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!

 

I Spy In July

I Spy In July

It is full summer now.  After hot dry days we had plenty of rain this past week and all is growing well.

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Male downy woodpecker on yucca plant.  Each year I wait to see it the woodpeckers will come to attack the yucca plant seed pods outside my front window.  Moth larvae grow up inside the seed pods.  It did not look like the woodpecker was very successful on this attempt, but wait a few days and they should soften up…

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A few weeks ago I just got a glimpse of this cedar waxwing.  It was the end of the mulberries ripening, so I think that was what brought it to our yard.

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Black-eyed Susans with miscanthus ‘morning light’ and Russian sage.

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This was taken in early morning light and shows what these flowers looks like from the patio where I eat my oatmeal.

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Orange butterfly weed

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Swamp milkweed, grown from a seed packet labeled ‘red milkweed.’  I am still waiting for monarchs, though there are plenty of red admiral butterflies around.

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North flower bed with joe pye weed, liatris and echinacea – purple coneflowers.  The messy meadow is on the left and kale in the foreground.

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Laundry usually dries quickly these days.

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Zucchini still in its somewhat tidy state.  The marigolds have been cheerful this year.

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We have been able to keep up with the zucchini by picking it small.

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Cucumber vines grow out in all directions.  We have a lot of cucumbers, though, and my refrigerator is starting to get full!

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Invasive viburnum leaf beetles mating.  We removed the raspberry tart viburnum  and the blue muffin viburnum bushes, that were both so beautiful.  It looks like next year we will be getting rid of the Chicago lustre viburnum bushes as well.  We don’t have the energy to fight these beetles year after year, so we will start over with other plants.

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Sunday soup.  Sometimes we put a little too much in the pot!

Spring Variety and the Great NW

Spring Variety and the Great NW

The bio-diversity in our yard and the beauty of spring make us happy!

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Chestnut-sided Warbler.  I looked out the window and saw a different looking bird and I could hear a bird call that was new to me.  The little warbler was flitting around the Chinquapin oak tree.

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I zoomed in, but had trouble getting a clear picture of the warbler.

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This shot is a little blurry, but shows the clear markings on the bird so I could identify it.

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While I was scanning the trees for better shots of the warbler I spotted the chipmunk in the crabapple tree.  Cute!

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Here is the drain pipe where the chipmunk runs to hide when I come out into the yard.

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Next to the drain is a little garden where I have planted some romaine lettuce and parsley.  I just love the blue fescue grass that is like a crazy hairdo.  The pink prairie phlox – phlox pilosa – is pretty now.  Other plants are butterfly weed, dragon’s blood sedum, and lady’s mantle.

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I think I got most of the vegetables planted.  Thank you Dan for digging the grass out of the beds!  The seeds have been watered.  Now we just need sun and rain to get things going.

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If you zoom in from the last picture you can see our little meadow, where we let the grass grow and have a few native flowers and a tiny hickory tree.  We keep expanding it or shrinking it each year.

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Looking across the garden another way you can see the giant rhubarb patch.  It looks like it is time to make some rhubarb sauce!

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Sage is blooming.  It might be ‘May Night’ or some other cultivar.

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Plum pudding huechera and Korean feather reed grass Calamagrostis brachytricha.

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Lupine in Spokane, WA.  We took a trip to the state of Washington last week for a wedding and enjoyed all the lupine in Beth and Todd’s garden.

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The wedding was outside and the marmots kept us entertained while waiting for the main event.

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We drove from Spokane to Seattle and stopped at a rest area for this gorgeous view.

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In Seattle this pink climbing rose was blooming outside Tim and Andrea’s place.  I don’t have roses in my yard, so maybe I have forgotten how nice they are, but this was one of the most beautiful roses I have seen.

Slugs:  I was asked about slugs in the garden.  This used to be a big issue for us and I tried various solutions.  I just realized that I no longer really have this problem.  I think the reason is that the little brown snake lives in our yard, probably attracted by our open compost pile full of insects and worms.  The snake probably roams at night and takes care of the slugs!

Hungry Birds and Ripe Tomatoes

Here are a few pictures of birds looking for their next meal.  Besides some butterfly and flower pictures, I also have a few tomato shots.  This is the time in the garden when everything ripens and needs to be eaten or frozen or given away or something!

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We could see the male goldfinch working on the cone flower seeds from the kitchen window.

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Male downy woodpecker working on yucca seed pods.  Each year after the yucca plant finishes flowering I leave the ugly seed pods standing.  I understand that there is a moth that only lays her eggs on the yucca plant and the caterpillars grow up inside these protected seed pods.  That always brings the woodpecker to these plants by our front window and I love to watch the woodpecker working at the seed pods.

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Two baby robins in the lilac tree nest.  This must be the third set of baby robins that have come out of this nest.  The lilac has been having a terrible time this year, but this one tall branch has stayed green and been a good home for the robins.  It looks like there is some plastic around the bottom of the nest.

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Later in the week one of the baby robins was trying to look inconspicuous and waiting for Dad robin to bring something tasty to eat.  We seem to have a lot of juvenile robins in the yard this year.

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We spotted this hawk on a visit to the Morton Arboretum last week.  I am guessing it is a red-tailed hawk.  We spent time looking at the collection of trees native to Illinois and found Chinquapin oak and bitternut hickory trees, like the ones we have in our yard.

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Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly on a cream-colored cone flowers at the Morton Arboretum.

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We stopped to watch a group of young people doing Japanese drumming.

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Back at home the monarch was flying around looking for milkweed so she could lay her eggs.  I don’t have a lot of healthy milkweed or butterfly weed this time of year, but she found every plant that I have as she flew back and forth.  Now we will see if eggs were laid and caterpillars emerge.

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Was this the same monarch sipping on zinnia nectar after the eggs were laid?  In the background the dill is blooming yellow.

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This dragonfly, perched on Russian sage, is probably a blue dasher.

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Orange marigold

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Amish paste tomatoes ripen

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We eat tomatoes very day, but just keep picking them.  The cherry tomatoes did not fit in this bucket.  The peppers are nice and red now, too.  I need to make some tomato sauce or spaghetti sauce this week.

Butterfly Weed, Blueberries, Basil, and a Cocoon

Happy Summer Solstice!

We are having a very lush June this year after much rain.

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This is a “yellow” butterfly weed that I planted last year, I think, but it just got going his year.  The butterfly weed are blooming around the yard and hopefully will attract some monarchs.

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This was the view from my lounge chair this afternoon.  In the front some ground cover is blooming yellow.  In the back the orange butterfly weed is blooming and attracting a variety of bugs.  Just to the left of it the pineapple sage is getting taller and looking healthy.  You can also see a few blueberries on our little ‘top hat’ blueberry bush that are starting to ripen in the middle of the picture.

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It looks like my first blueberry is getting  ready to eat on the ‘Duke’ blueberry bush!  We don’t have that many blueberries as I have not worked hard to acidify the soil around them.

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It looks like the basil is ready for me to make some basil pesto!  In front are prairie verbena flowers.

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Just above the basil is Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Sun.”  I was lying on my lounge chair enjoying these flowers and watching the clouds float by.  Summer at its finest.

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We also have some heliopsis blooming in our little meadow.

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I took this dragonfly picture in the meadow early this morning, where it had rested in the grass for the night.  It is probably some type of skimmer.

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A little before noon I found this turtle on the road in front of our house.  We also found a smaller turtle on the road near Lake Katherine this morning.  Maybe with all the rain recently the usual rocks in the lakes are covered with water and the turtles are looking for other places to catch some sun.  That is just a theory.

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Turtle foot.

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The Tokyo cross turnips are coming along well.

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We are throwing in chopped up collard leaves in our recipes now, too.

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I have seen black swallowtail butterflies in our garden depositing eggs, so was glad when I finally saw a caterpillar chewing on our curly parsley.

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Later in the week I noticed it had travelled a few feet to the rhubarb leaves where a cocoon was getting started.

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Today I went back to the same spot and found this cocoon, well disguised.  Little things like this make me happy!

Poetry referring to nature:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                                          Isaac Watts

The Sun Rises on the Garden

The sun rises around 6:45 am these days.  I captured this photo one morning before settling at my desk to work.

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Sunrise in late September.

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Painted lady butterfly on pink zinnia.  I continue to see butterflies visiting the zinnias.

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Monarch butterfly on pink zinnia.  I love the polka dots!

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The orange butterfly weed seed pods have opened up and the seeds are starting to blow away.  The purple flowers are Russian sage.

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What’s up with this leader branch on the Chinquapin oak tree?  Didn’t it get the memo to stick with the group?

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Sometimes when I am working at my desk I get distracted by the birds outside.  This was a visiting warbler of some sort in the Blue Muffin viburnum.  I was taking pictures through the screen and never got a clear shot, though the bird was in the yard for quite a while.  I think there may have been some tasty insects around, as it did not seem to be going for berries.

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The boltonia is blooming this week.  The trees and shrubs are high enough that we can no longer see it from the kitchen window.  I guess our neighbors get to look at it.  I thin it out each spring so only one or two of these big plants reach maturity.

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The petunias along the sidewalk were looking pretty this morning.  They blend in with the alyssum.

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The zucchini patch has not been very productive lately.  The big zinnia patch is right in front of the zucchini, blocking the sun.  I think the drier weather may have allowed some new leaves to grow without mildew and it looks like we are getting some zucchini that is almost big enough to pick.  The flowers promise more, it the weather allows it.

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I was watering the young serviceberry bushes and almost bumped into this spider sitting on a big web.  Scary looking, huh?

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Something has been nibbling on the few strawberries that I have.  Is it bugs or slugs, the rabbit or squirrels, or maybe a visiting raccoon?  I am always glad to come upon a strawberry that is untouched.  I tend to pick them early and let them ripen inside.

Have a great week!

Swallowtails and Dragonflies

The agastace is in full bloom now and attracting butterflies and bees of all types.  I should have studied entomology!  I just checked out Sue Hubbell’s book about bugs, “Broadsides from the Other Orders.”

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I think this is a female eastern tiger swallowtail on the agastache ‘blue fortune’ giant hyssop plant.

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Here is a side view of the eastern tiger swallowtail on the hyssop.  I like the striped body.  It looks like she is using her proboscis to sip nectar.  Is that kind of like a straw?

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Limenitis arthemis – red spotted purple butterfly, I think, on agastache.  At first I thought it was a black swallowtail, but it does not have a tail.

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Here is a closed wing view of the red spotted purple butterfly on agastache.  You can see the pollen on its body.

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Just below the agastache a black swallowtail caterpillar is resting in the parsley.  There are a lot of hungry birds in the yard, though, so I am never sure if these guys will survive.

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Agastache ‘blue fortune’ giant hyssop.’  On the left is heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Sun.’  The agastache plant is really buzzing, mostly with bees and flies.

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I think this is a carpenter bee on the agastache.  In any case it is a very big bee.

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Here is a different kind of bee.  It looks a little more like a honey bee of some type.

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Red admiral butterflies are fairly common in the yard.  Here on Echinacea purpurea – purple coneflower.

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There are small white cabbage moths all over the yard.  Here on Russian sage with miscanthus ornamental grass in the background.

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One day I was looking out of the living room window and I saw something slide out of the bottom of the big silver maple tree.  I went outside with my camera and saw this yellow caterpillar with black spikes coming out of its back scurrying across the lawn.  Looking it up online I found that it is an American dagger moth caterpillar.  Apparently they leave the tree and look for a good place to make their cocoon.  The spikey hairs are poisonous.

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Red dragonfly on liatris spicata – blazing star – a native plant.  I saw a number of red dragonflies around the garden yesterday.  In Japanese the name is “aka tombo.”  If you look that name up on line you will hear a famous Japanese song.

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I was having lunch outside one day this week and almost did not see this big green dragonfly that rested on the butterfly weed near where I was sitting.

Praying Mantis update:  I have not seen any praying mantises in the yard this year.  Considering that I found 6 – 8 praying mantis egg sacs from last year I expected more.  It may have been the very cold winter or it may be that we really have a lot of bird in the yard this year eating the babies.  Or it may be some other reason.