Bonsai #2

DSC_0226 (Medium)   Ok, this might have turned out more into a mini-garden with a bonsai tree in it, but non-the less its awesome.  For the box I torched all the sides till they were on fire.  Put it out, sanded with some fine grit sandpaper.  The bonsai is  a Thuja occidentalis ‘Rheingold’ (Arborvitae). DSC_0227 (Medium)

I used some Pilea Blue Moon to wrap up the trunks of the bonsai tree.  A mini Cotoneaster in the corner.  Some sedums, semperviren to soften the appearance.  And a Artemisia Silver Mound bonsai as a small evergreen looking shrub and for a touch of blue.DSC_0228 (Medium)

Path is made out of crushed limestone.  I dug the dirt out about 1-1.5 ” filled with the crush limestone and compacted with my finger.  DSC_0229 (Medium)

Succlent Container pt. 2

After my first succulent container I wasn’t planing on making another so soon. But a random drive found Trish and I at We Grow Dreams, and Everything was on sale. So I had to wake her up from her nap and check it out.

A few strolls around the greenhouse I knew it was time again to make a container.  This time I used some old fence boards that we found on the side of the road for the box.  Then using a blowtorch I charred the box.

Whats in this container?  Towards the back left we have the Paddle plant (Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic) – Front, right a black aloe (Black Gem?) – Back, center growing all jaggedddedely…. The mother of thousands, actually a baby from mother of thousands (Kalanchoe daigremontiana)  that rooted in the aloe pot at the nursery. (I love freebies) – And front, left is my favorite trailing plant, baby tears blue moon.  (Pilea glauca ‘Blue moon)

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My First Bonsai

Before I met Trish, the only thing I knew of bonsai was from that wax on wax off movie.  And that they were super sacred and I would have to plant it on the side of a mountain so no vandals will destroy it.

Helping her trim her bonsai’s and watching them grow really made me want one!  So one day we decided to go out and make a few.  A trip to Menards yielded me a very nice Soft Serve Chamaecyparis.  At a good price of about $10 I weighed the option of just keeping it as a shrub and planting it out in my yard.  I figured what the hell, if I mess up, loosing $10 wouldn’t kill me, and plus my yard is so full of plants I just don’t know where I would have put it.

So I went at it, all cutting, dicing, chopping, bending, and wiring.  There were a few moments where I was thinking what did I do to this poor shrub?  The plant gods must have been on my side though, because I love how it turned out.


After I potted my first bonsai in this cool box I actually got to make, I needed something more.  So you guessed it, another bonsai.  This little baby bonsai was actually a cutting Trish rooted of one of her first bonsais!  A rock and some chicks (Hens and chicks Sempervirens) and a path to the rock made out of pine bark mulch finished the project.

This first bonsai has inspired me to keep going… And going… And going.. Now every time I am in that clearance section and see those sad looking evergreens, I think BONSIA! Tonight I found a perfect next candidate a Thuja Rheingold, that’s a arborvitae for all them non-plant snobs.

Hardy Hibiscus, and Japanese beetles

When I first started collecting hardy hibiscus japanese beetles were not in IL yet. The first year I had japanese beetles they only attacked my pussy willow and my rugosa roses.

Well, fast forward to today. The Japanese beetles are at the peak of their mating/eating season (middle of July through August) same time the hardy hibiscus bloom. And you guessed it they are all over them flowers! What a way to ruin them gigantic flowers.

To save them amazing flowers I have stumbled upon a secret. Cut them back! Cutting the hibiscus down to 6-8″ around July 4th will produce later flowering, shorter, fuller, better branched plants with more flowers and no beetles! The hibiscus at first will look like small sticks, don’t be afraid as after a week you will see tons of new growth.

The Japanese beetles will be about done when the hibiscus is ready to bloom, thus saving the flowers!

The scoop on spring blooming trees


Every once in a while in the Chicagoland area, we have a good spring display of flowering trees.  Some years the bloom buds are nipped by late freezes/Snowstorms.  This year is amazing. Everything bloomed, including the Saucer Magnolia. The most planted would be the Crabapple. (Malus)  They come in tree form, bush form, weeping tree form colors ranging from pink to white.  The most important thing… Resistance to Apple Rust.



Now, although amazing in flower, the Saucer Magnolia (Magnolia Soulanguiana) rarely flowers this well due to hard hitting late freezes.  This particular tree was hit really bad two years ago.  So bad that its trunk was split all the way down.  This happens when the sap starts to flow and freezes.  Just like a frozen water pipe. 



If you love magnolias, I would highly suggest planting Magnolia ‘Ann.  This magnolia will bloom 2 weeks later than the Saucer Magnolia types.  This means, blooms every spring.  One added bonus is sporadic blooms till frost.  On this large bush/tree its common to have about 15-20 blooms everyday during the summer. 



One of my favorites would be the native redbud. (Cercis Canadensis)  These trees grow to be 30′ tall and wide tops.  But the shape of the tree is outstanding.  Especially when in full bloom.  The pink or white flowers bloom on the branches before the leaves grow.  After the flower show, heart shaped leaves emerge.  Look for ‘Cercis Canadensis ‘Forest Pansy!  The leaves remain a red hue during most of the summer before becoming green.



Kousa Dogwood is a attractive spring blooming tree. Unlike its cousin (Pagoda Dogwood with flat fuzzy flowers) is more attractive.  The white isn’t actually the flower though.  Technically its flower bracts witch the flowers emerge from. (The green centers) Many cultivars are offered, and bracts range from white to pink.  Do research cultivars raised in warmer zones will flower sooner, unfortunately increasing the risk of loosing all blooms that spring.


Picture Service berries, are also a popular spring blooming tree/shrub.  There are cultivars such as Regent that stay more shrub like and smaller. The picture is a regent serviceberry.  And most books say they hold their foliage, I lose mine by the heat of summer, and is nothing more than sticks.   Shadblow  Serviceberry  is usually grafted to create a tree.  These will hold their leaves… I have heard of good jams made with the berries, but you have to be fast… Wildlife LOVE THEM.

A New Look To An Old Path


Believe it or not this path didn’t always look this nice.  Before I completed this little project the cement stones were badly sunken into the ground, and covered with mud.  So, I got out my wheel barrow, spade, and scoop shovel.  Now I had the orange rocks in containers under my porch.  They have been sitting there for many, many, many long years. 



So, first things first… I pulled up all of the concrete stepping stones.  Made a nice large pile of them.  Then I edged the path on both sides.  Next I dug up 2″ of soil, this was the most compacted soil I have ever worked with.  The shovel fulls of dirt resembled bricks more than soil!   Next I busted out the weed fabric.  This stuff does actually have a good use… Under paths.  With the weed fabric underneath the path it will prevent the smaller rocks from sinking into the soil.  Making them last many more years. The next step was to place the concrete steppers back into place, then dump loads of the orange rock in piles right on top of them.  Got the broom and swept them into place.  Then a quick weeding of the garden bed, and then I applied some preen to the patch and the garden bed. 


Picture Now when I dug up the steppers, I had a lot more then needed to make this path look good.  So whats next?  Well, I am going to put a fork in and have the other path lead into my back yard, through a arbor.  Or I may make a path from the other set of stairs to the back yard.  The possibilities are endless!  And these materials are now being used and not wasted. 5-2-2011 This path was created. Updates coming soon.

Succulent Planter Box.

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So I had all these cacti that I picked up for a incredible steal… Most were priced at $1. Ok, so I have all these wonderful happy plants…. What do I do with them?  Plant them in something! Quick.. Before they die.

Well, I had no containers large enough to plant all of them into. Solution you ask? Build a box.  To the hardware store I go… The box is built out of 1×6’s. I bought 1.  I placed all the plants out and decided the correct size.  Started cutting, 3 sides and ran out of wood. Back to the store!  Got the last piece of wood cut and all assembled.  I used 2 little pieces to make legs…. Used some clear spar urethane with UV protection to try and lock in the look of the wood.  We shall see how it holds up. Built the box 7-23-13 planted the box 7-24-13.

Plants used:

Opuntia ‘Baby Rita

Agave Stricta

Cotyledon ‘White Sprite

Dorotheanthus bellidiformis ‘Mezoo Trailing Red

Seneci radicans ‘glauca

Portulacaria afra ‘Variegata

Agave angustifolia ‘Variegata

Echeveria ‘Lotus

Crassula argentea ‘Gollum’

rhipsalis pilocarpa- Cuttings will see if they root.


Rocks and random sedum/succulents thrown into the mix as well.

Crib planter


Found this old crib at my girlfriends house. Back then it was a ugly yellow. A few coats of outdoor paint it was looking brand new again. A few burlap bags stapled to the inside do the job of keeping the soil in. The burlap does decompose and will last about 2 years.

Removing Pesky Voles


Voles are field mice that eat your plants in the fall, and winter.

I have had the worst vole problem for years… Since I started collecting plants… They come in the winter and eat all the roots and crowns of my perennials.. Have you ever had a 10’x20′ section of host just disappear? That’s how bad my problem was…

I have tried many products that have claimed to work.  Some do for short times, then I have to re-apply or all my hostas would get eaten away. Since then I have found a combination of things that will actually send the nasty little mice packing.

Castor Oil: I apply this right before the ground freezes.  I use a hose end sprayer and water my gardens with it.  Once a year.  You can also grow a castor plant in the worst areas. Careful as all parts of this plant are poisonous.

Wind Mills: Or anything that will blow in the wind and make a little noise/vibration in the soil. This drives them nuts!  I use the $1 pin wheels that Dollar Tree sells in the spring time.  Make sure you buy enough to have 1 about every 20′ or so in the garden bed. Also remember they might not last all year. So buy enough to last through the winter!

Wood Chips: Common single chipped hardwood or pine bark mulch. Or any wood chips that aren’t so chipped that they will eventually form a carpet.  The idea here is for them to stay loose .  The voles will have a very hard time diggin, or maintaining their tunnels which they need!  Wood chips will also add organic matter to your soil, conserve moisture in your soil… Hey, I dont have to water as much!

So with these 3 things going for me, I haven’t lost any plants to voles! YAY!