About Me

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

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Not the post I had planned to make

Today found me wandering Blue Creek Metropark in Whitehouse, Ohio, and at some point I will do justice to this lovely place, part of which consists of a walking path around an old limestone quarry.


But in the wake of what has happened in Charlottesville today, my takeaway from this park is the idea of the resilience and persistence of life. This part of Ohio was once under a tropical ocean, and I was walking on an ancient seabed that today is in the middle of a charming small town.


Many centuries after that sea vanished and all of its creatures died, the rock that formed the sea floor is home to other kinds of life, including this tiny orange lichen.


Perhaps the most surprising find, though: tiny cedar trees growing out of crevices in the stone of what had been the quarry walls.


Today, this little tree feels like an important reminder.

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.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Another guilty pleasure


Anyone who knows me knows that I try to avoid invasive plants whenever possible. Battling the English ivy, vinca, rose of sharon, and burning bush seedlings in our current inherited garden is an object lesson in why one might not wish to grow Plants That Escape. However, a confession: I truly love Mexican feather grass (Nassella tenuissima) and grow it both in pots and in the ground.

Any grass that is this lush, this early in the summer, in the generally-inhospitable space between two sidewalks, a street, and a driveway, sets my plant-lover's heart to fluttering. The fact that it requires no supplemental watering or pruning is a real plus for the lazy gardener.


And who could not love that sweet wispiness behind the gaudy assertiveness of verbena and geranium?


Feather grass, when happy, can even form a low hedge--and it plays well with others, like coreopsis,


butterfly weed, and dwarf goldenrod.


What's not to love?

A cautionary note is, unfortunately, required: Nassella's native range in the US is confined to parts of Texas and New Mexico, and it has become a serious invasive in portions of California and the Southwest, where conservation organizations are asking gardeners not to plant it. It is listed as not hardy in zone 6, but it has perennialized for me in two gardens; our warmer winters may eventually allow it to naturalize. Having grown the plant for the last eight years, I have yet to see volunteers but know that I will have to watch to make sure it doesn't escape and threaten any of our area's lovely but later-flourishing grasses.

For now, I make time most days to watch the sun light up this favorite grass.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Could it be?

Wildlife watchers (or at least this wildlife watcher) always hope to see rare species, and today I had the fleeting thought that I might actually be seeing an endangered butterfly, the Karner blue. This particular butterfly lays its eggs only on the wild lupine (Lupinis perennis), which generally lives in oak savannas, an ecosystem that has become rare. I am not sure that the meadow at the Wintergarden Preserve in Bowling Green, Ohio, is in fact an oak savanna, but it is home to nice swaths of lupine, which today were in full bloom.


According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Karner blues do not typically emerge until late May, but many plants (and perhaps caterpillars?) have been early this year. Certainly, there were quite a few little bluish-grayish butterflies flitting among the lupines.

A girl can hope.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

A new love

A plant I had heard of but never seen materialized on an afternoon walk today. Wild hyacinth, or camassia scilloides, grows in abundance in a nearby wetland that I had managed never to visit during the right time of year. At first, I did not know what this gorgeous thing was


since, fully bloomed out, it does not have the classic hyacinth shape, and the only camassias I have ever seen at garden centers or in catalogs are the more brightly-colored western varieties. But the woods were full of the plant,


and I eventually recognized it (with the help of thoughtfully-provided signage on the edge of the trail and some plants still wearing the more recognizable hyacinth-like form).


Camassia is an important early nectar source for a number of native bees, and the bulbs were sometimes eaten by Native Americans and early European settlers. The Illinois Wildflower Society notes that the plant is an indicator of quality habitat, which is good news considering the sky view from this particular wetland.


I would much rather look at the flowers.


Warning: wild hyacinth has a short bloom season, so if you want to see it, head for your local wetland forest or moist prairie now.

Monday, April 17, 2017

No reason to complain

Some people, of course, complain about everything. Some people in our little town complain that the city does not mow the parks early enough in the spring; they dislike seeing the "weeds" that interrupt the view of what they think should be a swath of pure green. I do not share this complaint.

Being fortunate enough to live next to one of our parks, I am generally delighted at the delay. The spread of white in the photo below is not snow, or bare sand, but drifts of claytonia, commonly known around here as spring beauties. That little rise, by the way, is the Turtle Mound, part of a complex of Hopewell earthworks well over a thousand years old.


The next block down includes quite a nice mixed grouping of spring "weeds" or "wildflowers," depending on one's view of them. From a distance, the area does perhaps look a little unkempt.


As one moves closer, however, the view becomes progressively more interesting. Here, the weeds reveal themselves as a mix of spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), purple dead nettle (Lamium purpureum), and violets (probably Viola sororia, but my violet identification skills are lacking).


The lamium is one of the most cursed-at of our local weeds because of its tendency to spread, but this mint relative plays well with others and asks for no care, so I have rather a fondness for it, and for its cousin henbit.


Besides, it is an important nectar source for early bees, which need all the help they can get. And look at that blossom. If it were hard to grow, we would pay for it. (Other lamiums are offered at exorbitant prices at local garden centers, although they are probably not quite as enthusiastic as this one.)


Spring beauties and violets are the classic April combination in our neck of the woods, and both are essential to the health of our local ecosystems. Tiny as they are, they feed the earliest, smallest bees and flies, which become food for the birds that are returning to the area (as well as those tougher customers who hang around all year). Violets have the additional distinction of being the sole food source for the caterpillars of certain species of fritillary, some of our most attractive butterflies. (One must occasionally consider aesthetics.)


And of course, spring brings the return of the ubiquitous dandelion--not native, but probably here to stay. I happen to love their perhaps obnoxiously  cheerful yellow flowers, but they, too, are a major nectar source. If allowed to go to seed, they feed songbirds, particularly the tiny, ground-feeding chipping sparrow.


So on the issue of "late" mowing: saving taxpayer money by starting the mowing season relatively late in the spring also saves the pollinators and the songbirds. Tell any grouches you know to stop complaining.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Reflections

. . . although not my usual sort, which involve photos of water. This week instead has me reflecting on the passage of time. Yesterday marked the first anniversary of my younger sister's death, and tomorrow would have been my first husband's seventy-ninth birthday. He did not want to live long enough to become decrepit or experience dementia, and he didn't. She was not so lucky.

Today I moved a literal carload of boxes of photographs, some framed, some in albums, some in envelopes, some just there, from the home in which said husband's aunt had lived since 1955, the year before I was born. (The car was a Honda Civic, but that is still a lot of pictures.) One small box was labeled "High School Pictures," followed by a list of names of members of the class of 1937. Another label read "Family pictures, around 1905." That box is sealed and has most likely not been opened for many years; when the step"children" (all now in their fifties) and I break the seal, who knows what we will find.

Aunt Pat took pictures of everything, and what she missed, my first husband got. Several of the boxes contain pictures of various trips and of every family gathering during the fifteen years of our marriage. A small envelope of wedding photos surfaced and had to be reviewed. The pictures were shocking.

Twelve days away from my thirty-second birthday, I had thought of myself as a semi-geriatric bride. Looking at today's find, I am not certain that I know that girl. With flowers tucked into her long hair, the person smiling out of those photos looks not too dissimilar from the teenager in my high school graduation picture. My mother, who seemed like an old woman at the time, was not much older than I currently am. Nearly everyone in the family shots is now dead, as are many of the friends. In less than a thirty-year period.

Time: not something to waste or kill.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Confused

Or at least the plants are. Never before have I seen snow crocus, daffodils, star magnolias, azaleas, and spring beauties all blooming at the same time. It's a lovely picture, and the scent of the magnolias is welcome at this time of year., but this combination is a first in my sixty years. What's next--roses for Easter?

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Why I want to go back to Cozumel

Sky




Public Art









 

Wildlife


Butterfly at San Gervasio Maya site

Iguana at San Gervasio





 And of course--water