Black Chokeberry and Lilacs

It was a busy week in the garden!  Dan offered to help on Saturday morning and on the spur of the moment dug up two viburnum dentatum “Chicago Lustre” bushes that were chewed up by the viburnum leaf beetle worms.  So then I had to go hunt down something new to plant in their place.  I was looking for a spicebush, but could not find one, or other native shrubs I was interested in, at the garden centers I visited.  I stumbled upon some ‘Viking’ black chokeberry shrubs and decided to get two of them.


Aronia melanocarpa ‘Viking’ black chokeberry.  From what I read this is a small to medium shrub that suckers.  It has edible fruit and shiny green leaves that turn red in the fall.  So it seems like it will be good for the birds and I might eat a few berries myself.  To the right is the clematis getting ready to bloom soon.


This shrub had already flowered this spring and is setting fruit.  I am not sure if it needs two plants to have fruit, so I bought one bush that had flowered and one that had not.  We will see what happens next year.


Here are the two shrubs with the dying daffodil leaves in between.  I will put some annuals in to fill the void this summer.  Maybe some coleus…


Syringa vulgaris, common lilac.  This flower is on our oldest lilac tree, which almost died, but has branches coming back slowly.  The fragrance was heavenly for a few weeks!


Charles Joly lilac


The common lilac on the right is our newest lilac and it is an excellent barrier plant to what is happening in neighbor’s yard.  However, what you can’t really see in this picture is that we have two hornbeam trees on either side of the lilac that are being crowded out and are almost invisible from this vantage point, though our neighbors can enjoy them.  I may have to drastically cut back the lilac or eventually remove it.


The crabapple blossoms seemed to come and go very quickly this year, so not sure if much fruit will be produced.


The red, bronze and then green leaves of the crabapple have been looking healthy this spring, so I am really hoping we can keep the disease at bay that has bothered this tree the past two years.  This spring has mostly been a nice balance of sun and rain, which helps.


We love it when some migrating warbler stops in our crabapple, or any of the other trees, even though we often cannot identify it.


Little blue bulbs add color to the mostly very green garden.


The chives by the compost pile are blooming.


Next to the chives the strawberries are blossoming and berries are starting to grow.

As I was writing this I remembered that there was an asparagus shoot coming up next to the strawberries and I went out and ate it raw!


This buttercrunch lettuce is looking great!


Eggplant flower


The columbine is starting to bloom.


Little bluestem native grass.  The unmowed “meadow” area did not look so good this spring.  We left the tall grass long in the fall and it seemed to kill a lot of the roots under the dying grass, so things were a bit bare.  I found a couple of these little bluestem grasses, put in some sunflower seeds, planted a small monkshood, and will add a wild bergamot plant soon.


Wild bergamot and zinnias still to be planted.  As I write this the temperature is 47 degrees F.  I am not very interested in going out to plant in these cold wet conditions, but maybe later in the afternoon it will warm up.


Yesterday we took a walk in the forest preserve and the mayapples (podophyllum peltatum) were blooming.


A toad near a stream in the forest.


Rose-breasted grosbeak.  We came upon a group of birders in the forest who were identifying all the warblers in the trees at McClaughry Springs Wood.  The warblers are hard to get pictures of, especially with the poor light yesterday, but Dan was able to get a picture of this bird.


Catbird in the forest preserve

Happy Spring!

Blueberries, Birds, and Wildflowers

Spring just keeps progressing day after day.  Plants are blooming and birds are migrating in.


Duke Blueberry.  Just when I had sort of given up on getting many blueberries in the garden we had a lot of blossoms this year.


The little Top Hat Blueberry was full of blossoms, too.  We will see if the blueberries turn out well.  These blueberry pictures are from about two weeks ago.


Today all the strawberries are blooming.  I went around to try to put some straw under each plant to keep the berries out of the dirt.  I can also see that we are going to have a bumper crop of serviceberries before long, so I am looking forward to berry season.


Common Lilac.  This photo was taken about two weeks ago, but the lilacs have been pretty for a long time, since it has been cool the past two weeks.

IMG_7605.JPGI never got good pictures of the crabapple blossoms this year.  It seemed to rain right after they opened, or I must have been busy….

Last weekend I took a few bird shots when we walked around Lake Katherine.


Female mallard on log in pond


Great blue heron


The end of April seemed pretty early to see goslings, but we had some warm weather early in the spring.


Fluffy gosling


Back in our yard the Chinquapin oak tree is full of catkins.  Can you see the palm warbler in the tree?


I tried to zoom in a little on the palm warbler.


Here the palm warbler is looking for a bug snack among the strawberry and anemone plants.


The dwarf fothergilla bush is in bloom now.

IMG_7616And there is the palm warbler again next to the fothergilla bush.


There are a lot of little brown birds like this in the yard.  It could be just a house sparrow or it could be some wonderful migrating bird.  I have not had much time to get out and observe, but even going outside for 5 or 10 minutes can be rewarding.  I had heard the goldfinch song in the yard and today I saw the yellow bird for the first time this year.


I was sitting listening to an unfamiliar bird song this morning way up in a tall tree and then I saw the orange color.  A Baltimore Oriole was busy singing and getting some kind of food from the top of this tree.


It was so much fun to watch this Baltimore Oriole from my patio.


The kale and romaine lettuce have been in the ground for 2 weeks.  There is a frost warming for tonight, but it looks like 37 degrees, which I think is fine in my yard.  I put up the bean pole structure and am waiting for the soil to warm up to plant pole beans.  You can see the mound of rhubarb in the back.  I made rhubarb sauce for the first time this season today.  I think my tomato and pepper plants should be coming from Seed Savers in the mail some time this week….


Huechera ‘plum pudding’


I threw some dwarf sunflower seeds in the meadow a week or two ago and was very excited to see they sprouted.  Can’t wait for these small sunflowers.


Dark blue salvia is blooming next to the yarrow that will start up soon.

Yesterday our family went for a walk in the forest preserves.  I was looking forward to seeing spring wildflowers.  I did, but they were different from the ones I saw a few weeks ago.


Dodecatheon meadia Shooting Star wildflower in the Cap Sauers Holdings of the Palos Forest Preserve.


I am not sure what this is, but it was pretty.  No need to know the name, really.  We can just enjoy the beauty!

Yellow-rumped Warbler and Daffodils

March was warm, but April has been cool.  We had snow this weekend.  Meanwhile it is time for spring bird migration and I was able to take a picture of a yellow-rumped warbler in the garden for the first time this past week.


It was almost sun-down when I caught this picture of a yellow-rumped warbler.  I got a lot of blurry pictures, too.


Mourning dove and daffodils.


On a rainy day a few small insects seek shelter in the daffodil trumpet.


The different kinds of daffodils bloom at different times, so they keep in bloom for quite a long time.


These mini daffodils would be wrapping up now, but the weather has been so cool that they continue to look great!


Just above the daffodils a dark-eyed junco pauses in the viburnum bushes.


I love these white daffodils.


I believe this is a double daffodil – Ice King.  I am not that impressed, since they are so heavy they often hang down or get bent over by the snow or wind.


The crabapple –  Malus ‘Profusion’-  has young red leaves now.


The robins are active now.  I have not pulled down the old collard stalks, though it seems clear that they are dead.  Behind them the rhubarb leaves are beginning to unfurl.


The spicebush is finishing up blooming now.  A black-capped chickadee was singing in the spicebush today.  The chickadees nested in the bluebird bird house last spring/summer, since bluebirds have stopped visiting.


Our common lilac, which was huge, had a lot of dead branches.  We cut them all off except this one branch and a few shoots.  If it does not revive we will plant something else, but we are pretty lazy, so we will see if it revives on its own.  The mourning dove slipped into this picture, too.


A house finch in the sun yesterday.


I planted garlic bulbs last spring.  They died back last year and appeared again this spring.  On the internet it says:  “Harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over, before they are completely dry.”  This will probably be in July or August.  I should get some lettuce seeds planted soon.  I have some kale coming up that survived the winter.  In a few weeks it will be time to start planting hardy vegetables.

Crabapple, Fothergilla, and Lilacs

I have been busy planting all the cool weather vegetables like collards, cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, kale, along with lettuce, spinach, potatoes, dill, thyme, basil, parsley, garlic and eggplant…..  While I am busy cleaning up and planting I get wafts of lilac, which is just starting to bloom in the garden.  I love the shrubs that don’t need any work right now, but put on such a great show, and keep the pollinators happy.  In the center stage this week is the crab apple malus profusion.

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Malus profusion crabapple blossom

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As we look out the kitchen window we see the bright colors of the crabapple.  The American plum on the right still has some blossoms, but they are falling quickly.

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Fothergilla flower.  I think this is from my older bush that is about 3 feet tall.

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This is my little fothergilla bush, beaver creek I think, that is finally settling in.  I need to get some fresh mulch down to make it look a little nicer, but this has the most beautiful fall color.  I love it!

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Common lilac.  Can you smell them?  I have three lilac bushes and they are wonderful, but just getting started!

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I planted my first hellebore last spring – peppermint ice.  It had a tough year last year, but hopefully will get established this year.   I have not had any flowers yet, though I see what looks like a flower bud.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this week I noticed that all the lily pads start out red.  I did not know that.

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The turtles are big entertainment for all the children on field trips that visit Lake Katherine.  Here they are soaking in the morning sun rays.

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Is this king of the mountain?  Or family harmony?

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I thought this bird I was trying to take pictures of might be a yellow warbler, but I think it is just a goldfinch, which are common here.  He is sitting in a bald cypress tree that is starting to get needles, and all those branches kept interfering with the focus on my camera.  I am on the look out for migrating birds now.  I got a CD from the library with bird songs and have started listening to that.

Vegetables:  We should have a rainy, hot week, so I have planted seeds and need to be sure a lot of vegetables get established now, throwing in lettuce seeds wherever I can fit them!  I think my tomatoes and peppers should be coming in the mail this week.

Bitternut Hickory:  We planted it three weeks ago and have been watching it every day to see if it is coming out of dormancy.  I just went out to check again and it looks like the buds are opening up and leaves will be arriving!  It is about the last tree in the neighborhood to get leaves so we are really glad it is not dead! Yay!

Autumn Transformations

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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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.

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Geranium ‘rozanne’ continues to bloom prolifically and beautifully.

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

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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.

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Here is a closer look at that spider.

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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.

Ajuga, Baptisia, and Columbine

April showers have brought May flowers and a lot of action from the spring perennials.  ABCs: Ajuga, Baptisia and Columbine.  I know I am mixing scientific and common names here, but that is pretty normal in my garden.  Whatever name I can remember is what I call the plants around me.

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I have ajuga reptans – bugleweed – growing along the north side of the house in the shade.  It is really vibrant now and the bees have been enjoying it.

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Baptisia australis – blue false indigo.  Both the blue flowers and the tender green leaves are so pretty now.  This is a native Midwest plant.

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Just before the thunderstorm last week I grabbed a three-legged, round stake and put it around the base of the baptisia to keep it from bending or breaking during the storm.    It held up well.  Last year I did not do that and it was messy after the storms.  In front is catmint – nepeta ‘walker’s low’, which should start blooming soon.

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Columbine has spread all over the northeast garden bed.  The large clumps are so cheery, but each spring I have to pull up a lot of baby columbine plants before they crowd out my other plants.

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Bee on Columbine.  I am not sure if this is a carpenter bee or a bumble bee.

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I have a few of these lavender colored columbine flowers blooming now.

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 A close-up of a chive flower that I planted under the American plum bushes.

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The lily of the valley are blooming now.

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During this long weekend I did not want to work too hard, but yesterday was a beautiful day, so I got out and pruned the dead flowers and branches off the lilac bushes, since this is the best time to year to trim them up.  Meanwhile, my daughter sat nearby and we discussed a term paper for her summer class.  What a beautiful weekend we are having!

In the background you can see the purple ajuga as well as the lily of the valley plants along the fence.

Mid-May Flowers, Birds, and a Salad

Welcome to my new blog!  I previously posted at  Visit there if you want to know what happened in my garden between January 2010 and May 2014.

Here are a few things I took pictures of this week.

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Bulbs blooming in the garden.  I am not positive of the name, since I lost the package they came in.  They are so small I would miss them if I did not come close.

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Heuchera – plum pudding surrounded by fresh green leaves.  On the left are echinacea – cone flower leaves.  The grasses are korean feather reed grass – calamagrostis brachytricha.

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The lilacs have stayed looking good a long time this year.  In the background are common lilacs and they are the ones with the wonderful fragrance.  The darker lilacs are a french lilac called Charles Joly.

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There are so many beautiful leaves in the garden.  Here aruncus – goatsbeard – unfurls its leaves and flower stem.  The flowers will be white soon.

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Yesterday at sunrise I went to Lake Katherine.  I think this is a Great Egret, though I am not an expert.  The morning was cold and this bird seemed to be hunkered down, though looking for a meal, too.

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It looks like the great blue heron is building its nest here on this island in the lake.  Maybe this wooden support was put here for this purpose.

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Here is a shot with the egret and heron in the same picture.  I know that there is a white version of the great blue heron, but the great egret had black legs, so I concluded that it was the great egret.  Fun to see these birds in Florida and now here.

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The geese and goslings are less exotic, but fun to watch.

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I picked a variety of baby kale and lettuce from the garden and topped it with a pear, banana, strawberries and cashews.  I loved it!  The fruit was from the store, but I will have strawberries soon.