Snow Angel

January 26, 2014

I know we have had some really challenging weather, but today I got up and bundled up in my warm jacket, long underwear, and boots, and took a wonderful walk around Lake Katherine.  It was a very peaceful walk, pretty much by myself the whole way.  There is something very thoughtful about the quietness and beauty of a snowy walk.  Then I wanted to make a snowman to put in the front yard, but the snow is too fluffy for that, so I settled for a snow angel!

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I can’t remember making a snow angel before, though I must have….

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I lay there for a while in my ski pants and super warm jacket and watched the clouds floating along.

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Thumbs up for a fun time!  My husband is my snow angel who took the pictures and who does a lot of wonderful shoveling for me.

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Another view of the birdbath.  This was before I made the snow angel next to it.  To the right you can see the sedum and hydrangea.  They have been snow-covered most of the winter, so that has made them more pleasant than when there is no snow and they look not so interesting.

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Snow on sedum and hydrangea.  I like the light and shadows in the snow this time of year.

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Here I was playing with my shadow.  The giant sacaton is the grass right behind the birdhouse.  It is kind of wispy and hard to see, but is at least 4 feet tall.

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Light through the fence on a winter morning.

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Red branches and buds of a duke blueberry bush.  The snow is so high that half of the bush is under the snow.  I think that is a good thing.

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Still our minds wander to warmer climates.  I got some books from the library and we wonder if we have enough free miles to fly south for a quick trip…


One of the goals of my garden is to keep the birds, bees, and insects happy.  You can see crowds of bees and other pollinators moving around the garden as different flowers start to bloom.  Hummingbirds and goldfinches are fun to watch as they visit various flowers.  One annual flower I seem to have every year are zinnias.  The colors are so bright that they cheer up the whole yard and attract butterflies to come and visit.
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Pink zinnias.  I started a bunch of zinnias seeds indoors this spring and a few of them made it to the flower stage.  Now they will keep blooming into the fall.  I put them in the vegetable garden to add color and add to the mix of insects and birds.  This year I have pink, orange, and yellow zinnias.

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Agastache golden jubilee.  Loved by the bees.

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Agastache blue fortune – anise hyssop.  It is about 4 feet tall or more and so far is standing up on its own, though another year I had to stake it up.  The bumble bees visit all day.  In the back is heliopsis ‘summer sun’ and hicksii yew, all giving some privacy to my patio.

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Inch worm on heliopsis ‘summer sun.’

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This was as close as I could get to this black swallowtail butterfly on my parsley.  Parsley is a host food for the black swallowtail caterpillar, so it looked like this butterfly was laying eggs on the parsley, as it kept flying in and landing on the parsley.  I will have to keep my eyes open for caterpillars soon.  They are fun to watch and I have plenty of parsley to share.

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The white hydrangeas and daisies show up well in the evening light.  Today the daisies wilted, though, with a very hot day.  This new format of WordPress has given me smaller pictures, so you may not be able to see the coneflowers and blazing stars in the background unless you expand the picture.  On the left and bottom you can see some oak leaves.  The oak tree seems to have had three growth spurts with all the rain we had this year.  The Chinquapin oak leaves are  orange-yellow color just because they are new leaves that just came out at the end of June.  Most of the trees and shrubs really grew a lot this year.

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Liatris spicata- blazing star flowers.  In the background the Joe Pye Weed plants are getting ready to bloom soon.

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When I left for work at 6:45 am there was a turtle in front of my neighbor’s house.  He must have wandered up from the lake at the end of the block.  He was stretching his neck up to the sun, but when I came closer to take this picture he drew his neck back into his shell.

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.)

Planting, Harvesting, Savoring

September 30, 2012

We are gradually building up the shrub border around the house.  Two weeks ago we planted a few bushes from Possibility Place and need to keep watering them so they get settled in before winter.

First we had to move two arborvitae from their current spots to this corner of the garden to make a threesome of trees.  We were able to leave the small hydrangea here and hope it grows more next year in the shade.

Then we planted this vernal witch hazel, hamamelis vernalis, between the two lilacs.

Carpinus Caroliniana – American Hornbeam – Blue Beach.  These are all names for this bush, which will eventually be a small tree.  We planted two of these on the west fence and hope it will block the view of the neighbor’s garage.  It’s pretty small now, though!

Top Hat Blueberry.  We planted this in the container this spring, so we have not had any blueberries yet.  Hopefully this will make it through the winter.  I will need to do some research to ensure that.  Asters in the background.

Another aster that is blooming is purple dome, with fireworks goldenrod in the background.

Chrysanthemum ‘Overture.’  I planted them this spring and they are the first mums to bloom in my garden this fall.  They are red with a yellow center, though not a true red.

We pulled up the first sweet potato vine last weekend and found one decent sized sweet potato and a few small ones.  The flavor was good, though a small portion.

Today we baked an apple, oatmeal, raisin dessert and earlier in the day we made up some spicy watermelon gazpacho.  We keep experimenting with vegetarian recipes.  Yesterday Dan made bean, corn, and avocado enchiladas, which were great!

June Snapshot

June 26, 2011

We have had beautiful weather the past few days, in the mid-70s.  I enjoy taking time to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of every plant.

We don’t have much shade in our back yard, but along the north side of the house we have hostas and this “invincibelle” hydrangea.

I think of this as my fall garden, but the middle area blooms now in June.  As the summer progresses the left and right sides will bloom yellow and purple colors through the fall.  I like the red hot pokers in the back that are just getting started.

In the drought garden the pink butterfly weed is starting to open.

I had weeds and grass growing in this planter, so today I threw in some annuals and brought it up by the back door.  On the left are yellow moss rose and on the right are blue browallia.  They don’t look like much yet, but this is the first time I have grown them, so it is another experiment.  There was an orange butterfly on the yellow tickseed flowers today, but I could not get close enough to identify it.  Not a monarch, though.

The bean plants on the bean pole are still looking somewhat tidy.  No beans yet, but we should have some bush beans soon.

As the pink penstemon flowers on he left go to seed, the bright colored zinnias are getting taller and will soon be three or four feet high and full of flowers.  The butterflies and birds love them.  There are a few snap peas on the fence on the left and the zucchini on the right are starting to blossom.  A very special treat this week was that we pulled up our first new potatoes and ate them a few hours later!

I think the bluebird is incubating eggs and the robin seems to be feeding baby birds.

Spring Fever!

March 13, 2011

We turned the clocks forward last night.  The days are longer, but the temperature is still around 40 degrees.  The one thing we are told in the midwest is not to go working in the garden when the ground is soggy from the thaw.  We have to wait for the ground to dry a bit and firm up.  But I am not very good with patience in the springtime! I thought I would take just a few pictures.

Crocus bulbs push up through the Ajuga and dead leaves.  We have a lot of cheerful bulbs coming up all over the garden.

Sedum Dragon’s Blood, true to its name this time of year.

There are at least 10 ornamental grasses that need to be cut to the ground, along with the sedum and the shrubs in the top left of the picture; hydrangea and caryopteris.  I also decided to move quite a few plants from one place to another.  I need to wait for some warm days before I do all of that.  I did find a spot where the soil was ready, though, and planted some lettuce seeds.

It’s a good day to hang out on the couch!

Snowy December

December 12, 2010

A beautiful soft snow fell on Friday, December 3rd, and it has been mostly white since then.  It is snowing again today and I heard the temperatures were falling.

The view from upstairs.  This first snow was wet and heavy and flattened the red switch grass on the left.  The sedum are standing firm.

This leaf missed the compost pile.

The drought garden we planted this year gave us several nice ornamental grasses.  The zebra grass on the right and a dwarf miscanthus on the left – I forgot the name.  Also there are two blue fescue clumps under the snow.  In the back are the irises from Rick’s garden.  I wonder if they will bloom in the spring.

The gift that keeps giving – The cyclamen was a house warming gift from Alia five years ago.  This is also the first time I dried hydrangeas.

I went to the library yesterday and got some winter reading.  When the weather is too cold and I can’t walk at lunch I will have something fun to read to remind me of summer days.  I am always planning the next phase of the garden.

Getting Ready for Winter

November 21, 2010

This weekend was the last big clean up.  Dan cleaned the gutters and blew the leaves out of the rocks.  All the leaves went on the lawn and then we mulched them up with the mower and built the compost pile.  We throw on a layer of leaves mixed with grass, then some green leaves or kitchen garbage, then some old compost or dirt and then start over.  The pile is already cooking and making some good compost for next summer, though it will slow down once the snow comes.

The plants that have spent the summer outside have come in.  The Cyclamen, with red flowers, was a house warming gift in 2005.  I threw it outside this summer and it looked like it was dead, but then it came back, better than ever.  The hen and chicks are back in for the winter.  I like the reflection of the leafless trees in the window.

Looking the other direction, the view is pretty boring now.  I post this so that over the next months I can think about where to add an evergreen or two to make this view more interesting in the winter, which is a lot of the year in Illinois.

Morning Light, Miscanthus Sinensis, is one of my favorite grasses.  It is blowing in the wind here, so a bit out of focus.

This caryopteris grew taller than the lilac next to it this year.  It holds up all winter and looks beautiful covered with snow.

Hydrangea – leaf art.

Monarch Butterfly Festival

September 19, 2010

This was the first year I made it over to the Monarch Butterfly Festival at Lake Katherine.  It was a fun family event.

I waited in line to get in the Butterfly tent where I took this picture.

While waiting to get in the butterfly tent I enjoyed listening to this lady talk about this brown Tarantula.

This morning, in my own yard, I was about to take a picture of the parsley before bringing it is to dry or freeze, when I saw this swallowtail caterpillar.  I have been watching all summer for these caterpillars that eat parsley and this is the first one I have seen.

When picking tomatoes today I almost missed this well camouflaged tomato hornworm.  I am still looking for a praying mantis, but have not seen one this year.

Here is the September view from the window.  I hung up a few hydrangeas to dry so I can enjoy them all winter…

It is a little early for the goldenrod “fireworks” and for the asters, but I couldn’t resist putting in this shot, since I watch the colors changing from the window each day.  The little sliver plant in the center front is called a curry plant.  It is not really used for curry, but it smells just like curry.  The purple basil, which is starting to flower,  is holding up the asters.  I saw a Cedar Waxing this week and wonder if they will come to eat these berries on the Viburnum bushes.