Archive for August, 2007

Neglected blog, neglected sideyard

zigzag goldenrod
Zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis) in the deep shade of the sideyard.

I’ve been neglecting this blog a bit due to work travel, out-of-town visitors, and general late summer ennui. I’ve been neglecting to say much about the sideyard since it is small, in deep shade (south of our house, north of our neighbor’s house, and under a magnolia tree), and often trampled by the neighbor’s contractors. I’m going to take a small step towards ending that neglect.

I have had a little success planting native plants on the eastern edge of the sideyard. It gets a couple of hours of filtered sunlight, and there’s some nice woodland duff built up from the magnolia leaves. One thing that I’ve grown there for a couple of years is the zigzag goldenrod seen above. It’s usually not prostrate like this – I’m guessing that either our heavy rains of the past couple of weeks did this, or else it was due to some contractor/neighbor trampling in the springtime. (This is why I put up a twig fence by this area in the spring, but neighbor removed it without telling me. I think this was some unspoken commentary on my lack of fence-making artistry.) It seems just as happy prostrate as it was vertical in previous years.

Giant spider web on magnolia

I’ve had less luck on the west end of the sideyard. There’s some sedum there, and some sort of sicky varigated dogwood, but very few of my plantings have survived. I’m guessing that the afternoon sun doesn’t reach this area effectively due to the crabapple tree in front of the house and the giant linden in the parkway. But sometimes nature provides ornaments that a gardener cannot: check out this huge spider web that was built between the magnolia and that sad dogwood.

Pond Evolution

The pond has just reached its 2-year anniversary, so I think it’s time to show its birthday pictures:

Pond - August 2005

Year 0 means muddy water and no plants or fish yet. But, hey, ain’t that pretty mulch?

Pond - August 2006

Year 1: Things are starting to fill in. The water lily and water lettuce have taken over the lower part of the pond. The trellis is up, but not much is growing on it.

Pond - August 2007

Year 2 = Today: It’s a lot greener, and not just because it’s been raining every single day here for what seems to be forever. (My weather station says that we’ve gotten 7 inches of rain this month – nearly double the Chicago August average amount.) The Virginia creeper and Dutchman’s pipe are starting to cover the trellis.  In fact, the former is covering all the ground between the trellis and the pond, climbing up the biofalls berm, and snaking underneath the bench back by the side of the garage.

The mid-pond plants – water mint, pickerel weed, and wild blue iris – are noticeably lusher. The water lily is smaller due to my extreme pruning in the springtime – I hope that it covers the pond next year.

Bloom (and Fruit!) Day – August 2007

August pond
It’s getting to be harvest time, when what’s in fruit seems more compelling than what’s in bloom…. All links below are to other pictures I have taken.

No longer blooming:

  • day lilies

Now in bloom:

  • basil (green and purple)

garlic chives

  • garlic chives


  • fennel
  • tomatillos
  • habanero pepper
  • marigolds
  • snapdragons

hosta flower

  • hostas
  • sweet Joe Pye weed (Eupatorium purpureum)
  • orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida)
  • purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
  • marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima)

big leaf aster

  • big leaf aster (Aster macrophyllus)

white woodland aster

  • white woodland aster (Aster divaricatus)

Pond bloomers:

pickerel weed

  • pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) – after a month off from blooming
  • water mint

Now in fruit:

  • cucumber
  • tomatillo

Melrose pepper

  • Melrose pepper (about ready to be picked!)


Coming soon:
zigzag goldenrod

  • zigzag goldenrod (Solidago flexicaulis)
  • water hyacinth (maybe…it’s looking really strong this year, but I haven’t seen any buds yet)

Friday flowers

orange coneflower

I bought this orange coneflower (Rudbeckia fulgida) from Stone Silo this spring. It’s managed to grow from underneath an Annabelle hydrangea to quite an impressive size for a newly planted perennial.

marsh phlox

The marsh phlox (Phlox glaberrima) is growing near the pond overflow with some wild irises. It’s considerably more floppy than the regular tall or garden phlox that is blooming this time of year, but it’s still awfully pretty.

Starting a rain garden

We’ve been having a little water in our basement after heavy rains, and we noticed that water from our neighbors’ downspout was pooling right outside our basement where we’re seeing the water. Sounds like a job for a rain garden!

rain garden - just starting

One of the neighbors and I dug out the outline of it last weekend and she dug a path from her downspout to it (our downspout already sends the water that direction). The grass went into the compost heap, and I keep hauling buckets of dirt off to fill low spots in the lawn and in the sideyard. Once I take it down a couple of inches from the level of the lawn, I’m going to rototill in some (store-bought) compost and then cover it in mulch to make the bed look level.  How soon this gets done depends on when the rain and humidity let up – it was dry until we dug this, and ever since it’s rained every day!

Plants? Well, I’m hoping to pick up some sweet black-eyed Susan and New England aster at the farmer’s market this weekend. This fall, I want to plant Virginia bluebells and maybe Jack-in-the-pulpit. For late spring and early summer, maybe more of my favorite blue lobelia or cardinal flower along with some irises. I’m continuing to scour my native plant catalogs for part-shade, sometimes-wet, clay-loving plants, and finding a surprising number of options (although given that it is in the front yard, I should probably avoid some of my favorite ones with poisonous parts).

Charlie Brown’s Melrose pepper

the little Melrose pepper that could

As I mentioned before, I’ve gotten just one pepper on the still-scrawny Melrose pepper plant, and no peppers at all on the habanero. I think the bed by the side of the garage is just too shady for peppers, even though I fed the squirrels really well on the tomatoes I grew there last year. And yeah, I probably need a lot more organic material in the bed as well.

But do you see that it’s starting to turn colors at the top of the pepper? Even a poor bed can cough up a little something worthwhile.

Friday pond pictures

water lily

The water lily has not gotten the memo that hardy water lily flowers are supposed to float on the water, and only tropical ones are supposed to stick up like this.

goldfish and shubunkins

The smaller shubunkin at center right was spawned in the pond last year. There’s no sign of fish babies this year so far, although the current hot weather in Chicago ought to get them going. Some of the people on the pond tour said their goldfish hadn’t spawned yet either.

August flowers

bees love the lobelia

The great blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) is spreading and blooming like crazy. I love their striped throats. The bees work hard to wedge themselves down the flowers for what must be some fantastic nectar.

pond and great blue lobelia

This gives a better view of where the lobelia is with respect to the pond. And yes, now that the pond tour is over, the water lily is blooming.

garden path

Snapdragons and marigolds line the path to the garage, with spearmint sprawling by the door.