When I got home from work this evening I took some pictures of flowers in the yard. Then, just before 8:00, as the sun was getting ready to set, I went out with Cathy and we enjoyed watching the clouds rushing across the darkening sky. They were moving quite fast and mostly were just dark. Actually, what I first got my camera for was to take pictures of the light in the tree tops. The trees were in shadow, except for the tops which were lit with bright orange. Occasionally a piece of cloud would also light up, and that’s what I have picked for you today.
Monthly Archives: May 2017
I love clouds. There are days when I could just lie on the grass and watch them for hours. Actually, I’d almost always much rather do that than sit in my office and work. But then, I understand if you stop coming to the office they stop paying you. That’s an incentive. But watching clouds is so nice. This afternoon I found a spot with a good, uninterrupted view of the sky and took this picture, along with about ten more, of the clouds. This one was taken with my 10-20mm zoom pulled in to 20mm. I took some wider shots but frankly, with clouds its hard to tell which are which.
We have quite a bit of columbine (Aquilegia) growing in our yard. Many of the plants are seedlings and most look something like this. There are lots of quite fancy and brightly colored columbines among the 60 or 70 species (and many more varieties) but we’re happy enough with the slightly more staid, darker colors. Backlit by the sun the red comes alive and is quite bright. Growing mostly in the shade, however, it rarely gets this treatment. Still, it’s a good plant to have and isn’t generally bothered by rabbits or deer.
When anyone advertises anything as the ‘first annual’ whatever, you have to admire their optimism. I mean, anyone can have a ‘first annual’ anything but following that with a ‘second annual’ is the tricky bit. That’s not to say things just happen after that, but doing something twice on the same day of the year is a real milestone (or is it a millstone?). The National Day of Prayer, established in 1952 to be held on the first Thursday in May, was the occasion of the second annual Montgomery County Prayer Breakfast with over 100 in attendance. Many thanks to Paul and Janet for their efforts to get this going and for enlisting sponsors to cover the costs.
Today was day one of our two-day, family caving expedition. The eight of us met up at Ralph’s and drove to south of Petersburg, West Virginia. We arrived before sunset at the PSC field house and got settled in. It’s not exactly four star luxury but then, we were not expecting it to be (it’s actually pretty nice, really). This is the view back down the road we came up. It’s certainly a good idea to have four wheel drive and reasonable clearance on that, especially the place where it crosses the creek. After a horrendously rainy morning, the drive was quite nice and we arrived to a beautiful, cool, breezy evening.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we drove to West Virginia and spent the night at the PSC Field House in the North Form Mountain area. We got a reasonable night’s sleep and after a hearty breakfast, six of us headed off the Hamilton Cave. Ralph and Stephen are both experienced cavers but the rest of us were beginners. We’ve all been in the big, commercial caverns like Luray or Carlsbad (although I’d really like to see Carl’s Good cavern!). I’ve been in a reasonable number of caves in the USA, France, England, Greece, and Slovakia (although it was Czechoslovakia at the time). But this was the first time in a cave such as this. Hamilton cave has a pretty good maze of passages and I’m certainly glad we had two people who knew their way around.
After checking in at The Register, we made our way to our first goal, the Slab Room. This is named for the large slab of rock that fell in the distant past (well, probably recent in geologic terms, but it was more than a few years ago). Getting here involved passages where we had to crawl on all fours and a couple stretches where I had to take off my small day pack and push it in front of me while I slithered along on my front in what I know as an army crawl. You know the one, where you are lying prone and you pull yourself along with your elbow and push with your knees. It can be fairly tiring, especially for someone carrying extra weight and with not-terribly-strong arms. But we all made it through. There were other places where we could walk upright and they were very welcome, I can tell you.
There was an even tighter spot than those the required an army crawl. There is one place where the passage gets fairly narrow between two smooth, nearly vertical rocks. They are closest together at just the wrong height from the ground for someone about my height and with a larger than necessary midsection. If you know what i mean.
It was not quite Winnie-the-Pooh in Rabbit’s Hole but it was tight. Fortunately they didn’t hang dish towels on my legs. Getting through that required getting up on my toes so my largest part was a little higher than the tightest part, and then getting a bit of a push from Stephen. The second picture here is further into the cave than that tightish bit. It shows Seth sitting in a fairly large room as the others made their way up behind him. The last picture was actually taken between the other two. I don’t often take selfies but I thought in this case I would. So, that’s me in my caving gear. Looks as though I’ve been crawling in the dirt, doesn’t it?
As you can probably guess by the fact that I’m posting this, I made it out. We all had a good time and were certainly glad we went. I will confess to being glad to see the sunlight again and to be able to stand up without worrying about hitting my head on a rock.
This is a large and very easily grown rugosa rose that I’ve had in the yard since we first moved here. It’s about 9 feet tall and that’s the only real problem with it. It’s too tall to really be able to appreciate most of the blooms, which are all up at the top. If given more room the branches would arch over and more flowers would be accessible but it’s not sited well enough for that. I may need to move it but it is very happy where it is. Also, the blooms are quite visible from the kitchen, which is certainly a plus. The fragrance, as with most rugosa roses, it wonderful and strong.
I follow a bunch of folks on Instagram who specialize in pictures of birds. These folks take amazing pictures and I’m a little embarrassed to post this picture which compared to theirs is pretty pathetic. To get good pictures of birds, the first requirement is a good telephoto lens, a tripod, and a significant commitment of time. Today I was in the woods next to my office with none of those things. I had a 100mm lens, hand held, and only a short time to grab a few pictures. I wasn’t thinking of bird pictures when I went out. But I wasn’t in the woods long when I noticed more than one Baltimore oriole flitting around among the trees. This is the best shot I was able to get and even this is only adequate to identify this as an oriole. Maybe one day I’ll get some of the fabulous photos of birds that I enjoy from others. But this is not that day.
Cathy and I went out for a later afternoon walk today. We just walked around my building a few times but I brought my camera, as I usually do. There were some ducks and ducklings on the pond but today’s picture is this spider, a Castianeira species of some sort. Castianeira is a genus of spiders with about 26 species in North America. They are members of the Corinnidae, the antmimics and ground sac spiders. This isn’t a particularly good picture, having been taken hand-held at 1/60 second in somewhat dim light in a parking lot. Still, it’s a new spider for me and one I’ll look for again when I have more time to get a good picture.
One of the shrubs that was in our yard when we bought this house is a large viburnum. It’s in the somewhat shady, northern end of the back yard next to a Spiraea. Some years the bloom isn’t anything to mention but this year is one of the best it’s had since we have lived here (over ten years). The individual flowers are not much to speak of the the entire bush, about ten feel tall and equally broad, is absolutely covered with them. It’s not quite pure white but close enough. The birds love this bush and right now, the insects are pretty happy with it, as well. Once the blooming is done, I’m going to do a bit of cutting, because it tends to get too big and it’s been a few years, but for now, we are really enjoying it.
I enjoyed taking pictures of these two having fun in the kitchen this evening. Grace did most of the flipping. They both did a lot of laughing. Grace posted a picture similar to this shortly after I got it off my camera and shared it with her. I’m a little late getting to it but I also have taken the time to make a few changes. First, I cropped the image a bit. Second, I replaced the image of Emily with one from a different picture that I think is better (her eyes are open, for instance). Getting the timing right so I could get the pancake in the air was the trickiest part, of course. It was much easier after she got more height on them, as in this image.
This is the first of our bearded irises to bloom this year. We have a few of this color scattered around the yard, as well as a few that are bright yellow. I love the way the water droplets look on leaves and flower petals. I guess that’s why they are so often subjects of my photographic efforts. I’m not sure they ever really capture them properly but this one is pretty nice. The color of this flower is nice, too, of course, being such a deep purple. I don’t have a lot else to say. I guess I hope speaks for itself.
Cathy and I went to Stadler Nursery this afternoon and while Cathy picked out a few perennials, I took a bunch of pictures. Actually, I bought something, as well, a Camellia japonica ‘Kumasaka’. I’m not sure where I’ll plant it but I’m thinking that it might go in front of the house to replace the dogwood that’s much too close to the house and really needs to come out. This photo is of an Asiatic lily called ‘Tiny Sensation’ and it’s a stunner. We have a few Asiatics in the yard and in containers. They mostly have solid colored blooms but all are quite hot.
Today is Mother’s Day. For many people that means buying cut flowers and taking their wife or mother out to lunch. For us it means a trip to the garden center. This is our third trip in two weeks and we now have enough plants to keep us busy for a little while. Mostly we buy annuals that Cathy will put into containers, including some at her mother’s house. On the two previous trips I bought a shrub each time but I didn’t get anything for myself this time (it’s Mother’s Day, after all). But I did bring my camera and while Cathy made up her mind what to buy, I took pictures.
They had quite a few Fuchsias in hanging baskets. Most of them were this variety, called ‘Dark Eyes’. There was another that had a white part instead of the purple here. I prefer this one over that. There were also a lot of really lovely gazanias and dahlias, which are always quite impressive. They have a few trees and one, a Japanese snowbell (Styrax japonica) was in full, glorious bloom. That’s a tree I should consider for our yard. Very lovely.
This little Siberian iris was originally planted in our garden in Gaithersburg. When we were getting ready to move I dug up a portion of it and brought it with us. It’s been doing pretty well in our yard here for ten years. Like most Siberian irises and despite being named ‘Eric The Red’, this flower is purple rather than anything you could describe as red. Some Siberian irises are much bluer, of course, so it has more red in it than those. But it’s purple, not red. Still, it’s a happy little flower and quite content without needing much of any care to do well. In a bit more sun we’d probably get more flowers but it’s happy where it is.
I know, I know. There are those among you who would be happier if I would just stop taking pictures of spiders all together. I’m sorry, but I think they are fascinating and beautiful creatures and I don’t see myself stopping any time soon. This one, which I think is a dwarf spider (subfamily Erigoninae), is quite safe to be around. Her body is probably 3 to 4 mm long and her jaws are not likely strong enough even to break your skin. So, no problems here. And don’t forget what spiders eat. If you don’t like flying insects, then spiders are your friend. I get not wanting them all around in your house but in the garden, please let them be.
My pink multiflora rose is in full bloom. I suspect it isn’t 100% R. multiflora, because those have white flowers and this is clearly not white. What the rest of its genetic makeup is, I really couldn’t say. R. virginiana would be a reasonable guess. The color is right. The leaves are definitely R. multiflora and it’s got the requisite resistance to black spot. It’s possibly a bit less vigorous, but that’s probably something in its favor. R. multiflora will generally take over and this is large, but fairly well behaved. Pity it only blooms once, but then, the same can be said for the azaleas.
I went out into the woods next to my building late this morning. There wasn’t a lot that I found interesting but I took a few pictures. Before I went back inside, though, I thought I’d walk over to the pond on the other side of the building and see if the ducklings were still there. They were not but this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) was and I was able to get a few decent pictures before he flew off. I also watched a couple tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) fluttering around and getting water from the mud at the pond’s edge. All in all, a nice, relaxing outing to break up an otherwise uneventful day at the office.
I went out into the yard after work today and took some pictures. I started with some yellow irises that have started to bloom. From there I moved on to take a few rose pictures, the multiflora rose, ‘Blush Noisette’, and my newest, ‘Cutie Pie’. The cicadas are out in significant numbers. This isn’t the year of the largest local brood, which isn’t due until 2021. But there are still quite a few of them. Finally, I took some pictures of this small spider web in the dying Colorado spruce in our front yard. It’s not as sharp as I would have liked, having been taken in somewhat dim light and without the aid of a tripod (and the branch was moving a bit int he breeze.
In yesterday’s post I mentioned that this is not the year for the huge brood of 17-year cicadas. I also said that there were, nevertheless, a noticeable number of cicadas about, mostly obvious from their exuviae (their shed exoskeletons) on small plants all around the yard. Well, I got a pretty good picture of an adult cicada today and I’m pretty sure this is a Riley’s 13-year cicada (Magicicada tredecim). It is identified as a periodical cicada by its red or orange eyes (the annual cicadas have black eyes). The orange patch between the eye and the wing identifies it as Magicicada tredecim.
The last time we had the huge brood of 17 year cicadas was in 2004. Well, that was 13 years ago. That means that this admittedly smaller brood of 13-year cicadas happened to coincide with that larger brood, making 2004 an especially huge event, more than either of them would be on their own. So, in four more years, the 17-year cicadas shouldn’t be as bad as they were in 2004. That’s good to know.
By the way, if you are of a mind to try one, they don’t taste like much. Just saying.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is one of my favorite perennials. It’s easy to grow, it does well in sun or shade, it can take fairly dry conditions, and it blooms for a nice, long while. We have one with leaves that are very pale green, almost yellow. We have one with flowers that are much more pink and some that are nearly pure, deep blue. Each bloom lasts for a day only but there are a lot of them, following one after the other.
From the Missouri Botanical Garden page:
Genus name honors John Tradescant (1570-1638) and his son John Tradescant (1608-1662), botanists and successive gardeners to Charles I of England.
Specific epithet means of Virginia.
When the stems of spiderworts are cut, a viscous stem secretion is released which becomes threadlike and silky upon hardening (like a spider’s web), hence the common name.
This is a very nice Coreopsis (tickseed) growing in a container on our back patio. I like these larger-petaled Coreopsis flowers more than the fine-petaled varieties. I suppose they both have their uses but these are so much bolder and brighter. They certainly make a good show and outside the kitchen door is a nice place for a big splash of yellow. These are reliable blooms and come ahead of the sea of black-eyed Susans that fill our backyard later in the summer. For now, these are the sole source of this color in our garden (there are a few yellow irises but they are a much paler yellow).
We don’t remember where we first got this sedum or what it’s called but it’s very successful in containers and in the garden around our house. It doesn’t grow so fast or furiously that it’s a real problem but it certainly takes no effort to keep it alive. If you want something that will grown pretty much anywhere in your yard, this might be a good choice. It has very beautiful, little yellow, star-shaped flowers on light green foliage. We have it in full sun and in reasonably heavy shade. It places that are almost always wet and others that pretty much bake. If you want a little, let us know.
Rabbits. We’ve got rabbits. Eastern cottontail rabbits, to be precise (Sylvilagus floridanus). Apparently they have been multiplying like, well, rabbits. It’s not uncommon this spring to see four or five in the back yard at once. And there will be others in the front yard, as well. Mostly they are eating clover and not causing too much trouble with our garden so we put up with them. This many of them, though, and I’m starting to wonder how the local fox population is doing. Either there aren’t enough foxes to take care of the rabbits or they are simply not keeping up.
We went to a presentation by a woman named Ariane from an organization that does work with some of the very poorest people in two areas in Afghanistan. Their work includes education, recreation, providing meals, and vocational training including such skills as sewing and baking. They are teaching sign language to deaf children, as well as ordinary school subjects. Cathy’s mom organized the event and had a combination of Afghan and French themed refreshments at the back of the room. She also brought in a few of her Afghan dolls and had them on display. On the tag attached to this one it says,
This is the national dress of the women of Afghanistan. The bodice is embroidered in many colors and sometimes includes colored stones, bangles, or small mirrors, depending on the area from which it comes. This costume has never been covered by the chadri.
I don’t know that I’d call this a serious pest but it certainly does make our garden look worse this time of year. This little bug has been here in pretty good numbers in recent years and they suck the juices out of some of our plants, making their leaves brown and desiccated. It generally doesn’t do the plant irreparable harm but it doesn’t do it much good, either. In past years I spray them and cut them off before they do their worst. This year I never got around to it and the damage is pretty well done at this point. They’re pretty, little things, I admit. But pests, nonetheless.
On page 134 of volume 48 (dated August 24, 1895) of The Garden: An Illustrated Weekly Journal of Horticulture In All Its Branches, under the heading Rosa setigera, it says:
The numerous varieties in this group are at once specially distinguished by their leaves being rough to the touch, shining on the upper surface, downy and glaucous underneath, deeply toothed at the margin, and furnished with curved prickles on the mid-rib and principal veins. The flowers are borne, mostly in threes, in numerous corymb-like clusters.
It lists a few varieties and then under ‘Mill’s Beauty’ it has the following:
A very vigorous-growing and most noteworthy variety, producing a brilliant effect when its flowers, which are of a redder colour, but not so double as those of the preceding variety [R. s. var Beaute des Prairies], are in the full flush of their freshness. An extra fine kind.
This is a rare rose and in past years Nick, whose this one is, called it his ‘Great Unknown Setigera’ It has now been identified as the same rose growing in Roseraie du Val-de-Marne à l’Haÿ-les-roses in France. ‘Mill’s Beauty’ is also known as or ‘Miller’s Climber’ and is a R. setigera hybrid of somewhat unknown origin. According to volume 12 of Modern Roses it was bred before 1835 and may be a hybrid between R. setigera and R. arvensis. It also says that it is more likely of U.S. origin rather than the generally assumed England.
We had the pleasure of baby sitting this little munchkin this evening while his parents went to a movie. Kaien (pronounced like Ryan with a K instead of an R, or simply Kai) is just over 5 months old now and really is starting to show a personality. He smiles a lot and thankfully is pretty easily distracted if he starts to fuss.
He slept for about an hour of the time we had him and then had a bottle, which was also pretty easy. After that we enjoyed singing to him. He especially loved Old MacDonald Had A Farm, especially the animal sounds that Cathy made. She sang quite a few verses, including some with animals that are not generally considered farm animals (do any farmers keep lions?). We also sang some songs by the Limeliters. Interestingly, their album Through Children’s Eyes was one that Cathy and I both listened to as children, so we both know the songs on it. Anyway, we sang a few songs from that. He mostly just stared at us throughout.
Cathy’s been stocking up on her annuals and has begun to put them into containers to go around the house. There are some amazing colors and textures and I thought for today I’d feature this Celosia. Its bright orange flowers are about as close to a flame as you can get and the genus name actually comes from the Greek word keleos (κήλεος) meaning burning.
Cathy has a couple with this flower color and one that is a deep, hot red. They really are something and bloom well in full sun and even light shade. I didn’t know this until recently but apparently it is edible and is cultivated as a leafy green vegetable. According to Wikipedia (caveat emptor, or in this case the eater), “It is traditional fare in the countries of Central and West Africa, and is one of the leading leafy green vegetables in Nigeria, where it is known as ‘soko yokoto’, meaning ‘make husbands fat and happy.’”
Because there are a lot of them about, I’m guessing that this is a wing from a Riley’s 13-year cicada (Magicicada tredecim) like the one whose picture I posted ten days ago (see: Saturday, May 20, 2017). I think it’s a beautiful thing. It’s also quite sturdy. This one was separated from its owner and has little droplets of water on it. Even handling it to get it into position for a photo didn’t dislodge them. Interestingly, the wings of the clanger cicada (Psaltoda claripennis, also known as the clear wing cicada), a species found in eastern Australia, has a physical structure of ‘nanopillars’ that kill bacteria that settle on them. Pretty cool.
I covered a few miles today but ended up where I started. Cathy and I left the house at about 5:30 and drove to the airport. From there I flew to Boston, where I was picked up by Dorothy. Then we drove home. It’s about 460 miles by the route we took and the round-trip took me 12.5 hours including two hours waiting for my 56 minute (and $40!) flight. We crossed a couple large bridges, the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan to New Jersey and then the Delaware Memorial from New Jersey into Delaware. Dorothy was driving for most of the New Jersey portion of the trip and I was able to take a few pictures of the Delaware Memorial Bridge as we crossed it.