2018 Review through the Lens: D4

”I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”

– Eartha Kitt

 

“You learn something new every day,” so the saying goes. I have to admit, I’ve never fully agreed with this sentiment. I think the disagreement lies in my espoused belief that most learning requires seeking and not every human being is a seeker. Sure it’s possible that new truths can just land in one’s lap from time to time, but to legitimately learn something new EVERY day requires a purposeful pursuit of learning. So I would argue that it’s more appropriate to change the phrase to, “You SHOULD learn something new every day.”

Today’s December Photo Challenge selection might just accomplish this for you. I have chosen this photo as one of my favorites, not because the image is so keenly spectacular in any way, but rather because it is a vivid reminder that learning and the expansion of one’s mind is a beautiful and sacred opportunity. This simple image of a Bluebonnet depicts something that I learned just this last spring; and I even live in Texas where the Bluebonnet is the state flower!

Have you ever noticed how the little banner on some of the florets of a Bluebonnet might appear purplish-red instead of white? Have you ever asked why? This coloration change occurs when the floret has aged and been depleted of pollen, and the change acts as a signal to bees to let them know not to waste their time expending energy in that location. Pretty impressive that a flower could actually work in mutual cooperation with a bee to help it perform more efficiently.

Who knew? Well…now you!

 

All the best,

A. J.

 

“Move On” (Texas Bluebonnet; Belmont Conservation District, Dallas, Texas. April, 2018.)

 

The Bluebonnet was named the official state flower of Texas in 1901, and there are actually six different species in Texas. Without adequate autumn rainfall, Bluebonnet seeds will not germinate. This means that some seeds might lie dormant for years before finally coming to life. Studies have shown that bees can collect up to 150 times more pollen from the white banners on the florets than from the purplish-red ones. Good thing bees can recognize this color distinction and just move on!

 

[Check out Day 3 of the December Photo Challenge here.]

 

Life After the Storm

”Every storm runs, runs out of rain, just like every dark night turns into day.”

– Gary Allan

 

About this time last week I assumed our next step would be to build an ark. North Texas was absolutely pummeled with rain for days. And days. And even more days, it seemed. I have a hard time remembering a recent period in our weather history with more continuous rain than that. The showers sequestered sorrowful students indoors at the school where I volunteer as garden coordinator, and our home garden just sat, leaves and petals slouching under the weight of water. It’s no surprise, then, when “enough blue in the sky for a Dutchman’s britches” (as J.’s grandmother would have said) finally stuck its bottom through the clouds, that we all feverishly ran outside to check on life.

I think my camera might have actually gathered a little dust during the storm, but throwing that strap over my head this week was like riding a bike…I didn’t forget. And WOW was life alive! The temperatures had shifted from the sweat of summer to a pleasantly cool warm, and EVERYone sought to enjoy it. Newly hatched butterflies flitted and floated everywhere I walked. Bees began gathering their preparatory pollen for winter. Even a litter of bunnies emerged from a mulch hole in the school playground (much to the dismay of our Brassicas).

As I stepped outside this week and could finally inhale a long and deliberate gulp of fresh air, I thought about the storms we all go through in life. I happen to be braving some storms with a few friends right now. I’m like their umbrella holder. The rain is a torrential sideways downpour at the moment for them, with absolutely no hope of staying dry, but at least I can help by shielding a little water from their faces. Inevitably, though, just like a thunderstorm ends so does a life storm. They’ll weather the storm. We all weather our storms. And amazingly, somehow, all of the colors come out in the wash twice as bright as they were before…just like a cutting garden after a hard rain. The bees buzz, the buds bloom and life begins anew.

So if you are braving a storm right now, just know that it WILL run out of rain. You’ll likely get wet (hell it might actually flood up to your neck), but at some point the waters will subside. And I guarantee you that eventually, when the sound of splatters finally silence on your back, your umbrella will tilt just enough to let in a glimpse of blue, and you’ll shake hands with the Dutchman. Man…won’t it be great to finally greet him.

 

May you enjoy my seven favorite photos from this week of life, witnessed after the storm.

 

All the best,

A. J.

 

Spread My Wings (Gulf Fritillary on a bedazzled path)

 

A Slipping Down Life (Snail hangs from the end of a Passion Vine)

 

Emergence (The first Goldenrod crown begins to open)

 

Outsmarting McGregor (Tiny bunny hides within a cavern of vines)

 

Nectar of the Gods (Hummingbird sips from a Turk’s Cap)

 

Face Plant (Male Southern Carpenter Bee embracing Indigo Spires)

 

God Bless Us, Everyone (Tiny Ceratina Bee balances on a Goldenrod bloom)

 

Sweet Harvest (Rain or shine…a life’s work finally comes to fruition)

 

 

 

Thirty Something

“If we love Flowers, are we not ‘born again’ every Day…”

– Emily Dickinson, Letter 1037

 

As I sat down this weekend to piece together my latest photo compilation, I could not believe that thirty something days had passed since the last Week in Review. My…how time flies! And, let me tell you, it’s quite the anthology of uploads to sift through when you have a month’s worth of photography. I will try exceedingly hard not to do THAT again anytime soon.

I began this month’s shoot on Mother’s Day when I took about an hour to myself to walk through a meadow near White Rock Lake, close to my home. Walking in a field, or a meadow, or a forest, or even my own familiar gardens is nothing short of poetry for the senses to me, and, with each step, I am refreshed, renewed and somehow reborn.

Today, I desire this post to be less about words and more about the visual life story of nature. Honestly, as I scrolled through some of the amazing captures this month, and selected my top 30 images, I felt at a loss for adequate words. It reminded me of Dickinson when she wrote, “Nature is what we know, yet have no art to say.” As you walk through my monthly outdoor journey, simply feel it’s story through color, texture, light, depth, detail.

Truth is…Mother Nature really needs no words to make her point.

 

All the best,

A.J.

“Nature” is what we see —
The Hill — the Afternoon —
Squirrel — Eclipse — the Bumble bee —
Nay — Nature is Heaven —
Nature is what we hear —
The Bobolink — the Sea —
Thunder — the Cricket —
Nay — Nature is Harmony —
Nature is what we know —
Yet have no art to say —
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.

– Emily Dickinson

 

“The Tree Stands Alone” (Queen Anne’s Lace meadow near White Rock Lake)

 

“Lady Luck” (Seven-spotted Lady Beetle on Queen Anne’s Lace)

 

“Peek-a-Boo” (Gray Hairstreak on Green Milkweed)

 

“The Stroke of Midnight” (Queen Anne’s Lace bloom ending)

 

“Good Evening” (Purple Nightshade at dusk)

 

“Fierce Beauty” (Milk Thistle begins to open)

 

“Flying Solo” (Clasping Coneflower blows in the breeze)

 

“With the Sun at My Back” (Milk Thistle in full bloom at sunset)

 

“Make a Wish” (Salsify “puffball” seedbed)

 

“Load On My Back” (Female Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)

 

“Oh, Sweet Nectar” (Pseudodynerus Mason Wasp on Tickseed)

 

“And…We Have Lift Off” (Honey Bee with pollen cargo from Texas Primrose)

 

“Too Hot for Leg Warmers” (Two-spotted Longhorn Bee on Coneflower)

 

“This Round’s On Me” (Two Honey Bees at the Butterfly Weed Bar)

 

“They Call Me Mellow Yellow” (Male Valley Carpenter Bee on Passion Flower)

 

“Taking an Evening Stroll” (Blue Mint Leaf Beetle on Spearmint)

 

“Look into the Reds of My Eyes” (Immature Giant Leaf-footed Bug on Boxwood)

 

“How YOU Doin’?” (Male Green Anole Lizard getting his flirt on)

 

“Hey, Hey…the Gang’s all Here!” (Colony of ants on parsley bloom)

 

“On the Move” (Gulf Fritillary caterpillar ready for chrysalis)

 

“If You Give ‘Em an Inch…” (Looper caterpillar on Clasping Coneflower)

 

 

“Blue on Black” (Female Pipevine Swallowtail nectaring before laying)

 

“In the Beginning…” (Female Gulf Fritillary having just laid an egg)

 

“Winged Tapestry” (The beauty of the Common Buckeye)

 

“Pure Gold” (California Poppy)

 

“On Pins and Needles” (Pincusion Flower)

 

“Remains of the Dove” (Safflower sprouts under bird feeder)

 

“If the Shoe Fits” (Lady Slipper Balsam Flower)

 

“Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (Sunflower after a sprinkle)

 

“Overtaking the Path” (When whimsical wins)

A Few of My Favorite Greens

“Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.”

– Pedro Calderon de la Barca

 

The end of February is upon us, and J. and I have officially made it through our first full year of pollinator gardening. Having lived and breathed the garden’s dynamic kaleidoscope of color and movement, I can honestly say that the emergence of buds cannot come fast enough at the Schulz house.

For many of us, gazing out the window at winter landscapes dotted with scraggly drab twigs and crumpled up leaves can seem a bit overwhelmingly depressing. It’s not surprising, then, that the urge often exists to “cut it all back” and get rid of the brown. I get it. I truly do. But for pollinator gardeners like us, the lanky brown-ness must subsist, for beneath all of that misshapen debris lies a dormitory of snoozing insects just waiting for the alarm clock of spring to buzz (no pun intended). Dead vegetation is also a corner store for winter birds, providing left-over seed pods for consumption and material for nest construction. This is one example in life where garden function must supersede form. So what do we do with all of this brown? I say interject some green.

We’ve had some pretty cold temps in North Texas this winter, so cold that even our Frostweed iced, so I was surprised to see some of our plant varieties in the pollinator garden actually maintaining their green. If you are beginning to think about planting for the spring, I would highly suggest incorporating the following selections into your design, as they will continue “going green” throughout the winter and, thus, inject a little life into your deceased landscape, so to speak. They also might be the one saving grace that keeps those hand pruners and shears tucked neatly away, as they should be, for the winter.

So, try a few of these specimens out and see what you think. I snapped all of the primary photos of the plant while temps were still in the 30’s outside.  These are a few of MY favorite greens!

 

Curley-Leaf Parsley

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This was truly our winter showstopper!  We had temps down close to 10° F, and our parsley just kept on trucking.  I can’t attest to flat-leaf varieties and their ability to sustain the cold, my guess would be that many wouldn’t be as hardy, but the curley-leaf was a winner. Throughout this blog I will try to give the specific scientific name on anything, so that if you look to make a purchase you will know exactly what you are buying, BUT that will also require committed organization on my part, which means not discarding the original packaging. Sadly, I can’t provide the exact Genus and Species for this variety, BUT I will be hosting a plant share this spring to promote #plantsharenow and will have a few potted starts to share.  In addition to its continuous greening abilities, parsley is an excellent host plant for the Eastern Black Swallowtail. I should mention, however, that if you happen to plant fennel next to your parsley, the Swallowtail will eye your fennel as a slice of chocolate cake and your parsley as an apple. We’re all fine with eating apples, but, given the choice, most of us will choose the cake. Planted side by side, our fennel WAY out-performed the parsley in Swallowtail attraction.

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Female Eastern Black Swallowtail release, post-hatch.

 

Spanish Lavender

We bought this species (Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’) as a plant start from a local nursery. The purpose in our purchase was for its blossoming fragrance and ability to attract bees, butterflies and even hummingbirds, and we really didn’t even think about its evergreening capabilities. I like this addition because it easily grows from 1 to 3 feet tall, creating some nice wintry green height to any bed.  We have two clumps flanking each end of our pollinator garden for balance. With the other nectar choices that we had in our garden, again chocolate cake versus an apple, I found that butterflies and hummingbirds landed elsewhere, but the bees absolutely loved this plant.

 

Pink Primrose

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A third favorite, and kind-of a bonus surprise, was this variety of Primrose. Apologies here for sure. I have no idea about the specific scientific name. This came in a wildflower mix packet in one of those, “Let’s see what happens if we just scatter this,” moments. I will have some starts of this available at the #plantsharenow event this spring as well. Primrose is a clumping plant that easily spreads in colonies, so to speak, so it can make for an excellent ground cover. Some of the leaves will turn a lovely crimson in fall and winter, speckled among the green, so it also provides additional color interest. You can see in the photo above that a few of our clumps seem to exhibit the possible beginnings of Botrytis Blight, by the brown spots appearing on the leaves. This wouldn’t be surprising, considering all of the moisture we have had lately, coupled with the lack of air flow that often happens in clumping plants. We’ll have to get on this soon so that it doesn’t spread!

 

Dwarf Mondo Grass

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I cannot compliment this Dwarf Mondo Grass enough! We purchased this variety in flats from a local nursery. Unfortunately I did not keep a tag, but I will also have volunteers for the taking, that have begun spreading into unwanted territory, at #plantsharenow. We planted our pollinator garden on a pretty steep slope, so we used this mondo grass as a bottom border between the bed and the concrete sidewalk to help deter runoff and soil erosion. We planted the initial plants (across a 40+ foot span) about 6 inches apart, from center to center, and a year later the entire border is completely full, with no visible space between plants. This border remained green and full throughout the entire winter season, which helped consistently define our garden as “a garden” to passers-by on walks with children and dogs.

I know it seems a bit strange, as spring is upon us here in North Texas, to be discussing winter…but if you think ahead with some of your plantings this spring, you just might find yourself a little happier on the tail-end of the 2018 brown dog. 😉

All the best,

A. J.

– All content images by Amanda J. Schulz

 

Do you have a favorite winter green? Tell us about it below!

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