as spring becomes a memory

5.31.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden
common yarrow

May ended on a very pleasant note, with lots of sunshine, mild temperatures and no humidity! Since we knew these conditions wouldn’t last we went out for a walk, in spite of us both being sick with colds. Who knows when such perfect weather will come around again?

bronze fennel

And of course, it being ten days since our last walk, different things were blooming. It’s never the same garden twice.

golden tickseed
bee visiting English lavender
purple coneflower

When I watched the sun rise this morning, due east, I felt that the universe, the solar system, the earth, the year, the season, the day, were still in order, no matter what stupidities man might achieve today. It is good to know such things about the place you live. It is good to know that there are certainties.
~ Hal Borland
(Hal Borland’s Book of Days)

hemlock cones
woodland pinkroot
crow poison (poisonous to humans and animals)
common sanddragon dragonfly
phlox

The single greatest lesson the garden teaches is that our relationship to the planet need not be zero-sum, and that as long as the sun still shines and people still can plan and plant, think and do, we can, if we bother to try, find ways to provide for ourselves without diminishing the world.
~ Michael Pollan
(Food, Inc.)

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!

the intelligence of a place

3.30.24 ~ ‘old blush’ rose
North Carolina Botanical Garden

It’s always a pleasure to be greeted by the roses dangling from their arbor each time we visit the botanical garden. It never gets old! Like sunrises and sunsets, I suppose. A steady presence. But we were on a new mission this day to locate a Virginia dwarf trillium, another tiny ephemeral we heard was blooming. Along the way we saw…

Spanish lavender
hermit thrush

This (below) was the only undamaged dwarf trillium we could find, surrounded by other kinds of plants. We had torrential rains for a couple of days and I think they did a number on the tiny trilliums. But I’m grateful we got a chance to see this one. It is much smaller than all the other regular size trilliums we’ve been seeing this spring.

Virginia dwarf trillium
spreading Jacob’s ladder
white-throated sparrow

Only by living for many moons in one region, my peripheral senses tracking seasonal changes in the local plants while the scents of the soil steadily seep in through my pores — only over time can the intelligence of a place lay claim upon my person. Slowly, as the seasonal round repeats itself again and again, the lilt and melody of the local songbirds becomes an expectation within my ears, and so the mind I’ve carried within me settles into the wider mind that enfolds me.
~ David Abram
(Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology)

yellow trillium (?)
twisted trillium
pine warbler
sweet shrub aka Carolina allspice
great white trillium (?)
tufted titmouse
red chokeberry
squirrel going out on a limb to reach maple seeds
what a mess he made discarding the “helicopters”
carpenter bee
(thanks to Eliza for the identification)

As we were making our way back to the parking lot this giant bee (above) was hovering over the walkway, blocking our path. Well, if it was just going to stay there I might as well get a picture of it. I don’t know if these creatures are unique to this area but sometimes they hover outside our windows and crash into them repeatedly. It sounds like someone is throwing pebbles at the window.

So we’ve lived here for ten moons I think, not very many so far, but our senses are slowly getting familiar with the seasonal changes.

sightings on another gloomy day

2.9.24 ~ North Carolina Botanical Garden

When we arrived at the botanical garden on Friday, Tim needed to tie his shoe, which gave me a minute to look at the roof of the gazebo he was sitting under. It was full of reindeer lichen and all kinds of moss so I took a few pictures with my zoom lens. When I got home I noticed those tiny red dots on the lichen. (above picture) Apparently these are called lichen fruiting bodies (apothecia) which contain spores that are dispersed in the wind. Just a little biology lesson for the day…

bee hotel
(female) Purple Finch, #80

A quick stop by the bird feeders and there I found another life bird, this time a female Purple Finch!

The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” For many of us, they’re irregular winter visitors to our feeders, although these chunky, big-beaked finches do breed in northern North America and the West Coast. Separating them from House Finches requires a careful look, but the reward is a delicately colored, cleaner version of that red finch. Look for them in forests, too, where you’re likely to hear their warbling song from the highest parts of the trees.
~ All About Birds website

Carolina rose hips

We listened for a long time to a Carolina wren singing its heart out in the branches above us…

If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment. If a shower drives us for shelter to the maple grove or the trailing branches of the pine, yet in their recesses with microscopic eye we discover some new wonder in the bark, or the leaves, or the fungi at our feet.
~ Henry David Thoreau
(Journal, September 23, 1838)

And finally, tucked away in a shady spot in the herb garden we found a patch of Lenten Roses blooming. They’re not actually roses, they are in the buttercup family. There are many varieties, flowers ranging in color from deep red to white and many shades in between.

It was a lovely surprise to find these flowers blooming so abundantly on a gloomy February morning!

for a bee’s experience

9.13.23

His Feet are shod with Gauze —
His helmet, is of Gold,
His Breast, a single Onyx
With Chrysophras, inlaid —

His Labor is a Chant —
His Idleness — a Tune —
Oh, for a Bee’s experience
Of Clovers, and of Noon!

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #979)


“His helmet, is of Gold”

Many thanks to Sally, for letting me photograph in her garden!

ecoregions

8.19.23 ~ Gold Park
Hillsborough, North Carolina

Saturday, seventeen days after the last one, we woke up to a low humidity day and got ourselves outside for another walk. Because the UNC students are moving into their dorms for the fall semester there are signs everywhere warning about extra traffic in Chapel Hill. So we headed in the opposite direction, to a 24-acre park in Hillsborough. It was very busy there, too, with kids practicing soccer on a field and countless people walking dogs and parents pushing strollers and bicyclists zipping by. I learned later there is a fenced dog park somewhere on the property.

But we stumbled across a little gem, a pollinator garden with a bee hotel. In the garden we met a master gardener who was on her knees, photographing bees on the flowers. While we were talking with her a goldfinch landed nearby and a hummingbird quickly chased it away! After she shared a lot of her knowledge with us she told us about the Orange Master Gardeners website. (We live in Orange County.)

Bee Hotel

In 2016, Hillsborough became the 35th city to be named a Bee City USA. Dedicated in November 2017, the bee hotel provides a home for the 90 species of bees native to the area, many of which live solitary lives and seek a safe, tunnel-like dwelling to lay eggs and care for their young.
~ Orange Master Gardeners website

The website mentions that we are located in Ecoregion 45C, the Carolina Slate Belt, which sent me off on a web-search, wondering what on earth an ecoregion is…

An ecoregion (ecological region) is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than a bioregion, which in turn is smaller than a biogeographic realm. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural communities and species. The biodiversity of flora, fauna and ecosystems that characterize an ecoregion tends to be distinct from that of other ecoregions.
~ Wikipedia

Anyhow, after we were done chatting she kindly pointed us in the direction of Riverwalk, an urban greenway along the Eno River. We enjoyed the boardwalk and scenery. The rest of it was paved so it wasn’t really a walk in the woods. But it was nice to get out in the fresh air and sunshine and to move our bodies. (I’ve been doing a lot of yoga but I’ve missed the pleasures of walking!) I’m not used to seeing so many people.

black-eyed Susan
under a railroad bridge crossing over Eno River
a huge hunk of quartz (?)
railroad bridge
access to underground sewer pipes

A something in a summer’s Day
As slow her flambeaux burn away
Which solemnizes me.

A something in a summer’s noon —
A depth — an Azure — a perfume —
Transcending extasy.

~ Emily Dickinson
(The Poems of Emily Dickinson, #104)


part of Riverwalk

On our way back we passed by the pollinator garden again we spotted a flash of iridescent blue, the wings of this very large wasp. (above) I couldn’t capture the blue on camera. But I’m pretty sure it must be a great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus). It prefers solitude and is not aggressive. Nice to know it’s a helpful pollinator and goes after garden pests.

lots of eastern tiger swallowtails down here

Curiosity about ecoregions led me to discover that most of my life I lived in Ecoregion 59, the Northeastern Coastal Zone which is in the Eastern Temperate Forest. And now I live in Ecoregion 45, the Piedmont which is in the Temperate Coniferous Forest. Wikipedia has a map of ecoregions in the contiguous United States here. In which ecoregion do you live? (If you care to share.)

We are slowly getting our bearings here, still working on our to-do list, getting acquainted with new doctors, spending time with the little ones, etc. One nice thing that has become routine is visiting the fantastic Carrboro Farmers’ Market every Wednesday afternoon. It’s been a treat having fresh picked locally grown flowers (some familiar, some new to me) in my vase every week. Makes me feel at home.

flora by the sea

10.10.22 ~ Cognitive Garden at Avery Point

On Indigenous Peoples’ Day my good friend Janet and I took a long afternoon walk from Eastern Point to Avery Point and back again, passing by Beach Pond both ways. The weather was picture perfect, if a bit on the breezy side.

After admiring the views of Long Island Sound and identifying the various islands and lighthouses we could see on a clear day, we found the “Cognitive Garden” on the Avery Point campus. There was still a lot of interest to see there in the middle of autumn. Textures and colors.

Cognition means to acquire knowledge through the senses, experience, and thought. A cognitive garden encourages learning through these three processes while exposing people to nature. While the benefits of nature extend to all ages, young children learn primarily through their senses and a multitude of studies have demonstrated a correlation between sensory stimulation and brain development.
~ University of Connecticut, Avery Point Campus website

The naturalist is a civilized hunter. He goes goes alone into a field or woodland and closes his mind to everything but that time and place, so that life around him presses in on all the senses and small details grow in significance. He begins the scanning search for which cognition was engineered. His mind becomes unfocused, it focuses on everything, no longer directed toward any ordinary task or social pleasantry.
~ E. O. Wilson
(Biophilia)

black-eyed Susan

I wish I could include the smell of a patch of thyme for you, dear readers. What an amazing scent filled the air!

thyme ~ it smelled wonderful!
a bee enjoying the smell, too

On the way back I was happy to see that Beach Pond was full of water again, although we were still in a moderate drought that day. I suspect Thursday’s torrential rains may have moved us up into the abnormally dry category. No waterbirds around but still some flowers blooming, and others spent.

asters at Beach Pond
cattails with fluff

So come to the pond,
or the river of your imagination,
or the harbor of your longing,
and put your lips to the world.
And live
your life.

~ Mary Oliver
(Red Bird: Poems)

the pond is full of water and the breeze was making little ripples
juvenile song sparrow
backside of a lingering swamp rose mallow and orbs
swamp rose mallow bud and orbs

It felt so good sauntering along and catching up with a friend!!!

picked out by the sun

10.7.22 ~ Caroline Black Garden, Connecticut College Arboretum

Caroline Black Garden is known as the secret garden of Connecticut College, located on a steep hill between the college and the Thames River. Starting with this gate you follow paths passing through various garden “rooms.” It has four acres of native and exotic ornamental trees and bushes. We enjoyed a morning of exploration.

western red cedar
paths connected the “rooms”

Sit and be quiet. In a while
the red berries, now in shadow,
will be picked out by the sun.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

path leading to a magical pool
Tim pretending to climb a huge glacial erratic
water bubbling out from under this rock ~ a spring perhaps?
Japanese inspired water feature
THIS POOL GIVEN TO
THE CAROLINE BLACK
MEMORIAL GARDEN
BY THE NEW LONDON
HORTICULTURAL SOCIETY
1930
gate leaving pool “room”

The clearing rests in song and shade.
It is a creature made
By old light held in soil and leaf,
By human joy and grief,
By human work,
Fidelity of sight and stroke,
By rain, by water on
The parent stone.

~ Wendell Berry
(This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems)

prickly pear, the only cactus native to Connecticut
bee and goldenrod
another garden gate

What a natural wellspring — cooling and refreshing the years — is the gift of wonder! It removes the dryness from life and keeps our days fresh and expanding.
~ Edwin Way Teale
(Circle of the Seasons: The Journal of a Naturalist’s Year)

meadow, woods, old orchard

9.30.22 ~ Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center

It felt so good getting out for a long walk in the woods on a cool, crisp autumn day! First we enjoyed the meadows at the entrance to Coogan Farm.

milkweed pods
abundant goldenrod blooming everywhere
bee and asters
can you find the bee?
a stump that was growing out of the crack in a huge boulder

Following a path past the Giving Garden we came to the Gallup Orchard Trail, which winds through the woods before arriving at a forgotten orchard that was recently discovered and is being studied and restored.

a wolf tree welcoming us to the Gallup Orchard Trail,
a relic from farms of the past when trees along the edges of open fields
could spread their branches without competition from other trees
leaf, berries and orbs
ducked under a broken tree
marking the end of the woods and entrance to the orchard

Dating back to the original 1654 Gallup homestead and actively farmed by the Greenman brothers during the age of shipbuilding in the 1800s to feed their shipworkers at what is now Mystic Seaport Museum, the orchard contains clues that will help us uncover the history and heritage of the land.
~ Anna Sawin
(“Apples and Pears, Oh My!” ~ Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center blog post, March 9, 2020)

pear on tree
apple on tree
fall color in the distance

The orchard is on a hill. We entered at the top of the hill and when we found our way down to the bottom we found this sign. The bottom entrance is off the Stillman Mansion Trail. We followed that trail back to the parking lot and encountered a cute little song sparrow, who wasn’t singing, only staring at us apprehensively.

song sparrow

Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.
~ F. Scott Fitzgerald
(The Great Gatsby)

American burnweed ~ pilewort (thanks to Eliza for the identification)

I hope we get lots of walks in this autumn! 🍂 🍁 🍂