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Showing posts from March, 2020

The Hostas Are Back - March 2020

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It may be the last day of March, but - just like the peonies - the hostas are now tipping through the mulch.  You can see the purple tips that have sort of spiraled their way through the ground and are ready to unfurl in this bed underneath our kitchen window.  Those of you eagle-eyed readers might also spot something else in this photo:  a piece of burned wood/charred hardwood.  On the right side of the photo in the middle. 

That's a result of spreading the hardwood ashes from our fireplace out in the yard.  I've put some of it in the grass, some in the beds including around these hostas. 

This is the teardown hosta that I've been tracking since I transplanted it. 

Here's a look at this plant in mid-Summer last year

This is a bed that I'm going to try to tend to with a topcoat of hardwood fine mulch because, as you can see, most of the remaining mulch is the larger, more coarse pieces.

Lenten Roses In The Backyard? There's a Plan For That.

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You can't open up gardening Instagram this Spring without seeing a post or a story about someone's hellebores in bloom.  Oh...what's that?  You call them Lenten Roses?  Oh...me, too.  Actually, I haven't thought much of them at all.  But, all this posting made me remember that we have a few clusters of them spec'd in our backyard landscape plan.  Like this section you see below that calls for a grouping of ten (10).


What are hellebores or Lenten roses?  From one of my favorite gardening bloggers Deborah Silver in Detroit who posted about the month of March in her garden and how Lenten Roses or hellebores play a role:
Any gardener who reads here knows I am a fan of hellebores. They are, in my opinion, the perfect perennial. Thick glossy foliage persists in its green state until late in the winter. The flowers emerge on leafless stalks in April, and bloom for a very long time. The green remains of the flowers can persist in the garden well in to June. The current y…

Social Distancing Project: Making Anthony Falco(ish) Chilies

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I've been hanging onto this screenshot Via Adam Kuban on his Instagram stories for a number of months in preparation for times *just* like these.  Being stuck at home, I figured it was time to try something like this.  The problem?  I didn't have a ton of peppers, so I improvised. 

The recipe calls for 5 chilies - and it looks like Adam Kuban used jalapenos.  I had one jalapeno on hand.  And a couple of Fresno peppers.  And a bell pepper.  So, I used them all.  I also didn't have coriander seeds, so I just tossed in a little ground coriander. 

I've posted about Adam Kuban before - who is someone that I watch like a hawk when it comes to pizza.  He's both great at knowing/sharing/talking pizza and seems like a pretty great dude at the same time.  But, I haven't posted about the other guy mentioned in his story.

These are courtesy of "International Pizza Consultant" Anthony Falco - who you can find on Instagram @millenium_falco.

As for mine?  Here'…

Vintage Disney ToyTown Christmas Sign

Walt Disney Productions retail store sign, circa 1930s pic.twitter.com/0rR4dfbh5S — The-Disney-Elite (@JuoshM) March 17, 2020
I came across this tweet recently and it made me pause.  Not just because of the fact that it sits at the intersection of my interests:  Vintage Disney + Vintage Christmas.  But, also because of the description:  'Retail Store Sign'. 

I found this post on Hakes Auction that talks about the use case of signs like this one.  From a description of a different Disney ToyTown sign:
Double-sided 11x14" cardboard features repeated image of Mickey Mouse on skis, Donald Duck throwing snowball and Santa Claus pointing at large blank area for store to write advertising text or store name. So...the folks at Disney would give these signs out to retailers?  Genius.

Wave Hill(ish) Chair - Lumber Spec'd - March 2020

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More social distancing and filling my lumber order for delivery from Menards today.  This is the third in the series of posts that are mostly about getting my order straightened out for lumber based on some upcoming projects.  First was the wooden garden obelisk.  Then the Versailles Orangerie Planter box.  Today is the lumber for a Wave Hill(ish) Garden Chair. 

I mentioned adding chairs like this for the first time last year in December.  And revisited it in this post where I found a reference photo on Reddit that showed a modification of 2 boards to 3 boards for the seat/back. 


For lumber ordering, I'm using the dimensions of this chair and the cut list tool

Here's what I've come up with for the 2x2's based on the cut list tool.

[1] → 27" (x4) [2] → 20" (x4) [3] → 11" (x2) [4] → 26" (x2) [5] → 3.5" (x2)
Lumber list:
 1. 12 2x2 square edge 36" spindles.
2.  2 1x6' for back and seat (doing 3 instead of 2 like this)
3.  1 1x4' for …

The Peonies Are Back - Spring 2020

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A series of garden diary posts that I've been sharing for ten years now features the moment when our peony plants emerge from the mulch each Spring.  The first time I posted photos of the redish buds was all the way back in 2010 here

From then, I've posted about this:

2011 peony post
2012 peony post
2013 peony post
2014 peony post
2015 peony post
2016 - doesn't appear that I posted
2017 - one of our foster peony plants in Naperville
2018 - one of our *new* Downers peony post
2019 peony post  And another one here.

That's 9 of the past 10 years.  Including this year, that makes 10 of 11 years.

This peony in the photo is located back by our Dawn Redwood - it is a 'teardown peony' - either from our house before they tore it down or from The Fox Family Den's yard before they built their own house.

Garden Obelisk - Lumber Order - Spring 2020 Projects

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Yesterday, I posted (for my own thinking) a lumber order for the building of a Versailles Orangerie Planter box and mentioned that it was one of a couple of projects I'm thinking about as part of our social distancing program.  I recently received the catalog from Gardeners Supply Company - which is a joy to read right now - and saw this large cedar obelisk.  They're asking $199.00 for what seems to be a pretty "good quality item".  But, I know that I can beat that price if I built them myself.

Here's the Gardener's Supply Company Obelisk.  This is NOT my photo - it is via their catalog here:

As for the 'why' add an obelisk, well...I'm not totally sure just now, but thinking about growing something like hops.  We had Golden Hops planted in our yard back in Elmhurst and I liked having them grow up a trellis.  It took a couple of seasons to get them to grow vertically, but by the time we moved, they were putting on a nice show.

The Gardener's ob…

Social Distancing Project: Versailles Orangerie Boxes - Lumber Spec'd

All this social distancing and being on quarantine has me putting together a lumber delivery from the fine folks at Menards.  Or...at least assuming that *if* I put a lumber order in that they will deliver it.  The list of 'essential' jobs and stores includes hardware stores, so I'm thinking that they're open?

There are a few projects that I included in my 2020 to-do list including a raised planter or a Versailles box.   With all the time spent at home, I've also added another project or two to my list:  a garden obelisk and a boardwalk.  More on both of those at some point.

Today, I'm thinking - once again - about the Versailles planter box that we first saw at Luxembourg Gardens in Paris.   Why?  Because I recently came across this photo on Instagram that features a couple of the Orangerie boxes:




View this post on Instagram

Love this pair of Versailles boxes, with their wonderful metal topiary frames! | 📷: @vibrant.optics for Private Newport A post shared by

DIY Oriole Bird Feeder Project - Oranges For Birds

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With all the stay-at-home time on our hands, I've begun to work through some of my to-do list in terms of projects.  The first up was a bird feeder.  I've seen Oriole bird feeders at the store, but have never pulled the trigger.  They're expensive and I'm not sure that I've ever seen an oriole in our yard. (Could be...because...um...we don't have an oriole feeder?!?)

But, I recently came across these plans for what is billed as an "Easy DIY Oriole Feeder" and I had all the lumber on hand.  (Just a small piece of 2x4, a cedar fence board and a dowel.)

What is different about oriole feeders?  They don't use seed.  You have to use specific foods to attract Orioles.  This story on BirdWatchingHQ lays out what you need: use oranges and/or jelly.  And you'll have the best luck during their migration in the Spring. 

According to this map, we're in the Baltimore Oriole territory and this Oriole page on JourneyNorth.org lays out when we should be s…

American Serviceberry In Our Neighborhood

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A few days ago, I shared the list of bare root trees that The Growing Place is taking pre-orders on during the month of March and included on that list was something called an American Serviceberry Autumn Brilliance.   I had not previously come across that particular variety, but due to the whole 'social distancing' dynamic going on this past week, we've done a few family walks down to the park and pond near us.  On one of those recent walks, I saw this multi-stemmed shrub (or what I figured was a shrub) and then noticed the little yellow tag on one of the branches.  I peep'd at it.  And did a double-take. 

It is an American Serviceberry.  Funny, right?  Having not even heard of such a tree/shrub before this week, now I've come across it twice in five days.  (Note:  I've blurred out the house in the photo just to provide some semblance of privacy here...)

This specimen on our block is heavily multi-stemmed - as you can see.  It has branching very low on the lar…

Thinking of Free Wood Chips As Base Layer?

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Maybe it is this whole social distancing exercise and the idea of being cooped up for who knows how long.  Or maybe it is just the weather turning a little bit nice that has me thinking more and more about getting our yard in shape.  Either way, it has me turning my thoughts to mulch.  In the past, we've had our mulch delivered and spread by pros, but we haven't done the full yard.  I mean...we have a BIG yard to mulch and we've really only done the little bit in the front plus a little bit around the house/beds that were already created and planted.  That left the back 2/3rds of the yard with what I'd loosely call 'beds' around the perimeter of the back of the yard.  They haven't been tended to at ALL in terms of grooming and mulching with hardwood mulch (or fines).  I have, however, been taking my lawnmower and mulching up the Fall leaves and piling them up in the beds around the back as a

Knowing that we might be hanging around the house A LOT more has …

Ash Firewood Seasoning Progress - Three Months In

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A color/aging check-in on the Ash Firewood that I acquired last year.  I still haven't split all of the rounds, but with the social distancing experience going on, we're going to have some good backyard time in the next week or two. 

I first covered this wood - when it was standing as a (dead) Ash tree last year in November.  The full archive of ash firewood posts are here.   I had the rounds dropped over the fence late last year.  And started splitting and stacking it right after ChristmasHead there to that post and see the color.

There's been a change and I think darkening of the wood since this was first split.  I know that I kind of have a 'golden hour' thing going on in the photo at the top of this post.  But, to my eye: it seems to have aged/seasoned.

I haven't put a moisture meter to any of this stuff yet, but it seems that I should be tracking it going forward.  I've actually brought in some of this wood and have burned it at night - mixed with …

Lizzie - Social Distancing And Sunning Herself

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It has been over a year since I shared a post about our little Lizzie.  She's still little.  At least...quite a bit smaller than what I remember Maisy being when she was around.  
We lost Maisy in the Summer of 2016, so we're coming up on four years of her not being around our family.  It also means that this Summer will be four years since Lizzie joined our family.  She's, ummm, NOT Maisy. 

But, she is family.  And that means that she's around with ALL OF US during the whole social distancing period.  I found her the other day up on this bench - where she sits often - enjoying the day's sun. 

Everyone copes with quarantine differently, right?

A Biosolids Test - Backyard Turf Site - March 2020

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That right there is a five gallon bucket of biosolids.  Yeah...biosolids.  Courtesy of the Downers Grove Sanitary District.  They have what they call a "Biosolids Distribution Program" that residents have a few ways of engaging with in terms of receiving the, ummm, biosolids.

First...you might be wondering:  what the heck are biosolids?  According to the DGSD:
Biosolids, a byproduct of the process of wastewater purification at the Wastewater Treatment Center, is highly recommended for use in flower beds, lawns, shrubs, hedges, and other landscaping. The biosolids are stockpiled for one to two years and then pulverized to provide a product that is easily incorporated into the soil.  The high organic content of biosolids enhances soil work-ability and water retention capacity. The substantial nutrient content will help supply plant needs for nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The lawn fertilizer that I've been using called Milorganite is a biosolid.  But....if you read t…

Growing Place Bareroot Tree Availability - March 2020

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Stuck at home due to 'social distancing' like we are?  I'm sure that you're dreaming about your Spring and Summer garden like I am these days.  If you're doing any tree planning, you are likely turning to some online resources to research and buy your trees.  I came across this link from one of our local nurseries:  The Growing Place in Naperville where they list their 2020 bare root tree availability for purchase

They're running a special on their bare root tree inventory, but you have to call them at 630.355.4000 and place your order by March 29, 2020. They say that there are "Limited quantities on select varieties."

So, why would you buy bare root trees? The Growing Place lists some benefits including:


What are they offering this year?  You can click here to see the full list and all the details.  But, below, is a snapshot of what is available. 
Redpointe Maple. 1.25" Branched. $99
Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry. 3' Multi-stem. $59
Americ…

Potential 2020 Garden To-Do List Addendum: Upgrade Garden Gloves

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Over the weekend, I started to organize some of my garden tools in preparation for the Spring garden season and began to turn to my hand tools.  Part of stimulating my organization this weekend was the whole 'social distancing' thing that we're doing, but it was also this video from Erin - the Impatient Gardener - where she talked about how she sharpens and treats her garden tools.


I'll come back to that video in another post (mostly because....ummm...the whole Niwaki pruners are pretty sweet and warrant a post where I lust after them, right?)

I have collected my tools and have begun to think about how to store them in an easy-to-use way for the season.  I also began to look at my gloves and inventory'd them. 

Out of that exercise, I think I'm going to call it now:  I need to add something to my 2020 to-do list:  Upgrade my garden gloves.  Here's my full 2020 list

For the past few years, I've been MOSTLY using disposable gloves in the garden.  I like …

Gold Cone Junipers - Dying or Just Struggling? March 2020

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With the whole 'social distancing' policy being enforced in our household, I had some time to putter around the yard this weekend.  One of the things that drew my attention was the sad state of these Gold Cone Junipers.  You can see one of them in the photo at the top of this post. 

I bought three of these from Menards on April 6, 2019.  I have the receipt in my little file that shows the purchase date AND the 1 Year guarantee tag on them that you can see in the two photos below.  One note that might be useful for you:  Everytime I buy a tree or a shrub that has a 1 year guarantee, I do 2 things:  I staple one of the plant tags to the receipt and file it away in an envelope.  I also then add it to my Google calendar - one week short of a year.  That means...I bought this on April 6, 2019, I put an entry for these Gold Cone Junipers on March 30th, 2020.



According to the garden diary, I had them on hand by April 22nd and ended up planting them in late April/early May and they l…

My Lawn Enemy Is Back: Wild Onions 2020

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I was out in the far back of our yard yesterday and I saw some brand new, bright green growth.  I knew immediately what I was looking at:  the first instance of Wild Onions for the year.  I know it won't be the last.  If you've followed along, you know that Wild Onions in my yard are public enemy #1.  They've achieved that status due to their prolific nature (they are EVERYWHERE), the fact that I can combat them in early Spring when there isn't much else going on in the yard and they are a DIY project that doesn't involve herbicides (you have to dig them out).

I've chronicled my Wild Onion journey here on the blog starting with last Spring when I started to dig the clumps of Wild Onion bulbs out of the turf everywhere I could.  Once their season passed, I tried my best to make the soil less hospitable for them by applying Lime a few times.  I posted about them earlier this year when I saw this story about a potential spray (Bonide Burnout) that might work agai…

Using Crabgrass Preventer - Without Food (Year 2)

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Nat added this bag that you see at the top of this post to one of her recent orders from Amazon.  It is a bag of Scott's Crabgrass and Grassy Weed Preventer under the "Halts" product name.  It does NOT have lawn food in it - which is fairly uncommon in most crabgrass preventers.

You can find this stuff here at Amazon (this is NOT an affiliate link.  I don't do that...) for $16.99.

I used this same product last year - and sought it out because of the fact that it doesn't have lawn food in the mix.  Last year, I held off on feeding my lawn until Memorial Day and I'm thinking that I'm going to do the same.

I laid out my full 2020 lawn care plan here in this post from February.  In that post, you'll note that I'm calling for an application of this pre-emergent in "April" versus "mid-April".  And that's because that I'm going to turn to - once again - Michigan State University and their "Growing Degree Days" track…

Vintage Chicago Sting Soccer Felt Pennants (Rosemont Horizon) - MISL

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There are a few more vintage felt pennants from my childhood that my folks saved and gave to me when they moved out of our longtime home in Frankfort.  I've posted about a few so far:

First was the University of Illinois Fighting Illini Football Rose Bowl '84 pennant.
Then just a few days ago, I posted this awesome vintage Epcot Center 1982 pennant with Spaceship Earth and Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy in their rainbow spacesuits.

Today's post is about a pair of pennants that I remember very well.  Both of these were on my bedroom wall.

First - at the top of the post - is a Chicago Sting pennant that is primarily black and yellow with the words 'Chicago' and "Sting' in white.  So, is the bee - he's black and white.  Turns out, his name was "Stanley Sting".  This has the MISL logo on the tip.

Here's the confirmation of Stanley Sting's name via a Google Search:

The second item for this post - you can see it below - is another Chi…

Winter Damage: Hicks Upright Yew - March 2020

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A few days ago, I posted some sad photos of the small Canadian Hemlock trees that have been devoured by some freakin' rabbits in our backyard this Winter.  After I spotted that damage, I wanted to take a closer look at some of the other shrubs in our yard to see if there's more damage that occured between when we put the yard to bed for the Winter and now when it is starting to 'wake up'. 

Unfortunately, I found more.  Both rabbit damage.  And Winter damage. 

Let's start with this Hicks upright yew.  It is the one on the northern edge of the hedge.  And is the only one that has this much winter damage.  For history, I bought these Hicks Yews in July and planted them in the ground shortly thereafter.  This hedge (or...eventual hedge) is part of my 2020 "Priority Area 3' from my recent planning series. 

This post is now part of my Winter Damage Series, I guess.  Full tag of posts here.

It includes this post on our Front boxwood bronzing from February. Some p…

Vintage Walt Disney World Epcot Center Felt Pennant - Spaceship Earth and Rainbow Suits - 1980's

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A few days ago, I posted a photo of a vintage University of Illinois Fighting Illini football 1984 Rose Bowl felt pennant and remarked that it was from my childhood.  It was (somehow??) saved by my mother who packed it away with a bunch of other things from my life.  When my folks moved out of their house in Frankfort - and we moved into our home in Downers Grove - they gave me a bunch of boxes and tubs loaded with personal effects. 

Along with a collection of greeting cards from my First Communion and sports trophies, these pennants were stuck into the boxes.  There are a whole bunch of them that I'll get to, but today's post is about this epic, vintage Walt Disney World Epcot Center spacesuit felt pennant. 

It features Mickey, Donald and Goofy all in their 'Rainbow Brite' costumes and this one, too, I remember from my childhood.  I'll have to ask my mom if she has any memories of when we got this, but it seems that this *has* to be from the 1980's, right?  T…