Tom’s Springwood Farm

30 06 2008

Click on the photo to enlarge for the full panorama!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

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Widow Skimmer dragonfly at Springwood Farm

30 06 2008

This dragonfly was so large I didn’t even need my macro lens to capture it full frame! This is a female Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctosa). Learn the differences between a dragonfly and a damselfly here.

There are approximately 5,000 named dragonfly species in the world. In North America, there are about 450 species, making them (a little) easier to identify. They hail from every continent except Antarctica, with life span ranges from about six months to several years. They don’t bite or sting and are considered beneficial insects because they eat harmful insects such as mosquitoes, gnats, ants, and termites. They’re fast (30-60 miles per hour), move in all directions like a helicopter (including hovering), and their eyesight is amazing—each eye contains up to 30,000 tiny lenses.

The largest dragonfly recorded from fossil records had a wing span of about two and one-half feet. It was a prehistoric insect from 300 million years ago. Read more about it here on Wikipedia and on this blog– The World We Don’t Live In.

I definitely wouldn’t need a macro lens to record that!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.wordpress.com

See another dragonfly I photographed at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden here.





Eensy weensy spider…

30 06 2008

My friend Tom took us out to his farm in Orange County, Virginia, this morning. Tom and Michael commenced to mowing about an acre of grass (more or less) while I went exploring.

This tiny white-as-snow spider stood out in a field of grass and I tried photographing her despite the swaying grass. The first thing I noticed was the big white posterior. Every time I moved in to focus, she did this crab-like sideways dance for several shots. Then another bug flew onto the same grass stalk and was instantly caught. It was already a goner before I realized what had happened (even spiders have to eat). Of all the grasses springing from Tom’s 280 acres, this one unfortunate bug wandered onto this one blade, and the rest is history.

This is a female ‘Misumena vatia’ spider—also known as a “white death spider,” “flower crab spider,” or “goldenrod crab spider.” For some really fascinating information about how this spider can change colors, click here or here. These spiders sometimes aim for prey much larger than they are, as evidenced here. And for some really nice images of one on a cosmos flower, click here. For detailed information on this spider, click here.

I thought the prey looked awfully familiar. A “Hoverfly” made its appearance on a posting I made in May. Click here for the story and photographs.

THIS JUST IN…Tom, said proprietor of Springbook Farm, has informed me that the plant is a Buckhorn plantain flower head (Plantago lanceolata).

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





A garden photographer’s secret tool

27 06 2008

Mist! And lots of it. I was weeding the garden this morning and decided to water it as well. After watering with the dial on “shower,” I changed it to “mist” and noticed these beautiful droplets forming on the Balloon flowers! I don’t know why I don’t think about doing that when I’m out photographing flowers. I usually just wait for Mother Nature to set the scene up for me. About two hours later, we had a thunderstorm. It figures. The backyard needs watering—I’ll go wash the car now. I’m sure it will rain immediately after.

See more Platycodon photos here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Backyard blooms

22 06 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.   http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/





Beautimous

22 06 2008

On the way home from the Alexandria Red Cross Waterfront Festival last Sunday afternoon, my sister Debbie and I drove past this incredible bank of orange daylilies on Russell Road in Alexandria. I only had two little point-n-shoot digital cameras with me, so you’ll have to bear with me on the amateurish collage effect! I was so taken by this mass of umpteen flowers all in a colorful profusion of orange and green that I just had to turn around to record it. If you live in the Old Towne or Del Ray areas, be sure to check it out! I think it spans the front of at least two to three homes (hidden behind the large trees). If you click on the photo, you’ll see a little bit more of the image.

I should drag out my Fuji Panoramic G617 film camera and try to get a REAL panaromic shot of it. It’s the perfect subject for that camera and I haven’t used it in years.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.   PLEASE CLICK HERE!





Party of six…

22 06 2008

Yet another favorite thing to do—set the table for a small dinner party. I should throw more of these smaller, more intimate gatherings (rather than the large “let’s invite everyone we know—and then some” parties). I picked up the gorgeously graphic tablecloth from a Crate & Barrel outlet (I think), and the table runner was just three cheap twig placemats (bought on clearance, of course) strung together with wire. The small salad plates, a recent acquisition, are from Home Goods, have free-form edges, and are embossed to look like rings on a tree trunk (way, way cool). Tableware was a forged “fiddlehead” pattern from a Pottery Barn outlet (really, really cheap; couldn’t pass them up)—very organic and earthy, even if the three-prong design on the fork requires an attitude adjustment. The etched “grass glasses” were on sale for $1 each at a Pier 1 clearance store…couldn’t pass those up, either. Yes, I have a thing for leaves, grasses, and trees. Oh, and don’t get me started on bird- and feather-related things!

This was a very last-minute gathering (although it was called a “Mexi-fest, we joked about it being “The Last Supper” since my sister Debbie was flying home the next day). Debbie made her signature enchiladas and the rice and beans were from Baja Fresh (we cheated on the sides, which made it so much easier on us!). The salad was gathered from our garden (lettuce only). Regina made her “Nana’s Sweet Pie” for dessert and Tom brought Corona and Sangrias (very appropriate for a Mexi-fest!).

The centerpieces were made with flowers from the garden, too—white lilies, yellow yarrow, “unknown” greenery, and past-their-bloom Purple sensation alliums (very architectural in their current state)—all tucked into two sand- and water-filled square glass vases (cheap, from IKEA).

And those two narrow hutches in the background? They’re unfinished pine cabinets from IKEA. I painted them with leftover Home Depot’s Behr Swiss Coffee (a slightly warmish white color) eggshell paint, slathered on a walnut stain, then rubbed burnt umber acrylic paint onto embossed wallpaper (a leaf pattern from Home Depot) that was cut to fit and glued into the recessed squares on the cabinet fronts. The cabinets were used in my painting studio until I relegated them to service as both a drink buffet and dish storage unit in the kitchen. I’m going to submit the project to the website IKEAHacker. If you’re fortunate to live close to an IKEA store, check that site out. You’ll be amazed at the things you can do with all the inexpensive products from that store!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





On fire with bloom

21 06 2008

Tropaeolum majus (Garden Nasturtium or Indian Cress)—Learn how to grow them at GardenGuides.com. This annual edible flower blooms late spring to early fall, requires sun to partial shade, and is native to Hawaii. The title of this posting is taken from this excerpt from a poem titled, “Guests,” by Celia Thaxter, a nineteenth century poet and gardener.

Guests
Sunflower tall and hollyhock
that wave in the wind together,
Corn-flower, poppy, and marigold, blossoming
fair and fine,
Delicate sweet-peas, glowing bright in the quiet
autumn weather,
While over the fence, on fire with bloom,
climbs the nasturtium vine

You can read the entire poem at poemhunter.com.

My fellow garden blogger, Kathryn Hall, has written a wonderful review of Thaxter’s book, An Island Garden, on her blog, Plant Whatever Brings You Joy! You can read the text of An Island Garden (sans the lovely illustrations by Childe Hassam, an American Impressionist painter) on the Occasional Gardener‘s blog.

And if you’re ever in the Maine, there are guided tours of Celia Thaxter’s Garden on Appledore Island, conducted by Shoals Marine Laboratory. The site also showcases photographs taken in the garden.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Up, up, and awaaayyyyy

21 06 2008

This is a Platycodon, but the common name is “Balloon flower.” Pretty appropriate, isn’t it? From the family ‘Campanulaceae,’ they’re also known as Chinese Bellflowers. Originating from China, Japan, and Eastern Siberia, Platycodons are clump forming, long-lived perennials that flower throughout summer. They thrive in full sun, but also do well in partial shade (mine are in partial shade). I think the purple one is a Platycodon grandiflorous. I have several of them in my front yard garden and they bloom in both purple-blue and white with purple splotches and streaks. Some species of Playtcodon self-seed (mine certainly has).

It is named “Balloon flower” because the flower buds puff up like balloons before opening outward into upward-facing, bell-shaped flowers with five pointed lobes. There is another type of Balloon flower with blue buds that never burst open (remaining balloon-shaped). Hmmmm…methinks I must find one of these and add it to this “organized chaos” of a garden of mine. This link offers information on Balloon flowers and seed-starting instructions as well.

Several plant nurseries sell them online. I’ve ordered other plants from Spring Hill and have had good luck with their inventory. They sell a mixture of Balloon Flowers in a “buy three, get three free” scenario. White Flower Farm sells a beautiful double flowering one (hmmm…shouldn’t I have one of these, too?).

UPDATE: Check out this interesting information about platycodons on the Bookish Gardener‘s site!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





In the garden (again)

21 06 2008

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I’m in (catnip) heaven…

20 06 2008

I thought I had lost Jasper in the “Jumanji” part of the garden this afternoon. I peered through the Concord grape vine into the herb garden and saw him settled in, completely surrounded by the run-amuck catnip. Seriously, I need to do some weeding, culling, and cleanup in the garden this weekend. The recent storms have created a little shop of horrors in the back yard garden!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Oooh, purdy…

20 06 2008

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Beauty is in the details.

19 06 2008

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Gentle(wo)man farmer

18 06 2008

If I had to depend on growing beans to make a living, surely I would perish with today’s bounty! I planted these some time ago and if Gina hadn’t pointed them out today, they would have shriveled unnoticed on the vine. With all the rain we’ve gotten, the garden is growing by leaps and bounds and it looks like the set of the movie Jumanji out there. I picked this meager harvest and Michael added them to the “everything but the kitchen sink” soup he made for my sister Debbie and me this evening. It may only have been 11 bean pods (aren’t they pretty?), but I was proud of my contribution to the table nonetheless.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Told ya I was smitten with lilies…

18 06 2008

and here’s the proof….all of these were photographed in my front and back yard gardens. All but the hot pink stargazer lily (center) and the deep orange lily (next to last row, left) were shot just this afternoon.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Halleluiah light

17 06 2008

It’s official. I’m smitten with lilies. All colors, shapes, and sizes. Everywhere in our garden, both front and back yards, lilies are bursting open daily. I cannot tell you the names of any of those in bloom at the moment. All I know by name are the Stargazers and the Casablancas, both of which have not yet bloomed.

Every year I add more lily bulbs, despite the lack of real estate in the garden. They fill the empty spots in the beds and large pots. I am lured by the cheap price and abundant varieties…bags full of promise…pretty before they even show buds…heralding summer with sturdy green stems and large, showy, shouting flowers in every color imaginable…pretty and garden-filling even after the blooms are gone.

This sherbet-yellow-pink variety is outside my studio door, blooming by the Concord grape canopy, dappled in sunlight—casting and reflecting what I like to call “halleluiah!” light (cue in choir music here)…summed up in one word—yummy!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Purple overdose

17 06 2008

In an effort to keep my sister Debbie entertained (and it’s not hard to do, I’m happy to say), we drove up to the Pennsylvania Lavender Festival in Fairfield, Pennsylvania. An annual event, the festival is hosted by Madeline and Tom Wajda, owners of Willow Pond Farm. The 32-acre, family-owned herb farm is located fifteen minutes west of Gettysburg. Willow Pond Farm offers nearly 100 certified organic varieties of lavender on three acres. Three of the varieties, ‘Madeline Marie’, ‘Rebecca Kay’, and ‘Two Amys’, were developed at the farm. There are also a dozen demonstration gardens—culinary herbs, edible flowers, antique roses, mint, scented geraniums, salvias, medicinal herbs, biblical plants, and dye plants. There is also a silver “moon” garden, a sun garden, a shade garden, a butterfly garden, and a 200-foot-long perennial border.

I had the opportunity to talk to author Susan Belsinger. Susan co-authored The Creative Herbal Home with with Tina Marie Wilcox. Susan wrote three of the books in my personal library—Not Just Desserts, Gourmet Herbs, and The Garlic Book. Check out the other titles in Susan’s bookstore.

Author Tina Marie Wilcox has been the head gardener and herbalist at the Heritage Herb Garden at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, Arkansas, since 1984. She has collaborated with Susan on articles that have appeared in The Herbarist (published by the Herb Society of America), The Herb Companion and Herbs for Health.

She is also a contributing editor of The Herb Companion, an excellent resource for all things herbal. Susan said the magazine was recently redesigned and is even better! Since I sometimes have a hard time finding the publication at local bookstores, I decided to finally sign up for a subscription on the spot.

We sampled the lavender lemonade, chocolate and lavender scones, and lavender cookies. You can order culinary lavender from Willow Pond Farm. There were about a dozen vendors offering a variety of products such as soaps, lotions, garden crafts, pottery, jewelry, French linens, teapots and accoutrements, and food. This year there were several free “cooking with lavender” sessions as well as several fee-based workshops on a variety of topics—nature leaf painting, making herbal teas, photographing your garden, making herbal cordials, and making natural dyes ($15 each). There is a “make your own lavender wand” craft session for $7.50. Willow Pond Farm also sells a variety of lavender and herb plants. And for just $5, you can cut your own lavender straight from the field!

Debbie’s husband Bill did a search on the Web to see where we were and discovered that there was a (much larger than the one we went to) Blanco Lavender Festival taking place at the same time in Blanco, Texas. Blanco is about 45 minutes from their home in San Antonio. There are eight lavender farms on the Blanco Lavender Festival tour. Three guesses where I’ll be next June!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Pop!

9 06 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Toensmeier and Salman

7 06 2008

(Sounds like a law firm, doesn’t it?) Well, it’s not! It’s Toensmeier, as in Eric Toensmeier, author of Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro, A Gardener’s Guide to Over 100 Delicious and Easy to Grow Vegetables, published by Chelsea Green Publishing Company in Vermont.

I was hired by my client, the American Horticultural Society (AHS), to photograph their 2008 Great American Gardeners Awards and Book Awards last night. I was waiting for the guests to arrive at 5:30 and Eric introduced himself. I had a great conversation with him about gardening and his book (which I plan to add to my already-substantial gardening library; too bad I didn’t have one with me for him to autograph!), and how he came up with such a really unique book project. When he told me what the title of his book was, my reaction was pretty much what most people would say—“there are perennial vegetables?” I knew that artichokes were perennial, but had no idea there were so many others. Eric is the co-author (along with Dave Jacke) of Edible Forest Gardens. Perennial Vegetables is his first solo project and it has already won him accolades from the AHS this year. Read more about Eric (and the other book award winners) here. Order your copy directly from Chelsea Green or from Amazon (where it has gotten great reviews). Best of luck with your writing career, Eric!

And the other name? Salman—as in David Salman, President and Chief Horticulturist, High Country Gardens and Santa Fe Greenhouses in Santa Fe, New Mexico. David was presented the Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award this evening. He is a national speaker on waterwise gardens and xeriscaping. His wife, Ava, is Vice President and directs the marketing and e-commerce operations for the company. I’m on their e-mail list and they sell some really beautiful plants in their mail-order division, High Country Gardens. Check out their online library of gardening articles. Every time I visit their site, I start craving a bigger garden. And moving to the southwest, too!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Little green bug

6 06 2008

I photographed this really tiny green bug (a type of katydid, perhaps?) on an oak leaf hydrangea at River Farm earlier this evening. I was there to photograph the American Horticultural Society’s 2008 Great American Gardeners Awards and Book Awards recipients. I was passing time before the guests starting arriving and saw this little guy. I didn’t have a macro lens on hand, but got a fairly decent shot nonetheless. This weekend I’ll post a sampling of the awards photos and tell you a little bit about the really interesting, talented, and (award-winning) horticulturists, authors, and designers I had the privilege of meeting (and photographing) tonight.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Blooming in the garden today…

3 06 2008

Blooming in the front garden today: Tickseed, Creeping Thyme, Beard’s Tongue, pink and white Rose Campion, Sweet William, white and rusty-red Lilies, hot pink Ice Plant, white Dianthus, Alliums, white and burgundy Campanula, purple Veronica, yellow Yarrow, Lavender, Catmint, and various Sedums

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.    www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





Name that bulb (or, how I got the shot after all)

2 06 2008

Apparently I wasn’t quite as absentminded and unprepared as I thought I was. See my previous post on forgetting to put a CF card in my D300 here:

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2008/06/01/what-is-it-about-cats-and-suitcases/

A few days ago, I shot a handful of photos in the front and backyard gardens, came into the house, took the card out so I could take it downstairs to “process,” and got sidetracked by the cat. She climbed onto the suitcase to nap and I grabbed my camera and began to shoot. I didn’t see the images in playback and realized there was no card in it. And I didn’t remember taking it out (it was a long day; cut me some slack!). Late this afternoon, I saw a CF card on the edge of the coffee table in the library and wondered what was on it. I popped it into the camera…and voila!—there were the images I had shot the previous day.

This image is of a Smith & Hawken forced bulb kit I bought at Target’s after-Christmas sale in early January. I think it was discounted 75% down to $5.00. I bought it primarily for the cool faux moss pot. I planted the bulbs while in Texas visiting my family and the pot traveled back to Virginia the end of January, not growing even a smidge. They sat in our kitchen, basking in sunlight on a bench. Still no growth. Several weeks past the time spring bulbs normally bloom, they were relegated to the front porch and watered regularly (including getting completely soaked during several rainstorms…had to turn it on its side to drain since it was meant for indoors and thus had no drainage holes in it).

About two weeks ago, the shoots finally had a growth spurt, and late last week, blooms began appearing. I propped it up on the porch railing (rather precariously), nestling it on the wild-gone-rampant vine that covers the railing each year (another vine I planted about five years ago. It flowers in mid-summer with a profusion of puffy baby’s breath-like clusters of white flowers…the name escapes me, but I swear the vine grows several feet each day (not an exaggeration).

I thought the bulbs in the planter were going to be daffodils but now that they’re blooming, I think they might be Paperwhites (Narcissus tazetta). I’ve forced paperwhites several times and the flowers are usually larger than these, though. Plus, the scent of these flowers is not as strong as I remember paperwhites being! I would love a confirmation on the plant’s identity, nonethless. Any takers?

Plant identification update: I got a good whiff of the flowers this afternoon and they are definitely Paperwhites—the scent is so much stronger when they’re forced indoors (some people like the scent, some don’t).

FORCING TIPS: If you don’t mind the strong scent of Paperwhites, and would like to try growing them this winter, here’s a good site to visit:

http://nga-gardenshop.stores.yahoo.net/forcingpaperwhites.html

You can even buy them on this site:

http://nga-gardenshop.stores.yahoo.net/31-1501.html

If you use alcohol in the water, you’ll keep Paperwhites from becoming too leggy. Read about this tip here:

http://flowergardens.suite101.com/article.cfm/alcohol_keeps_paperwhites_short

BEWARE: Do keep in mind that Paperwhites are toxic to cats, so if you have cats, either don’t grow them or keep them out of reach (the Paperwhites, not the cats!). I have grown them a few times (out of reach because the location was best for sunlight) and cats couldn’t reach it. I wouldn’t take any chances, though, if you have cats. After learning about the toxicity, I haven’t grown them indoors. Other houseplants that are the most toxic to cats include sago palm, lilies, tulips, daffodils, azaleas, oleander and cyclamen. For 17 common poisonous plants, visit this site:

http://www.aspca.org/site/PageServer?pagename=pro_apcc_common

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.    www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos





First of the lilies to bloom

2 06 2008

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.