The forecast for tonight is snow. The heaviest snow we’ve had so far this year didn’t even cover the grass completely, so this will be, assuming it lives up to the hype, considerably more than we’ve see so far. They have backed off from the forecasts of 10 to 15 inches and are now calling for 4 to 7 inches here. Central Pennsylvania and up to New York City are likely to get considerably more than us, with forecasts ranging from 15 to 24 inches. So, here’s one more picture of spring, before winter returns. It’s actually quite a bit colder already, but the precipitation should finish off most of the blossoms that have already opened. Hardy plants, like daffodils, will continue to bloom but I have a feeling many cherry trees are done for the year.
Flowers and Plants
It got quite a bit colder after the rain we had yesterday and this morning it was quite chilly. We wanted to go out and because it’s felt like spring, we wanted to see some plants. That helped us decide to go to Johnson’s outside of Olney, where there is a greenhouse and both house plants and a few outdoor plants that it will be safe to put out soon. This is a Rex begonia, one of a great many cultivars developed specifically for their exotic leaf patterns. This one has a wonderful spiral that really caught my eye. The Rex begonias are only hardy in zones 10 to 12, so can’t be grown outdoors except in a container that comes in for the winter. They also need considerable humidity and indoors that’s a problem for those of us with forced air heating systems, which tend to dry the air in the house far too much. But it’s beautiful. If I ever had a greenhouse, this would be something I’d look at more seriously.
It was a very wet day this morning and everything was dripping as I went to work. After taking my things out to the car I got my camera out and took some pictures of flowers in the rain. Mostly I took daffodils because they are really starting to bloom but then I noticed that one of our two cherry trees has started to bloom as well. It’s forecast to get cold as the rain tappers off later today and there is significant snow in the forecast early next week. We’ll see what that does to the flowers. The cherries in particularly won’t appreciate it.
The glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) has started blooming. As the common name implies, it’s an early spring bloomer and it isn’t unusual for it to be up and blooming well before the threat of frost is past. We’ve been having quite mile weather lately although the forecast is saying cooler weather is coming shortly. In fact, there seems to be a possibility of significant snow early next week with the cold starting tomorrow. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the spring ephemerals.
This is my third amaryllis photo in just over a week but I’m not going to apologize for it. These are really beautiful flowers and well deserving of the attention. The first of the three photos was of an amaryllis with mixed red and white flowers. The second was of the bud of this one, which has solid red blooms. I’m glad I got the pictures of this when I did because within 24 hours of taking them, the plant tipped over and the blossoms were smashed a bit. They still look good (those that are still attached) but it’s a little the worse for the fall.
We had a light snowfall overnight. It wasn’t much and in most years would barely register as a snow at all. Nevertheless, it was the biggest snow we’ve had so far this winter. It melted on paved surfaces, so the roads were quite clear but it nearly covered the grass, with only a small amount of green showing through. I went out back and took some pictures of things with snow on them, including this Monarda didyma (scarlet bee balm) seed head near the back fence. By midday all the snow was gone. I don’t know if winter is over but with the exception of a few days in the single digits, back in December, this has been a very mild winter indeed.
I know I’ve already done amaryllis recently but I’m afraid it’s going to be a repeat of sorts today. The picture is different enough, fortunately. The one I posted two days ago was in full bloom. This is another that Cathy bought and planted at the same time, but it’s at least a week behind. It’s also six or eight inches taller. Finally, I think this one is solid red where the other was (and is) pink or red mixed with white.
Dad used to grow an amaryllis most years for Christmas so I associate them with dear old dad. That’s a good thing, of course, but it does have a tendency to make me a little melancholy from time to time. I guess that’s one side effect of getting older. When we are young, if we are fortunate (as I certainly was) we don’t have a lot of loss in our lives and things we consider terrible are usually relatively mild in retrospect. As we get older, it’s almost inevitable that we will have significant loss. I’m not sure if I deal with it in a good way or not, but I do it my way (as Paul Anka might say). Having things that remind me of the loss is, for me, part of how I deal with it. I don’t want to forget, even though it’s painful.
It rained pretty hard all day today and I didn’t get out to take any pictures. I met a few guys at Dogfish Head Alehouse after work but didn’t really have an opportunity to take any pictures there, either. So, when I got home I took some pictures of houseplants that are growing in pots in our kitchen. Many of them move out onto the back patio in the summer (or we move them, anyway) but they spend the colder months vacationing in our kitchen. There’s a pretty good amount of light from the afternoon sun so they seem reasonably happy there. They’d probably do better if the air in the house were not so dry, but they get through it. This is a Schefflera, an umbrella plant, and a fairly common houseplant. In the tropical climate of its native Taiwan it grows to 10 to 25 feet tall but as a houseplant it rarely exceeds 6 or 7 feet.
Cathy grows at least one amaryllis pretty much every year. This year she has two and although they were both growing their flower stalks at the same time, this one opened well ahead of the other, coming into full bloom before the other even started to open its buds. I took a few pictures of it this evening, doing my best to eliminate the harsh shadows on the wall behind it by bouncing my flash off the ceiling. Generally she tries to get them started early enough that they bloom around Christmas but this year didn’t get them into their pots until January, so we have them now. No complaints from me.
It was a fairly busy day today, with church as usual and then a fellowship lunch with Crusader Baptist at 2:30. I made a big batch of qaubili pilau with braised beef and we enjoyed a huge meal and a wonderful time of sharing. I took a few pictures but they will mostly be of interest to those who were there. When we got home I took a few pictures of our early daffodils, a variety called ‘Tete-A-Tete’, which have started to bloom along the side of our front yard. There will be many more to come and since it turned cool today, they will slow down a bit, but spring is definitely in the air. ‘Tete-A-Tete’ is a small daffodil classified in division XII (Miscellaneous Daffodils) and I’m quite fond of it, not least because it comes out so early and lasts quite a while.
Another early bloomer, if your in the market for such things, is the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). The genus name comes from the Greek words bora meaning food and helein meaning injures/destroys in reference to the plant’s toxic leaves, stems and roots which are poisonous to humans if ingested (source, Missouri Botanical Garden). There are various cultivars in a range of colors and we have a few light colored varieties in the yard. Nevertheless, I really prefer this deep wine color. The blooms are not terribly conspicuous, being mostly downward facing and often covered by the new leaves, but what you see of them makes it a plant worth growing.
I went over to Ralph’s this morning to drop off something with mom. While we were there I took some pictures of things blooming in his yard. In addition to this little, yellow crocus, there was winter aconite still in bloom (but mostly done). Also, a winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) was in full bloom with its lovely, yellow flowers all along its green stems. I also took some pictures of winterberry berries. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly, native to eastern North America and is known for its profusion of bright red berries on bare stems that last throughout the winter.
It was another spring-like day, well into the 70s, and mostly sunny. I took a walk on the other side of W. Montgomery Avenue at lunch time, hoping to find things to photograph and generally enjoying the fresh air. Although it feels like spring, the woods are still in their mostly brown, winter garb. There were a pair of geese that seemed to be protecting a nest and they didn’t want me to get too close. I caught sight of a king fisher and small woodpecker but wasn’t able to get pictures of either. There is a small drainage pond with what appears to be a beaver lodge in it. The pond is surrounded by cattails (Typha latifolia) and that’s what is featured in today’s picture.
There have been some snow drops out in our neighborhood for over a week now. Outside the building where I work are two large areas covered with them and they are in full bloom, as well. These are on the north side of the building, on a protected slope below the parking lot, leading down to a stream. I wasn’t able to get pictures but I saw two butterflies and one very large wasp of some sort on them. I don’t think about there being many flying insects about this time of year but if there are flowers, there are bound to be pollinators. It’s been quite mild out, but this is just about when the snow drips (Galanthus nivalis) normally blooms.
It’s a bit over a week earlier in the year than the photo I posted of this last winter, but having it bloom in February isn’t at all unusual. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) got its name for a reason. It’s a native of Europe, from southern France to Bulgaria and it’s also adapted to grow under black walnut, which produces the natural herbicide juglone (a.k.a. 5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthalenedione) that inhibits many plants from growing too close (and thus competing for resources). Eranthis is a pretty little things, lighting up an otherwise brown garden in the depths of winter. Even if this winter hasn’t been all that deep so far.
This picture didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I really should have gone back inside to get my tripod, because it was not bright enough for this sort of picture without additional camera support. As a consequence, it’s a little blurry, but still a nice picture of the seed head of scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) growing in the back of our garden, right up against the fence. It’s most spectacular when in bloom, of course, with its bright red flowers, but even now, these dried flower parts are still quite pretty, especially close up.
I had meant to get out of the office today. It’s not as cold as it was and it was mostly clear today but I was quite busy and didn’t get a chance. As the sun was going down late in the afternoon it lit up the trees outside my office and I watched the bird moving about. There were quite a few starlings in the tree tops and every now and then a large group of them would fly off or another large group would join them from somewhere else. This picture is just of trees with a few large, older trees that are growing just beyond the parking lot and then the smaller trees beyond in what was a field when I started working here.
It’s nice, in the colder months when nothing is blooming outside, to have a few houseplants that provide color in a more-monochrome time of year. African violets (generally cultivars derived from Saintpaulia ionantha) are a good choice. They are quite easy to grow, you can have a bunch in a relatively small space, and they produce beautiful, if small, flowers of white, pink, purple, and blue. This one, with a mottled purple flower, is a good example. Watered once or twice a week, it’s quite happy in our kitchen with a west-facing window.
Our youth group met in an international market this evening before returning to our regular location for pizza and the bulk of the meeting. At the store, we looked at seafood. I took a few pictures (I know, can you believe it?) including this one of bok choy or Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis). I bought a Spanish mackerel, filleted (my post for tomorrow will feature that, actually) and some oyster mushrooms. There was also a bin with turtles in it. I thought of posting a picture of them, but too many people would have thought of them as pets and we were in a grocery store.
It was a dreary, rainy day today but it wasn’t actually raining when I had to walk over to another building for a meeting. As I often do, I took my camera with me and took some pictures of crab apples on a tree between the parking lot and pond below my building. I love crab apples and in general would probably favor them over flowering cherries as ornamental trees. If nothing else, they provide two seasons of interest although many of them may be fairly susceptible to rust and black spot. If you are shopping for a crab apple, disease resistance my be the first thing you want to look into. In terms of fruit, smaller might be better unless you don’t mind them dropping onto your lawn. I am personally partial to yellow fruit, as seen here.
Most people are at least aware of nutmeg as a spice. It is the seed of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia and grown throughout the tropics of Asia and South America. Like all herbs and spices, it’s an aromatic that loses it’s aroma over time so you don’t want to buy more than you will use in a relatively short time. With nutmeg, buying whole seeds and grating it as needed extends its useful life considerably. The seed on top here has been grated down, showing a cross section of the internal structure of the seed.
I love a good forest. I guess I’m particularly partial to temperate hardwood forests because that’s what I know best, although the southeast Alaska’s rain forest is pretty amazing, too. But we don’t have to look far to find small pockets of forest, even in our almost entirely suburban county. As the crow flies, this is about two thirds of a mile from our house. It’s not actually a deep, dark forest, certainly not a Mirkwood of Fangorn but it’s at the very least a ‘wood.’ I love the color of beech leaves in winter, particular in contrast to the pale grey of their bark.
I went for a short walk today, going through the woods and across the street to a small pond and back. I took some pictures of grass seeds and then stopped when I saw the light shining through this sycamore leaf. I love the bright yellow of the leaf and the dark brown of the veins. Sycamores are not really known for their spectacular fall color as their leaves often are brown by the time they fall but the leaves do often pass though yellow on their way to brown, as you can see.
The fall color continues to fade, but there are still some good instances here and there. The Bradford pears are notable for their fall color and in this picture I think you can see why. The Bradford pear is a cultivar of Pyrus calleryana, native to China and Vietnam. When they were beginning to be used, they were the only pear variety around so they didn’t set fruit but now there is enough variation in them that they pretty much all do. They do make a good show but I wouldn’t really recommend them in most situations. There are much better choices, anyway.
Oriental or Asiatic bittersweet, Celastrus orbiculatus, is an invasive species in our area. There’s a fair amount of it about, climbing up into trees. This vine is growing into a small tree on the other side of the woods from my office. It gets full afternoon sun and it’s quite happy there. Of course, multiflora roses (Rosa multiflora), Japanese and Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica and L. maackii), porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata), mile-a-minute vine (Persicaria perfoliata), and tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima) to name only a few, are also in profusion through the area, so a little bittersweet is the least of our problems. It’s also quite pretty.
Because it gets dark about the time I leave work, if I’m going to take pictures outdoors I have to go out during the day. It’s actually a good thing, because it breaks up my day and gets me out of my chair. It isn’t exactly vigorous exercise but at least I’m moving about. Today I went out shortly after noon and went along the edge of the woods. I took some pictures of bright red oak leaves and then saw these teasels (Dipsacus Sp.) growing on the bank sloping down from the road. I especially like the curly bits, which I think add a bit of whimsy to the spiny bracts.
According to Wikipedia, the species Dipsacus includes about 15 species native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. They are considered an invasive species here, although I think in the scheme of invasive species, they are not as noxious as some others I can think of. This is most likely Dipsacus fullonum, the common of fullers teasel.
No, this isn’t really called Zelkova Lane, but at least for this stretch of Norbeck, I think it could be. Zelkova serrata, the Japanese zelkova, is a really nice tree and should be grown more. As you can see, they turn a beautiful rust color in the fall. I’m not sure it’s the perfect tree for roadway medians like this, but then, few trees do well past a certain size when their root zones are so limited. These are just getting to that size where their roots cannot support any more upstairs and they are starting to die. Those on the side of the road are doing a lot better, though, and should have quite a few more years in them.
Fleurette mums are a group of Chrysanthemum hybrids made between a domestic and a wild, Asiatic Chrysanthemum. They tend to be a more compact and are (like most mums) quite easy to care for and have flowers that last a good, long while. These are technically my mum-in-law’s mum, but that wouldn’t have been as good in the title. These are in a small pot on her kitchen table and are quite cheerful.
After voting today, I drove back to the office by way of Lake Needwood. The trees are a little past peak, I’d say (boy, that was fast) but are still quite beautiful. Also, the little bits of cloud contributed to the variety of colors. I’ll probably have a few more fall-color pictures for you, but it won’t be long until they are replaced by branches, dried leaves, and wintry scenes. While all the seasons have something to recommend them, for me, autumn is the prettiest, followed by Spring. But spring is followed by summer, which means heat, and I’m less fond of that than cold. I’m looking forward to the winter.
At the other end of our neighborhood is a yard with a few absolutely beautiful Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) and every fall I look forward to seeing them. This is often the more ‘plain’ of the two most prominent trees but at this point in the fall, it’s the more spectacular of the two. The other is not a pure a red but is more mixed with reds and oranges throughout. As I drove past this afternoon, I stopped, grabbed my camera, and took a few pictures from my car. It’s possibly not as good a picture as I could have gotten, but it does show the bright color of the tree. I’m really enjoying the autumn and it’s going to be done all too soon.
The walnuts are falling in great numbers from the many black walnut trees (Juglans nigra) around my office building. I suppose it would be strange if they were falling from anywhere else. The ground under them is covered quite densely, in some places the ground is almost entirely covered with walnuts varying in color from bright chartreuse in the newly fallen fruit to almost black in those that have been on the ground a little while. There are a couple picnic tables along the edge of the woods and the squirrels seem to enjoy using those for their walnut meals. I did move these closer together but they were on the table, along with a bunch of smaller pieces.
I was in a different neighborhood this evening and went into an shopping center I don’t usually visit. On the way in a saw these little flowers and when I was done shopping I took the time to get some pictures. The bright red leaves with beautiful, blue flowers were quite striking. Cathy recognized it as plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides), which is a perennial hardy to USDA zone 6. I know I’ve seen it before but don’t remember seeing the fall color, which is reason enough to get some a sunny spot in the garden.
As I was driving home, I stopped at a traffic light (like you do) and looked to my left. This is what I saw. I thought, that’s pretty nice, with the late afternoon sun shining on it. So, I picked up my camera (which I try to keep within reach most of the time) and took five pictures before the light turned green. From this distance, I’m not 100% sure what kind of tree is was, but at a guess, I’m going to say it’s a mockernut hickory (Carya tomentosa. The dark red leaves in the lower right are on a Bradford-like pear (Pyrus calleryana).
There are not nearly as many flowers left in the yard as we approach the end of October. We’ll still have some warm days (today was in the 80s!) but in general, plants are switching into autumn mode. Annuals, of course, don’t have the luxury of going dormant so they can overwinter and start up again in the sprint. So, some of them bloom until the cold kills them once and for all. Marigolds (Tagetes species and cultivars) are a good example. This is one that Cathy planted in a small bed where a dead tree was removed. The bees, of course, are still active and looking for anything they can get. This is an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica).
The colors are getting better on a daily basis and by next week they should be at peak in the area. Looking out my window at work, there are lots of yellows on the willow oaks and walnuts. The two large elms are still bright green with only a hint of yellow around the edges. The Virginia creeper has mostly passed red into leaflessness. At home, though, where this picture was taken, the two maples in the back yard are at their reddest best. The red oaks in the front have barely started to change and won’t until after the maples are bare.
I walked back from the other building through the woods again late this afternoon and took a few pictures of the fall color. So far, while there are some spectacular trees about, the overall color scene isn’t as great as some years. It isn’t at peak yet, though, and I suspect it will be getting better over the next week or two. This maple is pretty nice so I’m sharing it with you. I hope you don’t mind that there will be a few more like this until they leaves are all down. I do love the fall. It’s cool, the trees are beautiful, bugs are less of a problem, and I love being outdoors. Of course, it also gets dark earlier, but that’s the price we pay.
This little wild aster, the smooth white oldfield aster (Symphyotrichum racemosum) is differentiated from the similar calico aster (Symphyotrichum laterifolium) by having its flowers all or mostly on one side of the stem. These are quite common in our area and are, according to the USDA, found throughout the east all the way to Texas, Missouri, and Wisconsin. I think the flowers are quite pretty individually but since they mostly form large clusters that’s how they are really seen.
Dorothy had a two of these Thanksgiving cacti (cultivars of Schlumbergera truncata) at school with her but she didn’t have a place for them this year so they stayed here. We have had them in a westward facing window in our dining room and this one has started to bloom. In the week between when I took this and now, when I’m posting it, the other one has started to bloom, also. Thanksgiving cactus can be differentiated from Christmas cactus by its pointy teeth on the leaf-like stem segments and from the flowers, which are held more horizontally and which are less symmetrical on Thanksgiving cacti. On Christmas cactus, which are cultivars of S. russelliana, the stem segments are rounded and the flowers hang down more and are more symmetrical. Both come from a small area of the coastal mountains of south-eastern Brazil.
Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) turns a beautiful red in the autumn and that, along with the dark purple fruit make it a nice ornamental. I’m not sure if it’s because it is native and grows naturally all around the area but it doesn’t seem to be cultivated. Certainly not as much as it’s more upscale east Asian cousin, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, a.k.a. Boston ivy. They both give a wonderful fall display and perhaps the more maple like leaves of Boston ivy is in its favor. But Virginia creeper is a bit hardier (but they can both take significant cold). Anyway, it’s growing throughout the woods around my office and giving me some nice color to see out my window.
Cathy bought this plant this spring and it’s been in constant bloom all summer and is still putting on a pretty good show out our kitchen door. We’ve had cleome before and sometimes it is tall and spindly but this one has a nice, bushy habit, just the right height (it’s growing in a large pot, which adds to its apparent height), and with stems sturdy enough that they haven’t blown over even in the storms we had on occasion. I highly recommend this variety, if you can find it.
Fall is well and truly here now and the weather has been beautiful. We were spared any significant rain from Hurricane Matthew and today was clear, breezy, and cool. In the mid afternoon Cathy and I took a walk along the north side of Lake Frank. I carried my camera but only a single lens, the 70-300mm zoom. That, unfortunately, is not ideal for macro shots because it doesn’t have a very close minimum focus. Still, I was able to get this picture of some tiny mushrooms growing out of a root crossing the path. If I had brought the macro lens, I’m sure I could have come back with a better version of this.
I wandered around the yard this evening looking for things to photograph. I took some pictures of ferns in the shade garden at the north corner of our yard but I decided they were not all that interesting. Perhaps that’s nothing new around here. Perhaps. But I try, I really do. I sat on the front walk looking at the pink flowers on the hardy begonia that’s been blooming there all summer. It’s very happy and the flowers, while not individually showy, are pretty and in mass, particularly when seen against the bright green leaves, are very nice. Here is a close up, showing the unusual, yellow stigma this flower has.
We had some trees taken out a few years ago and their roots are rotting. They are underground and out of site but the mushrooms are a pretty good sign that the wood is being broken down. The mushrooms are quite happy and are scattered through the area around where the trees were growing. I got down on the ground to take some pictures of them and after a while I noticed this spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata) on the underside of one of the mushrooms. Getting a picture looking up at the underside of the mushroom was a bit tricky, but I managed it and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
We have weeds in our yard and garden. Boy do we ever. This is nothing new, of course, it’s been going on since God said to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field.” (Gen. 3:17b-18) So, in keeping with the curse, we have both thorns and thistles. We also have pokeweed, bindweed, wild violets, and all sorts of weed grasses. Just because a plant is a weed, that doesn’t mean it cannot be beautiful, of course, and I think this seed head from one of the grasses in our garden is quite lovely. It still needs to be pulled up, but it’s lovely.
It was a beautiful fall day today and I went up to the farm with Ralph, Tsai-Hong, Iris, and Seth. We had a great time just hanging out and enjoying the cool day and a nice fire where we cooked lunch. I took some pictures, of course, and this is one of them. Actually, when I saw the goldenrod (Solidago sp.) and noticed lots of small creatures on the flowers, I assumed they would be goldenrod soldier beetles (goldenrod soldier beetle). They were not. There were dozens of these pretty little moths, the ailanthus webworm (Atteva aurea).
These dried rosebuds are in a mug on a shelf in our family room. As you can see, they are a little dusty. Rosebuds are not the easiest thing in the world to dust, of course, and add to that our slightly slovenly lifestyle (we are not overly fastidious in terms of dust here and there, I must admit) and you’ll understand that they have been mostly untouched for a significant period. In fact, neither Cathy nor I know what occasion they commemorate. We both assume it was a wedding anniversary, but beyond that, we don’t know. We’ve had 32 of them, and off the top of my head I know where we were for a few of them. I know that on our 10th I got Cathy ten dozen roses, but I’m pretty sure these are not from that year. I don’t suppose it really matters.
I’m anything but a fan of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense) in terms of its growth in our garden. That’s not, however, to say that it cannot be quite beautiful. I just wish it would be beautiful somewhere else. Its flowers are not nearly as showy as bull thistle (C. vulgare) and it’s quite hard to eradicate from a garden, once it’s gotten a hold there (which it does with relative ease). We pull a huge number of these every year and every year there seem to be more than the year before. There was a small pile of pulled thistle in the grass and I decided the seeds with their fluffy tufts of thistledown would be good for a picture or two. This is my favorite, not so much of the seeds and thistledown, but of the remains of the flowerhead and related structure. I think it’s quite lovely. Now get off my lawn!
A few years ago, Cathy had a pot with begonias in it, sitting on the corner of our front walk, just outside our front door. Now, the pot and its begonia are long gone, but the plant lives on, having moved itself out of the pot and into the ground around our front porch. It’s quite healthy and happy, with small, pink flowers and bright green leaves. I love both the texture and the shape of the leaves, as well as their color, which I think I mentioned is bright green. This spot seems perfectly suited to the plant, just the right amount of sun, protection, and the occasional watering, both natural and manual.
Due to a workstation crash (from which I’m still recovering backed up data) I’m a week behind in posting here. This is the psot from last Thursday, September 1. It was a beautiful day and finally has cooled off considerably. The high today was in the mid 80s and it was wonderful. After work, Cathy and I took a walk in the woods near Lake Frank. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, but by the abandoned parking lot overlooking the lake, there were lots of thistles blooming. I like this picture and like it all the more for the moth that I didn’t see while I was taking the picture. It is an ailanthus webworm moth (Atteva aurea), and even out of focus as it is, it is quite distinctive with its pattern of orange, black, and white.
Liriope is a genus of grass-like, flowering plants from East Asia. It makes a nice ground cover when grown in quantity, although it’s fairly slow to fill in, so you’ll need to plant quite a few plants to really cover the ground. It’s also enjoyed by rabbits. We have some growing along the edge of a bed under a Colorado spruce and it gets eaten back fairly regularly. It generally recovers but who knows how it would look if it didn’t have to deal with that? The name comes from Greek mythology. To quote from Wikipedia, “Liriope is a Boeotian naiad, who was probably the daughter of one of the Boeotian or Phocian river Gods. Liriope was loved by the river-god Cephissus, who was himself the son of Oceanus and Tethys, and bore his son Narcissus.”
It’s still summer here, but some things have finished blooming and moved into autumn mode. The various species of Asclepias in the yard is a good example, with its flowers having faded and with seed pods bursting with the characteristic silky, filament-like coma or pappus. As the seed pod opens and the coma dry out, they are borne by the wind and the seeds deposited far and wide (to grow as weeds in someone else’s yard. Actually, we’ve had some come up in our yard, which we consider a good thing. But you have to either recognize what a small Asclepias looks like or let your weeds grow a bit before you pull them.
The pictures from out yard which I post here are often close up shots of flowers of things found in the yard. Today I thought I’d give a wider view. I know I’ve done this before and our yard isn’t anything special but that’s what I thought I’d do. Cathy was cutting the grass in the back today so I included her in the picture. It’s been quite warm recently and fairly humid, or to put it another way, typical summer weather here in Maryland, hot and steamy, but we haven’t had anything approaching the drought conditions we get some years. That means the grass has kept growing through the summer, which looks nice but it means it needs to be cut. Anyway, the black-eyed Susans are nice.
Late each spring, when the danger of frost is past, we move our large clivia out into the shade of a viburnum bush. As forest undergrowth plants from South Africa and Swaziland, clivia can’t take full sun but very much likes the fresh air humidity of a Maryland summer. Apparently they can be brought into bloom in the winter if treated properly but ours seems to bloom in the summer or early fall without any special treatment. It’s a lovely plant and I find it a bit surprising it isn’t grown more. It’s quite easy to care for and even when not blooming has lovely, green, strap-like leaves to brighten up a room. You really should get yourself one. As for flowers, there are yellow, orange, and red varieties, so pick what suits you best.
I didn’t take very many pictures today and most of those I took didn’t turn out too well, but because I did take some and because I’m doing my best to keep up this one picture a day thing for a bit longer (I’m at 2050 consecutive days at this point, a little over five and a half years), this is what you get. It isn’t a bad picture, but that’s about it. If you like yellow or if you are particularly fond of black-eyed Susans you might even think it’s a nice picture. But it’s a picture. I promise to have better pictures from time to time. Of course, I can probably also promise to have worse pictures now and then. Most of them, I guess, are closer to average.
We’re back from the beach and the black-eyed Susans are in full bloom all around our yard. There were some blooming when we left but there is no question they are at their peak now. They bloom along with and complement the Verbena bonariensis, sometimes known as tall verbena or purpletop vervain (although we don’t happen to use those names).
My camera has a hard time when I take pictures with a lot of yellow in them. The auto-white balance doesn’t know that it’s supposed to be yellow and tries to ‘fix’ it. The result is quite blue outside the yellow parts and I have to adjust for it after the fact. Not a bit deal, but interesting that yellow is the color most likely to confuse the camera.
Per the Missouri Botanical Garden, Origanum ‘Kent Beauty’ “is a hybrid ornamental oregano (O. rotundifolium x O. scabrum) that is grown primarily for its attractive flowers and foliage.” Cathy has had some growing in our garden off and on for many years and we love its delicate, pink flowers, as well as the pale leaves. It’s not completely hardy here but makes it through all but the worst winters and grows quickly enough to be treated as an annual. We don’t use it for cooking for two main reasons: the leaves are not pungent enough for that and we have regular oregano growing in our little fenced herb garden.
Some weeks I expect to have things to take pictures of but it works out that I don’t and I have to work to keep this thing going. Other weeks I somehow know ahead of time that it’s going to be busy and it’s going to be a struggle. This is one of those weeks. I don’t have a lot extra happening and in fact a couple days I don’t have anything after work, but I just have a feeling it’s going to be a dry week. This evening it rained, actually, so not dry in the literal sense. I love the colors of the garden in the rain. They are more intense when the sun isn’t so bright on them. This picture really doesn’t do it justice, but the yard looks nice right now. Unfortunately, the forecast is for hotter each day this week and approaching 100°F by the weekend. Not looking forward to that.
I was over at Laurie and David’s house this evening and, as always, I stopped to smell the roses, metaphorically speaking. In particular, I got down on the ground to spend a little time up close with a few zinnias. Most people who know me well have found my lying on the ground in a garden at one time or another, or at least know it’s something I do. Paul and Janet got there while I was thus and commented on it. They weren’t particularly surprised to find me like that, though.
With David, Maggie, and Laura in town for a few days, we had one day to do a significant outing and because Laura was only going to be here through this afternoon, that meant it would be today. We started off at the National Arboretum, where we enjoyed the capital columns, the bonsai and Penjing collection, the herb garden, and the Morrison shade garden.
From there, we drove downtown to the United States Botanic Garden, located at the east end of Maryland Avenue just below the US Capitol building. This is easily one of my favorite places in Washington. The Institute’s garden was established by Congress in 1820 and it moved to its present location in 1933. The Garden includes the conservatory, the National Garden, and Bartholdi Park. This is a view of the capital building from the garden in front of the conservatory.
Cathy and I did a bit of work in the garden today. She was mostly weeding and I was working on the roses along the back fence. I have (or had, actually) one rose that has become infected with rose rosette disease, which is caused by a virus (Emaravirus sp.) that is spread by a very small, eriophyid mite. There is no cure and in order to protect other roses, the infected plant must be removed and destroyed. So, I fought with rose branches, scratching my arms up a little. I also cut back another rose that is growing quite vigorously.
In the process I pulled off a few flowers from the Monarda growing next to the rose. This is a rather close view of a Monarda flower, taken with both the flower and the camera resting on the ground so I could use a longish exposure (1/3 second at f/32).
We were over at Cathy’s mom’s this evening, doing a few things. Cathy planted some annuals in the pots on her driveway and I replaced the two buttons for her doorbell, neither of which was working. While Cathy finished up with the plants and before we went out for dinner, I took some pictures. While I was near the Nandina domestica (sometimes called heavenly bamboo for reasons that seem a bit tenuous to me) a bumble bee (Bombus impatiens, a common eastern bumble bee) came around, testing the flowers. This isn’t the sharpest picture of a bumble bee I’ve gotten but it’s the best of what I got on this occasion. I suspect there will be more bee and wasp pictures coming here in the weeks ahead. It’s that time of year.
The beebalm (Monarda didyma) in our yard is in full, magnificent bloom. There is a good size patch against the back fence and another on the south end of the house in front of the rose trellis. They are both quite striking right now, either from a distance, as a mass of bright red or close up, revealing the interesting flower structure of this member of the mint family. This picture is a bit much, with the red on red because of the blooms in the background. Nevertheless, I picked it because I think the flower in the center looks a bit like a set of deer antlers. I like that about it.
The coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in our yard is coming into bloom. It isn’t particularly purple at first, but they will darken as they open. I love the orange and green of the florets, the individual flowers, that are developing in the center of the flower head. At this stage they are still buds, unopened and shaped like spikes. When they open, then the bees and butterflies will come and pollinate them and the cycle of life will continue.
Mom and I went up to the farm today for a short visit. I have a few things I wanted to do but mostly it was to get away and relax a little. It was warm but not terribly hot and in the shade, with a gentle breeze blowing, it was very pleasant. Of course I brought my camera and took pictures of a few things that are blooming right now. This is bird’s-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), also known as bird’s-foot deervetch. It’s a beautiful, little flower and, like most legumes they have a symbiotic relationship with a nitrogen-fixing bacteria called Rhizobia which makes them particularly good for the soil in which they grow.
I was out in the back yard after work today and looking for things to photograph. I started by taking pictures of a little bit of fluff. I think it was a seed from a milkweed plant, although those are just blooming now, so it seems a bit early. Perhaps it was from something else. Then I photographed the flowers on an Egyptian walking onion (Allium × proliferum) growing in my herb garden. When I turned around I noticed a dandelion (Taraxacum sp.) growing in the lawn (not just one, actually, but this is the only one I photographed). It had gone to seed and most of the seeds had been blown away by the wind to torment our neighbors (or possibly to continue tormenting us, or course).
I wanted to photograph it in a way that was a little different. I got down on the ground and looked up at the seeds still remaining on the plant. I had my 100mm macro lens with a 25mm extension tube which together is a bit long, but I was able to get below the seeds and still see through the viewfinder. I don’t know that it’s a great picture, but I’m pleased enough with it. It’s a different view, if nothing else.
It was another beautiful day today. Hot but not terribly muggy and there was a nice breeze. Cathy asked what I wanted to do for Father’s day so we drove up to Lilypons in Adamstown for a while. Since 1925, it has been operating at its current location, bought by G. Leicester Thomas, Sr. and was initially called Three Springs Fisheries (founded in 1917). The name of the company wasn’t actually changed until 1978 but in 1930 a post office was established which sort of makes it an official ‘town’ and it was called Lilypons after Leicester’s favorite operatic diva, Lily Pons.
We weren’t there to buy anything this time but to see the water lilies that were in bloom, along with various other water loving plants including pickerel rush and lotus. We watched the koi in one pond for a while and spotted quite a few turtles. No snakes this time, although we’ve seen copperheads there in the past. Because of the breeze there were no bugs to speak of, either, which was a bonus. If you go, unless you plan to stay close to the building and rectangular pools with potted plants, I’d recommend long trousers, socks, and shoes. There’s a fair amount of poison ivy about the place and you’re better safe than sorry. But it’s definitely worth a visit.
Well, we’re back out in the yard today. This evening I took a bunch of pictures of the flowers on some feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) growing on the north end of our house. It’s quite happy there and brightens up the shade quite well. We’re in a bit of a lull right now, with only a few things blooming (mostly the day lilies). In the morning, the Tradescantia (spiderwort) blooms but by the time it gets hot, they close up. There is also some evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa). And then there is the feverfew.
I mentioned on Friday that the daylily ‘Stella De Oro’ was blooming a little ahead of the ‘regular’ daylilies. Well, only slightly ahead. This is that regular daylily of which I spoke, Hemerocallis fulva. It’s considered an invasive in some areas and you will, indeed, see it growing along the roadside or in otherwise abandoned areas. On the hill behind our Pennsylvania property there is an old, long-abandoned homestead. There is a hole where the house used to be and the foundation of the chimney. The house may be gone but there is a large area covered with daylilies and Vinca minor that seems to be a more enduring legacy than even stone (because stone is taken for other uses. Actually, the daylily pictured here was taken from there, as well, but I’m certain that the gap has been filled again. These were taken from there, planted in our yard in Gaithersburg. Then a few roots from there were taken when we moved, stored in containers for a year, before being planted here.
Cathy bought this little cleome plant recently and it is destined for a container in the back yard. I know that’s were it will go because, although I took this picture on June 13, I’m writing this on June 18 and it’s already been planted. I like cleome quite well. Cleome hassleriana is a half-hardy annual and does reasonably well here although very cold winters generally mean we have to start over with purchased plants. It will self seed fairly well so this one should give us a few years worth of enjoyment (unless we have another very cold winter, of course).
I spent a few hours at Roclkands Farm today. For a while I visited with friends. I held little Charlie while his parents packed the car and I chatted with Janis about this and that. After Greg and Anna left with the boys, I wandered out to take pictures of the animals. There is a litter of pigs a few weeks old in addition to the other, older pigs. Of course there are also the usual cattle, sheep, and chickens. There is a small wildflower garden on the property and I stopped there to take a few pictures including this one, which I think turned out nicely.
This little daylily (Hemerocallis) is named ‘Stella De Oro’ and it’s a very popular these days, bordering on (or possibly crossing over into) overuse. Like all daylilies, it really needs full sun to bloom well and can do with a good feeding of fertilizer but taken care of properly it will reward you with outstanding and abundant blooms. It starts a little earlier than my ‘normal’ daylilies (Hemerocallis fulva, I assume) and also bloom a little later into the summer. They are considerably smaller and don’t spread as fast, needing to be dug up and divided if you want to cover more ground a bit faster.
These are varied carpet beetles (Anthrenus verbasci) on some sort of wild parsnip relative (similar to Queen Anne’s Lace, but not that). These little beetles, measuring only about 3mm in length, are often found indoors and eat stored food products (e.g., biscuits, cakes, seeds, wheat, maize, oats, rice, cayenne pepper, cacao, and dried cheese). They also are considered to be the world’s most important pest of insect collections. The adults feed on pollen, and that’s what these little fellows (or ladies, I really don’t know) are up to.
As I left work today I decided to wander off into the woods for a while and take a few pictures. Of the three dozen or so that I took, most of them are of leaves and all of them are predominately green. Some were of bramble buds, which are covered with red hairs but the overall effect of the picture is still green. In this one, of a single leaf of a tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), there is a bit of reddish tint in the leaflets, but still, it’s a green picture. The glossy leaves with their touch of color are quite beautiful, even if the tree is a fairly weedy invasive in our area.
The Asiatic lilies in our yard are starting to bloom. These have taken a few years to become established but they certainly are worth the wait. This one happens to be growing in a container on the back patio but there are a few others just like it around the yard. There are some really amazing colors available in both Asiatic and Oriental lilies and I need to plant more. The Oriental lilies are taller and also generally have very strong fragrance, while the Asiatics have little or no fragrance. They certainly are beautiful, though, and are worth having. They also bloom at different times, with the Asiatics blooming first. We also have some tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) but they won’t be blooming for a while yet.
Most of our garden beds are made up of woody shrubs and herbaceous perennials. The only real exception is the area where an oak tree used to be along the front of our yard (and it’s mostly in the county right-of-way, actually). Cathy plants annuals there to provide a bunch of color—yellow, orange, blue, and white—that’s easily seen from the road. In the driveway are two collections of containers. At the top, right are a mix of containers that include lots of seedlings that she plans to put in various places around the yard. On the left, seen here, are more ‘permanent’ containers that are mostly perennials but which get annuals mixed in. The large variegated Pelargonium at the top was a gift from the school for my volunteer activities this year.
Iris and Seth’s wedding weekend has finally arrived (well, if you count taking Friday off work as part of the weekend, anyway). We drove up to Pennsylvania this morning to get some of the final things done before tomorrow’s wedding. First, Cathy and I made sure the portable toilets were delivered and in the right locations. Then we went to the Round Barn to drop some things off and for me to set up the photo booth. Cathy and Tsai-Hong left to go to the farm and while they were there (and I was still working on the photo booth) it rained. I mean, it really rained. By the time I got to the farm, the rain had stopped but the ground was really wet. The few cars that came up to the cabin tore up the ground a bit and we stopped others from driving that far so it wouldn’t get any worse.
But about this tree. Iris and Seth wanted to plant a tree as part of their wedding but didn’t want to interrupt the ceremony long enough to do the whole thing, so they did most of the work today, a day ahead. Iris’s brother, Steve, dug the hole for them and the two of us carried the tree down from mom’s van. Then Seth and Iris did the actual planting. Tomorrow, during the service, they will put a few final shovels of dirt on it. Later we’ll put a fence around it to keep animals off and I’ll stake it to keep it upright until it has enough roots growing into the undisturbed soil around it.
The tree the picked is a black gum, also known as a tupelo. It is a variety called ‘Red Rage’ and is a lovely tree with shiny green leaves and spectacular fall color and with berries that attract birds. It was also picked as a tree likely to do well in both wet and drought conditions (i.e., “…for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health…”).
This little rose called ‘Perle d’Or’ is growing outside our front door. A few years ago it was a seven foot tall shrub but the winters of 2014 and 2015 each had very cold spells and killed back all of the taller canes. It’s much smaller than it was, less than five feet at the tallest point. This last winter was much milder in terms of temperature, though, and didn’t do so much damage and it will probably come back strong. It’s covered with these petite pink blossoms that are wonderfully fragrant. On a humid evening (like we’ve had the last week) they are really nice.
We have some Coreopsis in the bed at the back of our yard. That bed actually needs a bit of work, but this is a fairly reliable little perennial that I’d hate to lose to any renovation. It’s a very cheery orange color and although later in the summer that would be drowned out by all the black-eyed Susans, at this time of year, before even the day lilies have started to bloom, it’s quite welcome. We’ve had other Coreopsis plants but they haven’t done as well as this one with large petaled flowers and less feathery foliage. It’s quite happy to be mostly neglected, which is sort of what it takes in that garden.
This is a little Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’ and it’s in full bloom in our front yard. I really like this little thing, which in our yard only stands about 14 to 18 inches tall, though I’ve seen data that suggests it gets taller. It’s supposed to do well in a bog garden but ours is in a fairly dry spot, which may account for the shorter growth. It’s certainly happy there and blooms reliably. It’s usually hot by this time of year so the flowers don’t last all that long but they are great while they do.
As I said in yesterday’s post, it’s been a good spring for peonies, at least in terms of my notice of them. Today features yet another peony photograph. We were up in Pennsylvania again today, doing a bit more work towards the big wedding coming up before long. I sprayed poison ivy again and am slowly but surely getting it taken care of. It won’t be gone by the wedding, but it needs to be done in any case.
This peony is one of a few growing in front of the cabin. We cleared weeds out of the garden two weeks ago and it’s starting to look like its old self (some of the weeds were trees with trunks an inch in diameter!). There was just the one bloom on the peony but perhaps if we keep at the weeds it will do better. I thought the flower looked a bit like a rising sun and took a few photos of it.
I don’t know that this year has been anything out of the ordinary in terms of peony blooms but I think having the new peony blooming in my back yard has gotten me to look at them a bit more than normal. We have some on the end of our house but don’t go around there often enough to notice them, in particular. There is also a peony garden at Seneca Creek State Park with dozens of different peonies. Cathy and I went there once years ago and were a little disappointed in what it’s become. There is a beautiful little garden and truth be told, that alone is worth visiting. But it could be so much more. There is a field, probably six acres or so that is full of peonies. That could be so spectacular. But they only seem to cut the grass once a year (during the winter, when they can mow everything and then let the grass, poison ivy, and everything else you can imagine grow up with and around the peonies. It’s a shame because although the peonies are starting to bloom, many of them are hidden by the grass. You also want to stay out of the deep grass unless you are dressed for poison ivy, which is thick in the place. It’s still pretty but not nearly as impressive as it could be or even as we remember it (although our memories may be at fault there). The peony shown here is in the tended garden.
A few days ago this plant was a mass of buds in the rain. Now the rain has stopped and the buds are opening. Individually the flowers are not really all that amazing, five small, simple, pink petals around a bunch of yellow stamens. In mass they are quite impressive. The entire plant is turning from green to pink and will get pinker before it is done. I picked out one picture to post here and then second guessed myself. I found that I couldn’t decide which one I liked better so I’m posting them both.
Of course, like most rose species, this one only blooms once and then it’s done for the year. It also has very little fragrance. My dream is to cross this with roses that repeat and which have fragrance to get some of the multiflora vigor and disease resistance into a new group of hybrids. Whether that’s ever going to happen is anyone’s guess. Another project, even before crossing it with anything else, is an attempt to double the chromosomes. R. multiflora is, like many rose species, diploid (it has 14 chromosomes). Many hybrid garden roses, including most hybrid teas and floribundas and a lot of the roses I’d cross like to make crosses with, are tetraploid (28 chromosomes). For breeding purposes, a cross between a diploid and a tetraploid is problematic because it produces triploid offspring, which are, with notable exceptions, sterile.
We discovered Epimedium at the National Arboretum quite a few years ago and decided we needed to have some. At our old house we had at least three different varieties, blooming in red, white, and yellow. We brought some of them with us and have them in our garden here but they are all Epimedium x rubrum, a red flowered variety believed to be a cross between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum. The leaves are interesting even after the flowers have finished. They have a little red in them and they also have pretty edges with little (and soft) spines along the edges. They are quite hardy and can take anything our winters are likely to give them, as well as getting through the summer drought without any trouble. They are semi-evergreen here, basically losing their leaves by the time the new growth starts in the spring. Common names for Epimedium x rubrum include red barrenwort and bishop’s mitre.
In the fall of 2014 I planted three peonies in our back garden. Last year I saw leaves on two of them but they were barely above the top of the pachysandra amongst which they were planted. This spring I was happy to have all three of them send up leaves above the top of the pachysandra. They lived. Better still, one of them had a bud. It’s only one bud out of three plants but peonies are a long-term proposition and it should get better each year, now. They are a variety called ‘Coral Sunset’ and I think the flower is quite lovely. I’m looking forward to more flowers next year.
The rain continued today but I went out briefly to take a few pictures. The large, pink Rosa multiflora (or mostly multiflora, anyway) shrub against our back fence is covered with buds and is just starting to come into bloom. In a few days, and certainly in less than a week, it will be covered with pink flowers. At this point there are only occasional flowers and lots and lots of buds. But in the rain, even that can be pretty, I think. It builds anticipation, if nothing else.
It has been a fairly wet May this year. Not necessarily way out of character, as we often have wet weather in May, but April was so dry that in comparison, it seems wetter than normal. I don’t mind rain, in general, unless I have some outdoor activity planned that requires a bit less wetness than we generally get when it’s raining. I love a blue sky and all, but the sound of a gentle rain, the intensified colors of an overcast day, and the water droplets clinging to everything are all pretty wonderful, as well. Today was that sort of day and I took a few pictures of that water droplet thing, right outside my back door on the Tradescantia (spiderwort). This is the same plant whose purple flower I photographed (also in the rain) on Tuesday, May 03.
I wish I could post the fragrance of this rose, a largish rugosa called ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’. It was bred in France in 1901 by Jules Gravereaux and introduced by Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet in the same year. The flowers are large, about five inches in diameter and when you walk up to the plant when it’s in full bloom you get slammed by the amazingly strong and lovely clove fragrance. The flowers are beautiful, as well, of course. The plant is large and only suitable for a large space in full sun. It doesn’t have the huge thorns of many hybrid roses but the stems are completely covered with hundreds or thousands of fine prickles (some of which are fairly long). I love this rose. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and then stop and smell the roses.
The azaleas are done blooming and we’ve moved on to the next stage of spring bloom. The azaleas are not completely done, though. Although the white flowers have dried and fallen off of the bushes in front of our house, the long, white stigmata are still there, giving the entire bush a slightly airy feel. They aren’t as eye catching as the flowers, of course, but I find them interesting in their own way. Soon they, too, will be gone and the azaleas will be done for the year (and it will be time to do some much needed pruning).
We’ve never had a lot of success with rhododendrons in our garden. At our old house we had a couple that did reasonably well but they took a long time to get beyond the stage where they grow about as much as they die back every year. In our current yard we don’t have any and I’m not sure where I’d put one, although I have a couple ideas. Our next door neighbors have one, however, on the north end of their house, which is the side that faces us. We get the benefit of it from our back yard and right now it’s in full bloom and quite striking.
Cathy and I went to both Stadler’s and Johnson’s today because Cathy wanted to pick up a few things. While she shopped I took a few pictures.
This is the staminal column on a hibiscus flower. On the sides are the anthers with yellow pollen and at the top are the five, bright orange stigmata, which receive the pollen and are connected through the style to the ovary. The staminal column is fairly distinctive on hibiscus flowers, with everything on one stalk extending well out in front of the petals.
This photo would have been better if taken with a tripod but when you’re wandering around a garden center, that’s less accepted as it might be in a botanical garden or arboretum. If I had that, I would have been able to slow the shutter down a bit and gotten a bit more depth of field. Then I might be able to make out the insect that’s sitting just below the stigma farthest from the camera.
We were up in Pennsylvania again getting more work done in preparation for the wedding that’s getting nearer and nearer. Mom mentioned that I should go into the ‘back yard’ because there were some little white flowers that I’d like to photograph. So, of course I did. I’m pretty sure that this is star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), which is native to Europe and western Asia but which is fairly common now our area and is known in all but a handful of states (and in at least 7 Canadian provinces). It is a pretty (but poisonous) little thing and quite happy in the grass behind our cabin.
The chives are in bloom. Chives themselves are nice to use as a garnish and seasoning in food but I particularly like using chive blossoms. They have basically the same flavor as the leaves but add a bit of color in addition to the taste. They are only available from my garden during a short period in the spring, though, so I have to use them when I can. For a few years I’ve had a container full of chives but last year I moved some of them to a small herb garden in our yard and that’s where these are growing.
We took our annual Mother’s Day trip to the garden center this afternoon, a day before Mother’s Day, and Cathy bought a pretty good load of plants for the garden and her containers. These will be in addition to the hanging baskets she got yesterday, so it’s going to be a banner year for us. While she shopped, I wandered around taking pictures of flowers and especially enjoyed the dahlia plants, many of which were in full bloom. This one was especially nice and I like the symmetry of the petals, as well as the lovely color.
Generally Cathy likes to buy plants and put together hanging baskets for herself. That gives her the chance to be creative, to use the plants and colors that she particularly likes, and also saves money by starting with smaller plants that will quickly fill the baskets in any case. This year, however, there was an item in the school’s annual silent auction for four hanging baskets from a mostly wholesale nursery. Cathy bid on them and ended up with the high bid. Today she went and picked out the four she wanted. Three of them are going on hooks in the back yard and the fourth (the pink one in the middle of this photo) will go to her mom’s house.
Not everyone’s favorite plant, the Amur honeysuckle is a seriously invasive plant. It’s a pretty enough plant in its own right, but you should never have any qualms about pulling it up or cutting it down if it should appear in your yard. These one is growing in the woods next to my office building, where it is quite happy. In addition to the sweet smelling flowers, it will have pretty red berries (which are mildly poisonous) before too long. Still, cut it down.
We brought some columbine plants with us when we moved here from Gaithersburg, growing them in pots for the year we were in the rental house. They have done pretty well and they are scattered around our yard now. We had some that were bright red with bits of yellow on them that we dug up in what we called “plant rescue.” Most of what’s left, though, is a dusky purple color. This one, a self-seeded plant next to our front walkway, is lighter than most and I took some pictures of it this evening as we were preparing to go out. This is only a bud, of course, but I think even the buds are pretty cool, with their curled spurs.
The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.)are in full bloom in our back and side yards and they are, as always, lovely. I went out to photograph them this afternoon and this picture turned out well, I think. They are very interesting little flowers with their little yellow circle at the center. I love the blue in the open flowers and the shades of violet in the buds. They are so delicate and fine.
I took some pictures of flowers in the yard this evening, including more of the Exbury Azalea that I posted a picture of last week. The buds have opened and it’s quite beautiful (if a little smaller than it was because of the deer). I also happened to notice this dandelion flower in the back yard. It caught my eye because it was so stark and white and to me, it doesn’t look like a dandelion. It does, of course, because that’s what it is, but if asked we generally would describe a dandelion flower as yellow or, when gone to seed, as a fluff ball. Once the seeds are gone but before what’s left has a chance to dry up, this is what they look like.
It was still wet today and I only went out a little to take pictures. This hosta is called ‘Tick Tock’ and it’s a miniature that is quite happy in a container outside our front door. We like hosta a lot but the deer enjoy it in a different way (“mmmmm, hasta”from us and that’s a problem in our neighborhood (because we have deer). But right outside our front door seems to be a safe place for them and we have three different mini-hostas in three different containers and they are all doing well. This time of year, in particular, they are very happy. And that makes us happy.
I was home from work today but didn’t really feel up to much. It had been raining all day and wasn’t really a good day to go out to take pictures, especially they way I was feeling. In the late afternoon I went out the front door and took a few pictures of the white azalea blossoms on the bushes in front of the house (without even going out from under the front porch). White azaleas are a little hard to photograph well because they are so low in contrast, but the water on them makes them a little more interesting. They are actually quite a bit prettier than this picture shows.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is blooming in our yard. It’s such a happy plant this time of year and I love the delicate, little, white flowers. They have a very pretty fragrance which (of course) is especially noticeable when you are lying on the ground about a foot from them with more flowers all around. The bright green leaves are also quite pretty. They are quite tough once established but they take a while to get settled in. Once they do, I’ve seen them come up through asphalt.
It was supposed to rain today but I didn’t see any where I was. We could actually use some, as it’s starting to get a bit dry. Nothing like it will be in August, of course, but it’s April, after all, it’s supposed to rain. I took some pictures of a wild azalea this afternoon. It’s growing on the side of the road on my commute and I pulled off the road and took the pictures through the open passenger side window. Then, when I got home I took some pictures in the back yard. This is a phlox that Cathy picked up somewhere and which has just started to bloom. I kind of like this angle, looking at the flowers from the side.
Toward the end of my work day I went outside for a little while to take pictures. Lots of plants are growing and weeds, in particular, are coming up strongly. The woods beside my building is a good place for weeds, considering that’s most of what’s growing there. Garlic mustard, (Alliaria petiolata) is a biennial in the Mustard family, Brassicaceae. It is very common and invasive weed in our area, being native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa. It’s a vigorous plant and quite successful here. The leaves and stems all exude an oniony or garlicy smell, which gives it the common name I know it by (there are others). Anyway, as annoying as it is as a weed, it’s still a pretty plant with pretty little white flowers.
The Exbury azalea that Cathy bought for me last year is getting ready to bloom. I planted it near the top of our driveway, to the right where there used to be an awful holly shrub. The deer did some damage to it late last summer but what’s left of it is beginning to come to life. The flower and leaf buds are swelling and there should be some blooms in a few days. The Exbury azaleas are among the deciduous azaleas. In fact, most azalea species are deciduous but since most of us are familiar with azaleas through the proliferation of the Glenn Dale cultivars (developed by Benjamin Morrison from 1935 through 1952), which are evergreen. The Exbury hybrids were made in the 1920s by Lionel de Rothschild and their genetic makeup contains some or all of the following: R. arborescens, R. calendulaceum, R. japonicum, R. luteum, R. molle, R. nudiflorum, R. occidentale, and R. viscosum.
The dogwood in our yard are starting to bloom. The flowers are still small and there are a lot more to come bit I got a few nice pictures of some this afternoon when I got home from work. This is the native and very common flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), of course. I’m hoping to have another of the dogwood species, the European cornel (Cornus mas), once I make room for it. I have a nearly dead Colorado blue spruce that I need to cut down and I’m hoping to get that done on Saturday. Then I’ll dig up a cornel tree that’s growing next to the driveway at my mom’s and plant it there. At least that’s the plan but we’ll have to see if it actually happens. It’s a busy time of year.
I’m quite frond of ferns in general and of the northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum in particular. As I said less than a week ago, I think it is one of the prettiest of our native ferns. This is the same plant that I photographed then. I usually try not to post pictures of the same thing in the same season of the same year. That is, I might post pictures of daffodils each spring but I try not to repeat the same daffodil variety within one spring. But this photo is different enough that I think it’s justified. The fronds (that’s fern for leaves) are unrolling and the leaflets are starting to expand, opening out from the rachises. Quite dainty.
The northern maidenhair fern, Adiantum pedatum, is one of the prettiest of our native ferns. It is widely spread throughout the eastern half of the United States north of Florida, as well as Ontario and Quebec in Canada. In the spring, reddish brown fiddleheads emerge from the ground and unroll in typical ferny fashion. The stems turn a glossy black providing a dark background to the lush, bright green foliage. The plant I have has had an interesting journey and I enjoy it’s connection to my dad, who had it growing in he back yard. From there a piece made it into our garden at our previous house, then some of that lived in a pot while we rented for a year, and it’s become very well established since we moved here almost ten years ago.
I’ve been playing around with a microscope the last few days. Today I rubbed a little pollen from a daffodil onto a slide and looked at it under three different objective lenses: 10x, 40x, and 100x. The photograph here is with the highest magnification and although it isn’t the sharpest thing in the world, you can still see what the pollen looks like pretty well. I’m still learning about all the adjustments that can and should be made on this microscope and hope to have some better pictures for you in the days to come. They are about 45µm long, which isn’t particularly small when it comes to pollen, but still, small in a general sense. I’m hoping to get some oak pollen next.
Spring is in the air. It was cool and wet yesterday, with heavy rain all morning and showers and wing in the afternoon. Today was cool and dry with a fair amount of breeze. The forecast is for a freeze overnight and the possibility of snow tomorrow. Not snow that accumulates on the ground, but snow or at the least freezing rain. But it’s spring and that’s what spring looks like in the mid-Atlantic region. One day it will be in the mid 70s, the next night we can have a hard frost. Some days the sky is a wonderful, cheerful blue, others it’s grey and dreary. But that’s spring. I love spring.
This is a daffodil called ‘Falconet’ (division 8, Tazetta). I have a bunch of them growing around the eastern edge of the bed under our Colorado spruce (on the side towards the road). The spruce isn’t doing very well and probably needs to be taken out and replaced with something else. But the daffodils and other things growing under it are doing pretty well. We had a fair amount of rain today. That didn’t bother me too much but a bunch of my coworkers were heading to the National’s home opener and the weather could have been a lot better for them. But that’s the way it goes in early April.
The fall before last I planted five Lenten rose (Helleborus) plants in three different varieties. One of them is a variety called ‘Mango Magic’ and that’s what this flower is. The other two are called ‘Rose Quarts’, and ‘Red Racer’ and I planted two each of those two. This one is doing the best of them, though, having bloomed last year as well. It’s still small but these things are incredibly hardy and will eventually get themselves set for the long haul. They were bought as quite small plants from McClure and Zimmerman: http://www.mzbulb.com/.
We have this little shrub by the top of our driveway. It is a dwarf flowering almond, Prunus glandulosa and it blooms reliably and beautifully each spring. I sort of expected it to get larger but it dies back a bit in cold winters and we’ve had a couple of them lately. That’s a bit surprising, as it is listed as being hardy to zone 3, but there you are. This past winter wasn’t particularly cold, so maybe this will be its year. The flowers are small, only about a half inch across, but are jammed with petals of a lovely pink.
I’ve planted quite a few little Muscari bulbs over the nine years we’ve lived in this house and many of them are in full bloom right now. This one, I’m pretty sure I didn’t plant. It’s growing in our lawn in the back yard, about eight feet from the nearest flower bed and at least 20 feet from the nearest Muscari that I planted.
Because I assume it’s a seedling and because even if a squirrel dug it up and replanted it, I don’t know which variety of Muscari it is. I’ve planted three, M. armeniacum, M. neglectum, and M. latifolium. So, it’s probably one of those or possibly a hybrid (I don’t know how easily they hybridize).
It isn’t in a very good place because the first time the grass is mown, it’s going down. I should dig it up and plant it somewhere safer before that, but the grass is getting long and I probably don’t have more than a week, if that.
Considering how often I’m complemented on identification of insects and flowers, I really should learn to identify these a bit better. This is a white, but I really don’t know for sure which one. It’s possible that it’s a cabbage white (Pieris rapae) with the black spot on the forewing hidden by the hindwing. My guess, though, is that it’s a West Virginia white (P. virginiensis). But that’s a guess. We’ll see if the experts at BugGuide.net can tell me for sure. The daffodil I’m sure of, however. It is a variety called ‘Actaea’, a poeticus daffodil (division 9), planted in the late fall of 2009.
Magnolia × soulangeana, also known as the saucer magnolia, is a hybrid between M. denudata and M. liliiflora. The cross was first made in 1820 by Frenchman Étienne Soulange-Bodin (1774–1846), a retired cavalry officer in Napoleon’s army, at his château de Fromont near Paris. They are quite extensively used in our area and are quite beautiful. Their flowers range from nearly pure white to fairly dark pink, almost purple. There are very similar trees with yellow flowers but these are a somewhat different hybrid, between M. acuminata and M. liliflora, and called Magnolia x brooklynensis, first made by Mrs. Evamaria Sparber at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. In any case, they are lovely flowers and bloom early, so are quite welcome after winter.
Sorry for the delay in getting pictures up from the last few days. Rest assured they are coming (for the very few of you who actually come here to read this text). It’s been a busy weekend and I have some pictures for you. On Thursday (which is ‘today’ in terms of the posting date) we went to Laurie and David’s in the evening for a small Maundy Thursday gathering. We were a few minutes early so I took some pictures of the daffodils in their front yard. It was just getting dark and some of them didn’t turn out, because I didn’t have a tripod with me, but a few turned out alright, including this one of a nice two-color daffodil.
Along with the Chionodoxa that was featured here a few days ago, the Siberian squill (Scilla siberica), is now in full bloom. There are some named varieties of this, as well, but for my money, there isn’t much to improve on over the species. The blue flowers are quite beautiful and borne in abundance. I don’t know that I could have too much of this and I certainly don’t have enough. They are especially beautiful when seen in bright shade, when the blue is most intense.
The daffodils in our yard are in full bloom. Well, some of them are, anyway. I have three types of daffodil that bloom earlier than the rest: ‘Marieke’ are big, bold, bright yellow, sort of the quintessential daffodil (Division 1 — Trumpet); ‘Tete-a-Tete’ is a smaller, more delicate daffodil with a bright yellow corona (the cup) and paler yellow perianth (the outer petals)(Division 12 — Miscellaneous); and this one, a daffodil from Division 2 (Large-Cupped Daffodils) whose name I don’t know. They are growing along our front walk, between the walk and our house, and they are quite happy there. Along with the ‘Marieke’ daffodils just outside the walk, they practically light up the walkway on a dark evening.
I went out into the woods beside my office this afternoon and took pictures of two very small flowers. The first, pictured here, are the flowers of the hairy bittercress, Cardamine hirsuta. These are a pretty significant pest weed in our lawns these days and are quite remarkable. They flower quite early in the spring and continue to produce flowers for a good while. They go from opening buds to fully ripe seeds in a remarkably short time and the seed capsules are designed to burst explosively when touched, sending the seeds flying far from the parent plant. If you walk though a lawn covered with these in seed, it’s quite an experience.
The glory-of-the-snow, more properly known as Chionodoxa, has started to bloom in our yard. This is a variety of C. forbesii known as ‘Pink Giant’ and it’s strikingly different to the regular varieties, which are generally a beautiful, pure blue. I do like this one, too, but the blue is really my favorite. The other difference is this one is noticeably taller so it’s usable when there is ground cover that would completely hide the other varieties. Anyway, another real sign of spring.
Is spring here? We’ve had snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) but I generally consider both of those to be late-winter blooms. There are daffodils blooming and in the last couple days many cherry trees have opened. I don’t mean an occasional blossom, either. These trees in King Farm were in full bloom. I was in the area to have lunch with my former (now-retired) boss and on the way back to the office I stopped to get some pictures of the cherry blossoms. It certainly felt like spring, with the high temperature being in the low 70s F.
Just over a week ago (on Saturday, February 27, 2016 to be precise) I posted a picture of the first snow drop (Galanthus nivalis) blooming in our yard. I heard from a few folks saying they had those and other things blooming. Now, near the parking lot around my building, along the edge of the woods, there are quite a few snow drops blooming. I park out that way and this morning decided to take the time to get a few pictures. One of my coworkers saw me lying on the grass and wondered momentarily if I was alright. He said he saw me lift my head and then figured out what I was doing.
I was stumped for a subject for a picture today. It was an interesting day and when I came home to Cathy’s mom’s house, I was wandering around the back yard thinking and looking for something to photograph. I found and photographed a few things that I thought would make nice images for the old blog and I decided to post this image of a stump. I really like the intersecting lines of the tree rings with the radial splits of the drying wood and then the big gap between the bark and the wood of the tree.
In addition to the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) blooming in our yard, the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is also up and out. It’s a bright yellow, so more obvious than the snow drops but it’s also quite small and there is only one small plant remaining. I really need to plant a bunch more. It is in a bed that has gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) and that doesn’t really do it any favors, although they bloom and actually do most of their growing at different times of the year. I wouldn’t mind replacing the loosestrife with something a little less vigorous (to put it mildly) and perhaps with a little more color.
Are you ready for spring? With the notable exception of that snow storm we had January 22 and 23 it’s actually been a fairly mild winter. By some reckoning spring starts this coming week here. Those of you further south may already be well into it. Of course we know that we can still have snow well into March. In any case, the snow drops are coming up and starting to bloom, so if you delineate spring by when things start to bloom, it’s here. This one is in our yard and there are others more fully open, but those were in the shade and not so suitable for photographing.
I’ve been taking and posting a photo a day for over five years now. That’s over 1,800 photos and of course some days I’ve posted multiple photos, either grouped together in one post or in separate posts. I may be overestimating the quality of some of those photos but I think that today’s photo is possibly the worst photo I’ve posted in all that time. Certainly in the bottom ten. When I took it, I thought it had promise. This tree, bare and bereft of leaves, was glittering with water droplets and in the light on the side of the building, it was sparkling and quite beautiful. Alas, this photo doesn’t even begin to capture that. It’s a photo of a tree at night, taken by artificial light. But the reality was so much more. At least I tried.
Dorothy is packing up to head back to school tomorrow and one thing she has to take back with her is a small box with a half dozen plants, including two Thanksgiving cacti. Thanksgiving and Christmas cacti are similar and related, both being cultivars of plants in the genus Schlumbergera. Christmas cactus are Schlumbergera x buckleyi, a hybrid between S. truncata and S. russelliana, while Thanksgiving cactus are S. truncata. There are a few distinguishing features of the Thanksgiving cactus, besides the earlier bloom date. The stem segments (those are stems, not leaves) have pointed teeth, their flowers are not symmetrical (the top is different to the bottom, the technical term being zygomorphic), and they have yellow pollen. The Christmas cactus has rounded stem segments, symmetrical flowers, and pink pollen. They are both native to the Organ Mountain range north of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
It has gone from temperatures in the 60s and even 70s for a couple weeks down to about 10°F this morning. It’s noticeable. Yesterday is was cold but without much frost. Today there was quite a bit of frost and I decided to spend a little time in the back yard taking pictures. This is a small sedum plant growing in a container (thus the terra cotta color in the background) on the back patio. As you can see, it’s nicely rimed with tiny ice crystals.
A few days ago I posted a picture of an amaryllis bud. In fact, it was this bud, which has now opened into a fabulous, bright red flower. This is one of four, as is usual for amaryllis blooms. We had to tie it up to a stake because it is so top heavy but that doesn’t really detract from it’s beauty. We have another coming up, so just about the time this one finishes, the next one should be about ready. It’s certainly nice to have flowers in December (and January). The orchid is still bloomimg, as well.
Dorothy is home for Christmas and when she came, she brought this amaryllis with her. Fortunately, she didn’t fly home, or that would not really have been possible. It would have been sad to have left it at school, though, because it’s going to bloom in a week or less, and it would have been done by the time she got back, particularly without any water in the meantime.
It’s sitting on our kitchen table now, and starting to open. We’re all looking forward to it’s full splendor when the four flowers open up, deep clear red.
The plant also reminds me of my dad, who liked amaryllises and would often have one at Christmas. It’s a funny old thing, life, with changes you’d rather not face or remember but which cannot be avoided. Every year seems to bring more of them (the changes) and as we get older, they seem to accelerate. I’m ever so thankful for the things we have (mostly for the people we know and love) but always conscious of those who we have lost.
I got outside again late this morning. It was quite pleasant out, warm and mostly sunny, and I walked around looking for color. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the predominant color outside now is brown. Of course, there is always a significant amount of green, as some grasses keep their color throughout the year. But other colors are a little harder to find. Many of the bramble bushes have lost their leaves and are only providing color in their rusty red stems and the red, hairy thorns that coat them. But I found one large patch that still had quite a few leaves, mostly a dark, mahogany color, but with a few that were bright crimson.
The leaves have all fallen, except those of the young beech trees and some oaks, which hold their dried leaves ’till spring. The fall color has mostly faded to brown and the brighter colors are mostly subdued. But there is still a little color to be found. This afternoon I went out into the woods beside my office and took pictures of two sources of color. This the first, is of rose hips from a multiflora rose growing among the trees, it’s bright hips happy in the afternoon sun. The other was of the red fuzz on bramble stems, forming a glowing mist in the lowering sun.
I’ve been bad about keeping the houseplants in our kitchen watered lately. I think I went about three weeks without watering our orchids, which is a bit too long. Then, earlier this week Cathy noticed that this one was in bloom. So, I guess I didn’t do any permanent harm to them. I’ve watered them now, and will try to keep it up better, but in the meantime, we’re enjoying these beautiful blooms. We’ve had this Phalaenopsis orchid for a while now and it blooms about once a year. The flowers last for more than a month, if it’s taken care of while blooming, which is pretty impressive for a flower so delicate.
It was a chilly morning today, feeling like early December, and although there was frost on the ground, I hesitated to go out to photograph it. I was too comfortable indoors. As I was taking things out to the car, though, preparing to go to work, I figured I was already out, so I might as well get down on the ground and take a few. This is a portion of a red oak leaf, rimed with tiny ice crystals, which I found quite pretty.
Do you know the story of Joseph, his brothers, and his father? Isaac loved all his children but Joseph was special in his eyes. He gave Joseph a brightly colored coat and this didn’t go down too well with his other sons, Joseph’s brothers. They didn’t treat Joseph too well. That worked out in the end but there was a long while that it seemed to be going poorly for Joseph.
Do you think other trees are envious of this oak tree? I mean, talk about a coat of many colors! Joseph’s coat has nothing on this one.
The vast majority of the trees around here have lost their leaves of most of their leaves. Those that are holding on are mostly the oaks and the beeches, which sometimes keep a significant percentage of them through the winter. One exception is the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) in our next door neighbor’s front yard. It’s not only still got most of its leaves but they are a really brilliant crimson. It won’t be long until they, too, are gone but while they last, I’m really enjoying them.
Like yesterday, I didn’t get out at all today so I figured I’d take pictures of something in the house. In addition to the orange pincushion protea (Leucospermum cordifolium) that I photographed yesterday, there are some dried statice flowers (Limonium sinuatum) in the kitchen. That’s what today’s flowers are. They really have held their color quite well and their crape paper like petals are very pretty.
I’ve had good opportunities to get fall-color related pictures or dramatic sky pictures the last few days, but today I was pretty busy at work throughout the day and didn’t get a chance to go out. So, this evening I took some pictures of a flower that is drying out in our kitchen. It is a pincushion protea (Leucospermum cordifolium) and is from a shrub native to South Africa. They make good additions to flower arrangements and are quite striking. As you can see, even after they have started to dry out, they remain quite pretty. Up close, I think of it as a Medusa flower.
I had my annual physical this morning so took a slightly different route coming in. I also had a little extra time, so I stopped to take some pictures of fall color. These are the leaves of a sweetgum tree, or maybe more properly an American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) to differentiate it from the Chang’s, Chinese, and Turkish Sweetgums, which are L. acalycina, formosana, and orientalis, respectively. If you want a tree with great fall color, this would be a good choice. You might want to look for a variety that doesn’t bear fruit, which can be an annoyance in a yard. There is also a variety called ‘Rotundiloba’ which has rounded lobes in addition to being fruitless. But the species is worthy in itself, especially if planted in a large yard away from where you want to walk barefoot.
Cathy and I worked a bit in the yard early this afternoon, filling in some bare spots with grass seed. Cathy put down some LeafGro on the bare spots and I spread the seed. I also spent a little time taking pictures. The flower bed that Cathy planted in the front of our yard, where the red oak tree used to be has done well all summer and made it through the light frosts we’ve had with the help of sheets over it at night. This is a bright, cheery marigold, petals glistening with water from recent rain.
It was another absolutely beautiful day today. Cathy had a soccer game and I was in Potomac anyway, so I decided to go for a walk on the C&O Canal. I drove out River Road and down to Swain’s Lock, walking down the towpath towards D.C. There were quite a few people out, as you’d expect on a day like this, but fewer than there would have been in summer, I suppose. It was the perfect temperature for a walk and the sky was remarkably blue. The colors in the trees seem to have passed their peak, in general, but there was still a fair amount, here and there.
The beech trees are still mostly green and the sycamores nearly bare. There was less red then one could hope for, adding exclamation points to the vistas, but there were a few places, like around this rock, where there was still a riot of color to be seen.
I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now and needed to make it soon. The sun is setting as I come home from work and lighting the Zelkova serrata trees that are planted on either side and down the middle of Norbeck Road. They have turned from their summer green to a bright rusty orange that’s really quite amazing. With the end of daylight saving time this weekend, I’ll be coming home an hour too late next week, it will already be dark, so I stopped this evening and carefully made my way to the median, where I took a few pictures.
I went for a walk early this afternoon, walking around the top half of the block my building is on. It’s a fairly large block so even my abbreviated walk was nearly a mile. I stopped fairly often and took pictures, mostly pictures of details rather than overall views. They were predominately pictures of colors that we think of as fall colors, but this first image is an exception. These are fall colors, of course, but they are not the colors we think of that way. Blues, purples, and bright greens are the colors of spring or possibly early summer. Fall is for hot colors, not these cool colors.
The second picture, of maple leaves, is much more traditionally fall-colored. The reds and oranges of maples are a big part of what we look forward to in the autumn in the mid-Atlantic states. The bright and sometimes deep reds of red maple (Acer rubrum, the bright orange of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), the deep, almost black reds of some Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) are all wonderful parts of our fall festivities.
In addition to this picture of two maple trees, I took pictures of the deeper, rusty reds and oranges of oaks, the scarlet of sumac, the fiery orange of brambles (blackberries and raspberries), and yellow and orange crab apples. There were small, red rose hips on the multiflora roses. There were also red berries against green (but occasionally maroon) leaves of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii). There were even the deep purple-blue berries of wild grapes in a few places.
What a beautiful weekend. After some cold weather last week, it’s returned to 70°F temperatures and blue skies. We did some work in the yard early this afternoon, pulling up weeds that have managed to thrive in the dry months of August and September. We also cut back some of the things that we have planted but that are spreading faster than we’d like. I took a little time to take pictures, as well. I tried to get pictures of leaves falling from the trees in the back yard but they didn’t turn out as well as I’d have liked. This picture is of a few dogwood leaves and berries, turning their traditional fall colors.
I took a bit of a hike today. Well, a walk, really. Possibly a stroll. Anyway, I went to Little Bennett State Park and parked where Clarksburg Road crosses Little Bennett Creek and walked along Hyattstown Mill Road to Kingsley Schoolhouse. From there the road turns up a very steep hill and then levels off, leading to a camping area for the park. I passed a couple on horseback heading the other direction. Beyond the camping area is a path that leads into an enchanted wood.
I don’t actually know that the wood is enchanted. This is a picture of the path, leading off into the woods. I didn’t actually see any elves. I’m not sure that I heard any, even. But then, I’m one of the clumsy folk that they tend to avoid. So, even if they were there, they would have stayed out of sight. SO, maybe this wood isn’t enchanted, but it sure looks like it might be. It was enchanting, anyway.
I took the long way home today, stopping where Needwood Road crosses Lake Needwood and spending a little time taking pictures. The sky was a remarkable blue and although there may have been years with better fall color, the trees were quite lovely today, lit by the afternoon sun. The water was mostly calm, reflecting the colors beautifully. I’d love it if the growth on the causeway leading to the short bridge over the lake was cut so there was an unobstructed view of the lake, but by standing on the guardrail, I could get a reasonable picture.
I had jury duty today, which was interesting. I can’t remember how long its been since I did that but it’s been a long time, 20 years, at least. I didn’t end up being selected for the jury but of course if I had been I would have served as best I could. I was dismissed after the one jury was seated and after stopping briefly at home I decided to go out into the woods.
The woods around here are not as thick and dense as some I’ve been in. They are not particularly ancient with most trees being less than 100 years old and only here and there a really old oak or beech tree. They also are not as impressively tall as some I’ve seen. There is not much that can compare to the Douglas fir or the coast redwoods of the northern California. Still, the eastern forest, when allowed to grow relatively unimpeded for a while, can be very pretty in its own way.
The tallest and straightest trees here are the tulip poplars (Liriodendron tulipifera). They tend to yellow and brown in autumn. That’s what most of the trees are in this picture. Of course, they are not alone. The woods here are quite varied, with oaks and maples of many types, which take much longer to get really massive, but which provide deep rusty reds and bright orange-red colors in fall. There are also many beech, sycamore, cherry, locust, walnut, sweet gum, tupelo, sassafras, elm, willow, ash, catalpa, hornbeam, hickory, alder, poplar, dogwood, and occasional stands of white pine and red cedar (to say nothing of introduced species, such as various spruce and fir, paulownia, and ailanthus. What our woods lack in size, they make up for in variety.
The autumn hasn’t been as colorful so far as some years. I think that’s mostly because of the relatively dry August and September we had. One of the two remaining maple trees in our back yard has turned red, though, and it’s quite beautiful. It isn’t a very shapely tree and I would have a hard time taking a picture of all of it, in any case, but here is a small piece of a branch against the trunk, showing the leaves to good advantage. Here’s to more color yet to come.
We had our first frost overnight. It wasn’t a particularly hard freeze, although any very tender plant not near a house or under some sort of cover was probably killed or severely damaged. We moved most of our indoor plants back indoors yesterday, so they were alright. Cathy put sheets over others and that protected them well enough. In the lawn, especially in open areas, there was a good bit of ice riming the blades of grass. This little wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) still had some buds on it and one little red fruit, which was frozen, I’m afraid. So, fall has arrived.
Cathy planted this bed where there used to be a large northern red oak (Quercus rubra) in the front of our front yard. There is a freeze warning for this evening and although it may not be cold enough for long enough to kill these plants, Cathy wanted a photo of it today, just in case. As it turned out (I’m posting this on Monday), the frost would have done significant damage but would probably not have killed everything. As it was, though, Cathy put a sheet down over the plants both Saturday and Sunday nights and there was no frost under the sheet. So, in this case, Cathy not only made her bed, but she used a bed sheet. She did not, however, sleep in it.
I didn’t have a lot of time for photography today. I did manage to get out into the back yard for about ten minutes between work and somewhere I needed to be. I got some more good spider pictures but once again I’m going to hold back. It’s hard but I like to safe that for really good pictures, new spiders, or when I really have nothing else to show you. This is blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). It doesn’t look very blue, at this point, though. It has gone to seed, and close up, the seeds are pretty little helicopters the are actually all over our back yard now, especially in the spider webs that I’m not showing you today.
Because of the semi-drought we had over the latter part of the summer, the fall colors may not be as spectacular this year as in some years. There will be exceptions, of course. Some plants can be counted on to provide good color in almost any conditions. In this case, the drought had less effect that it might have done because this is growing in a pot at the top of our driveway and was watered somewhat regularly. The winged euonymus (Euonymus alatus, also known as burning bush), is one of the more reliable plant for fall color. It is considered an invasive weed and its use is discouraged in many and even banned in some jurisdictions.
I went out with the macro lens this evening and took pictures of small things. The insects that were so prevalent throughout the summer are starting to be a little more scarce. I took some fairly extreme close-up pictures of leaves and flowers but decided to post this one. It is a single blade of grass (fescue, to be more precise). It has the evening sun shining through it, highlighting the veins in the leaf.
As the fall progresses, I find that I have to look a bit harder for subjects for photography. The insects that are in such great abundance in the summer are gone and that makes it more work. Plants are interesting but photographing them in an interesting way. I guess I need to get a bit farther out, away from the yard and into the woods. But, with how busy we’ve been, it hasn’t been easy.
I have planted quite a few bulbs since we moved to this house about nine years ago. I do that every few years, adding to what I have, replacing those that have stopped blooming, etc. Early on I planted some autumn crocuses (Colchicum autumnale) along the edge of the pachysandra outside our front door. The pachysandra has expanded a bit and surrounded them, but they are still blooming. This one has a little bee on it, as well, adding to the interest, to me, at any rate.
I typically pull up bindweed (a.k.a. morning glory) wherever it is to be found, but the one exception is this purple variety growing outside our front door. The generic bindweed has white flowers and is a serious pest all around. This one, which has been self-seeding for a few years now, has wonderful, dark purple flowers that go well with the blue enamel of the cup and bowl that Cathy has put on the concrete bench (a.k.a. the Stone Table) in front of our front porch. It’s especially pretty in the morning light, which is handy, because by afternoon the morning glory has faded. The blue thing on the left is the remains of a ceramic hand, the thumb, I believe.
Every summer we move our fairly large clivia outside. In years past we put it under a large viburnum where it could get watered by the rain and where it was out of the direct sun that seems to burn the leaves quite badly. This year we put it on the back stoop, still out of the hot afternoon sun but also where it needed to be watered regularly. Actually, it doesn’t seem to mind getting fairly dry between waterings, which makes it an ideal house plant. It bloomed quite profusely this summer and is still going strong.
A few years ago, Cathy bought a hardy begonia and had it in a planter outside our front door. For a while now, it’s been growing in the ground along the front of the front steps. This year, they are growing like gangbusters and look really good.
The leaves have red veins when looked at from behind, which is what we see in the morning as we come out the door. Also, in the morning, the sun is shining on the leaves, which really lights them up. This picture was taken in the evening, though. The leaves are still pretty, although perhaps not quite so much as in the morning.
Of course, the flowers add considerably and it’s been in bloom pretty much all summer. The pale pink flowers are not particularly spectacular on their own but they are lovely hovering above the green of the leaves.
Cathy and I took a walk this evening, heading from our neighborhood park down Manor Run (the creek that runs through) to Sunfish Pond and eventually to North Branch Rock Creek. It was a pleasant evening, quite warm but nice out. There is quite a bit of yellow ironweed (Verbesina alternifolia) all through the woods and it seems quite happy, although even that is starting to notice the lack of rain. August was fairly dry, even for August and we haven’t had any rain in September so far. We really could use a nice, long, soaking rain.
We looped around and came up to Sunfish Pond via a different route. As we looked over the pond, a pair of green herons (Butorides virescens) took off and flew in a big loop around the pond, finally coming to rest at the far end. This one was on a fallen tree and the other was on a branch, a bit further away. I only had my 100mm lens, unfortunately, so this is cropped from the best picture I was able to get. A handsome bird.
American Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) is a pretty common weed in our garden. It’s very large leaves are unmistakable even when the plants are very small. We try to pull it up as soon as we see it but sometimes, we miss one or two. Back in the middle of our hedge, which is about eight feet tall, three pokeweed plants were growing. We didn’t notice them until the started to show out of the top of the hedge and of course, by that time they were pretty well established. I managed to get most of the roots of one of them but the other two were too close to the fence to dig properly and I’m afraid they will come up again next year. But I’ll be watching, this time.
I know it’s still summer but it seemed like fall this morning. Outside it was cooler than inside for the first time in a while. They sky was a beautiful blue, with puffy clouds scattered about. The black-eyed Susans and other flowers are feeling the dryness and heat of summer but that doesn’t mean they have all disappeared. It’s actually quite nice in our back yard right now. Not it’s best, perhaps, but still, pretty nice.
It’s been fairly dry lately. Not as dry, certainly, as in some years when we’ve had an actual drought. But the ‘normal’ dryness that we usually get in late August. The black-eyed Susans are starting to be affected, which is the sign that we could really use some rain. I actually think they are quite pretty when they start to wilt, so I took some pictures this evening after work.
There were a bunch of American goldfinches in the back yard this morning. I wouldn’t say there was a flock of them, but there were more than two. I would say “a family” but I have no idea if they were related in any way. I’m not nearly the birder that my brothers are, but I’m going to say that the bird higher up in this picture is a female rather than an immature bird. There is another, lower down, that I know is a male. They were, as you can see, in the black-eyed Susans, just on the edge of our patio, so fairly close. This was taken through the glass, kitchen door, though, which accounts for some of the softness in the image.
It has been pretty dry recently and the flowers and other garden plants are starting to notice. It isn’t so dry that we are having any restrictions on water use, fortunately, and I decided to turn on the sprinkler this afternoon. As the sun was getting lower, I was walking around the back yard looking for something new to photograph. I noticed that for about a half second, each time the sprinkler went around, there was a rainbow in the spray. I waited a few times and tried to capture it. It was brighter than this in “real life” but I captured it reasonably well.
I know I’ve already posted a picture for today, the spider that some of my visitors won’t like, but I have this picture to share, as well. This is the spent flower head of a teasel (Dipsacus species). I love the lines and the apparent softness of it. In actual fact, it’s a bit prickly, but I think they are quite pretty. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.
In addition to the profusion of black-eyed Susans around our patio, Cathy has potted plants along much of the edge. Some of these are perennials that she doesn’t have to do much with, but others are changed each year, planted with annuals. This year, Cathy took a lot of sedum out of a large pot, because that pot could be better utilized by something a little more striking. She planted these purple flowers (a variety of Angelonia), a sweet potato vine (Ipomoea batatas), and some orange zinnias. The purple flowers and the dark leaves of the Ipomoea, in particular, are really set off by the bright orange/yellow of the black-eyed Susans.
The black-eyed Susan is by far the most prominent flower in our back garden throughout most of the summer. There is a large patch of them in the central garden, where there used to be two large maple trees. There are more around the patio and outside the dining room window. They are scattered in other places, as well. While there is still a lot more green than any other color, the orange-yellow of the black-eyed Susan is clearly in second place.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Cathy and I went to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens today. We especially enjoyed the Lotus, which were blooming quite profusely. We also enjoyed the greens. Lotus, growing in shallow ponds, have such beautiful, green leaves and I wanted to capture the various shades produced by the shadows. I think this picture does a pretty good job of it, although you’ll have to imagine the swaying of the leaves.
We took Dorothy to the airport today and she flew up to Boston. From the airport, we decided to pay a visit to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens on the Anacostia River in northeast Washington. The lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) was past peak, according to the ranger on duty, but they were still blooming pretty freely. The water lilies were a little more past, but there were quite a few even of them. We also got a good view of a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) wading in one of the ponds. It was a beautiful day, not too hot and with a wonderful breeze.
I spent a little time in the back yard chasing butterflies today. In numbers, the various skippers are by far the most prevalent in our yard. The most noticeable are the tiger swallowtails. After that, I would have to say, come the cabbage whites. Most times you can see one or two flitting about. The are in the air a much higher percentage of the time than their more common cousins and they don’t like to be approached. That means finding a likely spot and waiting. Out of all the photos I took of this one, only two were in anything like decent focus. Even they were not perfect, and that, I’m afraid, is what you will get today. Pieris rapae, the Cabbage White, on Verbena bonariensis, purple vervain.
I saw a sphinx month today, which is always nice. They are such interesting things, not looking like what most people think of when the picture a moth. I got some pictures of that but decided to go with this one, a fly that I haven’t seen before today. It is a transverse flower fly, Eristalis transversa, and in this picture is on the center of a black-eyed Susan flower. I know flies are not everyone’s cup of tea, but some of them, like this one, are quite beautiful. I particularly like the way the yellow of the fly matches the yellow of the flower.
Not a joyful day, but a few moments repose in the late morning. Cathy can often be found weeding, either the garden or the lawn (which I think is probably a futile task, but I digress). As you can see, the black-eyed Susans are in full swing. There are some coneflower over Cathy’s shoulder and some Verbena on the far right (and much more of it just out of the frame on the right. The rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is still putting out its pink-purple blooms on the left.
I got some pictures of grass skippers this afternoon. I don’t know which of them this is and there are quite a few to look through. I have identified Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius) in the past and it could easily be that, but I think I will simply leave it at that. There are quite a few skippers in the back yard right now, mostly on the Verbena bonariensis and the Buddleia. That and Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus). I’m not sure how to attract a wider variety of Lepidoptera (a.k.a. the butterflies and moths).
There were a lot of American goldfinches (Spinus tristis) around this evening. Actually, the bird activity seemed higher than usual overall. I don’t know if it was because of the heat and the open water of our bird bath, but that seemed to be part of it. We had cardinals, goldfinches, a immature titmouse, and catbirds over the course of about 15 minutes. This isn’t the sharpest picture ever but we especially enjoy the goldfinches when they are on the Verbina bonariensis (purple vervain). The stems are generally strong enough to hold them up but they wobble back and forth as the birds move. Sometimes they are a little tough to spot because of the yellow black-eyed Susans behind them.
I had a close-up of Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) flowers a few weeks ago (Wednesday, July 08, 2015). The flowers are mostly finished now, with a few late blooms still doing well. The earlier flowers have started to go to seed. The flat flower-heads curl up on themselves and, where each tiny, individual flower was in the compound flower there is now a seed.
The butterfly bush (Buddleia) plants that come up like weeds throughout our yard are in full bloom and are attracting the most common of the large butterflies in our area, the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). This is a male, which can be distinguished from the female by the lack of blue near the trailing edge of its hindwings. Getting a good angle for a photograph is the trick, as they are generally well overhead, but this one turned out fairly well. I like the shadow of the flowers showing through his wings.
The tiger lilies are in full bloom. They bloom much later than the Asiatic lilies, which are also on much shorter stems. Actually, Lilium lancifolium is an Asiatic species, but are different to the plants usually called Asiatic, which have upward facing flowers. The tiger lily, as you can see here, has downward facing flowers. There are quite a few flowers on each plant, which stands a good seven or eight feet in height.
The similar species, Lilium superbum, is a native to the eastern United States and its common names include Turk’s cap lily and American tiger lily. It generally has fewer flowers per plant and isn’t quite so tall, but the petals of the flowers are similar in being orange with black spots and which recurve forming a very festive, Turk’s cap shape. L. lancifolium also has little bulbils in the leaf axils that can be planted and which are the easiest way to spread the plant around the yard.
We don’t have any crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) in our yard but every year about this time I think about getting one or two. I particularly like the really red varieties. The purple and white are fine but it’s the red that really get my attention.
Today, on the way down to Bethesda I took a picture of one even redder than this one, but the picture didn’t turn out well enough to use. This one is on Gude Drive and I stopped on the way home to take a few pictures. It isn’t as pure a red, but it’s still nice and I think one like this or the other red one are really great. I should do some shopping and put one in this fall. We have two places that will need small trees and this would be good for one of those two spots.
The garden that Cathy planted in the front, where there had been a tree, had started to fill in nicely. This picture is mostly marigolds but there are also zinnias, lantana, and verbena, sedum, and alyssum. This is really our only “annual” garden, the rest of the yard is pretty much either perennials or self-seeding annuals. I like the blue of the bucket along with the yellows and oranges of the flowers. Cathy may have done that on purpose.
I was out back taking pictures this evening at about 7:30 and noticed these little flowers. They are Coreopsis (tickseed) of some kind and I didn’t remember seeing them before. Apparently they are something new (to us, anyway) that Cathy planted earlier this year (or maybe it was late last year). Anyway, they are quite cheery and with the amount of orange in the yard right now, they really stand out. Hopefully they will thrive and cover a little more ground in the years ahead.
This dark but rather simple day lily is growing in the front of our house. I don’t remember where we got it but I like it a lot. This is the time of year when orange and orange-yellow predominates in our yard but frankly, I don’t mind. The color works in the heat and it really lights up in the morning and evening. This shot was taken at about 6:30 in the evening. There are so many nice day lilies available that I tend to look past them for something unique. That’s probably a mistake. They’re lovely.
The blackberry lily, formerly Belamcanda chinensis, but now Iris domestica, has started to bloom. I collected seeds for this many years ago and I’ve had it growing around the yard ever since (and our previous yard before that). I gather the seeds each fall and spread them liberally and I’m pretty much happy to have them come up wherever they can. This one has a very tiny aphid on the stigma.
I haven’t taken the time to get a firm identification on this little bee, and the picture isn’t really good enough for a definitive ID in any case. I’m pretty sure, off the top of my head, that it is a leaf-cutter bee in the genus Megachile. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) is at its peak (which lasts for a good long while, actually) and the bees are all over it, particularly when the sun is shining on it. That’s good for photographing them, of course, as the more light the easier it becomes, but it does mean I’m working in the bright, afternoon sun. Still, it’s one of my favorite things to do on a Saturday.
I had a meeting over in the next building early this afternoon so I brought my camera and took a few pictures as I walked by the woods between buildings. There are raspberries ripe and starting to look quite good. I didn’t have time to pick many, but I took a picture of a few before pulling them off and munching on them as I finished my walk. Wild raspberries are one of the best things about the woods around here. Delicious.
We have a Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota), otherwise known as wild carrot, growing at the corner of the garage. It isn’t doing any harm in terms of overrunning our garden, at least not so far, and we decided to let it stay at least as long as it’s in bloom. This is close-up of one small cluster of flowers in one of the large clusters that make up the flowering head of the plant.
The family to which Queen Anne’s Lace belongs (Apiaceae, the celery, carrot or parsley family) contains quite a few plants familiar to cooks for root vegetables (carrot, parsnip), stems and leaves (celery, parsley, coriander/cilantro) or seeds (anise, caraway, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, etc.). The family also contains some dangerous plants, like the giant hogweed, the sap from which can cause severe burns through phytophotodermatitis, and hemlock, with its cocktail of poisonous alkaloids and of Socrates-killing fame.
The bees are starting to get quite active now. They start when things start blooming, of course, and are never really far. But in the heat of July, when the flowers of summer are at their densest, they are easiest to find. The monarda (the aptly named bee balm) seems particularly attractive to bumble bees. The flowers are a bit past in terms of their looking all pretty for photography but the bees don’t seem to mind. I went out this evening and spent a while chasing bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) from flower to flower. This shot turned out reasonably well—the body if fairly sharp while the wings are blurred with motion.
Sometimes our days don’t go according to plan. Sometimes I think we should be more surprised when they do go according to plan. We expected to go to watch fireworks this evening. It’s a pretty simple plan and fairly common for July 4 in the good, old U.S. of A. Didn’t happen.
Without giving too much personal information (because anyone who needs to know the details already knows them), we spent the afternoon and evening in the ICU in Bethesda. Also, although we did not get word until tomorrow (in our time zone), so it wouldn’t have kept us home anyway, Cathy’s sister passed away late today. This calla lily is in honor and memory of her.
It was our last day in Albuquerque and we were sad to be leaving. I took a few pictures of Bert and Jane’s front yard while the others visited. Robert has done a nice job of xeriscaping the front yard and has three things that I photographed and identified. First, there are small, yellow chocolate flowers (Berlandiera lyrata), a member of the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family. There is also a red yucca, or more properly redflower false yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora, which is quite nice and actually seems to be quite hardy and might be worth finding for our yard, possibly in a container. Finally, there is the plant pictured here, the yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii), which is a legume (family Fabaceae), not anything like the regular bird of paradise, which are in teh genus Strelitzia. It’s quite pretty, anyway.
David was going to pick up his and Cathy’s mom later this morning so Cathy and I had a little free time. We drove to the botanic garden, which is part, along with the zoo, aquarium, and Tingley Beach, of the Albuquerque Biopark. It is a relatively green and lush oasis in the high New Mexico desert, close to the Rio Grande and near the heart of the city. We enjoyed pretty much each of the various gardens and the two conservatories. One of the two conservatories is dedicated to Mediterranean plants and is very lush and wet. One thing they have a lot of there are sedums, of which Cathy is very fond. I particularly like them in bloom and this first photo is of a couple sedum flowers.
Cathy posed next to a large container of sedum and fern (the sedum is the brownish colored plant). We enjoyed the well established portion of the rose garden. There is a new section that looks like it was only completed this spring and the plants are still quite small but should be very nice in a year or two. The Japanese garden is lovely, although the local, southwest plants predominated, the feel was still appropriate for the name. Wood ducks and a black-crowned night heron were a nice addition.
We walked out to the farthest garden area of the park, past Heritage Farm to the Cottonwood Gallery. This is a more natural setting with all native and naturalized plants, predominated by the local cottonwood tree. They were shedding their seeds, which are attached to cottony hairs, giving the trees their common name, and covering the ground with a cottony fur. We saw a cottontail rabbit, as well, and lots of dragon- and damselflies, including this blue damselfly.
David took us to the Rio Grande Nature Center this morning, less than ten minutes from where he lives. It was pretty hot out today so we spent a while in the building, enjoying the view out over the pond where there were ducks, turtles, a swan and quite a few smaller birds. Cathy and I walked across the Paseo Del Bosque Trail to the Rio Grande and back, seeing lots of dragonflies, a huge toad, and quite a few lizards. Before we left I took a few pictures of the rest of the group on a bench sitting in the shade of a good size cottonwood tree.
Five days ago, on the 17th of June, I posted a picture of a green coneflower (Echinacea). It was green both in terms of being not ripe and being green in color. This is the same flower, five days later, showing the more familiar colors of the flower. I like coneflowers but the petals tend to get eaten and even this flower is showing signs of insect action, with the petal on the upper right being gone.
I went up to our family’s Pennsylvania property today to do some work on the brush growing on the dam. The pictures I took of that are more documentary than photographically interesting. Also, I’ll spare you the photo of the bloody gash on my arm from when I slipped and caught myself on a rose bush. When I was done, I rested a while enjoying the dragonflies that were in abundance. I tried to get some photographs but none of them really turned out, particularly those of the dragonflies on the wing. Just before I left, I took some pictures of the Rosa setigera (Prairie Rose) that I planted in April of 2005. It is fairly large and doing very well, blooming quite profusely.
Cathy and I went over to her mom’s house after work this evening. Well, I went after work, Cathy went earlier and spent a good while there. She planted some annuals in the pots at the top of her driveway. When I got there, I didn’t actually do much except move some heavy boxes of things that she was going to take to a shredding event tomorrow. I took a few pictures around the yard, but mostly of the daisies growing near where the sidewalk meets the driveway.
Cathy bought two new Butterfly Weed (Asclepias Tuberosa) plants last week. Generally this has orange flowers but we have one with bright yellow flowers. She wanted more of that, so that’s what the two new plants are. They were conveniently sitting on the table out on the back patio, which made my job of photographing them that much easier. Rather than lying on the ground or squatting down for a picture, I could sit in a chair. Nice. There were ants crawling all over the flowers but that didn’t bother me much. I considered posting one of the pictures that included some ants but I decided I liked this one better.
The coneflowers (Echinacea) are starting to come into bloom in our back yard. This one is opening up but hasn’t begun to get the orange colors that characterize the flowers when fully open. Each of the little rods in this flower head, forming the wonderful spirals that characterize many of this sort of flower, is actually a separate flower bud. The flowers themselves are quite small and the petals around the outside have only just started to grow in this flower head but will soon begin to turn a light purplish pink.
I took something of an unexpected walk yesterday, having to drop a car off at the shop. Fortunately it was late enough in the day and I was walking on the west side of the road so I was shaded by trees most of the way. At one point there was a small patch of woods on my right and I was a little surprised to find some roses blooming at the edge. There were at least three separate plants, two with the dark pink flowers shown here with a lighter pink version in between them. I don’t know they are some old garden roses that have gone feral or if they are natural hybrids between garden roses and wild roses in the area. They certainly appear to have a bit of R. multiflora in them and there were ordinary R. multiflora growing on either side of them. They are quite double and very attractive, though. I hope to take some cuttings when the time is right. I better return and mark them in some way, though, or I’ll never figure out which are which.
After work this evening Dorothy and I went up to Olney to pick up the car from the shop. I went from there to the grocery store and it was just starting to rain as I went in. When I came out again, it was coming down pretty hard but it didn’t rain all that long. A little while after I got home, it had basically stopped and I went out back to see what would be decorated with droplets of water. These two Asiatic lilies were the obvious choice. They aren’t the first lilies to bloom this year, but they sure are the most intensely colored. I’m quite fond of these flowers.
A year ago (exactly a year ago, as it would happen) we bought two hydrangeas for the back yard. One was a Hydrangea paniculata and the other a variety called ‘Big Smile’. They are planted in a partly shady area of the back border and seem to be doing quite well. This is one of the large, sterile flowers on ‘Big Smile’. The buds seen at the top of the image are fertile flowers that have yet to open. They are small and fairly inconspicuous. From a distance, it is quite attractive but I also like the subtle coloration and the asymmetry of the petals in this flower.
We have a daisy like flower called feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) growing in various places around our yard. It’s a happy plant and although it self-seeds fairly liberally, it isn’t so invasive that it’s a real pest. I was taking pictures of the flowers today when I noticed this bug crawling from flower to flower. It is one of the plant bugs in the genus Tanacetum and I think it is T. parthenium, the clouded plant bug, although I’m not 100% sure of the species. They all look fairly similar. I’ll update this once I hear the expert opinion of This image at BugGuide.net.
This is the first day lily of the year in our yard. To me, this marks the transition from spring to summer and although it’s been cool and pleasant (and rainy) the last few days, the forecast is for hot and humid tomorrow and through the weekend.
While spring flowers are relatively fleeting (except the daffodils, I suppose, which last a while, summer flowers are more enduring. Not the individual flowers, which are generally here one day and gone the next. But using day lilies as an example, they tend to bloom continually, with new flowers each day, for weeks or in some cases all summer.
When I went out to the car this morning the grass was fairly heavy with dew. Generally I don’t like getting my shoes all wet walking to the car but occasionally it’s worth venturing out into the grass to see what else has been covered by droplets of water. In this case, a common mullein (Verbascum thapsus) was absolutely covered with little beads of water, its velvety surface increasing it’s holding capacity. The picture isn’t actually all that good, but it’s what I have for today.
We’ve been in need of rain. I don’t pay particular attention to rainfall amount for particular months but generally April and May are pretty rainy. This year, May has been on the dry side. Recently the lawn has started to look like it often does in early August. Well, the rain came today (but of course, it’s now June). One downside to the rain is that it knocks the petals off the roses. The multiflora is pretty well finished, but the ‘New Dawn’ growing beside it on the fence is just really getting started. Here’s a picture of ‘New Dawn’ with drops of rain, a la Oscar Hammerstein.
Last year the county cut down one of the red oaks growing along the front of our property (but in the county’s right of way, so belonging to the county). Cathy put some planters on the stump and planted a few annuals around it. In the fall they came and ground the stump, giving Cathy fair warning so she could move the containers and so she knew the annuals would be destroyed in the process. Yesterday Cathy planted this year’s garden in the spot where the stump was, including two containers and quite a few plants in the ground. I took a few pictures yesterday but the morning light was on it as I was leaving for work, so I took a few more, including this one. I’ll try to get another picture of it later in the year, when everything has gotten established and filled in. In addition to what she planted, you can see in the lower right that there is a volunteer common mullein (Verbascum thapsus), an alien species introduced from Europe, Asia, and Africa. Cathy’s a big fan.
It’s time for my annual photo of the Rosa multiflora hybrid I have in our back garden. This is a natural hybrid, found growing in the woods near my office. The parent plant is no longer there, because about a month after I dug up a piece it was sprayed and killed. Normally that’s the right thing to do with R. multiflora but this one is special to me, because of the pink blooms that cover the plant this time of year for about a week. It’s quite lovely. It would be even better, of course, if it repeated but one cannot have everything. It’s a vigorous plant, as one would expect with a multiflora hybrid, and handsome as a large patch of green on the back fence, even when not in bloom. It takes a bit of extra care, pruning and cutting out dead wood every couple years, but it’s well worth the effort. That effort is made more difficult by the quantity (large) and quality (also large and very sharp) thorns that absolutely cover the canes. Still, worth it.
We drove back from New York this morning and had no problems with traffic, thankfully. It has gotten pretty warm, although it’s still nice in the shade. I took some pictures in the yard this afternoon, including this photo of some Sedum (stonecrop) flowers. This is a fairly prolific perennial plant and has gotten established in the cracks and crevices around our front steps and walkway. It’s not so aggressive that it’s particularly invasive and it has a lot of these pretty (small) yellow flowers.
Our spiderworts (Tradescantia) have begun to bloom. Ours mostly have very deep purple flowers, although we have a couple with pink flowers. This isn’t as good a photograph as I had hoped, but it does show two of my favorite features of the flowers, the blue stamen hairs and bright yellow anthers. Together, they combine to give the flowers an other-worldly look that I really like. I’ll try to get a better picture at some point, but this will have to do for now.
We have some large, bearded irises in bloom but this little one, a pretty, little Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’, may be my favorite.
Although it’s called ‘Eric the Red’ the petals are actually a purple color. One interesting thing about it, though, is that in photographs, the petals come out looking more red than they are in real life. In this image, I’ve corrected the color so it matches pretty well what the flowers look like.
This is our first evening primrose (Oenothera speciosa) of the year. Soon we will have dozens of them, lighting up the garden in the evening (as their name suggests, their flowers open in the evening). Actually, this one is in a shady spot and it seems to be fooled by that into opening a bit early, which is actually quite nice. Oenothera speciosa is an herbaceous perennial native basically to the southern half of the contiguous United States.
Ages ago my dad planted a maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum) in his back yard. I think he dug it up somewhere or other but I’m not 100% sure of that. It grew quite well there and when we had our house in Gaithersburg he let me dig up a piece of it and plant it in our yard. I’m glad we did that because when my parents finally got an air conditioner in their house the condenser unit went where the fern had been. I dug up a piece from our house in Gaithersburg and kept it in a pot until we bought our current house (a year later), when I planted it here. It is thriving in a fairly sunny spot outside our dining room window.
We planted a few small plants of blue-eyed grass in our yard when we first moved here and it has proliferated. Among other things, it’s growing in the cracks between the flagstones of our front walk. It’s fairly well behaved and doesn’t go so crazy that it’s a problem, though, so I don’t mind having it about the place. The little blue flowers are quite nice, too, of course. I don’t know for a fact that this is narrow-leaf blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) but that’s the local native so it seems likely and it looks about right.
One of our roses, a rugosa named Roseraie de L’Hay, has started to bloom. It’s a fairly large shrub, 8 or so feet tall and about as much across. It has blooms throughout the summer but in late spring (i.e., right about now) it has it’s best showing. The flowers are a rich, crimson-purple and are double, with a wonderful and very strong fragrance. The only downside to the plant is that it’s so big and many of the best flowers are way overhead and thus hard to see. I should probably give it a good pruning this year and see if I can tame it a bit, but it’s so happy the way it is, I hesitate. This, obviously, is a bud but gives a foretaste of the bloom to come. It also shows the wonderful rugose (wrinkled) texture of the leaves.
The rose is named after the rose garden of the same name in L’Haÿ-les-Roses, Val-de-Marne, France, started in 1892 by Jules Gravereaux.
Among local invasive species, this has to be near the top of the list. It is very prolific. It does have the redeeming feature of pretty flowers in the spring and later will be covered by red berries, but it’s something you want to keep out of your yard, if you can. This is along the side of the parking lot at work and there is a lot of it there, both around the drainage pond and in the woods. I’m sure the insects love it, of course it isn’t like it is consciously destructive. It simply lives where it is planted.
Note: I originally had this marked as Lonicera japonica, Japanese honeysuckle but I was just posting without thinking. This is Lonicera maackii, Amur or bush honeysuckle. The text about it being a pest didn’t need to be modified much.
We have a couple dogwood trees in our yard but I’m doubtful if any of them were actually planted by the previous owners. They all have the look and the positioning of trees that just happened to grow and were left alone. This one is actually in a convenient and suitable place so I’m happy to have it. The others are either dying or in a bad place and I’ll get rid of them once I have something appropriate with which to replace them. It’s gotten hot again and the dogwood is done blooming. The flowers are all gone on the pink dogwood up against the house and the flowers on this one are turning brown and the petals will drop in a day or two. But more things are coming into bloom every day. This is a busy time or year. Nevertheless, sometimes we have to look at what was and remember its beauty. There is a certain elegance to something beautiful that has passed its time. People are like that, as well. We crave youth and youthful beauty, but there is an elegance in some who grow old gracefully and lovingly. I wish I could be one of those people.
I went out into the back garden to take a few pictures this afternoon. I started with some deep, orange Coreopsis that has just started to bloom. From there I moved to one of the many Columbine (Aquilegia) plants that have come up from seed from the few that we brought with us to this house in 2006. I was lying on my back, looking up into the flowers when I saw this spider, an orchard orbweaver (Leucauge venusta) one one of them. I got as close as my lens would take me and this is the result. Count me a big fan of spiders, particularly spiders in the garden, where they aren’t under foot and where they eat insects. This is one of my favorites.
The chives are in bloom on the back patio. I love chives and all things onion. One thing I like to do with chives, though, is pick the light purple flower heads off and chop them up to sprinkle over whatever I’m cooking. They give a very mild onion flavor but also add visual appeal. Of course, you can also chop up the leaves into tiny little wheels and the flavor is about the same but purple is more fun than green, when it comes to condiments on food.
One of my favorite little flowers are the pretty little bells on the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis). We had a fair amount of this at our old house and brought a bunch with us in pots when we moved. Turns out there was quite a bit already growing in the back garden of our new house. We’ve planted most of what was in pots but this is a rectangular container that is still sitting on our patio. Getting pictures of lily of the valley means getting down on the ground because you generally need to look up at it to see it at its best. Being in a container actually helps here, because the plant’s “ground level” is a few inches higher than actual ground level. After I took this, I looked up to see Cathy and Dorothy at the kitchen door taking pictures of me lying on the patio taking this picture. Seems worth the effort to me. I hope you agree.
Cathy called me today from Home Depot asking if I wanted her to buy this Exbury azalea. I’ve been meaning to get a few of these for the yard and this one was reasonably priced and it good shape, so I said yes. What is an Exbury azalea, you might ask? They have a fairly complicated makeup and many of the early records don’t exist. But in the late 18th century, hybrids were made between North American azalea species Rhododendron calendulaceum, nudiflorum, arborescens, and viscosum, and the bright yellow flowered, European R. luteum, producing what are generally referred to as Ghent azaleas. The addition of R. molle and japonicum took the azaleas to the next stage, the Mollis and then R. occidentale was added, giving us the Knaphill azaleas. Starting in the 1920s Lionel de Rothschild made hundreds of thousands of hybrids and brought us the Exbury azalea. Well, that’s a rather simplified history. You can read more here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/JARS/v40n1/v40n1-cash1.htm.
It was a beautiful morning today and as I went out to head to work, I paused to appreciate the blooms on the pink dogwood against the front of our house. That tree is much too close to the house to be left alone for the long term and I’ve planted a camellia to take its place. But until the camellia gets a bit larger, I’ll leave the dogwood there. I to love pink dogwoods and will probably plant another to replace this one, somewhere more appropriate. This picture is brought to you by the notion that you need to look up and look down, not just straight ahead. The pink of the flowers, the bright green of the leaves and the beautiful cerulean sky make quite a picture, I think, easily missed if you are simply watching where you are going.
It was a drizzly afternoon and the ground was pretty wet when I got home but I went out to take pictures anyway. I wanted to get pictures of the bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis) before it finished blooming but that meant getting down close to the ground (and when I say close, I mean lying down). Well, I didn’t feel up to going out this evening so didn’t have anywhere to go, so it didn’t make much difference if my clothes got a bit dirty. I took a bunch of pictures of the bleeding heart as well as some fern fiddle heads coming up nearby.
Digital cameras are quite amazing in their ability to capture images electronically. Film was quite amazing in its day, as well, and it still pretty cool. But digital cameras have surpassed film in many ways, not the least of which is the amount of detail that can be recorded and the range of colors and brightness levels (the dynamic range) that can be captured. Nevertheless, they are not perfect. There are still colors that are so saturated that camera sensors cannot easily capture them in all their beauty. Usually such extremes of color are artificial, but flowers are a notable exception. These azalea flowers are such a bright, intense pink-red that my camera cannot easily handle them. The photograph does a reasonable job of capturing them, but the result is not as intense as the original.
Most of the early spring bulbs are finished. The last of the daffodils, even those which bloomed later than normal, are finished and turning brown. Tulips used in roadside beds throughout the area are done and ready to be replaced. There are a few in our front garden, however, that are still blooming. This is Tulipa acuminata ‘Fireflame Tulip’. The description on McClure and Zimmerman (http://www.mzbulb.com, where I bought them) says they are “scarlet and yellow with long, curiously twisted petals.” As you can see, mine is pure yellow. I don’t mind, though. It is still quite striking. They also say that “although classified as a species, it’s not known in the wild and is probably an ancient hybrid of garden origin.” I don’t mind that, either. It blooms considerably later than the other tulips I have and I like that about it. They are planted among some later-blooming daffodils, which probably isn’t the best idea, because they are somewhat hidden because of that. But they come back year after year, which is somewhat unusual for tulips, which are generally quite short-lived.
This is my last daffodil photo of the year, I promise. Well, I won’t actually promise but it’s pretty likely to be, anyway. Because they were planted only last fall, the new daffodils that I’ve photographed this spring have come up and bloomed a bit late. I expect them to be more “on schedule’ next year. This one, calle ‘Limbo’, was planted in two places in the back yard. I’m quite pleased with it. The petals are not as pure white as ‘Lemon Beauty’ that I photographed four days ago, but it’s a very pale yellow. It sets off the orange of the corona quite nicely, though, particularly when the sun is shining on it.
I was down at my mom’s house this evening, returning something and picking up something else. The camellias in the yard are finishing blooming. There are quite a few flowers but many of them are all brown around the edges. This one (on the left) is still in pretty good shape. I don’t know what name this one goes by. It’s on the end of the house, beside the chimney, which is a reasonably sheltered spot and it’s quite tall and narrow. I know he had a ‘Mrs. Lyman Clarke’ there a long time ago, but that one died. I have a small one on the front of our house and it made it through these last two winters, and I’m have hopes for it. But this one is an unknown (to me, at least). Pretty, though.
Do you ever forget this stuff? It’s Myosotis (probably Myosotis sylvatica, but I’m not really sure). Also known as forget-me-not. It’s in full bloom in our garden right now and it’s quite lovely, producing a pale blue carpet in shady spaces. It was part of my back garden photo on Wednesday (April 22, 2015). As I mentioned at the time, it is a relatively short-lived perennial but it self-seeds to we’ve had a patch of it since Cathy planted it the fall we move in. We also have some now under the cherry tree on the side of the front yard. I don’t know that I could have too much of this. It will disappear shortly and will be forgotten (or not) until next spring.
I was going to post a straight-on shot of a bunch of flowers but decided I like the airiness of this shot better.
This is a new daffodil for us this year, planted in the fall with a bunch of other things. This one is on the edge of the area cleared under the spruce tree in our front yard. We’re actually talking about what to do with that area, because the tree itself is not doing very well and should probably be cut down. It only has herbaceous perennials (including bulbs) under it, so I can probably do that at any time. I’m thinking I’ll plant some sort of flowering tree, but I haven’t decided what at this point.
Anyway, this daffodil is quite nice and I’m happy with it. The only defect (if you want to call it that) is that the flowers face mostly downward so they are a bit harder to see than on many of the other daffodils in our yard. I love the purity of the white and the brightness of the yellow, though.
There are cherry blossoms and then there are cherry blossoms. These are cherry blossoms. In the wild, cherry species generally have simple, white flowers. As most of us know, there is some pink in the gene pool and that has been exploited by those willing to take the time. Most of the pink cherry blossoms you see are still fairly small, simple flowers but borne in such profusion that their small size and simplicity is not a real drawback. This cherry, however, it one I really like. The flowers are huge by comparison (two inches across), with lots of frilly petals. The tree is still covered in pink but I think that it has an edge. Unfortunately, I have no idea what cultivar this is. The tree was here when we bought the house.
Cathy asked for some pictures of the flowers in our back yard today so I took some with her in them. The large shrub behind Cathy is a largish, white spiraea. I cut it back fairly hard every year after it blooms but it grows fairly vigorously.
On the ground behind her is pale blue forget-me-not (Myosotis sp.). It’s a relatively short lived perennial but it self-seeds so we’ve had them for a good while. They move about a bit, as the seeds grow near where the parent plants were but eventually the parents die and the whole patch has shifted.
Between Cathy and the tree is a spindly azalea that hasn’t started blooming yet. Just in front of Cathy there is a bed of periwinkle (Vinca minor) that is scattered with more pale blue flowers. In front of that is an area of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis), which is coming up but not yet blooming. Amid that there are white and purple hyacinths.
I think I might have mentioned that I planted a few bulbs last fall. It’s something I do for Cathy’s birthday, which is in the late fall, but that she only really gets the reward from in the spring. Of course, it’s a cumulative thing, as the bulbs I plant come up year after year (or most do, there are a few that don’t last as long). I bought more than I actually got in the ground, unfortunately, which is a bit of a waste, but what I did plant are coming up and blooming.
This daffodil (Narcissus) is called ‘Falconet’ and I’m pretty pleased with it. Daffodils are classified into 13 divisions. Falconet is in division 8, the Tazetta daffodils, those which have the characteristics of the species Narcissus tazetta. They have fragrant flowers, with multiple (three to twenty) flowers per stem. Falconet, as you can see, is bright yellow with orange-red cups. It is also fairly tall, well over a foot, but on strong stems so they don’t seem to flop over, which I appreciate.
With apologies to The Knack.
This is the corona (the central trumpet) of a daffodil called ‘Actaea’ that I have growing along our sidewalk out front. It is in the poeticus division (division 9), which are distinguished by their large white petals and small, dainty cups in contrasting colors. This one is particularly nice, with its large, nearly pure white petals and with such a bright corona.
The rain that was coming down yesterday and this morning stopped and by the time I got home from work the grass was dry enough to lie down on to take pictures (I know because that’s what I did when I got home). After taking some of violets growing in our lawn (“it isn’t raining rain, you know, it’s raining violets”) I took a few of cherry blossoms. I noticed this visitor to some of the flowers and thought that would give it a bit of extra interest. So, a syrphid fly of the species Toxomerus marginatus. They are quite common but also fairly small (5 to 6mm in length) so they are easy to overlook. As Larvae they prey on aphids, thrips, and small caterpillars (i.e., plant pests).
We had quite beautiful weather over the weekend. After the gorgeous but melancholy day yesterday, the rain we had today just seemed appropriate. I went out back when I got home from work and I took pictures of plants with water droplets on them, including this rose stem with the new growth of leaves that’s been growing strongly the last week and a half or so. This is a multiflora rose, or a natural hybrid with that as one parent. I dug it up in the woods near my office because it has the most lovely pink flowers. The canes don’t seem to be terribly long lived and last summer I spent a good while cutting dead wood out of it. This one does have some thorns on it and by the time I was done my arms were crisscrossed with scratches. Worth the effort, though.
I didn’t really know Mr. Rohrer but I know one of his daughters and her family, including three of his eleven grandchildren, quite well. Today and today’s photograph is dedicated to the memory of this man. He and my dad were almost exactly the same age when they died (withing three days!) and he died on my dad’s birthday (as I mentioned on last Thursday’s post about my dad). I only met him a handful of times and I’m sorry that I cannot write anything nearly as beautiful as Ellen (one of those granddaughters) did on Instagram and Facebook, but I thought it fitting to pay tribute, anyway. To all who have lost fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, children, or grandparents, I mourn with you.
What a beautiful day it was today. We’ve had a bit of rain this week, and as pretty as that is, it was nice to have such a lovely, sunny day today. I got to spend it in a really lovely way, too. I spent about two hours getting caught up with a good friend over coffee (thanks, Erin, for loaning me Dave for a while). Then, in the afternoon Cathy and I went for a walk in Rock Creek Park.
We saw a few members of the insect family (I guess it’s a class, actually). There were some small butterflies about, mostly from the family Lycaenidae (this time, it really is a family), the blues, coppers, hairstreaks, and harvesters. We also saw a few of these bright, metalic, green beetles. It is a six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) and twice I was able to get close enough for a reasonable photograph.
The flowers we saw the most of were the marsh marigolds (Caltha palustris). They were out in great profusion. There were also a few blood root (Sanguinaria canadensis) and spring beauties (Claytonia virginica). We saw a lot of leaves of the yellow trout-lily (Erythronium americanum) but this is the only one that actually had a bloom on it sow far. Withing a week there should be hundreds of them along the banks of Rock Creek.
This is one of the daffodils we have growing in our front garden and it is one of my favorites. I planted it the first fall we lived in this house and it has done really well. Each year there are more flowers than the last. Daffodils are great—they are amazingly hardy, the squirrels don’t dig them up to eat the bulbs, and they bloom in ever increasing profusion every year. If you don’t have daffodils in your yard, then you should. That’s my opinion.
In the past I often got Scilla siberica confused with Chionodoxa forbesii (a.k.a. glory-of-the-snow). They really don’t look that much alike, except they are both small, ephemeral, blue flowered, perennial bulbs. The most obvious different, though, is that Scilla (or squill, not to be confused with Scylla) has downward facing flowers while Chionodoxa has mostly upward facing flowers. There are other more subtle differences. Seeing them side by side, you might wonder how anyone would mistake one for the other. In any case, I have them pretty well separated in my mind now.
Of course, deciding which of them I prefer is not so easy. They are both beautiful in their own way. I don’t suppose I have any great need to pick one over the other. I think both should be planted far more often than they are. They grow well, they are quite hardy, and they are beautiful. Do you need more than that? Well, if you do, how about the fact that Scilla siberica has blue pollen?
The early daffodils were up last week and lots of other things are starting to appear. The maple trees are blooming and leaves are starting to appear on willow trees. We had a fair amount of rain last night and it continued throughout most of the day. When I got home it had stopped raining quite so hard but everything was wet. Of course ”it isn’t raining rain, you know, it’s raining violets.” And more daffodils. This is a daffodil called ‘Marieke’ and it’s one of the best. Of course, the rain does tend to knock it down a bit, but it’s still beautiful.
After our brief Easter interlude, we now return to our regularly scheduled spring, already in progress. There are a few hyacinths in bloom in our back garden. I planted a dozen more last fall but those are a little behind, as bulbs tend to be their first year. The old plants are already blooming, though. There were originally three each of pink and yellow, although one of the yellows has died (or was dug up by a squirrel). This (for those of you viewing it in black and white) is a pink one.
We drove back from Richmond this morning, having a much better time of it than the drive down yesterday. In the afternoon I went out back and took some pictures of a couple Lenten rose plants. This is one we put in when we first moved in and it’s doing really well (and probably needs to be dug up and divided). Lent is over and this plant has only just started blooming late this week, but we had snow later than is usual and that slowed it up a bit. In 2012 I have photos of this same plant blooming on February 19. Anyway, it’s blooming now and it’s lovely.
Today the ‘Pink Giant’ Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) started blooming. This is a pale pink variety that I have growing amidst the pachysandra in the northeast corner of our front yard. In addition to being pink, as the name suggest ‘Pink Giant’ suggests, it is fairly tall for a Chionodoxa and holds its blooms above the pachysandra. Otherwise, it is similar to the blue flowers I posted a photo of for yesterday.
Next up, after the early daffodils, are the glory of the snow (Chionodoxa luciliae), this little bulb native to western Turkey. I have a pretty nice little bunch of them growing on the south end of the house, which warms up before other areas, which helps get them up early, as well. As you may know, I’m partial to blue flowers and these, although early and ephemeral, are some of my favorites. They are such a lovely color and in quantity are quite striking.
Are you ready for flowers? I hope so, because they are coming up relatively fast and furious now and I think I’ll most likely be posting them fairly frequently. If you’ve been following me a while, then they may look like photos you have seen before. If her are new, well, they will be flowers. You’ll see.
Today the first daffodils in our yard came out. They are called Tete-A-Tete and are small but growing in large clumps and are quite cheering.
Earlier this month I posted a photo of a trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) that I am growing from seed in a plastic bin in my kitchen (see “Poncirus trifoliata (Trifoliate Orange)” on Wednesday, March 18, 2015). Today’s picture is (sort of) of the same subject. The afternoon sun coming in the kitchen door was shining on the tub of little orange plants (there are at least four dozen of them) and casting what I thought was an interesting shadow. To me it looks a little like some ancient artwork drawn with faded ink on a sheet of papyrus. Okay, maybe it takes a bit of imagination to see that, but if we don’t look at the world imaginatively once in a while, what a dull place it can become.
It’s certainly starting to look a bit like spring. The trees are still bare and there are not a lot of flowers around yet, but they are starting. The snow drops (Galanthus) have been blooming a while. I had a single flower on the new Lenten rose and there were a few purple crocuses in the back yard last week. Today a few white crocuses have opened up in the front.
Spring is accelerating.
The snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) have been out in our yard for a few weeks now but I haven’t posted any pictures of them this year. This afternoon I went out into the back yard and took a few pictures of a clump of snow drops growing in our back bed. They are pretty little things and their appearance so early in the year is their chief attraction. The flowers open during the day and then close up in the evening, as seen in this photo.
Spring it upon us.
It was another beautiful day today, cool but sunny. We went to church this morning and then to our other church in the afternoon. We got home at about 4:45 p.m. and it was so nice that we sat out in the back yard in the sun until the sun went down and it got too cool. While we were out back, I took some pictures of this Lenten rose called ‘Mango Magic’ that I planted in the fall. It is the first to bloom of the twelve things (mostly bulbs) that I planted for Cathy’s birthday. It isn’t a perfect flower but it’s the first, so I thought it worth recording.
Our good friends Brian and Lisa (and their two dogs, Goldie and Kippen, see Thursday, November 20, 2014) came for another short stay, spending all day Saturday and Sunday with us. It started out looking a bit gloomy this morning but cleared up and ended up being quite lovely out. We drove to our friends’ farm. We visited a little while with Greg and Anna and then wandered around a while. My first photo is of some cabbage plants that we all thought looked a bit like overdressed, Victorian ladies.
From the cabbage patch, we wandered up to the barn where the pigs are kept. We enjoyed watching the very young piglets, of which there were quite a few. From there we walked out to the area in the field where the chickens are. I got into their fenced enclosure and took quite a few photos.
The chickens were quite interested in me but getting them from very close range was tricky. The would turn away just as I took the picture, or would bend down and I’d just get the top of their head. This one turned out pretty well, I think.
After this, we walked to where the larger pigs are, out in the field and then down to the garden shed. When we came home, we rested up a bit and then capped off the day with a wonderful dinner at Bombay Bistro. It doesn’t get much better than that. What a beautiful day it turned out to be.
These are not the first flowers we have had this year. The snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) were blooming as the snow melted off of them last week. But these are still quite welcome. They are fairly small and there are only the two little flowers so far, but they are so bright and cheerful that they make up in quality what they lack in quantity. I’m looking forward to the spring because I planted quite a few new bulbs last fall. Newly planted bulbs tend to come up a little later than those that have been in the ground a bit longer, which builds the anticipation a bit, but that’s all to the good. Spring has certainly arrived.
On the morning of February 3 I planted about four dozen seeds of Trifoliate Orange (Poncirus trifoliata) that Ralph and I had collected from the plant out the farm in Pennsylvania. When I got them in December, I took the seeds from the fruit and put them in a plastic bag and put them in a drawer in our refrigerator. They were there for nearly two months, pretending that it was winter. That’s necessary to their germination.
About a week ago they started coming up and this one was the first to break through the soil. It is currently the largest of about 18 that are up so far (and quite a few more have come up between when I took the picture and when I’m posting it, on March 21).
I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with them all, so if you want a hardy orange plant, let me know.
I have two pictures for today but I’m going to post them separately. Sometimes I do that because they are unrelated. This time, they are somewhat related but different enough that I’m still going to separate them. They were both taken on a walk that Cathy and I took in the neighborhood early this evening. With the sun staying up an hour longer (relative to the clocks), we had a good chance to do that. The sky was a beautiful blue and the snow was melting about as fast as it possibly could. The trees, as you can see in this photograph, are still in their winter form, but the lines of the branches of these oaks are still lovely.
Driving home today there was a disabled vehicle with a police cruiser blocking one lane of Norbeck Road. That slowed things down considerably, as you might imagine. It did give me more time to enjoy the foggy woods above Rock Creek. Because I was stopped a fair amount, I was able to take a few pictures. They don’t perfectly capture the mood, but I think this one is pretty good, especially with the added color of the beech tree in the foreground.
As I mentioned in my previous post, there was a bit of weather today. That is to say, there was frozen water falling from the sky, accumulating on whatever it struck. When it came to pavement, particularly sidewalks not treated with salt, that made for quite treacherous conditions. When it came to branches and leaves, though, it made for some lovely, ice coated, plants. These are the leaves of an azalea in our front yard, which turn various shades of orange and red for the winter, coated with a fairly thick layer of ice. It was too dark out for natural light, so this was taken with a flash, which actually enhances the colors, I think
Usually when I post a picture of a plant of any kind, it’s in the garden or at least growing in a pot. I haven’t grown mushrooms in a while but we have them in the house quite often, nevertheless. I bought a pack of fresh shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) today and sauteed them in olive oil, seasoned only with a bit of black pepper. They were then piled on burgers and topped with cheddar cheese. I really should have taken a picture of the finished product but at the time I was more interested in eating it. So, you get the mushrooms nearing the “just right” stage.
I went out into the yard this afternoon to take pictures but for the most part they are nothing to speak of. Mostly they were simple “stiff covered in snow” from our recent snowfall. This one is a bit different. These are the fruits on a Japanese spindle (Euonymus japonicus) hedge along the side of our back yard. The deer are quite fond of this plant and the lower half or so is currently stripped of leaves. It’s a vigorous plant and well enough established that it grows back in the spring, but we could do without the deer for a little while.
One of the things I asked for this year for Christmas was a small bracket that holds two flash heads out to the right and left of the camera. I also asked for a flash that will go in one of those two sides and which my camera can fire wirelessly. With this attached to my camera, I will have an easier time getting good lighting on small things when I’m focused very close. With the normal flash on top of my camrea, if I’m too close and if I don’t add an extra reflective surface, the lower portion of the photo is quite dark. With this new rig, it’s not a problem, as you can see in this closeup image of a thistle seed head that’s on our kitchen table. Those of you who are not fans of my insect close-ups may not appreciate this, but I’m chuffed.
It feels wintery today and I went out to take some pictures of ice on a small pond at a park nearby. I also saw a few small crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees and took a few pictures of them, as well. I like the little, empty seed pods. The exfoliating bark is also very nice, but those pictures were less interesting, I think. We don’t have any crape myrtle in our yard and I think with the size yard we have, it’s not something we’re going to have, but they make a nice show, with beautiful blooms but also with nice fall color and the peeling bark in the winter.
We had our annual outing to cut Christmas trees today but this picture isn’t of our Christmas tree or even of the Christmas tree farm. As per usual, we went to the family farm first, not to look at the Christmas trees there, they have all grown much too large. Still, we go there. Ralph and I collected some fruit of this plant, a trifoliate orange, otherwise known as hardy orange, and depending on who you ask, either Poncirus trifoliata or Citrus trifoliata. The former is more widely used but DNA evidence suggests the latter.
From five small fruits, small pubescent (covered with fine soft short hairs) oranges, I collected 269 seeds. They will get one month cold stratification and then I’ll plant them. Obviously I won’t need 269 plants, so if you are interested in a very thorny shrub with inedible fruit, you will be more than welcome to a few. They would make a great hedge.
Merriam-Webster defines a weed as “a plant that is not valued where it is growing and is usually of vigorous growth.” That sounds about right. It’s easier to define what you mean by the word “weed” than it is to decide what qualifies as a weed. Some plants are easy—most of us consider dandelions to be weeds. Crabgrass and nutsedge are another pair that won’t get much argument. What about when it’s something you planted? If it gets out of hand, you might consider it a weed. We have a few things like that and this might qualify. Where we had two trees cut down we have a pretty vigorous growth of black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia), purple vervain (Verbena bonariensis), and Virginia knotweed (a.k.a. painter’s palette, Persicaria virginiana var. filiformis). This picture is of knotweed, and we might need to start treating it as a weed. It is pretty, though, and more so with beads of water on the stems.
Holly isn’t my favorite genus but there are hollies and then there are hollies. What I most people think of when you mention holly is thick, leathery leaves with spines along the sides and end. To my way of thinking, they are not ideal in a yard, especially if you like to go barefoot. Ilex verticillata, on the other hand, has leaves that do not impale your feet. They also lose their leaves in the winter and make up for it with an abundance of bright red berries. It is aptly named winterberry.
Cathy and I went for a walk on the Blue Mash trail in Laytonsville. It’s just behind a landfil and is mostly reverting to woods but there are some areas kept open, as well. There is a small pond and around it there were fairly dense stands of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), also known as climbing spindleberry. It is a non-native, invasive species and grows much more vigorously than the native C. scandens (American bittersweet). I know we’re not suppose to like invasive species but I find it quite pretty and (probably because I don’t have to do battle with it in our yard) don’t mind it too much.
Cathy and I went to dinner with her mom for Cathy’s birthday this evening. We went to Red Lobster and had a good meal and a nice time together. As we were leaving, I stopped to take a few pictures of the lobsters (not yet red) in the tank inside the door.
Growing up, there was a book on our shelves called Animals Without Backbones by Ralph Buchsbaum of the Department of Zoölogy at The University of Chicago. One of my best friends in high school happened to have the same book in their house. We were both amused by the caption for a picture of a lobster at the top of page 268-8 which read as follows:
The lobster, Homarus, is mostly dark green when alive; but when boiled, like this one and like millions of others every year, turns bright red. Abouot half an hour after this picture was taken this lobster was reduced to an empty exoskeleton.
This isn’t our first frost of the year. There have been two or three days when many of the lawns in our neighborhood have been touched with white in the morning. But this is the first time this fall it’s been enough to include the shady areas of our back yard. Waking up and seeing frost in the yard is a good way to remind us of how fortunate we are to have heated homes. So naturally, I went out back to lie on the icy grass to take some pictures. I did put something down to lie on, of course, which made it a bit more comfortable. I love the way the ice limns the edges of these vinca leaves.
Outside my office building there are quite a few trees. At the front, just around the corner from my office there are kousa dogwood trees (Cornus kousa). Then in the back at the far end there are more. These are in the afternoon sun and this time of year they are quite lovely, blazing in their deep, fiery, orange-red leaves. I know it’s not hip to prefer a non-native but there is a lot to recommend these over our native dogwood. I don’t think there is any danger of the native trees being put out of business any time soon.