We spent much of the day working in Cathy’s mom’s house, mostly going through things in the store room in the basement. Where many people have attics that are used to keep things that are never touched but which they don’t want to throw away, this house has a large room in the basement with shelves on both sides. The near end, while somewhat claustrophobic, is at least accessible and the Christmas decorations, at least, are moved in and out annually. The rear half, however, is more of a mystery. There are trucks and barrels, some of which probably haven’t been opened since they were put there, as many as fifty years ago. It turns out that some of them were infiltrated by mice while others were not. Those that were are nearly or entirely a lost cause. Others, though, seem to have protected their contents which are still in virtually the same condition as when they were stored.
Rather than show you any of that, however, I’d decided to post this photo of a portion of the clouds that were forming as we drove home at about twenty to six.
Myosotis sylvatica (Woodland Forget-me-Not)
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.
Lake Frank and Clouds
I stopped at the Avery Road parking lot above Lake Frank on the way home today. It was a beautiful, cool afternoon with—as you can see—billowy white clouds. This was taken with the sun at my back, looking northeast over the lake. I took a few the other direction, as well. This would be a good spot for sunset pictures, although it’s not somewhere you can just drive up to. It’s a few minutes walk down from the parking area. Still, if I am on my way home and there’s a good sunset coming on, it might be worth a try to get here in time. Of course, sunsets around the time I’m coming home are mostly a winter thing.
Scilla siberica (Siberian squill)
I love this beautiful, little bulb. Along with the similar (and related) Chionodoxa (glory of the snow) species, it’s an early, generally blue-flowered bulb. It’s also a very welcome sign of spring. Not as early as the Eranthis or the Galanthus (snow drops, both of which start blooming here in February, it’s still a great thing to see coming up, especially when you have a late snow, as we did this year. Scilla siberica, commonly called Siberian squill, is native to Southern Russia and is hardy as far north as USDA Zone 2. Like Chionodoxa, it has small, mostly blue flowers but they are generally much more thoroughly blue. The other obvious difference is that they open facing downward while Chionodoxa flowers generally face up. If you don’t have any in your yard, I highly recommend them. Buy a bunch this fall and get them in the ground. You’ll be enjoying them for years to come.
I’ve planted a fair amount of this around the yard but I’m not sure I could ever have too much of it. Chionodoxa forbesii, commonly called glory of the snow, is a beautiful, little early spring bulb. Although the daffodils have started blooming and they overlap with this, these are going to be done well before the daffodils. The Latin genus, Chionodoxa, comes from the Greek words chion meaning snow and doxa meaning glory. This reflects their very early flowering, often when snow is still on the ground. The specific epithet, forbesii, honors James Forbes (1773-1861), the British botanist who was employed as the gardener for the Duke of Bedford at Woburn Abbey.
Depending on which computer I use to look at this picture, these hyacinth flowers sometimes look a lot bluer than they are in real life. Other monitors show them the way they looked. If they look blue to you, take my word for it that they are a very strong, electric purple with just a bit of blue on near the base of the flowers. Nevertheless, they look quite nice as blue flowers, too. I’m not a huge fan of hyacinths, mostly because they are so strongly sweet smelling. I don’t mind them in the garden but I don’t want them brought into the house. Every year I take at least one set of pictures of them, though, and think of our friend who loves them. Here’s one for you, Julia.
Waxing Gibbous Moon
A little over five weeks ago I posted a picture of a waxing crescent moon, seen through trees and taken from my mother-in-law’s house. Today’s post is a waxing gibbous moon, although seen through tree branches but this time taken from out front yard. I had been out taking pictures of Eranthis hyemalis (winter aconite) and then noticed the moon. So, you’ll have to wait for another flower picture in favor of this one. The moon is nearing full and was quite lovely against the darkening blue of the sky and set off by the branches of a red oak tree (Quercus rubra) in our front yard.
Azurite and Malachite
The other day I posted a photo of a small souvenir from Republic, Michigan, where some of Cathy’s ancestors lived and at least one was involved in iron mining before moving to Alaska to mine gold. Well, my family has a little mining history, as well. My great grandfather came from England with his parents and at least some of his siblings. They lived in Canada for a while and he was in the military there during the United States Civil War. In the early 1970s he moved to Nevada where he mined for copper and silver. This is a piece of copper ore including both blue azurite (Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2) and green malachite (Cu2CO3(OH)2). It’s a small piece found in the area he lived and worked and I think it’s sort of pretty. This piece is wet, which contributes to its shininess.
The evening sky showed a lot of promise of a spectacular sunset. Starting at a little before 5:15 PM I waited and watched. Every now and then I’d take a picture of the clouds and the beautiful blue sky, anticipating how it would look when the clouds turned a bright orange as the sun dipped behind the horizon. This photo was taken about two minutes before official sunset but sunset colors are just after. This evening, however, most of the clouds were gone shortly after this photo was taken. What clouds were left went from white to pale gray without any color in between. It took about 3 seconds for the light to go out.
It’s been wintry again, which is alright by me, especially seeing as how it’s winter. Our winters are relatively mild compared to some but colder than others, which is sort of what living in a temperate climate is all about, I guess. I pretty much stayed in my office today, with a brief walk across campus and back for a meeting. Other than that I was focused on the task at hand. I took a short break in the early afternoon to take a few pictures but didn’t leave my office to do it. This is the top of a fairly large elm tree on the side of our parking lot. There are two of them that have managed to hold out against Dutch Elm Disease and this is the smaller of the two. They’re likely to go at some point but I’ll enjoy them until that day comes.
Waxing Crescent Moon
The new moon was four days ago, on January 16. The synodic period (the amount of time between full moons, or new moons or whatever) is 29 days, 12 hours, and about 44 minutes. The sidereal orbit (the orbit around the earth without regard to the relative position of the sun) is a little more than two days shorter than that, of course. In the time it takes the moon to circle the earth, the earth has moved almost one twelfth of the way around the sun and it takes the moon that extra two-plus days to get back into the same position relative to the sun and the earth. During the first quarter of the cycle, the moon is a growing (waxing) crescent (less than half visible). The second quarter it is waxing gibbous (more than half visible).
We decided to have our Thanksgiving on Friday this year and that meant that today we had nothing specific to do. I thought we might go to Tridelphia Reservoir and Brighton Dam Recreation Park but when we got there, the parking lot was blocked off and the reservoir was mostly drained. I assume they are doing some sort of maintenance work on the dam. Anyway, there was nothing for it but to go somewhere else. I decided to drive to the Monocacy Aqueduct where the Monocacy River goes under the C&O Canal and then meets the Potomac River. It was an absolutely beautiful day and there were very few people about, so we had a really nice time.
Maple trees are often some of the most spectacular trees in the autumn. Not all species, of course, but quite a few. This is a red maple (Acer rubrum) and it’s one of the best. Others that can be highly recommended for their fall color are Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and sugar maple (Acer saccharum). Of course those are very different trees. Japanese maples are great for small yards but sugar maples get very large and aren’t necessarily the best choice unless you have room to let it go. A lot of trees in our area are still mostly green. The oak trees in the front yard have barely changed at all. Some leaves are coming down from them but doing so without any real color to them. This red maple in our back yard, however, is in its full fall finery. It is especially nice against the brilliant blue of an autumn sky. We’re going to have to start picking up leaves soon.
Limenitis arthemis astyanax (Red-spotted Purple)
I went for a hike with a friend and his four lovely kids today. It was an absolutely gorgeous day and a perfect day to get a little bit lost. We were never really truly lost but we did miss a turn and ended up further from the car than we had originally planned. We enjoyed the woods and the kids in particular enjoyed kicking over mushrooms (after letting me get down on the ground to get a few pictures first). We also saw a slug and I got some nice pictures of that, if pictures of a slug can ever really be considered nice. This picture is a red-spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis astyanax), one of four subspecies of Limenitis arthemis. This is a very distinctive butterfly and quite a pretty thing. Yes, I know that it looks more blue than purple. It’s been mentioned. The ‘red’ spots (which are orange. I know, right?) are on the lower hind wings (i.e., the other side).
Lobelia siphilitica (Blue Cardinal Flower)
After being off a week, it’s shaping up to be a very busy week at work. We’re three days in and I’m definitely ready for the weekend. But I’m sure I’ll make it through, as I usually do. After work I went out back and chased a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) for a while. He wouldn’t let me get close enough for any decent sort of picture. So, I moved on to the blue cardinal flower (Lobelia siphilitica) growing in the back bed. That didn’t have any problem with my presence and I got a few nice pictures. Then I noticed that the monarch was back and I managed to get a few pictures, but the die was cast and I’m going with the Lobelia picture.
I went over to pick up something from Tsai-Hong this afternoon and decided to take a few pictures in the garden. There is a small clump of Eryngium in the front garden, beside the driveway, and that’s what is in this picture. I have no idea what species it is or if it is a hybrid of some sort. We had three or four different Eryngium species in our garden in Gaithersburg and this reminded me that we need to get some for our current garden. They are mostly blue or purple and add such a nice point of interest in a sea of green. They are not really related to the holly (Ilix), of course, but it’s easy to see how they came by their common name, sea holly.