Memorial Day Garden Snapshot

With plenty of rain and heat the garden is growing quickly and a lot is in bloom.

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Baptisia australis – blue false indigo.

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The blue irises that started to bloom today are close in color to the blue indigo.  These fell down due to the heavy rains today.

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This dark red iris looks nice under our red/bronze crabapple tree.

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One of the ground covers by the patio is blooming and attracting pollinators.  It is probably some sort of sedum.

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In this mostly shady spot on the north side of the house the ajuga and hostas have been at their peak this week.

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Here is another shot from farther back of the ajuga, hostas, and the aruncus dioicus goat’s beard, which is getting ready for its white blooms soon.  Just beyond the goat’s beard and only slightly in the picture is the blue muffin viburnum.  The window is my office window, where I can look out and get a little distracted….

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The other day at least two baby robins fledged and one of them ended up outside my office window, making hungry noises.

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Over the next few days I watched the babies quietly “hiding” in various places around the yard.  This baby is in the blue muffin viburnum outside my office window.  A moment later the dad arrived to deliver a grub.  I believe father robins stick with the young robins for a few weeks feeding them and teaching them to hunt, while mother robins go off to incubate some more eggs.

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Also in the blue muffin viburnum dentatum was a ladybug, a beneficial insect.

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Lily of the valley.  I picked one to enjoy the fragrance.

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Geranium ‘Max Frei’ opening up to the morning sun.

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We noticed a lot of little plums getting started on the American plum trees for the first time!

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Chive flower.  I threw some chives in an edamame and avocado salad this week.

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Romaine lettuce.  The rabbit ate the spinach and swiss chard, but has not touched the lettuce yet….

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I think this is a chipping sparrow…

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Not sure what kind of birds these are, but they looked cute sitting on their oak branch as evening approached.

Bees, Birds, Butterfly and a Toad

I have been watching for migrating birds in the yard.  The trouble is, it is hard to get good pictures of them.  Still I am entertained and enjoy observing and learning.  After a busy day of gardening it is fun to get out the camera and take a closer look at what is visiting the flowers.  So here are a few creatures I saw this week.

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Bombylius major – bee-fly.  This little brown bee-fly with a long proboscis is enjoying nectar from the strawberry flower.  It is a fly that is a bee mimic.  No stinging involved here.  The wings were flying very rapidly so it could hover above this flower.

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I have some pink strawberry flowers, too.  It looks like a lot of strawberries are coming soon!

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I can never remember the exact name of these blue bulbs, here visited by what looks like a mini-bumble bee.  It was hard to focus on both the flower and the bee, so I took a lot of shots.

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Here the same blue flowers are below the birdbath where a male goldfinch is coming for a quick drink.  There have been quite a few goldfinches in the neighborhood.

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I think this is a white-crowned sparrow.  If I have this wrong let me know.  They are not in my book of birds of Chicago, so I think this guy is just migrating through.

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Often from the kitchen window it is hard to know what I am seeing across the yard.  Is this still the white-crowned sparrow, a palm warbler or something else?

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Or this slightly blurry bird snacking in the chinquapin oak tree.  Is this a palm warbler migrating through, or something else?  My camera was focusing on the beautiful oak leaves and catkins hanging down.

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A red admiral butterfly has a great camouflage with closed wings.

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Red admiral butterfly

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Back in a weedy part of the garden a toad hopped to get out of my way and try to blend into the surroundings.  I am so happy to have toads in the yard.

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We enjoy our chinquapin oak tree so much, as do the birds.  Our laundry poles keep me from getting a very good shot of it, but once warm weather comes the laundry can dry so quickly outside.

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I planted garlic for the first time and it seems to be doing well.

Seeds Sprouted:  All the bush cucumber seeds sprouted so maybe I will try making pickles this year.  The wax beans are sprouting and I saw two zinnias emerge.  The lettuce needs to be thinned and nibbled on.

Sightings:  We saw quite a few large bull frogs at Lake Katherine today, and could hear them, too.

Lake Katherine May Sightings

After the rain it turned into a beautiful afternoon and I took a leisurely stroll around Lake Katherine.

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I believe this is an eastern wood-pewee.  I often hear the pee-a-wee whistling call, but almost never see the bird.

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Tadpoles in the ephemeral wetlands.  The pond was full and surrounding grass area was very wet.

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A water strider walking on water.  Apparently its legs are covered with microscopic hairs which trap air, helping it to float.

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Yellow buckeye tree

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It looks like a honeybee on the yellow buckeye flower.

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I think this is a song sparrow that I must have disturbed near a nest.  It chirped a long time until I walked away.  It looks like it has a grub or something for a baby bird.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Beautiful Leaves and Healthy Vegetables

My husband told me this week that maybe I should prioritize what I do in the garden, if it gets to be too much work….  We agreed that growing food it our priority!  Still, we have planted a lot of trees, shrubs and perennials over the years and once planted they continue to faithfully bring forth beauty year after year.  So hopefully we can enjoy both beauty and health!

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Alchemilla mollis lady’s mantle

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Tender new shoots on hicksii yew shrub capture a raindrop

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Spider webs made visible by the morning dew on the hicksii yew shrubs.  When the hummingbirds are making their nests I think they like to collect spider webs for their nest linings.  I have seen hummingbirds in these bushes in past years.

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Unfolding leaves of our new bitternut hickory, one month after it was planted.  On the right we managed to get a little grass seed going in the hole from our old silver maple tree.

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Here is what the bitternut hickory looked like earlier in the week as the yellow buds were starting to break open.

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A few flowers, like this salvia, are starting to bloom.

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This is where we planted our drought garden a few years ago.  It still gets a lot of sun, but the shade from the crabapple is growing.  The ground covers and blue fescue grass fill out in the front and the daffodils bloom in the back first.  That is followed by the iris show in the back, which will be starting soon.  After that the middle plants start blooming, including the gaillardias, butterfly weed, coneflowers, Russian sage, zebra grass, agastache, etc.  I might add a plant or two as needed.  I try to mix in some herbs and vegetables where there are open spaces.

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Duke blueberry blossoms

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I have been planting vegetable and herb transplants as well as planting seeds this week.  In the front here I planted sweet basil, curly kale, and collards.  I looked at the trusty plan I made in January and then made modifications as needed.  When we moved into this house we had the fenced in vegetable garden in the back, but as the years have gone by we have kept taking more lawn space to add vegetables plots.

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Tokyo cross hybrid turnips always seem to germinate well and are ready to be thinned out.

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I planted red cabbage for the first time.  I am not sure if we will like eating it, but it looks like it will be pretty!  My motto is to keep experimenting…

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A week ago we saw a bunny in the yard and chased it out.  A day or two later it was back through our “rabbit proof” fence.  I have a theory that there might be tunnels under the fences, starting in our tall meadow where we don’t mow the grass.  Here it is enjoying a clover breakfast, with crabapple petals adding pink color.  So far it has eaten the swiss chard I planted, but nothing else is damaged…yet…..

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I noticed the cowbird couple hopping around exploring the yard this week.  He seemed to be chasing after her…

Graduation: My niece Anna graduated from college today, so a good break from gardening!

Crabapple, Fothergilla, and Lilacs

I have been busy planting all the cool weather vegetables like collards, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, along with lettuce, spinach, potatoes, dill, thyme, basil, parsley, garlic and eggplant…..  While I am busy cleaning up and planting I get wafts of lilac, which is just starting to bloom in the garden.  I love the shrubs that don’t need any work right now, but put on such a great show, and keep the pollinators happy.  In the center stage this week is the crab apple malus profusion.

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Malus profusion crabapple blossom

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As we look out the kitchen window we see the bright colors of the crabapple.  The American plum on the right still has some blossoms, but they are falling quickly.

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Fothergilla flower.  I think this is from my older bush that is about 3 feet tall.

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This is my little fothergilla bush, beaver creek I think, that is finally settling in.  I need to get some fresh mulch down to make it look a little nicer, but this has the most beautiful fall color.  I love it!

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Common lilac.  Can you smell them?  I have three lilac bushes and they are wonderful, but just getting started!

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I planted my first hellebore last spring – peppermint ice.  It had a tough year last year, but hopefully will get established this year.   I have not had any flowers yet, though I see what looks like a flower bud.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this week I noticed that all the lily pads start out red.  I did not know that.

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The turtles are big entertainment for all the children on field trips that visit Lake Katherine.  Here they are soaking in the morning sun rays.

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Is this king of the mountain?  Or family harmony?

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I thought this bird I was trying to take pictures of might be a yellow warbler, but I think it is just a goldfinch, which are common here.  He is sitting in a bald cypress tree that is starting to get needles, and all those branches kept interfering with the focus on my camera.  I am on the look out for migrating birds now.  I got a CD from the library with bird songs and have started listening to that.

Vegetables:  We should have a rainy, hot week, so I have planted seeds and need to be sure a lot of vegetables get established now, throwing in lettuce seeds wherever I can fit them!  I think my tomatoes and peppers should be coming in the mail this week.

Bitternut Hickory:  We planted it three weeks ago and have been watching it every day to see if it is coming out of dormancy.  I just went out to check again and it looks like the buds are opening up and leaves will be arriving!  It is about the last tree in the neighborhood to get leaves so we are really glad it is not dead! Yay!