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!

 

Autumn Colors, Grasses and Birds

Autumn Colors, Grasses and Birds

It has been fun watching the fall colors peak in the yard this past week.  We had our first frost last night on November 11th.  I don’t remember such a long growing season before, and the frost may not have been a killing frost for the tomatoes and peppers.

img_6476

Carpinus caroliniana, with common names American hornbeam, blue beech or musclewood.  The top leaves turned pink/orange a few weeks ago and fell off earlier.  This picture was taken on November 8th.  The other American hornbeam we bought from Possibility Place Nursery turns yellow in the fall, so maybe they are variations of some type.

img_6465

American hornbeam fall color.

img_6448

Dwarf fothergilla bush, possible ‘beaver creek.’  I replanted this bush at this location in the spring and hope it will settle in to its new location this coming year.  This bush started turning color weeks ago.

img_6462

On November 6th the other fothergilla bush was still green, with the second American hornbeam, on the left, and the spice bush, on the right, very yellow.

img_6475

By November 8th the yellow leaves had mostly fallen and the chinquapin oak leaves on the right were turning color as well.

img_6545

Today, November 12th, the fothergilla leaves are just starting to turn.  They should turn brilliant colors over the next week.  I enjoy watching these changes out my office window.

img_6442

Quercus muehlenbergii, chinquapin oak tree, starting to turn color on November 3rd.  I put these date up so that I can compare year by year as the weather gradually warms.

img_6515

Here is a close up of the chinquapin oak leaves on November 10th.  Today we mulched up a lot of them when we mowed the lawn and started the fall compost leaf pile.

img_6440

The American plum trees are nothing special in the fall, though stunning when they blossom in spring.

img_6444

The neighbor’s maple tree is always beautiful in the fall.

img_6548

MIscanthus ‘morning light.’  The was a great growing season and this miscanthus ornamental grass is well over 6 feet this year.  The seed heads on our zebra grass seemed to be 8 or 9 feet high.

img_6550

Out the kitchen window I caught a glimpse of the little blue stem grass that has turned red in the fall.

img_6534

When I finished working in the garden today a few dark-eyed juncos got to work poking around on the ground.  They are winter residents.  The garlic plants I did not harvest earlier have grown back in bright green shoots.

img_6484

On Wednesday morning I did a little birding and managed to capture this sparrow in a picture.  I am not sure if it is an American tree sparrow or another kind of sparrow.

img_6500

I think this is a pied-billed grebe, though the bill does not look quite right.  Anyway, I love the fluffy feathers and the reflection! This was at Lake Katherine on a morning walk.

img_6420

The nasturtiums and marigolds have been so beautiful in the yard this year.

img_6422

I have had a fresh pepper for my lunch salad every day and there are still quite a few left to eat, so I feel blessed.

img_6522

Beans soaking for tomorrow’s soup.  These were from the pole beans that I left to dry on the vine.  After we had a ton of green beans in the fridge, and the mosquitoes were killing me, I stopped picking the rest of the beans.  This past week I finally pulled down the pole bean structure and shelled a lot of beans.

img_6556

I am really enjoying reading this fascinating history book about Alexander Von Humboldt and his exploration of nature.

Hope you enjoy these weeks and it won’t be long before the snow flies!

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.

Bees, Fungi, Grasshoppers and Hummingbirds

Bees, Fungi, Grasshoppers and Hummingbirds

This is always a fun time to be taking pictures in the garden.  There are too many mosquitoes to want to do much weeding, but the garden it packed with pollinators on all the September flowers.

img_5547

Bee on Caryopteris.

img_5596

I have two caryopteris bushes that are covered with bees these days.  My best guess is carpenter bees.  I can count 6 bees in this picture.  They love the sedum, too.  The ornamental grass in the background is miscanthus ‘morning light.’

img_5607

The sedum has turned pink.  On the back left is the other caryopteris bush and on the right is the blue hill salvia that is blooming again after a hair cut earlier in the summer.  The sedum is most active when the sun is shining, attracting a lot of flies, skippers and bees.

img_5627

I zoomed in to take a closer look at the bold-faced hornet.  My research says this critter is in the yellowjacket wasp family that live in those big hanging nests in trees.  I wonder where the nest is.  If you are not in danger from bothering the nest these are considered beneficial insects due to their predation of flies, caterpillars and spiders.  Wikipedia says that adults also drink nectar which they feed to their larvae.  The designs on the body are really fascinating.

img_5631

I moved over to the blue hill salvia to photograph the busy bees there.

img_5549

But my camera wanted to focus on this mystery mushroom instead.

img_5551

Funky fungus

img_5555

Recently I noticed a large area of fungi.  I am not sure if they are the result of the deterioration of our old silver maple tree or if it is just from wood chips breaking up or what.  I am not really an expert on fungi, but the fungi area is five or six times larger than this picture.  It looks a little bit like wasp nests….

img_5572

Unknown critter on my plastic chair this morning.  Is it a wasp or a moth or something else?  There are so many unknown small creatures in the yard now.

img_5497

When I went to pick pole beans I found these two grasshoppers next to each other.

img_5558

In the little messy meadow there are a lot of little grasshoppers and damselflies these days.

img_5556

Next to the meadow the turtlehead flowers are in bloom and behind them the coral mums are getting ready to bloom in October.

img_5524

Russian sage and solidago rugosa goldenrod ‘fireworks.’

img_5520

Monarch on Russian sage.  I have not seen monarch caterpillars on my milkweed yet, but realize that some of the monarchs that have been visiting recently have been male.  I noticed that when I looked back at some of the pictures I posted in previous blogs that show the pattern when the wings are open.

img_5636

There have continued to be two monarch on the zinnias each afternoon this past week.  The goldfinches have continued to pick the petals off to get at the zinnia seeds.  There is a butterfly festival at Lake Katherine tomorrow, 9/18/16.

img_5521

Hummingbird at neighbor’s feeder.  There have been at least two hummingbirds very active in the yard the past weeks, as they live in the mulberry tree behind our backyard.  At least five times I have seen a hummingbird chase after a monarch to scare it away.  I suppose they share the same nectar in the flowers.  I did not believe it at first, but after multiple times I saw that the hummingbirds thought they were the boss and were trying to enforce it, not very successfully.  I think the ones I am seeing are female or immature as they have not had ruby throats.  We do not have a hummingbird feeder, like the neighbors on both sides of us, but the hummingbirds are busy in our yard every day.

img_5532

The flowers on the east fence are prettiest this time of year.  In bloom in orange, yellow and white are nasturtiums, alyssum, zinnias, marigolds and mums.

img_5492

I thought all of these mums I planted two years ago, I think, had died, but some have come back and started blooming now.

img_5514

Butterfly bush flower and nasturtiums.

If you have lasted through all these pictures, thank you!  I don’t blog as often now, so I seem to accumulate a lot of photos between each post.

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.

IMG_4913

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…

IMG_4842

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.

IMG_4929

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

IMG_4939

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

IMG_4881

Orange butterfly weed

IMG_4931

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.

IMG_4883

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

IMG_4888

Laundry usually dries quickly these days.

IMG_4845

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

IMG_4876

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

IMG_4869

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

IMG_4865

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.

IMG_4995

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

Blooming Flowers and Biting Mosquitoes

It has been a raining summer and the mosquitoes are winning the battle.  A lot of flowers are blooming in the garden now.  If some of the pictures are not the greatest it is because each picture comes with a mosquito bite!  The garden has a lot of places where mosquitoes can congregate under a lot of foliage.  It doesn’t seem so bad if we walk on a trail somewhere else.

IMG_9863

The Joe Pye Weed – Eupatorium ‘Gateway’ – is starting to bloom.

IMG_9853

A few pink hydrangea flowers are blooming on our small bush.

IMG_9866

Hydrangea arborescens ‘Incrediball.’  I wish I had gotten a hydrangea with smaller blooms that were not so heavy.  Last summer I had good luck with drying them, though.

IMG_9870

Hydrangea close up.

IMG_9148

We have had three Kniphofia – red hot poker flowers this year.  Maybe a few more will continue to come…  The blue flowers on the left are spike speedwell.  The Russian sage is starting to come on strong.  On the left is miscanthus ‘morning light’ ornamental grass.

IMG_9860

The liatris spicata and the Shasta daisies are blooming at the same time.

IMG_9890

Bee visiting liatris spicata – blazing star.

IMG_9887

I spent a little time deadheading these mums today.  It has been too cold and wet to do it before, so it was a bit of a job.  The alyssum reseeds itself every year here and there in the garden.  It is easy to pull out wherever I don’t want it.

IMG_9883

Swamp milkweed.  I tried planting regular milkweed from seed this year, but have not succeeded so far, though I am still trying.

IMG_9862

This is the only picture I have of some bee balm that is getting going in our little meadow.

IMG_9897

With the rabbits and all the mosquitoes we ended up cutting back some of our little meadow to give some room for a little hickory that a squirrel planted in a good place.  We will see if this hickory catches up to the taller bitternut hickory we planted in the front yard.

IMG_9875

The first pink zinnia calls to the butterflies.

IMG_9876

The dill is flowering.  Dill is good food for the black swallowtail caterpillars.

Native and non-native plants:  I planted a lot of flowers before thinking about incorporating more native plants into the garden.  So I have a mixture of both.  Often the native plants really attract the pollinators, though some non-native ornamentals do well, too.

Cooking:  My cooking this week included these ingredients from the garden: broccoli, cauliflower, collards, kale, bok choy, onions, red potatoes, small eggplant, parsley, oregano, thyme, a few strawberries and blueberries, and 5 wax beans that the rabbits missed.  With all the mosquitoes this year I have not been too upset to have the rabbits eat the pea and bean plants.

Crocuses and a New Vegetable Bed

The yard looks pretty brown this time of year, so the specks of color from the crocuses are so much fun.  We might get 1 to 3 inches of snow tonight, which may cover them up…

Garden 03 22 15 083

Yellow crocuses looking cheerful!

Garden 03 22 15 082

This purple crocus has such beautiful veins on the flower petals.

Garden 03 22 15 058

Here are the same crocuses last week.  They come up in a bed of dragon’s blood sedum, which is just turning red again after the winter.  The sedum is an aggressive ground cover which tolerates drought.

Garden 03 22 15 049

This was actually the first crocus to open in front of the house a week ago.  They are so tiny!

Garden 03 22 15 006

Last week Stephanie came home for spring break.  On a warm, sunny afternoon we brought out the garden chairs and found a dry spot to sit and soak up the sun.  Soon after, Dan got up and turned the compost pile.  It is really cooking again!  Thanks Dan!

Garden 03 22 15 009

I had to show Stephanie the rhubarb that is getting ready to emerge from the earth.  Besides eating rhubarb, the huge leaves are fantastic for the compost pile, since we have such a big rhubarb patch.

Garden 03 22 15 088

Yesterday we took out 9 wheelbarrows full of wood chips from where the silver maple was cut down and we filled the hole with 11 bags of soil.  I have not sown grass seed yet as we try to determine where the new tree and landscaping will go.

Garden 03 22 15 079

All those wood chips went to making a new garden bed in about an hour with no digging.  We measured out the bed.  Then we placed wet newspapers and wet scrap paper on the lawn.  On top of that we put 5 wheelbarrows of woodchips and soil mixture, straight out of the front yard hole.  We may dig in some kitchen scraps, but we can just let it sit for a while and the grass should die soon.  Then we can just plant into it adding extra soil.  We just needed more space for more vegetables!

Garden 03 22 15 077

Last week I got the hoops and plastic cover out of the garage and covered the old winter bed.  The kale was pretty dead, as opposed to my comments about it surviving in an earlier blog, so we pulled that out. There are just some onions growing in there now.  The soil warmed up under the plastic, so if I had time I could sow some lettuce…  I need to put the plastic back on before the snow that is expected tonight.  You can see one of the ornamental grasses that needs to be cut down in the back left of the picture.  I cut one down yesterday, but did not get to this one yet.

Garden 03 22 15 084

I did not get all the ornamental grass cut down because I decided to clean out the three strawberry beds in the yard.  I ended up thinning or replanted some of the strawberry plants and then I took miscanthus straw to put under the strawberry plants to keep them off the ground.  It is not a professional job, but I am looking forward to some yummy strawberries!