Backyard blooms, berries and beyond

Backyard blooms, berries and beyond

Following on in the “B” theme, look in this blog post for a bull frog, blue damselfly and Indiana dunes beach….

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The butterfly weed is in bloom.  We are waiting for the monarch butterflies to visit…

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Veronica spicata Spike speedwell ‘Royal Candles’ a little bit past its prime.  Red hot poker flowers in the background.

IMG_8523Kniphofia red hot pokers in front of miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.

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The view from the patio.

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Aruncus goat’s beard does well on the north side of the house.

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The first gaillardia blooms.

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Bright yellow yarrow, and in the background salvia ‘blue hill.’

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The alyssum re-seeds itself each year and is starting to bloom now.

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Does cauliflower count as a flower?  I cooked this up in a soup today!

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The collards are looking nice and we are trying to keep up with eating them before the cabbage worms do their munching.  This plant does not look too chewed on.

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We haven’t had to buy lettuce for a few weeks.  This leaf lettuce is nice, but the romaine is starting to bolt with the hot weather.

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In a bowl this morning from our yard – serviceberries, strawberries, mulberries and raspberries.  I enjoyed them with my oatmeal.

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Ripening serviceberry.  I am competing with the birds for these now.  The robins are often in the serviceberry tree.

IMG_8530Unfortunately this berry loving cedar waxwing died after crashing into our kitchen window!  I saw a big serviceberry in its mouth before it died.

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A downy woodpecker has been visiting the birdbath.

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There seem to be a lot of wasps in the yard this year.

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Blue damselfly on miscanthus ornamental grass.

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We visited Indiana Dunes State Park last weekend.  We hiked for a couple of hours in the dunes before enjoying our lunch with the crowd on the beach.

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A little cactus along the prairie trail.  This state park has quite a few endangered species.

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Tomahawk Slough in the Palos Forest Preserve, where we hiked last Sunday.

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One of many bullfrogs at Tomahawk Slough.

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There were also a ton of little toads or frogs hoping around near the water and on the trail.  I guess it is time for them to head out on their own and see if they survive.

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Great blue heron at Tomahawk Slough.

Birding:  I signed up for a birding blitz in the Palos Forest Preserve for June 17th.  I am just an amateur birder, so I was looking forward to going out with someone who could identify a ton of birds.  I showed up in the parking lot at 5:30 am and then remembered to check my email on my phone.  The blitz had been canceled for weather reasons, as thunderstorms were predicted.  I could hear all the birds around me, but the expert birders were not there.  We did not get any rain on Saturday as I guess the rain fell somewhere else.  But it was probably a good thing that I was not involved, as my foot has been giving me some trouble after all that hiking last weekend.  So it is a good weekend to just rest and recover and get this blog post done!

 

Bees, Fungi, Grasshoppers and Hummingbirds

Bees, Fungi, Grasshoppers and Hummingbirds

This is always a fun time to be taking pictures in the garden.  There are too many mosquitoes to want to do much weeding, but the garden it packed with pollinators on all the September flowers.

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Bee on Caryopteris.

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I have two caryopteris bushes that are covered with bees these days.  My best guess is carpenter bees.  I can count 6 bees in this picture.  They love the sedum, too.  The ornamental grass in the background is miscanthus ‘morning light.’

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The sedum has turned pink.  On the back left is the other caryopteris bush and on the right is the blue hill salvia that is blooming again after a hair cut earlier in the summer.  The sedum is most active when the sun is shining, attracting a lot of flies, skippers and bees.

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I zoomed in to take a closer look at the bold-faced hornet.  My research says this critter is in the yellowjacket wasp family that live in those big hanging nests in trees.  I wonder where the nest is.  If you are not in danger from bothering the nest these are considered beneficial insects due to their predation of flies, caterpillars and spiders.  Wikipedia says that adults also drink nectar which they feed to their larvae.  The designs on the body are really fascinating.

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I moved over to the blue hill salvia to photograph the busy bees there.

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But my camera wanted to focus on this mystery mushroom instead.

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Funky fungus

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Recently I noticed a large area of fungi.  I am not sure if they are the result of the deterioration of our old silver maple tree or if it is just from wood chips breaking up or what.  I am not really an expert on fungi, but the fungi area is five or six times larger than this picture.  It looks a little bit like wasp nests….

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Unknown critter on my plastic chair this morning.  Is it a wasp or a moth or something else?  There are so many unknown small creatures in the yard now.

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When I went to pick pole beans I found these two grasshoppers next to each other.

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In the little messy meadow there are a lot of little grasshoppers and damselflies these days.

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Next to the meadow the turtlehead flowers are in bloom and behind them the coral mums are getting ready to bloom in October.

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Russian sage and solidago rugosa goldenrod ‘fireworks.’

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Monarch on Russian sage.  I have not seen monarch caterpillars on my milkweed yet, but realize that some of the monarchs that have been visiting recently have been male.  I noticed that when I looked back at some of the pictures I posted in previous blogs that show the pattern when the wings are open.

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There have continued to be two monarch on the zinnias each afternoon this past week.  The goldfinches have continued to pick the petals off to get at the zinnia seeds.  There is a butterfly festival at Lake Katherine tomorrow, 9/18/16.

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Hummingbird at neighbor’s feeder.  There have been at least two hummingbirds very active in the yard the past weeks, as they live in the mulberry tree behind our backyard.  At least five times I have seen a hummingbird chase after a monarch to scare it away.  I suppose they share the same nectar in the flowers.  I did not believe it at first, but after multiple times I saw that the hummingbirds thought they were the boss and were trying to enforce it, not very successfully.  I think the ones I am seeing are female or immature as they have not had ruby throats.  We do not have a hummingbird feeder, like the neighbors on both sides of us, but the hummingbirds are busy in our yard every day.

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The flowers on the east fence are prettiest this time of year.  In bloom in orange, yellow and white are nasturtiums, alyssum, zinnias, marigolds and mums.

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I thought all of these mums I planted two years ago, I think, had died, but some have come back and started blooming now.

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Butterfly bush flower and nasturtiums.

If you have lasted through all these pictures, thank you!  I don’t blog as often now, so I seem to accumulate a lot of photos between each post.

Blue

Blue

The garden colors I planned for my garden were purple, yellow and orange.  Over time I have come to have many more colors all over the garden, but I still have a lot of blue/purple flows blooming this time of year.

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Baptisia australis – blue false indigo

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Close up of Baptisia australis – false blue indigo

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blue iris

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Clematis ‘Jackmanii’

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Blue columbine

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Blue hill salvia

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May night salvia

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Ajuga ground cover

The yellow and orange follows are getting ready to bloom soon!

Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Strawberries

We have been eating lettuce for a while, but yesterday we cooked up some soup with our first head of cauliflower, and we need to harvest the first head of broccoli today.  We have been eating a lot of strawberries this week.  Actually Dan reached his limit of strawberries, but I still have room for more!

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This cauliflower was a lot smaller than the ones last year, but probably about 7 inches across, so big enough.  The soup we made also had asparagus and mushrooms from the farmer’s market.

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It looks like I need to pick this broccoli head for super.

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Potato flowers.  I planted red potatoes this year, but these potatoes came up from whatever we missed getting out of the ground last year.

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Backing up you can see the same potato plants on the left, next to some flowers  – Penstemon digitalis (foxglove beard tongue), a native plant.  In front are wax beans that are getting crowded out by the potatoes.  I can always plant some more wax beans, if I get around to it.

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Tomato flower.  These are “Amish paste” tomatoes, that were so good last year.

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I have been picking one to two pints of strawberries a day.  Rain and heat help.

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Strawberry rhubarb sauce.  I have made three batches this year.  I realize how much rhubarb I threw in the compost pile the past years…  Of course, it requires a lot of sugar, but other than that there is no cost to me.  I have been enjoying it with some yummy ice cream.

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Our neighbors cut down some weed trees, and with them the raspberry canes.  Raspberries come on second year canes, I believe, so they are growing back for raspberries next year.  And now we have some growing on our side of the fence, the right side, too!

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I think this is oakleaf lettuce.  We pick leaves off and more grow back.  We have romaine lettuce and some baby kale for salads and smoothies, too.

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A few flower pictures, too…  Blue hill salvia, max frei geraniums, and penstemon digitalis.

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The alchemilla lady’s mantle plants have been big this year.  Behind them the catmint is blooming.  On the right in front is the caryopteris and the baptisia australis is in back.  I could get rid of some of these plants, but I don’t have to pick weeds here, or at least I don’t see them, when the plants are big like this.

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Straight through the opening in the last picture – the spike speedwell royal candles are blooming and the gaillardia are getting going, too.

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Geranium ‘rozanne’ with lady’s mantle in the background.

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The joe pye weed on the right is starting to get tall.  Last year I pinched them back.  I think I will not pinch them back and leave them with some supports this year and see how tall they get.  In front are white foxgloves, liatris getting ready to bloom, and foliage of the turtlehead flowers.

Sightings:  A chipmunk that seems to be under the hostas or the irises.  The rabbit persists.  We are learning to live with it, but give it chase now and then.

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.

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.

Viburnum, Foxglove, and Raspberrry

It is June 1st and the weather is hot.  I took a lot of pictures, but here are a few of the plant subjects that caught my attention this week.

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Flowers bloom on blue muffin viburnum.  On the top left the fuzzy strings are from the cottonwood fluff that is floating around the neighborhood these days.

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Here is a picture of the blue muffin viburnum this morning.  This is the first of my four viburnum to bloom.  It needs another viburnum blooming around the same time in order for it to produce its blue berries.  The raspberry tart viburnum is getting ready to bloom, so I might get a few berries on this bush for the birds.

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Fly resting on viburnum flower on a hot afternoon.

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Fly catching the morning sunlight on a fresh green leaf of the raspberry tart viburnum.  I am not sure, but I think this is a different fly species from the picture above.

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Prime time for blue hill salvia, which attracts a lot of bees.  In the background is the raspberry tart viburnum.  It is supposed to be about four feet tall, and I think it has already surpassed that.  It has really widened out in the past few years, and is an excellent shrub.

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The foxglove is blooming this week.  One evening as I was taking a picture of this flower I noticed that the hummingbird was working on the pink columbine flowers in the back of this picture.  While I was trying to focus, the hummingbird flitted around and spent the most time on the raspberry blossoms, behind the fence in this picture, before it flew away.

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Raspberry blossom – a favorite of the hummingbird this week.  All the fruiting plants could use a good rain now, as it has been dry and hot this week.

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Here is the foxglove with another background – the meadow where we don’t mow the grass.  Somewhere in that grass coneflowers, bee balm, liatris blazing star, and possibly some sunflowers are trying to rise above the grass to bloom.  In the back you can see our last two viburnum – viburnum dentatum chicago lustre arrowwood, which flowers later.

Berry update: The strawberries seem to be struggling this year.  I hope all works out and we get a good crop.  Half the berries on the serviceberry bush look dried out.  You can always count on the mulberries, though, which will be ripening up before long!