Saturday, June 24, 2023

If I had a yucca...

As I drive around town, I see that others have blooms in their yards: yucca, daylily, what I call ditch lilies, etc. My yucca is gone (despite its efforts to the contrary), my ditch lilies have not even sent up flower stems yet (probably because they don't get much sun), and ditto the last remaining daylily. Many plants are on the verge, though. Maybe next week?

The rudbeckia and aster on the south side of the house are much more upright than last year, although there are a few floppers. I erected some no-dig fencing from Menards to help out. I think there is ironweed there, too, but I'm not very good at identifying natives before they bloom.

On the north side of the house, across from a sea of hosta (another almost bloomer), I installed nine or so 'Solidago Fireworks' goldenrod. The plants are from Bluestone Perennials, purchased during their end-of-season sale, and despite the late date, arrived looking healthy and rarin' to go.

Otherwise, I've been in maintenance mode: hand-weeding and spraying weeds. The pokeweed, trumpet vine, something I call sticker grass, poison ivy, etc. just will not stop trying to stage a comeback. There's northern sea oats growing where I don't want it, too. And tree of heaven and mulberry. The list goes on. Ugh.

Also, I watch birds. The immature ones are a hoot. The baby wrens have flown their nest. And the bluebird box is occupied.. by bluebirds! In the past, all I got in my bluebird box were sparrows, but they don't like this box, as it is deeper and lets in more light than they like. A similar model has a bar across the entrance, to discourage starlings, but I didn't see any show an interest in this box.

Then there was this pair of robins, sitting in the mulch, feathers fluffed out, heads thrown back, beaks hanging open. They looked like they were sunbathing. I assume their posture has something to do with parasites. (Some day I will get that new camera, maybe with a zoom lens, so I can take photos from across the yard.)

The tulip tree doesn't look any better, and perhaps is no worse? I've been watering it, just in case that helps. I've been watering everything that is new, a regular evening chore. The weather people keep promising us rain, but so far, they've been wrong. Maybe tomorrow?

At least the dry weather made for a pleasant trip to the county fair. My SO and I took my granddaughter and two of her friends. I didn't make them go up and down *every* aisle in the animal barns, but we watched enough of the horseback riding event that they grew bored. I later took them to a city park so they could go for a run. (They are all three on the cross country team at their school.)

Siesta time

The county fair was scheduled earlier than in the past, because the state fair dates had been moved up; I think it caught some folks unaware, as things seemed a bit skimpy. Of course, it may just be me, as last year's fair was really packed with post-pandemic excitement. I planned to go off diet and indulge in onion rings and a root beer float, but there was no root beer float vender. I did get some onion rings, but they were too greasy to finish. Very expensive food waste. :-(

In case you forget where your meat comes from

I used to make a dish I called Chicken Surprise. The surprise was it wasn't chicken; it was rabbit.

Have a surprising week!

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Backyard habitat

That's how I think of my backyard: as a habitat for wildlife. I'm sure the wildlife find it wanting at times, especially when the dogs are keeping an eye on things, but without the dogs, it might be overrun by rabbits, squirrels, and opossums.

This joey popped up in the yard the other night; I was able to get a pic between its bouts of playing dead. Only later did I notice that the creature's back leg looks injured. I hope my dogs did not inflict the injury. The guy crawled into the drain pipe from the downspout for temporary protection; I assume it left during the night.

For some reason, I get a kick out of this series of photos:

I thought the male wren at the house in the backyard had not found a mate because all he seemed to do was sing. Well, I was wrong, as there are screaming babies in the nest now. Such little birds, such big voices! And a couple seems to be moving into the wren house in the front yard.

This is the time of the year when not much is blooming other than one viburnum. Even the few annuals I planted are not very enthusiastic. We did get an inch of rain last Tuesday, which was very welcome, but now we are in another dry stretch. At least I don't have to mow much, which leaves more time for hand-weeding and spraying.

Saturday, June 10, 2023

A visit from an arborist

The arborist from Mudrack Tree Service stopped by this past week, to take a look at the tulip tree. Jeff said there appears to be no disease or infestation, so he suggested we wait and see, and if it is still alive in the fall, fertilize. He also took a look at the redbud tree. The center limb is dying, which happens. He said his mother has a redbud that has been dying for twenty years, so I'm not too worried about it.

We discussed root structure. The tulip tree's roots mimic the top growth in size and shape, but that is for stability. The feeder roots are in the top eight inches of soil. I wish I had thought to ask him if he thought the rain garden and/or mulch was impacting the tree. Yesterday, I raked some of the mulch off, but there really isn't that much there. Jeff said tulip trees tolerate wet (but not hot and dry, which may cause it to drop leaves), so the backyard moisture should not be an issue. But maybe the digging of the rain garden destroyed too many of the feeder roots? I have another arborist coming, for a second opinion; hopefully, I'll remember to ask him.

I confess I wanted the arborist to admire my other trees, especially the elm. We did take a look at the galls on the leaves, which he says are harmless. Another bit of interesting information is, if a tree has borers, woodpeckers go after them, leaving a ring of holes around the trunk.

Galls on elm leaf

Despite a bit of rain on Tuesday, it's been so dry lately that I haven't tried to transplant any of my existing perennials. However, the golden rod I ordered from Bluestone Perennials arrived yesterday, so I prepared a bed for them while they harden off. Then I got the bright idea to move the rhubarb from its container (where it was very unhappy) into the end of that bed. I hope it gets enough sun there.

The 'Blue Muffin' viburnum finished blooming, so now it is 'Chicago Lustre' putting on a show. The "sleeping" catmint in the front yard is blooming a bit; next year it should "creep", then third year "leap". The privet behind my backyard is blooming and smells heavenly.

Volunteer wheat

Robins have been feasting on the serviceberry fruit and the neighbor's mulberry (which I wish he would cut down). An immature bluebird figured out how to get into the mealworm feeder, but couldn't get out; Bird Lady to the rescue! I'm about ready to give up on the hummingbird feeder, as I've seen none since that first one about a month ago. On the other hand, redwing blackbirds and grackles frequent the feeders, something that is different from previous years. I wonder how much the reconfiguration of the yard affects which birds frequent it.

Immature bluebird

The bed on the south side of the house gets very little rain because of the depth of the eave. So I got the bright idea to install a perforated drain pipe there. Yesterday I wrestled around with that, then used the garden hose to mimic a downpour. NOT a success, because the pipe is too big and there is not enough drop for the water to run to the other end. I tried a perforated garden hose before, with water from the well, but the iron in the water clogged up the holes (and where it didn't, the water hit the siding, turning it orange). I'll either have to modify my plan or come up with a new one. Suggestions welcome!

Saturday, June 03, 2023

Baby birds

The fledglings are everywhere. I've seen baby sparrows, starlings (which are VERY noisy), mourning doves, and bluebirds. Even though the young 'uns are almost as big as their parents, usually their coloring is a bit different and flying takes a lot more effort, as does sticking the landing. Fun to watch.

As promised last time, I transplanted the basil, tomato, and sweet potato vine plants to containers. I also transplanted some penstemon from a large container to the ground, as it had become too crowded to bloom. It's been hot and dry, so everything gets watered every day; the ninebark shrubs get a big drink when they start looking droopy.

I'm SO GLAD I had the landscaping redone last year. Maintaining it is now relatively easy. Every couple of weeks, I do some hand weeding, then treat the pernicious ones with herbicide. It's amazing what keeps trying to come back every year: burdock, trumpet vine, spearmint, forsithia, poison ivy, tree of heaven (should be called tree from hell - read about it here), etc. Very persistant.

One of the redbud trees is not looking its best. From one angle, it seems fine, but from another, not so much. I have some arborists coming to look at the tulip tree, so I'll ask about the redbud as well.

I discovered some calico scale on one of the witchhazel shrubs. Not sure if I should be worried about that.

On a positive note, here is a bee in the penstemon planted last year. It crawls all the way into the blossom in its pursuit of pollen.

Other current bloomers include the climbing rose that I periodically threaten to eliminate.

And columbine.

Flamingos are my thing, so I could not resist this patriotic trio from Menards. I'm sure some of my neighbors don't approve, but that's the point.

Otherwise, I have been busy with my summer job: chauffeuring my granddaughter hither and yon (this week, it was basketball camp). The heat has kept me mostly inside. Next week promises to be milder, although still no rain in the forecast.