It turned cold over the last few days. Not bitter, winter cold, but relatively cold with lows down in the mid 30s. This morning it was below freezing for the first time this fall and the forecast is for more of the same. In the sus this afternoon it was pleasant enough if you’re like me and prefer cool weather to hot. The insects are starting to be less in evidence and Cathy was actually looking for dead insects in the yard to send to a friend (it’s probably just about as weird as it sounds). She found a carpenter bee and I took pictures of it before making sure it was dead with a little chloroform in a jar. I also took pictures of holly berries on the tree at the corner of our house. Then I spotted this milk weed seed on the top of a drying Verbena bonariensis stem and decided that’s what I’d use for today’s photo.
Flowers and Plants
I had planned to go out and take some pictures around my office building today. The sky was clear as I came in this morning, which was welcome after the two days of soaking rain we’ve had. By midday, however, the sky had clouded up again. It didn’t rain but was a lot more gloomy than the morning promised. Of course, colors are often more intense under an overcast sky, but I never managed to get outdoors to take advantage of that. By the time I got home, of course, it was dark. That’s one problem with this photo-a-day thing in the winter. I have a lot less opportunity to get pictures outdoors. I can stop on the way to work or go out during the day, but otherwise, I’m confined to pictures in the house (or night-time pictures, which are hard). But we have this orchid in bloom, so I got pictures of it and that will have to do.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day and after church we decided to drive out to Rocklands Farm (http://www.rocklandsfarmmd.com/) and enjoy being outdoors. We walked around and I took some pictures of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) growing on fence posts. The little fruits were quite lovely in the afternoon sun. I also took some nice pictures of the barn reflected in the pond that’s below it. I decided to post this picture, though, because it’s a little different from the fall colors that have so dominated my posting of late. This is a cosmos flower photographed from behind and I think it’s quite pretty in an understated sort of way.
There’s an old joke that you can easily identify dogwood by its bark but you can also spot them this time of year by the color of their leaves. The deep, burgundy color really stands out, particularly against the much more common yellow of many of our other native trees. The oaks tend to be dark orange or rusty reds. The maples range in color from bright red (as in the Japanese maples seen in yesterday’s post) to pure, electric yellow. It’s really a lovely time of year and unfortunately seems to be the shortest of the seasons. The rain last night knocked down a lot of leaves and the forecast for the coming week is for a lot more rain, so by this time next week, it may only be the oaks and beeches holding onto their drying leaves.
I’ve photographed these particular Japanese maples before. They are at the other end of the neighborhood and they have just about the most beautiful fall color of any trees I know. Individually they are lively but in combination they are spectacular. The near tree, on the left in this photo, is nearly red, with orange undertones. The farther tree is more orange and lighter and brighter. There is also a third Japanese maple on the right, further away still. That one is a deep burgundy color. I think this photo is improved by the small amount of gree from the azaleas in the foreground. I took quite a few pictures this morning and I like most of them. A woman walking her dog passed me and we agreed that these trees were special.
Getting pictures of the Zelkova trees that line Norbeck Road is sort of an annual thing for me. As I was driving east this evening I knew the light would be nice and with the bright blue sky and the scattered clouds, it seemed like an ideal day for it. I stopped at the grocery store but the light was still right when I was done, so I pulled off where the trees start and got out to take a dozen or so pictures. One thing that makes it hard is the contrast between the shady parts of the picture and the brightly lit leaves in the sun. But that’s part of what I like. They aren’t as fully in color as in previous years, but they’re pretty nice, nonetheless.
Here’s another shot of maple leaves in our back yard. I often feel like the colors in the current year are different from previous years. Not so much that they are different but that the timing is different. So I looked back at pictures of this tree the last two years to see when it was in full color. I have a picture posted on October 29 of 2017 and two pictures on October 27 and 28 in 2016. So I’d guess it really isn’t all that different this year. The leaves on the ground under the tree are just about as nice as those still on the tree. Set off by the bright green of the grass rather than the pale blue of the sky but in this case without the direct light of the afternoon sun on them.
The purple coneflowers (Echinacea purporea) is long since finished blooming. In fact, most things have. There are still flowers on a few plants but they are getting fewer and farther between. But that’s not the end of interest in the garden. In the fall we start to see shapes that we don’t notice in the summer amid all the color. The seeds of this coneflower are lovely in their own way, especially the way they detach and leave this little floret of spikes as they are carried off, probably by gold finches and other small birds. The gold finches, too, have lost their summer finery and are dressed in pale brown for the winter.
The two maple trees in our back yard are both fairly misshapen and a little bit stunted. Nevertheless, they do produce some really great color each fall. They also provide some much needed shade in the summer. So I’m not planning to take them out any time soon. When we first moved here, I had my eye on them as being the first to go. I planted four California incense dedar (Calocedrus decurrens) trees as a screen so that when they got bigger, I could take the maples out and still have the view through to the yards behind mostly blocked. Those trees are a good 15 or 20 feet tall now and being pretty dense evergreens are better screens than the maples, even in the summer. Nevertheless, we’ve taken out three larger trees in the back yard (well, one of those fell down, which is a bit different) and two in the front.
It’s interesting that each year always feels different to the last. It’s past the middle of October and there’s hardly any fall color here yet. Surely this is much later than last year. Well, going out and taking pictures every day for a few years has a few advantages. I can go back and find pictures of fall color from previous years, not just here but in my full collection of photos. As it turns out, the maple in our back yard generally gets to be fully red fairly late in October, with pictures from October 27 both last year and the year before. So, we’ll see what it looks like in nine days and see if the colors really are significantly later this year. In the meantime, this little dogwood seedling growing in our back yard has some pretty good color. It seems to suffer quite a bit from mildew, but it’s doing fine otherwise.
This spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is growing right outside our kitchen door and although it doesn’t have so many flowers at this time of the year, it still manages to put out a few. They are such beautiful little flowers and I can’t imagine not having them in our garden. The color ranges from blue to purple and it’s not always the same in photographs as it is to the eye. It’s possible that some of the color comes from the physical structure of the flower rather than from a pigment but I don’t actually know for sure. Examples of structural colors include those found in peacock feathers, butterfly wings, and the beautiful iridescence of beetle carapaces. If you are interested in structural colors, you might find this article interesting: Color from Structure in The Scientist.
It’s mushroom season in our back yard. There were a total of five maple trees running in a line through our back yard when we bought the house. One of them, a silver maple (Acer saccharinum) was clearly large enough to be older than the house but the others, I’m pretty sure, were planted about the time the house was built. Three of the five are gone, now. One came down in a storm and I preemptively took two more down, including the largest one, to prevent the same thing happening and it falling on the house. Each year since then, mushrooms appear early in the fall and I have to assume they are living on what remains of the roots of those trees. They appear, flourish, and then turn to mush in about a week. When they become mush, they appear to be devoured by the grubs of some insect or other. It’s pretty gross, actually, but all part of the grand panoply of life.
Mile-a-minute vine, also known as devil’s tail and tearthumb, is an herbaceous annual vine in the buckwheat family. If you’ve ever encountered it you will know where the name tearthumb comes from. It is native to Asia but has become naturalized throughout the area and is a serious pest. Think of bindeed on steroids and with seriously barbed stems but without interesting flowers. It does have interesting fruit, I have to admit. These little berries are less that 5mm across but they are such a clear, beautiful blue, I cannot help but enjoy them. That’s not to say I would ever consider growing this for the ornamental value of the berries, of course. But they are still pretty.
The Anthurium genus contains about 1000 species—the largest genus in the arum family—but only two of them are grown for their bright red spathes. This is Anthurium andraeanum, a native to Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuelan Antilles, and the Windward Islands. Common names include flamingo lily and painter’s palette, although I’ve only ever known it simply as Anthurium. Like many plants in the Araceae family, Anthurium species contain calcium oxalate crystals (CaC2O4(H2O)x) and are therefore poisonous to humans. They’re pretty, though.
These were given to Margaret for her 92nd birthday and are quite pretty. We have them in a tall, blue vase that we were given as a wedding present and they are photographed here in front of the cherry china cabinet that I’ve used as a backdrop a few times since we moved it to our dining room. Sunflowers are great, not just because they last so long in a vase, but that certainly is a useful trait. Their combination of ray petals and the small flowers that make up the center of the flower head are just really pretty. And the color is nice, too.
I stopped at Rockville Cemetery on the way home from work today and took a few pictures. I got a few nice shots of grave markers and thought about posting one of those but I decided to go with the fungus among us. This is, I believe, a ruby bolete (Hortiboletus rubellus). It is not terribly poisonous but not really considered to be edible, either, as it has a soapy taste. I’m not about to trust my identification skills enough to eat it, in any case. It’s a pretty mushroom, though, and happily growing in the shade of a few large oak trees.
I took some pictures of skippers on black-eyed Susan flowers this evening. I also got a few decent shots of a little leaf hopper, which I haven’t identified. They are quite small and this one was probably only about 5mm long. There are about 3,000 described species in north America along and it is estimated that there are more than 100,000 species worldwide, with less than a quarter actually having been described. I decided to post this picture, instead of one with an insect, just because I like the shallow depth of field on the yellow petals of the black-eyed Susan.
In the small garden where the county once had an oak tree, down by the road, Cathy has been growing mostly annuals each summer. We got a lot less done in the yard this year but she did manage to get a bunch of zinnia and marigold plants in the ground. There is Pachysandra terminalis already growing around the bed but she has kept the center, where the tree was, clear for her annuals. There is also Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue Mistflower), a slightly invasive herbaceous perennial, but she pulls out enough each year to keep things balanced. The blue of the Conoclinium goes well with the yellow and orange of the zinnias and marigolds.
Ten days ago I posted a picture of purple coneflowers in a blue and white vase against the dark cherry of a china cabinet. I was a little surprised by the relatively warm reception it received. Those same flowers are now a little bit past their prime. This is one of them, drooping and a little faded, but still quite lovely in its own way. Of course, we all want to be the strong, beautiful flower, blooming where we are planted. But that’s fleeting, as it is written, “As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16 ESV) But even his days are not all full bloom. We start as a small sprout (metaphorically speaking), grow, (hopefully) bloom, and (even more hopefully) bear fruit. But then we grow old and begin to fade, like this flower. That, too, can be beautiful. Lord, help me to grow old gracefully.
As I’ve mentioned before, the garden is somewhat overrun with Rudbekia (a.k.a. black-eyed Susan) flowers. The bees don’t mind. There are, actually, other things in bloom, but none nearly as obvious. The mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), for instance, is very popular with the bees of all sorts. But their flowers are much less showy. This afternoon I took a bunch of pictures of various bees on the black-eye Susan flowers. This one is a western honey bee, Apis mellifera. Contrary to popular belief, they are in no real danger of all dying out. You can, to a large degree, thank capitalism for that, although I think the danger was considerably exagerated, in any case.
Cathy brought some coneflowers in this evening to put in a vase in or dining room. Actually, they got knocked over when she was cutting the grass so she figured we might as well enjoy them as they die. I think they look really nice against the rich brown of this china cabinet. As you might be able to tell, the china cabinet is empty. We’ll put things in it but we haven’t gotten around to it yet. For now, the things that could go in it are in boxes and taking up space that could be used in better ways. But finding them and figuring out what we want where is a bit too much for us right now.
We don’t bring flowers in very often but I’m always glad when we do. One of the nicest photos I’ve taken, actually, is a vase of flowers, mostly roses, that Cathy arranged. It was sitting on our kitchen table and the late afternoon sun was coming in and lighting it from the side so the background went fairly dark and the flowers glowed nicely. I’ve made a few prints of that one, taken in 2010, and it’s been fairly popular. I don’t think this one will win any awards but I do like the colors and it’s a relaxing picture, to me.
Here’s another photo of the black-eyed Susans in our back yard. After work today I sat in the back yard for a while. I decided it was time I cut my hair so I got the clippers out and did it. It was very hot and the hair stuck all over me but it’s done. While I was sitting after getting my hair cut, I enjoyed the black-eyed Susans that surround our patio. They have gotten somewhat out of control but they are lovely and if anything is going to go wild, it might as well be pretty. This is a time of the summer when there isn’t a lot else in bloom and the Rudbekia are quite welcome. Maybe next year we’ll have time to fight them back a little but for now, we’ll just enjoy their abundance.
It’s been a good year for the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) in our yard. Of course, it’s been an even better year for the weeds. With most weekends at least partly devoted to dealing with one or both of our mom’s houses, we’ve spent a lot less time in the garden this year. There is bindweed (Convolvulus species) everywhere and it’s running riot. In particular, along the back fence and the garden along the south end of the house are both totally out of control. There is significant pokeweed, goldenrod, various thistles, and even a few trees (zelkova, elm, maple, and ash). But there are some blooms that were intended, as well, including this coneflower.
The 25 or so Rudbekia species are all native to North America and Rudbeckia hirta is the state flower of Maryland. We actually have two related varieties of black-eyed Susans in our yard and I don’t know if they are different species or different varieties of the same species. This is by far the more aggressive of the two and left to itself would probably take over the entire yard. In fact, even with some efforts to contain it, it’s taking over the entire yard. On the other hand, there isn’t a lot else blooming right now and if you look into our back yard, it’s filled with yellow, so I can’t really complain. This year, the garden has pretty much had to find for itself. Hopefully we’ll be able to do something with it next year.
As mentioned, we went to a wedding reception yesterday for Dorothy’s friend, Kendra. Dorothy flew down on Friday evening and then today we drove her back up to Massachusetts and will be with her for the week. I say “with her” but we’ll be staying in an airbnb in Gloucester, about 25 minutes from the home she’s living in for the summer. After we arrived and got our things into the cottage, we went to see the garden Dorothy’s been growing this summer. While Cathy and Dorothy watered and did a little weeding, I relaxed in the shade and then took a few pictures. It was a long day (about 10 hours on the road) and I needed a break. The garden is in the yard of the aunt and uncle of one of Dorothy’s friends and there is a box full of acorns in the yard. That’s the subject for today’s picture.
The coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) in our yard tend to get eaten up by insects of one sort or another. I’m not sure who the culprit actually is, but they eat holes in the ray florets (the petals around the central group of disc florets), making the flowers a bit less attractive for photography. The bees aren’t bothered, of course, and this bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). The generic name Echinacea comes from the Greek word meaning hedgehog or sea-urchin, which references the spiny center of the flower. The name Bombus for bumble bees comes from the Latin (which took it from the Greek) for “booming, buzzing, humming.”
I have a little plot with a fence around it where I grew a few vegetables when it was first put in. Summers have been quite busy and keeping up with vegetables has been tough. Also, it’s small enough that it really isn’t worth the trouble. So, I’ve planted a few herbs and don’t have to get out there nearly as often. Temperatures down to 0°F this last winter took care of the rosemary but the oregano (Origanum vulgare, a member of the mint family native to Europe through central Asia) is going strong. In fact, it’s practically taken over the entire plot.
I was down at my mom’s after work and looked around for something to photograph. There isn’t really anything in bloom in her yard right now, but the leaves on the fig tree that dad planted caught my eye. The common fig, Ficus carica, is not completely hardy in our area but planted in a protected spot and given some winter protection, it can be successfully grown. My grandparents, in southern North Carolina, got a lot more figs off their much larger tree. This tree never produced enough figs on its own to make any significant quantity of preserves so mom had to supplement it with figs bought at the market.
When Dorothy was born and we gave her the middle name Rose, a friend gave us a small Rose of Sharon plant. We had that in a container until we moved to our current house and then Cathy planted it in the garden along the south end of our back yard. It has flourished and indeed it is something of a constant chore to pull up the seedlings that appear around the yard, but I will confess that I like the flowers on this large shrub or small tree. They appear over a long period, from early summer well into fall. The Latin name for the plant, Hibiscus syriacus, implies that it comes from Syria, but that appears to be false, being a native of eastern Asia instead.
My grandmother carried a bouquet of Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota var. carota) at her wedding. For their 50th anniversary party we gathered bucket loads of the stuff from empty fields and had it all round the room. You are probably familiar with the flowers, as it’s a pretty common plant all across the United States and bordering provinces of Canada as well as Europe and Asia. This is the wild carrot from which our cultivated carrot descended. It is reported to have been first developed in Afghanistan. It is a biennial plant, blooming in their second year.
This is Iris domestica, often called blackberry lily or leopard lily and formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis. It’s a perennial plant that we have in various places in our garden. We gather the seeds most years and spread them in areas we would like it to grow, although I don’t know if we’re doing as well as the birds when it comes to actually spreading it. As you can see, it has vaguely lily-like flowers and they are quite lovely. They each last a day but they are born in clusters, blooming one after the next for quite a while. In case you were wondering, the genus name Iris comes from the Greek goddess of the rainbow.
Along our back fence, the garden has really gotten out of control. With the work we’ve been doing on our mom’s houses, we haven’t really had time to give it half the attention it needs and deserves. Consequently, it’s got goldenrod, poke weed, and thistles growing in abundance. Three of our planted perennials are doing quite well, however, including the bee balm (Monarda didyma, also known as Oswego tea or bergamot) and the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) shown here. The other, not yet in bloom, is obedient plant (Physostegia virginiana). All three are native to the area and extremely tough. The bees love them and I followed this common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) for a while as he moved from flower to flower.
The genus Hosta has about 70 species native to Japan, Korea, China and eastern Russia. They are shade loving perennials grown mostly for their foliage but they have nice, if somewhat understated flowers, as well. The name Hosta is in honor of of Austrian botanist Nicholas Thomas Host (1761-1834). My parents had these in their garden and growing up I knew it as Funkia. That’s because the genus was renamed to that in 1817 “in honor of botanist Heinrich Christian Funk under the belief at that time that Hosta was an invalid name.” Early in the 20th century the name was switched back but the plants are still referred to as Funkia by some (including my parents, evidently).
This one is growing in a container just outside our front door. There are generally two pests that eat Hosta plants. Slugs can do significant damage to them, eating holes in the leaves. In our garden, that’s generally not so destructive that we worry about it, although it can make the leaves a little less attractive. The other culprit is deer, who really seem to love Hosta leaves. Although we see deer in our yard and often see signs of their presence, they don’t seem to come too close to the house. So, we keep the Hostas close and that seems to be enough. We also put up deer repellent although I don’t actually know how much help that is. It certainly doesn’t do any harm.
In the shade garden at the north end of our yard, we have a few different ferns. This is the most prevalent and it is some sort of Dryopteris but I don’t remember which. Dryopteris species have various common names including wood, shield, and male fern. In with this is an ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) and a Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum) as well as a small patch of sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis) that was already here when we bought the house. There are two or three Astilbe plants scattered throughout and they compliment each other pretty well, although a slightly taller Astilbe might be a good idea, as these are almost covered by the fern. As a bonus, I got a bee of some sort on the Astilbe flowers, which I didn’t notice when I was taking the picture.
Commonly known as spider flower Cleome is a fast-growing, tender perennial grown here as an annual (it’s only hardy in USDA zones 9 and 10). This variety, ‘Señorita Rosalita’, is “noted for having no thorns, no unpleasant aroma, no sticky foliage, no seedpods and better disease resistance” (Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder). We love it and it’s been a regular feature in a container on out back patio. We really should plant more of them, as they always perform very well and bloom basically all summer from mid-June well into October or November.
It was another foray out onto the driveway for pictures this evening after work. Today was relatively quiet, coming home from work and not going out again, which was a treat after the week we’ve had. Things will get busy again tomorrow as William and Beth are driving down from New York and we’ll be going through a few things in the basement at Margaret’s house. I stopped at the store and bought some ground beef and ground pork. When I got home I made some meat sauce to have with tortellini and also made a meat loaf to slice and reheat for meals in upcoming days.
It’s been a busy week but I managed to get out onto the driveway with my camera this evening. It isn’t a long walk, after all. We have a little, yellow Stella d’Oro day lily in bloom just outside the front door, and I took pictures of that, first. Then I got a few pictures of the flowers on an Egyptian Walking Onion that self seeded from those in the back yard into one of the pots on the top of the driveway. Finally, I took pictures of this everlasting flower, Xerochrysum bracteatum ‘Sundaze Golden Beauty’. It’s certainly bright and as the name suggests, the flowers last. It’s a tender annual native to Australia but they do pretty well here, if given full sun and blooms pretty reliably all summer and well into the fall.
After mom’s brief stay ib the hospital, she had a few follow-up appointments, starting this morning. I thought it would be good to stay with her the rest of the day and because I can work remotely, that’s what I did. I took a short break in the early afternoon and took a few pictures in her yard. I also took some of her neighbor’s roses. This rose is called ‘Graham Thomas’, bred by David Austin, 1983. It is named for Graham Stuart Thomas OBE (April 3, 1909 – April 17, 2003), the famed British botinist, garden designer and rosarian.
I have always had a bit of a thing for ferns. You might say I’m front of ferns. Or maybe not. Anyway, this is one of our nicest native ferns, the northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum). This one, a piece of one that I took from a clump that my dad had growing in his yard and then dug up again when we moved. It’s growing in full sun and tends to be a bit burned by the end of the summer. I really should get some growing in a shadier part of the yard, but this it happy enough that I don’t need to move the whole thing. The genus name Adiantum comes from the Greek word meaning unwetted, which refers to its water repellent foliage. The specific name pedatum means cut like a bird’s foot in reference to the fronds.
One more rose picture and then I’ll move on to something else for a little while. On the south end of the house I have this ‘Champneys’ Pink Cluster’ growing. Like the ‘Perle d’Or’ featured yesterday, this didn’t have any problem this winter. I’m convinced the death and near death of the roses in the back are location-related. Anyway, this one is fine. It’s a fairly tall, somewhat gangly thing but it does have these nice, pink blossoms off and on throughout the summer. That garden has become somewhat overgrown recently and is in desperate need of attention, possibly to the point of digging it out almost completely and starting over. There is bindweed (a.k.a. morning glory, Ipomoea purpurea) throughout. But this rose I would keep. ‘Champneys’ Pink Cluster’ is the first of the Noisette roses, bred by John Champneys in South Carolina circa 1811. It is a cross Rosa moschata and either ‘Parsons’ Pink China’ or ‘Champneys’ Bengal Rose’.
Also, dig the little, unidentified plant bug on the flower on the left.
This sweet little polyantha rose is just outside my front door. I’ve posted pictures before but I like this one because it shows the color of the blooms as they open (on the right) and as they age and fade (on the left). They produce considerable fragrance and especially on a warm, humid morning, it’s quite a lovely thing when you come out the door. There is some dead wood on this rose, but no more than normal. It doesn’t seem to have been affected by whatever happened to those in the back. On Saturday, at Nick’s garden, we talked about this rose. He has two of them and one is in almost full, if open, shade, surrounded by hostas. Nevertheless, it continues to bloom quite happily. So, if you have a bright but shady yard and thought you couldn’t grow any roses, you might give this one a try. The flowers are small and not particularly well suited for cutting, but it makes up for that by blooming off and on all summer.
Pretty much every year I post a picture of this rose. It’s a multiflora rose (Rosa multiflora) that I collected from the edge of the woods near my office. Shortly after I dug up a piece, the area was sprayed and the mother plant was killed. This has done quite well in the yard until this year. For some reason, this and the rugosa hybrid ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’ nearly died. Another rose, ‘Blush Noisette’, died completely. I also had to remove my ‘New Dawn’ because of rose rosette virus, Happily, there is one old cane as well as another new cane coming up on this shrub, so all is not lost. Here are all my posts with pictures of this rose.
We had a wonderful time visiting Rosanne and Nick in their open garden today. I was looking through old photographs from previous visits. I lot has changed since our first visit in 2002, but a lot has remained the same, as well. With the somewhat odd spring we had this year, with cool weather late into April, which was fairly dry, followed by a lot of rain in mid-May, the early bloomers were still showing off. We usually don’t get to see some of them bloom and that was a treat. Of course, that means the later bloomers were still just in bud. But that’s the change you take. Either way, the garden was lovely. And Rosanne and Nick were their usual, charming, friendly selves.
As usual, I took lots of pictures of individual roses as well as some showing the garden more generally. It’s hard to pick one rose bloom that represents the garden, but if you are interested in rose ‘portraits’ I have a few.
I know I’ve already posted a picture of this plant this spring. In fact, it only four days ago. Nevertheless, The second of the three peonies that I planted in 2014, named ‘Coral Sunset’, was blooming and had the late afternoon sun shining through it. I just couldn’t resist another picture of this wonderful flower. With one bloom per plant, we’re basically done for the year with these three. But they were worth it and I’m already looking forward to a total of four or five flowers on the three plants next year.
A few days ago I mentioned that we had two varieties of large, bearded iris in our garden. The one photographed then was purple and white. This is a detail of the other one, which is mostly yellow with brown falls (as you can see). They are not quite as large as the purple and white flowers but are still quite striking. This one is growing just inside the fence to the back yard. Well, what’s left of the fence. It’s an old post and rail fence and the wood is rotting and it’s falling down. A few weeks ago I took down the better part of it and I’ll probably finish the job before too long.
In the fall of 2014 I bought three peonies called ‘Coral Sunset’ from John Scheepers (https://www.johnscheepers.com/). I planted them amidst the pachysandra along the back of my garden. The first spring there was only evidence of one of them. The next year, two. Now all three are coming up through the pachysandra and each of them bore a single bud. This is the largest and the first of them to bloom. I must say, they are worth the wait. One great thing about peonies is that they are long lived and they continue to grow into larger and larger clumps. These three should eventually grow together into one massive clump that will be wonderful in bloom. For now, I enjoy the solitary flower.
The irises have begun to bloom. We basically have two sets of tall, bearded iris. There are these purple and white type and another that are mostly yellow. They are both quite lovely and we could do worse than have them. That being said, we could do with a little more variety. We also have other types of iris, most notably Siberian iris (Iris sibirica) and English iris (Iris latifolia). Some of these bloom later and they are both much smaller, both in terms of overall height and in size of bloom, than the large, bearded varieties.
The spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) has begun blooming in our yard. Most of them look like this, with dark green leaves and dark blue/purple flowers. The flower color is difficult to catch and is actually a bit bluer than how they look here. We have one with chartreuse leaves, which is very pretty but needs a little shade. We also have one with pink flowers. I’ve read that their flowers change color to pink when when exposed to radiation but this one was bred to have pink flowers. If the others all suddenly turn pink, then I’ll worry.
We don’t put our car in the garage. There are a few reasons for that, not least of which is that there it too much else in there for a car to fit. But even if a car would fit in the garage, you can’t get there from here. At the top of the driveway are potted plants. Not just one or two but a fairly extensive collection. Each year one or two new containers seems to get added. Some of them start with annuals but then perennials self-seed into them and they transition to permanent fixtures. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, of course, and this time of year, especially when it’s raining and the colors are more intense, it’s really lovely.
Quite a few years ago, my dad happened to see an ad for something called The Seed Guild. If you bought an annual subscription, they would send seeds collected (with permission) from botanical gardens and arboreta around the world. One of the little packets of seeds that I got were labeled as Korean Lilac. At least that’s my memory. If I have it written down somewhere I certainly don’t know where. I also don’t know if it was Syringa meyeri, which is what is usually referred to as Korean Lilac or if it was some other, lesser known species. In any case, I had it growing in a container for many years and then when we moved here I put it into the ground. The deer ate it back one year but it’s doing pretty well now and for the first time has bloomed. The flowers are quite pale, not the lilac that we think of when we think of lilac. Nevertheless, they are a pretty pink, especially from a distance, where the color is more visible.
I’m not sure what happened last year but for some reason, most of my roses died. One of them, a pink flowered R. multiflora hybrid, isn’t quite gone, with one branch left. This R. rugosa named ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’ also has some life left in it. Nevertheless, there’s a fair amount of dead wood to prune out. ‘Blush Noisette’ appears to be completely dead. It was never a very vigorous shrub but for it to simply die completely was unexpected. I lost my ‘New Dawn’ last year, but that I had to dig up because of rose rosette disease, is caused by Emaravirus species of virus.
I walked around a little at lunch time today, taking pictures of a few local flowering plants. I started with photos of black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) flowers. They are blooming everywhere right now and they produce a heady, sweet fragrance. They also are, I believe, one of our biggest sources of nectar for honey. I took some photos of honeysuckle vine (Lonicera japonica, which is also blooming now. I went across the street behind my building and came across these little wildflowers. Like the honeysuckle, they are non-native and invasive (they are listed as a noxious weed in Alabama although they are not anything near as invasive as the Japanese honeysuckle). They are star of Bethlehem flowers (Ornithogalum umbellatum) and they are pretty little things.
This pink flower dogwood (Cornus florida) is blooming again and it’s a lovely color. The tree is way to close to the house and eventually I need and plan to take it out. I’ve planted a Camellia japonica under it, a little further from the house, with the hope of letting that take its place. Unfortunately we had a week early in the winter with temperatures below 5°F, which were pretty hard on the not-terribly-hardy camellia and it was pretty badly damaged. It doesn’t look entirely dead, but it sure was killed back quite a bit. Still, it may pull through. I’ll need to be sure to keep it watered well in the heat of the summer and we’ll hope for the best.
There are columbine (Aquilegia species) scattered around our yard. Most of them are self-seeded volunteers and most of them are this dark, rather compact-flowering variety that seems to come true from seed. I don’t know what its origin is, whether we brought it here or it’s a natural hybrid from some that we had, but it’s quite successful, coming up year after year. It isn’t the most colorful columbine you’ll find, but it’s nice enough and I’m not going to turn down a zero-effort, flowering perennial like this.
I have chives growing in two pots on the back patio and they are starting to bloom. They are quite reliable, year after year, and have lovely purple flowers that are always appreciated. I don’t use chives in my cooking all that often, although with such a ready source I probably should. This time of year, though, I sometimes use the flowers to give both flavor and color to food. They have a nice, mild, oniony flavor that goes well with many savory dishes. The chopped up flowers sprinkled over a meat sauce or over a nicely grilled steak are a treat.
The family traveled to Pennsylvania today. It’s always good to get everyone together but today was a mixture of joy and sadness. Joy because we were with family, outdoors on a cool day in May. Sad because we came to bury Albert’s ashes. We decided that it would be appropriate to bury them under this large tree, a North American white oak (Quercus alba, not to be confused with the English white or common oak, Q. robur). Based on its circumference, estimates of its age range from about 250 to over 300 years, although we’ve never had it actually dated with a core sample. We’ll just continue to assert it predates the American Revolution.
We used to have a tire swing on this tree and in the 1960s we camped near by in the field that later came to be called the Christmas Tree Field. It’s now difficult to see where the woods ended and the field began, as it’s all pretty much grown up with trees, although there is still a wood duck house on a tree that’s near what was the edge of the field. After we started camping in what is now the yard, we didn’t get over to the tree quite as often.
As for the name of the tree, that was given by some neighbors shortly after the death in 1981 of General Omar Bradley. There is, in some circles, a tradition of naming large oaks after generals and when one of the neighbors mentioned the name to dad, he liked it and it’s pretty much stuck. It’s all very unofficial, of course and this tree is just in the woods on our property, not in a park or other public place. Omar Bradley was the last of nine five-star officers in the US military, having been promoted to General of the Army in September, 1950. Only George Washington and John Pershing, Generals of the Armies (plural) have ranked higher than the nine five-star officers.
Cathy planted some woodland forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) shortly after we moved here. It is a short-lived perennial but it self-seeds so we’ve had it around in various places since. It has beautiful, powder blue flowers that help fill the gap between the bulbs, which are basically done, and the summer flowers, which are still a ways off. They are also not generally eaten by rabbits and deer, which is important in our yard. It has continued to be a cool spring but the forecast is for very warm weather tomorrow through Friday and I’m not sure if these will be around much after that. The azaleas are starting to bloom, though, so we’ll still have some color.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is starting to bloom. This is a beautiful little plant and quite tough. It does take quite some time to get established and it’s fairly expensive to buy but it’s worth having. When we lived in our old house, we dug up a bunch (with permission) from a yard that was being bulldozed in order to widen a road. There were places it was growing up through asphalt. One thing about it, though, is that it seems to want to ‘move’ through the garden. That is, as it expands in one direction, it dies off where it was. So we have this mass of lily of the valley but as a unit, the whole mass is moving. In our case, it’s moving out into the yard and leaving an empty space behind. I’m not sure how to reverse that.
Yesterday I had a picture of relatively inconsequential flowers. Well, they are inconsequential to us because they aren’t all that pretty, but they are fairly consequential to the plants that have them. Also, they have a wonderful, sweet aroma. Today, we have leaves that are as pretty as (or prettier than) many flowers. They have no aroma, of course, but they are quite striking. This is a variety of Pieris japonica (Japanese andromeda), possibly ‘Mountain Fire’ or something similar. The new leaves are a bright red, visible from quite a distance against the glossy green of last years foliage. By the middle of summer these new leaves will have faded to green, as well, but for now, it’s a brilliant display.
We don’t normally think of hollies as being flowering tress but of course they are, as members of angiosperms (a.k.a. the magnoliophyta) they are flowering plants. Their flowers are not nearly as showy as their fruit, however, consisting of tiny, yellow flowers. Holly flowers are generally greenish white and as you can see in this picture, on this particular holly they are grouped along the stem in. They have four petals and this holly, like most species of Ilex is dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants. This one is apparently male, as it has flowers each year but never has fruit.
In the shade under the dying cherry tree that I mentioned yesterday is a shade garden. There is Japanese spurge (Pachysandra terminalis). We’ve added a few things, including the sweet woodruff (a.k.a sweetscented bedstraw, Galium odoratum) and some bulbs including the grape hyacinths (Muscari armeniacum) seen on the right. There are also a few ferns of various types and I wouldn’t mind more of them. There are Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) in the upper left that will be blooming in a little while and I’ll probably have pictures of them when the time comes.
Our second cherry tree is in full bloom. The two trees are different varieties and are quite different from each other. The first to bloom has small, single, pale pink flowers. This one, which blooms two to four weeks later, has large, frilly, double flowers of a much more vibrant pink. It’s also a healthy tree. The first to bloom is slowly dying. Each year, another branch goes. I’ve planted an apple tree not too far from the dying cherry and that will eventually will take its place. There is a second apple behind this cherry. They are ‘Goldrush’ and ‘Arkansas BLack’, the former a late-maturing yellow apple and the latter a dark red.
This is a little columbine (Aquilegia) plant that Dorothy potted up. It’s a very little thing but has two, beautiful blooms, one of which is shown here. Cathy moved it to the concrete bench outside our front door (which we call the stone table, with apologies to C. S. Lewis). So it greets us as we go out and welcomes us back when we go in. We have a few plants scattered around the yard but those in the ground are not blooming yet.
The daffodils are generally past their peak but there are a few that are still going strong. These pretty, mostly white daffodils, called ‘Lemon Beauty’ are later than some and still look quite good. I planted them in the fall of 2014 and they seem to have settled in well enough. They are on the western side of a bed that is around a nearly dead Colorado spruce (Picea pungens). I need to cut the tree down and replace it with something more ornamental (and what isn’t more ornamental then a mostly dead spruce?). But the daffodils can stay, of course. I bought these bulbs from John Scheepers. Their description of this variety, is:
Lemon Beauty is a rapturous 4″ Lefeber Papillion-type with a bright ivory-white perianth accented by a radiant, star shaped lemon-yellow heart. Narcissus Class: Split-Cup Papillon (Royal Horticultural Society Division 11). Bulb size: 14/16 cm. April. 16″. HZ: 4-8.
We spent the better part of the day on the deck at Cathy’s mom’s house today, going through boxes of papers. We found some interesting things, including Cathy’s first passport. There was a little bit of chaff among the grain, of course. The sun was out and shining on the newly opening leaves of a silver maple (Acer saccharinum) growing above the deck. They are a lovely orange color. Soon they will turn green, of course, but that’s just for the purpose of soaking up the sunlight. Come October they will return to orange in their lovely fall finery.
Cathy grew up with parrots in the house. Her father’s family had one when he was young and after they moved back to the states in the 1960s, they had two for many years, Roscoe and Red Head. When Red died, Jim planted these lilacs in his honor and they continue to bloom, year after year. They are a bit leggy, at this point, and could do with a bit of pruning (and a bit more sun, truth be told) but they are still quite beautiful. The only lilac I have in my yard is one grown from seed that I got from The Seed Guild (no longer extant, I believe). It is doing well but has never bloomed. My memory is that it was called a Korean Lilac, but it doesn’t look like Syringa meyeri, which sometimes goes by that name. I’ll have to see if I can find my notes from many (many) years ago.
We planted a fair amount of Epimedium at our old house and had at least three different varieties with red, yellow, and white flowers. We only have a little here and all of it, unless I’m forgetting something, is the red Epimedium × rubrum, commonly called bishop’s hat) or red barrenwort, a cross between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum. It’s easy to grow and the flowers are small but both lovely and borne prolifically and it’s certainly worth growing for the flowers alone. The leaves are quite nice, too, and even when not in bloom, it makes a handsome ground cover. In fact, we first saw it at the National Arboretum serving that purpose in a garden around a patio behind the gift shop.
This little shrub seems to barely make it through each winter but then in late April, it surprises us with stems covered with beautiful, very double flowers of delicate pink. I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to find this plant for my garden if I didn’t already have it, but I’m certainly glad for it, since I already do. It isn’t spectacular and it isn’t large. On the other hand, it takes virtually no care. I just cut off the branches that have died from the previous year and it continues to do its thing. Who could ask for more?
After church Cathy said I should go into the woods because there were some wildflowers that I might like to photograph. There were, indeed. They are rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides), a native to eastern North America and a pretty little spring flower. As you might guess from the common name, the plant is quite similar to the meadow rue (in leaf form) and to the anemone (in flower form). It’s a pretty little woodland flower and would be a nice addition to a shade garden.
Some things are worth waiting for. If they were not, we’d have a hard time planning for anything farther away than next week, I guess. Some things, like trees and to a lesser extent shrubs, take a while to be worth planting. In the spring of 2010, I planted a small Camellia japonica called ‘Pink Perfection’. It was small to begin with and struggled through the first couple years. I’ve lowered the pH of the soil around it, and that seems to have helped significantly. It bloomed a few times the first year but hasn’t bloomed since until now. Hopefully it is becoming well enough established that it will begin to grow and we’ll get more like this in the years to come.
I hope you’re enjoying the spring flowers. I know some of my followers are in the south and your flowers started earlier and your daffodils may be finished by now. Others are to the north and the daffodils are only just getting started. The early dafs are done here but there are quite a few still in full bloom and one or two that are yet to come. This is a large, bright yellow daffodil called ‘Arkle’ that I planted in the fall of 2014. This being only their fourth year here, they are not as well established as the very similar ‘Marieke’ planted five years earlier. Still, they’re putting on quite a show.
One of my favorite things is the color of flower petals (or leaves, for that matter) with the sun shining through them. Even flowers that are beautiful on their own, like this Lenten rose (a Helleborus called ‘Red Racer’) are even more lovely lit from behind. At least that’s my opinion. I bought two of these from McClure & Zimmerman in the fall of 2014 but they no longer list it on their web site. I bought three others at the same time, two ‘Rose Quartz’ and one ‘Mango Magic’. We also have some white or nearly white varieties that we got from Brady when Brookside Gardens was replacing them with something else.
This is among the first things I planted when we moved here eleven years ago. These bulbs and a few others were given to me by a good friend as payment for taking some family photos for her. They’ve done very well between our front walk and the house and always give good value. Daffodils have some exceptional qualities. For one thing, they are very reliable, coming up every spring without so much as a peep of complaint. A late freeze or snow fall doesn’t bother them, the deer and rabbits leave them alone, and every year the clumps get larger, eventually growing together into drifts that brighten a rainy spring day. What’s not to like?
I love this beautiful, little bulb. Along with the similar (and related) Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) species, it’s an early, generally blue-flowered bulb. It’s also a very welcome sign of spring. Not as early as the Eranthis or the Galanthus (snow drops, both of which start blooming here in February, it’s still a great thing to see coming up, especially when you have a late snow, as we did this year. Scilla siberica, commonly called Siberian squill, is native to Southern Russia and is hardy as far north as USDA Zone 2. Like Chionodoxa, it has small, mostly blue flowers but they are generally much more thoroughly blue. The other obvious difference is that they open facing downward while Chionodoxa flowers generally face up. If you don’t have any in your yard, I highly recommend them. Buy a bunch this fall and get them in the ground. You’ll be enjoying them for years to come.
I’ve planted a fair amount of this around the yard but I’m not sure I could ever have too much of it. Chionodoxa forbesii, commonly called glory of the snow, is a beautiful, little early spring bulb. Although the daffodils have started blooming and they overlap with this, these are going to be done well before the daffodils. The Latin genus, Chionodoxa, comes from the Greek words chion meaning snow and doxa meaning glory. This reflects their very early flowering, often when snow is still on the ground. The specific epithet, forbesii, honors James Forbes (1773-1861), the British botanist who was employed as the gardener for the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey.
The cherry trees around here often bloom over a fairly wide range of dates, with some finishing up before others even get started. There are trees in full bloom and others that are barely showing any buds. I was at the school today (Dorothy’s high school) and on the way out passed a few that were pretty close to being in full bloom. So, I stopped and took some pictures. It rained off and on today, so the flowers were wet and the sky behind the tree was white, rather than any sort of contrasting blue. Still, the pale pink of the flowers is quite nice. Interestingly, the tree next to this has noticeably darker pink flowers. Close up, it isn’t so obvious but when looking at the trees next to each other, it’s easy to see.
This isn’t a great picture but I’m pretty pleased with these daffodils. It’s a variety called ‘Arkle’ and I planted them in the fall of 2014, making this their fourth spring in our yard. They are still just getting established, with two or occasionally three blooms per bulb in contrast to those that have been here for ten years or so, which have five of six per bulb. Nevertheless, these are lovely, huge, bright yellow flowers on tall, strong stems and I’m happy to have them. These were bought in 2014 in two orders totaling 535 bulbs, the last, large order I’ve made.
Eight days ago (see Friday, March 23, 2018) I posted a picture of a star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) bud. I commented that the petals were slightly burned by the cold but that in about a week or so the flowers should be open and if there is not another serious frost, they would look wonderful. Well, we haven’t had another significant frost and the tree does, indeed, look great. You can see a little burning on the tip of a petal or two but overall, they don’t look at all bad. It was an absolutely beautiful Saturday with a rich, blue sky and the star magnolia petals, mostly white touched with pink, were lovely.
Depending on which computer I use to look at this picture, these hyacinth flowers sometimes look a lot bluer than they are in real life. Other monitors show them the way they looked. If they look blue to you, take my word for it that they are a very strong, electric purple with just a bit of blue on near the base of the flowers. Nevertheless, they look quite nice as blue flowers, too. I’m not a huge fan of hyacinths, mostly because they are so strongly sweet smelling. I don’t mind them in the garden but I don’t want them brought into the house. Every year I take at least one set of pictures of them, though, and think of our friend who loves them. Here’s one for you, Julia.
Since last week’s snow, it’s been relatively balmy and spring-like. The daffodils were already coming up when the snow came, with a few already in bloom. Now, a little more than a week later, they are bursting into bloom all over. Shortly we’ll have great drifts of yellow where the highway department has planted them alongside roadways. Front yards will be sporting the beautiful yellow flowers, dancing in the breeze (a la William Wordsworth). This little one is the earliest in our yard, to be followed shortly by the much larger and dare I say quintessential ‘Marieke’, along our front walk.
We have two Kalanchoe plants. This one is Kalanchoe daigremontiana (a.k.a. Bryophyllum daigremontianum) and it’s a pretty little thing, although our plant isn’t particularly robust. Most of our house plants have been somewhat neglected lately. We have lots of excuses, such as the disruption from the renovation project, Solomon’s cage (and Solomon, of course) being moved in front of some of them, or the fact that it’s winter and some of them do better outdoors, during the summer. I do try to get at least a little watering done now and then and we have a small mint next to the kitchen sink. When it starts to wilt, I know it’s watering time.
The Chionodoxa forbesii ‘Pink Giant’ has begun to bloom in the shady northern corner of our yard. It’s more shady later in the year, when the oak that is over it has leaves. This time of year it gets a fair amount of sun from mid morning through early afternoon. This is a pretty little plant, barely showing itself over the Pachysandra terminalis (Japanese pachysandra). There are some others coming up, as well. And our early, small daffodils are in bloom. In spite of the snow we had last week, it’s really starting to look, if not to feel, like spring.
The house Cathy grew up in has two star magnolias (Magnolia stellata) in the front yard. They bloom early and their petals are quite tender so it’s actually more common for them to be frost damaged than not. The snow and cold we had yesterday has done a little damage to the petals, as you can see on this bud. Nevertheless, if it doesn’t get cold again, this tree could put on a wonderful show in a week or so. But we aren’t out of the woods yet, in terms of frost and there’s plenty of time for these blooms to be wiped out. They’re lovely as they are, of course, but on the rare occasion the trees bloom without any petal burn, they are quite spectacular.
Spring is definitely on its way but we had rain and a little freezing rain today and it didn’t feel very spring like. It was a chilly, dreary day, for the most part and I didn’t get outside much. When I got home I took a few pictures out the back door of the buddleia that’s growing by the patio. There was less than an eighth of an inch of ice by the end of the day but the forecast is for snow tomorrow (and since I’m writing this after the fact, I know we got it).
I took my camera with me to a meeting across campus and then spent a little time taking pictures on the way back. The Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) is starting to leaf out and in spite of the fact that it’s quite likely that we’ll have another freeze, it’s not at all bothered. It’s pretty well suited for cold and a light freeze or two isn’t going to do it any harm. This little insect, however, may be jumping the gun a bit. I don’t know, really. Perhaps it, too, has ways to deal with late freezes. I know some of my followers think it a bit funny that I try to identify all the plants and animals in my posts with their Latin names. You’ll be happy to know that I have no idea what sort of insect this is and I’m going to leave it at that.
This is the first real flower I’ve had on this Lenten Rose. It sort of bloomed last year but the flower was somewhat deformed and was missing more than half its petals. This year it’s got a serious flower and I think this may become one of my favorites. Off hand I don’t remember the variety name but I should be able to track it down somewhere. As you can see, it’s a double flowered variety and the pink edges to the petals is quite nice. This is under the trees right out back and when it gets a bit larger it will be very obvious this time of year.
Update: I looked up the variety and it’s Helleborus ‘Rose Quartz’ (although the order actually said Rose Quarts).
This is one of my favorite little, spring bulbs. I don’t think I could ever have too many Scilla and Chionodoxa bulbs in my yard. I currently have two species of each. This is the less common of the two Scilla, with the other being the much bluer Scilla siberica. The flowers of the Chionodoxa species are similar but are more upward facing. One of those is pink and the other a really beautiful blue. These are mostly white with just a small amount of blue down the middle of each petal.
I looked around to find something to photograph this evening. I took a few pictures of doodads brought from Cathy’s mom’s house but then decided to take pictures of this dried seed pod from an Indian lotus (Nelumbo nucifera). We didn’t cut down a Christmas tree this year, with all that was going on. Instead, we put up a wreath in our living room and put out a few ornaments. The wreath had some decoration on it, including this lotus pod. It had a few more seeds it it but they are not held in by anything and they have fallen out. The wreath has been lying on the ground outside since Christmas and I burned it in yesterday’s fire.
This is the older Lenten rose I mentioned the other day (see Thursday, March 1, 2018). It was brought in a pot from our yard in Gaithersburg and lived in that pot for a year while we rented and until we moved into our current house. It was one of the first things we planted when we moved here so it’s quite well established. There is some bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) next to it that really needs to be moved so it doesn’t get smothered by this giant thing. This giant thing could also be split into three or four without doing it much harm. The hellebores are tough plants native to the Caucasus.
The Lenten roses are just starting to bloom. This one, called ‘Mango Magic’, is the earliest of them (this year, at any rate). This one was planted in the fall of 2014 and it doing quite well. Another planted at the same time is taking its time getting going but seems to be doing better than last year. I have a bunch that Brady gave me that were being thrown away after being thinned out when she worked at Brookside Gardens. Those are nearly white. The largest of the Hellebores that I have, the first to be planted shortly after we moved here, is quite massive and has deep, wine-colored flowers in great profusion. I particularly like that one with the sun is shining through the petals.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is blooming here. I only have two small plants but the seem to be growing a small amount each year. Mom has a nice, dense patch of them near the foot of the driveway and I love seeing them at this time of the year. They are in the family Ranunculaceae (the buttercup family) and are very reliable, very long lived little plnts. They are, I’m afraid, fairly slow to get established and I haven’t had huge success with them. Still, thase that did make it are here for the long haul.
If you’re looking for signs of spring, you naturally are on the lookout for the early bulbs. As mentioned, the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) are in bloom. The winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is just starting (although it is a corm rather than a bulb). But if you look higher and in the right place, you might see Japanese Andromeda (Pieris japonica) in bloom. This is beside the patio at Cathy’s mom’s house and it’s lovely. I grew up with this along the side of our neighbor’s garage, next to our driveway and I have vivid memories of swarms of bees all over it. It’s still a bit early for the bees, but the flowers are starting to open.
It started raining a few days ago and it’s been raining, off and on, since. Today was the wettest so far, with fairly heavy rain coming down all day. We were back over at &@x2018;the house’ today and I took a short break from going through things to walk around outdoors with my camera. There are some Nandinas onside the kitchen window and I took some pictures of the red berries on them. They’re pretty berries but I find Nandina to be a bit too tall for the location. They replaced azaleas that got about seven feet tall and were much thicker, so at least these can be seen through. The berries are certainly pretty in the rain.
Just under two weeks ago (see Thursday, February 08, 2018) I posted a picture of the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) coming up at the edge of the woods around my office building. Now they are pretty much up, even if there haven’t quite reached their peak. When I got to work this morning I figured I’d spend a few minutes with them before heading inside. This time, when I got down on the ground to take the pictures, I thought ahead and got a blanket out of the car to lie on. Last time I got a bit spot of dirt on my shirt and more on my jeans. Today I managed to stay clean. Spring is just around the corner. Not saying we won’t have more snow. That can happen well into March or even occasionally April. But spring is definitely coming.
I took a few more pictures of snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) early this afternoon. They are nearly ready to open, probably in the next day or two if the weather remains to balmy. Nevertheless, I just posted a picture of snow drops and I try not to repeat too often or too quickly (except for baby pictures, those are always allowed). I’ll be back to them shortly, when they have well and truly begun to bloom. In the meantime, I went up into the upland portion of the 12 acre lot next to my office. This is filled to a large extent with ragweed and mugwort, as well as goldenrod, grass, and a few small trees. It was quite wet because of the 48 hours or so of rain that we recently got. The soles of my shoes are cracked and water seeped in, soaking my socks. But it was nice to be outdoors on such a beautiful day.
After taking the picture of the sparrow (see previous post) I headed back toward my van to get the rest of my things and go into the office. As I walked along the edge of the woods, it occurred to me that the snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) would be coming up soon, if they have not started already. I looked and sure enough, they are well on their way to blooming. It isn’t spring yet, but it’s coming and I know there are a lot of folks who are ready for warmer weather. I love the early spring ephemerals and this is one of the earliest.
This is one of our more successful houseplants and it’s one I can recommend to people who don’t have particularly green fingers. It’s not very needy and it’s happy in a wide range of conditions. It does best with a very bright, south or west facing window but it can survive with less. This is one of the houseplants that we put outside during the summer, making sure it isn’t in full sun during the hottest part of the day, which can be a bit too much for it. This one is in a pot with a small, purple leaved rubber plant (Ficus elastica).
It snowed lightly this morning but by the time we were home from church it had all turned to rain. It was a fairly heavy rain and a fairly gloomy, cool day. Cathy and I decided we’d like to see a little green so we went to Behnke in Beltsville to spend a little time in their greenhouse looking at house plants. There were a few things we were interested in but didn’t actually buy anything this time. These little yellow flowers are on what I think is an Echeveria, although I didn’t actually check and often they are labeled simply “succulent”. It was a nice outing and a nice way to spend a cold, rainy Sunday afternoon.
It’s been wintry again, which is alright by me, especially seeing as how it’s winter. Our winters are relatively mild compared to some but colder than others, which is sort of what living in a temperate climate is all about, I guess. I pretty much stayed in my office today, with a brief walk across campus and back for a meeting. Other than that I was focused on the task at hand. I took a short break in the early afternoon to take a few pictures but didn’t leave my office to do it. This is the top of a fairly large elm tree on the side of our parking lot. There are two of them that have managed to hold out against Dutch Elm Disease and this is the smaller of the two. They’re likely to go at some point but I’ll enjoy them until that day comes.
I walked around outside my building for a little while today, looking for something to photograph. I had a picture of a rusty chain last week and in the same area, on one of the picnic tables that are stored there, was this husk of an eastern black walnut (Juglans nigra) seed. They are quite popular with the squirrels. The birds basically leave them along because there aren’t any bird around here with the ability to get into the shells. With the gnawing ability common in rodents, however, squirrels have no trouble with these delicious (and relatively high calorie) nuts.
It was a beautiful day and I went out into the woods for a little while during lunch time. There was ice on a drainage pond in the woods near my building but in the sun it was quite pleasant. I got down onto the ground and took some pictures of this sycamore leaf (American sycamore, Platanus occidentalis). They are large and heavy and really pretty with the sun shining through them. I also found a small deer antler that had been shed. It was only six or seven inches long and had no forks, but I picked it up to keep, anyway.
Do you like mushrooms? Cathy and I both do. Dorothy isn’t a fan so I have to leave them out (or cook them separately) when she is home. Now that she’s back at school, I’m buying them in bulk again. Great Wall Supermarket has big bags of these mushrooms and they go pretty well with just about everything I cook. Tonight that was hamburgers with mushroom gravy. What I really love are porcini (a.k.a. cep, Boletus edulis), which have such a wonderful, earthy flavour. Bought dried in very small packets they are convenient but quite expensive. I really should buy them a pound or two at a time, which brings the price per ounce down quite a bit. I don’t think I’m ready to buy a 25 pound bag, though. Walmart has one listed for $1,048.32. I don’t think so. Sorry.
I love beech trees in the winter. They hold their leaves which turn a beautiful, copper brown. They are especially nice against all the grey of a normal winter woodland and with the sun shining on and through them they are particularly nice. I’ve had a few pictures of beech leaves in the fog, which is also magical, but today was sunny and they were glowing in the sun. It’s been something of a crazy winter so far, with temperatures down around zero (Fahrenheit) and then up into the 60s. We have had a few minor snows but nothing of any great depth. Also, they have come when it was cold enough that it was easily swept off the sidewalk instead of needing to be shoveled. But there’s a lot of winter yet, so you never know.
We’ve had somewhat mixed success with houseplants over the years. We have a few that have lasted really well. I have a snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata) in my office that Dorothy’s second grade teacher gave me when they moved to Florida. That was 11 or 12 years ago and it’s doing really well. We have a very large Kaffir lily (Clivia miniata) in our kitchen that gets put out into a shady spot in the yard most years. On the other hand, some plant seem to just barely hang on to life. This one, a Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana), isn’t really doing all that well. It is blooming, however, so it deserves a picture.
The buddleia blooms are long gone and with them the butterflies and bees. It’s been cold enough that the insects that live through the winter as adults have all gone to ground and those that don’t are returning to dust. The colors of summer are gone and the colors of fall have faded into brown and grey. But the buddleia bushes still have some interesting features. Where the flower clusters were there are now mostly empty seed capsules. I think they are pretty, especially close up.
I’ve posted a picture of leaves on this maple tree before but it’s one of only a few in my daily rounds that still has it’s autumn finery on display. As I post this, on the Sunday after the Monday when it was taken, the tree is totally leafless. So, this was pretty much it for this year’s display. Actually, there are still leaves on many of the Bradford pears on Norbeck and there are some sweet gums that are yet to reach their peak color, so there may be one or two more leaf pictures yet this fall, but we’re getting to the end.
It was a quite beautiful, late fall day today and some of us went on a walk around Lake Frank. We started and ended at Flower Valley Park on Hornbeam so we were starting a fair way from the lake. In total we walked about 4.75 miles but by the time I was thinking we might turn back we were about half the way around and there wasn’t much point. In addition to family on the walk were two old friends, by which I mean friends I’ve known for a long time, not that they are particularly old. It was good to get caught up on their families and lives. I really need to make more of an effort to keep up with people, but day to day life seems to get in the way.
The vast majority of trees have finished dropping their leaves around here and winter is basically starting. It’s not terribly cold but our winters are not generally very bitter. A few trees, however, are clinging to their autumnal colors. There is a small line of maple trees on our company campus that are really quite amazingly red. They have lost a relatively few leaves so far and are quite stunning. I stopped on the way back to my office from a meeting today long enough to take a few pictures.
Our Thanksgiving cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) is blooming right on schedule this year. It’s such a cheerful color to brighten up the kitchen and I’m happy for it. It’s a fairly unassuming plant most of the year but as with many cacti, its flowers are remarkable. We have a half dozen of them and some are doing better than others but they are relatively easy plants, not asking for a lot of attention, which is good, because they really don’t get much from us. And yet, this is what they give us.
The hedge. Along the north side of our property is a hedge of Euonymus japonicus (Japanese spindle, although I never really call it anything other than Euonymus). It’s pretty healthy and flourishes even in rough years. The deer seem to like it and when it’s in bloom, the entire hedge buzzes with hundreds of bees. The flowers are not at all showy, but they are quite sweet smelling and last for a few weeks. The fruit, shown here, is quite interesting, I think, and adds a small amount of color at a time of year when it’s very welcome.
We often don’t pay a lot of attention to grass that’s gone to seed. There are some grasses, though, that are specifically grown for the ornamental value of their seed heads. This is a relatively small one, growing in a small bed near the older parking garage next to one of the buildings across campus. I was there all day for a class (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday this week) but had a chance to get out during our lunch break. I also found some oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), an invasive species similar to our native American bittersweet (C. scandens).
It was an absolutely beautiful day today but I was stuck indoors for almost all of it. I’m in a class today, tomorrow, and Thursday and that’s keeping me in the classroom. Nevertheless, we took a break for lunch and I used the opportunity to go outside. It was raining. Actually, it was raining fairly hard and I wasn’t really dressed for it. I still went out and enjoyed the colors. Overcast days are often the best for fall color. Add rain and it only gets better. These maple leaves are over a set of stairs down to the building I was in today and they were so beautiful. I love a rainy day.
Every year I get to enjoy the three lines of Zelkova serrata planted on either side and in the median of Norbeck Road between Rocking Spring Drive and Westbury Road. Other parts of Norbeck have Bradford pears, and they are nice in their seasons but are not, in my mind, nearly as impressive as the Zelkovas in their autumn orangeness. Some years it seems more rust colored but this year it’s a brilliant orange. They are particularly nice on overcast days but beggars can’t be choosers and I’ll take them as they come. I stopped on the way home and took a few dozen pictures, waiting for breaks in the traffic so as not to get run over.
For the last few days I’ve noticed this cherry tree in bloom. I’m afraid it’s been terribly confused by the mild fall we’ve been having and it’s going to be mightily disappointed when it gets colder rather than warmer. Well, it won’t actually be conscious of the weather. It’s just a tree. But I think it unlikely any fruit will come of this out-of-season blooming. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty little tree and gives me something to think about on an otherwise unremarkable commute. For a few days I’ve been meaning to stop to take pictures and today I did. Enjoy.
I started walking across campus to an 11:30 meeting this morning but got a phone call while I was on my way, saying the meeting had been cancelled. At it happened, I had brought my camera with me so I walked back the long way, going through the woods and taking a few pictures. I got some of the yellow fruit on what we call “Cathy’s Hawthorn” (because she parks next to it most days). In the woods I came across an oak tree with beautiful leaves. The oaks haven’t been as spectacular, overall, as in some years, but there are individual trees that are worth noticing. I also love the lines of veins in the leaf, which are still visible in the partially eaten bits.
Unofficially, this is my 2,500th consecutive day of taking a picture. I officially started on January 1, 2011, so the official 2,500th day will be in three days. Nevertheless, I had taken pictures on the three days prior to my official start, so today marks 2,500 days.
I’m a fan of the woods. I love the colors, the sounds, and the smells. I won’t say there’s nothing I don’t like about woods but in general I’d say the things I like outweigh the things I don’t like. Of course, I’m happy that I live in a modern house with running water, central heating and air conditioning, a roof to keep off the rain, and electricity and gas to power all sorts of appliances. I do like a walk in the woods, though. In the autumn, with the colors in the trees, it is especially nice. A rainy day, practically any time of year but particularly in the spring when the leaves are various shades of green is also a wonderful time for a walk in the woods. But today was glorious and bright and cool.
It’s been something of a maple-centric autumn this year. There are other trees showing good color but, as I think I mentioned previously, not a lot in our yard. This is a picture of the two maple trees behind our house. Both of them are actually double-trunks and I’m not sure if they are two trees each or single trees with two trunks. Either way, they are not particularly attractive as specimen trees. They both twist a bit and have broken and misshapen branches. This fall, though, they are doing their best to make up for it with their colors. The nearer tree in this picture, in particular, is really spectacular this year. It’s the tree that gets more direct sun and that contributes to the color.
The leaves on the ground add, I think, to the overall effect of the tree right now. It won’t be long before the leaves have all turned brown and we’ll need to get them dealt with, which we usually do by simply by mowing over them a few times, turning them into mulch in the lawn.
I posted a picture of this same dahlia on Monday, September 18, 2017, so you’ll have to excuse the repetition. Although it’s not particularly large for a dahlia flower, it’s very pretty. Also, the plant has very dark purple, not-quite-black foliage. It’s lovely overall and we definitely need to dig up the tuber and try to keep it for next year. We’ve never actually done that before and I’m not sure how successful we’ll be. They are supposed to be stored in a damp place all winter in temperatures that are between 45°F and 50°F, which is a pretty narrow range and not something we have naturally in our house. Our basement is cool but not that cool and we do our best to make it dry, not humid (it’s currently at 38% relative humidity). So, we’ll see what we can do.
One of the most easily identified trees in the forests of the eastern United States is the American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis). Even from a distance, it’s easy to pick out the sycamore by it’s white bark. There are places along the highways in the area, particularly where the road goes over river or stream valleys, where they are quite the most numerous tree. They grow very well in wet floodplains and of course they get quite large, often reaching 80 or more feet in height and trees with a trunk diameter in excess of four feet are not particularly uncommon. In addition to the white bark on the upper portions of the tree, lower down, where the branches are trunk are thicker, the brown outer bark peels away in a very distinctive way, as seen in this photograph of a tree probably not more than 15 or at most 20 years old.
In 1981 my parents and brothers spent eight weeks backpacking around Greece. We had spent a week there in 1971 and my mom started planning then to return. On this longer trip in 1981 we were in Crete (twice, actually) and happened to find this old plane tree.
The London plain tree is a cross between the American sycamore and Oriental plane tree, P. orientalis. In 2007, Cathy, Dorothy, and I went to Greece with my mom and dad for about three weeks of camping. We were able to find this tree again, in Krási. It is claimed to be the oldest and largest plain tree in the world. I don’t know if that’s true, but it’s certainly big, with a trunk circumference of nearly 80 feet. As you can see, it isn’t exactly a perfect cylindrical trunk, and the tree isn’t nearly as tall as many American sycamores that I’ve come across. Still, it’s a mighty fine specimen.
Again with the maple leaves. We don’t actually have a lot of plants with significant fall color in our yard, so I have to take advantage of the few we do have. There are two maple trees in our back yard and one of them in particular has good color. I posted a picture of it against the blue sky two days ago. This time I’m looking down at leaves that have already fallen. I love the color on the leaf in the middle of this photograph. I was a little disconcerted by the way it was lying right on top of another, similar leaf, because I thought it might look like I put it there. I didn’t. I moved it and took a few more but they aren’t as good as this one, so here you are.
I’m afraid it’s going to be more fall color for today’s picture. I met Cathy and our friend Maureen outside my building early this afternoon and we took a bit of a walk. I carried my camera with me, as is my wont, and took a few pictures of the colors around and about. This is Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia). This native vine is a close relative of Boston ivy (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) which is, somewhat surprisingly, a native of China and Japan. Both are quite lovely in the fall, turning wonderful shades of red, orange, and purple.
Maple trees are often some of the most spectacular trees in the autumn. Not all species, of course, but quite a few. This is a red maple (Acer rubrum) and it’s one of the best. Others that can be highly recommended for their fall color are Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Of course those are very different trees. Japanese maples are great for small yards but sugar maples get very large and aren’t necessarily the best choice unless you have room to let it go. A lot of trees in our area are still mostly green. The oak trees in the front yard have barely changed at all. Some leaves are coming down from them but doing so without any real color to them. This red maple in our back yard, however, is in its full fall finery. It is especially nice against the brilliant blue of an autumn sky. We’re going to have to start picking up leaves soon.
I walked around my building around mid-day today, taking a few pictures. Most trees are starting to realize that it’s autumn, although this year it looks like there will be a lot more yellow and brown and less red and orange. Some trees haven’t gotten the memo yet, though, like this Ailanthus altissima (Tree of Heaven), whose leaves are still their summer green. It’s a weed tree around here, growing up anywhere there is unused space, often quickly outgrowing other trees. It gets quite large. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden’s web site, it was introduced from its native China into New York City in 1820 as a street tree and food source for silkworm caterpillars.
As of last week I have a daily meeting in another building. I’m sure there will be days when I won’t want to walk over there (if it’s raining, for instance) but so far we’ve had good enough weather that I’ve gone each day. Some days I’ve brought my camera with me and taken a little time on the way back to get some pictures. Today was such a day. Most trees are still in their summer greens but a few have begun the process of changing to their brief autumn finery. This sassafras tree (Sassafras albidum) is such a one. Because September was so dry, we’re expecting a less colorful fall this year. Pity.
I didn’t get a chance to go out today to take any pictures. By the time I got around to it, it was almost 10:00 PM so I took some pictures of houseplants. We have a few Thanksgiving cactus plants Schlumbergera truncata that have started to bloom and I got a few decent pictures of those. Then I moved on to this Kalanchoe variety. The genus Kalanchoe has about 125 species with only one species from the Americas. Most are from southern and eastern Africa and Madagascar while a few are from southeast Asia and China. This one is not in bloom but was started from one of the small plantlets (or bulbils) that grow along the margin of the leaves, as you can see in this photograph.
Among the plants growing in containers (a.k.a. pots) at the top of the driveway is a sage (Salvia officinalis). I don’t actually use sage much in cooking, although I have a handful of recipes that call for fresh leaves, my favorite of which is Saltimbocca alla Romana (veal with prosciutto and sage in a Marsala-butter sauce). I’ve made a chicken version, as well, and it’s good but chicken really cannot hold a candle to veal. This is actually being grown more as an ornamental than for the kitchen but I’m sure I could sneak a leaf now and then without doing any real harm.
I had a meeting in another building late this morning so I took my camera with me and wondered a bit on the way back to get some pictures. Most of them are of various fruits on the edges of the woods. There are a lot of Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) and they are all covered with their bright red fruits. After getting a few pictures of those, I took some of these Viburnum berries. In contrast to the inedible (to humans, anyway) honeysuckle berries, Viburnum berries are edible. I also took pictures of some wild rose hips and some wild grapes.
I managed to get outdoors for a little while today but had a hard time finding anything interesting to photograph. It’s been very dry and with dryness and the somewhat cooler weather we’ve been having, there are fewer insects about. I took some pictures of the sumac that is starting to turn a brilliant red but even those pictures don’t really thrill me. As I got back to my office parking lot, I picked up a black walnut and smelled it. I love the smell of fresh walnut husks. This one was black on one side and clearly soft. I squeezed it a bit and it split open, revealing a mass of some sort of fly larvae feasting on the flesh inside. I have no idea what they are (or even if they are flies, to be honest). But I though they would make a good picture (for some definition of ‘good’).
There is, as the saying goes, a fungus among us. Ever since we cut down the large tree in the center of our back yard we’ve had these mushrooms pop up from time to time. The fungus is there all the time, of course, helping break down the wood in the now dead roots. The mushrooms, the fruiting body of that fungus, appear from time to time to remind us that their job continues. I have no idea if these mushrooms are edible or not. I really should find out because if they are, we could have a fairly easy supply. They appear in variously sized clumps up to almost a foot across but only last a day or two and then they are gone. I didn’t have my glasses on when I was taking these pictures, so I didn’t notice all the little bits of grass, which I would otherwise have picked off. Cathy had just finished cutting the grass but mowed around these so I could get my pictures.
In the afternoon we went over to Cathy’s mom’s for a little while. I ran some updates on her computer and Cathy did some weeding and watered the container plants in the front yard. I went outside for a bit and took a few pictures, mostly of the roses she has in a few places across the front of the house. They are doing quite well and seem pretty happy. We could use a good rain as we didn’t really have much in September, usually a wetter month than July and August. But the roses are doing well in spite of that and it rained enough in June, July, and August (and a really heavy rain the first week of September) that most things are not really suffering yet. It’s also turned seasonably cool, which is quite nice.
When we moved into our house 11 years ago there was a large oak tree centered at the front of the property. It was not a healthy tree and was in the slow process of dying. Because it was actually in the road right-of-way, the county came (at our request) and took it down. Since then Cathy has planted mostly annuals every spring in the spot where it used to be. These are generally brightly colored zinnias and marigolds, although there are other plants as well as a few containers with even more variety. This is the flower from one of the zinnias.
Between my building and the rest of the company campus is a small drainage pond. Along the edge of the parking lot, overlooking that pond, are a number of seedling hawthorns (Crataegus hybrids). These are most likely a mix of the cultivated hawthorns that are fairly common in the area but I happen to know that these were naturally occurring seedlings as I have watched them grow from the time the area was cleared and the pond was built. They have white flowers and their fruits are varying in color. This one, as you can see, has rusty orange fruits.
I decided to take some pictures of plants on the driveway this evening. One that I got pictures of is an elephant ear, otherwise known as taro and more precisely called Colocasia esculenta. After that I started taking some pictures of the pale pink flowers on an autumn flowering stonecrop, probably ‘Autumn Joy’, also known as ‘Herbstfreude’. Although these are often referred to as sedum, they have been reclassified as a Hylotelephium species. As I was taking the pictures, this eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica) came and gave me another point of interest.
A lot of people make a big deal of the autumnal equinox being the beginning of fall. Of course, that’s mostly just a marker and we don’t go from summer one day to winter the next. Also, the transition happens at a different time in different places (and there really isn’t a winter in the tropics). It’s been fairly warm lately, although the daytime highs are supposed to be down into the 70s by the end of the week. Some trees are showing some color here, but for the most part, it’s still green. This maple tree in our back yard just has this hint of red, teasing us with the prospect of what’s to come. I’m ready.
Originally planted in a pot outside our front door, this hardy begonia (Begonia grandis) has been coming up around the front step every year since and getting a little larger each year. It isn’t what I’d call invasive, but it’s certainly found a spot where it is very happy. The leaves have wonderful, red veins and the flowers are a delicate pink. The male flowers have bright yellow stamens and the female flowers are pendulous and pink with less obvious yellow stigmas. Overall it’s less than two feet tall and very welcoming as we come home. The relatively cool and protected spot is probably important to its doing so well.
As I was writing this I got to wondering where the name Begonia comes from. It is in honor of Michel Bégon (1638-1710), a French government official and avid plant collector.
The light was really pretty this afternoon, shining on the Physostegia virginiana (a.k.a. obedient plant, but that’s not nearly as fun to say). I took some pictures of the flowers by themselves but really what I was looking for was a picture with a bee or wasp or something. There was actually quite a lot of activity, mostly from eastern carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica) but getting a good picture proved elusive. They kept moving, for one thing, and most of the pictures I got are not in focus. They also spent most of their time with their heads buried in the flowers which meant all I could see was their backs.
We’ve been wanting to have one of these for a while and last year Cathy finally got one and planted it in the back garden. We’ve only had a few flowers this year and they only last a day, but today I managed to get some pictures of one. Hopefully as it gets better established we’ll have more flowers over the course of the summer. This is related to the rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus), which we’ve had growing for a while, as well as the tropical hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis) which has to be brought in for the winter. The flowers on the hardy hibiscus are larger than on either of the other two and quite striking, even from all the way across the yard. Definitely a good choice for the back of the garden.
This dahlia is one of two that Cathy has growing in containers at the top of our driveway. It is one of seven dahlias in the Dark Angel line from the Dutch company Verwer-Dahlias. The seven cultivars in the Dark Angel series are named for what they consider to be edgy films and in addition to ‘Dracula’ are ‘American Pie’, ‘Braveheart’, ‘Pretty Woman’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Star Wars’, ‘Taxi Driver’. I’m not sure those are the edgiest films you could come up with, but the flower themselves are quite beautiful. Of course they have other series, as well, such as Karma, Meloda, Happy Days, and Gallery.
Dahlias are, in general, a bit more work than some flowers, but they sure are beautiful when grown well. The genus name Dahlia is in honor of Dr. Anders Dahl (1751-1789), a Swedish botanist and pupil of Linnaeus.
The skippers are a constant source of attraction pretty much all summer and into the fall in our yard. They may have their favorites but they are generally everywhere, from the black-eye Susans (Rudbekia) as seen here, to the Verbena bonariensis, the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum), and the Buddleia. They are everywhere and it pretty huge numbers. If you walk along the edge of the black-eyed Susans, they fly off en masse and alight again, further along or behind you. It’s enjoyable just to watch them flitting about, sometimes two or even three on a flower, but not usually for long, as they are so often on the move.
The Physostegia virginiana, otherwise known as obedient plant, is a North American native herbaceous perennial, hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. The Missouri Botanical Garden Plant Finder says that is it “easily grown in average, moist, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun.” It certainly is easily grown in our yard. They also mention that it tends to flop over “in rich soils, too much shade or hot summer temperatures.” I don’t know about the heat this summer but ours certainly did flop over this year. But that hasn’t prevented it from blooming very nicely, providing a welcome contrast with all the black-eyed Susans. The bees, particularly the carpenter bees, it seems, really love it.
Writers get writer’s block. I sometimes get photographer’s block. I just can’t seem to find anything interesting to photograph. In generally I’m interested in a wide variety of things and find it pretty easy to find some detail to look at. Occasionally it’s hard and today was such a day. So, as I was making dinner, I photographed the broccolini that I was getting ready to cook. It got me wondering what, exactly, broccolini is. Well, according to Wikipedia (which you cannot always trust, but in this case it’s probably right or at least close), broccolini is a hybrid between two cultivars of Brassica oleracea. One of those is regular, old broccoli and the other is called kai-lan or Chinese broccoli, which has been bred for it’s leaves instead of its flower buds. This gives broccolini it’s longer stems and smaller flower clusters. The way I like to fix broccolini is to parboil it briefly and then put it in a sauté pan with a little olive oil and some garlic and salt.
This hydrangea has taken a few years to get established. Last year it was eaten back by the deer, which didn’t do it a whole lot of good. We’ve managed to protect it (or have simply been lucky) this year and it’s doing much better. We planted it and another, blue hydrangea a few years ago but the other didn’t make it. This seems happy and the flowers, white and pink, are quite nice against the green of our back border. We’ll need to do a little pruning to keep the forsythia from covering it up, but I think it’s well on its way to being a favorite late summer bloomer.
Lantana is a genus of about 150 species. The mostly commonly grown species is Lantana camara, a tender, woody shrub native to tropical regions of Central and South America. It has become an invasive weed in many parts of the world but here, where winter temperatures are too cold for it, there’s no chance of any real problem and it is grown as an annual. It is toxic to livestock but it does not appear to be toxic to humans (although I don’t think I’ll be doing any experiments on that). The flowers are quite beautiful, changing colors as they progress from bud to open flower, leading to some wonderful color combinations. This one is sitting on our driveway and is quite happily brightening up the place with its yellow and pink blooms.
I don’t think I’ve posted a picture of this rose yet this year. It’s such a reliable little rose and I’m really happy that I got one to plant just outside our front door. The flowers are small but quite beautiful, with a delightful fragrance. It had a tough time the last few winters. This last was relatively mild overall but there was a week when temperatures were below zero fahrenheit and that’s tough on plants that otherwise do well in our zone 6a climate. It’s bounced back pretty well and has had a few flowers on it pretty much non-stop all summer and should continue until the first frost. What’s not to love.
I know that the title for this post is a little unimaginative. That’s sort of me, though. Generally straightforward and simple (mostly simple). I went out to take pictures of reflections of black-eyed Susan flowers in the water in our back yard birdbath. I got some that were reasonably nice but nothing I was excited about. I also took a handful of pictures of this leaf of grass, an ornamental grass growing in a container on the corner of the patio. I love water droplets on pretty much anything and I’m pretty happy with this picture. I hope you enjoy it, too.
Generally we don’t let our grass get quite this tall. This isn’t in the lawn, though, it’s growing in the midst of the black-eyed Susans and Verbena bonariensis in the back garden. There are a few places where grass gets itself and it’s hard to keep up with. This is one of them, not least because mowing right up against the garden is made more difficult by the flowering plants leaning out into the lawn. We don’t want to cut any more of them than is absolutely necessary. But maybe we’ve let it go a little too much. Anyway, I actually think this is quite beautiful, with the afternoon sun shining on the awns (the ‘hairs’ extending from each floret).
We have a lot of black-eyed Susans growing in our yard. Mostly in the back but they self-seed and are here and there throughout the yard. I suspect our neighbors are not overjoyed with them, but they aren’t as invasive as some things we have (<cough>goose-necked-loosestrife<cough>). I love having all that yellow-orange in the back yard from early July on and even as they start to fade, they are still beautiful. Most of them are not looking like this, although they will be before too long.
I came across another new bug today (new to me, that is). This is the twice-stabbed stink bug (Cosmopepla lintneriana), so called because of the two red ‘wounds’ the apex of the scutellum. There were at least three of them on the American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) in our back garden, including the two shown here. I had a hard time photographing them because they kept crawling around to the underside of the branches and under the bunches of purple berries. My camera, with a 100mm macro lens and two off camera flashes is a little unwieldy and takes two hands to manage properly. So, I’d use one hand to scare the bugs onto the upper side of the branch and then let go to get the picture. By the time I had found them again through the viewfinder and focused on them, they were half way back to the underside of the branch.
From the Missouri Botanical Garden:
Ginkgo biloba is a deciduous conifer (a true gymnosperm) that matures to 100′ tall. It is the only surviving member of a group of ancient plants believed to have inhabited the earth up to 150 million years ago. It features distinctive two-lobed, somewhat leathery, fan-shaped, rich green leaves with diverging (almost parallel) veins. Leaves turn bright yellow in fall. Ginkgo trees are commonly called maidenhair trees in reference to the resemblance of their fan-shaped leaves to maidenhair fern leaflets (pinnae). Ginkgos are dioecious (separate male and female trees). Nurseries typically sell only male trees (fruitless), because female trees produce seeds encased in fleshy, fruit-like coverings which, at maturity in autumn, are messy and emit a noxious, foul odor upon falling to the ground and splitting open.
This one is in my mom’s front yard. It’s a tree that dad planted many years ago but which has grown very slowly. It appears to finally be starting to grow taller.
I only took a handful of pictures today and not until about 7:30, when the best light was gone. We had quite heavy rain today throughout the morning. It cleared up later but I was pretty busy and didn’t get a chance to go out. I’ve posted pictures of the Verbena bonariensis (tall verbena) growing in our yard before but I thought I’d do it again. I do love this color combination, the purple of the verbena against the yellow of the black-eyed Susans behind and below it.
I haven’t had a chance to look up this bee and I’m not sure this picture is good enough for a positive identification, in any case. There are a lot of little bees that look somewhat like this. This is the best of the pictures I got and it is still not very sharp. It’s a pretty little bee and I’m happy with the picture overall, though. I love the bright orange of the butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa). It generally makes a nice contrast to the dark colors of bees. I didn’t take a lot of pictures today, though, so there were not a lot to choose from.
After being off a week, it’s shaping up to be a very busy week at work. We’re three days in and I’m definitely ready for the weekend. But I’m sure I’ll make it through, as I usually do. After work I went out back and chased a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) for a while. He wouldn’t let me get close enough for any decent sort of picture. So, I moved on to the blue cardinal flower (Lobelia siphilitica) growing in the back bed. That didn’t have any problem with my presence and I got a few nice pictures. Then I noticed that the monarch was back and I managed to get a few pictures, but the die was cast and I’m going with the Lobelia picture.
Cathy and I relaxed in the back yard this evening and I took a few pictures of her with the black-eyed Susans that are having the time of their lives this year. Actually, this year is nothing special, as they are pretty spectacular every year. In fact, I’m not convinced we wouldn’t have the entire yard full of them if we allowed them to spread uncontrolled. The goose-necked loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) would give them a good fight and might actually win out, as it spreads considerably more quickly. But the black-eye susans (Rudbeckia fulgida) spreads fairly readily.
You could argue that our garden doesn’t have enough variety and you might have a point. On the other hand, the parts of the garden that do have variety tend ultimately to be dominated by whatever plant is the most vigorous. Either that or nothing is vigorous enough and the weeds take over. I have plenty of Canada thistle (Cirsium arvense), pokeweed (Phytolacca americana), American burnweed (Erechtites hieracifolia), and goldenrod (Solidago species) to deal with (just to name a few). But where the black-eye susans are growing well, very few weeds have a chance to get started. That’s pretty nice. And, they’re pretty.
A few years ago I planted a few fastigiate English oaks. The English oak, Quercus robur is a handsome tree with beautiful, gracefully lobed leaves, similar to the white oak, Quercus alba of North America. The trees I bought were a cultivar that grows very narrow and upright (which is what fastigiate means). I bought a bunch of small trees and planted planted them in various places around the yard, assuming some would not live but hoping at least one would. There is one growing to the north of the house and another in the back of the back yard. This leaf is on the second tree, in the back, and something has been eating the bulk of the leaf, leaving a skeleton and actually one surface of the leaf intact. I think it’s kind of beautiful, in spite of the fact that this is insect damage. There are enough untouched leaves that I’m not worried for the tree.
A bunch of us went to Brookgreen Gardens today. Seth, Iris, and Tsai-Hong stayed until about 1:00 before moving on to the lowcountry zoon and then headed back to the beach. Cathy, Dorothy, Jonathan, Dot, and I had lunch and then did a bit more walking in the gardens before hitting the zoo. I took a lot of pictures of sculpture and a few of dragonflies and grasshoppers (the huge eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera). I really enjoy both the sculpture and the setting. It was hot today but not really hot by South Carolina in August standards. In the shade it was actually pretty pleasant. This first picture is of my favorite tree at Brookgreen gardens. It is in the corner of the Palmetto Garden and really is part of the Live Oak Allée that’s just across the wall. I think it’s magnificent.
Of course we also went to the lowcountry zoo where we saw black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) as well as a few egrets and an ibis. The otters were very active and we enjoyed watching them swim around for a while. It was actually feeding time at the alligator pond but the alligator we saw must be well fed because he was pretty blasé about the whole thing.
After leaving Brookgreen, we drove to Murrill’s Inlet for an early dinner at Nance’s. Dorothy, Jonathan, and I shared a half bushel of steamed oysters while mom had soft-shell crab and Cathy had a crab cake.
We had rain today (and as I write this a week and a half later, it’s raining again). We often go for weeks in the summer without significant rain but we’ve had a reasonable amount this summer. I’m not complaining, I actually prefer a slightly wet to an overly dry summer. The plants generally do better and it tends to cool things off a little. Cloudy days (rain or no rain) tend to make colors more intense, as well. You can certainly see that in this picture of a tiger lily (Lilium lancifolium) dripping with rain, especially with the green background to set it off.
As you may have noticed, I’ve been going out into the field next to my office a bit lately. Although it’s fairly hot out in the sun, it’s still a nice break from work and worth the heat (for a little while). Two things that I particularly like about being there are the solitude and the colors. Solitude is sort of obvious. Much of the property is hidden from the road by a large mound of soil that was scraped up when the owners began preparing the site for building (building that has not happened, twenty years later). Even when I’m close enough to the road to be seen by passers by, the ragweed is tall enough that if I sit in a clearing I cannot be seen. As for the colors, they are mostly greens and browns. I really love the various shades and this photograph, which is somewhat abstract, captures some of them pretty well.
After work today I did some prep work and then we went over to Cathy’s mom’s house where I fixed Panang curry for dinner. Cathy wanted to plant some annuals and we hadn’t seen her in a little while, anyway. While I cooked dinner Cathy worked with her plants. I took a short break while the curry was simmering to take a few pictures, including this one of Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus roseus). It is a woody based perennial where it is hardy (USDA Zones 10-11, so not here) but it is grown as an annual in colder regions. The species has rosy-pink to red flowers with mauve throats but cultivars with other color flowers, like this while variety, are what is commonly found in garden centers.
I got a few insect photos today, including a few of large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), an eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) on buddleia flowers, an eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on a coneflower (Echinacea purpurea), and some sort of longlegged fly (family Dolichopodidae). Finally, I got some of this blow fly (family Calliphoridae) on scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma). It’s not my favorite insect. In fact, I’d have to rank it in the bottom half rather than the top. I don’t mind wasps and bees in general but flies and particular what I consider to be the ‘annoying flies’ are in the negative side of the scale, along with mosquitoes and horse and deer flies. But their metallic green bodies are pretty cool, in spite of that.
Each spring we move our clivia (Clivia miniata, also known as Natal or Kaffir lily) into a shady spot in our back yard. It cannot take the summer sun and so it needs to be in a protected spot but it’s also best if it’s in a place that will get rain (if we have any) because we sometimes forget to water it. This is a fairly tollerant plant, though, and can actually take a little neglect. When I got it from a co-worker who was leaving the it had outgrown it’s container. It had also fallen over and out of its pot a few times. I repotted it into a larger pot and it is very happy, blooming most summers in the yard. This picture was taken after a rain storm.
Cathy plants annuals in pots for our back patio each year. Every year, however, they are needed less and less as a primary focus and more as accents under the increasingly dense wall of black-eyed Susans that grown around the perimeter. Many of the flower pictures that I take are of a a single flower or at most a few together. It’s good, from time to time, to see the bigger picture (so to speak) and look at the forest instead of the trees. Adding Cathy to the picture can’t hurt, either.
This morning I took some pictures of a print that was left with us on Saturday for Tsai-Hong. It was made by one of Ralph’s caving friends who came to the memorial and it’s a somewhat impressionistic scene from a cave. But late this evening I realize I hadn’t taken any other pictures today and I didn’t want to post a picture of something that’s copyrighted as my photo of the day. In consequence, today’s picture is of some flowers that my mom got for the memorial and which have been on our dining room table since.
The butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is in bloom and it’s a lovely, orange accent in the back of the garden. I’d be happy to have more of this, either the standard orange or the lovely, yellow variety. I’d also like to get some Asclepias curassavica, known as blood flower, although that’s not winter hardy anywhere near this far north. It can, apparently, be grown easily as an annual from seed. I might also try to get some Asclepias purpurascens, commonly called purple milkweed. It’s a native and I am pretty sure I’ve seen it at the farm, so I could dig some up there or get some seeds.
The large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) is a common visitor to butterfly weed (one of the milkweed family) and is particularly well suited for hiding among the flowers of A. tuberosa.
I’m not all that happy with this picture, but it’s what I have for today. We’ve had a pretty good run of insects and flowers, with a few people pictures interspersed among them. This mushroom appeared a couple days ago but today it was open. I took a bunch of pictures from the edge and then tipped it over so I could see the gills on the underside. Wikipedia describes a gill as “a papery hymenophore rib under the cap of some mushroom species.” I like that. I think from now on, I’ll call them papery hymenophore ribs.
Once the buddleia comes into bloom, which has happened in the last week or so, it’s a rare day when there isn’t at least one tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) fluttering around the yard. They aren’t anywhere as near as common and the many skippers (family Hesperiidae) that we have by the dozens or even as the cabbage whites (Pieris rapae), but pretty common. And of course they are much more striking. I particularly like then when the sun is on them or even shining through them and they are against a clear, blue afternoon sky, as this one is. The color on the upper side of the hindwings identifies this as a female, just in the act of taking off from the flower.
This is the so called blackberry lily, formerly known as Belamcanda chinensis but now renamed to Iris domestica. It’s a pretty little thing. each individual bloom lasts a day (or a fraction of a day, really) but they come one after the other for a nice, long while. They are, as you can see, very eye-catching. Each year we collect the seeds from them and scatter them around in other parts of the garden. Of course, they get moved by birds, as well. This is a seedling, growing on the edge of a garden bed in the center of our back yard, among the Verbena bonariensis, with which it contrasts very nicely.
I didn’t get out of the office today to go take pictures. Most of the day it was raining and then I just didn’t have time in the afternoon. I was a little busy but actually more frustrated than anything else, so going out would have been nice. Nevertheless, when I got home I took some pictures of a common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens) on one of the purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea) outside our dining room window. I like bumble bees and they are out in pretty good numbers right now. In prior years it seemed that they were outnumbered by carpenter bees (Xylocopa virginica). This year I’m seeing a lot more bumblebees. That’s just anecdotal evidence, of course but that’s the way it seems to me.
Summer is definitely here and we’ve had a few really hot, really muggy days lately. Today was no exception but in the mid afternoon a thunderstorm rolled through and dropped a fair bit of rain in about a half hour. The wind was blowing and it was beautiful. I sat under cover of the back of the house and watched it, getting a little damp, but really enjoying the show. As the rain slowed and water dripped from the trees, I went out with my camera and took a couple dozen pictures, including this one of a drop of water, gathering on the end of a twig. A second after I took this, it fell and a new droplet began to form.
These tiny flowers of the American beautyberry Callicarpa americana are, you won’t be surprised to learn, followed by beautiful berries. There will be clusters (called cymes) of the slightly pale, purple berries (called cymes) around the stems at each leaf axil (see December 7, 2013). The flowers are not nearly as showy as the fruit, or maybe it would be called American beautyflower. I still think they are pretty, though. And judging by the proliferation of berries, the insects sure must like them.
I’ve been able to get a fair number of flower pictures so far this year but the insects are not out in all their force yet. I’ve seen many around but haven’t been able to photograph many of them. This is my first bumble bee of the summer. It isn’t the best bumble bee picture I’ve ever taken but it makes me happy, with the brightness of the bee balm (Monarda didyma) contrasting with the black of the common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens). I’m sure there will be many more to come. As for the title of this post, it’s the sort of thing that shows up in crossword puzzles fairly often, two words or phrases that overlap in the middle. Bumble Bee and Bee Balm.
I went over to pick up something from Tsai-Hong this afternoon and decided to take a few pictures in the garden. There is a small clump of Eryngium in the front garden, beside the driveway, and that’s what is in this picture. I have no idea what species it is or if it is a hybrid of some sort. We had three or four different Eryngium species in our garden in Gaithersburg and this reminded me that we need to get some for our current garden. They are mostly blue or purple and add such a nice point of interest in a sea of green. They are not really related to the holly (Ilix), of course, but it’s easy to see how they came by their common name, sea holly.
The coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) has started to bloom. I often have a difficult time getting good pictures of this, because the ray florets (the ‘petals’) are often eaten into by some insect or other. They are still pretty from a distance and in mass but individually, they get to look a bit tattered. I also took some pictures of day lilies today but they put out new flowers each day and they fade before the critters have a chance to do them any harm. So, they will be around for more pictures on another day.
Dorothy went to camp this morning so I gave Jonathan a ride to the farm. He plans to stay there for the week and Dorothy will pick him up on Friday. While I was there I took a few pictures of this trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) growing on a post in front of their garage. This is a native honeysuckle to the southeastern United States. The flowers are not fragrant but are quite pretty, with scarlet to orangish red on the outside and yellowish inside. They are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.
We have a fair amount of Verbena bonariensis growing around the yard. It’s somewhat of a weed but for the most part, we let it go, just keeping it barely within bounds. There are a few reasons for us letting it go. First, of course, is that it’s pretty on its own. I mean, the purple adds a bit of contrast to all the green in the early summer and it’s generally still in bloom when the black-eyed Susans really start to go crazy. But I think the main reason is that the American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) really seem to like it. Usually I’ve been unable to get close enough to get even a poor photo of them before they fly away but this afternoon I got a reasonable picture showing three finches. They are such lovely birds and we enjoy watching them bounce around on the tall stems of the Verbina.
As I’ve mentioned, Cathy bought a bunch of annuals to go in containers and in a few locations around the house. One that she often gets is sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), a pretty little thing with masses of small (7 or 8mm) flowers. This variety has a purple tint and it really lovely. I think they are particularly nice up close. On the other hand, I think a lot of things are interesting up close, which is why a significant proportion of my photography is of small things, viewed up close. Anyway, I hope you enjoy these little flowers.
I went out into the woods next to my building today. There wasn’t a lot that I decided to photograph. Mostly I took pictures of the sun shining through leaves. I love leaves (and I’m frond of ferns) and especially like looking at them with light shining through them. This is a leaf of a tulip poplar, or tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and it has large leaves of a unique and easily distinguished shape. While you can easily identify dogwood by its bark, the tulip tree is identified by its leaves.
This comes up all around our yard. It isn’t so invasive that it cannot be kept under control by judicious pulling and it certainly adds a bit of interest during a time when there isn’t a huge amount in bloom. The early spring flowers are done and the summer flowers haven’t really gotten going yet. There are Asiatic lilies blooming and the day lilies will be starting pretty soon. The Verbena bonariensis has started but the black-eyed Susans are still a good way off. Feverfew doesn’t have the most striking flowers around but they are certainly pretty enough. And there are plenty of them.
I sat on the patio for a while this afternoon, just enjoying being in the sun. It was actually a little hot for my taste, but still nice for all of that. Also, the light is better for macro photography in the sun, when you want as much depth of field and as fast a shutter speed as possible. I was watching the insects around the potted flowers on the patio and got a few pictures of this skipper (family Hesperiidae) on a coreopsis (a.k.a. tickseed) flower. The insects aren’t around it the huge numbers we’ll have in a few weeks, particularly when the mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum) starts to bloom, but they are certainly here and I really enjoy them.
Ralph told me that the other day he noticed a vulture perched on the kids old jungle gym in his back yard. Later he noticed more had gathered. At first he wondered if some animal had died and attracted them. But no, that’s not what it was. It was this plant, a dragon arum, (Dracunculus vulgaris, formerly called Arum dracunculus), a native of the central and eastern Mediterranean. This plant attracts pollinators by mimicking the smell of rotting meat. It does a good job and fooled the turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) which find dead animals primarily with their highly developed sense of smell. Black vultures (Coragyps atratus) find food primarily by sight and by following turkey vultures.
On the Missouri Botanical Garden’s page about Dracunculus vulgaris it says,
Avoid planting this perennial near windows, doors, sidewalks or other frequently populated areas where the brief but overpowering odor from the spadices will be found objectionable.
I’ve mentioned this rose a couple times so I decided that I’d finally get around to posting a picture. This is a miniature rose called ‘Cutie Pie’ and it is, really. I’ve found two roses named ‘Cutie Pie’ listed in commerce. This is WEKruruwel, Bred by Tom Carruth and introduced by Weeks in 2016. So, it’s a new rose. I’ve planted it in the large bed in the middle of our back yard where there used to be two trees. That bed needs a bit more variety and this was my start at that. I plan to add a few more roses, two at least and maybe as many as four. I’m looking at a few of David Austin’s English roses. We’ll see.
This is the first of our Asiatic lilies to come into bloom. We have been adding these every now and then and I really love them. They have such loud, hot colors and are such beautiful, symmetrical flowers. I don’t know that I could ever have too many of them. I think my favorites are the solid colors, particularly the orange and deep reds but I saw a mix of orange and yellow the other day that was out of this world. This one is relatively short, with the flower less than a foot and a half from the ground. I like that because it means it’s easier to look down into the flower. The tiger lilies are much taller but since the flowers hang down, that works out really well.
Cathy’s been stocking up on her annuals and has begun to put them into containers to go around the house. There are some amazing colors and textures and I thought for today I’d feature this Celosia. Its bright orange flowers are about as close to a flame as you can get and the genus name actually comes from the Greek word keleos (κήλεος) meaning burning.
Cathy has a couple with this flower color and one that is a deep, hot red. They really are something and bloom well in full sun and even light shade. I didn’t know this until recently but apparently it is edible and is cultivated as a leafy green vegetable. According to Wikipedia (caveat emptor, or in this case the eater), “It is traditional fare in the countries of Central and West Africa, and is one of the leading leafy green vegetables in Nigeria, where it is known as ‘soko yokoto’, meaning ‘make husbands fat and happy.’”
On page 134 of volume 48 (dated August 24, 1895) of The Garden: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture In All Its Branches, under the heading Rosa setigera, it says:
The numerous varieties in this group are at once specially distinguished by their leaves being rough to the touch, shining on the upper surface, downy and glaucous underneath, deeply toothed at the margin, and furnished with curved prickles on the mid-rib and principal veins. The flowers are borne, mostly in threes, in numerous corymb-like clusters.
It lists a few varieties and then under ‘Mill’s Beauty’ it has the following:
A very vigorous-growing and most noteworthy variety, producing a brilliant effect when its flowers, which are of a redder colour, but not so double as those of the preceding variety [R. s. var Beaute des Prairies], are in the full flush of their freshness. An extra fine kind.
This is a rare rose and in past years Nick, whose this one is, called it his ‘Great Unknown Setigera’ It has now been identified as the same rose growing in Roseraie du Val-de-Marne à l’Haÿ-les-roses in France. ‘Mill’s Beauty’ is also known as or ‘Miller’s Climber’ and is a R. setigera hybrid of somewhat unknown origin. According to volume 12 of Modern Roses it was bred before 1835 and may be a hybrid between R. setigera and R. arvensis. It also says that it is more likely of U.S. origin rather than the generally assumed England.
We don’t remember where we first got this sedum or what it’s called but it’s very successful in containers and in the garden around our house. It doesn’t grow so fast or furiously that it’s a real problem but it certainly takes no effort to keep it alive. If you want something that will grown pretty much anywhere in your yard, this might be a good choice. It has very beautiful, little yellow, star-shaped flowers on light green foliage. We have it in full sun and in reasonably heavy shade. It places that are almost always wet and others that pretty much bake. If you want a little, let us know.
This is a very nice Coreopsis (tickseed) growing in a container on our back patio. I like these larger-petaled Coreopsis flowers more than the fine-petaled varieties. I suppose they both have their uses but these are so much bolder and brighter. They certainly make a good show and outside the kitchen door is a nice place for a big splash of yellow. These are reliable blooms and come ahead of the sea of black-eyed Susans that fill our backyard later in the summer. For now, these are the sole source of this color in our garden (there are a few yellow irises but they are a much paler yellow).
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is one of my favorite perennials. It’s easy to grow, it does well in sun or shade, it can take fairly dry conditions, and it blooms for a nice, long while. We have one with leaves that are very pale green, almost yellow. We have one with flowers that are much more pink and some that are nearly pure, deep blue. Each bloom lasts for a day only but there are a lot of them, following one after the other.
From the Missouri Botanical Garden page:
Genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England.
Specific epithet means of Virginia.
When the stems of spiderworts are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes threadlike and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence the common name.
My pink multiflora rose is in full bloom. I suspect it isn’t 100% R. multiflora, because those have white flowers and this is clearly not white. What the rest of its genetic makeup is, I really couldn’t say. R. virginiana would be a reasonable guess. The color is right. The leaves are definitely R. multiflora and it’s got the requisite resistance to black spot. It’s possibly a bit less vigorous, but that’s probably something in its favor. R. multiflora will generally take over and this is large, but fairly well behaved. Pity it only blooms once, but then, the same can be said for the azaleas.
This little Siberian iris was originally planted in our garden in Gaithersburg. When we were getting ready to move I dug up a portion of it and brought it with us. It’s been doing pretty well in our yard here for ten years. Like most Siberian irises and despite being named ‘Eric The Red’, this flower is purple rather than anything you could describe as red. Some Siberian irises are much bluer, of course, so it has more red in it than those. But it’s purple, not red. Still, it’s a happy little flower and quite content without needing much of any care to do well. In a bit more sun we’d probably get more flowers but it’s happy where it is.
Cathy and I went to Stadler Nursery this afternoon and while Cathy picked out a few perennials, I took a bunch of pictures. Actually, I bought something, as well, a Camellia japonica ‘Kumasaka’. I’m not sure where I’ll plant it but I’m thinking that it might go in front of the house to replace the dogwood that’s much too close to the house and really needs to come out. This photo is of an Asiatic lily called ‘Tiny Sensation’ and it’s a stunner. We have a few Asiatics in the yard and in containers. They mostly have solid colored blooms but all are quite hot.
This is the first of our bearded irises to bloom this year. We have a few of this color scattered around the yard, as well as a few that are bright yellow. I love the way the water droplets look on leaves and flower petals. I guess that’s why they are so often subjects of my photographic efforts. I’m not sure they ever really capture them properly but this one is pretty nice. The color of this flower is nice, too, of course, being such a deep purple. I don’t have a lot else to say. I guess I hope speaks for itself.
One of the shrubs that was in our yard when we bought this house is a large viburnum. It’s in the somewhat shady, northern end of the back yard next to a Spiraea. Some years the bloom isn’t anything to mention but this year is one of the best it’s had since we have lived here (over ten years). The individual flowers are not much to speak of the the entire bush, about ten feel tall and equally broad, is absolutely covered with them. It’s not quite pure white but close enough. The birds love this bush and right now, the insects are pretty happy with it, as well. Once the blooming is done, I’m going to do a bit of cutting, because it tends to get too big and it’s been a few years, but for now, we are really enjoying it.
This is a large and very easily grown rugosa rose that I’ve had in the yard since we first moved here. It’s about 9 feet tall and that’s the only real problem with it. It’s too tall to really be able to appreciate most of the blooms, which are all up at the top. If given more room the branches would arch over and more flowers would be accessible but it’s not sited well enough for that. I may need to move it but it is very happy where it is. Also, the blooms are quite visible from the kitchen, which is certainly a plus. The fragrance, as with most rugosa roses, it wonderful and strong.
We have quite a bit of columbine (Aquilegia) growing in our yard. Many of the plants are seedlings and most look something like this. There are lots of quite fancy and brightly colored columbines among the 60 or 70 species (and many more varieties) but we’re happy enough with the slightly more staid, darker colors. Backlit by the sun the red comes alive and is quite bright. Growing mostly in the shade, however, it rarely gets this treatment. Still, it’s a good plant to have and isn’t generally bothered by rabbits or deer.
It was a beautiful, warm day today and after church and lunch we decided to go to Fehr’s Nursery in Burtonsville. They have a nice selection of plants including the annuals that Cathy’s been planting in a small area at the front of our yard the last few years. I bring my camera and spend most of my time taking pictures of flowers. This year I also bought a miniature rose called ‘Cutie Pie’ but that’s not what this photo is. This is a flower of Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium species) with a syrphid fly (Toxomerus marginatus) perched on it. These are quite ubiquitous, little creatures in the area and they don’t cause any bother at all. I think they’re kind of pretty, as well.
Although it would have been lovely to spend some of the weekend with Dorothy, coming home yesterday, on Friday, was a good idea. We were tired and certainly not ready to go back to work this morning. While we were gone, the yard and garden continued to progress through its usual spring sequence. The Exbury azalea is in full, glorious bloom, with its hot, bright orange flowers. The Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) is also in bloom in the garden under the cherry trees. It’s not closely related to the Virginia bluebell, being much more closely related to the Hyacinth (Hyacinthus orientalis).
The pink dogwood is out and we’re about to enter the most floriferous time of the year. The dogwoods are probably at or just past their peak. Likewise the redbuds. The azaleas are just starting and will be in full bloom soon, which is a pretty spectacular time in our area. The azaleas are followed within a few weeks by some of the early roses, some of which continue to bloom throughout the summer.
I took some pictures of the yard this afternoon. First I got some overall shots showing shrubs, trees, grass, etc. Then I took some close up shots of a phlox plant that is blooming along the back of the yard. The dogwood that Cathy is standing next to in this photo is in the front, too close to the house, really but it’s such a beautiful tree when it’s in bloom that I’m loath to take it out. I tried planting a tall camellia under it that I could cut it out in favor of, but that was just before two very cold winters and it died. I should probably try again. But, for now, we’re enjoying it.
I went out into the woods next to my building today. It was overcast but mild and a nice day to be outdoors. I had only walked a few paces into the woods when I spotted these little mushrooms by a fallen log. I got down on the ground and took a bunch of pictures but I’m not really all that pleased with any of them. The contrast between the white tops of the caps to the dark undersides was just too much for the sensor in my camera to take. But, it’s what I have a picture of today. Hopefully tomorrow will be more interesting.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is up and in bloom. There was some of this in a bed under some trees in the back yard when we moved here. Cathy has transplanted some to a few other locations and this is growing around the southeast corner of the house. It’s such a pretty little flower and I love looking at them every year. They don’t last a long time so when they come out I can’t wait around. But for the short week or so that they are in bloom, they are worth taking time for.
This pink flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) is in front of our house and it’s coming into full bloom. I really love pink dogwoods, although they don’t do as well these days because of anthracnose and the dogwood borer, one of which I photographed on Tuesday, August 21, 2012. It’s a pretty little thing but they do significant damage to this pretty, native tree. There are not reliably pink kousa dogwoods (Cornus kousa) and they have fewer pests, at least so far. They bloom later and have pretty fruit. I’d also like to get a Cornel cherry (Cornus mas), which has small, yellow flowers a bit earlier than the flowering dogwood.
We’re coming into the period with the most blooms now, and it’s the time of year when I get lots of pictures and have a hard time picking which to post. I got some pictures of a Camellia japonica called ‘Dad’s Pink’ growing beside my garage. I also got pictures of the cherry tree that’s also on that end of the yard. But the picture for today is of forget-me-not flowers (Myosotis sylvatica), growing in the back yard. There were quite a few of them in years past but they are short lived perennials and tend to migrate across an area, growing where they haven’t grown and not renewing themselves as much were they were. These are out in the grass and will need to be moved or they will get mown before too long.
Here’s another daffodil (all of which are varieties of the genus Narcissus). This one is called ‘Suzy’ and it’s a really nice little thing. I planted them in the fall of 2014 so this is their third spring. Actually, I’m not sure if they are ‘Suzy’ or if they are ‘Falconet’. The two varieties are quite similar in appearance but ‘Falconet’ has multiple flowers per stem. I can’t find the paper where I wrote down which I planted where that fall, though, so I may be wrong. In any case, they are quite pretty and I’m happy to have them growing in two places in the back yard.
This is a really find daffodil and I recommend it highly. It doesn’t have really large flowers but what it lacks in individual flower size it more than makes up for in bloom count. I planted these in 2009 around a large oak tree in the front of our yard. The oak was dying and has since been removed but the bulbs continue to thrive. I really should get some more of these, although there are lots of other varieties that I could try. These are somewhat variable. The corona (the cup in the center) is somewhat yellow in these but in others it is nearly as white as the base of the surrounding outer perianth (the six ‘regular’ petals).
It was an absolutely glorious day out today so when we got home from church we wanted to do something outdoors. We were tired, though, so decided against doing more yard work. That isn’t to say that we’re all done, by any means, but the yard and garden is in better shape than it’s been this early for many years. We went to Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville and looked at plants and flowers, thinking about what we might get to add to our garden. I took some pictures, mostly things I thought looked nice rather than those I was particularly interested in buying. This Icelandic poppy was quite amazing in its orangeness.
I was down at mom’s today to have lunch with her and with my cousin Dana, his wife Barbara, and Seth. It was a beautiful, clear day and when I went outside to take pictures of the camellias that are in full bloom, I thought I really should get one against the sky. So, that’s what you get, a big, bold, red Camellia japonica against the blue, spring sky. I don’t remember for sure what camellia this is. Perhaps mom remembers. As tomorrow would have been dad’s 90th birthday, though, I think this is an appropriate day to celebrate his remembrance through the camellias he planted. Thanks, dad. It’s been more than seven years and I still miss you every single day.
I’ve bought a large number of bulbs a few times since we moved to our current house and twice I’ve received a bonus of five tulip bulbs from the place I ordered them. Tulips are not generally as long lived as daffodils, in my experience, but then, my experience is fairly limited. I planted the ten that I’ve received in one area and this year five of them bloomed. Obviously this is one. While I have a lot of daffodils and quite a few other, smaller bulbs, I do confess to liking the view straight down into a tulip flower.
Scilla siberica, sometimes known as Siberian squill, is a small bulb native to southern Russia. It is notable for its ability to grow under black walnut trees, which is useful if you have a black walnut and are looking for things to plant under it. I don’t but I still love this spring ephemeral. It is similar to the related Chionodoxa forbesii but the flowers on that are turned upright while Scilla’s face down. It was getting late in the evening when I took this (6:55 PM) and although the camera was steady (on a bean bag), there was a slight breeze moving the flowers around a little.
I don’t know that we’re finished with frost for the spring, but it is definitely spring. It was very pleasant out today and Cathy and I got a lot done. Over the winter we generally leave last year’s stalks and seeds of Rudbeckia, Echinacea, Verbena, etc. for the birds. It’s time to tidy up the yard, though, in preparation for this year’s growth. I used a hedge trimmer to cut them all down near the ground and we cleaned up most of the garden in back and a little of what’s needed out front. After most of that was done I took a break and spent some time photographing flowers. These Muscari are growing under a cherry tree at the north end of our front yard.
This largish Spiraea japonica was in our back yard when we bought the house. Every few years I cut it back quite hard and it rewards us with a wonderful show of airy, white blossoms each spring. There’s actually a cherry seedling growing up through the middle of it, which I need to chop down one of these days, but that’s neither here nor there. The small white flowers are pretty on their own but of course it’s the effect of a seven foot shrub covered in them that’s the real show. Aside from the occasional once over with a hedge trimmer, it takes virtually no work at all.
I’ve been over to one of the other buildings on campus a fair amount lately, for teleconferences with our client, working through the transfer of a system from our server to theirs. It’s dragged on longer than seems like it should have done but we will see it through. One nice thing has been that I’ve had more opportunities to walk through the woods between the two buildings. It’s the more direct but slightly slower route. Of course stopping to take pictures slows it further. The seed-head of this grass was shining in the afternoon light and I thought it looked nice. I’d be curious to know what you see in this image (beyond the literal, of course).
This pink glory of the snow had started to bloom before our late snow and I was a little afraid that they were not going to come back from that. I shouldn’t have worried, as they are apparently made of sterner stuff. These are quite tall for Chionodoxa, although that isn’t saying much. They are tall enough to hold their flowers above the top of the pachysandra among which they are planted. They came back after the snow and are quite lovely. The regular, blue Chionodoxa forbesii growing nearby are also doing quite well and happily blooming now that the snow has gone.
As I think I’ve mentioned before, hyacinths are not my favorite flower. They’re pretty enough and at a distance, I like them just fine. I find the fragrance to be awful, though, so as a centerpiece on a dining room table (for instance) I would just say no. Not everyone shares my opinion, I know. In fact, I know people who actually like the fragrance. It is in their honor in general (and for Julia Y in particular) that I dedicate this photo of purple hyacinths, blooming in our back yard.
It was raining this morning but we wanted to do something outdoors. We picked up Maggie and went to Brookside Gardens, where there are both indoor and outdoor parts, so we could come inside if it continued raining and go out if it stopped. As it turned out, by the time we left the sky was mostly blue and it was a lovely day, so we wandered over most of the grounds as well as spending some time in the greenhouse.
This is indoors as it’s only hardy in USDA zones 8 to 10 but it’s a lovely shrub with fragrant, delicate pink flowers less than a centimeter across.
The forecast for tonight is snow. The heaviest snow we’ve had so far this year didn’t even cover the grass completely, so this will be, assuming it lives up to the hype, considerably more than we’ve see so far. They have backed off from the forecasts of 10 to 15 inches and are now calling for 4 to 7 inches here. Central Pennsylvania and up to New York City are likely to get considerably more than us, with forecasts ranging from 15 to 24 inches. So, here’s one more picture of spring, before winter returns. It’s actually quite a bit colder already, but the precipitation should finish off most of the blossoms that have already opened. Hardy plants, like daffodils, will continue to bloom but I have a feeling many cherry trees are done for the year.
It got quite a bit colder after the rain we had yesterday and this morning it was quite chilly. We wanted to go out and because it’s felt like spring, we wanted to see some plants. That helped us decide to go to Johnson’s outside of Olney, where there is a greenhouse and both house plants and a few outdoor plants that it will be safe to put out soon. This is a Rex begonia, one of a great many cultivars developed specifically for their exotic leaf patterns. This one has a wonderful spiral that really caught my eye. The Rex begonias are only hardy in zones 10 to 12, so can’t be grown outdoors except in a container that comes in for the winter. They also need considerable humidity and indoors that’s a problem for those of us with forced air heating systems, which tend to dry the air in the house far too much. But it’s beautiful. If I ever had a greenhouse, this would be something I’d look at more seriously.
It was a very wet day this morning and everything was dripping as I went to work. After taking my things out to the car I got my camera out and took some pictures of flowers in the rain. Mostly I took daffodils because they are really starting to bloom but then I noticed that one of our two cherry trees has started to bloom as well. It’s forecast to get cold as the rain tappers off later today and there is significant snow in the forecast early next week. We’ll see what that does to the flowers. The cherries in particularly won’t appreciate it.
The glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa forbesii) has started blooming. As the common name implies, it’s an early spring bloomer and it isn’t unusual for it to be up and blooming well before the threat of frost is past. We’ve been having quite mile weather lately although the forecast is saying cooler weather is coming shortly. In fact, there seems to be a possibility of significant snow early next week with the cold starting tomorrow. We’ll see. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the spring ephemerals.
This is my third amaryllis photo in just over a week but I’m not going to apologize for it. These are really beautiful flowers and well deserving of the attention. The first of the three photos was of an amaryllis with mixed red and white flowers. The second was of the bud of this one, which has solid red blooms. I’m glad I got the pictures of this when I did because within 24 hours of taking them, the plant tipped over and the blossoms were smashed a bit. They still look good (those that are still attached) but it’s a little the worse for the fall.
We had a light snowfall overnight. It wasn’t much and in most years would barely register as a snow at all. Nevertheless, it was the biggest snow we’ve had so far this winter. It melted on paved surfaces, so the roads were quite clear but it nearly covered the grass, with only a small amount of green showing through. I went out back and took some pictures of things with snow on them, including this Monarda didyma (scarlet bee balm) seed head near the back fence. By midday all the snow was gone. I don’t know if winter is over but with the exception of a few days in the single digits, back in December, this has been a very mild winter indeed.
I know I’ve already done amaryllis recently but I’m afraid it’s going to be a repeat of sorts today. The picture is different enough, fortunately. The one I posted two days ago was in full bloom. This is another that Cathy bought and planted at the same time, but it’s at least a week behind. It’s also six or eight inches taller. Finally, I think this one is solid red where the other was (and is) pink or red mixed with white.
Dad used to grow an amaryllis most years for Christmas so I associate them with dear old dad. That’s a good thing, of course, but it does have a tendency to make me a little melancholy from time to time. I guess that’s one side effect of getting older. When we are young, if we are fortunate (as I certainly was) we don’t have a lot of loss in our lives and things we consider terrible are usually relatively mild in retrospect. As we get older, it’s almost inevitable that we will have significant loss. I’m not sure if I deal with it in a good way or not, but I do it my way (as Paul Anka might say). Having things that remind me of the loss is, for me, part of how I deal with it. I don’t want to forget, even though it’s painful.
It rained pretty hard all day today and I didn’t get out to take any pictures. I met a few guys at Dogfish Head Alehouse after work but didn’t really have an opportunity to take any pictures there, either. So, when I got home I took some pictures of houseplants that are growing in pots in our kitchen. Many of them move out onto the back patio in the summer (or we move them, anyway) but they spend the colder months vacationing in our kitchen. There’s a pretty good amount of light from the afternoon sun so they seem reasonably happy there. They’d probably do better if the air in the house were not so dry, but they get through it. This is a Schefflera, an umbrella plant, and a fairly common houseplant. In the tropical climate of its native Taiwan it grows to 10 to 25 feet tall but as a houseplant it rarely exceeds 6 or 7 feet.
Cathy grows at least one amaryllis pretty much every year. This year she has two and although they were both growing their flower stalks at the same time, this one opened well ahead of the other, coming into full bloom before the other even started to open its buds. I took a few pictures of it this evening, doing my best to eliminate the harsh shadows on the wall behind it by bouncing my flash off the ceiling. Generally she tries to get them started early enough that they bloom around Christmas but this year didn’t get them into their pots until January, so we have them now. No complaints from me.
It was a fairly busy day today, with church as usual and then a fellowship lunch with Crusader Baptist at 2:30. I made a big batch of qaubili pilau with braised beef and we enjoyed a huge meal and a wonderful time of sharing. I took a few pictures but they will mostly be of interest to those who were there. When we got home I took a few pictures of our early daffodils, a variety called ‘Tete-A-Tete’, which have started to bloom along the side of our front yard. There will be many more to come and since it turned cool today, they will slow down a bit, but spring is definitely in the air. ‘Tete-A-Tete’ is a small daffodil classified in division XII (Miscellaneous Daffodils) and I’m quite fond of it, not least because it comes out so early and lasts quite a while.
Another early bloomer, if your in the market for such things, is the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). The genus name comes from the Greek words bora meaning food and helein meaning injures/destroys in reference to the plant’s toxic leaves, stems and roots which are poisonous to humans if ingested (source, Missouri Botanical Garden). There are various cultivars in a range of colors and we have a few light colored varieties in the yard. Nevertheless, I really prefer this deep wine color. The blooms are not terribly conspicuous, being mostly downward facing and often covered by the new leaves, but what you see of them makes it a plant worth growing.
I went over to Ralph’s this morning to drop off something with mom. While we were there I took some pictures of things blooming in his yard. In addition to this little, yellow crocus, there was winter aconite still in bloom (but mostly done). Also, a winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) was in full bloom with its lovely, yellow flowers all along its green stems. I also took some pictures of winterberry berries. Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a deciduous holly, native to eastern North America and is known for its profusion of bright red berries on bare stems that last throughout the winter.
It was another spring-like day, well into the 70s, and mostly sunny. I took a walk on the other side of W. Montgomery Avenue at lunch time, hoping to find things to photograph and generally enjoying the fresh air. Although it feels like spring, the woods are still in their mostly brown, winter garb. There were a pair of geese that seemed to be protecting a nest and they didn’t want me to get too close. I caught sight of a king fisher and small woodpecker but wasn’t able to get pictures of either. There is a small drainage pond with what appears to be a beaver lodge in it. The pond is surrounded by cattails (Typha latifolia) and that’s what is featured in today’s picture.
There have been some snow drops out in our neighborhood for over a week now. Outside the building where I work are two large areas covered with them and they are in full bloom, as well. These are on the north side of the building, on a protected slope below the parking lot, leading down to a stream. I wasn’t able to get pictures but I saw two butterflies and one very large wasp of some sort on them. I don’t think about there being many flying insects about this time of year but if there are flowers, there are bound to be pollinators. It’s been quite mild out, but this is just about when the snow drips (Galanthus nivalis) normally blooms.
It’s a bit over a week earlier in the year than the photo I posted of this last winter, but having it bloom in February isn’t at all unusual. Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) got its name for a reason. It’s a native of Europe, from southern France to Bulgaria and it’s also adapted to grow under black walnut, which produces the natural herbicide juglone (a.k.a. 5-hydroxy-1,4-naphthalenedione) that inhibits many plants from growing too close (and thus competing for resources). Eranthis is a pretty little things, lighting up an otherwise brown garden in the depths of winter. Even if this winter hasn’t been all that deep so far.
This picture didn’t turn out as well as I had hoped. I really should have gone back inside to get my tripod, because it was not bright enough for this sort of picture without additional camera support. As a consequence, it’s a little blurry, but still a nice picture of the seed head of scarlet beebalm (Monarda didyma) growing in the back of our garden, right up against the fence. It’s most spectacular when in bloom, of course, with its bright red flowers, but even now, these dried flower parts are still quite pretty, especially close up.
I had meant to get out of the office today. It’s not as cold as it was and it was mostly clear today but I was quite busy and didn’t get a chance. As the sun was going down late in the afternoon it lit up the trees outside my office and I watched the bird moving about. There were quite a few starlings in the tree tops and every now and then a large group of them would fly off or another large group would join them from somewhere else. This picture is just of trees with a few large, older trees that are growing just beyond the parking lot and then the smaller trees beyond in what was a field when I started working here.
It’s nice, in the colder months when nothing is blooming outside, to have a few houseplants that provide color in a more-monochrome time of year. African violets (generally cultivars derived from Saintpaulia ionantha) are a good choice. They are quite easy to grow, you can have a bunch in a relatively small space, and they produce beautiful, if small, flowers of white, pink, purple, and blue. This one, with a mottled purple flower, is a good example. Watered once or twice a week, it’s quite happy in our kitchen with a west-facing window.
Our youth group met in an international market this evening before returning to our regular location for pizza and the bulk of the meeting. At the store, we looked at seafood. I took a few pictures (I know, can you believe it?) including this one of bok choy or Chinese cabbage, Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis). I bought a Spanish mackerel, filleted (my post for tomorrow will feature that, actually) and some oyster mushrooms. There was also a bin with turtles in it. I thought of posting a picture of them, but too many people would have thought of them as pets and we were in a grocery store.
It was a dreary, rainy day today but it wasn’t actually raining when I had to walk over to another building for a meeting. As I often do, I took my camera with me and took some pictures of crab apples on a tree between the parking lot and pond below my building. I love crab apples and in general would probably favor them over flowering cherries as ornamental trees. If nothing else, they provide two seasons of interest although many of them may be fairly susceptible to rust and black spot. If you are shopping for a crab apple, disease resistance my be the first thing you want to look into. In terms of fruit, smaller might be better unless you don’t mind them dropping onto your lawn. I am personally partial to yellow fruit, as seen here.
Most people are at least aware of nutmeg as a spice. It is the seed of Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree indigenous to the Moluccas (or Spice Islands) of Indonesia and grown throughout the tropics of Asia and South America. Like all herbs and spices, it’s an aromatic that loses it’s aroma over time so you don’t want to buy more than you will use in a relatively short time. With nutmeg, buying whole seeds and grating it as needed extends its useful life considerably. The seed on top here has been grated down, showing a cross section of the internal structure of the seed.
I love a good forest. I guess I’m particularly partial to temperate hardwood forests because that’s what I know best, although the southeast Alaska’s rain forest is pretty amazing, too. But we don’t have to look far to find small pockets of forest, even in our almost entirely suburban county. As the crow flies, this is about two thirds of a mile from our house. It’s not actually a deep, dark forest, certainly not a Mirkwood of Fangorn but it’s at the very least a ‘wood.’ I love the color of beech leaves in winter, particular in contrast to the pale grey of their bark.
I went for a short walk today, going through the woods and across the street to a small pond and back. I took some pictures of grass seeds and then stopped when I saw the light shining through this sycamore leaf. I love the bright yellow of the leaf and the dark brown of the veins. Sycamores are not really known for their spectacular fall color as their leaves often are brown by the time they fall but the leaves do often pass though yellow on their way to brown, as you can see.