I was across campus to have lunch with a few people today and then went for a short walk in the woods next to my office. I took some pictures of tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) leaves and then crossed the creek and went up to the more open part of the property. There were some areas that were still quite wet from the recent rains we’ve had. The ground around here is predominately heavy clay and water doesn’t percolate very quickly into it, particularly once it is waterlogged. This is a drainage catch basin and later in the summer it will likely be completely dry. For now, though, it’s a haven for birds and dragonflies and a small oasis in an otherwise built-up (although suburban) area.
Tagged With: Summer
A Fine Summer’s Day
I stopped and walked into Rock Creek Park on the way home today. It’s a nice, wooded area and generally away from traffic, so I like being there. It’s definitely high summer now and the underbrush is about at it’s deepest but I’m happy to leave the bike path and walk the short distance through the brush to the creek itself. I passed a few spider webs, which isn’t unusual this time of year, but it wasn’t until I got to this one that I stopped. This one had the sun shining on it and that made it a lot easier to photograph. This was made by a spined Micrathena (Micrathena gracilis), one of the orb weavers (family Araneidae).
I’ve posted pictures that have Black-eyed Susans in them but today’s photo is just of them. To say we have a few is a bit of an understatement. The reality is that we have let them run riot and there are a lot of them in the back yard. They add so much color that we don’t really mind, especially around the patio. We’ve managed to keep one large and one small walkway through them, so we can get out into the yard. They are pretty popular with the pollinators, attracting bees, flies, moths, and butterflies. One interesting thing about them is the photos I take always look bluer than they look in real life and I have to correct for that. On the other hand, the leaves really do have a fair amount of blue in their green.
The gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa) are just about ripe. The squerrals are eating them as they ripen up and I don’t think we’re actually going to get much of a harvest. That’s our own fault, because we haven’t protected them and aren’t going out each morning to pick them as they ripen up. I don’t mind, terribly, although I have been picking and eating them when I do go out. They are just the right combination of sweet and tart. If I had a bit of land and used some of it for vegetable gardening, I think I’d plant a row of these and put a net over them. I might put a net over this one next year, although it’s against the fence and that might make it tricky.
Cathy and Some Flowers
It was a work day today but as usual, a few times during the day we took a break from work and went outside briefly. It’s been hot, with about three weeks with high temperatures above 90° That’s not really our favorite thing, but the flowers blooming in the yard get us out, at least a little. Here’s Cathy at the south end of the house with some bee balm (Monarda didyma, the magenta flowers behind her), orange tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium, off her right shoulder), Blackberry Lilies (Iris domestica, the slightly paler orange lower down and further to her right), and some purple butterfly bush (Buddleia). There are two roses on the frame against the wall but they are mostly without blooms right now.
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.
Cathy and Tiger Lilies
When I posted the close up of the tiger lily a couple days ago, I knew it wouldn’t be the only tiger lily photo I’d post this summer. They’re simply too nice to get just one mention. Dad had these growing in the garden along the driveway. Quite a few years ago we took some of the bulbils that form in the leaf axils on young stems. I find it interesting that they seem to form on young stems and not on the more mature stems. Generally you think of a more mature plant yielding more of this sort of thing. But I suppose the more mature stems produce a lot more seeds, so they don’t need to do this.
Anyway, we have them well established in a few places in the yard and they are magnificent. This is the biggest and most successful bunch, growing in a bed where a dead oak tree was removed a while back, out near the road. As you can see, they’re about eight feet tall and really happy in this sunny location. I recommend them pretty highly. The tiger swallowtails seem to like them, as well.
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
I probably should have waited a little longer to take a picture of this, since it isn’t really in full bloom yet. But I only got outside for a little while late this afternoon and this is all I took photos of. Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), is an American native and well worth growing. It really adds a splash of bright color to the garden. The only thing here is that you need to watch it in our dry summer heat that it doesn’t dry out too much. It likes moist soil and can even tolerate a little brief flooding. If you’re in a place that’s not quite so hot in the summer, you could plant it in full sun but for us, it does better with a bit of shade. This one is growing under a largish cherry tree and it a bit protected from the hot, afternoon sun. If you have a stream or pond, this would be great on the banks of that. Ours will have more flowers in a matter of days but you can already see how red the blooms are and why it’s such a nice thing in the border. We should have more than we do.
Cathy’s Patio Garden
It’s summer here in Maryland and with it come the summer colors. Cathy often plants containers with a mixture of annual and perennials plants for the patio but this year I think she’s outdone herself. The patio is surrounded by black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia) and that adds quite a nice backdrop to all the containers. To Cathy’s left, above the red tea pot, are cana lilies and a beautiful, bright red Pelargonium (a.k.a. geranium). The yellow and orange in the lower middle are purslane and there’s more of that in the bottom right, hear the elephant’s trunk. The hanging basket in the upper left is Lantana camara. As you can see, there’s a fair amount going on in the large, central bed. The garden against the fence has been dug out and almost completely restarted. It should be nice in a year or two, though.
Polites peckius (Peck’s Skipper)
The skippers are here in their great numbers. They aren’t flashy like the swallowtails and they don’t buzz like the bees, but they are everywhere. They especially like the black-eyed Susan flowers (as seen here) and the Verbena bonariensis but they can also be seen on other plants. This is, I believe, a Peck’s skipper (Polites peckius), also known as the yellow patch or yellow spotted skipper. The larvae feed on grasses while the adults take nectar from flowers. They are widespread across much of North America.
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.
Monarch on Butterfly Weed
The monarch (Danaus plexippus) is one of the prettiest butterflies we get. They don’t show up in nearly as great numbers as do the tiger swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) and maybe that’s what makes their appearance more exciting. This one was on a tender butterfly weed (Asclepias curassavica) that it in a container on our back patio. I took this one photo from the lawn side of the patio before trying to get around to the other side. Just as well because it flew off after that and I got no more. I did take some more photos of the tiger swallowtails but I’m sure I’ll get more of them this summer.
We walked another section of the upper Rock Creek trail today. We parked at Redland Middle School and went from there to Lake Needwood. This section of trail is mostly level with just a little up and down. It follows the creek and included crossing Muncaster Mill Road. Although there is a crosswalk, you pretty much have to wait for someone actually paying attention who stops, as they are supposed to do. The path and creek also go under the Intercounty Connector (MD 200). Our walk was about 2.5 miles round trip, although it didn’t actually feel like we went that far. I was nice to be in the woods, although the humidity was very high and we were pretty well drenched by the time we got back to the car.
Our yard is pretty heavy on the Rudbeckias, (black-eyed Susan) although we’ve actually gotten rid of a few. You probably wouldn’t notice and it’s going to take a bit more work if we’re actually going to cut back on them noticeably. On the other hand, this time of year, they really are wonderful in their great numbers. The insects like them, although perhaps they aren’t the favorite flower. The skippers in particular are to be found on them and that’s where I usually see transverse flower flies (Eristalis transversa).
Cathy planted two canna lilies this spring in a container on the back patio. Our patio is generally nice in the summer, with a collection of plants in containers as well as the black-eyed Susans that surround it. This year is, I think, the best it’s ever been. This canna lily is part of the reason. It’s so bright and especially when back-lit, the dark leaves add an additional contrast. The patio is a riot of colors, with the Pelargonium right behind the canna and with all sorts of other flowers of a wide variety of colors. Definitely nice to have. We’re so fortunate.
I took more photos of the Scudderia (a genus of katydid) nymph today. It’s still in the canna lily flower and still eating the petals. I suspect it will move on pretty soon. That or it will be eaten, of course. This cosmos is growing in a small pot on our patio. We’ve never really grown them much, but they sure do add a lot of color to a garden in summer. We could do worse than have lots of them.
I also took a few photos of a dinner we had with a dear (and winsome!) friend, who has been living with her recently widowed mother-in-law. But they don’t really do justice to the great time we had.
Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
There’s a lot in bloom right now, but there’s actually less variety than there was earlier in the year. The garden is full of black-eyed Susan and there are other, less showy flowers, like the mountain mint, which attracts so many pollinators. Around on the side of the house, in the shadier part of the garden, we have this cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis), which is absolutely stunning. The red is so pure and bright, especially when the sun is on it. Cathy saw a hummingbird come to this, as well, which is exciting. I suppose I should have posted a photo of the two of us, for our anniversary, but flowers are where it’s at.
Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue Mistflower)
We picked up some blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum) along with some other plants that were being given to us. It’s spread around the yard and now we have both the normal pale blue, as seen here (it’s more blue than this photo makes it look) and a white sport (or perhaps the blue is the sport). It blooms late in the summer, just starting now, and will be around into the fall. I don’t know that I’d run out an buy any, but it’s not bad to have a late summer bloomer in the garden. The skippers tend to be the most common pollinators on it, but the bees go to it some, too.
The Back Garden
This is a portion of our back garden, which, as you can see, is somewhat dominated by black-eyed Susan flowers at this time of year. They are probably just past their peak but will provide color for a bit longer as they fade from their bright orange to a more rusty, autumnal ochre. You can just make out the hardware cloth ‘fence’ around one of my roses a little to the left of center. By the end of the summer, the three roses should be tall enough that they are safe from rabbits, although there’s not really anything we can do about deer.
Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides)
Cathy and I took a walk on the west side of Lake Frank after work today. The heavy rain we had yesterday meant that the water level was high, but the trail wasn’t too muddy. We enjoyed being in the woods, hearing the birds, frogs, and insects, and being away from traffic and people. We saw large patches of partridge berry (Mitchella repens), which we hadn’t notice there before. Today’s photo, though, is of the ubiquitous Christmas fern (Polystichum acrostichoides), a common perennial in our woods.
Cathy and Jean at Scott’s Run Falls
We met up with Jean today for a walk. I found a new place that we’ve drive by without noticing up until now. It’s just into Virginia and right off the Capitol Beltway on Georgetown Pike. The hike was pleasant, although there’s a significant climb both ways down to the river. This waterfall is where Scott’s Run empties into the Potomac River. We also walked a little way down the river before retracing our steps back to the parking area. It’s a nice, quiet place and we really enjoyed it. Of course, that may have been the company, as much as the location. It’s always good to be with Jean.
Eutrochium purpureum (Joe Pye Weed)
I stopped at the Croyden Creek Nature Center on the way home, figuring there might be something to photograph there. The swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) was just starting to bloom and I took a few pictures of that with bees on it. Around the other side of the nature center there was some Joe Pye weed (Eutrochium purpureum) coming up. It’s a native, herbaceous perennial and I find it sort of humorous that garden centers actually are able to sell it, since it grows wild around here. I don’t know who Joe Pye was but I’ve seen one story that he was a Native American medicine man who used the plant for various treatments. Anyway, I was attracted to the symmetry of the leaves and the way the light was shining on them at the top of the stem.
Lightning Bugs (a.k.a. Fireflies)
I’m not sure how well this will show up unless it’s viewed on a largish screen. Anyway, I decided to try taking long exposures to capture the flashing lights of lightning bugs, otherwise known as fireflies. They didn’t turn out as well as I would have liked, because when I used a long enough exposure to get a lot of flashes, parts of the picture were so bright that it looked like day time. That was mostly due to electric lights from our neighbors. If I get a chance, I may try to find a darker spot and see what I can do. The trails of lights are generally made by individual insects, flying along flashing as they go.
I generally enjoy summer storms. I’m glad, of course, that we don’t live in a place with common tornadoes. I wouldn’t be very psyched about those coming through even occasionally. We had one here, actually, back in June of 2013 but as tornadoes go, it wasn’t terribly serious. Quite a few trees down including some that did extensive damage to houses. Anyway, today’s storm was nothing like that. Just heavy rain for a little while and then before too long, a blue sky replaced the clouds. This is the sort of storm I particularly like, with or without a little wind.
Blackberry Lily and Tall Verbena
We have quite a few of these orange-flowered blackberry lilies (Iris domestica) around our garden. Most of them are seedlings from the first few that we planted. We brought those dew from our old house and they originally came from seeds we collected in South Carolina. In the circular hawthorn bed in our front yard, they compete with the tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis) for dominance. The lavender is done and the rosemary isn’t really tall enough to be seen. This rime of year, these two herbaceous perennials provide the lions share of the color. They are both visited by butterflies and other insects and we’ve seen a hummingbird there this summer.
It’s been pretty warm the last few days. Yesterday was quite brutal and while this morning was a very pleasant, it warmed up a bit in the afternoon. After church we went to the Agricultural Farm Park and walked around a largish soybean field. Towards the far end of the field there were brambles growing with wild abandon and I took a few pictures of the berries. I’ve cut all sweets out of my diet and for now, I’m not eating even natural sugars, so that means no blackberries or raspberries for me. It’s a hard thing to walk past bushes of berries and just feast with mine eyes. But I restrained myself.
The tiger lilies (Lilium lancifolium) are blooming. These were all descended from bulbils that we took from lilies growing at my parent’s house. We started with just a couple and the rest came from those. We have them in a few different places in the yard but this is the largest group of them. they stand over six feet tall and they are pretty noticeable. Each year the group gets just a little larger. Last year I collected seeds, as well, although we never did anything with them. I may scatter some on our property in Pennsylvania. They should do well there.
Sunflowers at McKee-Beshers
It started raining about mid-morning and we weren’t sure about going out but decided we’d go regardless. We drove to the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, which we’ve never visited before. They have four fields that they plant with sunflowers, although only two of them were planted this year. I don’t know if that’s normal or not. Sunflower area #4 was the more spectacular of the two (the weeds were taller than the sunflowers in field #2). We saw a few male (and a lot of female) indigo buntings in the field, which was really nice. There were also a lot of gold finches and cardinals on the flowers, as well as butterflies. We walked all the way around field #4 as well as near the ponds on the way to field #1. That field was planted with corn, but we actually enjoyed the ponds quite a bit, with their wildflowers, etc. Highly recommended.
Another Sunflower Photo
We decided to go see the sunflowers in the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area again today. It was quite hot but really nice. I got photo of both male and female indigo buntings (Passerina cyanea), although neither of them is really great. Good enough to positively identify them, but that’s about all. I also photographed a great spangled fritillary (Speyeria cybele). Naturally, I took more photos of the sunflowers. Cathy and Jim’s mom stayed in the car with the doors open. She could see the flowers but it’s much too bumpy for the wheelchair.
Dahlia ‘Bloomquist Jean’
We took a walk on the upper Rock Creek late this morning. It had been threatening rain all morning and it started to come down just as we got out of the car. Because we were in the woods most of our walk, it wasn’t really all that noticeable but we did end up fairly damp. Still, it was good to be out. The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) plants are covered with berries and many of the American Hornbeams (Carpinus caroliniana) are decorated with their winged fruit. After our walk we stopped briefly at the dahlia garden. I particularly like this flower, called ‘Bloomquist Jean’.