Sunday, May 28, 2017

It's the Little Things

I must admit in spring all those early bloomers are gorgeous. They are pre-blackspot, pre-fungus, pre-insect damage, and pre-wind and rain damage.  I spend many hours trying to capture that perfect rose or perfect clematis or perfect iris in their bold colors and shapes and sizes.   But today I realized that I should focus on the shy flowers, the little flowers, the ones that we sometimes fail to notice, but which are just as important. The Geum is one of those plants.   It does not require much care, although it usually likes it moist. It sends out blooms for a couple of weeks in the spring and sometimes a bloom or two in the fall. But each blossom is only the size of my thumbnail and the plant is not covered in blossoms, so it can be overlooked. This is a new plant I bought this year and the variety has "fire" in the name.

It looks a little like a teeny, tiny rose, does it not? The plant is short and compact and takes up little space. 

Another overlooked plant is my "evening" primrose. Many are familiar with the short compact primrose that is hybridized. Mine is a wild native and grows tall -- up to two feet. Last year it was new and sent up about two stalks looking like a fragile piece of silk in that part of the bed and showed for only a week.  I have only one plant and will try to remedy that. This year it sent up many yellow wings of flowers and looks established.

When you look in closely you see such a lovely clump of delicate silks.

My Guara is also blooming a bit early this year. Gardeners describe the plant as looking like pink and white butterflies flitting back and forth. That is an accurate description. Mine do not flit back and forth though. They grow long and floppy flying over the lawn and sometimes flopping face down into the lawn!  Maybe I should read up on keeping them compact. They tend to spread as well after a few years!

Next is the yarrow. Hardy, easy to grow, sometimes spreads too much by runners, some varieties need staking, but ever faithful in its lengthy bloom period.  Below an example of its platter of tiny flowers.

I had to tear out the hedge of Nandina next to the house as it was too crowded and impending on the walkway. I replaced a few of the empty spaces with a tiny spirea that blooms in the spring. It should only get two by two and not intimate the space. The flowers are tiny and spiky! I am sure you have seen the large hedges of spirea used in landscapes.

Oh, the first big burst of roses is now waning, so I will post a quick photo of that.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Counting Ducks

Responsibilities pulled me out of my lazy funk and forced me outside on the second of a rainy/misty/coolish day in my neck of the woods. We had to go out and count the eggs or hatched eggs in the wood duck boxes in the marsh. I say "we" in an extremely generous way because my roll is sometimes to carry a few things and other times to document with photos, and to give my lady friend company. When we head to the state park the greens are still very vital as the rains have washed all things clean.

The beavers have returned with an industrious vengeance. Park rangers have tried various methods to keep the dam lower so that the boardwalk at the edge of the swamp is not flooded.  You can see an older cut tree in the lower right hand corner.

Counting crew had to wade carefully across the lower part of the creek in the overflow of the dam.  Three of the boxes are across the marsh on the other side.

Mountain laurel were on the wane in their blossoms, but I got a few photos for remembrance. It is hard to time their bloom as it varies as much as two/three weeks sometimes.   The marsh was pulsing with life:  birds, water lilies, duck potato of the Sagittaria family, pennywort, and turtles.  Redwings were noisy and busy.

Blue flag was showing off it striking purples and blues as was the variegated iris.

It was mystical and while not quiet due to the birds and frogs celebrating spring, it was still very spiritual.  Very few humans had invaded on this early and cool morning.

Ferns carpeted shallow areas everywhere.  We followed the two major trails to investigate 18 boxes with a total of 93 eggs laid and 20 already hatched!  We considered that a good count and only frightened two sitting hens...or guess I should write that our counters were only frightened by two sitting hens.

At the end, we walked to the beach side just for the fun of it and discovered the leftovers from children looking for shark's teeth in the sand the prior weekend.

Monday, May 22, 2017


Plants are as confused as I am. A few days pushing 90F and then more days at 50F were interspersed. I was watching a news correspondent on television and wondering why she had a coat on...she was broadcasting only 70 miles away. But the temps there were 60F while our morning was 73F!! Anyway, the heat held off and my flowers have bounced back, so I want to share some photos and some photo-shopping. Forgive me for this. It is just sharing, and you do not have to post comments.

Sadly, these flowers are no longer blooming and now I have iris and lilies and more roses. Maybe I will post them next.

Friday, May 19, 2017

In A Rush the Season Moves On

So close the humid, warm breath of summer is exhaled against my neck like that of a fevered child. It seems as if the calendar is lying about it being the middle of May. Surely it is the end of June? The morning is quiet as if waiting for the next attack of some storm.  Even the Osprey no longer sits on her "virtual" nest pretending she has eggs.  She needs the wind under her wings and the coolness above the pulsing earth pretending to escape her destiny of being without young ones this year.

The air smells like a French bordello with the abundance of white and yellow honeysuckle blossoms that hang everywhere at the edge of the woods.  I am almost afraid to breathe.

Yesterday I heard the tentative bleat of a fawn coming from the dark shadows of the ferns in the ravine.

The Cardinals still visit the bird bath on a regular basis, usually early mornings and late afternoons when they bathe and throw the water everywhere never fearing that the bowl will not be replenished.  They do not yet look ragged from their parenting demands.

The wren, whose golden song was so clear and pure outside my window before the blast of the sun over the treetops this morning, has stopped her song.  She has returned to feeding her little ones quietly and efficiently as the morning warms.

The young bluebirds are getting their pin feathers and sit quietly in their box as if they were petrified from some prior time with their heads bent against the the wood.  They seem to have no energy to move.  Mom and Dad are perfect parents in their unrelenting visits with the abundance of new insects that have emerged.

I watch the midges fly across the rays of the sun up high in the tree tops like an army of tiny snow or bits of feathers caught in a gentle breeze.  Soon they will decorate the new efficient spider webs that lace between the tips of the tulip tree branches.  The cherry trees have already thrown their petals like fairy confetti at the end of this spring party and white dots land everywhere even messing the bowl of the nearby spider's web.

I hold tight in my mind to the delicate colors that were spring and now are green seed pods waiting to dry and reproduce.

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Pushing the Pause Button on Spring

Iris are named after the Greek Goddess, Iris, who is named after the rainbow and iris do come in a rainbow of colors. I just wanted to share a bit of my spring with my iris this year.
This one below smells like grape juice.
Just some eye candy for your morning.
This fall begins the hours of digging and dividing, but for today it is just enjoying.

Thursday, May 04, 2017

The Saga Continues

The soap opera of the Osprey platform continues. The female osprey has sat above the platform on a nearby tree snag for a few days and then recently she sat on the nest previously used by our geese for several hours while looking around the river from her perch as if reminiscing about last year when she had raised her family of two.   In the afternoons her mate joins her and they sit and daydream.

Yesterday morning while I was making  coffee I heard a large amount of honking from geese and shrilling cries from the osprey.  I went to the window to see an osprey sitting on the platform nest and two Canadian  geese below in the water swimming around. They argued back and forth for some time and then it got quiet.  The osprey flew away and after ten minutes one of the geese flew up to the platform.  In a short time the female osprey returned and dive bombed the goose twice before the goose surrendered and flew off the nest back into the water.

The osprey took the place of the female goose and then called angrily to the two Canadian geese in the water.   Eventually she flew down to the two geese and dive bombed them relentlessly until they swam away from the area.

In the afternoon her mate joined her again and this time I saw them mating.  They are  4 to 5 weeks late in the normal osprey season!  Today she sits calmly most of the time on the nest, perhaps waiting for an egg arrival??   She leaves to catch a fish, eats it somewhere,  and then returns these days.

With regard to the geese we have seen two sets of parents with 4  goslings each swimming up and down the river in mornings and evenings.  The goslings are easily three  times the size of the ones we had on our  nest.  One of these families may or may not be the original  family from our platform having lost two babies.  This place is certainly busy and I am curiously waiting to see if the osprey have a family and if the family fledges  in time for early fall.

Monday, May 01, 2017

Sharing Some Spring

My garden is struggling with hot weather followed by colder weather followed by hot weather. This was our comfort on a cold evening.

Then ONLY four days later we were up in the high 80's and touched 90 F !!

I spotted this Monarch butterfly yesterday. While they can be seen in our area in May I rarely see one in my yard before July! This one is visiting the buds (unopened) of my butterfly weed which is one of his favorites next to milkweed. Let me share my columbine which are in all their glory and will only last long if the weather returns to spring!

And below a painting.

Friday, April 28, 2017

The Part II of the Osprey Platform Saga

It had been quiet for a while after the parent Canadian Geese and their six offspring fell into the water and then swam to shore and tucked into the grasses. For two days the platform nest that was covered in sticks sat empty and somewhat forlorn looking. We had been used to watching osprey activities in and around the nest through most of the summer. Now it was almost as if there was an ornithological home with a vacant sign and looking for renters. 

On the third day an osprey arrived and perched on a branch just a short way from the nest. He/she sat and watched the nest and the river for the better part of an hour. I got busy and when I looked again, the osprey was on the nest. He/she sat there and looked around. He/she stayed there in reverie for most of the rest of the afternoon, but by dusk was gone.  Was this one of the prior occupants thinking about last year?

One the fourth day I got up early and saw that the nest was still empty in the quiet spring morning. But by 10:00 or so not one, but two, osprey were on the nest. They looked like renters reviewing a space for the summer. They did not remove any of the remaining goose shells or rearrange any of the sticks.  They just sat there in thought.  It was certainly too late in the spring for them to start a family, so I was not optimistic. By dusk both were gone. 

A few more days passed with the nest unoccupied. We had weather that was freakishly wild as springs can be. Heavy rains, cold winds, followed by hot afternoons. Then one morning I heard a goose honking loudly. No one was on the nest, but the goose continued to honk for almost an hour down near the river. That afternoon a Canadian goose flew up from the nest to the platform and called heartily for some time. I refused to let my mind go to that dark place. This was NOT a grieving goose, but just a lost fellow who was tired of being alone. Days went by and I did not see the parent geese or goslings anywhere along the river. I did see two Canadian geese swimming on the far side of the river, but without baby geese.

The next day a Canadian goose flew again up to the platform.  He/she rearranged the furniture for a bit, checked out the view and then settled in for a while almost as if nesting.  But it was for naught.  By the next day she was gone.

It has been several days and the nest now sits very empty, even more so than before and has been that way for days.  An empty rental for the summer months for our feathered friends.  When the naturalist comes to tag the young osprey in late summer he will find no one to bracelet.  Too bad.  Maybe next year.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Rest of the Story--San Diego and Mage

I had visited San Diego a few times over the decades of my illustrious life. Each time the place was a little like an oasis town in the desert.  Once it was cold enough that I woke to ice on the windshield of my rental car...with no ice scraper.  Another time is was hot and dry.  Both times the surrounding hillsides were brown with brown scrub, clearly representing the drought of California in all its caution. 

This time it was very different. The mornings were pleasantly chill (60's F) and the day was in the low 70's F. The hillsides were full of small sunflowers, tiny hummingbirds and other unusual plants that had captured the morning dew.

Taken from the car window.

We stayed at a hotel in the business area of town, rather than the tourist area.  Mage and George generously drove over to pick us up.  This was going out of their way because they were loading a truck with materials for a conference and had to set up the booth that very afternoon!  

They took us up to Balboa Park, a place rich with museums, gardens and statues.  We had just a short time for our visit and for the time in Balboa Park which is certainly a place on my list for a return and a loooong weekend exploring it all.  

They selected The Prado for lunch and it was a perfect place. The House of Hospitality Courtyard has a statue of the Woman of Tehuantepec who eternally pours life-giving water from her jug. She represents the Native Americans and was sculpted in 1935 by Donal Hord who used Indiana limestone.

The restaurant was busy, but not so busy that we could not get a table outside under the umbrellas and beside the shady bottle-brush trees enjoying a lovely Southern California spring day.  We even got to hear the huge organ play a small bit.  The sound carries sweetly across the park.  The food was what I would call "California Pub Cuisine" which means "tastes good without all that extra fat".  We I talked so much that I forgot to just sit and look around.  Mage and George and hubby and I had met up in D.C. a few years ago and seemed to slip in that old comfortable shoe mode right away.

After lunch we got a personalized tour of the Automotive Museum in Balboa Park.  George volunteers there and knew everything about the exhibits, which means we got all the good stuff.  I am not an automobile person by nature, but the history on these various vehicles was fascinating, including a car that had a washing machine, grill, toilet installed and the ability to change a tire while on the road!  

One of the few original Harley Davidson's in existence.

I learned from George that "the Fonz" never learned how to drive his famous motorcycle and was on it only long enough to look like he could.

Soon we had to say goodbye to Mage and George and they gave us tickets to the Maritime Museum and dropped us off at the exact spot.  Jim liked the Star of India as he is a big Master and Commander fan.  While the movie did not do justice to the books, it was interesting to walk around the ship where it was filmed. We also toured several other historic ships and a submarine.

We were in San Diego only overnight, but managed to see a bunch of stuff.  The kids headed off to Coronado Island and shopped while we did our thing.  We let them sleep in the next day while we waited in line to pick up "the best dough-nuts" in the world (?) for breakfast at the San Diego doughnut bar.

While these round pastries were fresh and had excellent dough, they were a little over the top in frosting in some areas!