Bee’s Knees

12 09 2007

This is one my favorite garden photos. Sue grew one of the Mammoth Russian sunflowers last year and called me over to record it. I would like to claim that I saw this little bee “coming in for a landing,” bee’s knees bent for impact, but that would not be true. I was shooting madly as the afternoon light was fading. It wasn’t until I browsed the images later that I noticed this little guy in flight. I had gotten numerous other shots with the bees already in place, gathering pollen, but this was pure serendipity.

© Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.


I did a little research (not surprised, are you?) on the origin of “bee’s knees” and found some interesting tidbits:

And, speaking of sunflowers, here are some interesting facts:

—The scientific word for sunflower is Hellianthus, referring to the ability of the sunflower bloom to follow the sun from sunrise until sunset. The word is derived from helios, meaning sun, and anthos, meaning flower.
—Argentina is currently the largest grower of sunflowers.
—The sunflower is grown for the seeds and oil it produces.
Each mature flower yields 40% of its weight as oil.
—The tallest sunflower grown was 25 feet tall and grown in the Netherlands.
—The largest sunflower head was grown in Canada and measured 32.5 inches across its widest point.
—The shortest mature sunflower was just over 2 inches tall and grown in Oregon using a bonsai technique.
—Sunflower stems were used to fill lifejackets before the advent of modern materials. —Low-pollen sunflowers have been developed in recent years which not only helps asthma sufferers, but extend the flower’s life.
—The flower was cultivated by North American Indians for many years as a food crop.
— The sunflower is not one flower, but a cluster of more then 2000 tiny flowers growing together.
— The sunflower is the state flower of Kansas and the national flower of Russia.
— The French word for sunflower is tournesol, or literally “turn with the sun.”
—The sunflower has been around for at least 8,000 years. Archeologists believe that Native American cultivated sunflowers as early as 2300 B.C., well before corn, beans, and squash.
—There are over 2,000 varieties of sunflowers identified to date. Unfortunately, many varieties have not been located and may be extinct.


How Can Something This Beautiful…

12 09 2007

be so destructive? I know when I first sent this photo out to Debbi (our resident Rose Queen), she probably passed out in shock when she saw it. One must admit that they really are beautiful, despite how destructive they are. I photographed this mating pair at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA. I’m happy to report that I have never seen one in my own garden (and therefore I don’t have to deal with critter elimination!).


© 2007 Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Popillia japonica is a beetle about 1.5 cm (0.6 inches) long and 1 cm (0.4 inches) wide, with shiny copper-colored elytra and a shiny green top of the thorax and head. It is not very destructive in Japan, where it is controlled by natural enemies, but in America it is a serious pest to rose bushes, grapes, crape myrtles, and other plants. These insects damage plants by eating the surface material, leaving the veins in place, producing a curious, but alarming “transparent leaf” effect on its victims.

For more photos of this insect, visit

Excerpt below from The Urban Pantheist.

In 1916, America’s most densely populated state (New Jersey) became the first place in North America where a certain exotic Asian scarab beetle was found. This beautiful but destructive animal is now well-known to gardeners in the eastern states, and is becoming familiar in more places every year. Increasing amounts of regulation and use of biological controls (a bacterium and parasitic wasps) are the official weapons in use against the Japanese beetle. Still they seem to have a robust population in areas where they occur, including urban centers that have the plants the adults feed on (over 400 species documented) and grassy soil for their grubs to overwinter in. And they continue to spread, being found in San Diego for the first time in 2000, and at an airport in Montana in 2002.

Japanese beetles are often encountered in what appears to be mating groups. Females produce sex pheromones that attract many males, who compete for the opportunity to mate in large clusters. According to one researcher, relatively little mating actually occurs in these groups. Males will guard their chosen female from other males until she is ready to lay her eggs. At least while clustered, they can be easily picked off of plants.

For Indy

12 09 2007

Indy is a neighbor’s cat and often visits my garden—I suppose because of its jungle-like qualities (and the fact that birds and other critters call it home as well). He also likes to peer into the patio door and taunt our cat, Jasper. His owner has a difficult time keeping him indoors exclusively, and although I see him all over the neighborhood, he knows where his home is. Regina told me that his owner found him abandoned at a rest stop years ago and brought him home. He has some kind of heart condition, but it doesn’t seem to slow him down. I see him walking across the top of the fence and he always comes when I call his name. He’s quite affectionate and, as you can see, very willing to take time out of his day of wanderlust to pose for me.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

A Cat
Stately, kindly, lordly friend
Here to sit by me, and turn
Glorious eyes that smile and burn,
Golden eyes, love’s lustrous meed,
On the golden page I read.

All your wondrous wealth of hair
Dark and fair,
Silken-shaggy, soft and bright
As the clouds and beams of night,
Pays my reverent hand’s caress
Back with friendlier gentleness.

Dogs may fawn on all and some
As they come;
You, a friend of loftier mind,
Answer friends alone in kind.
Just your foot upon my hand
Softly bids it understand.

Morning round this silent sweet
Sheds its wealth of gathering light,
Thrills the gradual clouds with might,
Changes woodland, orchard, heath,
Lawn, and garden there beneath.

Fair and dim they gleamed below:
Now they glow
Deep as even your sunbright eyes,
Fair as even the wakening skies.
Can it not or can it be
Now that you give thanks to see?

— Algernon Charles Swinburne

On (Blue) Dasher…

12 09 2007

This little guy (yes, I did some research*) is Pachydiplax longipennis, or a Blue Dasher. Other common names include Swift Long-winged Skimmer and Blue Pirate. Learn more about him here:

*This site states that females can turn bluer with age, but they start out more amber colored.

Further research has determined the grapelike clusters attached to his belly are “aquatic mites,” and the single red one, in particular, is a “locust mite,” or Eutrombidium rostratum, the most common locust mite in the U.S. and Europe. They are often seen on the body and wings of grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and mantids.

I found some wonderful photographs and information on various dragonflies here:

And for in-depth details on how (as well as when, where, and why) to photograph dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies can be found at a Web site I found for JPG, “The Magazine of Brave New Photography.”


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Ah, Grasshopper…

7 09 2007

Garden observation, Sept. 7, 2007, 2:34 p.m. I was out watering the front garden and this little guy flew by me and landed in a perfect place to be photographed. I did a little research and he might be a “lesser migratory grasshopper,” or a “Russianthistle Grasshopper.”

He/she looks like this one:

Most of the sites I researched seem to be geared toward eradicating them. I don’t plan on doing so….of course, I don’t have income-producing crops in my front yard, either.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Mina Lobata (Spanish flag)

3 09 2007

I grew this from seed and it is an incredibly beautiful vine, blooming mid-summer to fall. The common name is “Spanish flag” or “Firecracker vine.”


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved

Regina’s Garden

3 09 2007

Regina’s garden is still blooming, despite the heat and drought of the summer. And the profusion of color in her paradise puts my own garden to shame. The odd weather this gardening season took a toll on my garden in the form of shorter plants, less blooming time, and some faithful plants failed to show up at all. Ah, well, gardeners are by nature an optimistic bunch…Oh, fiddle-de-dee…for spring is another season. I shot these images in her garden this morning. The caterpillar is a Black Swallowtail, munching away on the parsley (parsley apparently is not just a garnish anymore). The host plants include carrot, parsley, dill, fennel and Queen Anne’s lace. Regina has discovered they apparently like parsley, too! The cat is Gizmo, Regina & Jeff’s beautiful Maine coon boy.

Learn more about Swallowtails at:


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved

Color Magic Rose

1 09 2007

I photographed this gorgeous (and intensely fragrant) hybrid tea rose at Filoli Gardens (California) last week. This one is very sensitive to sunlight and turns different colors depending on how much it gets. Z 6-10, continual bloom, 35 petals

Class: Hybrid Tea Rose (Modern Large Flowered)
Hybridizer/Date: Warriner, USA 1978 Introduced by Jackson and Perkins
Fragrance: Mild, fruity
Awards: All America Rose Selection 1978


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.