The weather is cool again this week, going down into the 40s tonight.  The garden is very green, with the trees leafing out and the grass vibrant green.

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Lilac bushes on a sunny day.  The smaller common lilac in the front grew so quickly that the branches have been bent over after the heavy rains recently, since they have such heavy flower heads.  I need to prune off the flowers in a few weeks.

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Crabapple – malus profusion.  The crabapple was late in blooming, then once the blossoms were open the weather was hot, followed by strong storms, so the blossoms only lasted a few days.  I hope we have a good batch of crabapples for the birds later.

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Blossoms of the Duke blueberry bush.

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The two fothergilla bushes are blooming now with their funky flowers.  The green leaves, which are starting to emerge, are beautiful, too.

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I don’t pay much attention to hostas, but they caught my eye this week with their fresh green leaves.  The slugs usually enjoy nibbling on them, so they don’t stay good looking that long in my garden.  They are good ground covers, though, in the shade.

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Male goldfinch sipping water at the birdbath.  I finally left my camera by the kitchen window to try to capture a goldfinch before it flew away.  These birds are so quick.  The little brown bird is typical in that I can’t really tell all the little brown birds apart.  I assume it is some kind of female sparrow, though it looks different from the female house sparrow in the bird book.  It looks sort of like the female indigo bunting in the bird book, but it could be some kind of baby or immature bird, too.  Can anyone identify this brown bird?

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Male house finch at the birdbath.  These birds love to chew on the sedum seen in the background of this picture.

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This female northern cardinal took a nice bath and then flew up to the oak tree to fluff her feathers.  Then she flew back down to the bath and splashed around again!

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Handsome male northern cardinal hunts in the grass.  There are a lot of birds poking around in the grass these days.  Dan let the grass grow long before mowing it the first time and now it is growing quickly again with all the rain.  Such a pretty bird!


Happy New Year!

The title above is from the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter.”  This is the coldest, snowiest winter we have had for a while.  There seems to be nothing new to take pictures of and few birds and squirrels have been active in the weather, which has been snowing through the night and day, and will be below zero F tonight and through the next few days.  Still, here are a few pictures of how things look here.

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The bird bath is a focal point and provides structure in the winter garden.  I am not sure how many inches of snow we have had by now.  It must be at least 6 – 8 inches and maybe more.

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It is easier to take pictures from inside, though I did venture out this morning to try to get some shots.  We also had a quiet family walk around the block last night, with the streets empty and the snow peacefully falling.

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Fothergilla bush in snow, showing the details of the delicate branches.  The snow highlights the architecture of woody plants and perennials of every kind.

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Black-eyed susans in snow.

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Snow art on gate.  I put in a picture of this last year, but it caught my attention again.

Activities:  Today’s activities will include shoveling.  Luckily we have two college kids home to help with this!

This past week I got out my vegetable garden plans for the past 6 years and laid out my plan for the 2014 vegetable garden on graph paper.  The main thing is to rotate the tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, zucchini, lettuce and kale to keep the soil healthy.  The rest of the vegetables I just throw in where there is room.  Do I need to expand the vegetable garden to fit in everything I want to grow?  I should probably do a soil test, since I have not done one in six years.  Over the next weeks I will consider what other changes I need to make to the garden in general and do some online ordering, as needed.

I also made a few changes to this blog to increase the size of the photos and list my recent posts at the bottom.  I reached 10,000 visits to this site around New Year’s Day, and about 75% of the visits were in 2013, so thanks to everyone who visited and commented!




November 10, 2013

One of my favorite shrubs has some pretty fall color this week.

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The fothergilla bush mixes red, orange and yellow colors together in the fall.  This is a four season bush and maybe my favorite.

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I planted another little fothergilla bush in the corner of the yard this spring.  I think this one is called ‘beaver creek.’  It has had a terrible time all year.  I have been nursing it along, but enjoy the promise of bright colors in the future from looking at it today.

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I walked past the miscanthus ‘morning light’ today and notice that it was turning orange/red.

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This weekend was all about building the compost pile.  We mowed and mulched up the leaves.  We will probably have as much again of leaves before we are done.  Meanwhile the pile will heat up and shrink this week.  I added green items to the pile and a bucket of water.

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This red lettuce was looking beautiful today.  Unfortunately it tastes very bitter, but it is great for the compost pile.

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I badly needed to thin out some of the vegetables under the plastic hoop.  This is pak choi that we flash fried at lunch.  I also thinned out some lettuce that we put in a green smoothie this morning.

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Whenever I bring in vegetables I tend to also bring in some creature.  On Monday evening I went in to bring in some lettuce after dark.  I had the yard light on, so I could barely see the lettuce.  Now I see that the slugs are active at night and enjoying the vegetables, too. Here is a little slug that was in the sink.

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Here is a bigger slug I found when I propped up one of the collard plants.  The collards have holes on them, but it is not a big issue.

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The green tomatoes I brought in three weeks ago are gradually turning red.  They are kind of ugly looking tomatoes, but they taste good!

Stumble Upon Beauty

May 19, 2013

When you wander around the garden, after the work is all done, you can see beautiful things that you miss when you are in a hurry.  The flowers are starting to bloom, one at a time, and each one is a little different.

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Lily of the valley.  This aggressive ground cover made its way to our yard from the neighbors, but I love these dainty flowers and the delicate fragrance.

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These little blue bulbs, scilla I think, are hard to see from the kitchen, but slowly open in May each year.

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Baptisia Australis – Blue Wild Indigo just starting to open.

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In this picture the indigo is on the right, before it began blooming.  On the left is the Fothergilla bush with its white blooms.  The purple lysimachia ‘firecracker’ make a great contrast to the panicum virgatum ‘rotstrahlbusch’ switch grass.  The tall bush in the middle is a spice bush and the viburnum on the right is ‘raspberry tart.’  I planted another Fothergilla bush this spring but it is not looking great.  I will need to prune off quite a few dead branches and then hope it recovers.

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Prairie Verbena

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Geranium sanguineum.  This geranium is near the prairie verbena.

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Purple columbine.  I have a lot of pink columbine near the geranium and verbena, but only this purple one was open.  It looks blue due to the lighting or my camera…

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The ajuga are a shade loving ground cover that are in bloom now.

Our kale never seemed to die last fall, so although it was ugly we just couldn’t get ourselves to cut it down.  It had grown so amazingly tall and given us so much food and seemed to have baby leaves coming out of the stubs where we had already picked leaves.  I think that the stems were so thick they were like tree trunks and protected the life through the winter.  Now leaves are coming back…

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Below the dead kale leaves new leaves are sprouting.  We had freezing temperatures and snow yesterday morning, but they still keep growing.

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Here is a closer look at a new bunch of kale leaves coming out of the old stalk.

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Here you can see that some leaves have started growing out of the ground near the base of the stalk.  I am assuming that these will taste the same as they did last year, since they are coming from the same roots.  My experience is that annual plants that overwinter really want to flower, so I will plant new kale plants, but these might give us a few leaves before the others grow big enough to eat.

Today the weather is finally supposed to go up to 70 degrees for one day, but this morning it is still cool.  Everything seems to be just waiting for the sun.

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Our spicebush has grown so big!  It has a lot of inconspicuous flower buds that are just waiting to open, like the daffodils, lilacs, and serviceberry bushes.  I am hoping to attract spicebush swallowtail butterflies to this bush.

Garden projects:  I picked up a Dwarf Fothergilla Beaver Creek that I plan to plant on the west side of the house, where we just have mostly rocks now.  The lawn could use attention, and Dan mentioned that he could rake out the thatch.  That would not be such a bad chore if the weather really warmed up!

All Nature Sings

March 25, 2012

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears

All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres

This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought….

It is a beautful time of year and the birds are enjoying the garden with me.  Here is what is happening after our recent heat wave…

The fothergilla shrub starts to bloom.  The leaves should follow soon.  Below are spreading chrysanthemums.  They certaining supress the weeds, but are not my favorite color in the fall, so I might replace them.

Last Sunday these serviceberry flower buds started to form.

 Two days later I took this picture when the plant was in full bloom.  I chose this over the close up, since I wanted to include this busy squirrel.  We have had a lot of squirrels enjoying the yard, though none of them live on site.

The lilac leaves have filled out on both lilacs.  This one has flower buds, too.   On the right side, in the background, you can see two American plum shrubs we planted yesterday.

Here they are close up.  We went to Possibility Place in Monee yesterday to get an American plum tree and came home with two smaller plums.  They tend to form a bit of a thicket and will probably not bloom until next year.  They are a native shrub and are supposed to have plums with a sweet flesh and sour skin.  They will probably be 15 feet high eventually and provide a good screen as well as a welcome place for birds.  The white blossoms will be a nice contrast to the pink blossoms on the crab apple.  Thanks for your help Dan!

 Malus Profusion – crabapple.  The crabapple has leafed out about a month early this year.  You can see the pink buds getting ready to bloom.

There is work to do today once the ground dries a bit from the past days of rain.  Both the purple lysimachia and the goldenrod above are quite agressive and have gone under the railroad tie and are moving toward the neighbor’s yard.  I need to pull up unwanted plants, as well as other weeds around the yard.

I planted more daffodils last fall and now am enjoying all the different colors coming up at different times throughout spring.  This coral colored daffodil is something new, though my favorites are the bright yellow ones.


November 6, 2011

I know it isn’t Thanksgiving Day yet, but I was thankful today as I cleaned out the vegetable garden.  I was thinking about the seeds falling on good soil and multiplying thirty, sixty, even one hundred times.  Certainly the zucchini and one tomato plant did that this year.  All that is left now is the kale, swiss chard, a few onions scattered around and the perennial herbs.  I have a huge flat parsley plant that is very green.  The soil is partially so good because of the leaves that we compost each year.  And now it is that time of year again.  Leaves are falling and I am working to get my compost cooking enough to decompose all the leaves we are gathering.

I have enjoyed watching the bushes change color.  The spice bush was very yellow, but hard to catch with my camera.  Here are a few more fall color shots.

I took this picture of the fothergilla bush a week ago.

The Regent’s Serviceberry west of the house.  It was planted just a little over a year ago and I am looking forward to watching it grow more each year.

Ajuga and maple leaf.

Gaillardia – Blanket Flower.  I have not done as much deadheading on these recently, but they still keep coming month after month.

Cooking today:  Sauteed green beans, kale and bacon.  I also broiled another batch of green peppers and some tomatoes.

May Flowers

May 8, 2011

I had a three day weekend and managed to get quite a few seedlings and seeds planted.  More pictures of those when they get bigger.  The show stoppers this week were the blooming crab apple and the fothergilla bush.

Crab Apple – Profusion – living up to its name.

How it looks when I am washing dishes every day.

The fothergilla bush is a slow grower.  In front are the coral chrysanthemums that bloomed beautifully last October.  To the right I planted some soon to be large zinnias to fill up the space.

Fothergilla close-up.

Strawberry blossoms from the five year old patch in the vegetable garden.  The strawberry blossoms in the new plants appear to be white.  Which one will have better strawberries?

Laundry on the line.  More about lilacs next week.

Just as a note – I saw a robin in the bird’s next door, so I don’t think it was a phoebe after all.