Tag Archive | yard

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



My Nymph of the Woods, in Her Autumn Color

imageTupelo’s leaves change color early in the early fall and it has been suggested that this signal might alert migrating birds to the presence of ripe fruits on the tree, a process known as foliar fruit flagging. This way the tree gets its seeds spread to farther distances.

Plants producing early colorful fall foliage and fruits include dogwood, spicebush, virginia creeper and the tupelo.  These woodies produce fruits called ‘drupes’. Drupes are stone fruits (like cherries) that have a thin outer skin, a pulpy middle and a stony center enclosing a seed. The fleshy part of these drupes is full of fat, just what a hungry, migrating bird is looking for!

Many early ripening drupes are red, and easy for birds to see, however others, like virginia creeper, tupelo and sassafras, are dark-colored and not easy to see. That makes the brightly colored leaves or ‘flags’ on these plants crucial for the fall migrants to see.

Seed dispersal obviously helps the tree species, and passing through a birds digestive system is sometimes required for the seed to germinate. This process is called ‘scarification’, which simply means the hard, outer shell of the seed needs to be compromised for the seedling to emerge. The gizzard of a bird does well to damage the outer hull of a seed.

I recently saw two Cedar Waxwings testing out the fruit on my tree… Not quite ready was my impression when the quickly flew away without dining. I had to go find out for myself and agreed, the fruit tasted like a sour cherry and needs a few more days to ripen. I hope they will be back soon =-)

tupelo-seeds       image

I bet when the day comes these are ripe, it will be a one-day event that the tree is cleared of fruit!


Zone: 3 to 9

Height: 30 to 50 feet

Spread: 20 to 30 feet

Growth: Slow

Form: Pyramidal when young; opens with age; some branches are pendulous; right angled branches are attractive in winter

Salt: Tolerant

Bloom Time: May to June, insignificant

Bloom Description: Greenish white

Fruit: 1/2″ blue drubes – edible but sour

Fall Color: yellow, orange, bright red and purple

Sun: Full sun to part shade

Water: Medium to wet

Tolerate: Clay Soil, Wet Soil


© Ilex – Midwestern Plant Girl

Monday Memories 9-12-2016

For a Great Spring Lawn Display, Design Now!

Bulbs in the lawnWhere to plant and what type of bulbs varies with how the gardener wants to deal with the remaining leaves after blooming. The leaves must be allowed to stay long enough to gather energy for next year. Taller bulb varieties must not be mowed down until early summer. Shorter leaved varieties can be mowed over, as leaf height is close to the same height of grass. My experience deems these shorter varieties have a better chance for survival, as most residents feel the need to mow their lawn as early as possible.

How Leaves Cha-cha-cha-Change Colors in Autumn

leavesLeaves are green because of chlorophylls that function by capturing the sun’s energy and to manufacture food for the plant or photosynthesis. All of this takes place in the plastids (specialized cells). During the growing season, the green color of these chlorophylls masks out all the other colors that may be present. So all you see is green.

As the growing season slows in autumn, chlorophyll production slows and the green-color dominance lowers to reveal the other colors of the leaf. Many influences such as amount of water, sunlight, temperature, and microclimate can manipulate the timing of the color changes.  A couple of weeks of bright sunny days mixed with clear, cool nights seem to bring out the best fall colors.

Fall is the Time to Dethatch Lawns in the Midwest

Thatch LayerThatch is a layer of dead grass, crowns, and surface roots that accumulate at the surface of the soil just under the turf. Allowing a small layer, about ½ an inch will act as a great natural mulch, but any more than that will cause the following:

  • Tight, spongy mat that will choke the crowns of the living grass
  • Inhibits the decomposition of organic debris around the grass
  • Prevents good circulation of air
  • Can provide breeding grounds for harmful pests
  • Can harbor diseases such as fungus


Ilex VS Lawn Fungus

Changing your lawn care habits might reduce your risk of fungi problems. A healthy lawn has a really good chance of pulling through a fungal infection, but that is up to you!disease Triangle

  • Water your grass regularly, but don’t water it too much because waterlogged grass invites fungi. Don’t set your irrigation and not monitor it.
  • Dry grass can also makes your lawn more susceptible.
  • A nitrogen-based fertilizer applied annually (in the fall) supplies your grass with the nutrients it needs to flourish.
  • When you mow, don’t remove more than one-third of the length of the blades of grass at a time. A healthy length for grass (from the thatchline) is 3 inches tall.

I’ve noticed many different types of fungus coming out in droves because of our weather this season. Some are fairly rare and hard to treat. I wish we could get over the ‘Perfect Lawn’ mentality and all just enjoy the clovers and other blooming weeds. =-)

Why MY Flowers Grow So Well

My neighbor gave these to me for helping teach her Windows 10. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was the first time I’ve ever worked with W10. Wow. I swear those MS folks moved EVERYTHING around. I don’t think they left anything under the same menu it was in with W7. It’s struck fear in me to buy the new laptop that I dearly need. I seriously hate changing operating systems. No, I won’t go Mac, either. However, my current ‘puter makes me go back and fill in all the T’s, E’s and I’s, as those keys take a few strokes to work. I’ll just have to get over myself =-)

I hope everyone has a wonderful Independence Day!!

pooping gnome   pooping gnome

Poop makes flowers happy!

© 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!!