Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

We had another lovely sunset this evening. This shot is from out back yard, looking northwest. Looking due west we mostly have trees, so the best we can do is either northwest or southwest. They were both nice this evening but northwest was better, I think. There was also a bright orange/magenta streak almost directly overhead. I’m not sure if it was the remains of a contrail, but it really didn’t look like it. I got a few pictures of that, as well.

On other matters, we drove to West Springfield this afternoon to have an outdoor supper with a dear friend. It was so good to see another person in real, 3D life.

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Sunflowers

Sunflowers

Sunflowers

It was very hot today, and quite muggy, but Cathy and I have been trying to get out on the weekend, at least for a little while, regardless. We went tot he Mont. County Agricultural Farm Park today and walked on one of the trails for a while. Parts were in the shade but even then it was so humid that we were pretty well drenched with sweat. Nevertheless, it was good to be out. We also walked through their demonstration garden again. It wasn’t a lot different to the last time we went but I got a few more pictures, including a few of these sunflowers against the sky.

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Clouds at Dusk

Clouds at Dusk

Clouds at Dusk

Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood after dinner. Thunder was rumbling as we left the house and we didn’t know if we’d get rained on before we were home again but we decided to risk it. We were glad we did. Not only did we not get rained on but we were treated to some wonderful clouds. They ranged from blue grey to bright orange and a few were the purest white. It was quite lovely. We also saw rain but it was probably a mile or so away. The thunder continued to rumble, but it was blue overhead.

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Polites peckius (Peck’s Skipper)

Polites peckius (Peck's Skipper)

Polites peckius (Peck’s Skipper)

The skippers are here in their great numbers. They aren’t flashy like the swallowtails and they don’t buzz like the bees, but they are everywhere. They especially like the black-eyed Susan flowers (as seen here) and the Verbena bonariensis but they can also be seen on other plants. This is, I believe, a Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius), also known as the yellow patch or yellow spotted skipper. The larvae feed on grasses while the adults take nectar from flowers. They are widespread across much of North America.

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Cathy’s Patio Garden

Cathy's Patio Garden

Cathy’s Patio Garden

It’s summer here in Maryland and with it come the summer colors. Cathy often plants containers with a mixture of annual and perennials plants for the patio but this year I think she’s outdone herself. The patio is surrounded by black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and that adds quite a nice backdrop to all the containers. To Cathy’s left, above the red tea pot, are cana lilies and a beautiful, bright red Pelargonium (a.k.a. geranium). The yellow and orange in the lower middle are purslane and there’s more of that in the bottom right, hear the elephant’s trunk. The hanging basket in the upper left is Lantana camara. As you can see, there’s a fair amount going on in the large, central bed. The garden against the fence has been dug out and almost completely restarted. It should be nice in a year or two, though.

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Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus

Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus

Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus

This is a sand wasp, Bicyrtes quadrifasciatus I believe. It’s fairly common although nothing like the western honey bee or the bumble or carpenter bee, but I see them quite a bit on the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), as this one is. If I go out in the heat of the day, with the sun beating down on the mountain mint, it’s an absolute hive of activity (and I mean that in the most literal sense). There are myriad bees and wasps buzzing around with an occasional skipper sneaking in. The buddleia above has mostly bumble and carpenter bees as well as butterflies. Now and then I spot a true bug of one sort or another. It’s really wonderful, unless of course you are allergic or simply afraid of stinging things. It’s also very hot so I don’t generally stay out too long, but I love it.

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Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)

I probably should have waited a little longer to take a picture of this, since it isn’t really in full bloom yet. But I only got outside for a little while late this afternoon and this is all I took photos of. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), is an American native and well worth growing. It really adds a splash of bright color to the garden. The only thing here is that you need to watch it in our dry summer heat that it doesn’t dry out too much. It likes moist soil and can even tolerate a little brief flooding. If you’re in a place that’s not quite so hot in the summer, you could plant it in full sun but for us, it does better with a bit of shade. This one is growing under a largish cherry tree and it a bit protected from the hot, afternoon sun. If you have a stream or pond, this would be great on the banks of that. Ours will have more flowers in a matter of days but you can already see how red the blooms are and why it’s such a nice thing in the border. We should have more than we do.

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Cathy and Tiger Lilies

Cathy and Tiger Lilies

Cathy and Tiger Lilies

When I posted the close up of the tiger lily a couple days ago, I knew it wouldn’t be the only tiger lily photo I’d post this summer. They’re simply too nice to get just one mention. Dad had these growing in the garden along the driveway. Quite a few years ago we took some of the bulbils that form in the leaf axils on young stems. I find it interesting that they seem to form on young stems and not on the more mature stems. Generally you think of a more mature plant yielding more of this sort of thing. But I suppose the more mature stems produce a lot more seeds, so they don’t need to do this.

Anyway, we have them well established in a few places in the yard and they are magnificent. This is the biggest and most successful bunch, growing in a bed where a dead oak tree was removed a while back, out near the road. As you can see, they’re about eight feet tall and really happy in this sunny location. I recommend them pretty highly. The tiger swallowtails seem to like them, as well.

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Summertime

Summertime Flowers

Summertime Flowers

We’re in the heart of summer. We’ve had over three weeks of daytime high’s over 90&#b0;F and it approached 100°F today with even higher temperature forecast for tomorrow. In spite of the heat, Cathy and I felt like we really needed to get out. The Montgomery County Farm Park seemed like a good destination. Their demonstration garden was very nice. It’s a bit overgrown with weeds but since it’s not our responsibility, that bothered us less than weeds do at home. I think these are some sort of wild sunflower but there are quite a few plants with this basic look and I didn’t see a label on them. Regardless, this is summer. Big, bright, bold, yellow flowers against a beautiful, clear, blue sky.

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Tiger Lily (Lilium Lancifolium)

Tiger Lily (Lilium Lancifolium)

Tiger Lily (Lilium Lancifolium)

This won’t be the only photo I post of these, I suspect. They are starting to bloom and are already quite spectacular but when they really get into full bloom, with 20 or more flowers per stem, they are amazing. The seem to deal pretty well with the sweltering heat we’ve had and the occasional downpour. The biggest threat to them, actually, is deer, which will come in and eat them. We’ve been fortunate this year and only a few stems have been cut off (and that may be rabbits). We have them in a few places around the yard but the most conspicuous are in the front, right out near the road, where there used to be a large oak tree (until it died and the county cut it down).

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American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta americana)

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta americana)

American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta americana)

Cathy called me up from the basement this morning because she thought I might like to see this caterpillar on our back patio. It was crawling along the hose but then moved off onto some leaves and sticks, which looks a bit more natural. It is an American Dagger Moth Caterpillar (Acronicta americana). They feed on the leaves of various deciduous trees so I really shouldn’t have let it live, but I did. Apparently the hairs can cause skin irritation, so it’s something you probably don’t want to handle. I didn’t, so I cannot say whether or not it’s a serious problem.

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Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sonata’

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sonata’

Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Sonata’

I’ve seen some really impressive plantings of cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) but we’ve never had enough to really make a huge impression. Some years I think about getting a few packets of seeds but never seem to get around to it at the right time. This is from the ‘Sonata’ series and it a lovely color. They will self seed, if you’re lucky, and you’ll get repeat bloom from year to year, but we’ve only had an occasional plant from seed. Maybe next spring I’ll actually get my act together and put some seeds down. This and Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) are two that I think I could stand a lot more of.

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Cathy and Some Flowers

Cathy and Some Flowers

Cathy and Some Flowers

It was a work day today but as usual, a few times during the day we took a break from work and went outside briefly. It’s been hot, with about three weeks with high temperatures above 90° That’s not really our favorite thing, but the flowers blooming in the yard get us out, at least a little. Here’s Cathy at the south end of the house with some bee balm (Monarda didyma, the magenta flowers behind her), orange tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium, off her right shoulder), Blackberry Lilies (Iris domestica, the slightly paler orange lower down and further to her right), and some purple butterfly bush (Buddleia). There are two roses on the frame against the wall but they are mostly without blooms right now.

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Sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’)

Sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’)

Sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’)

Cathy bought a few perennials over the weekend and I planted this one yesterday. It’s a sneezeweed called ‘Mardi Gras’ and it’s really nice. The flowers have a similar look to black-eyed Susans but it’s a different genus (Helenium). I happened to catch it with a little, green-sweat bee on it, which is a bonus. It prefers somewhat barren ground and isn’t supposed to do well in heavy clay, which is probably why I haven’t seen it around here. That’s really all we have. But hopefully it will survive, even if it doesn’t thrive too well.

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Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)

Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)

Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis)

After we got home from visiting mom this afternoon we were sitting in the front yard. The evenings have been warm but so much nicer than it’s been during the heat of the day. Because my work setup is in the basement, I feel like I need to get outdoors some each day so I’m going out front after work to read. Today wasn’t a work day, but I sat out anyway. I had just taken a photo of the tiger lily buds when we spotted this snowberry clearwing moth (Hemaris diffinis) on the Verbena bonariensis. I didn’t really have great light for taking pictures of a moth on the wing (and these rarely land, preferring to hover). But this one turned out pretty well, I think.

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Dot’s Latest Quilt

Dot's Latest Quilt for Ramallah Friends School

Dot’s Latest Quilt for Ramallah Friends School

Cathy and I were able to get into mom’s gated community today and had a nice visit. We had our temperature taken when we arrived and again when we left and we didn’t actually go inside her building. We visited with her on a bench out front, which was pleasant enough. She showed us the quite she’s almost finished making. It’s for the Ramallah Friends School in Ramallah, in the West Bank, about 8 miles north of Jerusalem. The children at her Friends meeting drew robots and she incorporated their drawings into the quilt. I think it’s turned out quite nicely. For the last third of a year (exactly today), we have only seen her via video chat, except for two times when we met on opposite sides of the fence so she could pass out some tax documents (and one of those times it was pouring rain). It was good to be able to just sit and chat.

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Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein)

Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein)

Verbascum thapsus (Common Mullein)

This is the tip of a mullein stalk growing up close to the front of our house. It’s not really in a place I’d choose to plant it, but I left it there for Cathy. She really likes it and we have a fair amount in the hawthorn bed that has become something of a Mediterranean garden this year. It’s funny to hear so many people praise this plant as something the native Americans used medicinally. It may be true, but that only happened after it was introduced from Europe, as it isn’t a native American itself. It’s quite hardy (USDA Zones 3 to 9) and is quite happy in dry, otherwise barren places. This part of our yard really dries out in the summer and is currently rock hard. But along with the Verbascum we have Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena), Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender), and Salvia rosmarinus (rosemary), which all do well in rather severe conditions and in fact don’t like being waterlogged.

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Iris domestica (Blackberry Lily)

Iris domestica (Blackberry Lily)

Iris domestica (Blackberry Lily)

The blackberry lily (Iris domestica, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis, has beautiful, bright orange flowers above an attractive fan of sword-shaped leaves. It spreads slowly into clumps but mostly spreads by seed, which are distributed both by birds and by wives who really like it in our garden. I first collected seeds in South Carolina many, many years ago and we’ve had it around ever since. We have quite a few at this point and we may be reaching the time when a few of them need to be pulled up (but I’m not sure Cathy’s ready for that yet). They are native from the Himalayas to the Russian far east but do very well here. I like the lighting in this. The bloom is in full sun and the background is the pavement of our street in shadow.

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Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle)

Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle)

Popillia japonica (Japanese Beetle)

I am definitely not a fan of the Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica), a native of (unsurprisingly) Japan, and instroduced into North America in the early 20th century (first found in the United States in 1916 near Riverton, New Jersey). They are quite destructive of a wide variety of plants, including both ornamental plants (like roses, which they love) and agricultural crops (soybeans, stone fruits, etc.). Their larvae damage lawns, feeding on the roots of grasses. They are, of course, pretty if you can disassociate them from the destruction they cause. But that’s hard for me to do and I don’t really have a lot of sympathy for them. This one is on a rose of Sharon (a.k.a. shrub althea, Hibiscus syriacus).

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Resin Bee on Coneflower

Resin Bee on Coneflower

Resin Bee on Coneflower

I wasn’t happy with most of the pictures I took today, but this one isn’t too bad. I’m pretty sure this is a sculptured resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis), although there are a few other Megachile species it could be (e.g. the flat-tailed leaf-cutter bee, Megachile mendica, which is more common). Regardless, it’s a nice, quiet little bee and it was moving among the coneflowers, along with a few other solitary bees and an occasional honey bee (Apis mellifera). I know that some folks are not fond of bees and don’t like to have them around. With the exception of a few aggressive hornets and wasps, I like having them around. They really rarely sting unless provoked and they are quite pretty to watch on flowers.

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