Our Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is blooming right on schedule this year. It’s such a cheerful color to brighten up the kitchen and I’m happy for it. It’s a fairly unassuming plant most of the year but as with many cacti, its flowers are remarkable. We have a half dozen of them and some are doing better than others but they are relatively easy plants, not asking for a lot of attention, which is good, because they really don’t get much from us. And yet, this is what they give us.
Flowers and Plants
The hedge. Along the north side of our property is a hedge of Euonymus japonicus (Japanese spindle, although I never really call it anything other than Euonymus). It’s pretty healthy and flourishes even in rough years. The deer seem to like it and when it’s in bloom, the entire hedge buzzes with hundreds of bees. The flowers are not at all showy, but they are quite sweet smelling and last for a few weeks. The fruit, shown here, is quite interesting, I think, and adds a small amount of color at a time of year when it’s very welcome.
We often don’t pay a lot of attention to grass that’s gone to seed. There are some grasses, though, that are specifically grown for the ornamental value of their seed heads. This is a relatively small one, growing in a small bed near the older parking garage next to one of the buildings across campus. I was there all day for a class (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week) but had a chance to get out during our lunch break. I also found some oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), an invasive species similar to our native American bittersweet (C. scandens).
It was an absolutely beautiful day today but I was stuck indoors for almost all of it. I’m in a class today, tomorrow, and Thursday and that’s keeping me in the classroom. Nevertheless, we took a break for lunch and I used the opportunity to go outside. It was raining. Actually, it was raining fairly hard and I wasn’t really dressed for it. I still went out and enjoyed the colors. Overcast days are often the best for fall color. Add rain and it only gets better. These maple leaves are over a set of stairs down to the building I was in today and they were so beautiful. I love a rainy day.
Every year I get to enjoy the three lines of Zelkova serrata planted on either side and in the median of Norbeck Road between Rocking Spring Drive and Westbury Road. Other parts of Norbeck have Bradford pears, and they are nice in their seasons but are not, in my mind, nearly as impressive as the Zelkovas in their autumn orangeness. Some years it seems more rust colored but this year it’s a brilliant orange. They are particularly nice on overcast days but beggars can’t be choosers and I’ll take them as they come. I stopped on the way home and took a few dozen pictures, waiting for breaks in the traffic so as not to get run over.
For the last few days I’ve noticed this cherry tree in bloom. I’m afraid it’s been terribly confused by the mild fall we’ve been having and it’s going to be mightily disappointed when it gets colder rather than warmer. Well, it won’t actually be conscious of the weather. It’s just a tree. But I think it unlikely any fruit will come of this out-of-season blooming. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty little tree and gives me something to think about on an otherwise unremarkable commute. For a few days I’ve been meaning to stop to take pictures and today I did. Enjoy.
I started walking across campus to an 11:30 meeting this morning but got a phone call while I was on my way, saying the meeting had been cancelled. At it happened, I had brought my camera with me so I walked back the long way, going through the woods and taking a few pictures. I got some of the yellow fruit on what we call “Cathy’s Hawthorn” (because she parks next to it most days). In the woods I came across an oak tree with beautiful leaves. The oaks haven’t been as spectacular, overall, as in some years, but there are individual trees that are worth noticing. I also love the lines of veins in the leaf, which are still visible in the partially eaten bits.
Unofficially, this is my 2,500th consecutive day of taking a picture. I officially started on January 1, 2011, so the official 2,500th day will be in three days. Nevertheless, I had taken pictures on the three days prior to my official start, so today marks 2,500 days.
I’m a fan of the woods. I love the colors, the sounds, and the smells. I won’t say there’s nothing I don’t like about woods but in general I’d say the things I like outweigh the things I don’t like. Of course, I’m happy that I live in a modern house with running water, central heating and air conditioning, a roof to keep off the rain, and electricity and gas to power all sorts of appliances. I do like a walk in the woods, though. In the autumn, with the colors in the trees, it is especially nice. A rainy day, practically any time of year but particularly in the spring when the leaves are various shades of green is also a wonderful time for a walk in the woods. But today was glorious and bright and cool.
It’s been something of a maple-centric autumn this year. There are other trees showing good color but, as I think I mentioned previously, not a lot in our yard. This is a picture of the two maple trees behind our house. Both of them are actually double-trunks and I’m not sure if they are two trees each or single trees with two trunks. Either way, they are not particularly attractive as specimen trees. They both twist a bit and have broken and misshapen branches. This fall, though, they are doing their best to make up for it with their colors. The nearer tree in this picture, in particular, is really spectacular this year. It’s the tree that gets more direct sun and that contributes to the color.
The leaves on the ground add, I think, to the overall effect of the tree right now. It won’t be long before the leaves have all turned brown and we’ll need to get them dealt with, which we usually do by simply by mowing over them a few times, turning them into mulch in the lawn.
I posted a picture of this same dahlia on Monday, September 18, 2017, so you’ll have to excuse the repetition. Although it’s not particularly large for a dahlia flower, it’s very pretty. Also, the plant has very dark purple, not-quite-black foliage. It’s lovely overall and we definitely need to dig up the tuber and try to keep it for next year. We’ve never actually done that before and I’m not sure how successful we’ll be. They are supposed to be stored in a damp place all winter in temperatures that are between 45°F and 50°F, which is a pretty narrow range and not something we have naturally in our house. Our basement is cool but not that cool and we do our best to make it dry, not humid (it’s currently at 38% relative humidity). So, we’ll see what we can do.
One of the most easily identified trees in the forests of the eastern United States is the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Even from a distance, it’s easy to pick out the sycamore by it’s white bark. There are places along the highways in the area, particularly where the road goes over river or stream valleys, where they are quite the most numerous tree. They grow very well in wet floodplains and of course they get quite large, often reaching 80 or more feet in height and trees with a trunk diameter in excess of four feet are not particularly uncommon. In addition to the white bark on the upper portions of the tree, lower down, where the branches are trunk are thicker, the brown outer bark peels away in a very distinctive way, as seen in this photograph of a tree probably not more than 15 or at most 20 years old.
In 1981 my parents and brothers spent eight weeks backpacking around Greece. We had spent a week there in 1971 and my mom started planning then to return. On this longer trip in 1981 we were in Crete (twice, actually) and happened to find this old plane tree.
The London plain tree is a cross between the American sycamore and Oriental plane tree, P. orientalis. In 2007, Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Greece with my mom and dad for about three weeks of camping. We were able to find this tree again, in Krási. It is claimed to be the oldest and largest plain tree in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly big, with a trunk circumference of nearly 80 feet. As you can see, it isn’t exactly a perfect cylindrical trunk, and the tree isn’t nearly as tall as many American sycamores that I’ve come across. Still, it’s a mighty fine specimen.
Again with the maple leaves. We don’t actually have a lot of plants with significant fall color in our yard, so I have to take advantage of the few we do have. There are two maple trees in our back yard and one of them in particular has good color. I posted a picture of it against the blue sky two days ago. This time I’m looking down at leaves that have already fallen. I love the color on the leaf in the middle of this photograph. I was a little disconcerted by the way it was lying right on top of another, similar leaf, because I thought it might look like I put it there. I didn’t. I moved it and took a few more but they aren’t as good as this one, so here you are.
I’m afraid it’s going to be more fall color for today’s picture. I met Cathy and our friend Maureen outside my building early this afternoon and we took a bit of a walk. I carried my camera with me, as is my wont, and took a few pictures of the colors around and about. This is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). This native vine is a close relative of Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) which is, somewhat surprisingly, a native of China and Japan. Both are quite lovely in the fall, turning wonderful shades of red, orange, and purple.
Maple trees are often some of the most spectacular trees in the autumn. Not all species, of course, but quite a few. This is a red maple (Acer rubrum) and it’s one of the best. Others that can be highly recommended for their fall color are Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Of course those are very different trees. Japanese maples are great for small yards but sugar maples get very large and aren’t necessarily the best choice unless you have room to let it go. A lot of trees in our area are still mostly green. The oak trees in the front yard have barely changed at all. Some leaves are coming down from them but doing so without any real color to them. This red maple in our back yard, however, is in its full fall finery. It is especially nice against the brilliant blue of an autumn sky. We’re going to have to start picking up leaves soon.
I walked around my building around mid-day today, taking a few pictures. Most trees are starting to realize that it’s autumn, although this year it looks like there will be a lot more yellow and brown and less red and orange. Some trees haven’t gotten the memo yet, though, like this Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), whose leaves are still their summer green. It’s a weed tree around here, growing up anywhere there is unused space, often quickly outgrowing other trees. It gets quite large. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s web site, it was introduced from its native China into New York City in 1820 as a street tree and food source for silkworm caterpillars.
As of last week I have a daily meeting in another building. I’m sure there will be days when I won’t want to walk over there (if it’s raining, for instance) but so far we’ve had good enough weather that I’ve gone each day. Some days I’ve brought my camera with me and taken a little time on the way back to get some pictures. Today was such a day. Most trees are still in their summer greens but a few have begun the process of changing to their brief autumn finery. This sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum) is such a one. Because September was so dry, we’re expecting a less colorful fall this year. Pity.
I didn’t get a chance to go out today to take any pictures. By the time I got around to it, it was almost 10:00 PM so I took some pictures of houseplants. We have a few Thanksgiving cactus plants Schlumbergera truncata that have started to bloom and I got a few decent pictures of those. Then I moved on to this Kalanchoe variety. The genus Kalanchoe has about 125 species with only one species from the Americas. Most are from southern and eastern Africa and Madagascar while a few are from southeast Asia and China. This one is not in bloom but was started from one of the small plantlets (or bulbils) that grow along the margin of the leaves, as you can see in this photograph.
Among the plants growing in containers (a.k.a. pots) at the top of the driveway is a sage (Salvia officinalis). I don’t actually use sage much in cooking, although I have a handful of recipes that call for fresh leaves, my favorite of which is Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal with prosciutto and sage in a Marsala-butter sauce). I’ve made a chicken version, as well, and it’s good but chicken really cannot hold a candle to veal. This is actually being grown more as an ornamental than for the kitchen but I’m sure I could sneak a leaf now and then without doing any real harm.
I had a meeting in another building late this morning so I took my camera with me and wondered a bit on the way back to get some pictures. Most of them are of various fruits on the edges of the woods. There are a lot of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and they are all covered with their bright red fruits. After getting a few pictures of those, I took some of these Viburnum berries. In contrast to the inedible (to humans, anyway) honeysuckle berries, Viburnum berries are edible. I also took pictures of some wild rose hips and some wild grapes.
I managed to get outdoors for a little while today but had a hard time finding anything interesting to photograph. It’s been very dry and with dryness and the somewhat cooler weather we’ve been having, there are fewer insects about. I took some pictures of the sumac that is starting to turn a brilliant red but even those pictures don’t really thrill me. As I got back to my office parking lot, I picked up a black walnut and smelled it. I love the smell of fresh walnut husks. This one was black on one side and clearly soft. I squeezed it a bit and it split open, revealing a mass of some sort of fly larvae feasting on the flesh inside. I have no idea what they are (or even if they are flies, to be honest). But I though they would make a good picture (for some definition of ‘good’).
There is, as the saying goes, a fungus among us. Ever since we cut down the large tree in the center of our back yard we’ve had these mushrooms pop up from time to time. The fungus is there all the time, of course, helping break down the wood in the now dead roots. The mushrooms, the fruiting body of that fungus, appear from time to time to remind us that their job continues. I have no idea if these mushrooms are edible or not. I really should find out because if they are, we could have a fairly easy supply. They appear in variously sized clumps up to almost a foot across but only last a day or two and then they are gone. I didn’t have my glasses on when I was taking these pictures, so I didn’t notice all the little bits of grass, which I would otherwise have picked off. Cathy had just finished cutting the grass but mowed around these so I could get my pictures.
In the afternoon we went over to Cathy’s mom’s for a little while. I ran some updates on her computer and Cathy did some weeding and watered the container plants in the front yard. I went outside for a bit and took a few pictures, mostly of the roses she has in a few places across the front of the house. They are doing quite well and seem pretty happy. We could use a good rain as we didn’t really have much in September, usually a wetter month than July and August. But the roses are doing well in spite of that and it rained enough in June, July, and August (and a really heavy rain the first week of September) that most things are not really suffering yet. It’s also turned seasonably cool, which is quite nice.
When we moved into our house 11 years ago there was a large oak tree centered at the front of the property. It was not a healthy tree and was in the slow process of dying. Because it was actually in the road right-of-way, the county came (at our request) and took it down. Since then Cathy has planted mostly annuals every spring in the spot where it used to be. These are generally brightly colored zinnias and marigolds, although there are other plants as well as a few containers with even more variety. This is the flower from one of the zinnias.
Between my building and the rest of the company campus is a small drainage pond. Along the edge of the parking lot, overlooking that pond, are a number of seedling hawthorns (Crataegus hybrids). These are most likely a mix of the cultivated hawthorns that are fairly common in the area but I happen to know that these were naturally occurring seedlings as I have watched them grow from the time the area was cleared and the pond was built. They have white flowers and their fruits are varying in color. This one, as you can see, has rusty orange fruits.
I decided to take some pictures of plants on the driveway this evening. One that I got pictures of is an elephant ear, otherwise known as taro and more precisely called Colocasia esculenta. After that I started taking some pictures of the pale pink flowers on an autumn flowering stonecrop, probably ‘Autumn Joy’, also known as ‘Herbstfreude’. Although these are often referred to as sedum, they have been reclassified as a Hylotelephium species. As I was taking the pictures, this eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) came and gave me another point of interest.
A lot of people make a big deal of the autumnal equinox being the beginning of fall. Of course, that’s mostly just a marker and we don’t go from summer one day to winter the next. Also, the transition happens at a different time in different places (and there really isn’t a winter in the tropics). It’s been fairly warm lately, although the daytime highs are supposed to be down into the 70s by the end of the week. Some trees are showing some color here, but for the most part, it’s still green. This maple tree in our back yard just has this hint of red, teasing us with the prospect of what’s to come. I’m ready.
Originally planted in a pot outside our front door, this hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) has been coming up around the front step every year since and getting a little larger each year. It isn’t what I’d call invasive, but it’s certainly found a spot where it is very happy. The leaves have wonderful, red veins and the flowers are a delicate pink. The male flowers have bright yellow stamens and the female flowers are pendulous and pink with less obvious yellow stigmas. Overall it’s less than two feet tall and very welcoming as we come home. The relatively cool and protected spot is probably important to its doing so well.
As I was writing this I got to wondering where the name Begonia comes from. It is in honor of Michel Bégon (1638-1710), a French government official and avid plant collector.
The light was really pretty this afternoon, shining on the Physostegia virginiana (a.k.a. obedient plant, but that’s not nearly as fun to say). I took some pictures of the flowers by themselves but really what I was looking for was a picture with a bee or wasp or something. There was actually quite a lot of activity, mostly from eastern carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) but getting a good picture proved elusive. They kept moving, for one thing, and most of the pictures I got are not in focus. They also spent most of their time with their heads buried in the flowers which meant all I could see was their backs.
We’ve been wanting to have one of these for a while and last year Cathy finally got one and planted it in the back garden. We’ve only had a few flowers this year and they only last a day, but today I managed to get some pictures of one. Hopefully as it gets better established we’ll have more flowers over the course of the summer. This is related to the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), which we’ve had growing for a while, as well as the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) which has to be brought in for the winter. The flowers on the hardy hibiscus are larger than on either of the other two and quite striking, even from all the way across the yard. Definitely a good choice for the back of the garden.
This dahlia is one of two that Cathy has growing in containers at the top of our driveway. It is one of seven dahlias in the Dark Angel line from the Dutch company Verwer-Dahlias. The seven cultivars in the Dark Angel series are named for what they consider to be edgy films and in addition to ‘Dracula’ are ‘American Pie’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Taxi Driver’. I’m not sure those are the edgiest films you could come up with, but the flower themselves are quite beautiful. Of course they have other series, as well, such as Karma, Meloda, Happy Days, and Gallery.
Dahlias are, in general, a bit more work than some flowers, but they sure are beautiful when grown well. The genus name Dahlia is in honor of Dr. Anders Dahl (1751-1789), a Swedish botanist and pupil of Linnaeus.
The skippers are a constant source of attraction pretty much all summer and into the fall in our yard. They may have their favorites but they are generally everywhere, from the black-eye Susans (Rudbekia) as seen here, to the Verbena bonariensis, the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and the Buddleia. They are everywhere and it pretty huge numbers. If you walk along the edge of the black-eyed Susans, they fly off en masse and alight again, further along or behind you. It’s enjoyable just to watch them flitting about, sometimes two or even three on a flower, but not usually for long, as they are so often on the move.
The Physostegia virginiana, otherwise known as obedient plant, is a North American native herbaceous perennial, hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. The Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder says that is it “easily grown in average, moist, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun.” It certainly is easily grown in our yard. They also mention that it tends to flop over “in rich soils, too much shade or hot summer temperatures.” I don’t know about the heat this summer but ours certainly did flop over this year. But that hasn’t prevented it from blooming very nicely, providing a welcome contrast with all the black-eyed Susans. The bees, particularly the carpenter bees, it seems, really love it.
Writers get writer’s block. I sometimes get photographer’s block. I just can’t seem to find anything interesting to photograph. In generally I’m interested in a wide variety of things and find it pretty easy to find some detail to look at. Occasionally it’s hard and today was such a day. So, as I was making dinner, I photographed the broccolini that I was getting ready to cook. It got me wondering what, exactly, broccolini is. Well, according to Wikipedia (which you cannot always trust, but in this case it’s probably right or at least close), broccolini is a hybrid between two cultivars of Brassica oleracea. One of those is regular, old broccoli and the other is called kai-lan or Chinese broccoli, which has been bred for it’s leaves instead of its flower buds. This gives broccolini it’s longer stems and smaller flower clusters. The way I like to fix broccolini is to parboil it briefly and then put it in a sauté pan with a little olive oil and some garlic and salt.
This hydrangea has taken a few years to get established. Last year it was eaten back by the deer, which didn’t do it a whole lot of good. We’ve managed to protect it (or have simply been lucky) this year and it’s doing much better. We planted it and another, blue hydrangea a few years ago but the other didn’t make it. This seems happy and the flowers, white and pink, are quite nice against the green of our back border. We’ll need to do a little pruning to keep the forsythia from covering it up, but I think it’s well on its way to being a favorite late summer bloomer.
Lantana is a genus of about 150 species. The mostly commonly grown species is Lantana camara, a tender, woody shrub native to tropical regions of Central and South America. It has become an invasive weed in many parts of the world but here, where winter temperatures are too cold for it, there’s no chance of any real problem and it is grown as an annual. It is toxic to livestock but it does not appear to be toxic to humans (although I don’t think I’ll be doing any experiments on that). The flowers are quite beautiful, changing colors as they progress from bud to open flower, leading to some wonderful color combinations. This one is sitting on our driveway and is quite happily brightening up the place with its yellow and pink blooms.
I don’t think I’ve posted a picture of this rose yet this year. It’s such a reliable little rose and I’m really happy that I got one to plant just outside our front door. The flowers are small but quite beautiful, with a delightful fragrance. It had a tough time the last few winters. This last was relatively mild overall but there was a week when temperatures were below zero fahrenheit and that’s tough on plants that otherwise do well in our zone 6a climate. It’s bounced back pretty well and has had a few flowers on it pretty much non-stop all summer and should continue until the first frost. What’s not to love.
I know that the title for this post is a little unimaginative. That’s sort of me, though. Generally straightforward and simple (mostly simple). I went out to take pictures of reflections of black-eyed Susan flowers in the water in our back yard birdbath. I got some that were reasonably nice but nothing I was excited about. I also took a handful of pictures of this leaf of grass, an ornamental grass growing in a container on the corner of the patio. I love water droplets on pretty much anything and I’m pretty happy with this picture. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Generally we don’t let our grass get quite this tall. This isn’t in the lawn, though, it’s growing in the midst of the black-eyed Susans and Verbena bonariensis in the back garden. There are a few places where grass gets itself and it’s hard to keep up with. This is one of them, not least because mowing right up against the garden is made more difficult by the flowering plants leaning out into the lawn. We don’t want to cut any more of them than is absolutely necessary. But maybe we’ve let it go a little too much. Anyway, I actually think this is quite beautiful, with the afternoon sun shining on the awns (the ‘hairs’ extending from each floret).
We have a lot of black-eyed Susans growing in our yard. Mostly in the back but they self-seed and are here and there throughout the yard. I suspect our neighbors are not overjoyed with them, but they aren’t as invasive as some things we have (<cough>goose-necked-loosestrife<cough>). I love having all that yellow-orange in the back yard from early July on and even as they start to fade, they are still beautiful. Most of them are not looking like this, although they will be before too long.
I came across another new bug today (new to me, that is). This is the twice-stabbed stink bug (Cosmopepla lintneriana), so called because of the two red ‘wounds’ the apex of the scutellum. There were at least three of them on the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) in our back garden, including the two shown here. I had a hard time photographing them because they kept crawling around to the underside of the branches and under the bunches of purple berries. My camera, with a 100mm macro lens and two off camera flashes is a little unwieldy and takes two hands to manage properly. So, I’d use one hand to scare the bugs onto the upper side of the branch and then let go to get the picture. By the time I had found them again through the viewfinder and focused on them, they were half way back to the underside of the branch.
From the Missouri Botanical Garden:
Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous conifer (a true gymnosperm) that matures to 100′ tall. It is the only surviving member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago. It features distinctive two-lobed, somewhat leathery, fan-shaped, rich green leaves with diverging (almost parallel) veins. Leaves turn bright yellow in fall. Ginkgo trees are commonly called maidenhair trees in reference to the resemblance of their fan-shaped leaves to maidenhair fern leaflets (pinnae). Ginkgos are dioecious (separate male and female trees). Nurseries typically sell only male trees (fruitless), because female trees produce seeds encased in fleshy, fruit-like coverings which, at maturity in autumn, are messy and emit a noxious, foul odor upon falling to the ground and splitting open.
This one is in my mom’s front yard. It’s a tree that dad planted many years ago but which has grown very slowly. It appears to finally be starting to grow taller.
I only took a handful of pictures today and not until about 7:30, when the best light was gone. We had quite heavy rain today throughout the morning. It cleared up later but I was pretty busy and didn’t get a chance to go out. I’ve posted pictures of the Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena) growing in our yard before but I thought I’d do it again. I do love this color combination, the purple of the verbena against the yellow of the black-eyed Susans behind and below it.
I haven’t had a chance to look up this bee and I’m not sure this picture is good enough for a positive identification, in any case. There are a lot of little bees that look somewhat like this. This is the best of the pictures I got and it is still not very sharp. It’s a pretty little bee and I’m happy with the picture overall, though. I love the bright orange of the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It generally makes a nice contrast to the dark colors of bees. I didn’t take a lot of pictures today, though, so there were not a lot to choose from.
After being off a week, it’s shaping up to be a very busy week at work. We’re three days in and I’m definitely ready for the weekend. But I’m sure I’ll make it through, as I usually do. After work I went out back and chased a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) for a while. He wouldn’t let me get close enough for any decent sort of picture. So, I moved on to the blue cardinal flower (Lobelia siphilitica) growing in the back bed. That didn’t have any problem with my presence and I got a few nice pictures. Then I noticed that the monarch was back and I managed to get a few pictures, but the die was cast and I’m going with the Lobelia picture.
Cathy and I relaxed in the back yard this evening and I took a few pictures of her with the black-eyed Susans that are having the time of their lives this year. Actually, this year is nothing special, as they are pretty spectacular every year. In fact, I’m not convinced we wouldn’t have the entire yard full of them if we allowed them to spread uncontrolled. The goose-necked loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) would give them a good fight and might actually win out, as it spreads considerably more quickly. But the black-eye susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) spreads fairly readily.
You could argue that our garden doesn’t have enough variety and you might have a point. On the other hand, the parts of the garden that do have variety tend ultimately to be dominated by whatever plant is the most vigorous. Either that or nothing is vigorous enough and the weeds take over. I have plenty of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), American burnweed (Erechtites hieracifolia), and goldenrod (Solidago species) to deal with (just to name a few). But where the black-eye susans are growing well, very few weeds have a chance to get started. That’s pretty nice. And, they’re pretty.
A few years ago I planted a few fastigiate English oaks. The English oak, Quercus robur is a handsome tree with beautiful, gracefully lobed leaves, similar to the white oak, Quercus alba of North America. The trees I bought were a cultivar that grows very narrow and upright (which is what fastigiate means). I bought a bunch of small trees and planted planted them in various places around the yard, assuming some would not live but hoping at least one would. There is one growing to the north of the house and another in the back of the back yard. This leaf is on the second tree, in the back, and something has been eating the bulk of the leaf, leaving a skeleton and actually one surface of the leaf intact. I think it’s kind of beautiful, in spite of the fact that this is insect damage. There are enough untouched leaves that I’m not worried for the tree.
A bunch of us went to Brookgreen Gardens today. Seth, Iris, and Tsai-Hong stayed until about 1:00 before moving on to the lowcountry zoon and then headed back to the beach. Cathy, Dorothy, Jonathan, Dot, and I had lunch and then did a bit more walking in the gardens before hitting the zoo. I took a lot of pictures of sculpture and a few of dragonflies and grasshoppers (the huge eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera). I really enjoy both the sculpture and the setting. It was hot today but not really hot by South Carolina in August standards. In the shade it was actually pretty pleasant. This first picture is of my favorite tree at Brookgreen gardens. It is in the corner of the Palmetto Garden and really is part of the Live Oak Allée that’s just across the wall. I think it’s magnificent.
Of course we also went to the lowcountry zoo where we saw black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) as well as a few egrets and an ibis. The otters were very active and we enjoyed watching them swim around for a while. It was actually feeding time at the alligator pond but the alligator we saw must be well fed because he was pretty blasé about the whole thing.
After leaving Brookgreen, we drove to Murrill’s Inlet for an early dinner at Nance’s. Dorothy, Jonathan, and I shared a half bushel of steamed oysters while mom had soft-shell crab and Cathy had a crab cake.
We had rain today (and as I write this a week and a half later, it’s raining again). We often go for weeks in the summer without significant rain but we’ve had a reasonable amount this summer. I’m not complaining, I actually prefer a slightly wet to an overly dry summer. The plants generally do better and it tends to cool things off a little. Cloudy days (rain or no rain) tend to make colors more intense, as well. You can certainly see that in this picture of a tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) dripping with rain, especially with the green background to set it off.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been going out into the field next to my office a bit lately. Although it’s fairly hot out in the sun, it’s still a nice break from work and worth the heat (for a little while). Two things that I particularly like about being there are the solitude and the colors. Solitude is sort of obvious. Much of the property is hidden from the road by a large mound of soil that was scraped up when the owners began preparing the site for building (building that has not happened, twenty years later). Even when I’m close enough to the road to be seen by passers by, the ragweed is tall enough that if I sit in a clearing I cannot be seen. As for the colors, they are mostly greens and browns. I really love the various shades and this photograph, which is somewhat abstract, captures some of them pretty well.
After work today I did some prep work and then we went over to Cathy’s mom’s house where I fixed Panang curry for dinner. Cathy wanted to plant some annuals and we hadn’t seen her in a little while, anyway. While I cooked dinner Cathy worked with her plants. I took a short break while the curry was simmering to take a few pictures, including this one of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). It is a woody based perennial where it is hardy (USDA Zones 10-11, so not here) but it is grown as an annual in colder regions. The species has rosy-pink to red flowers with mauve throats but cultivars with other color flowers, like this while variety, are what is commonly found in garden centers.
I got a few insect photos today, including a few of large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on buddleia flowers, an eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on a coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and some sort of longlegged fly (family Dolichopodidae). Finally, I got some of this blow fly (family Calliphoridae) on scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma). It’s not my favorite insect. In fact, I’d have to rank it in the bottom half rather than the top. I don’t mind wasps and bees in general but flies and particular what I consider to be the ‘annoying flies’ are in the negative side of the scale, along with mosquitoes and horse and deer flies. But their metallic green bodies are pretty cool, in spite of that.
Each spring we move our clivia (Clivia miniata, also known as Natal or Kaffir lily) into a shady spot in our back yard. It cannot take the summer sun and so it needs to be in a protected spot but it’s also best if it’s in a place that will get rain (if we have any) because we sometimes forget to water it. This is a fairly tollerant plant, though, and can actually take a little neglect. When I got it from a co-worker who was leaving the it had outgrown it’s container. It had also fallen over and out of its pot a few times. I repotted it into a larger pot and it is very happy, blooming most summers in the yard. This picture was taken after a rain storm.
Cathy plants annuals in pots for our back patio each year. Every year, however, they are needed less and less as a primary focus and more as accents under the increasingly dense wall of black-eyed Susans that grown around the perimeter. Many of the flower pictures that I take are of a a single flower or at most a few together. It’s good, from time to time, to see the bigger picture (so to speak) and look at the forest instead of the trees. Adding Cathy to the picture can’t hurt, either.
This morning I took some pictures of a print that was left with us on Saturday for Tsai-Hong. It was made by one of Ralph’s caving friends who came to the memorial and it’s a somewhat impressionistic scene from a cave. But late this evening I realize I hadn’t taken any other pictures today and I didn’t want to post a picture of something that’s copyrighted as my photo of the day. In consequence, today’s picture is of some flowers that my mom got for the memorial and which have been on our dining room table since.
The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is in bloom and it’s a lovely, orange accent in the back of the garden. I’d be happy to have more of this, either the standard orange or the lovely, yellow variety. I’d also like to get some Asclepias curassavica, known as blood flower, although that’s not winter hardy anywhere near this far north. It can, apparently, be grown easily as an annual from seed. I might also try to get some Asclepias purpurascens, commonly called purple milkweed. It’s a native and I am pretty sure I’ve seen it at the farm, so I could dig some up there or get some seeds.
The large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) is a common visitor to butterfly weed (one of the milkweed family) and is particularly well suited for hiding among the flowers of A. tuberosa.
I’m not all that happy with this picture, but it’s what I have for today. We’ve had a pretty good run of insects and flowers, with a few people pictures interspersed among them. This mushroom appeared a couple days ago but today it was open. I took a bunch of pictures from the edge and then tipped it over so I could see the gills on the underside. Wikipedia describes a gill as “a papery hymenophore rib under the cap of some mushroom species.” I like that. I think from now on, I’ll call them papery hymenophore ribs.
Once the buddleia comes into bloom, which has happened in the last week or so, it’s a rare day when there isn’t at least one tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) fluttering around the yard. They aren’t anywhere as near as common and the many skippers (family Hesperiidae) that we have by the dozens or even as the cabbage whites (Pieris rapae), but pretty common. And of course they are much more striking. I particularly like then when the sun is on them or even shining through them and they are against a clear, blue afternoon sky, as this one is. The color on the upper side of the hindwings identifies this as a female, just in the act of taking off from the flower.
This is the so called blackberry lily, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis but now renamed to Iris domestica. It’s a pretty little thing. each individual bloom lasts a day (or a fraction of a day, really) but they come one after the other for a nice, long while. They are, as you can see, very eye-catching. Each year we collect the seeds from them and scatter them around in other parts of the garden. Of course, they get moved by birds, as well. This is a seedling, growing on the edge of a garden bed in the center of our back yard, among the Verbena bonariensis, with which it contrasts very nicely.
I didn’t get out of the office today to go take pictures. Most of the day it was raining and then I just didn’t have time in the afternoon. I was a little busy but actually more frustrated than anything else, so going out would have been nice. Nevertheless, when I got home I took some pictures of a common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) on one of the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) outside our dining room window. I like bumble bees and they are out in pretty good numbers right now. In prior years it seemed that they were outnumbered by carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica). This year I’m seeing a lot more bumblebees. That’s just anecdotal evidence, of course but that’s the way it seems to me.
Summer is definitely here and we’ve had a few really hot, really muggy days lately. Today was no exception but in the mid afternoon a thunderstorm rolled through and dropped a fair bit of rain in about a half hour. The wind was blowing and it was beautiful. I sat under cover of the back of the house and watched it, getting a little damp, but really enjoying the show. As the rain slowed and water dripped from the trees, I went out with my camera and took a couple dozen pictures, including this one of a drop of water, gathering on the end of a twig. A second after I took this, it fell and a new droplet began to form.
These tiny flowers of the American beautyberry Callicarpa americana are, you won’t be surprised to learn, followed by beautiful berries. There will be clusters (called cymes) of the slightly pale, purple berries (called cymes) around the stems at each leaf axil (see December 7, 2013). The flowers are not nearly as showy as the fruit, or maybe it would be called American beautyflower. I still think they are pretty, though. And judging by the proliferation of berries, the insects sure must like them.
I’ve been able to get a fair number of flower pictures so far this year but the insects are not out in all their force yet. I’ve seen many around but haven’t been able to photograph many of them. This is my first bumble bee of the summer. It isn’t the best bumble bee picture I’ve ever taken but it makes me happy, with the brightness of the bee balm (Monarda didyma) contrasting with the black of the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). I’m sure there will be many more to come. As for the title of this post, it’s the sort of thing that shows up in crossword puzzles fairly often, two words or phrases that overlap in the middle. Bumble Bee and Bee Balm.
I went over to pick up something from Tsai-Hong this afternoon and decided to take a few pictures in the garden. There is a small clump of Eryngium in the front garden, beside the driveway, and that’s what is in this picture. I have no idea what species it is or if it is a hybrid of some sort. We had three or four different Eryngium species in our garden in Gaithersburg and this reminded me that we need to get some for our current garden. They are mostly blue or purple and add such a nice point of interest in a sea of green. They are not really related to the holly (Ilix), of course, but it’s easy to see how they came by their common name, sea holly.
The coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has started to bloom. I often have a difficult time getting good pictures of this, because the ray florets (the ‘petals’) are often eaten into by some insect or other. They are still pretty from a distance and in mass but individually, they get to look a bit tattered. I also took some pictures of day lilies today but they put out new flowers each day and they fade before the critters have a chance to do them any harm. So, they will be around for more pictures on another day.
Dorothy went to camp this morning so I gave Jonathan a ride to the farm. He plans to stay there for the week and Dorothy will pick him up on Friday. While I was there I took a few pictures of this trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) growing on a post in front of their garage. This is a native honeysuckle to the southeastern United States. The flowers are not fragrant but are quite pretty, with scarlet to orangish red on the outside and yellowish inside. They are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
We have a fair amount of Verbena bonariensis growing around the yard. It’s somewhat of a weed but for the most part, we let it go, just keeping it barely within bounds. There are a few reasons for us letting it go. First, of course, is that it’s pretty on its own. I mean, the purple adds a bit of contrast to all the green in the early summer and it’s generally still in bloom when the black-eyed Susans really start to go crazy. But I think the main reason is that the American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) really seem to like it. Usually I’ve been unable to get close enough to get even a poor photo of them before they fly away but this afternoon I got a reasonable picture showing three finches. They are such lovely birds and we enjoy watching them bounce around on the tall stems of the Verbina.
As I’ve mentioned, Cathy bought a bunch of annuals to go in containers and in a few locations around the house. One that she often gets is sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), a pretty little thing with masses of small (7 or 8mm) flowers. This variety has a purple tint and it really lovely. I think they are particularly nice up close. On the other hand, I think a lot of things are interesting up close, which is why a significant proportion of my photography is of small things, viewed up close. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these little flowers.
I went out into the woods next to my building today. There wasn’t a lot that I decided to photograph. Mostly I took pictures of the sun shining through leaves. I love leaves (and I’m frond of ferns) and especially like looking at them with light shining through them. This is a leaf of a tulip poplar, or tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and it has large leaves of a unique and easily distinguished shape. While you can easily identify dogwood by its bark, the tulip tree is identified by its leaves.
This comes up all around our yard. It isn’t so invasive that it cannot be kept under control by judicious pulling and it certainly adds a bit of interest during a time when there isn’t a huge amount in bloom. The early spring flowers are done and the summer flowers haven’t really gotten going yet. There are Asiatic lilies blooming and the day lilies will be starting pretty soon. The Verbena bonariensis has started but the black-eyed Susans are still a good way off. Feverfew doesn’t have the most striking flowers around but they are certainly pretty enough. And there are plenty of them.
I sat on the patio for a while this afternoon, just enjoying being in the sun. It was actually a little hot for my taste, but still nice for all of that. Also, the light is better for macro photography in the sun, when you want as much depth of field and as fast a shutter speed as possible. I was watching the insects around the potted flowers on the patio and got a few pictures of this skipper (family Hesperiidae) on a coreopsis (a.k.a. tickseed) flower. The insects aren’t around it the huge numbers we’ll have in a few weeks, particularly when the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) starts to bloom, but they are certainly here and I really enjoy them.
Ralph told me that the other day he noticed a vulture perched on the kids old jungle gym in his back yard. Later he noticed more had gathered. At first he wondered if some animal had died and attracted them. But no, that’s not what it was. It was this plant, a dragon arum, (Dracunculus vulgaris, formerly called Arum dracunculus), a native of the central and eastern Mediterranean. This plant attracts pollinators by mimicking the smell of rotting meat. It does a good job and fooled the turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) which find dead animals primarily with their highly developed sense of smell. Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) find food primarily by sight and by following turkey vultures.
On the Missouri Botanical Garden’s page about Dracunculus vulgaris it says,
Avoid planting this perennial near windows, doors, sidewalks or other frequently populated areas where the brief but overpowering odor from the spadices will be found objectionable.
I’ve mentioned this rose a couple times so I decided that I’d finally get around to posting a picture. This is a miniature rose called ‘Cutie Pie’ and it is, really. I’ve found two roses named ‘Cutie Pie’ listed in commerce. This is WEKruruwel, Bred by Tom Carruth and introduced by Weeks in 2016. So, it’s a new rose. I’ve planted it in the large bed in the middle of our back yard where there used to be two trees. That bed needs a bit more variety and this was my start at that. I plan to add a few more roses, two at least and maybe as many as four. I’m looking at a few of David Austin’s English roses. We’ll see.
This is the first of our Asiatic lilies to come into bloom. We have been adding these every now and then and I really love them. They have such loud, hot colors and are such beautiful, symmetrical flowers. I don’t know that I could ever have too many of them. I think my favorites are the solid colors, particularly the orange and deep reds but I saw a mix of orange and yellow the other day that was out of this world. This one is relatively short, with the flower less than a foot and a half from the ground. I like that because it means it’s easier to look down into the flower. The tiger lilies are much taller but since the flowers hang down, that works out really well.
Cathy’s been stocking up on her annuals and has begun to put them into containers to go around the house. There are some amazing colors and textures and I thought for today I’d feature this Celosia. Its bright orange flowers are about as close to a flame as you can get and the genus name actually comes from the Greek word keleos (κήλεος) meaning burning.
Cathy has a couple with this flower color and one that is a deep, hot red. They really are something and bloom well in full sun and even light shade. I didn’t know this until recently but apparently it is edible and is cultivated as a leafy green vegetable. According to Wikipedia (caveat emptor, or in this case the eater), “It is traditional fare in the countries of Central and West Africa, and is one of the leading leafy green vegetables in Nigeria, where it is known as ‘soko yokoto’, meaning ‘make husbands fat and happy.’”
On page 134 of volume 48 (dated August 24, 1895) of The Garden: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture In All Its Branches, under the heading Rosa setigera, it says:
The numerous varieties in this group are at once specially distinguished by their leaves being rough to the touch, shining on the upper surface, downy and glaucous underneath, deeply toothed at the margin, and furnished with curved prickles on the mid-rib and principal veins. The flowers are borne, mostly in threes, in numerous corymb-like clusters.
It lists a few varieties and then under ‘Mill’s Beauty’ it has the following:
A very vigorous-growing and most noteworthy variety, producing a brilliant effect when its flowers, which are of a redder colour, but not so double as those of the preceding variety [R. s. var Beaute des Prairies], are in the full flush of their freshness. An extra fine kind.
This is a rare rose and in past years Nick, whose this one is, called it his ‘Great Unknown Setigera’ It has now been identified as the same rose growing in Roseraie du Val-de-Marne à l’Haÿ-les-roses in France. ‘Mill’s Beauty’ is also known as or ‘Miller’s Climber’ and is a R. setigera hybrid of somewhat unknown origin. According to volume 12 of Modern Roses it was bred before 1835 and may be a hybrid between R. setigera and R. arvensis. It also says that it is more likely of U.S. origin rather than the generally assumed England.
We don’t remember where we first got this sedum or what it’s called but it’s very successful in containers and in the garden around our house. It doesn’t grow so fast or furiously that it’s a real problem but it certainly takes no effort to keep it alive. If you want something that will grown pretty much anywhere in your yard, this might be a good choice. It has very beautiful, little yellow, star-shaped flowers on light green foliage. We have it in full sun and in reasonably heavy shade. It places that are almost always wet and others that pretty much bake. If you want a little, let us know.
This is a very nice Coreopsis (tickseed) growing in a container on our back patio. I like these larger-petaled Coreopsis flowers more than the fine-petaled varieties. I suppose they both have their uses but these are so much bolder and brighter. They certainly make a good show and outside the kitchen door is a nice place for a big splash of yellow. These are reliable blooms and come ahead of the sea of black-eyed Susans that fill our backyard later in the summer. For now, these are the sole source of this color in our garden (there are a few yellow irises but they are a much paler yellow).
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is one of my favorite perennials. It’s easy to grow, it does well in sun or shade, it can take fairly dry conditions, and it blooms for a nice, long while. We have one with leaves that are very pale green, almost yellow. We have one with flowers that are much more pink and some that are nearly pure, deep blue. Each bloom lasts for a day only but there are a lot of them, following one after the other.
From the Missouri Botanical Garden page:
Genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England.
Specific epithet means of Virginia.
When the stems of spiderworts are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes threadlike and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence the common name.
My pink multiflora rose is in full bloom. I suspect it isn’t 100% R. multiflora, because those have white flowers and this is clearly not white. What the rest of its genetic makeup is, I really couldn’t say. R. virginiana would be a reasonable guess. The color is right. The leaves are definitely R. multiflora and it’s got the requisite resistance to black spot. It’s possibly a bit less vigorous, but that’s probably something in its favor. R. multiflora will generally take over and this is large, but fairly well behaved. Pity it only blooms once, but then, the same can be said for the azaleas.
This little Siberian iris was originally planted in our garden in Gaithersburg. When we were getting ready to move I dug up a portion of it and brought it with us. It’s been doing pretty well in our yard here for ten years. Like most Siberian irises and despite being named ‘Eric The Red’, this flower is purple rather than anything you could describe as red. Some Siberian irises are much bluer, of course, so it has more red in it than those. But it’s purple, not red. Still, it’s a happy little flower and quite content without needing much of any care to do well. In a bit more sun we’d probably get more flowers but it’s happy where it is.
Cathy and I went to Stadler Nursery this afternoon and while Cathy picked out a few perennials, I took a bunch of pictures. Actually, I bought something, as well, a Camellia japonica ‘Kumasaka’. I’m not sure where I’ll plant it but I’m thinking that it might go in front of the house to replace the dogwood that’s much too close to the house and really needs to come out. This photo is of an Asiatic lily called ‘Tiny Sensation’ and it’s a stunner. We have a few Asiatics in the yard and in containers. They mostly have solid colored blooms but all are quite hot.
This is the first of our bearded irises to bloom this year. We have a few of this color scattered around the yard, as well as a few that are bright yellow. I love the way the water droplets look on leaves and flower petals. I guess that’s why they are so often subjects of my photographic efforts. I’m not sure they ever really capture them properly but this one is pretty nice. The color of this flower is nice, too, of course, being such a deep purple. I don’t have a lot else to say. I guess I hope speaks for itself.
One of the shrubs that was in our yard when we bought this house is a large viburnum. It’s in the somewhat shady, northern end of the back yard next to a Spiraea. Some years the bloom isn’t anything to mention but this year is one of the best it’s had since we have lived here (over ten years). The individual flowers are not much to speak of the the entire bush, about ten feel tall and equally broad, is absolutely covered with them. It’s not quite pure white but close enough. The birds love this bush and right now, the insects are pretty happy with it, as well. Once the blooming is done, I’m going to do a bit of cutting, because it tends to get too big and it’s been a few years, but for now, we are really enjoying it.
This is a large and very easily grown rugosa rose that I’ve had in the yard since we first moved here. It’s about 9 feet tall and that’s the only real problem with it. It’s too tall to really be able to appreciate most of the blooms, which are all up at the top. If given more room the branches would arch over and more flowers would be accessible but it’s not sited well enough for that. I may need to move it but it is very happy where it is. Also, the blooms are quite visible from the kitchen, which is certainly a plus. The fragrance, as with most rugosa roses, it wonderful and strong.
We have quite a bit of columbine (Aquilegia) growing in our yard. Many of the plants are seedlings and most look something like this. There are lots of quite fancy and brightly colored columbines among the 60 or 70 species (and many more varieties) but we’re happy enough with the slightly more staid, darker colors. Backlit by the sun the red comes alive and is quite bright. Growing mostly in the shade, however, it rarely gets this treatment. Still, it’s a good plant to have and isn’t generally bothered by rabbits or deer.
It was a beautiful, warm day today and after church and lunch we decided to go to Fehr’s Nursery in Burtonsville. They have a nice selection of plants including the annuals that Cathy’s been planting in a small area at the front of our yard the last few years. I bring my camera and spend most of my time taking pictures of flowers. This year I also bought a miniature rose called ‘Cutie Pie’ but that’s not what this photo is. This is a flower of Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium species) with a syrphid fly (Toxomerus marginatus) perched on it. These are quite ubiquitous, little creatures in the area and they don’t cause any bother at all. I think they’re kind of pretty, as well.
Although it would have been lovely to spend some of the weekend with Dorothy, coming home yesterday, on Friday, was a good idea. We were tired and certainly not ready to go back to work this morning. While we were gone, the yard and garden continued to progress through its usual spring sequence. The Exbury azalea is in full, glorious bloom, with its hot, bright orange flowers. The Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is also in bloom in the garden under the cherry trees. It’s not closely related to the Virginia bluebell, being much more closely related to the Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis).
The pink dogwood is out and we’re about to enter the most floriferous time of the year. The dogwoods are probably at or just past their peak. Likewise the redbuds. The azaleas are just starting and will be in full bloom soon, which is a pretty spectacular time in our area. The azaleas are followed within a few weeks by some of the early roses, some of which continue to bloom throughout the summer.
I took some pictures of the yard this afternoon. First I got some overall shots showing shrubs, trees, grass, etc. Then I took some close up shots of a phlox plant that is blooming along the back of the yard. The dogwood that Cathy is standing next to in this photo is in the front, too close to the house, really but it’s such a beautiful tree when it’s in bloom that I’m loath to take it out. I tried planting a tall camellia under it that I could cut it out in favor of, but that was just before two very cold winters and it died. I should probably try again. But, for now, we’re enjoying it.
I went out into the woods next to my building today. It was overcast but mild and a nice day to be outdoors. I had only walked a few paces into the woods when I spotted these little mushrooms by a fallen log. I got down on the ground and took a bunch of pictures but I’m not really all that pleased with any of them. The contrast between the white tops of the caps to the dark undersides was just too much for the sensor in my camera to take. But, it’s what I have a picture of today. Hopefully tomorrow will be more interesting.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is up and in bloom. There was some of this in a bed under some trees in the back yard when we moved here. Cathy has transplanted some to a few other locations and this is growing around the southeast corner of the house. It’s such a pretty little flower and I love looking at them every year. They don’t last a long time so when they come out I can’t wait around. But for the short week or so that they are in bloom, they are worth taking time for.
This pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is in front of our house and it’s coming into full bloom. I really love pink dogwoods, although they don’t do as well these days because of anthracnose and the dogwood borer, one of which I photographed on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. It’s a pretty little thing but they do significant damage to this pretty, native tree. There are not reliably pink kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) and they have fewer pests, at least so far. They bloom later and have pretty fruit. I’d also like to get a Cornel cherry (Cornus mas), which has small, yellow flowers a bit earlier than the flowering dogwood.
We’re coming into the period with the most blooms now, and it’s the time of year when I get lots of pictures and have a hard time picking which to post. I got some pictures of a Camellia japonica called ‘Dad’s Pink’ growing beside my garage. I also got pictures of the cherry tree that’s also on that end of the yard. But the picture for today is of forget-me-not flowers (Myosotis sylvatica), growing in the back yard. There were quite a few of them in years past but they are short lived perennials and tend to migrate across an area, growing where they haven’t grown and not renewing themselves as much were they were. These are out in the grass and will need to be moved or they will get mown before too long.
Here’s another daffodil (all of which are varieties of the genus Narcissus). This one is called ‘Suzy’ and it’s a really nice little thing. I planted them in the fall of 2014 so this is their third spring. Actually, I’m not sure if they are ‘Suzy’ or if they are ‘Falconet’. The two varieties are quite similar in appearance but ‘Falconet’ has multiple flowers per stem. I can’t find the paper where I wrote down which I planted where that fall, though, so I may be wrong. In any case, they are quite pretty and I’m happy to have them growing in two places in the back yard.
This is a really find daffodil and I recommend it highly. It doesn’t have really large flowers but what it lacks in individual flower size it more than makes up for in bloom count. I planted these in 2009 around a large oak tree in the front of our yard. The oak was dying and has since been removed but the bulbs continue to thrive. I really should get some more of these, although there are lots of other varieties that I could try. These are somewhat variable. The corona (the cup in the center) is somewhat yellow in these but in others it is nearly as white as the base of the surrounding outer perianth (the six ‘regular’ petals).
It was an absolutely glorious day out today so when we got home from church we wanted to do something outdoors. We were tired, though, so decided against doing more yard work. That isn’t to say that we’re all done, by any means, but the yard and garden is in better shape than it’s been this early for many years. We went to Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville and looked at plants and flowers, thinking about what we might get to add to our garden. I took some pictures, mostly things I thought looked nice rather than those I was particularly interested in buying. This Icelandic poppy was quite amazing in its orangeness.
I was down at mom’s today to have lunch with her and with my cousin Dana, his wife Barbara, and Seth. It was a beautiful, clear day and when I went outside to take pictures of the camellias that are in full bloom, I thought I really should get one against the sky. So, that’s what you get, a big, bold, red Camellia japonica against the blue, spring sky. I don’t remember for sure what camellia this is. Perhaps mom remembers. As tomorrow would have been dad’s 90th birthday, though, I think this is an appropriate day to celebrate his remembrance through the camellias he planted. Thanks, dad. It’s been more than seven years and I still miss you every single day.
I’ve bought a large number of bulbs a few times since we moved to our current house and twice I’ve received a bonus of five tulip bulbs from the place I ordered them. Tulips are not generally as long lived as daffodils, in my experience, but then, my experience is fairly limited. I planted the ten that I’ve received in one area and this year five of them bloomed. Obviously this is one. While I have a lot of daffodils and quite a few other, smaller bulbs, I do confess to liking the view straight down into a tulip flower.
Scilla siberica, sometimes known as Siberian squill, is a small bulb native to southern Russia. It is notable for its ability to grow under black walnut trees, which is useful if you have a black walnut and are looking for things to plant under it. I don’t but I still love this spring ephemeral. It is similar to the related Chionodoxa forbesii but the flowers on that are turned upright while Scilla’s face down. It was getting late in the evening when I took this (6:55 PM) and although the camera was steady (on a bean bag), there was a slight breeze moving the flowers around a little.
I don’t know that we’re finished with frost for the spring, but it is definitely spring. It was very pleasant out today and Cathy and I got a lot done. Over the winter we generally leave last year’s stalks and seeds of Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Verbena, etc. for the birds. It’s time to tidy up the yard, though, in preparation for this year’s growth. I used a hedge trimmer to cut them all down near the ground and we cleaned up most of the garden in back and a little of what’s needed out front. After most of that was done I took a break and spent some time photographing flowers. These Muscari are growing under a cherry tree at the north end of our front yard.
This largish Spiraea japonica was in our back yard when we bought the house. Every few years I cut it back quite hard and it rewards us with a wonderful show of airy, white blossoms each spring. There’s actually a cherry seedling growing up through the middle of it, which I need to chop down one of these days, but that’s neither here nor there. The small white flowers are pretty on their own but of course it’s the effect of a seven foot shrub covered in them that’s the real show. Aside from the occasional once over with a hedge trimmer, it takes virtually no work at all.
I’ve been over to one of the other buildings on campus a fair amount lately, for teleconferences with our client, working through the transfer of a system from our server to theirs. It’s dragged on longer than seems like it should have done but we will see it through. One nice thing has been that I’ve had more opportunities to walk through the woods between the two buildings. It’s the more direct but slightly slower route. Of course stopping to take pictures slows it further. The seed-head of this grass was shining in the afternoon light and I thought it looked nice. I’d be curious to know what you see in this image (beyond the literal, of course).
This pink glory of the snow had started to bloom before our late snow and I was a little afraid that they were not going to come back from that. I shouldn’t have worried, as they are apparently made of sterner stuff. These are quite tall for Chionodoxa, although that isn’t saying much. They are tall enough to hold their flowers above the top of the pachysandra among which they are planted. They came back after the snow and are quite lovely. The regular, blue Chionodoxa forbesii growing nearby are also doing quite well and happily blooming now that the snow has gone.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, hyacinths are not my favorite flower. They’re pretty enough and at a distance, I like them just fine. I find the fragrance to be awful, though, so as a centerpiece on a dining room table (for instance) I would just say no. Not everyone shares my opinion, I know. In fact, I know people who actually like the fragrance. It is in their honor in general (and for Julia Y in particular) that I dedicate this photo of purple hyacinths, blooming in our back yard.
It was raining this morning but we wanted to do something outdoors. We picked up Maggie and went to Brookside Gardens, where there are both indoor and outdoor parts, so we could come inside if it continued raining and go out if it stopped. As it turned out, by the time we left the sky was mostly blue and it was a lovely day, so we wandered over most of the grounds as well as spending some time in the greenhouse.
This is indoors as it’s only hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10 but it’s a lovely shrub with fragrant, delicate pink flowers less than a centimeter across.
The forecast for tonight is snow. The heaviest snow we’ve had so far this year didn’t even cover the grass completely, so this will be, assuming it lives up to the hype, considerably more than we’ve see so far. They have backed off from the forecasts of 10 to 15 inches and are now calling for 4 to 7 inches here. Central Pennsylvania and up to New York City are likely to get considerably more than us, with forecasts ranging from 15 to 24 inches. So, here’s one more picture of spring, before winter returns. It’s actually quite a bit colder already, but the precipitation should finish off most of the blossoms that have already opened. Hardy plants, like daffodils, will continue to bloom but I have a feeling many cherry trees are done for the year.
It got quite a bit colder after the rain we had yesterday and this morning it was quite chilly. We wanted to go out and because it’s felt like spring, we wanted to see some plants. That helped us decide to go to Johnson’s outside of Olney, where there is a greenhouse and both house plants and a few outdoor plants that it will be safe to put out soon. This is a Rex begonia, one of a great many cultivars developed specifically for their exotic leaf patterns. This one has a wonderful spiral that really caught my eye. The Rex begonias are only hardy in zones 10 to 12, so can’t be grown outdoors except in a container that comes in for the winter. They also need considerable humidity and indoors that’s a problem for those of us with forced air heating systems, which tend to dry the air in the house far too much. But it’s beautiful. If I ever had a greenhouse, this would be something I’d look at more seriously.
It was a very wet day this morning and everything was dripping as I went to work. After taking my things out to the car I got my camera out and took some pictures of flowers in the rain. Mostly I took daffodils because they are really starting to bloom but then I noticed that one of our two cherry trees has started to bloom as well. It’s forecast to get cold as the rain tappers off later today and there is significant snow in the forecast early next week. We’ll see what that does to the flowers. The cherries in particularly won’t appreciate it.
The glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) has started blooming. As the common name implies, it’s an early spring bloomer and it isn’t unusual for it to be up and blooming well before the threat of frost is past. We’ve been having quite mile weather lately although the forecast is saying cooler weather is coming shortly. In fact, there seems to be a possibility of significant snow early next week with the cold starting tomorrow. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the spring ephemerals.
This is my third amaryllis photo in just over a week but I’m not going to apologize for it. These are really beautiful flowers and well deserving of the attention. The first of the three photos was of an amaryllis with mixed red and white flowers. The second was of the bud of this one, which has solid red blooms. I’m glad I got the pictures of this when I did because within 24 hours of taking them, the plant tipped over and the blossoms were smashed a bit. They still look good (those that are still attached) but it’s a little the worse for the fall.
We had a light snowfall overnight. It wasn’t much and in most years would barely register as a snow at all. Nevertheless, it was the biggest snow we’ve had so far this winter. It melted on paved surfaces, so the roads were quite clear but it nearly covered the grass, with only a small amount of green showing through. I went out back and took some pictures of things with snow on them, including this Monarda didyma (scarlet bee balm) seed head near the back fence. By midday all the snow was gone. I don’t know if winter is over but with the exception of a few days in the single digits, back in December, this has been a very mild winter indeed.
I know I’ve already done amaryllis recently but I’m afraid it’s going to be a repeat of sorts today. The picture is different enough, fortunately. The one I posted two days ago was in full bloom. This is another that Cathy bought and planted at the same time, but it’s at least a week behind. It’s also six or eight inches taller. Finally, I think this one is solid red where the other was (and is) pink or red mixed with white.
Dad used to grow an amaryllis most years for Christmas so I associate them with dear old dad. That’s a good thing, of course, but it does have a tendency to make me a little melancholy from time to time. I guess that’s one side effect of getting older. When we are young, if we are fortunate (as I certainly was) we don’t have a lot of loss in our lives and things we consider terrible are usually relatively mild in retrospect. As we get older, it’s almost inevitable that we will have significant loss. I’m not sure if I deal with it in a good way or not, but I do it my way (as Paul Anka might say). Having things that remind me of the loss is, for me, part of how I deal with it. I don’t want to forget, even though it’s painful.
It rained pretty hard all day today and I didn’t get out to take any pictures. I met a few guys at Dogfish Head Alehouse after work but didn’t really have an opportunity to take any pictures there, either. So, when I got home I took some pictures of houseplants that are growing in pots in our kitchen. Many of them move out onto the back patio in the summer (or we move them, anyway) but they spend the colder months vacationing in our kitchen. There’s a pretty good amount of light from the afternoon sun so they seem reasonably happy there. They’d probably do better if the air in the house were not so dry, but they get through it. This is a Schefflera, an umbrella plant, and a fairly common houseplant. In the tropical climate of its native Taiwan it grows to 10 to 25 feet tall but as a houseplant it rarely exceeds 6 or 7 feet.
Cathy grows at least one amaryllis pretty much every year. This year she has two and although they were both growing their flower stalks at the same time, this one opened well ahead of the other, coming into full bloom before the other even started to open its buds. I took a few pictures of it this evening, doing my best to eliminate the harsh shadows on the wall behind it by bouncing my flash off the ceiling. Generally she tries to get them started early enough that they bloom around Christmas but this year didn’t get them into their pots until January, so we have them now. No complaints from me.
It was a fairly busy day today, with church as usual and then a fellowship lunch with Crusader Baptist at 2:30. I made a big batch of qaubili pilau with braised beef and we enjoyed a huge meal and a wonderful time of sharing. I took a few pictures but they will mostly be of interest to those who were there. When we got home I took a few pictures of our early daffodils, a variety called ‘Tete-A-Tete’, which have started to bloom along the side of our front yard. There will be many more to come and since it turned cool today, they will slow down a bit, but spring is definitely in the air. ‘Tete-A-Tete’ is a small daffodil classified in division XII (Miscellaneous Daffodils) and I’m quite fond of it, not least because it comes out so early and lasts quite a while.
Another early bloomer, if your in the market for such things, is the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). The genus name comes from the Greek words bora meaning food and helein meaning injures/destroys in reference to the plant’s toxic leaves, stems and roots which are poisonous to humans if ingested (source, Missouri Botanical Garden). There are various cultivars in a range of colors and we have a few light colored varieties in the yard. Nevertheless, I really prefer this deep wine color. The blooms are not terribly conspicuous, being mostly downward facing and often covered by the new leaves, but what you see of them makes it a plant worth growing.
I went over to Ralph’s this morning to drop off something with mom. While we were there I took some pictures of things blooming in his yard. In addition to this little, yellow crocus, there was winter aconite still in bloom (but mostly done). Also, a winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) was in full bloom with its lovely, yellow flowers all along its green stems. I also took some pictures of winterberry berries. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly, native to eastern North America and is known for its profusion of bright red berries on bare stems that last throughout the winter.
It was another spring-like day, well into the 70s, and mostly sunny. I took a walk on the other side of W. Montgomery Avenue at lunch time, hoping to find things to photograph and generally enjoying the fresh air. Although it feels like spring, the woods are still in their mostly brown, winter garb. There were a pair of geese that seemed to be protecting a nest and they didn’t want me to get too close. I caught sight of a king fisher and small woodpecker but wasn’t able to get pictures of either. There is a small drainage pond with what appears to be a beaver lodge in it. The pond is surrounded by cattails (Typha latifolia) and that’s what is featured in today’s picture.
There have been some snow drops out in our neighborhood for over a week now. Outside the building where I work are two large areas covered with them and they are in full bloom, as well. These are on the north side of the building, on a protected slope below the parking lot, leading down to a stream. I wasn’t able to get pictures but I saw two butterflies and one very large wasp of some sort on them. I don’t think about there being many flying insects about this time of year but if there are flowers, there are bound to be pollinators. It’s been quite mild out, but this is just about when the snow drips (Galanthus nivalis) normally blooms.
It’s a bit over a week earlier in the year than the photo I posted of this last winter, but having it bloom in February isn’t at all unusual. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) got its name for a reason. It’s a native of Europe, from southern France to Bulgaria and it’s also adapted to grow under black walnut, which produces the natural herbicide juglone (a.k.a. 5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthalenedione) that inhibits many plants from growing too close (and thus competing for resources). Eranthis is a pretty little things, lighting up an otherwise brown garden in the depths of winter. Even if this winter hasn’t been all that deep so far.
This picture didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I really should have gone back inside to get my tripod, because it was not bright enough for this sort of picture without additional camera support. As a consequence, it’s a little blurry, but still a nice picture of the seed head of scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) growing in the back of our garden, right up against the fence. It’s most spectacular when in bloom, of course, with its bright red flowers, but even now, these dried flower parts are still quite pretty, especially close up.
I had meant to get out of the office today. It’s not as cold as it was and it was mostly clear today but I was quite busy and didn’t get a chance. As the sun was going down late in the afternoon it lit up the trees outside my office and I watched the bird moving about. There were quite a few starlings in the tree tops and every now and then a large group of them would fly off or another large group would join them from somewhere else. This picture is just of trees with a few large, older trees that are growing just beyond the parking lot and then the smaller trees beyond in what was a field when I started working here.
It’s nice, in the colder months when nothing is blooming outside, to have a few houseplants that provide color in a more-monochrome time of year. African violets (generally cultivars derived from Saintpaulia ionantha) are a good choice. They are quite easy to grow, you can have a bunch in a relatively small space, and they produce beautiful, if small, flowers of white, pink, purple, and blue. This one, with a mottled purple flower, is a good example. Watered once or twice a week, it’s quite happy in our kitchen with a west-facing window.
Our youth group met in an international market this evening before returning to our regular location for pizza and the bulk of the meeting. At the store, we looked at seafood. I took a few pictures (I know, can you believe it?) including this one of bok choy or Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis). I bought a Spanish mackerel, filleted (my post for tomorrow will feature that, actually) and some oyster mushrooms. There was also a bin with turtles in it. I thought of posting a picture of them, but too many people would have thought of them as pets and we were in a grocery store.
It was a dreary, rainy day today but it wasn’t actually raining when I had to walk over to another building for a meeting. As I often do, I took my camera with me and took some pictures of crab apples on a tree between the parking lot and pond below my building. I love crab apples and in general would probably favor them over flowering cherries as ornamental trees. If nothing else, they provide two seasons of interest although many of them may be fairly susceptible to rust and black spot. If you are shopping for a crab apple, disease resistance my be the first thing you want to look into. In terms of fruit, smaller might be better unless you don’t mind them dropping onto your lawn. I am personally partial to yellow fruit, as seen here.
Most people are at least aware of nutmeg as a spice. It is the seed of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia and grown throughout the tropics of Asia and South America. Like all herbs and spices, it’s an aromatic that loses it’s aroma over time so you don’t want to buy more than you will use in a relatively short time. With nutmeg, buying whole seeds and grating it as needed extends its useful life considerably. The seed on top here has been grated down, showing a cross section of the internal structure of the seed.
I love a good forest. I guess I’m particularly partial to temperate hardwood forests because that’s what I know best, although the southeast Alaska’s rain forest is pretty amazing, too. But we don’t have to look far to find small pockets of forest, even in our almost entirely suburban county. As the crow flies, this is about two thirds of a mile from our house. It’s not actually a deep, dark forest, certainly not a Mirkwood of Fangorn but it’s at the very least a ‘wood.’ I love the color of beech leaves in winter, particular in contrast to the pale grey of their bark.
I went for a short walk today, going through the woods and across the street to a small pond and back. I took some pictures of grass seeds and then stopped when I saw the light shining through this sycamore leaf. I love the bright yellow of the leaf and the dark brown of the veins. Sycamores are not really known for their spectacular fall color as their leaves often are brown by the time they fall but the leaves do often pass though yellow on their way to brown, as you can see.
The fall color continues to fade, but there are still some good instances here and there. The Bradford pears are notable for their fall color and in this picture I think you can see why. The Bradford pear is a cultivar of Pyrus calleryana, native to China and Vietnam. When they were beginning to be used, they were the only pear variety around so they didn’t set fruit but now there is enough variation in them that they pretty much all do. They do make a good show but I wouldn’t really recommend them in most situations. There are much better choices, anyway.
Oriental or Asiatic bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, is an invasive species in our area. There’s a fair amount of it about, climbing up into trees. This vine is growing into a small tree on the other side of the woods from my office. It gets full afternoon sun and it’s quite happy there. Of course, multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora), Japanese and Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica and L. maackii), porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata), and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) to name only a few, are also in profusion through the area, so a little bittersweet is the least of our problems. It’s also quite pretty.
Because it gets dark about the time I leave work, if I’m going to take pictures outdoors I have to go out during the day. It’s actually a good thing, because it breaks up my day and gets me out of my chair. It isn’t exactly vigorous exercise but at least I’m moving about. Today I went out shortly after noon and went along the edge of the woods. I took some pictures of bright red oak leaves and then saw these teasels (Dipsacus Sp.) growing on the bank sloping down from the road. I especially like the curly bits, which I think add a bit of whimsy to the spiny bracts.
According to Wikipedia, the species Dipsacus includes about 15 species native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. They are considered an invasive species here, although I think in the scheme of invasive species, they are not as noxious as some others I can think of. This is most likely Dipsacus fullonum, the common of fullers teasel.
No, this isn’t really called Zelkova Lane, but at least for this stretch of Norbeck, I think it could be. Zelkova serrata, the Japanese zelkova, is a really nice tree and should be grown more. As you can see, they turn a beautiful rust color in the fall. I’m not sure it’s the perfect tree for roadway medians like this, but then, few trees do well past a certain size when their root zones are so limited. These are just getting to that size where their roots cannot support any more upstairs and they are starting to die. Those on the side of the road are doing a lot better, though, and should have quite a few more years in them.
Fleurette mums are a group of Chrysanthemum hybrids made between a domestic and a wild, Asiatic Chrysanthemum. They tend to be a more compact and are (like most mums) quite easy to care for and have flowers that last a good, long while. These are technically my mum-in-law’s mum, but that wouldn’t have been as good in the title. These are in a small pot on her kitchen table and are quite cheerful.
After voting today, I drove back to the office by way of Lake Needwood. The trees are a little past peak, I’d say (boy, that was fast) but are still quite beautiful. Also, the little bits of cloud contributed to the variety of colors. I’ll probably have a few more fall-color pictures for you, but it won’t be long until they are replaced by branches, dried leaves, and wintry scenes. While all the seasons have something to recommend them, for me, autumn is the prettiest, followed by Spring. But spring is followed by summer, which means heat, and I’m less fond of that than cold. I’m looking forward to the winter.
At the other end of our neighborhood is a yard with a few absolutely beautiful Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) and every fall I look forward to seeing them. This is often the more ‘plain’ of the two most prominent trees but at this point in the fall, it’s the more spectacular of the two. The other is not a pure a red but is more mixed with reds and oranges throughout. As I drove past this afternoon, I stopped, grabbed my camera, and took a few pictures from my car. It’s possibly not as good a picture as I could have gotten, but it does show the bright color of the tree. I’m really enjoying the autumn and it’s going to be done all too soon.
The walnuts are falling in great numbers from the many black walnut trees (Juglans nigra) around my office building. I suppose it would be strange if they were falling from anywhere else. The ground under them is covered quite densely, in some places the ground is almost entirely covered with walnuts varying in color from bright chartreuse in the newly fallen fruit to almost black in those that have been on the ground a little while. There are a couple picnic tables along the edge of the woods and the squirrels seem to enjoy using those for their walnut meals. I did move these closer together but they were on the table, along with a bunch of smaller pieces.
I was in a different neighborhood this evening and went into an shopping center I don’t usually visit. On the way in a saw these little flowers and when I was done shopping I took the time to get some pictures. The bright red leaves with beautiful, blue flowers were quite striking. Cathy recognized it as plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), which is a perennial hardy to USDA zone 6. I know I’ve seen it before but don’t remember seeing the fall color, which is reason enough to get some a sunny spot in the garden.
As I was driving home, I stopped at a traffic light (like you do) and looked to my left. This is what I saw. I thought, that’s pretty nice, with the late afternoon sun shining on it. So, I picked up my camera (which I try to keep within reach most of the time) and took five pictures before the light turned green. From this distance, I’m not 100% sure what kind of tree is was, but at a guess, I’m going to say it’s a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa. The dark red leaves in the lower right are on a Bradford-like pear (Pyrus calleryana).
There are not nearly as many flowers left in the yard as we approach the end of October. We’ll still have some warm days (today was in the 80s!) but in general, plants are switching into autumn mode. Annuals, of course, don’t have the luxury of going dormant so they can overwinter and start up again in the sprint. So, some of them bloom until the cold kills them once and for all. Marigolds (Tagetes species and cultivars) are a good example. This is one that Cathy planted in a small bed where a dead tree was removed. The bees, of course, are still active and looking for anything they can get. This is an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).
The colors are getting better on a daily basis and by next week they should be at peak in the area. Looking out my window at work, there are lots of yellows on the willow oaks and walnuts. The two large elms are still bright green with only a hint of yellow around the edges. The Virginia creeper has mostly passed red into leaflessness. At home, though, where this picture was taken, the two maples in the back yard are at their reddest best. The red oaks in the front have barely started to change and won’t until after the maples are bare.
I walked back from the other building through the woods again late this afternoon and took a few pictures of the fall color. So far, while there are some spectacular trees about, the overall color scene isn’t as great as some years. It isn’t at peak yet, though, and I suspect it will be getting better over the next week or two. This maple is pretty nice so I’m sharing it with you. I hope you don’t mind that there will be a few more like this until they leaves are all down. I do love the fall. It’s cool, the trees are beautiful, bugs are less of a problem, and I love being outdoors. Of course, it also gets dark earlier, but that’s the price we pay.
This little wild aster, the smooth white oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) is differentiated from the similar calico aster (Symphyotrichum laterifolium) by having its flowers all or mostly on one side of the stem. These are quite common in our area and are, according to the USDA, found throughout the east all the way to Texas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. I think the flowers are quite pretty individually but since they mostly form large clusters that’s how they are really seen.
Dorothy had a two of these Thanksgiving cacti (cultivars of Schlumbergera truncata) at school with her but she didn’t have a place for them this year so they stayed here. We have had them in a westward facing window in our dining room and this one has started to bloom. In the week between when I took this and now, when I’m posting it, the other one has started to bloom, also. Thanksgiving cactus can be differentiated from Christmas cactus by its pointy teeth on the leaf-like stem segments and from the flowers, which are held more horizontally and which are less symmetrical on Thanksgiving cacti. On Christmas cactus, which are cultivars of S. russelliana, the stem segments are rounded and the flowers hang down more and are more symmetrical. Both come from a small area of the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) turns a beautiful red in the autumn and that, along with the dark purple fruit make it a nice ornamental. I’m not sure if it’s because it is native and grows naturally all around the area but it doesn’t seem to be cultivated. Certainly not as much as it’s more upscale east Asian cousin, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, a.k.a. Boston ivy. They both give a wonderful fall display and perhaps the more maple like leaves of Boston ivy is in its favor. But Virginia creeper is a bit hardier (but they can both take significant cold). Anyway, it’s growing throughout the woods around my office and giving me some nice color to see out my window.
Cathy bought this plant this spring and it’s been in constant bloom all summer and is still putting on a pretty good show out our kitchen door. We’ve had cleome before and sometimes it is tall and spindly but this one has a nice, bushy habit, just the right height (it’s growing in a large pot, which adds to its apparent height), and with stems sturdy enough that they haven’t blown over even in the storms we had on occasion. I highly recommend this variety, if you can find it.
Fall is well and truly here now and the weather has been beautiful. We were spared any significant rain from Hurricane Matthew and today was clear, breezy, and cool. In the mid afternoon Cathy and I took a walk along the north side of Lake Frank. I carried my camera but only a single lens, the 70-300mm zoom. That, unfortunately, is not ideal for macro shots because it doesn’t have a very close minimum focus. Still, I was able to get this picture of some tiny mushrooms growing out of a root crossing the path. If I had brought the macro lens, I’m sure I could have come back with a better version of this.
I wandered around the yard this evening looking for things to photograph. I took some pictures of ferns in the shade garden at the north corner of our yard but I decided they were not all that interesting. Perhaps that’s nothing new around here. Perhaps. But I try, I really do. I sat on the front walk looking at the pink flowers on the hardy begonia that’s been blooming there all summer. It’s very happy and the flowers, while not individually showy, are pretty and in mass, particularly when seen against the bright green leaves, are very nice. Here is a close up, showing the unusual, yellow stigma this flower has.
We had some trees taken out a few years ago and their roots are rotting. They are underground and out of site but the mushrooms are a pretty good sign that the wood is being broken down. The mushrooms are quite happy and are scattered through the area around where the trees were growing. I got down on the ground to take some pictures of them and after a while I noticed this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on the underside of one of the mushrooms. Getting a picture looking up at the underside of the mushroom was a bit tricky, but I managed it and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
We have weeds in our yard and garden. Boy do we ever. This is nothing new, of course, it’s been going on since God said to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” (Gen. 3:17b-18) So, in keeping with the curse, we have both thorns and thistles. We also have pokeweed, bindweed, wild violets, and all sorts of weed grasses. Just because a plant is a weed, that doesn’t mean it cannot be beautiful, of course, and I think this seed head from one of the grasses in our garden is quite lovely. It still needs to be pulled up, but it’s lovely.
It was a beautiful fall day today and I went up to the farm with Ralph, Tsai-Hong, Iris, and Seth. We had a great time just hanging out and enjoying the cool day and a nice fire where we cooked lunch. I took some pictures, of course, and this is one of them. Actually, when I saw the goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and noticed lots of small creatures on the flowers, I assumed they would be goldenrod soldier beetles (goldenrod soldier beetle). They were not. There were dozens of these pretty little moths, the ailanthus webworm (Atteva aurea).
These dried rosebuds are in a mug on a shelf in our family room. As you can see, they are a little dusty. Rosebuds are not the easiest thing in the world to dust, of course, and add to that our slightly slovenly lifestyle (we are not overly fastidious in terms of dust here and there, I must admit) and you’ll understand that they have been mostly untouched for a significant period. In fact, neither Cathy nor I know what occasion they commemorate. We both assume it was a wedding anniversary, but beyond that, we don’t know. We’ve had 32 of them, and off the top of my head I know where we were for a few of them. I know that on our 10th I got Cathy ten dozen roses, but I’m pretty sure these are not from that year. I don’t suppose it really matters.
I’m anything but a fan of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in terms of its growth in our garden. That’s not, however, to say that it cannot be quite beautiful. I just wish it would be beautiful somewhere else. Its flowers are not nearly as showy as bull thistle (C. vulgare) and it’s quite hard to eradicate from a garden, once it’s gotten a hold there (which it does with relative ease). We pull a huge number of these every year and every year there seem to be more than the year before. There was a small pile of pulled thistle in the grass and I decided the seeds with their fluffy tufts of thistledown would be good for a picture or two. This is my favorite, not so much of the seeds and thistledown, but of the remains of the flowerhead and related structure. I think it’s quite lovely. Now get off my lawn!
A few years ago, Cathy had a pot with begonias in it, sitting on the corner of our front walk, just outside our front door. Now, the pot and its begonia are long gone, but the plant lives on, having moved itself out of the pot and into the ground around our front porch. It’s quite healthy and happy, with small, pink flowers and bright green leaves. I love both the texture and the shape of the leaves, as well as their color, which I think I mentioned is bright green. This spot seems perfectly suited to the plant, just the right amount of sun, protection, and the occasional watering, both natural and manual.
Due to a workstation crash (from which I’m still recovering backed up data) I’m a week behind in posting here. This is the psot from last Thursday, September 1. It was a beautiful day and finally has cooled off considerably. The high today was in the mid 80s and it was wonderful. After work, Cathy and I took a walk in the woods near Lake Frank. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, but by the abandoned parking lot overlooking the lake, there were lots of thistles blooming. I like this picture and like it all the more for the moth that I didn’t see while I was taking the picture. It is an ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea), and even out of focus as it is, it is quite distinctive with its pattern of orange, black, and white.
Liriope is a genus of grass-like, flowering plants from East Asia. It makes a nice ground cover when grown in quantity, although it’s fairly slow to fill in, so you’ll need to plant quite a few plants to really cover the ground. It’s also enjoyed by rabbits. We have some growing along the edge of a bed under a Colorado spruce and it gets eaten back fairly regularly. It generally recovers but who knows how it would look if it didn’t have to deal with that? The name comes from Greek mythology. To quote from Wikipedia, “Liriope is a Boeotian naiad, who was probably the daughter of one of the Boeotian or Phocian river Gods. Liriope was loved by the river-god Cephissus, who was himself the son of Oceanus and Tethys, and bore his son Narcissus.”
It’s still summer here, but some things have finished blooming and moved into autumn mode. The various species of Asclepias in the yard is a good example, with its flowers having faded and with seed pods bursting with the characteristic silky, filament-like coma or pappus. As the seed pod opens and the coma dry out, they are borne by the wind and the seeds deposited far and wide (to grow as weeds in someone else’s yard. Actually, we’ve had some come up in our yard, which we consider a good thing. But you have to either recognize what a small Asclepias looks like or let your weeds grow a bit before you pull them.
The pictures from out yard which I post here are often close up shots of flowers of things found in the yard. Today I thought I’d give a wider view. I know I’ve done this before and our yard isn’t anything special but that’s what I thought I’d do. Cathy was cutting the grass in the back today so I included her in the picture. It’s been quite warm recently and fairly humid, or to put it another way, typical summer weather here in Maryland, hot and steamy, but we haven’t had anything approaching the drought conditions we get some years. That means the grass has kept growing through the summer, which looks nice but it means it needs to be cut. Anyway, the black-eyed Susans are nice.
Late each spring, when the danger of frost is past, we move our large clivia out into the shade of a viburnum bush. As forest undergrowth plants from South Africa and Swaziland, clivia can’t take full sun but very much likes the fresh air humidity of a Maryland summer. Apparently they can be brought into bloom in the winter if treated properly but ours seems to bloom in the summer or early fall without any special treatment. It’s a lovely plant and I find it a bit surprising it isn’t grown more. It’s quite easy to care for and even when not blooming has lovely, green, strap-like leaves to brighten up a room. You really should get yourself one. As for flowers, there are yellow, orange, and red varieties, so pick what suits you best.
I didn’t take very many pictures today and most of those I took didn’t turn out too well, but because I did take some and because I’m doing my best to keep up this one picture a day thing for a bit longer (I’m at 2050 consecutive days at this point, a little over five and a half years), this is what you get. It isn’t a bad picture, but that’s about it. If you like yellow or if you are particularly fond of black-eyed Susans you might even think it’s a nice picture. But it’s a picture. I promise to have better pictures from time to time. Of course, I can probably also promise to have worse pictures now and then. Most of them, I guess, are closer to average.
We’re back from the beach and the black-eyed Susans are in full bloom all around our yard. There were some blooming when we left but there is no question they are at their peak now. They bloom along with and complement the Verbena bonariensis, sometimes known as tall verbena or purpletop vervain (although we don’t happen to use those names).
My camera has a hard time when I take pictures with a lot of yellow in them. The auto-white balance doesn’t know that it’s supposed to be yellow and tries to ‘fix’ it. The result is quite blue outside the yellow parts and I have to adjust for it after the fact. Not a bit deal, but interesting that yellow is the color most likely to confuse the camera.
Per the Missouri Botanical Garden, Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ “is a hybrid ornamental oregano (O. rotundifolium x O. scabrum) that is grown primarily for its attractive flowers and foliage.” Cathy has had some growing in our garden off and on for many years and we love its delicate, pink flowers, as well as the pale leaves. It’s not completely hardy here but makes it through all but the worst winters and grows quickly enough to be treated as an annual. We don’t use it for cooking for two main reasons: the leaves are not pungent enough for that and we have regular oregano growing in our little fenced herb garden.
Some weeks I expect to have things to take pictures of but it works out that I don’t and I have to work to keep this thing going. Other weeks I somehow know ahead of time that it’s going to be busy and it’s going to be a struggle. This is one of those weeks. I don’t have a lot extra happening and in fact a couple days I don’t have anything after work, but I just have a feeling it’s going to be a dry week. This evening it rained, actually, so not dry in the literal sense. I love the colors of the garden in the rain. They are more intense when the sun isn’t so bright on them. This picture really doesn’t do it justice, but the yard looks nice right now. Unfortunately, the forecast is for hotter each day this week and approaching 100°F by the weekend. Not looking forward to that.
I was over at Laurie and David’s house this evening and, as always, I stopped to smell the roses, metaphorically speaking. In particular, I got down on the ground to spend a little time up close with a few zinnias. Most people who know me well have found my lying on the ground in a garden at one time or another, or at least know it’s something I do. Paul and Janet got there while I was thus and commented on it. They weren’t particularly surprised to find me like that, though.
With David, Maggie, and Laura in town for a few days, we had one day to do a significant outing and because Laura was only going to be here through this afternoon, that meant it would be today. We started off at the National Arboretum, where we enjoyed the capital columns, the bonsai and Penjing collection, the herb garden, and the Morrison shade garden.
From there, we drove downtown to the United States Botanic Garden, located at the east end of Maryland Avenue just below the US Capitol building. This is easily one of my favorite places in Washington. The Institute’s garden was established by Congress in 1820 and it moved to its present location in 1933. The Garden includes the conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. This is a view of the capital building from the garden in front of the conservatory.
Cathy and I did a bit of work in the garden today. She was mostly weeding and I was working on the roses along the back fence. I have (or had, actually) one rose that has become infected with rose rosette disease, which is caused by a virus (Emaravirus sp.) that is spread by a very small, eriophyid mite. There is no cure and in order to protect other roses, the infected plant must be removed and destroyed. So, I fought with rose branches, scratching my arms up a little. I also cut back another rose that is growing quite vigorously.
In the process I pulled off a few flowers from the Monarda growing next to the rose. This is a rather close view of a Monarda flower, taken with both the flower and the camera resting on the ground so I could use a longish exposure (1/3 second at f/32).
We were over at Cathy’s mom’s this evening, doing a few things. Cathy planted some annuals in the pots on her driveway and I replaced the two buttons for her doorbell, neither of which was working. While Cathy finished up with the plants and before we went out for dinner, I took some pictures. While I was near the Nandina domestica (sometimes called heavenly bamboo for reasons that seem a bit tenuous to me) a bumble bee (Bombus impatiens, a common eastern bumble bee) came around, testing the flowers. This isn’t the sharpest picture of a bumble bee I’ve gotten but it’s the best of what I got on this occasion. I suspect there will be more bee and wasp pictures coming here in the weeks ahead. It’s that time of year.
The beebalm (Monarda didyma) in our yard is in full, magnificent bloom. There is a good size patch against the back fence and another on the south end of the house in front of the rose trellis. They are both quite striking right now, either from a distance, as a mass of bright red or close up, revealing the interesting flower structure of this member of the mint family. This picture is a bit much, with the red on red because of the blooms in the background. Nevertheless, I picked it because I think the flower in the center looks a bit like a set of deer antlers. I like that about it.
The coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in our yard is coming into bloom. It isn’t particularly purple at first, but they will darken as they open. I love the orange and green of the florets, the individual flowers, that are developing in the center of the flower head. At this stage they are still buds, unopened and shaped like spikes. When they open, then the bees and butterflies will come and pollinate them and the cycle of life will continue.
Mom and I went up to the farm today for a short visit. I have a few things I wanted to do but mostly it was to get away and relax a little. It was warm but not terribly hot and in the shade, with a gentle breeze blowing, it was very pleasant. Of course I brought my camera and took pictures of a few things that are blooming right now. This is bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), also known as bird’s-foot deervetch. It’s a beautiful, little flower and, like most legumes they have a symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia which makes them particularly good for the soil in which they grow.
I was out in the back yard after work today and looking for things to photograph. I started by taking pictures of a little bit of fluff. I think it was a seed from a milkweed plant, although those are just blooming now, so it seems a bit early. Perhaps it was from something else. Then I photographed the flowers on an Egyptian walking onion (Allium × proliferum) growing in my herb garden. When I turned around I noticed a dandelion (Taraxacum sp.) growing in the lawn (not just one, actually, but this is the only one I photographed). It had gone to seed and most of the seeds had been blown away by the wind to torment our neighbors (or possibly to continue tormenting us, or course).
I wanted to photograph it in a way that was a little different. I got down on the ground and looked up at the seeds still remaining on the plant. I had my 100mm macro lens with a 25mm extension tube which together is a bit long, but I was able to get below the seeds and still see through the viewfinder. I don’t know that it’s a great picture, but I’m pleased enough with it. It’s a different view, if nothing else.
It was another beautiful day today. Hot but not terribly muggy and there was a nice breeze. Cathy asked what I wanted to do for Father’s day so we drove up to Lilypons in Adamstown for a while. Since 1925, it has been operating at its current location, bought by G. Leicester Thomas, Sr. and was initially called Three Springs Fisheries (founded in 1917). The name of the company wasn’t actually changed until 1978 but in 1930 a post office was established which sort of makes it an official ‘town’ and it was called Lilypons after Leicester’s favorite operatic diva, Lily Pons.
We weren’t there to buy anything this time but to see the water lilies that were in bloom, along with various other water loving plants including pickerel rush and lotus. We watched the koi in one pond for a while and spotted quite a few turtles. No snakes this time, although we’ve seen copperheads there in the past. Because of the breeze there were no bugs to speak of, either, which was a bonus. If you go, unless you plan to stay close to the building and rectangular pools with potted plants, I’d recommend long trousers, socks, and shoes. There’s a fair amount of poison ivy about the place and you’re better safe than sorry. But it’s definitely worth a visit.
Well, we’re back out in the yard today. This evening I took a bunch of pictures of the flowers on some feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) growing on the north end of our house. It’s quite happy there and brightens up the shade quite well. We’re in a bit of a lull right now, with only a few things blooming (mostly the day lilies). In the morning, the Tradescantia (spiderwort) blooms but by the time it gets hot, they close up. There is also some evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa). And then there is the feverfew.
I mentioned on Friday that the daylily ‘Stella De Oro’ was blooming a little ahead of the ‘regular’ daylilies. Well, only slightly ahead. This is that regular daylily of which I spoke, Hemerocallis fulva. It’s considered an invasive in some areas and you will, indeed, see it growing along the roadside or in otherwise abandoned areas. On the hill behind our Pennsylvania property there is an old, long-abandoned homestead. There is a hole where the house used to be and the foundation of the chimney. The house may be gone but there is a large area covered with daylilies and Vinca minor that seems to be a more enduring legacy than even stone (because stone is taken for other uses. Actually, the daylily pictured here was taken from there, as well, but I’m certain that the gap has been filled again. These were taken from there, planted in our yard in Gaithersburg. Then a few roots from there were taken when we moved, stored in containers for a year, before being planted here.
Cathy bought this little cleome plant recently and it is destined for a container in the back yard. I know that’s were it will go because, although I took this picture on June 13, I’m writing this on June 18 and it’s already been planted. I like cleome quite well. Cleome hassleriana is a half-hardy annual and does reasonably well here although very cold winters generally mean we have to start over with purchased plants. It will self seed fairly well so this one should give us a few years worth of enjoyment (unless we have another very cold winter, of course).
I spent a few hours at Roclkands Farm today. For a while I visited with friends. I held little Charlie while his parents packed the car and I chatted with Janis about this and that. After Greg and Anna left with the boys, I wandered out to take pictures of the animals. There is a litter of pigs a few weeks old in addition to the other, older pigs. Of course there are also the usual cattle, sheep, and chickens. There is a small wildflower garden on the property and I stopped there to take a few pictures including this one, which I think turned out nicely.
This little daylily (Hemerocallis) is named ‘Stella De Oro’ and it’s a very popular these days, bordering on (or possibly crossing over into) overuse. Like all daylilies, it really needs full sun to bloom well and can do with a good feeding of fertilizer but taken care of properly it will reward you with outstanding and abundant blooms. It starts a little earlier than my ‘normal’ daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva, I assume) and also bloom a little later into the summer. They are considerably smaller and don’t spread as fast, needing to be dug up and divided if you want to cover more ground a bit faster.
These are varied carpet beetles (Anthrenus verbasci) on some sort of wild parsnip relative (similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, but not that). These little beetles, measuring only about 3mm in length, are often found indoors and eat stored food products (e.g., biscuits, cakes, seeds, wheat, maize, oats, rice, cayenne pepper, cacao, and dried cheese). They also are considered to be the world’s most important pest of insect collections. The adults feed on pollen, and that’s what these little fellows (or ladies, I really don’t know) are up to.
As I left work today I decided to wander off into the woods for a while and take a few pictures. Of the three dozen or so that I took, most of them are of leaves and all of them are predominately green. Some were of bramble buds, which are covered with red hairs but the overall effect of the picture is still green. In this one, of a single leaf of a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), there is a bit of reddish tint in the leaflets, but still, it’s a green picture. The glossy leaves with their touch of color are quite beautiful, even if the tree is a fairly weedy invasive in our area.
The Asiatic lilies in our yard are starting to bloom. These have taken a few years to become established but they certainly are worth the wait. This one happens to be growing in a container on the back patio but there are a few others just like it around the yard. There are some really amazing colors available in both Asiatic and Oriental lilies and I need to plant more. The Oriental lilies are taller and also generally have very strong fragrance, while the Asiatics have little or no fragrance. They certainly are beautiful, though, and are worth having. They also bloom at different times, with the Asiatics blooming first. We also have some tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) but they won’t be blooming for a while yet.
Most of our garden beds are made up of woody shrubs and herbaceous perennials. The only real exception is the area where an oak tree used to be along the front of our yard (and it’s mostly in the county right-of-way, actually). Cathy plants annuals there to provide a bunch of color—yellow, orange, blue, and white—that’s easily seen from the road. In the driveway are two collections of containers. At the top, right are a mix of containers that include lots of seedlings that she plans to put in various places around the yard. On the left, seen here, are more ‘permanent’ containers that are mostly perennials but which get annuals mixed in. The large variegated Pelargonium at the top was a gift from the school for my volunteer activities this year.
Iris and Seth’s wedding weekend has finally arrived (well, if you count taking Friday off work as part of the weekend, anyway). We drove up to Pennsylvania this morning to get some of the final things done before tomorrow’s wedding. First, Cathy and I made sure the portable toilets were delivered and in the right locations. Then we went to the Round Barn to drop some things off and for me to set up the photo booth. Cathy and Tsai-Hong left to go to the farm and while they were there (and I was still working on the photo booth) it rained. I mean, it really rained. By the time I got to the farm, the rain had stopped but the ground was really wet. The few cars that came up to the cabin tore up the ground a bit and we stopped others from driving that far so it wouldn’t get any worse.
But about this tree. Iris and Seth wanted to plant a tree as part of their wedding but didn’t want to interrupt the ceremony long enough to do the whole thing, so they did most of the work today, a day ahead. Iris’s brother, Steve, dug the hole for them and the two of us carried the tree down from mom’s van. Then Seth and Iris did the actual planting. Tomorrow, during the service, they will put a few final shovels of dirt on it. Later we’ll put a fence around it to keep animals off and I’ll stake it to keep it upright until it has enough roots growing into the undisturbed soil around it.
The tree the picked is a black gum, also known as a tupelo. It is a variety called ‘Red Rage’ and is a lovely tree with shiny green leaves and spectacular fall color and with berries that attract birds. It was also picked as a tree likely to do well in both wet and drought conditions (i.e., “…for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”).
This little rose called ‘Perle d’Or’ is growing outside our front door. A few years ago it was a seven foot tall shrub but the winters of 2014 and 2015 each had very cold spells and killed back all of the taller canes. It’s much smaller than it was, less than five feet at the tallest point. This last winter was much milder in terms of temperature, though, and didn’t do so much damage and it will probably come back strong. It’s covered with these petite pink blossoms that are wonderfully fragrant. On a humid evening (like we’ve had the last week) they are really nice.
We have some Coreopsis in the bed at the back of our yard. That bed actually needs a bit of work, but this is a fairly reliable little perennial that I’d hate to lose to any renovation. It’s a very cheery orange color and although later in the summer that would be drowned out by all the black-eyed Susans, at this time of year, before even the day lilies have started to bloom, it’s quite welcome. We’ve had other Coreopsis plants but they haven’t done as well as this one with large petaled flowers and less feathery foliage. It’s quite happy to be mostly neglected, which is sort of what it takes in that garden.
This is a little Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’ and it’s in full bloom in our front yard. I really like this little thing, which in our yard only stands about 14 to 18 inches tall, though I’ve seen data that suggests it gets taller. It’s supposed to do well in a bog garden but ours is in a fairly dry spot, which may account for the shorter growth. It’s certainly happy there and blooms reliably. It’s usually hot by this time of year so the flowers don’t last all that long but they are great while they do.
As I said in yesterday’s post, it’s been a good spring for peonies, at least in terms of my notice of them. Today features yet another peony photograph. We were up in Pennsylvania again today, doing a bit more work towards the big wedding coming up before long. I sprayed poison ivy again and am slowly but surely getting it taken care of. It won’t be gone by the wedding, but it needs to be done in any case.
This peony is one of a few growing in front of the cabin. We cleared weeds out of the garden two weeks ago and it’s starting to look like its old self (some of the weeds were trees with trunks an inch in diameter!). There was just the one bloom on the peony but perhaps if we keep at the weeds it will do better. I thought the flower looked a bit like a rising sun and took a few photos of it.
I don’t know that this year has been anything out of the ordinary in terms of peony blooms but I think having the new peony blooming in my back yard has gotten me to look at them a bit more than normal. We have some on the end of our house but don’t go around there often enough to notice them, in particular. There is also a peony garden at Seneca Creek State Park with dozens of different peonies. Cathy and I went there once years ago and were a little disappointed in what it’s become. There is a beautiful little garden and truth be told, that alone is worth visiting. But it could be so much more. There is a field, probably six acres or so that is full of peonies. That could be so spectacular. But they only seem to cut the grass once a year (during the winter, when they can mow everything and then let the grass, poison ivy, and everything else you can imagine grow up with and around the peonies. It’s a shame because although the peonies are starting to bloom, many of them are hidden by the grass. You also want to stay out of the deep grass unless you are dressed for poison ivy, which is thick in the place. It’s still pretty but not nearly as impressive as it could be or even as we remember it (although our memories may be at fault there). The peony shown here is in the tended garden.
A few days ago this plant was a mass of buds in the rain. Now the rain has stopped and the buds are opening. Individually the flowers are not really all that amazing, five small, simple, pink petals around a bunch of yellow stamens. In mass they are quite impressive. The entire plant is turning from green to pink and will get pinker before it is done. I picked out one picture to post here and then second guessed myself. I found that I couldn’t decide which one I liked better so I’m posting them both.
Of course, like most rose species, this one only blooms once and then it’s done for the year. It also has very little fragrance. My dream is to cross this with roses that repeat and which have fragrance to get some of the multiflora vigor and disease resistance into a new group of hybrids. Whether that’s ever going to happen is anyone’s guess. Another project, even before crossing it with anything else, is an attempt to double the chromosomes. R. multiflora is, like many rose species, diploid (it has 14 chromosomes). Many hybrid garden roses, including most hybrid teas and floribundas and a lot of the roses I’d cross like to make crosses with, are tetraploid (28 chromosomes). For breeding purposes, a cross between a diploid and a tetraploid is problematic because it produces triploid offspring, which are, with notable exceptions, sterile.
We discovered Epimedium at the National Arboretum quite a few years ago and decided we needed to have some. At our old house we had at least three different varieties, blooming in red, white, and yellow. We brought some of them with us and have them in our garden here but they are all Epimedium x rubrum, a red flowered variety believed to be a cross between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum. The leaves are interesting even after the flowers have finished. They have a little red in them and they also have pretty edges with little (and soft) spines along the edges. They are quite hardy and can take anything our winters are likely to give them, as well as getting through the summer drought without any trouble. They are semi-evergreen here, basically losing their leaves by the time the new growth starts in the spring. Common names for Epimedium x rubrum include red barrenwort and bishop’s mitre.
In the fall of 2014 I planted three peonies in our back garden. Last year I saw leaves on two of them but they were barely above the top of the pachysandra amongst which they were planted. This spring I was happy to have all three of them send up leaves above the top of the pachysandra. They lived. Better still, one of them had a bud. It’s only one bud out of three plants but peonies are a long-term proposition and it should get better each year, now. They are a variety called ‘Coral Sunset’ and I think the flower is quite lovely. I’m looking forward to more flowers next year.
The rain continued today but I went out briefly to take a few pictures. The large, pink Rosa multiflora (or mostly multiflora, anyway) shrub against our back fence is covered with buds and is just starting to come into bloom. In a few days, and certainly in less than a week, it will be covered with pink flowers. At this point there are only occasional flowers and lots and lots of buds. But in the rain, even that can be pretty, I think. It builds anticipation, if nothing else.
It has been a fairly wet May this year. Not necessarily way out of character, as we often have wet weather in May, but April was so dry that in comparison, it seems wetter than normal. I don’t mind rain, in general, unless I have some outdoor activity planned that requires a bit less wetness than we generally get when it’s raining. I love a blue sky and all, but the sound of a gentle rain, the intensified colors of an overcast day, and the water droplets clinging to everything are all pretty wonderful, as well. Today was that sort of day and I took a few pictures of that water droplet thing, right outside my back door on the Tradescantia (spiderwort). This is the same plant whose purple flower I photographed (also in the rain) on Tuesday, May 03.
I wish I could post the fragrance of this rose, a largish rugosa called ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’. It was bred in France in 1901 by Jules Gravereaux and introduced by Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet in the same year. The flowers are large, about five inches in diameter and when you walk up to the plant when it’s in full bloom you get slammed by the amazingly strong and lovely clove fragrance. The flowers are beautiful, as well, of course. The plant is large and only suitable for a large space in full sun. It doesn’t have the huge thorns of many hybrid roses but the stems are completely covered with hundreds or thousands of fine prickles (some of which are fairly long). I love this rose. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and then stop and smell the roses.
The azaleas are done blooming and we’ve moved on to the next stage of spring bloom. The azaleas are not completely done, though. Although the white flowers have dried and fallen off of the bushes in front of our house, the long, white stigmata are still there, giving the entire bush a slightly airy feel. They aren’t as eye catching as the flowers, of course, but I find them interesting in their own way. Soon they, too, will be gone and the azaleas will be done for the year (and it will be time to do some much needed pruning).
We’ve never had a lot of success with rhododendrons in our garden. At our old house we had a couple that did reasonably well but they took a long time to get beyond the stage where they grow about as much as they die back every year. In our current yard we don’t have any and I’m not sure where I’d put one, although I have a couple ideas. Our next door neighbors have one, however, on the north end of their house, which is the side that faces us. We get the benefit of it from our back yard and right now it’s in full bloom and quite striking.
Cathy and I went to both Stadler’s and Johnson’s today because Cathy wanted to pick up a few things. While she shopped I took a few pictures.
This is the staminal column on a hibiscus flower. On the sides are the anthers with yellow pollen and at the top are the five, bright orange stigmata, which receive the pollen and are connected through the style to the ovary. The staminal column is fairly distinctive on hibiscus flowers, with everything on one stalk extending well out in front of the petals.
This photo would have been better if taken with a tripod but when you’re wandering around a garden center, that’s less accepted as it might be in a botanical garden or arboretum. If I had that, I would have been able to slow the shutter down a bit and gotten a bit more depth of field. Then I might be able to make out the insect that’s sitting just below the stigma farthest from the camera.
We were up in Pennsylvania again getting more work done in preparation for the wedding that’s getting nearer and nearer. Mom mentioned that I should go into the ‘back yard’ because there were some little white flowers that I’d like to photograph. So, of course I did. I’m pretty sure that this is star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), which is native to Europe and western Asia but which is fairly common now our area and is known in all but a handful of states (and in at least 7 Canadian provinces). It is a pretty (but poisonous) little thing and quite happy in the grass behind our cabin.
The chives are in bloom. Chives themselves are nice to use as a garnish and seasoning in food but I particularly like using chive blossoms. They have basically the same flavor as the leaves but add a bit of color in addition to the taste. They are only available from my garden during a short period in the spring, though, so I have to use them when I can. For a few years I’ve had a container full of chives but last year I moved some of them to a small herb garden in our yard and that’s where these are growing.
We took our annual Mother’s Day trip to the garden center this afternoon, a day before Mother’s Day, and Cathy bought a pretty good load of plants for the garden and her containers. These will be in addition to the hanging baskets she got yesterday, so it’s going to be a banner year for us. While she shopped, I wandered around taking pictures of flowers and especially enjoyed the dahlia plants, many of which were in full bloom. This one was especially nice and I like the symmetry of the petals, as well as the lovely color.
Generally Cathy likes to buy plants and put together hanging baskets for herself. That gives her the chance to be creative, to use the plants and colors that she particularly likes, and also saves money by starting with smaller plants that will quickly fill the baskets in any case. This year, however, there was an item in the school’s annual silent auction for four hanging baskets from a mostly wholesale nursery. Cathy bid on them and ended up with the high bid. Today she went and picked out the four she wanted. Three of them are going on hooks in the back yard and the fourth (the pink one in the middle of this photo) will go to her mom’s house.
Not everyone’s favorite plant, the Amur honeysuckle is a seriously invasive plant. It’s a pretty enough plant in its own right, but you should never have any qualms about pulling it up or cutting it down if it should appear in your yard. These one is growing in the woods next to my office building, where it is quite happy. In addition to the sweet smelling flowers, it will have pretty red berries (which are mildly poisonous) before too long. Still, cut it down.
We brought some columbine plants with us when we moved here from Gaithersburg, growing them in pots for the year we were in the rental house. They have done pretty well and they are scattered around our yard now. We had some that were bright red with bits of yellow on them that we dug up in what we called “plant rescue.” Most of what’s left, though, is a dusky purple color. This one, a self-seeded plant next to our front walkway, is lighter than most and I took some pictures of it this evening as we were preparing to go out. This is only a bud, of course, but I think even the buds are pretty cool, with their curled spurs.
The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.)are in full bloom in our back and side yards and they are, as always, lovely. I went out to photograph them this afternoon and this picture turned out well, I think. They are very interesting little flowers with their little yellow circle at the center. I love the blue in the open flowers and the shades of violet in the buds. They are so delicate and fine.
I took some pictures of flowers in the yard this evening, including more of the Exbury Azalea that I posted a picture of last week. The buds have opened and it’s quite beautiful (if a little smaller than it was because of the deer). I also happened to notice this dandelion flower in the back yard. It caught my eye because it was so stark and white and to me, it doesn’t look like a dandelion. It does, of course, because that’s what it is, but if asked we generally would describe a dandelion flower as yellow or, when gone to seed, as a fluff ball. Once the seeds are gone but before what’s left has a chance to dry up, this is what they look like.
It was still wet today and I only went out a little to take pictures. This hosta is called ‘Tick Tock’ and it’s a miniature that is quite happy in a container outside our front door. We like hosta a lot but the deer enjoy it in a different way (“mmmmm, hasta”from us and that’s a problem in our neighborhood (because we have deer). But right outside our front door seems to be a safe place for them and we have three different mini-hostas in three different containers and they are all doing well. This time of year, in particular, they are very happy. And that makes us happy.
I was home from work today but didn’t really feel up to much. It had been raining all day and wasn’t really a good day to go out to take pictures, especially they way I was feeling. In the late afternoon I went out the front door and took a few pictures of the white azalea blossoms on the bushes in front of the house (without even going out from under the front porch). White azaleas are a little hard to photograph well because they are so low in contrast, but the water on them makes them a little more interesting. They are actually quite a bit prettier than this picture shows.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is blooming in our yard. It’s such a happy plant this time of year and I love the delicate, little, white flowers. They have a very pretty fragrance which (of course) is especially noticeable when you are lying on the ground about a foot from them with more flowers all around. The bright green leaves are also quite pretty. They are quite tough once established but they take a while to get settled in. Once they do, I’ve seen them come up through asphalt.
It was supposed to rain today but I didn’t see any where I was. We could actually use some, as it’s starting to get a bit dry. Nothing like it will be in August, of course, but it’s April, after all, it’s supposed to rain. I took some pictures of a wild azalea this afternoon. It’s growing on the side of the road on my commute and I pulled off the road and took the pictures through the open passenger side window. Then, when I got home I took some pictures in the back yard. This is a phlox that Cathy picked up somewhere and which has just started to bloom. I kind of like this angle, looking at the flowers from the side.
Toward the end of my work day I went outside for a little while to take pictures. Lots of plants are growing and weeds, in particular, are coming up strongly. The woods beside my building is a good place for weeds, considering that’s most of what’s growing there. Garlic mustard, (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. It is very common and invasive weed in our area, being native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa. It’s a vigorous plant and quite successful here. The leaves and stems all exude an oniony or garlicy smell, which gives it the common name I know it by (there are others). Anyway, as annoying as it is as a weed, it’s still a pretty plant with pretty little white flowers.
The Exbury azalea that Cathy bought for me last year is getting ready to bloom. I planted it near the top of our driveway, to the right where there used to be an awful holly shrub. The deer did some damage to it late last summer but what’s left of it is beginning to come to life. The flower and leaf buds are swelling and there should be some blooms in a few days. The Exbury azaleas are among the deciduous azaleas. In fact, most azalea species are deciduous but since most of us are familiar with azaleas through the proliferation of the Glenn Dale cultivars (developed by Benjamin Morrison from 1935 through 1952), which are evergreen. The Exbury hybrids were made in the 1920s by Lionel de Rothschild and their genetic makeup contains some or all of the following: R. arborescens, R. calendulaceum, R. japonicum, R. luteum, R. molle, R. nudiflorum, R. occidentale, and R. viscosum.
The dogwood in our yard are starting to bloom. The flowers are still small and there are a lot more to come bit I got a few nice pictures of some this afternoon when I got home from work. This is the native and very common flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), of course. I’m hoping to have another of the dogwood species, the European cornel (Cornus mas), once I make room for it. I have a nearly dead Colorado blue spruce that I need to cut down and I’m hoping to get that done on Saturday. Then I’ll dig up a cornel tree that’s growing next to the driveway at my mom’s and plant it there. At least that’s the plan but we’ll have to see if it actually happens. It’s a busy time of year.
I’m quite frond of ferns in general and of the northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum in particular. As I said less than a week ago, I think it is one of the prettiest of our native ferns. This is the same plant that I photographed then. I usually try not to post pictures of the same thing in the same season of the same year. That is, I might post pictures of daffodils each spring but I try not to repeat the same daffodil variety within one spring. But this photo is different enough that I think it’s justified. The fronds (that’s fern for leaves) are unrolling and the leaflets are starting to expand, opening out from the rachises. Quite dainty.
The northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum, is one of the prettiest of our native ferns. It is widely spread throughout the eastern half of the United States north of Florida, as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada. In the spring, reddish brown fiddleheads emerge from the ground and unroll in typical ferny fashion. The stems turn a glossy black providing a dark background to the lush, bright green foliage. The plant I have has had an interesting journey and I enjoy it’s connection to my dad, who had it growing in he back yard. From there a piece made it into our garden at our previous house, then some of that lived in a pot while we rented for a year, and it’s become very well established since we moved here almost ten years ago.
I’ve been playing around with a microscope the last few days. Today I rubbed a little pollen from a daffodil onto a slide and looked at it under three different objective lenses: 10x, 40x, and 100x. The photograph here is with the highest magnification and although it isn’t the sharpest thing in the world, you can still see what the pollen looks like pretty well. I’m still learning about all the adjustments that can and should be made on this microscope and hope to have some better pictures for you in the days to come. They are about 45µm long, which isn’t particularly small when it comes to pollen, but still, small in a general sense. I’m hoping to get some oak pollen next.
Spring is in the air. It was cool and wet yesterday, with heavy rain all morning and showers and wing in the afternoon. Today was cool and dry with a fair amount of breeze. The forecast is for a freeze overnight and the possibility of snow tomorrow. Not snow that accumulates on the ground, but snow or at the least freezing rain. But it’s spring and that’s what spring looks like in the mid-Atlantic region. One day it will be in the mid 70s, the next night we can have a hard frost. Some days the sky is a wonderful, cheerful blue, others it’s grey and dreary. But that’s spring. I love spring.
This is a daffodil called ‘Falconet’ (division 8, Tazetta). I have a bunch of them growing around the eastern edge of the bed under our Colorado spruce (on the side towards the road). The spruce isn’t doing very well and probably needs to be taken out and replaced with something else. But the daffodils and other things growing under it are doing pretty well. We had a fair amount of rain today. That didn’t bother me too much but a bunch of my coworkers were heading to the National’s home opener and the weather could have been a lot better for them. But that’s the way it goes in early April.
The fall before last I planted five Lenten rose (Helleborus) plants in three different varieties. One of them is a variety called ‘Mango Magic’ and that’s what this flower is. The other two are called ‘Rose Quarts’, and ‘Red Racer’ and I planted two each of those two. This one is doing the best of them, though, having bloomed last year as well. It’s still small but these things are incredibly hardy and will eventually get themselves set for the long haul. They were bought as quite small plants from McClure and Zimmerman: http://www.mzbulb.com/.
We have this little shrub by the top of our driveway. It is a dwarf flowering almond, Prunus glandulosa and it blooms reliably and beautifully each spring. I sort of expected it to get larger but it dies back a bit in cold winters and we’ve had a couple of them lately. That’s a bit surprising, as it is listed as being hardy to zone 3, but there you are. This past winter wasn’t particularly cold, so maybe this will be its year. The flowers are small, only about a half inch across, but are jammed with petals of a lovely pink.
I’ve planted quite a few little Muscari bulbs over the nine years we’ve lived in this house and many of them are in full bloom right now. This one, I’m pretty sure I didn’t plant. It’s growing in our lawn in the back yard, about eight feet from the nearest flower bed and at least 20 feet from the nearest Muscari that I planted.
Because I assume it’s a seedling and because even if a squirrel dug it up and replanted it, I don’t know which variety of Muscari it is. I’ve planted three, M. armeniacum, M. neglectum, and M. latifolium. So, it’s probably one of those or possibly a hybrid (I don’t know how easily they hybridize).
It isn’t in a very good place because the first time the grass is mown, it’s going down. I should dig it up and plant it somewhere safer before that, but the grass is getting long and I probably don’t have more than a week, if that.
Considering how often I’m complemented on identification of insects and flowers, I really should learn to identify these a bit better. This is a white, but I really don’t know for sure which one. It’s possible that it’s a cabbage white (Pieris rapae) with the black spot on the forewing hidden by the hindwing. My guess, though, is that it’s a West Virginia white (P. virginiensis). But that’s a guess. We’ll see if the experts at BugGuide.net can tell me for sure. The daffodil I’m sure of, however. It is a variety called ‘Actaea’, a poeticus daffodil (division 9), planted in the late fall of 2009.
Magnolia × soulangeana, also known as the saucer magnolia, is a hybrid between M. denudata and M. liliiflora. The cross was first made in 1820 by Frenchman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a retired cavalry officer in Napoleon’s army, at his château de Fromont near Paris. They are quite extensively used in our area and are quite beautiful. Their flowers range from nearly pure white to fairly dark pink, almost purple. There are very similar trees with yellow flowers but these are a somewhat different hybrid, between M. acuminata and M. liliflora, and called Magnolia x brooklynensis, first made by Mrs. Evamaria Sparber at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In any case, they are lovely flowers and bloom early, so are quite welcome after winter.
Sorry for the delay in getting pictures up from the last few days. Rest assured they are coming (for the very few of you who actually come here to read this text). It’s been a busy weekend and I have some pictures for you. On Thursday (which is ‘today’ in terms of the posting date) we went to Laurie and David’s in the evening for a small Maundy Thursday gathering. We were a few minutes early so I took some pictures of the daffodils in their front yard. It was just getting dark and some of them didn’t turn out, because I didn’t have a tripod with me, but a few turned out alright, including this one of a nice two-color daffodil.
Along with the Chionodoxa that was featured here a few days ago, the Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), is now in full bloom. There are some named varieties of this, as well, but for my money, there isn’t much to improve on over the species. The blue flowers are quite beautiful and borne in abundance. I don’t know that I could have too much of this and I certainly don’t have enough. They are especially beautiful when seen in bright shade, when the blue is most intense.
The daffodils in our yard are in full bloom. Well, some of them are, anyway. I have three types of daffodil that bloom earlier than the rest: ‘Marieke’ are big, bold, bright yellow, sort of the quintessential daffodil (Division 1 — Trumpet); ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is a smaller, more delicate daffodil with a bright yellow corona (the cup) and paler yellow perianth (the outer petals)(Division 12 — Miscellaneous); and this one, a daffodil from Division 2 (Large-Cupped Daffodils) whose name I don’t know. They are growing along our front walk, between the walk and our house, and they are quite happy there. Along with the ‘Marieke’ daffodils just outside the walk, they practically light up the walkway on a dark evening.
I went out into the woods beside my office this afternoon and took pictures of two very small flowers. The first, pictured here, are the flowers of the hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta. These are a pretty significant pest weed in our lawns these days and are quite remarkable. They flower quite early in the spring and continue to produce flowers for a good while. They go from opening buds to fully ripe seeds in a remarkably short time and the seed capsules are designed to burst explosively when touched, sending the seeds flying far from the parent plant. If you walk though a lawn covered with these in seed, it’s quite an experience.
The glory-of-the-snow, more properly known as Chionodoxa, has started to bloom in our yard. This is a variety of C. forbesii known as ‘Pink Giant’ and it’s strikingly different to the regular varieties, which are generally a beautiful, pure blue. I do like this one, too, but the blue is really my favorite. The other difference is this one is noticeably taller so it’s usable when there is ground cover that would completely hide the other varieties. Anyway, another real sign of spring.
Is spring here? We’ve had snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) but I generally consider both of those to be late-winter blooms. There are daffodils blooming and in the last couple days many cherry trees have opened. I don’t mean an occasional blossom, either. These trees in King Farm were in full bloom. I was in the area to have lunch with my former (now-retired) boss and on the way back to the office I stopped to get some pictures of the cherry blossoms. It certainly felt like spring, with the high temperature being in the low 70s F.
Just over a week ago (on Saturday, February 27, 2016 to be precise) I posted a picture of the first snow drop (Galanthus nivalis) blooming in our yard. I heard from a few folks saying they had those and other things blooming. Now, near the parking lot around my building, along the edge of the woods, there are quite a few snow drops blooming. I park out that way and this morning decided to take the time to get a few pictures. One of my coworkers saw me lying on the grass and wondered momentarily if I was alright. He said he saw me lift my head and then figured out what I was doing.
I was stumped for a subject for a picture today. It was an interesting day and when I came home to Cathy’s mom’s house, I was wandering around the back yard thinking and looking for something to photograph. I found and photographed a few things that I thought would make nice images for the old blog and I decided to post this image of a stump. I really like the intersecting lines of the tree rings with the radial splits of the drying wood and then the big gap between the bark and the wood of the tree.
In addition to the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) blooming in our yard, the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is also up and out. It’s a bright yellow, so more obvious than the snow drops but it’s also quite small and there is only one small plant remaining. I really need to plant a bunch more. It is in a bed that has gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) and that doesn’t really do it any favors, although they bloom and actually do most of their growing at different times of the year. I wouldn’t mind replacing the loosestrife with something a little less vigorous (to put it mildly) and perhaps with a little more color.
Are you ready for spring? With the notable exception of that snow storm we had January 22 and 23 it’s actually been a fairly mild winter. By some reckoning spring starts this coming week here. Those of you further south may already be well into it. Of course we know that we can still have snow well into March. In any case, the snow drops are coming up and starting to bloom, so if you delineate spring by when things start to bloom, it’s here. This one is in our yard and there are others more fully open, but those were in the shade and not so suitable for photographing.
I’ve been taking and posting a photo a day for over five years now. That’s over 1,800 photos and of course some days I’ve posted multiple photos, either grouped together in one post or in separate posts. I may be overestimating the quality of some of those photos but I think that today’s photo is possibly the worst photo I’ve posted in all that time. Certainly in the bottom ten. When I took it, I thought it had promise. This tree, bare and bereft of leaves, was glittering with water droplets and in the light on the side of the building, it was sparkling and quite beautiful. Alas, this photo doesn’t even begin to capture that. It’s a photo of a tree at night, taken by artificial light. But the reality was so much more. At least I tried.
Dorothy is packing up to head back to school tomorrow and one thing she has to take back with her is a small box with a half dozen plants, including two Thanksgiving cacti. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are similar and related, both being cultivars of plants in the genus Schlumbergera. Christmas cactus are Schlumbergera x buckleyi, a hybrid between S. truncata and S. russelliana, while Thanksgiving cactus are S. truncata. There are a few distinguishing features of the Thanksgiving cactus, besides the earlier bloom date. The stem segments (those are stems, not leaves) have pointed teeth, their flowers are not symmetrical (the top is different to the bottom, the technical term being zygomorphic), and they have yellow pollen. The Christmas cactus has rounded stem segments, symmetrical flowers, and pink pollen. They are both native to the Organ Mountain range north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
It has gone from temperatures in the 60s and even 70s for a couple weeks down to about 10°F this morning. It’s noticeable. Yesterday is was cold but without much frost. Today there was quite a bit of frost and I decided to spend a little time in the back yard taking pictures. This is a small sedum plant growing in a container (thus the terra cotta color in the background) on the back patio. As you can see, it’s nicely rimed with tiny ice crystals.
A few days ago I posted a picture of an amaryllis bud. In fact, it was this bud, which has now opened into a fabulous, bright red flower. This is one of four, as is usual for amaryllis blooms. We had to tie it up to a stake because it is so top heavy but that doesn’t really detract from it’s beauty. We have another coming up, so just about the time this one finishes, the next one should be about ready. It’s certainly nice to have flowers in December (and January). The orchid is still bloomimg, as well.
Dorothy is home for Christmas and when she came, she brought this amaryllis with her. Fortunately, she didn’t fly home, or that would not really have been possible. It would have been sad to have left it at school, though, because it’s going to bloom in a week or less, and it would have been done by the time she got back, particularly without any water in the meantime.
It’s sitting on our kitchen table now, and starting to open. We’re all looking forward to it’s full splendor when the four flowers open up, deep clear red.
The plant also reminds me of my dad, who liked amaryllises and would often have one at Christmas. It’s a funny old thing, life, with changes you’d rather not face or remember but which cannot be avoided. Every year seems to bring more of them (the changes) and as we get older, they seem to accelerate. I’m ever so thankful for the things we have (mostly for the people we know and love) but always conscious of those who we have lost.
I got outside again late this morning. It was quite pleasant out, warm and mostly sunny, and I walked around looking for color. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the predominant color outside now is brown. Of course, there is always a significant amount of green, as some grasses keep their color throughout the year. But other colors are a little harder to find. Many of the bramble bushes have lost their leaves and are only providing color in their rusty red stems and the red, hairy thorns that coat them. But I found one large patch that still had quite a few leaves, mostly a dark, mahogany color, but with a few that were bright crimson.
The leaves have all fallen, except those of the young beech trees and some oaks, which hold their dried leaves ’till spring. The fall color has mostly faded to brown and the brighter colors are mostly subdued. But there is still a little color to be found. This afternoon I went out into the woods beside my office and took pictures of two sources of color. This the first, is of rose hips from a multiflora rose growing among the trees, it’s bright hips happy in the afternoon sun. The other was of the red fuzz on bramble stems, forming a glowing mist in the lowering sun.
I’ve been bad about keeping the houseplants in our kitchen watered lately. I think I went about three weeks without watering our orchids, which is a bit too long. Then, earlier this week Cathy noticed that this one was in bloom. So, I guess I didn’t do any permanent harm to them. I’ve watered them now, and will try to keep it up better, but in the meantime, we’re enjoying these beautiful blooms. We’ve had this Phalaenopsis orchid for a while now and it blooms about once a year. The flowers last for more than a month, if it’s taken care of while blooming, which is pretty impressive for a flower so delicate.
It was a chilly morning today, feeling like early December, and although there was frost on the ground, I hesitated to go out to photograph it. I was too comfortable indoors. As I was taking things out to the car, though, preparing to go to work, I figured I was already out, so I might as well get down on the ground and take a few. This is a portion of a red oak leaf, rimed with tiny ice crystals, which I found quite pretty.
Do you know the story of Joseph, his brothers, and his father? Isaac loved all his children but Joseph was special in his eyes. He gave Joseph a brightly colored coat and this didn’t go down too well with his other sons, Joseph’s brothers. They didn’t treat Joseph too well. That worked out in the end but there was a long while that it seemed to be going poorly for Joseph.
Do you think other trees are envious of this oak tree? I mean, talk about a coat of many colors! Joseph’s coat has nothing on this one.
The vast majority of the trees around here have lost their leaves of most of their leaves. Those that are holding on are mostly the oaks and the beeches, which sometimes keep a significant percentage of them through the winter. One exception is the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) in our next door neighbor’s front yard. It’s not only still got most of its leaves but they are a really brilliant crimson. It won’t be long until they, too, are gone but while they last, I’m really enjoying them.
Like yesterday, I didn’t get out at all today so I figured I’d take pictures of something in the house. In addition to the orange pincushion protea (Leucospermum cordifolium) that I photographed yesterday, there are some dried statice flowers (Limonium sinuatum) in the kitchen. That’s what today’s flowers are. They really have held their color quite well and their crape paper like petals are very pretty.
I’ve had good opportunities to get fall-color related pictures or dramatic sky pictures the last few days, but today I was pretty busy at work throughout the day and didn’t get a chance to go out. So, this evening I took some pictures of a flower that is drying out in our kitchen. It is a pincushion protea (Leucospermum cordifolium) and is from a shrub native to South Africa. They make good additions to flower arrangements and are quite striking. As you can see, even after they have started to dry out, they remain quite pretty. Up close, I think of it as a Medusa flower.
I had my annual physical this morning so took a slightly different route coming in. I also had a little extra time, so I stopped to take some pictures of fall color. These are the leaves of a sweetgum tree, or maybe more properly an American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) to differentiate it from the Chang’s, Chinese, and Turkish Sweetgums, which are L. acalycina, formosana, and orientalis, respectively. If you want a tree with great fall color, this would be a good choice. You might want to look for a variety that doesn’t bear fruit, which can be an annoyance in a yard. There is also a variety called ‘Rotundiloba’ which has rounded lobes in addition to being fruitless. But the species is worthy in itself, especially if planted in a large yard away from where you want to walk barefoot.
Cathy and I worked a bit in the yard early this afternoon, filling in some bare spots with grass seed. Cathy put down some LeafGro on the bare spots and I spread the seed. I also spent a little time taking pictures. The flower bed that Cathy planted in the front of our yard, where the red oak tree used to be has done well all summer and made it through the light frosts we’ve had with the help of sheets over it at night. This is a bright, cheery marigold, petals glistening with water from recent rain.
It was another absolutely beautiful day today. Cathy had a soccer game and I was in Potomac anyway, so I decided to go for a walk on the C&O Canal. I drove out River Road and down to Swain’s Lock, walking down the towpath towards D.C. There were quite a few people out, as you’d expect on a day like this, but fewer than there would have been in summer, I suppose. It was the perfect temperature for a walk and the sky was remarkably blue. The colors in the trees seem to have passed their peak, in general, but there was still a fair amount, here and there.
The beech trees are still mostly green and the sycamores nearly bare. There was less red then one could hope for, adding exclamation points to the vistas, but there were a few places, like around this rock, where there was still a riot of color to be seen.
I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now and needed to make it soon. The sun is setting as I come home from work and lighting the Zelkova serrata trees that are planted on either side and down the middle of Norbeck Road. They have turned from their summer green to a bright rusty orange that’s really quite amazing. With the end of daylight saving time this weekend, I’ll be coming home an hour too late next week, it will already be dark, so I stopped this evening and carefully made my way to the median, where I took a few pictures.
I went for a walk early this afternoon, walking around the top half of the block my building is on. It’s a fairly large block so even my abbreviated walk was nearly a mile. I stopped fairly often and took pictures, mostly pictures of details rather than overall views. They were predominately pictures of colors that we think of as fall colors, but this first image is an exception. These are fall colors, of course, but they are not the colors we think of that way. Blues, purples, and bright greens are the colors of spring or possibly early summer. Fall is for hot colors, not these cool colors.
The second picture, of maple leaves, is much more traditionally fall-colored. The reds and oranges of maples are a big part of what we look forward to in the autumn in the mid-Atlantic states. The bright and sometimes deep reds of red maple (Acer rubrum, the bright orange of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the deep, almost black reds of some Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are all wonderful parts of our fall festivities.
In addition to this picture of two maple trees, I took pictures of the deeper, rusty reds and oranges of oaks, the scarlet of sumac, the fiery orange of brambles (blackberries and raspberries), and yellow and orange crab apples. There were small, red rose hips on the multiflora roses. There were also red berries against green (but occasionally maroon) leaves of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). There were even the deep purple-blue berries of wild grapes in a few places.
What a beautiful weekend. After some cold weather last week, it’s returned to 70°F temperatures and blue skies. We did some work in the yard early this afternoon, pulling up weeds that have managed to thrive in the dry months of August and September. We also cut back some of the things that we have planted but that are spreading faster than we’d like. I took a little time to take pictures, as well. I tried to get pictures of leaves falling from the trees in the back yard but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked. This picture is of a few dogwood leaves and berries, turning their traditional fall colors.
I took a bit of a hike today. Well, a walk, really. Possibly a stroll. Anyway, I went to Little Bennett State Park and parked where Clarksburg Road crosses Little Bennett Creek and walked along Hyattstown Mill Road to Kingsley Schoolhouse. From there the road turns up a very steep hill and then levels off, leading to a camping area for the park. I passed a couple on horseback heading the other direction. Beyond the camping area is a path that leads into an enchanted wood.
I don’t actually know that the wood is enchanted. This is a picture of the path, leading off into the woods. I didn’t actually see any elves. I’m not sure that I heard any, even. But then, I’m one of the clumsy folk that they tend to avoid. So, even if they were there, they would have stayed out of sight. SO, maybe this wood isn’t enchanted, but it sure looks like it might be. It was enchanting, anyway.
I took the long way home today, stopping where Needwood Road crosses Lake Needwood and spending a little time taking pictures. The sky was a remarkable blue and although there may have been years with better fall color, the trees were quite lovely today, lit by the afternoon sun. The water was mostly calm, reflecting the colors beautifully. I’d love it if the growth on the causeway leading to the short bridge over the lake was cut so there was an unobstructed view of the lake, but by standing on the guardrail, I could get a reasonable picture.
I had jury duty today, which was interesting. I can’t remember how long its been since I did that but it’s been a long time, 20 years, at least. I didn’t end up being selected for the jury but of course if I had been I would have served as best I could. I was dismissed after the one jury was seated and after stopping briefly at home I decided to go out into the woods.
The woods around here are not as thick and dense as some I’ve been in. They are not particularly ancient with most trees being less than 100 years old and only here and there a really old oak or beech tree. They also are not as impressively tall as some I’ve seen. There is not much that can compare to the Douglas fir or the coast redwoods of the northern California. Still, the eastern forest, when allowed to grow relatively unimpeded for a while, can be very pretty in its own way.
The tallest and straightest trees here are the tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera). They tend to yellow and brown in autumn. That’s what most of the trees are in this picture. Of course, they are not alone. The woods here are quite varied, with oaks and maples of many types, which take much longer to get really massive, but which provide deep rusty reds and bright orange-red colors in fall. There are also many beech, sycamore, cherry, locust, walnut, sweet gum, tupelo, sassafras, elm, willow, ash, catalpa, hornbeam, hickory, alder, poplar, dogwood, and occasional stands of white pine and red cedar (to say nothing of introduced species, such as various spruce and fir, paulownia, and ailanthus. What our woods lack in size, they make up for in variety.
The autumn hasn’t been as colorful so far as some years. I think that’s mostly because of the relatively dry August and September we had. One of the two remaining maple trees in our back yard has turned red, though, and it’s quite beautiful. It isn’t a very shapely tree and I would have a hard time taking a picture of all of it, in any case, but here is a small piece of a branch against the trunk, showing the leaves to good advantage. Here’s to more color yet to come.