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….

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

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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.

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The view from the patio.

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

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The first gaillardia blooms.

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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A downy woodpecker has been visiting the birdbath.

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

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Blue damselfly on miscanthus ornamental grass.

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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.

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

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

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One of many bullfrogs at Tomahawk Slough.

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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.

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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!

 

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.

June Blooms

June Blooms

There is a lot of color in the garden now.

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Achillea (Yarrow)

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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.

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Heliopsis helianthoides false sunflower ‘summer sun’

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

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The gaillardia blanket flowers started blooming this past week.

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

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Dark red iris

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Cranesbill geranium ‘Rozanne’

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

Plum Blossoms and Mounds of Green Growth

It has been a cool windy week with frosty nights.  It seems like the garden is a little slow in getting going.  I did some weeding and put some mulch down on Friday, but I will wait for some warmer weather to continue garden work.  I have really enjoyed seeing the plum blossoms this week.

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Prunus americana – American plum tree blossoms.

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The branches are full of blossoms all waiting to be pollinated.  It was a windy cool day and I did not see a lot of pollinators out there today, but I am sure they will come.

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We planted two native plum trees a few feet apart to form a privacy screen.  They are vigorous growers and will sucker from the root system, so I have been cutting those back.  The two trees are not quite the same plant and the one on the right is growing taller and has more blossoms this year.  In the back the crabapple is getting ready to bloom soon.

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Crabapple malus profusion.  The crabapple has been looking ready to bloom for a while.  You can see that the leave are looking mostly green now, though some still look bronze colored.

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This is what the little leaves of the profusion crabapple looked like a week or two ago when they started to emerge.

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Around the garden green leaves are mounding up energetically.  In the front is yarrow and behind it is sedum.  There are still some coral colored daffodils blooming.

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Mint

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Chamomile

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Coral bells – heuchera plum pudding and Korean feather reed grass – Calamagrostis brachytricia.  Once the weather warms up the bigger plants crowd out the huechera and it also does not want too much sun, so it is nicest at this time of year.

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Growing grass from seed.  I put some grass seed under the plum trees and used up a free bag of grass starter soil, probably with some fertilizer in it.  The grass is growing in some places.  In the front yard I put down some top soil with no special fertilizer and over seeded my grass, but don’t seem to see the grass seeds sprouting after about 2 weeks.  Maybe if the weather warms up there is still hope….  In any case I am letting the grass get tall this spring to encourage as much growth as possible and maybe crowd out some weeds.

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Walking around Lake Katherine this morning the only bird picture I got was what I think it a tree sparrow going into its nest in what was probably previously a woodpecker cavity.  I am pretty sure I saw a few yellow warblers for the first time, but my camera and photography skills were not good enough to get pictures.

Frost:  One night I put plastic over the lettuce and collards to protect them from frost.  Then next night I did not do anything and the frost seemed to be quite significant.  Still the romaine lettuce and collards seemed to have survived it with no damage.  It looks like two or three more cool nights and then things will start to warm up!

Chinquapin, Catalpa, and Berry Season

Trees help take up carbon from the atmosphere and are such a great habitat for wildlife.

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Our chinquapin oak has been growing about 2 feet a year, since we planted it in 2009.  The branches grow so quickly in the spring that they were hanging down to the lawn.    We may have to trim off more lower branches, but we like the low branch look.  We are zone 5B and this is a zone 6 tree, I think, but with global warming and a protected backyard it seems to do well.

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This week when we looked out the kitchen window we noticed that the catalpa tree was blooming in our neighbor’s yard and the flowers all over the tree are so stunning.  This tree is very fast growing – maybe four feet a year – but won’t be long lived like the oak.

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One or two baby robins seemed to have hatched in the robins’ nest and she is busy feeding them now.  The nest is in the crabapple tree outside our kitchen window, but we can see the babies a little from our upstairs bedroom window.

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Robin in the birdbath on a hot day.  The beautiful dark green chinquapin leaves are in the background.

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The raspberry tart viburnum bush is in full bloom and attracting a lot of bees.  On the right is an arborvitae bush.

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The mulberries are just starting to ripen.  I had some for breakfast in my cereal with strawberries and the first serviceberries.

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I try to pick the serviceberries before the birds get them all.

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We have been picking a bowl of strawberries most days now.

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The beautiful yellow yarrow is blooming around the garden now.  Here it is next to turnips and loose leaf lettuce, that we are eating as fast as we can before the weather gets too hot.

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Potato flowers blooming.  In the back is the blooming clematis and the tomato cages.  I was straightening out one of the tomato vines the other day and the smell was wonderful.

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I was looking at the parsley plant to see where the caterpillar was and I noticed this familiar looking plant sticking out of the container.  Then I remembered that for some crazy reason I put potatoes in the bottom of the crazy cornflower container.  I guess I won’t be able to get the potatoes out for a few months, but I don’t think it will hurt anything.

Tree stories:  Our church was planting trees to replace ash trees they had to cut down.  We purchased an American sentry linden tree – Tilia Americana – to add to the new line up and helped shovel in a little dirt today.

Also, we found a hickory tree growing in a corner of our garden and moved it into a new place to see if we could get it to grow.  After one week it is not looking too good, but we will keep babying it to see if it will take root and grow.  I think it is a shagbark hickory.  It had a long tap-root and we heard these are hard to transplant, though it was only about 18 inches tall.