Amidst the Rain

I returned this afternoon from another short trip with the rain coming in spurts for the rest of the afternoon.  We had had a bird bath full of rain while I was gone and the Hepatica and Shooting Stars that we planted in the woods this past weekend seem to be doing fine.  What I did find in the front yard were some Fritillaria that seemed to be enjoying the rain.

Fritillaria meleagris

I also noticed quite a number of flowers appearing on the little Rue Anemone.

Anemonella thalictroides (Rue Anemone)

And the violet version of the Chilean Crocus has finally shown it’s face.

Chilean Crocus (Tecophilaea cyanocrocus v. violaceae)

In between rain showers I also went down into the woods to check on the Bellworts.

Large Bellwort (Uvularia grandiflorum)

I keep being nervous the deer will find these little beauties, but so far, so good.

While in the woods I discovered a particularly nice set of daffodils growing next to the old bench.

Narcissus by the old bench

As it turns out these are tazetas that are not even supposed to be hardy here.

Narcissus 'Grand Soleil d'Or'

Usually these are grown in the south or for forcing.

Here’s my harvest from the walk through the daffodils that are coming in right now.

The Daily Pickings

We bring in a batch like this every other day and there are still many more outside.

The Special Atmosphere of a Place

This month’s Picture This challenge from Gardening Gone Wild is to illustrate the Genius Loci — The Special Atmosphere of a Place.  The judge, Andrea Jones, asks that we share our special place in a photograph that illustrates why it’s special.

We’ve been fortunate to see many of the great garden scenes that she illustrates with her pictures.  And while I have pictures from our tours in the U.S. and abroad, I thought it would be more appropriate to stick closer to home.  When we moved here the pasture that we inherited had no trees at all.  There was a small patch of woods that were entirely Scotch Pines that have long since died off.  All the landscape that we have was created slowly over 36 years and so there are a lot of aspects of our hill on Ball Rd that our special to me.  But I notice in reviewing our photos that one area stands out in recent years.  Behind the garage is a hillside that drops off into pasture in front of a line of tall White Pines that were planted during our first spring here.

Daffodils on Hillside

This is where we see the Daffodils in the springtime.  It’s also where the wildflowers are planted for the summertime.

Hillside Wildflowers

It’s where we have put two bright red adirondack chairs as a place to have a glass of wine as the day winds down.  Often there is a sunset to be seen from this hillside.

Red Chairs at Sunset

The pasture provides extended interest with the various grasses that grow up over the season interlaced with wildflowers.

Orchard Grass

But this special place also creates it’s own atmosphere come wintertime.  The Red Chairs against the snow with the White Pines in the background presents a holiday atmosphere that shows that gardens are not limited to the time of flowers.

The photo that seemed to me to best capture this special place came after a snowstorm just as the light was fading from the day and this is my submission for the February Gardening Gone Wild Challenge.

Late Afternoon Light

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day for November 2010

The fall leaves dominate the backyard and flowers are scarce

Well this November Bloom Day finds us with a limited number of flowers and a powerful number of brilliant fall leaves.  We have had an extended sunny autumn with many of the plants making a comeback as they (falsely) assume that the cold weather will never get any worse than the 28 degrees that we’ve seen now and then this fall.  It’s been altogether a great time for fall bulb planting (all completed this week), garden chores (never complete), and photography.

The few flowers that let us still claim this as bloom day are the Gallardia, some random snapdragons, a few bedraggled salvia, and some very nice little Calendula.

Gallardia grandiflora 'Arizona Sun'

There are a few other sources of flowers besides the perennials though.  In the pasture the dandelions have had a rebirth and I’ve also seen the Yellow Toadflax showing it’s cute little butter and eggs flowers.

Yellow Toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)

Another plant that persists in flowering beyond all reasonable expectations is the Loropetalum.  I first saw this plant in a posting from Les at A Tidewater Gardener.  It has already grown rapidly from 1 gallon plant this spring to a fairly decent sized shrub with pretty fuschia flowers that have strap-like petals.  The question will be how it survives our winters.   Stay tuned…


Strap-like flowers on the Loropetalum

One other source of flowers are the plants we’ve brought inside in pots.  A particularly lovely violet shade is on the bougainvillea which is happily flowering (or what passes for flowering on a bougainvillea) in the basement.

Violet Bougainvillea

The various grasses have yielded their seed heads, some more colorful than others.  I couldn’t help noticing the fine scale of the pink muhly grass since Beth has brought several stalks into the house.

Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)

But the real color of the season is the leaves.  Everywhere you look there are various shades of leaves doing their thing.  The gigantic Red Maple in the backyard has turned a vivid yellow this year.  And it contrasts nicely with the other maples.

Red Maple with yellow fall leaves

Depending upon the light in the morning or evening the outline of the Japanese Maple leaves against the sky can also be quite artistic.

Japanese maple leaves in outline

The japanese maple leaves are also quite persistent as we move toward winter.

Speaking of persistency, one of my favorite trees in the forest is the American Beech.  The leaves turn from golden to a warm brown shade and last well into the winter.

Beech leaves

Although they stand out even in a mixed forest, if you can find them in a grove setting it can be perfectly wonderful.   We have one such grove along one of the trails at the Worthington Farm, a part of the Monocacy National Park.  It is a delightful, almost mythic place, at any time of year.  But in the fall it really comes alive with golden yellow-brown.  Seek such a grove out and treasure it.

American Beech (Fagus grandiflora) in forest grove

Go to May Dreams Gardens for other Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts…

What a Difference a Year Makes

Wildflowers on the hill

Last year I planted a mix of wildflowers from Wildseed Farms in several places around the property.  In particular I put down a patch on the hill leading down to the pasture.  The notion was a wild garden with little upkeep and care.  The results were everything that I could have hoped.  A distribution of flowers came forth with a variety of colors and blooming periods.    The latest Gardening Gone Wild Picture This Photo Contest for July has as a theme the Intent of the Gardener. The above photo of a wild palette of colors is my submission.

Now in the second year, with the heat and lack of water, the results from just leaving the flowers in place has been very limited.

Wildflower patch in the second year

Come to think of it, I need to go water the garden (again)…

Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day with Blue Poppies

Himalayan Blue Poppy in bud

This month’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day finds me in Boston enjoying our vicarious northern garden.  Specifically my eldest has planted a Himalayan Blue Poppy which came into full flower this weekend.  The blue is spectacular and scarcely to be believed.  This is a flower which is difficult if not impossible to grow in mid-Maryland but I will nevertheless give it a try after seeing it in person for the first time.

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) from the side

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia) opening

Himalayan Blue Poppy (Meconopsis betonicifolia)

This is a flower that insists on cool damp locations and the particular specimen that is flowering up here is growing by a small stream.  I think all that I could offer in Maryland would be daily watering…

I was also struck by a lovely Clematis that opened up yesterday — Clematis ‘Niobe’, a lovely velvet red that seems to be vigorously growing on the kids’ fence up here.  Methinks a similar flower would look equally nice in our garden in Maryland.

Clematis 'Niobe'

Back home we have the usual flowers for this time of year growing in abundance — Iris, Roses, Alliums, Clematis, and Peonies.  The Baptisia are getting quite large and having a real impact in the garden.  I noticed before we left that the wild Dame’s Rocket are making a real statement along the roadsides and in our wildflower patch.

Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) and Blue Flax

But there is no flower that claims the space on May the 15th as much as the Buttercups.  They are everywhere…

Buttercups in abundance

Seneca Blues

Blue Flax (Linum lewisii) in the early morning

One of the delightful treats in the early morning on my photographic rounds looking for the birds of the season is seeing the Flax that persist from planting wildflowers in previous years.  These are a lovely shade of blue that is present only in the mornings and then the flowers close by mid-afternoon.  The plants are quite rugged and compete well with the grasses.

The shade of blue in the flax flowers matches that of the bluebirds that I saw this week on the garden fence.  It was the first really good look at the bluebirds that I have gotten this year.

Female Bluebird

And right next to the bluebirds were the first of the Bearded Iris coming into bloom in the long row that we have planted just for picking.

Bearded Iris starting to bloom

Twenty feet away is a little patch of columbine that came from seeds via the American Horticultural Society seed exchange last year.

Columbine 'AHS seed exchange'

I think these will be a favorite for years to come.

Another patch of blue is the Jacob’s Ladder that is just now appearing in the Camellia garden.

Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum)

Well, in addition to the beauty of these flowers and birds, I had another reason for focusing on blue this evening.  I received an email from Seneca Hills indicating that they were going to be leaving the retail business.  This was just two days after my receiving another delightful order of rare delights (a white flowering Glaucidium palmatum and a Hylomecon japonica).  It made me sad to see this transition even though I know that small businesses, like gardens, depend upon an intensity of effort that is usually transitory in nature.  Ellen Hornig, the owner, ran an excellent nursery with great plant stock and fine service.  I for one will be reminded of Ellen Hornig and Seneca Hills every time I look at one of those primulas or peonies that they have contributed to our garden.  I wish her all the best.

Clearwing Moth and Other Novelties

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe)

It’s a good sign that the season is advancing when I see the first of the Clearwing Moths hovering about the garden.  They look like miniature hummingbirds with tiny sunglasses and are among the prettiest moths that you will ever see.  A couple of Allium in the rock garden were the main attraction.  This one hung around long enough that I could definitely see the long feeding tube in use sipping nectar from the flowers.

Clearwing moth

Clearwing detail

I had a major surprise this last week in wandering our woods.  As I was checking out the daffodils that I had planted last Fall at the bottom of our hill I encountered a three-leaved plant which (once I concluded wasn’t poison ivy) looked like it might be a Trillium.

Three leaves among the daffodils

I sent a picture to my eldest in Boston and he suggested that it looked a lot more like his Arisaemas.  And indeed, as I walked further down toward my neighbor’s stream it was clear that it was a Jack-in-the-pulpit without it’s most salient feature.  At the time I walked about the area hoping that even more plants had found their way across the boundary.  But alas, I saw none.  I have so far resisted taking such beauties either from my neighbor or the public land along the creek near the railroad tracks.

Just two days later though I was planting some Bellwort in the woods and looked up from my planting to see a Trillium — oops no, an Arisaema.  You would think I would recognize it by now.

Baby Arisaema

This one was more than 50 feet onto our property so that’s a very positive sign that we will get more in our woods.  So I took a more determined look and behold, let the real Jack stand up

Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

So I now count 4 Jack-in-the-Pulpit in our woods — whoopee!

One of the new arrivals in the Camellia garden this week was a little Iris that we picked up at the Garden Vision visit last year (since we went there for the epimediums who know that some of the other little plants would be such hits).  This is a little crested iris with fantastic coloring.

Iris cristata 'Dick Redfield'

It is hard to have too many of the crested Iris since they seem to multiply and fill their allotted space so charmingly.  I need to try them out in the woods next by taking some of the clumps that are growing so well.

Another delightful little iris blooming right now is the Iris gracilipes.  This one came from my visit to the open house at Asiatica last year.

Iris gracilipes

Again I went for other things but came back with this little Iris as a bonus.

Great Blue Heron at Lilypons

Lilypons Water Gardens

Lilypons Water Gardens

I went to Lilypons yesterday with photography in mind.  I expected that with all of their ponds I might see some water birds.  They have about 250 acres of ponds and water gardens and specialize in water plants and fish.  The visit more than filled my expectations.  I walked around the outer perimeter just exploring what is at times almost a tropical path with water on both sides of the walk (Lilypons abuts the Monocacy River).  The first thing that struck me were the incredible flocks of Tree Swallows.

Tree Swallows at Lilypons

Tree Swallows at Lilypons

They were continually swooping and diving above the various ponds, even going into the water to grab insects.  I have never seen so many swallows at once.  On the far side of the property there were many, many Tree Swallows sitting on the telephone wires.

Tree Swallows on a wire

Tree Swallows on a wire

Along the ponds were numerous wildflowers, such as Ironweed.

Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

Ironweed (Vernonia noveboracensis)

And of course Goldenrod.

Goldenrod at Lilypons

Goldenrod at Lilypons

The real surprise that awaited was on the far side of the ponds where I came upon this Great Blue Heron.

Great Blue Heron at Lilypons

Great Blue Heron at Lilypons

Great Blue Heron Profile

Great Blue Heron Profile

At first as I began taking pictures and walking toward the Heron I thought he was going to leave at any moment.  Then I began to think he was accustomed to people.  It turned out that he was much more interested in his dinner than in this slow moving photographer.  All of a sudden he tensed and darted downward grabbing a good sized snake.  I barely had the presence of mind to grab a photo.

Great Blue Heron with Snake

Great Blue Heron with Snake

I followed him around to the next pond over where he took his prize.  He then proceeded to eat the snake by swallowing it whole.  This is more difficult that you would think when you don’t have any hands…Heron eating snake 2

Of course Lilypons doesn’t exist just to keep photographers happy.  They also sell water plants and fish.  They have sample gardens and ponds set up and publish a catalog as well.  But I will be back to take pictures again in the future.

Sample water garden at Lilypons

Sample water garden at Lilypons