We had our annual family reunion for the first time in two years. I don’t know if you noticed, but the last year was a bit out of the ordinary. You probably heard about it. It was on the news. Anyway, we didn’t meet last year but this year we did. We moved to an outdoor location. For me, this was more like old times, as this is the yard we often camped in when we visited back in the day. The weather cooperated, with lower than normal humidity and not as sweltering as it easily could have been. There were 51 people there in all, aged about 6 months to 90 years, and we managed to get a photo or two of the whole group. Thanks again to all those who put this together and especially to Lyn for all the work he did to give us such a nice place to gather.
This spicebush swallowtail (Papilio troilus) was making the rounds in our front garden today. It didn’t really stay still and was a challenge to photograph. The wings were going the whole time, even when it sort of landed on the flowers and it didn’t stay on any one flower for long. Getting a picture where it was in profile was hard and any time I got too close, it would move to the other side of the garden. They’re pretty butterflies and I love to see them in addition to the more common tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus).
The tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) are blooming. These were all descended from bulbils that we took from lilies growing at my parent’s house. We started with just a couple and the rest came from those. We have them in a few different places in the yard but this is the largest group of them. they stand over six feet tall and they are pretty noticeable. Each year the group gets just a little larger. Last year I collected seeds, as well, although we never did anything with them. I may scatter some on our property in Pennsylvania. They should do well there.
It’s been pretty warm the last few days. Yesterday was quite brutal and while this morning was a very pleasant, it warmed up a bit in the afternoon. After church we went to the Agricultural Farm Park and walked around a largish soybean field. Towards the far end of the field there were brambles growing with wild abandon and I took a few pictures of the berries. I’ve cut all sweets out of my diet and for now, I’m not eating even natural sugars, so that means no blackberries or raspberries for me. It’s a hard thing to walk past bushes of berries and just feast with mine eyes. But I restrained myself.
We visited the home of some friends today. Three of their four sons and the three sons’ wives had a craft sale today, which we dubbed the Menkapalooza. They each had a booth showing their wares, starting with Brian and Naomi. Their company is called Menkis Works and as you can see, they specialize in hand crafted pottery. Then comes the Little Cellar Shop, run by Jon and Meg. They specialize in handmade candles and carved wooden utensils, as well as various other items. Finally, there is Carol and Joseph with Sewn & Thrown. As the name implies, there are fabric good and ceramics.
All three couples make lovely things and we bought a few. I’m sure they’d love to have you drop in on their respective web sites, linked above. If you do, let them know you saw this here.
We have quite a few of these orange-flowered blackberry lilies (Iris domestica) around our garden. Most of them are seedlings from the first few that we planted. We brought those dew from our old house and they originally came from seeds we collected in South Carolina. In the circular hawthorn bed in our front yard, they compete with the tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) for dominance. The lavender is done and the rosemary isn’t really tall enough to be seen. This rime of year, these two herbaceous perennials provide the lions share of the color. They are both visited by butterflies and other insects and we’ve seen a hummingbird there this summer.
I’m not 100% certain of the species of this dragonfly. I think it may be a riverine clubtail (Stylurus amnicola) but I’m not sure. This was taken on the Monocacy River aqueduct just over the line in Frederick county. It was a hot afternoon and we were glad to be in the shade on the towpath. There is fruit on some of the larger pawpaw trees (Asimina triloba) but they are a little way from being ripe. We also enjoyed watching the swifts (Chaetura pelagica) that were flying out from a ledge on the face of the aqueduct to catch insects.
We went to Stadlers to spend $20 worth of Stadler Bucks today. As usual, I brought my camera and took pictures of a few flowers. I like this one in particular. There are a lot of new coneflowers (Echinacea hybrids) available now with some amazing colors. I’m drawn to the really hot reds and oranges. Cathy likes the more subdued, paler yellows, but we agree that they’re all very, very nice. This one is called Echinacea ‘Tomato Soup’ and it’s a winner. The flower isn’t quite all the way open yet, but it’s already quite spectacular. We really need to get us some of these.
It wasn’t quite so hot this evening so Cathy and I decided to walk in the woods around Lake Frank. It was still warm and quite humid, so I ended up pretty much drenched in sweat, but it doesn’t take a lot for me to get that way. We happened to see this American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) on the trail. It’s one of only two species of toad native to our area, so identification isn’t all that difficult. He’s a handsome fellow, don’t you think? Don’t let the frown fool you. This is ideal toad weather, especially now, with all the insects being about.
We didn’t do a lot yesterday for Independence Day but we had the day off today so got to go out. It was a typical, hot, muggy July day. Yesterday was actually not as bad as today, when the temperature got up above 90°F. Nevertheless, we got our two moms out and enjoyed sitting outside in the shade, where the temperature was not so bad. Dorothy called while we were there, so it was nice for all of us to be able to talk with her. She and Renee got to Juneau on Saturday evening so were there for their Fourth of July parade.
I happened to notice this insect on my car this morning. I’d an immature wheel bug (Arilus cristatus) and I’ve always found them to be kind of cool. The adult wheel bug has a cog-like projection on its back, which is where it gets its common name. The wheel bug preys on caterpillars, aphids, bees, sawflies, etc. so they’re actually good to have around. They do bite, if mishandled (or sometimes just handled) and their bite can be quite painful. So, I’d avoid messing with them, if you have the choice. Just leave them alone and let them eat what they eat.
We had two white-tailed deer fawns in our back yard today. As I post this two weeks after the fact, we’ve seen them together a few times, so as of yesterday (July 17) they were both still alive. With a busy road not too far away, we’re a little surprised, to be honest. When I first saw them and grabbed my camera, I figured I’d get a picture of them just before they ran away. When I opened the kitchen door to get the shot, however, they didn’t move, so I went outside and took another. Then as I walked out onto the patio, they actually came closer and got without about 15 feet before deciding that was close enough.
We’ve talked off and on about getting a chastetree (Vitex agnus-castus). The question we haven’t answered yet is where we’d put it. I wouldn’t mind cutting down the holly that’s growing near the intersection of our front walk and driveway and putting it there, but so far, that’s just me. It would be a big change and for a little while it would make the area look comparatively empty. I think it’s worth it, frankly. I’m not a big fan of holly trees, especially when I’m outdoors barefoot and step on the leaves. Hollies are evergreen, of course, and the robins do like the berries in the winter, but those are the only real assets, as far as I’m concerned. The holly tree is a native plant, of course, but we’d have to change a lot if that was going to be a reason for growing something. It does bloom, it’s true, but the flowers are nothing compared to this. The Vitex flowers are small, but they are fragrant and are lavender to pale violet, attracting bees and butterflies in great abundance. I’m a fan of bees and butterflies.
We had this in the past but haven’t had it since we moved here in 2006. Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’—a hybrid bred by Alan Bloom and officially Crocosmia x Curtonus—has wonderful, bright red flowers and we really should plant a large clump of this. As it is, we just have a single plant but maybe we could buy some more to add to this location. It’s growing in our large, front bed and clashes a little with the otherwise purple theme of the bed, but who can complain about such a red. The species of the Crocosmia genus are mostly native to the grasslands of South Africa.
I generally enjoy summer storms. I’m glad, of course, that we don’t live in a place with common tornadoes. I wouldn’t be very psyched about those coming through even occasionally. We had one here, actually, back in June of 2013 but as tornadoes go, it wasn’t terribly serious. Quite a few trees down including some that did extensive damage to houses. Anyway, today’s storm was nothing like that. Just heavy rain for a little while and then before too long, a blue sky replaced the clouds. This is the sort of storm I particularly like, with or without a little wind.
I stopped at the Croyden Creak Nature Center again this afternoon. I took a picture of Joe Pye weed here two weeks ago (see Wednesday, June 16, 2021) and wanted to see if it had started to bloom. It really hadn’t but it’s getting close. I walked around and took a few pictures, anyway, including a few of this eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) enjoying the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). There was also a nice buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) in bloom. It has spherical clusters of tiny flowers that like little pincushions.
I’m not sure how well this will show up unless it’s viewed on a largish screen. Anyway, I decided to try taking long exposures to capture the flashing lights of lightning bugs, otherwise known as fireflies. They didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, because when I used a long enough exposure to get a lot of flashes, parts of the picture were so bright that it looked like day time. That was mostly due to electric lights from our neighbors. If I get a chance, I may try to find a darker spot and see what I can do. The trails of lights are generally made by individual insects, flying along flashing as they go.
While not a native, common yarrow (Achillea millefolium) was introduced to North America in colonial times, and has since naturalized throughout the United States. It’s considered by some to be an invasive weed, although we’ve never had a lot of luck with it surviving in our garden. This specimen is a cultivar being grown in the Master Gardener’s demonstration garden at the Agricultural History Farm Park and it’s a lovely color. It certainly makes me interested in giving it another try. There are paler versions, as well and some really nice yellows. We have plenty of yellows, though, so I think I might go for something like this.
Cathy and I spent a good part of the day running errands. Between two of them, I happened to turn on Monroe Street. A few blocks south of the County Courthouse there is a circular piece of land with apartment buildings on it, with Monroe Street going around it. It’s sort of odd and even odder that the circle has been there for quite a long while—it shows up on the 1923 USGS Topographical map. I’ve not found any explanation for the circular road, but I assume someone had property and the road went around it. As I say, it’s an apartment complex now.
At the south end of Monroe Street is Dogwood Park, owned by the City of Rockville. I didn’t know the park was there and I was also surprised to find this wooden statue of Walter Perry Johnson (November 6, 1887 – December 10, 1946), also known as “The Big Train”. I’ve taken and posted photos of his grave stone in Rockville Cemetery. I also went to Walter Johnson High School. But I was surprised by finding this statue.
Cathy and I spent the evening at Rocklands Winery). I was there to take pictures for them, so we invited our good friend Maureen so that Cathy would have a companion when I went off to take pictures. We had burgers from Boxcar Burgers, a food truck that is often there (and if you think you don’t like pickled beets, you really should try a Boxcar Burger. Really good. We also had a glass each of Rocklands’ new Montevideo vintage, a very nice red wine. I’m not really a great person to recommend a wine to anyone, but this was very nice. It was an absolutely lovely evening, not too hot, and everyone there seemed to be having a really nice time. If you’re looking for something to do, you could do worse.