anticipation

4.19.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

The folks at the botanical garden are very excited because one of the American Columbos they planted 19 years ago is looking like it might flower this year! This flowering stalk (above), also known as yellow gentian, is about 2 feet tall and it could grow to between 3 and 8 feet tall.

After spending 19 years in our Mountain Habitat as an unassuming rosette of leaves near the ground, one of our American columbos is about to put out a spectacular flowering stalk for the first and only time. Then, after reproducing, it will die.
~ NC Botanical Garden Facebook page

will it flower???
a rosette of America columbo leaves on the ground ~
apparently this one not going to be flowering this year

We also enjoyed the presence of other plants and trees, already blooming…

fringe tree blossoms
northern sundial lupine
sandhills bluestar
wild azalea
white-throated sparrow

A nice, quiet and cloudy late morning in the garden. We were a couple of hours later than usual and there seemed to be fewer birds out and about.

down in the sandhills

4.8.24 ~ Sandhills Horticultural Gardens
Pinehurst, North Carolina

By coincidence, exactly six years ago on this day, my sister-in-law and I visited this lovely horticultural garden near her home. (spring blossoms) We had a great time exploring it again. It was quite different than my local botanical garden. There were lots of huge, vividly colored rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias, and very few identification signs.

We found these in the Hackley Woodland Garden:

a busy bee

We walked the boardwalk in the Desmond Native Wetland Trail, a little nature conservancy and bird sanctuary. It was filled with birdsong and lots of new greenery. Looking up for birds I spotted the only thing blooming in there, a wild azalea. So delicate and pretty:

wild azalea

The Margaret H. Ambrose Japanese Garden was calm and peaceful. We paused a lot, reflecting…

And we finally took a quick peek at the formal Sir Walter Raleigh Garden:

It’s interesting how each garden had a very different mood to it. There were ten other gardens there we didn’t have time to see. I think a lot about the differences between preserved natural land conservancies and cultivated gardens. Each have their value and place in the world.

In the afternoon the four of us took Dan & Fran’s dog Biscuit for a walk in their neighborhood and enjoyed watching the solar eclipse with our special eclipse glasses. They seemed pretty flimsy but worked very well. I had also obtained a special filter for the camera lens. Tim had to hold it in front of the lens while I tried to find the sun without getting it in my eyes. When I fiddled with the zoom it would get fuzzy and we didn’t have a lot of time to figure out what worked best! It was very awkward but we managed to get a few shots.

near the beginning

I almost forgot to check the ground for crescent shadows…

crescent shadows
at or near the 78% peak we got in our area

We went back to the house to enjoy a meal and then I took one last peek outside to see the last of the eclipse from the porch. The moon was near the top of the sun and some long leaf pine needles way up in the trees got into the picture, too.

near the end

Truly a day to remember!

hunting for cinnamon fern

4.2.24 ~ ‘old blush’ rose arbor
North Carolina Botanical Garden

It was spring vacation week so we had a chance to take Katherine with us on one of our walks at the botanical garden. Like her grandmother, she was enchanted by the rose arbor. And we finally saw tadpoles in the frog pond!

And of course we saw lots of flowers…

lobed tickseed
Florida flame azalea
Virginia spiderwort
bogbean
wild geranium (with tiny ant)
great white trillium

Katherine knows a lot about cinnamon ferns and she located some starting to come up in the Mountain Habitat (above). And then, in the Coastal Plain Habitat (below) she spotted some more that were taller and starting to unfurl. My granddaughter informed me that, among other things, cinnamon fern is the oldest species of fern on earth. (70 million years!)

learning about cinnamon ferns from Katherine
(photo by Tim)

Of course there were some birds to enjoy and a couple even paused for a photo or two…

Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal
he was feeding her but I couldn’t capture it!
northern cardinal
white-throated sparrow

What a blessing it was to share a beautiful day with our granddaughter, to share our interests with her and to have her share hers with us.

early spring in the arboretum

3.17.24 ~ pineland phlox
Coker Arboretum, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

This post is my contribution to Karma’s Signs of Spring Photo Hunt. I don’t have a prime lens, but the photos, except for the birds, were taken at about the same focal length with my zoom lens. (There was a lot of squatting involved to get the pictures.) Visit Karma’s post here if you’d like to participate.

stinking hellebore

It was spring break at UNC and we learned that we could easily find a parking space on campus when the students are out of town. And that meant we could finally visit the lovely Coker Arboretum, 5 wooded acres in the middle of a college campus. I came home with more than 300 photographs! What follows is a small sample of the birds and blooms we saw. Some of the plants were from other parts of the world.

Alabama snow-wreath
magnolia
spring starflower (South America)
Chinese redbud (China)
spring snowflake (Europe)
golden ragwort
Japanese camellia
spike winter-hazel (Japan)
hermit thrush
white-throated sparrow
‘hino-degeri’ azalea
‘snow’ azalea
Carolina wren
American robin
Spanish bluebell (Iberian Peninsula)
flowering quince
Carolina silverbell
cut-leaf lilac

I was especially attracted to the tiny South American spring starflowers which carpeted some of the garden plots. Something about those little purple lines on the petals. And the European spring snowflakes captivated me. They were a little bigger than our snowdrops. When I got home I learned they were native to southern Europe, all the way east to Ukraine, so I wondered if any of my ancestors had them in their gardens to welcome spring over there.

sandhills pyxie-moss

1.28.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

It’s been a challenge getting outside with all the rain we’ve been getting lately. It was drizzling when we got to the botanical garden Sunday afternoon, even though the weather people had promised that the sun would be coming out. We decided to walk anyway.

Along the path we met a staffer named Lauren, who was out in the rain looking for salamanders. We fell into a nice conversation and when we told her about our hunt for seedbox a couple of weeks ago she suggested another plant for us to hunt down. A tiny pyxie-moss was flowering now. She showed us a picture of it on her cell phone, and gave us directions to its location. We found it!

By then it had stopped raining so I went back to the car and got my camera. What a treat to see this plant so rare and unique to the Carolinas!

A rare minute creeping subshrub of xeric areas in the Sandhills region of North Carolina. This is the smaller of our two species of pyxie-moss. Very range-restricted, the entire known range of this species is a handful of counties in North and South Carolina.
… The tiny succulent evergreen leaves are less than 5 mm long. … The flowers rarely set seed and the seeds rarely sprout.
~ Carolina Nature website

After enjoying our discovery we went on to explore more of the soggy gardens. There is always something different to see. It was still a damp, gray day.

pretty sure this is a longleaf pine

This resurrection fern was growing abundantly on one side of a tall tree stump. On the other side of the stump it was all mushrooms.

I couldn’t get around to the back of the stump for a full all-mushroom shot, but you can see where the ferns ended and the mushrooms began in the photo below.

I close my eyes and listen to the voices of the rain. … Every drip it seems is changed by its relationship with life, whether it encounters moss or maple or fir bark or my hair. And we think of it as simply rain, as if it were one thing, as if we understood it. I think that moss knows rain better than we do, and so do maples. Maybe there is no such thing as rain; there are only raindrops, each with its own story.
– Robin Wall Kimmerer
(Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge & The Teachings of Plants)

lichens on a fallen branch
‘lemon drop’ swamp azalea buds
‘Spain’ rosemary flowering
Atlantic ninebark (rose family) seed head
Ozark witch-hazel blooming
witch-hazel marcescence
winterberry aka black alder

And you know the light is fading all too soon
You’re just two umbrellas one late afternoon
You don’t know the next thing you will say
This is your favorite kind of day
It has no walls, the beauty of the rain
Is how it falls, how it falls, how it falls

~ Dar Williams
♫ (The Beauty of the Rain) ♫

Lauren had mentioned that rainy days are the best time to look for salamanders. On warm wet nights from January to March here in the Piedmont they emerge from their underground burrows and head for vernal pools to mate and lay eggs. A week after that artic blast it did get unseasonably warm. I wonder if she found any salamanders after we talked. We kept our eyes open but didn’t see any.

seven weeks later…

..we take another walk
8.2.23 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

When I woke up yesterday morning the dew point was only 61°F and the temperature was only 65°F (18°C)! Surprise! I couldn’t believe my eyes!! Perfect walking weather. Where on earth did it come from? Canada, the TV meteorologist informed, and it wasn’t going to stick around. So off we went, determined to make the most of a seemingly rare opportunity.

In the rush to get out the door I was so focused on not forgetting my hat that I forgot my camera! (How was that even possible???) So I made do with my cell phone’s camera, which I found very awkward to manipulate, especially since I couldn’t hang it around my neck with a strap and have my hands free whenever I wanted them. But it didn’t matter — I was OUTSIDE and enjoying every precious minute.

The flowers that sleep by night, opened their gentle eyes and turned them to the day. The light, creation’s mind, was everywhere, and all things owned its power.
~ Charles Dickens
(The Old Curiosity Shop)

I couldn’t find identification tags for many of the flowers and plants we saw, but some of the ones I matched up had very curious names.

American bladdernut
yellow pitcher plant (carnivorous)

I found this specimen of eastern hemlock, my childhood spirit tree, in the Mountain Habitat section of the gardens. Looking at a range map I see they do grow in the mountains of North Carolina, but not naturally here in the Piedmont region. It seemed scraggly but trying its best to grow in this locale. Notice the tiny new green cones growing above the brown ones.

♡ eastern hemlock ♡
plumleaf azalea
eastern tiger swallowtail
stokes’ aster
this large patch of oregano smelled yummy

It was such a refreshing morning saunter. And the low humidity stuck around for our afternoon visit to the farmers market, adding another pleasant outing to our day. Last week, when we went to the market for the first time on Wednesday, it was in the 90s and very humid. Two days later, when we picked Katie up on Friday, her last day of camp, it was 95°F (35°C) with a heat index of 105°F (41°C)!

one morning in two lovely spring gardens

Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden
5.7.23 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

One last walk with Janet in Connecticut… (There may be walks together in North Carolina in our future…) It was a lovely, sunny, spring day. So many blossoms!!!

golden ragwort
wild azalea
large-flowered bellwort (aka merrybells)
roseshell azalea
wild columbine (aka red columbine)
mayapple
bluets
eastern redbud
dwarf crested iris
Virginia bluebells
path into a rock garden
purple trillium
nodding trillium
yellow birch (aka swamp birch)
great white trillium
fern forest
Solomon’s seal
toadshade (aka toad trillium)
gray catbird singing for us
Caroline Black Garden
5.7.23 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

After enjoying the wildflower garden we crossed the college campus and visited another garden, this one of ornamental trees and shrubs from around the world.

huge copper beech in the background
Janet noticed this bat lying motionless on a rock
blossoms reflected in water pool
unfurling
Janet looking into a garden “room”

You think winter will never end, and then, when you don’t expect it, when you have almost forgotten it, warmth comes and a different light. Under the bare trees the wildflowers bloom so thick you can’t walk without stepping on them. The pastures turn green and the leaves come.
~ Wendell Berry
(Hannah Coulter: A Novel)

magnificent copper beech
stunning copper beech leaves
copper beech bark
looking up into the copper beach
eastern tiger swallowtail
dandelion seed caught on a flower stigma

I will miss my adventures with Janet, sharing with each other all the little details we notice along the way.

wildflower walk

5.6.22 ~ Connecticut College Arboretum

Friday afternoon my sister and brother-in-law joined us and a large group of (mostly) retired folks to take the Connecticut College Arboretum’s annual guided wildflower walk in the Edgerton & Stengel Memorial Wildflower Garden. It was outside so no masks. They hadn’t had this walk for the past two years because of the pandemic. Leading the walk this year was Miles Schwartz Sax, arboretum director, and Madison Holland, horticulturalist.

I didn’t catch the names of all the flowers but have identified the ones I’m more sure of. When we arrived we saw some arborists hard at work in the trees.

And while waiting for the talk and walk to begin I saw my first catbirds of the year! They were very busy but I did manage to get a couple of pictures. 🙂

Enjoy the spring ephemerals!

Virginia bluebells
star chickweed (thanks to John for the identification)
wild columbine
foamflower
wild geranium
wild geranium
dwarf crested iris
barren strawberry
violet
pinkshell azalea
violet
violet
herb Robert (thanks to Jane for the identification)
white baneberry
great trillium
Virginia bluebells
smooth solomon’s seal
large-flowered bellwort (merrybells)
nodding trillium

The Edgerton and Stengel Wildflower Garden is filled with wildflowers, ferns and a shrub layer of native azaleas and rhododendrons. Sheltered by a canopy of white ash and red maple, this naturalistic garden displays its beauty on a west-facing slope. The remains of stone walls are reminders of the original agricultural use of the land. Wildflowers are able to survive without the intervention of people and they add to the natural beauty of any setting.
~ Connecticut College Arboretum website

We were lucky the approaching rainstorm held off until after the walk. It was fun interacting with people again, even while everyone kept a respectable distance. Might be worth another visit in a week or two. Some flowers had gone by and some looked like they hadn’t bloomed yet.