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.
Flowers and Plants
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 Rudbekia 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.
Day four of our Alaska trip (the third full day in Alaska) was busy. Dorothy had to work so we dropped her off and then went into town. We started by going to Evergreen Bowl and walking around a bit. That’s where this photograph was taken. After that we took some pictures of her mom’s old house, across the street from the Governor’s mansion. Then downtown for a little while to do a little shopping and also spent some time in the library. I took pictures of the mural on the parking garage that features Cathy, her aunt, and her aunt’s great grandson. There is a new park that runs from near the bridge to Douglas towards the Coast Guard dock and we went there for a while. It’s probably nicer when the fountain is running but it was nice. Finally we went to Evergreen Cemetery to find a few grave markers. My memory of where Cathy’s grandparents are buried was pretty good. We also found the markers for her mom’s sister and her husband. We had a few more to find but had more opportunities later in the week.
Near the confluence of the Eagle and Herbert Rivers, about 26 miles from downtown Juneau, there is the Eagle River Scout Camp. A trail leads from there along the south bank of the Eagle River to the open waters of Favorite Channel and Lincoln and Shelter Islands. Cathy, Dorothy, and I took the dogs and had a nice walk through the woods, along the river, and along the sandy shore. This photo was taken near the beginning of the walk in an open area in the woods.
A muskeg is “a nutrient-poor peatland characterized by acidic, saturated peat, and scattered or clumped, stunted conifer trees set in a matrix of sphagnum mosses and ericaceous shrubs.” I personally find them to be beautiful, although it’s not something you want to walk through if you can get around it. I particularly enjoyed the fall color as seen in this photograph as well as the reflections on the pool in the foreground. The sky was particularly overcast today and we only had glimpses of the mountains that would otherwise be in the distance. The overcast tends to heighten the colors, though, so that’s a plus. And the rain was barely noticeable until just before we got back to the car.
Like the dogwood from yesterday’s photo, this maple tree in our back yard is turning for fall. It’s ahead of most of the trees around, which are predominantly green still. It won’t be long before the rest have changed but it’s been so dry lately that I’m not sure the colors will be as good this year as some. We also may miss a bit of it, but we’ll be in a pretty place for a few days, so won’t mind too much. I guess you’ll just have to wait and see.
The dogwood in front of our house is in full fall color. It’s not really a good place for a tree, much too close to the house. I’ve planted a camellia near it that, if it survives, will replace it. Last winter was tough on it and all but one small branch near the base died. If it makes it through this winter it will have a chance but I guess we’ll see. If I can get a replacement growing, I’ll cut the dogwood out, but until then, I enjoy the flowers in the spring and the red leaves in the autumn.
It was a pretty day today. The weather has finally turned cool and it’s clearly autumn now. The leaves on the trees are still mostly green but there are occasional splashes of color from early maples or some of the smaller plants that tend to react more quickly to the changing seasons. Outside my office window, the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a deep red, climbing up into two large elms and the other trees on the edge of the woods. Cathy and I met at a picnic table briefly early in the afternoon and then I walked in the woods and took a few pictures, including this one of the bark of a black walnut tree (Juglans nigra).
I only took a few photos today, all in the back yard. Most of them were of the maple leaves that are starting to turn red, but really they have only just started and it’s premature to have fall-color photos. This is a wild strawberry (Fragaria virginiana, also known as scarlet strawberry) growing and fruiting in the yard. This is a native herbaceous perennial and in the description on the Missouri Botanical Garden’s PlantFinder web site, it says they “spread indefinitely by runners that root as they sprawl along the ground.” They aren’t kidding. These will take over a yard. Also, “Cultivated strawberries found in stores are hybrid crosses between F. virginiana (native to North America) and F. chiloensis (native to western coastal South America including Chile) which combine the excellent taste of the former with the larger fruit size of the latter.”
I know I posted a photo of this Japanese anemone recently but they’re so pretty I thought I’d post another. I got a few pictures with an American hover fly (Eupeodes americanus) on it, but I’ve posted a picture of one of those recently, too, and didn’t see a need to repeat that. We haven’t had much success with anemones in the past but we’re hoping this will do well. It certainly has beautiful flowers and is just the right height for along side our front walk. We really should get a half dozen of them, but one thing at a time.
Although chrysanthemums (a.k.a. mums) are fairly hardy herbaceous perennials, most of us grown them as annuals, bringing them out in the fall to add color to an otherwise less colorful garden. The Rudbekia are done blooming and even the Buddleia are starting to fade. There are still roses on the more ever-blooming varieties, but most of the summer flowers are done for the year. Enter the humble and yet lovely chrysanthemum. We have a few in pots that have been given or that we bought. This one is sitting outside our front door and greeting us as we leave and again when we return home. Who could ask for anything more?
When I got rid of the nearly dead Colorado blue spruce (Picea pungens) in our front yard, we wanted to replace it with something small but with a little more interest. We decided on a hawthorn and last week I ordered this Crataegus viridis ‘Winter King’ and it was planted yesterday. The leaves are a little dry but it seems pretty healthy and I’m looking forward to the white blossoms in the spring as well as the fruit that you can see is on it now. The green hawthorn is more disease resistant than most hawthorns and ‘Winter King’ was selected, among other reasons, for that reason. This variety is also “noted for its profuse bloom of flowers, larger fruits, silvery-barked stems and more attractive fall color (purple and scarlet).”
I have had this Clivia for quite a few years now, since a coworker left it to me when she stopped working here. I had it at home for a while but two years ago I brought it to my office and it’s been doing pretty well. It gets literally no direct sun light with my north-facing window but it seems to be doing well with that. They don’t tolerate frost and are grown as houseplants here but they must be wonderful in a garden in their native South Africa and Swaziland. The blooms, as you can see, are quite bright and vary a bit from the orange seen here to yellow and nearly red. Thank you, Emily, for this long-lasting gift.
I took some photos of the obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana) blooms in the back garden this evening. They are quite pretty when back lit by the sun, as they are here. I was hoping to find some insects to photograph but for whatever reason, there weren’t many this time. There were occasional bees and skippers but I wasn’t able to get close enough to them to photograph. I did manage to get some photos of a sweat bee on the Asclepias but they were not very sharp, so I’ll pass on sharing them.
It’s that time of year again. The roots of the trees that used to be in our back yard are home to a few varieties of fungus. This time of year, they send up their fruiting bodies and spread their spores to the wind. The most plentiful are these soft brown mushrooms. They come up and are there for a day or two and then turn to mush. Insects of one kind or another lay their eggs in them and the larvae eat the rotting mushrooms. They’re actually pretty gross when in that state, but right now they are sort of pretty.
A mushroom walks into a bar. The bartender says, “We don’t serve mushrooms here.” The mushroom replies, “But I’m a fungi!”
We’ve admired anemones in other peoples’ gardens for years and on occasion we’ve tried to grow them in ours but so far, nothing has taken. Cathy bought this one the other day from Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville and we’re going to give it another try. They really are lovely flowers and pretty plants in general. Hopefully we find the right spot for it where it can thrive and where we can enjoy it on a regular basis for years to come.
The black-eyed Susans in the yard are mostly finished now. The petals are drying up and falling off. Soon there will be nothing left but the stalks and seed heads. We generally leave those for the birds to eat during the winter. They seem to be pretty popular with the gold finches, in particular. This isn’t as good a picture as I hoped it would be. It was fairly late in the day and I didn’t bother to get my tripod, so I wasn’t able to get the depth of field that I should have. Still, I like the colors quite well. This is what autumn is about.
With more than 1,800 species, the genus Begonia is one of the largest genera of flowering plants. That doesn’t take into account a multitude of hybrids and cultivars. I have no idea what this variety is, but it’s a pretty, winter-flowering begonia and that’s all that really matters. There are hardy begonias but this isn’t one of them. So, it’s on a table in our dining room and provides some color, along side two deep purple African violets and sheltered by a large (and growing) fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) and a fairly old pathos plant (Epipremnum aureum).
The flowers on this plant, Iris domestica, the blackberry lily, don’t really give much clue to their common name. When they go to fruit, however, it’s a little clearer where that comes from. They do have a certain blackberry-like look to them. The flowers are a bright orange and are really lovely. The leaves are very iris-like and are beautiful, sculptural fans of varying shades of green. In fact, I’d be tempted to grow these even if they leaves were all they provided. But the flowers are welcome and I like the fruit, as well. We scatter these fairly liberally around the garden and they are now coming up in various places. They aren’t so aggressive that we worry about them taking over, either, which is nice.
We’ve had mixed success with houseplants over the years. When we’re not too busy, we can do reasonably well and houseplants thrive. When we’re busier, anything not particularly resilient is in pretty significant peril. Lately we’ve done reasonably and we have two African violet plants, cultivars of Saintpaulia ionantha, that arew doing well and blooming. We also have a iddle leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) that Dorothy started by rooting a leaf. It’s now about 6 feet tall and seems quite happy.
Cathy spotted this growing in our back yard and said I should come take some pictures. It was late in the day and the light was fading so they didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked. These are the sporangia of a slime mold (or mould in England). I believe it is Stemonitis splendens, the so-called chocolate tube slime. These don’t do any harm to garden plants, despite their somewhat alarming appearance. They actually live on the surface of leaves and are not actually parasitic. They feed on decaying organic matter and actually move in a way that seems more animal than vegetable. They form finger-like projections which then pull the body of the slime mold along. Creepy (literally!). From the Mississippi State University Extension Service:
When the slime mold is ready to reproduce, at some point during spring or summer generally following a period of rainy weather, it “crawls” up on grass blades, lower stems and foliage of landscape plants, the surface of landscape mulch, or even garden hoses. From these locations, the slime mold releases millions of dusty-gray spores.
I’ve mentioned the beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) we have in our back garden so I thought it deserved a photo. Its berries are just about at the height of their beauty right now, so it seemed like the best time. As you can see, the berries are both beautiful and plentiful. Because this shrub blooms (and therefore sets berries) on new growth, it can be cut back fairly hard each autumn or early spring and it will still produce a good display. The flowers are not particularly significant, being tiny and very pale pink. The berries, as the name implies, are the reason to grow this native. It attracts birds, who eat the berries, which is also nice.
Cathy and I have been trying to recover from the small amount of work we did in the garden in 2018. This year has been mostly recovery mode without a lot of additions but a lot of pulling and digging, trying to get at least some parts of the garden back to more garden plants than weeds. It’s an up hill battle. Along the back fence there was a huge stand of goldenrod, pokeweed, and bindweed. Cathy dug up a bunch of roots a few weeks back and we worked a bit more on it this weekend. As you can see, the central bed is full of black-eyed Susan’s and we have the volunteer American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) growing there (the purple berries on the left). We dug out a bunch of weeds there last week, as well. Tomorrow I plan to dig up some roots that remain from the maple trees that used to be there.
This is a really nice plant. Blue cardinal flower, Lobelia siphilitica, is an easily grown, herbaceous perennial, native to eastern North America and hardy to USDA zone 4. It needs fairly moist soil and does better here in part shade, where the ground doesn’t dry out so much, or in full sun in pots where it gets regular watering. It blooms over a fairly long period, which is always appreciated. One thing I didn’t know about it is that the species name of siphilitica is from “a prior medicinal use of the plant in the treatment of venereal disease.”
It does well in our garden and we have it scattered around. This particular plant is growing in a container on the driveway with black-eyed Susans behind it. Blue and yellow is always a good combination in the garden and with yellow being so prominent in ours, adding that touch of blue is great.
Cathy, Margaret, and I went to Brookside Gardens this afternoon. It was such a wonderfully beautiful day we were not surprised by the number of people there. Nevertheless, we were able to find a parking spot and wonder around the garden for a while. We often go there in the spring, when early flowers are in bloom. I would recommend that highly but this was a different experience. We rarely come in August because it’s so brutally hot. Today was in the mid-70s, though, and absolutely lovely. The summer flowering plants were at their best and we really enjoyed the gardens. The conservatory is always nice, of course, and this photo of a bird of paradise flower (Strelitzia reginae) was taken there. I’ve often thought about growing one of these but never got around to it. They are, apparently, fairly easy to grow, although they couldn’t take our winters and would need to come inside when it gets cold.
By the time I got home this evening I didn’t feel like going out looking for something to photograph. Later in the evening, as is usually the case, I wished I had, because it meant I had to find something indoors to photograph. If finding something new and interesting to photograph in the yard is a challenge, how much more so is that true in the house. Fortunately there was a vase of flowers on the dining room table and in it were the blue and grey balls of Eryngium planum, better known as sea holly. These are interesting flowers. We had some in our garden in Gaithersburg and I should plant some here. The blue would be especially nice as a contrast to all the yellow-orange of the black-eyed Susan flowers.
This spring Cathy planted some zinia and marigold seeds. She’s talked about doing that for a few years but this year she actually got them planted. They grew under a plant light in our dining room in the late winter and into the early spring. They probably were started a little early because by the time it was safe to plant them outside they were a bit leggy and had already started to bloom. Still, I’d say they constituted a success. This one is growing in a pot on the back patio and it has pretty flowers. Not a lot of them, but every little bit counts.
We had another day at Shady Grove Hospital today but before I went I took a few pictures in the back yard. There was a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) and I had hoped to get a picture of that. I would have, except I had taken the memory card out of the camera and when I put it back in the write protection switch had been pushed into the off position and the camera would not take a picture. By the time I got it reset the butterfly was gone. I was able to get this photo of a western honey bee (Apis mellifera), instead.
My back was up to a full day’s work today. Although there were a few rough spots I made it through, trying to get up now and then to move around (because “Motion is Lotion” as they say). When I got home I took pictures of various flowers in the back yard. I really thought it would be pushing it to get down on the ground for photography. I did for the caterpillar photo yesterday but getting back up was a chore. So, I sat in a chair and photographed what was all around, including blue Lobelia, butterfly weed, Lantana, and a few other flowers. I like the Cleome with the black-eyed Susan flowers behind it.
I took some butterfly pictures this afternoon, as well as some flower pictures. While sitting in the chair that Cathy was in when I took the picture for a few days ago I could get pretty close to a few flowers without having to strain my back. Then walking around I saw this prettily colored ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea) on a black-eyed Susan. It took me a while to get down on the ground to get the pictures but I think it was worth the effort. Although it’s named for and feeds on a non-native tree, the Ailanthus webworm moth is actually a North American native from Florida, where its original host was the Simarouba glauca (paradise tree) and Simarouba amara.
This red Lobelia cardinalis is growing under the cherry tree at the north end of our yard. It’s really bright and I thought it was worth getting a picture of. With my back still bothering me I wanted to be really careful getting behind it so I could get the picture without having to bend over and with the trunk of the cherry tree available for me to brace the camera against. I was very carefully watching where I was stepping so I wouldn’t trip but about half way back, all of a sudden, I whacked my head against a ceramic wren nesting box hanging from a branch of the tree. I didn’t quite fall but it did my back no favors. Still, I got the picture. Coming back out I was even more careful where I walked and I kept an eye on that nesting box.
With my back still bothering me, I stayed home today. I did put in a little time at work, mostly a long phone call to discuss a proposal that is being written for a project that includes a web site. When Cathy got home from work I asked if I could take her picture for my photo of the day. She agreed and I took almost two dozen shots of het with her flowers. Most obvious are the Rudbekia (the Black-eyed Susans). There is also orange and yellow butterfly weed Asclepius tuberosa) on the right. In front of that is the pale pink spider flower (Cleome). There are other annuals in pots and there is the red teapot lower down.
I’ve posted pictures that have Black-eyed Susans in them but today’s photo is just of them. To say we have a few is a bit of an understatement. The reality is that we have let them run riot and there are a lot of them in the back yard. They add so much color that we don’t really mind, especially around the patio. We’ve managed to keep one large and one small walkway through them, so we can get out into the yard. They are pretty popular with the pollinators, attracting bees, flies, moths, and butterflies. One interesting thing about them is the photos I take always look bluer than they look in real life and I have to correct for that. On the other hand, the leaves really do have a fair amount of blue in their green.
I chased down some butterflies in the back yard today, including this common buckeye (Junonia coenia). They are resident year round in the south as far north as North Carolina and they move north over the course of the summer. Because of that we tend to have them later in the year than other butterflies and I’ve only just started to see them. They are pretty easy to identify and are very different to the other species that we have. This one, obviously was interested in the black-eyed Susan flowers that are in such abundance in our yard right now.
I’ve gone to the Green Swamp a few times during our weeks at the beach. Sometimes with a largish group and sometimes just a few others. I went by myself today and had a nice time. I planned not to go too far, with the primary goal of getting some pictures. I got some nice shots of Venus fly traps (Dionaea muscipula) and sundews (Drosera sp.). It was fairly dry and many of the pitcher plants (the purple Sarracenia purpurea And the yellow Sarracenia flava) were a little the worse for that. Still, I got some pictures. I also got a good shot of a palamedes swallowtail (Papilio palamedes (. But this is my favorite photo from the trip, showing the long leaf pines (Pinus palustris).
I was taking photos of the black-eyed Susan flowers this evening when I spotted this little fly, a transverse flower fly (Eristalis transversa) visiting them. It wouldn’t stay still for very long and I had a hard time getting a good picture. Ideally it would be on top of the dark eye in the flower, but I wasn’t able to get that. I like the combination of colors that matches the flowers. These are pretty little flies and easily spotted in the garden. As flies go, I enjoy these about as much as any.
The tigers are out in force. We have tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) blooming in a few areas in the yard. They are especially spectacular in the morning when the sun is on them. We also have tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) in pretty good numbers. They are mostly on the tiger lilies and on the buddleia bushes and we’ve counted more than ten together on one buddleia bush. Most of them are the standard yellow and black but about ten percent are the darker version that I photographed a few days ago.
Cathy’s mom had a visit today from an old friend and her husband. They brought these flowers, which was nice, and they looked lovely in the late afternoon sun coming in through the dining room windows. I took pictures of them from a bunch of different angles. Deep reds like this are a challenge for my digital camera and they tend to overwhelm the sensor but this one turned out pretty well. No disrespect meant towards Canon. It’s a really intense color and it came out well. Our eyes are such remarkable organs with the ability to see such a huge range of color and brightness that it isn’t actually surprising that technology is still trying to get there. We’ve come a long way, though.
We’re getting a second flush of roses on the ‘Perle d’Or’ outside our front door. This small polyantha rose has a nice, apricot-yellow color with perfect, if tiny buds, opening to somewhat less perfect blossoms that are, nonetheless, quite lovely. The fragrance alone is enough to make me want this rose and putting it right outside our front door was a good choice. It has been killed back in parts in some particularly cold winters but generally it does pretty well and so far has not suffered any irreversible damage.
It was a pretty evening today and I took this photo out our kitchen door at dusk. It’s hard to convey the feeling at dusk, because it tends to look like nothing so much as an underexposed photo. I obviously had to be a little careful not to lighten this photo any more than necessary, in order to retain that dusky feeling. You can see the three ornamental, lighted, garden globes in this photo, although only one of them is actually lit. A second one seems to work some days and not others. They aren’t all that well made, unfortunately, and don’t last very well. That’s a little disappointing.
The tiger lilies are blooming and they are really spectacular this year. My dad had these growing in his garden and from time to time we would take the little bulbils that form in the angle between the leaves and stem on these plants and we’d put them in our garden. We continued that process, with bulbils from our own plants and now we have a pretty good number of them around the yard. These are growing in the small bed where an oak tree once grew. That tree was dying when we bought the house and has since been removed. There are daffodils there and Cathy often puts annuals in the center of the bed, but these lilies are growing towards the back (the house side). They are over six feet tall and quite striking, with racimes of large, orange, downward-facing flowers.
The blackberry lilies (Iris domestica and formerly Belamcanda chinensis) have started to bloom in the garden. We originally got this when I collected some seeds and planted them at our old house. We brought some here with us in 2006 and they have really taken hold. We sprinkle the seeds around and let them grow where they will. They aren’t nearly so aggressive as to be a problem and they are so pretty. I had a picture of the buds recently but this is the flower. They open in the morning and each individual flower only lasts a day, but they are born in profusion and soon we’ll have dozens of them in bloom, scattered around the yard.
We’re in that in between time, after the spring and early summer bloomers have finished up but before the late summer flowers have really started in earnest. There are a few things in bloom, including the day lilies and the buddleia are starting to bloom and attract bees and butterflies. The gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) has been blooming but doesn’t add a lot of color, having white flowers. Also, I don’t care how desperate you are for blooms, I don’t recommend you put this anywhere near your garden, unless that’s all you want. Pretty soon these buds will begin to open. They are Iris domestica, the blackberry lily, which until recently also went by the name Belamcanda chinensis and sometimes known as leopard lily. These have self-seeded around the yard but are well within the limits of what’s easy to control, if they come up where you don’t want them. I highly recommend them for any sunny garden.
There are quite a few really amazing coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) varieties now and if I had the space and the time and the money, I’d consider a collection of the as one aspect of a large garden. They vary in color from the “standard” pinkish-purple bracts and with orange spikes, as seen here, to all sort of oranges, yellow, and darker purples. They flower shapes vary, as well, and they are all lovely. Sadly, there are enough plant-eating insects that enjoy them that they don’t often last in pristine condition. Photographing them in their prime means getting them when the flowers first open, because the bracts get holes in them almost immediately. Still, they provide color in a time when not a lot is blooming.
I went out looking for pictures as usual this afternoon, when I got home from work. There is Campanula in bloom in the yard, and I took some pictures of those flowers. They don’t tend to come out the same color in photographs as they are in real life. Not entirely sure why. Then I moved over to the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), which is a real attraction to the bees. It’s quite invasive and I really would recommend against planting it in the strongest language, but if you already have it, you might as well enjoy the bees. There were a few honey bees but mostly it was the common eastern bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) that were moving quickly from flower to flower.
Dorothy brought home a rooted leaf from a fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) a while back and we’ve been caring for it since then. It’s grown quite well and is now over four feet tall and the stem has gotten strong enough that it’s standing on its own. We had it in the kitchen until recently but have now moved it to the dining room, just inside a west facing window. Where these are native, in central and western tropical Africa, they can grow to over 60 feet tall. As a houseplant, they generally are kept below eight feet tall, unless you have a large space for them. I love the green of the leaves with the sun shining through them, as seen here.
We have a pair of Hydrangea shrubs growing along the back of our garden. one of them is fairly large and growing strongly. The other, this Hydrangea macrophylla, is not so big but it’s blooming, at least. The deer seem to like it, so we’ve allowed the Forsythia to grow in front of it a little, to help protect it from them. Of course, that makes it harder for us to see, as well. You can’t have everything. The sterile florets, which have large petals, are a very pale pinkish with touches of blue. The much smaller fertile florets are quite blue, and the combination is quite nice.
Cathy bought some strawflower, also known as golden everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) this spring and has it in a container on the back patio. They are quite bright and lovely to see from the kitchen door. As the flowers open, the center is a bright orange that complements the yellow of the stiff petal-like bracts. As the flower ages, the central disk turns brown, as seen here, but the bracts remain. This gives the flowers their “everlasting” common name. They are already basically dry, so they don’t dry out and turn brown, but rather keep their yellow color. Apparently in their native Australia they grow in sweeping drifts in open grassland, which must be quite beautiful indeed.
The day lilies are coming into bloom. These are great plants and easy to grow. They like full sun but are quite tolerant of a bit of shade (with a bit of reduced blooming, though). You often see them growing in ditches along road sites in the country. Those that we have are from a very small town that no longer exists in rural Pennsylvania. The houses are all gone, except for a few stone basements slowly being filled by the passing of time. around one of them is a huge patch of day lilies. They are in fairly deep shade, so don’t bloom profusely, but they are happy and continue spreading their roots. I dug up a few many years ago and they really responded to the sun and never fail to satisfy.
This native shrub has self seeded in our back garden. I’m of two minds about it. The beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), also known as rench mulberry, sourbush, bunchberry, or purple beauty-berry, does have pretty fruit, from which it gets both its common and its generic name. On the other hand, it’s not really growing where I would have planted it. Every year I think about either taking it out or at least transplanting it to another part of the garden. It certainly grows strongly enough and would probably do well in another location. The flowers, shown here, are not very significant. The big clumps of purple berries that follow are quite nice, though.
Those of you who have followed my photographic endeavors for any length of time know that some days I just don’t have anything particularly interesting to share. That’s going to happen when you say you’re going to post a picture from every day. I suppose there are people whose lives are so varied that they always have something interesting going on, but my life has many days that are just like most of the others. I go to work and I come home. My commute doesn’t take me by any grand vistas and there are no mountains or waterfalls to be seen. My yard is fairly pedestrian and while I have flowers and bugs to photograph, it can all seem a bit the same from day to day. This is a mushroom that was in our back lawn, presumably growing on the decomposing roots of one of the trees that we have had to take down. Not much, but it’s one more glimpse of nature.
I planted a few of these years ago at our old house, after having taken a few bulblets from the top of some growing in a garden we visited. A few years ago I decided to get rid of them, but that’s easier said than done. This one is growing in the grass outside the fenced herb garden that I made a while back. I think we need to be a bit more ruthless in pulling them up. They are interesting, though, and if we had a lot of space, I’d have a bunch. The stems, which are really tubular leaves, have flower clusters at the top. Then bulblets form and sometimes there are flower clusters growing from those bulblets. When the top becomes heavy from the size of the bulblets, the whole plant falls on its side, those bulblets take root and new plants spring up. It’s that spreading action that gives rise to the “walking” part of their name. Anyway, if you’d like some, feel free to ask and I’ll give you a few bulblets and you can start your own colony.
This butterfly weed, Asclepias curassavica, is also known as blood flower. Cathy recently bought a few plants in both orange (this one) and all yellow. Sadly, it is not hardy enough for in-ground planting as a perennial here, but it should do well in containers and brighten up the back patio. This one is in a container right outside our kitchen door and looks great against the green backdrop of Rudbekia growing around the patio. I especially like the bi-color nature of this one, although the all-yellow variety is nice, too.
We have some Asiatic lilies in the bed where there used to be an oak tree in front of our house. The oak has been gone for long enough that I don’t remember when it was cut down (and I don’t feel like searching through my journal to find out). The lilies are doing quite well and they are surrounded by other plants which seems to have kept the deer and rabbits from eating them, which is nice. As you can see, they are a very hot orange and are quite spectacular. The tiger lilies, which won’t bloom for a while yet, are much taller and more obvious. These blooms are only about 18 inches from the ground and face upwards, which is terrific.
We’ve had coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea) growing in our garden and in containers pretty much since we have been able to have a garden. It’s not the sturdiest of plants and we’ve had to replace them from time to time. I may be forgetting something but I think this is currently our only plant, growing in a container in the driveway. It’s fairly happy, probably because the containers get watered more regularly throughout the summer than the in-ground plantings. Also, although this gets a bit of direct morning sun, it’s in bright, open shade by early afternoon so it doesn’t bake. It seems to be happy and it blooms quite freely, which is nice.
On Sunday, as I mentioned, we went to Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville. Cathy bought a few things, including two Cleome plants, one white and one very pale pink. The white one, shown here, is called ‘Senorita Blanca’ and the other is ‘Senorita Mi Amor’. We’ve had Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’ in the past and these are (I assume) related plants with different coloration. My understanding is that they are sterile and will not self-seed, which is both good and bad. Annuals that do self-seed can become a real nuisance and get out of control. But some, if they only just manage to hold on, are really nice. Nigela is a good example of the latter. In our experience, it just self-seeds enough that we have it for a few years before needing to plant more. Other annuals, of course, go totally native and sterile plants are a real boon.
I’ve posted pictures of this fern before and I’ll probably do so again. It’s a pretty fern and worth growing, if you have any interest in ferns. I actually have it in a less than ideal spot that gets pretty much full sun from about noon onwards. It would be happier in full shade. The Missouri Botanical Garden page on this plant says, “High summer heat may cause fronds to brown by mid to late summer, particularly if good soil moisture is not maintained and/or plants are grown in too much sun.” Yep, that happens here. I really need to move it, or at least take a piece or two of it to grow in a better location. It does amazingly well in the sun, but it could be so much happier.
I really like roses and I’ve posted photos of them here fairly often, trying to get each of my roses featured at least once a year. I also like to visit my friend Nick, who often opens his rose garden on Memorial Day weekend. He didn’t this year, for personal reasons, but I thought I’d post a rose photo, anyway. The rose that’s blooming that I haven’t featured yet this year is a landscape rose that our neighbor gave me a few years ago. It’s growing in a nice, sunny spot behind our garage and is quite happy there, blooming profusely (as you can see). I’m not as big a fan of these roses as I might be, mainly because they have little to no fragrance. But I can’t fault them in terms of blooming and ease of care. If you want a rose that will bloom all summer and which you can basically ignore, this is probably the rose for you. They really are quite spectacular when they really get going.
Allium moly, commonly known as golden garlic, is a pretty, ornamental flowering onion with bright yellow flowers. I have this growing long side our front walk, although it has been surrounded by other plants so it isn’t as prominent as it was when it was first planted. I really should have more of this. It blooms after the majority of bulbs are done, so helps fill a gap in the blooming cycle. It’s also a lovely, bright yellow, which is hard to miss. I have it growing next to a small Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’ and the two go very well together, with purple and yellowing being a really good combination. They are also on the small side for their respective genuses. Highly recommended.
This is one of three peonies that I planted in 2014, named ‘Coral Sunset’ that are growing will in the back garden. I’m a big fan of peonies and if I had a lot of space I might devote and entire garden room to them. There are both herbaceous and woody stemmed peonies and the are both worth growing. They do take a while to get established but they don’t really require much care. The reward in the huge, brightly colored flowers every spring. There is a nice peony garden at Seneca Creek State Park, if you are interested. I haven’t had a chance to go this year and it isn’t looking like I will, but it’s worth a peek, if you can get there when they are in bloom.
In the continuing series of roses, this is one of my favorites. I’m down from a high of 13 roses in the garden to 5. One of those, Crépuscule, was nearly killed a few years ago after being by far the largest rose I had, covering a 20 foot trellis on the south end of the house. This on, a small china rose called Perle d’Or is growing just outside our front door. It lost a few canes to the cold this winter but is in full bloom now, really showing off and giving off a wonderful fragrance.
We’re coming up to the peak of rose season. Many roses bloom all summer, of course, and we naturally love that about them. But even those that repeat bloom start the season with the best display of the year. This rose, a Noisette rose bred by Champneys in 1811, is a reliable repeat bloomer but it is getting set to be absolutely covered with flowers. It is growing on the south end of our house where it gets plenty of sun and seems to be fairly happy. We need to work to keep the bindweed off of it, but other than that, it requires little care. And such a pretty little thing.
We took our annual Mother’s Day outing to the garden center today for Cathy to buy the annuals that she’ll plant around our yard and garden. After a hot and clear day yesterday it was quite cool and rainy today. When we got to Fehr’s Nursery in Burtonsville we were the only customers there. Others came and went while we were there, though, and considering the weather, they were doing pretty good business. Much of what Cathy was shopping for is in their greenhouses, so the rain didn’t really affect us too much. I did what I usually do in these situations, wander around with my camera and take pictures of flowers. I was taking pictures of these flats of red-flowered begonias when Cathy happened to come by, so I got this picture of her in front of them.
Weeds are incredible. They grow so fast, are hard to get rid of, and can easily take over your yard. I’ve mentioned that last year we didn’t do a lot of gardening and the weeds got the upper hand. This spring they are coming up in force. In the big patch of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) the Canada thistle Cirsium arvense was so thick you could barely see the lily of the valley. I spent the morning pulling it up and it looks so much better. I also dug up some pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). That’s what is photographed here, leaves and root of pokeweed (and you can see a little Canada thistle at the top). This huge root was a bit of work to get out. I’m not naive enough to believe it won’t come back from the small amount of root left in the ground, but getting this huge root out is a necessary first step.
My roses have had a rough few years. Three of them outright died in the last twelve months and I’m not entirely sure why. This one, a hybrid rugosa named ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’ lost a lot of stems but is still hanging on and has just started to bloom. The stems are relatively thin and the heavy flowers are too much for them, so they face pretty much downwards, especially after a rain. Like most rugosas, this rose has a really wonderful scent and the leaves are a beautiful green, generally untouched by any disease.
The columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is really coming into bloom now in our garden. We have a few different varieties and I won’t swear that they are all this species (in fact I don’t think they are). But this one, I think probably is. It’s one of two that have flowers with a fuchsia or slightly purple color in their flowers. The other one is darker, almost tending towards a brownish red. It also has slightly more double white parts. They are both nice in their own way, and I’m pretty happy with this self seeding through out the garden. It doesn’t go out of control, like some self-seeders tend to do, so I don’t really mind.
In 2013 I bought some fastigiate oaks from Musser Forests (http://www.musserforests.com/). Fastigiate is from Latin and means narrowing toward the top and when applied to trees, having upright usually clustered branches. Trees that have a more narrow form are often called fastigiate and these oaks are actually named Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’. The English oak is a pretty tree, especially when it gets large, but it can be a bit much for a suburban garden, needing a huge space to be grown to full advantage. These narrow trees, however, should do reasonably well here. They are not quite as hardy as the species but I’ve seen them growing in the district and there is a huge one only a few blocks away, so I’m hopeful. I have them growing in two parts of the yard, one on the north end of the yard and one along the back (west side). Planted in 2013, they are already more than 10 feet tall, and growing quite quickly.
Ages ago I got some seeds of Syringa meyeri, the Meyer or Korean lilac, and they grew in a wooden box for years. Then we moved here in 2006 and they remained in the box, never getting more than about a foot tall. I finally planted them in the garden and for a few years they grew larger but didn’t bloom. Last year they bloomed and this year they are larger and blooming better still. They have large leaves and the flowers are at the top in fairly large terminal clusters (panicles).
This gooseberry plant (Ribes uva-crispa) was originally put in by Albert in their yard. After he passed away, Brady said I could have it and it’s growing in the back of our garden. It blooms fairly early for a fruit bush and the fruit ripens fairly quickly. I really enjoy gooseberry jam, as I like most things of a tart nature. One thing to watch for when pruning and picking the fruit from a gooseberry bush is the thorns. They are quite sharp and vicious. There used to be a federal ban on growing gooseberry and other Ribes species but that was lifted in 1966. A few states still prohibit the growth of some or all Ribes species but they are all legally grown in Maryland.
It was a beautiful day and I took the opportunity to go out and take a few pictures in the empty lot next to my office. Although we had a lot of rain this winter and early in the spring, April has been relatively drier than usual (at least that’s how if feels, I haven’t checked the actual data). Nevertheless, the drainage pond that is usually dry in the summer was about has high as it can be without the entire upper area being a bog. In a slightly higher part of the area I found quite a bit of this little corn speedwell (Veronica arvensis) growing. It’s a native to Europe and has been introduced widely in North America (according to the US Department of Agriculture, it can be found in every state except North Dakota, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually there, too. The blooms are quite small, only about a quarter inch across, and are a lovely blue color. As weeds go, there are worse.
This Exbury azalea is starting to bloom. It’s been eaten back by the deer, so it’s not clear that it will ever get really big unless we are able to protect it. The flowers are quite striking, especially compared to the ubiquitous Glenn Dale azaleas that everyone has. I’ve got nothing against the Glenn Dales, mind you. But you have to admit, they have a certain sameness to them. I suppose if everyone grew Exbury or Mollis azaleas, I’d fell the same way. Or not. They really are spectacular and if you want yellows an oranges, they’re your best bet this time of year. They are deciduous, of course, so if you want leaves year round, they won’t do. But they sure make up for it in bloom.
The regular flowering cherries are pretty much finished but there are these double-flowered cherries and they still look wonderful. Not only are they a considerably stronger pink than the single variety but the flowers are much larger, measuring a few inches across. They are somewhat hard to photograph because the best views of the flowers are had looking up at them and when they are backlit by a bright sky, they tend to go quite dark. This one turned out pretty well.
The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) are in full bloom in our garden. They self-seed and many of them are growing out in the grass. Cathy has dug a few up to replant in the garden beds where they won’t get mowed over. We both really love the powder blue of the forget-me-nots and are happy when the start to bloom. The buds are purple and the flowers, as they start to open, turn from a pinkish purple to the pure blue of the fully-formed flowers. You can see one transitioning at the right in this photo. The yellow “eye” in the center of each bloom turns white as the flower ages.
Galium odoratum, commonly known as Sweet Woodruff and Sweetscented Bedstraw, is a pretty, little perennial native to Europe, northern Africa, and northern Asia. It grows well in the shade and we have it under the cherry tree at the north end of our garden. It’s competing with Japanese pachysandra, which is a battle it won’t win, although it seems to hold its own. From the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder web site:
Plants emit a strong odor of freshly mown hay when foliage is crushed or cut. Aromatic intensity of the foliage increases when dried, thus dried leaves are popularly used in sachets or potpourris. Plants have also been used commercially in perfumes. Leaves are sometimes used to flavor teas and cold fruit drinks. Leaves are also used to make May wine, a punch made from white wine flavored with woodruff, orange and pineapple. Woodruff comes from Old English meaning wood that unravels, in probable reference to the creeping rootstock of the plant.
It’s that time of the year when the maple trees let loose thousands upon thousands of “helicopters” (a.k.a. samaras). They’ll be thick on the lawn and patio and front walk. Not as thick as they once were, because we have fewer maple trees than we did, but still quite a lot. Then they will start growing. In the lawn, the first time the grass is cut, they’ll be taken care of. In the garden beds they need to be pulled up.
In the front of my office building there are a few flower beds including one raised bed with a bunch of tulips growing in it. They are bright orange and red and really striking. I usually go into the building through the back door so I hadn’t noticed them but my friend, Corina, said I should take a look. I did and she was right. Naturally when she said take a look, she meant take some pictures, so I did that, too. It was late in the day and they were in the shade of the building, making it a little harder, exposure wise, but I really love their colors.
There are trees we generally think of as flowering trees, such as dogwoods, cherries, and crab apples. But of course, most non-coniferous trees bloom, even if that’s not why we grow them. Out neighborhood has street trees planted pretty much throughout with different streets and different sections having different tree species but mostly planted with the neighborhood was developed in the late 1960s. Our area has mostly red oaks and at nearly 50 years old, they are generally pretty good size. Oaks are among those not usually grown for their showy flowers. Nevertheless, when they are in full bloom, particularly on a clear day in contrast with the blue sky, they are quite dramatic. Of course, the pollen is everywhere and if you have allergies, you aren’t enjoying this. But it can be beautiful.
I took a break and went out into the woods today to take a few pictures. The eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are blooming and they really are something. This is the native eastern redbud, which is similar to but distinct from the Judas tree or Mediterranean redbud (C. siliquastrum), native to the Eastern Mediterranean. They are both admired for their rose-purple flowers which are borne on bare branches in early spring (i.e. now) and before the foliage emerges.
There are still a few daffodils blooming at the Stadtman Preserve but most of them are finished. The P.J.M. Rhododendrons are also a little past their peak and are dropping flowers on the ground around them, as you can see here. There are pink and white deciduous azaleas blooming now and there are spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) by the hundreds. There are some trillium coming up and a few with buds but none blooming yet. There are also ferns coming up in a few places. Spring always seems to go by too fast, but it’s sure nice while its here.
In the fall of 2009 and again in 2010 I bought a pretty good number of bulbs from McClure and Zimmerman (https://www.mzbulb.com/). In each of those orders they threw in five tulip of the variety ‘Van Eijk’. There are still ten plants growing where I planted them although we only have six blooms this year. Tulips are not terribly long-lived plants, certainly not in our area, anyway, so the fact that these are still blooming after 8 or nine years is pretty good. They’re quite bright and a sea of them would be more impressive than the six I have, of course. In general, though, I’m more a fan of daffodils, which seem to live forever and form large clumps over time.
It rained today and there was water on the the plants in the yard. The forecast was for a chance of rain all through the weekend but (as I write this on Monday) it turned out to be fairly nice. I really love the pattern of water on plant leaves, in any case, and these fresh, young leaves of hosta in a pot on our patio are such a beautiful, vivid green I couldn’t resist them. I also took pictures of water on Columbine flowers and leave and on a really pretty bracket fungus that was growing on the decaying roots of an oak tree that the county removed a few years ago.
The daffodils are about at their peak right now and will soon begin to fade. We have a few that are still getting ready to bloom for for the most part, they are open. These ‘Lemon Beauty’ daffodils were planted in the fall of 2014 so this is their fifth spring and they are doing quite well. They were planted in the bed around the Colorado spruce and were somewhat shaded by that but now that it’s gone, they’ll get more early spring sun, which they will appreciate, I suspect. The stump of the spruce is still there and I need to finish getting that up and then decide what to plan in its place. I’ve narrowed it down to a half dozen flowering trees but making the final decision is hard.
We have this little flowering almond shrub in our front garden near the corner of our garage. It never gets very big because it’s not entirely hardy here and every couple years it dies back pretty hard. We actually had a few days when the temperature was nearing 0°F (-18°C) but it seems to have come through it practically unscathed. The flowers, clustered around the stems, are fairly small, only a half inch or so across. Never the less, they are quite pretty, both individually and as a whole. It’s really a shame this doesn’t get bigger because it would be spectacular.
I’m posting this out of order but I was looking back at the pictures I took on Sunday and decided I should add this one. Remember, just because I say I’ll take at least one picture every day, I’m not limited to posting only one picture per day. After church and our visit to the Stadtman Preserve we went to my mom’s to get one more document with some numbers I needed for her tax return. Before we left Cathy and I walked over to a small grove of saucer magnolias growing near by. The saucer magnolia is a hybrid, known as Magnolia x soulangeana and is a cross between M. denudata and M. liliiflora. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the specific epithet “honors Chevalier Etienne Soulange-Bodin (1774-1846), Director of the French Royal Institute, who crossed this hybrid in the early 1800s.”
This was our fourth Sunday in a row to enjoy the flowers at the Stadtman Preserve. Don’t be too surprised if we’re there again next week. Since daffodils only last so long, I’m going to continue to post pictures while the do. In addition to hundreds of daffodils of many sorts and shades of yellow and orange, the P.J.M. Rhododendrons are really starting to bloom. We also found one bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis) with a few blossoms. There were spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) and cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) and a few mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum).
The cherry blossoms have really come out in force this week and my understanding is that the trees around the tidal basin downtown are in full bloom. They’re worth a visit but it can be quite an ordeal to get down there. Parking is generally impossible anywhere near the tidal basin so it’s much better to take the subway and just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to do a bit of walking. They really are worth it. We haven’t been in quite a few years and this photo was taken beside one of the buildings on our company’s campus, rather than down town. As you can see, the flowers are white and there is only a hint of pink in the buds. Some have a little more pink than this but the cherries are not nearly as colorful as the crab apples, which I actually prefer by a wide margin.
Cathy bought two columbine plants (Aquilegia) on Sunday and this is one of them. It’s not the standard, native Aquilegia canadensis with its drooping flowers and distinctive spurs. The label had no information on it beyond Aquilegia so I don’t know what the variety name is or anything. It’s quite pretty and I photographed it in the late afternoon sun, to help light up the delicate pink petals. We have a fair amount of columbine in the yard, although most of it is self-seeded volunteers and is a dark, maroon color. I doubt the seeds from this will be anything like it is, but you never know, maybe we’ll start getting some new varieties around the yard.
These little flowers, Scilla siberica (Siberian squill) are similar to the blue Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) that I photographed a few days ago but can be differentiated by their downward facing appearance. They are also deeper blue, in general. In my yard they bloom just a little later, but not much. These are in a bed right by the driveway so I get to see them every time I leave or get home, which is nice. S. siberica is native to southern Russia and is hardy up to USDA Zone 2.
I also have some Scilla mischtschenkoana, (commonly called simply squill) the flowers of which are almost white with just a hint of blue. They are native to northern Iran and the Caucasus and not quite as hardy as S. siberica but still plenty hardy for us here. I really should mark where all my spring ephemerals are and plant more around them this fall. I’m not sure I could ever have too many of them.
The hyacinths are in bloom. They aren’t as perfectly formed spikes of flowers as we’ve had some years, but they’re still pretty nice. I don’t care for the sickeningly sweet smell of hyacinths abut they look nice and as long as they’re out in the yard, I don’t mind. There are a few deep, rich, purple hyacinths just starting to bloom, as well, but those are even less full than the pink. Still, they make a nice contrast and look especially good with the yellow of daffodils. Sadly, the daffodils in the back yard are late enough they they won’t bloom at the same time, at least not this year.
After church this week, for the third week in a row, we walked over to the Stadtman Preserve to see the bulbs. The daffodils are pretty spectacular and entire sections of hillside are yellow with them. The Chionodoxa is still in bloom and there are areas completely dotted with their pretty, blue flowers. I took pictures of Cathy in a few different spots but I had only brought one lens, the 100mm, which wasn’t really idea for that sort of portraiture. This one turned out pretty well, though. Spring it definitely here and we’re loving it.
I try not to repeat subject too often and too close together but sometimes I just have to. The Sunday before last I posted a pictures of three Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) blossoms, taken at the Stadtman Preserve on Mill Run, in Derwood (see Sunday, March 17, 2019). Two weeks later they are out in our garden and I couldn’t resist another picture. This little clump of flowers is at the south end of our house and it’s so lovely. I promise, I’m done with this flower for the year (although there’s a pink variety in another part of our garden).
I had some car trouble today. My van, which has just over 269,000 miles on it, started making a terrible grinding noise when I put on the breaks. I thought, I don’t care, bad breaks aren’t going to stop me! But seriously, there are car repairs you can put off and car repairs you can’t put off. Brakes are in the latter category. After having Cathy meet me at the mechanic’s we stopped at the commuter parking lot near the ICC and I took some pictures of the cherry blossoms.
Last Sunday after church we walked to the Stadtman Preserve and I posted a picture of three little Chionodoxa forbesii blossoms. This week we went there again. The daffodils are starting to bloom and there are lots more Chionodoxa flowers opening up throughout the property. It was this little windflower (Anemone blanda) that really caught my eye. It’s such a pretty little thing. I’ve had a few of them in our garden but they never really amounted to much. I need to make a note to myself to buy a bunch of them and put them in. Interestingly, the flower is apetalous (it has no petals) and what look like petals are actually sepals.
The forsythia is starting to bud. As I write this, a week after the photo was taken, the buds have opened and the flowers are out. Spring can move quickly at times and when we have a warm spell, as we do at some point most years, buds open quickly. We often then have a frost that can kill back some of the more tender plants a bit. The early flowering star magnolia, with its fleshy, succulent petals, is generally one of the hardest hit. Other plants, like most early bulbs, the Lenten rose, and the forsythia, are better able to cope with a little cold, and generally just stop briefly, only to continue once it warms back up.
I hope you won’t mind one more Hellebore. This one is called ‘Rose Quartz’ and like the crocus pictured yesterday, it is in the bed out back with lily of the valley and Vinca minor. This is only its second year blooming and while there are more flowers this year, it’s still not a huge, robust plant yet. Lenten rose is a long-lived perennial and although they take a while to get established, they take very little care and are quite sturdy. The Latin name for the genus, Helleborus, comes from the Greek helein (ἑλεῖν), meaning “to injure”, and bora (βορά), meaning “food” because the leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous to humans.
The so-called Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus and its cultivars) is native to the mountains of Europe, the Pyrenees, Alps and Carpathians. The name crocus comes from krokos (κρόκος) the ancient Greek name for saffron (Crocus sativus). While crocuses prefer gritty, well-drained soils they do amazingly well in our heavy, clay soil that is totally water logged all winter most years. This one is growing in a bed of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) and Vinca minor in our back yard. There are also some daffodils and hyacinths that are starting to come up bu those won’t be in bloom for a little while yet.
This is, I think, my new favorite Lenten rose. I have two of them, bought from McClure and Zimmerman in the fall of 2014 but this is the first year the blooms have been what I might describe as fully formed. They are a variety called Red Racer but they don’t seem to be listed on the mzbulb web site any longer. Other outlets seem to have them, though. I really love flowers (and leaves) of this sort of color, especially when back lit. These aren’t in the best location it terms of the sun shining on them from behind, but it was just filtering through the shrubbery behind them this evening.
After church we walked over to the Stadtman Preserve, where hundreds of daffodils are coming up and a few blooming. There were also huge drifts of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) although they were almost entirely past their bloom. There were also a very few of these Chionodoxa forbesii flowers. With the common name glory of the snow, it’s no surprise that they bloom early and they are definitely one of my favorite flowers, especially among the spring ephemerals. It is native to western Turkey and is hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. Those growing in my garden are considerably behind, but I’m looking forward to having them bloom in a few weeks.
As mentioned a few days ago, the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is coming into bloom. It’s a very hardy little plant, growing from a small, sort of misshapen tuber, native to the northern Mediterranean coast from southern France, across northern Italy, and down the eastern coast of the Adriatic and east to the western shores of the Black Sea. It’s very slow growing and the few that survived from my initial planting are only still only producing a handful of flowers. I should probably plant more, but last year was mostly a write-off in terms of gardening. We’re hoping to do quite a bit more this year.
It was a beautiful day today and I needed to get out of my office for a few minutes to clear my head. I’ve been working on two specific problems with one of the systems I’m working on. I’m pretty sure I managed to get one of them solved and settled. The other is proving to be a little trickier but I’ve managed to get it pretty close to working. Sometimes it’s useful to step away for a little bit and think about something else. Then when you come back, you can see it with somewhat fresher eyes. I find that I often come up with new ideas at that point. This is true in other realms than programming. When I’m working on a crossword puzzle and get about as much done as I can manage, putting it down and walking away and then picking it up later is generally all I need to find some new answers. Today’s foray out into the woods let me to a bunch of moss, and that’s what today’s photo features.
I know I posted a picture of snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) on Saturday, March 02, 2019 but the flowers were not really open then and they are now. Our yard is fairly shady and the spring blooms seem to be a week or so behind those that get full sun. We have a few clmps of snow drops in the yard. Those I photographed last time are by the sidewalk. These are in the back yard. They are certainly a welcome sign of spring, often blooming when there is still snow on the ground (thus the name, I assume). I love the little touch of green on the central part of the flower. Green is fairly uncommon as a flower color, I assume because it’s so common on the leaves themselves. But it makes a nice change.
The snow drops are generally followed by the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and the Lenten rose (Helleborus species). One Lenten rose is already blooming but the others are just starting to come out. I suspect I’ll have more pictures of them soon.
It’s Lenten rose time again. With the recent snow and heavy rain, they are looking decidedly unhappy, but the blooms are coming and should soon be out in full. This one, a Helleborus called ‘Mango Magic’, it the furthest along of those in the yard. There is a very large one with deep burgundy flowers that’s doing well, also and probably needs to be divided up into three or four plants. I do love the deep color of that one but the brightness of this one and a few others we have are quite nice, as well.