It was a very changeable day today, raining, then sunny, then cloudy. There was a red-tailed hawk circling over the field next to my office but by the time I got outside it was gone. So, you’ll have to be satisfied with a cloud picture, instead. They were moving fast and changing by the minute.
Tagged With: Blue
The First Scilla
The white crocuses and this white squill started blooming yesterday. The binomial is Scilla mischtschenkoana which has to be in the running for the word with the most consecutive consonants. Anyway, it’s a pretty little thing. Some daffodils started blooming today, but I can only post one picture here, so you’ll have to wait. I have a feeling you’ll be getting sick of my flower pictures before too long.
Getting close again today after a few days of not. The forget-me-nots are starting to bloom so I’m posting one now before I forget.
Nigella damascena, otherwise known as love-in-a-mist, is a very pretty annual. It grows easily from seed and is a good choice for a sunny spot in the garden.
This is a sweet little blue allium. I think I’ll get a few more of these this fall.
I was taking Dorothy to church this evening. As we were leaving she asked why I was bringing my camera. I said, “you never know, there might be something to take a picture of.” As soon as we got out of the neighborhood and could see the sky we were glad I had brought it.
We stopped at the County Agricultural Farm Park for pictures. I’ve seen lots of sunsets with lots of different colors but I don’t remember one where the predominant color was blue (except on a clear night, obviously). The clouds were beautiful and it really felt like an autumn evening, breezy and cool.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I was really hoping for another good sunset this evening. There were lines of clouds in the west and it had the look of shaping up to be quite nice. By 8:40 or so, however, most of the clouds were gone and there were just a few, low in the sky and mostly behind the trees and houses of our neighborhood. This photo was taken at 8:51 and there is a little color on the clouds but this isn’t the sort of sunset you call your family out to see. I took pictures and got what I could, but it wasn’t what I had hoped for. Maybe next time.
Mile-a-Minute Vine (Polygonum perfoliatum)
Mile-a-minute vine, also known as devil’s tail and tearthumb, is an herbaceous annual vine in the buckwheat family. If you’ve ever encountered it you will know where the name tearthumb comes from. It is native to Asia but has become naturalized throughout the area and is a serious pest. Think of bindeed on steroids and with seriously barbed stems but without interesting flowers. It does have interesting fruit, I have to admit. These little berries are less that 5mm across but they are such a clear, beautiful blue, I cannot help but enjoy them. That’s not to say I would ever consider growing this for the ornamental value of the berries, of course. But they are still pretty.
Tradescantia virginiana (Spiderwort)
This spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) is growing right outside our kitchen door and although it doesn’t have so many flowers at this time of the year, it still manages to put out a few. They are such beautiful little flowers and I can’t imagine not having them in our garden. The color ranges from blue to purple and it’s not always the same in photographs as it is to the eye. It’s possible that some of the color comes from the physical structure of the flower rather than from a pigment but I don’t actually know for sure. Examples of structural colors include those found in peacock feathers, butterfly wings, and the beautiful iridescence of beetle carapaces. If you are interested in structural colors, you might find this article interesting: Color from Structure in The Scientist.
Today was another day when I didn’t really get a chance to get outdoors and by the time I was home it was too dark for much photography in the yard. I looked around for things to photograph in the house and found a few things that were a bit interesting. This blue glass vase is nice. The picture is close enough to it that it’s more an abstract image than anything specific. I love deep blues and in fact I like most colors when they are really deep and rich like this. The darkening sky at dusk, the deep orange or red of a brilliant sunset, all the varied greens on a rainy day in the woods, even some peoples’ eyes. Color is all around and it’s really something to be thankful for.
Watts Branch Tributary
This is a small tributary of Watts Branch, which comes through a culvert under West Montgomery Avenue (before it becomes Key West Avenue). On the other side of the road is a small drainage pond build for storm water management and in which there were beavers living until a few years ago. It joins a larger creek that flows through another storm water management pond between my cuilding and the rest of our company’s campus. It goes back under West Montgomery Avenue again before draining into Watts Branch near the Interstate 270 interchange.
I went over to my mom’s this evening to see what was wrong with her computer. When I got there, I took a little time before going in to take some sunset pictures. I had a hard time finding a good spot to see the sky, but this spot worked out reasonably well, overlooking a shopping mall. It’s in the foreground, hidden by the dark trees, though, so that doesn’t really matter, so you can’t really tell. The color was mostly along the lower part of the sky and I took some pictures with the short telephoto lens and others with the 24mm, which on my camera is equivalent to a 35mm, more or less. This is one from the wide angle.
Cathy and I took a walk in the neighborhood this afternoon. It was cool but the sky was an amazing blue and I stopped a few times to take pictures of trees against that blue. There are few that are prettier in the winter than the pale sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) against that blue and that’s what we have here. Just before I took this picture, we passed a yard with a large oak tree that had a fairly substantial branch which had broken off and which was suspended above the driveway and yard on some lower branches. The homeowner was trying to get a rope over the branch so he could pull it down. He was wearing a helmet and throwing a rope with a wrench tied to the end as a weight. It was pretty high up and by the time we got past he still hadn’t managed to get it high enough, but I assume he eventually did. Ah, the joys of home ownership.
As I was driving home this evening the clouds were acting like there would be a wonderful sunset. By the time I actually got home, most of the color was gone, although there had never been nearly as much as there could have been. Nevertheless, I got my camera out and went into the back yard. This photo is looking basically southwards and I am pretty pleased with it. The colors are pretty accurate to what it looked like, with a lot of blue in the clouds themselves and three slashes of orange. I really enjoyed watching it until the orange disappeared and only the blue-grey clouds were left.
And More Snow
We got about six inches from late Saturday until midday Sunday. At that point I shoveled the walk and driveway and the picture from yesterday was taken about that time. Then it started snowing and was still coming down until about 11:00 PM. This morning we got up at about 5:30 and Dorothy planned to leave at 6:00 to drive back to school. There was an additional six to eight inches on the sidewalk ramp, so we got between 12 and 14 inches, I’d say. I got everything shoveled and the snow off of Dorothy’s car. In the end she waited until the sun had come up and left at about 8:00. Happily there was not much snow to our north and she had no problems getting back to Massachusetts. The sun came out later in the morning and it was quite beautiful out.
It was a relatively uneventful day today. I got some things done that have been hanging over me for quite a long time. Well, to be more precise, I got started on some things that have been hanging over me for quite a long time, but that’s a big step to getting them finished. There was a team of men working on cutting a tree down in the neighborhood and I took some pictures of that but then we had a pretty nice sunset, so this picture took precedence. It’s wasn’t a stunning sunset but it was very pretty, I think.
After church we walked over to the Stadtman Preserve, where hundreds of daffodils are coming up and a few blooming. There were also huge drifts of winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) although they were almost entirely past their bloom. There were also a very few of these Chionodoxa forbesii flowers. With the common name glory of the snow, it’s no surprise that they bloom early and they are definitely one of my favorite flowers, especially among the spring ephemerals. It is native to western Turkey and is hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. Those growing in my garden are considerably behind, but I’m looking forward to having them bloom in a few weeks.
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.
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).
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.
Myosotis sylvatica (Woodland Forget-me-not)
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.
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.
Sunset, Ocean Isle Beach
Generally you look west in the evening to see the sunset and the best colors are often in that direction. This evening the best view was to the east, as seen here. Although we’re on the eastern coast of North America, the coastline runs almost due east-west right here. So, rather than the sun rising over the ocean and setting over land, it rises to the left on the beach and sets to the right. Although I took a lot of pictures, mostly what I was doing was enjoying the reflections of the light as each wave receded, leaving a very flat, highly reflective surface on the lower beach.
Sunset, Ocean Isle Beach
As our week at the beach came to an end, Brian from next door came over to let me know there was a nice sunset and that I should come out with my camera. There was this single cloud, far out to sea, lit by the setting sun, surrounded by the blue of the ocean, the sky, and the other clouds. I’m pretty happy with this picture as a relaxing reminder of a mostly relaxing week. Being with family for a week, it’s inevitable that there will be little things but for the most part, it was very nice and that’s how I’m going to remember it. The cottage we were in this year was good, in terms of layout, giving us the space we needed to spread out. Having the pool was a bonus and more enjoyable that I would have expected. It was shared with the three connected units, but that hardly mattered. One of those units was our cousins and it was nice being so close to them. If nothing else, it meant they could stick their head in our door and let us know about sunsets (and, as it turned out tomorrow morning, leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) hatching at the end of our path to the beach).
By the time I got home this evening I didn’t feel like going out looking for something to photograph. Later in the evening, as is usually the case, I wished I had, because it meant I had to find something indoors to photograph. If finding something new and interesting to photograph in the yard is a challenge, how much more so is that true in the house. Fortunately there was a vase of flowers on the dining room table and in it were the blue and grey balls of Eryngium planum, better known as sea holly. These are interesting flowers. We had some in our garden in Gaithersburg and I should plant some here. The blue would be especially nice as a contrast to all the yellow-orange of the black-eyed Susan flowers.
Lobelia siphilitica (Blue Cardinal Flower)
This is a really nice plant. Blue cardinal flower, Lobelia siphilitica, is an easily grown, herbaceous perennial, native to eastern North America and hardy to USDA zone 4. It needs fairly moist soil and does better here in part shade, where the ground doesn’t dry out so much, or in full sun in pots where it gets regular watering. It blooms over a fairly long period, which is always appreciated. One thing I didn’t know about it is that the species name of siphilitica is from “a prior medicinal use of the plant in the treatment of venereal disease.”
It does well in our garden and we have it scattered around. This particular plant is growing in a container on the driveway with black-eyed Susans behind it. Blue and yellow is always a good combination in the garden and with yellow being so prominent in ours, adding that touch of blue is great.
Cupido comyntas (Eastern Tailed-Blue)
I went outside today and walked around a bit in the lot next to my office. The weather was fine and it was nice to be out in the sunshine. I startled a belted kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) as I walked towards a vernal drainage pond. It’s often completely dry by this time of year but it had more water in it than in previous years and it hasn’t all evaporated yet. Above it, I was able to get close enough to get a pretty good photograph of this eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas). They are pretty common but easily missed, as they are fairly small and flit around near the ground. They’re worth looking out for, I think.
Cathy and I went to Trader Joe’s after work and then stopped at the Rio for a bit. We walked around the pond and I took some photos, mostly of the reflections in the water. This is the Launch Workplaces building near the western end of the pond. I thought the reflections were nice. There was a gaggle of (probably middle school) girls on the bridge posing for group pictures on their phones and we heard the dad of one of them say something like, “Well, we’re eating now. You can take pictures or you can eat.” The girls didn’t seem interested in eating.
The story is that this is a tear catcher or tear bottle, used to collect the tears of mourners in Persia (i.e. Iran and Afghanistan). According to tradition, bottles like this (and in other shapes and from other places) were used to catch the tears and the more tears the more regret over losing the loved one. The shape of the opening, theoretically, is meant to fit over the eye, although it doesn’t really fit very well and I can think of much better designs if that’s really what it’s about.
I’ve never been terribly comfortable believing that they were ever actually used for this, but that’s the story. I’ve never found any convincing proof that they were actually used for this purpose. Interestingly, the Wikipedia page on them has very inconclusive and even somewhat conflicting statements about them and most of the statements are tagged as needing a citation, so even those are pretty suspect (not to mention that nearly everything you find there is suspect).
I don’t think this bottle is terribly old. If it is, it’s in terrifically good shape. It is, however, a remarkably beautiful, cobalt blue and regardless of the veracity of it’s origin and original use, it’s a beautiful example of the glass blower’s art.
Clouds at Dusk
Cathy and I came to work together this morning, dropping my car off at the shop for a bit of work. The air-bag warning light is on and we need to know what that’s about. The Honda dealer said they needed to replace the sensor. They also said the rear brakes were in desperate need of work. This was when I had it at the dealer for work based on a recall notice. Since dealerships are generally more expensive than your average, independent repair shop, I figured I’d get a second opinion. Anyway, after work I met Cathy where she had parked and had a couple minutes to photograph the sky. The clouds were collecting like there would be a nice sunset but it never really materialized. The sun went down, the clouds turned from white to grey with only a hint of color. You can’t win them all.
The wild violets (Viola sororia) are up in the lawn. They’re pretty difficult to get rid of but our lawn is not particularly weed free in general, so they are among the least of our worries. The flowers range in color from nearly all white to nearly all bluish purple. This one is about half way in between. We actually have a few yellow violets and I’m assuming those are a different species, possibly Viola pubescens, but I don’t actually know that. They look very similar to these, except for the flower color.
I think this is my absolute favorite of the spring ephemerals. It’s called glory of the snow in honor of it’s generally very early blooming time, sometimes when there is still snow on the ground. The genus Chionodoxa comes from the Greek words chion meaning snow and doxa meaning glory. I think it’s the color that I like best about it, along with its dainty habit and it’s remarkably easy care. It is hardy as far north as USDA zone 3. In a few short weeks it will be done and gone for the year, sleeping away both the heat of summer and the cold of next winter.
Blooming shortly after the beautiful, blue Chionodoxa forbesii (glory of the snow), the Scilla siberica (Siberian squill) are starting to come out. They are a darker blue with down-turned flowers but quite similar. In fact, “some experts have merged Chionodoxa into the genus Scilla under the belief that the differences are not significant enough to warrant separate genus status.” (Missouri Botanical Garden, Plant Finder). I don’t really care one way or the other and just enjoy them both as spring ephemerals. I look forward to their bloom every year and don’t think I could have too many of either.
Mertensia virginica (Virginia Bluebells)
Like most folks, we’re mostly confined to our house and to walks in the neighborhood. We figured that we could go for a drive so yesterday we went out and about. One place we went was the Montgomery County Agricultural History Farm Park on Muncaster Road. I didn’t take my camera with me, which is pretty unusual, so we went back there today with my camera this time. There were a few others there but everyone kept their distance from one another.
They have a small, woodland garden that is particularly nice right now, with mostly early spring blooms. These Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are just starting to open and are so lovely.
Myosotis sylvatica (Woodland Forget-me-not)
The woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) is blooming in our back yard. Cathy planted these and they have spread to various places, mostly in the lawn, and they are very pretty little things. Similar to the flowers of the Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) he buds are pinkish purple and the flowers change to blue as they open and mature. Also, the little white “eye ring” around the center change from white to yellow. They are delicate little flowers and although they are not a native species, they are lovely and don’t go to crazy in our yard, so I don’t mind.
Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas)
You can pretty much be sure that if there are things blooming, there are at least a few insects about. Insects aren’t the only pollinators, of course but they do the lion’s share of the work. Nevertheless, they are not out in numbers that we’ll see later in the year. I saw and photographed two different insects today. This one is an eastern tailed-blue (Cupido comyntas) and the other was a syrphid flies (Syrphidae, probably Toxomerus geminatus). So, the insect season is getting underway.
Evolvulus ‘Blue My Mind’
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.
Cathy and I took a walk this evening and enjoyed an occasional view of the sky. Our neighborhood has well established trees, having been built up about 50 years ago. Different parts of the neighborhood have different street trees and some of them have lasted better than others. Many of the original red oaks (Quercus rubra) are gone, while others are very healthy. The willow oaks (Quercus phellos) are more uniformly healthy and generally quite large. There’s one street I call the cathedral because of how the willow oaks form a Gothic nave over the road. The maples (mostly red maples, Acer rubrum) are at the other end of the spectrum. Some are fine but most are less healthy or have been removed. There are sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) scattered around and they are generally healthy, as well. Anyway, the link between the trees and this photo is that the trees mean that most of the time while walking we don’t get an uninterrupted view of the sky.
We’re in the heart of summer. We’ve had over three weeks of daytime high’s over 90&#b0;F and it approached 100°F today with even higher temperature forecast for tomorrow. In spite of the heat, Cathy and I felt like we really needed to get out. The Montgomery County Farm Park seemed like a good destination. Their demonstration garden was very nice. It’s a bit overgrown with weeds but since it’s not our responsibility, that bothered us less than weeds do at home. I think these are some sort of wild sunflower but there are quite a few plants with this basic look and I didn’t see a label on them. Regardless, this is summer. Big, bright, bold, yellow flowers against a beautiful, clear, blue sky.
It was very hot today, and quite muggy, but Cathy and I have been trying to get out on the weekend, at least for a little while, regardless. We went tot he Mont. County Agricultural Farm Park today and walked on one of the trails for a while. Parts were in the shade but even then it was so humid that we were pretty well drenched with sweat. Nevertheless, it was good to be out. We also walked through their demonstration garden again. It wasn’t a lot different to the last time we went but I got a few more pictures, including a few of these sunflowers against the sky.
Cichorium intybus (Chicory)
It wasn’t so hot today, although relative humidity was near 100%. Cathy and I went out for a walk at the former Redgate Golf Course, now Redgate Park. We saw a pair of white-tailed deer (a mother and fawn) as well as a few different wildflowers. This is a pretty common one, an import from the old world, but still a pretty flower. The others that I photographed were also non-natives. There was the Asiatic dayflower (Commelia communis), which has two white petal-like structures above the flower, and moth mullein (Verbascum blattaria), a pretty, little, white flower with a magenta throat and stamens. We also went to Rockville Cemetery, where we saw another fawn, and then Croydon Nature Center before returning home.
I suppose you could say these are late summer flowers, rather than fall flowers, but there’s no hard line between summer and fall. The black-eyed Susans are summer flowers and are just finishing up. There are still quite a few of them blooming but not nearly so many as there were. The autumn clematis (Clematis terniflora) is just about in full bloom, as is the blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum). The blackberry lily (Iris domestica), which blooms in early summer, is nearly in seed. All together, it makes a pretty nice combination of colors and textures.
Clouds. I can’t keep my eyes off them clouds in the sky. ‘Cause I know it won’t be long, won’t be long.
Song lyrics. Not my song, and yet, it’s a song I sometimes sing to myself as I watch the clouds rolling across the sky. It was a busy week and I’m happy for the weekend. And sitting out back and watching the clouds is a nice way to unwind. Of course, this song isn’t just about relaxing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t. The song, by Barry McGuire, is a reference to Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62, and Luke 21:27–28 (“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”).
Torenia ‘Summer Wave’
We’ve grown Torenia fournieri before but I don’t think it has ever done as well as it did this year. We have a couple of them in containers on the back patio and they have been in constant bloom all summer and will probably not stop until we get a killing frost. They are also known a wishbone flower because the stamens join to form a shape similar to the wishbone of a chicken. This one is a variety called ‘Summer Wave’. Ours got a bit of sun but they are also really good for shade. You better believe we’re going to get this again next year.
Cathy and I went for a walk late today at the Blue Mash Trail behind the Laytonsville land fill. It’s a nice, easy walk and we enjoyed the fall color still showing on a few trees. There is a fair amount of oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), which is pretty, even if it is a bit invasive. There’s a small group of American persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana) but not much fruit was left at this point. This photo is of juniper berries and leaves. I particularly like this color combination. It’s especially rich on an overcast day like we had this afternoon.
Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)
Cathy and I went for a walk on the western side of Lake Needwood this afternoon, parking at Needwood Mansion. It’s a trail we haven’t walked on before, although Cathy ran at least one cross country meet here when she was in high school. We saw quite a few eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and some of them were even close enough that I was able to get a reasonable picture or two. I really would like a longer lens for this sort of thing. Relying on the 100mm lens I have leaves me a little disappointed, but this one is pretty good, if I say so myself.
This American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) is in our neighbor’s yard. It’s a bit, healthy tree and in the summer it is often lovely at dusk with the evening sun turning the bright green leaves a wonderful orange-green that’s very hard to describe. In the winter, without its leaves, the beauty of the sycamore is in their bark, which is a lovely white, especially against the blue of a winter sky. They are large trees and generally better suited to parks and open areas but they also make a fine city tree, being quite tolerant in their habits.
We met our good friend Jean at Burke Lake this afternoon. We’ve never been there before but it was quite nice. There were a lot of folks there but we walked along the shore on a trail that was less used and it was very nice. The wind coming across the lake was fairly cool but the sun was shining and there were birds and it was lovely. Of course the main thing was seeing Jean, and that would have been nice anywhere, but it’s always better to be outdoors, if you can (unless the weather is really nasty, and then it’s great to be somewhere cozy, instead).
Juniper Leaves and Berries
One of my favorite color combinations is the blue of juniper berries and the green of their leaves. I especially like it on an overcast day, when the colors are more vivid. Either color on its own is attractive and in the running for a favorite color, but the combination is especially nice.
Cathy, Dorothy, and I went for a walk on the Blue Mash Trail this afternoon and that’s where this photo was taken. As usual, it was nice to be out in the woods and meadows for a while and we always have plenty to talk about.
We went up county today and to the border with Howard County. This photo is of reflections in the Patuxent River, which here is the boundary between Montgomery and Howard Counties (taken from the Montgomery County side). We were on Annapolis Rock Road and stopped where it crosses the Patuxent. A little further along we found the parking area for Annapolis Rocks, which we’ll return to at some point. It’s a really pretty area and one we’ve never been to before.
It’s been more than a couple years since I planted any new bulbs but of course, one of the beauties of bulbs is that they come up pretty reliably every year. Tulips aren’t that long lived, but daffodils and some of the smaller, more ephemeral blooms will likely be coming up long after I’m gone. This is one of my very favorite blooms, Chionodoxa forbesii, also known as glory of the snow. I like the fact that it blooms so early but I think my favorite thing about it is the amazing blue color. I really need to plant more of this.
Nigella damascena (Love-In-A-Mist)
We were out at Rocklands this morning with Dorothy for their chick-rental pick-up. I took a walk at one point to take some pictures of Anna’s flowers. It was a wet, cool day and there isn’t a lot in bloom at the moment but the love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) was blooming. The flowers are a lovely shade of pale blue and I think it’s even prettier in the rain, with water droplets on the various flower parts. This is a very hardy annual, growing well up to USDA Hardiness Zone 2, although it’s only native to northern Africa and southern Europe.
Platycodon grandiflorus (Balloon Flower)
A few weeks ago we went to Stadler’s with our friend Yvette to buy a few plants for her. She wanted to plant something in memory of her nephew and wanted something blue. She settled on a balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus), which is actually more blue to the eye than it appears here. It’s a really pretty perennial that should do well as long as it’s got the right amount of water. We bought one, too, and have it in a container outside our front door, greeting us with these big, sky blue flowers, and reminding us of Jack, as well. It’s native to the northern far-east and is quite hardy and easily grown. The only thing to watch out for is wet or poorly-drained soils (which is why growing it in a container is easier for us).
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)
A month or two ago I happened to pull out a small Tupperware type container that had cash in it from when I was selling cards and matted photographs. It’s been quite a few years since I did that and at this point, I’m not going to do it any more. There was quite a bit there and I decided I’d use it to buy a telephoto lens, which is something I’ve wanted for quite some time now. I bought a Sigma 150-600mm zoom lens and today was my first outing with it. It’s quite heavy and I had it mounted on a monopod. That isn’t quite as good as a tripod but without that it would have been very difficult to get anything worthwhile. We walked to Blockhouse Point and then drove around to Pennyfield Lock on the C&O Canal. As we were walking back from a nice walk along the canal, I got four photos of this indigo bunting (Passerina cyanea). While it may not an award winning shot, it’s certainly better than anything I’ve been able to get with my other lenses. In the past I’d have to crop quite aggressively to get anything close to this and then it wouldn’t be nearly so sharp. This picture is the full frame. Hopefully there will be more and better bird pictures coming soon.
We took another visit to the Ag. History Farm Park today and Dorothy was there with us. I took more butterfly pictures, including a few of a black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes). I decided, though, that I’d post this photo of a sunflower, instead. It was a lovely day with a beautiful, blue sky and the combination of yellow and blue is so nice, I just can’t get enough of it. We missed the sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area this year, so it was nice to get a small taste of them here.