Two Bur Oaks and a Crawdad

A group of swamp white oaks Healthy soil is important, but for whom?  In the Garden  The young bur oak would not be kept down. Yet again it revealed itself among the standing dead stalks of a large patch of purple bee balm, a good three feet tall and leafing out. In spring, a bur oak’s leaves look like sharp-edged, glossy cutouts. They are not green, but shade delicately among soft corals, tans and pinks. The green comes a bit later, like a slow-motion wave gently pervading each leathery leaf. The question, as it had been for several years, was what to do with this young newcomer to the garden.  About ten feet away and across the walk from house to garage stands a second bur oak that I’d started from an acorn some twelve years ago. I’ve enjoyed watching it grow its first sets of true leaves, become large enough to attract birds and then mature enough to bear acorns. This winter I limbed it up three feet from the ground, mainly to give the sedges and wild geraniums growing underneath a

Time Off

July and August I've been taking time away from the computer. I'll be back the last week of August when school starts. In the meantime, here's some backyard nature news:

Here as elsewhere around our climate-changing globe (though on a much less severe scale) the weather is news.

The morning of July 24, I woke up to a see a shallow pond in the backyard, a sight never before seen, after approximately eight inches of rain fell overnight. Flooding was widespread throughout the region, as anyone who lives here knows. The water drained, slowly but surely, and my trusty native plants are still thriving and blooming.

Consequently, we are having the worst mosquito outbreak in twenty years.

As of today the Chicago area has set a new record for longest stretch of days over 80 F--43 days, with more to come.

Other news:

Yellow jackets built condominiums in my compost pile; monarchs laid eggs on the milkweeds (a process I'd never actually watched before); yellow swallowtails, black swallowtails, red admirals and blue azures are also around; the honeybees, bumblebees and solitary bees are very busy; the cicadas are extremely loud at night; and cicada-killer wasps have suddenly shown up. These last are a large, beneficial wasp that burrow in the ground and kill cicadas to feed their young, which should give an idea of just how big they are--two inches. More info here. That's three species of solitary burrowing wasps I've seen this year, since the katydid killers and the golden diggers are back on schedule.

Because of all the rain, I'm seeing new mushrooms, such as stink-horns, in the mulch.

No new bird species so far, but quite abundant.

It's truly incredible to me that the longer I garden with mostly native species, the more interesting the other life forms that appear.

Yesterday I picked my first-ever crop  of chokeberries (Aronia melanocarpa x Elata) and plan to make jam. They are now in the freezer waiting for a cooler day, possibly next week.

Comments

Thomas Rainer said…
Welcome back! I need to get away from the computer myself . . .
Benjamin Vogt said…
Everything you talked about--except the chokeberies--I have seen and done and such. Amazing. Wet wet wet, lots of insects (likely th enative plants!), cicada killers, skeeters, a ong hot dry spell of 4 weeks bookened by days when we'd get 3, 4, 5 inches of rain..... and I ahte school, already two weeks in and the students are smarmy.