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Showing posts from May, 2018

Mason Bee House Update - (Some) Cavities Filled

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Back at the end of April, I posted a photo of the new Mason Bee House that my sister gave me for my birthday.  I hung it on our fence, on the north fence line down in the low spot of our yard - which due to the swails/drainage means that's the spot that has the most moisture.  Hence...access to mud.  It also gets morning and mid-day sun.

Which are all the components for a good placement (access to mud, stable location and partial sun) of a Mason Bee House.

And, much to my surprise, I've found that the house is being occupied!  Yeah...at least some of the chambers are filled.  Look closely at the photo above, you'll see some of the bamboo cavities are filled with mud.  That means there's larvae behind them.

Here's a marked up version of the house showing the filled chambers.

I count 14 little bees behind mud and based on what I read online, these things will live inside those chambers for close to a year and will emerge in the Spring of 2019.

Chanticleer Pear Front Yard Tree - Dead and Ready for Removal

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Welp, it is official:  Our Chanticleer Flowering Pear tree out front by our garage is gone.  In February of this year, I posted a photo and an update on this tree and speculated that I thought it was dead, but we wanted to wait until Spring arrived to see if it came back.  The bad news is marked with that pink spray paint on the trunk:  marked for removal. 

I've had (now) maybe seven or eight of these trees over the years and this is one of three we have here in Downers Grove and this is the only one that gave us any trouble what-so-ever.  This one is a 3" caliper, so it is a more mature tree while the rest of them have been 1" or less caliper versions, so they might have had a better shot at catching on. 

It is being replaced like-for-like with another of the same variety.  I'll post photos of the new tree once it goes in the ground.

Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Planted - Hedgerow Spring 2018

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Yesterday, I shared a photo of our eight Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam 2.5" caliper trees that had been delivered.  These trees were a long-time coming and we've been planning, talking and thinking about them for almost a year.  Today, the trees went in!  Here's the guys digging the holes and placing the trees in the holes to check for placement and spacing.  We ended up going with six feet of spread between each one and 30" away from the fence.

You can tell from the photo above that they are going into a low spot and that our neighbor's to the north truck and garage are pretty visible (right now) from the top of our property.

Here's three of the eight placed in their holes.  Once we were all happy with the placement, the burlap and rope were removed (well...the bottom of the burlap was left on because our landscaper prefers to keep the rootball intact, but the top of the burlap was cut off and all the rope was removed) and these trees were stuck back in …

Frans Fontaine Horbeam Trees - Arrived

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The anticipation has been killing me.  I've been waiting for six weeks for this day:  when our Frans Fontaine Columnar Hornbeam trees arrive.  That's the pile of eight of them after they had been delivered by the landscaper and before they were hauled into position.  These are 2.5" caliper trees and they are about 12' tall and - at their widest - about 30" wide.  Up near the top, where they will be showing over the fence, they're about 10" to 12" wide currently.

I posted a bit ago showing the markings on the ground where these trees are going including the spacing - which is about 6' apart.  And here's a look from the other direction (looking from front to rear yard).

The trees are just starting to leaf out, but are already capable of screening somewhat.  Look at this photo below that shows how when looking 'through' them, you can see how they screen our house.  Also, you'll note that these have limbs about two-to-three feet fro…

Sunflower Seeds Planted: Spring 2018

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Like most every year in the past, I received a nice set of Sunflower seeds for my birthday.  This year, I received five different varieties including:  Carmel Hybrid, Velvet Queen, Italian White, Autumn Beauty Mix and Evening Sun (below).  I put these down in a the rear, south fence line amongst some natural areas. 

I've posted a few times over the years.  The first time was in 2011 when I had our initial growth in our backyard by our playground.  By 2013, I moved the location and planted them in the front of our old fence.  And had some good growth.  In 2014, I went, again, with a wide variety.  And in 2016, I received some seeds, but since we had already moved out, I don't remember if I ever planted these at Equation Boy/Man's house in Elmhurst. 


I soaked these seeds for about 4 hours before planting them, so I'm hoping that they'll germinate quickly and we'll get some decent growth, knowing they take about three months (Mid/late August) for blooms to appear…

10 Bare Root Strawberry Plants: A Soil Experiment

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In our old garden back in Elmhurst, we had a couple of strawberry plants.  I put them in a giant pot (that came with our Ginko tree) and they came back year-after-year we lived there and bore fruit that we (sometimes) ate and other times were enjoyed by various critters.  Here's a photo showing one of the big fruits from 2013Here's a look at one of that plants just about six years ago and here's a sample harvest from 2012.  
Also, in 2015, I came across this Hula Berry plant which features strawberries that taste like pineapple.  I planted it, but then before we were able to harvest, we sold our house and moved out.  
Fast forward to this year: I found this package of 10 bare root "June Bearing All Star" strawberry plants from M&G Holland.  They sat on my desk for a few weeks until recently when I had the two containers left over from planting the kids Earth Daytrees.  
I wanted to run a little bit of an experiment in terms of planting material with these…

Snow Fountains Weeping Cherry - Final Earth Day 2018 Tree

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Here is the third of three Earth Day 2018 trees, but this one, while bought on Earth Day, wasn't planted on Earth Day.  The Babe picked this one (for reasons I'll describe), but couldn't decide on the location at first.  So it sat on our patio, in the pot for a couple of weeks. 

Reminder...the other two Earth Day trees from this year are a Red Maple Sun Valley tree that we planted all the way in the back and a flowering pear tree that we planted on the south fence line

This tree is a flowering cherry, but different than our Kwanzan flowering Cherry as this one is a grafted tree that weeps.  Pretty sure that this is a tree that - if not for a nursery - wouldn't exist normally.  (Who knows...maybe no trees would??)  It is smallish and will only get between eight and twelve feet tall and about six feet of spread. 

Here's the tag that shows the name Prunus x 'Snofozam' PPAF.  Also note that it says "attracts butterflies".  And that was what attract…

(Really) Last Look At Sideyard Locations For Columnar Hornbeams

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Back at the beginning of April, I posted a photo of the sideyard where we've been planning on putting up a privacy hedge/screen consisting of European Columnar Hornbeam trees.  At the time, I called it a 'last look' at this area, but here we 50 days later and guess what?  Still no trees.  Still no privacy in the screened porch.

But that pink paint you see above?  That's a good sign!  The trees are on their way.  Working with Chris Paul of Green Grass Landscaping (did I mention that Chris was the Consul - aka President - of my Fraternity House in College!) just marked out the locations of each of the eight trees that are being installed.

The photo above is the one looking east towards the front of our house.  In the top right, you can see our screened porch.

The pink x's painted on the grass are where the tree trunks are planned to go:  6 feet apart and 30 inches from the fence.  That will allow them to spread a bit and - over time - become a hedge.  Take a look at…

Vintage Dan Hampton and Coach Ditka Bears Photo From Platteville 1986

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My parents moved out of my childhood home a few years back.  I posted about it here on the blog in January of 2016.  Right before they left, they had an Estate Sale that featured a bunch of their stuff, but mostly my Dad's collections.  Oil cans, automobilia, pottery, toasters, radios and plenty of junk.  There were also a few boxes that he had brought home from his office at Governor's State decades before that I didn't ever see or come across in digging through his stuff like up in Michigan and what-have-you.  
In those boxes were a bunch of Chicago Bears memorabilia - pennants, glasses and this photo featuring my favorite player Dan Hampton and (in the background) Coach Mike Ditka (in a great pear of coaches shorts).  
The writing on the matte say it is from August of 1986 in Platteville Wisconsin.  
I've posted another Dan Hampton photo here on the blog from my childhood.   He was my favorite and I'm thinking he was my Dad's, too.  
Back to the estate sale.…

River Birch - Inherited Tree Spring 2018

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I've documented quite a bit of the new trees that we've planted over the past year of living in Downers, but I haven't really documented in my [garden diary] any of the existing trees that we inherited with the property.  I'd consider the lot we're living on to be 'wooded', so it would be a mistake - in terms of garden diary-ing -  to document only the eleven little, young ones I've planted in the past twelve months

One of the trees we inherited is this three trunk River Birch - which according to the Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder is "generally considered to be the superior growth habit for this species."  This tree is located on the north side of our lot, about ten feet from the fence, right where the six-foot-fence section transitions down to the four-foot section.  You can see the Mason Bee House that I hung on the fence in the background and like many of the other existing trees that aren't clinging to the fence line are mo…

Kwanzan Cherry: Flowering in Spring 2018

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Spring flowers have hit our yard.  And also our flowering trees.  That includes our Kwanzan Flowering Cherry tree that is planted in our backyard.  The photo above is of some of the blooms that have emerged recently on the upper branches.  The history of this tree starts in March of 2017 when we bought it after a trip to Tokyo where I took in the Cherry Blossoms.  It lived on the driveway for a few months while we built our #newoldfarmhouse and we finally planted it at the end of June

It survived the Winter and this Spring, buds started to open - despite the brutally long cold weather.  And now, it seems like it is on a good trajectory with new growth and seemingly happy in terms of sun/location in the yard.  Even after we added the one new bed to the south fence line, this tree is still kind of out on an island.  We laid down a ring of mulch (but not a volcano!) around the tree and so it feels anchored, but will have to wait until next year when we add another line of beds to the …

Me on Google Maps: 4M Photo Views

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I've posted about my participation in the Google Local Guides program where you provide reviews, ratings and photos of local businesses and places.  I've been doing it for a couple of years and have hit a few milestones along the way.  This week, Google emailed me this note you see above:  my photos have been viewed 4M times.  Yeah...four million.  That's crazy, but with Google's scale, I guess it shouldn't be surprising.

In February of 2017, I shared the previous milestone:  2.5M photo views.  So, it took me 14 months or so to get the next 1.5M views.  In March of 2016, I hit "Level 4" on the platform.  Today, I'm a "Level 7".  And guess what?  This email made me go back into the system and add a few more photos and engage even more.  Nurturing at it's best, right?

Clematis Vine Planted In Container - Spring 2018

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I'm giving Clematis another go of it - this time in Downers in our new yard.  Welp, actually, I'm giving it a go in a pot.  With a trellis embedded into the back of the pot.  In the photo above, you can see the vine as it was when I got it from Home Depot.  Below, you can see the tag that shows of the variety: Clematis H.F. Young.  The photo above only shows the small trellis that came with the container, but you'll have to trust me here that the larger trellis is, indeed, in place.   


I grew Clematis in our old house in Elmhurst.  Here is a photo from 2014 when one of our then three Clematis was taking off.   I had planted the vines directly in the ground then, but this time, I'm trying a pot. 

Why?  Because, I'm hoping that the trellis plus this climbing vine will provide some level of screening for our patio and give us a sense of privacy.  I found this piece that provided some tips on the best way to grow Clematis in a container (hint...larger containers are b…

Tulips Blooming - Spring 2018

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After a long, cold early Spring, we finally have some color popping up in the #newoldbackyard.  However....I only count 24 of them, though.  (I planted 30 tulips last fall.)  I also posted about these very tulips emerging for the first time earlier this year.  They're located along the fenceline largely because that's where we had available space last fall because the area in front of them was lawn.  But, as you can see in the photo above, we expanded the bed (and relocated the Automower boundary wire), so this fall I'm planning on relocating these bulbs from the fence to the front of the bed.

Also, interesting, is the blue-ish flower growing behind the bulbs.  Our neighbors have it running in their beds and it has crept across the fence.  I'm pretty sure it is Virginia Bluebells, and it is quite striking, so I'm not unhappy about it migrating northwards.   I'll keep an eye on them this Spring and perhaps if they continue to creep, they deserve their own post …

Two Common Lilacs Planted - Spring 2018

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Our old neighbor Greg had these really amazing (and massive) Lilac bushes back between our playground and his garage.  Nat always admired them and their quite large blooms that not only looked great, but put out a pretty good scent each season.  We planted two different varieties at our old place - both larger Lilac and a dwarf Lilac.  Each of them took, but they served different purposes - with the larger one being what Nat wanted and the dwarf version fitting into a specific spot in our beds in Elmhurst. 

Despite there not being any Lilac called for on our plan design, adding these were on Nat's 'wish list', so when I came across these little "Common Lilac Purples", I grabbed them and planted them.  You can see in the photo above, that I planted them pretty close together - closer than they are supposed to be, but that's on purpose because I'd like to see them grow into a little hedge of sorts right to the left of the small flowering pear tree that the…

Milkweed Seeds Sown Directly In Ground - Spring 2018

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Back in March of this year, I posted a photo of a couple of Milkweed seed packets that we received from the Save our Monarchs Foundation that are appropriate for our 5B zone here out in the Chicago Suburbs.  I also had this older packet of Milkweed seed that we received at a parade in 2016 that I never planted.  With Spring here and the back of our yard still a mess, I just decided to sow them directly in the ground and cross my fingers that we'll see some action on them as the weather warms up.  I put them in a staggered row with the two Foundation packets on the right and the parade packet on the left.

I put the empty packet envelopes down in the soil and took this photo so I can go back there later this Summer, see if anything is happening with them and then know which type is which.  I'm hoping that a few of seedlings will emerge and we'll get a nice first year plant that can help the Monarchs this season.  I took the Bird and the KotBT out there and they helped me pl…

Christmas Tree and Fantabulous Hostas Added - Spring 2018

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I posted about some of the various hostas that we've added to our #newoldbackyard recently including the unknown varieties of what I'm calling 'teardown' hostas that came out of a yard down the street of a home that was getting torn down and the Bressingham Blues that we bought at Costco in a bulk bag.  Above are two more varieties that I scored at Menards recently and planted in the yard:  Fantabulous and Christmas Tree.

Here's a page that describes the Christmas Tree variety.  And a page that describes the Fantabulous variety - which...have really large white margins and are a favorite of the folks over at NH Hostas.  Menards was (of course) running a deal and these were the two most interesting so I added them to our cart. 

Turning to our landscape plan, there are a few spots that hostas are called for, but most of them are in 'to be dug' beds.  Check out the landscape plan section below.  There are Hadspen Hostas spec'd for below the European Hornb…

Espalier'd Linden Tree About to Burst - 2018

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Look at those buds!  They're just about ready to burst open and welcome Spring to the espalier system that I've erected along the south fence line - right off of our kitchen window.  As a refresher, I used a couple of young Greenspire Lindens for my selections and put up three ten-foot-tall metal posts that I buried in the ground a few feet to carry the guide wire system.  Here's how they looked in September of last year after I had trained three sets of branches on each of the systems. 

Today, if you look at that photo above, you'll see a bamboo post that has joined the party and some soft green wire twisted around the branches to the limbs, too.  I added the bamboo posts this Sprint to provide some support and keep the wires from sagging too much.  I think they clean up the look quite a bit and provide a bit more structure for the increasingly heavy branches. 

The velcro straps are what I used last year and they've been reliable over the first winter, but as mor…

New Tree: Weeping Cedar Planted - 2018

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Eeek!  On a total whim, I bought this seemingly scrawny tree.  You can see it in the photo above and it doesn't look like much.  But, it *is* something!  And that something is: a weeping Himalayan Cedar 'Emerald Falls' tree.  And it wasn't in the price range of my normal Menards trees.  Nope.  This one cost $69.99.  And, right now, it isn't much to look at, I know.
I bought it at Home Depot in Oak Brook and here's the tag that came on it:

And here's a look at it in our garage before I planted it.


In the photo above, you can see that the lead was starting to outgrow it's existing bamboo pole, so if you look in the very top photo, you can see that I subsidized it with a larger, 8' bamboo pole and then proceeded to tie the lead up in various places to keep it running vertical.

So, why this tree on a whim?  Welp, it isn't totally a whim.  If you've been reading along at home, you might have peep'd this post from last fall when I was dreamin…

Elephant Ear Bulbs - Planted in Pots and Beds 2018

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There's this house in Nat's parent's neighborhood that has a really well-manicured landscape out front.  And that's due to the owner (I think?) of the house that seems to be tending to the yard, plants and landscape almost constantly.  The reality of it is that we mostly go by Nat's parent's house on weekends so it might just *seem* like he's constantly in his yard because that's how he likes to spend his weekends.  Either way, he does an incredible job. 

He has topiary'd evergreens (junipers, I think?) and he also has quite a bit of what appear to be tropicals outside.  But, upon closer inspection, I think A LOT of what I've thought to be tropicals are giant elephant ears.  And, so those have been on my mind and when I was at Menards earlier this Spring, I came across a couple of different varieties and - of course - snapped them up.

I posted late in March the "Black Magic" bulb that I started in a pot inside.  That has moved outside…

I love the smell of mulch in the morning - 2018

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Mulch delivered, installed and spread for the year:  Done and Done. 

Here's the post (with the same title) from 2011 including a video of the steaming pile being dumped on our driveway in Elmhurst.  Here's the post from 2013 showing our (then) beds being freshly mulched.  And here's the post from 2015.  Weird that I posted them every two years, despite mulch being applied every year.   But, in that post from 2015, you can see some of yard that I had worked at for six years to get it to a place that I was starting to be happy with in terms of plants and landscape.  We had daylilies, some HUGE stands of Ostrich Ferns, a happy bunch of variegated hostas, a really beautiful (if just for a week or so) crabapple tree, a Ginko tree, an out-of-control Pussy Willow and even a fruiting Pear tree all in that one shot

I took the photo above in this post from our front porch and it shows three of our Strawberry Vanilla Hydrangeas and six of our Green Velvet Boxwoods.  They're al…

Saucer Magnolia - First Season of Flowers - 2018

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With the weather (suddenly) turning quite warm last week, our Saucer Magnolia in the front yard decided to say hello.  One morning, the flowers just started to shoot up and open.  This tree went in by the landscaper who installed the rest of our landscaping before we moved in and is set in a small, circular bed in between our front porch and the sidewalk.  It gets a ton of sun and as it matures is set to be a focal point. 

Back in August, I posted a photo of how I 'limbed up' the tree in an attempt to get it to grow more tree-like and less shrub and I'm happy to say that I didn't kill the thing.  Even more, it appears that the clearing of some of the sucker and low limbs have helped allow the tree to provide energy to it's tips. 

Just look at this beauty:


I call this "Nat's tree" because it was the one thing that she specifically spec'd with the landscaper.  And when we were planting it, I didn't tell her that it was coming and intended it to…

Crimson King Maple Spring Explosion - 2018

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The middle of last Summer, we added a Crimson King Red Maple tree to the far flung reach of our backyard.  I actually placed it in a spot around the perimeter that was behind the trampoline.  It isn't too far from this area that I outlined in our landscape plan.   I revisited the tree in late October to document how it was heading into the Winter cold season and all Spring, I've been peeping at it trying to understand how it was doing.  There were buds that were set last fall and for the past month, they started to grow and expand.  And then, suddenly, this happened!  The buds exploded and these crazy stringy what-appear-to-be-flower-pods emerged all over branches.  And the buds created that four-way shape in a beautiful red.  So, I'm thinking we can mark this one down as 'making it' this Winter.  My precious Dawn Redwood on the other hand?  I'm afraid to say it out loud, but it looks like it did not make it through the Winter.  I'm going to give it anothe…

Craigslist Buy: Cast Iron Urn

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I've been chasing a cast iron urn/planter (or pair of urns/planters) for the better part of six months.  And now, I've acquired one.  This one fit the sweet spot between price and looks and came from a gardener in LaGrange that had upgraded to a different set of planters on either side of her stoop. 

This thing is HEAVY and as you can see on the base, it sunk into the ground.  Due to the weight, I'm not sure where, exactly, this is going to end up.  Maybe in front.  Maybe in back.  That's for Nat to direct in terms of where we want it to live.  One thing is certain:  I'll fill it with flowers as soon as I can this Spring.

Red Maple Sun Valley Tree - Planted Earth Day 2018

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Just two days ago, I posted the first of what I'm calling "Earth Day 2018" trees that I planted with the kids in our #newoldbackyard.  Today, the KoTBT is up with his hand-picked tree.  This one, too, came from Home Depot out of their $15 deal for Earth Day.  That's him up there, standing next to his very own tree that he helped plant.  
We planted it pretty far back in the yard, pretty close to the rear fence in the area where we've been putting most of our yard waste (leaves, etc) to compost on their own.  You can see the dirt that he's standing on is pretty good dirt, unlike the clay that was used to backfill in around our house and adjacent areas.  
This tree is a Red Maple "Sun Valley" and requires "full sun", which it isn't going to get here.  But, I'm thinking that might be fine.  This one is planted about 50 feet or so away from the King Crimson Maple that I planted last summer and that one, too, is listed as "full su…