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!

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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.

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Red iris

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

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

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

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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.

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

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

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

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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?

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Dan on the Pere Marquette State Park trail.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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Red-headed woodpecker at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge.

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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!

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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.

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

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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.

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!

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.

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!

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.