Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Summer Sex

Lilies are without a doubt one of the easiest plants to care for if you get them started. I have clumps of daylilies going down the side of my yard where they somehow took hold and each year form bigger and bigger clumps. 

There are at least nine classifications since they are so popular in gardens. Identification goes back to the agent Egyptians and Greeks and the Lilium group is global in variety and interest. 

My lilies are all about 2 feet high, but I have seen ones that are taller than 4 feet! I have maybe half a dozen (or more) varieties in my yard. Below are the ones that must be divided every three years without fail as they crowd themselves into corners of the bed.  I now have run out of places to put them!

They change with secret speed each day and soon the buds above look like the flowers below.

The blossoms are large and easy to study and clear in their reproductive parts. All the pollen and fuzz to collect and then shake onto the naked

anther for fertilization.  Sexy, isn't it?

Monday, May 20, 2019

The Vulnerable Ones

Roses do not grow well in my climate, but I continue to want them. They require insecticidal soaps and fungicides and I try to be as environmentally careful keeping the roses in a very specific area and making sure no pollinators are around and the wind is not blowing. But it is still not good for the environment and one of these days I will admit my folly. But for now, they bloom beautifully throughout the spring before the retreat to black spot and bugs as the heat of summer comes in.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Awww, Geee!!

I think many of us find renewed energy in spring because it reflects beginnings. After months of stasis before a warm fire, if you live in an area with no skiing, it is nice to want to move again and to move outdoors. Each morning I get up and make that first cup of coffee and go stand by one of the many windows that look out over my yard. On one particular morning at the end of April, I saw this fellow in my front yard.

He was just sitting there. We sometimes get Mallards in the swales beside the street at the far front of the yard walking along the wet ditches, but they do not usually stop in the yard itself. We also have a deer fence that keeps most rodents out, and I am guessing he came through a small space at the gate near the riverside.  I looked some more and saw this.  (Photos were taken through a screened window so pretty blurry.)

Her taffy color, instead of the mottled dark and light browns that are usual, makes me think she is the progeny of the lone white duck that paddles along the shoreline of our river. Mallards have been known to mate with other types. It was a nice morning and maybe they were just poking about. I was curious to see if they were going to eat some of my plants!

Finally, he got up to join her.  They proceeded to continue to survey the yard and I was beginning to think they were in nesting mode.

Then she walked over to my lilies and hopped up into the lily bed and disappeared into the green, confirming my theory.

I went back to my breakfast and decided to check on this drama later.  I went outside toward the lily bed and peered in, but could not see anything.  As I pulled away, she flew out of the leaves with a big squawk and headed skyward.  I was startled and felt guilty, but I peeked back in to see if she had started a nest and below is what I saw.

She had not had time to bury it.  She came back later in the day and dug away at the bark mulch to make a bowl, pushed the egg in and added a few twigs to hide most of it.  I did not get a picture of that.  Each day she came and laid an egg, stayed for a brief time and then left.  I started to mark the calendar in hopes of both counting the eggs and predicting that hatch.  It seems when they hatch the ducklings immediately leave the nest, so we could easily miss that opportunity.

Finally, on the eighth day, she began to stay.  I read that the male totally leaves her on her own, so I guess she would have to abandon the nest briefly for sustenance.  When I walked outside, I was careful to give the nest wide berth, although it well camouflaged.  Photos below were taken with my telephoto.

I was guessing that she was sitting on at least seven if not eight eggs.  The male was not to be seen.  A few days later I got up and looked out my front door, and below is what I saw.

I was heartbroken!  At least three of the eggs had been raided with one shell carried over to my herb bed.  I am guessing it was a opossum as we have one who has been digging for worms in the flower beds each night.  There were still a few eggs buried under duck down and twigs that could barely be seen.  I  was pretty sure she would not be back and that was confirmed when the next morning the rest of the eggs were eaten and shells scattered around the bed.

It was a brief adventure and I am sad it ended so tragically, but definitely wonder how Mallards can be in such abundance with so much vulnerabilty.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Ignoring the blossoms

In spring we may notice the lime green of leaves emerging from the brown stalks of plants, but soon we (at least I) become distracted by the blossoms with much more color. Below is the red oak in its spring freshness certainly deserving some attention!

Some plants have leaves that are not all green, and may even compete with their own flowers for glory. I noticed this potted geranium leaf on my deck last week.

While I sharpened the photo I have not enhanced the color in any way...no color enhancement on all of the following photos either!

Above is a kiwi that my husband grows on an arbor on the side of the house. Its leaves are naturally variegated. I have a semi-shady yard and no longer need trees of any kind, but I fell in love with this tree below while shopping at a local nursery. Some of you may know what it is by the heart-shaped leaf.

It is the Carolina Sweetheart redbud. Redbuds grow easily here and I am hoping this variety will reward me for years to come.  It has the traditional purple flowers on the bark before the leaves have fully emerged.  It was developed as a collaborative project by NC State University and Star Roses and Plants Nursery.  The leaves are more rose than red.

The leaves eventually turn green for building chlorophyll but they should retain a white edge for interest. I will have to photograph this next year if it gets planted correctly. Below shows all the gradual changes to the leaves on one branch.

Sunday, May 05, 2019


When I get discouraged about the state of humankind and its dwindling kindness I go outside and get some restoration from Mother Nature who nurtures me always. This spring I was photographing my Solomon's Seal plants for the plant sale. I had thinned the bed to a single row, as they spread easily and were crowding the yew behind them.  (That jar is an old compost jar which has a broken lid and I did not want to throw it out...so maybe it could be a frog shelter.)

The beauty of Solomon's Seal is mostly in the foliage as the blossoms are very small and hang like delicate white bells hidden beneath the leaves.  This one is a variegated variety and thus even more attractive.

The tiny blossoms are almost an afterthought.

Now to get to the title of my post.  The bumblebee was hovering around these plants, and then he picked one of the open blossoms to thrust his head into the tiny mouth of the blossom.  He could not fit, but was persistent and must have eventually gotten a little something as he went on to the next open flower.  While I did not catch his persistence by camera, I did catch him in flight.

He certainly persisted.

Friday, May 03, 2019

Keep Up!!

This photo was taken April 11 and here we are already moving into May!! So I will share the beauty of the trees waking up from their long winter's sleep. Please be aware that I am treading a fast as I can.