Silas and Iris

Silas and Iris

Silas and Iris

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.

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Opera Glasses

Opera Glasses

Opera Glasses

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.

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More Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

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.

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Pink Columbine

Pink Columbine

Pink Columbine

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.

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Scilla siberica

Scilla siberica

Scilla siberica

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.

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Pink Hyacinths

Pink Hyacinths

Pink Hyacinths

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.

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Cathy and Daffodils

Cathy and Daffodils

Cathy and Daffodils

After church this week, for the third week in a row, we walked over to the Stadtman Preserve to see the bulbs. The daffodils are pretty spectacular and entire sections of hillside are yellow with them. The Chionodoxa is still in bloom and there are areas completely dotted with their pretty, blue flowers. I took pictures of Cathy in a few different spots but I had only brought one lens, the 100mm, which wasn’t really idea for that sort of portraiture. This one turned out pretty well, though. Spring it definitely here and we’re loving it.

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Chionodoxa forbesii

Chionodoxa forbesii

Chionodoxa forbesii

I try not to repeat subject too often and too close together but sometimes I just have to. The Sunday before last I posted a pictures of three Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow) blossoms, taken at the Stadtman Preserve on Mill Run, in Derwood (see Sunday, March 17, 2019). Two weeks later they are out in our garden and I couldn’t resist another picture. This little clump of flowers is at the south end of our house and it’s so lovely. I promise, I’m done with this flower for the year (although there’s a pink variety in another part of our garden).

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Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms

I had some car trouble today. My van, which has just over 269,000 miles on it, started making a terrible grinding noise when I put on the breaks. I thought, I don’t care, bad breaks aren’t going to stop me! But seriously, there are car repairs you can put off and car repairs you can’t put off. Brakes are in the latter category. After having Cathy meet me at the mechanic’s we stopped at the commuter parking lot near the ICC and I took some pictures of the cherry blossoms.

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Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

The sky had the promise of a really spectacular sunset this evening but sadly it didn’t follow through. It wasn’t a bad sunset, mind you, but it wasn’t as fabulous as I had hoped. The clouds were moving fast and it was changing from minute to minute. As you can see in the lower part of this picture, between the houses, the best part of the sunset was too low to be seen from our back yard. Still, it was a worth a few minutes of my time and the ground wasn’t so cold that I couldn’t be out in my bare feet for a little while.

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Rockville Cemetery

Rockville Cemetery

Rockville Cemetery

I stopped at Rockville Cemetery on the way home today. With the weather turning warmer (relatively) and the sun out, it’s very tempting to be outdoors as much as possible. My job, of course, keeps me inside most of the time and it’s been fairly busy lately, with lots of revisions and bug fixes. That’s meant that I haven’t been out during the day too often. With the time change it’s light later in the day and that gives me more of a chance to get out after work.

Rockville Cemetery, on Old Baltimore Road, is a nice, relatively quiet place. The eponym of my high school alma mater is buried there. The graves of Walter Johnson and his wife Hazel are in a very shady spot under a pair of mature spruce trees. Generally it’s hard to get a good picture of them because it’s so shady but when I was there today the sun was slanting under the trees’ lower branches and lighting up the grave markers. This photo is from another part of the cemetery, though. I really love big, old, white oaks (Quercus alba) and this is a nice specimen.

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Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)

I stopped at the park on the east side of Lake Needwood this afternoon. It was a beautiful, warm day, although not as warm as it’s been. I heard and then saw a few turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) a short walk from where I stopped and I headed in their direction. They had moved up into the trees by the time I got close but I also happened to see two red tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) as I walked nearer. I got a few pictures of them but they were taken through the branches and didn’t turn out all that well. I got a nice pictures of this turkey vulture with its wings outspread, but that picture, too, had branches in the way. This one, of the vulture as he took off from his perch on the tree stump is my favorite. The next frame, taken a fraction of a second later, is actually better of the bird, but he’s just starting to go behind another tree trunk, which sort of ruins the effect.

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Embroidered Robe

Embroidered Robe

Embroidered Robe

On Saturday we stopped at the storage locker and brought some things home to go through. That included a clothes rack and one of the items on that rack was a large, hooded robe all covered with embroidery. This photo is a part of that embroidery. Neither Cathy nor her mom know where it’s from but probably Cathy’s dad bought it somewhere. It’s in pretty new condition but it’s too long for either Cathy or her mom to wear (and not really their style, in any case). The embroidery is pretty, with flowers and plants in orange, yellow, and pale green.

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Windflower (Anemone blanda)

Windflower (Anemone blanda)

Windflower (Anemone blanda)

Last Sunday after church we walked to the Stadtman Preserve and I posted a picture of three little Chionodoxa forbesii blossoms. This week we went there again. The daffodils are starting to bloom and there are lots more Chionodoxa flowers opening up throughout the property. It was this little windflower (Anemone blanda) that really caught my eye. It’s such a pretty little thing. I’ve had a few of them in our garden but they never really amounted to much. I need to make a note to myself to buy a bunch of them and put them in. Interestingly, the flower is apetalous (it has no petals) and what look like petals are actually sepals.

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Forsythia Buds

Forsythia Buds

Forsythia Buds

The forsythia is starting to bud. As I write this, a week after the photo was taken, the buds have opened and the flowers are out. Spring can move quickly at times and when we have a warm spell, as we do at some point most years, buds open quickly. We often then have a frost that can kill back some of the more tender plants a bit. The early flowering star magnolia, with its fleshy, succulent petals, is generally one of the hardest hit. Other plants, like most early bulbs, the Lenten rose, and the forsythia, are better able to cope with a little cold, and generally just stop briefly, only to continue once it warms back up.

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Rain on My Office Window

Rain on My Office Window

Rain on My Office Window

Yesterday we had almost 2 inches of rain but it was sunny this morning. Then, a little before 4:00 PM, it got very dark and we had a serious downpour. The storm raged for about 15 minutes and then withing a half an hour the sky was clear and solid blue again. I took this picture towards the end of the rain, focusing on the water on my office window, looking out towards the big trees on the edge of the parking lot. I was glad not to have been caught out in it. It really came down hard. The forecast for the weekend is nice, however. We can still have some cold and even the possibility of snow, but spring it definitely upon us.

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Old Phone

Old Telephone

Old Telephone

I’m not going to pretend that most of my followers have never seen one of these before, because it hasn’t actually been that long since there were rotary phones in every house. In the 1960s, mom took Ralph and me to the New York World’s Fair and we got to time ourselves dialing our home phone number on both a rotary dial phone and a touch tone phone. Needless to say, the difference was pretty significant. I remember how you hated having to dial numbers with a lot of 9s or 0s in them. We also talked to each other from different booths on a video phone. That took a little longer to pan out, but now, that’s here, as well. The phone pictured here is probably from the 1950s or possibly the 40s. On the other hand, I suspect it still works.

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Lenten Rose ‘Rose Quartz’

Lenten Rose ‘Rose Quartz’

Lenten Rose ‘Rose Quartz’

I hope you won’t mind one more Hellebore. This one is called ‘Rose Quartz’ and like the crocus pictured yesterday, it is in the bed out back with lily of the valley and Vinca minor. This is only its second year blooming and while there are more flowers this year, it’s still not a huge, robust plant yet. Lenten rose is a long-lived perennial and although they take a while to get established, they take very little care and are quite sturdy. The Latin name for the genus, Helleborus, comes from the Greek helein (ἑλεῖν), meaning “to injure”, and bora (βορά), meaning “food” because the leaves, stems, and roots are poisonous to humans.

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Crocus

Crocus

Crocus

The so-called Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus and its cultivars) is native to the mountains of Europe, the Pyrenees, Alps and Carpathians. The name crocus comes from krokos (κρόκος) the ancient Greek name for saffron (Crocus sativus). While crocuses prefer gritty, well-drained soils they do amazingly well in our heavy, clay soil that is totally water logged all winter most years. This one is growing in a bed of lily of the valley (Convallaria majalis) and Vinca minor in our back yard. There are also some daffodils and hyacinths that are starting to come up bu those won’t be in bloom for a little while yet.

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Helleborus ‘Red Racer’

Helleborus ‘Red Racer’

Helleborus ‘Red Racer’

This is, I think, my new favorite Lenten rose. I have two of them, bought from McClure and Zimmerman in the fall of 2014 but this is the first year the blooms have been what I might describe as fully formed. They are a variety called Red Racer but they don’t seem to be listed on the mzbulb web site any longer. Other outlets seem to have them, though. I really love flowers (and leaves) of this sort of color, especially when back lit. These aren’t in the best location it terms of the sun shining on them from behind, but it was just filtering through the shrubbery behind them this evening.

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