Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangea macrophylla

Hydrangea macrophylla

We have a pair of Hydrangea shrubs growing along the back of our garden. one of them is fairly large and growing strongly. The other, this Hydrangea macrophylla, is not so big but it’s blooming, at least. The deer seem to like it, so we’ve allowed the Forsythia to grow in front of it a little, to help protect it from them. Of course, that makes it harder for us to see, as well. You can’t have everything. The sterile florets, which have large petals, are a very pale pinkish with touches of blue. The much smaller fertile florets are quite blue, and the combination is quite nice.

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Steve and Kaien

Steve and Kaien

Steve and Kaien

We had a family dinner at mom’s this evening and both of the youngest generation were in top form. Kai is really starting to be able to communicate well and he was willing to pose with his dad for some pictures. Getting them both looking at the camera and smiling at the same time is as hard as you might imagine but this one turned out quite well. Silas took what you might argue was his first step this evening. He stands withoug holding on pretty well. Basically, he moved his left foot to keep his balance and I’m counting that as taking a step.

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Ant

Ant

Ant

I took some pictures of flowers and plants in the back yard this evening. I had gotten down onto the ground to see if I could get a good picture of a syrphid fly on an allium flower. I got a few pictures but they weren’t as sharp as I would have liked. Then I noticed this ant on another allium and got a handful of pictures of it. They aren’t all that sharp, either, but will have to do, because I didn’t really get anything better. I’m pretty happy with the framing of this picture and the exposure, but the focus isn’t that great. In my defense, this little fellow was moving around quite a bit and the light was starting to wane a little.

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Little Things

Little Things

Little Things

Dorothy spent much of the day organizing her things. It’s been a few years since all her things were in one place and she’s taking the opportunity to go through everything and decide what she can get rid of. When I got home today and needed something to photograph she suggested I could take some pictures in her room. Out of the two dozen or so that I took, this one is my favorite. It’s a little shell with an even smaller figurine in it, a mouse (I think), and a metal box with enamel, all sitting on a small Afghan carpet square that she’s using as a table cover.

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Strawflower

Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum)

Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum)

Cathy bought some strawflower, also known as golden everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) this spring and has it in a container on the back patio. They are quite bright and lovely to see from the kitchen door. As the flowers open, the center is a bright orange that complements the yellow of the stiff petal-like bracts. As the flower ages, the central disk turns brown, as seen here, but the bracts remain. This gives the flowers their “everlasting” common name. They are already basically dry, so they don’t dry out and turn brown, but rather keep their yellow color. Apparently in their native Australia they grow in sweeping drifts in open grassland, which must be quite beautiful indeed.

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Day Lily

Day Lily

Day Lily

The day lilies are coming into bloom. These are great plants and easy to grow. They like full sun but are quite tolerant of a bit of shade (with a bit of reduced blooming, though). You often see them growing in ditches along road sites in the country. Those that we have are from a very small town that no longer exists in rural Pennsylvania. The houses are all gone, except for a few stone basements slowly being filled by the passing of time. around one of them is a huge patch of day lilies. They are in fairly deep shade, so don’t bloom profusely, but they are happy and continue spreading their roots. I dug up a few many years ago and they really responded to the sun and never fail to satisfy.

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Cow Skull

Cow Skull

Cow Skull

A little over four years ago, Dorothy was preparing for an exhibit at a small gallery in Richmond. It was a somewhat varied exhibit and included quite a few ink drawings that were drawn from her sketch-book journals. There were a few water colors, which I liked very well. There were also a few painted bones, including this cow skull. Where did she get a cow skull? You very well might ask. She happened to ask our good friend Janis (don’t spell it Janice, there’s no ‘nice’ in Janis) if she had any animal skulls around their farm. She said she had a few and Dorothy was welcome to them. That’s where it came from. Since the show in the winter of 2015 it’s been hanging in Dorothy’s bedroom. She decided this week that she wouldn’t mind getting rid of it but she didn’t want to simply throw it away. So, it’s now hanging on the fence in our back yard. I like it. Yes, we’re those people.

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Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry)

Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry)

Callicarpa americana (Beautyberry)

This native shrub has self seeded in our back garden. I’m of two minds about it. The beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), also known as rench mulberry, sourbush, bunchberry, or purple beauty-berry, does have pretty fruit, from which it gets both its common and its generic name. On the other hand, it’s not really growing where I would have planted it. Every year I think about either taking it out or at least transplanting it to another part of the garden. It certainly grows strongly enough and would probably do well in another location. The flowers, shown here, are not very significant. The big clumps of purple berries that follow are quite nice, though.

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Mushroom

Mushroom

Mushroom

Those of you who have followed my photographic endeavors for any length of time know that some days I just don’t have anything particularly interesting to share. That’s going to happen when you say you’re going to post a picture from every day. I suppose there are people whose lives are so varied that they always have something interesting going on, but my life has many days that are just like most of the others. I go to work and I come home. My commute doesn’t take me by any grand vistas and there are no mountains or waterfalls to be seen. My yard is fairly pedestrian and while I have flowers and bugs to photograph, it can all seem a bit the same from day to day. This is a mushroom that was in our back lawn, presumably growing on the decomposing roots of one of the trees that we have had to take down. Not much, but it’s one more glimpse of nature.

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Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle

Rove Beetle

I wen out again today to see what I could see. The sky was overcast so the sun wasn’t so hot. The dragonflies were also not about in such great numbers. I did get a few pictures,though, including some of this beetle that I think is a rove beetle, Family Staphylinidae, the first or second largest animal family, with somewhere around 56,000 species in 3500 genera. Only the ichneumon wasps, family Ichneumonidae is larger, with an estimated 60,000 species. Anyway, there are some 4,400 species of rove beetle in our area. You’d think you’d see them a lot more often.

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Plathemis lydia (Common Whitetail), Female

<em>Plathemis lydia</em> (Common Whitetail), Female

Plathemis lydia (Common Whitetail), Female

It was a warm but beautiful day out today and I have a few minutes in the mid-afternoon so I thought I’d take a walk to the empty lot next to my building. The drainage pond that I generally go to was quite large, overflowing the banks it’s had most times I’ve been, but above it, the ground was fairly dry and I had no problems getting around. I saw a green heron (Butorides virescens) and there were quite a few redwing blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) about. There were also a lot of dragonflies flitting around over the water. I got down on the ground by the edge of the pond and watched them, taking a few pictures now and then. I couldn’t really get as close as I would have liked but I did enjoy watching this female whitetail (Plathemis lydia) laying eggs in the water.

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Orchard Spider (Leucauge venusta)

Orchard Spider (Leucauge venusta)

Orchard Spider (Leucauge venusta)

We’re moving from the flowers-of-spring period into the insects-of-summer. Along with the insects come those creatures that prey on them, most notably the spiders and related creatures. Of course, birds, bats, and even other insects prey on insects, but I have a special fascination with spiders. They are not, I am led to believe, universally admired. I suppose I understand that. Nevertheless, I think they are quite beautiful, at least some of them are. This is Leucauge venusta, the orchard orbweaver, and a common resident in our area. It’s so delicate and looks like it could be made of glass. It’s been said that you are never more then six feet from a spider. Even if that’s not literally true, it’s probably mostly true. Sleep well.

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Egyptian Walking Onion

Egyptian Walking Onion

Egyptian Walking Onion

I planted a few of these years ago at our old house, after having taken a few bulblets from the top of some growing in a garden we visited. A few years ago I decided to get rid of them, but that’s easier said than done. This one is growing in the grass outside the fenced herb garden that I made a while back. I think we need to be a bit more ruthless in pulling them up. They are interesting, though, and if we had a lot of space, I’d have a bunch. The stems, which are really tubular leaves, have flower clusters at the top. Then bulblets form and sometimes there are flower clusters growing from those bulblets. When the top becomes heavy from the size of the bulblets, the whole plant falls on its side, those bulblets take root and new plants spring up. It’s that spreading action that gives rise to the “walking” part of their name. Anyway, if you’d like some, feel free to ask and I’ll give you a few bulblets and you can start your own colony.

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Asclepias curassavica Orange

<em>Asclepias curassavica</em> Orange

Asclepias curassavica Orange

This butterfly weed, Asclepias curassavica, is also known as blood flower. Cathy recently bought a few plants in both orange (this one) and all yellow. Sadly, it is not hardy enough for in-ground planting as a perennial here, but it should do well in containers and brighten up the back patio. This one is in a container right outside our kitchen door and looks great against the green backdrop of Rudbekia growing around the patio. I especially like the bi-color nature of this one, although the all-yellow variety is nice, too.

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Hail Storm

Hail Storm

Hail Storm

We don’t get hail all that often. When we do, the hail is generally small and the storm is generally brief. In today’s storm the hail was pretty large at first, with hail at least a half inch across and some more like three quarters or more. That didn’t last long and then the hail was more pea size, which is what you can see in this photo. That lasted a bit longer and then it was just rain after that, really coming down for a while. I enjoy storms, particularly since we live in relative safety and comfort. I wouldn’t have liked being out in this, though.

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Asiatic Lilies

Asiatic Lilies

Asiatic Lilies

We have some Asiatic lilies in the bed where there used to be an oak tree in front of our house. The oak has been gone for long enough that I don’t remember when it was cut down (and I don’t feel like searching through my journal to find out). The lilies are doing quite well and they are surrounded by other plants which seems to have kept the deer and rabbits from eating them, which is nice. As you can see, they are a very hot orange and are quite spectacular. The tiger lilies, which won’t bloom for a while yet, are much taller and more obvious. These blooms are only about 18 inches from the ground and face upwards, which is terrific.

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Papilio glaucus (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)

Papilio glaucus (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)

Papilio glaucus (Eastern Tiger Swallowtail)

I stopped at Lake Needwood on the way home today. It was a beautiful afternoon, although a bit warm for my taste. I walked around to a point point eastern shore near where there is an old beaver dam. There is no evidence that there are any beavers around any more, although the dam is in reasonable shape, considering. It’s been there since before the aerial photos used in Google’s map were taken. I got some nice photos of this eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus). I tried to get pictures of the swallows flying over the water but they were moving too fast and I really wasn’t set up for that sort of photography. I got some pictures of dragonflies, as well, and one that was good enough to use to identify a female common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas).

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Heuchera sanguinea

Heuchera sanguinea

Heuchera sanguinea

We’ve had coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea) growing in our garden and in containers pretty much since we have been able to have a garden. It’s not the sturdiest of plants and we’ve had to replace them from time to time. I may be forgetting something but I think this is currently our only plant, growing in a container in the driveway. It’s fairly happy, probably because the containers get watered more regularly throughout the summer than the in-ground plantings. Also, although this gets a bit of direct morning sun, it’s in bright, open shade by early afternoon so it doesn’t bake. It seems to be happy and it blooms quite freely, which is nice.

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Molothrus ater (Brown-headed Cowbird)

<em>Molothrus ater</em> (Brown-headed Cowbird)

Molothrus ater (Brown-headed Cowbird)

This isn’t as sharp a picture as I’d like but it’s what I was able to get today. Actually, I got pictures of three different birds today. This one, of a brown-headed cowbird (Molothrus ater) in the birdbath, a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), and a House Wren (Troglodytes aedon). The wren picture is sharper but I thought I had a better chance of re-photographing the wren, so I went with this one. The lack of sharpness is partially due to the low light and the fact that I had to crop the image to get this close, but a small part is due to the movement of the bird. As you can see by the water droplets in the air all around the bird, it is shaking water off of itself, taking a bath.

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Cleome ‘Senorita Blanca’

<em>Cleome</em> ‘Senorita Blanca’

Cleome ‘Senorita Blanca’

On Sunday, as I mentioned, we went to Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville. Cathy bought a few things, including two Cleome plants, one white and one very pale pink. The white one, shown here, is called ‘Senorita Blanca’ and the other is ‘Senorita Mi Amor’. We’ve had Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’ in the past and these are (I assume) related plants with different coloration. My understanding is that they are sterile and will not self-seed, which is both good and bad. Annuals that do self-seed can become a real nuisance and get out of control. But some, if they only just manage to hold on, are really nice. Nigela is a good example of the latter. In our experience, it just self-seeds enough that we have it for a few years before needing to plant more. Other annuals, of course, go totally native and sterile plants are a real boon.

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