the bird bath.

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The first coreopsis (tickseed) bloomed.

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The clover is blooming in the lawn, which makes a lot of bees happy.  It is also good for the lawn as it is a nitrogen fixer – that is it obtains nitrogen from the atmosphere and fixes it in nodules on its roots.  So it is a kind of fertilizer.  The Chicago lustre viburnum bushes are starting to bloom in the background.  And if you look closely you can see one of the clematis flowers on the back fence.

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Clematis bloom on back fence.  We have two clematis vines and they are pretty wild right now.

June Blooms, Bees, and a Hummingbird

Every year I try to capture a picture of the blues of several cultivars of salvia and catmint and the yellow of the lady’s mantle, but I haven’t done it justice yet.  Here are a few favorites that I captured this week.

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Bee on blue hill salvia in the morning light.

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Catmint nepeta x faassenii ‘walker’s low’ and lady’s mantle alchemilla mollis.  The bees have been very busy on the catmint this week.

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Bee visits foxglove digitalis. This is a biennial that drops seeds and blooms in the second year.

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The cream colored foxgloves are blooming now, too.  You can see the joe pye weed starting to stretch up against the fence in the background.

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This is another kind of foxglove – the native penstemon digitalis beardtongue.  The color is muted, but it is a favorite.

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Geranium ‘rozanne’ opens to the morning sun.

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The first gaillardia – blanket flower.

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Every kind of insect is busy now.  This blue wasp on the coneflower leaves might be a blue mud dauber that hunts spiders, stings them, and carries them to its nest.  I see another tiny flying creature also on the bottom of this picture.  That was just luck that I caught both.

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Dan shot this hummingbird picture from the kitchen window.  I think there have been spider mites on the yew bushes.  I am not sure what the hummingbird was after.

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Crazy cornflower container.  I did not want to leave this cornflower, centaurea cyanus, in the garden bed so I stuck it in this container with petunias and marigolds.  It is crazy, but kind of cheery.

Damselfly, Birds, and Irises

Bees, birds, and various bugs are more active and fun to take pictures of this time of year.

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I saw a lot of damselflies in the grass meadow.

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The dove couple love to hang out at the birdbath and socialize.  They don’t really jump in much, but they take their time preening and pretending this is their territory.

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Dan also got a shot of the goldfinch couple at the birdbath.

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We were so excited to have a robin build her nest in our crabapple tree.  Yesterday morning we had the ladder out and did not see any eggs in the nest, but maybe there are some today.

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The irises are the big show this week!  The robin is near the top of this crabapple tree.

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Blue iris

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Ant on chive flower.

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Dan turned the compost on Saturday.  It is not quite ready yet, but moving along.

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Dan was my big helper this weekend.  Here he stood to stretch his back!  In front is baptisia australis – false blue indigo, and the leaves of the chinquapin oak and the hydrangea.