Lady’s Slipper Orchids – No Match for the Mower

Yellow Lady’s Slipper Orchids growing in the ditch opposite us. You can see our trees at the top of the photo. At the far right of the photo is the stalk of a flowering Meadow Rue.

I’ve blogged about the Lady’s Slipper Orchids several times:  Lady’s Slipper Orchid – Surprise in the Ditch and Lady’s Slipper Orchid Mimics the Old Masters. In that post, I mentioned the fate of the orchids when the county mower bears down on them.

This year the mower arrived earlier in the season than normal and chopped off the Orchid flowers before they had a chance to go to seed. It would be an understatement to say this made me very sad. I had been visiting them and taking pictures of them every morning when I went for my walk. It was while I was photographing them that I discovered the delicate flowers of a meadow rue nearby. (Also a plastic lid and a red straw, which I’ll remove once I don’t need them to accurately mark the location of the now decapitated flowers…)

I first found the Lady’s Slipper in 2011, and while I would have loved to have one growing on my property, I contented myself with visiting them in the ditch (especially since they have established a dozen or so new clumps so close to our place.) The mower changed all that. I’m going to research the probability of success if I transplant one or two of the plants onto my property…

As for the Meadow Rue – turns out I have hundreds of them in our woods, now that I know what to look for!

Plant Profile
Common Name:  Lady’s Slipper Orchid (yellow)
Scientific Name:  Cypripedium parviflorum
Hardiness:  Zones 3-7 – found in many parts of Canada and the United States. It is a hardy plant.
Growth:  A Perennial that varies in height depending on location. In the north it can often be found in open locations with full sun. In other locations it will be found in cool rich woods.
Blooms:   Large deep-yellow flowers with long yellow-to-brown corkscrew lateral petals. Blooms over a 2 to 3 week period in early to mid spring.

Chaos in the Garden

This is one of my flower beds. It has been over 20 years in the making. In that time, a small tree grew – casting more and more deep shade. The plants that liked sun weren’t so happy about this. Some died – I thought. So I planted others, only to have the dead sometimes reappear (yes, tulips, I’m talking about you and your splashes of red in a bed that once was yellow, blue and purple!)

This year I gave up on order and accepted plant Chaos. Even chaos will take time, though. There are bare spots where some things, like my bleeding hearts, all died this past winter. As George W. Bush said:

Topaz Studio filter “Ghost Town”

What George Bush actually said was “…And, you know, it’ll take time to restore chaos and order – order out of chaos. But we will.” Some media outlets shortened the quote to “It will take time to restore chaos” which triggered the usual crowd to make fun of him – but I think the shortened quote perfectly describes my new gardening mantra.

Topaz Studio filter “HDR”

Chaos was the law of nature; Order was the dream of man.
– Henry Adams –

Topaz Studio filter “Rock”

Chaos is roving through the system and able to undo, at any point, the best laid plans.
– Terence McKenna –

Topaz Studio filter “3D Sketch”

Chaos is not the lack of order, it is merely the absence of order, that the observer is used to.
– Mamur Mustapha –

Topaz Studio filter “Abstract”

All of these photos were altered with Topaz Studio filters.

What say you – which photo is most chaotic?

Proust and a Palo Verde Tree

You know how it goes. You start with one thing, and that leads to something else, and you end up somewhere you didn’t expect to be.

I started with a photo of a forest clearing (actually it is in the Arizona desert ‘highlands’ and the saguaro cactus is a clue that it isn’t a traditional forest – but the Palo Verde tree in bloom makes it seem foresty.) Then I ran the photo past a few filters to see what might pop out. I overlaid a quote by Marcel Proust to the original photo because it seemed to fit.

Let us be grateful to people who make us happy. They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.
– Marcel Proust –

Then, because Proust said a lot of interesting things, his words kind of slipped in with the rest of the filtered photos.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust

Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.
– Marcel Proust –

Like many intellectuals, he was incapable of saying a simple thing in a simple way.
– Marcel Proust –

Time, which changes people, does not alter the image we have of them.
– Marcel Proust –

There is no one, no matter how wise he is, who has not in his youth said things or done things that are so unpleasant to recall in later life that he would expunge them entirely from his memory if that were possible.
– Marcel Proust –

One cannot change, that is to say become a different person, while continuing to acquiesce to the feelings of the person one has ceased to be.
– Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way –

The Palo Verde is the State Tree of Arizona. Like life, it is kind of messy. It can shed it’s leaves twice a year and it creates a blizzard of yellow ‘debris’ when it drops it’s flowers. The flowers are pollinated by bees. You might see as many as 20 species of bees at the tree at one time if you are brave enough to stand under a whole tree that is buzzing. (There are more than 1,000 species of bees in southern Arizona.)

French novelist Marcel Proust (1871 – 1922) is considered to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. Many of his observations, like the ones above, seem to be as applicable today as they must have been when he wrote them. What say you?

Prickly Pear

Prickly Pear Cacti are members of the Opuntia genus. There are over 90 species of Opuntia in the United States. They are flat-stemmed spiny cacti with edible fruit.

Click on any photo to open Photo Gallery.

There is a large patch of Prickly Pears in the lot next to ours. Then one day, there was one tiny prickly pear in our yard. It was only an inch or two high. So I carefully outlined it with a ring of rocks and encouraged it to grow. In just a year, it had grown to a healthy 8 inch tall plant.

When a weed dared to grow next to my prickly pear, I carefully reached in (with leather gloves on) and as I plucked out the weed, I felt one ever so little prick on my finger. I took my glove off and there wasn’t any blood – not even a red mark.

Five minutes later, my finger started to hurt. I went into the house, washed the area well, and inspected it under a magnifying glass to make sure there was not a small prickle stuck in me. Nothing. Then my finger started to swell.

I’ve been gardening here in Arizona for 7 years. I’ve been ‘poked’ by all sorts of cactus. Agaves are the worst for drawing blood. But never before has a prickle caused as much discomfort as the prickly pear did.

There are no prickly pears in my yard any more…

What is the most dangerous plant in your yard?

Spines, Scales and Rocks

Arizona in April – this is what is happening in my back yard:

Arizona

I think this is a Claret Cup Cactus. If it isn’t, it should be because it seems like an appropriate name for it… Wicked thorns though…

How I like claret!…It fills one’s mouth with a gushing freshness, then goes down to cool and feverless; then, you do not feel it quarrelling with one’s liver. No; ’tis rather a peace-maker, and lies as quiet as it did in the grape. Then it is as fragrant as the Queen Bee, and the more ethereal part mounts into the brain, not assaulting the cerebral apartments, like a bully looking for his trull, and hurrying from door to door, bouncing against the wainscott, but rather walks like Aladdin about his enchanted palace, so gently that you do not feel his step.
– John Keats –

Arizona

The Side-blotched Lizard: If you look just behind the top of the front leg, you’ll see a long dark splotch – that is how this lizard got it’s name. These little lizards (4-6 inches or 10-15 cm in length including tail) are numerous, but easily overlooked because of their small size. They blend in well with the rocks and gravel, but are actually quite colorful when seen up close.

Arizona

The male Side-blotched lizard often has bright turquoise blue speckling on the tail, back, and upper surfaces of the hind limbs

Arizona

My yard is covered in a layer of gravel. The previous owner was big on ‘dry-creek bed’ features, so I have a lot of rocks that range in size from ‘pick up and carry around in your pocket’ size to ‘too heavy for me to lift’ size. I’ve been picking out oval shape flat rocks to build a ‘bed of rock daisies’.

Be a little boulder.
– Author Unknown –

Are you a ‘rock hound’? If you have rocks in your yard, are they an important part of the landscape or an inconvenience?

Arizona Wild Flowers

Spring Wild Flowers in and near McDowell Mountain Regional Park, Arizona. The challenge in taking these photos was that I only had a camera with a zoom lens and it was a breezy day. In essence, I was trying to hold the camera still while zooming in on a moving target… while watching for snakes…

Arizona
McDowell Mountain Regional Park – Mexican Gold Poppies

McDowell Mountain Park is located northeast of Phoenix, Arizona in the Sonoran Desert. Elevations in the park rise to 3,000 feet along the western boundary at the base of the McDowell Mountains.

Arizona
Mexican Gold Poppy

Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana – California Poppy or Mexican Gold Poppy
Golden Yellow to Orange – four petal flowers with finely dissected bluish green leaves.

Arizona
Coulter’s Lupine

Lupinus sparsiflorus – Coulter’s Lupine
An Annual with violet blue pea-like flowers that spiral – hairy, upright flower spikes. The leaves are green and narrow.

Arizona
Indian Paintbrush or Purple Owl’s Clover

Arizona

Castilleja exserta – Exserted Indian Paintbrush or Purple Owl’s Clover
An Annual with magenta flowers that have a narrow, hairy, beak-like upper lip and a broader lower lip with 3 yellow-tipped pouches.

Arizona
Brittlebush

Encelia farinosa – Brittlebush
A Perennial, Deciduous shrub with yellow flowers in branched clusters. The leaves are alternate, woolly, grayish in color, and oval to triangle-shaped. Brittlebush is valuable for rehabilitating low maintenance landscapes, critical stabilization areas, and disturbed areas such as those that have been burned.

Arizona
Gordon’s Bladderpod

Lesquerella gordonii – Gordon’s Bladderpod
In rainy years, this spring wildflower can carpet the ground with yellow flowers. The flowers have 4 rounded petals. The leaves are grayish green and covered with fuzzy hair.

If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there’d be a shortage of sand.
– Milton Friedman –

Let me tell you something that we Israelis have against Moses. He took us 40 years through the desert in order to bring us to the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil!
– Golda Meir –

I bought a cactus. A week later it died. And I got depressed, because I thought, Damn. I am less nurturing than a desert.
– Demetri Martin –

Right Place, Right Time

Every now and then (but not if I’m in a line-up at the store) I’m in the Right Place at the Right Time! Here are three photos to illustrate what I mean.

In 2011, I wrote a post titled Lady’s Slipper Orchids – Surprise in the Ditch. At that time, the orchids were growing in a ditch – about a 5 minute walk from us. Not a great distance, but they were easy to overlook in the tall weeds and their blooming season was short. I only saw them once again after that.

A few days ago, I was very surprised to find the pretty yellow orchids again growing in the ditch –  but this time right at the end of our driveway!

It would have been easy to miss their yellow flowers, surrounded as they were by clumps of yellow dandelions. But, they must have whispered to me… “It’s your lucky day – we’re your  neighbours now!”

I’m a Canadian ‘Snowbird’ who spends part of the winter in the USA. Last winter I went to an Estate Sale at the house next to our Arizona home. One of the items for sale was an old sewing machine in a cabinet. I ignored it – I already had a sewing machine.

The next morning, after the sale had ended, the sewing machine had been moved out to the garage, en route to who knows where. The sales agent appealed to my thriftiness by pointing out that the machine, the cabinet and a box of sewing supplies could be mine for a mere $10. Sold!

Later, when I opened the box of supplies, I found this small Canadian Flag lapel pin nestled in with the bobbins and thread. I’ll never know why the elderly American woman who owned the machine had this lapel pin, but I do know that the pin whispered to me – “This sewing machine was meant for you!”

Here is the link to my story about the Great Horned Owl Family  that has been living in a tree near the front of our house. Though we have often seen the adult owls on our property and last year I briefly glimpsed a pair of owlets, it has been a once in a lifetime event to watch three owlets ‘branch’ and eventually fledge. The owl parents really did pick the right place and the right time for us!

Do you have a ‘Right Place – Right Time’ story to share?

 

Springtime Blooms – Arizona and Alberta

My Place in the World is in the Garden with my camera!

The best part about living part time in Arizona is that I get to experience spring twice! In April, when Alberta might still be experiencing snow storms, our Arizona home is at the height of spring blooming!

pink flowers Arizona
Olneya tesota – Ironwood tree

We have a large old Ironwood tree on our property. It is estimated that these trees can live for hundreds and hundreds of years. It sheds its leaves annually just before it blooms. The flowers are pea like (because it is a member of that family) and the entire tree becomes a dusky pink colour during full bloom.

white flowers Arizona
Carnegiea gigantea – Saguaro Cactus

The Ironwood often serves as a backdrop to the giant Saguaro cactus. The Saguaro can live for 150 to 200 years and it can grow 40 to 60 ft tall (12 to 18 meters). It is very slow growing and can be decades old before it sprouts arms or blooms.

yellow flowers Arizona
Opuntia – Prickly Pear Cactus

The Prickly Pear cactus is the ‘rat’ of the neighbourhood for the simple reason that the resident rodents live in holes under the prickly shelter of this plant. We have a large specimen that isn’t actually on our property, but it thinks it should be. We have to carefully ‘prune’ it off our property every few years.

white flowers Arizona
Trichocereus candicans – Argentine Giant

My favourite cactus is the Argentine Giant. It is a common enough looking cactus with multiple stems up to 24 inches (60 cm) tall. The wow factor is when it blooms. The white flowers can be 6 to 8 inches across (15 to 20 cm). The flowers come out at night, and only last about 24 hours.

A week after my Argentine Giant bloomed, I was back in Alberta where an extremely long and cold winter had finally ended. The last of the snow had just melted, and the earth quickly exploded with greenery.

blue white flower Alberta
Puschkinia libanotica – Striped Squill

The first flower to bloom was the Striped Squill, a starry pale blue and white flower that is only about 4 inches (10 cm) tall.

blue flower Alberta
Scilla siberica – Siberian Squill

Another squill, the Siberian Squill, mingles with the Striped ones. Neither Squill seem anxious to expand their territory much, but they might simply be unable to compete with the other residents in that location – the prolific Grape hyacinths (Muscari).

yellow flower Alberta
Forsythia Northern Gold

The only other flower blooming right now is a bush – the Forsythia Northern Gold. I’m expecting great things from this fast growing bush. In addition to spectacular early blooms, it should help a lot with the task of masking the silvery wall of The Car Guy’s new quonset metal garage.

This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge is Place in the World.

What blooms in your part of the world each spring?

Grass, Bees, Thistles – Half a World Away in Belchen Germany

When the Internet publicity began, I remember being struck by how much the world was not the way we thought it was, that there was infinite variation in how people viewed the world.
– Eric Schmidt –

The Belchen (35 Km south of Freiburg) is a mountain in the Black Forest of Germany. The Belchen Cableway takes you up to scenic viewpoints and hiking trails.

If you do a web search for The Belchen, you will find lots of photos of the scenery, but no photos of a bee and some thistles on the grassy slopes of the flanks of the mountain. You also won’t find very many moderately funny or interesting quotations about variations. Until now…

I’ve been getting a lot of science fiction scripts which contained variations on my Star Trek character and I’ve been turning them down. I strongly feel that the next role I do, I should not be wearing spandex.
– Marina Sirtis –

Creativity varies inversely with the number of cooks involved in the broth.
– Bernice Fitz-Gibbon –

Time rushes towards us with its hospital tray of infinitely varied narcotics, even while it is preparing us for its inevitably fatal operation.
– Tennessee Williams –

No patent medicine was ever put to wider and more varied use than the Fourteenth Amendment.
– William O. Douglas –

More varied than any landscape was the landscape in the sky, with islands of gold and silver, peninsulas of apricot and rose against a background of many shades of turquoise and azure.
– Cecil Beaton –

Country people do not behave as if they think life is short; they live on the principle that it is long, and savor variations of the kind best appreciated if most days are the same.
– Edward Hoagland –

How many vacation photos have you taken that could just as easily depict something in your neighbourhood or backyard?

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is Variations on a Theme.

Crabapple

If you have a Crabapple Tree in your yard, you know there can be such a thing as too many crabapples. If you offer your crabapples to the local wildlife –  deer, rabbits, squirrels, foxes, bears, raccoons or coyotes for instance –  you won’t ever have to deal with too many crabapples. You might end up with wild life problems, however…

I planted six Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple trees a few years ago. This year we harvested the three crabapples you see in this photo. Too many crabapples might not be a problem for some time.

Plant Profile
Common Name: Purple Spire Columnar Crabapple
Scientific Name: Malus x ‘Jefspire’
Hardiness: to Zone 3
Growth: Purple foliage; full sun; 10 to 20 feet tall (8 meters); 5-10 feet wide (2.5 meters); columnar form; slow growing
Blooms: Sparse pink flowers in spring.
Fruit: Flavorful but often very tart
Origin: A seedling from the controlled cross ‘Thunderchild’ and ‘Wijcik made by Dr. David Lane of the Summerland Research Station in British Columbia

If you plant crabapples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.
– Author Unknown –