Tag Archive | house

Doggy Dilemmas ~ Squirrel Edition

I was a stupid human…. I admit it. I didn’t think over the new location for the suet feeder enough. I wanted to use the shepherd’s hook that was previously holding the suet and thistle to hold my new hummingbird feeder. Now I still wanted to see my Woodpecker and Blue Jay friends, so I though hanging the suet/thistle on a long hook between the windows would work.

Nope. Mom squirrel was formulating solutions to the new placement within a few hours. This did not make my Oreo very happy! She flung herself at the screen and scrambled up to her prize!

What are you doing, climbing on my house?!? Oreo yelled in Dog.

She didn’t seem phased. Now I had to get up and knock in the window. She reeeeeally didn’t want to give up on the fresh, peanut filled suet, however she ran down the screen. I have since moved the suet to the clematis trellis. Not any better of a location to be safe from squirrels, however no screens would be climbed to get to it.

I was really shocked her claws didn’t cause any damage to the screens. I would have soooo been in the doghouse. These screens are less than 6 months old.

Previous Dilemma’s in a Dog’s Life 1 2345 68

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Ah, Home Sweet Home!

This is my front door. I took the left side photos May 30th and the right, June 20th.

Most of April and all of May was a rain-out. We had 10 inches (25cm) of rain in those 8 weeks. Even when it wasn’t raining, Sweet Sol was hiding behind her fluffy, white shawl. There’s not even a trace of her shadow on the wall. At least, the foliage looks green and lush in this light!

June 9th it got hot… like Hell Hot. I’m not complaining… Yet.

Things grew very well until the heat. Things were looking really sad and I even had to water my established perennials.


We don’t use our front door. It’s too awkward to enter here. No overhang. No space. No where for shoes… It’s so much easier to enter from the garage. It’s like having a huge foyer! So, this year we finally decided to embrace our inner Red Neck and start sitting on the porch. It’s so nice to enjoy all the beautiful things that fill our senses. The flowers smell so sweet, the fountain sounds so melodic, the birds look so joyful and the chipmunks make us smile.

Ah, Home Sweet Home!


© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Chippy Chipmunk ~ Tamias striatus

These guys are my adorable little bird seed removers. No one likes weeds  under the feeders 🙂

The genus name of Tamias is Greek for treasurer, steward, or housekeeper, surely because of how this little critter cleans up all the seeds on the ground, storing them for winter dining. The common name may have been spelled chitmunk from the native Odawa (Ottawa) word jidmoonh, meaning “red squirrel”.

Their average size is 2-6″ inches long, with a 3″ inch tail and weigh less than a pound. Chipmunks will live to an average of 2 – 3 years in the wild, however can easily double that in captivity. Sadly, these cuties are on the bottom of the food chain. Chipmunks will gather food along the ground, most times staying out of wide open spaces. They prefer areas with underbrush, evergreens, and downed trees, where they can hide from predators like bird of prey, foxes, coyotes, and snakes.


Clearly, this is a little boy chipmunk 😉  ||  A group of chipmunks is called a scurry.

These little engineers like to dig two types of burrows: shallow burrows for fast get-aways while foraging, and deeper burrows where the entrance can be up to 20′ feet long, where they nest, store food and hibernate. Chipmunks rarely venture further than 1,000 feet from their burrows at any time.

They feed on insects, nuts, berries, seeds, fruit, they also eat other creatures such as insects, baby birds, frogs and bird eggs, which they stuff into their stretchy cheek pouches and and bring back to their burrows to store.

I used to hear these chirps and think they were birds.

© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl



Halyomorpha halys ~ Brown Marmorated Stink Bug

imageThe Brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) is a true bug in the insect family Pentatomidae. It is an agricultural pest in its native range of China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Recently (in 2000), the BMSB has become a serious pests of fruit, vegetables and farm crops in the Mid-Atlantic region and it has been spotted in other states as well.

As with all true insects, it feeds by using its proboscis to pierce the host plant. The BMSB feeds on many ornamental plants, weeds, soybeans, corn, peppers, tomatoes, tree fruits and berries. Their feeding on tree fruits such as apples or peaches results in damage called, “cat facing,” and renders the fruit unmarketable.

Here in the U.S., there are generally only one generation hatched per summer, however in their native range, 4 to 6 generations could hatch in a season.

The BMSB also likes to share your warm home with you in the winter. Just like ladybugs and boxelder bugs, they will flock near your doors, waiting for you to open one just long enough for them to fly in.

As their name states their business quite clearly, don’t smash these guys or vacuum them up while removing them from your home. I use the ‘cup and card’ method of catching them and throwing them outside to avoid the smell!

© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

25 Ways to Kill A Tree

Kill a Tree

Yes, I drew this. Meh, better than a 5th grader… 😉

Mechanical damage and improper tree maintenance kills more trees than any insects or diseases. This how-to guide will hopefully teach you how NOT to treat your tree friends. .. However, if you’re the sadistic type and love spending money replacing trees, this is a great read for you also!

1 – “Top” the tree which promotes watersprouts that weaken trees and encourage pests and disease.

Do not top trees. Tree heights can be lessened by proper crown reduction that doesn’t stimulate watersprout growth.

2 – Leave co-dominant leaders to promote “V” growth and splitting during winds and storms.

When a tree is young, select one or the other of the competing upright branches to be the main branch and cut the other off. Do not buy a tree with these characteristics.

3 – Leave crossing branches to rub protective bark and create wounds.

Prune branches that cross and rub in order to prevent bark wounds.

4 – Ignore insect or disease damage.

You should be out, enjoying your trees on a daily basis, so monitor for pests and treat appropriately if they are found.

5 – Coat pruning cuts with paint or sealer to slow healing and promote pest problems.

Do not use anything to cover pruning cuts or wounds– trees seal their own wounds, it’s called compartmentalization. CODIT for short in the arborist world.

6 – Leave broken branches unpruned to invite pests and disease.

Prune branches off correctly at the branch bark collar.

7 – Spray unapproved herbicides over tree root area to weaken tree.

Read labels thoroughly!! Spray lawns with herbicides that will not damage trees. Better yet, don’t spray and herbicides at all!!

8 – Damage roots and trunk with lawn equipment.

Apply mulch around the tree to avoid hitting the tree trunk with lawn or edging equipment and to protect surface roots.

9 – Rip through roots when digging trenches.

Dig around roots whenever possible, however if this is not possible, make a clean pruning cut on the tree side of the root.

10 – Plant close to the house or an obstacle to reduce adequate tree and root growing space.

Know how big a tree will grow (height and width) and space accordingly away from houses and other obstacles.

11 – Attach items to tree to damage bark and girdle branches with wire and rope.

Insert a nail or screw into your tree to which a wire or line can be attached. The tree will seal around the small wound made by the nail or screw.

12 – Prune between lateral branches to leave stubs.

Cut branches back to laterals so you don’t leave stubs to which the branches will die back.

13 – Prune flush cuts to reduce wound closure.

Do not make flush cuts. Cut on the outside of the branch bark collar.

14 – Leave tree staked until guy wire girdles trunk.

Stakes generally aren’t needed on small residential trees, but if they are, remove them after one year to avoid any damage.

14 – Leave wrap on to constrict trunk growth and rot bark.

Do not wrap the trunk with anything except a wide wire cage if animals are a problem. This also invides borers into the protected space under the wrap.

15 – Pile up excessive mulch to encourage rodent damage and bark rot. MULCH VOLCANO!

Do not put mulch in contact with the trunk, and then pile mulch only 2 to 3 inches over the roots.

17 – Put non-porous black plastic under mulch.

Do not put any type of fabric or plastic material under your mulch. Wind will bring soil and seeds in on top of the fabric, and there will be weeds growing in no time.

18 – Stack items atop roots to cause soil compaction.

Do not stack items atop the roots as it causes soil compaction.

19 – Leave ball roping on to girdle trunk.

Take the ball roping off around the tree trunk. If the tree is in a container, remove the container before planting. Yes, I have seen full containers in holes before.

20 – Plant near a downspout to assure excessive water or water lightly to encourage shallow root growth.

Divert water from the roots of trees that don’t like wet soil. However, when watering, water deeply to encourage deep root growth. Better to water less often, but longer – than more often and shorter.

21 – Leave top of wire basket in place to girdle roots.

Remove the top horizontal round of wire from the basket as least. Try to remove as much as you can.

22 – Leave treated or synthetic burlap on to prevent root growth.

Remove the burlap, (regardless of type) from atop the ball and at least as much on the sides that it is buried by several inches. If left above ground, it will wick away all the moisture from the area of the tree and essentially dry it out.

23 – Dig hole too narrow and over amend backfill to discourage proper root spread.

Dig the hole at least twice as wide as the root system to encourage lateral root growth out of the root ball. Do not amend backfill for individual tree holes, use native soil.

24 – Dig hole too deep and/or fill with gravel to collect water and drown roots.

Dig your hole only as deep as the root system (Top root of ball) and do not put gravel in the bottom of the planting hole.

25 – Remember that trees give us all of the air we breath on this planet. If no one plants trees, none of us will continue to breath!!

2015 Fall Containers

All the basics from designing a summer container still apply when designing the fall pot:

The only thing you need remember for a well-presented display is: Thriller, Filler & Spiller!
•Thriller is that one large plant that is generally in the center and taller than the rest.
•Filler are those mid-range sized plants, often of ‘fatter or fuller’ stature.
•Spiller is just that, plants that hang over the edge of the pot.

The only small difference you need to remember is that Fall plants do not grow like the Summer plants do. Basically, WYSIWYG (what you see, is what you get), you do not need to think about a plant growing into it’s place. Plants won’t get larger, generally they just bloom, think mums or daisies. Fill the pot to it’s greatest extent because this container will only be around for two months at best.

Most Fall plants are also not that tall. We use grasses, sticks and other material to get the height the design requires.

Here’s a huge tip regarding grasses. The whole pot does NOT need to be planted!! We buy 4′ foot tall grasses in a 2 gallon pot. We grab the grass as low as possible to the top of the pot, gathering into a pony-tail, if you will. Take strong tape (we use electrical) to wind around the grass. Prune from pot. Now you have a puff of grass that takes up no room at all in your container. So much more room for colorful thangs!

Here’s a list of our commonly ordered Fall plant material:
•Miscanthus grasses – These add great height & texture
•Pennisetum millet – Height & texture, fuzzy seedheads.
•Heuchera – Coral bells – Great colored leaves available
•Acorus & Carex – A nice bright yellow or white for a great spiller
•Sedums – Great for spillers
•Ajuga – Nice texture
•Rudbeckia – Great reds, yellows and oranges available, also great for height
•Kale – It comes in many varieties from cabbage/round style to tall parsley-looking
•Osaka Cabbage – A staple in most of our designs. Fills those ‘holes’ really well
•Swiss Chard – A wonderful filler that is very colorful also
•Mums – Aren’t they the official fall flower?!? Great filler
•Calibracoa – They look like small petunias, but can handle the cooler temps. Great spiller
•Ivy – Sometimes we reuse the ivy from the summer containers as it still looks great and it’s much bigger than the newly ordered pots
•Ornamental Jerusalem Cherry – Looks like a tomato plant, but use with caution, they don’t take the cool weather well & the ‘cherries’ fall off
•Ornamental peppers – Great way to splash in some color to the filler section
•Crotons – One of my favs! Great for a colorful thriller
•Pansy – These cool season flowers look great and add great color to the pot
•Bittersweet or honeysuckle – This one is not alive, but it is a great finishing touch to the design. Unfortunately, it is a very invasive species, but is grown for the floral industry. I wish someone would get a business together where they would ‘wild collect’ this and do a ‘two-fer’ for society, invasive removal & design enjoyment.

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Click to see 2013’s autumn pots

Click to see 2014’s autumn pots

Brownie House Garden

My husband built a Brownie House a few months ago, hoping to attract a nice family of Brownies to help us fix the many broken items we have at our home.
imagewpid-20150701_122637.jpgBrownies are flightless fairy folk, similar to a hobgoblin, who love to fix things that are broken and improving them where possible. They do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food. Among food, they especially enjoy porridge and honey. Also, when ingredients are left out, they will bake something delicious, although they always attempt to make it into a dessert. I must have been a Brownie in a past life….

The Brownies that moved in didn’t seem to like the front walk and re-laid it more to their liking. I wanted their home to be a lovely retreat to enjoy during the day while they were resting from all the hard work they put into our broken items at night. I thought the flowers were a great touch. The Brownies must have agreed, as they added shiny glass gazing balls to their yard.



© Ilex ~ Midwestern Plant Girl

Brownie House – Move in Ready!

Brownies are flightless fairy folk, similar to a hobgoblin, who love to fix things that are broken and improving them where possible. They do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food. Among food, they especially enjoy porridge and honey. Also, when ingredients are left out, they will bake something delicious, although they always attempt to make it into a dessert.

My husband sometimes gets focused on a project and can’t be swayed to do anything else until the project is complete. This one was no different.

A few years ago, we had a tree in the front yard die. As it wasn’t near any power lines or neighbors homes, he felled it himself. When I asked him why he cut it so high up, he told me it was a surprise. Later that week he showed me his vision, our address was carved into the tree facing the street.

The numbers now have been there for about four years. To this day, we still get folks saying they couldn’t see our address… They usually do the ‘head-smack’ when we point out the tree.

Last week, he had another brainstorm. I came home to the sound of a table saw and the smell of cedar. I couldn’t figure out what he was making until he had the roof together. I then had to be a b*tch and noted that there needs to be a chimney on it!


He made me a base and I ‘mortared’ on pea gravel with hot glue.



He then made a door and windows.


My hubby is all about detail. Detail, detail, detail. You just can’t have enough of it! He even found something that would work for a doorknob. Don’t forget the keyhole!


So this is the backside of the address tree. Which is now a Brownie house! I can’t wait for my landscaping Brownie to move in and help me with my gardening tasks.