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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

The hangers-on

Not in any negative sense. Today, during the last third of November with possible snow on its way, I kept discovering flowers that have not quite figured out that their time is supposed to be past. It was no surprise to see a few asters near the library, or mums under a sugar maple,

but I wish I had had the camera with me to capture the blowsy pink roses blooming away next to a downtown church. Arriving home, I was delighted to find a few more plants that did not know when to quit. One is a potted hydrangea

 while a few hardy survivors have kept going in the lawn strip, among them a defiant salvia

and a few bedraggled rudbeckia blossoms.

 Some of the leaves are also hanging on, not only the usual suspects like oak, but several neighborhood Japanese maples that insist on continuing to be spectacular beautiful, like this "Bloodgood."

Okay, it's not a native plant, but how could anyone not love those leaves--just a few days before Thanksgiving?

But the best news was not that fall is enjoying a long, slow fade but that spring is indeed coming. The lawn strip is full of the ridiculously adorable seedheads of sweet violet, promising a purple carpet spangled with the pale pink of spring beauties in just a few months.

Cue happy sigh.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Quite mad

That's what the world has been these days. Of course there are the horrors in Paris and Beirut, exotic places that I have never visited but the suffering of which reminds us that the world is indeed a small place. There is the predictable horror of unthinking violent reaction (Close the borders! Deport all the Muslims! Send in the troops!), followed (usually, unless one is Donald Trump) by more considered reactions and a return to our better selves. But the madness is present on a smaller scale as well.

  • At a meeting to present the Forest Service's process for determining whether or not to lease an area for drilling, FS security personnel were wearing bullet-proof vests. Did they really think that landowners interested in selling their mineral rights, or old ladies concerned about water quality and wildlife habitat, were likely to smuggle Kalashnikovs into a college meeting room? The two groups did not generally speak to one another at the gathering, but there was no undercurrent of about-to-ensue violence.

  • The projected need for four million gallons of water to fracture a single gas well and the permanent disruption of "only" 121 acres per well is considered acceptable by the manager of our local National Forest.

  • The college at which I teach is concerned about loss of enrollment, but the only two classes available for students in a particular area of emphasis have already been canceled for the spring semester, with four weeks of registration left. Any students in that program will have their graduations delayed a semester, which does not seem the best way to retain them.

  • The CNN website lists the announcement of People's "Sexiest Man Alive 2015" as a top news story.
Time for a butterfly picture.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Reason #1037

. . . why fall in southeast Ohio is one of life's great pleasures.

This is what I see when stepping out the front door.

And that's just one view. Turning slightly to the right, I get this.

Okay, the drop-dead red in the center is an invasive burning bush that will be replaced by a native in the near future, but the plant is going out in a blaze of glory.

While its replacement is growing, we'll just have to be satisfied with the trees in the arboretum.

I suspect we'll manage.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A not-so-blue blue

I'm not sure when or how mild depression got called "the blues." After all, blue skies are a good thing, right? And blue flowers are among the most prized, perhaps because of their rarity in nature, at least as far as true blues are concerned: spiderwort, delphinium, Himalayan poppies, maybe, but most other blues are more purple, at least around here.

But who cares? Agastache foeniculum, AKA anise hyssop or blue giant hyssop, has been one of the success stories of our new lawn strip garden. (Given my haphazard record-keeping, I cannot remember if our plant is the straight species or the short cultivar "Honey Bee Blue," but I suspect the latter.) In any sunny area that is not waterlogged, this plant is foolproof. I love the red western agastache species and hybrids, but our damp winters often do them in. Our eastern native is made of sterner stuff. 

This member of the mint family is not an immediate attention-grabber. It has nice serrated leaves, nice but not spectacular color, and a pleasant scent, but not one that wafts; the leaves need to be bruised to release the anise scent that gives the plant one of its common names. However, it starts blooming with the midsummer daisies and is still going now after most of the asters have finished. It grows in sand, clay, and actual soil, and asks for no water, though it has no problem with rain or snow. It plays well with others, forming steadily-growing clumps that, unlike those of its distant cousin wild ageratum, do not become invasive.

And it is a pollinator magnet. On an ordinary afternoon last week, our single plant was loaded with bumblebees (whom the unfortunate light conditions would not allow me to photograph), and a female monarch, who seemed determined to visit every blossom on the plant while tanking up for her long flight to Mexico.

Here's hoping that the goldfinches visit to get the seeds.  I'm not ready for the show to be over.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Asters Everywhere!

I have not done a lot of gardening since our March move, but the pollinator bed in the front lawn strip is getting off to a good start despite my neglect. Of course, asters are pretty much indestructible, which is why I love them so. Most of the year, they look pretty pathetic, scraggly foliage straggling along a stem that gets woody and frequently lists to one side or another, but then they start to bud,

and when they bloom--oh my. So much color, and so much life! For anyone not in the habit of observing such things, asters are major fall pollinator food, and the seeds eventually feed the small songbirds who hang around for our Mid-Ohio Valley winters.

I have a bad habit of forgetting which aster I have planted where, so I am never quite sure which plant will show up. When I moved plants this spring, I had hoped that I got a start of "Purple Dome," but no such luck. I did, however, manage to transplant not one but two specimens of "Wild Romance," enabling me to continue using the line, "Wild Romance is blooming." Even if one is not inclined to make silly statements, who could resist that color?


A joy of the lawn strip (which I have not been able to photograph due to inclement weather every time I think of going outside with a camera) is its plethora of asters, even though I deliberately did not plant aromatic aster due to its seriously thuggish propensities. In addition to my ridiculously-named "Wild Romance," the bed contains plain old New England aster, the misty purple so much a part of autumn and such a magnet for pollinators, 

 along with one of the excessively enthusiastic white asters that I can never identify (and surely did not bring along deliberately) and a surprise: a tall pale pink beauty never seen before in my yard. Even better, the boxwood hedge has yielded several specimens of a large-leaved aster in a lovely pale blue. That one does not yet have a definite ID, but a specimen has been rescued to the lawn strip bed, while the others will go to the college's pollinator habitat. Even I recognize that one cannot leave three-foot daisies poking up through what is supposed to be a well-behaved evergreen hedge. (However, the butterflies and bees would rather have the daisies. Just saying....)

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Butterfly Sex

Yesterday I learned how to tell the boys from the girls, at least among monarch butterflies. (I did figure this out for humans a few decades ago, although I pay less and less attention to such things as the years go by.) At the end of a delightful one-day symposium on sustainable landscaping, the director of the Dawes Arboretum in Newark, Ohio, released several monarch butterflies bred on the site and tagged for research. These butterflies are part of the fall brood that, if all goes well, will find their way to Mexico to spend the winter.

The release took place in the arboretum's pollinator garden, a smorgasbord of nectar and host plants to leave any pollinating insect drooling (if insects could drool). None of the plants were new to me, but the garden was a delight, anyway.

My takeaway for the day was a lesson on how to sex monarchs. The males, like this handsome specimen resting on a swamp milkweed, have two black dots on the hindwings,

while the females lack such ornamentation. They're gorgeous, anyway.


Not long after these pictures were taken, despite its being a chilly day, these young adult butterflies began their spiraling flight into the first leg of their long journey south.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Mixed signals

Here it is, almost mid-September in the Mid-Ohio Valley, and the temperature the first part of the month hovered uncomfortably near 90. Tomorrow, on the other hand, is predicted to bring a high in the mid-sixties and quite a bit of rain, not perfect weather for the end-of-summer festival held in our town the second weekend of September. After a cool weekend, mid-eighties are predicted to return. The weather in our part of the world has trouble making up its mind.

Today brought mixed signals from our local flora and fauna as well. The tulip poplar across the street has already dropped at least a third of its leaves, most of them, it seems, on our sidewalk. Asters of various sorts are blooming in the front pollinator-garden-to-be (still too much in its infancy to be called a real garden).

One of our rudbeckias, however, has gifted us with thirty or so tiny seedlings, certain not to reach blooming size this late in the year. Sitting on the front patio grading papers (or trying to) this afternoon, I was distracted by adolescent cardinals sitting in the holly, demanding food. Such young birds (and such amusing bird behavior) have been more common in June than in September, but some of our local cardinals evidently managed to get in a late clutch of eggs, promising more color at the bird feeders next year.

But--squirrels have been sighted carrying fruits from the kousa dogwoods in the lawn strip and walnuts from the trees in the arboretum, evidently stuffing themselves with fat from the dogwood fruit and beginning their fall stashes of nuts. Hyperactive, foraging rodents are an almost-sure sign of fall. (So too, I fear, are the several hundred baby kousa dogwoods that need to be removed from the lawn strip before it becomes a kousa forest. Sigh.)