Plum Blossoms and Mounds of Green Growth

It has been a cool windy week with frosty nights.  It seems like the garden is a little slow in getting going.  I did some weeding and put some mulch down on Friday, but I will wait for some warmer weather to continue garden work.  I have really enjoyed seeing the plum blossoms this week.

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Prunus americana – American plum tree blossoms.

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The branches are full of blossoms all waiting to be pollinated.  It was a windy cool day and I did not see a lot of pollinators out there today, but I am sure they will come.

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We planted two native plum trees a few feet apart to form a privacy screen.  They are vigorous growers and will sucker from the root system, so I have been cutting those back.  The two trees are not quite the same plant and the one on the right is growing taller and has more blossoms this year.  In the back the crabapple is getting ready to bloom soon.

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Crabapple malus profusion.  The crabapple has been looking ready to bloom for a while.  You can see that the leave are looking mostly green now, though some still look bronze colored.

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This is what the little leaves of the profusion crabapple looked like a week or two ago when they started to emerge.

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Around the garden green leaves are mounding up energetically.  In the front is yarrow and behind it is sedum.  There are still some coral colored daffodils blooming.

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Coral bells – heuchera plum pudding and Korean feather reed grass – Calamagrostis brachytricia.  Once the weather warms up the bigger plants crowd out the huechera and it also does not want too much sun, so it is nicest at this time of year.

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Growing grass from seed.  I put some grass seed under the plum trees and used up a free bag of grass starter soil, probably with some fertilizer in it.  The grass is growing in some places.  In the front yard I put down some top soil with no special fertilizer and over seeded my grass, but don’t seem to see the grass seeds sprouting after about 2 weeks.  Maybe if the weather warms up there is still hope….  In any case I am letting the grass get tall this spring to encourage as much growth as possible and maybe crowd out some weeds.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this morning the only bird picture I got was what I think it a tree sparrow going into its nest in what was probably previously a woodpecker cavity.  I am pretty sure I saw a few yellow warblers for the first time, but my camera and photography skills were not good enough to get pictures.

Frost:  One night I put plastic over the lettuce and collards to protect them from frost.  Then next night I did not do anything and the frost seemed to be quite significant.  Still the romaine lettuce and collards seemed to have survived it with no damage.  It looks like two or three more cool nights and then things will start to warm up!

Serviceberry, Lettuce, and Wild Creatures

It’s that busy time…  There is the lawn I am trying to overseed and water, weeds to pull and mulch to put down, and of course it is time to start planting some vegetables.  But each day it’s fun to watch the trees that are starting to bloom.  The first shrub is the serviceberry, or Juneberry.

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Serviceberry amelanchier laevis.  I can’t wait for the yummy berries in June.

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The petals were starting to fall today.  It is easier to see the beauty of these blossoms when there is a dark background like an evergreen.  I have a hard time getting good pictures of the whole bush in the spring, when the surrounding vegetation is sparse and the background is a white garage.

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American plum trees ready to bloom.  Last year I had only one blossom on both plum trees!!  The previous year the bugs had really been chewing on the brand new shrubs.  Now they have obviously recovered and are getting ready for a show.

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Last year I planted asparagus for the first time.  Maybe the plant was not in such good shape because this year I only got one shoot that has survived so far!   A few other shoots are trying a little, but don’t look so good.  In the back the chives are going strong and will bloom before long.  The strawberries are doing their thing and the oregano is coming back to life on the right.

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Romaine lettuce and rhubarb.  I have big plans for the vegetable garden this year, so I have to pace myself.  While the weather is cool I try to get some lettuce going.  I planted a few spinach seeds yesterday.  I have some tiny leaf lettuce starting to grow from seed also.  It won’t be long before I will make some scrumptious rhubarb sauce.

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I picked up a 6 pack of Georgia collards and planted three of them here in the new bed I created from the silver maple mulch from the tree we cut down.  I just dug three holes and put soil around the seedlings.  Eventually the roots should go through the newspapers at the bottom and penetrate the soil below.  Hopefully…

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Looking through the front window I saw a brown bird pecking in the lawn.  After zooming in I saw that it was a female northern flicker, a type of woodpecker that apparently does a lot of pecking on the ground.

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This picture of the female northern flicker is not much better, but it was really fun for me to see her in the yard.  I saw a flicker couple at the bird bath once last year.

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This morning I saw a bug I did not recognize on the lawn chair.  I believe it is a western conifer seed bug.  Since we have conifers in neighboring yards that makes sense.  So many intricate details…

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Last week when we went for a walk at Lake Katherine along the new Cal-Sag bike route we came across this dead snake.  My guess is that it hibernated before all this netting was put down over grass seed next to the newly paved path.  Then when the snake came out in the spring it got caught in the netting.  Maybe someone killed it at that point.  I believe it is a northern water snake, which are apparently fairly common.

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Male northern shoveler duck at Lake Katherine.  The green head looks like a mallard, but the rest doesn’t, so I tried to zoom in and get a picture.  They stay in the middle of the lake and seem more shy than mallards.  This morning I saw a couple of northern shovelers again.  I also saw the pied-billed grebe again.  It is fun to start being able to identify different waterfowl.

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Common cattail gone to seed.  Apparently this fluff was once used in pillows…

It is raining this evening.  April showers bring May flowers!

If you have any interest in seeing how my garden has developed over the past five years you can visit

Daffodils and Bitternut Hickory

There is a lot of green, yellow and white in the garden these days.  Daffodils are a favorite for me and are not bothered by the squirrels.  The shrubs have not bloomed yet, but the serviceberry, plum, and crabapple are getting ready to blossom any day.

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I really like the clean colors of this white daffodil with a yellow center.

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All white daffodils

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Yellow daffodils with orange centers.

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Narcissus is the scientific name and “daffodil” is one of a number of common names.  This group of standard daffodils multiplies each year and makes a bright spot as I look out of my office window.

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I planted a few “Ice King” daffodils last fall.  So far the result has been underwhelming.  The flowers are so heavy they bend down.  Maybe in a few days they will perk up and look good.  Here’s hoping….

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Our big activity today was planting this bitternut hickory (Carya cordiformis) in the front yard.  We went to Possibility Place Nursery and discussed our choice with them, and came home with this 5 foot tall hickory.  Once the tree was planted I put some soil down on the lawn to try to even it out a bit and will sow grass seed in a day or two.  Hopefully that will take care of the front yard for a while, except for watering the tree and grass…

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A closer look at our bitternut hickory, a tree that is native to Illinois, and one that was historically common in the area around us, but is not often planted now.  It is predicted to grow at least two feet each year and maybe more.  We tried to plant it in the hole from the silver maple we cut down, but the root system and tree base were too hard to cut through there, so we planted it a few feet away.  When we were planting it almost all the soil fell off the roots, as predicted by the guy who sold it to us.  It was not pretty as we tried to get it correctly in the ground, but I think it is settled now and will do fine.

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As evening approaches the male northern cardinal sings a beautiful song for us.

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I have enjoyed having dark-eyed juncos in the yard every day, but have had a lot of trouble getting good pictures of them.  This is the best I got as I zoomed way in across the yard.  They are winter residents, so will probably be leaving us soon.

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West of the Chicago area there was a serious tornado this week.  We did not have a tornado, but the clouds were fantastic this week.  We were thankful for about two inches of rain this week.

Spider:  As I was looking at the little leaves emerging on the crabapple tree, my head almost bumped into a very delicate but complete spider web and a tiny spider waiting for me to get out of the way so it could enjoy its supper waiting at the center of the little web.  The bug/wild life is getting going now!

Early April Easter

Happy Easter!  It was a beautiful, warm day and besides sitting out in the sun I took an early morning walk at Lake Katherine.

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Earlier this week there was a beautiful sunrise.  Sort of an Easter theme…

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Yesterday the mini daffodils started finally opening and they were really opening up today.

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Even a few of the regular size daffodils opened today.

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I have been noticing very small anemones opening up close to the ground here and there.

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This looks like the first goldfinch I have seen for a while. I was practicing finding singing birds with my camera as I was walking around Lake Katherine today.

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I believe this is a song sparrow.  They are native sparrows with a complex, beautiful song.

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With my not so great zoom I caught of picture of this small pied-billed grebe.  They are smaller than ducks and this one was doing a lot of diving in the middle of the lake.

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I was walking early enough to get a glimpse of the beaver.  I saw that a beaver had recently been chewing on a tree, though it had not fallen over yet.  Looking closer I think it was an ash tree with emerald ash borer holes in the trunk.  I think that is a convenient way to get the infected ash trees cut down!  Just take off the wire mesh at the base of the trunk and let the beavers at it.

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On the other side of the lake where the cattails are starting to grow I saw this healthy looking muskrat, with a long rat-tail.

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To the west of the lake is a tiny pond where the winter snow melts.  These are ephemeral wetlands that are just wet in the spring.  The frogs should start croaking here before long.  The grasses will gradually grow up and the water will disappear as the summer goes on.  It is a good place for snakes and dragonflies.  There are cypress trees planted around the pond with their knees sticking above the water.

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Back home again I noticed that the Easter bunny is living next door under the deck.  So far the fence keeps a rabbit her size out, but last year we seemed to get one of the little bunnies in our yard somehow…

We ate a good chunk out of a “death by chocolate” cake today.  Very delicious!  Back to healthy food tomorrow!