I took some pictures of flowers in the yard this evening, including more of the Exbury Azalea that I posted a picture of last week. The buds have opened and it’s quite beautiful (if a little smaller than it was because of the deer). I also happened to notice this dandelion flower in the back yard. It caught my eye because it was so stark and white and to me, it doesn’t look like a dandelion. It does, of course, because that’s what it is, but if asked we generally would describe a dandelion flower as yellow or, when gone to seed, as a fluff ball. Once the seeds are gone but before what’s left has a chance to dry up, this is what they look like.
Monthly Archives: May 2016
The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sp.)are in full bloom in our back and side yards and they are, as always, lovely. I went out to photograph them this afternoon and this picture turned out well, I think. They are very interesting little flowers with their little yellow circle at the center. I love the blue in the open flowers and the shades of violet in the buds. They are so delicate and fine.
The spiderwort (Tradescantia) is starting to bloom. This is a great plant to put in your garden if you want something that blooms well into the summer, is very tough and hardy, and that won’t run wild as many tough and hardy perennials seem to do. This will spread but slowly enough that it’s easy to keep up with. It’s also lovely both in and out of flower, although it’s the deep blue (or sometimes pink or purple) flowers that are its real attraction. These are the first flowers we have so far and this plant is in a particularly warm place, right by the west side of our house.
We brought some columbine plants with us when we moved here from Gaithersburg, growing them in pots for the year we were in the rental house. They have done pretty well and they are scattered around our yard now. We had some that were bright red with bits of yellow on them that we dug up in what we called “plant rescue.” Most of what’s left, though, is a dusky purple color. This one, a self-seeded plant next to our front walkway, is lighter than most and I took some pictures of it this evening as we were preparing to go out. This is only a bud, of course, but I think even the buds are pretty cool, with their curled spurs.
Not everyone’s favorite plant, the Amur honeysuckle is a seriously invasive plant. It’s a pretty enough plant in its own right, but you should never have any qualms about pulling it up or cutting it down if it should appear in your yard. These one is growing in the woods next to my office building, where it is quite happy. In addition to the sweet smelling flowers, it will have pretty red berries (which are mildly poisonous) before too long. Still, cut it down.
Generally Cathy likes to buy plants and put together hanging baskets for herself. That gives her the chance to be creative, to use the plants and colors that she particularly likes, and also saves money by starting with smaller plants that will quickly fill the baskets in any case. This year, however, there was an item in the school’s annual silent auction for four hanging baskets from a mostly wholesale nursery. Cathy bid on them and ended up with the high bid. Today she went and picked out the four she wanted. Three of them are going on hooks in the back yard and the fourth (the pink one in the middle of this photo) will go to her mom’s house.
We took our annual Mother’s Day trip to the garden center this afternoon, a day before Mother’s Day, and Cathy bought a pretty good load of plants for the garden and her containers. These will be in addition to the hanging baskets she got yesterday, so it’s going to be a banner year for us. While she shopped, I wandered around taking pictures of flowers and especially enjoyed the dahlia plants, many of which were in full bloom. This one was especially nice and I like the symmetry of the petals, as well as the lovely color.
Sorry for the delay in posting this. Cathy and I took our mom’s to Bombay Bistro for Mother’s Day and had a very nice visit and, as usual there, a great meal. This is my plate, featuring (clockwise from left) Aloo Gobhi, Lamb Rogan Josh, Chicken Madras, and Chicken Tikka Makhani. In the upper right is a piece of Naan and there are two sauces in the middle. The darker one is sweet and the greet one is spicy and has cilantro. We also had some raita, a sauce made with yogurt and cucumber.
This morning I took some pictures of a gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) at the birdbath. This evening, when I got home from work, there was an American robin (Turdus migratorius) there and I took its picture, as well. In both cases, the picture is through our kitchen door, with its two panes of glass, so it isn’t nearly as sharp as I’d like. Still, it’s not a bad portrait of this fairly gregarious little fellow. The robins are our companions through the winter in these parts and we are happy to have them looking for worms, eating berries off the holly trees, and washing in the birdbath throughout the year.
The chives are in bloom. Chives themselves are nice to use as a garnish and seasoning in food but I particularly like using chive blossoms. They have basically the same flavor as the leaves but add a bit of color in addition to the taste. They are only available from my garden during a short period in the spring, though, so I have to use them when I can. For a few years I’ve had a container full of chives but last year I moved some of them to a small herb garden in our yard and that’s where these are growing.
We drove up to Gordon to pick up Dorothy today. We had heavy traffic getting around Boston (as expected) but otherwise had an uneventful 9 hour drive. shortly after we got there we went for a walk to Gull Pond and then on from there to Round Pond. This picture is from where we turned around, in the woods around Round Pond (which isn’t round).
I love the quality of the light and especially the colors in the reflection on the water. It was a very beautiful, clear sky day and of course better for us being with Dorothy again. Shortly after I took this, there was a big splash in the pond and we all looked to see what had caused it. An osprey had caught a fish about 25 yards from where we were.
After our walk, we enjoyed hanging out with a few of Dorothy’s friends and taking most of her things from her dorm room to the van. A long day—we left home at 6:15 a.m. and got to our hotel after 11:00 p.m.—but a good one.
As mentioned yesterday, we drove up to get Dorothy from school. Today we brought here home. Actually, for the first 225 miles, she brought us home (i.e., she was driving). That freed me up to take a few pictures. We like the Merritt Parkway pretty well although there usually seems to be at least one stretch each way where traffic slows for repairs or an accident. The 69 original bridges on the 37 mile parkway (42 bridges cross over and the parkway crosses on another 39) were designed by George L. Dunkelberger and built between 1934 and 1940. Each bridge is different. Currently many of them are in serious need of repair and a few are encased in wood to protect motorists from falling debris.
The bridge pictured here is one of my two favorites and carries Madison Avenue in Trumbull, Connecticut. It is located between exits 47 and 48 near milepost 30, at 41° 13′ 54.5″ N, 73° 13′ 55.4″ W.
On Thursday, May 24, 2012 I posted a picture of a four-lined plant bug (Poecilocapsus lineatus). That was an adult of the species. This is the same thing (not the same one) but in its nymphal (i.e. immature) stage. The four-lined plant bug is a pest of both ornamental and crop plants, especially preferring members of the mint family. In our yard, they seem to be most attracted to the black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia sp.) but will feed on many other things, as well. They don’t do terrible harm but they disfigure the plants fairly severely and I will probably spray for them when the weather clears up a bit.
I’m pretty pleased with this picture, as these things are on the small side. This was taken with a 100mm macro lens focused as close as it would go and with an additional 25mm of extension added. It was lit by two small slave flashes that were sitting on the ground on either side of the camera and controlled by the on-camera flash, allowing the photograph to be taken at 1/160 of a second at f/16.
We were up in Pennsylvania again getting more work done in preparation for the wedding that’s getting nearer and nearer. Mom mentioned that I should go into the ‘back yard’ because there were some little white flowers that I’d like to photograph. So, of course I did. I’m pretty sure that this is star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum), which is native to Europe and western Asia but which is fairly common now our area and is known in all but a handful of states (and in at least 7 Canadian provinces). It is a pretty (but poisonous) little thing and quite happy in the grass behind our cabin.
Cathy and I went to both Stadler’s and Johnson’s today because Cathy wanted to pick up a few things. While she shopped I took a few pictures.
This is the staminal column on a hibiscus flower. On the sides are the anthers with yellow pollen and at the top are the five, bright orange stigmata, which receive the pollen and are connected through the style to the ovary. The staminal column is fairly distinctive on hibiscus flowers, with everything on one stalk extending well out in front of the petals.
This photo would have been better if taken with a tripod but when you’re wandering around a garden center, that’s less accepted as it might be in a botanical garden or arboretum. If I had that, I would have been able to slow the shutter down a bit and gotten a bit more depth of field. Then I might be able to make out the insect that’s sitting just below the stigma farthest from the camera.
We’ve never had a lot of success with rhododendrons in our garden. At our old house we had a couple that did reasonably well but they took a long time to get beyond the stage where they grow about as much as they die back every year. In our current yard we don’t have any and I’m not sure where I’d put one, although I have a couple ideas. Our next door neighbors have one, however, on the north end of their house, which is the side that faces us. We get the benefit of it from our back yard and right now it’s in full bloom and quite striking.
I nearly called it quits tonight. Since the beginning of 2011 (actually starting three days before that, on December 29, 2010, I’ve taken at least one photograph every day. The first year’s worth were posted to Facebook and then starting in 2012 they’ve been posted here. I still linked to them from Facebook and more recently posted them to Instagram, as well.
There have been a few times when I wasn’t sure I’d keep going. For the few of you who actually read this, rather than just enjoy the pictures on Instagram or Facebook, I really appreciate it. You are the main reason I’ve kept going. The next level are those who mention to me that they enjoy the pictures on Facebook. I know a lot more people see them than comment or even click on the “Like” button (because I hear from you in other ways) and that’s quite encouraging, as well.
This evening it was a few minutes before 11:00 p.m. and I hadn’t taken a picture. Cathy had just gotten home form her indoor soccer game and when I told her I was thinking about just not taking a picture today she said, “come on, get off the couch and take a picture of me.” So, I did. And here we are, continuing the streak at 1,967 days.
The azaleas are done blooming and we’ve moved on to the next stage of spring bloom. The azaleas are not completely done, though. Although the white flowers have dried and fallen off of the bushes in front of our house, the long, white stigmata are still there, giving the entire bush a slightly airy feel. They aren’t as eye catching as the flowers, of course, but I find them interesting in their own way. Soon they, too, will be gone and the azaleas will be done for the year (and it will be time to do some much needed pruning).
Few people take the time to comment on the pictures on my blog. Followers who see the pictures on Facebook do a little more frequently but even there it’s probably on fewer than half of my pictures. That’s fine, of course, I don’t want people to comment for the sake of commenting (although I do like knowing that people are actually seeing them).
The reason I bring this up is that I had my first non-spam comment in over 7 months after posting the picture of Cathy two days ago. Even that wouldn’t have rated a mention here except the comment came from Julia’s mom. And here I am, two days later, posting a picture of Julia (or, as I call her, Jules, because she’s a gem). She had finished just finished her junior year in college and was home for the summer. At least she was out of school for the summer. She was only home for a few days before heading off to some flatland in flyover country for an internship. I only make it sound like a wasteland because it meant that Jules couldn’t work for us this summer. We were hoping to get quite a bit of her time to work in both our house and Cathy’s mom’s. But, that’s the way it goes.
Maureen and Bob (Julia’s parents) asked us over for dinner this evening, sharing one of their few evenings before Julia left with us. It was an honor to be invited and we had such a good time with them all. Thanks, guys. We sure love you.
I wish I could post the fragrance of this rose, a largish rugosa called ‘Roseraie De l’Hay’. It was bred in France in 1901 by Jules Gravereaux and introduced by Charles Pierre Marie Cochet-Cochet in the same year. The flowers are large, about five inches in diameter and when you walk up to the plant when it’s in full bloom you get slammed by the amazingly strong and lovely clove fragrance. The flowers are beautiful, as well, of course. The plant is large and only suitable for a large space in full sun. It doesn’t have the huge thorns of many hybrid roses but the stems are completely covered with hundreds or thousands of fine prickles (some of which are fairly long). I love this rose. If you’re in the neighborhood, stop by and then stop and smell the roses.
We were fortunate enough to be able to share the excitement today with two families whose youngest sons were graduating from Trinity Christian School in Fairfax. This is Amy, James (the graduate) and Jon (the older brother). We’ve known them since Dorothy entered kindergarten and was a classmate of Jon’s through third grade (when we switched schools). We also enjoyed seeing Nate and his family. We see the youngest of his sisters (Karlee) more than the rest but it was great to see Laurie, Stacy, and Amy. Hard to believe it’s been nearly ten years since Amy got married! Anyway, a fun time. Congratulations, James! And Nate!
It has been a fairly wet May this year. Not necessarily way out of character, as we often have wet weather in May, but April was so dry that in comparison, it seems wetter than normal. I don’t mind rain, in general, unless I have some outdoor activity planned that requires a bit less wetness than we generally get when it’s raining. I love a blue sky and all, but the sound of a gentle rain, the intensified colors of an overcast day, and the water droplets clinging to everything are all pretty wonderful, as well. Today was that sort of day and I took a few pictures of that water droplet thing, right outside my back door on the Tradescantia (spiderwort). This is the same plant whose purple flower I photographed (also in the rain) on Tuesday, May 03.
The rain continued today but I went out briefly to take a few pictures. The large, pink Rosa multiflora (or mostly multiflora, anyway) shrub against our back fence is covered with buds and is just starting to come into bloom. In a few days, and certainly in less than a week, it will be covered with pink flowers. At this point there are only occasional flowers and lots and lots of buds. But in the rain, even that can be pretty, I think. It builds anticipation, if nothing else.
In the fall of 2014 I planted three peonies in our back garden. Last year I saw leaves on two of them but they were barely above the top of the pachysandra amongst which they were planted. This spring I was happy to have all three of them send up leaves above the top of the pachysandra. They lived. Better still, one of them had a bud. It’s only one bud out of three plants but peonies are a long-term proposition and it should get better each year, now. They are a variety called ‘Coral Sunset’ and I think the flower is quite lovely. I’m looking forward to more flowers next year.
We discovered Epimedium at the National Arboretum quite a few years ago and decided we needed to have some. At our old house we had at least three different varieties, blooming in red, white, and yellow. We brought some of them with us and have them in our garden here but they are all Epimedium x rubrum, a red flowered variety believed to be a cross between E. alpinum and E. grandiflorum. The leaves are interesting even after the flowers have finished. They have a little red in them and they also have pretty edges with little (and soft) spines along the edges. They are quite hardy and can take anything our winters are likely to give them, as well as getting through the summer drought without any trouble. They are semi-evergreen here, basically losing their leaves by the time the new growth starts in the spring. Common names for Epimedium x rubrum include red barrenwort and bishop’s mitre.
A few days ago this plant was a mass of buds in the rain. Now the rain has stopped and the buds are opening. Individually the flowers are not really all that amazing, five small, simple, pink petals around a bunch of yellow stamens. In mass they are quite impressive. The entire plant is turning from green to pink and will get pinker before it is done. I picked out one picture to post here and then second guessed myself. I found that I couldn’t decide which one I liked better so I’m posting them both.
Of course, like most rose species, this one only blooms once and then it’s done for the year. It also has very little fragrance. My dream is to cross this with roses that repeat and which have fragrance to get some of the multiflora vigor and disease resistance into a new group of hybrids. Whether that’s ever going to happen is anyone’s guess. Another project, even before crossing it with anything else, is an attempt to double the chromosomes. R. multiflora is, like many rose species, diploid (it has 14 chromosomes). Many hybrid garden roses, including most hybrid teas and floribundas and a lot of the roses I’d cross like to make crosses with, are tetraploid (28 chromosomes). For breeding purposes, a cross between a diploid and a tetraploid is problematic because it produces triploid offspring, which are, with notable exceptions, sterile.
I don’t know that this year has been anything out of the ordinary in terms of peony blooms but I think having the new peony blooming in my back yard has gotten me to look at them a bit more than normal. We have some on the end of our house but don’t go around there often enough to notice them, in particular. There is also a peony garden at Seneca Creek State Park with dozens of different peonies. Cathy and I went there once years ago and were a little disappointed in what it’s become. There is a beautiful little garden and truth be told, that alone is worth visiting. But it could be so much more. There is a field, probably six acres or so that is full of peonies. That could be so spectacular. But they only seem to cut the grass once a year (during the winter, when they can mow everything and then let the grass, poison ivy, and everything else you can imagine grow up with and around the peonies. It’s a shame because although the peonies are starting to bloom, many of them are hidden by the grass. You also want to stay out of the deep grass unless you are dressed for poison ivy, which is thick in the place. It’s still pretty but not nearly as impressive as it could be or even as we remember it (although our memories may be at fault there). The peony shown here is in the tended garden.
As I said in yesterday’s post, it’s been a good spring for peonies, at least in terms of my notice of them. Today features yet another peony photograph. We were up in Pennsylvania again today, doing a bit more work towards the big wedding coming up before long. I sprayed poison ivy again and am slowly but surely getting it taken care of. It won’t be gone by the wedding, but it needs to be done in any case.
This peony is one of a few growing in front of the cabin. We cleared weeds out of the garden two weeks ago and it’s starting to look like its old self (some of the weeds were trees with trunks an inch in diameter!). There was just the one bloom on the peony but perhaps if we keep at the weeds it will do better. I thought the flower looked a bit like a rising sun and took a few photos of it.
This is a little Siberian iris called ‘Eric the Red’ and it’s in full bloom in our front yard. I really like this little thing, which in our yard only stands about 14 to 18 inches tall, though I’ve seen data that suggests it gets taller. It’s supposed to do well in a bog garden but ours is in a fairly dry spot, which may account for the shorter growth. It’s certainly happy there and blooms reliably. It’s usually hot by this time of year so the flowers don’t last all that long but they are great while they do.
We had a great day being out and about. It was nice to have Cathy’s brother, Jim here and we went to Rocklands Farm for a while. We enjoyed seeing the animals, including three-day-old piglets and lots of chickens. I got a great picture of Dorothy holding an iridescent, black chicken, probably a Black Australorp. We also relaxed a while in the barn and sampled a few wines and enjoyed some cheese. From the farm we went to Riley’s Lock on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, where Seneca Creek empties into the Potomac River. As we were heading back to the car we saw this dragonfly eating lunch. I don’t know what it is, for sure, but it is similar (at least to this untrained eye) to a cobra clubtail (Gomphus vastus).
From there we drove down to between Great Falls and Carderock and walked to the river near Hermit Island. This is along the Billy Goat Trail, Section B, but we didn’t actually go around the loop, just walking out to the river and back. On the way out we saw this eastern ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) curled up beside a tree. I was able to get pretty close without spooking it and got what I think is a pretty nice portrait. After I got up the snake slithered into an opening in the tree and disappeared from sight. Not everyone’s favorite critter, I understand, but kind of elegant in its own way, I believe.
The Rose ‘New Dawn’ against my back fence has come into bloom. Looking back at prior years, my pictures of this rose have all been in the first week of June but that doesn’t mean it’s actually blooming much earlier this year (June starts tomorrow, after all). I had to cut this rose back hard this spring and actually need to take it out completely. it has become infected with rose rosette disease, which is caused by a virus (Emaravirus sp.) that is spread by a very small, eriophyid mite. There is no cure once a rose is infected and the rose must be destroyed to prevent the virus from being spread to other plants. So, this will be the last ‘New Dawn’ in my yard, at least for a while. Sad, as it’s such a lovely flower and blooms off and on all summer.