Sandhill Cranes were migrating south above our house on Thanksgiving Day 2023. I covered these large birds migrating NORTH earlier this year - March 2023 . Below is a video showing the birds flying in a circle above Downers Grove late last month: This is the full list of posts about these fascinating birds . I first posted about them in Fall 2020 . Spring northern migration 2021 . Spring northern migration 2022 . Spring northern migration 2023 . Fall southern migration 2023 .
My compost bins grew this Fall - from two bins and a tumbler to three bins and a tumbler. I've long wanted to add that third bin, but it took this Fall's leaves to compel me to act. Below, you can see the new third bin - on the left - and this photo serves as an 'early winter' snapshot of our three bins (in terms of how full they are) as the composting process slows down with the temperature drops: The new bin (on the left) is almost exclusively leaves. The pumpkins that you see in the middle bin are there (for now) as I break them down into chunks and layer them in every time I add more leaves to the new 3rd bin. I put in a bunch of leaves on top --> chop up chunks of pumpkins --> layer them on top of the leaves in the 3rd bin. I've done that for the top 12-inches-or-so and as that bin continues to compress I'll keep adding leaves. One other thing to note: on the bottom right, there are two white plastic garbage bags that are laying around. Those
My entire gardening life, I've been a Zone 5B gardener. That means that my gardens have all lived in the USDA Zone 5b. Just search for [Zone 5b] here on my blog and hundreds of posts will show up. And, I suppose that I never considered that the maps change over time. But..but...but...they DO! They change. In fact, they change every ten-or-so years and the USDA just (a couple of weeks ago) released their latest maps - the 2023 map. The last time they released a map was 2012. What's different in this new map? Well, for me: A LOT. I'm in a whole new zone. So long, Zone 5b. Hello Zone 6a. Dr. Trent Ford - The University of Illinois State Climatologist has a good explainer post up and talks about how the 5b/6a changes have taken place: The boundary between zones 5b and 6a, representing an average annual extreme minimum temperature of -10°F, migrated 60 to 70 miles north, from around Springfield in the 2012 map to around Peoria in the 2023 map. The boundary betwe
Every Fall, I've gone about protecting our Disneyland Roses (Floribunda Roses) from Winter using an insulation method of laying Fall leaves around the bush. Typically, I take a small ring of chicken wire and create a ring. Anchored by a bamboo pole, I erect the chicken wire ring around the rose and fill the center with leaves that I pick up off the lawn. Some of those leaves are chopped up with the mower, some are just raked up and piled in there. This post from November 2022 shows how I set up that Winter Protection for roses last year . H ere's another post showing Fall 2020 that shows similar chicken wire rings and leaves that I used to overwinter the crowns of our Disneyland Roses. That system seemed to work just fine. It wasn't elegant, but (*knock on wood*) I haven't lost a Disneyland Rose yet. But, my roses are starting to get large and unwieldy. That has made the chicken wire rings more challenging every year. So, I went off on the Web to see if there
I've mentioned that I failed/made a big gardening mistake when it comes to conifers. The rule of: "Conifers Should Come First" is something that I wasn't aware of, until this Fall. That's when I went about a dizzy'ing spring of planting my own conifer garden IB2DWs. What's so great about conifers? Texture and structure are a couple of big reasons to believe in conifers. But, four-season gardening is (maybe?) the biggest for this Zone 5b (Now Zone 6a!!!) gardener. Everything around here goes dormant. Some perennials like hostas just totally disappear. Grasses hang around all Winter. Decidious trees go bare. But, conifers? They stand tall and proud during the Winter. This past week, we had our first real snow fall of the year. And, the dwarf conifer garden was a new highlight. Below are a few photos showing some of the conifers covered in snow:
'Tis the season for indoor Winter gardening. It wouldn't be the Christmas season around here without growing some Amaryllis flowers from bulbs. I've worked with the kids for a number of years to plant and grow some Christmas flowers. Here's a look at last year's Amaryllis bulbs . We picked three bulbs out at Wannemaker's Holiday Open House in November and planted them up. The three varieties we selected were new to us: La Paz - a Spider Amaryllis. This La Paz is a Spider Amaryllis or 'Cybister'. This post details how they're different: Over the last decade, Cybister Amaryllis have become increasingly more popular. Originally hybridized in South America, Cybister Amaryllis have narrow, somewhat spidery flower petals that appear more species-like than their big saucer-shaped cousins. La Paz has upper dark coral petals, while the lower petals are greenish-white edged in dark coral with darker midveins and a starburst green throat. Gardenia
I most-recently posted about the hedge of columnar Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam trees in our yard earlier this Fall in September of 2023. I covered how they had grown over the years and documented the full-Summer foliage. These trees are so interesting - their growth habit is the thing that gets most people's attention. But...their continued marcescence - or holding their leaves late into Winter - is really a big part of the 'why' any homeowner would want these trees in their yard. They are decidious, so they naturally drop their leaves, which leads to people buying A LOT of Green Giant Thujas and common Arborvitaes to provide screening - they are evergreens. But our Hornbeams provide that 'evergreen' look well past when most trees drop their leaves. Below, is a photo showing the current state - early December - of our Hornbeams. These are five years old. You can see plenty of yellow leaves at their feet, but pay attention to all the green foliage STILL