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Showing posts from April, 2020

Apple Tree Belgian Fence Espalier In the Works - April 2020

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My 2020 to-do list for the yard included this item in #8:  "Find cheap fruit trees (that include pollinators) and plant a Belgian Fence (somewhere)."  Welp, I found eight apple trees at the same Home Depot tree sale last week and brought them home to start a Belgian Fence.  Here's a look at some of them below.

I have documented the Belgian Fences that we came across in Disneyland over the years.  Here's the first one that caught my attention on a trip.  And here's another from a different trip.
I ended up picking apple trees for this because they had the right amount of them and had a variety that I was most keen to get:  Honeycrisp. 

One of the things that I've picked up while researching the Belgian Fence was to learn that it is best to select two varieties of apple trees that are 'pollinators'.  In a look at the list for Honeycrisp apples, one of the selected pollinators is Yellow/Golden Delicious.  They are cross-pollinators.    So, I picked up f…

London Plane Tree 'Bloodgood' - Picked Up Spring 2020

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When I see a good deal on trees, I suppose I just figure our yard can handle a few more.  And that's how we ended up with a new tree in our garage that I'll plant in the next week or so.  It is a London Plane Tree 'Bloodgood'.  Tag below.  Why'd I buy it?  It is a good-sized tree at a good price and it reminds me of Paris.  Paris?!  Yeah...Paris.  Not London.  Where they're from, of course.
Why Paris?  They remind me of our time in Paris because of the stand of them in a section of Luxembourg Gardens that had vines tied between them.   Here's my post about them.   I've posted a lot about Luxembourg Gardens since our visit as the experience has stuck with me - from the chairs to the boxes to the trees to the edging to the mulch.  This post is going into that tag.  
Due to social distancing, we didn't see any family for my birthday this year and a result of that was that Nat's Grampy who lives in Oak Lawn sent me a birthday card with some cash in…

Floating Mulch Flagstone Retaining Ledge Installation

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A couple of days ago, I posted a photo of some of our orange tulips blooming in the front yard and mentioned that in that photo there was a detail of a small (potentially partial) project that I had knocked off my list.  In the photo at the top you can see that project: a little buried flagstone retaining 'ledge'.   In mid-April, I posted about my 'floating mulch' problem in this area due to the grade (it is on a slope) and water run-off (some gutter downspouts come out in this area).  
In that post, I speculated that if I dug-in some retaining blocks that I could keep the cocoa bean hull mulch from migrating too far into the lawn.  But, at the same time, I didn't want to make it super visible from down near the sidewalk.  What you see at the top of this post is my compromise.  I dug in the blocks a few inches and left them proud of the mulch by about 1/2" or so.  
If you look at the photo below, you can get a better sense for how they look from a little furt…

Three Late Dormancy-Breaking Trees: Trouble? Or Normal? Late April 2020

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We have three young trees that were all bought as nursery stock that haven't broken dormancy in our yard.  On a walk around the yard yesterday, I was surprised by the small Chanticleer Pear tree that had not joined the other ones in flowering out.  Below, you can see that tree for garden diary reference.  

Here's one of the buds on the tips of the tree.  I've scraped away some of the bark and I see plenty of green underneath it, so maybe this one is just late in waking up? On the other hand, why isn't it showing even ONE flower?  The tree across the yard is in full bloom.  That has me concerned.


The Crimson King Maple tree is also showing no signs of life.  If I look around at other Maples, I see some buds bursting open on *some* of the tips, but a further look around the neighborhood and I see plenty of trees that haven't broken dormancy yet.  A scrape on this one shows a little bit of green, but the tree itself feels a little 'hollow'.    This one has me…

Harry Lauder's Walkingstick - Inspired by Disneyland Paris

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Last Summer, we visited Disneyland Paris and one of the things that both Natalie and I were struck by was the landscaping outside of Phantom Manor.  They had these trees that were all curly and the foliage looked like it was dying and twisted.  A little bit of digging when we got home turned up that the trees that we were seeing were most likely Harry Lauder's Walkingstick.  It was then that I started to think about contorted trees as a thing - and (potentially) a thing for our own yard.  I mentioned in this post about a contorted Larch tree that I thought it was interesting to consider adding to our yard. 
I've been giving a lot of thought to the types of trees we should be adding - and have posted about most of them.  Getting a contorted tree was tops on my list for this season. 
Well...on a recent Sunday, we took a drive out to The Growing Place in Aurora where they had their nursery set up as a 'drive through'.  You stay in your car and drive through the shrubs, p…

Vintage Chicago Bears NFC Champs and Super Bowl XX Pennants

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Earlier in March, posted a few pennants from my childhood including this 1984 Illini Rose Bowl beauty, this vintage totally 80's Epcot Center pennant and this pair of Chicago Sting ones from their time at the Rosemont Horizon.

Today comes a pair of Chicago Bears pennants from 1984 and 1985:  both featuring NFC championships.  The first one is from 1984 - the year BEFORE THE YEAR - when they (apparently) won the 1984 NFC Central Division Championship.  

Next up is this NFC Champions pennant that calls out Super Bowl XX in the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans on January 26, 1986.  But, I'm pretty sure that this one was printed AFTER they won the Conference Title game and BEFORE the Super Bowl.


These totally remind me of my childhood.  And...of course, they remind me of my dad.  The original collector in my life.

Earth Day Tree 2020 - Chanticleer Flowering Pear - Sideyard

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One of the traditions that I've enjoyed keeping up with each year with our kids is the annual Earth Day planting of a tree in our yard.  We started with one - a Dawn Redwood in 2017 - that we planted in our new lot while our house was being built.  This was a few months before the construction was going to be done.  
The next year - 2018 - we planted three Earth Day trees. One for each kid.  We did a weeping cherry (that we lost), a Red Maple Sun Valley tree that we planted all the way in the back and a flowering pear tree that we planted on the south fence line.  Those two have survived since then, but they were VERY small trees.  I wasn't measuring them at the time, but when I measured them in January of this year (which would have made these 1.75 years *in the ground* at our house), the maple was just .87" caliper and the Chanticleer Pear was up to 1.20".   They were similar when we put them in, so guess it was something like .65" or .70" when purchased…

Orange Double Late Tulips Blooming - Front Beds - April 2020

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The Orange Double Late Tulip bulbs that I planted in the Fall of 2018 have sprung up and are in bloom while the red-ish Crystal Beauty Fringed Pink Tulips that were planted at the same time haven't flowered at all.  I planted 25 of each at the same time and last year they bloomed (for the first time) at the same time.  You can see that post showing the flowers here.  I count either 23 or 24 of the initial 25 have bloomed this year, so that's a nice year-two-rate.

This is the only pop of color that we have in the front yard beds and it comes in early Spring.  Nat was just telling me that she wishes we had more color in the front yard, so that's something we'll have to work on.

I posted a photo of these tulips in early March emerging from the mulch.  And, this is the same section that I've covered in the past about trying to 'balance' out the colors by adding yellow to the mix.  I didn't get around to buying bulbs last Fall, but it will be on my list thi…

2020 - First Mow

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I broke out the mower and hit the (entire) front yard including the parkway and *just* the high spots (thanks, Lizzie) in the back yesterday with my first mow of the season.  I mulched it, but with all the little debris on the lawn, the next time, I might bag it to see what I can get up before the grass grows too quickly this Spring.

So far, I'm seeing some good green-up and what appears to be a healthy lawn.  The biosolids on the parkway haven't worked their magic just yet, so it remains to be seen if I can replicate the success we had with the test patch

My goal for the coming week(s) is to get the Automower boundary wire reset and get it going on the backyard with the new configuration.

Japanese Style Pull-Cut Folding Pruning Saw - Added in Spring 2020

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It took a little bit over a year, but I now have this folding pruning saw in my yard and garden toolset.  Last March, I shared a photo of a Fiskars folding pruning saw that I saw at Walmart and realized that I could put it to good use.

We have plenty of limbs that fall from the trees in our yard that are too big to 'crack' but too small to pile up and process with a more formal saw.  Couple that dynamic with the fact that I don't own a chainsaw and you'll start to understand how I could use this saw.

Look at the pile of limbs from that large downed Oak limb in this post for the type of cuts that I'd use this saw for in our yard.

Here's a look at the saw below - out of the package:


The back of the package includes an interesting nugget in terms of what this saw is applicable for:  wood, plastic and BONE (up to 4").  Bone, people!


I haven't been great about keeping all my garden tools in one spot - in a way that makes them easy to turn to when I'm p…

New Mulch Beds - Northside Behind Oak Tree Swing

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Yesterday, I shared a video of our twelve yard mulch delivery and my plans to spread it around our property as part of my (new) social distancing project plans.  One of the areas that I mentioned in that post as a 'net new' bed was in the area by our tree swing - what I've billed as "Priority Area 2" earlier this Spring.  Here's a new look at that area from our bedroom (zoomed in) that shows how I've take what was once a mulch island (just a ring of mulch around that big Oak) to more of a continuous bed.


I took the tree ring - that you can mostly still see and extended the bed all the way to the right where one of our large Chanticleer Pear trees is located.  And to the left, I created a whole new bed that was a mix of thin grass, weeds and, frankly...leaf mulch. 

Have a look at this post - featuring that River Birch behind the Oak tree - to see what I'm talking about.  This area was some grass, some weeds and never really defined in any way.  There is…

12 Steaming Yards of Hardwood Fine Mulch Delivered - Spring 2020

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Recently, we had twelve steaming yards of hardwood fines mulch delivered to our driveway from Best Firewood and Mulch - the same folks who deliver our firewood.  That's the delivery in the video at the top of this post showing the driver doing a little bit of 'jiggling' with his lifted bed to get all of the mulch to drop. 

Nine years ago, I posted a similar video of ten yards of mulch that was dropped on our old driveway.  You can watch that video here.  This new mulch is destined for the beds that I pointed out in my recent garden tour post and will fill in the spots between the front (where we're doing the cocoa bean hull mulch) and the far back (where I've been doing the wood chips from the Village).

I have a seven cubic yard cart (wheelbarrow...but not a traditional wheelbarrow).  There are 27 cubic feet in a yard.  Let's figure that it takes four carts to get that yard.  Twelve x four per yard = 48 carts lugged into the back and side yard.  There are som…

Topdressing With Biosolids On Parkway - April 2020

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Based on the results of the test patch in our backyard where I applied 5 gallons of biosolids to our turf, I've decided to move ahead with the application in front.  I'm starting with our parkway.  #9 on my 2020 to do list was to continue to work the turf in front and, in particular, improve the condition of the parkway grass to match the main lawn.  Topdressing with these biosolids is step 1 in that process.  Prior to the application, I used my new thatch rake and removed as much thatch as I could get up.  Last Fall, I also did some limited core aeration on this section, so I'm hoping that I've set it up for success this growing season. 

Down near the curb the area has been compacted a bit, so I might be looking at amending that soil a couple of times as the grass grows and can retain the organic material. 

Of note, I think this time of year (early Spring) is a good time to deal with biosolids on smell alone.  There isn't a ton of time spent out in the yard right…

Floating Mulch Solution: Installing A Small Retaining Ledge

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Our front yard is pitched from the house down to the street.  There's a significant grade difference between where our house sits and the curb such that our yard is on a slope and parts of our parkway are on a pretty severe slope.  But, so, too, are the beds in front and on side of our front porch.  You can kind of see/appreciate the grade difference in the photo above in this post.

This is a profile view of the area that you can see in the photo on this tulip post from last year.  In that photo/post, you can see how the grade from about halfway back on the house all the way to the front of this bed is downhill.  But, it also slopes away from the foundation, too.

This area is where I get the most erosion in any of the beds around our property.  We get rainwater erosion and plenty of floating mulch.  A couple of times a year, I break out the rake and pull the mulch back into the bed.

Here's a post showing all the mulch in place.  If you look at the white boards on the skirt of …

Adding Boxwoods On Corner Of Our Patio?

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In the latest Garden Design email that went out last week, I saw a photo of a patio that was beautiful.  But, also gave me a little bit of wondering as to what we can do with our current patio.  Oh, you're not getting the Garden Design email?  Head here and subscribe.  It is free and - for me - is the email newsletter that I read and click on everytime it arrives.  No skimming for me.

In the newsletter, she linked to this story about outdoor living space and included this photo of someone's dreamy patio that faces what look the marshland that borders the Cloister at Sea Island. 

Here's that photo with a couple of MY red circles calling attention to something:

In those two red rings, I've highlighted some patio-border shrubbery.  What I think are probably boxwoods or yews or something similar.  The oval on the right snows a patio corner installation that I want to focus on here.  Now...that looks like something of a 'plunge pool' there on the patio, so the (let&…

Lawn Lime - Application #1 - Spring 2020

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Our Home Depot is doing curbside pickup with online orders, so I put through an order for some lawn care products including pelletized lawn lime and (wait for it....) ten bags of Milorganite.  Yeah...it seems like they've figured out their supply chain issues this year?  Our local Home Depot is showing over 600 bags in inventory right now.  Based on my 2020 plan, I need 18 bags for the season, so perhaps I should buy the balance and store them (hoard them) for a few months. 

Also, based on the 2020 lawn plan, I outlined a 4 bag application of lawn lime to the back in Mid-April.  You can't get any *more* Mid-April than April 15th, right?  That's a bag of the stuff from Home Depot (curbside FTW.) in the Chapin spreader that I was sent last Fall. 

Mark it down.  Lawn lime applied.    #5 on the 2020 to-do list was to continue to wage battle against the Wild Onions.  This lawn lime is *supposed* to help do just that.    I'm going to go at the lawn with a small spade to rem…

Quarantine Pizza Making - Quasi-Chicago Thin

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One of the things that I've been doing in quarantine is honing a new pizza dough recipe - something that is close to a Chicago Thin.  I first posted about a Chicago thin formulation four years ago in February of 2016, but I haven't really been happy with it over the years.  I've settled into a dough formulation that I'm starting to hone in on that makes a 12" pie.

The resulting dough is sexy.  Like it is soft and supple.  It includes butter AND oil, which I think is part of the reasoning for how the dough feels.  I also don't use any pan lube in this recipe, which is a first for me.

You can see the finished product above - featuring a mozz/cheddar blend and these thick-cut Old World Roundy's pepperoni via Mariano's via Instacart.  I just kind of wandered into them and now love them.

Below, you can see the upskirt.  Or...undercarriage if you will.


I've been baking the pies at between 400 and 450 degrees with the 'convection' *on*.  Been sau…

More Flower Seeds To Sow Indoors - April 2020

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From their Grammy, the kids received these six packages of flower seeds as part of the effort to keep the kids occupied while being home during their social distancing period.  I showed recently that some of the Cut and Come Again Zinnias had germinated and mentioned that we didn't plant all the cells with Zinnias.

That's where these seeds come in:  the kids are choosing from these six varieties to plant the balance of their little greenhouses.

The six seed sets they are choosing from include:

1.  Butterfly Wildflower Mix - North American Mixture.
2.  Forget Me Not - Cynoglossum Blue.
3.  Shasta Daisy.
4.  Marigold Sparky Mixed Colors - Heirloom variety.
5.  Four O'Clock 'Fairy Trumpets' - Mirabilis longiflora.
6.  Night Phlox 'Midnight Candy' - Zaluzianskya capensis.

The one that I'm most drawn to are the Four O'Clock 'Fairy Trumpets' from Select Seeds.  From their product page, they talk about the historical significance of this annual - …

A Look Around The Yard - April 2020

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I wanted to take and share some photos in the [garden diary] here so I can look at the development of the shrubs and perennials in our yard.  I've already posted images of a few things including our Saucer Magnolia, Dappled Willow (treeform), front-yard Cleveland Pear, some of our lilac buds, how we've added some wood chips to the far back and biosolids in testing and most recently, posted both hostas and peonies coming thru the mulch

Here's a few items that I've covered over the years.  This is what they're looking like in mid-April, 2020.

Starting with the northside Rhododendron.  This was put in the bed in 2018 and didn't flower last year.  Buds game looks strong this year.  This is the one plant that I applied Wilt-Pruf this Winter


In the bed outside the screened porch, I planted a solitary Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass a couple of years back.  We should add more here, I think.  I trimmed last year's growth off in March and this year's growth…