We have some Asiatic lilies in the bed where there used to be an oak tree in front of our house. The oak has been gone for long enough that I don’t remember when it was cut down (and I don’t feel like searching through my journal to find out). The lilies are doing quite well and they are surrounded by other plants which seems to have kept the deer and rabbits from eating them, which is nice. As you can see, they are a very hot orange and are quite spectacular. The tiger lilies, which won’t bloom for a while yet, are much taller and more obvious. These blooms are only about 18 inches from the ground and face upwards, which is terrific.
Monthly Archives: June 2019
We don’t get hail all that often. When we do, the hail is generally small and the storm is generally brief. In today’s storm the hail was pretty large at first, with hail at least a half inch across and some more like three quarters or more. That didn’t last long and then the hail was more pea size, which is what you can see in this photo. That lasted a bit longer and then it was just rain after that, really coming down for a while. I enjoy storms, particularly since we live in relative safety and comfort. I wouldn’t have liked being out in this, though.
This butterfly weed, Asclepias curassavica, is also known as blood flower. Cathy recently bought a few plants in both orange (this one) and all yellow. Sadly, it is not hardy enough for in-ground planting as a perennial here, but it should do well in containers and brighten up the back patio. This one is in a container right outside our kitchen door and looks great against the green backdrop of Rudbekia growing around the patio. I especially like the bi-color nature of this one, although the all-yellow variety is nice, too.
I planted a few of these years ago at our old house, after having taken a few bulblets from the top of some growing in a garden we visited. A few years ago I decided to get rid of them, but that’s easier said than done. This one is growing in the grass outside the fenced herb garden that I made a while back. I think we need to be a bit more ruthless in pulling them up. They are interesting, though, and if we had a lot of space, I’d have a bunch. The stems, which are really tubular leaves, have flower clusters at the top. Then bulblets form and sometimes there are flower clusters growing from those bulblets. When the top becomes heavy from the size of the bulblets, the whole plant falls on its side, those bulblets take root and new plants spring up. It’s that spreading action that gives rise to the “walking” part of their name. Anyway, if you’d like some, feel free to ask and I’ll give you a few bulblets and you can start your own colony.
We’re moving from the flowers-of-spring period into the insects-of-summer. Along with the insects come those creatures that prey on them, most notably the spiders and related creatures. Of course, birds, bats, and even other insects prey on insects, but I have a special fascination with spiders. They are not, I am led to believe, universally admired. I suppose I understand that. Nevertheless, I think they are quite beautiful, at least some of them are. This is Leucauge venusta, the orchard orbweaver, and a common resident in our area. It’s so delicate and looks like it could be made of glass. It’s been said that you are never more then six feet from a spider. Even if that’s not literally true, it’s probably mostly true. Sleep well.
I wen out again today to see what I could see. The sky was overcast so the sun wasn’t so hot. The dragonflies were also not about in such great numbers. I did get a few pictures,though, including some of this beetle that I think is a rove beetle, Family Staphylinidae, the first or second largest animal family, with somewhere around 56,000 species in 3500 genera. Only the ichneumon wasps, family Ichneumonidae is larger, with an estimated 60,000 species. Anyway, there are some 4,400 species of rove beetle in our area. You’d think you’d see them a lot more often.
Those of you who have followed my photographic endeavors for any length of time know that some days I just don’t have anything particularly interesting to share. That’s going to happen when you say you’re going to post a picture from every day. I suppose there are people whose lives are so varied that they always have something interesting going on, but my life has many days that are just like most of the others. I go to work and I come home. My commute doesn’t take me by any grand vistas and there are no mountains or waterfalls to be seen. My yard is fairly pedestrian and while I have flowers and bugs to photograph, it can all seem a bit the same from day to day. This is a mushroom that was in our back lawn, presumably growing on the decomposing roots of one of the trees that we have had to take down. Not much, but it’s one more glimpse of nature.
This native shrub has self seeded in our back garden. I’m of two minds about it. The beautyberry (Callicarpa americana), also known as rench mulberry, sourbush, bunchberry, or purple beauty-berry, does have pretty fruit, from which it gets both its common and its generic name. On the other hand, it’s not really growing where I would have planted it. Every year I think about either taking it out or at least transplanting it to another part of the garden. It certainly grows strongly enough and would probably do well in another location. The flowers, shown here, are not very significant. The big clumps of purple berries that follow are quite nice, though.
A little over four years ago, Dorothy was preparing for an exhibit at a small gallery in Richmond. It was a somewhat varied exhibit and included quite a few ink drawings that were drawn from her sketch-book journals. There were a few water colors, which I liked very well. There were also a few painted bones, including this cow skull. Where did she get a cow skull? You very well might ask. She happened to ask our good friend Janis (don’t spell it Janice, there’s no ‘nice’ in Janis) if she had any animal skulls around their farm. She said she had a few and Dorothy was welcome to them. That’s where it came from. Since the show in the winter of 2015 it’s been hanging in Dorothy’s bedroom. She decided this week that she wouldn’t mind getting rid of it but she didn’t want to simply throw it away. So, it’s now hanging on the fence in our back yard. I like it. Yes, we’re those people.
The day lilies are coming into bloom. These are great plants and easy to grow. They like full sun but are quite tolerant of a bit of shade (with a bit of reduced blooming, though). You often see them growing in ditches along road sites in the country. Those that we have are from a very small town that no longer exists in rural Pennsylvania. The houses are all gone, except for a few stone basements slowly being filled by the passing of time. around one of them is a huge patch of day lilies. They are in fairly deep shade, so don’t bloom profusely, but they are happy and continue spreading their roots. I dug up a few many years ago and they really responded to the sun and never fail to satisfy.
Cathy bought some strawflower, also known as golden everlasting (Xerochrysum bracteatum) this spring and has it in a container on the back patio. They are quite bright and lovely to see from the kitchen door. As the flowers open, the center is a bright orange that complements the yellow of the stiff petal-like bracts. As the flower ages, the central disk turns brown, as seen here, but the bracts remain. This gives the flowers their “everlasting” common name. They are already basically dry, so they don’t dry out and turn brown, but rather keep their yellow color. Apparently in their native Australia they grow in sweeping drifts in open grassland, which must be quite beautiful indeed.
Dorothy spent much of the day organizing her things. It’s been a few years since all her things were in one place and she’s taking the opportunity to go through everything and decide what she can get rid of. When I got home today and needed something to photograph she suggested I could take some pictures in her room. Out of the two dozen or so that I took, this one is my favorite. It’s a little shell with an even smaller figurine in it, a mouse (I think), and a metal box with enamel, all sitting on a small Afghan carpet square that she’s using as a table cover.
I took some pictures of flowers and plants in the back yard this evening. I had gotten down onto the ground to see if I could get a good picture of a syrphid fly on an allium flower. I got a few pictures but they weren’t as sharp as I would have liked. Then I noticed this ant on another allium and got a handful of pictures of it. They aren’t all that sharp, either, but will have to do, because I didn’t really get anything better. I’m pretty happy with the framing of this picture and the exposure, but the focus isn’t that great. In my defense, this little fellow was moving around quite a bit and the light was starting to wane a little.
We had a family dinner at mom’s this evening and both of the youngest generation were in top form. Kai is really starting to be able to communicate well and he was willing to pose with his dad for some pictures. Getting them both looking at the camera and smiling at the same time is as hard as you might imagine but this one turned out quite well. Silas took what you might argue was his first step this evening. He stands withoug holding on pretty well. Basically, he moved his left foot to keep his balance and I’m counting that as taking a step.
We have a pair of Hydrangea shrubs growing along the back of our garden. one of them is fairly large and growing strongly. The other, this Hydrangea macrophylla, is not so big but it’s blooming, at least. The deer seem to like it, so we’ve allowed the Forsythia to grow in front of it a little, to help protect it from them. Of course, that makes it harder for us to see, as well. You can’t have everything. The sterile florets, which have large petals, are a very pale pinkish with touches of blue. The much smaller fertile florets are quite blue, and the combination is quite nice.
Dorothy brought home a rooted leaf from a fiddle-leaf fig (Ficus lyrata) a while back and we’ve been caring for it since then. It’s grown quite well and is now over four feet tall and the stem has gotten strong enough that it’s standing on its own. We had it in the kitchen until recently but have now moved it to the dining room, just inside a west facing window. Where these are native, in central and western tropical Africa, they can grow to over 60 feet tall. As a houseplant, they generally are kept below eight feet tall, unless you have a large space for them. I love the green of the leaves with the sun shining through them, as seen here.
I was in the back yard photographing a few different insects this afternoon. I started with a little, green sweat bee on a weed by the patio, but those didn’t turn out very well. Simply not enough light to get a short enough exposure. Then I got down on the ground and took a bunch of pictures of some little leaf hoppers (Family Cicadellidae). Those turned out well enough, although the little critters are pretty small so it’s hard to get a good, sharp photo with the equipment that I have. Also, they were somewhat back lit, so getting the proper exposure was tricky.
Then Dorothy and I were over near the gooseberry bush and while Dorothy was picking gooseberries for some individual pies for dessert, I was able to get close to this little, baby eastern cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). It’s hard to get the scale from this picture but the little bunny could easily fit on the palm of my hand. At first he was underneath the leaves of the wild violets that are everywhere in the yard. Then slowly he came out and I was able to get a bunch of good pictures from fairly close range.
I went out looking for pictures as usual this afternoon, when I got home from work. There is Campanula in bloom in the yard, and I took some pictures of those flowers. They don’t tend to come out the same color in photographs as they are in real life. Not entirely sure why. Then I moved over to the gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides), which is a real attraction to the bees. It’s quite invasive and I really would recommend against planting it in the strongest language, but if you already have it, you might as well enjoy the bees. There were a few honey bees but mostly it was the common eastern bumble bees (Bombus impatiens) that were moving quickly from flower to flower.
This firefly, a beetle in family Lampyridae, probably in the genus Photinus, was on a weed in the back of our garden this evening. According to BugGuide.net there are 34 described species in this genus and identification of a single specimen by morphology alone is often impossible. So, I’m not even going to try. It’s a firefly and that’s good enough. One interesting fact about fireflies is that females in the genus Photuris are known to lure in males of Photinus species and eat them in order to obtain a defensive, steroid-like compound that they contain.
Our good friend Maria is getting married tomorrow and we drove to southern Virginia this afternoon. We offered to transport a few things so we stopped in northern Virginia to pick up two corn hole games, a croquet set, four trash cans, and 14 plants, plus a few other odds and ends. We had hoped to have my mom’s Toyota minivan but alternator trouble meant we went in the Mercury Villager, instead, which is a bit smaller. We managed to get everything in, although Dorothy had a mandevilla on the end of the back seat with her.
As mentioned yesterday, we went to southern Virginia for a wedding. This is one of the pictures I took at the wedding, with Maria and Evan, now husband and wife, recessing after the ceremony. The weather was pretty good. A little warm for my taste but then, if I was comfortable, most everyone else would have been shivering. There was the threat of rain but it held off and everything went beautifully. Maria was even more lovely than ever and the wedding went off with only one hitch (they got hitched). Here’s to the happy couple.
After helping Jean pack up all the paraphernalia from yesterday’s wedding and reception and then a quick trip into town for breakfast (since the resort punted on supplying the complementary breakfast they had promised), Cathy, Dorothy and I went for a walk to some stone ruins on the property. When we got to the ruins, Cathy (I think) said something about it being a good place for snakes. Sure enough, there was a mid-sized eastern ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) sunning itself in a crack in the wall. A few minutes later, when Cathy screamed, Dorothy and I assumed it was another snake but it was this eastern fence lizard (Sceloporus undulatus), just a little closer than Cathy had been prepared for. I was able to get a few good pictures before it darted away. This is a male, evidenced by the blue patch just visible on the lower part of the neck. It also has a pretty significant infestation of orange mites or some other sort of pathogen.
I went out to the vacant lot next to my office today. It was quite warm but the weather patterns promise hotter weather ahead. I got a few pictures of an orbweaver spider (Leucauge venusta) but since I posted one of those recently, I’ve decided to go with this pennant, probably a calico pennant (Celithemis elisa). I also got one, not so good photo of a tailed blue, but I’m holding out for a better picture before I post one of those.
Note: I labeled this as a calico pennant (Celithemis elisa) without paying close attention to detail. I’m relabeling it as a Halloween pennant (Celithemis eponina).
We had a nice sunset this evening. It’s become summer with highs in the 90s this week and doesn’t promise anything nicer for a while. There will be thunderstorms, I’m sure and we actually could use some rain. A good, day-long soaking rain would not be unappreciated, but we’re unlikely to get that any time soon. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the sunset this evening, which progressed from mild coloring in a few wispy clouds to this deep colored sky to the northwest just before it got dark.
We went to the annual Erick’s Hope (http://erickshope.org/) benefit this evening and it was good to see people that we don’t see nearly often enough. That’s our fault, of course, we just get busy and forget to schedule anything and time goes by and it doesn’t happen. When something is on the calendar and we go, it reminds us and we try to do a little better, but life seems to be pretty crowded these days. Of course today we had Dorothy and Abba with us, who leave tomorrow on their cross-country adventure, so we didn’t want to stay out too late. But we didn’t want to miss it, either. Two of the people we always enjoy seeing are Amy and Melanie, who we can generally count on seeing as they manage the silent auction.
The American robins (Turdus migratorius) nesting outside our front door are back to raise a second clutch. There were three in the first batch and another three now, although this photo only shows one. I don’t stay out to take pictures for very long, as that tends to keep the parents away. On the other hand, they built a next in a high traffic area and we’re not going to stop using our front door for them. They grow quite quickly and we watched the last set fledge and these three will be out before you know it. I’m thinking about doing putting something on this ledge to keep them from building another nest here next year, though. There are plenty of other nesting sites for them to use.
There are quite a few really amazing coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) varieties now and if I had the space and the time and the money, I’d consider a collection of the as one aspect of a large garden. They vary in color from the “standard” pinkish-purple bracts and with orange spikes, as seen here, to all sort of oranges, yellow, and darker purples. They flower shapes vary, as well, and they are all lovely. Sadly, there are enough plant-eating insects that enjoy them that they don’t often last in pristine condition. Photographing them in their prime means getting them when the flowers first open, because the bracts get holes in them almost immediately. Still, they provide color in a time when not a lot is blooming.
When I was little we bounced on this hobby horse, made with a truck leaf spring to provide the bounce. Technically it isn’t 100% the same as the one we bounced on, as the spring has been replaced. It broke when an adult who shall remain nameless bounced on it, somewhere around 30 years ago. Although she doesn’t really have room for it there, mom has it in her apartment. Silas isn’t old enough to hold on and bounce on his own but he really enjoyed bouncing on it with his mom holding him. He’s a happy kid, in general, and smiles a lot, but watching his face while being bounced on the horse was so precious. Silas continues growing apace and although he’s not quite walking as of today, it’s definitely in the any-day-now category.
Steve and his family were out of town for the weekend so it was a smaller group for dinner this evening, but a really nice time.
We’re in that in between time, after the spring and early summer bloomers have finished up but before the late summer flowers have really started in earnest. There are a few things in bloom, including the day lilies and the buddleia are starting to bloom and attract bees and butterflies. The gooseneck loosestrife (Lysimachia clethroides) has been blooming but doesn’t add a lot of color, having white flowers. Also, I don’t care how desperate you are for blooms, I don’t recommend you put this anywhere near your garden, unless that’s all you want. Pretty soon these buds will begin to open. They are Iris domestica, the blackberry lily, which until recently also went by the name Belamcanda chinensis and sometimes known as leopard lily. These have self-seeded around the yard but are well within the limits of what’s easy to control, if they come up where you don’t want them. I highly recommend them for any sunny garden.