Fall Rainbow Colors

October 16, 2013

I just wanted to share some of the colors that are still blooming in the garden these days.

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Pink chrysanthemums.  These flowers get no sun this time of year as they are on the north side of the house.  They are just starting to open up and should be in full bloom in a week or so.

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Pineapple sage – a popular plant for hummingbirds.

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Intricate nasturtium blossom.  The yellow and orange nasturtiums are multiplying with the recent rains.

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Scabiosa – blue pincushion flower – and swiss chard.

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The ‘hens and chicks’ outside the front door seems to be very healthy these days.  I have brought this indoors several winters.

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Fall colors on lindera benzoin – spicebush.

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The colors are more subtle in the shrubs and grasses.  Vernal witch hazel shrub and miscanthus ‘morning light’ grass.

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Bumblebee rests on gaillardia ‘blanket flower’ in the evening.  The bees are still looking for nectar this time of year, but slow down in the cool mornings and evenings.

Bugs:  I have disturbed a few praying mantises, who are moving more slowly this time of year.  I have not seen my usual grasshoppers in the garden, but maybe they are just hiding well.  I saw a few beautiful earth worms when I was pulling up the alyssum plants…


Labor Day in the Garden

September 2, 2013

It was great to have the day off and to be able to get a few things done around the garden.  I actually got quite a bit of cleaning done this morning and some seeds planted.  What I really enjoy this time of year are the insects and wild life that is everywhere, from spiders to butterflies.  I tried to get a picture of a black swallowtail butterfly, but it was fluttering so quickly I could not get it in focus.  Here are a few little creatures I was able to get shots of….
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At sunset a bee was resting for the night in a gaillardia flower.

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Dragonfly, I think a widow skimmer, on penstemon digitalis – husker red seed head.

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Grasshopper on green bean vines.

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Three pollinators on Agastache.  The bee and the soldier beetle on the right are familiar.  A new one was the long orange looking bug on the left.  It turns our to be a Ailanthus webworm moth.  They are not native, but have migrated north for the summer, as they like the tree of heaven, which is an invasive tree that is common now in our neighborhood.

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Now that it is September a few sedum flowers are turning pink and the soldier beetles are migrating over here and seem to be mating on the flower.  Bees and butterflies like these flowers, too.

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Ant on fennel with pink zinnias.

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Berries on viburnum arrowwood Chicago lustre.  This has been a good year for a lot of berries on the Chicago lustre and raspberry tart viburnum.

Today’s experiment:  On September 2nd I planted nasturtium and pea seeds that I harvested myself.  Are the seeds viable and will they germinate and sprout this late?  I also planted more lettuce, tatsoi, and onions, to keep it coming through the fall.

Garden Snapshots

August 4, 2013

My task this week was to start to prepare my winter garden.  Meanwhile I enjoyed taking pictures of what is going on and got distracted here and there in the garden.

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Just a few nasturtium have bloomed this year.  They always have interesting colors and details.  I could still plant a few seeds and see if we could have them blooming in the fall…

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Yesterday I transplanted kale that I started from seed indoors earlier this summer.  This bed will be covered with a low hoop when the weather gets cold.  I also planted onions, lettuce, beets, pak choi, tatsoi, and turnips in this bed.  They are all vegetables that prefer cool weather.  The weather has been very mild, in the low 70s, which keeps the bed from drying out too much.  I will have to keep it watered this week though, so the seeds can germinate.

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The onions I planted on Tuesday are shooting up already.  I can see a few lettuce seeds have sprouted, too!

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Here is what is left of the lettuce I planted earlier.  I just keep picking off the leaves higher and higher on the stem!  I have 5 or 6 of these stems around the garden now, but have had to eat lettuce from the grocery store for my salads.

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The cucumber have not been doing very well, but we had a half-inch of rain and this cucumber tasted pretty good.

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Brussel sprouts starting to form on the plant.  This is the first time I have grown brussel sprouts.

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Mid-day in a zucchini blossom.  Bees and cucumber beetle find a resting place.  The rain delivered a few zucchini.  I almost pulled the plant out of the ground, but decided to see if I can get a few more zucchini to grow.

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Spider web in hicksii yew.  There are spiders and spider webs all over the garden now.  There are also more grasshoppers, cicadas, and I saw a beautiful orange and brown butterfly this afternoon.  I have not seen any caterpillars, despite the fact that my butterfly weed is blooming again.

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This pokeweed plant appeared in my grassy meadow.  I am not sure if it came from the wild seeds I got from the nature conservancy or if a bird planted it.  Looking online some people love this native plant because it has berries that the birds love and it is somewhat attractive.  Others hate this plant because it has a deep tap root and it is hard to eradicate from the garden once it settles in.  Readers, do you have any opinion on pokeweed?

Morning adventure:  Yesterday morning Dan and I decided to take our coffee outside and we went to sit on a bench at Lake Katherine at about 7:30 am.  We noticed that people were fishing and fishing is prohibited there, so we realized that this was a special fishing tournament.  It was really fun to watch.  One young guy near us, maybe 14 years old, caught a bass that was 3 pounds 11 ounces.  He was very excited.  It all seemed to be catch-and-release fishing.  We left after a while and did not see who won the tournament.

First Sunflower

July 9, 2013

So much can change in five days.  When we came back from a trip away we looked out of the kitchen window and saw a big sunflower facing us.  The coneflowers also started to bloom as did the liatris blazing star plants.

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More sunflowers of various types will be blooming soon, even on this plant, but I love this first, huge flower.

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Purple coneflowers are starting to bloom.  The birds will love all these flowers with tasty centers.

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The liatris blazing star plants bloom at the same time as the shasta daisies and go well together.

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Bee on liatris spicata – blazing star.

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Hydrangea – Incrediball.  I will cut some soon for dried flowers.  The ones I have in the house now I have had for two years and they are getting tired.

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Geranium ‘rozanne.’  They are spreading wildly and competing with the prairie verbena and the creeping charlie!

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The vegetable garden is getting wilder every day.  Watch out for mosquitoes after the nearly two inches of rain we had yesterday!  Recently we harvested collards, baby kale and Russian kale, wax beans, peas, lettuce, pak choy, a few cherry tomatoes, two small zucchini, four eggplants, a bowl full of raspberries, a good portion of blueberries and a few strawberries!  Of course there are always herbs when needed.  The tomatoes, pole beans and zucchini are getting ready to take over the garden!

Berry Extravaganza

June 23, 2013

When we moved into this house some years ago the only berries we had were the mulberries on the tree in the easement.  Since then we have been working to increase the berries in our yard.  Berries are a great high vitamin food and so delicious when super fresh and organic, too.  The strawberries have slowed down a little, but we still are getting a some every day.
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These are the berries I picked Wednesday afternoon.  Mulberries, serviceberries, and strawberries.  I had some rhubarb sauce that I heated up, added some berries and a little Mackinac Island Fudge ice cream.  Wow!  It was fantastic!

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Regent Saskatoon Serviceberries on shrub.  The berries on the Allegheny Serviceberry were all dried up this year for some reason, though they were good last year, but we have had a lot of berries on the Regent Saskatoon this year.   I only pick them when they get to the purple stage.  I have three of these bushes now, so a good crop.

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The mulberries are a huge mess, so we have to be careful not to track them into the house.  However if you want a lot of berries, there are tons on this tree and the birds love them.  They are also adding nutrients to our compost pile on the left.  I like to mix them in with other berries and only pick them when they are black and ready to drop from the branches.  People in the neighborhood do some foraging on this tree, too.

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Look at these beautiful berries on the Duke blueberry bush!  These we eat sparingly, but each one is a burst of flavor.  They go from green to pink to blue as they grow in size and ripen.

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Forbidden fruit – my neighbor’s raspberries that are not yet ripe.  My neighbor told me to help myself and does not seem interested in them, so I am excited as these are so luscious when very ripe.

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Strawberry flower.  This is on an older strawberry plant I have that is not very productive, but the pink flowers are so delicate.

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Hydrangea Incrediball – Hydrangea Arborescens.  Getting away from berries, I moved this hydrangea out of solid shade into partial shade.  The flowers get huge so I anticipate them flopping over soon.  It seems happy now.  Catmint and lady’s mantle on the right.  The tree is a chinquapin oak – quercus muehlenbergii.

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Bee in catmint.  Catmint walker’s low (nepeta) and lady’s mantle (alchemilla mollis.)

The garden is getting more colorful.  There are the pinks of the foxglove and geranium and the purples and blues of the salvia and catmint.  There are the huge irises, right by the patio, but today what stands out is the yarrow.  It is almost fluorescent.

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Achillea – Yarrow.  Here is another attempt to show the yarrow with the three patches of blue from the salvia and catmint.  If you zoom in to the salvia way in the back of the picture just to the right of the tree this is what you will see.

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Blue hill salvia.  Salvia has a very strong odor I dislike, but the bees love it and frequent it all summer.  I love these huge bumble bees that zone in on these spiky flowers.  When the salvia stops looking good it can be cut back so that it blooms again later in the summer.

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Another patch of yarrow is in the vegetable garden.  I tied it up earlier, which is fortunate since this plant can smother other plants.  Here I have put up some cages to prepare for cucumbers and tomatoes which are starting to grow taller.  It could get to be a tangled mess!  Also in this picture are yellow kale flowers, sage flowers and purple clematis.

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Close up of yarrow with tiny red spider.

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Veronica – spike speedwell – royal candles.  The spike speedwell are turning a brighter purple.  In the background is black-eyed susan foliage, miscanthus – morning light, red-hot poker foliage, and between the spike speedwell clumps is pennisetum little bunny ornamental grass.

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Freshly picked strawberry.  Organic strawberries are $5 a pound at Whole Foods.  I have been picking between a pound and half a pound of strawberries every day for the past few days.  Every once in a while I get a really funny looking strawberry like this one.  I love eating them right out of the garden and thinking about all those vitamins I am getting from eating them fresh!  I have made rhubarb-strawberry sauce a few times, too, which is great over a little ice cream!

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Solidago fireworks goldenrod tied up to keep it tidy.  I pinch off the taller plants to keep them from flopping over and to get them to bloom a little later.  I finally finished pinching off the goldenrod, phlox, and sedum.  I also pruned the dry flowers off the lilacs.  My back is a little tired, but that is done for this year!

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Getting ready for an extended winter harvest!  We pulled up some more sod, put down sand, compost, manure and good soil and mixed it up.  Now we will let it sit for a month to settle and get the biological life boosted up before we either plant vegetable seeds or transplant in plants that we will harvest under a low plastic hoop in the fall and winter.  We thought we would start small and see how this works.

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Centaurea – cornflower.  I called this bachelor’s button last week, which it may be, but I purchased it as cornflower.

Seen in the garden this week:  A black swallowtail butterfly of some kind.  I could not tell if it was a spicebush swallowtail or not, as it was flying around wildly.  Also, we have had many visits from the hummingbird, who seems to especially enjoy the pineapple sage and the catmint.

Garden eats: We have a lot of leaf lettuce, a good portion of which is arugula, which has quite a strong flavor.  Dan has been putting it in his smoothie, but Phil and I think the strong flavor is not muted by all the berries and fruit, so we seek out the less bitter lettuce leaves to gobble up.

Springtime Yellow

April 21, 2013

Everything started to green up this week.  I am enjoying yellow in the garden this spring.

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I am not sure what kind of native bee this is, but it was exploring each daffodil trumpet and is carrying off yellow pollen.

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What a week of rain!  I guess the drought is over in our yard for now.  The daffodils have been long lasting with the cool weather, but a little beat down by the storms.

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These narcissus opened before the rain.  They are some of my favorites.

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The spicebush blossoms finally opened this week attracting pollinators and birds.

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Note the difference between the spicebush blossoms and these Cornelian Cherry Dogwood blossoms I saw blooming at Lake Katherine today.

Birds:  When I stand at the kitchen window I can see so many different kinds of birds.  They are all busy now, with spring so late.  Here is a robin enjoying our birdbath a week ago.

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Fall Finale

October 28, 2012

Some people are getting their Halloween costumes ready.  Here is how the garden is dressing up.

A lot of the nasturtiums died earlier in the frost, but those that survived have come back beautifully.  The variety of Nasturtium flower colors always amazes me.

Chrysanthemum ‘fantasy.’  This plant only produced a few flowers this year.  I love the colors and detail, though.

A bee rests on an aster.  I don’t know if the bee was resting because night was coming or because winter is coming and it was cold.

Garden cleanup exposed this community of mushrooms.  I think that means that something is rotting underground.  Maybe it is the roots of the silver maple that used to be in this area.

Winter Rye.  Last week I mentioned that I planted winter rye as a cover crop.  We had perfect weather for germination and after eight days here is what the shoots looked like.  However, after reading some blogs on this I hope the rye won’t be a nuisance in the spring, since I tend to plant early.

I have been trying to get a picture of the newest visitor to the garden.  This cat seems to enjoy spending quite a bit of time sleeping behind some of the shrubs and I had trouble getting a good shot.  The wildlife in my garden will need to beware with this new predator stalking.  The fothergilla bush on the right always is beautiful in the fall, though was hard to capture well this year.

Other activities this weekend included planting a few daffodil bulbs and mulching up a lot of leaves for our compost pile!

Brilliant Bugs

July 28, 2012

Since the rain we are finally encountering a few more mosquitoes, gnats and other biting, flying critters, which I have not taken pictures of!  Here is some of the wildlife I enjoy watching and photographing in my yard.

Grasshopper hides in bean pole tent.  I love the detail on his/her body.

Dragonfly – Widow Skimmer.  You can see through his wings.  I love the shiny head and thorax.

Green Dragonfly.  Dragonflyies will let you get quite close if you come very slowly.  This guy has his wings down cautiously and is ready to fly.  Here the wings have no dark markings.  They love to sit on dead sticks.

Bee on Gaillardia.  We have a lot of Gaillardia in the yard and there are always bees on them.

Spider spins web at dusk.  This was really fun to watch.  The spider would come to the center, go around in a circle and head off in a new direction before coming back to the center again.

Emerald Green Arbotvitae.  The one in the back looks fine, but the one in the front suffered from the drought.  Not a pretty picture, but it can happen in drought when you aren’t paying attention.

The garden is still very full.  Today it is 80 degrees and we had rain this week, so not only is there plenty of green vegetation, but a lot of critters are enjoying sipping and snacking in the garden, racing to do what they need to do before winter comes.

Dragonflies are my favorite.  Here the dragonfly rests in the zucchini shade.

Tomato hormworm.  This was a hormworm I saw two weeks ago.  On the right side the caterpillar is chewing and holding the vine with little hands or feet.

Monarch caterpillar in butterfly weed.  I saw two one day and then they were gone the next day.  I hope they made it to the cocoon stage.

Bumble bee in zinnia.

This bird house is too small for any birds.  This time of year all three of my bird houses are occupied by wasps.

Grasshopper in zinnias.  There are a lot of different kinds of grasshoppers, crickets, cicadas, and katydids in the yard now.

I have seen quite a few toads.  This is one of the bigger ones.  Great camouflage.

Cabbage moth, I think, in catmint.  I see a lot of cabbage moths in the garden.  Hopefully the grubs will not be a problem, but will be good food for the birds.

I enjoy feeding on the garden, too.

Recent tasty cooking: zucchini, cherry tomatoes and sweet red peppers sauteed in olive oil with salt and pepper.