Tulips are beautiful but of all the bulbs, they are probably my least favorite. I’m not entirely sure why but I think it’s because they don’t live forever, like so many others seem to do. Daffodils seem to have more flowers each year and grow into massive clumps over time. Tulips dwindle. Actually, I had some species tulips at our last house that did really well, and perhaps I should get some of those. They are actually pretty hardy and quite beautiful, although not as showy as the large, hybrid tulips we usually see. This is a fireflame tulip (Tulipa acuminata), and I like that it’s different to the standard, simple tulip.
Monthly Archives: May 2014
The flowers are coming fast and furiously now, so we’ll be seeing a few more of them before the summer heat sends them all away and we move on to different subjects (like bees and wasps). The bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis, formerly Dicentra spectabilis) is a pretty thing and a nice addition to a shady, woodland garden like we have at the north end of our front yard. Like many of the early bloomers, it will die back to the ground when it gets hot.
We went for a hike on Billy Goat Trail C today, after a walk out to the overlook at Great Falls (and because Trail A was closed because of flooding). It was a lovely day, not too hot but warm enough. There are a lot of pawpaws along this trail and I was able to get one decent picture that shows their flowers as flowers. They are quite dark and almost brown, but have a little bit of red in them, which you can see in the right light, as in this picture.
The pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is an native tree with a very interesting fruit which, according to Wikipedia, is the largest indigenous to the United States. The fruit has yellow, custard-like flesh that is quite sweet and luscious and I’m a big fan. Dad planted quite a few in Pennsylvania and a couple in the yard. One drawback is that the flowers smell a bit like rotting meat. Dad would actually hang small bags of meat scraps to attract blowflies or carrion beetles for pollination. Yes, it’s as gross as it sounds. But the fruit is worth it.
I thought I’d post a second photograph from our walk on the Billy Goat Trail. This is an American giant millipede (Narceus americanus, also called an iron worm) and it really is quite large, about four inches long. We saw a few of them and they are fairly common.
These millipedes do not have venomous stingers or fangs and are not dangerous to humans. They can secrete bad-smelling and bad-tasting chemicals from pores in the sides of their bodies. These chemicals help keep many predators away.
This is a white flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) that’s growing in the northeast corner of our yard. I’m pretty sure it just happened to grow there rather than having been planted. While the one up against the house is eventually going to go, I don’t see any reason not to keep this one. It’s well sited, not in the way of anything else, and of course, it’s lovely when in bloom.
I was able to get to only one of Dorothy’s softball games this year (so far) but when I did, I got some pictures. I took pictures of all the girls who batted but of course, a lot of those are not worth much. I have to decide to fire the shutter before I can tell if the batter is even going to swing, much less whether the pitch will be anywhere near the plate. Getting the batter actually hitting the ball is even more hit or miss (if you’ll pardon the expression). I only got a few pictures of the girls fielding, because the other team didn’t get many hits. I was able to capture some action at the plate, however, when one girl beat the throw and got in under the tag.
In the area that used to be under the big tree in our back yard there are a few things growing. The tree is gone and we’ll probably change some of the plants, moving them to shadier spots if necessary. I also plan to put a few roses there, now that it’s got a good bit of sun. One of the more successful plants there is yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon), a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae). It is considered by some to be an invasive species, although we haven’t found it nearly so problematic as a few other things in our yard. It makes a nice ground cover, although it isn’t evergreen, so it doesn’t do the job year round. It is under a foot tall and, as you can see, has yellow flowers right about now.
I took a bunch of pictures at church this evening and as usual, I had a hard time deciding which one to post. Some of them were not very flattering, so were easy to eliminate. I don’t mind having unflattering pictures of people. They come in handy once in a while, and they are good for a laugh years later. But for posting here, I would rather pick flattering pictures, or at least not-unflattering pictures. This one is pretty nice. It is Dorothy with two of her friends, Katie on the left and Jessie in the middle.
I dropped Dorothy off at school today for one of her finals (AP Literature, I think) and went in to visit briefly with a few of my friends in the lower school and office. On the way back to the car I heard a high-pitched chirping coming from the top of a small oak tree next to my van. This is the source, sitting high in the tree. I wasn’t sure what it was, partly because of the angle from which I was seeing it but mostly because I don’t know my birds nearly as well as I might. So, I did what any self-respecting person would do, I asked my brothers. Albert and George both thought it looked like a chipping sparrow (the dark line through the eye) and Albert asked if the song sounded like those presented at the All About Birds page for the chipping sparrow. Indeed it did. Quite recognizably.
As I was making plans early this year for things to do with the youth group at church, I decided that in addition to our summer trip, it would be nice to have a winter retreat, something close to six months opposite, in late January or early February. Unfortunately, because I was making this decision in late January and early February, it was a bit late. I decided that I didn’t want to wait 11 months for our first winter retreat and I also wanted to include this year’s seniors. So, we had our first “Winter” Retreat on May 9 through 11 (thus the “Spring Edition” part of the name). This picture is of some of our youth, sprawled around the meeting room Friday evening, at Covenant Village in Pennsylvania. If you’re looking for a place for a retreat or camp, you should give Covenant Village a look. We found it perfect for our needs and I’m pretty sure most had a great time.
I saw two box turtles today, this one and another that was much more yellow. This one closed up a fair amount when I first found him (I think this is a male) but with a little patience, I was able to get a few pictures of him. I set my camera down on the ground fairly close and waited for him to open up again. I also saw a newt but didn’t have my camera with me at the time.
It’s lily of the valley time, which is certainly a pretty time of year. Buying this pretty little plant can be quite expensive, and while a little will spread and go a long way, it takes a while to get established. We were fortunate in two ways. First, we knew of a house that had been condemned and was to be torn down for a road widening project. We got permission from the owner to take whatever we wanted from her garden, before it was gone. That included a huge amount of lily of the valley. Then, when we moved to our new house a few years later, we found a reasonably large patch already established in one area of the back yard.
One difficulty in taking pictures of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is getting them from a different angle. Most of you know that getting down on the ground doesn’t bother me in the least. But I wanted to get lower still, down far enough that I could look up at the blooms of this little beauty. With a macro lens on the camera, getting down far enough to still have room to focus was the real trick, but I think I’ve accomplished it here. So, an mole’s eye view of lily of the valley flowers.
I try not to post similar pictures on consecutive days. In fact, I try not to post similar pictures even within a week or two. Sometime, though, I’ll take a picture that I like and then take a similar picture in the next day or two that I like enough more (or enough, anyway) that I decide to post it regardless. This is such a post.
Yesterday’s picture was of a few lily of the valley flowers, looking up at them from a very low angle. This afternoon I decided to take some pictures of the Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) in the shade garden on the north side of your yard. mixed in with them, however, are some lily of the valley and some forget me nots. I think they go well together. Don’t you?
For those who want a picture of Spanish bluebells, I’ll see what I can do, but not today.
It’s been a little while since I posted a picture of Cathy, so, here you go. Usually when I post another picture of Cathy or Dorothy, I wonder “aloud” if I’m being too repetitive. This time, I won’t even mention that (oops!). Instead, I’ll say that I’m fortunate, indeed, to be married to such a woman as this.
We’re coming up on 30 years of marriage and in fact, have past 30 years since I asked her (and she agreed) to marry me. That’s a pretty good while, but we aren’t done yet. Of course, no one knows how long he has before he shuffles off this mortal coil (as Hamlet might say). While we need to look to the future, we also need to think back on the past, both with thankfulness and with humility. Thankfulness for all that we’ve been given. Humility in light of our misdeeds, sins both of commission and of omission. Nevertheless, we live in an amazing time, a time like no other in the brief history of mankind. And while there has been and continues to be war and strife throughout the world, we have been blessed with relative peace and prosperity the likes of which has never been seen. I could go on about the abundance we share, but today, I’m thankful for this one person, Cathy, who has been kind enough to live with me. And for as many more years as we are given. Thank you.
It was a very busy day today. Dorothy had her test for Advanced Placement European History from noon to four. Then she had to get to the Mount Vernon Campus of The George Washington University (at Foxhall Road and Whitehaven Parkway, in Northwest D.C.). Cathy and I came from work, getting there as the teams were finishing warming up, so we were able to see the entire championship game. The game went well, from our perspective, and our WCA Wildcats won 9 to 5. Here is the team with their championship banner. For us, the day was a long way from over. We drove from the game to Richmond, dropped Dorothy off at about 11:00 PM, and then drove home, getting in just before 1:00 a.m. tomorrow morning.
Luna came to stay with us for a long weekend, while Albert and Brady were out of town. As I post this on Monday, May 19, they are back and Luna is at home, but the evening the picture was taken, on the Ides of May, she was relaxing on our living room sofa. She’s an easy dog to care for, not being particularly excitable, except possibly by other dogs. We did have one “near incident” on a walk, when another largish dog came running towards us, not on a leash. Fortunately that dog was obedient and came as soon as his master called, although a dog that runs loose in the neighborhood is probably destined for a shorter than natural life. In this instance, all was well.
Most of my roses are a long way from blooming at this point. Like with the bulbs earlier in the spring, we’re at least two weeks behind last year in that regard. One rose, however, the rugosa ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’ is starting to open up. This rose has gotten quite large, about seven feet tall and just about as much across. The flowers, as you can see, are a crimson purple mix. They are very large, about five inches across, and have that wonderful, strong scent so typical of rugosa roses. It’s also a great shrub for birds, because it is so thorny that pretty much nothing of any size can get to them when they are in its branches.
What a beautiful day we had today. Just as well that we had a lot of yard work to do, and we spent much of the day outside. Two of my roses (both Noisettes, ‘Crépuscule’ and ‘Jaune Desprez’) died over the winter. They were both climbers and were pretty good size and very well established but the combination of unusually cold weather and the repeated snow (but mostly the cold, I think) did them in. ‘Crépuscule’ in particular, was more than covering a 10 by 12 foot frame on the end of the house. I need something new for that spot.
Anyway, that has nothing to do with this picture, except Cathy was potting up some seedling lilies and we were moving potted plants around on the driveway. This metallic, green beetle, a six-spotted tiger beetle (Cicindela sexguttata), was under one of the pots. I ran to get my camera but didn’t think it was all that urgent, because it appeared to be dead. After taking a half dozen pictures, though, it moved. I got three more, very quickly, and it flew away. The most impressive thing about this beetle, I think, are its serious mandibles. The eat small insects, spiders, and other arthropods, including other beetles, springtails, sawflies, caterpillars, flies, ants, and grasshoppers.
We don’t have any rhododendrons in our yard. Well, we have azaleas, which are in the same genus, but we don’t have any proper rhododendrons. This one, though, is next to our neighbor’s house, on the side facing ours, so we get the benefit of it.
One reason I don’t have any is because I cannot decide what color to get. I do love these red flowers, but some of the paler colors are nice, also. There are even a few with yellow flowers and that might be nice. I know I don’t have enough room for more than a few, so I need to decide.
I have a small, rectangular container filled with chives and it comes up each year, happy as ever. Every year I take pictures of the chive flowers but try to get something new, but they really don’t vary very much. So, this year I tried to make it look more like a small section of a field of chives.
One nice thing about having a container of chives is going out with a pair of scissors and cutting a small bunch to add to dinner. I also like cutting a flower head and chopping that up as a garnish. It adds both flavour and colour to a dish. We have a friend who is a little unnerved by flowers in food, but in this case, it really is a good thing. Little pale, purple, and slightly oniony bits floating on soup, sprinkled over a juicy piece of grilled steak, or on a fresh salad adds a wonderful touch.
Try it, you may like it.
I didn’t exactly promise that I’d post a picture of the Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) the other day, when I put up a picture of Lily of the Valley and Forget-Me-Not, but I sort of mentioned it. They are almost finished now, but there are a few holding on still and I took some pictures today. So, here are the Spanish bluebells, which are actually more closely related to hyacinths than to our native Virginia bluebells, along with the Forget-Me-Nots. These are growing in our shade garden, under a dying cherry tree on the north end of our front yard. I’ve planted an apple tree near this, so hopefully by the time the cherry finishes dying, there will be something big enough to replace it.
Cathy and I took a walk early this afternoon. The multiflora roses are starting to bloom, so I took a few pictures (sorry, it’s that or a disgusting deer skull, I’m afraid). As most of my friends know, I’m a fan of roses, but R. multiflora can certainly be a pest. It is a strong, vigorous grower and doesn’t seem to be bothered by many of the ailments that are so much trouble in the garden — blackspot and rust, to name a couple. The flowers are also very small and generally pure white, and of course, they only bloom once a season. But they are still quite pretty little things, when they aren’t your responsibility to get rid of.
We have a fair amount of columbine in our garden, scattered around in various places and even in containers. Most of it looks like this, dark red tending ever so slightly towards purple, with white around the edges. We have on that is pink and one that is almost blue and I’m quite happy for the variety. We really do need to get more colors, since they are available.
This is growing in the back corner of the yard, near the Lenten rose and epimedium.
Cathy and I went out to dinner this evening. While I usually have my camera with me these days, usually a crowded restaurant isn’t the sort of place I’m comfortable taking lots of pictures. I had the camera sitting on the table as we waited for our meal, however. I turned on the screen on the back and moved it around. seeing what I could see through the electronic viewfinder and taking a few pictures. This abstract image is one of those pictures. I’m not sure what it is supposed to convey, but there you are.
We had a late spring this year in the mid-Atlantic region with snow and sleet up to the end of March and cooler than normal well into April. Most plants have been about two weeks behind normal in terms of blooming and the roses are no exception. I have one bush in bloom (and it’s glorious) with the others just about ready to start. I visited Nick Weber’s rose garden this morning knowing ahead of time that there wouldn’t be a lot to see. Of course, 2% or 3% of Nick’s roses is still more than most people have, but the best is definitely yet to come. I got to see a few early bloomers, which was a treat, and I enjoyed this honey bee on a R. micrugosa bloom.
According to Bugguide.net, the common name for this beetle listed by the Entomological Society of America is horned Passalus. The common name used by laypeople, however, is Bess Bug. This apparently comes from the French word, baiser, “to kiss.” That in turn probably refers to the sound it makes (stridulation), which sounds a bit like a squeaky “kissy” sound. They eat rotting wood, so it was no surprise this was found where it was, in an area that has a fair amount of wood for beetles to eat. This one is dead, as perhaps you can tell, which made it much easier to photograph, although because of that it lacks a certain something. Still, I think it’s a beautiful beetle. It looks to me like a quilter went over the elytra (the hardened forewings on its abdomen) an put neat rows of stitches down their length.
This is a Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’ and it’s growing along the sidewalk in front of our house. I’ve had it for many years, getting it for our garden at the house we lived in until 2005. When we moved from there, I dug up a bit and brought it with us, and it’s doing quite well here. Each year the clump gets a little larger. I should probably dig it up, divide it, and replant the pieces, but it never seems like the right time to do that.
We only have one peony in our garden and that was here when we moved in. We really need to get a few more. Their bloom lasts far too short a span but while they are in bloom, they are glorious. The one we have is a very pale pink that I almost manage to capture in this photograph. The petals are as smooth as porcelain and delicate, with just a touch of color that is nearly hidden in the center of the flower. I also love the yellow of the stamens that you can only see from certain angles.
I took 65 pictures today but most of them are of individuals and I always have a hard time picking one picture out of a collection like that. Often I’ll make a point to take pictures in the garden on days like this, so I’ll have an alternative. Today, I didn’t.
Each senior at WCA is required to write a 12 to 15 page thesis on some topic of controversy, secure a short internship related to it in some way, and give a 10 to 12 minute presentation of their thesis to a panel of teachers, who then ask questions of the student. The top three presentations are given a second time to a different panel of teachers and the top one is selected. Today was presentation day. These three girls, Lauren, Toksie, and Dorothy, were the three to move on to the second round. The first picture I took of them, they were all frowning, because they didn’t really want to go through it again, but they all did really well.
Congratulations to all three, but especially to Toksie, who was given the well deserved honor of first place.
This is a smallish rose on the smallest of my rose bushes. It’s actually growing in a container, which probably isn’t the best thing I could do for it, but up until now I haven’t really had a place to put it. We have a bit more sun now, with the biggest trees in the backyard being removed, so I have more options. Anyway, it’s a Portland Rose with a somewhat uncertain history. It is named for the city of Rasht, often spelt Recht in French, which is the capital city of Gilan Province, Iran. The rose appears to have been brought from there to England in the late 1800s and then rediscovered after World War 2. It’s a pretty little thing with an intense fragrance that cannot be beat.
Today was the big end-of-year award ceremony at school. While there are awards for the entire middle and upper school, there is a significant focus on the seniors. with honor awards of various kinds. The senior with the top thesis presentation gave a slightly shortened version of that (and Dorothy was thankful that wasn’t her “honor”). There were also departmental awards. Although they could go to anyone, the senior class tended to predominate. I won’t embarrass Dorothy by telling you how she did, except to say that she was embarrassed enough on the day.
I took pictures throughout the ceremony, as well as a few short videos (and one almost 10 minutes long). Most of the pictures are nice in terms of memories for us, but not particularly great photographs otherwise. A person walking onto the stage and receiving a piece of paper. Someone standing at the podium. That sort of thing.
After the award ceremony was over, I took a few more, but not a lot. Cathy took some of me with my mom, which was nice, but of course, my aim here is to post a picture that I took, not just something taken with my camera. The final picture I took is this one of Carol and Andy, grandparents of Dorothy very dear friend, Hannah. I hesitated to post this one, because the lighting is so harsh, but it’s a cute picture of a cute couple. So, here you are.
It was an absolutely beautiful day today and we did our best to spend some of it outdoors. Dorothy and I visited a few of the yard sales in our neighborhood. Every year a local real estate agent organizes a community wide yard sale so there are dozens throughout the neighborhood. Dorothy and I bought a few small things. Then, we went to see the end of the first half and all of the second half of Cathy’s soccer game. After the game I took a few team pictures. Cathy has been playing on this team (or some version of it) since before we were married, which means for more than 30 years.