Monday, October 27, 2008

Another Tree to come down

Last year, we discovered that our tree out in the front had black knot -- post here -- and we did what we could by cutting out the infected branches. But the tree is well over 25' tall and so we couldn't get some of the branches high up. I didn't call anyone in, and I suppose I am at fault but we let it go to see what would happen.

Well, this season it was the worst I had ever seen. Every young branch had it girdling it to death. Even shoots from the roots had it. I looked up some information and talked to one of my Arboretum teachers and the result is: take it down.

I was even told that cherries and plums shouldn't even be planted here because black knot is so prevalent. This tree was planted by the previous owners so it had at least a good 15+ years. And we've enjoyed it immensely with it's green spring foliage and white fragrant flowers. In the fall it turns this awesome purple and stands out among all the other green/yellow fall trees.

It was let to grow shoots, so we inherited it as a 6-trunk tree (1 trunk was removed in 2006). So we are cutting it down in stages. Three trunks have been taken down so far, leaving the oldest 2 trunks (1 of them has almost no black knot). If we can save it, we will. For now we will just see what happens.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Door County is 5A ... huh?

We just got back from a 4-day trip to Door County in Wisconsin. I've written more about the trip here on my personal blog, Crazy Rosie Ramblings.

The Inn we stayed at -- the Blacksmith Inn -- is such a lovely, quint place in Bailey's Harbor and right on Lake Michigan (i.e. the quiet side of the peninsula). They also had an abundant of plants growing and in bloom that I was shocked -- shocked that my yard, 5+ hours south, doesn't have this array of color. Then I looked up that it is 5A, just like me in the western Chicago suburbs. Crazy, right, to think that 5 hours north wouldn't change the garden zone, yet it shows the power of The Lake.

Here are some photos of the Blacksmith's Inn front gardens.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Vegetable Garden Round-up

I just composted the last of the vegetables today - the peppers. I had a good run this summer, harvesting a lot of vegetables in 6 pots on the patio.

Sweet 100 cherry tomatoes
Early Girls
Yellow pear

Golden Summer Sweet Pepper
Chocolate Beauty Sweet Pepper

Everybearing Strawberry Fragaria 'Tristar'

Tomatoes: Last year the Fantastics did better than this year's Early Girls for large tomatoes.
I liked the cherry tomatoes, but I got one plum tomatoe plant inadvertantly this year and those I liked the best. So I would plant plums over cherries next year.
The yellow pears were great, we put them in salads, soups, they were fun to grow.

Peppers: Both the yellow and the chocolates turned out good. The trick is to let them start to turn on the vine, and then you can harvest them and they will turn color. But if you pick them before they start to turn, then they never will -- but are still good to eat. I'd plant both of these again.

Strawberry: I only got about 4 strawberries this year (and 3 more are on the vine ripening as I type), but I like the idea of eating pesticide free strawberries so I'm going to plant this one in the ground over the winter and see if it survives.

For next year ... I started with just tomatoes in 2007, added peppers in 2008, so for 2009 I'd like to add cucumbers and zucchini. Do I have enough pots??

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Blue-stemmed Goldenrod in bloom

One of the native plants I picked up at this year's Native Plant Sale (in April) has finally bloomed.

It's the Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia):

I think this one might be a rabbit favorite because it's still really small and according to illinoiswildflowers, it should be 1-1/2-3' tall blooming late summer/early fall. One thing I did notice was that the ants like the flowers - on the flowers are tiny ants.

Monday, October 06, 2008

A Suburban Oasis

On Saturday, Matt and I went on a tour of homes in the west suburbs that are using solar energy to heat and electrify their homes. I wrote about solar energy and the homes we visited on my main blog.
But one of the homes not only used solar energy, but was the home of a conservationist who's house was surrounded by a natural illinois prairie, was situated for ideal passive solar design, and had a green roof. It was a true oasis in the suburbs, a wildlife haven in the middle of manicured lawns and pom pom bushes. I was inspired.
The homeowner was a wonderful host as she allowed the visitors of the solar tour to walk the perimeter of the property as she showed us how they achieved the green roof, and about all the native plant species that make up her lawn. He clothes hung on a line, barely covered by the wild sumacs that grazed the house's exterior. She showed us the placement of the windows and overhangs of the house, as well as the angular roof which had two "spouts" where the roof's rain water spills out into the native landscape (although now the green roof mostly aborbs the water). Every spring, she does a burn around the property to assist the growth of the native plants.
It was really amazing, and it came as no surprise that the homeowner helped restore the prairie at the Morton Arboretum, and is now a teacher specializing in native plants. I loved her spunk, especially when someone asked if the neighbors complain about her laundry hanging. I'm sure she would give a good education on the virtues of not using your dryer in the summer.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Pruning the Korean Lilac

I tested renewal pruning for the first time on one of the Dwarf (ha!) Korean Lilacs in my front yard's Center Garden.

These lilacs have gotten very large over the 3 years I've been at this house, and the most I have done with them is give them a good shearing after they bloom.

As you can see from the pictures, 2006 it was sporting a flat top and was very meatball shaped (must have had the grandpa over to help shear);

by 2007 it came into it's own with a beautiful naturalized shape,

and then 2008 was bloom-rific if not getting pretty big. And it doesn't look like it needed pruning but the inside was just all wood.

So after renewal pruning, it now looks like this:

Kinda small, kinda sparse, kinda sad. We'll see how it takes for next year.