The hyacinths are in bloom. They aren’t as perfectly formed spikes of flowers as we’ve had some years, but they’re still pretty nice. I don’t care for the sickeningly sweet smell of hyacinths abut they look nice and as long as they’re out in the yard, I don’t mind. There are a few deep, rich, purple hyacinths just starting to bloom, as well, but those are even less full than the pink. Still, they make a nice contrast and look especially good with the yellow of daffodils. Sadly, the daffodils in the back yard are late enough they they won’t bloom at the same time, at least not this year.
Monthly Archives: April 2019
These little flowers, Scilla siberica (Siberian squill) are similar to the blue Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) that I photographed a few days ago but can be differentiated by their downward facing appearance. They are also deeper blue, in general. In my yard they bloom just a little later, but not much. These are in a bed right by the driveway so I get to see them every time I leave or get home, which is nice. S. siberica is native to southern Russia and is hardy up to USDA Zone 2.
I also have some Scilla mischtschenkoana, (commonly called simply squill) the flowers of which are almost white with just a hint of blue. They are native to northern Iran and the Caucasus and not quite as hardy as S. siberica but still plenty hardy for us here. I really should mark where all my spring ephemerals are and plant more around them this fall. I’m not sure I could ever have too many of them.
Cathy bought two columbine plants (Aquilegia) on Sunday and this is one of them. It’s not the standard, native Aquilegia canadensis with its drooping flowers and distinctive spurs. The label had no information on it beyond Aquilegia so I don’t know what the variety name is or anything. It’s quite pretty and I photographed it in the late afternoon sun, to help light up the delicate pink petals. We have a fair amount of columbine in the yard, although most of it is self-seeded volunteers and is a dark, maroon color. I doubt the seeds from this will be anything like it is, but you never know, maybe we’ll start getting some new varieties around the yard.
The cherry blossoms have really come out in force this week and my understanding is that the trees around the tidal basin downtown are in full bloom. They’re worth a visit but it can be quite an ordeal to get down there. Parking is generally impossible anywhere near the tidal basin so it’s much better to take the subway and just resign yourself to the fact that you’re going to do a bit of walking. They really are worth it. We haven’t been in quite a few years and this photo was taken beside one of the buildings on our company’s campus, rather than down town. As you can see, the flowers are white and there is only a hint of pink in the buds. Some have a little more pink than this but the cherries are not nearly as colorful as the crab apples, which I actually prefer by a wide margin.
I don’t know for sure but I think these old opera glasses belonged to my Uncle Ralph and his wife, Aunt Florence. Technically my great uncle and aunt, because he was my grandfather’s brother. Assuming that’s where they came from, I have to assume also that they went to the theatre from time to time. I can’t say that I knew them well. They lived in New Jersey and he died when I was only ten years old. He grew up in the west, having been born in what is now a ghost town in a mining area of Nevada. After earning an undergraduate degree in Utah, he went to St Johns College in Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar where he earned a B.A. degree and a year later a B.Sc. degree.
We had a family dinner this evening at Tsai-Hong’s house. We know it was two months late but Tsai-Hong had the flu on the proper Chinese new year so we celebrated in April. She got a flu shot but got the flu anyway. We had a terrific meal and, need I say it, the kids were the star attraction. I took quite a few pictures (even for me) and I am quite pleased with this one of Iris and ten month old Silas. He and Kai almost played together and were both very cute.
This was our fourth Sunday in a row to enjoy the flowers at the Stadtman Preserve. Don’t be too surprised if we’re there again next week. Since daffodils only last so long, I’m going to continue to post pictures while the do. In addition to hundreds of daffodils of many sorts and shades of yellow and orange, the P.J.M. Rhododendrons are really starting to bloom. We also found one bloodroot plant (Sanguinaria canadensis) with a few blossoms. There were spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) and cut-leaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata) and a few mayapples (Podophyllum peltatum).
I’m posting this out of order but I was looking back at the pictures I took on Sunday and decided I should add this one. Remember, just because I say I’ll take at least one picture every day, I’m not limited to posting only one picture per day. After church and our visit to the Stadtman Preserve we went to my mom’s to get one more document with some numbers I needed for her tax return. Before we left Cathy and I walked over to a small grove of saucer magnolias growing near by. The saucer magnolia is a hybrid, known as Magnolia x soulangeana and is a cross between M. denudata and M. liliiflora. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, the specific epithet “honors Chevalier Etienne Soulange-Bodin (1774-1846), Director of the French Royal Institute, who crossed this hybrid in the early 1800s.”
I saw my first butterfly of the year today. I know there are generally some out even earlier than this, but this is the first I’ve spotted. I’m pretty sure it’s an azure (Celastrina sp.) but the various species are difficult to tell apart and I’m not even going to try to figure out which it is. It’s a pretty, little thing, with a wingspan of only a little over an inch. This is a small butterfly and it took a bit of patience to get close enough to get this photo. Still, it was nice to see and the harbinger of things to come. As you know, if you’ve followed my work for any length of time, flowers and insects are two of my favorite subjects for photography and we’re coming into the best time for both.
When I got home this evening I took some pictures of flowers in the garden, figuring I’d continue with my flower theme. Later, though, shortly after Cathy got home, we were out back and it was clear that the sunset was going to be worth enjoying. So, I got my camera and watched it unfold. First I got some pictures of grey and white clouds with deep blue sky behind them. As the sun sank the clouds turned beautiful colors. They were moving quite quickly and between the movement of the sun (or the apparent movement, I should say) and the very real movement of the clouds, it was changing from moment to moment. I’ll probably get back to flower pictures tomorrow.
We have this little flowering almond shrub in our front garden near the corner of our garage. It never gets very big because it’s not entirely hardy here and every couple years it dies back pretty hard. We actually had a few days when the temperature was nearing 0°F (-18°C) but it seems to have come through it practically unscathed. The flowers, clustered around the stems, are fairly small, only a half inch or so across. Never the less, they are quite pretty, both individually and as a whole. It’s really a shame this doesn’t get bigger because it would be spectacular.
The daffodils are about at their peak right now and will soon begin to fade. We have a few that are still getting ready to bloom for for the most part, they are open. These ‘Lemon Beauty’ daffodils were planted in the fall of 2014 so this is their fifth spring and they are doing quite well. They were planted in the bed around the Colorado spruce and were somewhat shaded by that but now that it’s gone, they’ll get more early spring sun, which they will appreciate, I suspect. The stump of the spruce is still there and I need to finish getting that up and then decide what to plan in its place. I’ve narrowed it down to a half dozen flowering trees but making the final decision is hard.
It rained today and there was water on the the plants in the yard. The forecast was for a chance of rain all through the weekend but (as I write this on Monday) it turned out to be fairly nice. I really love the pattern of water on plant leaves, in any case, and these fresh, young leaves of hosta in a pot on our patio are such a beautiful, vivid green I couldn’t resist them. I also took pictures of water on Columbine flowers and leave and on a really pretty bracket fungus that was growing on the decaying roots of an oak tree that the county removed a few years ago.
In the fall of 2009 and again in 2010 I bought a pretty good number of bulbs from McClure and Zimmerman (https://www.mzbulb.com/). In each of those orders they threw in five tulip of the variety ‘Van Eijk’. There are still ten plants growing where I planted them although we only have six blooms this year. Tulips are not terribly long-lived plants, certainly not in our area, anyway, so the fact that these are still blooming after 8 or nine years is pretty good. They’re quite bright and a sea of them would be more impressive than the six I have, of course. In general, though, I’m more a fan of daffodils, which seem to live forever and form large clumps over time.
There are still a few daffodils blooming at the Stadtman Preserve but most of them are finished. The P.J.M. Rhododendrons are also a little past their peak and are dropping flowers on the ground around them, as you can see here. There are pink and white deciduous azaleas blooming now and there are spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) by the hundreds. There are some trillium coming up and a few with buds but none blooming yet. There are also ferns coming up in a few places. Spring always seems to go by too fast, but it’s sure nice while its here.
I took a break and went out into the woods today to take a few pictures. The eastern redbuds (Cercis canadensis) are blooming and they really are something. This is the native eastern redbud, which is similar to but distinct from the Judas tree or Mediterranean redbud (C. siliquastrum), native to the Eastern Mediterranean. They are both admired for their rose-purple flowers which are borne on bare branches in early spring (i.e. now) and before the foliage emerges.
I’ve already posted a picture for this date but kind of like this one, so I’ll post it, too. This is the view out of my office window. I was at work later than usual today and the light on the clouds was quite dramatic. I took a few “standard” shots but the sky was so bright the trees went very dark. I took a set of three, exposure-bracketted images and combined them as a single HDR image. It’s a bit unnatural looking but I like it.
There are trees we generally think of as flowering trees, such as dogwoods, cherries, and crab apples. But of course, most non-coniferous trees bloom, even if that’s not why we grow them. Out neighborhood has street trees planted pretty much throughout with different streets and different sections having different tree species but mostly planted with the neighborhood was developed in the late 1960s. Our area has mostly red oaks and at nearly 50 years old, they are generally pretty good size. Oaks are among those not usually grown for their showy flowers. Nevertheless, when they are in full bloom, particularly on a clear day in contrast with the blue sky, they are quite dramatic. Of course, the pollen is everywhere and if you have allergies, you aren’t enjoying this. But it can be beautiful.
In the front of my office building there are a few flower beds including one raised bed with a bunch of tulips growing in it. They are bright orange and red and really striking. I usually go into the building through the back door so I hadn’t noticed them but my friend, Corina, said I should take a look. I did and she was right. Naturally when she said take a look, she meant take some pictures, so I did that, too. It was late in the day and they were in the shade of the building, making it a little harder, exposure wise, but I really love their colors.
It’s that time of the year when the maple trees let loose thousands upon thousands of “helicopters” (a.k.a. samaras). They’ll be thick on the lawn and patio and front walk. Not as thick as they once were, because we have fewer maple trees than we did, but still quite a lot. Then they will start growing. In the lawn, the first time the grass is cut, they’ll be taken care of. In the garden beds they need to be pulled up.
At a few minutes before 9:30 this evening Cathy’s phone let out that now familiar sound of an alert (I have alerts turned off on my phone). She read the alert, which said there was a tornado warning for our area. I pulled up the National Weather Service page and read the alert, which was a little less alarming than the alert that come on the phone. Tornadoes are nothing to be trifled with, even here in Maryland, where they are the 98 pound weaklings of the tornado world. Nevertheless, I got my camera and looked outside. It was raining but not hard and the air was pretty still. I took a few pictures by the light of the street lamps and that was about it. The storm system, which had shown signs of tornadic activity and rotation about four miles to the southeast, was moving very fast. By 9:50 NWS radar showed the storm over northern Delaware something like 80 miles away.
Galium odoratum, commonly known as Sweet Woodruff and Sweetscented Bedstraw, is a pretty, little perennial native to Europe, northern Africa, and northern Asia. It grows well in the shade and we have it under the cherry tree at the north end of our garden. It’s competing with Japanese pachysandra, which is a battle it won’t win, although it seems to hold its own. From the Missouri Botanical Garden’s Plant Finder web site:
Plants emit a strong odor of freshly mown hay when foliage is crushed or cut. Aromatic intensity of the foliage increases when dried, thus dried leaves are popularly used in sachets or potpourris. Plants have also been used commercially in perfumes. Leaves are sometimes used to flavor teas and cold fruit drinks. Leaves are also used to make May wine, a punch made from white wine flavored with woodruff, orange and pineapple. Woodruff comes from Old English meaning wood that unravels, in probable reference to the creeping rootstock of the plant.
We got up early and made our way to Bethesda for the Easter Sunrise Service this morning. The date for Easter is based on a lunar calendar, so it moves between March 21 and April 25 (in the Western, Gregorian, calendar). This year it fell on April 21, putting it towards the end of that period. Consequently, it was light enough at the 6:00, just before the service started, for me to get a few photographs. Last year, when it was 20 days earlier, it was still pretty dark at that point and a picture similar to this was taken over half way through the service. I really enjoy this tradition and also the music at the regular service, with brass and timpani adding a strong accent.
The forecast for last night and all day today was for rain. That didn’t happen and it was a gorgeous day. After getting home from church (see previous post on the Easter Sunrise Service) we took a little time to rest, as we were a bit sleepy. Then I started getting the food ready for the Easter dinner we had with family. I had bought a ham and made biscuits, Tsai-Hong brought a really nice salad as well as fruit. Other side dishes and dessert rounded out the meal. Margaret and Cathy made a lamb cake yesterday and it turned out pretty well, although they had trouble getting the eyes and nose to stay in place. Eventually we had to use a toothpick to keep the nose from falling off. Also, we only had golden raisins, so the lamb has light colored eyes, which is a little different to what it normally looks like. It cooked well, though, and was tasty.
Later in the afternoon Iris asked if I’d take a few pictures of Silas and of the three of them out in the yard. It was cool and at first Silas wasn’t sure about sitting on the grass but he got used to it pretty quickly and I got what I think are some pretty nice pictures. It’s no surprise that Silas is growing up and gaining his own personality, of course, and it’s really nice to be a part of that. He’s a happy little boy (for the most part) and is pretty easy going. This will be tested when Iris has to be away for a little while for work, but I’m sure they’ll get through it (not to say they’ll enjoy it, though).
We missed having Kai with us (and Steve and Maya, too, but you know it’s really all about the kids). Nevertheless, it was wonderful to have who we had and we’re really thankful for family. We missed Dorothy, too, and really look forward to seeing her in two weeks. She spent Easter with her friend, Katie, on the New Hampshire / Vermont border. It’s not like being at home and she missed the music that we got this morning, but she’s doing well and finishing strong. We couldn’t be more proud of her.
Have you met my friend, Jack? That’s him in this photo, in the yellow. He’s a stouthearted lad with a lot of strength. Getting this stump out of the ground was not going to be easy, no matter what. Cathy said I should pay someone to do it and maybe she was right. I had dug all around it a few weeks ago and cut the major roots a little way from the trunk. In years past I demonstrated simple machines to second graders, showing them the brilliance of levers and pulleys. It would have been silly of me to try to get this stump out using brute strength (to say nothing of the fact that I don’t have anything like enough brute strength for the job).
On Saturday I went back to work on it, working smarter and not harder. I dug a hole under the largest root and put my hydraulic jack under it. With various pieces of stump under the jack, I was able to work that end up. Then I started moving around. This evening I got the last side up and sawed the last of the roots that was holding it down. The whole thing is pretty heavy but I was able to get it up on its side. I couldn’t have done it without my good friend, Jack.
The forget-me-nots (Myosotis sylvatica) are in full bloom in our garden. They self-seed and many of them are growing out in the grass. Cathy has dug a few up to replant in the garden beds where they won’t get mowed over. We both really love the powder blue of the forget-me-nots and are happy when the start to bloom. The buds are purple and the flowers, as they start to open, turn from a pinkish purple to the pure blue of the fully-formed flowers. You can see one transitioning at the right in this photo. The yellow “eye” in the center of each bloom turns white as the flower ages.
The regular flowering cherries are pretty much finished but there are these double-flowered cherries and they still look wonderful. Not only are they a considerably stronger pink than the single variety but the flowers are much larger, measuring a few inches across. They are somewhat hard to photograph because the best views of the flowers are had looking up at them and when they are backlit by a bright sky, they tend to go quite dark. This one turned out pretty well.
This Exbury azalea is starting to bloom. It’s been eaten back by the deer, so it’s not clear that it will ever get really big unless we are able to protect it. The flowers are quite striking, especially compared to the ubiquitous Glenn Dale azaleas that everyone has. I’ve got nothing against the Glenn Dales, mind you. But you have to admit, they have a certain sameness to them. I suppose if everyone grew Exbury or Mollis azaleas, I’d fell the same way. Or not. They really are spectacular and if you want yellows an oranges, they’re your best bet this time of year. They are deciduous, of course, so if you want leaves year round, they won’t do. But they sure make up for it in bloom.
We have foxes in our neighborhood. We also have dogs in the neighborhood, including the escape artist next door. So, you’d think we’d have fewer rabbits (i.e. Eastern Cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus). I haven’t seen four or five at once this year, as I have some springs. I have seen three in the yard at once and it’s still early. This one startled me as I was walking around taking pictures in the rain this afternoon. I worked at home today so I was able to get out earlier than I normally do. The rain meant it was darker than normal for this time of day (3:35 PM) but I was able to get pretty close and get a reasonable shot of this fellow. Don’t tell him that Mr. McGregor is coming.
The fireflame tulips (Tulipa acuminata) are coming into bloom. These interesting tulips are listed as species but they are not actually known in the wild and are probably some very old hybrid whose origin is lost in the mists of time. Either way, they are quite beautiful, with the pointed petals. They generally have mostly red petals with yellow towards the base but this variety, from McLure and Zimmerman, are almost entirely yellow with a little green running down the spine of the petals. Every year I wonder if they will come up and so far, they’ve not let me down.
Today was a long day but a good one. After church we made a quick trip to the county transfer station to unload all the sticks and brush that we had filled the back of the van with from the yard. Then we headed to Virginia for a bridal shower for Maria, the older of Jean’s two daughters. That was for Cathy and while she was there, I went to a local park and took pictures of wildflowers, mostly buttercups (Ranunculus species). I went back to pick up Cathy and spent a little while taking pictures of Maria and her friends and family.
We killed a little time and then at about 6:30 went to Truro Anglican Church in Fairfax. I had told Cathy we were doing something in the evening but she didn’t know what. After we got there, I told her it was a concert with Sara Groves, Audrey Assad, and the Robbie Seay Band in a benefit for International Justice Mission (IJM). I had told Cathy she’d be glad and she was. We had good seats and I was able to get a few pictures during the concert. As you might guess, if you think about such things, the blue lights played havoc with the white balance calculations my camera made, but I was able to get the skin tones looking about right.
In addition to the singing, we heard from a few folks associated with IJM, including a representative from the Philippines as well as a rescued former victim of modern day slavery. Their message was sobering, to say the least, so it’s hard to say we enjoyed it. But it’s an important work and we decided to participate on an ongoing basis.
Before the show, Dorothy had sent me a text saying that if I had a chance to talk with Audrey Assad I should tell her about Catacombs at Gordon and then say that she has been more of an encouragement to Dorothy and Mulley than any other single musician. Of course I didn’t really expect to get the chance. As it turned out, we were able to go to a reception after the show and I did, in fact, have a chance to talk with her. I gave her Dorothy’s message, although I’m not sure I expressed it very well. Also, because Dorothy didn’t give me any insight into how, specifically, she had been encouraged, I had to be a bit vague. I do know that Dorothy has sung some of Audrey’s songs at Catacombs.
We also had a chance to chat with Sara Groves. We’ve been fans of hers for about 20 years, since her first album came out. We saw her in concert for the first time in November, 2004. One of the pictures I took that evening was the main pictures on her Wikipedia page for quite a while. We really appreciate her song writing and her willingness to acknowledge that life can be hard, painful, and confusing. We often pretend we have it all together but most of us don’t and it’s good to say so once in a while. She was gracious enough to have a photograph taken with us (actually, she was nice enough to suggest it). This last picture wasn’t, therefore, taken by me.
Thank you, Sara, Audrey, and Robbie (and the band) for what you are doing. If you have any interest is the impossible seeming task of ending slavery, please take a look at International Justice Mission (https://www.ijm.org/).
It was a beautiful day and I took the opportunity to go out and take a few pictures in the empty lot next to my office. Although we had a lot of rain this winter and early in the spring, April has been relatively drier than usual (at least that’s how if feels, I haven’t checked the actual data). Nevertheless, the drainage pond that is usually dry in the summer was about has high as it can be without the entire upper area being a bog. In a slightly higher part of the area I found quite a bit of this little corn speedwell (Veronica arvensis) growing. It’s a native to Europe and has been introduced widely in North America (according to the US Department of Agriculture, it can be found in every state except North Dakota, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s actually there, too. The blooms are quite small, only about a quarter inch across, and are a lovely blue color. As weeds go, there are worse.
The lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) is starting to bloom. This is a great, little ground cover once it gets itself established. That can take a little while and they aren’t cheap when you buy them from the garden center a few pips at a time. They also have a tendency to “migrate” in the garden. In our back yard they are around the two smaller maple trees that we still have. Over the time we’ve been here they have expanded and died out in the central part of the bed. I wish you could make it “turn around” and head in the other direction but short of digging it up and physically turning it around, that’s not really possible.
The flowers don’t last very long but while they are blooming they are really pretty. Note that all parts of the plant are poisonous, containing cardiac glycosides, so don’t try to use them as a salad green. I don’t think that’s something I’d have thought to try anyway.