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Showing posts from 2021

Another Firewood Rack Built - Firepit Area - Spring 2021

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Last Summer, I built a few firewood racks in our yard based on scrap wood that I scavenged from our neighbor's dumpster.  I put two of them next to the house and loaded them with bought firewood .  And, I built an additional one back by where our fire pit is located and loaded it with scavenged Ash firewood .  Last Fall, I also acquired even more firewood from a neighbor and ended up stacking that on a couple of two-by-fours with the hope of being able to process it this Spring.   With my brand new battery-powered chainsaw ( gloves here) , I began to cut down SOME of the larger pieces to get em into a spot where I can process the rounds.  That started, but I didn't get it all done.   As part of my Spring-time " order of operations " list, we're going to be expanding our beds.  In order to do that properly, I needed to move that existing pile of Ash rounds to a new spot.  Hence, the creation of a new firewood rack.  I built this one out of leftover lumber that I

Springtime Garden Relief: Our Dawn Redwood Is Budding Out - April 2021

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I've been worrying about our Dawn Redwood tree for the past four weeks.  I use the traditional fingernail scrape method on tree bark to see if trees are healthy and showing green right under the bark.  Our Dawn Redwood tree seemed to be very slow to start this Spring.  I was seeing other trees have buds set and begin to leaf out in some ways while this tree was seemingly stuck in neutral.  Making matters worse, my fingernail test wasn't showing any green on the trunk.  It wasn't brown.  And the limbs weren't cracking.  But, I wasn't seeing green like I was on our other young trees.   But, I don't have a Spring 2020 post in the garden diary here to show WHEN this tree needle'd out, so that gave me concern.  What was making me relax (a bit) was this post from 2019 when I show it being 'needle'd out' in early June of 2019 .  So, imagine my delight (and, frankly RELIEF!) when I walked out in the backyard and noticed the buds swelling and showing off

Garden Diary - Where to Plant Tulip Bulbs in Front Yard - April 2021

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The tulip bulbs that I planted last Fall in the front yard ( I planted 57 of them last Fall ) have really come up this Spring.  I'll take a proper photo of all of them - from the front - when they are all flowering.  But, for now, I wanted to document the location of the bulbs and where I can add even more this Fall.  From the front porch, this is the view of the stand of tulips around the Norway Maple tree: I wanted to post this on the blog in the Garden Diary so I remember WHERE to plant this Fall's bulbs to really fill in this area with tulips - so I circled these areas in the photo below.  I can see surrounding this tree with even more bulbs. I've posted about these tulips this Spring - first when they came up .  And then again, when they were covered in snow .  

All Gold Japanese Forest Grasses Remerge - First Spring - April 2021

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This post is another in the series of documenting the Spring re-emergence of the various plants that I bought at last Fall's Morton Arboretum Plant Sale.  I first shared photos of the trio of Twinkle Toes Lungwort that emerged first in mid-March.  Yesterday, I posted some photos of the Chocoholic Black Snakeroot that has some lovely lacy leaves that are standing on top of purple stems in this first Spring.   Today, I'm posting a photo (below) about the All Gold Japanese Forest Grasses that I planted in the backyard around the Tree Swing Oak tree.  Formally named Hakonechloa macra "All Gold", there are six of these planted (mostly) in a drift between the tree and the fenceline interplanted with some hostas. Here's one of them peeking thru the mulch (and the wood chips that I added in late Fall): In the photo below, you can see where these six are planted - currently mixed in with some of the tulip bulbs that I planted last Fall. It is hard to tell (exactly) wher

Black Chocoholic Snakeroot - Back for First Spring - April 2021

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One of the many plants that I bought at last Fall's plant sale at the Morton Arboretum was one (yes...I know.... it was a mistake to buy just one ) of these Chocoholic Black Snakeroot plants .  It is a shade plant and gets between four and five feet tall and 2.5' to 3' wide.  So, I planted it in a spot near the fence, thinking it could be one of the 'back' pieces of a layer puzzle where our plan calls for some shade-oriented hydrangeas.  Last fall, it has these beautiful white flowers on some long stalks, so I was hopeful when I bought it that it would add some new drama to this side of the yard.   Well, this Spring brings good news that this plant has come back for the first full season.  That makes the Morton Arboretum Plant Sale plants 2-for-2.  The Twinkle Toes Lungwort popped up a couple weeks ago and today, it is even flowering.  Note to self:  I should take some current photos.   Here's what the Chocoholic Black Snakeroot looks like today below.  Some pu

Troubled Chanticleer Pear Tree Back on Schedule - April 2021

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Back in 2017, we had a large (3" plus caliper) Chanticleer Pear tree planted in our front yard - adjacent to our garage and driveway.  That tree died in year one and was replaced.  The replacement tree suffered the same way, but it took me close to a year to figure out that the problem was water - but not drought.  It was OVERwatering and the tree was drowning.   I worked the hole and tried to break through the clay bowl, but the tree has never been right. In 2018, it flowered in November .  Weird, right?    I last covered this tree in April of last year when it was showing just a couple of flower buds .  It leaf'd out just a little bit last year and I assumed that it was a goner this Spring. So much so, that I planted another , second tree in the shadow of this one with the thinking that I'd get a half-year head start with the new tree when the time came to chop down this pear.  That tree was this very thin Red Fox Katsura tree that I planted "between two driveways&

Saucer Magnolia Tree Blooming in Northern Illinois - April 2021

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Our front yard, multi-stem Saucer Magnolia tree is in full bloom this week and it is putting on quite a show.  We had this tree planted in Summer of 2017 and have seen it bloom in 2018 , 2020 and now (for the 3rd time) 2021.  Despite the hard, cold Winter and the late frost(s) this Spring, the flower buds persisted and began to unfurl during the first week of April.  Below, you can see one of the flower buds as it began to open up: This flowering tree (this year) is timed with our 1.5 Flowering Pear trees and the emergence of our tulip bulbs.  It is (this year), not flowering at the same time as our Cherry Blossom tree in the backyard - which is really behind this Magnolia.

They're Back - Wild Onion Removal - April 2021

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Everyone has a landscape enemy.  For some, it is Creeping Charlie or Clover.  For others, it is Garlic Mustard Weed.  For others, it is Wild Violets or Plantain Weeds.   Or Nutsedge.  Or Purslane.  I have ALL OF THOSE.  But, they're not my enemy.   I have one weed that bothers me more than any other.  Because it is both everywhere and nowhere.  And I have so much trouble removing.   It is the Wild Onion .   And I've been on a multi-year crusade to eradicate it from my yard.  Yet, I can't tell if I'm winning the battle.  Here - below - is the very latest of the scourge that I yanked out of the backyard. I have - so far - filled up a five gallon bucket of these Wild Onion bulbs and A LOT of soil that came out when I yank'ed them out.   I've been at this for (now) three seasons.  Started in 2019 when I started to pull them out .  Then, I went at it again last year with remova l. I've also tried to chemically alter the soil by applying Pelletized Lime over the

Mailbox Post - Small Gardening Tool Storage Idea - March 2021

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I was in the Menards garden center recently and came across this rack that had four mailbox posts laying on it that had my gears turning a little bit.  Turning about what?  Well, that would be #11 on my 2021 to-do list for the season :   "Figure out SMALL tool storage - like pruners, saws, gloves, hand shovels, hose washers, other smalls." Could a mailbox post and a large, metal mailbox be the solve? I've danced around various tool storage ideas and have not settled on something that I'm in love with in terms of location, size, type, utility for gardening tool storage.  But, a mailbox solves A LOT of what I'm facing:  it is weatherproof, it closes and some of the larger ones can hold a lot of things like saws, shovels, gloves, even wire and automower supplies.  I currently keep everything in the garage, but that means that when I need them, I have to out front, grab them, then come back and do the work.   This would put my most-essential tools right on hand IN the

Inherited Daffodils - Finally Bloomed - April 2021

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I've written about a patch of volunteer (I should have called them "inherited") Daffodils that live under the Northern Red Oak tree back in 2018 when I speculated that they were (indeed) daffodils .  But, that they never actually flowered for me since we lived here.  This patch of green shoots comes up every Spring.  There are like 16 distinct patches that sit in between the fence and the large Northern Red Oak tree that have put green shoots up that have an onion-like look and smell.   I've wondered WHY they haven't bloomed - could it be that they are too old? Or not enough light?  I haven't removed the foliage of these in previous Spring seasons in the hope that they'll collect enough energy to put off blooms the following year.   But this year?  We have *some* flowers.  Have a look at the photo below showing off some yellow flowers.  Pretty great!  Not all of them are even showing buds, but we'll get a few more this season, I think: This spot is a

2020 Disneyland Resort Pins From Disney Outlet - The Lost Year

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Back in March, the folks at Disney announced they were closing some of their stores as their business continues to transition to e-commerce.  That has only surely accelerated due to the pandemic.  One of those stores that was on the list of closures was near us - up in Rosemont.  Turns out, it is an outlet store.  And, I didn't know this, but Nat did (because she's been there a few times), they carry quite a bit of Disney Parks merchandise.  In particular, they carry Disneyland Park merchandise that has cycled through the park and ends up here - at the outlet with discounted prices.  Kinda neat.   With outlet prices coupled with the store closing, Nat went up there and picked up a bunch of clothes for the kids.  And, she came home with two things for me.  2020 Disneyland Park pins.  Disneyland was closed for nine of the twelve months of 2020, so it is no surprise that 2020 merchandise ended up at the outlet, right? The pins were marked $3.99 and - as you can see below - one ha

New Backyard Beds Step 1: Automower Wire Removed

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Back in March, I decided that one of the projects that we wanted to take on this season was the creation of clean, new, swooping bed edges in our backyard.  And, in order to figure out what I needed to do - and by who - I created a simple order of operations list of the steps as I see them . Step one:  pick up the Automower boundary and guide wire that rings the perimeter of our backyard.  I started on that project recently and have made some progress.  Here, below, is about 40% of the backyard boundary wire that I've pulled up out of the grass and collected the spikes that hold it in place. This set of wire is littered with those little pigtail plugs that connect the wire in various places that it has severed over the years.  This section of the wire has been picked up and reset various times over the years, so it wasn't that hard to pull up.  There are other parts (the remaining 60%) that hasn't moved since I put it in initially back in 2017, so it is buried in the thatch

17 Years of Blogging - Web Publishing Anniversary

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I suppose it is more like seventeen years and seven weeks.  I seem to have missed chronicling the 17 year mark of publishing the Web here on the blog back in February.  February 16, 2004 was my very first post on my Weblog that traveled from JoinTomCross to RhodesSchool to JakeParrillo.  But, thankfully (lol), I've brought over all of those posts to this one place online.  Seventeen years is a long time for anything. For me, it is 40% of my life.  I fell in love with the Web back in 2004 and haven't looked back.  But, plenty of you others have moved on - to other platforms and other tools.  But for me, there's a lot of joy to be putting my fingers to the keyboard and everyday: " Show up, sit down and type. " That exercise - writing something, every day, is because I fear atrophy.  As I've reached my 40's, I realize (painfully so) that my body is atrophy'ing.  But, my mind?  And the idea of creating?  I can fight that off by pushing "publish"

Dorianell's Cake Shop - Back of the Yards Chicago

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That's a photo of Dorianell's Cake Shop - once located at 1114 W 51st Street, Chicago, IL 60609.  It was in the Back of the Yards neighborhood, just a few blocks west and one block north of Sherman Park on Racine and Garfield. My sister Vic sent that photo to me.  And it is the first time that I'ver ever seen it.   That's where my Mom grew up.  Upstairs.  And that's her dad's bakery on the first floor.  I've heard a lot about "the bakery", but I never knew it had a name.  Nor what it looked like. Turns out, it isn't *just* a bakery; it is a "cake shop". I can't totally explain it, but this photo makes me really happy.  It also gives me so many ideas and thoughts.    I've talked about what the sign and exterior would look like if I ever did a spot of my own.  I guess I've found the name for my pizza place .  (I'm not doing a pizza place.) The name of the place?  Dorianell's?  That's a combination of my Mom and

Chainsaw Safety Gloves - For Beginners

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Back at Christmas, I received a new, battery-powered chainsaw.  My first chainsaw.  (Is that a thing?) I'm a total newb with a chainsaw and, frankly, pretty hesitant with it that I haven't even taken it out to use it just yet.  I need to, but I'm playing it safe.  To that end, one of the things that I've added to my program are these gloves.   Will they keep my fingers from being lop'd off?  I'm not sure.  Can they hurt?  Not a chance. 

Ricotta on Bar Pizza - Post Bake - April 2021

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Yesterday I shared some of my Bar Pie progress shots and talked about pockmarks and what-have-you.  As part of this journey, I've been thinking about some of what Adam Kuban called "stunt pizzas" during the class I took with him earlier this year.  One of the pizzas that I've had in the back of my mind is this shot I posted on the blog back in 2015 .  It has a ricotta that I'm pretty sure is added post-bake.  And that's what I did recently; my first time with post-bake ricotta. Chellino Ricotta to be exact. I'll be working this stunt pizza out a little bit more because I think it has some promise.  'Roni cups, post-bake ricotta, basil and Mike's Hot Honey.  Just like the Spicy Bear from 2015 .  Well, almost like that.

More Bar Pie Progress - April 2021

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We are right in the midst of gardening season and that (usually) means that pizza season begins to head towards a downswing.  But, that doesn't mean that I haven't made some real progress with my bar pizza work.  Back a month ago (beginning of March), I posted how I was able to achieve some of the pockmarking that I was after and today I'm sharing a couple more progress photos.  I'm happy with the way this basic cheese came out, but I used a little bit too much traditional cheddar (didn't have white) around the ring. In the month of March, I also started to take my bar pizza act on the road and baked off a couple of road pies including this pepperoni 12-incher that was (maybe??) the best bar pie that I've made to date. It was (below) crispy and well done and the undercarriage showed the right bit of char/doneness while the top came along just about where I want the final product.  Of note, the oven I used for this one has NO convection function, but does go to

Limelight Hydrangeas - Early Spring Pruning - Before and After - April 2021

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We have a pair of Limelight Hydrangeas that are set just to the south of the front edge of our front porch.  They're kind of tucked on the side of the house - right at the 'wrap-around' section of the 'wrap around porch'.  They've done remarkably well - better than other hydrangeas we have right in front of the porch.   They throw off A LOT of green during the Summer.  Here's what they looked like in July of 2020 .  And what they looked like in the previous October showing off all the blooms drying out . I've always been confused about pruning hydrangeas.  Do they bloom on new wood?  Old wood?  Do you prune them to the ground?  Do you prune them back to buds?  Two buds?   Last year, I confirmed (to myself) that Limelight Hydrangeas bloom on 'new wood' .  Which means, I can prune them back pretty hard and they'll still flower.  Here's what they looked like last Spring after a prune and recovered with new green growth .  You can see that I

First Spring - Sally's Shell Hellebores - March 2021

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Last Spring, while the world was pretty well shut down, The Growing Place nursery got creative and held a 'drive thru' shopping experience.  You couldn't get out of your cars, but you could drive thru the areas with the plants, shout out to the staff who would grab something for you and toss it in your trunk.  We ended up buying a few things that were part of our plan (Summer Beauty Allium) and some that weren't ( Harry Lauder's Walking Stick contorted tree ), but were things we wanted.  One of the other items we bought was our first Lenten Rose (or Hellebores).  We picked a Sally's Shell and planted it in Spring .  It was flowering when we bought it and I was careful to watch it all Summer. Notice, I said "a" Sally's Shell.  Which, upon reflection, is a very common gardening mistake:  buying just one of something .   Our plan has a couple of spots that call for drifts of Hellebores - and one of them is this season's "Priority Area #2&quo

Wire Damage - Pre-Bonsai Trailing Juniper - March 2021

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 Back in October of 2020, I posted some photos showing a juniper cultivar that I have kept in a large patio container for the past few seasons and talked about how I had wrapped some wire around some of the limbs as I began to learn how to bonsai the past few seasons.  I overwintered this container both inside the screened porch and then, due to A LOT of fungus gnats, ended up moving it back outside. This is the same juniper that I posted snow-covered back in February that really got my brain going on bonsai for 2021, so when the snow melted, I immediately went and looked at the state of the tree.  And, it turns out, the wire that I wrapped on the tree (either in 2020 or 2019) was on far too long and too tight.  Because there's quite a bit of wire damage.  You can see it below, but it was on their so long that it was difficult to remove as the tree began to grow AROUND the wire. This is a tree that I'll move work pretty hard this year ( it is #2 on my 2021 Bonsai to-do list  a

Epcot World Showcase Disney Trading Pin - Spring 2021

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Earlier this month, the fine folks at Disney Imagineering shared even more details of the newly refreshed entrance to Epcot that includes the original fountain, some cool ribbon lighting and a series of flagpoles that are flying flags featuring the original symbols of Epcot .  Seems like it is a lot of "back to the beginnings" for Epcot in terms of the entrance and I'm here for it.    In our pin trading, we've collected a series of the Epcot pavilion symbol pins, but there's one that we just came across that was new to us.  It is what you see below:  Now, we can certainly have a conversation about *if* this is scrapper (and it might be), but that's not what I'm here to post about.  It is about the fact that, based on THIS pin, I just learned that the World Showcase had/has a symbol that was in harmony with all the other ones that I was familiar with over the years.  What is interesting is that this story on D23 (the official fan club for Disney) doesn'

First Spring - Porch Flowering Pear Tree - March 2021

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Last Spring, our neighbors to the north began framing their house and once the window placements were set, I came to the realization that our row of Frans Fontaine Hornbeam trees were doing a pretty great job of screening between our houses.  But, there was an edge spot - closer to the front of the house - that was going to be exposed to one of their new windows.  So, on Earth Day 2020, we decided to plant a columnar flowering pear tree (yeah...I know.  they're not great trees.  But, I needed to put in something that was inexpensive, narrow in habit and, ummm, fast growing.  The Chanticleer Pear tree fit the bill . When I planted it , the tip top of the tree was right at the fence level.  But, by the time Fall came around , it had put on more than 18" to the top.  Have a peek at it in October of last year .   The tree was beginning to do its job.   I've had mixed luck with these trees.  I had a large (3"+ caliper) planted in our front yard in 2017.  It died that firs

Summer Beauty Allium - Spring Emergence - March 2021

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 Last year, I planted (in two sets) twelve Summer Beauty Ornamental Onion (Allium) on the south side of our backyard in two different spots.  First, I put in four underneath one of the Espalier'd Lindens , then seven more further down (and one more by the Lindens) all in a cluster that will, hopefully, grow up and out into a nice drift of alliums.  This is my first Spring with them and I'm happy to see that they're showing a lot of nice, new green growth coming out of the ground and seem to be one of the first movers of the season.   My count shows that all twelve are (right now) showing signs of life, so I'm thinking they all are coming back.   I threw down some wood chips on top of these to shelter them from the cold last Fall and I'm thinking these might have helped in some way.  But, they sure take on a messy look once Spring comes, don't they?  Have a look at three of these Allium covered with Fall wood chips below.  These need a new, fresh coat of hardwoo

Dwarf Umbrella Plant Top Prune - March 2021

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About a month ago, I decided to take a dwarf umbrella plant that was mostly forgotten about upstairs in our spare bedroom and transplant it to a different container .  The goal was to straighten it out - and get it standing straight up in the air.  But, also to try to compel some new growth through some top pruning.  It wasn't long before that initial care that one or two tiny buds began to pop from the trunk .  But, they didn't take off.  Checking back in this week - about a month from that initial top prune - and you can see (below) that the tree is showing some new top growth right at the point of cutting.  There are a couple of smaller branches growing and the light green, larger branch: As for the trunk buds, they're continuing to exist, but not breaking much in terms of throwing off new branches.  You can see one of them on the left side of the trunk below: That one (and another one) appeared right after I did that initial top prune.  So...you're thinking the same

Maidenhair Fern - First Month - March 2021

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Just about one month in and (knock wood), our Maidenhair Fern is still green.  And, showing some signs of growth in terms of width and height.  Here is the post showing off this delicate fern that we brought home in late February and have been careful to keep happy. I have a couple of brown tips, but also new growth.  Thus, a mixed bag so far after one month.   If you poke around the Web just a bit, you'll find people talking about how difficult these ferns are to take care of as indoor plants.  And, while I'm certainly no pro, it seems like the key for this fern (SO FAR) is to keep it mostly watered.  For me, that means a couple of times per week.  And a good soaking in terms of watering.  I place the pot in our sink and soak it pretty good - letting the water run out the bottom for a bit before putting it back into the little plastic tray.   Once the warm days of April begin to appear, I'm going to plan on putting some of our containers out for little parts of the day to

Order of Operations - Spring Beds, Transplants, Locations and Mulch

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Yesterday, I shared a post talking about the concept of creating curvilinear flower beds in landscape design and how one of my initial backyard projects is to move towards a final shape with our beds.  That requires us to carve up a bunch of the current lawn and creating new beds that jut out into the grass.  But, before I can even begin to think about how to make those swoop'ing, curved beds, there is some thinking that I have to do in in order to get both ready for the days of sod removal AND what has to happen AFTER the creation of the new beds to get them ready and dressed for the season.   To arrange my thinking - and to pressure test on what I want to do - I thought I'd create an individual (for me) order of operations document that details the steps in the order I need to take in order to make this all work.  So, let's go. 1.  Remove our Automower wire.   Around the entire perimeter of our backyard, we have a low-voltage green wire buried about 3" or so from th

Learning The Ways of Curvilinear Bed Design - March 2021

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I've talked and talked and talked about our backyard landscape plan on the blog over the years and I've made a lot of progress towards realizing the vision laid out there.  But, because I'm doing things myself, my best laid plans don't always work out.  And, one of the ways where I've been having trouble is in laying out the beds in the back.  You look at these ideal woodland gardens and any backyard garden of note, one of the things that you often see are beautiful, graceful, swooping curves that mark the edges of the beds .   In poking around the Web, I found this post from Sue at Not Another Gardening Blog that was part of her " Good Lines Mean Good Designs " series titled: Curves Wonderful Curves .  Those posts are almost ten years old, but they're just as valid as today.  And, for a beginner gardener like me?  They are *just* what I needed for where I am on my gardening journey right NOW. In the  post , Sue introduces (to me) Curviliear Form for

A Staghorn Fern - Our Indoor Container Garden - March 2021

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If you ask me what my favorite plant type is, I'll answer by talking about ferns.  They're my favorite plant type to grow.  When I talk about ferns, I mostly talk about my love for outdoor, perennial ferns.  Ostrich Ferns were my gateway drug .  We have others, now.  Like Japanese Painted ferns .  A Lady Fern that I planted last year .  And a big, happy unknown cultivar "teardown" fern deep in the yard .  We plant Foxtail ferns what seems like every year. Nat also keeps a big Boston (I think) fern on our front porch during the Summer and we've tried to overwinter it upstairs.  It has lost a LOT of leaves/fronds, but there's still a lot of green, so maybe it will come thru. I also added an indoor fern this Winter when I bought my first Maidenhair Fern .  What is supposed to be a finicky fern has - so far at least - been ok for me. I keep it pretty well watered and thus far, it hasn't shown much stress.   But, for a few years now, there's been another ty