The tiger lilies are blooming and they are really spectacular this year. My dad had these growing in his garden and from time to time we would take the little bulbils that form in the angle between the leaves and stem on these plants and we’d put them in our garden. We continued that process, with bulbils from our own plants and now we have a pretty good number of them around the yard. These are growing in the small bed where an oak tree once grew. That tree was dying when we bought the house and has since been removed. There are daffodils there and Cathy often puts annuals in the center of the bed, but these lilies are growing towards the back (the house side). They are over six feet tall and quite striking, with racimes of large, orange, downward-facing flowers.
Flowers and Plants
The blackberry lilies (Iris domestica and formerly Belamcanda chinensis) have started to bloom in the garden. We originally got this when I collected some seeds and planted them at our old house. We brought some here with us in 2006 and they have really taken hold. We sprinkle the seeds around and let them grow where they will. They aren’t nearly so aggressive as to be a problem and they are so pretty. I had a picture of the buds recently but this is the flower. They open in the morning and each individual flower only lasts a day, but they are born in profusion and soon we’ll have dozens of them in bloom, scattered around the yard.
We’re in that in between time, after the spring and early summer bloomers have finished up but before the late summer flowers have really started in earnest. There are a few things in bloom, including the day lilies and the buddleia are starting to bloom and attract bees and butterflies. The gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) has been blooming but doesn’t add a lot of color, having white flowers. Also, I don’t care how desperate you are for blooms, I don’t recommend you put this anywhere near your garden, unless that’s all you want. Pretty soon these buds will begin to open. They are Iris domestica, the blackberry lily, which until recently also went by the name Belamcanda chinensis and sometimes known as leopard lily. These have self-seeded around the yard but are well within the limits of what’s easy to control, if they come up where you don’t want them. I highly recommend them for any sunny garden.
There are quite a few really amazing coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) varieties now and if I had the space and the time and the money, I’d consider a collection of the as one aspect of a large garden. They vary in color from the “standard” pinkish-purple bracts and with orange spikes, as seen here, to all sort of oranges, yellow, and darker purples. They flower shapes vary, as well, and they are all lovely. Sadly, there are enough plant-eating insects that enjoy them that they don’t often last in pristine condition. Photographing them in their prime means getting them when the flowers first open, because the bracts get holes in them almost immediately. Still, they provide color in a time when not a lot is blooming.
I went out looking for pictures as usual this afternoon, when I got home from work. There is Campanula in bloom in the yard, and I took some pictures of those flowers. They don’t tend to come out the same color in photographs as they are in real life. Not entirely sure why. Then I moved over to the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), which is a real attraction to the bees. It’s quite invasive and I really would recommend against planting it in the strongest language, but if you already have it, you might as well enjoy the bees. There were a few honey bees but mostly it was the common eastern bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) that were moving quickly from flower to flower.
Dorothy brought home a rooted leaf from a fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) a while back and we’ve been caring for it since then. It’s grown quite well and is now over four feet tall and the stem has gotten strong enough that it’s standing on its own. We had it in the kitchen until recently but have now moved it to the dining room, just inside a west facing window. Where these are native, in central and western tropical Africa, they can grow to over 60 feet tall. As a houseplant, they generally are kept below eight feet tall, unless you have a large space for them. I love the green of the leaves with the sun shining through them, as seen here.
We have a pair of Hydrangea shrubs growing along the back of our garden. one of them is fairly large and growing strongly. The other, this Hydrangea macrophylla, is not so big but it’s blooming, at least. The deer seem to like it, so we’ve allowed the Forsythia to grow in front of it a little, to help protect it from them. Of course, that makes it harder for us to see, as well. You can’t have everything. The sterile florets, which have large petals, are a very pale pinkish with touches of blue. The much smaller fertile florets are quite blue, and the combination is quite nice.
Cathy bought some strawflower, also known as golden everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) this spring and has it in a container on the back patio. They are quite bright and lovely to see from the kitchen door. As the flowers open, the center is a bright orange that complements the yellow of the stiff petal-like bracts. As the flower ages, the central disk turns brown, as seen here, but the bracts remain. This gives the flowers their “everlasting” common name. They are already basically dry, so they don’t dry out and turn brown, but rather keep their yellow color. Apparently in their native Australia they grow in sweeping drifts in open grassland, which must be quite beautiful indeed.
The day lilies are coming into bloom. These are great plants and easy to grow. They like full sun but are quite tolerant of a bit of shade (with a bit of reduced blooming, though). You often see them growing in ditches along road sites in the country. Those that we have are from a very small town that no longer exists in rural Pennsylvania. The houses are all gone, except for a few stone basements slowly being filled by the passing of time. around one of them is a huge patch of day lilies. They are in fairly deep shade, so don’t bloom profusely, but they are happy and continue spreading their roots. I dug up a few many years ago and they really responded to the sun and never fail to satisfy.
This native shrub has self seeded in our back garden. I’m of two minds about it. The beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), also known as rench mulberry, sourbush, bunchberry, or purple beauty-berry, does have pretty fruit, from which it gets both its common and its generic name. On the other hand, it’s not really growing where I would have planted it. Every year I think about either taking it out or at least transplanting it to another part of the garden. It certainly grows strongly enough and would probably do well in another location. The flowers, shown here, are not very significant. The big clumps of purple berries that follow are quite nice, though.
Those of you who have followed my photographic endeavors for any length of time know that some days I just don’t have anything particularly interesting to share. That’s going to happen when you say you’re going to post a picture from every day. I suppose there are people whose lives are so varied that they always have something interesting going on, but my life has many days that are just like most of the others. I go to work and I come home. My commute doesn’t take me by any grand vistas and there are no mountains or waterfalls to be seen. My yard is fairly pedestrian and while I have flowers and bugs to photograph, it can all seem a bit the same from day to day. This is a mushroom that was in our back lawn, presumably growing on the decomposing roots of one of the trees that we have had to take down. Not much, but it’s one more glimpse of nature.
I planted a few of these years ago at our old house, after having taken a few bulblets from the top of some growing in a garden we visited. A few years ago I decided to get rid of them, but that’s easier said than done. This one is growing in the grass outside the fenced herb garden that I made a while back. I think we need to be a bit more ruthless in pulling them up. They are interesting, though, and if we had a lot of space, I’d have a bunch. The stems, which are really tubular leaves, have flower clusters at the top. Then bulblets form and sometimes there are flower clusters growing from those bulblets. When the top becomes heavy from the size of the bulblets, the whole plant falls on its side, those bulblets take root and new plants spring up. It’s that spreading action that gives rise to the “walking” part of their name. Anyway, if you’d like some, feel free to ask and I’ll give you a few bulblets and you can start your own colony.
This butterfly weed, Asclepias curassavica, is also known as blood flower. Cathy recently bought a few plants in both orange (this one) and all yellow. Sadly, it is not hardy enough for in-ground planting as a perennial here, but it should do well in containers and brighten up the back patio. This one is in a container right outside our kitchen door and looks great against the green backdrop of Rudbekia growing around the patio. I especially like the bi-color nature of this one, although the all-yellow variety is nice, too.
We have some Asiatic lilies in the bed where there used to be an oak tree in front of our house. The oak has been gone for long enough that I don’t remember when it was cut down (and I don’t feel like searching through my journal to find out). The lilies are doing quite well and they are surrounded by other plants which seems to have kept the deer and rabbits from eating them, which is nice. As you can see, they are a very hot orange and are quite spectacular. The tiger lilies, which won’t bloom for a while yet, are much taller and more obvious. These blooms are only about 18 inches from the ground and face upwards, which is terrific.
We’ve had coral bells (Heuchera sanguinea) growing in our garden and in containers pretty much since we have been able to have a garden. It’s not the sturdiest of plants and we’ve had to replace them from time to time. I may be forgetting something but I think this is currently our only plant, growing in a container in the driveway. It’s fairly happy, probably because the containers get watered more regularly throughout the summer than the in-ground plantings. Also, although this gets a bit of direct morning sun, it’s in bright, open shade by early afternoon so it doesn’t bake. It seems to be happy and it blooms quite freely, which is nice.
On Sunday, as I mentioned, we went to Stadler Nursery in Laytonsville. Cathy bought a few things, including two Cleome plants, one white and one very pale pink. The white one, shown here, is called ‘Senorita Blanca’ and the other is ‘Senorita Mi Amor’. We’ve had Cleome ‘Senorita Rosalita’ in the past and these are (I assume) related plants with different coloration. My understanding is that they are sterile and will not self-seed, which is both good and bad. Annuals that do self-seed can become a real nuisance and get out of control. But some, if they only just manage to hold on, are really nice. Nigela is a good example of the latter. In our experience, it just self-seeds enough that we have it for a few years before needing to plant more. Other annuals, of course, go totally native and sterile plants are a real boon.
I’ve posted pictures of this fern before and I’ll probably do so again. It’s a pretty fern and worth growing, if you have any interest in ferns. I actually have it in a less than ideal spot that gets pretty much full sun from about noon onwards. It would be happier in full shade. The Missouri Botanical Garden page on this plant says, “High summer heat may cause fronds to brown by mid to late summer, particularly if good soil moisture is not maintained and/or plants are grown in too much sun.” Yep, that happens here. I really need to move it, or at least take a piece or two of it to grow in a better location. It does amazingly well in the sun, but it could be so much happier.
I really like roses and I’ve posted photos of them here fairly often, trying to get each of my roses featured at least once a year. I also like to visit my friend Nick, who often opens his rose garden on Memorial Day weekend. He didn’t this year, for personal reasons, but I thought I’d post a rose photo, anyway. The rose that’s blooming that I haven’t featured yet this year is a landscape rose that our neighbor gave me a few years ago. It’s growing in a nice, sunny spot behind our garage and is quite happy there, blooming profusely (as you can see). I’m not as big a fan of these roses as I might be, mainly because they have little to no fragrance. But I can’t fault them in terms of blooming and ease of care. If you want a rose that will bloom all summer and which you can basically ignore, this is probably the rose for you. They really are quite spectacular when they really get going.
Allium moly, commonly known as golden garlic, is a pretty, ornamental flowering onion with bright yellow flowers. I have this growing long side our front walk, although it has been surrounded by other plants so it isn’t as prominent as it was when it was first planted. I really should have more of this. It blooms after the majority of bulbs are done, so helps fill a gap in the blooming cycle. It’s also a lovely, bright yellow, which is hard to miss. I have it growing next to a small Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’ and the two go very well together, with purple and yellowing being a really good combination. They are also on the small side for their respective genuses. Highly recommended.
This is one of three peonies that I planted in 2014, named ‘Coral Sunset’ that are growing will in the back garden. I’m a big fan of peonies and if I had a lot of space I might devote and entire garden room to them. There are both herbaceous and woody stemmed peonies and the are both worth growing. They do take a while to get established but they don’t really require much care. The reward in the huge, brightly colored flowers every spring. There is a nice peony garden at Seneca Creek State Park, if you are interested. I haven’t had a chance to go this year and it isn’t looking like I will, but it’s worth a peek, if you can get there when they are in bloom.
In the continuing series of roses, this is one of my favorites. I’m down from a high of 13 roses in the garden to 5. One of those, Crépuscule, was nearly killed a few years ago after being by far the largest rose I had, covering a 20 foot trellis on the south end of the house. This on, a small china rose called Perle d’Or is growing just outside our front door. It lost a few canes to the cold this winter but is in full bloom now, really showing off and giving off a wonderful fragrance.
We’re coming up to the peak of rose season. Many roses bloom all summer, of course, and we naturally love that about them. But even those that repeat bloom start the season with the best display of the year. This rose, a Noisette rose bred by Champneys in 1811, is a reliable repeat bloomer but it is getting set to be absolutely covered with flowers. It is growing on the south end of our house where it gets plenty of sun and seems to be fairly happy. We need to work to keep the bindweed off of it, but other than that, it requires little care. And such a pretty little thing.
We took our annual Mother’s Day outing to the garden center today for Cathy to buy the annuals that she’ll plant around our yard and garden. After a hot and clear day yesterday it was quite cool and rainy today. When we got to Fehr’s Nursery in Burtonsville we were the only customers there. Others came and went while we were there, though, and considering the weather, they were doing pretty good business. Much of what Cathy was shopping for is in their greenhouses, so the rain didn’t really affect us too much. I did what I usually do in these situations, wander around with my camera and take pictures of flowers. I was taking pictures of these flats of red-flowered begonias when Cathy happened to come by, so I got this picture of her in front of them.
Weeds are incredible. They grow so fast, are hard to get rid of, and can easily take over your yard. I’ve mentioned that last year we didn’t do a lot of gardening and the weeds got the upper hand. This spring they are coming up in force. In the big patch of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) the Canada thistle Cirsium arvense was so thick you could barely see the lily of the valley. I spent the morning pulling it up and it looks so much better. I also dug up some pokeweed (Phytolacca americana). That’s what is photographed here, leaves and root of pokeweed (and you can see a little Canada thistle at the top). This huge root was a bit of work to get out. I’m not naive enough to believe it won’t come back from the small amount of root left in the ground, but getting this huge root out is a necessary first step.
My roses have had a rough few years. Three of them outright died in the last twelve months and I’m not entirely sure why. This one, a hybrid rugosa named ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’ lost a lot of stems but is still hanging on and has just started to bloom. The stems are relatively thin and the heavy flowers are too much for them, so they face pretty much downwards, especially after a rain. Like most rugosas, this rose has a really wonderful scent and the leaves are a beautiful green, generally untouched by any disease.
The columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is really coming into bloom now in our garden. We have a few different varieties and I won’t swear that they are all this species (in fact I don’t think they are). But this one, I think probably is. It’s one of two that have flowers with a fuchsia or slightly purple color in their flowers. The other one is darker, almost tending towards a brownish red. It also has slightly more double white parts. They are both nice in their own way, and I’m pretty happy with this self seeding through out the garden. It doesn’t go out of control, like some self-seeders tend to do, so I don’t really mind.
In 2013 I bought some fastigiate oaks from Musser Forests (http://www.musserforests.com/). Fastigiate is from Latin and means narrowing toward the top and when applied to trees, having upright usually clustered branches. Trees that have a more narrow form are often called fastigiate and these oaks are actually named Quercus robur ‘Fastigiata’. The English oak is a pretty tree, especially when it gets large, but it can be a bit much for a suburban garden, needing a huge space to be grown to full advantage. These narrow trees, however, should do reasonably well here. They are not quite as hardy as the species but I’ve seen them growing in the district and there is a huge one only a few blocks away, so I’m hopeful. I have them growing in two parts of the yard, one on the north end of the yard and one along the back (west side). Planted in 2013, they are already more than 10 feet tall, and growing quite quickly.
Ages ago I got some seeds of Syringa meyeri, the Meyer or Korean lilac, and they grew in a wooden box for years. Then we moved here in 2006 and they remained in the box, never getting more than about a foot tall. I finally planted them in the garden and for a few years they grew larger but didn’t bloom. Last year they bloomed and this year they are larger and blooming better still. They have large leaves and the flowers are at the top in fairly large terminal clusters (panicles).
This gooseberry plant (Ribes uva-crispa) was originally put in by Albert in their yard. After he passed away, Brady said I could have it and it’s growing in the back of our garden. It blooms fairly early for a fruit bush and the fruit ripens fairly quickly. I really enjoy gooseberry jam, as I like most things of a tart nature. One thing to watch for when pruning and picking the fruit from a gooseberry bush is the thorns. They are quite sharp and vicious. There used to be a federal ban on growing gooseberry and other Ribes species but that was lifted in 1966. A few states still prohibit the growth of some or all Ribes species but they are all legally grown in Maryland.
It was a beautiful day and I took the opportunity to go out and take a few pictures in the empty lot next to my office. Although we had a lot of rain this winter and early in the spring, April has been relatively drier than usual (at least that’s how if feels, I haven’t checked the actual data). Nevertheless, the drainage pond that is usually dry in the summer was about has high as it can be without the entire upper area being a bog. In a slightly higher part of the area I found quite a bit of this little corn speedwell (Veronica arvensis) growing. It’s a native to Europe and has been introduced widely in North America (according to the US Department of Agriculture, it can be found in every state except North Dakota, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually there, too. The blooms are quite small, only about a quarter inch across, and are a lovely blue color. As weeds go, there are worse.
This Exbury azalea is starting to bloom. It’s been eaten back by the deer, so it’s not clear that it will ever get really big unless we are able to protect it. The flowers are quite striking, especially compared to the ubiquitous Glenn Dale azaleas that everyone has. I’ve got nothing against the Glenn Dales, mind you. But you have to admit, they have a certain sameness to them. I suppose if everyone grew Exbury or Mollis azaleas, I’d fell the same way. Or not. They really are spectacular and if you want yellows an oranges, they’re your best bet this time of year. They are deciduous, of course, so if you want leaves year round, they won’t do. But they sure make up for it in bloom.
The regular flowering cherries are pretty much finished but there are these double-flowered cherries and they still look wonderful. Not only are they a considerably stronger pink than the single variety but the flowers are much larger, measuring a few inches across. They are somewhat hard to photograph because the best views of the flowers are had looking up at them and when they are backlit by a bright sky, they tend to go quite dark. This one turned out pretty well.
The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) are in full bloom in our garden. They self-seed and many of them are growing out in the grass. Cathy has dug a few up to replant in the garden beds where they won’t get mowed over. We both really love the powder blue of the forget-me-nots and are happy when the start to bloom. The buds are purple and the flowers, as they start to open, turn from a pinkish purple to the pure blue of the fully-formed flowers. You can see one transitioning at the right in this photo. The yellow “eye” in the center of each bloom turns white as the flower ages.
Galium odoratum, commonly known as Sweet Woodruff and Sweetscented Bedstraw, is a pretty, little perennial native to Europe, northern Africa, and northern Asia. It grows well in the shade and we have it under the cherry tree at the north end of our garden. It’s competing with Japanese pachysandra, which is a battle it won’t win, although it seems to hold its own. From the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder web site:
Plants emit a strong odor of freshly mown hay when foliage is crushed or cut. Aromatic intensity of the foliage increases when dried, thus dried leaves are popularly used in sachets or potpourris. Plants have also been used commercially in perfumes. Leaves are sometimes used to flavor teas and cold fruit drinks. Leaves are also used to make May wine, a punch made from white wine flavored with woodruff, orange and pineapple. Woodruff comes from Old English meaning wood that unravels, in probable reference to the creeping rootstock of the plant.
It’s that time of the year when the maple trees let loose thousands upon thousands of “helicopters” (a.k.a. samaras). They’ll be thick on the lawn and patio and front walk. Not as thick as they once were, because we have fewer maple trees than we did, but still quite a lot. Then they will start growing. In the lawn, the first time the grass is cut, they’ll be taken care of. In the garden beds they need to be pulled up.
In the front of my office building there are a few flower beds including one raised bed with a bunch of tulips growing in it. They are bright orange and red and really striking. I usually go into the building through the back door so I hadn’t noticed them but my friend, Corina, said I should take a look. I did and she was right. Naturally when she said take a look, she meant take some pictures, so I did that, too. It was late in the day and they were in the shade of the building, making it a little harder, exposure wise, but I really love their colors.
There are trees we generally think of as flowering trees, such as dogwoods, cherries, and crab apples. But of course, most non-coniferous trees bloom, even if that’s not why we grow them. Out neighborhood has street trees planted pretty much throughout with different streets and different sections having different tree species but mostly planted with the neighborhood was developed in the late 1960s. Our area has mostly red oaks and at nearly 50 years old, they are generally pretty good size. Oaks are among those not usually grown for their showy flowers. Nevertheless, when they are in full bloom, particularly on a clear day in contrast with the blue sky, they are quite dramatic. Of course, the pollen is everywhere and if you have allergies, you aren’t enjoying this. But it can be beautiful.
I took a break and went out into the woods today to take a few pictures. The eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are blooming and they really are something. This is the native eastern redbud, which is similar to but distinct from the Judas tree or Mediterranean redbud (C. siliquastrum), native to the Eastern Mediterranean. They are both admired for their rose-purple flowers which are borne on bare branches in early spring (i.e. now) and before the foliage emerges.
There are still a few daffodils blooming at the Stadtman Preserve but most of them are finished. The P.J.M. Rhododendrons are also a little past their peak and are dropping flowers on the ground around them, as you can see here. There are pink and white deciduous azaleas blooming now and there are spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) by the hundreds. There are some trillium coming up and a few with buds but none blooming yet. There are also ferns coming up in a few places. Spring always seems to go by too fast, but it’s sure nice while its here.
In the fall of 2009 and again in 2010 I bought a pretty good number of bulbs from McClure and Zimmerman (https://www.mzbulb.com/). In each of those orders they threw in five tulip of the variety ‘Van Eijk’. There are still ten plants growing where I planted them although we only have six blooms this year. Tulips are not terribly long-lived plants, certainly not in our area, anyway, so the fact that these are still blooming after 8 or nine years is pretty good. They’re quite bright and a sea of them would be more impressive than the six I have, of course. In general, though, I’m more a fan of daffodils, which seem to live forever and form large clumps over time.
It rained today and there was water on the the plants in the yard. The forecast was for a chance of rain all through the weekend but (as I write this on Monday) it turned out to be fairly nice. I really love the pattern of water on plant leaves, in any case, and these fresh, young leaves of hosta in a pot on our patio are such a beautiful, vivid green I couldn’t resist them. I also took pictures of water on Columbine flowers and leave and on a really pretty bracket fungus that was growing on the decaying roots of an oak tree that the county removed a few years ago.
The daffodils are about at their peak right now and will soon begin to fade. We have a few that are still getting ready to bloom for for the most part, they are open. These ‘Lemon Beauty’ daffodils were planted in the fall of 2014 so this is their fifth spring and they are doing quite well. They were planted in the bed around the Colorado spruce and were somewhat shaded by that but now that it’s gone, they’ll get more early spring sun, which they will appreciate, I suspect. The stump of the spruce is still there and I need to finish getting that up and then decide what to plan in its place. I’ve narrowed it down to a half dozen flowering trees but making the final decision is hard.
We have this little flowering almond shrub in our front garden near the corner of our garage. It never gets very big because it’s not entirely hardy here and every couple years it dies back pretty hard. We actually had a few days when the temperature was nearing 0°F (-18°C) but it seems to have come through it practically unscathed. The flowers, clustered around the stems, are fairly small, only a half inch or so across. Never the less, they are quite pretty, both individually and as a whole. It’s really a shame this doesn’t get bigger because it would be spectacular.
I’m posting this out of order but I was looking back at the pictures I took on Sunday and decided I should add this one. Remember, just because I say I’ll take at least one picture every day, I’m not limited to posting only one picture per day. After church and our visit to the Stadtman Preserve we went to my mom’s to get one more document with some numbers I needed for her tax return. Before we left Cathy and I walked over to a small grove of saucer magnolias growing near by. The saucer magnolia is a hybrid, known as Magnolia x soulangeana and is a cross between M. denudata and M. liliiflora. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the specific epithet “honors Chevalier Etienne Soulange-Bodin (1774-1846), Director of the French Royal Institute, who crossed this hybrid in the early 1800s.”
This was our fourth Sunday in a row to enjoy the flowers at the Stadtman Preserve. Don’t be too surprised if we’re there again next week. Since daffodils only last so long, I’m going to continue to post pictures while the do. In addition to hundreds of daffodils of many sorts and shades of yellow and orange, the P.J.M. Rhododendrons are really starting to bloom. We also found one bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis) with a few blossoms. There were spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) and cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) and a few mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum).
The cherry blossoms have really come out in force this week and my understanding is that the trees around the tidal basin downtown are in full bloom. They’re worth a visit but it can be quite an ordeal to get down there. Parking is generally impossible anywhere near the tidal basin so it’s much better to take the subway and just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to do a bit of walking. They really are worth it. We haven’t been in quite a few years and this photo was taken beside one of the buildings on our company’s campus, rather than down town. As you can see, the flowers are white and there is only a hint of pink in the buds. Some have a little more pink than this but the cherries are not nearly as colorful as the crab apples, which I actually prefer by a wide margin.
Cathy bought two columbine plants (Aquilegia) on Sunday and this is one of them. It’s not the standard, native Aquilegia canadensis with its drooping flowers and distinctive spurs. The label had no information on it beyond Aquilegia so I don’t know what the variety name is or anything. It’s quite pretty and I photographed it in the late afternoon sun, to help light up the delicate pink petals. We have a fair amount of columbine in the yard, although most of it is self-seeded volunteers and is a dark, maroon color. I doubt the seeds from this will be anything like it is, but you never know, maybe we’ll start getting some new varieties around the yard.
These little flowers, Scilla siberica (Siberian squill) are similar to the blue Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) that I photographed a few days ago but can be differentiated by their downward facing appearance. They are also deeper blue, in general. In my yard they bloom just a little later, but not much. These are in a bed right by the driveway so I get to see them every time I leave or get home, which is nice. S. siberica is native to southern Russia and is hardy up to USDA Zone 2.
I also have some Scilla mischtschenkoana, (commonly called simply squill) the flowers of which are almost white with just a hint of blue. They are native to northern Iran and the Caucasus and not quite as hardy as S. siberica but still plenty hardy for us here. I really should mark where all my spring ephemerals are and plant more around them this fall. I’m not sure I could ever have too many of them.
The hyacinths are in bloom. They aren’t as perfectly formed spikes of flowers as we’ve had some years, but they’re still pretty nice. I don’t care for the sickeningly sweet smell of hyacinths abut they look nice and as long as they’re out in the yard, I don’t mind. There are a few deep, rich, purple hyacinths just starting to bloom, as well, but those are even less full than the pink. Still, they make a nice contrast and look especially good with the yellow of daffodils. Sadly, the daffodils in the back yard are late enough they they won’t bloom at the same time, at least not this year.
After church this week, for the third week in a row, we walked over to the Stadtman Preserve to see the bulbs. The daffodils are pretty spectacular and entire sections of hillside are yellow with them. The Chionodoxa is still in bloom and there are areas completely dotted with their pretty, blue flowers. I took pictures of Cathy in a few different spots but I had only brought one lens, the 100mm, which wasn’t really idea for that sort of portraiture. This one turned out pretty well, though. Spring it definitely here and we’re loving it.
I try not to repeat subject too often and too close together but sometimes I just have to. The Sunday before last I posted a pictures of three Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) blossoms, taken at the Stadtman Preserve on Mill Run, in Derwood (see Sunday, March 17, 2019). Two weeks later they are out in our garden and I couldn’t resist another picture. This little clump of flowers is at the south end of our house and it’s so lovely. I promise, I’m done with this flower for the year (although there’s a pink variety in another part of our garden).
I had some car trouble today. My van, which has just over 269,000 miles on it, started making a terrible grinding noise when I put on the breaks. I thought, I don’t care, bad breaks aren’t going to stop me! But seriously, there are car repairs you can put off and car repairs you can’t put off. Brakes are in the latter category. After having Cathy meet me at the mechanic’s we stopped at the commuter parking lot near the ICC and I took some pictures of the cherry blossoms.
Last Sunday after church we walked to the Stadtman Preserve and I posted a picture of three little Chionodoxa forbesii blossoms. This week we went there again. The daffodils are starting to bloom and there are lots more Chionodoxa flowers opening up throughout the property. It was this little windflower (Anemone blanda) that really caught my eye. It’s such a pretty little thing. I’ve had a few of them in our garden but they never really amounted to much. I need to make a note to myself to buy a bunch of them and put them in. Interestingly, the flower is apetalous (it has no petals) and what look like petals are actually sepals.
The forsythia is starting to bud. As I write this, a week after the photo was taken, the buds have opened and the flowers are out. Spring can move quickly at times and when we have a warm spell, as we do at some point most years, buds open quickly. We often then have a frost that can kill back some of the more tender plants a bit. The early flowering star magnolia, with its fleshy, succulent petals, is generally one of the hardest hit. Other plants, like most early bulbs, the Lenten rose, and the forsythia, are better able to cope with a little cold, and generally just stop briefly, only to continue once it warms back up.
I hope you won’t mind one more Hellebore. This one is called ‘Rose Quartz’ and like the crocus pictured yesterday, it is in the bed out back with lily of the valley and Vinca minor. This is only its second year blooming and while there are more flowers this year, it’s still not a huge, robust plant yet. Lenten rose is a long-lived perennial and although they take a while to get established, they take very little care and are quite sturdy. The Latin name for the genus, Helleborus, comes from the Greek helein (ἑλεῖν), meaning “to injure”, and bora (βορά), meaning “food” because the leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous to humans.
The so-called Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus and its cultivars) is native to the mountains of Europe, the Pyrenees, Alps and Carpathians. The name crocus comes from krokos (κρόκος) the ancient Greek name for saffron (Crocus sativus). While crocuses prefer gritty, well-drained soils they do amazingly well in our heavy, clay soil that is totally water logged all winter most years. This one is growing in a bed of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) and Vinca minor in our back yard. There are also some daffodils and hyacinths that are starting to come up bu those won’t be in bloom for a little while yet.
This is, I think, my new favorite Lenten rose. I have two of them, bought from McClure and Zimmerman in the fall of 2014 but this is the first year the blooms have been what I might describe as fully formed. They are a variety called Red Racer but they don’t seem to be listed on the mzbulb web site any longer. Other outlets seem to have them, though. I really love flowers (and leaves) of this sort of color, especially when back lit. These aren’t in the best location it terms of the sun shining on them from behind, but it was just filtering through the shrubbery behind them this evening.
After church we walked over to the Stadtman Preserve, where hundreds of daffodils are coming up and a few blooming. There were also huge drifts of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) although they were almost entirely past their bloom. There were also a very few of these Chionodoxa forbesii flowers. With the common name glory of the snow, it’s no surprise that they bloom early and they are definitely one of my favorite flowers, especially among the spring ephemerals. It is native to western Turkey and is hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. Those growing in my garden are considerably behind, but I’m looking forward to having them bloom in a few weeks.
As mentioned a few days ago, the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is coming into bloom. It’s a very hardy little plant, growing from a small, sort of misshapen tuber, native to the northern Mediterranean coast from southern France, across northern Italy, and down the eastern coast of the Adriatic and east to the western shores of the Black Sea. It’s very slow growing and the few that survived from my initial planting are only still only producing a handful of flowers. I should probably plant more, but last year was mostly a write-off in terms of gardening. We’re hoping to do quite a bit more this year.
It was a beautiful day today and I needed to get out of my office for a few minutes to clear my head. I’ve been working on two specific problems with one of the systems I’m working on. I’m pretty sure I managed to get one of them solved and settled. The other is proving to be a little trickier but I’ve managed to get it pretty close to working. Sometimes it’s useful to step away for a little bit and think about something else. Then when you come back, you can see it with somewhat fresher eyes. I find that I often come up with new ideas at that point. This is true in other realms than programming. When I’m working on a crossword puzzle and get about as much done as I can manage, putting it down and walking away and then picking it up later is generally all I need to find some new answers. Today’s foray out into the woods let me to a bunch of moss, and that’s what today’s photo features.
I know I posted a picture of snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) on Saturday, March 02, 2019 but the flowers were not really open then and they are now. Our yard is fairly shady and the spring blooms seem to be a week or so behind those that get full sun. We have a few clmps of snow drops in the yard. Those I photographed last time are by the sidewalk. These are in the back yard. They are certainly a welcome sign of spring, often blooming when there is still snow on the ground (thus the name, I assume). I love the little touch of green on the central part of the flower. Green is fairly uncommon as a flower color, I assume because it’s so common on the leaves themselves. But it makes a nice change.
The snow drops are generally followed by the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) and the Lenten rose (Helleborus species). One Lenten rose is already blooming but the others are just starting to come out. I suspect I’ll have more pictures of them soon.
It’s Lenten rose time again. With the recent snow and heavy rain, they are looking decidedly unhappy, but the blooms are coming and should soon be out in full. This one, a Helleborus called ‘Mango Magic’, it the furthest along of those in the yard. There is a very large one with deep burgundy flowers that’s doing well, also and probably needs to be divided up into three or four plants. I do love the deep color of that one but the brightness of this one and a few others we have are quite nice, as well.
The couple that bought Margaret’s house gave her this bromeliad at closing, along with a very sweet card thanking her for choosing their offer and making their “dream of home ownership a reality.” We’re not very experienced with growing bromeliads but what I’ve read seems to indicate they aren’t all that difficult. They don’t need to be watered in the usual way and many of them don’t even have roots that take in nourishment. Instead, the cups formed by their leaves should be filled with water and that’s really all there is to it. They are not terribly long lived and often die after blooming but of course their blooms are what they are mostly grown for. They will often produce off-shoots, which can be cut off and potted up to replace the “parent” plant.
I once designed a house that has a conservatory inspired in large part by the Peirce-duPont House at Longwood Gardens, in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. In that, I imagined at the very least a section devoted to tropical plants, including ferns, orchids, and bromeliads. I’m very unlikely to ever build the house, of course, but I can picture it in my mind’s eye and enjoy the serenity of the indoor garden, sitting in a wicker chair with a pot of tea and a good book.
The snow drops (Galanthus nivalis) along the edge of the woods near my office have been in bloom for a week or more. Those in our yard are in a more sheltered spot and tend to bloom later but they are coming out now. Early this afternoon I decided to take some pictures of them with snow all around them. I got a few like that but decided I like this close up better, even though it doesn’t show the snow. They’re not really open in this picture but they open up on warm days before closing up at night. With yesterday’s snowfall, they have gone back into winter mode but it won’t be long before they are open for good. The daffodils are also coming up and showing signs of buds in amongst the leaves. It’s still winter here, but spring is coming.
A basidiomycete walks into a bar but the bartender tells him he’ll have to leave. He says, “But I’m a fungi!” I needed to get out of my office today so I took my camera and went out into the woods next to my building. There are a few snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) starting to bloom along the edge of the woods, which is encouraging. I also came across the carcass of a deer. There wasn’t a lot left except bones and it explained the presence of so many turkey vultures circling over head. This bit of fungus caught my eye, because of the variations of color. Very pretty, in a decaying sort of way. The ground is very wet and I really need some Wellington boots when it’s like this. I managed to stay mostly dry, though.
These aren’t flowers, of course, as the deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara) being a gymnosperm is a non-flowering plant (the angiosperms are the flowering plants). These are the cones of a deodar cedar growing near one of the buildings on our company campus. It’s getting to be a fair size tree, with branches large enough to sit on comfortably. My grandparent’s had a deodar in their front yard in North Carolina and I’ve always been fond of them, especially when they get a little larger and start to develop their characteristic cedar shape rather than the more conical shape of the younger trees. They are native to the Himalayas and we’re near the northern edge of their hardiness range but there are enough around that it seems safe to plant one, if you have the space (which most suburban yards definitely do not have).
I’m a little late posting this but after yesterday’s snow squall, we had a nice cover of maybe as much as two inches of snow this morning. It was quite cool, down around 10°F (-12°C) and I put some salt down but being that cold, it’s not going to melt very much. I took some pictures in the yard before Cathy and I left for work. The sun was bright and was shining through the branches of trees that had some ice on them, which was lovely but hard to record very well. I decided to post this photo of snow on the branches of an Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) that is in the back of our yard. I planted four of them in the fall of 2007 and three survived. This is the tallest of them and is about 15 feet tall, I’d say. It’s starting to look like a real tree. The other two are doing fine but are not as tall, being about 12 and 7 feet tall respectively.
I’m a huge fan of witch hazel (Hamamelis species). They’re small trees well suited to the suburban landscape and wonder of wonder, they bloom in mid-winter! Many years ago my father, Cathy, and I went to Brookside Gardens in Wheaton Regional Park in February and I remember falling in love with witch hazel at that time. Now whenever I see them in bloom, I remember my dad and remind myself that this is a tree I want to plant in my yard. Now that I have a space in the front yard that needs a small tree, this may be the spring when one gets planted. There are varieties with red, orange, and yellow flowers and I think all of them are terrific. The yellow, perhaps, stands out as being the brightest but they’re all worth the effort.
After church today we had a nice lunch with some friends. It’s good to have friends and these are among the best. It was a nice day so when we left them, we decided to to to Lake Frank and take a walk. We started at the south end of the lake and walked across the dam. From there we went through the woods on the Parilla Path to the Gude Trail, which we walked to where it hits a parking lot on Gude Drive. The round trip was a little short of three miles and it was quite pleasant. Walking west (outbound) we had the sun in our eyes, so the return journey was nicer, I think. But these tassels on some ornamental grass were nice, backlit by the afternoon sun.
This is a fertile frond of a fern growing in a shady corner of our garden. I believe it’s an ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris) but it may be something else. I know I have a few ostrich ferns in that part of the garden, but there are other ferns and I don’t remember what they all are. Anyway, these ferns are dimorphic, with deciduous, green, sterile fronds and vertical, brown, fertile fronds. These give a nice element of interest in the winter and then the spores are released in the spring.
I would like to add more ferns to this part of the garden this spring. Last year we did very little gardening except for some weeding early in the spring. During the late spring and most of the summer we were overwhelmed with a lot of other tasks and the garden got away from us, big time. This coming spring, I’d love to get back out and take the garden back, but it’s going to be a big task. Not quite as daunting as taking a piece of wild land and putting it into cultivation, but not as far short of that as I’d like. Parts of the garden really need to be dug up completely and started over. There are a few plants we’d want to dig up and put into pots to return to the garden when the time comes, but for the most part, it just needs to be started over.
In a small pot outside our front door is a tiny little sedum with moss growing around it. This is a surprisingly hardy little plant, being able to take single digit (Fahrenheit) temperatures in an above ground container without any significant problems. We aren’t sure which sedum it is, but Cathy’s guess was that it’s “Red dragon” which seems quite reasonable. The moss in this photo, with its two calyptrae (the spore bearing capsules), is a volunteer, but mosses are generally welcome here. The only places the grow that I would prefer they didn’t is between the shingles on the roof of our garage. I like them otherwise and would happily have a garden devoted to them, if I had the time and space.
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood this afternoon. It was cool but the sky was an amazing blue and I stopped a few times to take pictures of trees against that blue. There are few that are prettier in the winter than the pale sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) against that blue and that’s what we have here. Just before I took this picture, we passed a yard with a large oak tree that had a fairly substantial branch which had broken off and which was suspended above the driveway and yard on some lower branches. The homeowner was trying to get a rope over the branch so he could pull it down. He was wearing a helmet and throwing a rope with a wrench tied to the end as a weight. It was pretty high up and by the time we got past he still hadn’t managed to get it high enough, but I assume he eventually did. Ah, the joys of home ownership.
It was chilly out this morning and everything was covered with frost. I started my car and while it was warming up a little, I took some photos of frost on the leaves in the yard. Once the sun began to hit them, the frost started to melt but I wanted to get them with the sun shining on them, so I moved around the yard as the sun moved to new leaves. I really like looking at frost and don’t mind the cold too much. It wasn’t all that cold, in any case, only for or five degrees below freezing. Colder days are almost certainly ahead for us, as winter is only just starting and doesn’t get into full swing until next month.
Driving home today, traffic was quite heavy and I had to stop a number of times as I approached the bridge over Rock Creek. I took a few pictures of the woods out my passenger side window as I waited and that’s what today’s photo is. In the past I’ve taken pictures along here on cold, foggy, winter evenings and I’ve been quite pleased with them. This one is a bit ordinary by comparison. Still, the copper color of the beech leaves and the grey of the tree trunks is nice. I didn’t have a lot of options as to where I’d be stopping so my choice of shooting locations was dictated to me by the flow of traffic. This is generally the worst part of our commute. It’s better than it was before the ICC (i.e. MD 200) was built, but it still backs up because of the poor timing of the traffic lights ahead.
We went for a short walk in the woods after church today. The church is near enough to Rock Creek Park that we can get there pretty easily from the back parking lot. The sky was clear today, which was very welcome after yesterday’s torrential rain. The sun was shining brightly on some Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) leaves and I took a few pictures of the back-lit leaves. None of them turned out quite as well as I would have liked, but this one is pretty nice. I really love the colors and the contrast between the leaves and the blue from the sky, filtering through the trunks of the trees.
Just over two weeks ago (on Friday, November 02, 2018) I posted a picture of Japanese maples from the other end of our neighborhood. I mentioned a week or so later that most of the leaves were down from those trees. Not all the leaves, however. We were driving home past that yard this afternoon about about 3:00 and the light was shining through the remainder of the leaves on one of the trees (the other trees in the yard are basically bare). This one tree was still amazing and I stopped to take a few pictures. A man stopped and said, “you should have seen the trees a couple weeks ago.” I said I know, they were amazing.
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.
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 was 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.