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Showing posts from July, 2024

Front Porch Bed - Mid-Summer View - July 2024

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The view from the curb of our front porch bed has changed SO MUCH in just a years time.  That photo above shows what you see as you view the front of our house and includes a few big changes that I'm seeing grow into their mature forms in a very short period of time.  The tree - a Triumph Elm tree that was planted in Fall 2022 is the biggest change; as it replaced a much-larger Norway Maple.  That large Norway Maple with A MASSIVE MAT of surface roots was out-competing just about everything up there.   That meant...boxwoods that were in the shade and being starved out.  Vanilla Strawberry Hydrangeas that were undersized and losing the battle.  And, a pretty inhospitable environment in terms of soil. I suppose that's the starting point - the soil.  In Fall of 2021, I documented the root mat and hydrophobic soil that supported no plantlife .   I tried to build a remedy over time - including adding nitrogen via Alfalfa cubes and planting annuals that I hoped would open up the soi

That's Not Nicotiana - That's Pokeweed - Garden Edit - July 2024

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A month ago, I posted photos showing the seed packet and the knee-high seedlings that were popping up in my new full-sun cut-flower bed on the side of our house .  I crowed about how I was really pushing things with getting used to direct-sowing seeds like this Nicotiana Jasmine.   In that month since, the seedlings kept getting TALLER AND TALLER.  Some were over my head.  And all of them were crowding out other things - like Zinnias and a few Dahlia tubers that I interplanted in that same bed.   Curious, I thought.  They were growing taller and taller.  No blooms.  Here's what they looked like: Then....we went to Nat's parents house where her mom has plenty of Nicotiana Jasmine.  Too much, maybe.  Her Mom says that it reseeds iteself.  When I looked at hers, they were MUCH SHORTER.  And the leaves were more droop-y and almost like a lettuce leaf.   VERY DIFFERENT from what I was seeing in my bed.   Then, I saw some of the buds had emerged.  They were pointy, long and curving. 

Ruby Slippers Oakleaf Hydrangea In Bloom - July 2024

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The pair of Ruby Slippers Oakleaf Hydrangeas that are planted near the Dawn Redwood tree are in bloom.  Late July.  With long, slender bloom heads that are turning from light green to pink.  Below are a couple of photos that show both of them.  There's also an Alice Oakleaf Hydrangea that I relocated here, but that one isn't as advanced as these two.  Planted in May of 2022, these Ruby Slippers are a dwarf variety of Oakleaf Hydrangea that I bought at the Morton Arboretum annual plant sale .   In the photo above, you also can get a peek at some of the recently-planted Sun King Golden Aralia (Japanese Spikard) that also came from the Morton Arboretum sale .    The last time that I peeked at these in the [garden diary] was about a month ago when I revisited this 'garden edit' .   I feel good about the border and the little slice of the garden that fronts this, the part *behind* the Nootka Cypress - sort-of adjacent to this - is another story.  That elusive garden path is

Agastache 'Blue Fortune' In Bloom - A Pollinator IB2DWs - July 2024

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In my Fall Planting sprint last year, I planted a pair of Agastche 'Blue Fortune' perennials in my mixed bed IB2DWs .  These were sort-of tucked in behind some Hakeonechloa All Gold Grasses and in front of a row of Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grasses.  Roy Diblik - up at Northwind - talked up Agastache, so when I saw it on close-out, I grabbed two.   They mostly just hung out in the background all Spring, but in the past week-or-so, they exploded with some blue/purple bottle-brush like blooms standing tall and proud.  Below is a photo showing the blooms and overall height of the plant: They're billed as being great for pollinators and true-to-the-description, when I was out there looking at these on a recent morning, they were being buzzed-around by some insects.  You can see them if you look closely: More of this, Jake.  Fall planting will be here soon enough. 

Cutting The Firebrick Floor - DIY Wood-Fired Pizza Oven Project

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The oven construction process has been one focused on:  planning (the foundation), building (the foundation), planning (the stand), building (the stand).  And, then more planning (for the oven).  And...now comes the ACTUAL building of the oven.  That starts with learning how to handle the wetsaw and cut out the floor.  Thanks to my VERY HANDY brother-in-law, we went with an isolated floor.  That means, we cut the floor of the oven to be 40" diameter and *then* cut out the soldier course to lay NEXT to the floor.   We started with cutting the oven entry:  Then, thanks to the jig that my brother-in-law made, we quickly cut out the rest of the floor and the soliders: We began to figure out the oven opening and how to make the transition pieces from opening arch to oven dome: And, cut out the second layer of the dome - these only with side-cuts, no tilt cuts (yet): We also built our indispensable tool (IT) or dome gauge - to help place the bricks of the dome: We did ALL of the inital

Scaevola Bombay Dark Blue, Red Wave Petunias and Creeping Jenny in Containers - July 2024

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Moving on from the pair of stoop containers (small ones) , we now look at the pair of larger, back patio containers.  #7 on my 2024 to-do list was to 'do better containers' - and these two are the largest of the bunch and that means can have the biggest impact.  Are these perfect?  Nope.  Not by a lot.  Are they better than last year?  I think so.   Here, below, is a look at both of them side-by-side.  There's Creeping Jenny cascading down in both.  Red Wave Petunias are dotted in both.  The corner container has Orange Zinnias.  And the round one has the (new to me) Scaevola 'Bombay Dark Blue flower that has spread out and added some nice color.   Below is a closer look at the Scaevola 'Bombay Dark Blue - from The Growing Place.   Here's a look at all three working together - with the Wave Petunias in bloom (last week). The Creeping Jenny was a hold-over from last year and overwintered in teh containers.  Here, below, is a look at these a month ago when I just

Back Stoop Containers - Euphorbia, Persian Shield, Sweet Caroline Medusa Green Ipomoea, Orange Zinnias - July 2024

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#7 on my 2024 to-do list was to 'do better containers' this year .  That meant doing DIFFERENT containers than I've done in the past.  This goes back to that whole 'get out of your comfort zone' thing that I confronted with flowers in the beds last Fall.  I told myself to resist early Spring and resist the Big Box store.  But, also...lean-in to what I liked about last year.  That 'what I liked' in our containers last year started and stopped with Euphorbia.   Last year, I bought one Euphorbia plant and tucked it in with some Zinnias from Northwind Perennial Farm .  Loved it.  I also saw that the Morton Arboretum used Euphoriba in one of their beds in the Fragrance Garden.  Lovely .  (That's also where I spotted Cardoon, too.) We have two large rectangular containers - one on back patio, one in the shade on our front porch.  Then, we have a large round planter on the patio and a couple smaller companion planters that sit on the steps our back stoop.  This

Red Berries on Doublefile Viburnum (Treeform) - July 2024

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We have three Doublefile Viburnum in treeform in our backyard.  Two along the north property line and one in the back by the firepit.  They went in the garden in Spring 2022 .  And, struggled.  These were hard to get established and required some baby'ing with water that first year.  Last year, they seemed to be able to handle themselves more and by this Spring, they were what I'd call 'established'.  That took two full growing seasons with the beginning of the third growing season producing the best/biggest/most-full blooms yet.  Here they are in Mid-May of this year with white flowers all over them . Two months later, we have another first:  these red berries on the tips of the shrub.  See below for a couple photos of the bright red berries.  The birds have not found these (yet).  There are A LOT of misses in our garden, but these Doublefile Viburnum are a big 'hit'.  They do A LOT for a shrub that grows in the shade.  When I talk about wanting a 'four-sea

Giant Marconi Hybrid Sweet Pepper - July 2024

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I brought home a Giant Marconi Hybrid Sweet Pepper plant from the Morton Arboretum Plant Sale this Spring and - along with some other things - I stuck it into our Greenstalk tower.  It went into the bottom row in a deep pocket - and then I used the on-board tomato cage to sort-of train it up and give it some support.  The plant has thrown off one big pepper so far.  You can see it below.  Long, thin and (for now) green.  I'm going to see if it will redden-up on the plant. #19 on my 2024 to-do list is to keep going on vegetables .  I feel good about tomatoes in the raised bed and now add to things a nice-looking pepper and I feel like I've gotten back into the veggie game a little bit more this year.   The other thing that I'm remembering is that pepper plants don't produce A TON of fruit.  They take up space, but aren't productive.  That's ok, just something to remember.  

First Cut-And-Come Again Zinnias - July 2024

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Cut flower season has arrived with the first Cut-and-Come-Again Zinnias.  These three followed the first Dahlia that I showed yesterday - a Melina Fleur Dahlia .  These were direct sown seeds and are being over-shadowed by what I'm pretty sure is Nicotiana Jasmine stalks.  I might have to thin those out to keep these happy - not to mention the Disneyland Roses that are tucked back in there. I did exactly what their name implies:  cut them.  Here's to...ummm...coming again. These took a little more than four weeks from seeds being sown to the first cut flowers. 

First Dahlia Boom Of The Season - Melina Fleur Dahlia - July 2024

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Out in the front yard, I am seeing my first Dahlia bloom of the season:  a Melina Fleur Dahlia that is (right now) short and stout with the bloom nestled in amongst the dark green foliage.  These were planted outdoors about six weeks ago after being started in nursery pots indoors .  I left this one on the plant (for now), but hope to cut some of these as they pop-off in the coming weeks.   Below is a look at the first Dahlia bloom of the season - the Melina Fleur Dahlia:

Cardoon In Bloom - Purple Flowers - July 2024

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A few days ago, I posted an update on our Cardoon - with its purple, spikey (but soft) bloom on the largest bud .  Today?  That first bloom is joined by two others that have all taken on a thistle-like form.  That means the primary bloom is just over a week-old (from when it first opened) and appears to have some staying power.   To say that this plant is dramatic is an understatement.    I could see it in the middle of a large container - like these .  

Laying Out And Drawing Oven Floor For Wood-Fired Oven - July 2024

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Yesterday, I shared the details of a template that I cut out of Masonite and a circumference tool that will shape the form of the floor of my wood-fired oven.  In order to get the inner arch opening correct, I opted to create a second drawing jig - one that is 20.25" wide that will set the width of that opening.   The goal was to draw the outline of the oven floor, but it proved harder (for me) than I thought it might be when I started. Before I get into the process of getting the oven floor drawn, a quick mention on firebricks.  The community on FornoBravo spec's "Medium-Duty Firebricks" for the floor and dome.  After poking around online, I've come to discover that Illinois is home to the Alsey Refractory - in Alsey, Illinois.  Somewhere between Springfield and St. Louis is the Alsey Refractory ; where they've been making firebricks in the USA for more than 100 years.  A few towns over, a materials dealer - LaGrange Materials - sells Alsey firebricks.  The