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Showing posts from January, 2022

Toro Inspiration - Downers Garden Japanese Garden Lantern - January 2022

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I was going through some of my draft posts from earlier this Summer and I  noticed a draft post about a Japanese-inspired concrete garden object that I saw in a garden on the border of McCollum park in downers.  I thought I'd bring it up-to-date and publish it here as a marker towards some garden object-inspiration.  Here's what I saw in a garden in Downers Grove below - a short, stout object that looks like a lantern.  They are called a toro .   I've posted about being drawn toward Japanese-inspired gardening and even have a visit to Gotenyama Garden in Tokyo as inspiration where they have a large Toro (or at least that's what I *think* it is).  From that post : I also went to the Chicago Botanic Garden late this Summer to visit with a friend and colleague and while there, we tool'd around the Japanese Garden .  It was really lovely.   Here, below, is a photo I took with my phone as we walked towards the Japanese Garden section from the main entrance.  In that sam

Mugo Pine - Planted and Forgotten - January 2022

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During the past week or so, I've been poking around doing research into evergreens for this year and think about shrubs and trees that might work in certain spots of our garden.  While I was doing that, I thought that I should do some level of an informal audit on what is in place.  Of course, there are the Hicks yews (in multiple places), but also a couple of Junipers and just last year, I added a Bird's Nest Spruce that I left in the nursery container .   But, when I went out in the yard to have a look at what else there was, I realized that I planted another conifer that I failed to document in the [ garden diary ] this past fall:  a Mugo Pine.  When I was planting some of those tiny Boxwoods , I also dug in a very small Mugo Pine.  While I failed to post about the small Pine going in, I *did* mention it during my 2021 scorecard post .  While that's just fine, I do think this small conifer shrub deserves a post of its own.   What is a Mugo Pine?  From Monrovia : A popula

Northern Red Oak - Lower Leaf Marcescence - January 2022

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A note here, in the [ tree diary ] that one of our Northern Red Oak trees - the tree swing tree - is exhibiting some signs of leaf marcescence this Winter.  The leaves that are closest to the core of the trunk and along the main branches are remaining through (for now) mid-January.  

Chicago Thin Frico - Bar Pie Adaptation - January 2022

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Applying the formulation with a 51% hydration factor from last wee k and a 190 gram dough ball yielded a nice result.  Laying on a ring of Vermont White Cheddar lead to a nice frico.  Notes:  I used ZERO bench flour and was able to roll out the ball to a something close to 12".  Using Crisco as the sort of 'paste', I was able to stretch the skin out and it didn't snap back. This one has Roni cups and a heavy hand of post-oven Romano.  No baking steel involved, but I think I need to go back to putting the steel on the rack above to provide for that refractory heat in order to get the top just.right (well done).  

Lemon Star Amaryllis in Bloom - January 2022

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The Lemon Star Amaryllis bulb - that we planted in early November - sure missed the Christmas (and even New Year's) window, but it is now the real star of the show.  After the other blooms are (now) past their peak, this one is currently putting on a lovely green party in the center of our countertop.   The flowers are pretty big, but there isn't a ton of them - and they're not double-bloomed.   The other Amaryllis' that we've grown over the years have always tended towards the red/pink/maroon-type.  The Bird picked this one out because it was different.  Pretty sure it was the only green one at Wannemaker's this year.  Would recommend it to anyone - looking to do something a little more unique.    Looking back at this post from January 5th , it appears that 9 days of difference shows the growth from a closed, pointy bud on top of the stalk to having flowers on all four sides open and in bloom. There's another, lower secondary stalk with a bud emerging, so

My Belgian Fence Espalier Photo - In Mizzou Plant Sciences Piece

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Last year, I heard from someone from the University of Missouri who was writing a story about the art of espalier if they could use a photo that I took of the Belgian Fence espalier at Disneyland for inclusion in their piece on the Mizzou site.  At first, I wasn't sure *which* photo - because I've taken a bunch of them - but the one he was asking for was the second photo in this post :  the diamond-shaped one close to It's A Small World After All in Disneyland.   That story ended up getting published last year and my photo was included here: For those of you who have a little bit of interest in espalier or training trees, you should go ahead and give the story a read.  Head here to go through the full post. It is titled: " Espalier: Pruning as an Art Form " by David Trinklein - University of Missouri, Division of Plant Sciences. 

Christmas Haul: Groot Planter - January 2022

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This isn't part of *my* Christmas Haul (like the padded espalier training wire from last week), but I still wanted to post a photo of this gift that was received in our house by the Bird.  One of the things that we've done over the past year-plus is to watch ALL of the Marvel MCU movies as a family.  As part of that experience, some of the characters in the MCU have become family favorites. One of those is Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy.  The Bird (now) has some Groot shirts and even a little magnet shoulder-sitting Groot that she'll wear around .   But, when I think about all of the kids, the one that has the MOST interest in nature and plants and gardening (with me) is the Bird.  So, I'm thinking that is part of the draw to Groot:  he's organic and is plant-based.    For Christmas, we came across this set of Groot planters on Etsy and knew that she'd love them.  There are four in the total set, but you can buy just one. Note: there are A LOT of 3D-printe

Chicago Thin From Bar Pie Chassis - January 2022

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For the better part of 2021, I have been making (exclusively) Bar Pies at home to the exclusion of just about any other type of pizza.  I've made the occasional Detroit-style, but for the most part, it has been 12" round Bar Pies for 10+ months .  However, Bar Pies have a specific provenance - that of the east coast.  New Jersey.  Massachusetts.  Those places make "Bar Pie".  What do we make in Chicago?  Something called Tavern pizza.  Or Tavern-style pizza.  Or, just Chicago Thin Crust.   Bar Pie isn't too far from Chicago Thin, but it is a bit different.  So, I've decided that 2022 is going to be my Chicago Thin/Bar Pie hybrid year.  My maiden voyage down this path was this past weekend when I took a Chicago Thin recipe that I found on YouTube , modified it to be a little bit *more* like my base Bar Pie formulation in some ways, dropped the hydration down a bit and then, finally did a couple of downsizing from a 14" formulation to a 12"-based cha

2022 Garden Trends And Cerulean Sweaters - January 2022

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What do they say about being 'on trend'?  Something like....if you stick to something LONG ENOUGH, it will eventually come back to being 'on trend'.  Like clothes.  If you loved wearing flannel shirts and Doc Martin boots back in the 1990's and you kept wearing them ever since?  Good news.  You're back on trend twenty-plus years later. With that idea, I suppose it is worth thinking about trends in gardening.  I've posted about trends in the past - here's a 2019 post about how gabion-style walls were on trend that year .  And in 2020 how creating little 'nooks ' was on trend.  There are various times when trends in gardening come out.  The first is typically during the Chelsea Flower show that takes place annual in London .  This year, the show was moved (Thanks, COVID.), but some trends continued to emerge - mostly related to the changing dynamics COVID has brought to our lives.  Something that seemed to percolate out of Chelsea this year was the

Wintertime Espalier Linden Trees - January 2022

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I've posted about my pair of horizontal cordon Greenspire Linden trees a number of times over the years - talking about their structure, how I train them, what I train them with , etc.  Most of those photos are show during some part of the growing season when they're covered with leaves or buds .  But, winter interest is a lot of why I've fallen in love with the idea of espalier.  I've always thought that the structure is never more clear than when the trees have shed their leaves.  Just look at this post from last month . But, it turns out, there's a little nuance there.  See below, a photo that I took a few days back.   I'm not certain that I have a new answer:  when do espalier'd trees show the most structure?  When they're dormant, yes.  But, more so:  when they're covered in a little bit of snow. Set against the grey cedar fence, the snow capped branches are highlighted and stand out.  I have a few other trained trees that are years behind thes

2021 Front Yard Christmas Tree and Blowmold Santas

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With the holidays (officially) winding down in our house and the decorations being tucked back into their tubs and boxes, I wanted to include in my Web diary a photo of our front yard Christmas tree and our blow mold Santa and three reindeer .  I've done this in the past including a similar photo last year featuring the tree and Santa/reindeers .  The front yard tree *is* a thing in Downers Grove, but that's not why we do it.  We do it because of our time on Indiana Street in Elmhurst .  We really loved that tradition, so we've kept it despite moving to Downers.  This is the 11th year of documenting our front yard Christmas tree tradition - and 12th year of a front-yard photo.  2019 post was only of the blowmolds , so I'm not counting that in the 11 years.  Here's our 2021 front yard tree featuring a fresh snow covering our tree and Santa/reindeer. Here's our 2020 front yard Christmas tree with Santa and his reindeer .  Here's a photo of our Santa/reindeer f

Amending Garden Beds With Hardwood Ash - January 2022

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Posting a couple of photos in the [ garden diary ] to start the new year to mark where I've spread out some of our hardwood ash in the beds in the backyard.  The two photos below in this post show the thin layer that I've scattered on top of the snow in the south bed in the backyard from the Oakleaf Hydrangeas to the newly planted Hicks Yews .  I've done this in the past (bringing out the wood ash from our fireplaces) and scattered it around the yard.  In 2019, I applied a thin layer to the base of our Frans Fontaine Columnar Hormbeam trees . This year, I had a bucket-and-a-half and chose the south beds to amend the soil over there.  Currently, it looks a little strange.  Grey patches on top of pure white snow.  But, once we get a melt/thaw then freeze cycle - or...another snowfall, I'm thinking this stuff will disappear from view. The word on the Web is mixed in regards to adding ash to the garden, yard and compost bins.  It seems that in a limited way, there's no

Christmas Haul: Espalier Training Wire - January 2022

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I've done these ' Christmas Haul ' posts over the years where I show off some of the gifts that I have received from family and friends at the holidays.  In 2011, I posted a couple of Beatles magnets that I received .  In 2018, I posted a photo of a bird seed bell .  For 2019, Nat's folks gave me a heated bird bath for the backyard .  Last year, I received a gift that sat RIGHT at the intersection of two of my loves:  Disney pins and jigsaw puzzles .  And, I also put a new pair of chainsaw protection gloves to work in the Spring.   This year, I received some fun gifts from Nat and the kids and as part of a family gift exchange, Nat's brother gifted me a few things for the yard.  I mean...what else would I want, right? The first thing they gave me is here, below.  A double pack of Rapiclip Soft Wire Tie (Light Duty) espalier training (padded) wire.  Each of the spools is 16 feet long.   I've posted about this padded training espalier wire before and have found i

Amaryllis Bulbs Update - January 2022

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Well, we didn't have Christmas flowers.  But, we sure do have New Year's flowers in two of our containers.  We came home from a long weekend to find out that both the trio of Red Lion Amaryllis bulbs and the red and white striped Sunshine Nymph have bloomed and opened up wide.  The last time that I shared photos of these was on December 28th , so in just a week they went from "beginning to open" to "full bloom" that you can see below.   The Lemon Star Amaryllis (our first green-colored bulb) is at the front of the table in the photo above and you can see that it has grown to be the tallest of the flower stems (Despite being watered with the alcohol/water mix), but the furthest behind in terms of blooming.  Thinking we'll see that one open up in the next week or so. Below are a few photos that I've taken over the last few days of the Sunshine Nymph flowers.  They're quite striking and have red petals with a white stripe down the middle.  The pet

Coopers Hawk Up By A Nest - Northern Illinois - January 2022

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We have a couple of - what we call - "nests" up in some of the larger, mature trees in our backyard.  I say that we 'call them' that because, frankly, we don't know what they are.  They're these large, clumps of leaves that exist up near the top of the trees (in a crotch) that sure look like a nest, but for all I know could just be a clump of leaves that didn't fall down. Or, that was...until I saw something recently up there.   On a recent afternoon, I saw good-sized hawk swoop across our yard and land right next to one of these nests.  Here, below is a photo showing that hawk perched right on top of said nest.  Can't quite make out what is going on?  Here, below, is a slightly zoomed in version of the photo: Still can't quite figure things out?  Here's an even-more zoom'd in version that I've annotated below: Well....that seems to settle things for me.  A little bit. This is, most certainly, a nest.   But, a nest for whom?   Was the h

Black Walnut Stain DIY Finishing Process - January 2022

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Back in November, I posted a couple of photos and talked about the process of turning a collection of Black Walnuts into a homemade 1 scratchmade wood stain.  In that post , I laid out the steps from collecting the walnuts to bottling the stain - and about midway is where we pick things up in this post.  Six weeks of macerating in the five gallon bucket with a little bit of evaporation ended up yielding about 3 gallons or so of material.  A quick stir with a stick every once in a while and I had a thick, black syrup.  Along with a mass of walnut hulls and bits. I grabbed a piece of cheesecloth that Nat had on hand and a couple of rubber bands and donned a set of disposable gloves.  Knowing this is, indeed, stain, I opted to deal with the process out in the yard.  You can see the setup below.  The five-gallon bucket on the right, topped with cheesecloth strainer.  A smaller, one gallon finish bucket in the middle and a couple of pints of rubbing alcohol (91%) to thin the syrup out.  I

The Boy and His Christmas Train - Christmas 2021 - January 2022

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The boy had a proper Christmas train setup this year with the basement being done.  (or mostly done)  You can see his setup (a large oval) with a steam O-gauge locomotive running with some rolling stock behind it.  The tubs in the corner contain a few more pieces of track and cars that we didn't get to this year, but it still is a Christmas tradition.  My Dad set up a Christmas train with me.  And I'm setting up a Christmas train with the KotBTs.   Here's last year's post - 2020 Christmas train .   In our new house, this marks four years - 2017, 2018, 2020 and 2021 (now).   There's a very short period of time these days for a boy to be interested in these model trains.  With our train being O Gauge (larger than the most popular - these days at least - HO), I think that also limits the potential in these trains.  HO (smaller) can pack A LOT more into a layout with the same footprint and the hobby is more well-formed for adults at that scale.  You can go to hobby shop

Vintage Vacation Kingdom Balloon Logo - Florida Project - Vintage Disney

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I was thumbing through a Disney World 50th Anniversary coffee table book at the Downers Grove Library last week and I was (of course) drawn to the early days pages.  From the land acquisition (Walt was involved then) to the opening of the Preview Center, the ephemera that they show is pretty interesting.  One of the standouts was this Florida Disney World balloon logo that features the Disney World glove as the center of the Mickey ear balloons. They've moved away from the Vacation Kingdom monicker, but with the 50th Anniversary merchandise that came out this fall, it seems that (at least part of) Disney is leaning into nostalgia.