We walked on a section of Muddy Branch trail today that we hadn’t been on before. We went roughly 1.8 miles each way and enjoyed being outdoors. We saw a few belted kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon) and there were lots of small songbirds in any thicket we passed. There were a few places with standing water and a few of them had a skunk cabbage plants (Symplocarpus foetidus) growing in them. It’s one a small number of thermogenic plants, which produce heat by chemical reaction and raise their temperature above that of the surrounding environment. Pretty cool.
Flowers and Plants
One of my favorite color combinations is the blue of juniper berries and the green of their leaves. I especially like it on an overcast day, when the colors are more vivid. Either color on its own is attractive and in the running for a favorite color, but the combination is especially nice.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went for a walk on the Blue Mash Trail this afternoon and that’s where this photo was taken. As usual, it was nice to be out in the woods and meadows for a while and we always have plenty to talk about.
As we pass through the darkest days of the year, it’s good to remember the brighter times that are coming. In the summer, the yard was filled with colors, green, yellow, pink, red, and purple. In the winter most things are brown or grey. But the cycle repeats. The brown seeds grown into green plants that bloom in all the colors of the rainbow. But even the browns can be pretty. I wondered around the yard this afternoon and took a handful of photos, including this of black-eyed Susan seed heads. In a surprisingly short time, the yard will be in bloom again.
It hasn’t realle been that cold yet this winter. We did have snow last week but it was only down into the upper 20s at night. It was chilly this morning and the forecast is for continued cold for a while, with lows around 20°F. Still not frigid, but colder. I took some mail out to the box this morning and noticed the frost on these fern fronds so I got my camera and went out a second time to take a few photos. The frost didn’t last long, melting shortly after the sun hit it. But I wasn’t going to stay out too long, anyway. I was in a t-shirt and barefoot. Bracing.
We got this poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) from our next door neighbor and it’s really nice. We have it on our dining room table, except when we take it to the kitchen to be watered. In the past we’ve tried to keep them going from one year to the next and while they aren’t that hard to keep alive, we’ve never had them perform that well in future years. It’s really not worth the trouble, when new plants look so good. As most people know, the red parts are leaves rather than flowers. The actual flowers are quite small and not particularly significant in terms of the ornamental value of the plant. But the leaves really are spectacular.
Winter is a time of stillness and quiet. In the city, of course, things don’t stop in the winter and the hustle and bustle continues. Even there, however, there are fewer people out and those who are generally keep moving. Even in the country, life goes on, of course. The birds (and every thing that creepeth upon the earth) still have to eat and those that don’t fly south (or those for whom this is south) can be seen in the woods and open areas. But the plants are quiet and still. They are still beautiful, though, especially when seen in silhouette, I think.
We didn’t have time for a long walk today but wanted to get out for a while. There’s a loop at the Montgomery County Farm Park the goes around this good-sized corn field and we walked around that. It can be entered from a few different places but we came in on the Upper Rock Creek Trail. We saw quite a few birds, including eastern bluebirds, a blue jay, and lots of crows. We also passed a group on horseback (people, not birds). It was cool and pleasant and good to be outdoors.
This is the second of our Thanksgiving cacti (Schlumbergera truncata) to bloom. The first was mostly white (see Monday, November 23, 2020) and this one, as you can see, is mostly magenta. The third, also magenta, is blooming now, as well. Their flowers are really attractive and I think especially so when shown against a dark background. In this case, the background is the outdoors at night (our kitchen door) with the flower lit by my camera’s flash. S. truncata can be differentiated from the Christmas cactus (S. russelliana) by the pointy ‘teeth’ along the edges of the segments and the fact that the flowers are not symmetrical (the top half is different to the bottom half).
This mum was part of a bunch of cut flowers that we had on the table at Thanksgiving (you can see it in the photo from Thursday, November 26, 2020). It’s lasted pretty well and is still brightening up the dining room table. I’ve never really been into cut flowers but I have to admit they are a relatively inexpensive way to add a splash of color and cheer to a room. They don’t have to be particularly exotic, either. Mums, after all, are easily grown and not very expensive. So, next time you have a celebratory meal planned (or even on more mundane occasions), buy a small bouquet of flowers, stick them in a vase (or a pitcher, as these are) and put them on the table.
This spring I planted three camellias. One was a fall blooming hybrid between C. oleifera and C. hiemalis ‘Showa-no-sakae’ called ‘Winter’s Star’ (see Thursday, October 15, 2020). The other two are spring blooming Camellia japonica varieties. One of them, however, has a bloom that’s opened a bit early. It’s called ‘Hokkaido Red’. My understanding is that it was selected from plants grown from seed collected on the northernmost parts Hokkaido, Japan and grown at the National Arboretum. It’s supposed to be one of the most cold tolerant C. japonica and also blooms prolifically over a long period in the early spring. It’s a relatively slow growing shrub and of course mine was only planted this year, so it will be a while before it’s of any stature. But it looks very promising.
This American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is in our neighbor’s yard. It’s a bit, healthy tree and in the summer it is often lovely at dusk with the evening sun turning the bright green leaves a wonderful orange-green that’s very hard to describe. In the winter, without its leaves, the beauty of the sycamore is in their bark, which is a lovely white, especially against the blue of a winter sky. They are large trees and generally better suited to parks and open areas but they also make a fine city tree, being quite tolerant in their habits.
I know I posted a photo of these berries in November but that’s all I got today so I’ll have to repeat myself. They’re pretty and always come later in the year than I remember. I really need to prune these bushes heavily and will try to remember to do it early in the spring so that they will still bloom freely. The bees really love the little, sweet smelling flowers and the whole hedge buzzes for a few weeks. Of course these hedges are pretty popular with the birds, as well, both for the berries this time of year and as simple cover. Evergreens are particularly nice for that purpose.
Dorothy brought these dried flowers over a while back and they are lying on top of the large fish tank in the breakfast room. I believe they were her bouquet when she was a bridesmaid in a wedding. There’s something magical about dried flowers. Flowers are, generally speaking, transitory in nature. Their beauty is fleeting, something like a sunset. But a dried flower is a snapshot that lasts, not the same as the flower in all its glory any more than the snapshot is the scene it captures. But they both can evoke a memory or even an emotion. What a wonderful thing.
Today’s walk was in Redgate Park, formerly Redgate Golf Course. We walked the back nine today and enjoyed the cool weather and saw quite a few birds, including some blue birds and a hawk that I got a pretty decent photo of as it took off from a branch. This is Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii), a widely naturalized alien plant that’s found throughout our woods. I know we aren’t suppose to like invasive, non-native plants but you have to admit, its fall colors are quite spectacular.
Cathy and I went for a walk late today at the Blue Mash Trail behind the Laytonsville land fill. It’s a nice, easy walk and we enjoyed the fall color still showing on a few trees. There is a fair amount of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), which is pretty, even if it is a bit invasive. There’s a small group of American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana) but not much fruit was left at this point. This photo is of juniper berries and leaves. I particularly like this color combination. It’s especially rich on an overcast day like we had this afternoon.
At the north end of our front garden is a relatively shady spot with some ferns growing in it. There are wood ferns of some unknown variety, a few ostrich ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris), a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum), and quite a bit of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). This is a fertile frond of the last of those and it’s quite elegant, to my way of thinking. This and the ostrich fern have their sporangia on separate, fertile fronds. Both are often found in particularly wet locations and this allows them to keep the spores safe and dry over the winter and then drop them in the spring. At least that’s my assumption. They make a nice winter interest in the garden, as well, although I don’t think they care about that, particularly. I did plant a royal fern (Osmunda regalis) in this part of the garden last year but I’m afraid it got eaten by something. If it doesn’t come up on the spring, I may try again, giving it a little protection until it gets big enough to fend for itself. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating, I’m frond of ferns.
This Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is somewhat neglected though most of the year. That’s actually a good thing as they really don’t want to much attention. It sits on a shelf in our kitchen (breakfast room, really) and gets watered only occasionally. Then, one day around this time of year, you look over and it’s covered with these beautiful blooms. Naturally we move it to a more prominent position while it blooms and then it will go back into relative obscurity for the rest of the year.
I love the colors at dusk. Even when the sky is clear and there’s no clouds for sunset colors to light up, the trees, particularly the trees in autumn, can be just as good a show. It’s hard to catch and I’m not sure I’ve caught it here as well as I’d like, but I think you get the idea. With leaves already turning orange and red, the addition of sunset colors only intensifies them. Even the grey and brown trunks of these oaks turn an autumn hue.
The forecast said we’d have a freeze overnight tonight so I took some photos of this rose, outside our front door, figuring that they would be the last of the year. As it turns out (I know because I’m posting this two weeks after the fact) it didn’t get down below about 38°F, so I was a bit premature. Nevertheless, we’re likely to have a real freeze before too long, so I’m not upset. As you can see, although it’s the middle of November, this plant is still going strong. I have to say, it was definitely a good buy.
Back in January, Dorothy brought some Ranunculus asiaticus for our dining room table. I posted a photo of one on Friday, January 17. They were lovely while they lasted. At the same time, Dorothy brought some pussy willow stems and I posted a photo of them the next day, Saturday, January 18. These, amazingly, have been on the sideboard in our dining room since then and are still looking pretty good.
Pussy willow is the a common name for various Salix species and Salix discolor in particular. The common name references their furry catkins, as seen in this photo. They are dioecious plants, meaning the male and female catkins are on separate plants. In general, it’s the male catkins that are used ornamentally as they are generally the more attractive of the two. They are very soft, like a kitten’s paw.
Along the fence at the north end of our back garden is a tall hedge of Euonymus. It blooms early in the summer and then the fruit ripens about now. The birds are constantly in these bushes, eating the berries but also just hanging out. They provide good protection from preditors and from the elements. When in bloom various bees, wasps, and flies are all over them and the whole thing buzzes. The deer like them, too, and that keeps them from encroaching too much on the yard. They don’t get the tops, though, which are way out of reach, and the hedge continues to thrive.
I’ve been doing my weekly grocery shopping early on Sunday mornings or occasionally on Monday. The stores are not quite empty but there are more employees there than customers. This morning, when I got back from the store, the light on the trees up the street was really nice so I grabbed my camera (it’s rarely far from me) and took a few pictures. Later in the day, Cathy and I walked on a trail behind the old Rockville landfill and it was really nice to be outdoors. It was warmer than I expected but an occasional breeze cooled us off. It’s a pretty time of year.
We worked in the garage this morning, getting quite a bit done (although if you saw it, you might not believe that). We took a trip to the transfer station (a.k.a. the dump) to get rid of a few things and as we got back, the Zelkova serrata were being lit by the late afternoon sun. I dropped Cathy and her mom off at home and then went back out to take a few pictures. This seems to be an annual photo for me, with versions taken from 2011 through 2019, except 2012, apparently. It’s worth it, though. This is really a nice tunnel of trees all year, but especially now and as the sun is setting.
I was out front and noticed that from the right angle, the marigolds behind this blackberry lily (Iris domesticata) look a bit like they’re part of the same plant and that it’s blooming. The picture didn’t actually come out as good as I would have liked, since the marigolds are a little out of focus, but you can sort of git the idea. We have quite a few of these blackberry lilies growing around the yard. Cathy scatters the seeds from them and of course the birds do the same thing. There’s one growing up the street in our neighbor’s garden and we suspect it came from here, too.
As you can see, the leaves turn yellow in the autumn and soon it will die back. The stems with their blackberry-like berries will remain until we pull the seeds to distribute and then cut the stems. The marigolds will most likely last until the first frost.
We’ve grown Torenia fournieri before but I don’t think it has ever done as well ad it did this year. We have a couple of them in containers on the back patio and they have been in constant bloom all summer and will probably not stop until we get a killing frost. They are also known a wishbone flower because the stamens join to form a shape similar to the wishbone of a chicken. This one is a variety called ‘Summer Wave’. Ours got a bit of sun but they are also really good for shade. You better believe we’re going to get this again next year.
When fresh, the flowers on this hydrangea are mostly white with a touch of pink on the edges. As they dry out, however, some of the petals deep in color to a dark pink, bordering on red. It’s not as showy as some flowers and overall, the plant is moving into winter mode. Nevertheless, the color of the petals is quite nice, especially when the late afternoon or early evening sun is shining on them. The deer have done considerable damage to this plant over the years but it keeps fighting back and had a good run this year. Hopefully that will continue.
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood early this afternoon. I wanted to see the Japanese maples in a yard at the far end of our neighborhood. They generally put on a really good show. While I’m not sure they are quite as good this year as they have been some other years, they’re still worth a look. These are fairly old trees, probably planted about the time the neighborhood was established. This house was built in 1971, so the trees are probably something like 50 years old, which seems about right. They are different, with one having quite dark leaves while the other (shown here) has a very bright red. There are actually a few more trees, one on either end of the house and another in the back yard. Really nice.
Cathy and I took a walk by Lake Frank this afternoon. With the weather turning cooler and of course with work during almost all the daylight hours, it’s really important to make a point to get outside when we can. On our walk, I took pictures of quite a few fruits on shrubs and vines. There were rose hips, oriental bittersweet, and I think some sort of privet. The water in the lake is a little low, at least by comparison to the last few times we’ve been here, when it was particularly high. The fall color was about at it’s peak or maybe just a little past. Pretty soon, the trees will be mostly bare and winter will be upon us.
This yellow Asclepias has been blooming pretty must constantly all summer. It’s really quite amazing. Others bloomed for a while and then went to seed, which is what you sort of expect, but this one just keeps putting out new buds, which open into these lovely, pure, yellow flowers. As you can see, it also has seeds. This in on our back patio and it won’t make it through the winter (unless it’s exceptionally mild, of course). It’s only really hardy to USDA Zone 9. But growing it as an annual is really worth it. Highly recommended.
Cathy and I drove up to pick up our car from the shop this evening and then I stopped at the nature center on the way home to see if I could find anything worth photographing. I took a few nice pictures including a few of the berries of a Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii, also known as Thunberg’s barberry). This is an invasive species and I generally don’t recommend it. It’s somewhat too late to worry about, though, because it’s already everywhere. And of course there are hundreds of them at the garden center. They do may nice plantings, so I understand why people use them. Note that the fruit is edible and I have used it in a few Persian dishes. They have a great, tart flavor, similar to cranberries.
We have a really nice crop of holly berries on the tree in front of our house this fall. The squirrels are constantly in this tree and the ground underneath it, including the front walk, is constantly littered with pieces of berry and the occasional leaf. The robins also like them and generally, at some point in the winter, we’ll look out and they will be systematically devouring them. There is another holly at the corner of the house and the robins have found that one and were up in it the other day. So far this one has just been the squirrels, though.
I really like fog. I mean, I wouldn’t want to live in a place that was always foggy, I suppose, but we have fog rarely enough that it’s a treat. It makes an ordinary morning scene more atmospheric, I think. This is just an old black cherry tree and some azaleas in the yard next door but the fog makes it look more exotic. I remember particularly foggy mornings in Cambridge. We lived near the river so we got them a bit more often than parts of the town and generally there was less fog by the time we got to school, but I remember days when Ralph and I had to make our way to the bus stop with one hand on the fence to stay on the pavement.
Autumn is here and the trees are turning their autumn colors. The leaves are falling and covering the ground with shades of red, yellow, orange, and eventually brown. This is under the red maple (Acer rubrum) in out back yard. Maples are among some of the best large trees for fall color. I need to walk to the other end of the neighborhood where there is a yard with a nice collection of Japanese maples (Acer palmatum). Those are some of the prettiest trees in our neighborhood, handsome throughout the year but especially nice in the fall.
Cathy and I walked to the park today and I took a few pictures. This is a very common weed in our area, called Pennsylvania smartweed (Persicaria pensylvanica). I got a bonus in this photograph, of an Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus). I’m not really a big fan of either, I’ afraid. Weeds are a common problem in our garden and this one shows up without fail. And I don’t know many fans of mosquitoes of any kind. Nevertheless, they both have a sort of beauty that cannot be denied.
I bought this camellia, called ‘Winter’s Star’, from Camellia Forest and planted it along the fence at the north end of our back garden. It’s doing well and is coming into bloom. This is a cross between Camellia oleifera and Camellia hiemalis ‘Showa-no-sakae’ and as you can see, it has single, pink flowers and is a fall bloomer. It’s only three or so feet tall at this point, but it should get large enough to be a really striking fall feature in that part of the yard. I bought and planted two other camellias at the same time. These others are both C. japonica and are called ‘Hokkaido Red’ and ‘April Rose’, both spring bloomers.
Cathy and I took a short walk in the park this afternoon. It’s been cool and damp and it was very pleasant in the woods. I took a few photos, as usual, but nothing particularly spectacular (also as usual). This is a fleabane (Erigeron) of some sort, and pretty common around here. It’s one of the few things still blooming. There were berries on the Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) as well as on the ornamental pears. When the Bradford pear was first introduced, it didn’t bear fruit because it had no other variety to pollinate its flowers. Over time, there was either enough variation in the genetic makeup or some trees were sold as Bradford that were not. Now they all bear small, round pears.
Twice in the last couple weeks I’ve gone out to take pictures of these hawthorn berries only to be distracted by a butterfly on the nearby Verbena. Today there were no butterflies, so today’s berry photo will make it onto the blog. This is a variety green hawthorn, Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’. The green hawthorn is native to the southeastern United States. Although ‘Winter King’ is a more disease-resistant cultivar it still has issues with rust and some of the berries were ruined by that. I have some fungicide that I use on my two dwarf apple trees and next year I’ll probably spray this tree, as well.
This red maple in our back yard is turning its spectacular scarlet. It was a wet and cool day and I just went outside to take a few pictures from the back steps. This one is a bit dark but it was a dark, dreary day. The red is certainly nice and the color on this tree is considerably better than some. This hasn’t been the most spectacular fall in terms of color. The bulk of the woods are yellow or a slightly orange or reddish brown but that’s normal. There are, of course, some trees that really stand out with brilliant color but it feels like there are fewer this year than normal. But that’s not a scientific measurement, just a gut feeling.
We bought this Japanese anemone last year and it was in a pot over the winter. I planted it this spring and for a while it looked like the rabbits were not going to let it grow or bloom. Eventually I put a fence of hardware cloth around it, which they quickly knocked over. Now it’s staked to the ground with tent pegs and isn’t going anywhere. I’m a little bothered by the background in this, where the hardware cloth gives a regular, if out-of-focus pattern. Anyway, the anemone is quite lovely and I’m pretty happy with it. Hopefully it will get well enough established that we can take down the fence.
The blue passion flower (Passiflora caerulea) in this photo is the same plant that I photographed in June (see Monday, June 15, 2020). The vine is still blooming very nicely and I particularly like the flower in with the straight, sharp, leaves of this variegated yucca (Yucca gloriosa ‘Variegata’), sometimes known as Spanish dagger. It’s an east coast native although from further south, rather than from here. Nevertheless, it’s hardy as far north as USDA Zone 6. This is a few blocks from our house, with the passion flower happily growing on a mailbox with the yucca at its base.
I don’t really recommend growing painter’s palette (Persicaria virginiana) unless you have a lot of space and want a natural garden. It has a tendency to spread and is a bit of work to control. We have more than we need and most of the year I’m just about ready to pull it up. This is the time of year I don’t mind it quite so much. There isn’t a lot else in bloom and it provides some color in the border with it’s tiny, red flowers on wispy stalks. We have a lot of it mixed with Verbena bonariensis in the large, central bed in our front garden and the two of them together are pretty nice. The foliage is also interesting, with green alternating with a very pale green and with a reddish, V shape stripe.
The late afternoon sun was shining on the hawthorn berries and I took some pictures of them before spotting this monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) flitting around the tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis). She flew off for a while but I waited and she came back and I was able to get some pretty nice photos. I figured I can get pictures of the hawthorn again tomorrow. The butterflies are getting to be fewer and fewer, so I want to capture them while I can. We’ve had a pretty steady presence of monarchs this summer, although rarely more than one at a time. This one is in particularly fine shape.
I posted a picture of this sneezeweed (Helenium ‘Mardi Gras’) back in mid-July, when we first planted it. Almost immediately, the stems were bitten off by some animal. It was high enough that we suspected the deer but it could have been rabbits. We have a lot of rabbits. Anyway, there have been no flowers since then until just recently, when one stem was left along long enough to bloom. I may need to put some protection around this next year or at least have some deer repelling stuff near by. It’s really nice when it blooms, but if they’re going to eat it, there’s not a lot we can do.
The Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena) is really at its peak right now. That, along with the painter’s palete (Persicaria virginiana) are providing most of the color in our front bed. The daisies shown in yesterday’s post are there, as well as a good collection of merigolds, but these two cover the bulk of the area. The butterflies seem to like them and I’ll have a few photos of them there in the next few days. The painter’s palette is a bit weedy and I wouldn’t mind getting rid of a little of that, but the tiny red buds and flowers are nice this time of year, I have to admit.
Cathy bought this plant a while back, either from a woman who was selling plants from her garden or from a nursery and it went into the front bed. We used to call it the spruce bed but now it’s the hawthorn bed (because the spruce is gone and there’s a hawthorn there, now). I think this may be a shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum) called ‘Alaska’ but don’t know for sure. It’s a daisy, anyway, and doing very well. It’s a little hidden and we need to do some more work on that bed, but this has been it’s first real year planted out and in general we’re pretty pleased with it.
Cathy got a pot of seedlings from our friend Janis. The mice got into them and they were therefore all mixed up, so Cathy called it the Mouse Mix. This is one of the plants from that, a moonflower (Ipomoea alba). The related I. batatas is the sweet potato and is also grown as an ornamental, because of its unusually shaped leaves. This, clearly, is grown for the large, white flower. In tropical climates it can grow to 70 feet or more, but here, grown as an annual, it won’t get anywhere near that. This one is tiny, growing in a pot on our driveway. Starting them early and putting them out as soon as the danger of frost is past can give you ten or fifteen feet of growth, though, and is worth trying.
Common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is a noxious weed where it is warm enough for it to survive through the winter. Here it is grown as an annual and it’s the large-flowered cultivars that are grown here, specifically for their flowers, which are present pretty much all summer. The flowers are generally open in the morning and then close up when the day gets hot, but on an overcast day they might stay open all day. Their colors are really something and we’ve loved having them outside our kitchen door this year. In case you’re wondering (I was, so I asked Cathy), the purple flower is Torenia fournieri, commonly known as wishbone flower, an annual that has also done exceptionally well this year.
Cathy and I went to the Dahlia garden at the county’s Agricultural Farm Park this afternoon. I think I’ve found my absolute favorite dahlia of all time. I love dahlias in all their forms and wouldn’t really disparage any of them. That being said, I’ve always been more drawn to the single and mignon classes of dahlias more than the huge dinner plate or cactus classes. This one, however, I really, really like. It’s a laciniated or fimbriated dahlia, characterized by having petals that are split at the end into two or more divisions. Added to that, this one has petals that are a different shade on the front from the back. I particularly like the color combination of orange on the front and almost red on the back. It’s a pretty large bloom, as well and the flowers are absolutely lovely. So, for now, it’s my favorite.
As a landscape plant, burning bush (Euonymus alatus) can be quite striking. I hesitate to ever recommend it. It is an invasive and its use is actively discouraged in many areas (and even banned in Massachusetts, I believe). It’s a native of northeastern Asia and is naturalized over much of eastern North America. The plant we have is in a pot, which helps keep it small, although I’m not really sure I want even that much in my yard. Not that getting rid of ours is going to make much difference, as this is grown all over our area and the cat is already out of the bag.
This is an unnamed chrysanthemum that Cathy bought last year for her mom’s birthday. We basically did nothing with it since then but it’s come back wonderfully this fall. It’s not quite pure yellow, with a bit of orange in its petals, and a very nice bunch of flowers it really is. We’ve often grown mums and asters but never really more than one or two. This year, in addition to this chrysanthemum in a hanging basket, we have an aster called ‘October Skies’ that we planted in our large, central bed in the back yard. I suspect I’ll post a photo of that before too long, as it’s coming into bloom, as well.
The black-eyed Susans in our yard are mostly done. There is a bit of yellow left in spots but for the most part, the petals (technically they are ‘ray flowers’) are brown or at least a deeper, burnt orange color, or have fallen off completely. We generally leave the seed heads for the birds. The gold finches, in particular, seem to like them. I personally like the colors of the fading blooms. Naturally the bright, orange or mid-summer is really impressive, especially with them in such numbers. But the more subdued colors of fall are, to me, more appealing.
This is a weed and we pull it up but it’s actually fairly attractive. It’s called white snakeroot (Ageratina altissima) and it’s a fairly common native plant in our area. It’s similar to the blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) that we have in some of our borders but quite a bit taller (it’s three or four feet tall, compared to about about a foot and a half). This one is behind some shrubs so managed to get pretty much full grown before I noticed it. It will be gone shortly but I thought I’d take some pictures, anyway.
Cathy and I took a walk along Croyden Creek early this afternoon. It has turned cool, although with the humidity in the woods and the steep nature of the trail, I was fairly warm. It was nice to get out, of course, and we only saw a few other people. We walked from the Croyden Creek Nature Center down stream almost to where it joins Rock Creek. Coming back, we turned up a side valley and came out between the two main parts of Rockville Cemetery. Back and the nature center, I took this photo of a western honey bee (Apis mellifera) on an aster of some sort.
Native to the Himalayas and the Russian far east, the blackberry lily (Iris domestica, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis), is a lovely and well behaved herbaceous perennial. It self-seeds pretty well and we promote that by distributing the seeds fairly widely. We’re getting to the point where we might actually pull a few up if they aren’t where we want them, but generally we let them go wherever they come up. They have wonderful, bright orange flowers in succession during the early summer and then the fruit ripens in pods that open up to reveal the “blackberries” that give the plant its common name.
We have a patch of Physostegia virginiana (obedient plant) in the back border. This area of the garden was one of the worst in terms of being out of control and we did a lot of digging there this year. Cathy did most of it, although I did help a bit with some of the deeper digging. It was overrun with goldenrod (Solidago) and mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris), which we wanted to get rid of completely, but even the things we grew on purpose, like the Monarda and this Physostegia, were out of control and needed to be thinned out. So, we still have this, but less than we did. It’s a fairly aggressive perennial, spreading by both rhizomes and by self-seeding. So, grow with caution.
Cathy and I went to Brookside Gardens this afternoon. It was really nice to be out in such a lovely place. There were quite a few people there but it wasn’t as crowded as I sort of expected it to be. We generally go in late winter and then early spring and I don’t remember when we’ve been at this time of year (if we even have). There was a lot to see and we enjoyed it very much. I got a few rose names that I’m going to look for, as well. This is a passion flower (Passiflora alata) called ‘Ruby Glow’
It rained today and I didn’t really get to go out until pretty late. The water on this rose, (the David Austin rose ‘Munstead Wood’) was pretty so I took a few pictures of that. This rose was only planted this spring and it’s doing quite well. The flowers are now up above the top of the hardware cloth fence that I put around it to keep the rabbits off. The flowers are now blooming just below the level of the black-eyed Susans and soon they will be above them. I’m really looking forward to the display we get from this next year.
I suppose you could say these are late summer flowers, rather than fall flowers, but there’s no hard line between summer and fall. The black-eyed Susans are summer flowers and are just finishing up. There are still quite a few of them blooming but not nearly so many as there were. The autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is just about in full bloom, as is the blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). The blackberry lily (Iris domestica), which blooms in early summer, is nearly in seed. All together, it makes a pretty nice combination of colors and textures.
Cathy and I took a walk on the west side of Lake Frank after work today. The heavy rain we had yesterday meant that the water level was high, but the trail wasn’t too muddy. We enjoyed being in the woods, hearing the birds, frogs, and insects, and being away from traffic and people. We saw large patches of partridge berry (Mitchella repens), which we hadn’t notice there before. Today’s photo, though, is of the ubiquitous Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), a common perennial in our woods.
I had a picture of the leaves of this Hardy Begonia (Begonia grandis) earlier this month. Now it’s in bloom and adding a little brightness to the shady spot outside our front door. It’s a great plant to have and looks like it shouldn’t be sturdy enough to survive our winters but it does and it actually does quite well. It won’t grow well too far to our south because of the heat of summer or too far to the north because of the cold winters, but here it’s quite reliable. Highly recommended.
I’ve posted photos of this rose before but it deserves to be shown a few times each year. It’s a small China rose called ‘Perle d’Or’, bred by Joseph Rambaux in 1884. It has a wonderful, fairly strong fragrance that sits in the air outside our front door (where the rose is) and we are often treated to is as we go out or come in. I don’t think it’s been without at least a few blooms since it started in May. Some years it’s hurt by a particularly cold spell but we’ve had relatively mild winters the last couple years so it’s doing particularly well now.
The autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is coming into bloom. This is a fairly aggressive vine native to Japan. It can be a little invasive but if you have a largish area to cover, it’s not a terrible choice. It’s flowers are a lovely white and come late in the summer and continue well into the fall. One of it’s common names is sweet autumn virginsbower. We have it growing on the falling down fence at the southwest corner of our house (the southeast corner of our back yard). Cathy is especially fond of it and as long as I’m allowed to keep if confined to that area, I’m happy to let her have some.
This is a portion of our back garden, which, as you can see, is somewhat dominated by black-eyed Susan flowers at this time of year. They are probably just past their peak but will provide color for a bit longer as they fade from their bright orange to a more rusty, autumnal ochre. You can just make out the hardware cloth ‘fence’ around one of my roses a little to the left of center. By the end of the summer, the three roses should be tall enough that they are safe from rabbits, although there’s not really anything we can do about deer.
This little bee is absolutely loaded with pollen. (Side question: if pollen is spelled with an ‘e’, why does pollinator have an ‘i’ in its place?) Anyway, Cathy and I went to Meadowside Nature Center this afternoon and walked around a pond and through the woods. In addition to this little bee, I got a pretty good photo of a common whitetail (Plathemis lydia), a fairly common dragonfly. But I thought I’d go with the bright yellow of this photo instead. I’m also partial to bees, of course.
We’ve only had this native perennial a few years and this is by far the best it’s done in our garden. We have it in a somewhat shady area. Over time it should spread and form a clump, although not so much that it could be considered invasive (like much of what we have). The snapdragon-like flowers are fairly large and as you can see, they are borne in tight, spike-like terminal racemes. They are actually native to a bit further south than we are but have become naturalized over much of the east coast.
We picked up some blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) along with some other plants that were being given to us. It’s spread around the yard and now we have both the normal pale blue, as seen here (it’s more blue than this photo makes it look) and a white sport (or perhaps the blue is the sport). It blooms late in the summer, just starting now, and will be around into the fall. I don’t know that I’d run out an buy any, but it’s not bad to have a late summer bloomer in the garden. The skippers tend to be the most common pollinators on it, but the bees go to it some, too.
There’s a lot in bloom right now, but there’s actually less variety than there was earlier in the year. The garden is full of black-eyed Susan and there are other, less showy flowers, like the mountain mint, which attracts so many pollinators. Around on the side of the house, in the shadier part of the garden, we have this cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), which is absolutely stunning. The red is so pure and bright, especially when the sun is on it. Cathy saw a hummingbird come to this, as well, which is exciting. I suppose I should have posted a photo of the two of us, for our anniversary, but flowers are where it’s at.
I took more photos of the Scudderia (a genus of katydid) nymph today. It’s still in the canna lily flower and still eating the petals. I suspect it will move on pretty soon. That or it will be eaten, of course. This cosmos is growing in a small pot on our patio. We’ve never really grown them much, but they sure do add a lot of color to a garden in summer. We could do worse than have lots of them.
I also took a few photos of a dinner we had with a dear (and winsome!) friend, who has been living with her recently widowed mother-in-law. But they don’t really do justice to the great time we had.
I noticed this bright green katydid nymph on the canna lily this morning. It is one of the Scudderia species. It let me get pretty close, as you can see and it actually stayed there for a few days and ate a good amount of the petals on this flower. Generally I’m not a fan of flower-eating insects but this one was pretty enough and eating slowly enough that I let it be. I like the green against the orange of the petals and even though it’s a small thing, I could see it clearly from our kitchen door, which was nice.
Cathy has this hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) growing a few places around the house. It really seems to like the relatively shady area around our front door, which gets a little morning sun but that’s it. And even that is filtered through the foundation planting. It seems particularly happy this year, with the amount of rain we’ve had. It’s just coming into bloom, with its delicate and interestingly shaped, pink flowers. But I think it’s worth having just the leaves. We have a few little seedlings that Cathy has collected and she will try to get a few established in new places.
Cathy and I went for a walk this evening. After yesterday’s rain it was cooler. Not quite cool enough to be really pleasant and still quite humid, but so much better than it’s been that we had to get out. There’s one place we walk by where the park comes right up to the road and I took this photo of common burdock (Arctium minus) along the edge of the woods. It’s a biennial native to Europe but pretty well established as a common weed here now. It has burrs that stick to fur and clothing, which helps it to spread.
Cathy planted two canna lilies this spring in a container on the back patio. Our patio is generally nice in the summer, with a collection of plants in containers as well as the black-eyed Susans that surround it. This year is, I think, the best it’s ever been. This canna lily is part of the reason. It’s so bright and especially when back-lit, the dark leaves add an additional contrast. The patio is a riot of colors, with the Pelargonium right behind the canna and with all sorts of other flowers of a wide variety of colors. Definitely nice to have. We’re so fortunate.
I’m pretty sure this is a sculptured resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis), a fairly common, solitary bee in the Megachilidae family (the leafcutter, mason, and resin bees, and allies). We see them on a variety of flowers in our yard. This one is on the Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena or Brazilian vervain) and that seems to be a favorite for these bees. Like most bees, they are not at all agresive and much more likely to fly away from you than bother you in any way. I think they’re quite pretty, with their furry thorax and sculptured abdomen.
It wasn’t so hot today, although relative humidity was near 100%. Cathy and I went out for a walk at the former Redgate Golf Course, now Redgate Park. We saw a pair of white-tailed deer (a mother and fawn) as well as a few different wildflowers. This is a pretty common one, an import from the old world, but still a pretty flower. The others that I photographed were also non-natives. There was the Asiatic dayflower (Commelia communis), which has two white petal-like structures above the flower, and moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria), a pretty, little, white flower with a magenta throat and stamens. We also went to Rockville Cemetery, where we saw another fawn, and then Croydon Nature Center before returning home.
Our yard is pretty heavy on the Rudbeckias, (black-eyed Susan) although we’ve actually gotten rid of a few. You probably wouldn’t notice and it’s going to take a bit more work if we’re actually going to cut back on them noticeably. On the other hand, this time of year, they really are wonderful in their great numbers. The insects like them, although perhaps they aren’t the favorite flower. The skippers in particular are to be found on them and that’s where I usually see transverse flower flies (Eristalis transversa).
The coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) is in our back garden near the back fence. In the late afternoon, backlit by the sun it’s quite lovely. The bees, particularly carpenter and bumble bees, seem to really like the coneflowers. We (and by we I mostly mean Cathy) did a lot of work in this part of the garden this summer. It had become quite overgrown with mugwort and goldenrod among the monarda, asclepias, and irises. It’s basically ready for new plants now, so it isn’t finished, but it’s so much better than it was.
We walked another section of the upper Rock Creek trail today. We parked at Redland Middle School and went from there to Lake Needwood. This section of trail is mostly level with just a little up and down. It follows the creek and included crossing Muncaster Mill Road. Although there is a crosswalk, you pretty much have to wait for someone actually paying attention who stops, as they are supposed to do. The path and creek also go under the Intercounty Connector (MD 200). Our walk was about 2.5 miles round trip, although it didn’t actually feel like we went that far. I was nice to be in the woods, although the humidity was very high and we were pretty well drenched by the time we got back to the car.
I took Dorothy to the airport this morning. It was raining so the traffic was a bit slow but other wise no problem. It continued to rain the rest of the day and I only got out for a little while to take pictures. These are canna leaves with water droplets on them. The canna is (her the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder):
a genus of around 10 species of rhizomatous, tropical and subtropical, herbaceous perennials that produce flower spikes in summer atop erect stems sheathed in large paddle-shaped leaves. Cultivars are available with colorful foliage and flowers in a range of warm colors including red, orange, yellow, pink, and creamy white.
This is the third of my three new roses planted this year. This isn’t its first bloom although it did take longer than the other two did to bloom. That has more to do with the rabbits nipping off the buds than anything else. It now has a hardware cloth fence around it and it’s doing much better. This one is planted near the back fence and should be visible from the house once it gets a bit taller. I have high hopes for all three of these roses and was glad to get them planted back in mid-May.
The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the prettiest butterflies we get. They don’t show up in nearly as great numbers as do the tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) and maybe that’s what makes their appearance more exciting. This one was on a tender butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica) that it in a container on our back patio. I took this one photo from the lawn side of the patio before trying to get around to the other side. Just as well because it flew off after that and I got no more. I did take some more photos of the tiger swallowtails but I’m sure I’ll get more of them this summer.
It was very hot today, and quite muggy, but Cathy and I have been trying to get out on the weekend, at least for a little while, regardless. We went tot he Mont. County Agricultural Farm Park today and walked on one of the trails for a while. Parts were in the shade but even then it was so humid that we were pretty well drenched with sweat. Nevertheless, it was good to be out. We also walked through their demonstration garden again. It wasn’t a lot different to the last time we went but I got a few more pictures, including a few of these sunflowers against the sky.
It’s summer here in Maryland and with it come the summer colors. Cathy often plants containers with a mixture of annual and perennials plants for the patio but this year I think she’s outdone herself. The patio is surrounded by black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and that adds quite a nice backdrop to all the containers. To Cathy’s left, above the red tea pot, are cana lilies and a beautiful, bright red Pelargonium (a.k.a. geranium). The yellow and orange in the lower middle are purslane and there’s more of that in the bottom right, hear the elephant’s trunk. The hanging basket in the upper left is Lantana camara. As you can see, there’s a fair amount going on in the large, central bed. The garden against the fence has been dug out and almost completely restarted. It should be nice in a year or two, though.
I probably should have waited a little longer to take a picture of this, since it isn’t really in full bloom yet. But I only got outside for a little while late this afternoon and this is all I took photos of. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), is an American native and well worth growing. It really adds a splash of bright color to the garden. The only thing here is that you need to watch it in our dry summer heat that it doesn’t dry out too much. It likes moist soil and can even tolerate a little brief flooding. If you’re in a place that’s not quite so hot in the summer, you could plant it in full sun but for us, it does better with a bit of shade. This one is growing under a largish cherry tree and it a bit protected from the hot, afternoon sun. If you have a stream or pond, this would be great on the banks of that. Ours will have more flowers in a matter of days but you can already see how red the blooms are and why it’s such a nice thing in the border. We should have more than we do.
When I posted the close up of the tiger lily a couple days ago, I knew it wouldn’t be the only tiger lily photo I’d post this summer. They’re simply too nice to get just one mention. Dad had these growing in the garden along the driveway. Quite a few years ago we took some of the bulbils that form in the leaf axils on young stems. I find it interesting that they seem to form on young stems and not on the more mature stems. Generally you think of a more mature plant yielding more of this sort of thing. But I suppose the more mature stems produce a lot more seeds, so they don’t need to do this.
Anyway, we have them well established in a few places in the yard and they are magnificent. This is the biggest and most successful bunch, growing in a bed where a dead oak tree was removed a while back, out near the road. As you can see, they’re about eight feet tall and really happy in this sunny location. I recommend them pretty highly. The tiger swallowtails seem to like them, as well.
We’re in the heart of summer. We’ve had over three weeks of daytime high’s over 90&#b0;F and it approached 100°F today with even higher temperature forecast for tomorrow. In spite of the heat, Cathy and I felt like we really needed to get out. The Montgomery County Farm Park seemed like a good destination. Their demonstration garden was very nice. It’s a bit overgrown with weeds but since it’s not our responsibility, that bothered us less than weeds do at home. I think these are some sort of wild sunflower but there are quite a few plants with this basic look and I didn’t see a label on them. Regardless, this is summer. Big, bright, bold, yellow flowers against a beautiful, clear, blue sky.
This won’t be the only photo I post of these, I suspect. They are starting to bloom and are already quite spectacular but when they really get into full bloom, with 20 or more flowers per stem, they are amazing. The seem to deal pretty well with the sweltering heat we’ve had and the occasional downpour. The biggest threat to them, actually, is deer, which will come in and eat them. We’ve been fortunate this year and only a few stems have been cut off (and that may be rabbits). We have them in a few places around the yard but the most conspicuous are in the front, right out near the road, where there used to be a large oak tree (until it died and the county cut it down).
I’ve seen some really impressive plantings of cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus) but we’ve never had enough to really make a huge impression. Some years I think about getting a few packets of seeds but never seem to get around to it at the right time. This is from the ‘Sonata’ series and it a lovely color. They will self seed, if you’re lucky, and you’ll get repeat bloom from year to year, but we’ve only had an occasional plant from seed. Maybe next spring I’ll actually get my act together and put some seeds down. This and Nigella damascena (love-in-a-mist) are two that I think I could stand a lot more of.
It was a work day today but as usual, a few times during the day we took a break from work and went outside briefly. It’s been hot, with about three weeks with high temperatures above 90° That’s not really our favorite thing, but the flowers blooming in the yard get us out, at least a little. Here’s Cathy at the south end of the house with some bee balm (Monarda didyma, the magenta flowers behind her), orange tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium, off her right shoulder), Blackberry Lilies (Iris domestica, the slightly paler orange lower down and further to her right), and some purple butterfly bush (Buddleia). There are two roses on the frame against the wall but they are mostly without blooms right now.
Cathy bought a few perennials over the weekend and I planted this one yesterday. It’s a sneezeweed called ‘Mardi Gras’ and it’s really nice. The flowers have a similar look to black-eyed Susans but it’s a different genus (Helenium). I happened to catch it with a little, green-sweat bee on it, which is a bonus. It prefers somewhat barren ground and isn’t supposed to do well in heavy clay, which is probably why I haven’t seen it around here. That’s really all we have. But hopefully it will survive, even if it doesn’t thrive too well.
This is the tip of a mullein stalk growing up close to the front of our house. It’s not really in a place I’d choose to plant it, but I left it there for Cathy. She really likes it and we have a fair amount in the hawthorn bed that has become something of a Mediterranean garden this year. It’s funny to hear so many people praise this plant as something the native Americans used medicinally. It may be true, but that only happened after it was introduced from Europe, as it isn’t a native American itself. It’s quite hardy (USDA Zones 3 to 9) and is quite happy in dry, otherwise barren places. This part of our yard really dries out in the summer and is currently rock hard. But along with the Verbascum we have Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena), Lavandula stoechas (Spanish lavender), and Salvia rosmarinus (rosemary), which all do well in rather severe conditions and in fact don’t like being waterlogged.
The blackberry lily (Iris domestica, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis, has beautiful, bright orange flowers above an attractive fan of sword-shaped leaves. It spreads slowly into clumps but mostly spreads by seed, which are distributed both by birds and by wives who really like it in our garden. I first collected seeds in South Carolina many, many years ago and we’ve had it around ever since. We have quite a few at this point and we may be reaching the time when a few of them need to be pulled up (but I’m not sure Cathy’s ready for that yet). They are native from the Himalayas to the Russian far east but do very well here. I like the lighting in this. The bloom is in full sun and the background is the pavement of our street in shadow.
I wasn’t happy with most of the pictures I took today, but this one isn’t too bad. I’m pretty sure this is a sculptured resin bee (Megachile sculpturalis), although there are a few other Megachile species it could be (e.g. the flat-tailed leaf-cutter bee, Megachile mendica, which is more common). Regardless, it’s a nice, quiet little bee and it was moving among the coneflowers, along with a few other solitary bees and an occasional honey bee (Apis mellifera). I know that some folks are not fond of bees and don’t like to have them around. With the exception of a few aggressive hornets and wasps, I like having them around. They really rarely sting unless provoked and they are quite pretty to watch on flowers.
The second of my three new David Austin roses has started to bloom. It’s called ‘Munstead Wood’ and as you can see, it’s a very double, old fashioned bloom. What you cannot get from the photo is the fragrance, which is very strong. I had to put some hardware cloth around this and one other because the rabbits were biting off the buds and eating them. Now that it’s protected, it’s going to town, with quite a few buds getting ready to open. Of course it’s still a relatively small plant, less than two feet tall, but I’m expecting it to be large enough that it provides a nice point of color in the middle of the garden.
Over the years I’ve thought about selling photos as stock but I never really got into it. I’m not really sure if I’d actually make any money at it. I sort of doubt it, honestly. I know that now and then I get a reasonably good photo and I certainly enjoy both taking and looking at them. But whether they are actually suitable for stock is another matter. And of course it isn’t just that. They would have to be found among the hundreds of thousands of other stock photos. I’m sure there are ways to increase your chances but I’m not sure I care enough. So, I’ll just stick to what I do and occasionally post a photo with an attempt at a clever title. This is stock, Matthiola incana.
I love this day lily. It’s growing by our front walk in the shad of a pink dogwood. It seem really happy there and the colors are more intense in the afternoon, when they house casts its shadow over them. I love these colors, they’re so hot. It’s nice that they are along our walk, so I see them every time I go out the front door. Most of our day lilies are the more standard orange, which is nice, of course. We could do with more like this. Maybe I’ll divide these and spread them around a bit. Maybe I’ll even dig up some of the more aggressive perennials and replace them with these.
These are the containers in the south corner of our back patio, outside our kitchen door. They’re doing pretty well right now and really brighten up the back yard. There’s a lot of green in the yard, which isn’t all that unusual. Having some intense colors is really nice and annuals are so easy. There are some day lilies in the foreground on the left, which are in a container that fell over a few years ago and has been lying on its site for a few years. They don’t seem to mind in the least. There is also a hanging basket with Lantana in the upper left corner. Technically it is a broadleaf evergreen shrub but it isn’t hardy here and is generally grown as an annual.
Pretty much all the flowers in our garden are attractive to insects. I suppose that makes sense, because that’s what flowers are supposed to do, in order to get the insects to (inadvertently) pollinate the flowers. It’s interesting to me, though, that some flowers are attractive to many different insects but some seem to attract a specific subset. Yesterday, I was looking at the Monarda (bee balm) and noticed that the large bees were almost exclusively carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica). Today I was looking at the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) shown here and the large bees were exclusively common eastern bumble bees (Bombus impatiens). Just interesting, that’s all.
On a mostly unrelated note, I really, really don’t recommend you plant any Lysimachia species in your garden. The bees love it, but there are other things they like that aren’t so overwhelming.
I love patterns in nature. Some are seemingly random but others, like the swirls in this coneflower, are strikingly organized. Even the random patterns have a rhythm to them, like the meandering of a river or the branching of an oak. Patterns are all around us and it’s worth looking for them and being reminded that it isn’t all a matter of chance. I’m a firm believer is a creator who designed all that is. I don’t understand some (or even most) aspects of the design but I appreciate them, nonetheless. This is a relatively simple pattern but very satisfying, at least to me.
I could see a fairly large garden with nothing but varieties of coneflower (Echinacea species and varieties). One problem we have with them is that the rabbits and deer seem to like them and many that come up have their flowering stem bitten off so we don’t get flowers on them. The few that do bloom are great, of course, but then th bugs get to them and the petals get holes in them. They’re still nice, but not as photogenic. Because of that, we hesitate to buy more coneflowers. This one, called ‘Fiery Meadow Mama’, nearly made me make an exception. Wow, what a flower. There was another called ‘Cone-fections Hot Papaya’ that was mostly red and with a larger center that was nice, too. But we restrained ourselves.
In April I ordered three David Austin Roses. They arrived on May 3 and because they were bare root, I put them in a pot until I could get around to planting them in the ground. I planted them two weeks later on May 17. This is the first of them to bloom. It’s called ‘The Poet’s Wife’ and it’s not clear for whom it is named. As you can see, it’s a yellow rose and along with the other two, I’m hoping it will do well in our garden. It’s supposed to grow to about four feet tall, although measurements like that are generally very specific but in practice fall within a very broad range. We’ll see.
We’re big fans of Asclepias and have three species growing in our garden. We have a few varieties of Asclepias curassavica, a tender perennial native to the Caribbean and Central and South America often referred to as blood flower. We have several Asclepias tuberosa, butterfly weed, a hardy perennial native to our region. We just bought a few plants of a variety of Asclepias incarnata called ‘Ice Ballet’. The species is generally pale pink but this variety is a creamy white. It’s also a native to the area and is known as swamp milkweed. These will go in a spot that gets very wet when it rains, as these don’t mind that and there are a lot of things that won’t grow there.
The gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) are just about ripe. The squerrals are eating them as they ripen up and I don’t think we’re actually going to get much of a harvest. That’s our own fault, because we haven’t protected them and aren’t going out each morning to pick them as they ripen up. I don’t mind, terribly, although I have been picking and eating them when I do go out. They are just the right combination of sweet and tart. If I had a bit of land and used some of it for vegetable gardening, I think I’d plant a row of these and put a net over them. I might put a net over this one next year, although it’s against the fence and that might make it tricky.
I took a few more pictures of plants on Cathy’s work table today. This one is a spurge called Euphorbia amygdaloides subsp. robbiae, also known as Robb’s wood spurge. It’s a nice combination of greens and yellows and something nice for the herbaceous border. The Euphorbia genus has something like 2,000 species and they range from small annual plants to trees and there are species from many parts of the world This one isn’t native to North America, but I’m not bothered by that. One thing you want to be careful of with these plants is their milky sap, which is poisonous if ingested and a skin irritant.
I went out to take some pictures of flowers today. There are a few sitting on a table that I set up for Cathy to work on and that seemed like a nice place to sit and take pictures. I took some of a coral bells plant (Heuchera x ‘Blondie’) and then I noticed this syrphid file (Family Syrphidae) on a marigold blossom. There’s only so close I can get with my 100mm macro and I’d like some way to get closer. I’ve thought about buying a Canon MP-E 65mm f/2.8 lens that gives magnifications of 1 to 5 times, basically picking up where my current lens leaves off. It’s manual focus, but at that close range, focus is as much a matter of moving the camera closer or further away from the subject.
The day lilies are starting to bloom. These are descendants from some we dug up in the woods of Pennsylvania, near our property. They are growing around what used to be a homestead, many years ago. There is a hole in the ground with the remains of stone walls and the base of a chimney. Around that are orange day lilies (Hemerocallis fulva) and periwinkle (Vinca minor) growing in great profusion. It’s in the shade as trees have grown up over it and in consequence the day lilies don’t bloom as well as they might, but we took a few home and planted them in the sun, where they bloomed quite happily. That was at our old house and we dug up and brought some of those with us here, where they continue to give a great show every year.
This may actually be a hybrid of the blue passion flower (Passiflora caerulea) with something else, as that plant is generally only marginally hardy here and this one is clearly doing well. But I’m not sure. It is growing a few blocks from our house and we saw the buds on in a while back so I wanted to come get some photos of the blooms. We pass it on our walks sometimes, depending on the route we take. It’s growing in a nice, sunny location on a mailbox and is covered with blooms.
This bellflower (Campanula latifolia) has been coming up in our back garden for quite a few years. It’s on the edge of the central bed that we’ve been trying to rejuvenate and it seems to be doing well enough. I think we should encourage it because it’s a really lovely flower. As it is, we get four or five stems and I certainly wouldn’t mind a couple dozen. The Missouri Botanical Garden says it “spreads freely and agressively by both rhizomes and self-seeding under optimum growing conditions.” I’d say our growing conditions are not optimum, then, because it’s keeping itself to itself.
I sat in the middle of the front garden this afternoon and took a few pictures. There were some bumble bees (Bombus impatiens, the common eastern bumble bee) moving from flower to flower and I waited for one to land on the lavender (this is a variety of Spanish lavender, Lavandula stoechas called ‘Anouk Supreme’). I only got four photos and none of them are quite what I was hoping for but this one isn’t too bad. When I’m in the yard, especially when it’s hot, I generally favor the shade but if I’m looking for photos, especially insect photos, the sun is the place to be.
I was taking pictures of the feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) growing in the back of our garden when I happened to notice this little plant bug. I don’t know what type it is and I’m not sure the photos I got are good enough for more than a general identification, so I’ll just leave it as a plant bug (Family Miridae). We’re in the in-between phase when there are fewer things in bloom. The flush of spring ephemerals is well past and most of them have already lost their leaves for the summer. The roses have finished their first flush but those that repeat will be with us off an on all summer. The Asiatic lilies and a few smaller things are the only sources of blooms right now. I’m not complaining, mind you, just saying.
Crépuscule is a word we don’t see very often and in fact, when I bought this rose (a Noisette rose bred by Francis Dubreuil in France in 1904), I had to look up its meaning. Recently, reading The Tale of Genji, I actually came across the adjectival form of the word in English, crepuscular. I admit that I had to remind myself of its meaning, which is ‘twilight’. I had thought this rose dead a few years ago after a particularly cold spell killed it back to the ground. As it started growing up again, I didn’t know if it was on a different root stock or not, but now that it’s blooming again, I know that it’s on its own roots. It still hasn’t fully recovered and it’s nowhere near as big as it was. It’s growing on a frame on the end of the house that’s about 12 feet high and was up to the top of it before dying back.
Purslane, otherwise known as Portulaca oleracea subsp. sativa, is a pretty, flowering annual plant native to India. It is hardy and will self-seed if conditions are right although we generally need to buy more each year. This one is called ‘Pizzaz Nano Fuchsia’ and it’s pretty hot pink. It is an edible plant, used as a salad green or even cooked in stews in some places, although we’ve never tried it ourselves. I might give it a try, but I generally enjoy it well enough in the garden that I think I’ll leave most, if not all, of it there.
We had our first sighting of a tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) today and it was nice enough to perch on the Asiatic lilies growing in our front garden. I’ve actually seen a few butterflies around but haven’t had a chance to get any photos. Soon we’ll have them in abundance, especially when the Buddleia starts to bloom. These Asiatic lilies are surrounded by tiger lily plants (Lilium lancifolium), which are considerably taller and I’m not sure these can get the attention they deserve. On the other hand, this makes them harder for the deer to get to, which is a plus.
We’ve had strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum) each of the last few years and I really like it quite a lot. Also known as everlasting flower, it provides color over a really long period. The central part of the flower turns dark but the almost woody bracts keep their color. This year, we happened to come across this bright red variety. I have to say, it’s really a stunner. The yellow one is nice, but this one is just amazing. I think maybe next year I’ll get more than one. I don’t know that I could get tired of this color.
I took some photos of some yellow flowering sedum this afternoon but they didn’t turn out very well. You’d be stuck with them except I happened to see this Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis) on a stem and got down on the ground to get a few photos of it. This plant has a flower cluster similar to Queen Anne’s lace but that’s not what it is. It’s a very aggressive weed that we picked up somewhere along the way and we really need to do something about it. But it made for a nice photograph, in this case. It may be Chaerophyllum aromaticum but I really don’t know. Whatever it is, you really don’t want any.
This is a pretty little flower that’s starting to appear in our garden. It is Dianthus armeria, the so-called Deptford Pink, native to Europe and not naturalized over much of North America. It is an annual or biennial and grows between two and three feet tall with very thin stems topped by these lovely little pink flowers, which are about a centimeter across. It self seeds pretty well but isn’t aggressive enough to be a problem at least in our garden. Most of those we have are growing in containers on the driveway or around that area.
We have two of these pink spiderworts in the side garden. They really are nice and I took some photos today with this one in the foreground and with the more usual blue flowered variety being it. We don’t remember the name of this variety and it may be a type of Tradescantia ohiensis, the Ohio spiderwort, rather than T. virginiana. There are others, too, of course. Anyway, it’s a really nice flower and lovely in the border. The flowers open in the morning and then close up during the heat of the day, so best appreciated early. This was taken from about the same spot as yesterday’s photo of the wren.
I really should plant more of this as well as other ornamental onions. This is Allium moly, often called golden garlic, and it’s a lovely little bulb, blooming later than many of the spring bulbs. Its flowers are smaller than daffodils but it makes up for that by being one of the few things in bloom right now. In theory it spreads and needs to be controlled when growing in ideal conditions. Clearly that’s not what it has here, but it seems happy enough. Another Allium that I’ve had but don’t now is Allium caeruleum, which has pale blue flowers. I think I’ll order some of that, too, this fall, along with a bunch more deffodils.
It’s kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) time in the neighborhood. These trees bloom later than the native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and in general have fewer problems here. They make quite handsome trees of a good size for a suburban yard. They flowers are followed by interesting fruit so they have two seasons of interest, which is nice. They also have interesting bark. The main thing, though, is that they aren’t killed by dogwood anthracnose, which is pretty hard on the C. florida trees. C. kousa is also a bit hardier, although that’s not a real issue here. But the disease problem really is.
There is a lot of interest in native plants and in general I don’t mind that. They often thrive in out local conditions. It’s somewhat related to the emphasis on so-called organics (as opposed to synthetics), thinking that they are inherently better and safer. Nevertheless, some natives can easily become weeds. Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is a case in point. It’s actually lovely and in its place, worth growing. But be aware that it will come up around your yard and garden and if you don’t want it to take over, you’ll need to be a little ruthless in pulling it out.
In the fall of 2014 I planted three of these peonies, called ‘Coral Sunset’, in our back garden. They have bloomed a bit better each year and I really look forward to seeing them each year. Between the three plants there are seven blooms this year and they are wonderful. There are a lot of peonies I’d be happy to have but I think this one is high on my list. The stems are strong and the flowers not so heavy that they all droop down, which means you really get the full effect of the blooms. Interestingly, they fade to a pale almost-yellow color as they age, which isn’t nearly as striking, but I’m not about to complain.
I really do try not to have pictures that are very much alike, especially near each other. However, I’m a few days behind in posting things and I often take pictures forgetting what I’ve photographed in previous days. Or, I take pictures of a variety of things and then pick one that I like, forgetting that a few days later I took a similar photo and have less to choose from. It’s that sort of thing the brings you the second photo of Rose ‘Perle d’Or’ in four days. Sorry about that. But you have to admit this is a really pretty flower.
I took pictures in the yard earlier today but then Cathy and I went to Meadowside Nature Center and took a walk there. Since most of my pictures this spring have been from the yard, I decided to feature a photo from off-site today. We walked from the nature center down to the creek (North Branch Rock Creek) and from there to the lake. We could see the eagle’s nest and at one point saw one of the juvenile eagles sitting on the edge of it. We stopped and sat by the edge of Lake Frank and I took some photos of these yellow flags (Iris pseudacorus), growing on the shore. They are native to Europe and western Siberia, the Caucasus, and northern Africa. They’re quite lovely and I particularly liked the way these were shown against the grey of the very still water. We enjoyed watching the swifts or swallows skimming around over the lake. We heard a barred owl a few times in the distance.
Although it will bloom off and on throughout the summer, there really is nothing to compare with the first flush of blooms on even the best repeat flowering (or remontant) roses. This rose will have at least a few blossoms on it from now until well into the fall but right now, it’s so covered with buds that by this weekend we’ll be hit with their heady fragrance as we come out the front door. We really couldn’t ask much more from a plant. The flowers are small and delicate but really pack a punch in terms of their small, which is wonderful.
This is yet another tender perennial grown here as an annual. It’s a non-vining, morning glory-like plant native to Brazil. It’s a member of the convolvulus family (a.k.a. the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae) but it doesn’t twine and the genus, Evolvulus, means to untwist or unravel. This variety, ‘Blue My Mind’, has beautiful, pale, sky-blue flowers about an inch across. This does really well in hanging baskets or other containers and that’s where this is destined to go, but so far it’s among the plants waiting to be potted up.
Here’s another of the plants we bought a while back from Fehr’s Nursery. It’s a strawflower called ‘Basket Yellow’. Also known as everlasting flower, the official binomial is Xerochrysum bracteatum although it was formerly included in the genus Helichrysum or Bracteantha. It’s a tender, short-lived perennial native to Australia and treated as an annual here and we have two. This one is pure yellow and the other is red and orange, which is pretty nice. We’ll put them in pots on the back patio and they’ll give us color right through the summer. The flowers, not surprisingly, last a long time. I wonder if that’s where they get their name?
This is a difficult rose to photograph well. First, it’s quite tall and most of the blooms are right at the top, about eight feet from the ground. Second, it’s against the south wall of our house, which is brick but not the most attractive background. It was also cloudy today and the rose wasn’t in the bright sun, which would have been nice. But I wanted to be sure to include a photo of this rose, as it’s doing quite well this year. This is one of four roses that survived the great rose dying of last year. It’s by far the tallest of them but the other on the end of the house, which nearly died a few years back, has to potential to be much larger, if it can continue its come back.
Many years ago my dad gave me a subscription to a thing called The Seed Guild. The idea was that this guy had relationships with botanical gardens and arboreta around the world and had worked out an arrangement where he collected seeds from them and distributed them to Seed Guild members. I don’t remember the details but I do know the seeds for this lilac came from there. The catalogs I have (from the late 1990s) list three species, Syringa amurensis, S. josikaea, and S. wolfii, so I assume it’s one of those three. I’m leaning towards the last of them, which may more properly be known now as Syringa villosa subsp. wolfii (C.K.Schneid.). I had it growing in a container for many years and it never got very big. When we moved here in 2006 I planted it in the back garden and now it’s about 8 feet tall and obviously doing well.
After work today I sat out in the yard. It was quite warm and I was enjoying the birds singing in the early evening. There is a family of house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) that have nested in a small, ceramic bird house hanging from our cherry tree and they make themselves known. I got a few photos of the wren but they’re small birds and I wasn’t really that close to it. I also surprised a rabbit (an eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus), who came around the corner and found himself much closer to me that he would have liked. He froze long enough for me to get a pretty good close up. But I decided to post this photo of the Exbury azalea that’s just finishing up a really nice blooming season.
One of the plants Cathy bought on our annual Mother’s Day trip to the nursery (a week early this year) was this blood flower, Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’. As you can see, the colors are pretty intense. This species of butterfly weed is native to the Caribbean and Central and South America and is only winter hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11, so we grow it as an annual here but it’s worth it. The butterflies and other insects love it and even without that, it’s just a beautiful flower. If you have a very bright indoor location (or a heated greenhouse!) then you could bring it in for the winter, but we just start new each year.
Last year, after getting rid of the stump from the Colorado spruce that I cut down, we planted a hawthorn to one side of the bed and Cathy planted some perennials as well. Two of them are a variety of Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) called ‘Anouk Supreme’. They are blooming now and they are quite lovely.
Each individual inflorescence is nice, as you can see here, and overall the entire plant is really nice, with lots of blooms. The individual flowers are a very deep purple and the bracts at the top are only slightly less intense. Both the leaves and the flowers give off that wonderful lavender aroma that we’re all so familiar with.
We haven’t done terribly well with plants like this in the past but I think this is a good location for them. If they do well, I’d be happy to get a couple more. We also have a rosemary that we might put here with them. This species of lavender is native to the Mediterranean countries including France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
Cathy and I went for a walk in the neighborhood this evening and came across this iris, back lit by the setting sun. It was more purple in real life but I think the photo is pretty nice, anyway. I have a thing for back lighting, particularly of growing things. I love the luminescent quality and amazing colors of leaves and flower petals lit by the sun. I also took photos of our hawthorn, which is in bloom, and the first rose to open on ‘Perle d’Or’ outside our front door. But there will be more chances to photograph those in the days ahead.
One of our favorite herbaceous perennials is the spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). It’s a native and is easily grown in our gardens. In addition to the ‘standard’ versions, we have a few named varieties. This is one of the plain species and it’s lovely, of course. This one is right outside our back door and this is the first bloom of the year. I’ll almost certainly return to it later, when it has more flowers, or will post a photo of one of the other, slightly more exotic varieties. But they really don’t need much improving.
I know I’ve already had a picture this spring of the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) from our garden but it’s blooming so well and so long that I thought I’d share another. We’re also in a little lull where there isn’t a lot new coming out, although it’s still changing. So, here’s another view of the little white bells of the lily of the valley, this time from the back garden, near the fence (not that it makes much difference, of course). Soon the flowers will be gone and even the leaves will fade in the coming heat of summer. We are near the southern limit of where it grows well. If you grow it here, it needs some shade to protect it from the heat of the summer sun but further north it does well in full sun.
We also have a terrific crop of Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense) coming up among it (and many other places, as well) and it really needs to be dealt with. That’s a really problematical weed, having “a deep and wide-spreading root system with a slender taproot and far-creeping lateral roots.” (Source: Fire Effects Information System, US Forest Service). That same document also says that “new plants can also form from root fragments as short as 0.2 inch (6 mm),” which helps explain why it’s so hard to get rid of.
It was quite cool this morning after a soft freeze over night. There was ice in both bird baths this morning, not just the pedestal meaning it got pretty cold. I had covered my recently planted camellias and we moved some pots into the garage, so everything seems fine. We went for a very nice walk in Rock Creek this afternoon and saw lots of pretty things, including this perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata), a pretty little wildflower we don’t see very often. The word ‘perfoliate’ means the base of the leaf surrounds or is pierced by the stem.
The chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are blooming. These are one of the easiest herbs to grow and we have them both in containers on our back patio and in the ground in our herb garden. We have to keep the oregano from suffocating them, but they have managed to survive so far. They bloom this time every year and I like to pick some of the flowers to sprinkle onto food as a seasoning. They add a subtle oniony flavour without being overpowering. Of course, the tubular chive leaves can be used pretty much any time, but I think the flowers are special, because they add color as well as flavour.
In the back of our garden, near the fence where there was a huge rose bush, there is a clematis. For years it’s struggled to be seen among the rose, which was often out of control. Well, the rose is gone now, having mysteriously died last year. I’m sad about that, and wish it hadn’t died but at least this beautiful, white clematis is still there and is doing quite well, now that it’s getting the sun it needs and isn’t overshadowed by the huge plant. We will need something for it to clime on but for now, it’s just happy to be blooming in the sun.
As mentioned on Sunday, we went to the garden center to buy plants for Cathy to put in containers and into the ground for the summer. These were mostly annuals, although we did buy a few perennials, as well, including a rosemary. This is one of the marigolds that Cathy picked out. It’s called ‘Durango Red’ and it’s a really nice, burnt orange color. It’s especially nice in the rain, which was heavy today. This is out on the driveway right now but it will probably go into the ground before too long. They are a quick and easy way to get a lot of color in your garden.
I’ve used the joke before but it’s true, I’m fond of fern fronds. We have a few different ferns in the yard. There is the northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum, featured seven times so far, apparently), Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). This is, I believe, a Dryopteris species, but I need to do some work if I’m going to identify it for sure. The genus is generally known as the wood ferns but some species have particular names, like male fern (D. filix-mas, which is what I suspect this is) or buckler fern.
The other species this might be, and perhaps it’s more likely based on size, is the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Both the male fern and lady fern are native and both are nice for a shady garden. I really should figure out which this is because every time I’m asked, I have to qualify my answer. A fern expert could probably look at my photo and tell me right off, but I need to look up the differences and look more carefully. If and when I do that, I’ll update this post.
The Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a pretty, little, but invasive bulbous plant native to Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. It’s coming up in our back yard and we really should do something about it, although it’s hard to want to pull out something as pretty as this. I’m not sure where it came from as we only have it growing in our lawn and not in any of our garden beds. This time of year they just appear in the lawn. Our mower is out of commission until I get a new carburetor so the grass is getting long but once that’s running again, these will be mowed along with the grass.
It’s a week early for Mother’s Day but we’ve been cooped up for too long and we didn’t want to wait until next week. We took our annual trip to Fehr’s Nursery early this afternoon and Cathy bought a load of plants. As usual, I wandered around and took photos of flowers, etc. I got some nice pictures of various hens and chicks (Sempervivum varieties) including some Sempervivum arachnoideum, which have what look like cobwebs on them. I decided to go with this photo, however, of lady’s mantle leaf (Alchemilla mollis ‘Auslese’) with water droplets on it.
We had some significant rain today. I don’t mind too much, as it’s spring and it’s the time of year you expect rain. The ground gets good and soaked and the plants really enjoy it. Things are greening up all over. The pink dogwood in front of our house is just about finished blooming and this rain storm is speeding up the petal drop. I really love water on flowers, though, so when I went out this evening, that’s what I looked for. The forecast is for more rain on Saturday and then warm and sunny on Sunday. We’ll see, of course.
This is purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) although obviously there isn’t any purple color here right now. These are last year’s seeds, which we generally leave up all winter for the birds. They are obviously well fed, because by spring, most of them are still here. It’s just about time we cleared them all out. Most of the black-eyed Susan seed stalks have been cleared, although we’ve left some yet.
I was on the ground taking photos of a columbine (Aquilegia) and happened to notice this coneflower stem next to me, so I rolled over on my back and took a few shots, hoping to get a little detail in the seeds, which were seriously back-lit by the sky. This one turned out pretty well. I would have liked to get a little further away, as well, but I was looking nearly straight up and getting further away would have required that I dig a hole to get into. So, not going to happen.
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood this evening. That’s been something we’ve done a lot more of since we can’t really go out as we once did. Spending time outdoors is important for mental health, I think, and particularly in the spring when the weather is so nice, it’s a real blessing to be able to get out. These are the leaves and flower buds of a Photinia × fraseri shrub around the corner from our house. As you can see, the new leaves are red and it’s quite a striking plant, particularly when growing in full sun, where the color can be even more stunning. Photinia × fraseri is a hybrid of P. glabra (Japanese photinia) and P. serrulata (Taiwanese photinia).
Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima, a.k.a. Senecio cineraria) is a marginally hardy, herbaceous perennial. It’s hardy here, anyway. We have it growing in an urn-shaped container near the end of our driveway and it seems happy enough. It does have flowers but they are not particularly ornamental and many people prune them off so as not to distract from the foliage, which is what the plant is generally grown for. It does well in both shade and sun and really takes very little care.
We have a number of different columbines in our yard and garden. This one is growing in a container just outside our front door. This is a relatively simple columbine flower, close to what you’d find in the wild. Some others that we have are much fancier and I’ll probably have photos of them in the days to come. They are a reliable bloomer and well worth adding to your garden, blooming after the bulbs are mostly done and before the summer blooms start, so they fill an important role in the garden plan.
Cathy bought a couple hosta plants last year and put them in a container in the front of our house. If we grow them quite close to the house they do reasonably well but the deer and rabbits really seem to like them and if they are farther from the house, they get eaten. Of course the slugs are just about as likely to get them close to the house, but they don’t consume an entire plant over night. This one, called ‘First Frost’, is one of the two that are in this container and it such a pretty little things.
Cathy and I took a break in the early afternoon and took a walk in the neighborhood. We got mail for someone else delivered to us (same house number, different street, happens fairly often) and we wanted to take it to the correct address. I carried my camera, as I usually do on walks, and took pictures of a few azaleas starting to bloom in the neighborhood. There are quite a lot around here, although most are just starting to come out. Soon the neighborhood will be full of color. Actually, it’s already full of color, but there will be more and different colors.
Our northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) is coming up in the back garden. It’s really in much too sunny a spot and I think this year I really will split it and move at least some of it to a shadier, less dry spot. It does surprisingly well here, even so, only getting a bit burned late in the summer, especially in particularly dry years. It’s easily grown and one that should be in more gardens. I also think this is the year I’ll get a royal fern (Osmunda regalis), which has been on my wish list for a long while. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get around to making a water feature and bog garden.
I recently had a photo of dogwood leaves (see Thursday, April 09, 2020) which got some positive feedback. This is a flower on the same tree, a seedling that’s been growing on the edge of a flower bed in our back yard. I’m of two minds about this tree. On the one hand, any flowering tree has merit. On the other it’s not really where I’d want a flowering tree. There was a large silver maple (Acer saccharinum, not to be confused with Acer saccharum, the sugar maple) here but we had it cut down because it was large enough and leaning towards our house enough that we got very nervous every time there was a storm. We have a perennial bed where it once was, the this tree is right on the edge of that.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is starting to bloom. We have it in a few places around the yard and these are at the front corner of our house where they get just a bit more sun than the other places so are a little ahead. It’s a lovely plant and has lovely, sweetly fragrant flowers but all parts of the plant are very poisonous so if that makes you nervous, you might want to avoid it. It contains cardiac glycosides, “a class of organic compounds that increase the output force of the heart and increase its rate of contractions.”
We dug some up in a yard that was being torn up when a road was being widened and it was growing through asphalt paving, so it’s pretty tenacious. We have it in a fairly large bed in the back yard but it is actually being forced outward by Vinca minor which I wouldn’t have thought possible.
I know I’m repeating myself but this pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is so beautiful I cannot help myself. It’s really loaded with flowers and they deserve to be seen. This tree is growing much too close to the house and I really need to get rid of it. I planted a camellia in front of it with the thought that when that gets big enough to stand on its own, I’d cut down the dogwood. That’s the flower I posted back on Wednesday, April 01, 2020 but as small as it is, I’m not sure I really can wait that long to get rid of this tree. So, enjoy it while you may.
I lost many of my roses over the last two years do to mostly unknown circumstances. One that only mostly died is Rose ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’, a large R. rugosa hybrid bred by Jules Gravereaux (France, 1901). It’s a generally healthy, easily grown shrub getting 7 or 8 feet tall here and with deep green leaves and crimson-purple, very fragrant flowers. Thankfully, one major stem is doing fine and since that means the roots are still alive, I have every hope that it will send up new canes.
I had a photo of dogwood leaves coming out of their buds recently (see Thursday, April 09, 2020) and they were pretty well liked on Instagram. That tree is a volunteer seedling that has been growing in a large bed in our back yard there there was once a large silver maple tree. That bed has been left pretty much to itself for quite a few years although we starting taking it back last summer and will do more this year. Along with the flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) there is a small maple seedling coming up. It’s close enough to the dogwood that we cannot really keep them both, but before I cut it out, I thought I’d post a photo of the new leaves coming out on it. It appears to have Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) in it’s makeup. But it’s going. Sorry.
Where there used to be a large oak tree in our front yard (technically in the road right-of-way) there is now a small garden bed. Around the tree was Pachysandra terminalis and that’s still there. Where the tree was Cathy plants annuals and there are some tiger lilies there now, as well, which seem to enjoy the spot. Around the permimeter are daffodils of various types, all different shades of yellow. They look bright yellow until these fireflame tulips (Tulipa acuminata) start to bloom with their really intense yellow flowers.
The plant this gooseberry flower is on was one that Albert had growing in his yard. Brady left me dig it up before she moved out of that house and it’s done very well against our back fence. Dorothy made little tarts with gooseberries from it last year and it looks to have a pretty good crop again this year, if the number of flowers tells us anything. The flowers are generally considered insignificant, at least from an ornamental standpoint. They are quite small and not particularly showy except from very close but they are actually pretty little things. The gooseberry (Ribes uva-crispa) is native to Europe, N. Africa, and the Caucasus and is, as you’d guess, primarily grown for it’s wonderfully tart fruit. The leaves of gooseberries contain hydrogen cyanide, a toxin that, in sufficient quantities, is pretty bad for you.
We had rain overnight and it continued into the day, raining quite hard off and on. In the early afternoon I could hear thunder from my basement office and I lost the remote connection to one of my office computers, although the other stayed connected. I went out front, under the porch, and took a few pictures of the rain. In the few minutes that I was outside, the rain stopped. This photo was taken then, of a pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) growing and blooming at the front of our house. I loved the way the drops of water were glistening on the branches. A few minutes later I went out back and half the sky—to the south and west—was blue, while the other half—to the north and east—was still an ominous grey. The thunder faded into the distance as the storm moved on.
This will start blooming in a week or so, but even before it’s in bloom, sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum, also known as sweetscented bedstraw) is quit pretty. In fact, I’d say this photo doesn’t do it justice. The shades of green are just lovely and it makes a really nice groundcover where you don’t need something evergreen. We have a few patches of this and I really like it where it is. It isn’t too aggressive and it fits in very nicely. When crushed, it gives off a strong odor of freshly mown hay, even more so as the plant dries.
It was a lovely day today and Cathy and I went for a longish walk (about four miles) near Lake Frank. We saw one of the two bald eagles nesting there, who was by the nest, then flew off and around for a while before landing in another tree near the nest. We saw lots of wildflowers, including this star chickweed (Stellaria pubera), spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), and yellow trout-lily (Erythronium americanum). The ferns were coming up and we saw some jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). All in all, a very nice time in the woods.
With Easter in two days, as Lent comes to an end, the Lenten roses are finishing up a very spectacular year. They are pretty reliable, once established, but this year has been particularly good for them in our neck of the woods. This one is either ‘Red Racer’ or ‘Rose Quartz’ and I’d have to check my notes to know which. They were both planted in the fall of 2014 and are near each other but I don’t remember which is which. Regardless, it’s got a really nice color, even as the flowers age.
The afternoon sun was lighting up the newly opened leaf buds on a small flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) in our back yard. I got my camera and went to take pictures but between the wind moving the stems around and the sun going behind clouds, it kept changing. I think this is my favorite of them, although the light is a bit less strong than it was in others. Our eyes are amazing in terms of their dynamic range and cameras have a much harder time with extremes of light at dark. So, in the one that’s brighter, parts are a bit washed out, although in Real Life™ it was gorgeous. This one, where the light was a bit more subdued, has the right feel. Just imagine it super-bright.
The woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) is blooming in our back yard. Cathy planted these and they have spread to various places, mostly in the lawn, and they are very pretty little things. Similar to the flowers of the Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) he buds are pinkish purple and the flowers change to blue as they open and mature. Also, the little white “eye ring” around the center change from white to yellow. They are delicate little flowers and although they are not a native species, they are lovely and don’t go to crazy in our yard, so I don’t mind.
Cathy and I went for a walk in the neighborhood after work this evening. I had hoped to have a photo of a pile of rocks dressed up as a nurse. There is a house a few blocks from us with a stack of rocks, between 4½ and 5 feet tall. Occasionally they “dress” them in something for the occasion, such as with a Santa suit at Christmas. Yesterday, Cathy saw them in a nurses outfit, presumably in honor of health care workers during the covidian interval. Unfortunately, they were back to their bare selves this evening. So, instead, I give you photo number 175,000 from my camera, some maple samaaras, or winged seed capsules on a tree down the street from us.
Technically, this is only photo number 174,983 because the photos are numbered from 1 through 9,999 and then it starts over at 1, meaning there is no photo numbered 10,000, 20,000, etc., so the 175,000th photo will have been taken tomorrow (but I probably won’t post that one).
The third and final photo I’ll post from our visit to the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park today. This is trillium and someone more in the know than I am could probably tell you which one. I’ll guess Trillium cuneatum, “the largest and most vigorous of the sessile trilliums that are native to the eastern U. S.” but I stress, that’s just a guess without much research behind it. Whichever it is, it’s a pretty little plant that should be in any woodland garden in our region. They don’t transplant well but it seems to me they would be worth the effort.
Another photo from our trip to the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park on Muncaster Road. Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) has very pretty, pure white flowers that don’t last very long. I love them as a true sign of spring. There are some places where you see this native plant in the woods one day as you drive by and then it’s gone the next. The plant is still there, obviously, but not so obvious without it’s bright blooms. The leaves are quite interesting, being deeply-scalloped. The leaves continue growing after the blooms are gone, and are present until mid to late summer when the plant goes dormant.
This is the little flowering almond growing near the corner of our garage. It’s done pretty well the last few years, as we’ve had relatively mild winters but I don’t think it’s ever going to get more than about four feet tall. Maybe it isn’t in the best spot but it’s nice to have when it’s in bloom. There was a bumble bee on it and I tried to get pictures of that but this late in the day it’s in shadow and there just wasn’t enough light to get a sharp enough shot. The flowers are nice by themselves, though.
Most of the saucer magnolias (Magnolia × soulangeana) have finished their bloom but there are a few in the neighborhood that are still at their peak. This has been a good year for the magnolias, coming a little early and with no late frost to damage them. The saucer magnolia is a hybrid of M. denudata x M. liliiflora. The first of those, the yulan magnolia, has pure while flowers, which seems like it would be very nice, as well. The second, commonly called the lily magnolia, is a bit more hardy and provides the hybrid with its color. Many of the named varieties of saucer magnolia come from a breeding program at the U. S. National Arboretum. The hybrid epithet comes from Chevalier Etienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a “disgruntled cavalry officer.”
One thing Cathy and I are thankful for is walks in our neighborhood. It’s a relatively quiet neighborhood, especially now, as traffic in the area is considerably lighter than normal. Foot traffic has always been high with a lot of dog walkers and people out for a stroll but that’s increased significantly during the covidian interval. This shrub, Viburnum carlesii, is scattered through the area and right now, you can often smell it before you see it. The fragrance it strong, spicy, and sweet with a hint to me of vanilla. This and Viburnum × burkwoodii, which is cross with V. utile, are among the best viburnums for fragrance (and it’s possible that the one in this photo is the hybrid rather than the species). In fact, Cathy has requested that I plant one in our yard when we’re able to browse the garden centers once more.
There is a pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) growing up against the front of our house. I’m almost certain it’s a seedling, because it’s much too close to the house to have been planted and I want to take it out. Before I do, I’d like something growing that will take its place but I may just need to do the deed. A few years ago I planted a camellia called ‘Mrs. Lyman Clarke’ but the two very cold spells we had in the next two winters did that one in. In 2017 I bought a variety called ‘Kumasaka’, which is fairly hardy, as camellias go. It nearly died the first year but there is a small stem with about 8 leaves on it and this spring it bloomed. I’m not entirely sure this is ‘Kumasaka’ and not the root stock, but it’s a big, beautiful, pink flower so I’ll live with it. Hopefully it will live with us. And hopefully it will start to put on a little growth because right now, it’s barely taller than the pachysandra.
We had another rainy day today, to end March. It’s been so warm and sunny lately that it was a bit of a shock to stay indoors all day. I did get outside long enough to take a handful of pictures, but really not much more than that. These are daylily (Hemerocallis) leaves with rain on them, and the rain continued to fall while I was taking it. I probably should have spent the time to get a tripod and really focus carefully, but I just needed to get a picture. Maybe next time. Sorry.
This is a daffodil called ‘Actaea’, which is in the poeticus division (division 9), which are distinguished by their large white petals and small, dainty cups in contrasting colors. I think they are fairly posh, compared to their more boisterous cousins but they are similar in their hardiness. They are a bit slower to produce large clumps, though, so if you want a lot of them in a hurry, you’ll want to plant more of them up front. The stems on these are a little less rigid than the others, as well, and they have a tendency to droop even more when it rains but in the sun, they are hard to beat.
Blooming shortly after the beautiful, blue Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow), the Scilla siberica (Siberian squill) are starting to come out. They are a darker blue with down-turned flowers but quite similar. In fact, “some experts have merged Chionodoxa into the genus Scilla under the belief that the differences are not significant enough to warrant separate genus status.” (Missouri Botanical Garden, Plant Finder). I don’t really care one way or the other and just enjoy them both as spring ephemerals. I look forward to their bloom every year and don’t think I could have too many of either.
One nice thing about being home as we all are is that it means I can get out into the yard during the day. That’s offset by the fact that we can’t go a lot of other places, of course, but we are fortunate to have a pretty nice yard. There’s a huge amount that needs to be done but right now, with the daffodils blooming, it’s quite nice. This little daffodil, one of the Tazetta types, has multiple fragrant flowers on each stem. They were planted in 2014 and are on the edge of the bed that used to surround the spruce tree, which is gone, so they will get a lot more sun now.
It rained again today and I spent most of the day indoors, working. We’re into our second week of the great coronavirus hunker of 2020 and it’s been a mixed bag. On the one hand, when the weather has been nice, which has been most days, it’s been great to get out into the yard. That’s nicer than just going out into the parking lot at work. But when it’s cool and dreary, and I’ve stayed indoors, it’s gotten a bit old, sitting at my computer. It’s nice to be able to do that in an armchair with the computer on my lap, but it’s still work and I much prefer to be able to go outside.
It’s been really nice weather lately, which is great. Since we’re staying around the house, it’s been good to get outdoors, even if only into the yard. We say hello to all the neighborhood walkers, of which there are quite a lot. Today was a bit dreary by comparison so we spent most of the day indoors. I did get out a bit and took a few pictures of things in front of the house, including this columbine leaf with two large water droplets.
I think this is my absolute favorite of the spring ephemerals. It’s called glory of the snow in honor of it’s generally very early blooming time, sometimes when there is still snow on the ground. The genus Chionodoxa comes from the Greek words chion meaning snow and doxa meaning glory. I think it’s the color that I like best about it, along with its dainty habit and it’s remarkably easy care. It is hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. In a few short weeks it will be done and gone for the year, sleeping away both the heat of summer and the cold of next winter.
The wild violets (Viola sororia) are up in the lawn. They’re pretty difficult to get rid of but our lawn is not particularly weed free in general, so they are among the least of our worries. The flowers range in color from nearly all white to nearly all bluish purple. This one is about half way in between. We actually have a few yellow violets and I’m assuming those are a different species, possibly Viola pubescens, but I don’t actually know that. They look very similar to these, except for the flower color.
There were a few mid-sized box shrubs along our front walk when we bought the house in 2006. Between a few heavy snowfalls breaking some of their stems and a particularly dry summer one year, they have died back to one main stem. It’s doing fine although it looks a little sad, with the rest of the bush gone. There is another, much larger box at the corner of the garage and it made it through the same years with little or no apparent damage. They are in bloom right now, although as you can see, no one is likely to grow box for their flowers.
This is one of my unknown daffodils. The fall when we moved into our house I took some family pictures for some friends and they gave me a bunch of bulbs as a thank you present. They either were not marked or, more likely, I didn’t write down the names, but they bloom every year. This is one of them. There is another, very double daffodil as well and the hyacinths that I posted a picture of a couple days ago. The daffodils are between our front walk and the house and put on a really good show.
The hyacinths are in bloom. These were planted pretty soon after we moved in and they didn’t really thrive but every year they come up. There are three little clumps of them, one purple, one white, and this pink one. They are growing in a bed of Vinca minor, also known as periwinkle, and lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). You can see a little of the periwinkle color in the background. It’s nice to see them out our kitchen door. I’m not a fan of their fragrance, so I like they more at a distance than close up.
I currently have three camellia plants in the yard. This one it the largest and has the most flowers. It’s called ‘Dad’s Pink’ and though it isn’t a variety that my dad grew, it reminds me of him. I also have ‘Pink Perfection’, which he did have. That one ws quite small when I got it and has taken a little while to get established but it looks like it’s doing pretty well finally (and after I lowered the pH around it a bit). The third is called ‘Mrs. Lyman Clarke’ and dad had that one, as well, out back beside the chimney. It’s barely alive and only time will tell if it’s going to survive. It has six leaves and one flower bud.
As mentioned yesterday, the daffodils are really starting to come out in great numbers. This is one called ‘Arkle’ and it’s a big, bold, beautiful yellow flowered variety. I planted these back in 2014 and they are very well established. Daffodils are long lived and form nice clumps. Where you put one bulb, you will eventually have a group of them, each putting up flowers, so the longer they are in the ground, the better. Others that were planted more recently, a variety called ‘Marieke’ that has similar but slightly larger flowers is still putting up only 3 or 4 blooms per clump. But they should continue to get better each year.
The star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is a really nice flowering tree, relatively slow growing but eventually getting up to about 20 feet tall and nearly as wide. It flowers rather early in the spring and it’s not uncommon, at least here, for the blooms to be killed by a late frost. We’ve been spared that this year and they are blooming all over right now. The generally later saucer magnolia (Magnolia × soulangeana) is starting to bloom around the neighborhood, also. There are some cherries blooming and the daffodils are coming out in great numbers. It’s a pretty time of year.
We have two amaryllis bulbs from last year that we pretty much neglected after they finished blooming. They had leaves for a while but we stopped watering them and they just sat on shelves in the kitchen after that. They normally bloom around Christmas time, which is lovely, of course, but we weren’t paying them any attention. A week ago I notice this one had sent up a shoot with a bud on top so it got a little water. It has rewarded our neglect with two lovely blooms. It now has a spot on the kitchen counter. I had to add two stakes to hold it up because the flowers are pretty heavy and the pot it’s in is not.
Daffodils are starting to bloom all over. The early varieties, particularly in warm locations, have been in bloom for a week or so. These are our first to get fully out. They are called ‘Tete-A-Tete’ and they are a nice, little, clump-forming variety that I really like. We have them in a few places and they are very happy, blooming as the others are still forming buds. They are only about 8 to 10 inches tall, so not suited for growing in with too much ground cover. So, in the pachysandra we have taller varieties, like ‘Arkle’ which is big and bold but blooms a little later.
This is Ficaria verna, formerly known as Ranunculus ficaria, commonly called the fig buttercup or lesser celandine. It is a weed and is listed as a noxious weed by a bunch of states and banned in at least two. It’s growing wild in the area around the pond next to my building. I’ve had enough experience with invasive weeds that I understand the desire to keep them out so I wouldn’t ever plant this. Nevertheless, I can appreciate the beautiful, bright yellow flowers. It is a tuberous rooted, herbaceous perennial native to western and central Asia and Europe. After flowering, the leaves die back by early summer and the plant goes dormant until the next spring.
I went over to my mom’s this morning to see her and to do a few things around her apartment. After the minor chores, we took a walk around the loop she walks most days, about a third of a mile. We started by taking a slight detour to see the two Camellia japonica bushes that are in bloom outside the enclosed walkway just past the dining hall. They are absolutely covered with pink and white flowers, both varying somewhat from almost all pink to mostly white with pink lines. I have three plants in my yard, all small (and one is very small). One of them has buds but none are blooming yet. Looking forward to that.
I stopped at Meadowside Nature Center on the way home today and walked down to the pond on the Pioneer Trail. There were a pair of geese on the pond and they paddled away from me as I approached. I got some pictures of these seed pods and wasn’t sure what they were. I’m pretty sure they belong to a hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos sometimes called swamp rose mallow). They are lovely, I think. They look a lot like the seed pods on crape myrtle except they are on non-woody stems and are much larger. I walked up to another small catchment pond and startled a pair of mallards who flew off to the larger pond as I approached. It’s supposed to get cold tonight and tomorrow night but spring is pretty much around the corner, with forecasts of temperatures greater than 70°F for Monday.
I went outside today in the early afternoon and walked to the empty lot next to my building. It still looks mostly brown but there are little bits of color if you look hard enough. The seedling pears are just about to start blooming and there is a small amount of pink in their otherwise white buds. The hairy bittercress (Cardamine hirsuta) is starting to bloom everywhere. Those flowers are white and not terribly conspicuous. Even less conspicuous because they are so small are the beautiful, tiny blue flowers of Persian speedwell (Veronica persica, also known as bird’s-Eye speedwell). You really have to look for them, but once you start to see them, you’ll notice them everywhere.
Our oldest Lenten rose, with its deep maroon colored flowers, has been in bloom for a while. We had such warm weather that a lot of things have been coming up early. We had a cold spell. Not terribly cold but with nighttime temperatures in the 20s. That damaged some of the tender leaves that were just coming up and also some of the buds that were starting to open. This Lenten rose, a variety called ‘Mango Magic’, was not quite as far along so was less damaged, although even here the petals of a few flowers were burned by the frost. Hopefully we’ll have more flowers to come, as it’s warmed up again.
The cornel (Cornus mas, sometimes known as cornelian cherry) is an old-world dogwood that should, I believe, be grown more here. The trees are fairly slow growing and the wood is very hard and dense, actually being dense enough that it doesn’t float. This, along with ash, is the wood that was used in ancient Greece for making spears. According to the 2nd century A.D. geographer Pausanias, the Trojan horse, built by the Greeks was built of cornel from a grove of trees sacred to Apollo. For me, it’s the very early flowers, which are not much individually, as well as the cherry-like fruit that makes the tree attractive for the small garden.
We happened to be in northern Virginia this afternoon to meet some friends for brunch. We got there a little early so we walked in a park near the restaurant and I took some pictures of three different plants that are in bloom. First, and seen here, are maple blossoms. I think this is a silver maple (Acer saccharinum) but I didn’t take the time to identify it carefully. I’m pretty sure it isn’t red maple (Acer rubrum) but it could be a sugar maple (Acer saccharum) or a number of other species. It’s a bit early even for the early trees to be blooming but it’s been such a mild winter so far, I’m not terribly surprised. It may get cold yet, of course. It’s still only mid November.
Cathy called me early this afternoon and said she was walking around my building and asked if I would come down and walk with her a while. I did and brought my camera with me. I didn’t end up taking many photos but I took a few of this half of a walnut shell on one of the tables next to my parking lot. We stopped and admired the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) but since I took pictures of them a few days ago, I didn’t take more today. I think walnuts are pretty and of course they’re tasty, as well. The walnuts we get in the store are
My mom was given a Rieger begonia a while back and she gave it to me. It was covered in pink blossoms when I got it and it bloomed for a while but since then it’s been growing but so far hasn’t rebloomed. I’m not sure how likely it is to rebloom but it seems happy enough in a west-facing window along with a pothos plant (a.k.a. Devil’s ivy, Epipremnum aureum), a jade plant (Crassula ovata) that Dorothy started from a leaf, an African violet (Saintpaulia species), and with a large, fiddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) growing in a pot on the floor next to them.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Seneca Creek State Park this afternoon and walked just short of 3 miles in the woods. It was a cool but pretty day with deep blue skies. The woods are predominated by tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera) with a significant number of other deciduous trees including oaks, maples, beeches, and various smaller trees. I think the fact that they grow so quickly accounts for their numbers, as they outgrow the slower growing but longer lived hardwoods. Eventually, the oaks, maples, and beeches will outlive this first growth of poplars and it will all even out or even lean towards the others. But for now, the wood is filled with the straight trunks of the tulip poplar.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) are coming up in our yard. I remembered that the snow drops in the woods around my office are generally two or three weeks ahead of those in our yard. I went out with my camera this afternoon and sure enough, they are in bloom. There are two large areas, one in the back amidst fallen logs and the other on a steep bank leading down to a stream on the front side of the building. They really are lovely flowers, so simple and yet elegant, especially at a time of year when the ground and most of the things on it are brown.
February is generally the middle of winter but it’s been quite warm lately, with highs in the 60s. The daffodils are coming up in our yard. That’s not all that unusual, as they generally start coming up during a warm spell in the winter. They are remarkably cold hardy and will be just fine, even after winter returns as it’s bound to do. I don’t mind a little green in the garden, as it reminds me that spring is not too far away. We actually have Lenten rose (Helleborus species) blooming and the snow drops are coming up (meaning they are probably already out in the woods near my office!). I’m a big fan of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) which is a small tree that generally blooms in mid February in our area. We don’t have one but it’s something I’ve considered getting to give us a bit of color this time of year.
Around here, winter colors are mostly browns and greys. The sky is often still blue, of course. Lawns and evergreen trees and shrubs are still green. But walking through the woods, which are mostly deciduous, brown and grey predominates. There is still color to be found, if you’re willing to look. We have a number of things that are various shades of burgundy right now. These epimedium leaves are lovely. They are only semi-evergreen, so some have fallen off, but those that remain are really nice. We also have a Lenten rose (Helleborus species) blooming and it has deep purple-red flowers that are wonderful. There are sedums in the front whose leaves and stems turn this color in the winter, as well. So get out there and look down. The color is there waiting to be found.
The Ranunculus that I photographed on January 17 continues to deliver. The flowers have opened up and are bright orangy-red with interesting centers. In another day or two they’ll be finished, I think, but we’ll get a little more enjoyment out of them. This time of year, flowers on the table are a nice extravagance. It’s actually getting a bit warm for this time of year and the forecast is for warmer still for a little while. I have no doubt that winter will return before long, though, and we’ll want to stay indoors.
While she was in Alaska from July to December, Dorothy got a job at a florist shop. She’s been exposed to flowers and plants to one degree or another all her life, having been dragged to various botanical gardens and arboreta. More recently she has come to appreciate them more than she did as a child. Nevertheless, her time at the florist has served to increase her love of flowers. This is a Ranunculus asiaticus, the Persian buttercup, and Dorothy brought home a bouquet of them for the dining room table. They are quite beautiful and I love the many overlapping petals of the deep crimson blooms.
I went out into the empty lot next door to my office this afternoon. It was a cool, breezy, but sunny day and it was really nice to be outside. Before going next door, I walked down to the pond between my building and the next, on the other side from the empty lot, and I took a few pictures of reflections on the water, but they aren’t really anything to speak of. In the empty lot, I took some pictures of sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) leaves with the sun shining strongly on them. They have a lovely texture and color. In the end, though, I decided to go with these bramble thorns. The genus Rubus contains the blackberries, raspberries, and all the related species. In addition to their generally wonderful fruits, they often have pretty stems, leaves, and thorns.
There are places where English ivy (Hedera helix) looks really nice. It’s also a very good ground cover for many situations. Nevertheless, I’m not a huge fan. In a city, where it can perhaps be contained reasonably well by paving, etc., it’s suitable. In the suburbs and rural areas it can really be an annoyance. This ivy is growing up a tree near my office and you can see how it grips its host. It will grow up into the tallest trees and eventually strangle them. It also covers the ground so completely that in often chokes out less aggressive plants (and there are only a few more aggressive). We’ve done our best to eliminate it from our yard and with a small patch that seems to reappear occasionally, we’ve succeeded. But we remain on DEFCON 3 or higher.
We have a small porcelain dish with a beautiful, dried flower decoration on the bottom. The dish is heart shaped with a ruffled edge and the decoration is beautiful, in my mind. The interesting thing is that when we got the dish, it had no decoration in it but was a simple, ivory color. The decoration shown here is actually real, dried flowers that were in the dish with a little water. The water evaporated and the flowers and their stems adhered to the bottom of the dish. They are, I assume, quite fragile and could be cleaned out very easily. Nevertheless, I think they’re lovely and thought they deserved a photo. Sometimes it’s hard to improve on reality.
Last week Dorothy bought some white tulips and had them in a vase in her room. Before going away for the long weekend she moved them down to the dining room table, so we got to enjoy them while she was gone. They are well past their prime now but I took pictures of them in their wilted state this evening. In this particular vase and with the diffuse lighting I used, this reminds me of a still life painting and I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. I have a photograph from 2010 of roses in a vase that also reminds me of a still life and that one may be one of the best photos I’ve ever taken, certainly in the top 100 (not that I’ve ever actually graded them like that). This one isn’t quite up to that standard but I’m still pretty happy with it. I really wish I could paint. Not that I’ve ever really tried, but it’s a lot of work and without a lot of practice, it’s just not going to happen. There are a couple folks I knew in my high school days who are professional artists and I love seeing their work.
I left work a little early today and stopped at Redgate Park on the way home. If you’re familiar with Redgate Golf Course, then you now know about Redgate Park. I played this course back in the day—not a lot, only a couple times out of the one or two dozen golf outings of my sporting career—and but it has now been closed and is a park. According to The Sentinel, management of the course was transferred to Billy Casper Golf, a golf-course management company headquartered in Reston, Virginia. I can confirm that the state of the grounds it pretty pitiful.
I walked around a bit and took photos of Asiatic bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) as well as these broadleaf cattails (Typha latifolia). I also saw a nearly frozen snake. I’m pretty sure it was alive but it could barely move in the cold weather. Kind of creepy, actually.
In the wild, this species of fig is a tree growing to over 100 feet in height and with a spread of 200 feet. This specimen is, obviously, a little smaller. The tree, variously known as the Chinese or Malayan banyan or the curtain fig, is native from China through tropical Asia and the Caroline Islands to Australia. As a houseplant it is a good choice for bonsai, taking training quite well. In the case of this plant, it is what is known in the trade as a ginseng ficus. The “stems” are actually roots. The plant is allowed to grow with these fleshy roots underground and then the plant it re-potted so that they are above ground, giving the appearance of ginseng roots. This was a gift to Dorothy from her friends, Rachel and Andrew.
Cathy and I took Darius to Meadowside Nature Center late this morning and into the afternoon. We enjoyed the exhibits inside for a while, particularly the cave that Darius enjoyed crawling through. We also liked seeing the albino corn snake (Pantherophis guttatus) and the large, black eastern rat snake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). We also enjoyed seeing the raptors out back, including a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and turkey vulture (Cathartes aura). We walked down and around a pond and then I had fun driving off an leaving Cathy and Darius to run after me. Darius thought that was hilarious. While I waited for them to find me, I took this photo of the dried petals on a hydrangea shrub.
I took photos of various seeds in the yard this afternoon. First I took pictures of seeds of the Euonymus japonicus. From there I moved on to these Rudbeckia seed heads. I think their form and subtle brown colors. I took photos of blackberry lily Iris domestica fruit, which do have a pretty blackberry-like appearance. I also took a few photos of the tops of Monarda and of the feathery seeds of the Clematis terniflora. None of the photos were wonderful but this one is my favorite. I also took a photo of a robin in the holly tree by the driveway.
We had our first snow of the winter overnight. It wasn’t anything that was going to snarl traffic, melting on roadways and not amounting to more than a thin covering on the grass, but it was snow. Early morning after a snow is often quite pretty, especially if the clouds that brought the snow have cleared and it’s sunny. That was the case today. I took a few pictures in the front yard, including this one of the holly near our driveway. The robins generally come at some point in the winter and devour all the berries from this tree. They congregated in another holly a couple days ago and have pretty much stripped that one.
This dried orchid flower, a Phalaenopsis, is on a plant in our kitchen. I’m a big fan of orchids but sadly haven’t been able to give those we have the attention that they rightly deserve. We’ve lost a few although a few others are getting by. In a perfect world, I’d water them more regularly and pay them more attention but we don’t live in a perfect world. Some things that I’d like to get to are passed over for more pressing matters. Maybe one day I’ll have the time to devote to them again. In the meantime, I’ll try to at least keep them alive. Inevitably I’ll fail for some of them. But then, they’re just plants and easily replaced.
I wondered around the yard early this afternoon. It was overcast and cool but I found a few bits of color. The Euonymus japonicus is in fruit, which are small, red arils coming out of pink capsules. There were also the deep burgundy red leaves of Epimedium × rubrum. But I decided to go with these leaves of a rugosa rose called ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’. It died back quite a bit last year but there is a core that’s still alive and it’s holding onto many of its leaves, as they tend to do. I’m hoping the worst is past and that it will come back next spring. It’s generally a pretty strong grower, so I have every reason to be confident.
Dorothy rooted a leaf from a fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) a while back and it’s done pretty well. We had it in the kitchen for a while and it got strong enough to stand without support, which is nice. We have since moved it to the dining room, where it’s a little less in the way, but the lower leaves don’t get any sun and they recently dried up and fell off. I really love the texture of the leaves as well as the patterns of their veins. After taking this photo (and some others) I happened to leave them on the sideboard. Cathy wondered where in the world these huge leaves had come from and what they were doing there. They’ve been thrown away now.
This is one of the more prevalent weed shrubs in our area. The Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is an east Asian native that has firmly established itself as noxious weed in the eastern half of North America. It’s got the sweet, tubular flowers typical to honeysuckles, starting out white and aging to yellow. They are followed in the fall (right about now, obviously) by bright red, juicy berries. Although they are inedible to humans, birds eat them and spread the seeds far and wide. They were once planted as an ornamental and you can see why. However, they are no longer recommended, because of their invasive nature.
Occasionally, a little bit of benign neglect is exactly what a plant needs to thrive. This Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) has been on the floor of the kitchen, underneath Solomon’s cage, for a while and although it gets watered from time to time, it isn’t getting the attention it probably deserves. That’s generally a recipe for dead plants, but this one gut just enough attention, apparently, because it’s come into bloom a few weeks ahead of the holiday it’s named for. I took a few photos of entire flowers but they are mostly white with only a very small amount of pink and therefore don’t show a lot of detail in a photograph. I thought this photo of the pale stamens with their pollen and the red and pink style was nicer.
We went for another walk in the woods today, further upstream in the same watershed. After church we walked through the Stadtman Preserve and down to Mill Creek. As we were coming down the hill we saw a fox, which was pretty cool. There was not much chance we’d be able to get close enough for a good photo so I didn’t even bother trying. We followed Mill Creek down towards Lake Needwood. I took this photo of Cathy standing next to the creek a little ways into the walk.
It was cool but not cold, with a light overcast. Cathy wore a jacket although I was in my shirt sleeves (and they were rolled up, at that). It was very peaceful and pleasant. There was one area where we could hear traffic on the inter-county connector (Maryland 200) but for the most part, it was as quiet as you could hope for.
After a while we decided to cross to the south side of the creek, where there is a regular path. It isn’t heavily used but there is a small bridge over a side stream and we did see one other person on that side of the creek. This photo was taken shortly after we crossed the creek and a little before the spot where we turned around. I’m pretty pleased with this photo. I think the leaning trees give it a little interest. The colors were quite nice, too.
I didn’t have a map with me and hadn’t looked at one any time recently. If I had, I’d have known how close we were to Lake Needwood. Where we turned around, if we had just gone around the next bend, we’d have come out at the northern end of the lake. We’ll definitely want to do that walk again and go a little further.
Cathy and I went for a walk near Lake Frank today, parking on Bauer Drive and walking in through a break in the houses (there’s a lot that’s not privately owned) and then along the road that leads, within the park, the the parking area. That road and parking area are not in use and haven’t been for many years although I’m not entirely sure why. It was a pleasant walk and we enjoyed the late autumn colors reflected in the lake as well as the oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) in a few places. I don’t recommend growing this, but I have to admit it’s pretty.
I’ve posted photos of mums before but they have always been taken when the flowers were in their prime. I somehow like this better, actually, although overall the plant looks a bit of a mess. I think it’s the texture that I’m drawn to, although I also like the colors in this photo. These are on our dining room table and I probably should move the plant outside, as it’s clearly done brightening up the room. I’m glad we kept it as long as we did, though, because I think it’s pretty even in this state. We’re entering that part of the year when virtually nothing is blooming outdoors. When I walk in the woods, I look for patterns or textures. The colors are fairly limited and generally there aren’t items that particularly stand-out.
There are a pair of sweet gum trees (Liquidambar styraciflua) a little before I get to work and I stopped today to take pictures of their leaves. Sweet gum generally has some of the best fall color around but I think it’s just a little early so they weren’t as good as they have been in past years. I’ll probably check again in a while. Before I got back in my car and headed the rest of the way to work I took a few pictures of the crab apples nearby. I think they look pretty good against the blue of the sky.
I stopped near Lake Needwood for a bit today, walking in the woods and enjoying the cool, autumn air. Many trees have lost their leaves although there are still some in shades of brown, yellow, orange, and red. On the ground is a thick carpet of drying leaves. I love the colors and the patterns in this old piece of log that’s lying on the ground, especially the swirl a little below and left of center. It’s not really something I can put into words, so I won’t try. I just like it, that’s all.
While we were in Alaska, most of the leaves on the trees have fallen here. As seen a couple days ago, the Zelkova trees are still holding on but those will be bare shortly. Around my office building most of the trees are bare or nearly so. There are lots of leaves down in the parking lot and where I park, there is a black walnut (Juglans nigra) that has been dropping its fruit for a while now. As you can see, there are willow oaks (Quercus phellos), red maple (Acer rubrum), and elm (Ulmus americana) represented here.
Having returned from our trip to Alaska, I am going to have a hard time getting photos as nice as those from our trip. It’s going to be made more difficult by the fact that we’ve gone off of daylight saving time, which means it will be getting dark about the time I leave work. Today I went to the store and on the way home I stopped along Norbeck Road to take some photos of the Zelkova trees in their glory. IT’s really a pretty show every year and this year is no exception. The range of colors is really quite amazing.