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Showing posts from September, 2019

Front Yard Little Henry Sweetspire - September 2019

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In all of the [garden diary] posts I've made here over the past three seasons, I seem to have failed to inventory most of our front yard shrubs.  I've posted photos of the buds on some of our hydrangeas, but have skipped over the rest.  Over the course of the next few days, I'm attempting to put down some entries here so I can reference them in the coming seasons.  First up is this Little Henry Sweetspire.  It sits in a little bed right beside our front walk adjacent to our driveway.

We had it put in by Green Grass as part of our initial landscape plan and haven't thought much about it over the past few years.  There were three small plants here when we started and now you can see that it has grown and matured into a nice sized shrub.  It has some long, leggy shoots that have emerged this season as well as some underground shoots that seem to be more rhizome-driven.

I have read online that we can take one of these rhizome spreaders to create a new plant - and that'…

Teardown Fern is Bush-like in 2019

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This big happy fern is loving things back in the deep shade of our far back yard.  It is now almost in bush form and has doubled year-over-year from what it looked like last year.   I yanked it out of Nat's Sister's lot before she built her new house in Downers last Summer.  It was the middle of the Summer, so there was certainly some transplant stress.   I haven't done much to tend to this fern aside from a couple of what I'll call 'strategic' waterings.   Those were deep waterings of areas during the deep heat of July/August when I started to see things droop and wilt. 

This is located behind the yew hedge that I planted earlier this Summer and will (eventually) be in the shadow of some Canadian Hemlock trees that I planted - if they grow!

Lawn Domination Line in Fall 2019?

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Am I doing this right?  Lol. 

That's my lawn on the left and my neighbor to the south on the right.  I LOVE our neighbors, so I'm hesitant to even post this other than trying to get something in the [garden diary] to track in the Spring.  They do a really great job with their lawn and landscape and in fairness, they've had some construction this season and had a big pile of materials laying on top of some of their grass in this section for part of the Summer, so it isn't exactly...ummm...an apples-to-apples comparison.  But...still.... I was struck by the existence of such a 'domination line'.  (Thanks, Allyn!)

The turf has some patch-y-ness to it, so my work isn't near done - that's for sure.  But, with this being the first season that I've taken care of the lawn in front myself, I'm happy with the color. 

I fed the lawn at Labor Day with a normal dose of Milorganite and then applied some Jonathan Green's Mag-I-Cal after I had done a littl…

Mason Bee House - Fall 2019

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I posted this Mason Bee house structure to our fence back in early Spring of 2018 and it was immediately put to use with some of the cavities filled by Summer.  Posting this photo in the Fall of 2019 to mark in the [garden diary] that it seems that none of the cavities have been filled/utilized this season.  Early this Spring, I went in and tried to clean out all of the cavities that had previously been occupied in an attempt to make it as insect-friendly as I could.  For whatever reason....I don't think the tubes were used this season. 

I've started to wonder if this is something that I can look to create as a Christmas gift for some family members?  There are plenty of plans online - but it is a simple project just with a cedar box with a roof structure, then following some best practices to make the best home for various insects.  My instincts are to go *big* and think multi-insect environment, but I don't think that's actually best for making something that is goi…

Teardown Hydrangea - September 2019 Update (Blooming)

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Above you can see what I've been calling our "Teardown Hydrangea" in its current state in the Fall of 2019.  I've documented this over time here on the blog since "acquisition" to today.  Starting with the beginning, in October of 2017, I dug some plants out of a yard down the street before they were tearing down a house to build.  In that bucket of plants was a hydrangea that looked really ratty.  Dry and unhealthy.  I didn't have much faith that it was going to make it.  And...frankly, I wasn't really certain that it even *was* a hydrangea! 

Surprisingly enough, it survived the Winter and came back in Spring of 2018.  By last August, it has grown a bit and even flowered with a handful of blooms.  If you look then, this was the first time that it was showing off any lime-color in the flowers - which helps point me in the direction of the variety.  They're not (at least now) cone-shaped, but more ball-shaped.  I think that might mean that they&…

Hydrangeas - Tuff Stuff and Everlasting Revolution - September 2019 Update

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Above you'll see the current state of (on the left) our Everlasting Revolution Hydrangea, (middle) our dead Weeping Cedar tree and (on the right) our Tuff Stuff Hydrangea.  This post is the same photo from just over a year ago and you can see some big differences.  Of course, the Cedar tree is dead.  Sure...that's a difference, but this post is about the size and vibrancy of the hydrangeas on either side.

First, the smaller one:  the Everlasting Revolution.  Planted in Fall of 2017, this marks two years.  It is billed as being 'multi-colored' in flowers, so this is the one I was/am most excited about.  It is about 1/3rd of the size of the other one - planted at the same time, so it has fallen behind for one reason or another. 

Here (below) is a closer-up photo of the Everlasting Hydrangea.  It has never flowered or bloomed.   But it has come back both Springs and looking at this photo from a year ago, it has more than doubled this season.  Next year will be three year…

Fall Look: Disneyland Roses On Northside - September 2019

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The last time I posted photos of the pair of Disneyland Roses on the side of our house was right in the middle of the hot Summer in early July of this year.  At that time, I remarked at the time that one of them was much larger than the other - with the one being planted towards the front of the house/porch being smaller and without blooms.  
Today, you can see a photo collage at the top of the post showing what these things look like come late September.  I've posted the individual photos below as a way to look back at them in larger format.  
Planted in October of 2018, these are growing at two very different speeds/pace.
The first Disneyland Rose is the larger one - and it was larger in July, too.  When I planted it, this one had a small bloom on it.  Today, it is multi-stemmed and gaining some height and spread.  The blooms are big and bright. 


The other one is smaller.  Just like it was at plantingAND in July.  But it, too, is blooming.  So, that's a good sign, right?  I&…

Japanese Painted Fern - Northside Porch - 2019

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All the way back in Spring of 2018, I planted a couple of ferns on the northside of our screened porch - in a spot that is in (I think) total shade all day long.  It felt like the right spot for ferns and hostas - at least as a temporary measure until I figure out the path/pavers that will run alongside the little bed.  One of them was an Autumn Fern.  The other is this Japanese Painted Fern. 

Last September - almost exactly a year ago today - I posted a photo of this fern that was trying to establish itself after a rough Summer.  It was showing just.a.little.bit of growth then, but I was hopeful that this fern was going to make it. 

The photo at the top of this post is from this week - and you can see that this Japanese Painted Fern has really come back and is spreading itself out in a big way. 

I had a Japanese Painted Fern back in Elmhurst - that came back for a few years (when it wasn't smothered by mulch!) - so this isn't my first one of these varieties that has survived…

Saucer Magnolia Tree Setting Fall Buds - September 2019

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Just like the pair of rhododendrons on either side of our back stoop, our small (but growing!) Saucer Magnolia multi-step tree in our front yard is preparing itself for hibernation by setting buds this early Fall.  This Saucer Magnolia tree didn't flower this Spring - which was a disappointment - but grew (according to my tree height inventory) by almost two feet in height.  
I documented the first year of flowers - in Spring of 2018 - here.  
This year, the tree leaves stayed green and didn't get any Sooty Mold like it has had in previous years.  
I'll try to document the buds after all of the leaves fall off this Fall/Winter to provide a comparison against what the naked tree looked like in February of 2018 here.

Gold Cone Juniper September 2019 Check-in - Signs Of Stress

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At the beginning of the season this year, I planted three small Gold Cone Juniper shrubs.  And they took off with the wet Spring and put on a great show.  After reading all about these particular juniper shrubs, I decided to 'wire them up' to ensure that they don't suffer from splaying based on snow fall in the Winter.  By June, I had wired them up and they looked great

Then, we hit the hot part of Summer with July and August.  And the shrubs are showing signs of stress.  I'm posting this photo in the [garden diary] here on the blog to show the emerging brown spots on some of the shrub.  It is on the 'backside' mostly, so I'm wondering if it is both water/drought-related, but perhaps also sun-related?  The backside gets less sun than the front.  I also wonder if the 'wiring up' caused some of the stress?   

I've done this dance before in the Fall - are the trees/shrubs that are showing signs of stress going to make it through the Winter?  Som…

LOST: Weeping Emerald Falls Cedar Tree - September 2019

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Early Fall brings sad news in the backyard:  my little Emerald Falls Weeping Cedar is gone.  I can comfortably call it now.  Planted in May of 2018, it was a tree that I'd been dreaming about for a while.  I baby'd it all last Summer and by the end of August of 2018, it was looking plump and happy.  Then we had a hard Winter.  And the tree was stressed this Spring.  I was looking for any positive sign - even thinking that young, immature cedar trees occasionally turn brown - but that ended up being a true sign of stress.   

But by May, it was fighting on: showing signs of new growth and pushing the brown out to the extremities. 

Alas, after watering it with a soaker hose this Summer, you can see the pile of needles laying on the ground there.  This one is dead. 

And in the tracking of things, this Weeping Cedar is the third tree I've lost this season.  Other ones are:  a small Canadian Hemlock and the Weeping Flowering Cherry tree.  And eighth total tree that I've pla…

Walt Disney's Favorites: Jello With Pieces Of Fruit

Walt’s Favorites pic.twitter.com/rhBjQrbwtI — Matt (@HorizonsOne) July 28, 2019 Found this stuff from the Walt Disney Family Museum via a tweet from @HorizonsOne here that I thought was worth shining a light on with a blog post.

This is a handwritten list of "favorites" from Walt Disney in terms of what he wanted to eat - and the note says that he did this to help his housekeeper Thelma Howard.  The "Jello - All Flavors with Pieces of Fruit" is the one that jumps out to me.   Don't know why...but I love everything about this. 

I posted about another little display from the Walt Disney Family Museum that we saw at the Carthay Circle Restaurant in Disney's California Adventure from our trip in January this year.

Inflatable Beetlejuice Sand Worm at Home Depot

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I've covered Halloween inflatables here on the blog over the years - but they've mostly been about Menards.  Like this Blinking Owl from a few years back.  Or these two big inflatables that Nat allows me to put on the porch for a few weeks the past two years.   This year Menards has gone all-in on Jack Skellington, Sally and Oogie Boogie from 'The Nightmare Before Christmas'.

But, I've been going to Home Depot a little bit more regularly than I was in the past and discovered their Halloween section this season and am delighted (and surprised) by all the Beetlejuice stuff there.  The biggest piece in the whole section is this inflatable, animated Sand Worm that you can see in the photo above.

The center-most worm moves - and you can see it in this brief video below:



That's not the only Beetlejuice item - they also have another giant Sand Worm, but this time, it has a screen on the face of it to broadcast movies.  They claim to use 'projection mapping' (…

Six "Great" Foliage Plants For Shade Via Garden Design

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I've written many a post about shade gardening and how my mother was a 'shade gardener' and therefore I, too, am a shade gardener.  So, whenever I come across a piece online about shade gardening, I pay attention.  I recently saw this Garden Design story that highlights 20 plants that do well in the shade.  Their list of 20 includes four trees, ten flowering plants and six foliage plants for shade - and it is those that I think are worth posting here for my reference. 

Six Foliage Plants for Shade:

1.  Hostas
2.  Coral Bells
3.  Ferns
4.  Caladium
5.  Coleus
6.  Japanese Forest Grass

The companion to this list of great shade plants is this slideshow that talks about shade garden design.  Posting this, too, as part of my landscape inspiration collection.

San Diego Zoo Tickets - Africa Rocks - Summer 2019

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We visited the San Diego Zoo earlier this Summer during our trip to the West Coast.  This is the same trip that we went to the Hotel Del Coronado and stayed near Sunset Cliffs along the coast.   There were just four of us (Nat was tied up with some wedding-related commitments) and these were the four tickets that we bought.  Filing these here under Zoo-related ephemera here on the blog.

Africa Rocks opened in 2017 and is/was the largest San Diego Zoo construction project ever.  From San Diego Union-Tribune back a few years:
...the San Diego Zoo — fresh off celebrating its first 100 years — steps into the future with the opening of Africa Rocks, its biggest construction project ever.  The 8-acre, $68 million undertaking relies on the newest thinking about zoos, which find themselves in an ongoing debate about the treatment of animals in captivity and are designing exhibits that are more naturalistic, more focused on conservation than entertainment. The San Diego Zoo and its sister fac…

Gobbler's Knob Marker - On The Square In Woodstock, Illinois

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Here's another landmark related to the film Groundhog Day (you know the one...Directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray, right?) around Woodstock, Illinois posted to the blog.  
The first one was this photo of me and little Lizzie at "Ned's Corner" in Woodstock.  Then I posted this letter that was sent to the citizens of Woodstock and hung at the Woodstock Theater - part of the Classic Cinemas chain - from Director Harold Ramis expressing his gratitude to the town during the filming of the movie.  
Today, is this small ground-level marker that reads:  "Gobbler's Knob in the Film Groundhog Day - 1992".  It is maybe 12 inches (almost) square mounted on a small concrete base.  It is located in the main park-like green in the middle of the Woodstock Square.  
There's - evidently- a Groundhog Day walking tour that takes place on/around Groundhog Day in Woodstock where you can visit a series of spots - most of which are marked with similar plaque…

Fall Seeding: Kentucky Blue Grass - September 2019

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I have always tried to put down grass seed in the Spring.  And have had mixed results.  But, the experts tell you - if you're willing to listen - that the best time to seed your lawn is in the Fall.  They say 60-75 days before the first hard frost in your zone is the ideal time to sow seed in bare spots and to overseed the rest of your lawn.  
Why?  Because the soil temperatures are high (70 degrees or so) and the air temperatures are moderate (not too hot, so it won't dry things out). 
This is the first season that I've tried this and I'll tell you:  ummmm...it worked?!?!  
According to this post, our first frost in Zone 5b is right around October 16th.  That means that 45-60 days ahead of that is between the middle and end of August.  That's when I put seed down.  
I used a bag of PURE Kentucky Blue Grass seed.  No other types of grass - and no weeds in the bag per the certification on the bag.  KBG is very slow germinating and my experience this Spring took abo…

Back Stoop Rhododendrons Early Fall Bud Setting - 2019

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On the right is the southern Rhododendron and on the right in the image collage above is the northern stoop one.  They look different, don't they?  The one on the left is larger, taller, has less broned/curled edges.  And it also kinda looks a little brighter green, doesn't it?

They looked different last Fall, too, when I applied Wilt-Pruf to one of them as a test.  And again this Spring when they came out of Winter.  What was most interesting to me is that NEITHER of these flowered this year.  Not a single flower.  Last Summer they flowered beautiful pink flowers.  See this post for the flowers, but also note how tiny they were last year.  They're really filled in that space more this year.

They both set buds in the Fall, but just like our Flowering Cherry Tree and Saucer Magnolia in the front, we ended up with no flower show.

The hard, cold Winter - including a long Polar Vortex - is likely to blame for those buds not blooming this year.

These Rhododendrons are right bac…

Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas Turning - 2019

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This is the third season with a set of Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas that are planted outside of our front porch facing due East.  Here is the post showing what the plants looked like in 2017 - the first season.  And here's the post showing the pink color emerging in 2018.  This year the plants are (obviously) the largest, most mature that they have been and some of the blooms are quite large.  Not Limelight or Incrediball large, but nice sized and cone-shaped.  
The past few early Springs, I have pruned these bushes and trimmed off some of the old growth to try to shape the plant a bit.  And, now I'm wondering if - for shape purposes - that's not the best move to make?  Reason I say that is that each of these hydrangeas have a TON of blooms down near the ground and like three or four huge, tall shoots each with a flower on top.   But, they almost look like a plant with a fat base and a couple of limbs climbing out of a vase.    
I'm going to plan to NOT prune them th…

When A Man Plants A Tree...

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On Monday, I shared a Washington Irving quote about planting Oak Trees.  From the preamble of that same book about Wisconsin trees comes this John Muir quote.  Both of them moved me a bit and reinforced why I've been so fascinated with trees and getting a variety of them added to our landscape over the past two seasons.

I haven't posted about John Muir here on the blog (a search that returns no results says that's a true statement), but anybody who watch like maybe more than four minutes of Ken Burns "The National Parks: America's Best Idea" series knows who John Muir was and what his impact on our country really is today.  He's someone who's been called a "Secular Saint" for the work he did to not just preserve vast expanses of wilderness but also advocate for our communal understanding of the value that nature brings to all of us as a source of renewal, understanding and connection.

There's a lot here that resonates with me - from fav…

A Look At Valley View Pool - Vintage Frankfort, Illinois

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I came across this photo of Valley View Pool - later named the Frankfort Township Pool through a friend who found it Via Frankfort Deleted on Facebook here.  That photo above is NOT mine, it came from Frankfort Deleted - which is run, I think by Pam Biesen, a mother of one of my grammar school classmates(!!) - who I presume got it from somewhere else.

Based on some of the cars, this photo was taken in the Summer of 1959. Or maybe the Summer of 1960.  The reason that I'm saying that is that I showed the image to my Dad and he was able to identify *some* of the cars.  He spied: a 1957 Ford Fairlane 500 Sunliner (the yellow one on the far right), a 1959 Ford Galaxie 500 (the red one second from the right), a 1958 Chrysler, a 1955 Buick and a 1950 Plymouth (this one is easy because there's one car - the grey one - that doesn't look like the rest of the cars, right?).

I'm saying Summer of 1959 or 1960.  Why?  Because the *newest* car shown in the photo is the 1959 Ford Gal…

He Who Plants An Oak Looks Forward To Future Ages, And Plants For Posterity.

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Right at the end of August, I posted a few photos showing some tree damage that occurred up in Twin Lakes Wisconsin including a felled giant, massive, hundreds of years old Oak tree.  In poking around trying to find information about Oaks in Wisconsin, I found this DNR publication called "Every Root An Anchor: Wisconsin's Famous and Historic Trees".  I haven't gotten through much of the book just yet, but I was struck by a few quotes that they included in the preamble.  The first of which is this quote from Washington Irving in Forest Trees

The idea of someone planting oak trees as a person who is looking out into the future - not for themselves - but for others.  Their children.  Future generations.  That's kinda interesting.

I've planted plenty of trees on our property in Downers Grove these past few years, but NONE of them have been Oak trees.

But you know what?  We're the benefactors of someone who lived into this Washington Irving quote.  We have…

Toto Washlet (Toilet) - Number One OOH Ad At Narita Airport

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I've posted a few times about Japanese bathrooms here on the blog.  Actually, I've posted about toilets in general a few times - which, I suppose is weird.  But, not that weird?

The oldest toilet-related post was when I was first exposed to Japanese-style toilets at Google in 2011.  That same year, I marveled at a toilet that Menards was selling that claimed it could flush a full bucket of golf balls.  Yeah...full bucket!

Then just this year, I shared the functionality of the toilet I came across in Tokyo that played bird chirping noises to sort-of, umm, muffle or suppress or combat whatever noises are being made.  And most recently, I posted a photo of a child-restraint made by Toto that is in the corner of a public restroom that you can strap your child in while you go about doing your own business.  I've been so moved by my experiences with Totos that I had one installed in our house in Downers Grove.

Today, I'm continuing the celebration of toilets and Japanese to…

Feeding Our Lawn With Mag-I-Cal Plus - September 2019

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Starting this Spring and continuing this Summer, I've chronicled my experiences with our lawn and the process, materials and thinking that have gone into it.  This is the first time that I've spent anything more than a passing thought about the turf, the soil and how to best tend to it as the seasons change.


Started in Spring with a Wild Onion removal - digging them out.Used a calculator to time my application of pre-emergent Crabgrass preventer (without food!)Started to use an organic fertilizer - Milorganite on the yard - instead of synthetics. Got serious about my weed spraying with a blue pattern indicator.Then I tested my soil and got a baseline on the front and back.  I added some Ironite (2x) this Summer to keep the lawn green.Cut the front yard higher than I've ever cut in the past.  Earlier this Summer, I bought and spread a big bag of granular Humic Acid.And most recently, I put down a second application of pelletized lime to make the backyard a little less hospi…

3.5" to 4" Kentucky Bluegrass Lawn Height - End of Summer 2019

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I have been keeping the grass in front longer than I normally have in the past.  I should say...the *I* and *normally*  here aren't quite fair, as this is the first year that I've been cutting my own front yard after having a service do it the past few seasons.  I wasn't that satisfied with how they were cutting it and after doing a bit of research into the whole turf-building process, I've learned quite a bit and have changed some things.
This post is about the length.  You can see that it is somewhere between 3.5" and 4" tall with some blades reaching even higher than that.  But, those blades aren't the normal - and haven't been cut.  Between the low suction on the Ego Self-Propelled mower and having the wheels 'bend' the blades in some cases, there are - on occasion - some blades that are higher than others.  
This is Kentucky Bluegrass and I've been mowing it on the second highest setting on the mower.  A month ago, I posted some phot…

Nightmare Before Christmas Pumpkins - Menards Halloween 2019: Jack, Sally and Oogie Boogie

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Menards has seemingly gone BIG on Tim Burton's Nightmare before Christmas movie with Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie Boogie and even Zero items across their line.  From inflatables to stuffed plush, the licensing deal that they've struck with Disney appears to be their signature character line this Fall. 

In the photo above, you see three lighted pumpkins:  Sally, Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie all have a built-in LED light that lights up their interiors.  They're cute and I could see the Jack or Oogie Boogie one on the porch.  The Sally one is teal colored and I wonder if it might become part of the trend/used as an identifier of an allergy-free house that the whole movement that the 'Teal Pumpkin Project' has delivered in most neighborhoods.  Could be a nice shortcut for some folks?

Below is another look at a different set of these same Nightmare Before Christmas characters, but instead of 12" to 16" versions, these are tiny ones - like the size of a…