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.
Monthly Archives: May 2018
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.
We’ve been working on emptying out Cathy’s mom’s house and it’s a reasonably big job. They bought the house fifty years ago, so there are naturally a few things scattered about. The four ground floor bedrooms are mostly done (it’s a rambler but with a large basement). A few weeks ago we moved on to working on things in the basement. Between Cathy, our friend Julia, and me, we’ve made some good progress. Last night, two of Cathy’s nieces came and today they helped us make even more. Maggie and Laura are fun, of course, but this was no pleasure cruise. There were boxes to carry and papers to go through. And go through them we did. It was quite warm today, reaching nearly 90°F. Fortunately we were working mostly in the carport and there was a little breeze, so we weren’t too uncomfortable.
Cathy decided that her old doll house had served its purpose and it was time that it be recycled. It’s made entirely of cardboard, so that works out well. She wanted one last picture of it before it went into the van, though.
We continued working on Cathy’s mom’s house today, again with Maggie and Laura in town. We started by moving some things that were brought home yesterday into the garage. That’s where this picture of Laura was taken. It’s not the best picture but, as it turns out, it’s the only picture I took all day. So, that’s what you get.
In addition to some work at the house, Laura and I went to a self-storage location and rented a 10×10 foot storage unit. It may not be big enough but it’s a good start and we can always move up if necessary. Cathy and I will be out of town tomorrow and most of Sunday, when the girls leave, so they plan to begin the process of moving things to that. Not everything will go into storage, of course, and we’d like to limit it as much as possible. But there are things we know will take significant time to deal with and we don’t want that to hold up progress on the rest of the house emptying. Photographs, for instance, need to be gone through and that’s going to be a slow process, particularly the slides and even more particularly the overseas travel slides. So, get them out of the way and deal with them this fall.
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.
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, we went up to Pennsylvania this weekend with the rest of my family. George and Carmela came down from New Jersey and Brady from Virginia. The rest of us live relatively close but it was especially good to all be together (missing Dorothy, but college years are like that). Carmela wanted a picture with Kai and this is, I think, the best of those I took. Kai doesn’t have a great smile but I think it’s a good picture. After the near ninety degree heat we had on Thursday and Friday, it was a very welcome relief to have cool weather this weekend. And though we had a little rain, it didn’t really dampen our spirits.
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.
I took a little walk at lunch time today, around my building and then into the woods. There is a tree that fell across the stream a year and a half ago and I’m still able to get across on that. One of these days it’s going to collapse under me, but so far, it’s been alright. There are a few drainage ponds on the upper part of the property and they have water in them now, even though our April was dryer than normal. I saw a bird across the pond and as if flew off I was able to get two pictures of it. Judging by its size and shape and with only a very brief glance at it, I had thought it was a killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). Once I saw the picture, though, I knew that was wrong. After a little searching, I decided it was a solitary sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), migrating to its summer breeding grounds in the far north (entirely north of the USA/Canada border). As usual when it comes to identifying birds, I checked with George to see if he thought I was right. He did.
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.
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.
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.
Today was about 90°F but we had a bunch to do in the yard and we gave it a shot. I started by pulling Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense), a really pesky weed. That requires gloves and it took me a while to find a pair, with all the disruption that’s happened to our garage. After clearing most of the thistle from the lily of the valley, I moved on to the fence along the south end of the back yard. That fence, a post and rail, is starting to reach end of life. Two posts are leaning badly and a few rails have broken. I pulled up three posts and took out the 12 rails associated with them. I cut them up (chainsaw) and loaded them into the van to get rid of.
This photo of Cathy was taken in the evening, as she was walking across the back yard towards me. She made faces for most of the pictures but then let me take a ‘normal’ shot, with built-in flash to help light up her face in the darkening day (taken around 7:50 PM).
Cathy and I were fortunate enough to be allowed to attend a very small but also very lovely wedding today. There were probably fewer than 60 people there on this potentially rainy afternoon (it was an outdoor wedding). As it turned out, although it rained a little while we were setting up, by the time most of the guests arrived it had stopped and held off the rest of the day. As you can see, the bride and groom (a.k.a. the Fairy Princess and the DM) were decked out in their finery.
In addition to enjoying the wedding itself and sharing the joy of the bride, the groom, and their families, I had a significant “it’s a small world” experience. I was chatting with Josh’s grandmother. I knew she was from England and that she had lived in or near Cambridge in the past. Well, it turns out she lived on the same street that my family and I lived on. She was married and moved out two years before we were there but her parents were still there. She would have visited them and we were almost certainly on the street at the same time, nearly fifty years ago.
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.
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.
As I think I’ve mentioned, we’re going through my mother-in-law’s house and trying to get things out so we can get it ready to go on the market. We’ve gotten rid of things and we’ve brought a lot to our house (possibly too much for the short term) to go through a little more carefully. We’ve also decided that there are things that will take too long if we deal with them now so we’ve rented a storage unit for things we know we’re going to need to go through and which are going to take a while. The largest collection in this class are pictures. If you knew my father-in-law, you may have some inkling of how many pictures there are. Let’s just say, there are more than a few slide carousels. And that’s just the start. Anyway, this is the hall at the storage facility.
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.
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.