Tuesday, June 28, 2011

New Roses in Bloom

New roses blooming in pots on the patio:

This is Clotilde Soupert, a Bourbon antique rose. Right now it doesn't look like the picture in the catalog. My hope is that it is due to our extreme heat; we'll see in the fall if it comes closer to the catalog version.

And Gruss an Aachen, also in a container. The full flower looks fairly close to the catalog picture, but the catalog describes the bud as "colorful, with tints of orange-red and yellow" which isn't how they appear right now.

Gardener blogger friends - Will they look better as they get more established?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chasing the Sunset

After taking the snapshots in the church parking lot, I continued to chase the sunset. I had never seen such colors in the sky before - gold, pink, blazing red and a velvety blue.

I finally found myself on a hill in an abandoned housing development. The streets had been paved, the utility lines laid, but the houses were never built due to the collapse of the housing industry. It made for a great location to get out of the car once again and take snapshots of how the sky looked after the sun had completely set.

Looks like a fire ablaze behind the treeline, doesn't it? It's just the last light of the sun.

Here's something interesting. Go to the location I've marked on Google Maps and choose the Street View. You'll see how it looked back in 2008 when the red-hot housing construction industry was still flourishing. Today it is waist-high in weeds.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies

I went chasing after the sunset this past Friday so that I could get good snapshots for Sunset Sunday which will be next Sunday.

I pulled into a church parking lot to figure out where the next best place would be to go get a good shot without trees and power lines in the foreground. When I turned around, I saw this sky. The clouds are pink from the sun's glow, but despite their ominous look, we never got a drop of rain . . . again. Our drought has inched up from abnormally dry to moderate drought. Perhaps a stray thunderstorm next week, but the weather forecasters don't hold out much hope from a break from the extreme heat and dry weather.

I am doing this as an ongoing project with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine.  Go over and see what she saw in her skies.

A postscript. Blogger has added a location button. When I can, I'll add the location so you can see where I got my snapshot. Most of the time you can also use the Street View function, too. So take a look at my world - I will try to take more pictures in my hometown in the near future.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lovers Leap Birdhouses

One of the nice things about staying off the main roads is that you can find the most interesting shops. One of our favorites is the Lovers Leap Birdhouses in Virginia. Inside is a collection of birdhouses that are handmade by Henry Mickles.

I don't have a spot for birdhouses, but I like to stop and pick up a new rubber ducky (this time it was three different ones - one like a cat, one that was rainbow striped and one that was a devil). If you're not sure what I'm talking about, here is a good link to go to - Century Novelty. Dumb, I know, but I line them up on the shelf in my cube at work.

Anyway, Henry has a cable with six or seven thistle feeders on it and when we were there, they were all covered with goldfinches (I get them in the winter when they are drab and olive colored). I went outside to take a snapshot and they all flew off except for this one that just ignored me.

And why does he have these feeders strung up high on cables? Go here to find out why. Henry also has three bird cams streaming on his site 24/7. For my friends overseas, go and check out what the weather looks like just 50 miles north of here. I'll admit, it is a little more interesting in the winter as Meadows of Dan gets a lot more snow than we do. But you'll be able to see the birds at his feeders, and if you're lucky all sorts of wildlife.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Flowers on the Parkway

Here are some pictures of plants that I would normally just zoom right by. This trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway I took the time to stop and get out of the car to take macro snapshots.

Black Eyed Susan with Some Unknown Butterfly

Tawny Daylily

Common Yarrow


Deptford Pink

I certainly wouldn't mind a garden full of these - if I only had the space and the sun for them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Japanese Beetle

There were not only butterflies on the milkweed plants, but also the infamous Japanese beetle.

A serious pest in the eastern United States, it destroys the host plant by skeletonizing the leaves. I didn't see any damage to the field that I was shooting snapshots in, but I'm sure by the end of the summer considerable damage will have been done.

But the iridescence of his exoskeleton creates an interesting juxtaposition to the green of the milkweed.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Common Milkweed

Along with the butterfly milkweed there was also fields of common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) which was also attracting butterflies. I stopped alongside the road onto the berm so that I could walk into the field and take more butterfly pictures. Except as soon as TB opened her door, she looked down and said "Oh my God, it's full of poison ivy." I decided that it would be smarter just to stay in the mowed area and take pictures using the macro zoom. 

Doing a little research on the milkweed plant, Wikipedia had this interesting observation:

Pollination in this genus is accomplished in an unusual manner. Pollen is grouped into complex structures called pollinia (or "pollen sacs"), rather than being individual grains or tetrads, as is typical for most plants. The feet or mouthparts of flower visiting insects such as bees, wasps and butterflies, slip into one of the five slits in each flower formed by adjacent anthers. The bases of the pollinia then mechanically attach to the insect, pulling a pair of pollen sacs free when the pollinator flies off. Pollination is effected by the reverse procedure in which one of the pollinia becomes trapped within the anther slit.

And I have a picture of the Grand Spangled Fritillary doing exactly that on the Butterfly Milkweed (if you look closely, you can see his proboscis in the flower).

I'm beginning to see that these common weeds are not quite as uninteresting as I had always thought.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Great Spangled Fritillary

The best thing about blogging is that I am now noticing things that I used to walk or drive by in the past. The picture above absolutely illustrates this.

TB and I went up to the Blue Ridge Parkway as I wanted a redo on the prior Saturday's trip. That was the one that turned from a four hour trip into a seven hour one complete with hail, thunder and lightening.

I had wanted to take pictures of the mountain laurel which had been at the height of its bloom, but with that storm and several others during the week there were no blossoms to take snapshots of. But along the berm were tons of a tall plant with bright red blooms, so I stopped and went into the field to take photos.

I must have taken about 20 pictures of the blooms and the butterflies in that field. Coming home I fired up the laptop and went to the wildflower database at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin to find that the plant was called butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa ) and the butterfly on it is a Great Spangled Fritillary.

And that is the best thing about this blog. Because I need to find things to blog about it forces me to slow down and look more closely at the places and things I used to just drive right by and I'm also learning more about these wonderful things that nature puts out right under our noses.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sunset Sunday

I was absolutely despairing of taking a sunset snapshot for today this week. Any clouds we had in the morning were gone by the afternoon, making for blah sunsets. I started going through my archives to see what I could find to post that would meet the sunset requirements.

Yesterday TB and I drove back up to the Blue Ridge Parkway (flora and fauna shots for this coming week! Hurrah!), but instead of going all the way down to Sparta (we started at Meadows of Dan in Virginia and headed south), I decided to end the trip early and left the parkway at Low Gap, NC and went back home.

It turned out to be a good move, since a heavy line of storms tracked down from Kentucky and hit Greensboro about a half hour after I got home. If we had continued on to Sparta, it probably would've ended up as a repeat of last Saturday.

So, by the time for our sunset here there was plenty of interest in the sky to make for a nice snapshot.

I'm doing this with Anyes over at Far Away in the Sunshine as an ongoing project. Go over and see what she saw there in Vancouver.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fledgling Robin

While I was out taking pictures of my rather pathetic looking garden, I could hear a robin calling out in the common area. It dawned on me that it wasn't out there by itself as I could here a high pitched answering chirp.

I opened the back gate, looked out and found this fledgling robin just a few feet away. The adult robin backed off a few feet and then started sounding an alarm call that got the fledgling all agitated. I took some not-quite-so-good pictures as I didn't want to harass either bird and then left them both alone.

Robins fledge from the nest about four days before they can even fly. They will hop short distances and perch in low lying bushes and foliage. The parents will remain near the fledglings for up to two weeks after they leave the nest, feeding and protecting them. I read that the adults will even dive bomb humans who get too close like mockingbirds, but this adult just hopped around and called as I took snapshots. Less than 25% of all robin fledglings make to their first birthday.

I went out the next morning to the common area near the white oak where I left him the night before, but he was no longer there. I hope he made it to somewhere safe.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

What's Blooming Now

Here is what is blooming in my garden right now:

Nameless Daylily from the Lost Tag Bunch
Another Nameless Daylily
Oriental Lily

Outside of containers of annuals from the various big box home improvement stores, those three plants are the only ones blooming in the small garden. That is the drawback of buying lost tag daylilies - you have no clue when they are going to bloom. It is catch-as-catch-can and looks rather pathetic. Plus it takes daylilies around two to three years to really mature so I have all these bald spots.

Perhaps I need to rethink the small garden. . .

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Kim Rupert

One of my new container roses from Rogue Valley Roses in Oregon. This is a minature called Kim Rupert. I've never seen a rose striped like this before; it resembles a peppermint patty.

I found out that it was introduced in 2004 by Ralph Moore in California and named for a very famous rosarian, Kim Rupert.

I'm waiting on the other new roses to bloom - Canoodling from Rogue Valley and Gruss an Aachen and Clotilde Soupert from The Antique Rose Emporium down in Texas. All are budding so I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thunderstorm on the Blue Ridge Parkway

This past Saturday I took a day trip by myself. TB wasn't available and I wanted to go up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to take pictures of the mountain laurel that had just come into bloom.

The weather forecast called for scattered thunderstorms late in the afternoon and I figured I would be up and back home before they started up. So I drove up to Sparta to catch the Parkway just off US 21 with plans to head north for a while and then get off at US 52 at Fancy Gap, Virginia to catch Interstate 77 south to Mount Airy and then back home.

Well, as Robbie Burns once said "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men/Gang aft agley/An'lea'e us nought but grief an' pain/For promis'd joy."

I was a little bit north of Sparta when the sky just opened up and I was caught in the middle of a deluge; a deluge not only of rain, but hail and constant lightening and thunder. I slowed down to 30mph (the speed limit on the parkway is only 45mph), and then down to 25 and at one point I had to stop right on the parkway with my hazard lights on as I couldn't see even a foot ahead. I continued to creep along and a couple of times pulled into parking lots of scenic overlooks (nothing scenic to be seen as there was not only the rain, but fog as well).

At least I was dry and safe from the lightening in the car. I was trailed on some parts by motorcyclists - some who had planned ahead and were wearing wet gear, but most who were just drenched to the skin. But I felt sorriest for the cyclists peddling slowly and morosely in the storm.

I did get a chance to pull over and take a snapshot of one of the thunderstorms coming over the mountains from Virginia on its way to break our heat here in North Carolina.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Stunning Sunday Skies

Another parking lot snapshot. I took this Thursday afternoon prior to a rain storm that did nothing more than dampen the dirt.

I shot this straight up using the little camera. It doesn't have a viewfinder, just the ubiquitous LCD display screen which I couldn't see a thing on. So I just took some random shots to see if I could capture anything interesting. Out of the 20 I took, three turned out well. Its just a fun way to take photos without any planning.

I'm doing this as an ongoing project with Anyes over at Faraway in the Sunshine. Go over and she what she found in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Star of Bethlehem

(Sorry, my Internet provider wouldn't let me connect Wednesday night to post for Thursday).

At Todd, we left the New River Scenic Byway and took a narrow, bumpy road that paralleled the South Fork of the New River. It was only a car wide and made passing oncoming traffic interesting. Someone had to stop and allow the other to pass which sometimes created a pas de deux dance with our little Honda and bigger SUV's and trucks. I later found out that the road was once the railbed of the Virginia Creeper train.

When we came to the end of the road, there was a short debate as to which direction to go. I decided to not use the GPS and just go right and there it was just around the next curve - the Star of Bethlehem.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Variations on a Sunflower

I know that you all are thinking "Why no pictures of the New River Scenic Byway?" since that was the original purpose of the day trip.

Well, for most of the drive there were no shoulders to pull over and take snapshots of the countryside. And with narrow and winding roads, I could hardly stop in the middle of the road and take my pictures (visions of being rear-ended by someone who never saw us as they rounded that curve . . .).

But the next barn quilt we saw was positioned right across from the Green Valley recycling center which gave me a place to park out of the way and then walk across the road to take this next snapshot.

This barn quilt is in Watauga County and on a different trail. It is called Sunflowers (Variation) and is on someone's workshed. I couldn't find any more information than that.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Upper Mountain Research Station Dairy Barn

I looked up from taking snapshots of the Corn and Beans quilt and not 500 yards away was anothe quilt. This one was on the dairy barn at the Upper Mountain Research Station.

When I got home and searched the Ashe County Barn Quilt map, it wasn't on there. So I posted to the Barn Quilts and the American Barn Quilt Trail's Face Book page to see if anyone knew the background of the quilt and what the name was. Suzi Parron, who is the administrator for the page and has also written a book on barn quilts, knew that the research station was planning a second quilt, but didn't know the name of the pattern. So, I've emailed the director of the Ashe County Arts Council and hope to get a name to the quilt soon.

But what a nice surprise to have a second barn quilt so close to another one. I hadn't encountered that before.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Corn and Beans

Finally, back on the road again!

After a spring spent either sick or TB sick or horrendous weather that kept us indoors (for our own safety), we finally got a great day to take our road trip this past Saturday. We decided that we would do one of North Carolina's scenic byways, the New River Valley Byway up in the mountains.

We went north out of North Wilkesboro, turned east on NC 18 towards Laurel Springs and, lo and behold, a barn quilt. This one is at the Upper Mountain Research Station run by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture.

Called Corn and Beans, it was designed by Les Miller and painted by the faculty at Westwood Elementary School.

As I had not anticipated finding barn quilts on the byway, I didn't print out the barn quilt map for Ashe County (there are approximately 40 quilts on various buildings throughout the county). So if we saw any more, it would be quite by accident.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Sunset Sunday

I had to go back through my old snapshots to find a good one of a sunset. Unfortunately with the high heat and stagnant air (Code Orange!), our sunsets have been sorely lacking in any photographic value. This was taken back the beginning of April when we were seeing storm after storm come through from the Midwest. I went out to our airport where I could get high enough to get shots of the clouds as they were being pulled apart by the strong winds ahead of the stormfront.

You can find Sunset Sundays over at Scott Law Photography. I'm doing this with Anyes at Faraway in the Sunshine as an ongoing project.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Latest Daylilies

The unnamed daylilies have started to bloom and I am going to try to match them against the inventory pictures of the nursery in Indiana where I got these from. This first one is called Custard Candy. Love the green eye!

And the closest to this bloom is a variety called Quaking Aspen (the little black dots are ants which have since been dispatched with soap and water). You can see that it is different from Happy Returns of the last post.

And more to come as the daylilies are starting to put out more and more buds.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Happy Returns

The daylilies are starting to bloom. Well, actually the Stella d'Oros have been blooming for about three weeks now, but everyone and his neighbor (or so it seems in my neighborhood) has that variety growing in their yard.

This is one of the few daylilies that I planted last year that I actually have a name for. It is "Happy Returns" and the only reason I know is that I bought it at a big box store along with the Stellas and it had a label on it. The other daylilies which have buds but no blooms yet, will have to remain unnamed as they were a huge lot of lost label daylily fans - close to 70 of them.

It will be interesting to see how the small garden turns out this summer.