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Showing posts from July, 2020

Found Paver Walkway - Behind Yew Hedge - July 2020

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We have an easement behind our property that buffers us from the neighbors to the West.  In that easement we keep our 3-bin compost setup and left most of the rest of it to 'go natural'.  The easement runs the entire block and connects the big pond on the south of our neighborhood to territories to the north, so we've seen critters of all types using the easement to navigate.

Recently, our neighbors to the West decided to clean up the easement - and it seems that the folks that they hired to clean the place up also worked our side.  They removed a lot of Buckthorn, trimmed up some of the more valuable trees (think Maples and Walnuts) and picked up a bunch of debris that has appeared over the years.

They also uncovered a bunch of stones and pavers.  And, (lucky for us) stacked a whole bunch of them up right outside our fence gate.  There are flagstones of various sizes, but also five round pavers and eight square pavers.  These have 'pebbles' embedded in the top of…

Dawn Redwood - Summer 2020 Update

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It isn't super easy to glean from the photo above, but that is our Dawn Redwood tree that seems to be doing well - again - this Summer.  The last time I shared a photo of this tree was last Fall when it was starting to turn colors and was beginning to drop some needles.

This tree grew three feet of height last Summer and built out quite a bit of new branching, so I had been hoping that we'd see another good season.  And, so far?  It seems to be doing ok.  I've run a soaker hose on some of the plants in this bed, including this Dawn Redwood - to make sure that it gets enough water.

I left the spade shovel in the ground next to this tree - that's a five-foot-tall shovel and gives you a sense for the height of the tree as it stands now.  I'm NOT seeing a new three-foot-tall top on the tree right now, but there *is* some new growth on the leader (or...if you will... the apical meristem).  Below is a photo of the leader.  Can you see it?


Here's an annotated version…

Summer Beauty Allium - One Month In - July 2020

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Back in the end of June, I planted eight additional Summer Beauty Ornament Onion (allium) on the south side of our property in the bed that runs from east to west.  We picked them up (or...had someone picked them up) from Hinsdale Nursery and I put seven of them in a staggered planting.  When they went in, they were just green foliage, but today - if you look at the photo at the top of this post - you'll notice that they're all flowering some lovely purple sphere-shaped flowers.  Each of them have multiple flowers, but ALL of them are leaning to the East. 

Looking at this photo, one thing that I'm noticing is that the mulch that I put down (delivered in mid-April this year) has already broken down quite a bit.  This area - and these Allium could use a mulch refresh. 

That leads me to ask a question:  do gardeners mulch twice a year?  This post recommends both a Spring and Fall mulch
You should add mulch whenever layers thin out for any reason. You’ll also want to replac…

Empress Wu Hosta Planted In Front Bed - July 2020

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A couple of weeks ago, I bought a Shadowlands Empress Wu hosta from Home Depot and didn't really have a plan for where to put it in the garden.  It was small (1 gallon nursery pot) and inexpensive ($4.99), and I knew that it was a 'large' hosta, so I grabbed it and figured I'd sort the location later.  After keeping it in the shade and keeping it watered for a while, last week, I decided to plant it in the front yard bed - out front of the large Maple tree. 

That's it in the photo above - the second from the left - in a series of hostas.  When we did our initial planting, the guys at Green Grass planted three hostas and while they've survived, I don't think that they've thrived here.   Why? I'm thinking that is because they're competing for resources with the tree?  That...or they are a miniature hosta variety. 

Planted it between a couple of them and a little bit further back - closer to the tree.  If you read that original post on the Shadowl…

DIY Disney Parks Tree Twinkle Lights Project (Part 3 - Testing)

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This is the third in a series of posts about my attempt to recreate some twinkling lights that used to be inside of Disney Parks (and...I think are still at Downtown Disney/Disney Springs).  While this project has come together in the past few weeks, this has been something that I've been thinking about for a number of years. 

For background, here's the outline of the idea from last week.  Then, a couple of days ago, I posted about the bulbs and the specific fixtures that I'm using

Now that I had the bulbs and the fixtures, I wanted to see if I could figure a way to get them going without making the investment in the larger, outdoor transformer, the run of low-voltage wire and the waterproof connections.  I wanted to see if I could get them to power up and to see how "random" they actually were.

Each of the bulbs are 4 watts.  And they run on 12v power.  I went to the Google machine and searched to see what my Lionel transformers were running at power-wise.  Tu…

Blue Jay Perched On Bird Feeder - July 2020

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This isn't a net new entry to the [bird visitor log] here on the blog as I've already documented the Blue Jay in March of 2019 here.  But, I spotted this beauty the other day hanging out by the feeders and he was showing off his blue feathers for a minute or two.  I snapped the photo above (and below) with my phone real quick before he flew off.   Above, he's showing off his full colors on his back.  Below, he's facing the house.


I dug around a little bit on the web and learned that Blue Jays are part of the Corvidae family - which is the same family as crows - that we commonly call "Corvids".

DIY Disney Parks Twinkle Light Project - Bulbs and Bases (Part 2)

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A couple of days ago, I posted the first part - in a series - about my journey to replicating some twinkling lights that Disney uses (or used to use) in their parks.  In that post, I mentioned that by reading various forum posts from the past 10+ years, I came to find the bulbs and then what I thought were the right e10 miniature lamp bases.

These are the bulbs that I bought - you can see a photo of the box above.  Looks vintage, doesn't it?  Bought 15 of them - just to have a few spare on hand.

(NOTE:  I do NOT run any affiliate links - so I'm not making any money on sending someone to any Amazon/other seller items.  So, click away...and no need to strip out any ref?/affiliate tracking codes when you buy.)

Below, is a photo of the box and some of the bulbs - quarter on the desk for size reference.


Side of the box stamped "258".


And, here, below is the package of 10 lamp bases that I bought from Amazon.'


Here, below, is a close-up photo of one of the 258 flasher…

Saucer Magnolia Tree - Summer Flowers - July 2020

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I was out cutting the grass out front this past week and noticed something colorful up in the Saucer Magnolia tree in our front yard.  I wasn't sure what it was, so I started to poke around and try to figure out what was going on.  The tree has grown quite a bit in height the past few seasons, so I can't get up to eye-level, but by pulling some of the branches out of the way, I saw what you see above:  A pink flower in the tree. 

Then I looked closer, and I saw another one:  two pink flowers that are present on this tree in the middle of Summer.


The last time that we checked in this tree was in early May when I applied a ring of Cocoa Bean mulch around the base after the flowers had bloomed this Spring.  This tree flowered this Spring after missing last year's set of blooms. 

What is this Summer bloom on our Saucer Magnolia?  I'm not sure as it has never happened before, but this forum post talks about how Saucers sometimes get a second, summertime bloom.  What I don&…

Lost: Lombardy Poplar - July 2020

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That thin tree, braced with a piece of bamboo was an inexpensive Lombardy Poplar tree that I planted this Spring.  Put in the ground in May, it immediately suffered some shock.  And, while it temporarily seemed to recover with some new green growth, it is now a lost tree.

This is the first tree that I'm marking down as 'lost' for this growing season.  At least, officially.  And...at least...with the caveat of: 'so far'.  I have three other larger trees on the 'watch list' - that didn't break dormancy this Spring.  And two of the five remaining tiny Canadian Hemlocks that have been ravaged by rabbits.   Of those five trees, ALL of them have *some* green growth on them.  But, on a few of them, it isn't very much.   Thus, they're not on the official "lost" list, but might be this year or next.

As for the official list, this Lombardy Poplar tree joins some others in the tree graveyard on Hornbeam Hill.  This is the 9th tree that has died …

DIY Beginnings: Disney Parks Tinkerbell Lights via 258 Flasher Bulbs

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When we first went to the Magic Kingdom when the Babe was very young, I remember being struck by these twinkling lights that they had in the park.  At one point, they had a bunch of trees in the 'hub' - that have all been removed so people can view the castle/projection show.  On *those* trees were these twinkling lights that they turned on at dusk.

I can't find a video of *those* lights, but I do have this one of what I think are the same lights up at Downtown Disney.


Those lights give off a little bit of a firefly vibe and are what I remember.

And, it isn't just *me* who remembers the lights, as if you put in the phrase [twinkle lights disney trees], you'll see dozens of forum posts all about buying or replicating those lights. 

I've spent the past few months wading through them and I think I've come up with an approach that I'm going to attempt to DIY here at home.

First, the bulbs and the fixtures.

Again...based on wading through the various forums,…

The Men Who Built A Waterfall - Waterfall Glen

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A few days ago, I posted about seeing an Indigo Bunting male bird in a splendid blue coat down at Waterfall Glen.  During the COVID-19 pandemic, we've tried to find time to get down to Waterfall Glen to go walking with the kids as well as dodging the crowds.  When we first went down there, they had the waterfall itself blocked off - in an attempt to keep from crowds gathering.  That was as recent as back in June.

There's now a category tag for [Waterfall Glen] here on the blog that hosts all the posts.

The photo at the top of this post is now the second post featuring a Waterfall Glen sign.  One on of our previous walks, I came across this Oak Tree identification sign and posted about it in June, too.

This sign talks about the waterfall and the "men who built it" and mentions that between 1934 and 1938, a company of men from the Civilian Conservation Corps - as part of the New Deal - were stationed up in Hinsdale at Fullersburg Woods.  It was those guys who worked a…

Lady Fern Planted - July 2020

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I recently got around to sticking the new Lady Fern in the ground in our backyard.  That's it - in the photo above - with the most  vibrant green foliage on the middle/right.  The story of how I bought this thing on a whim at Home Depot is here on the blog from a couple of weeks ago.  I took the photo here for the [garden diary] showing the location of the planting in relation to the River Birch tree.  Another way to think about the location is to take a peek at the photo above and notice the location of the River Birch and the clump of fern stems that you see in the top right.  Then, go here, and have a look at the reverse side of this from the lawn.  That post showing the 10 transplanted ferns is talks about the area where this one is located. 

The bulk of those transplanted ferns were planted to the East of the River Birch, so this Lady Fern is going to hang out to the West of the River Birch.  The plan called for "12 Ostrich Ferns" in this area.  I initially planted…

Indigo Bunting (Male) Sighting At Waterfall Glen - July 2020

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On a recent morning, we were out at Waterfall Glen - on the Waterfall side - and as I was walking back to the van in the little parking lot, I heard this bird before I saw him.  He (didn't know it was a *he* at the time) was making some noise and I looked up and with his blue coat, I couldn't miss him.  I grabbed my phone and zoomed in as best as I could and took the photo you see above.  I don't think that I've seen such a vibrant blue bird in our area, so I knew that I had to figure out who it was.

It didn't take long - just simply putting [bright blue bird northern illinois] into the Google machine and you get this featured search snippet:


I now knew what it was:  an Indigo Bunting.

So, when I got home, I turned to my bird book and quickly looked it up.  Sure enough...take a look at that photo in the book:


It is an adult male that I saw with what the book "cerulean blue" and I'm pretty confident that this is the first Indigo Bunting that I've …

Martha Stewart On Her Patio Containers: No Red Geraniums Here, People.

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There I was...watching Martha Stewart talk about gardening on a segment previewing her new show on CBS Sunday Morning when she came FOR ME.  Like...came FOR ME.



Ummm.. Hi there.



Horstmann's Recursive Larch Tree - Two Months In - July 2020

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Back in the Spring, I bought this tiny Horstmann's Recursive Contorted Larch Tree from an online nursery and planted it in the front/sideyard.  I watered it in and have been trying to baby it during the heat.  Today, posting this in the [garden diary] so I know what it looks like in the Summer of season one.  It has added some length to the tree, but due to it's weeping habit, it is hard to tell how much.  I'll add some measurements to this as I do a season-ending caliper reading later this Summer/early Fall.

I also didn't get around to adding this tree to the 'inventory', so I'm correcting that now.

This is tree #51 that I've planted and BY FAR the smallest one.

The previous one was last week when we planted the other contorted tree -the Harry Lauder's Walking Stick - which I mentioned was the "last tree" we had this year, but I stand corrected.

51 trees across four planting seasons.

(For now...) 45 of those trees still alive. 51 trees o…

Pair of Greenspire Lindens Horizontal Cordon Espalier - July 2020

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The last time I checked in on the full look of these Greenspire Linden trees was last Fall - November of 2019 - when they were heading towards dormancy.  At that time, the trees had been pruned for the year and had grown through a full growing season.  I also - at that time - was planning a different style of espalier: a candelabra.  If you go back and look at the photos in this post from November, you'll see how I was adding vertical supporters via bamboo rods AND encouraging more than 4 horizontal branches on the trunks.    The tree on the right - I had five or six horizontal branches.  And the tree on the left, I had five or six branches too. 

This past week, I went out to these trees with my bypass pruners (Alas...I don't have a pair of those sexy Niwaki Secateurs) and gave these trees their annual mid-year prune.  I normally take care of any branching that is pointing downward from the branches - and I did that this year.  But, I also made a call:  Forget the candelabra.…

Mid-July 2020 Compost Bin Look

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Sixty days or so ago, I posted some photos of our three-bin compost setup that I have back on the easement behind our property.  If you go look at the bins in Mid-May, you'll see that the 'active' bin on the left is just about filled to the top.  Earlier this Spring, I added passive aeration and then made a mix of browns/greens that I had on hand.  Today, the photo at the top shows the bins in their current state.  The active bin has compacted significantly.  And the nitrogen/green bin (in the middle) has some clumps of turf and topsoil in it.

A couple of things of note.  First, about the time of that photo in Mid-May, I added some compost starter to the pile.  And, I took a couple of bags of grass clippings off the backyard and threw them on top and mixed them in with my pitchfork in an attempt to get the ratio right for high heat.

Here, below, is a head-on photo of my active bin.  You can see some of the grass clippings in the front on top and there are a few pieces of …

Troubled Chanticleer Pear Tree - Confused And Leaf'ing Out - July 2020

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A few days ago, I posted about suckers on some trees in our backyard that were struggling and didn't leaf-out on time that included one of our Chanticleer Pear trees.  At that time, I talked about how each of these trees seemed to be healthy when they went dormant last year, but all had different issues this Spring.  One of them (the Dappled Willow) started and then shut down.  The Chanticleer Pear tree was the most strange - as it was still green (under the bark), but had some suckers show up a foot or so from the root flare. 

And, just as I posted that, I noticed some weird activity on that tree.  It seems that *some* of the branches started to leaf out.  Sparse-ly. But, you can see in the photo below that there are SOME leaves and even one white flower.


If you look at the photo above, you'll also see the sucker about a foot from the rootflare.  This is the second Chanticleer Pear tree that had trouble like this.  Our driveway tree was troubled and confused and flowered SUPE…

Long, Narrow and Double-sided: Working My New Pizza Pans

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At the beginning of COVID and the start of social distancing/stay-at-home, I saw some unique pizza pans from Lloyd's pans on Instagram and was 'influenced' (swipe up) to buy them.  These new pans are long and skinny and hold a lot of promise for me as a home pizza maker.

I've been fine-tuning my formulations on these pans over the past 60 days and have had some success.  Still plenty of work to do - as the last time I used these I had a TERRIBLE flop - but I'm seeing some good results like these below:





I've recently started to use some of our sourdough starter in the formulation.  I've consistently used a 1.5 cup of flour as the basis for the chassis.  I've historically used ADY, but over the past few weeks, I've been using three 'scoops' of our starter and just a little bit of ADY - which...we're running low on.  When I use the starter in bread doughs, I go the whole starter --> poolish --> dough.  But, in these pizza doughs, I…

Limelight Hydrangeas - Front Porch - July 2020

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The pair of Limelight Hydrangeas that sit to the south of our front porch are just about hitting their stride this season.  They're tolerating the heat and are presenting a pleasant shape and nice color. This pair has consistently performed the best of *any* of our originally installed landscaping.  I've tried to keep tabs on these over time here in the garden diary.

One year and one month ago (Early Summer 2019) - They were just getting started for the season.October of 2019 - they bloomed and were drying out. And just 45 days ago - getting started on the growing season.
This pair has put off some HUGE blooms the past few years and I've tried to tend to them with some late Winter pruning in an attempt to give them some shape. 

You'll also notice some rocks on the left of the photo.  Those are new this season and were placed there to try to control some erosion as there is a downspout pop-up located in this bed.  That plentiful source of runoff water might also be a c…

Early July Milorganite Spoon-Feeding - July 2020

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The hot, hot heat has hit the Chicago Suburbs.  We've had 90-degree temperatures for the past few weeks and it has NOT been a good environment for anything living outside - including our grass.  Lawns in our neighborhood are struggling.  Even ones with built-in irrigation.  Ours is no different.  I've been cutting it VERY LONG (setting #5 on the mower - all the way up) and watering it as frequently as I can - typically in the very early morning. 

Here's how it is looking right before I feed it the usual "4th of July" application:


It is green, thick and lush - which I'm happy with for the most part.  I'm almost 100% certain that the reason for the partial success this season is due to the tall cutting height.  I have other parts - like in the back where the Automower cuts - that are cut shorter that aren't as healthy and other parts where the grass appears to have gone dormant. 

As for the timing of this post and the lawn schedule, I'm just gettin…

Happiest of Birthdays to Our MVP - 2020

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There's a well-established pattern of a spouse using their social media presence to wish birthday greetings on their partner.  It is a nice little experience - in that one gets to express their birthday wishes and (typically), the partners share parts of the social graph, so the community of friends and contacts get to weigh in.

And while, I *have* social media profiles, I actually don't use them to post.  But, like any child-of-the-Web-who-came-of-age-online-in-the-early-aughts, I have a blog.  And, I can use that to crow about our family MVP Natalie.

I'm posting this on July 11th - which isn't her birthday.  But, like some of you, she gets the daily email that gets sent out with my posts on the following day.  So, when she reads this (or you are reading this), it will be her birthday.

Nat is the glue that keeps us together.  But, she's also leading by example for our three kids in every facet of her life.  She's the leading voice in their world on right and …

Shadowland Empress Wu Hosta - Bought July 2020

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It might be time to add coverage of my 'collecting mantra' to include plants and hostas.  You know the line that I tell myself at garage sales and estate sales.  Thanks to COVID-19, my days at garage sales and estate sales are limited.  So, too, are my trips to the Hardware Store.  But, on one of them, I did wander into the outdoor section of the garden center and saw a relatively inexpensive hosta that caught my eye.  You can see it above - and it looks totally ordinary, right?  It was just $4.99, but that's not the (only) reason I bought it.  The price was/is attractive, but the variety was the real draw here.  It is labeled as an Empress Wu Hosta.  See the tag below:



A quick trip around the Google Machine and I find something that shares the name Empress Wu, but in every instance, it is prefaced with the name Shadowland.  I went to the source - Proven Winners - because that's where the tag is from and they, too, label it Shadowland Empress Wu Hosta.  They also say …

Bottle Rocket Spiked Ligularia - Survivor Up Front - July 2020

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I don't seem to have posted about these yellow perennials in our front yard, despite them being planted before we moved into our new house back in 2017.  We started with three.  All of them didn't make it that first year and were replaced.  Today?  Just one of those replacements is still alive.  The rest of them - which are situated underneath the large Maple tree - haven't come back. 

The oldest post I can find that shows these is this one from 2018 when I can see two of the replacements still alive. 

That Maple tree - which provides some shade for this remaining Bottle Rocket Spike Ligularia is the same one that I posted about having some stress in the canopy.  I also think have a theory that the Maple tree is competing for resources with everything within it's dripline and that's one of the reasons these Ligularia haven't fared well. 

I've haven't posted any of these in the Garden Diary, but I did mention them in some of my backyard planning posts. …

Lower Trunk Growth On Seemingly Dead Trees - July 2020

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Back in April, I posted some photos of a handful of trees that appeared - at the time - to be late in terms of coming out of dormancy for the year.  They were a Chanticleer Pear tree that was planted on Earth Day 2018.  A small Red Valley Sun Maple planted the same day.  And a Crimson King Maple that I planted in 2017.  Something weird is happening with two of them.  And it is now happening with another tree.
First, the bad news.  The Crimson King Maple appears to be lost.  I'll post about it separately. 

But, let's look at the other three.  Here, below, is the Red Valley Sun Maple.  The top of the tree never broke bud.  And the limbs became dry and brittle.  But, this Summer, this growth shot out from the base of the trunk.    If the tree was healthy, I'd call these things "suckers".

They sure look like "suckers", don't they?
From this post, suckers are normally a sign of stress: Suckers are a tree’s attempt to grow more branches, often in respons…