This post is laden with caveats. Potential, Early, Initial. I'm thinking of this as a sort of mental workshop via blog post writing and publishing. What better way to force ones self to begin to identify, list and rank priorities than to run through some of the potential options. Priorities? Yeah...I've done this a few years now - in an attempt to reign myself in when it comes to buying and placing plants. Starting back in Winter of 2020, I started to write about some 'priority areas' that I knew I wanted to address and those 'areas' ended up being one of the KEY INPUTS (and often the first few items) on my annual Yard and Garden To-Do list. Having recently published my 2022 'scorecard' , I want to think about where we go in 2023. Again...I'm going to re-caveat this whole thing: this is a workshop post. Just spit-ballin' things here. It will be messy, but I think it will be helpful. What this isn't is a full exploration into e
Showing posts from January, 2023
Proven Winners has come out with their 2023 plants of the year recently and the list includes a few things of note (for me) that are worth getting to know a bit. Before I run through the ones that standout to me, I thought it was important to remind (myself) what Proven Winners uses as their criteria. Now...Proven Winners is in the business of selling A LOT of plants, so what they say are their 'winners' are grounded in that: commerce. But... here's what they say are their criteria : Easy to grow Iconic Readily available Outstanding landscape performance Easy to grow...for who? Them...in their greenhouses? Or, me the intermediate gardener with a shade-filled yard that lacks irrigation in Zone 5b? Readily available speaks to their ease of growing, so they're really saying 'easy to grow' twice. That last one: outstanding performance. This one is the key. Again...performance of what? There are other groups who name X of the year - like the Perennial
We're one month past Christmas. I think that's enough time to pass for me to officially declare that my PaperWhites are a failure. No blooms at all. I bought them in early November - a week-plus ahead of when we traditionally buy and start our Amaryllis bulbs. But...here's the key (I think): I bought them from the orange big box store . I planted them as directed: in gravel. And watered them in up to the middle of the bulbs. They responded immediately. And strongly. With a thick, dense and vibrant root mat that came off of each of them. They also shot up new green shoots from the top of the bulbs. Based on what I've done before (with Amaryllis bulbs) and what was suggested on the Web, I watered them in with a diluted alcohol mixture . In an attempt to stunt their growth and keep them from 'flopping over' and getting too leggy. I last checked-in on these in mid-December. More than a month after the roots emerged. And they all had multiple green
Earlier this year, the fine people at Google shared an automatically-created "Timeline" of my travels based on Google Maps and the location tracking via my Android device. There's lots of worth-while discussion about technology and privacy, but I think this is a pretty good use case for using the technology and information that you personally create by navigating the world into something interesting - and very personal. I've posted about this recap in the past - here's the version that I shared in early 2021 that covered my COVID year including the 'stay at home' days . There's a SHARP contrast between Jan and Feb and the rest of the year that the data shows. What about 2022? We did a little travel and I was back in the office more than in 2021. Here's a few looks at the data below. First...modes of travel. Walking vs. Driving vs. Transit. Very little walking in January and February. That's interesting. Similarly...though...driving wa
I'm not exactly sure WHY I started to try to learn how to solve - after all these years - a Rubik's Cube, but over the past three-plus weeks, I've been working on scrambling and solving whenever I'm sitting on the couch and have a little time to waste. Thanks to YouTube - and the fact that you can slow videos down playback speed-wise - I have gotten pretty good at solving a lot of the cube by memory. I still don't have the last few steps memorized, but I'm continuing to work on it. The video that I used was this one that features WIRED's Robbie Gonzalez showing the steps he learned. What solves and algorithms do I have down? Bottom white face. Done. Bottom two rows. Done. Yellow top face. Done. What algorithms don't I have committed to memory (just yet)? Setting the corners. Sometimes this just happens naturally, so I skip it. And doing the final solve.
This week, we woke up to a white-out in our backyard with fresh snow on the ground and clinging to every branch and limb in the yard. Made for a pretty view. Until I had to go out and shovel. Multiple times. While it feels awfully far away from gardening season, it sure seems like I have to start sorting my priorities in the next few weeks as late Winter/early Spring tasks will soon be upon us.
In early December, I p icked up a 6" Winter Rose Poinsettia for $9 at the orange big box store and brought it home for the season . We have - typically - bought a Christmas poinsettia, but when we came across the Winter Rose, I did a quick Web search to learn a little bit about this specific variety. By now - late January - our typical Christmas Poinsettia is usually looking pretty ratty. Leaf-drop, leggy stems, etc. The Winter Rose promised a longer shelf life and that's turned out to be true for us - in a big way. See below for the Winter Rose Poinsettia that is sitting on our kitchen table today: I'd call this plant being in 'full bloom' - but I know it isn't blooming. Those are leaves, not flower petals. But...still....look at it. It is thriving. What's not to love about this pop of color well-past Christmas? January and February are hard, hard months for growing, so seeing this thing do so well has really affirmed - for me - that the choice
The last time that I ran a [ firewood consumption ] check-in for this season was seven weeks ago on December 1st . At that time - which was 60 days into the burning season - we had emptied the smaller sideyard rack (and replaced it with Norway Maple) and had burned about 1/3rd of the larger one. The two inside racks were - at that time - mostly full. I consider the burning season to be 5 months long - about 150 days. October, Nov Dec = 90 days. Jan, Feb = 60 days. Total of 150 ending on March 1st. Where are we today? 115 days out of 150 = 76% thru the season. The most-recent comparison is from this past February when I had quite a bit of wood left. See this post . At that point, the two inside racks were full (just like now), the stoop rack was full and there was a pile inside the garage. Let's look at the racks as they stand today. First...the two inside racks are, indeed full. No photos of those. But, the stoop rack - looks like last February and is 'mostly'
My Staghorn Fern journey started back in March of 2021 with the purchase of a small, potted Staghorn Fern from the orange Big Box store. As I learned a little bit (or...'got to know') Staghorns, I decided to just leave this one in the plastic container that it came in, but modified to provide for A TON of drainage/airflow with holes all over it. That first Summer, I put it outside and it seemed to thrive . I brought it inside as the weather turned and put that Fern - along with other houseplants - under a grow light during the Winter. Two years ago tomorrow (Jan 24, 2022), I posted some photos showing the first real 'Antler-shaped fronds' that the fern had grown . This was a real milestone as the fern started to *look* like a real Staghorn Fern. That small series of successes lead me to take on even more with Staghorns. I bought more, mounted some of them. And...didn't really get the results I wanted. But, I also gave away a pair of the mounted Ferns to folk
Nat and I don't exchange a ton of Christmas gifts during the gifting season. But, we *do* exchange some gifts. I typically will give her a vintage book, a Wash U shirt and starting last year...a Tiki Bar item. When we finished our basement, we talked about putting in a Tiki Bar down there. We did all the rough-in's for a bar - light openings in the ceiling, water and plumbing in the wall, counter-height outlets for a bar and under-counter fridges. But, we didn't put in said Tiki Bar. Just left the space open for the kids to use as part of the rumpus room. But, that doesn't mean that she isn't still dreaming of that - in the future - Tiki Bar. I even went ahead and gave this dreamed-up Tiki Bar a name: Natalie's Hideaway. Last year, I commissioned Tiki Tony the artist to create a sign for the place, too. So, when I came across 1 a big tiki bar-themed bowl with ladies in bikinis, palm trees, hula dancers and a big rum barrel on it, I thought it would
It took close to ten years, but I finally am the owner of a pair of gloves that I've been wanting to use in the garden. All the way back in September of 2013, Neil Steinberg posted a love-letter to a pair of Chicago-manufactured gloves and I have wanted them ever-since. At that time, the gloves were made by a a company called J. Edwards who sold the gloves only to distributors. But, at some point, they were either acquired or merged with the Kunz Glove Company who (as of 2022) ran an ecommerce storefront or sold them to folks who sell one pair at a time like here . You're probably thinking: dude...just go buy some gloves from the orange Big Box store. I'm sure they'd be fine, but if you go back and read the post from Neil Steinberg , you might come to the same conclusion that I have: these are special. So, these gloves are now mine- my Christmas gift from Nat. And, I can't wait to use them in the garden. See below for the Buck Skin garden gloves that are
One of the great joys of keeping a garden journal or garden diary is that it allows you to see how much you've changed over the years. The changes happen with growth and die-back of the plants, but also in your tastes and preferences of plant materials. That's certainly happened to me as I've gotten to know trees and plants and both what works and what doesn't. But also, what is the *right* plant (natives, drought-tolerant) and what might be the *wrong* plant (invasive or short-lived). Take for instance the flowering pear tree. When I started, I was so excited and proud to plant a small, $5 Cleveland Pear tree in our old yard. It thrived . So much so, that I bought even more of them. Little did I know (at the time) that they're both NOT great trees in terms of longevity, but also...if you get the wrong variety...they're invasive. I even went so far as to plant a couple at our new house when we moved. Would I plant those today? I don't think so.
One of the plants that I picked up at this past year's Morton Arboretum Plant Sale - BUT failed to post about when I planted - was this decidious shrub called a Spice Bush (Lindera benzoin). I tucked it in back by the fire pit and mostly forgot about it. Below is a snapshot of the sign from the sale that I took back in April and you can see that it has a Forsythia with yellow Spring flowers. Below is the plant tag showing that it will grow up to be 6-12 feet tall and 6-12 feet wide. And will handle partial shade: Below is a photo showing what it looked like when we brought it home with green leaves on woody stems. It was about 15" tall from the soil-level. This was, clearly, not on the plan. But, we still bought it, on a whim. The REAL reason that we bought it was that the lady at the sale told us about the Spice Bush Swallowtail, a butterfly, that relies on this plant during the caterpillar stage . What's not to like about that, right? Helps us continue to meet
The end of the year came-and-went and I failed to mark the closing of another chapter in daily blog posting here in my online diary. If you look at the full archives over on the left rail, you'll see that I published 365 posts in 2022 - one for each and every day. I've written similar recap posts over the year, including last year . 2022 marks the eighth straight year that I hit 365 posts. One everyday since 2015. With the first part of 2023 already behind me, it is wild to think that I'm now in my 19th calendar year of posting to this blog. I did a quick look and it appears that I wrote 307 of the 365 posts (84%) using the [ garden diary ] tag - up from 260 out of 365 (70%) posts in 2021. Posting here on my own little blog has been something that I have enjoyed doing - creating, writing and publishing - in a venue of my own. With all the uncertainty around the Web and in particular (some people's feelings about) Twitter, there feels like there is a sligh
Posting a photo here in the tree diary to show that the young London Plane Tree that I planted in Spring 2020 is exhibiting some Winter foliar marcescence with a series of brown, dry leaves clinging to the branches. This tree - the Grampy tree ( because I used some $$$ from him for my birthday to buy ) was planted in the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 . After a brief period of transplant-stress, the tree seemed to get on just fine. This past season, I was able to water this due to it being inside the footprint of some of the 2022-planted Green Giant Thujas - so it seemed to be in a fine spot with growth. However...this is the first year that I've really noticed - or documented - the tree holding on to some dead leaves. See below for a photo of the tree in early January 2023: Seeing this tree cling to some of the leaves is a good note for the tree diary - and something that is going to cause me to look over the rest of these trees - including the one I recently planted in
Starting in the Fall of 2021, I started to collect almost a full five-gallon bucket full of Black Walnuts that were falling from our Black Walnut trees in the backyard. The goal - with that collection - was to try to make some home-brewed Black Walnut stain. I ended up making a batch and gave it away for Christmas in 2021 . I wanted to try the process again this past Fall, so I was out there - in the backyard - picking up the Black Walnuts all Fall. And started to fill the same five-gallon bucket. That was a once-or-so-per week activity of pickup up a couple handful of green balls and dropping them in a bucket. I topped the bucket with another bucket with holes - so it would breath. And left it out in the landscape. Then, winter came. And I never did anything with the walnuts. No stain-making. I was out back splitting some Norway Maple firewood and noticed the bucket. I lifted the lid to see that it is loaded with walnuts. Rotting walnuts. Or, at least...rotting husks.
Earlier this year, in the 'scorecard' post of my 2022 garden to-do list, I marked the 'upgrade my garden tools' item as 'complete' and mentioned that I was set to explain that with a new tool that I received as a Christmas gift. This post...is paying off that item - and showing a new Dutch push-pull diamond-shaped garden hoe with p-grip. This one is from DeWit Garden tools and features a 84" wooden handle - with that p-grip that you can see in the first photo: Below is a look at the diamond-cutting head of this long, push/pull hoe: Below is the product label that lists this as: DeWit Dutch Diamond Push/Pull Hoe with Ash Handle - 1700mm. And, finally, below you can see the DeWit logo on the metal head that connects to the ash wooden long handle: This is the second wood-handled garden tool that I have - with the first one being a Sneeboer garden hoe . In that post, I mentioned that I've been thinking about this very push/pull hoe based on the recomm
This past season, I finally figured out that our backyard was infested with a warm-season grass/weed called Nimblewill and came up with a plan to treat it in place while not doing a full cool-season grass renovation. That started with using a post-emergent spray called Tenacity - which caused the Nimblewill to white-out and die . Once that ran its course, I then began a project using a pre-germination seed technique followed by a project to overseed the lawn with a mix of Kentucky Blue Grass and Tall Fescue . Which...after some watering... resulted in a bunch of new germination . And, while I was happy with the result in the Fall with new, green grass filling in plenty of bare spots, I knew the real, important results, would be visible once the lawn went totally dormant. That's because, the Nimblewill is a warm-season grass and totally dies back once the temperature drops. Which, historically have left us with a bunch of bare spots in the lawn and other areas with white,
A quick check-in on our small grouping of Hellebores - Lenten Roses - in the backyard here in the garden diary. These are planted in a small colony of four. The last time I showed these was early December when all four were still green and leafy . As I've mentioned in a few other recent posts, we had a VERY cold period of weather right around Christmas where we saw sub-zero temperatures with no snow cover for insulation. That moved just about everything in the garden along to their final dormancy stage. When I was out this past weekend looking at the Hellebores (one Sally's Shell, three Ivory Prince ), I noticed that there was a change that you can see in the photo below: The Sally's Shell Hellebore has taken on mostly brown and dead foliage while the three more-recently-planted Ivory Prince Hellebores are all still winter green: These are some of my EARLIEST bloomers and typically have the first growth that requires protection from late Winter/early Spring kid tram
The last of the new Amaryllis bulbs is in full bloom this season. A week ago, I showed the Flamenco Queen flowers on a very tall, slight stalk . Today I'm posting a photo of the red and white striped Sunshine Nymph in full double bloom. This is the second-straight season that we've grown the Sunshine Nymph and in both situations it bloomed after Christmas. Here's last year's post from early January (just about a year ago today) when that version of the Sunshine Nymph was in bloom . I attempted to keep and force last year's Sunshine Nymph this year , but so far, no stalks or buds.
The timing of dormancy in the garden continues to be a real source of learning for me in our garden - with different plants moving at different pacing that varies from year-to-year. One of the plants that I caught in the garden going through a transition this week was the trio of Twinkle Toes Lungwort (Pulmonaria) that is showing a mix of foliage that appears to be green and some that is showing pure garden death. See below for a photo showing the three Pulmonaria in early January: This Fall, I moved these these three out further to the edge of the bed, so there is likely a bit of transplant shock , but based on what I've seen over the years, these are right on track. Here's a post with photos from early March 2021 that shows a similar mix of dead foliage with the new growth.
This Fall, I made a pretty big change in my fern thinking. I've long talked about how shade gardening is where I find my joy and how hostas and ferns have emerged as my favorite plants in the garden. And, my first love with ferns was the Ostrich Fern. I inherited some Ostrich Ferns back in Elmhurst and -for the first time - had success with ferns. They grew, stood up and even multiplied. I shared them with my mother-in-law and she grew them in her shade garden successfully. And, I fostered some of them over there, too . I even brought some to our house in Downers Grove - including collecting some from my sister-in-laws's teardown garden . Over the years, I've moved them around and have transplanted them in some spots - including under the tree swing tree and on the side of our house . I've historically tried to use them *AS MUCH AS I COULD*. But, then...the change I mentioned above happened. I started noticing that the Ostrich Ferns weren't performing
A couple of days ago, I posted a photo of the Magnolia tree fuzzy flower bud that I spotted on the tree this Winter and talked about how observing tree buds has really shifted my mental gardening model from a Spring start and Winter finish --> Early Winter start and Fall Dormancy finish. That means, after the trees shed the leaves, they start to set next-year's buds. And, *that's* when the season starts (for me, now). On the same day that I took the photo of the Saucer Magnolia tree, I wandered by the pair of early-espalier Sugar Tyme Crabapple trees that are planted on the south wall of our house. I planted the pair of these trees in September of 2021 , so this was the first FULL growing season. They bloomed white flowers this Spring - for their first set of flowers . And set their first fruit (for us) this Fall . I've begun to train and prune these trees this season into an (eventual) Palmette Verrier espalier shape with three or four tiers. As part of that
Thanks to a tip from the Santa Barbara Baker - who runs a great Ooni pizza oven-centric YouTube channel - I've changed the way that I'm using my Ooni Pro 16 outdoor oven. Historically, I've used the burner FULL-BLAST, but he turned me on to low-and-slow . I preheat the oven for at least 30 minutes to get the floor temperature up then, right before I slide the pie off the peel, I turn the temp down to like 1/3rd of the flame power. This allows for a much longer bake and a crispy, flop-free bottom. I then turn the burner back up to full power and finish the top off for 30 seconds or so. I haven't quite figured out or solved the final cheese mix on these low-and-slow Ooni bakes - this one above is about 90% fresh mozz with a few little sprinkles of Fontina. I've also totally abaondoned the Ooni Pro 16 door because it kept extinsuishing the flame from the burner - due to (I think) - the lack of oxygen. Maybe...if I modify the door in some way - like drilling h