On Color…

30 08 2007

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” — Georgia O’Keefe, American Painter, 1887-1986


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.    http://cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos


Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

29 08 2007

Now that’s a mouthful, ain’t it? I was just out cleaning up the front yard garden (if one can even call it a garden at this point…I can’t believe how many weeds I’ve let sprout!) and while trimming the dead parts out of our purple butterfly bush, I spotted this little guy and knew it was a hummingbird moth (Debbi taught me about them a few years ago when we spotted one in the back yard). I grabbed my camera and got a few (mostly blurry shots—they’re not called hummingbirds for nothing). Here are the best shots I could get…you can barely see the “clearwings” because it was moving so fast. I identified it through several websites…the snowberry clearwing is the smallest of the hummingbird moths.

From my research:
Clearwing moths, the group to which the hummingbird and bumblebee mimics belong, lose the scales on their front wings after their first flight. Their wings resemble leaded stained glass with clear glass in the panels, much like a bee or wasp wing. The snowberry clearwing is often mistaken for a bumblebee. Not only does this clearwing have yellow and black bands, it also hovers and flits from flower to flower while sipping nectar.

Adults fly throughout the day in open woodlands and fields, as well as in gardens and suburbs throughout the state, between late March and September. This bumblebee mimic is yellow with black wings and abdomen. At 1.25 to 2 inches, its wingspan is slightly smaller than that of the hummingbird clearwing. Its larvae feed on honeysuckle, dogbane and buckbrush. Adults eat from many flowers, including thistles, milkweed and lilac.

If you want to learn more about this critter, click here:



© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Go West, Young Women

28 08 2007

Clockwise, outer photos:
Sue stands in front of some wonderful sculptures at a studio on the way to Half Moon Bay…Sue eating apples (she claims she found on the ground) at Filoli (there are over 50 types of pears and apples growing in the Gardens)…Sue sits in “the big chair” outside the Napa Valley Visitors Center…Sue and Gina after dinner in Chinatown (we had Mexican food, if you can believe that)…in the second photo Sue looks excited and Gina’s going to sleep (too much studying!)…halfway between Filoli and Half Moon Bay, Sue spotted a family of eight deer grazing by the lake…Sue twirls in the grand ballroom at the Filoli estate…a recurring theme—watching our toes—the gull finds his feet as equally interesting as Sue does hers…while our gardens are waning, they’re growing begonias the size of salad plates in Half Moon Bay…Sue shows off her purchases in front of our cute (and fun to drive!) Jeep as we leave the Filoli Garden Gift Shop…Sue demonstrates how to wear sunglasses and map reading glasses simultaneously (most likely this is a Glamour don’twhere is my black cardboard swatch when I need it?)…Big portions and really great food at Big Joe’s Cafe in downtown Burlingame…CENTER: Sue hugs a very sharp metal elephant sculpture…Gina recovers from a day of studying and indulges in a bedtime bag of Trader Joe’s Pirate’s Booty popcorn…Sue almost fell into the basin at The Pulgas Water Temple at the Hetch Hetchy Waste Water Treatment Plant in Woodside, California. More information on The Pulgas below.


Far away from the Bay Area and within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park lies the Tuolomne River watershed. Each year, in the springtime, when the Sierra snows begin to melt and feed the many streams flowing into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne, the water accumulates behind the O ’Shaughnessy Dam in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Then, through a remarkable series of aqueducts, tunnels and powerhouses, the water is transported across the Central Valley and into Crystal Springs Reservoir, located just north of Woodside, to quench the thirst of the Bay Area. As a monument to this achievement, the Pulgas Water Temple serves to remind us of the precious nature of this resource.

A variety of plants and trees (such as cottonwood, cotoneaster, and California coffeeberry) thrive in the well-tended grounds. A rectangular reflecting pool lined with cypress trees is an attractive accompaniment to the small columned temple. A quote from the Book of Isaiah (“I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to give drink to my people”) is inscribed on a plaque. Pulgas Water Temple was designed in the Beaux Arts style by William Merchant, a San Francisco architect trained by Bernard Maybeck. Merchant’s design featured fluted columns and Corinthian capitals to reflect the architecture of ancient Greeks and Romans, whose engineering methods were used to build the new water system. Artist and master stone carver Albert Bernasconi brought Merchant’s drawings to life.

(NOTE: We certainly don’t have anything this pretty to “honor water” at the Blue Plains Treatment Plant in D.C…..a little known fact: I’ve been there to photograph the site when I was a freelancer working for the Water Environment Federation…so I have behind-the-scenes information about treatment plants and photos of the entire process…more than you would ever want to know about!)


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

California Snaps

28 08 2007

Photos, left to right, clockwise, outer:
Sue braved the cold and blustery winds on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge…a vineyard and garden statue at Viansa Winery and Italian Marketplace in Napa Valley (http://www.viansa.com/)…our cute red Jeep Liberty with a backdrop of Goat Rock Park (the Jeep was an upgrade we didn’t have to pay extra for!)…dancing gull at Goat Rock (speaking of dancing gulls (not to mention totally useless information)…did you know that they do dance on the ground to entice worms to come to the surface? Don’t believe me? Click here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LRnxLcpNUDA …Golden Gate Bridge from Sue’s perspective as passenger…shots on the beach at Half Moon Bay and Goat Rock Park…flora at Kendall-Jackson Vineyard in Sonoma Valley (http://www.kj.com/home.asp)…beachcomber at Goat Rock Beach (if you simply must experience Goat Rock Park now, watch this video (turn up your speakers!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRbLNbf8iR0…vamping with Gina in Palo Alto—where we ate the best bruschetta on the planet at Pasta? Trattoria and Bar (http://www.pastaq.com/


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

California Through Sue’s Eyes…

28 08 2007

I armed Sue with my Nikon Coolpix camera while we were in California and let her go. Nice job on the closeup of the bee, by the way…didn’t think that little camera could focus that well up close. Well done, grasshopper!


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Green Spring Gardens 8.28.2007

28 08 2007

Jeff and I went to Green Spring Gardens earlier this morning to do some garden photography…as usual, the place was abuzz with bees and butterflies! Jeff has two photographs showing in the Green Spring Gardens Annual Juried Member Show (http://www.springfieldartguild.com/). One photograph is in the main building and the other is in the tea room house. Various watercolors, acrylics and oil paintings are also on display now (and the works are all for sale). The show runs from Aug. 28-Oct. 29.

See Jeff’s work here: http://www.springfieldartguild.com/J-Evans%20Page.htm

The bright red and purple flower (top, center) is a Cuphea llavea ‘Tiny Mice’ plant. Its common name, bat-faced cuphea, describes it perfectly. Since cupheas are a desert plant, you assume it would be drought tolerant. But this little beauty, in its native haunts, grows close to streams, requiring moist yet well-drained soil.

I got several shots of Tiger Swallowtails and here’s a site with some good information on this species: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/johnson/hort/Butterfly/TigerSwallowtail.htm


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Napa, Sonoma, and Bodega Bay

28 08 2007

Sue and I have discovered that you simply cannot tour the entire wine country region in half a day! We foolishly thought we could cover (quickly) both Napa Valley (http://www.napavalley.com/) and Sonoma Valley (http://www.sonomavalley.com/) in one day. (They looked much closer on the map!) Even with stopping only at two wineries, two olive oil companies, and a soap shop, we realized we were just scratching the surface of these two regions. And there are over 200 wineries in each region!

We stopped at a few wineries—Sue’s wish list included CakeBread Winery in Napa (http://www.cakebread.com/) and Kendall-Jackson in Sonoma (http://www.kj.com/home.asp). We also discovered The Olive Press (http://www.theolivepress.com/), and St. Helena Olive Oil Co. (http://www.sholiveoil.com/) and, after sampling our way in and out of both places, we came away with several bottles of oils and basalmic vinegars.

We made a quick stop at the heavenly-smelling Napa Soap Company, where I picked up a Hazelnut Pear Soap for Debbi and a Basil Soap for Michael. Some soaps are cleverly named for the region’s bounty: Cabernet Soapignon, Soapignon Blanc, Shea-R-donnay, and Tea-no Grigio! http://www.napasoapcompany.com/ We only made it halfway through Napa Valley before cutting over to Sonoma Valley and the coastline, but we’ve definitely decided it’s worth another trip (maybe a weeklong one?), and we’ve discovered at least one property (with a magnificent view) that is now on our wish list to rent: (http://www.goatrockhouse.com/)…but there are many other properties to check out. http://coastalvistas.com/

We discovered the Goat Rock House on Goat Rock State Beach just after we left Sonoma Valley. Goat Rock is near the mouth of the Russian River, and is known for its scenic shoreline. It is home to a colony of harbor seals (we didn’t see any) who make this area home during pupping season (March through August). We drove down to the beach and discovered this most peculiar gull (below). At first I thought he had a deformity on his beak (a tumor, perhaps), until I zoomed in with my longest telephoto lens and saw the dot pattern on the “legs” hanging out his beak. It was a starfish! And he was trying to swallow it whole. There were two other gulls nearby, just waiting for him to turn it loose. After I photographed him, I walked away and Sue observed him spitting out his lunch…so that confirmed that he didn’t have a facial malformity. He had just bit off more than he could chew, so to speak.

Speaking of starfish, I’ve discovered that a sea star has a mouth, but no head. It can squeeze out its stomach to get a meal. And it can sometimes grow a twin of itself from one of its arms. There are nearly 2000 kinds of sea stars, and they live on ocean bottoms all around the world. Sea stars are found in waters both cold and warm, shallow and deep. Many people call them starfish. But they aren’t really fish at all. Sea stars are echinoderms (eh-KY-nuh-derms). That name means “spiny- skinned.” The spines on sea stars are small and stubby—not long and show-offy like those on their cousins, the sea urchins. For more fascinating information on sea stars: http://oceanlink.island.net/oinfo/biodiversity/seastars.html

We had dinner later (Mexican food, not sea stars) in Bodega Bay, and then headed over the Golden Gate Bridge.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Half Moon Bay

28 08 2007

After we left Filoli, we drove the short distance north to the city of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County. For more information about this quaint town, click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_Moon_Bay,_California.

We toured the shops, had lunch and hot chocolate at a deli, and spent some time sitting on one of the beaches (http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=531). We made fast friends with a family who had never visited this particular area in the ten years they’ve lived nearby. I got a sweet and fun shot of Sue photographing Wendy, husband Steve, daughter Jennifer, and a son (whose name escapes me at the moment…Alex?). Wendy is a fellow gardener and highly recommended that we visit the Huntington Library gardens the next time we’re in California. (http://www.huntington.org/BotanicalDiv/HEHBotanicalHome.html) I checked out the site and it’s now on my list of garden-related places to visit.

The top photo pretty much sums up the feeling of being on the beach, surrounded by cool breezes, sand between your toes, with no pressing agenda, away from technology and computers and cell phones, on a beautiful August day.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Exploring Filoli with Sue 8.23.2007

28 08 2007

This past Thursday, Sue and I visited Filoli, a private property of the National Trust for Historic Preservations, in Woodside, California, just thirty miles south of San Francisco. Jeff was there last month and highly recommended it. The 654-acre estate has a 36,000 square foot historic house and sixteen acres of formal gardens. Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II and his wife, Agnes, in 1917. Mr. Bourn arrived at the unusual name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.

The Gardens grandeur was once shown in the opening scene of the popular TV series, Dynasty, and in movies such as Heaven Can Wait and The Joy Luck Club.

I had seen the photo of the knot garden (on the first page of Filoli’s web site) by photographer Saxon Holt (http://www.saxonholt.com/) a few years ago and never knew where it was shot until now. The best time to visit the gardens, according to a volunteer we spoke with, is in late April/early May. That’s the time when the knot garden is at its peak, and the garden is blooming with all the Dutch-inspired spring flowers. From late April to June, 500 rose bushes come into bloom. Their garden shop is one of the best (and most extensive) we’ve visited (and you know how we love garden shops). The weather was perfect (80 degrees or so), but then, almost every day in California is like that!

The garden is a succession of garden rooms, terraces, lawns, and pools. There is a large cutting garden, myriad fruit trees (ripening pears and apples abound, and Sue found some on the ground for us to sample), a cutting garden, and an extensive rose garden that would have Debbi smitten in no time. We were a little surprised at how much was still in bloom in this part of the country, particularly when our own gardens are waning in the recent summer heat. Go to the site here: http://www.filoli.org/garden_gen.html and peruse their gardener’s reference sheets. If you’re ever in San Francisco, it’s an easy half-hour drive to this beautiful estate.

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Green Spring Gardens 8.12.2007

12 08 2007

Jeff and I went to Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria early this morning to do some shooting and came away with some great butterfly photos…we saw Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Monarchs (several attached), Silver-spotted Skippers, cabbage moths, and various (yet to be identified by me) bees. We also saw several golden finches but they were far too quick to photograph. The weather was wonderful (80+ degrees), but the bright sunlight isn’t the best for photographing flowers and insects…but we got some great images despite the lighting conditions. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/gsgp/


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Name that Bug, Contest #1

2 08 2007

Preliminary results of the first “Name that Bug” contest

Head Weed’s comments are in italics and Weedette entries are in bold.

The first response: at exactly 1:18 p.m. today, Franci wrote:

milkweed bug!!!!!!!

(Wanna bet my Dad is cringing at all those exclamation marks? 😉

Realizing she hadn’t backed her entry with supporting research, Franci sent another e-mail one minute later at 1:19 p.m., referencing:

The bug was found on a butterfly weed, which I initially thought was a form of milkweed, but later realized it was Ascelpias tuberosa (note how freely I toss out those Latin names! 😉 Reading “Milkweed bug!” in Franci’s first entry convinced me it might just be a milkweed bug.

While only the bug at the very bottom of the first Web site link she sent looks a little like the photograph I submitted, it wasn’t identified as a milkweed bug, so this site is not convincing me she’s 100% correct. (I must note that the yin/yang two-toned multicolored Asian Ladybug shown halfway down this page is really interesting!)

At 1:20 p.m., Normie wrote:

It reminds me of a box elder bug, but I am sure that that is not an “official” name. They like box elder trees (a type of maple tree). It probably isn’t one, but that is the first thing that came to mind.

The Head Weed has acknowledged Normie’s entry but must note that she failed to follow the rules and provide supporting documentation for her entry. I stopped everything I was doing to verify her interesting claim….what’s really interesting is THE BUG LOOKS LIKE THE BOX ELDER, TOO! I provide fodder for thought in the link below:



At 1:23 p.m., Frantic Franci (who must REALLY want to win this yet-unnamed prize) sent the following support for her entry:

milkweed bug

Now THAT’S more like it, Franci Pants!

At 1:35 p.m., Sherry sent this response:

Howdy! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassin_bug
I think it is a Milkweed Assassin Bug. Lemme know what you think!

Sherry’s link shows a bug very similar to my bug…but the eyes are different, so I’m not sure if this is an exact match. I did a search on her Milkweed Assassin bug and there are some other kinds that don’t look like this one exactly.


Further surfing revealed a “Wheel bug,” and I just realized this might be the bug (that was devouring bees and stink bugs that were larger than it was) on the sunflowers Michael and I photographed a few weekends ago. Apparently this bug is a member of the “bed bug insect family.” As in, “don’t let the bed bugs bite ya.” Check out this info I found on what it does to its prey (warn your Monarch caterpillars, Regina!). See photo of a wheelbug at the top of this post (right photo, titled “no, it’s not this bug”)



Coming in later in the day, at 3:00 p.m., is Debbi’s response:

“It’s a pretty bug!”

Debbi obviously went with an emotional response when identifying her bug, so she receives honorable mention for bestowing a compliment on a bug that obviously does damage to OTHER pretty bugs! 😉 Alas, she did not back up her claim with internet research, but the Head Weed wishes to recognize her entry nonetheless and thanks her for her accurate observation.

I would like the Club to weigh in on these entries and offer their opinions. The stakes are high and the contestants are nervous. Is it a milkweed bug, box elder bug, or a milkweed assassin bug? Yes, we agree with Debbi that it IS a pretty bug, but that is not an official name, so it is disqualified from consideration. Who will be the big winner of the yet-unnamed grand prize? Tune in….

And then…Gina, the “proprietor of said property and garden that housed the plant that hosted the “bug in question” has written the following:
The bug (in the various e-mails that has caused such a commotion) and the proprietor of the property have jointly decided that the attention the contest has garnered his/her once laid-back lifestyle has become overwhelming. And therefore, must enter into rehab in an undisclosed location, far from the prying eyes of the aforementioned weedettes. Any future updates will be handled through the traditional “celebrity” websites such as TMZ & PerezHilton.com. With the positive influence rehab & paparazzi have made in the lives of Lindsay, Britney & Nicole, the bug is looking forward to returning to the same lifestyle he/she once adored.


And finally….the winner of the First “Name that Bug” contest is Franci!

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved

Harvesting Grapes 8.1.2007

1 08 2007

In lieu of writing my own ode to grapes, I’ve borrowed a poem I found written by Raymond Foss, a lawyer from New Hampshire who writes poetry in his spare time…I thought it summed up my Concord grape experience so beautifully that I don’t believe I can top it. He’s quite a prolific poet, having written 1,455 poems in the last seven years: http://raymondafoss.blogspot.com/ My meager collection of personal poetry pales in comparison—I have some catching up to do.

To illustrate his poem, I have attached a photo of my constant model, Regina, enjoying the fruits of my labor; a still life with newly-picked grapes; and a shot of the gazebo from below (lying on cement is really uncomfortable, by the way—but sometimes one must suffer for her art). When I’m not stepping out my office door to pick them, the bluejays, cardinals, and sparrows are enjoying them. And there’s one squirrel which climbs up the stack of metal chairs to reach the arbor, too. I haven’t gotten any shots of the culprits (yet) with whom I share my harvest.

This grapevine was planted by Michael about six years ago. The second year it wasn’t thriving and I implored him to put it out of its misery (I was a much more impatient gardener back then). He stood his ground and we have watched this vigorous plant grow more with each passing year. This is the first year it grew in the direction where the gazebo is (the meter reader hacked back some branches to get to the meter and the vine redirected itself to the gazebo, where it now forms a green canopy that offers almost full shade below). Because of something called ‘black rot,’ we’ve never been able to get the grapes to ripen fully. This spring Carmen gave me a book, Joey Green’s Gardening Magic, full of helpful household remedies for garden problems. This year, before the “rot” happened, we followed a suggestion from that book and sprayed a concoction of cooking oil mixed with cornstarch on every single grape bunch hanging from the arbor. You must reapply if there’s a hard rain, though. But this not-harmful-to-insects mixture has apparently done the trick. We have a bountiful harvest now (not enough to become vintners, mind you, but a bounty nonetheless). Thanks for the book, Carmen…and thanks to the nebulous (until now) Ray Foss for his lovely tribute to Concord grapes.

Smell of Autumn

Another smell of autumn
sweet sweet smell
of Concord grapes
warming ripening
ready to burst with flavor
strong urgent smell
lured me closer
spreading outward
from the makeshift arbor
a plume twenty feet wide
enticing, coaxing
me to linger
luxuriate in its aroma
smile at the memory
of other pickings
long ago
Sweet fruit
high above me,
out of reach
up in the canopy
formed by wire and bush


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.