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

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Doomed

All of the ash trees in our area have been infested by the emerald ash borer, according to a local tree service, and once enough of the larvae are present in a tree, there is no saving it. This morning the sound of chain saws in the park across the street let me know that another dead ash was being taken down, joining the ash allee that we lost last year.

The tree closest to us is still hanging on, having put out new leaves on its few still-living branches,


but a look at the whole tree shows that it will likely not be with us long.


The entrance wound looks so insignificant,


but this tree, and every other not-quite-dead ash I have seen is covered with these little holes. When the tree finally dies, and its bark falls off, this is what we will see:


almost uncountable swirls, tracks of the larvae of the borer.

This little insect is another invasive brought to this continent through human carelessness, most experts think from eggs in the wood of packing crates from Asia. Since 2002, it has eaten its way through twenty-two US states and two Canadian provinces.

Every time I see an ash that is still trying to live, I want to apologize. No one meant to doom this gorgeous tree, but in many places, doomed it is.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

If you plant it, they will come

At least, that seems to be true around here. As young as our garden is, it is definitely bringing in the wildlife, at least of the small variety. One particular echinacea seems to be a particular draw, with a single blossom sporting a bumblebee and a silver-spotted skipper (here choosing not to show its silver spots).


The same clump invited several visits from this little guy or gal (a sachem, I think), who visited every blossom on the plant in the few minutes I watched.


A potted rudbeckia hosted this moth caterpillar,


and while I have not been able to get pictures, the front wildflower bed has been attracting fritillaries and crescents.

The hummingbirds showed up a few weeks ago and are making use of the lonicera sempervirens and (much as it pains me to admit it) the rose of sharon hedge between us and the neighbors. Today one decided to buzz me while I sat on the patio contemplating possible garden modifications. Cardinals nested in the spruce tree this spring, and there is lots of bird activity in the lawn strip dogwoods.

But the biggest excitement has been the appearance of a female monarch, repeatedly nectaring at a swamp milkweed still in its pot. I have not noticed eggs but will be very happy if the plant ends up defoliated by monarch caterpillars. (Perhaps we wildlife gardeners are a tad eccentric.)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Another historical discovery

On my way to the Toledo Museum of Art this morning, my eyes were drawn to a National Park Service sign, in this case for Fort Miamis, a place of which I had never heard. I of course knew that northwest Ohio had figured in the War of 1812, as it is known in these parts, but not that the town of Maumee grew up around what had been a British military installation.

Fort Miamis, it turns out, was founded in reaction to the Northwest Ordinance, touted in my part of Ohio as a cornerstone of democracy in what is now the Midwest but was then the frontier. The Brits, of course, viewed the ordinance as American expansion and a threat to their interests in Canada, and the indigenous peoples were not consulted and were, shall we say, not pleased, leading to the Indian wars of the 1790s.

Fort Miamis was surrendered to US forces in a 1796 treaty but reoccupied by British and their native allies during the War of 1812. It is perhaps best known as the site of "Dudley's Defeat," an 1813 battle in which more than a hundred US troops, who had successfully completed their initial objective but then over-enthusiastically pursued some native stragglers, were captured by British and native forces. The native groups, perhaps a bit over-enthusiastic themselves, began making their prisoners run the gauntlet, resulting in a number of dead prisoners. Tecumseh, when he arrived, was horrified at the treatment of unarmed captives.

Most interesting to me is that a lone British soldier, Private Patrick Russell, attempted to intervene. No officers bothered. Private Russell was killed by his erstwhile allies; the Ohio Historical Society has erected a plaque in his memory.

Of this extensive military outpost, all that remains is the defensive trench. The sharpened stakes that served to hold off invaders are long gone.






Thursday, July 6, 2017

Another public good

Simpson Garden Park is a city park in Bowling Green, Ohio, eleven acres of gardens and gardens in the making. This is a young park, first imagined in 2002, with the first plants going in the ground in 2009 after a major fundraising campaign that raised $750,000 to supplement public money. For a not-yet-mature garden, the results are quite satisfying.

Entry to the formal gardens

Of course, the "wow" factor this time of year is largely a result of the daylily walk, with a lineup of Stout Silver Medal winners and other flagrantly gorgeous daylilies and companions.


Yes, those colors are real and unretouched. The plant is called "Tigereye Spider" and has inspired serious plant lust (and me running out of sunny planting areas--sigh).


I am always gratified to see plantings by gardeners who share my sense of color--basically, the more, the better.

The Simpson Gardens, however, have something for everyone. A Children's Discovery Garden is located next to the Simpson Building, which contains meeting rooms. In addition to plants (including the biggest ironweed I have ever seen--move than six feet tall and not yet in bloom), the children's garden contains a water feature, bridge, artwork, and this whimsical cottage.


And for those who prefer their gardens a bit more restful, the park includes a Japanese garden and an impressive hosta collection, along with a native plant section, a sculpture garden, and a medicinal plant garden currently under development.


The Simpson is definitely worth a return visit.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Audrey?

Those of you familiar with the Eighties version of Little Shop of Horrors will remember Audrey, the carnivorous alien plant with a taste for human blood. Checking out the pollinator garden this afternoon, I discovered that one of our echinacea is sporting a bud with something of a resemblance to the fictional plant.

My plant
Audrey from the 1982 film

Well, maybe not that much of a resemblance, but this emerging flower is not your typical coneflower. This is the standard young echinacea blossom.


Given the internet's penchant for paranoia, a search for "daisies with double centers" brings up speculation about radiation from Fukushima, and I have no doubt that radiation can indeed cause mutation in plants. The truth, however, is that plants in the composite family are prone to anomalies in seed and bloom development. I took this photo of a caterpillar-like rudbeckia in 2011, before any radiation would have reached Ohio, if indeed it ever got here.


The phenomenon is common enough that it even has a name: conjoined daisies, though I have not been able to get much information on its cause(s). One thing to worry about is the disease aster yellows, which causes malformed plants and can hit anything in the composite family. For now, the plant with the odd bud looks healthy,


but I will need to watch it for signs of disease.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to seeing what Audrey looks like when she grows up.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A new beauty

Returning from an early-evening walk by way of the Marietta Arboretum, I had to swung by the bottlebrush buckeye, one of my favorite shrubs, especially in full bloom. The ridiculously extravagant bloom spikes were of course working with a variety of bees, but my eye was drawn to something I had never seen before, a small black butterfly with eight bright white spots, flitting from spike to spike. My first thought was that it might be a Southern visitor like the zebra longwing spotted on my front-yard monarda a few years ago. Research was necessary.

It turns out that this little jewel is a day-flying moth, the eight-spotted forester, supposedly fairly common throughout most of its range, which includes a fair chunk of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. (You can learn more about Alypia octomaculata here.) This photo comes from the unfortunately-no-longer active blog, Field Biology in Southeastern Ohio. Fortunately, its archive houses lots of good information and photographs.


This beautiful little moth has only one flight a year, and evidently it is peaking about now, at least in Ohio. Its caterpillars favor grape leaves as food, so if you are lucky (?) enough to live anywhere near some wild grape vines, you are in the forester's favored habitat. Anyone with a vineyard may not be so fond of these little moths.

I am going to hope to see more of them before their season ends.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Not quite an old haunt

This week finds me at the Advanced Placement test scoring in Tampa, staying at quite a nice hotel on the downtown Riverwalk. I lived mostly in Tampa from 1975-83, as a student, grad student, and bookstore management trainee (with an unfortunate six-week interlude attempting to sell hats and handbags at Montgomery Ward--not a good fit for my skills or interests). As a fortunately-not-quite-starving student and then a very junior employee, I lived in neighborhoods charitably described as "modest." Downtown Tampa these days is not modest. A new condo development near here sells two-bedroom units for a million dollars, not in our budget even now that we are not junior employees (just retirees on a fixed income). But the views from some of these apartments might have an appeal, even though I am not a big-city person.


From my perspective, the parks and gardens here on the Riverwalk are a bust--more concrete than plants, but lots of shady places to sit, watch the porpoises in the Hillsborough River, and enjoy the people-watching. This 3.5-mile motor-free path in the heart of downtown is a popular place with cyclists, walkers, runners, and dog walkers of all ages. The river itself is heavily traveled and has a certain romance (about which more in a later post), and its bridges are beautiful, particularly at night.


The tower on this one (a very workaday bridge which I crossed on my way to the grocery store, a most unromantic destination) reminds me of a medieval guard tower.


Tampa today is not the seedy, crime-ridden locale of my long-ago youth but rather an artsy, growing city attracting new residents and businesses all the time. But my favorite moment from this visit (thus far):


a snowy egret fishing under a bridge, using the white supports as camouflage.