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Showing posts from January, 2020

Building a Japanese Moon Gate - DIY Exploration

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Late last week, I posted about the idea of building a 'garden nook' or a secluded area that draws you in as something that is 'on trend' this year and maybe something to consider for our backyard.  In that same post, I made a reference near the bottom of Japanese Moon Gates.   I included the moon gate as a way to potentially create a 'nook' but after looking around the Web, I now realize they're so much more.

From this Old House Online story, you can find out the details of the structure:
A moon gate is a circular opening, usually in a garden wall, which acts as a passageway. In China, where the gates were built in the gardens of wealthy nobles, various parts of the form and its ornamentation carry meaning. More generally, though, a moon gate is thought to offer an auspicious welcome or fortune to those who pass through. English gardeners borrowed the idea from China in the late 19th century. American gardeners immediately followed suit.

A moon gate may be …

Wiring Up the Multi-Trunk Saucer Magnolia

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We have a front yard Saucer Magnolia tree that was planted in the Summer of 2017 by our landscaper that has been with us since we moved into our new house.  The first time that I posted about this Saucer Magnolia was when I shared a photo of the tree in early August 2017 and talked about how I had 'limb'ed up' the tree to remove some of the lower branching and some newly emerging trunks from the base.   Our tree is multi-trunked (or multi-stemmed and/or multiple trunks) and at the time I was deciding to remove some of the stems/trunks that were shooting out sideways.  
By September of 2017, it seemed that the tree had survived the Summer transplant (but...look at the lawn!  yikes!) and was showing plenty of green leaves.  The following February (2018), I did my first Winter check-in on the tree where it was showing off some buds that it had set the previous (first) Fall.  And by May of 2018, the tree put on a show:  flowers.  I didn't include photos of the tree during…

Columnar Tree Dreaming: 'Van Den Aker' Narrow Weeping Alaska Cedar

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Another day, another columnar tree that I've come across that is worth documenting here on the blog.  This time, it is from a different source.  I've posted about the list from Amy @ Pretty Purple Door in the past, but I recently came across this list from Savvy Gardening that lists a series of "Narrow Trees for tight spaces".  On the list are some of the trees I've covered before including the Sky Pencil Holly and the Amanogawa Japanese Flowering Cherry.  But, there are also a couple of new (to me) trees that I think are worth documenting here in my [tree dreaming] file.

I'll post one today and cover the other one in a separate post.

The tree that I'm documenting today is the "Van Den Aker" Narrow Alaska Cedar.   It is a narrow (very narrow!) columnar conifer that Savvy Gardening has at #10 on their list.

From SavvyGardening.com comes this description:


"Skinny" is how they describe it in their piece and talk about how it is the 'th…

Downed Oak Firewood Moisture - 2 Months In

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About a week ago, I shared the latest look at our firewood consumption and included a photo of the small pile of Oak firewood that I've gathered from our yard.  Back in late October of 2019, we had a snow storm that arrived while most of our trees still had all of their leaves on the limbs.  That caused some snow-related damage in the neighborhood and we had a significant limb come down on one of the two large Oak trees in our backyard.  By my count, there were 27 or more rings on the limb, so this thing had been growing for more than a quarter century.

In Mid-November, I posted another set of images that included some of the (then) cut up/processed pieces and talked about measuring the moisture in the Oak over time.  At that moment (November 18th), the piece was showing a moisture reading of: 24.5%.  I set that piece aside and am using it for this post today.  I remeasured the moisture content.  On the 'exposed side', where I first measured, and it has dropped almost 3% …

Randall Park Christmas Luminaries - Christmas Eve 2019

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Yesterday, I posted a couple of photos (and a video) of the Great Horned Owl (or Owls) that have taken up residence in our neighborhood and talked about some of the natural features of Randall Park - including the large Barth Pond at one end and (what I think is known as) St. Joseph's Creek running from north-to-south along the boundary. 

Nat and I really love our neighbors and like our neighborhood.  The lots are large(r), the trees are mature and I can walk to two different train stations. 

Did we talk about the pondPretty great, right? 

Welp, there are (at least) two other activities that take place in Randall Park that are community/neighbor-driven that make the place a special place to live.  The first is the annual block party Soap Box Derby that I've covered here on the blog.  Here's the Randall Park 2018 Soap Box Derby post and the 2017 Randall Park Soap Box Derby Post.  That's a handful of families who transform their annual block party into a HUGE gatherin…

Owl Spotted In Our Neighborhood - January 2020

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We have an owl that lives on/around our block. He's been around for a while and we hear him hooting in the overnight hours during the Summer when we sleep with our windows open.  In fact, I'm pretty sure that there are/were multiple owls in the neighborhood.  I've heard them call and respond.  Maybe Momma and babes?  Or pairs/partners?  I don't know.

Our neighborhood is called Randall Park in Downers Grove and has a large pond at one end of it and a creek running through one side of it, so we have plenty of wildlife.  And we're doing our part by participating in the 'Certified Wildlife Habitat' program from the National Wildlife Foundation where we've provided the necessary components of food, water, places to raise young, shelter and some sustainable practices like composting and what-have-you.

So, it is a good spot for something like a family of owls to make a home around our block.  They have plenty of water, large, mature trees for shelter and plent…

Kirschbaum's Christmas Eve - 2019

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I know this post is late.  Like a month late.  But, I came across the photos on my phone and wanted to document it for diary-purposes like I've done over the years.  This past Christmas Eve, I made my annual visit to Kirschbaum's Bakery in Western Springs.  They open up for orders and pre-orders and it is a busy day at the bakery.  That's why I get there early in the am.  This year, I arrived first.  I was the first car that pulled up.  It was before five am.  The listed hours on the store's website is that they open at seven am.  But...based on previous years experience, I knew that they'd open earlier than that.

A few minutes after I arrived more cars started to show up.  We all played along and stayed in our cars where it was warm.  Around six am, a guy got out of his car and then we all had to scramble and run to line.  Based on where my car was parked, I got there to be third in line.

That's when the woman in front of me said:  hey...you were here before …

On Creating a "Garden Nook" for our Backyard

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If you follow along on the Web for any hobby you might be interested in, you are certain to come across posts/articles in the early part of the calendar year that are all about 'trends to watch in 2020'.  One of the pieces that I read recently is this one called 'What will be the hot gardening trends of 2020?'.  There are some things in there that I think I see popping up over-and-over like "Plant Parenting" and the adoption of succulents (due to climate change/low water usage, etc), but there was one item that really got my attention:  Garden Nooks.  Those little 'secluded spot' that you can create in your garden.  From PennLive:
Jody Davey, an indoor horticulture and programs specialist at Hershey Gardens, says she’s seeing more people interested in creating secluded spots for relaxing and enjoying their yard’s gardens.

“Part of the reward of nurturing a garden is spending leisure time in the beautiful outdoor space you’ve created,” she said. “A gar…

Revisiting Compost Aeration Techniques - For Springtime 2020

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A slight pause from the [tree dreaming] posts to quickly revisit my three-bin compost setup.  Winter means idle time for me in the garden, so I've been thinking about projects to work on this Summer and that includes my compost pile setup.  I have two compost setups:  first....a large 80 gallon tumbler.  And then a 3-bin fence setup.  The tumbler is in our yard and I filled it with quite a bit of browns this Fall and included some greens (grass clippings).  With Winter here, the composting is very slow, so I've been bringing some kitchen scraps out there including vegetables, coffee grounds, egg shells to try to add some nitrogen.

The three-bin setup is one that I haven't touched since the Fall after I piled on leaves.

I set it up in Spring and started to add some material.

I revisited the bin on December 1st when I had filled the left bin and the middle bin with Fall leaves (carbons).  A couple of weeks later, I posted about how I haven't been good about 'turning&#…

Winter Tree Dreaming: Columnar Eastern White Pine - Winter 2019

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Another day, another 'tree dreaming' post here on the blog.  And guess what? It features another columnar form tree, of course.  But this one is a conifer.  If you've followed along on the blog, you'll know that I'm pretty far behind when it comes to conifers in the landscape.  I included this note in my 2019 "to do list" that called for 'adding more conifers".  I added eight in 2019 (see results here), but six of them were TINY.  I mean...TINY.  Those six Canadian Hemlocks (now five) aren't going to be meaningful in our garden for many years.  Still have quite a bit more work to do, I think - and especially as I think about replacing the (LOST) Weeping Cedar.

This post is about a variety of tree that we haven't planted yet: a pine.  This is called a Columnar Eastern White Pine tree that Monrovia lists as being hardy all the way down to Zone 3.

Here's a photo from Gertens:


Gertens calls this tree 'attractive', but cautions that…

Tree (Shrub) Dreaming: Slender Hinoki Cypress - Winter 2019

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With the hard gardening days on me in mid-January (and not being a seed catalog guy), I've turned to dreaming about trees, shrubs and grasses.  And that means that today, I'll post another 'tree dreaming' post to create a document/reference post for future use in my landscape/garden/backyard planning.  A few days back, I shared two deciduous columnar trees that I wanted to create reference posts about here on the blog: the Columnar Swedish Aspen and the Dakota Pinnacle Birch.

Today, I'm posting about the Slender Hinoki Cypress.  I'm filing this under [columnar trees], but I suppose this is technically a 'narrow, upright form' and not necessarily columnar.  And...technically, this is a shrub, not a tree.  But...this is my garden diary, so I'm calling the shots.

The Slender Hinoki Cypress is 'pyramidal form' that has new growth with  'ferny appearance'.  Love that.

Via Monrovia:


I've dreamed of other columnar and narrow-habit conife…

Firewood Replenishment - January 2020

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I shared the sad state of our firewood hoard a few days back and mentioned that another split (50/50 Oak/Cherry) Face Cord was on it's way.  Welp, today, it is here.   This is the second year in a row that I had a third Face Cord delivered during the year.  In 2019, it came in mid-February, so we're running a couple of weeks ahead of last year.  Last year, I turned to the 50/50 Cherry/Oak blend for a couple of reasons (they were out of birch, I didn't want Ash, and this was the only 50/50 mix they had at the time) and those mostly held up this year.  We'll burn this stuff up over the next few months as the weather stays cold and hopefully, this load will take us until the weather breaks.  
One thing to note:  quite a bit of this wood is split what I'll call 'larger'.  Larger pieces overall and what seems like more heartwood and less sapwood.  Not sure that's possible, but it seems that I'm getting my hands on a bunch of interior/heartwood pieces th…

All Four 2019/2020 Amaryllis - Mid-January 2020

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A couple of days ago, I shared some photos of the flowers of the 'double blooming' Cherry Nymph Amaryllis that I planted in November.  I only showed the flowers, but wanted to revisit (for record-keeping sake) all four of the bulbs for height and vitality in January.  The last time I posted photos of these flowers was on January 2nd.  You can see the photo of these same four flowers 2.5 weeks ago here

Left-to-right, the flowers are:  Apple Blossom (Menards), Red Lion (Menards), Star of Holland (Menards) and Cherry Nymph (Wannemakers).

Some notes: 

The Red Lion bloomed first and exhausted itself first, too.  This had two stalks/stems.The Apple Blossom went second and is also exhausted.  However, this was the only one that had just one stalk/stem.The Red Lion has a bud that is about to burst open.  It was behind the other two, but the second stem/stalk will have flowers (I think) into February.And, finally, the heights were all over the place:  the Red Lion was treated with th…

Winter Plant Dreaming: All Gold Japanese Forest Grass

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There are "seed people" - those gardeners who spend the cold, dark days of January and February getting their seedlings going - pouring over catalogs, ordering supplies, turning on the lights, etc.  Me?  I'm more of a 'tree/shrub/plant/perennial dreamer' during those same months.  Just a couple of days ago, I shared this Slender Hinoki Cypress (tree form) that I'm lusting after to add to the backyard and mentioned how it is often part of a "Japanese Garden". 

Over the years here on the blog, I've done a bunch of 'tree dreaming' posts, but this one is a little different:  let's call it 'Grasses Dreaming'. 

This post is about a grass that I came across on the Monrovia site these: All Gold Japanese Forest Grass.

Here's a look at them from Monrovia:


Others, like Michigan Bulb carry something that is close, but not the same including this Golden Hakone Grass - and point out that it was the 2009 Perennial of the Year.  And, imp…

Firewood Consumption - Mid-January 2020

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It has been seven weeks since I did the last "Firewood Consumption" check here on the blog with these photos on December 4th, 2019.  Today, I'm sharing this (somewhat sad) photo showing the current state of our firewood hoard.   On the top is what Cherry firewood we have remaining (about a dozen pieces) and on the bottom is what Birch firewood we have remaining (about two dozen pieces).  This is in addition to the 'hearth-side' firewood storage box that holds about a dozen combo teams.

This order was delivered in October of last year and was a face cord of Birch and a face cord of Cherry.

Comparing this to last season (2018/2019), we're about two weeks ahead of where we were last year.  Check out the February 2nd post from last season (Feb 2019) and the 'stack' looks similar to today.

I keep a tertiary rack on the side stoop outside of my office door that I've exhausted all the Cherry/Birch from, and once empty,  I moved the little bit of limbs a…

Cherry Nymph Amaryllis Blooming - January 2020

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While two of the four Amaryllis bulbs are done flowering, the largest - and most expensive - bulb (bought at Wannemakers) is blooming.  It is a Cherry Nymph bulb that is billed as a 'double blooming' Amaryllis and the moniker is holding true for this beauty.

Potted on November 21st, 2019.
A week in, this bulb showed no signs of growth.
Mid-December and the tip of the first bud was just emerging from the bulb.
Right before Christmas, it was just about 4" tall and thickening up the stem.
On January 2nd, the first stem was up and trying to get ready to open.

For reference, my large bulb in 2019 was just beginning to open up at end of December.
On January 20th of 2019 - 25+ days past Christmas, the bulb was in bloom.
And it was still throwing off flowers well into March.  Yeah....March.

So, this one is blooming (for the first time) about the same time as last year's large bulb.  Will it stay blooming until March?  We'll watch and see.


This red flower is quite pretty …

Backyard Tree Caliper Measurements - January 2020

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Two days ago, I posted the first findings of using the caliper measurement tool on our young trees with this post showing the caliper measurements of our Frans Fontaine European Hornbeam trees in the backyard.  Today, I'm documenting in the [garden diary] the rest of our young backyard trees which all came from nursery stock. 

I did the same thing on these that I did on the Hornbeams:  measured six inches from the ground and marked each of the trunks.

First up is the pair of Greenspire Lindens that we've put up as an esaplier.  First is the one on the right (facing them). 


Then the one on the left (facing them).  This one is slightly larger.


Then the Weeping White Spruce that I planted mid-Summer 2019 and is dealing with it's first Winter below:


One of the backyard Chanticleer Flowering Pear trees - this one along the south fence line below.  This tree was planted on Earth Day 2018 and was a really tiny tree (and was cheap, too!) to start.


The small Dappled Willow that we…