It’s a jungle out there

28 05 2009

Shot of our front yard garden taken this afternoon…

Just past bloom: White & purple Bearded Iris and Purple Sensation Allium 

Debuting now: Beard’s Tongue, Catmint, Veronica Speedwell, Creeping Thyme, Sweet William, Penstemon, Rose Campion (blush pink-white and bright pink varieties), Hellebores, Sedum, Yellow Yarrow, Nasturtium, White Dianthus, Pink Phlox, Hosta flowers, Ageratum, Evening Primrose ‘Lemon Drop’, Strawflower, Geraniums 

Very-soon-to-bloom: Globe Thistle, Lavender (various), Coreopsis, Tickseed, Lilies (various) and Salvia

And later in the seasonButterfly bush (pink, yellow, purple varieties), Coneflower (various varieties)

Platycodon Balloon Flower (purple and white varieties), Shasta Daisies, Black-eyed Susan, Monarda Bee Balm, Lamb’s Ear, Morning Glory ‘Heavenly Blue’, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, Maximilian sunflower

Ha! And this is just the list of plants in the front yard. Proof enough that I’m a gardener obsessed.

Got a question for my fellow gardeners…what is the weed (looks a lot like the tops of celery plants or almost cilantro-looking leaf) that is taking over my entire garden in spades? Why have I not noticed this prolific pest in previous years? Is it a new invasive? Do I need to photograph it for identification?
© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.




My Kenilworth bounty

27 05 2009

The previous posting about Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens prompted me to look through my photo archives. I’ve been to Kenilworth three summers in a row (and 100% sure I will do so again this summer). While I have posted on my trips to the gardens, I didn’t gather all of them into one collage until now.

If you’re in the D.C./Virginia/Maryland area, be sure to visit the gardens, particularly in July. The main attractions are obviously the lotus blossoms, which bloom during the truly hottest time in our area (sigh), but I’m sure there are water lilies in bloom throughout the summer.

You can view my previous posts on Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens by clicking on the links below: 

What a muse that place is!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


A Wilson Bridge Too Far

27 05 2009

Last Thursday I accompanied my friend Jeff to an office complex in Fairfax where five of his floral images are on display as part of the office decor. The woman in the top left photo with Jeff (below) is Sylvia Zuniga, who purchased the prints for the Fairfax Intelligent Office location.

The poppies were photographed at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, and the lotus blossom was photographed at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C.

A few weeks ago Jeff shared an essay with me that he had written to accompany his photos for his entry in the Nature’s Best magazine photography contest last year. The essay was about one of our field trips to photograph the lotus blossoms at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens. I’m sharing his essay here, along with a photo I shot of him in the garden.

A Wilson Bridge Too Far by Jeff Evans

The Plan: A Sunday morning trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington, D.C. to photograph the sacred lotus, which is found in large numbers in the ponds of the gardens, not to mention dragonflies, butterflies, and other insects drawn by the water and plants such as milkweed which surround the ponds. Maybe even photograph a water lily or two. An early start would allow us to beat the crowd and have good light.

The co-conspirator: Cindy Dyer, good friend, head of the neighborhood garden club (fondly dubbed Head Weed), and excellent photographer.

The Route: Easy enough—the Beltway from Springfield across the Wilson Bridge to 295 to Douglas to Anacostia Avenue to the park. Easy-peasy. And early on a Sunday there would no reason to expect much traffic.

Jeff@KenilworthBut this day…this day fate would not be a kind mistress. This day she would reveal the capricious nature of her temperament, the kind of day where she seems to channel the spirit of Ghengis Khan…and Conan, and acts as if the greatest joy in life is to crush her enemies, to see them fall at her feet—to take their horses and goods and hear the lamentation of their women. And this day we were the enemy. Woe unto us.

Because you see, the Wilson Bridge was scheduled for an opening that morning. And not just any opening, but an opening for a ship no doubt named “Slow As Molasses On a Cold Day.” We sat on that bridge, on the bridge mind you because of how close we had been to making it across, for at least 45 minutes, as the sun moved higher in the sky, and the light grew harsher. Woe onto us.

And then, safely parked in the parking lot at the park, I hear myself saying, “you know, the breeze feels really nice.” Doh. Double Doh. You appreciate the power of even a light breeze on photography when faced with flowers and leaves big enough to seem to want to act as living kites and float away into the sky, that seem to want to dance like teenage girls at a Ricky Martin concert. Oh, the gnashing of the teeth and the cursing of the Powers That Be. Woe unto us.

But hey, you play the cards dealt you right? And I had brought a secret weapon, an artifact so powerful that it might transcend the fickle will of Fate. A light, white, plastic artifact that puzzled some and earned startled exclamations of appreciations from others. A step stool, about three feet tall, to maybe help me get a little better perspective on both lotus and lily. Tall folks looked at me like puzzled dogs hearing a high-pitched noise. But short people knew. They understood. And thus armed, the battle was joined.

I don’t know if I won the war, but I at least won a skirmish or two. Got a punch in here or there. They’re there, on the enclosed CDs, in high-def and low-def. Take a look and know–-I fought the good fight. Thanks for your time and consideration.

Jeff “Blood and Guts” Evans

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Water like satin

26 05 2009

Sunset begins at Lake Land ‘Or © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

The Lake. To — by Edgar Allan Poe (1827)

In spring of youth it was my lot
To haunt of the wide world a spot
The which I could not love the less—
So lovely was the loneliness
Of a wild lake, with black rock bound,
And the tall pines that towered around.

But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon that spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody—
Then, ah then I would awake
To the terror of the lone lake.

Yet that terror was not fright,
But a tremendous delight—
A feeling not the jewelled mine
Could teach or bribe me to define—
Nor Love—although the Love were thine.

Death was in that poisonous wave,
And in its gulf a fitting grave
For him who thence could solace bring
To his lone imagining—
Whose solitary soul could make
An Eden of that dim lake.


I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky

25 05 2009

Excerpts from “Rocky Mountain High” by John Denver (my lifelong crush)

I’ve seen it raining fire in the sky
The shadows from the starlight are softer than a lullaby.
Rocky Mountain High…in Colorado
Rocky Mountain High.

He climbed cathedral mountains, he saw silver clouds below,
saw everything as far as you can see.
And they say that he got crazy once and that he
tried to touch the sun,
and he lost a friend, but kept the memory.
Now he walks in quiet solitude, the forest and the stream,
seeking grace in every step he takes,
his sight is turned inside himself, to try and
understand, the serenity of a clear blue mountain lake.

Photos of Lake Land ‘Or © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Cotton candy

25 05 2009

Another view of sunset from a canoe on Lake Land ‘Or, Virginia

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Pink Sky Ball

Stairway to heaven

25 05 2009

Late Saturday afternoon Michael and I drove down to join Karen and Joe at their lake house in Lake Land ‘Or. Just before sunset, Joe took me out in their canoe across the entire lake and pointed out these unusual stair-stepped clouds on our return trip. I finally learned how to paddle a canoe (thanks to Joe’s excellent mentoring) without going around in circles. Yay to me!

Thanks to The Cloud Appreciation Society, I think this cloud formation is an “altocumulus undulatus.”

I’m also experimenting with my new software program, Noise Ninja (doncha love that name?). Noise Ninja, available for both PCs and Macs, removes noise and grain, and is particularly effective with low-light situations (such as this one). Take a look at their before-and-after samples here. Pretty impressive. You can get the program e-mailed to you for as low as $44.95 (this home bundle license includes the Photoshop/Photo Elements plug-ins as well as the stand-alone program) here. I’ll play with some of my own low-light, high-noise examples and report my findings.

More weekend adventures to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


So that’s what happens to our strawberries…

23 05 2009

Several years ago, while in Sequim, Washington, we bought some strawberry plants from a local farmer. We planted them in a raised bed that Michael built just outside a window next to my main computer. From this vantage point, I can see Indy, the neighborhood cat, on the roof of the shed when he comes to pay a visit. And, from time to time, the occasional squirrel runs across it to points unknown. This spring, a mama squirrel has taken residence in the shed (after chewing a bit of wood away to get into it), and I see her go back and forth to her nest. Late yesterday afternoon I glanced up as a squirrel (not mama, perhaps papa?) was intently surveying the (always unproductive) strawberry bed below. I knew there was one almost-ripe strawberry available and I was fairly certain that’s what this squirrel had seen, too. I happened to have my camera at the ready and got these shots—from the squirrel’s roof dive, to rooting for the prized strawberry, to that first delicious bite, to sensing he was being watched, to running off (but not too far) with his little ruby red loot. Not the best photos shot through the window, but it was a slice of life captured in time.

When I told Michael about it, he asked why I didn’t run it off. After three years of this plant producing not even a dozen strawberries each year, I told him that we weren’t going to be strawberry farmers. He now thinks the reason we don’t have a greater yield is because of the antics of squirrels. Doesn’t he know strawberries come from Safeway?

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Tell me a story, win a freebie!

22 05 2009

I would love to hear from fellow gardeners who have the same modus operandi as I have when it comes to squeezing in just one more plant…or tell your tale about an incorrectly labeled plant, your greatest plant bargain ever, how you handled an overload of tomatoes (or squash, etc.), or when you realized you were a “gardener obsessed.” Perhaps you have had a humorous (or not so) encounter with a garden critter or a run-in with poison ivy. Tell me about your favorite garden or nature experience. Tell me what your garden means to you. Did gardening change your life, improve your health, wreck your relationship, forge a friendship, clean out your wallet or save your sanity?

Vanna, show them what they could win…
top five winning contributors will be published on this blog and will also receive a free package of my Polaroid transfer notecards (4-color images printed on cream speckled card stock with contrasting seafoam blue green speckled envelopes—all on recycled paper—and each card is signed). There are 12 different images (see collage below): carousel horse, Canadian maple leaf, sunrise at Cape May, Monument Valley, red rose, tulips, Cape May seagulls, Saguaro cactus, kids on the beach, cactus blooms, Camilla’s lace dress and Canyon de Chelly.

RememberStarOdds of winning are infinitely better than the lottery!
You may submit up to five stories and there is no cap on the length (although any entries venturing close to War and Peace heft will be severely edited for publication). Entries will be judged by a panel of my fellow gardeners and authors (all of whom will be compensated—in the form of notecards). Entries will be judged on creativeness, resourcefulness, originality, and empathy/sympathy/laugh/tear-jerk factor. You retain all rights to the stories (and photographs, if included) you submit.

Please e-mail entries to me at Be sure to put “Notecard Contest” in your subject line and include your name and mailing address in the e-mail. Deadline: June 30, 2009

Read more about the Polaroid transfer process and my notecard venture on a previous posting here.

Cards are also available for purchase (in packages of 6, 12, or singles). Inquire within!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Polaroid Cards Collage

10 for 10

22 05 2009

About a half hour before the Green Spring Gardens plant sale was to close this past Saturday, the Virginia Master Gardeners booth started hawking all of their plants as “ten for $10.” Yep…some of the same plants I had purchased about two hours earlier for $5+, much to my chagrin. Reasonable prices before, yes, but at $1 each—what gardener in their right mind would possibly pass on that offer? Never mind if we’ve run out of space in our gardens—they’re a dollar! Just a dollar! We’ve discovered that some of the vendors do that each year so they don’t have to drag all the unsold items back to wherever they originated…and I am only too happy to help them lighten their load.

My 10-for-10 purchases included:

PrimroseOenothera Lemon Drop, common name ‘Evening Primrose’—a low-maintenance, herbaceous perennial that blooms in full sun from June-September. This perennial is tough, tolerates poor soil, and loves the sun. Bright yellow blooms all summer. Deadheading is not necessary, it’s drought and heat tolerant and grows 8-12″ tall. It can also be grown in containers, where it will trail over the sides. And of course I already have some of these in my front yard garden, courtesy of our friend Micheline, who shared them with us when she downsized houses a few years ago. There was a large bank of these cheery flower blooming profusely in her backyard garden. Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.

AnemoneOne sorta sad-looking (had to rescue it, though) Japanese Aneomone or Windflower (Anemone hupehensis)–-the tag indicates the flowers will be pinkish/mauve, so this might be the variety ‘September Charm.’ This perennial plant bears poppy-like flowers in September and October. The plants reach a height of four to five feet with each flower having five or more petal-like sepals that enclose the golden stamens. The leaves turn wine-red in autumn. Wish this plant luck—it will need it! Photo © Cindy Dyer.

WhiteWoodAsterTwo White Wood Asters (Aster divaricatus)—also known as ‘Eastern Star’—perennial herbaceous native to the eastern U.S. Grows 1-3 feet high with 3/4 to 1-inch white ray flowers that bloom profusely from August to September. The center of each flat-top flower starts yellow then ages to a reddish purple hue. The leaves are heart-shaped, stalked and sharply-toothed. White Wood Asters grow in part shade to full shade, are low-growing and low maintenance, and attract butterflies. They thrive in dry shade but become lush in moist soil. Cut hard at least once in spring to set the foliage back. Photo courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder.

Viola striata (other common names: Striped cream violet, Common white violet, Pale violet, Striped violet)—native perennial herb blooms white and purple flowers April through June. Requires part shade and moist, loamy soil. This plant spreads through its rhizomes. Flowers attract bee flies, butterflies (particularly caterpillars of Fritillary butterflies and several species of moths) and skippers. Seeds are eaten by mourning doves, wild turkeys, mice, and rabbits.

MaxSunflowerI should be punished for purchasing another Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani). I bought the same plant four years ago because I thought it would be perfect at the bottom of the steps of our front porch. The plant label purported, “cheery little yellow flowers on 4 ft. stems.” Four feet tall—nice size for the front entrance, right? By the end of the summer, visitors were asking us if we were growing corn in the front yard. We measured it and the tallest stalk was about 12 feet high! I just did some research and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center site claims they grow 3-10 ft. high. What kind of wild range is that? (Imagine this scenario: Officer: Ma’am, how tall was the man who stole your wheelbarrow? Me: Ummm…he was three feet tall….then again, he might have been ten feet tall. I can’t be certain!) The plant grows Jack-in-the-Beanstalk high and then very late in the summer it sprays forth masses of miniature (2-3 inches across) yellow sunflowers that are at their most beautiful when they sway against a cornflower blue sky. And if I really want to get some good closeup shots of the blooms, I have to drag out the tall ladder to do so! Did I need another of these plants? No. But it was only a buck! Anyone have room in their garden for it? Photo © Cindy Dyer.

EchinopsRitroGlobe Thistle (Echinops ritro)—Clump-forming herbaceous perennial with coarse, prickly leaves (and how!) with 1-2 ball-shaped silvery-lavender-blue or dark blue flowerheads blooming in early to late summer on rigid branching stems 24-48 inches tall. These beautiful ornamentals grow best in full sun to mostly sunny areas, attract bees and butterflies, are good for cut flowers (and dried bouquets as well), will tolerate the heat and are deer resistant. And yes, I already have one—it’s about three years old and is the size of a small shrub already. I expect a plethora of blooms this season. Photo © Cindy Dyer.

SnowonthemountainSnow-on-the-Mountain (Euphorbia marginata)—I photographed this beautiful annual plant at Green Spring Gardens last year and posted the images on my blog here. A member of the spurge family, it flowers in the summer. Reaching 18-24 inches high, it requires sun to partial shade, and will attracts a plethora of butterflies, moths, bees, wasps and other insects—a veritable photographic smorgasbord! Now I’ll have one of my very own…once I find a place to plant it, that is. Folks, it was just a dollar, remember? Photo © Cindy Dyer.

Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)—This tough native is deer-resistant and provides food for larval butterflies. Clusters of sweet-scented white flowers appear on 1-2 foot stalks in June and July. Whorled milkweed can be found in prairies, pastures, open woods and by the roadside. Learn more about attracting Monarch butterflies to your garden (and purchase milkweed seeds, too) at, owned by my friend, Mary Ellen Ryall.


‘Ostfriesland’ Salvia (Salvia nemorosa)—also known as Violet Sage, Ornamental Meadow Sage, Perennial Woodland Sage—this sun-loving herbaceous perennial grows 12-18 inches high with fragrant violet-blue flowers blooming from summer to autumn. Attractive to bees, butterflies and birds, and deer resistant. I couldn’t find this version in my files or a suitable one to reprint, so I’m showing a similar salvia I photographed at Butchart Gardens. Photo © Cindy Dyer

Dahlias, dahling

21 05 2009

This was one of my (many) acquisitions purchased at the big Green Spring Gardens annual plant sale this past Saturday—a very showy Karma Fuchsiana dahlia. The blooms are the most unusual intense shade of dark pink and orange—-the graduated colors of a tropical sunset—not easy to capture in a photo. In the second photo, you’ll see a little visitor—identification unknown.

I read online that Karma dahlias were bred specifically for the cut flower market because they have nice stems, hold up well in bouquets, and yield lots of flowers.

Speaking of the cut flower market, author Amy Stewart wrote the intriguing book, Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers, published in 2007. My friend Regina and I attended a Flower Confidential book lecture by Stewart at the U.S. Botanic Garden two years ago. Flower Confidential takes you inside the flower trade—from hybridizers to growers to auction houses to florists around the world. It’s a fascinating read about the path cut flowers must take from seed/bulb to vase.

Stewart Books

I’ve also read two of Amy’s other books, starting with her first one—From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Year Garden, followed by her second book—The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms. All three books are worth checking out! Learn more about Amy Stewart on her Web site here.

I was so astounded by the number of different dahlias in bloom at Butchart Gardens last fall that I spent an hour just photographing the dahlia border! You’ll find that posting and accompanying photos here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Dahlia Bug

Dirt, Digging, Daffodils, Dividing, Dousing and a Dose of D

20 05 2009

Exactly a week ago today, Tom, Bill and Michael and I removed all of the daffodils from our community front entrance sign so that the newly planted nandina shrubs could survive. I personally wouldn’t have had the landscape company plant the nandinas in the first place because the daffodils were there first. They obviously didn’t look to see what else was already in the bed when they planned this less-than-stellar bed makeover.

What do most landscapers do in this case? Toss them away! What?!?!? Most certainly not on my watch! I just can’t bear to see healthy plants tossed out like that. I’m the head of our grounds committee (volunteer, of course), so with the help of these three very fine gentlemen, we transplanted every single daffodil into two common area beds. I tied off and divided them from huge clumps down to about 3-4 tiny bulbs per hole. By my count, we planted nearly 200 clumps—well over 500 individuals bulbs were relocated! The fellas did 95% of the removal and hole digging (it would take me forever with a shovel). I did the design/planning, dividing every clump into more manageable groups, some hand digging, and a lot of the planting.

I hadn’t actually gone up earlier to see just how many daffodils there were in the bed, so I was a little surprised that my declaration of, “it should only take about an hour with the four of us,” turned into almost five hours of work! The forecast called for rain that evening and over the following weekend, so our new transplants had a chance to settle in nicely.

RECAP #1, WED, MAY 13: gabbed with the guys, saved the nandinas, saved hundreds of daffodils, saved the homeowner association money, beautified two other beds that needed some oomph, divided some existing daylilies to give them room to spread, relocated a slew of worms (better soil than we had expected!), and soaked in some much-needed Vitamin D.

RECAP #2, WED., MAY 20: Just this afternoon, Tom and I doused both beds by hand (mostly because there is no rain in forecast for the next few days), hauling four 5-gallon buckets in his truck up the street. I’m crossing my fingers they survive the transplant shock. If they do survive, I’ll post a recap and photos of them in bloom next spring!

RECAP #3, THURS., MAY 21: Today Michael and Tom hauled free leaf mulch from the local mulch pile over to the area and watered for a second time. Thanks, guys!

© Cindy Dyer. All right reserved.


‘Osprey’ Spiderwort

17 05 2009

This is a new Virginia Spiderwort cultivar—‘Osprey’ (Tradescantia x andersoniana ‘Osprey’), photographed at Green Spring Gardens yesterday. You can order it from Bluestone Perennials. Their website states that after shearing the plants to the ground in midsummer, new foliage and flowers will return again in the fall. How’s that for a repeat performance? They’re half price on their website now!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Blue False Indigo

17 05 2009

Although it wasn’t identified with a plant marker at Green Spring Gardens, I’m pretty sure this is a Blue False Indigo (Baptisia australis). This herbaceous perennial in the pea family grows 3-4 feet tall and features purple, lupine-like flowers blooming in spring. Its common name refers to the use of this plant by early Americans as a (lesser) substitute for true Indigo in making blue dyes.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Bearded Iris

17 05 2009

I just love the unusual color combination of this (unidentified) Bearded Iris. Now if there had only been a hoverfly, honeybee, spider or ant at the edge of the extended petal…maybe next time!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Oriental Poppy ‘Turkenlouis’

17 05 2009

Oriental Poppy (Papaver Orientale), Green Spring Gardens—I think this might be Oriental Poppy ‘Turkenlouis’—a new hybrid Poppy. It was a bit windy this afternoon at the garden, so I had to be pretty patient with the breezes—the fringed petals of this beautiful scarlet flower kept swaying back and forth. This was one of my favorite shots because of the intense red hue against the bright green leaves and the stopped movement.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Blue-Eyed Grass

16 05 2009

Photographed this afternoon at Green Spring Gardens—Blue-Eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium) is actually not a true grass, but a member of the Iris family, closely related to the Wild Iris or Blue Flag. The plant is also known as Star Grass because of the shape of the flowers. Blue-Eyed Grass, a native perennial, grows across the prairies and open meadows. They grow just 4-12″ tall and the leaves are about 1/4″ wide. The flowers are incredibly tiny—barely 1/2″ in diameter!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Blue Eyed Grass


16 05 2009

I photographed this beautiful Love-in-a-mist at Green Spring Gardens this afternoon. Michael and I got up bright and early this morning to check out the annual plant sale at Green Spring Gardens. We got back about noon-ish and then left again with my friend Regina back to the park. The morning excursion was reserved for plant-buying for me (recap to come) and this afternoon jaunt was simply to photograph the latest flowers in bloom. I wrote a post about Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) last May here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Indy on the roof

15 05 2009

My morning (and frequent) visitor—Indy, a sweet neighborhood cat. To the left of my most-often-used Mac is a window that overlooks a side yard with a tool shed and attached firewood shelter. Indy comes up the stairs of the front stoop, jumps to the wrought iron railing, then makes his way over the shingled wood shelter roof, where he stares at me until I come out. He has an unusually deep and flat meow—a cat’s equivalent of something curmudgeon-ish—a complaintive “muh-wowwwl, muh-wowwwl.” This morning he was just lounging on the roof, staring down at me. I ran out to get this shot—one of only three shots I could manage—and then he was off to chase a squirrel out of my garden. (I confess that I got this shot while talking on the phone with a friend. Self-kudos to me for the shot actually being in focus! While on the phone, I saw Indy…ran upstairs to get my camera…back downstairs to grab a CF card…then outdoors to the backyard…climbed onto the edge of the raised tomato bed to get the best angle…cradled the phone on my shoulders and shot just four snaps before he ran off. How’s that for multi-tasking? And yes, I heard and understood every word my friend said.). Check out my first posting (plus a really cute photo) of Indy here.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


A bit gaudy, but I couldn’t resist!

15 05 2009

I planted these in the three wrought iron planter boxes on our patio railing outside the front door. The color scheme is red, orange, yellow and white, so these fit in perfectly. Identification to come, but if I had to guess—they might be hybrid strawflowers.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

DSC_2343 lorez

After the rain…

8 05 2009

Photos taken this morning at Green Spring Gardens, just after the morning downpour. This time I was prepared—I brought a large trash bag to sit on. Unfortunately, when one sits on a slope to photograph a flower, one will soon find one’s behind sliding off the edge of the plastic and one’s pants would soon absorb the surrounding mud and water. I speak from experience. Ah, well. No pain, no beautiful flower shots, eh?

A Spring Rain by Raymond A. Foss

The world is wet today
luxurious, damp, drenched
drops hug the leaves,
anoint the still budded lilac blossoms
before their blooming
rich purple and plum
made richer by their watery skin
New leaves under the weight
droplets heavy, hanging
bowing the white pine needles
undersides exposed to drink
drink in the morning
hushed in the rain
temperature near the dewpoint
sprouts of just planted flowers
eager from the parched soil
new puddles bloom too
on the ground, the driveway
collect and gather
without the smell of summer rain yet
tears splash and spread
silent shimmers, heralds, messengers
in the spring rain


I came across the above poem and it was perfect for this posting. I looked at the name and wondered why it looked so familiar. Apparently I’m drawn to this man’s nature- and garden-inspired poetry because I published (with his permission) another of his poems on my blog in August 2007. His poem was a great accompaniment for my posting about harvesting Concord grapes in our backyard garden. Click here for that post and Raymond’s beautiful poem, Smell of Autumn. Raymond has written 3,974 poems to date and all of them can be found here. Click on “Poems” beneath his photo. Raymond’s blog can be found here.

Thank you for letting me share your poetry on my blog, Raymond. If you ever want to publish a book of your poetry, give me a shout—I would love to design it for you!

Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Drawing a blank

7 05 2009

I should know what this flower is, but at the moment I’m drawing a blank. Any takers? (Ed Vatza?—betcha he knows!)

UPDATE: Drumroll, please….Ed is the first to weigh in on identification. And a very close second is Catharus. Thanks to you both for chiming in—I appreciate it! Here are their comments:

ED VATZA: Oh, oh! The pressure is on! Looks like they could be Wild Geraniums. They are just beginning to think about opening here in PA. They are beautiful flowers. We just added some to our backyard native plant garden. Very nice image, by the way. Great color and sharpness.

CATHARUS: Looks like wild geranium.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Moroccan Poppy

6 05 2009

Moroccan Poppy (Papaver alanticum) photographed at Green Spring Gardens

© Cindy Dyer. All right reserved.


Cabbage White Butterfly camouflage

6 05 2009

I saw these brilliant white flowers across from the gazebo at Green Spring Gardens and went over to photograph this nicely arranged cluster (first image). Then I noticed the Cabbage White Butterfly (Pieris rapae) on the bottom flower. I moved in to isolate him on the single flower and got the bottom shot. His wings sort of mimic the petals—perfect camouflage! Males only have one black dot on their wings, so this handsome butterfly is a male.

UPDATE: Thanks to Michaela from for identifying the flower as “Star of Bethlehem” (Ornithogalum umbellatum). She gives credit to Ed Vatza at for the initial identification. Thanks to both Michaela and Ed!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Flower power

6 05 2009

Unidentified succulent or sedum ground cover in the beautiful rock garden at Green Spring Gardens…once I figure out what this plant is, I’m squeezing it into my garden!

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


After the rain…

6 05 2009

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Siberian Iris, Green Spring Gardens

6 05 2009

Overcast (but unusually bright) skies (perfect for flower photography) + a gazillion things in bloom at Green Spring Gardens = photographer’s heaven! More photos to come…

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Just stick a flower on it!

4 05 2009

I just knew pinning a flower on my first needle-felted hat attempt would improve it immensely. A little embellishment goes a long way. Not bad for a first attempt, right? Ahem. Don’t look too closely.

firstfeltedhat1And a few words to the person who wrote the instructions on how to use the foam hat form—you really shouldn’t have put the sentence “Stabbing too deeply will pull chunks of foam out and mess up your project!” in the middle of the instruction sheet. It would have been much more helpful to have that as step #1 in the process. I felted so hard to the foam that I think Nancy pulled a shoulder muscle trying to wrestle the finished hat off the foam form. It resembled a rainbow brite-colored cat hairball at first glance. After a little prodding, pulling and cajoling, the hat began to take shape, although I’m still not sure I would wear it in public (so I offer my sincerest apologies to the sheep that gave up its coat for this project—I did not do your offering justice, I’m afraid). It is a first attempt, remember, so temper your judgment. Stephanie, however, makes it look like a boutique hat, so I’m not too terribly disappointed with my freshman try at needle felting a hat. Thanks for modeling for me, Stephanie!

The flower pin was made by Leslie of Sweaterheads, in Astoria, Oregon. I met Leslie at the Portland Saturday Market (arts and crafts heaven!) two years ago and she explained how she makes these flowers with recycled wool sweaters. Check out this link here that details other projects you can create with wool sweaters or click here to read Diane Gilleland’s article on how to felt sweaters. You can crochet or knit projects such as hats and then felt them yourself, but recycling with sweaters from thrift stores (or your own closet) is faster and cheaper—not to mention it breathes new life into discarded stuff! Always a good thing. Check out the step-by-step process of washing machine felting on

On Saturday, Michael and I drove up to the Howard Country Fairgrounds in Maryland to the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival to meet his sister Nancy, her friend Marie and Marie’s niece Stephanie. All three women are avid knitters and yarn fanatics. By fanatic, I mean Nancy and Marie start the process from the sheep/rabbit/alpaca up! They both raise fiber-bearing animals and shear, spin and weave their results. We joined Nancy two years ago at the festival and came home with roving (wool that has been washed, combed and carded), a spinning wheel, needle felting equipment, and a ton of enthusiasm for all things wool. The only thing we didn’t bring home were sheep. Not that it hadn’t crossed our minds, mind you. Where there’s a will, there’s a…sheep. But the townhouse homeowner association might frown upon that…even if Michael is on the Board. On this trip, Nancy brought us almost-black wool cleaned and ready to spin (or felt) from the progeny of a ram we “invested” in for her hobby farm endeavors. She also set up our spinning wheel (again) so we could actually use it. Thanks, Nancy! SIDEBAR: Nancy bought some funny t-shirts for her sons. The shirts had an illustration of a ram with the slogan, “I think therefore I ram.”


It may just be me, but I think there’s something inherently wrong with selling lamb kabobs at a fair within smelling distance of the live lambs. As my baby sister would say, it’s just not right. But I digress.

After we returned home, we gathered ’round the fire coffee table and drank champagne Diet Coke with Ned Michael while playing delightful parlor games crafting. I felt like I had stepped into Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women (I’m a cross between Jo and Amy, I’ve determined). And there just happened to be exactly four of us. Pretty cool. If this is what they do in the obviously-crafty state of Ohio, maybe we should consider moving there. I could get into this creative group dynamic! No tv, no music, no other distraction. Just the (overzealous) tap, tap, tap of my scary felting needle and the clicking of knitting needles from the sock and shawl creators. Pictured above: Little Women Nancy, Stephanie and Marie. A word of warning: all knitters and crocheters can multi-task while doing their craft. You really can’t shouldn’t multi-task when you’re needle-felting. If you do, you will end up with one sharp barb (or 3, 6, or 12 of them) in your finger (much more painful than a sewing needle prick, trust me). Sadly, this supreme multi-tasker speaks from experience. It is a pay-close-attention-to-what-you’re-doing endeavor. Those barbs are sharp—have a box of bandaids at the ready!

multineedleNancy and I shared needle felting duties on this hat. Marie was knitting a shawl and Stephanie was creating an elaborately-patterned pair of socks. I asked Stephanie how long a pair of socks takes to make and she said about a week. We assessed that this would be at least a 40-hour work week. If we assumed she would be paid at least the current minimum wage ($6.55 per hour), she could bill $262.00 for her time. Adding what I’m assuming could be anywhere from $10-20 for the yarn (just a wide-ranging guess, some yarn skeins run $25+ each, depending on the fiber content), she would have to sell that pair of socks for almost $300 to cover time and materials. She just graduated in December with a geology degree and is gainfully employed in Harrisburg, PA. I advised her against quitting her day job. Making socks is obviously a labor of love and not a pathway to wealth. So if you ever see handmade socks priced at $20+ per pair, don’t tsk tsk over the price!

Needle felting is felting without water (dry felting). You use special barbed felting needles to push the top layer of wool “roving” into subsequent layers.  Wool roving is wool that has been washed, combed, carded (and sometimes dyed) into a thick rope to be spun into yarn. Roving can also be made from cotton, silk and other fibers. When wool roving is prepared, but not twisted, it is known as a “sliver.”

I’m not entirely new to the needle felting process. I did make some rather nice free-form flowers (including a sunflower complete with a hovering bee!) for my crocheted hats after attending the festival the first time. I also created a series of miniature 3-D fruits for one hat, a tribute to Carmen Miranda. Many of the videos on utilize cookie cutters and molds as guides; I created mine in a free-form fashion. You can buy needle felting applique molds like these here. My freshman fruits and flowers were created with either a single needle or three-needle implement, rather than the menacing 12-needled one I used on the hat above. I own the pattern shown at left, but have yet to make one of these more detailed flowers. Aren’t they stunning? You can buy the pattern on Indygo Junction’s website here. You’ll find kits, patterns, roving, pre-felted felt squares, felt appliques, ready-to-embellish purse “blanks” and finished purses and flowers on this link here. Below is a flower pin I bought at the festival. I’m inspired to create some variations of my own. It measures about 4-5 inches across and was needle felted with four colors of wool roving.bluefeltflower

If you’re interested in needle felting but don’t want to do it entirely by hand, check out the needle felt or needle punch machines. The machines use barbed needles to mesh decorative fibers and fabrics together onto a base fabric in an applique fashion. I bought a demo clearance model last year and have played with it a little. Now I’m inspired to get it out of the hall closet and actually create something to crow about! There are fantastic videos on needle punching (with a specific machine by Janome) here and here. Brother makes reasonably-priced machines and has some great techniques on their website here. Machine needle felting doesn’t require a bobbin, thread, or previous sewing experience, and the creative possibilities are infinite.

To needle felt flowers, jewelry or 3-d characters (or a questionable hat like mine, for that matter) by hand, you’ll need some of the supplies below. The website I’m linking you to isn’t the only source of these materials—you can also find them at your local craft store on other online vendors.

Wool roving:

Felting needles and holders:

Molds for flowers, leaves and other shapes (if you need more structure and fear the free-form process!):

Needle felt hat forms (from Hooked on Felt, the originator of this product that I used for my hat):



Needle felting on felt scraps (what gorgeous flowers!):

Needle felting a heart lapel pin:

Needle felting directly onto a purse:

Beautiful samples of felted flowers for sale on and

Machine needle felting demo here (watch the 40-second live demo at the bottom of the site):

Needle felting basics:

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

P. Allen Smith’s Little Rock home and garden

2 05 2009

After the luncheon, we toured P. Allen Smith’s garden, just two blocks from the Governor’s Mansion. It was mid-day sun, so the shots aren’t as great as I would like (overcast would have been heavenly for shooting his garden—the contrast was high in most of the photos, but that can’t be helped when you shoot in light like this!). I did get some really nice portraits of Gay, Sue, and Gay’s friend, Nancy (wearing the whimsical cherry necklace) in front of P. Allen’s shed with that beautiful burnt red door.

I’m not sure how large the property is, but it seems to go on forever with little outdoor “rooms” around every corner. The garden flows completely around the house. I’m rethinking my desire to own five+ acres after seeing how much he has been able to accomplish with a much smaller plot. He also has a beautiful country home about 15 miles from Little Rock—oooooh, what I wouldn’t give to see and photograph that property (and sleep in that screened sleeping porch!).

Don’t forget to check out his website here. I now own three of his books. Sue bought me my first one—P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home. I bought two others, P. Allen Smith’s Container Gardens and P. Allen Smith’s Bringing the Garden Indoors, for him to sign at the luncheon. Hmm…now I need just one more, P. Allen Smith’s Colors for the Garden, to round out my collection. He also mentioned he and his staff are working on a garden-related cookbook that should debut in 2010. Busy fella, that Allen.


© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Check out my gallery!

1 05 2009

I’ve been working on putting the “cream of the crop” of my garden and landscape photos into one easy-to-navigate gallery. Eventually I’ll have the gallery set up to sell prints as well as stock photos, but in the interim, this is just a way to wrangle all of my web-viewing-only images into one gallery. I’ll be adding more images in the future. Currently there are 380 images in the Botanical Gallery. That should keep you plenty busy! If you’re a regular visitor to my blog, you’ll recognize many of the photos.

Once you click on the first link below, you can click “view all” at the bottom and see everything on one page, scrolling down as you go. If you click on an individual photo, it will enlarge and thumbnails for other images will show up on the side (as shown in the collage below). You can click on any of those to enlarge, or you can just launch the slide show in the second link below. I hope you enjoy the show!



Open a Zenfolio account with my referral code 8B9-BTJ-6G3 and save $5.00


As by the loveliest of all lakes

1 05 2009

Vignettes from a day at Gay’s lake house on Lake Hamilton in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Photos © Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Excerpt from Caddenabia—Lake of Como,
Henry Wordsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

No sound of wheels or hoof-beat breaks
The silence of the summer day,
As by the loveliest of all lakes
I while the idle hours away.

I pace the leafy colannade
Where level branches of the plane
Above me weave a roof of shade
Impervious to the sun and rain.

At times a sudden rush of air
Flutters the lazy leaves o’erhead,
And gleams of sunshine toss and flare
Like torches down the path I tread.

By Somariva’s golden gate
I make the marble stairs my seat,
And hear the water, as I wait,
Lapping the steps beneath my feet.