I believe I’ve said before that this is one of my favorite events of the year. Oh, I enjoy Christmas, Thanksgiving, Independence Day, and other holidays and special occasions. But none quite compare to Easter. We talked about ‘morning people’ this morning. I am one. Cathy, not so much. But we set the alarm for 5:00 AM and left by 5:30, getting to Fourth Presbyterian in time for the 6:00 AM sunrise service. Actually, the sun didn’t rise until after 6:50, when the service was over. It was pretty overcast, in any case, so you couldn’t really tell. We went inside for a lovely breakfast and then went to the regular 8:00 AM service, complete with orchestra and choir. As I write this, I can smell the leg of lamb that’s roasting and shortly will have potatoes in the oven to get crispy. So, I’m looking forward to one of my favorite meals. Happy Easter to all. He is risen!
Monthly Archives: April 2018
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.
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.
The wind was really whipping the tree tops around this evening and I thought I’d try to get a picture that showed that movement, at least a little. It didn’t work out as well as I would have liked but the clouds behind the trees were pretty, so that helps make up for it. If you look at the top branches on the right you can see that they are blurred. That’s because of the movement. There were a few pictures that showed the movement better than this one but even on those it was a bit too subtle. And this one has prettier clouds, so there you are.
It’s always nice to have a home cooked meal. It’s especially nice when someone else does the cooking. Actually, while the food was wonderful, it was the one who cooked it that made the evening lovely. Theresa (a.k.a. Reeree) is a very dear friend and she was nice enough to have us over for a little R and R (which I will now take to mean Rest and Reeree). The conversation was wide ranging and there were, as you might imagine, a few laughs, some tears, and a lot of love. Thank you, dear friend.
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.
It’s that time of year again. That time when all the rabbits appear. They’ve come out in pretty significant numbers and are ravenously eating our lawn and garden. I don’t mind when they eat the grass, that’s going to be cut anyway (eventually, once we can get to our lawn mower in the crowded garage). But eating the garden plants is another thing. That purple hyacinth that I posted a picture of recently is gone. They have eaten the tops off a few others, as well. I haven’t done anything to fight the rabbits for a long time but this time of year, I’m always tempted.
It was cool today (some said cold, but my scale is a little different to some). It was beautiful out, in any case. The sky was a deep blue and it was a perfect day to go to Great Falls and the C&O Canal. We walked out to the overlook, stopping along the way to enjoy some wildflowers in bloom. We saw lots of yellow adder’s tongue (Erythronium americanum, also known as yellow trout lily), although we only saw one or two flowers and they were not completely open yet. We saw some cutleaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) which I recognized but couldn’t name without looking up. We saw lots of spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), varying in color from pure white to fairly deep pink. After returning to the tow path, we found a few areas with lots and lots of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica). That was a particular treat and really made it feel more spring-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.
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?
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.
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.
The is the other of my unknown daffodil varieties. Like the one pictured three days ago, these bulbs were given to me by a friend and I didn’t make note of the variety name. They were planted in the fall of 2006 and are doing quite well. This particular variety, unfortunately, has a bad habit of not always opening. Also, when they do, as they mostly did this year, if it rains the flowers are too heavy for the stalks and they all droop. But when they are open and upright, they are quite nice. I was happy we got to enjoy them at their best this year.
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.
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.
It rained quite hard over night and into this morning. When I got to work, the drainage pond next to my building was full to the overflow. It was a busy day, though, and I wasn’t able to get out and take any pictures. On the way home I stopped and walked a little by Rock Creek. It wasn’t as high as it would have been this morning but still quite swollen. Also, this is just downstream from Lakes Needwood and Frank, which act as a flow limiter to the stream below them. The stream, seen hear over a fallen tree, is usually about three feet lower than this, though, so it’s still quite high (for a little stream).
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?
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.
I stopped at the Avery Road parking lot above Lake Frank on the way home today. It was a beautiful, cool afternoon with—as you can see—billowy white clouds. This was taken with the sun at my back, looking northeast over the lake. I took a few the other direction, as well. This would be a good spot for sunset pictures, although it’s not somewhere you can just drive up to. It’s a few minutes walk down from the parking area. Still, if I am on my way home and there’s a good sunset coming on, it might be worth a try to get here in time. Of course, sunsets around the time I’m coming home are mostly a winter thing.
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 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.
It was a beautiful day and Cathy and decided to take a short walk in nearby Rock Creek Park. With her ankle problems we didn’t want to overdo it, so this seemed like a good way to get out, at least a little. Before we had even gotten as far as the bike trail that runs along the creek we spotted this piliated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), who landed on a tree not too far from us. We also saw a few white-tail deer (Odocoileus virginianus) (White-tailed Deer), including one that was seriously not bothered by our presence. We saw a small flock of cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). There was also a nice assortment of wildflowers including star chickweed (Stellaria pubera), a pretty, little, white, star-shaped flower.
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.
This was, apparently, half of a pair of bookend vases, produced by Pukeberg, probably in the middle of the 20th century. Pukeberg was founded in 1871. In the 1930s, Pukeberg began producing decorative glass. We don’t really know a lot about it beyond that. We found a pair listed on eBay for $89, so they aren’t terribly valuable. I wanted to show off the various colors of the glass. In everyday room light it is basically amber colored. But I’ve shone a light through the glass and you can see reds at the bottom and greens towards the top. I think a more complicated light set up would do better but this was done with a flashlight sitting behind it and a flash bounced off the ceiling.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 had dinner at mom’s this evening. My cousin Becky and her boyfriend were there, as well, having come up for Jason’s wedding on Saturday. I took a bunch of pictures in the yard. The camellias are finishing up and the azaleas are just starting. I also took some pictures of Kai. But the picture for today is this quilt that my mom just made. It’s a pretty elaborate thing, with each segment on each wing being a separate piece of fabric. I also think the fabric she chose for the background is terrific, really showing off the dragonflies to good effect.