Tag Archive | gardens


Back in our garden, although I may have moaned about it at the time, the copious amounts of rain that we received earlier in the Spring really paid off. Everything has grown splendidly, and the flowers are looking even lovelier than ever. Mother Nature really knows how to put on a show!

Of course, these two visitors didn’t mind the rain and were so bold, they were practically knocking on the back door, waiting for me to come out and feed them.

Although it can be hard work at times, the garden has been a constant blessing. Right now, the poppies are popping, and the irises are looking radiant. Luckily, the peonies are not all blooming at the same time so we can enjoy their fragrance for a longer period of time.

The growing season is so short here in Chicago, but we manage to pack a lot into that time. Still to come are day lilies, oriental lilies, blue Brazilian sage (great for attracting hummingbirds,) dahlias (hopefully,) zinnias, cosmos and much more.

Winding Down

Although there are still one or two patches of color in our garden, things are gradually winding down now. For me, this is the busiest time of year, clearing away the dead growth, collecting seeds for use next year, moving plants and discarding others.

The pink and orange cosmos, both grown from seed, did very well this year, even towering over my husband, who is 6ft 3ins tall.

The blue Brazilian sage is still going strong although the hummingbirds have moved on to warmer climes now. We had at least one pair, that I know of, that stayed the entire summer. I know they are a pair because I caught them canoodling on one of the cables that runs to the roof of our house. It was quite a high-wire act with the male hovering up and down in front of the female until she adroitly flipped upside-down and he made his move.

Butterflies have been few and far between in the garden this year and it wasn’t until recently that I discovered one lonely swallowtail caterpillar on a sprig of dill. Since the last two batches that we hatched turned out to have been infested with parasitic wasps, I left this one to its own devices.

Another garden guest that was with us all summer was the praying mantis. Although we would occasionally lose track of her, she would invariably pop up again. I don’t know what she was living on but it certainly wasn’t butterflies. Slim pickings!

Apparently she wasn’t the only mantis on the block. These two gave me quite the look when I caught them in flagrante delicto amongst the Joe-Pye-Weed. Not surprisingly, I found two egg cases which I have brought inside for the winter. I thought my 3-year-old granddaughter might be interested to see them hatch out as they have been studying bugs at school.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Going Wide

This week, Patti is asking us to Go Wide for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. So often we focus on a single item and fail to take a step back to look at the bigger picture. When we visited the Anderson Japanese Gardens in Rockford recently, I felt as though there were some shots that just couldn’t hold everything that I wanted to include. I don’t own a wide angle lens for the Canon EOS so I tried using the camera on my Galaxy phone and the results were quite pleasing.

Sinnissippi Gardens in Rockford lies on the banks of the Rock River. Usually when I take a picture of a river, I like to do so at an angle, so the phone camera came in useful for this shot too, as well as some wider-angle pictures of the gardens and lagoon.

Colors of Summer

It has been rather stormy here over the past week or more so I haven’t spent as much time outdoors as I would like, but in between the showers I’ve been able to enjoy the colors of summer in our garden.

Sage Advice

Earlier this year, I made a daring decision to go online and order some plants for the garden. I recalled that I’d had some success in attracting hummingbirds on a previous occasion with Blue Brazilian Sage so I purchased 4 plants and anxiously awaited their arrival.

Because they were rather expensive, when you factored in the cost of shipping and handling, I was quite nervous about them being tossed about in the mail, but when they eventually turned up on the doorstep, I was pleasantly surprised. Each plant was carefully wrapped to protect against buffeting and all four were in excellent shape.

I’d picked out a spot in the garden but despite my eagerness to get them into the ground and growing, I assiduously followed the directions on the accompanying leaflet, allowing them to acclimatize to our uncertain Chicago climate by having them stand for a few hours each day, out on the patio. Meanwhile I supplemented the ground with fresh topsoil and compost, turning it over and working it into our rather heavy clay soil.

When I figured the time was right, I planted them with all the care and concern that a mother lavishes on a newborn babe.  I watered them generously while allowing only a very gentle stream to trickle from the hosepipe so as not to swamp them, and having made sure that everything was just right, I wished them goodnight.

The following morning, I went out to see how they were doing and ……… horror!  A picture of devastation met my eyes. Something had eaten them practically down to the nubs. I consider myself too much of a lady (ha-ha!) to repeat the words that past my lips at that dreadful moment but suffice it to say the air was bluer than the flowers on a Brazilian Blue Sage.

But despite this setback I was not deterred. In the words of the late Sir Winston Churchill, “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.…..”  Well, you get the picture.

I wasn’t sure if they had succumbed to the attentions of a gang of marauding rabbits, I wouldn’t put it past them, or if some ravenous bug had decided to tuck in. There probably wasn’t much I could do about it, either way, so I decided to take a wait-and-see approach.

Goodness knows what the neighbors thought as I knelt beside those plants every day, whispering words of encouragement to their few pathetic stalks. They probably figured I’d joined some obscure religious sect. No matter. Encouragement was all I had to offer. That and a liberal dose of Miracle Gro. It would take a miracle, I thought sardonically, to produce anything remotely resembling the plant on the literature provided.

But eventually, little microscopic leaves began to appear, urged on, no doubt, by my exhortations, until it looked as if there might indeed be cause to celebrate. I waited on tenterhooks. Would the rabbits come back? Could I keep the bugs at bay long enough to see actual flowers developing?

It was at about this time that I visited the Chicago Botanic Garden to see how similar plants were faring. Their salvias, I noticed with envy, were much more advanced, larger and with flowers. Of course, they’d probably kept theirs in the greenhouse with all the advantages that a top-class garden had to offer.

Still, where there’s life there’s hope. My plants were growing stronger by the day and with continued blandishments such as, “You can do it!” and “Nice work!” they finally flowered.

But where were the hummingbirds?  For a couple of weeks, nothing larger than a bee approached the blue blossoms. I was somewhat consoled by the fact that they didn’t seem any more interested in the flowers at the Botanic Garden, so I waited. And then, a few days ago, the first of the hummingbirds showed up.  Persistence paid off!  Thanks for the sage advice, Winnie!

It’s A Jungle Out There!

It’s a jungle out there! A jungle of sunflowers, that is. These are the plants that come up every year around the birdfeeder, sprung from seeds that have somehow miraculously been missed by the many creatures that feast in our garden.

Of course, the birds love them! The goldfinches, especially, seem adept at catching onto the stems and digging out the seeds with their eager beaks. But others, like the sparrows, have to really work hard to hold on.

The bees and butterflies are also at home here among these sunny, golden petals, drawn by the abundant pollen supply .

I’m pretty sure there are other plants in there somewhere, but they haven’t seen the light of day for some time. I’m not even sure what’s on the other side but if I push some of these leaves aside and squeeze through………

Ah! “Dr. Livingstone, I presume!”

Dazzling Daylilies

It would be difficult to imagine how our garden could have looked any more colorful once the irises and poppies were done for the year, but we were pleasantly surprised when the daylilies passed all expectations.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – It’s A Wonderful World.

This week, Amy is thinking about the song “What A Wonderful World” and has carried it through as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I agree! It is a wonderful world and nowhere do I feel that more than when I’m outside among the flowers and wildlife in the garden. Everything has been blooming beautifully so far this year and it certainly is gratifying to see some positive results after all the hard work. The peonies have come and gone but they were spectacular while they lasted.

Also gone, for now, are the irises. They really put on a splendid show this year. So many different colors, it was hard to choose a favorite. It looks like I’ll be able to put quite a few out for anyone to help themselves, when I divide them later this year, as I do with the daylilies and other perennials. What I don’t appreciate is people coming into my garden uninvited and pulling up armfuls of plants as I saw one woman doing while I was walking home one day with my youngest granddaughter asleep in her stroller. I was too far away to remonstrate otherwise I would have given this audacious plant pincher an earful. Of all the nerve!!

Caught in the act! A baby bunny eating the nigella plants. No worries! There’s plenty to go around. Nigella reseeds (isn’t nature wonderful?) and comes up again without any help from me, although I do collect some of the seeds to scatter in other parts of the garden. It’s a pretty little flower and even the seed pods are quite decorative.

The possum re-appeared, and a tree in a neighbor’s backyard across the street disappeared. We have lost so many of the large trees in our area over the past several years due to diseases of one kind or another. The Village has replaced many of them on the parkway but it will be a while before they are large enough to provide much shade or attract any of the larger birds like the hawk or the flicker. It’s wonderful how they seem to return to the same places to nest and raise their young and I’m sure there will be a few of our feathered friends that will miss this one-time home.

Poppies added a blaze of color to the garden and the white ones brightened up any shady areas. This is probably when the garden is at its most colorful, with poppies, irises and peonies all blooming at the same time, and we very often see people stopping by to take pictures which is fine by me. I’m out there with the camera myself most days.

The birds have been busy in the garden too. the goldfinches making good use of some nesting material provided while a hawk stops by in search of a quick snack.

After some much-needed rain last night, the garden is refreshed and ready to produce the next lot of blooms which will include daylilies, oriental lilies, coneflowers and phlox among others. We live on a corner lot so every part of the garden is visible from the sidewalk and it’s nice to take a break once in a while and chat to passing pedestrians. I also love it when the little group from the local daycare walk by and wave, with the occasional tiny voice piping up “Hello!” as they go past. They are our future and I hope they will grow up to appreciate nature and perhaps share the interest in gardening that I have enjoyed for so many years. It truly is a Wonderful World.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Focus On The Subject

This week, Patti asks that we Focus on the Subject for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. She has even been kind enough to offer a few suggestions on how we can achieve this. So, following her example, here are a few shots that I hope illustrate her recommendations.

Framing the shot. Taken at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Leading lines and color. This is like a two-for-one, taken at Spring Valley Nature Center in Schaumburg.

Freezing the action. Buckingham Fountain in downtown Chicago.

The eyes have it. In this shot of my grandson’s lovely wife and their dog Crush, while Christianna appears to be gazing out into the distance, Crush has definitely spotted something interesting. (probably someone walking around with food.)

Selective focus. Zooming in on the butterfly throws the background out of focus and leaves us to marvel at one of nature’s beauties.


We have seen quite a flurry of activity in our garden recently; birds flying south, and who can blame them, while critters get ready to hunker down for the winter along with the rest of us. Robins have flocked here by the dozens, attracted by the red berries in the shrubbery, that also appealed to some passing starlings.

My arch-nemesis, the rabbit, and his pals have been frequent visitors, as have the squirrels. The rabbits just get on with the job of eating whatever’s there, while the squirrels rush about like mad things, nibbling at tasty morsels and burying the rest, then looking around in puzzlement, scratching their heads and wondering where they left it. No wonder random plants keep popping up all over the garden! Squirrels are the first ones up to the buffet in the morning and the last to leave at night. They believe in getting their money’s worth.

Although I’ve often heard and glimpsed the flicker flying around the neighborhood, going from tree to tree, I’ve rarely seen it on the ground so I was quite happy to get this shot, even though he stubbornly refused to turn around so I could capture the black medallion on his chest.

Another fairly rare sighting in the garden was this woodpecker. We usually see the smaller downy woodpecker that shows up when I hang the suet basket out.

The blue jay caused a flurry as it usually does, squawking and making a fuss, so unlike the placid mourning doves that go about their business with just the occasional mild “Coo.”

Mr. & Mrs. cardinal arrived one afternoon, watched closely by a line of sparrows. Later, what appeared to be a dialog between the male cardinal and a male sparrow ensued. Perhaps they were sharing a joke.

Sparrow-: “Have you heard the one about the bishop and the actress?” Cardinal-: “Haha! Nice one!”

Sparrow-: “I figured being a cardinal, you’d appreciate that one. Know what I mean? Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink.”

The juncos, goldfinches and purple finches snuck in when the sparrows were not hogging all the food. I think I identified them correctly but welcome any input if I didn’t.

Normally, at this time of year, if I saw these swallowtail caterpillars, I would bring them inside to await the emergence of some beautiful butterflies in the spring, but since the last batch produced almost nothing but parasitic wasps I decided to let this lot fend for themselves. Sorry!