Friday, June 29, 2007

'Edith Bogue' Magnolia grandiflora

The first flower this year of the 'Edith Bogue' Magnolia came and went very quickly. For some reason the flower did not open completely and the petals hid the inner part of the flower until they all turned brown overnight and fell off. Not a good strategy for pollination.

Last year, the first time it flowered, we had exactly one blossom. But it was a gorgeously formed flower and had a great scent. This year I counted 8 buds so I'm hoping that they will open fully so we can see the interesting inner parts too.

Beating the birds to the blueberries and bug pictures

The blueberries are ripening at a quick pace now. The mulberry trees are almost done fruiting and the birds will start to pick at the blueberries so it's a battle to see who can get the ripe berries first. Birds love the mulberry more than any other fruit, so as long as they are available the other fruits are usually safe from predation.

But... you can see a bird peck on one of the unripe blueberries in the first photo - the pink one on the right. They usually only go for the ripe berries but I guess this bird was testing the fruit already! In fact there were a few ripe ones that were half eaten so I won't be picking any berries from plants near the bird feeders soon. The ones around the deck are safe for now but even those will go later on.

This is a good year for blueberries despite the late freeze we had. The plants are loaded with fruit. I've already picked about 3 quarts. The service berries on the other hand were a bust. Almost no fruit this year.

And... a green leafhopper on a red lily. I wonder if leafhoppers are colorblind. The green color of its body is close to the same value as the red lily so to a colorblind animal or predator the leafhopper wouldn't be so evident. If you squint (a lot), you can see that the leafhopper blends into the flower.

The photo isn't very sharp because the bug was so small, about 3/16 inch and it was difficult to focus the camera on such a small object but I love the weird striped eyes.

And...a spider hiding in the folds of a flower.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mostly Asiatic lilies and a few day lilies

I don't know where we bought these weird mottled lilies but they're blooming now. I looked through some of last years photos and didn't see these lilies and we have not planted any new ones this year so did they mutate?

The daylilies have been extremely slow to bloom. Only three are blooming now and we have at least 10 others but they seem to be just producing the flower shoots now.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hydrangea paniculata 'Bulk' Quick Fire tm

I spotted this Hydrangea starting to bloom in a nursery. It looked like our other H. paniculatas, Limelight and Grandiflora so I thought it would be a good addition to our garden. Even more so because the tag said the flowers, actually panicles, start out white, then pink and finally red in the fall. The photo on the tag shows it in the red stage and it looks to be a beauty.

For some reason we have trouble growing Hydrangea macrophylla. We get all leaves and very few corymbs (flower heads) so I just stick with the H. paniculata which flourish and puts out a great show of flowers. The shrub grows quite large but we cut it back hard in the early spring and it regrows nicely.

Here's a photo of the tag, showing the red fall color.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

First rays of the sun catching the leaves of a small Japanese Maple

The camera doesn't quite capture this exquisite early morning tableau. We were having coffee and tea on the deck when my wife said "look at that" pointing to the Japanese maple, poppies, petunias, lillies, lobelia and calla. The early morning sun had just risen enough to light this small patch of the garden and presented a quickly changing spotlight. My wife said she was affected by the previously mentioned movie "The Impressionists" and of Monet seeking to capture the changing light. She said she sees the garden in a new way - always aware of the quality of light. I remain fairly obtuse unless things are pointed out to me or the beauty is so obvious that no one can miss it.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Calla lilies, Zantedeschia

We bought these callas two years ago, forced them in the fall of 2005, dried the tubers and planted them outdoors in late spring 2006. Lifted and dried the tubers again that fall and planted them this spring. In each successive year they've steadily grown larger and even the flowers have increased in size forming large misshapen blossoms half the time. The pink one is just starting to bloom and is not as robust as the white. It's in shade for most of the day and that may have something to do with it's lack of vigor.

I was quite taken with the pink flower's quality - like a hand painted photograph. I also converted it to greyscale which I also like but I think the subtly colored one suits the flower more.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Silenes and Thistles

I walk past a weedy open field every morning on the dog walk where new houses are being built and I spotted some thistle there. I've been waiting for days for the Cirsium vulgare, Bull thistle to bloom to take some photos. But I realized after they started blooming that the flower wasn't all that interesting so I opted to scan a bunch of them instead. Unfortunately I didn't learn that they are food for the hummingbird hawk moth before I cut off the flower heads but I'm sure more will appear from other parts of the plant as I didn't uproot them. At least I hope so. The thistle made me pay for my transgression by sticking me several times. It has tiny but very sharp thorns on the leaves and stems.

Also on the same walk are lots of Silenes. There seems to be two types, one with a maroon colored ribs on the balloon/bladder and the other, puffier with larger balloon and light green in color. Both are probably Silene latifolia the white Campion but a book I have also lists them as Silene cucubalus. I've looked at several photos of S. cucubalus and they don't look like the ones I've scanned so I'll stick with S. latifolia.

See this Wikipedia article for more information on S. latifolia.

The scans were done on an HP Scanjet 4850 which seems to be marginally better than the old Microtek I used previously. It does have two fluorescent light tubes instead of one so it illuminates the flowers to a greater depth. The HP is better suited for 3D image scanning, otherwise light fall off is tremendous and things only an inch or two off the glass fades into the murky black background.

And...yay! we got some rain last night. Almost an inch and it just started to rain again now as I type this.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Waterlily, Monet and the Impressionists

We just watched "The Impressionists", a BBC production on the life of Monet and his contemporaries. The film was full of embarrassing and expected art one liners but the period costumes, lighting and cinematography were terrific as was Monet's garden and pond at Giverny. They mentioned in the film that Monet had collected all the varieties of waterlilies he could get his hands on. I would have thought there were only one or two kinds in the pond but apparently not so. So where am I going with this?

We have three very common Nymphaea in our ponds - a white, pink and yellow. The pink ones are blooming now and will probably bloom intermittently throughout the summer. The flower has substance and weight unlike most terrestrial blooms. Mostly because water supports the flower so it has the luxury of excess. Nevertheless, quite beautiful with its subtle color change and shocking yellow center. The dark green of its leaves and black water only help to make it stand out more.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Bloom Day - June

For once I am on time for Bloom Day. Actually I'm ahead of time because I'm writing this on Thursday.

We are in a lull. The more interesting flowers have either bloomed or are getting ready to bloom. There are a few exceptions but most are of the most common variety.

Verbascum 'Southern Charm' Mullein
We usually planted the giant Verbascum olympicum which bloomed the second year after planting then died after blooming. It had a whitish silvery look because of the white hairs on the leaves and a weird twisting habit of its 6' tall flower stalk which would unwind as the flowers progressively bloomed from bottom to top. I was never able to find V. olympicum very easily and the ones sold as V. olympicum turned out to be something else so we stopped buying the plants. Instead we settled on the small V. 'Southern Charm' which is a perennial. This is the second year this one is blooming. Not physically imposing but nice nonetheless.

We bought several Delphinium plants at the local nursery because they had some varieties with interesting dusky colors. The blue was very striking so we had to add that to the collection even though we had several blues already.

This is a plain old field poppy that probably came in a box of wildflowers we planted several years ago. Why it turned up in a bed several dozen feet where it was originally sown I have no clue but there are many of the same plants in the bed. I do like the brilliant red and contrasting light mustard color of the stamens.

I was surprised to see this Dianthus which bloomed much later than the ones I blogged about earlier probably because it is under heavy shade. It must once have been planted in full sun but everything around it grew so it is almost completely shaded now. It is leggy but still blooms. It must be a very old plant because I don't remember planting Dianthus where it is growing.

I know, I know, it's just a plain old petunia. I had to give it some notice because I like the very nice brilliant dark pink-red color.

The first misshapen bloom of a day lily.

And two very plain asiatic lilies. The nicer ones are yet to bloom.

Finally, not to give short shrift to shrubs, here's a Viburnum that's blooming now. This is one of the first Viburnums we planted but I don't know what kind it is (V. lentago, V. Wrightii?). It has remained a medium sized shrub and is not as fast growing as some others. It also doesn't throw up suckers so it remains a neat bush.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Japanese tree lilac , Syringa reticulata

Trees at the townhouse complex.

Our leggy, shrub-like, Japanese tree lilac and photo of the flower buds.

In the townhouse complex where we lived 5 years ago there are three trees covered with white bunches of flowers blooming at this time of the year which I only noticed when I was walking the dog three years ago. The trees have dark reddish brown bark with light small lateral scars like some ornamental cherry trees. I had never seen these trees before and I wondered what they were. I had a gestalten and went to several nurseries to look for trees blooming in early June and there it was, a Japanese tree lilac.

But they wanted quite a bit of money for the mature tree so I thought I would never be able to afford one. About a month later, there were two trees for sale in a big box store, shoved in with the rest of the lilacs and priced like the lilacs too at $17.99. I bought them both even if the leaves of one looked differently than the other - both were labeled Japanese tree lilac. One turned out to be a regular dark purple lilac which is ok since we didn't have a lilac in the yard at the time. But most importantly the other one did turn out to be the Japanese tree lilac.

The tree shot up like regular lilacs and has kept growing at a fast pace of about 4 feet per year. When I bought the tree it was only about two feet tall and now it's over 12 feet tall and still growing. It bloomed last year with about 2-3 bunches of flowers. This year it produced about 6 bunches but nothing like the trees in the townhouse complex. The trees there are also more tree-like than ours which seems like a large shrub. I guess I'll have to prune it to a more tree-like form if that's what I want. Hopefully when it decides it's grown enough, it will produce more flowers and look like the ones at the townhouses.

I went to the townhouse complex to take photos of the trees and discovered that this was not a particularly great year for these trees. The flower heads were sparse compared to last year when the tree was literally covered with white blossoms. I also noticed that our tree is even taller than the ones at the townhouses but they have a much larger caliper diameter of trunk and a far more shapely form. The skinny one at the townhouse complex is deformed because a large branch broke off the tree.

Many have described the flowers as fragrant but I find the smell to be overly sweet and cloying - actually just plain stinky.

Monday, June 11, 2007

First firefly

Just a quick note. I saw my first firefly last Friday evening 06/08/07 which seems abnormally early for NJ.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

'Tis not the Season

It's not the time we usually associate Amaryllis with but the ones we stored and planted this spring are blooming away right now. Actually these are Hippeastrum which are indigenous to South America.

The taxonomy of the Amaryllis is a confused one. "Linnaeus's concept of Amaryllis was in fact a mixed one, including the American plants we now know as Hippeastrum as well as the familiar South African bella-donna lily. Earlier this century a battle raged among botanists and bulb enthusiasts over which of these plants the name should be restricted to, and the bella-donna faction seems to have won. As now recognized the genus consists of a single species, occurring wild only in southwestern Cape Province."*

Even if the taxonomists call it Hippeastrum, Amaryllis has stuck with the public and nurseries who propagate and sell these bulbs.

I will add the names of the individual plants at a later time when/if I find my order form.

*botanica, 2004 Random House Australia.
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Location: Zone 6, New Jersey, United States

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