Archive for March, 2012

Lonely Celandine Poppy

Celandine poppy

When I looked out over my spring wildflower garden, a bright yellow stood out in the crowd — the only celandine poppy (Stylophorum diphyllum) in the whole garden. Where did the others go? I saw my mother’s garden last night, and hers was “littered” with them. My Missouri Wildflowers book says “It is a prolific seeder which succeeds well in shaded, humus-rich gardens.” So what needs changed here?

Actually the poppy can’t be too lonely with all the nodding white trilliums (left), purple trilliums (above), purple and white violets, dwarf larkspur (below left), wild geraniums (below), wild ginger,  sweet William, false rue anemone and Virginia bluebells all blooming.

I think when I work in this garden, I’ll talk kindly to the celandine poppy, pet it on its little head … and remember to scatter its seeds later.

And if all else fails, I’m sure my mother will share.

Royalty Philosophy

I want to share my “royalty philosophy.” After my daughters and one son left home, I realized I was the only female in the house, and that made me the “queen.” The queen believes in treating the queen like a queen.  I don’t flaunt being royality. I just pamper myself in little ways.

This is usually in subtle ways that go unnoticed by others. Anything that feels like a treat, anything to make me feel special, even pampered.  Basically, I take a little time for myself and do what I want to do. It could be a chocolate malt on a hot afternoon, a long soak in the tub, sleeping little longer in the morning, or watching a sunset.

I took a few minutes after breakfast to sit outside and enjoy the sunny day with its cool breezes. A dove coo’d. A cardinal repeated “cheer, cheer, birdy, birdy, birdy.” A woodpecker drummed in the distance, and a bluejay squawked. And one of my favorites, the white-throated sparrow, gave its melodious song. Birders put words to it: “On Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody.”An eastern phoebe repeated its name. Redwing blackbirds gave “o-ka-lee” calls from a nearby pond. A chipping sparrow repeated rapid “chips.” The trees were in various stages of leafing. An orange sulphur butterfly flitted about.

Money plant

After one more casual glance around, I started working in the garden. I felt energized after being treated to such a pleasant spring morning. These blooms on money plant caught my attention and seemed appropriate for a picture here. I thought I might as well manifest wealth too.

After such a nice morning and a relaxed productive day, “her majesty” decided to sit outside with the first-quarter moon. I went out in the backyard in the last light of dusk. Our backyard faces east and isn’t the best for viewing an overhead moon. The moon comes up roughly an hour later every night, putting it lower in the east every night.

A waxing first-quarter moon and Venus lower to the right

A bright planet shone to the north of the moon, and a fainter planet was below it. It was still light enough that the stars hadn’t started shining yet. Then looking around I found another planet to the south– reddish and assumed it was Mars. Crickets were the only noise makers.

I hurried in and looked up planets for today online (yesterday, March 28) The highest, brightest was Venus with Jupiter under it. What I thought was Mars, was Mars. The website said Saturn was to rise at 8:30.  I went back out and couldn’t find Saturn. We have a pine-covered hill behind the house and to the south. It takes a while for the moon, etc to clear the hill.

Her Majesty ended her day reading in bed, drinking cup of hot chocolate.

Ingram Hill Oak, part 1

This is one of my favorite trees. I call it the “Ingram Hill Oak” because it grows in Ingram Hill cemetery, which is on Ingram Hill, where Ingram Hill Missionary Baptist Church was until early last year. The church was founded in 1886, closed in 2009 because of the vandalism and was torn down early last year. Such a shame!

The oak had been stuck by lightning before I discovered it. Then almost 10 years ago, we had a lightning strike at our house during a strong storm, and the oak was struck too. Upper parts of it don’t look healthy; there’s 2 slits in the bark, one much longer than the other.

I recently did my version of measuring the tree. A person’s “wingspan” equals their height. I’m 5’6″. I found a starting point, measured at arm height and “walked” my arms around to measure approxomately a 13-foot circumference. Next I found the widest diameter of the crown and stepped it off in yards: 37 yards equals an 111-feet crown spread. The tree’s height threw me. I ended up measuring height porportion  to the width in a picture I’d taken. The height was roughtly 2/3 of width, which equals plus/minus 74 feet.

My next challenge was figuring out what kind of oak it is. I’m a tad challenged at identifying trees, especially ones with compound leaves. The leaves are bristle-tipped and deeply lobed. There were no acorns around. That’s as far as I got in the keys for identifying the tree. I don’t need to know which kind it is, though, to enjoy it.

… And I enjoy it a lot. Buffy and I come here often to walk a loop around the cemetery. It’s less than 3 miles from our house. I crave this view that reaches 4-5 miles across the flats to the “mountains.”

View from Ingram Hill

Eagle Diary

Nesting eagles

3-28-12 Buffy and I took a drive this morning to check the eagle nest. The male perched on a limb, and the female stood on the edge of the nest. My first thought was that the eggs had hatched. It was 74 degrees at 9:30, so I figured it was warm enough for either eggs or eaglets. I drove past, taking pictures, turned around and drove back by, taking more pictures. The one on the limb had flown. I began wondering if the male had gone for food, or maybe took over nesting activities and let the female get some exercise. (I take pictures through an open window. I figure that stresses them less than my getting out of the truck.)

When I got home I started going back through picture records of my trips to the nest: January 26 — both were on the nest; February 15 — one was sitting down in the nest, and I wondered if she was incubating; March 9 — female incubating. Male perched in a tree across the road, guarding the nest; March 28, today — female perched on the side of the nest and male close by on a limb.

Bald eagles incubate eggs for 34-36 days. That means 42 days from February 15. So I assume the eggs have either hatched or are hatching. I’m not sure how many days she waits between laying each egg. They lay 1-3 eggs, usually 2.

It’s a shame there isn’t some way to see down in the nest. Not knowing does add to the mystery and intrigue, though. I do tend to be overly curious by nature … which keeps me learning.

Perfect Day

Christmas fern fiddleheads

Virginia bluebells

Moss and lichens on tree bark

Sweet William

Ants hatching

View to the "mountains"

Redbud flowers and honeybee. Notice full pollen sac on bee's leg.

Daisy fleabane

Wild geranium

Pine about to bloom

Dandelion seeed head


Red galls on maple leaves

Maple leaves emerging

American toad


What a perfect day!

Every day’s a perfect day.

Every day is just the way it’s meant to be.

Black Widow Spider

Female black widow spider

Please excuse the quality of my pictures in this blog. I was not about to be in close proximity to a black widow spider.

I don’t ever remember seeing a black widow before, and in this gallon pickle jar is the way I’d prefer to see one.  My youngest son found it at a friends house and brought it to me. (I have my boys trained to bring me unusual things.)

This is a female. A female’s is up to a half-inch long, has a shiny black body with 3 red spots on the top of their abdomen, and 2 red spots underneath that look like an hourglass.  The shape of the hourglass can vary and even be a dot. Males are half the size of the female, and both can sometimes be brown. The markings can also be yellow or red.

Only the female has the hourglass pattern underneath

Black widows are highly venomous and can inflict a painful bite that can be fatal. Sometimes the bites aren’t painful. They can be found outdoors in woodpiles, rubble piles, under stones, in hollow stumps, sheds and garages. They can also be found in undisturbed cluttered areas in basements and crawl spaces.

Then what to do with the spider? I wasn’t about to turn it loose in the yard. I didn’t want to kill it. She was such a beautiful spider. So I finally took her back and turned her loose beside a farm field where I knew there wouldn’t be any people active there.

Kenilworth Ivy, a Family Heirloom

The Kenilworth flowers are 1/2 inch wide, and the leaves in all sizes up to one inch.

I started gardening 15 years ago. A year or 2 later my mother collected seeds for me off her Kenilworth ivy plants. She got her ivy seeds from her mother, who lived in Rolla, Missouri. My grandmother got hers from her mother who lived in Rensselaerville, New York. My grandmother was born in 1894. My great grandmother was married in 1886. I have no idea how long the Kenilworth ivy’s been in the family, only that it goes back to my great grandmother.

This 2-foot by 2-foot patch of Kenilworth ivy grows by our side door

Only 4 plants grew here summer before last, and I only saw 3 blooms the whole season. Then last summer the area was packed with flowering plants. I still have no explanation for why the dramatic difference from one summer to the next. Leaves dropped from the trees last fall, and many found their way in and around the ivy. The plants actually stayed green all winter. They did look frozen recently. The picture shows that they’re fine now and growing “like weeds.”  It looks like they might need a small trellis.

Kenilworth ivy (Cymbalaria muralis) originated on the walls of Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire, England. The plants have an unusual way to propagate: the flower stalk is initially positively phototropic and moves toward from the light.  Phototropism is when the direction of growth is determined by the direction of the light source. It becomes negatively phototropic after fertilization and turns away from the light. This results in the seed being pushed into a dark crevice of a rock wall, where it’s more likely to germinate and where it prefers to grow.

Kenilworth ivy also likes well-drained soil, plenty of shade and cool weather. We don’t have cool summers in southern Illinois. Mine grows on the north side of the house where it receives very little direct sunlight in the summer. They’re a good plant for  stone paths,  rock walls and hanging baskets.