Thursday, July 24, 2014

Phyllis and flowers

Phyllis, my mother, was the first flower gardener I knew as a child and I have vivid memories of some of her flowers that grew in our yard from those early days in the late 1950s. I returned home to Manassas in 1985 after years of study and fun in New York City to find she had let flower gardening slide and I dreamed of rebuilding a big flowering garden. With a lot of free time and the suburban luxury of the big yard in I began to discover gardening and Phyllis has supported our garden delights ever since. I was inspired also after I worked for a few years in a flower shop in NYC, called Pure M├Ądderlake, where I learned the names of lots of cut flowers and developed a taste for some really nice varieties. In Manassas I had a chance to try and grow them if I could find them and make it work in our climate and soil. Seems from this flower gardening I have developed an ever expanding interest in the environment and the natural world. 

This week I set out to take Phyllis to a native plants ground cover talk hosted by the Virginia Native Plants Society downtown Manassas. It was a great experience to be in a room with some many people interested in local native plants and the speaker Janet Davis from Hill House Farm and Nursery was inspired giving us lots to think about in the way a garden is constructed and grown. I recognized several plants during the slide show from experiences in gardening and walking the trails of the area. This plant we brought home seems to be the same one I was obsessed with photographing on my hike out at the Battlefield recently that was growing and blooming throughout the meadows and at the woods edge. 

I hope it grows for us in our home garden as well as it does out in the open untended fields of the battlefield park . 
The home garden was looking good, full of flowers and creatures. A few of them I had close encounters with and brought back images to share. 

While staking and tying up tall flowers in the front flower beds I nearly jumped out of my skin when I lifted a long bough of phlox to step into the garden and nearly stepped right on top of this great eastern box turtle. It's the first time we have seen one in the garden. 

This lovely sphinx moth that looked like a small humming bird or a really big bumble bee was all over the flowering butterfly bush and other deep throat flower trumpets sipping the nectar. It's Moth Week so I was excited to get home and discover I had some images of a very cool one who lives and flies in daylight hours. Its called a Snowberry Clearwing Hemaris diffinis fully described in the hot link. 

Sweet gum or Liquid amber tree by the old Koi pond still stands out in the back yard.
Virginia Creeper native vine 

 Our neighbor down Lomond Drive has six honey bee hives discreetly located behind a six foot tall fence and those bees are regular visitors now to the flowers and especially the purple flowering hyssop that smells like licorice candy when you crush the leaves. Makes me wonder if sipping that nectar impacts the flavor of his honey?

Last but not least the birds were always on my mind and in view when I looked for them in the trees around the house. These cardinals showed up twice and the catbird modeled in a low branch of the crepe myrtle trees for a nice portrait. 

I think I remember in grade school we were given little golden books to help identify various things like an adult I use books and now the internet to look up what I can. Though I never liked to read as a kid those picture books were endlessly interesting because of the great pictures and they helped me look more closely at the world around us where we played in the back yard and on trips to SW Virginia the woods the fields where we learned to respect the dangers and appreciate the other creatures in the world. It feels like I still have a lot to learn about the world around us.

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