June Garden and Illinois Waterways

June Garden and Illinois Waterways

Everything is growing and green now!  The trees have leafed out, the flowers are taking their turns blooming, the vegetables are getting going and the weeds are doing what weeds do…  The birds and the bees are active!

IMG_8324

The chinquapin oak tree is on the left and the crabapple tree on the right.  The crabapple is having another bad year, with the leaves turning brown and falling.  Last year we did not have any crabapples and that might happen again this year.  But we are enjoying the irises blooming this week.

IMG_8333

Red iris

IMG_8330

The male northern flicker was hanging out looking for an ant meal.

IMG_8345

The yarrow flowers have finally turned yellow.  In the back you can see the first pink foxglove flower.

IMG_8346.JPG

Foxglove in foreground, on the left the lady’s mantle is blooming, and in the back penstemon – beardtongue – is getting ready to bloom.

IMG_8350

The grasses in the unmowed “meadow” catch the morning sunlight.  The grasshoppers and damselflies love this area.  The robins are starting to visit the serviceberry bush for a berry snack.  The raspberries on the fence are forming and will ripen in a few weeks.

Road Trip

10 days ago we headed out for a four-day vacation in central Illinois.  The day we took off was rainy, so we spent time driving down to Alton, IL.

IMG_7850

The fields were just getting started.  We enjoyed being out in the country.

IMG_7871

Thursday morning we visited the Audubon Center at Riverlands in Alton, where we spotted this Eastern Kingbird.

IMG_7914

The male indigo bunting kept its distance, but the color is wonderful!

IMG_8018

Many areas along the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers were flooded.  We went hiking at Pere Marquette State Park.  Climbing the hills got us away from the flooding and provided wonderful views of the Illinois River.  Can you see the little brown ribbon of a trail we took to get us up to this hilltop where a few benches provided a rest area?

IMG_8021

Dan on the Pere Marquette State Park trail.

IMG_8089

The next morning we visited the Jim Edgar Panther Creek State Fish and Wildlife Area and enjoyed a walk around this little pond.

We did not stay long as our goal was to visit Emiquon, run by the Nature Conservancy.

IMG_8134

Emiquon is a Nature Conservancy project in a flood plain along the Illinois River, and a lot of migrating birds stop over here.  However, migration season is mostly over and this time of year is when the flooding is the highest.

IMG_8156

We tried, without much luck, to zoom in on birds across the water that looked like pelicans.

IMG_8133

We drove by a snapping turtle, but did not get too close.

Then we crossed the Illinois River and went over to take a look at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, where the flood waters were high as well.

IMG_8177

A lot of drift wood came to rest on the shore at Chautauqua Lake.

IMG_8194

Red-headed woodpecker at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.

 IMG_8277

On Saturday we visited Matthiessen State Park on the Vermillion River.  Since it was Memorial Day weekend the crowds were large and the trails had turned into muddy pits, that took a lot of skill to navigate!

IMG_8269

Cedar waxwings were in the tree above the river.  I have seen them in our yard this week, too, looking for serviceberries or other ripe berries.

IMG_8288

Sunrise view from the hotel in Yorkville, where we stayed Saturday night.

IMG_8299

We visited Silver Springs State Fish and Wildlife Area on Sunday morning.  There were several lakes as well as a trail along the Fox River.

We enjoyed all the places we saw and now will get back to hiking in our wonderful neck of the woods.

June Blooms

June Blooms

There is a lot of color in the garden now.

IMG_4159

Achillea (Yarrow)

IMG_4122

Pulling back you can see the yarrow under the oak tree along with other blooms.  I forgot to stake up the yarrow and it can get kind of messy later on, but it is beautiful this time of year.  I just cut it way back when the blooms die.

IMG_4133

Heliopsis helianthoides false sunflower ‘summer sun’

IMG_4135

False sunflowers keep blooming for months as long as I cut back the dead flowers.

IMG_4156.JPG

The gaillardia blanket flowers started blooming this past week.

IMG_4158

Zooming in for a close up, it looks like a very little spider has been busy and caught a tasty meal.

IMG_4181

Dark red iris

IMG_4172

Cranesbill geranium ‘Rozanne’

IMG_4129

Digitalis purpurea foxgloves.  The foxgloves cheer us up and are favorites for bumblebees and hummingbirds.

IMG_4167

I went to check on the raspberries, which are just behind the foxgloves and came across this insect.  It looked a bit like a dragonfly, but close up it also looks like a mosquito.  It might be a crane fly.

IMG_4143

Our America plum trees are sticky this year with some kind of aphid or something.  Anyway a large number of ladybugs have arrived and are scouring the leaves.

IMG_4146

Although we had a lot of plums last year, unfortunately that is not the case this year.  The plums seem to be gradually being destroyed by something.

IMG_4115

We have been picking many romaine lettuce leaves.  In the back left is a large wild kale plant that I planted from seed last fall, so that it would be ready this spring to eat.  The potatoes on the left came up unplanned.  I guess I missed harvesting a few last year.  You might be able to see the large mint plant behind the lettuce.  I pulled a lot of mint up out of the garden this spring and am always whacking it back.

IMG_4177

My Arab garden friends were not impressed with my mint.  Apparently it is the wrong type for mint tea.  So they brought me the correct type of mint, which I put it in a pot in the ground for now.  I might pull up my old mint and get this new variety in the garden….when I get time.

IMG_4123

I have a lot of tomato cages up getting ready for the coming vegetable action.  We put the pole bean structure up and the beans are growing.  The clematis is blooming on the back wall.  June is here.

IMG_3806

See the bunny?  It is watching us.  Dan and I are trying various things to get rid of this little guy, but have not been successful yet.  I am hoping we get it outside the fence before it eats too many new plants….

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!

IMG_9004

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.

IMG_9031

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

IMG_9027

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

IMG_9028

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.

IMG_9034

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

IMG_8991

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

IMG_8992

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.

IMG_9046

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!

IMG_9006

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.

IMG_8955

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

IMG_9001

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.

IMG_9019

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

IMG_9041

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

IMG_9044

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.

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.

Garden 06 08 14 112

Bee on blue hill salvia in the morning light.

Garden 06 08 14 046

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

Garden 06 08 14 114

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

Garden 06 08 14 080

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.

Garden 06 08 14 074

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

Garden 06 08 14 130

Geranium ‘rozanne’ opens to the morning sun.

Garden 06 08 14 027

The first gaillardia – blanket flower.

Garden 06 08 14 012

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.

Garden 06 08 14 033

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.

Garden 06 08 14 157

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.

Garden 06 01 14 131

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.

Garden 06 01 14 108

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.

Garden 06 01 14 120

Fly resting on viburnum flower on a hot afternoon.

Garden 06 01 14 118

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.

Garden 06 01 14 116

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.

Garden 06 01 14 071

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.

Garden 06 01 14 057

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.

Garden 06 01 14 113

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!