Tuesday, March 29, 2011

YuJo and Sakura and Honor

This festival in Washington DC originates from the Japanese tradition of picnicking under the flowering trees in the spring of the year. The bloom time is tracked (much like we track Santa'a global trip) across the islands of Japan. Folks songs, secret societies, nationalism and symbols are all woven into the fabric of the blooming cherry trees in this Asian country. The United States is not the only country that celebrates this magical time.   But, in 1912, Japan gave us 3020 cherry trees (some replacing earlier trees). This gift of friendship has evolved into the week-long National Cherry Blossom Festival which takes place in Washington, D.C.  While awaiting the birth of my third grandchild I was able to visit the trees one afternoon.  Below are photos for you to enjoy and to thank the Japanese for such a lovely gift.  The festival this year is more poignant than in years past.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Snow Happens!

All you gardeners...me included...snow happens!  Temp this morning was 27 F but felt wonderful as there was no wind and we got over 2 inches of the wet white crystal stuff. I cannot help but be thrilled at this late winter beauty even though all that was green is covered in white and all of my blooming bulbs are subdued under heavy wet covers and all my perennials I purchased from the catalog are in the ground hiding somewhere.  But, if I go with the flow, live one day at a time, I can just smile at this loveliness.

Everything looks so fresh and new...except for the poor wild persimmon blossoms down by the river that have been forced to do some weightlifting.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Speedy Discovery.

My first post on a discovery of a hybrid of this plant is here and that was a few years ago.  After I transplanted the hitchhiker from my pot of pansies it put up its beauty the next spring in photos HERE.  Yes, it is a little bolder in color and size than the wild variety below, but both are invasive.

Val  (who no longer blogs as much) pointed out what a weed this was in England and now that I have a really weedy version on the other side of my driveway competing with my lawn...which is not such a great lawn anyway... I am enjoying the invasion.  I think I will just leave this ground cover even though the blooms will stop once the weather gets warm.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

That Time of Year

The birds (bluebirds and wrens mostly) are checking out the bird houses that have been distributed throughout the yard.  They have a nice selection and seem to be taking their time.  Saw this handsome dad-to-be outside my bedroom window looking into the Williamsburg birdhouse that we mounted beneath the deck.  I hope they move in, because this will be a nice place for me to watch them raising a family.

It does appears that he is checking out absolutely every bird house and every tree hole for yards around!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

In Your Face!

Spring is here and not nearly as gentle and quiet as I thought she would be and certainly not in her normal pastels.  I think she stopped off at St. Tropez on the way here and after a rum drink or two she brought some new colors and some rather revealing silks that drift in the cool spring breeze.  I feel just a little under dressed in my gardening sweats.  Maybe I should get out the fine china for some tea?  Or maybe she is expecting spiced rum?

Whoops...here comes some more wind!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Purple Midgets

These jolly spring-colored elves arrived in my herb bed on March 1 in a semi-circle at the bottom of our tiny cherry tree.  I had to get down in the mud to take these photos...but I didn't care.  It was after a long day of weeding and mulching and I was already dirty, so this was my reward.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


This is the common mockingbird peaking at me from some palm berries on a (what now seems so very long-ago) beach in Jamaica.  He looks more exotic in this environment, doesn't he...perhaps we all do...did?  Why is that?  Why does where we are become more intriguing than who we are?  Or does it?

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Is There a Doctor in the Jungle?

There are over 200 species of birds in Jamaica and one of the most lovely is their  national bird, a humming bird, which is called the Doctor Bird or the swallow tail bird. It can be seen many places throughout the island. The male is the one with the swallow tale.
Troychilus polytmus

The name doctor bird came either from the dark coloring and long tails which resembled the tailed-coat and hat of a doctor or from the way the bill lances the flowers for the nectar.  The original Indians (Arawak), that lived before African slaves came, feared this bird as they thought it carried the soul of dead relatives.  It was amazing to watch this bird fly forwards and then backwards as its feathers glistened.  

An interesting fact that I learned while traveling there was that Ian Fleming (of James Bond fame) got the name for his main character from the ornithologist James Bond who authored the book "Birds of the West Indies."  

Monday, March 07, 2011

Sound the Trumpets in Jamaica

This is Datura which belongs to the witches weeds such as nightshade and mandrake.
Because it contains tropane alkaloids such as scopolamine,
flowers and seeds are considered a hallucinogen.
I once grew this plant but mine only got 3 feet high before that winter,
and yet, new plants emerged that spring.

This is Beaumontia grandiflora or Easter Lily vine originally from Nepal and supposed
to be fragrant although my nose was too far away to verify.  
I did not see any fruit but it can be as large as a squash.  Is it just me or is
the shape of the buds sexy?

This could be allamanda  but I am not sure.  It is supposed to smell like
fruit, but in the rain I could not tell.  It is fairly common in Florida.  (Better views
if you click on the photos.)

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Exotic Stuff

This above is named Clock Vine (Thunbergia mysorensis), native of India and found near the city of Mysor from where it gets its name.  I found it blooming along a wall at the Strawberry Hill Hotel in Jamaica.   It is related to my black-eyed Susan vine that I grow each year although the little flowers on my vine look nothing like this.  The largest of these blossoms were at least 4 inches long.   The plant is supposed to attract humming birds although I think they would fall in!  (Click on photo if you want the fall-in experience.) The wall was covered in blossoms.  Varieties of this vine are considered invasive in the temperate climates in Australia as they cover native plants and ruin native ecosystems.  There are many varieties with many different colored flowers.  It gets its common name because it twines itself clockwise around the support as it climbs,  although one web site claims the name is given because its beauty stops time!

This red flower above grows on a very large shrub...maybe a short tree in Jamaica?  Its scientific name is Erythema lysistemon and I think it is a native of South Africa and sometimes called coral tree.

Below is a photo of an arbor covered in what they called jade flowers.  I think this plant is most fascinating because the flower color looks artificial.  It reminds me of the carnations we used to get at prom when they put white blossoms in colored water...and yes I went to a small agricultural town high school.  There is some co-pigmentation alkaline chemical thing going on that gives the color.

Strongylodon macrobotrys. The clue is in the name as the vines get to be 4 inches in diameter and up to 70 feet long.  It is a native of the Philippines and not Jamaica and as you can see, needs a lot of its own space.  It attracts some very specific wasp.

The last photo shows the shape and color of the flower buds before they open.  I think it looks like dragon's teeth and that is what they should name the plant...!  The contrast of purple and jade green is truly lovely.

Plants like these make me want to invest in a very large greenouse!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Jamaica in the Pink

You can breathe now, spring is almost here.  Enough said?