Thursday, June 28, 2007


Echinacea purpurea can always be counted on for a show of pollinators and birds.
Native bees such as bumble bees and an unidentifed bee with its back legs orange with pollen appear daily to forage the abundant pollen.Standing in a doorway trying not to cast a shadow on the plants I watch Painted Ladies wander from flower to flower and Black Swallowtails pick a spot and stay awhile opening and closing wings moving around the cone. Sometimes flying off then landing back again to work the same flower.
American Goldfinches seem to prefer the purple coneflower early before seeds have had a chance to mature.The goldfinches are loud,messy and joyful, singing and flying and searching out food.

We grow moonbeam coreopsis and it is a beautiful flower.Growing low it makes an excellent edging or groundcover. Its pale yellow blossoms glow in the evening when other flowers fade into the dark . But the species threadleaf draws many more insects and is a reliable return growing tall and wide filled with rich flowers. The annual coreopsis with its yellow and red variations and self seeding habit is a staple in this wildlife garden. Easy to grow and very colorful it will come up and flower amid the grass calling out to passersby, insect and human alike.

Since I am a horrrible photographer here is a link to the site of many great pictures.

Richard Seaman

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

An Urban Rain Garden From The Beginning.

This is where I should have consulted an engineer. I am not sure this is the best way to connect the two downspouts that empty into the trench. The other way would have been to bring a second trench along the top of the slope and then down to the rain garden.

Here the plastic lined pea gravel filled trench flows into the deep section of the rain garden.

The trench to the rain garden is lined with plastic held in place with pins I made from old shirt hangers and a wire cutter. Then we filled in with bags of pea gravel. It took about ten bags fron Menards. I may add some larger rocks later to give it a stream-like look. I think a few flat rocks under the gutter pipes at both locations instead of just sitting on the gravel for sure. When it rains the water does not show in the trench but if you stick your fingers in you can feel the water moving through when it rains. It is working very well so far.I find myself out in the rain watching to be sure.
The rain garden is not actually a water garden. It is a large level hole we dug two spades deep along but slightly lower than the sidewalk and a slope that edges the garden. It is refilled with compost mixed with part of the soil dug out to make a very well drained space that can hold the runoff rain from the roof of the buildings and/or sidewalks and other higher areas to give the water time to be drawn deep into the soil rather than into sewers. Established plants rarely need to be watered.Newly planted material always needs watering for awhile, maybe the entire first summer if it is hot and dry. If you use native plants with deep roots it takes a couple of years to grow those very deep roots but then you may never have to water the rain garden again.

The longest water has sat on the surface of the rain garden has been a couple of hours. If the rain garden fills during a very long heavy rain(like once it rained in a heavy downpour for 45 minutes) excess rain will then follow the natural path of run-off to the sewers in the alley. No danger to house. No mosquitoes.

It was hard work digging the hole so if you try it make sure you have help or take it real slow.

Some of the annual coreopsis is beginning to bloom and soon the purple coneflower will follow. Liatris has loads of flower buds but it will be a couple of weeks.
What I think is trifolium rubens will soon bloom for the first time for me in the garden. The rabbits have not eaten this one and only specimen.
I divided several large clumps of panicum and spread throughout the rain garden so it will be next year before it comes into its prime.
I have not added Ratibida pinnata /yellow coneflower or aster but there is plenty nearby.First some of the other plants need a chance to grow so as to be able to compete for space.
Many flowering plants and grass are very small yet as I started them from seed in a winter sowing project.
Only one compass seed germinated and it is still in a container where I can protect it for awhile.
This is a fun project...

More information...

Rain Gardens . org

dnr wi gov

rain gardens network

Concious Choice

Eupatorium/Spotted Joe-Pye-Weed

Rattlesnakemaster/eryngium yuccafolium

A picture of Silphium Compass Plant

Friday, June 15, 2007


This is how the garden looks today.


Insects like the Yarrow/Achillea

Not quite ready.

Blackraspberries not quite ripe.

Shasta daisy with Calamagrostis. A tall early blooming ornamental grass.

Echinacea purpurea/Purple coneflower The first two.

Tawny Daylily and Heliopsis

Red Osier Dogwood berry is ripe and ready for the birds.

Hydrangea arborescens and Stella Daylilies

Oakleaf hydrangea with hardy geranium.

Flower of Virginia Creeper will produce lots of berries in late summer.


Penstemon 'Husker Red'


This is a weed commonly called Dayflower. It has a cute little mouse like face so I always let a couple bloom before pulling.

Check out
May Dreams
for more garden Blogger Blooms

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cicadas... Pictures From The Front!

Ron Wolford our Chicago Master Gardener man in charge, has been documenting the cicada emergence.

Ron Wolford extension uiuc

I found these pictures of cicadas there from a man in Lagrange. That is where I saw swarms of cicadas (even having one land on my arm so that we could get a really close look) and heard the constant thrum in the air.
Take a look at the last picture on page one (there are 36 pictures over 4 pages) of the branch covered with cicadas and the one on page two of a cicada molting its outer covering as it grows.

Pictures of cicadas from the front lines

Finally a few tips as to disposal of the piles of dead cicadas.

17 uses for dead cicadas

14) Collect some floral foam and branches and make a summer centerpiece for your table. Glue cicadas to plastic picks and pop them in. Watch your dinner guests jump in surprise when they spot them during the appetizer course
16) Decorate your cheap flip-flops by attaching cicadas with hot glue for a customized pair of summer 2007 sandals.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Butterfly season in an urban habitat garden.

Swallowtail butterflies have been flying in the garden. I'm pretty sure they are Eastern Tiger Swallowtail because I have spotted both black and yellow.

Black swallowtail and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail have confused me in the past. Both are common to the area and I have seen the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail many times on the dill and fennel plants. Have not caught sight of an Eastern Tiger caterpillar yet but I keep looking.

I think I have them straight now after looking at lots of pictures and reading the identification clues over a few times.

Black Swallowtail

Identification: Upper surface of wings mostly black; on inner edge of hindwing is a black spot centered in larger orange spot. Male has yellow band near edge of wings; female has row of yellow spots. Female hindwing with iridescent blue band

Black swallowtail host plants are dill,fennel, parsely,carrots and their wild counter parts.

Caterpillars are green/yellow/black... in stripes.
We see plenty of these every year.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Identification: Male is yellow with dark tiger stripes. Female has 2 forms: one yellow like the male and the other black with shadows of dark stripes. Hindwing of both female forms has many iridescent blue scales and an orange marginal spot. On the underside of forewing of both female forms the row of marginal spots has merged into a continuous band.


Caterpillar hosts: Leaves of various plants including wild cherry (Prunus), sweetbay (Magnolia), basswood (Tilia), tulip tree (Liriodendron), birch (Betula), ash (Fraxinus), cottonwood (Populus), mountain ash (Sorbus), and willow (Salix).
Adult food: Nectar of flowers from a variety of plants including wild cherry and lilac (Syringa vulgaris).

The first sighted butterfly in our garden and most abundant so far this year has been the
Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos)
Pearl Crescent caterpillars feed on Asters. I have been growing New York Asters for a couple of years. So far no sign of the caterpillar but it must be there.

Pearl Crescent

Butterflies of Illinois

The Butterfly Lab

Butterflies overwinter in a habitat garden if there is abundant cover.
Butterflies overwintering as caterpillars or eggs use herbaceous perennials, shrubs, and trees. So leave the leaf litter and dead plants until spring to provide cover for them from predators .
Many butterflies overwinter as pupae and may attach to a host plant for the winter.
Butterflies overwintering in the adult stage may use the peeling bark on trees, perennial plants and old logs, branches or fences. Sheds, barns or houses may also provide overwintering sites.

How to create a butterfly habitat.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

2007 Firefly Sighting June 1st

The Mr and I saw our first firefly Friday evening as we walked to the front of the house across the greenway. This must mean summer is here. It sure felt warm and sultry enough for a summer night. Anyone else seeings flashes of light signaling a romantic rondevu at dusk?

Today a family of Robins took over the backyard. Two adults taking turns watching three fledglings learn to feed themself and grow into independent juveniles. Two of the young robins wandered about often disappearing but staying within calling distance, pecking at insects and hiding beneath shrubs and between plants.
Only one refused to leave moms side( or maybe dads I can't really tell them apart) . It followed her closely everywhere she went, cheeping continously with mouth open wide. The harried parent dutifully fed the little guy seemingly understanding a slower developement and a touch of separation anxiety.

Two squirrels were raiding the strawberries very early in the am. We are going to have to keep the berries picked as they ripen if we are to beat the critters to a harvest. Planting some in containers didn't deter the squirrels. If anything they took it as a challenge. The berries are medium to small in size, sweet and flavorful. Who can blame them them for wanting a share?