Cathy and I were out in the back yard and we heard a scratching noise. We’re used to quite a bit of noise from birds and occasional tree frogs, but this was quite different and we didn’t recognize it. We finally noticed this squirrel on the cow skull that’s hanging on our back fence. The squirrel, in typical rodent fashion, was gnawing on the top of the skull. I assume it’s gnawing on the bone to get calcium and other nutrients. Anyway, it’s one of the reasons you only find relatively fresh bones in the wild. They don’t last long unless they get buried (and probably even then).
Monthly Archives: May 2020
We took a walk near Lake Frank today and had a really nice time. We saw one adult and one juvenile bald eagle next to and on the nest across the lake. It’s too far, really, to get a good picture but I did take a few, anyway, just to record the fact. We happened to come across this pile of American carrion beetles (Necrophila americana), presumably on a piece of carrion. They were definitely there for a reason. It’s fine to get grossed out by them, but then, without them, the rotting meat would stick around a lot longer, so in my book, they’re doing us a service.
It’s a week early for Mother’s Day but we’ve been cooped up for too long and we didn’t want to wait until next week. We took our annual trip to Fehr’s Nursery early this afternoon and Cathy bought a load of plants. As usual, I wandered around and took photos of flowers, etc. I got some nice pictures of various hens and chicks (Sempervivum varieties) including some Sempervivum arachnoideum, which have what look like cobwebs on them. I decided to go with this photo, however, of lady’s mantle leaf (Alchemilla mollis ‘Auslese’) with water droplets on it.
The Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum umbellatum) is a pretty, little, but invasive bulbous plant native to Europe, northern Africa, and the Middle East. It’s coming up in our back yard and we really should do something about it, although it’s hard to want to pull out something as pretty as this. I’m not sure where it came from as we only have it growing in our lawn and not in any of our garden beds. This time of year they just appear in the lawn. Our mower is out of commission until I get a new carburetor so the grass is getting long but once that’s running again, these will be mowed along with the grass.
I’ve used the joke before but it’s true, I’m fond of fern fronds. We have a few different ferns in the yard. There is the northern maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum, featured seven times so far, apparently), Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum), ostrich fern (Matteuccia struthiopteris), and sensitive fern (Onoclea sensibilis). This is, I believe, a Dryopteris species, but I need to do some work if I’m going to identify it for sure. The genus is generally known as the wood ferns but some species have particular names, like male fern (D. filix-mas, which is what I suspect this is) or buckler fern.
The other species this might be, and perhaps it’s more likely based on size, is the lady fern (Athyrium filix-femina). Both the male fern and lady fern are native and both are nice for a shady garden. I really should figure out which this is because every time I’m asked, I have to qualify my answer. A fern expert could probably look at my photo and tell me right off, but I need to look up the differences and look more carefully. If and when I do that, I’ll update this post.
As mentioned on Sunday, we went to the garden center to buy plants for Cathy to put in containers and into the ground for the summer. These were mostly annuals, although we did buy a few perennials, as well, including a rosemary. This is one of the marigolds that Cathy picked out. It’s called ‘Durango Red’ and it’s a really nice, burnt orange color. It’s especially nice in the rain, which was heavy today. This is out on the driveway right now but it will probably go into the ground before too long. They are a quick and easy way to get a lot of color in your garden.
In the back of our garden, near the fence where there was a huge rose bush, there is a clematis. For years it’s struggled to be seen among the rose, which was often out of control. Well, the rose is gone now, having mysteriously died last year. I’m sad about that, and wish it hadn’t died but at least this beautiful, white clematis is still there and is doing quite well, now that it’s getting the sun it needs and isn’t overshadowed by the huge plant. We will need something for it to clime on but for now, it’s just happy to be blooming in the sun.
The chives (Allium schoenoprasum) are blooming. These are one of the easiest herbs to grow and we have them both in containers on our back patio and in the ground in our herb garden. We have to keep the oregano from suffocating them, but they have managed to survive so far. They bloom this time every year and I like to pick some of the flowers to sprinkle onto food as a seasoning. They add a subtle oniony flavour without being overpowering. Of course, the tubular chive leaves can be used pretty much any time, but I think the flowers are special, because they add color as well as flavour.
It was quite cool this morning after a soft freeze over night. There was ice in both bird baths this morning, not just the pedestal meaning it got pretty cold. I had covered my recently planted camellias and we moved some pots into the garage, so everything seems fine. We went for a very nice walk in Rock Creek this afternoon and saw lots of pretty things, including this perfoliate bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata), a pretty little wildflower we don’t see very often. The word ‘perfoliate’ means the base of the leaf surrounds or is pierced by the stem.
I know I’ve already had a picture this spring of the lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) from our garden but it’s blooming so well and so long that I thought I’d share another. We’re also in a little lull where there isn’t a lot new coming out, although it’s still changing. So, here’s another view of the little white bells of the lily of the valley, this time from the back garden, near the fence (not that it makes much difference, of course). Soon the flowers will be gone and even the leaves will fade in the coming heat of summer. We are near the southern limit of where it grows well. If you grow it here, it needs some shade to protect it from the heat of the summer sun but further north it does well in full sun.
We also have a terrific crop of Canadian thistle (Cirsium arvense) coming up among it (and many other places, as well) and it really needs to be dealt with. That’s a really problematical weed, having “a deep and wide-spreading root system with a slender taproot and far-creeping lateral roots.” (Source: Fire Effects Information System, US Forest Service). That same document also says that “new plants can also form from root fragments as short as 0.2 inch (6 mm),” which helps explain why it’s so hard to get rid of.
One of our favorite herbaceous perennials is the spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana). It’s a native and is easily grown in our gardens. In addition to the ‘standard’ versions, we have a few named varieties. This is one of the plain species and it’s lovely, of course. This one is right outside our back door and this is the first bloom of the year. I’ll almost certainly return to it later, when it has more flowers, or will post a photo of one of the other, slightly more exotic varieties. But they really don’t need much improving.
Cathy and I went for a walk in the neighborhood this evening and came across this iris, back lit by the setting sun. It was more purple in real life but I think the photo is pretty nice, anyway. I have a thing for back lighting, particularly of growing things. I love the luminescent quality and amazing colors of leaves and flower petals lit by the sun. I also took photos of our hawthorn, which is in bloom, and the first rose to open on ‘Perle d’Or’ outside our front door. But there will be more chances to photograph those in the days ahead.
Last year, after getting rid of the stump from the Colorado spruce that I cut down, we planted a hawthorn to one side of the bed and Cathy planted some perennials as well. Two of them are a variety of Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) called ‘Anouk Supreme’. They are blooming now and they are quite lovely.
Each individual inflorescence is nice, as you can see here, and overall the entire plant is really nice, with lots of blooms. The individual flowers are a very deep purple and the bracts at the top are only slightly less intense. Both the leaves and the flowers give off that wonderful lavender aroma that we’re all so familiar with.
We haven’t done terribly well with plants like this in the past but I think this is a good location for them. If they do well, I’d be happy to get a couple more. We also have a rosemary that we might put here with them. This species of lavender is native to the Mediterranean countries including France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece.
One of the plants Cathy bought on our annual Mother’s Day trip to the nursery (a week early this year) was this blood flower, Asclepias curassavica ‘Silky Red’. As you can see, the colors are pretty intense. This species of butterfly weed is native to the Caribbean and Central and South America and is only winter hardy to USDA zones 9 to 11, so we grow it as an annual here but it’s worth it. The butterflies and other insects love it and even without that, it’s just a beautiful flower. If you have a very bright indoor location (or a heated greenhouse!) then you could bring it in for the winter, but we just start new each year.
After work today I sat out in the yard. It was quite warm and I was enjoying the birds singing in the early evening. There is a family of house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) that have nested in a small, ceramic bird house hanging from our cherry tree and they make themselves known. I got a few photos of the wren but they’re small birds and I wasn’t really that close to it. I also surprised a rabbit (an eastern cottontail, Sylvilagus floridanus), who came around the corner and found himself much closer to me that he would have liked. He froze long enough for me to get a pretty good close up. But I decided to post this photo of the Exbury azalea that’s just finishing up a really nice blooming season.
Many years ago my dad gave me a subscription to a thing called The Seed Guild. The idea was that this guy had relationships with botanical gardens and arboreta around the world and had worked out an arrangement where he collected seeds from them and distributed them to Seed Guild members. I don’t remember the details but I do know the seeds for this lilac came from there. The catalogs I have (from the late 1990s) list three species, Syringa amurensis, S. josikaea, and S. wolfii, so I assume it’s one of those three. I’m leaning towards the last of them, which may more properly be known now as Syringa villosa subsp. wolfii (C.K.Schneid.). I had it growing in a container for many years and it never got very big. When we moved here in 2006 I planted it in the back garden and now it’s about 8 feet tall and obviously doing well.
This is a difficult rose to photograph well. First, it’s quite tall and most of the blooms are right at the top, about eight feet from the ground. Second, it’s against the south wall of our house, which is brick but not the most attractive background. It was also cloudy today and the rose wasn’t in the bright sun, which would have been nice. But I wanted to be sure to include a photo of this rose, as it’s doing quite well this year. This is one of four roses that survived the great rose dying of last year. It’s by far the tallest of them but the other on the end of the house, which nearly died a few years back, has to potential to be much larger, if it can continue its come back.
Here’s another of the plants we bought a while back from Fehr’s Nursery. It’s a strawflower called ‘Basket Yellow’. Also known as everlasting flower, the official binomial is Xerochrysum bracteatum although it was formerly included in the genus Helichrysum or Bracteantha. It’s a tender, short-lived perennial native to Australia and treated as an annual here and we have two. This one is pure yellow and the other is red and orange, which is pretty nice. We’ll put them in pots on the back patio and they’ll give us color right through the summer. The flowers, not surprisingly, last a long time. I wonder if that’s where they get their name?
This is yet another tender perennial grown here as an annual. It’s a non-vining, morning glory-like plant native to Brazil. It’s a member of the convolvulus family (a.k.a. the bindweed or morning glory family, Convolvulaceae) but it doesn’t twine and the genus, Evolvulus, means to untwist or unravel. This variety, ‘Blue My Mind’, has beautiful, pale, sky-blue flowers about an inch across. This does really well in hanging baskets or other containers and that’s where this is destined to go, but so far it’s among the plants waiting to be potted up.
This is a European hornet (Vespa crabro). It’s also dead. I found it on the floor of the basement when I stepped on it in my bare feet, which worried me a little. It was mostly dead before I stepped on it and completely dead after that. Since I didn’t get stung, I’m over it. They are predatory on other insects so in general (and outside my basement), I have no problem with them being around. They are similar in size to the eastern cicada killer (Sphecius speciosus) but are quite different in appearance. As large as they are, the European hornet is smaller than the Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia, sometimes referred to as murder hornets), which can be 30% to 50% larger.
Although it will bloom off and on throughout the summer, there really is nothing to compare with the first flush of blooms on even the best repeat flowering (or remontant) roses. This rose will have at least a few blossoms on it from now until well into the fall but right now, it’s so covered with buds that by this weekend we’ll be hit with their heady fragrance as we come out the front door. We really couldn’t ask much more from a plant. The flowers are small and delicate but really pack a punch in terms of their small, which is wonderful.
I took pictures in the yard earlier today but then Cathy and I went to Meadowside Nature Center and took a walk there. Since most of my pictures this spring have been from the yard, I decided to feature a photo from off-site today. We walked from the nature center down to the creek (North Branch Rock Creek) and from there to the lake. We could see the eagle’s nest and at one point saw one of the juvenile eagles sitting on the edge of it. We stopped and sat by the edge of Lake Frank and I took some photos of these yellow flags (Iris pseudacorus), growing on the shore. They are native to Europe and western Siberia, the Caucasus, and northern Africa. They’re quite lovely and I particularly liked the way these were shown against the grey of the very still water. We enjoyed watching the swifts or swallows skimming around over the lake. We heard a barred owl a few times in the distance.
I’ve had a few fern photos this spring but here’s another. This is a Woodwardia of some type but I’m not sure which. It’s growing in our shade garden at the north end of our front yard and is quite happy there. We went to the garden center today and I bought a royal fern (Osmunda regalis) to plant in this part of the garden. My thought is to move the Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum) to the front of the bed, because it’s too short to be seen well where it is. The royal fern should be plenty tall so that will be nice. It’s something I’ve wanted a while.
I really do try not to have pictures that are very much alike, especially near each other. However, I’m a few days behind in posting things and I often take pictures forgetting what I’ve photographed in previous days. Or, I take pictures of a variety of things and then pick one that I like, forgetting that a few days later I took a similar photo and have less to choose from. It’s that sort of thing the brings you the second photo of Rose ‘Perle d’Or’ in four days. Sorry about that. But you have to admit this is a really pretty flower.
In the fall of 2014 I planted three of these peonies, called ‘Coral Sunset’, in our back garden. They have bloomed a bit better each year and I really look forward to seeing them each year. Between the three plants there are seven blooms this year and they are wonderful. There are a lot of peonies I’d be happy to have but I think this one is high on my list. The stems are strong and the flowers not so heavy that they all droop down, which means you really get the full effect of the blooms. Interestingly, they fade to a pale almost-yellow color as they age, which isn’t nearly as striking, but I’m not about to complain.
There is a lot of interest in native plants and in general I don’t mind that. They often thrive in out local conditions. It’s somewhat related to the emphasis on so-called organics (as opposed to synthetics), thinking that they are inherently better and safer. Nevertheless, some natives can easily become weeds. Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is a case in point. It’s actually lovely and in its place, worth growing. But be aware that it will come up around your yard and garden and if you don’t want it to take over, you’ll need to be a little ruthless in pulling it out.
I haven’t included the specific name for this lady beetle in my title because I’m not entirely sure what it is. My guess would be that it’s an Asian lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis), though as they are quite common and this certainly looks right. But I’m no expert. I got one photo of this on a leaf before it flew away so although it isn’t as sharp a picture as I’d like, it’s all I have. These are, of course, insects that we like to have in our garden, as they eat aphids. I haven’t seen aphids in great numbers in the garden yet this year but they’ll be along before too long, have no fear. That and Japanese beetles are the two insect pests I see the most in the summer months.
It’s kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa) time in the neighborhood. These trees bloom later than the native flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) and in general have fewer problems here. They make quite handsome trees of a good size for a suburban yard. They flowers are followed by interesting fruit so they have two seasons of interest, which is nice. They also have interesting bark. The main thing, though, is that they aren’t killed by dogwood anthracnose, which is pretty hard on the C. florida trees. C. kousa is also a bit hardier, although that’s not a real issue here. But the disease problem really is.
I really should plant more of this as well as other ornamental onions. This is Allium moly, often called golden garlic, and it’s a lovely little bulb, blooming later than many of the spring bulbs. Its flowers are smaller than daffodils but it makes up for that by being one of the few things in bloom right now. In theory it spreads and needs to be controlled when growing in ideal conditions. Clearly that’s not what it has here, but it seems happy enough. Another Allium that I’ve had but don’t now is Allium caeruleum, which has pale blue flowers. I think I’ll order some of that, too, this fall, along with a bunch more deffodils.
I was out front sitting in a lawn chair taking photos of the spiderword (Tradescantia virginiana) when one of our house wrens flew up and landed briefly in the small apple tree growing near by. Then it flew to the nesting box (for lack of a better term—it’s a ceramic bottle, basically) and posed for me before disappearing inside. The other was around, as well, singing up a storm. These are very vocal little birds with a lot of volume relative to their size and we love having them. They are a lot easier to hear than to see, as small as they are.
We have two of these pink spiderworts in the side garden. They really are nice and I took some photos today with this one in the foreground and with the more usual blue flowered variety being it. We don’t remember the name of this variety and it may be a type of Tradescantia ohiensis, the Ohio spiderwort, rather than T. virginiana. There are others, too, of course. Anyway, it’s a really nice flower and lovely in the border. The flowers open in the morning and then close up during the heat of the day, so best appreciated early. This was taken from about the same spot as yesterday’s photo of the wren.