IAVOM and more…

Please don’t say, “Oh no, another Hippeastrum!”

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Hippeastrum ‘Ambiance’

Well yes, but it’s the last one. Besides, it’s so beautiful with its clear white and clear red feathered together to create a blazing star. Unfortunately, the flower has no fragrance. The bulb does, however, have two bloom stalks, so it get’s a gold star for productivity, as well as this highlight for In a Vase on Monday.

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Wow, what drama! Notice the very fine line of red outlining each petal.

Ordered just before Christmas from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, ‘Ambiance’ has taken it’s time, but I think it was worth the wait, don’t you? Even though many value these flowering bulbs as holiday embellishments only, I enjoy them best in the slower months of winter when I have time to savor their day-by-day growth and fabulous blooms.

One other note about these photos before moving on. I often complain about having too much shade (all shade really) in the garden, but you can see why my husband, Tim, and I fell for this home the minute we walked in the door. Though this sunporch was added just last year, we have similar views from the kitchen and bedroom. Since the land slopes away from the back of the house down to the river, we have the effect of living in a treehouse, with fabulous views (especially in winter) of the park-like golf course on the far side of the Reedy. It’s not only a beautiful setting, it’s also a wildlife haven. Blue herons and a variety of hawks are frequent guests.  Coyotes, deer, and raccoons are not uncommon, and we’ve even spotted owls, wild turkeys, otters, and beavers.

Here’s something else happening on the sunporch.

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‘Chantilly’ seedlings under the grow light.

Tim has fixed a clamp to the window frame for a grow light, as I’m attempting to grow ‘Chantilly’ snapdragons from seed for an early April flower show. The seedlings get a short period of early morning light (as seen here), plus about 16 hours from the grow light each day, and are fertilized with dilute fish emulsion once a week. They look awfully spindly to me, though. Any suggestions?

I’m also registered for the Photography portion of the event, Class 2, Flowing Water, “A monochrome photograph of flowing water in any form.”

I’m having trouble deciding.  Which of these images do you think is a winner?

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Beach Walk: Sunrise on Pawley’s Island

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Winter Reflections: Ashmore Heritage Preserve

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Solitude: Glacier Bay, Alaska

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Fresh Catch: Bald Eagle in Clover Passage, Katchikan, Alaska

 

 

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This photo was shared for Valentine’s Day, but with the addition of a caption also serves as a heartfelt tribute and link to February’s Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day.

The camellias (Camellia japonica) predate me in the garden, but the ones I can name are ‘Memphis Belle’, center top and bottom; ‘Jordan’s Pride’, also called ‘Hermi’, pink with white edges; and ‘Professor Sargent’, just above ‘Jordan’s Pride’.  The smaller flowers, top to bottom, on both left and right are pansy; Autumnalis cherry (Prunus subhirtella); Chinese fringe (Loropetalum chinense); Carolina jessamine, with green leaves (Gelsemium sempervirens); Chinese paperbush, a yellow rosette (Edgeworthia chrysantha); Tete-a-tete miniature daffodil; Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis); and viola.  At the center is a single Algerian iris (I. unguicularis).

Flower Play

With Valentine’s Day just ahead, I took advantage of the many bargain-priced blooms currently available to offer tips on flower arranging in my Saturday garden column in The Greenville News.

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Store-bought blooms and foliage are in abundant supply because of Valentine’s Day.

I can’t name retailers in the newspaper, but I can tell you here that most of the flowers were found at Trader Joe’s and a few, such as the mixed group of roses, were from Costco. In all, I bought 114 stems, including 32 roses, for just under $75. The most expensive were white hydrangea clusters, which cost $2 each. Others, such as iris, alstromeria, stock, heather, tulips, and lilies, cost much less. For filler, I also bagged a few bundles of eucalyptus foliage and cut a variety of evergreens from my garden, including stems of camellia foliage with fat flower buds. Glass vases, which I think make the prettiest gift presentation, had been collected from resale shops.

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Despite imperfections, or perhaps because of them, homemade arrangements are especially pleasing.

With these supplies at hand, I created five offerings for Valentine’s Day, plus a handful of more modest arrangements to use at home. None are perfect, but luckily perfection is not required or even desired when “making your own.” A homemade bouquet is always the most charming…and the most appreciated.

Though many of you likely know the basics of combining blooms (from your gardening experiences), arranging in glass (without the benefit of a frog or block of foam) can be a bit tricky, as a number of crossed stems are required to hold a design in place. I begin with several cuttings of foliage, crossing their stems in the middle of the vase, before outlining the shape of the design with its dominate flowers, and then layering in smaller flowers, more foliage, and any decorative details like berries. A Lazy Susan, if you have one, makes the job easier.

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Colors near each other on the color wheel create a harmonious mix. As you can see, red works well with either purple (between red and blue) or orange (between red and yellow).

When combining colors, I prefer those that fall next to each other on the color wheel. White blooms, I’ve discovered, look best when softened with gray foliage, such as eucalyptus.

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Soften the “light-bulb effect” of white flowers with gray foliage.

What are your best tips for flower arranging?

To see what others are showcasing today for In a Vase on Monday, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Shadow

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Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden, January 28, 2007

I’ve always loved this photo. It captures many of the things I like best about the winter garden–blue skies, eye-catching bark, handsome evergreens, early bulbs pushing above the grass and, most importantly, bare branches etching a lacy pattern upon the earth as the sun sweeps across the sky.

I’m sorry to say I don’t remember the name of the sculpture or its maker, but I love the form of the spinning figure with outstretched arms and its placement among pirouetting crepe myrtles.

SHADOW is the theme of the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. To see where others have found inspiration, visit:  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/shadow-2017/

Beauty of the Beech

The winter view from the sunporch includes the colorful leaves of American beech trees.

The winter view of the woodland includes the colorful leaves of Fagus grandifolia.

When I posted this photo on Monday to highlight the flowering Hippeastrum, I couldn’t help but look beyond the windows to admire the parchment-like leaves of a group of young American beech trees (Fagus grandifolia), and the warm color they add to the mostly gray and brown winter landscape.

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Smooth gray bark makes a beech tree easy to identify.

The native beech is common in our neighborhood and easy to spot any time of year because of its smooth gray bark, which is sometimes carved by lovebirds and others who want to make their mark. In fall, the tree’s green leaves turn yellow and then russet brown, but rather than falling, many cling tightly to their branches throughout the cold season, eventually fading to pale parchment and curling into cylinders that rattle against one another in the slightest breeze.

What accounts for the winter dress of the beech tree?

Most deciduous trees shed their leaves by producing an enzyme that creates an abscission layer between the leaf petiole and the tree branch. When the cell walls of this specialized layer disintegrate, the leaf easily detaches in a gust of wind or sprinkle of rain.

Beeches, however, belong to a group of trees that are marcescent [märˈses(ə)nt], meaning they hold on to all or most of their leaves until spring. Like some oaks and hornbeams, beeches either fail to form an abscission layer or delay its development, so leaves stay on the tree long after they become lifeless and dry.

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A neighborhood oak with dull brown leaves on its lowest branches.

Marcescence is more common on younger trees and on the lower, more juvenile, portions of older trees. In my garden, this is particularly true of oaks, but these dull brown, crinkled leaves are a poor substitute for the beech’s tiers of lacy, warm-hued foliage.

No one really knows the purpose of marcescence, but there are theories. Some believe the unpalatable leaves keep tender buds and branches from being browsed by hungry herbivores like deer and moose. Others suggest the leaves provide protection from injury when conditions are especially dry or frigid.

Whatever the reason, I love the rich color the beech trees add to the winter landscape and the whispered conversations offered by their shimmering leaves when I walk among their branches. Surely they must be chatting about spring, and the many blue skies and warm days just ahead.

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IAVOM and More

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Hippeastrum ‘Blossom Peacock’

After spending nine mid-January days in Washington, DC, I was thrilled to arrive home early last week to find blooms, inside and out, including the first flower on a Hippeastrum I ordered just before Christmas. I chose ‘Blossom Peacock’ from Brent and Becky’s online catalog because it was described as Brent’s favorite for its incredible symmetry, color, and mildly sweet fragrance. Now, I think it’s my favorite too.

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‘Blossom Peacock’ illuminated by the morning sun.

As soon as the bulb arrived, I “planted” it in a container of pebbles, but as the flowers opened and the top-heavy stalk tilted one way and another, and I worried I might have to cut its stem before finding it could be squeezed, bulb and all, into an upright glass vase. Moved from the kitchen window to the sunporch, where it shines each morning in the early light, I can barely take my eyes off it.

Today, it’s perfect for In a Vase on Monday, hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

The first warm welcome home, however, was hailed by ‘Peggy Clarke’, a Japanese flowering apricot (Prunus mume), which I spied even before turning into the driveway.

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Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’

Although the small tree’s common name would lead you to believe it’s native to Japan, where it was first found in cultivation by Europeans, it’s actually indigenous to China and Korea. In China, the plant is commonly called mei, or plum, and it’s known as one of the three friends of winter along with pine and bamboo.

Like others of its kind, ‘Peggy Clarke’ blooms January to March when the weather is mild. Its 1-inch wide, rosy-pink, double flowers, each accented with a red calyx and many long, thread-like stamens, perfume the garden with a spicy-sweet fragrance. Today, which is rather warm for the season, the tree is buzzing with a variety of bees and other insects in search of nectar and pollen. Some buds, however, are still tightly closed, waiting for winter’s next warm spell.

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‘Peggy Clark’ close up.

Surprisingly, I also found paper bush (Edgeworthia chrysanthia) beginning to open its fragrant flowers and ‘Wisley Supreme’ witch hazel (Hamamelis mollis) in full regalia, with epaulets flying.

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Edgeworthia chrysantha (so hard to photograph!) with it’s bell-like clusters of flowers just beginning to open.

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‘Wisley Supreme’ Hamamelis mollis

In the week that followed, I was glad to have these cheerful friends as I was caught off guard by a debilitating cold while struggling with a full schedule of meetings, appointments, and work. Then, when the weekend arrived, I don’t know that I’ve ever been so happy to enjoy a quiet Saturday and Sunday.

Now, it’s time to be up and at ’em again, and I’m excited to see a week of fine weather ahead. Fingers crossed for an afternoon or two in the garden.

For those hoping to hear a little about the Women’s March on Washington, I’m happy to share. It was an amazing event, though I was sad to see later (on television) that much of the rhetoric from the rally was not representative. Madonna….really? I don’t think 1 in 10,000 would say she speaks for them.  Certainly I wouldn’t.

It was a great crowd, very friendly, patient, and upbeat, and lots you didn’t see in the
media. Varied ethnic and religious groups participated, as well as disabled persons. There were lots of young families with children, many mother and daughter pairs, and an astounding number of young people under 30, including young men.

All in all, it was a positive and hopeful experience. The March on Washington might not make an immediate impact on policy, but I believe it will make all the difference for those engaging in human rights for the first time.

Here’s my favorite image of the day–a little girl named Maeve promoting equality on her third birthday!

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Marching on Washington, January 21.

 

 

Celebrating Democracy

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Donald John Trump, 45th President of the United States, delivering his Inaugural Address.

From a January 17 message from the Dean of Washington National Cathedral:

“I understand the strong disagreement many people have with the decisions to accept an invitation for the Cathedral choir to sing at the Inauguration and for the Cathedral to host the Inaugural Prayer Service. I am sorry those decisions have caused such turmoil and pain. Yet I stand by those decisions–not because we are celebrating the President-elect, but because we want to model for him, and the rest of the county, an approach to civility.

Understand that civility does not mean endorsing a president’s views, behavior or rhetoric, nor compromising our own Christian values. Our willingness to pray and sing with everyone today does not mean we won’t join with others in protest tomorrow. We will always strive to bridge the divide and repair the breaches in our life together. As a Cathedral, we have decided that we will approach that moment as open-handedly as possible.

In this and in all disagreements, we should never turn away from the opportunity to engage in any conversation. We can have no conversation, and this Cathedral can have no convening authority, if those with whom we disagree only see a turned back or are met with condescension or derision. God meets us where we are, and we must do the same for one another.

At the Inauguration on Friday, our choir will sing “God Bless America,” among other pieces, not as a political endorsement, but as an affirmation that we are still one nation under God. Why are we going? For the same reasons Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter and others are going: To honor our nation, to support our democracy, to promote the peaceful transition of power, to celebrate our aspirations and to lift up the values that have blessed this nation.”

And:

“I believe our job is to work together to build a country where everyone feels welcome, everyone feels safe, everyone feels at home. We will need all people from across our nation to be a part of that process, and we cannot retreat into our separate quarters if we have any hope of accomplishing this task. We must meet in the middle, and we start through prayer and song.

It pains me that our decisions have caused such anguish. But, if these gestures serve as a catalyst for bridging the divide then, God willing, we are on the right path.”

–The Very Rev. Randolph “Randy” Marshall Hollerith

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The newly restored Capitol dome…

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…and the thousands who came to celebrate democracy.