Good Fortune

You might look at this photograph and say, “Ho-hum, just another daffodil,” but you would be wrong.

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Narcissus ‘Fortune’

Purchased at half price in late autumn to layer in containers with tulips and other bulbs (yet to come), these ‘Fortune’ daffs have delivered more than I bargained for. A stately 20-inches tall, their large flowers are sweetly fragrant and long-lasting, persisting 3 weeks and still looking fresh. Plus, they’re awfully pretty with their ruffled orange cups, don’t you agree? The package label, which I saved, notes the bulbs will multiply easily and grow in part shade.  Hmm, I think I’ll put them to the test.

 

In Living Color

I very much enjoyed hearing your advice about selection of best image for the upcoming Flower Show Photography Contest. Thank you! The deadline for entries is today, so the photograph is at J&D Photos now being printed and mounted on black foam board.

Since there were wonderful comments about each photo, I thought you might enjoy seeing them in color too.  Look how different they are!

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Beach Walk: Sunrise on Pawley’s Island

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Can you hear the waves and feel the wind on your cheek?

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Winter Reflections: Ashmore Heritage Preserve

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So quiet and barely a breeze here. The dark red you see in front of the split-rail fence is a bog filled with hundreds of mountain sweet pitcher plants (Sarracenia rubra ssp. jonesii).

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Solitude: Glacier Bay, Alaska

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Alone in one of the most beautiful and remote places on earth, with 3,000 other guests and a crew of 1,200. You could have heard a pin drop.

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

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There are simply no words to describe an experience like this!

Do the images look the way you thought they would?

Does the addition of color change your favorite?

After more thought, I eliminated two photos. Beach Walk was taken with my older camera and the resolution was not quite up to par. Solitude, one of my favorite photos of all times, was too risky. One of the contest guidelines noted works should “reflect the interests of the Garden Club of America,” and I was afraid the judges would discredit the photo because of the cruise ship.

The selection came down to the final two, but both had slight problems. The first, Winter Reflections, is dramatic but not unusual.  In fact, it looks like an image you would see in a calendar or made into a puzzle. Plus, there is a class for trees, which might influence its appraisal. Fresh Catch is dramatic, but the tips of the eagle’s wing feathers are not in the frame and the focus on the subject is good, but not fabulous.

In the end, I decided to take my chances with Fresh Catch.  Why?  It is as powerful as a monochrome image as it is in color.  Plus, your comments proved it is a subject to be reckoned with. I know the photo will be admired, even if it is not the winner.

Fingers crossed!

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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