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….

IMG_8536

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

IMG_8509

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.

IMG_8590

The view from the patio.

IMG_8551

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

IMG_8508

The first gaillardia blooms.

IMG_8585

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

IMG_8548

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

IMG_8460

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

IMG_8527

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.

IMG_8550

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.

IMG_8599

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

IMG_8572

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.

IMG_8518

A downy woodpecker has been visiting the birdbath.

IMG_8596

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

IMG_8562

Blue damselfly on miscanthus ornamental grass.

IMG_8410

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.

IMG_8426

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

IMG_8462

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

IMG_8464

One of many bullfrogs at Tomahawk Slough.

IMG_8496

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.

IMG_8480

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!

 

Spring Day In January

I know we may still have a blizzard to two this winter, but today was in the high fifties and I was outside with just a hooded sweatshirt.

img_6854

Here is one of several groups of crocuses that have emerged from the ground.  These are snow crocuses and have the smallest flowers.

img_6844

The mini daffodils are emerging along with weeds on the south side of the back fence.

img_6841

I checked on the praying mantis sac that I moved on to the fence behind the ornamental grass last fall.

img_6837

This kale looks like it will make it through the winter, though some of the stalks of kale look ready for the compost pile.

img_6842

Looking into the neighbor’s yard it looks like he has put out some lettuce, hoping to attract a female rabbit to make her home under his deck and give him some baby bunnies to watch.  Of course, this is the opposite of what I am hoping for as they tend to squeeze into our side of the fence where the food is more plentiful in the garden.  But I am glad my neighbor likes wildlife….

img_6817

The moss continues to spread through the rocks.

img_6815

I had to pause to look at these leave on a gaillardia plant.

img_6809

I have to admit that creeping Charlie is my worst garden enemy, and it seems to love this weather.  I can’t let it stress me out.

img_6859

Most of the year the rhubarb leaves are covering this stepping stone, but not today.  I did see a few real insects flying around this afternoon, but did not manager to get any photos.

img_6875

My rabbit loving neighbor feeds the birds as well, and the squirrel was taking advantage of the dropped seeds.

img_6781

Black-capped chickadee in the spice bush.

img_6865

Starlings on the utility line.

img_6776

I am throwing in a shot of a tufted titmouse I saw near the Little Red Schoolhouse on January 8th.

img_6788

I will end with a shot from Lake Katherine where three of us took a beautiful morning walk.

Golden-Crowned Kinglet and Moths

Golden-Crowned Kinglet and Moths

Birds are migrating.  Insects are slowing down.  The last flowers are blooming.  The last vegetables are being harvested.  Here are a few pictures.

img_6018

Two weeks ago I saw this golden-crowned kinglet hopping around the crabapple tree.

img_6091

I am not sure what kind of moth this was, but it let me get close as it gathered nectar from the marigolds today.

img_6118

This little moth was taking shelter under a nasturtium leaf.

img_6077

We still have a monarch butterfly hanging around the zinnias.  When the zinnias are covered with fall shade for a while in the afternoon the monarch moves to the pole beans.

img_6093

Nearby a grasshopper was moving slowly.

img_6112

I think this is a black cricket, also on the pole beans.

img_6045

The coral mums have been blooming for a while, attracting a lot of bees and flies.

img_6047

A closer look at the mums.  I think that is a hover fly, though it could be a bee…

img_6043

The pineapple sage is blooming wonderfully, but the hummingbirds have left to fly south now.  I think there are still a variety of small pollinators enjoying these red tubular flowers.

img_6135

Just a few gaillardia flowers are still blooming, but the bumble bees really love them.  The white flowers are alyssum.

img_6061

The ‘morning light’ miscanthus grass is at its peak now and is at least 6 feet tall this year.

img_6137

Seed heads of ‘little bunny’ pennisetum grass

img_6125

Strawberry flower and little strawberry.  You never know what you will find around the garden.

img_6079

We are gradually adding brussel sprouts to our soup each Sunday.

img_6143

I took a look today and there are a lot of green tomatoes in the garden!  I don’t see frost in the forecast, but I will keep my eye on the weather report.

IMG_6064.JPG

My Arab neighbor friend is back from Jordan and came to gather a bag full of collard leaves.  Quite a few of the collard leaves are chewed by worms, and she did not want those, because I think she uses them to roll up a spicy meat dish.  We totally welcome someone to share these greens with.

IMG_6036.JPG

Last Saturday was my first day with a volunteer team of around 20 people that were cutting brush and burning.  We were almost exclusively cutting back Eurasian bush honeysuckle.  We had two big bonfires going.

img_6073

Today Dan and I just took a wonderful early morning walk through the prairie and forest at Spears Woods in the Palos forest preserve.  We bumped into the volunteer crew as we were leaving. They were getting ready for another productive day.  By clearing the invasive shrubs they are opening up the ground for native plants to thrive, which in turn provides habitat for a greater variety of birds, insects, and other wildlife.  With habitats diminishing everywhere for so many species this is valuable work, in order to maintain healthy ecosystems.

Berries and Goat’s Beard

Berries and Goat’s Beard

After a poor start on the strawberries, I got ahead of the birds and bugs by picking strawberries once or twice a day.  We ate out first raspberry on Friday.  We are working through the cool weather vegetables now, eating a lot of lettuce and kale, starting on the collards, and enjoying a few peas.

IMG_4283

I picked this small bowl of berries yesterday and ate them with a little vanilla ice cream.  Yummy!  It includes strawberries, raspberries, mulberries and service berries, also called June berries.

IMG_4336

We tied the raspberries canes to the fence and they are just getting started bearing fruit.  Once the raspberries are eaten we will cut back those canes and tie up this year’s new canes that will have raspberries next year.

IMG_4235

Aruncus dioicus Goat’s Beard.  Since we have moved the goat’s beard to this location it keeps getting bigger each year and I can enjoy it from my office window.

IMG_4241

Close up of the goat’s beard flowers which have been attracting a lot of pollinators, especially some really big bees.

IMG_4308

So far it looks like we have one red hot poker flower coming.  A month ago in Washington state I saw a lot of these blooming, so maybe that climate is better for them.  You can see one small blue petunia on the ground.  The rabbit nibbled down all the petunias when we first planted them.  We finally got rid of the rabbit, for now, so the flowers are getting going again.  Also in the picture are gaillardia, spike speedwell, ‘little bunny’ pennisetum fountain grass and Russian sage.

IMG_4331

Spike Speedwell Veronica spicata ‘Royal Candles.’   These plants are on the decline in my garden, but I enjoy them for a little while each year.

IMG_4310

We have a little bit of leaf lettuce in the yard, but we are mostly eating romaine lettuce these days.  I love eating fresh lettuce in my daily salad.

IMG_4332

Curly kale.  We just made some bean and vegetable soup.

IMG_4335

Wild kale.  I bought the seeds for the wild kale from Seed Savers Exchange.  I don’t like the flavor of all the types of kale so I weeded out those and was left with the mild kale I like.  It is blooming now, since I planted it last fall, but I just keep taking off the flowers.

IMG_4312

Pea flower.  I think these are sugar peas.

IMG_4316

The pole beans are just starting to climb.  We should have flowers on those before long.  The compost pile in the back has shrunk way down.  It is probably soon ready to spread around the garden.

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.

Autumn Transformations

We had a hard frost last night, but the fall colors have been pretty the past few weeks.

Garden 11 02 14 072

Earlier in the week the orange leaves were slowly falling off the chinquapin oak tree on the left.  You can see the gaillardia flowers still blooming in the front right.  The zinnias stand was still pink in the center back.

Garden 11 02 14 037

We have two small American Hornbeam trees.  One lost its leaves last week.  This one is always a little later in changing color and gets orange and pink.  Behind it the lilac is still very green and the spice bush is yellow.

Garden 11 02 14 089

Saturday morning we woke to a little snow on the ground, after a very cold Halloween, with almost no kids coming for “trick or treat.”

Garden 11 02 14 098

Last night we had a hard frost, but the sun was out this morning and the frost soon burned away.  Still, it finished off the pink zinnias and they turned brown.  In the bottom right is the blue fescue ornamental grass, which has done well this year.

Garden 11 02 14 125

This is looking back across the yard with a somewhat foggy lens.  On the left the red upright grass is “little bluestem.”  In the spring the grass stands out because it is bluer than the grass around it and in the fall it turns red/orange.

Garden 11 02 14 010

Before the frost I captured some cheery gaillardia blooms, also called blanket flowers.

Garden 11 02 14 100

Frost-covered gaillardia.  We are supposed to have warm weather tomorrow, so we may still get more of these flowers.

Garden 10 12 14 114

Pink geranium.  I forgot to include this in my last post about fall color, as these flowers do well in cooler weather.

Garden 11 02 14 122

Frosty pink geranium.  My camera could either focus on the ice or on the inside of the flower.  The frost won’t hurt this flower.  I also love the foliage on this plant that gets bright red as the weather gets colder.

Garden 10 12 14 115

Geranium ‘rozanne’ continues to bloom prolifically and beautifully.

Garden 11 02 14 123

Despite the frost it is ready to bloom another day.  That helps the late pollinators have something to feed on.

Garden 11 02 14 023

The bluebird house did not have bluebirds this year.  I kicked out sparrows a number of times and finally some house wrens filled up the house and then moved away.  So it was time to clean up before next spring.  This spider was surprised to have me discover its home.

Garden 11 02 14 027

Here is a closer look at that spider.

Garden 11 02 14 091

You can hear the blue jays before you see them.  This blue jay pair stopped in after the snowy morning.

Day Light Savings Is Over:  Now I know, but this morning we forgot and went out for a walk at Lake Katherine at around 7:45 am and did not see a soul until we got back to the parking lot.  Then we realized that everyone slept in that extra hour, and we were really walking at 6:45 am.  Still, it was great to see the swan couple, the little coot, and a lot of ducks and geese busy slurping breakfast in the water.  The warblers were there too, but they move so quickly I couldn’t tell what kind of warblers they were.  In the quiet morning you could just hear the sound of softly falling yellow maple leaves.  The frost loosened them up and the sun this morning set them free.