Showing posts from 2019

More Bonsai Nursery Stock Juniper

Back in the beginning of May, I posted a few photos of a piece of nursery stock from Home Depot that was a Cedar tree and talked about how I was beginning to go down the bonsai journey.  At the time, I knew that I was better off pulling some cheap ($10) pieces off the shelf from Home Depot, work them a bit and see what happens versus say...buying an *already* trained and pruned bonsai tree.   Then, just last week, I posted an update on how I think I might have GONE TOO FAR with my first tree.   I pruned the heck out of it.  And..I worked the roots.  Doing both at the same time is not a good idea, but I have to and learn.  Right?  That Cedar tree is basically done for the season.  I've put it in a bonsai pot and now I am just keeping an eye on it with water - which...the pot that I put it in has a tray below it - and that meant that the water ran through the pot, but was sticking around underneath it...thus keeping the feet of the plant wet for a few days.  Once I disco…

#TBT: Lincoln-Way Soccer Club In Ireland

The last time I posted a #TBT photo of my youth soccer team it was the core group of guys that I played with for almost ten years.  Today's photo is of the same team, technically.  But it isn't all of the core boys.  There are some guys like Tom, Loran, John, Ted, Matt, Chris and Russ in here, but we supplemented with a few older/different guys from what I can best describe as a 'different soccer dimension'.  They were skilled players, but from a different club scene.

This photo is from either my seventh or eighth grade years, so I was 13 or 14 years old and I had the pouty teen thing down, right?

We're playing in Ireland in 1991 or 1992 and you can see the sign in the back reads Pike Rovers Football Club.  We were representing the USA in some fashion (not officially), but we were wearing French National jerseys because they were pretty close to what the US Men's National Team were wearing at the time - but the US ones had the colors only on one shoulder.

If I…

Both Orange Dahlias Planted In The Ground

With the soil temperatures finally getting around 60 degrees in our Zone, I was able to get this year's Dahlia Tubers in the ground.  I planted them here - in the photo - along the south fence line right in front of the Teardown Hydrangea.  The Semi-Cactus ones on the left and the Dinnerplate ones on the right.    Last year, I put a few different types in containers and they did well.  I watered them in and will try to keep an eye on the spot in the next few weeks to hope that we get some growth out of the mulch.

Weeping White Spruce - Acquired But Not Planted (Yet)

I first came across a Weeping White Spruce tree via Laura @ Garden Answer on Youtube.  I've embedded her video below and have set it to start at 1:03 mark in the video where she talks about how they picked this tree out.  In particular, she talks about how we're not supposed to judge an evergreen by what it looks like as a 'baby tree'.    The Weeping White Spruce is a columnar evergreen and it is a weeping tree.  By now, you guys know I love columnar varieties of trees and are drawn to those because it means that I can pack more trees into the yard as they grow.  

The first weeping conifer that I bought was last year was the Weeping Himalayan Cedar Tree that I planted about a year ago.  Earlier this month, I posted my concern for the tree as it had suddenly turned brown, but the good news is that it seems it has recovered and there is new, green growth all over the place.    I also added six (but just three of them planted so far) Canadian Hemlocks to bring the count …

Fertilizing Our Columnar Hornbeam Trees

Adding this to the [garden diary] here on the blog to remind myself (mostly) that I put down 15 fertilizer tree spikes near our Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam Trees that we put in last year.    I put two on each tree but the most Western one that got just one.  (7 trees x 2 spikes) + (1 tree x 1 spike) = Feed trees for the spring.  I am going to supplement the last tree (and maybe a few others?) with a direct application of Milorganite (or the generic that Menards claims to be selling soon).

What made me decide to go with these Jobes Fertilizer Spikes again is that the tree leaf that is featured on the packaging appears to be a Hornbeam leaf (or something like it...) so the product seems fit for purpose, right?

I last showed the view from our screened porch BEFORE the Hornbeams went in here, but to mark the fertilizer application, I took a similar photo and am sharing it here below.  The angle is different, but I wanted to show the leafy-ness of these trees prior to the application…

Documenting A Couple Of Spots of Standing Water In Our Backyard - May 2019

A few weeks back, we had a few days of very heavy rain.  It came down in the morning, afternoon and evening.  For like three of four days straight.  The ability to work in the yard was almost zero because of how saturated the ground was in the yard and the beds.  But that rain event also exposed to me a few areas in the far reaches of our yard that I think are worth documenting here in order to be sure that as I begin to address the far back yard that these spots are giving proper consideration.
Due to their location and distance for the existing water mitigation tools (Dry well, etc), I am thinking that the only way to really address some of these is through a combination of improving the soil's ability to absorb water (aeration, de-thatching) and through the changing of the grade.
First up is this linear puddle that is maybe twenty feet long and sits between a rough (eventual!) bed and the yard from the trampoline to the neighbor gate on the southside.  

The second is this larg…

Dawn Redwood Needle Budding - Spring 2019

Of all the various tree-related posts here on the blog, the Dawn Redwood might have the most action in terms of posting.  I first bought our initial Dawn Redwood back in May of 2017 and planted it in our new backyard in Downers Grove.   By October of 2017, I was concerned that the tree was not going to survive.  And I was right.  It didn't come back.   So, I replaced it with a tree from an online nursery and planted it in July.  Not the best time to plant a new, young tree, right? 

But, by Fall, it was showing signs of growth and it had seemingly weathered the tough, stressful planting.  Mid-November of last year, the deciduous needles had turned all brown (as they are SUPPOSED TO DO!) ahead of the hard Winter.  Finally, my most recent post on this tree was on April 1st of this year where I shared a photo of some of the buds that had set last Fall about to burst open with new growth

The issue is that back on our initial Dawn Redwood, we too, had buds that had set, but they neve…

Pre-Blossom Kwanzan Cherry Tree - 2019

I snapped this photo of the freshly burst free leaves from our Kwanzan Flowering Cherry Tree a couple of weeks ago, so the {post-date} on this post is a little inaccurate.   So let's call this May 2nd or so in terms of usefulness in the [garden diary] purposes.   This photo is going up almost a week after I shared the same Kwanzan Cherry trees in bloom down in St. Louis.  That post is here.    
The tree still has not bloomed, but once it does, I'll grab some photos and add them to the [garden diary] post over on Should be any day now based on a May 21st bloom in 2018.  
We have a few other flowering trees in our yard, but there are a few on my radar to acquire including an Eastern Redbud tree - maybe a multi-trunk variety (??) and maybe another flowering Cherry.  I think I saw a Yoshino Cherry at Home Depot on one of our trips.  Maybe it will come home with us.

New Spring Green Growth on Weeping Cedar (After a Brown Spring)

I logged my concern about our Weeping Himalayan Cedar Tree a couple of weeks ago when I shared a photo that showed that the small, young tree was turning brown from the top down to the middle of the tree.  I had planted the tree just a little bit over a year prior, so our one year warranty was over and if the tree was dying I was out the money.  In that post, I found at least one source that confirmed that young cedar trees will sometimes brown out in the late Winter/early Spring to shed some of their needles to only grow back out green shortly thereafter.

Welp...I have some good news.  At least I'm pretty sure it is good news.  Check out the photos at the top here and bottom of the post.  See all those new green needle buds?  They are all over the limbs of this beautiful tree.

I am really excited to see that this thing made it through our tough Winter and now that I know it experienced some stress, I'll try to baby it through the Summer to make sure it is adequately watered …

Squirrel Buster Standard Added To Feeder

About a month and a half ago, I was complaining about how my big Squirrel Buster bird feeder was leaking seed - you can see that post here.  Spring is the time when I give our feeders a rest after feeding the birds and critters all Winter long, but for my birthday, I was given this new addition:  a Squirrel Buster Standard Edition.   This is much smaller than the big one we already have and has a little different set-up in terms of how you fill it.  But, it is made by the folks at Brome Bird Care, so I know it is a thoughtful feeder. 

I'll get it out on our feeder pole (We have a new one of those, I'll post about it because it is awesome looking) soon and fill it to see what kind of birds we get in late Spring.

View From The Road - Sunset on the Way Home

A few weeks ago, I posted a photo on the blog of the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) from my JAL flight home.  I've spent quite a bit of time up in the air during the first part of this year.  Thus, I have seen a lot of cloud-time.  Let's post this week another photo from the road - this time on a recent flight home from Newark where I caught the Sunset while we were above the clouds somewhere over Pennsylvania.

Dropping Off at Pre-School Like A Boss

Here I am sitting in the line on drop the King of the Ball Tossers off at pre-school one morning recently when I see in front of me this Dad dropping off his toddlers LIKE A BOSS in his Tesla Model X with Falcon Wings.  Talk about winning the whole drop-off line, amirite?  No fancy grocery wagon from Volvo or Infinity can shake a stick at this guy. 

Sorry to my kids...I have good news/bad news.  The good news: for the older're taking the bus.  The bad news?  When we drive you, you're rolling out of the Swagger Wagon.

A Visit to Ted Drewes for Frozen Custard - St. Louis

I've posted about the food tourism that was a key part of our family visit to St. Louis a couple of weeks ago that included a stop at Blueberry Hill on the Delmar Loop and a visit to the Downtown Imo's pizza ahead of a ballgame.  But, we also made a visit to the "must stop" Ted Drewes for frozen custard.  Nat recalls fondly her visits to Ted Drewes during her time at Wash U, but I had never had the stuff before.  Serious Eats calls Ted Drewes a "national institution", so the stop was, ummm, warranted. 

We pulled into the generous parking lot and hopped out of the van.  You walk around to the street-side of the stand (see the photo below) and wait in the line to order.  All of us ordered our own concretes in the smallest format.  Micro or Mini, I don't remember.  They take cards, so no need to come with cash, but after you order, you kind of stand around and wait for them to call your item out - just like most every other ice cream stand. 

Their menu can…

Kwanzan Cherry Blossoms in Concordia Park - St. Louis

I mentioned in a few posts that we were in St. Louis recently to show the kids Nat's old stomping grounds.  It turned out to be a blend of vacation time with a little bit of work mixed in.  One of the mornings, I was trying to make a couple of work conference calls during our trip to St. Louis and found myself outside of the Kaldi's Coffee (Nat's favorite!) that is adjacent to Concordia Park.  You can find the location here.  The kids were eating their breakfast and I snuck away for some quiet. While I was pacing and doing the calls, I came across this small Kwanzan Cherry Tree that was in bloom and beautiful.  I'm familiar with the Kwanzan Cherry Tree because it is the same variety that I bought and planted after my first trip to Japan to see the Cherry Blossoms.  I took this photo a couple of weeks ago in St. Louis so they're clearly ahead of us bloom time because our tree hasn't bloomed yet.   But, they're behind the blooms that I saw in Japan on my sec…

Front Yard Tulips Blooming - 2019 (90% Flower Rate)

Last fall, I planted 50 tulip bulbs in the bed out front of our porch in the front yard at the base of a large Norway Maple tree.  They were a blend of 25 Orange Double Late Princess Tulips and 25 Crystal Beauty Fringed Pink Tulips.  And I followed up with some photos of these tulip bulbs emerging from their long Winter's nap under the bed of mulch in a post in late March of this Spring.   At that time, I wasn't sure how many of the 50 bulbs were going to flower and after seeing some marks of critters pulling up the bulbs in the Winter, I was hoping for the best.

But now the flowers are fully bloomed and you can see the blend of tulips in the photo at the top of this post.  I counted 45 of the 50 bulbs had bloomed - 90% - which I'm pretty satisfied with in this mass planting.  I love the way these look and from the street, they give off a really wonderful shot of color.  And...I'm already thinking of adding EVEN MORE tulip bulbs in orange and red this Fall.  I can see…

Regional Pizza: Imo's in St. Louis

Yesterday, I posted about our visit to St. Louis and eating at Blueberry Hill with their awesome Schlitz Beer lamps.  We ate good in St. Louis and I figure I should share more.  Being a pizza nerd, a visit to St. Louis isn't complete without grabbing a St. Louis-style pizza.  Not familiar with St. Louis being a regional pizza style?  Start here with this post on Serious Eats.  It is thin, tavern-cut pizza with the most defining characteristic being that it is topped with provel cheese. Provel is a combo of Swiss, provolone and Cheddar.  We ordered a medium pizza because it was an odd time of day - and we were on our way to the ballpark for a game.  We had half plain cheese, half pepperoni.  They lay the 'roni under the provel, so there's no cuppage or #ronicups to be found at Imo's.

This pie felt like a close cousin of Chicago tavern pizza, but since we didn't order the sausage, it is hard for me to make that link directly.

There's tons of posts/stories about …

Schlitz Beer Lamps At Blueberry Hill

Almost nine years ago, I posted a photo of a beautiful Schlitz Beer lamp from Blueberry Hill down near Washington University in St. Louis.  That photo is here.  We recently went back to St. Louis and toured Nat's old stomping grounds including lunch at Blueberry Hill, of course.  I was immediately struck with the vintage Schlitz lamps once again.

The photo above you see is from this recent trip and the lamps are the same nine years later.  (But...the quality of low-light photography from my phone is CLEARLY way, way better, right??)

Blueberry Hill actually has a post on their own site that talks about these lamps.  Turns out, there are ten of them and they were made in the year before the restaurant opened:
It’s hard not to notice the classic Schlitz lamps illuminating our Dining Room-Blueberry Hill’s ambiance certainly would not be the same without the ten vintage lamps adorning our wooden booths.

...These vintage pieces are straight from 1971-just before our restaurant opened i…

Starting My Bonsai Journey: Cypress Hinoki Nursery Stock

With my past few trips to Japan for work, I've increasingly become interested in Japanese-style gardening and the art of bonsai.  I've been thinking about the large-scale conifers that I saw across Tokyo like this one and these pines in the outer gardens of the Imperial Palace and thinking about how I can bring something like *that* to our yard as we grow our conifer collection.

At the same time, my visit to the Morimae Bonsai Shop in Ginza along with subscribing to a few bonsai YouTube channels like Heron's Bonsai out of London and Mirai Bonsai's Beginner Series has sparked my interest in the art of bonsai.

This video that talks about nursery stock material selection from Mirai Bonsai pushed me to head to Home Depot to see if I could find something I could buy that was inexpensive to try my hand at shaping a small tree.

My bonsai journey starts with this Cypress Hinoki that you see in the photo above.  Bought at Home Depot for $9.98, this Cypress is going to allow me…

Three Canadian Hemlock Trees Planted - 2019

I had a credit an an online tree nursery from a tree that we tried that died that was about to expire, so I went hunting on their site to find something useful and interesting for our yard.  To date, we've planted 26 trees (full list here) and have 21 of those trees that are still with us.

If you read my post about my 2019 to-do list, you might remember that #8 was to 'do something with conifers'.  I started my 'conifer journey' this Spring by adding three Gold Cone Junipers to the backyard.  But those aren't technically trees as they're classified as shrubs.

Taking those couple of dynamics (having a credit and wanting to do something with conifers), I decided to take a peek at our landscape plan and decided to pick out six VERY SMALL Canadian Hemlocks.  You can see the size of them in the photo at the top.  With the pot, these are about three feet tall.

This post is about just three of them, though.  I'll post again when I get the other three in the g…

Weeping Cedar Emerald Falls Turning Brown In Spring (2019)

Back in September of 2017, I posted about how I had come across a photo of a Weeping Cedar and immediately fell in love with the style of tree.  It was on my 'tree wish list' for the rest of 2017 and 2018 when I found a small one at Home Depot on a random trip.  It is a Weeping Himalayan Cedar Emerald Falls variety and after planting it, I stake'd it to a bamboo rod and began to train it upwards.  By August of last year, I shared another photo of the tree that had seemingly established itself and was very green.  You can see that photo here.   I was happy with the tree and figured that we were on our way in terms of getting this thing to take off.  I even went an additional step and applied Wilt-Pruf to the Cedar to help protect it from the winter elements.  
And the Weeping Cedar seemed to weather the Winter just fine.  It stayed green for the most part with some slight dulling.  Until March.  When it started to brown.  April...even more brown.  You can see it in the pho…

Early May Compost Tumbler Peek (2019)

A few days ago, I posted a photo and the backstory of our new three-bin compost setup that I've created out in the back of our property and talked about how I plan on using the new setup along with my existing compost tumbler.  The biggest issue I've had with the tumbler is that I've learned that composting is a 'batch process'.  I get a great batch of compost out of the tumbler, but I usually don't get it fully done until about June of each year.

To document the timing of it this year, I am sharing the photo at the top of this post.  This is what the material in our compost tumbler looks like right now.  You can see it isn't quite "Black Gold", but it is getting there.  The carbon material has almost fully broken down and the material has a loose consistency where you can put your hand in and it doesn't come out muddy but rather the stuff mostly falls right off.  It is rich and almost fluffy at this point.  Good, but NOT great. 

The weather …

Gold Cone Junipers Planted - 2019

A couple of weeks ago, I brought home a three Gold Cone Junipers from Menards and shared photos and details from them here.  I ended up getting two of them in the ground this week and have the third still in the cast iron urn in our front yard.  Above you'll see one in the ground and the other one is kind of staggered behind it.

These are generally in the vicinity of where I planted the small Hemlock last year (that died!) and should serve as a nice multi-layered look of conifers once I get the Hemlocks in the ground.    This is an area that gets plenty of morning sun and since it is on the northside of the property, it gets some decent oblique sun throughout most of the day until about 2 or 3 pm in the afternoon.

The Gold Cone Juniper is a columnar conifer that is billed - per the tag - to only be four to five feet tall, but there are a few photos on the Web that show something more on the order of eight to ten feet tall?  I'll be happy with cute little four feet tall 'e…

Setting Up A Three Bin Composter

We've been composting in our yard since 2009 when we bought a Lifetime Compost Tumbler from Costco.    We've been filling it each Fall since (except for the two seasons we lived in Equation Boy/Man's house in Elmhurst) and by late Summer, we have a nice batch of black gold.  In the ten years that I've been composting, I've learned that composting is a 'batch process'. have to build up a full 'batch', get the right mix of nitrogen and carbon and then wait for it to cook.

That 'batch process' I'm talking about is the big part of why our current setup (with a single large tumbler) isn't working hard enough for us.  What we currently do is during the Spring cleanup and all through the early part of the Summer, I collect material and just kind of pile it up next to the tumbler.  Why?  Why not *in* the tumbler?  Because it is still FULL from the previous batch.

About June or so, after we've had six or more weeks of war…

2019 Dahlias - Big Brother and Color Spectacle

Yesterday, I shared a couple of photos of some Elephant Ear bulbs that I am planning on putting in containers on the patio this Season.  Today, I'm sharing two more sets of bulbs - or in this case..."Tubers" is what they're actually called - for this Season.  
Dahlias can be grown in the garden or in containers.  I think the pros put them in the ground/garden and then in Zones like ours (5b), pull them out of the ground in the Fall to store them over Winter.  But...they *can* be grown in containers.  Why do I think that?  Because of this article on the official site of The American Dahlia Society.  It walks you through how to grow them in pots.  (Hint...start them low and gradually add soil on top of them as they shoot up.)
I think I'm going to try a little bit of both - putting some of our Dahlias in containers while putting others directly in the landscape.  
So far we've bought two varieties of tubers.  First, a Dinnerplate variety called "Big Brothe…

Elephant Ears x2 for 2019 (Black Stem and Standard)

Last year I added some tropical flair to our patio containers by planting a series of elephant ear bulbs in the pots.  They complemented various flowers and we mostly had good luck with them.  Here's a look at the bulbs - 12 of them - that went in.  I ran out of room in containers, so I put a couple in the ground, too!  By July, they were starting to help fill in our containers.  
By August, they were in full form and provided a beautiful, almost trippy look in our containers.  I was really happy with them and figured I'd use them again in our containers.  So, I picked up this three pack of standard Elephant Ear bulbs.  These are smaller than the ones we put in last year, so perhaps the leaves will be smaller? 

But, why just redo what we did last year, right?  I had one "Black Magic" Elephant Ear in a container with some Night Queen Mini Dahlias last year and it seemed to grow nicely despite being constrained for space.    This year, I wanted something equally drama…