Showing posts from April, 2019

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…

Purple Sensation Allium Emerge For Their First Season - 2019

Last October, at the time I planted 50 Tulip bulbs in our front yard, I also planted five Allium bulbs in the same bed.  Here's the post showing those bulbs going in.  I planted these Purple Sensation Allium bulbs behind the boxwood hedge but in front of the hydrangeas that are right in front of our porch.  This is the second set of Allium bulbs that we've tucked into our yard with the first ones going in the Fall of 2017 in our backyard.  Those made quick work of themselves and emerged and flowered in their first season. 

Just like the front yard tulips that popped up this Spring, these Allium bulbs have sprouted, too.  If you look at the photo at the top of this post, you'll see all five of them have arrived, but the first two on the left seem the strongest and the middle one is a little behind and has just emerged and is still yellow. 

I've always liked Allium bulbs, but they're Nat's favorite bulb.  She seems to be drawn to them more than tulips or daffodi…

My First Season With Milorganite - Problems Already?

If you spend any amount of time on YouTube watching lawn care videos, you've certainly come across Milorganite.  The fertilizer product is being evangelized by the loudest/most-popular voices across the YouTube Lawn Care Nerd community.   Recently, I was talking to my folks about how I was going to try this organic product on my lawn and my Mom instantly recognized the name Milorganite.  Turns out, my grandma was an organic gardener and she used the stuff back in the 1980's and 1990's.

I went off to find the stuff at Menards and was unpleasantly surprised to only find eight bags in the whole store.  I asked around and the guy there said there was a shortage.  This was all they had.  A quick Google search turns up this post from last Summer where the team at Milorganite said they were experiencing a shortage indeed.

Could this be bad news?  The product is impossible to find and I only have eight bags to my name.  Each one covers 2,500 square feet.  That means, I have 20,00…

Kirin Beer - Lager in Nagoya

This was a bottle of beer that is in between a normal 16 ounce beer and a bomber bottle.  Had it up in the lounge at the Nagoya Marriott.  Not very memorable, but documenting it here in the beer diary amongst the crafts and other macrobrews.

Teardown Peony Emerging - 2019

Yesterday, I posted a hopeful photo of the first peony that I planted in the backyard that has come back for the second season.  Today, you're seeing another peony - one that we planted from my Sister-in-Law's yard before they built their new house.  Here's the post showing the harvest I pulled out of her yard that included irises, a grass or two, some hostas and what at the time I was pretty sure was a peony plant. 
If you look at the date on that post, you'll notice that it is right in the middle of the Summer.  Not an ideal time to transplant anything.  But, we didn't have a choice, so late June transplanting was what we were dealing with in this situation. 
Most of the plants didn't show much life.  They didn't show total death for the most part, but I wasn't that hopeful that much of anything was going to come back.  The only plant that seemed to flourish and grow post transplanting from her yard was this happy fern that I put in the deep shade.  …

Sarah Bernhardt Peony Emerging - 2019

Last May, I planted the first peony tuber in our backyard after having quite a few varieties in our old backyard in Elmhurst.  This first plant was a Sarah Bernhardt variety and is supposed to have big, beautiful pink blooms.  Here's the post showing how I planted it in May of 2018.   It seemed to establish itself in the Spring because in June of last Summer it showed some signs of life with little purple shoots coming up for the first time.  
But, that's about all the 'action' we saw out of this plant during the Summer.  But, I'm thinking that it was busy establishing itself under the mulch because if you peek at the photo at the top of this post, you'll see that we now have a strong leader popping up this Spring.  
This is still an immature peony and I'm hoping that we get one flower out of it this year, but we might not get any.  If you want to see what a very mature (7 year established) peony plant looks like at this time of year, have a look hereTh…

2019 Garden and Yard To-Do List Addendum

Last week, I posted photos of the new Gold Cone Junipers that I bought at Menards.  I'll get around to posting some photos once I get them into the ground in the coming days.  But, that post talked about the need to add some spiral wire around the trees to ensure that they can take the snowload and stop them from splaying during the Winter.  In that post, I mentioned that I needed to add to the 'addendum' that lengthens my 2019 garden To-Do List that included wiring up these Junipers.

That got me wondering what else would be on my addendum list.

Let's get started and I'm guessing I'll revisit this list to add more items over the Spring and Summer.
Addendum To-Do List for 2019 Gardening Season.Original List here.   1.  Relocate some of the Fall bulbs including these Tulips along the South Fence line in the backyard.   If I move these 'forward', I can extend that bed and add something taller in the back.

2.  After I plant the tree Gold Cone Junipers, I ne…

Gold Cone Junipers - Three Bought For Backyard

Number Eight on my 2019 To-Do List is to add some conifers to our yard this season and I'm getting an early start on checking the box.  I picked up three of these Gold Cone Junipers that are small sized at Menards this past weekend.  I put one of them in the cast iron pot outside of our garage just to fill the space, but I intend to put them in the ground in the backyard as soon as the soil temperature increases later this month.

The tag below shows these in their Spring, golden spendor.  The back lists the size - which is the big reason I'm drawn to these:  they will get about five feet tall, but stay 1-2' wide.  Columnar.    Or something akin to an 'exclamation point' in the garden.

The big question in my mind is:  are these trees?

Turns out the answer is 'no'.  Can't count them as trees.  They are technically "evergreen coniferous bush".  Can't count them in the number of trees that we've planted - technically.  But should I?  Stil…

Wild Onion Removal From Lawn - An Ongoing Process

We had the 'front half' of our backyard sodded when we built our house, but left the back half of the backyard completely native.  All the weeds and grass and what have you growing back there.  The bulk of my focus out back has been on the landscaping and mostly left the lawn/turf on autopilot.  I had our Automower running back there, so it kept the lawn pretty low and I don't think I really noticed the HUGE amounts of Wild Onions that were growing in the grass.   If you read my post from a few days ago, you'll know that I recently put down a pre-emergent grassy weed and crabgrass preventer.  That product does NOTHING for Wild Onions. 

Well...I suppose that I should start at the beginning of this year.  As our grass was coming back and starting to green-up, I noticed some pockets of dark green, spikey grass.  Or so I thought.  As I went outside, I started to realize that this wasn't grass.  But something else.   I didn't actually really know what this stuff wa…

Spring Rhododendron Update (Post Winter Wilt-Pruf Application)

Back in December, I posted about an experiment that I was conducting with the application of Wilt-Pruf to one of our Rhododendrons that are located on either side of our back stoop.  Wilt-Pruf is an anti-transpirant that I bought to use on our fresh-cut Christmas Trees, but I also learned can be applied to any evergreen in an attempt to help it get through difficult Winters. 

Wilt-Pruf is a natural product made of pine oil and creates a clear, almost flexible coating on the leaves and needles.  
I sprayed it on just one of the Rhododendrons and figured it would be useful to compare the results.  
The photo you see at the top is shows both of them on top/bottom.  The plant on the top is the one that had Wilt-Pruf applied.  The plant on the bottom was left bare.  
The results?  Hard for me to say if it did anything, frankly.  I think the one that was treated has less spotting on the leaves, but maybe that's just random?  
Thus, I'd say the experiment is inconclusive in terms of…

Espalier Linden Trees - Wire Damage

Four weeks ago, I posted a series of photos showing how I had pruned both of the Greenspire Linden trees that we have espaliered into a Horizontal Cordon.  We went from four levels down to three and then restrung the wire to support a new fill-in fourth Cordon.  When removing the top Cordon, I cut what is technically called the Apical Meristem in an attempt to redirect some of the growth this season to the existing Cordons with the goal of beefing them up and then thinking about how we might be able to turn the tips up into a Candelabra shape.  (Scroll down in this post to see the different espalier shapes including a Candelabra.)

A few things to call out though:

First, in the photo above, you can see that we have one misaligned Cordon level.  On the left, the limb is coming out about four or five inches higher than the limb on the right.  I've trained the one on the right *up*, but there is currently this misalignment.  Is it a deal-killer?  I don't think so.  Especially as …

Timing Crabgrass Preventer This Year

One of the amazing things about being online today is that there is a community on the Web for just about any niche interest you might have.  Take...for instance Lawn Care DIYers.  There's a bunch of YouTube "Stars" (I hesitate to call them Stars, but I also am *not* going to call them Influencers because, well, that's just gross.), there are online forums and plenty of bloggers.  There are also tools that have historically been used by the Turf industry (think Golf Course Managers) that have now been set free into the world.

One of them is the use of Growing Degree Day Calendars.  What are Growing Degree DaysFrom Wikipedia:
Growing degree days (GDD) are a heuristic tool in phenology. GDD are a measure of heat accumulation used by horticulturists, gardeners, and farmers to predict plant and animal development rates such as the date that a flower will bloom, an insect will emerge from dormancy, or a crop will reach maturity. And it turns out, there are GDD calenda…

Spring Shaping of Rear Foundation Boxwoods

Back in 2017, I showed part of our landscape plant that was just outside of our kitchen window that called for a variety of perennials and some shrubs including Green Velvet Boxwoods.  You can see the plan here in this post from October 2017

Here's a look at that portion of the plan:

The plan called for four Green Velvet Boxwood plants.  You can see in the photo at the top of this post that we indeed, planted four of them.  I ended up staggering them a little differently than the plan called for, but they're mostly in the same spot.  The reason for clustering them more closely to the window well is to fit in a spot for our grill.  This [Garden Diary] post can be found in the feed over on Hornbeam Hill

This post is to talk about shaping of these boxwoods.  We have a set of these in our front yard beds directly in front of our porch that you can see in this post that we're trying to let grow a bit.  I'd like them to get larger, but the ones in back?  I took the prun…

More Tokyo Street Trees (Pruned Young Conifers)

This is a photo I took from my cab one early morning that shows off some very large street trees in Tokyo that have been heavily pruned.  I've posted about street trees like this before here.  But, if you look closely behind those larger parkway or street trees, you'll see some smaller, very thin conifer trees that have been trained or pruned to be long and leggy in the style of the larger spruce/pine trees that I saw in the Imperial Gardens. 

Remember that photo of a beautiful tree that I posted from outside the Peninsula Hotel?  I think these little trees might be on their way towards something like that one:  a big, strong singular trunk that can be wired to create some of that curvature and longer limbs with needles clustered on their tips.  Scroll down on this post from my last trip to Tokyo where I visited the Imperial Gardens and you can see more of these mature conifer trees.

#8 on my 2019 Garden To-Do List is to plant more conifers.  I know I want to look at adding so…

Forest Glen Park Water Feature As Inspiration - Woodridge

On a recent Sunday morning, the kids and I found ourselves out at Forest Glen Park in Woodridge.  It is right on 75th street and we've driven by it hundreds of times on our way to Nat's folks house over the years, but we've never stopped.  The park has a couple of tennis courts facing 75th Street, but tucked in right behind the courts is a nice playground setup with a soft surface, a bunch of unique equipment for a variety of ages.  Our kids - who span from the upper single digits to just past potty-trained found a place to have fun.  Together.  That's pretty nice.

But, the park also has some nice plants (or what appeared to be nice plants since Spring hadn't quite emerged when we arrived) and a neat-looking fountain and/or pond.  You can see the size/scale of the fountain in the photo at the top.  Of note, the fountain is totally out of the ground and at a perfect kid height of like 30" tall. 

I call it a fountain/pond because it is kind of a linear pond or…

Aurora Borealis Somewhere Above Alaska

"Aurora Borealis?! ...At this Time of Year.  At this time of day.  In this part of the country.  Localized entirely within your Kitchen!?"

No.  Not in my kitchen.  But outside of the window of my JAL flight from Tokyo to ORD a few weeks back.

The Northern Lights are one of the seven natural wonders of the world and now I've had the pleasure of seeing them with my own two eyes.  And now, thanks to Google Photos NightSight, you guys can see them in pretty much the same fidelity that I saw with my own eyes.   I've written about the Wonders of the World when I posted about the Southern Cross here on the blog.

You can see in the photos that I witnessed plenty of greens, but not any purples or blues or yellows or the various other colors and what-have-yous that you expect to see in the Northern Lights. 

Green was good enough for me.  No steamed hams, though. 

For those of you who have no idea why I opened up this post with that line, here's my first introduction to t…

Toto Child Restraints In Bathroom

Not only do they make toilets (excellent ones at that, btw), they also make this child restraint system.  So Moms and Dads all over Japan can sit on the pot in peace.

A Trip to Russ & Daughters For Black And White Cookies

On a recent visit to NYC, I decided to ask around for a good recommendation for a black and white cookie.  There are a bunchof lists of the *best* black and white cookie out there on the web, but I figured some local might know the answer to my question:  the best black and white cookie that IS WALKABLE from where I was staying.

The answer turned out to be the same:  Russ and Daughters.  It was both walkable and it turns out, #1 on the lists.

I walked over there and was immediately struck by the place.  Beautiful sign.  And an even better experience inside.  The store was split down the middle with their smoked fish on the left and the bakery items on the right.  They bagged up a few cookies and off I went.

Have a look at one of the cookies below.  These were different than the black and whites that I had been buying at the little bodega across the street from my normal hotel.  These were almost glazed, not frosted.  And definitely not fondant.

I liked them and I think the kids liked…

Mt. Fuji - A Wonder To See

You can see over the rooftops in the photo above a look at Mt. Fuji that I snapped outside the Shinkansen Train (the bullet train!) from Tokyo to Nagoya one night on my trip.  This was the third time I'd taken that trip, but the first time I was able to see the mountain.  Between night time darkness and/or clouds, it wasn't visible to me on the other trips. 

Mt. Fuji is a World Heritage Site and one of Japan's 3 "Holy Mountains" and is home to a pilgrimage that has taken place for centuries

Those of you keeping note at home, you'll notice that I've used this photo as the header of the blog for now.  On mobile, I think you only see the sky in the top left portion, but on desktop, you get the full mountain. 

Around the archives of the blog, you'll find similar photos of the Rocky Mountains from Denver and from the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs.

Cherry Blossoms - Japan 2019 (Nagoya)

My trip to Japan (with brief stops in Tokyo on either side of a few days down in Nagoya) coincided with the Cherry Blossom Trees being in bloom.  This was the second time I've visited Japan during the Cherry Blossom bloom with the first one being back in 2017.  Here's a post showing the trees then.  I loved the experience so much that I decided to try to find a flowering Cherry Tree to add to our own backyard.  I ended up with this Kwanzan Flowering Cherry Tree.  
The trees this time weren't as full as I think we came a little bit later (late March/early April) this time.   You can kind of see that in the photo above.  It has already bloomed and has lost some of the flowers.  In the photo below, you can clearly see the blooms had mostly fallen off already.  
Doesn't mean it wasn't as beautiful.  It was and these photos don't do the trees justice.  
This marks the third straight year for Cherry Trees with 2018 being a visit to DC for those along the Tidal Basin

Nice Roni Cups At Prince Street Pizza

I think I've disclosed here on the blog about how my favorite Instagram handle is @ronicups.  As in Pepperoni Cups.  They curate and post photos of pizza that features cup-and-char pepperoni.  Or "Grease Chalices" as Adam Kuban calls them.  I've written about Kuban before here on the blog.

He coined the term back in 2005.  But Cup and Char Pepperoni has only become quite vogue in the past few years and I just covered the concept here on the blog back in November when I bought some online.

Where I think I would point to as the 'touchstone' #ronicup pizza is the square from a place called Prince Street Pizza as it became "pizza famous" because of the photos of what they call the "Spicy Spring" that were showing up on Instagram.  Just look at the @ronicups handle and you'll see many pics of the square.

So, imagine my delight when I found an hour in the late afternoon on a recent trip to the Edelman office in SoHo where I could wander ove…

Pepsi J-Cola Zero (Japan & Joy Cola)

I think the "J" stands for Japan or Joy.  Or both.    That's what one side of the can reads:  Japan & Joy Cola.

I had this in Nagoya one day on my trip.  No Coke Lite that's for sure.  Nice can, though.   If my Dad was still in the business of collecting bottles and cans, I might think about bringing one of these home for him.  Alas, he isn't.  So, I didn't.

Nagoya At Night

View from my room at the Marriott Nagoya.  Not quite a sky bar.  But a nice view.  Saw more from here on this trip than I saw from the ground level.

Garrett Popcorn In Nagoya, Japan

Imagine my delight when I walk into the train station in Nagoya to be greeted with this Garrett's (as I call it) popcorn shop.  They sell the Chicago Mix as you'd expect.  And the place was very popular.  I didn't stop in, but I hear that the Matcha flavored corn is a big hit - which wouldn't surprise me based on all the various, weird popcorns I came across at Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea

There are these big multi-national organizations that one expects to see in international cities.  Think things like McDonalds and KFC.  And heck...even Disney.  But, I kind of considered Garrett's (I know...that's wrong, there is no 's in the name), a Chicago thing.  How wrong am I.  Very wrong

Spaceship Earth In The Carpet At The Nagoya Marriott

I spent some time last month back in Japan, this time in Nagoya.  This was my second time in Nagoya - the first was a few years ago when I visited for the Cherry Blossoms.

Sure, there are plenty of things to see around town, but let's start with the Marriott Associa Hotel.  I stayed on an upper floor and had a room with a twin bed.  But the carpet in the hallway right by the elevators?  Beautiful, isn't it?

Reminds me of Spaceship Earth.   Am I nuts?  Or just Disney Drunk?

Or maybe the pyramid that the holistic healer placed over George's head?

Advice: The Best Time To Plant A Tree


Triumph and Darwin Tulips Up - April 2019

Back in the Fall of 2017 (our first fall), I planted 30 tulip bulbs along the fenceline in our backyard in between the section where our espalier system is set up and where we are growing a series of hydrangeas.  They popped up for the first time in March of 2018 and I documented that here.  And by Mid-May they had bloomed in a beautiful combination of orange and yellow.  I mentioned last year that I thought it was going to be best to relocate these bulbs, but guess what?  I never got around to moving them. 

This post claims that the *best* time to transplant tulip bulbs is the late Fall - about the same time that I put these in the ground.  From the post:
The best time to transplant tulips is in the late fall, according to Ron Smith, Horticulturist at the North Dakota State University Extension Service. In the fall, bulbs have completed their growing cycle and lie dormant. Moving dormant tulips doesn't interrupt the growing cycle and makes the bulbs less susceptible to injury. If…

Frans Fontaine Hornbeam Buds - April 2019

Day three of tree buds in Spring today.  First was the Dawn Redwood tree that I have high hopes for this year.  Then, yesterday, I posted a photo of the Weeping Cherry tree that is in the far part of our yard.  Today comes the Frans Fontaine European Columnar Hornbeam trees.  Welp, this photo is of just one of the trees, but if you've been following along, you likely know that there are a bunch of these trees.  And these are clearly the most handsome buds of the bunch. 

Look at those beauties all wrapped up and ready to explode.  Compared to the Cherry ones - who look angry and jagged - these are perfectly positioned at the end of the branch tips and almost egg-shaped.   These trees are not quite a year old (in our yard), so I'm still holding my breath to ensure that all of them survived.  For now, I'm taking these buds as a strong sign of health heading into Spring of 2019.

Weeping Cherry Tree Buds - April 2019

Another day, another look at a tree's buds that have set in our #newoldbackyard.  Yesterday, I posted a photo of the buds from our Dawn Redwood tree and today is a look at the Weeping Cherry in the far reaches of our yard.  
I haven't posted much about this tree on the blog, but that's not because it isn't interesting.  This was one of the three trees we planted for Earth Day 2018 and is formally named the Snow Fountains Weeping Cherry.    We planted it in the rear of our property and it appeared to have some positive growth in the first year.  Looking at the buds that were set in the photo of this post, I'm thinking we'll have another bloom this year as the tree appears to have established itself. 

This is the second flowering Cherry tree we have - the first is a Kwanzan Cherry Tree - that I bought after my first trip to Tokyo.  This is a grafted tree and it has a shoot from the trunk that has emerged that I haven't removed yet, that tells me that the tru…