Thursday, September 25, 2014

Wonders of the season

September 9 brought the first oxblood or schoolhouse lilies (rhodophiala bifida); two days later, on September 11, the pink version of these beautiful flowers appeared. White rain lilies have been everywhere, and during the past two week we have seen seven of the beautiful small pink rain lilies in the side yard, in addition to one saffron golden rain lily nearby, and one butter-yellow rain lily behind the house. There are now more spider lilies (lycoris radiata), this time following the property line, in addition to one making an appearance by itself in Mack's flower bed and the remaining flowers on the oak motte. The display of red schoolhouse lilies is nearing an end. Yesterday, there was a yellow giant swallowtail butterfly in the yard, the first this summer. We've seen many of the dark version with the golden trim, but this is the first yellow one, and in perfect condition. One monarch butterfly was seen yesterday. There have been two more moonflowers every night recently. Fennel has made seeds just once this entire season, but it appears to be starting to put forth greenery again from the roots. We still see at least one hummingbird every day. The angle of the sun changes daily. There will be hot weather to come, but the periods of relief are longer and more numerous each day.

Department of bad prose

These examples are all to be found in an article reviewing a book about Scalia written by a prose stylist at Chicago Law:
(a) "Perhaps as importantly,"
(b) "More tellingly still," and
(c) "The fundamental facts of Bush v. Gore are plenty discrediting; there is no need for larding such additional sorts of dismal motivations."
The third item is an example of the English language as it may exist in some distant universe.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Tallest tithonia toppled

The world's tallest and most bloom-laden tithonia plant went down, snapped off by the wind. All figs have been consumed, and the pecans are going fast. The ground is littered with bits of shell. Yesterday brought the very first spider lilies (lycoris radiata); this morning we found three stalks of oxblood lily flowers (rhodophiala bifida). Because they began anew after the harsh winter, lantanas and four o'clocks are beginning to bloom in earnest only now that fall is on its way.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

For the first time this season

There were two zebra longwing butterflies working the lantana flowers. A black-chinned hummingbird lingered among the Turk's caps. Flowers of the hyacinth bean have opened way up the cable, near the tree limb.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

By the light of the silvery moon

There's at least one moonflower blossom each night, but we often see only the spent remnants,  because we end our days too soon and sometimes don't begin them soon enough. The pot hanging from the long cable contains vines that have run all the way up to the oak limb from which the cable is suspended. There are now Grandpa Ott morning  glories every day up and down the cable, and trailing nasturtiums are beginning to bloom as well. Pride of Barbados is beginning to bloom everywhere. The figs grow plumper. We have our  own wild sunflowers, but none so tall and spactacular as those across the street. Sweet peas have all gone to seed. The vines have been pulled up and the seeds will be saved. Swallowtails are everywhere amidst the blooming fennel. Sungold tomatoes are beginning to produce. Each time that there's a cool night, the chiles bloom again and we have even more jalapenos and serranos. One delphinium remains, as do a few bachelor buttons, otherwise gone to seed. We didn't wait to see how much taller than ten feet the amaranth plants would grow. That's the name by which I've always known them, but, under another name,they're the much-hated pigweed. Bright Lights cosmos may be seen everywhere in the pleasure grounds, some yellow and some orange. Although the days grow hotter and hotter, there are still two colors of cyclamen, a couple of viola plants, and about one new clematis flower each day. Not one of these has ever been seen here so late in the season.

Monday, June 16, 2014


The first ears of On Deck corn have been harvested and consumed. The cobs are small, but the kernels are very tasty. Each day threatens to bring the last sweet pea of the season, but there are still one or two. Every one of the specimens of pride of Barbados has now returned from the roots. Fennel blossoms are everywhere. Coreopsis has a second flush of bloom. The first ruellia ("Mexican petunia") has bloomed. Two pink zephyranthes flowers have made a surprise appearance. For the first time ever there have been fruits on the passion vine, in both green and yellow forms, and many of them. Pecan nuts are in their early formative stage. Neighbors' crape myrtles in bloom and their giant wild sunflowers brighten the view.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

They weren't there yesterday

Today brought the first tithonia flower ("Mexican sunflower") and the first figs. The figs are small and far from ripe, but yesterday there was not one fig visible.

Friday, May 30, 2014

A slithery visitor

We were surprised to find a juvenile Texas rat snake back near the compost pile. We've only ever seen an extremely large adult example of this snake, and only once. They appear when the rats are plentiful, as they must be, in the wake of all the demolition and remodeling everywhere nearby. Ponder Lee, a neighborhood cat, has brought no slain rats to the yard, though. We continue to enjoy lettuce (now quite mature), grape and cherry tomatoes, and yellow wax beans. In addition to the plentiful Grandpa Ott morning glories, we have seen a beautiful giant blue-and-white striated one, a giant cream bloom with blue spokes, and two dainty old-fashioned smaller flowers with purple partial spokes. There are now five colors of nasturtiums. New shoots are appearing at the base of about half of the pride of Barbados. Four o'clocks are coming on strong. We are seeing the first Turk's cap and agastache flowers. Despite all the rain, we've not yet seen any rain lilies. Some of the sweet peas are going to seed. Our wild sunflowers so far are short and very doubled. Fortunately, more neighbors are allowing theirs to rain, so we enjoy very tall ones from the kitchen window. There are tassels on all the cornstalks, but no cornsilk is visible yet.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Keeping up with the spring arrivals

Bulb foliage has died back enough and grass has grown enough that the trusty non-power mower came into use this morning for the first time this year. Only leaves of the Dutch iris have not yet turned brown. A good-sized opossum was seen yesterday morning next door. Our newest arrivals in the flower world are nasturtiums (orange), cultivated rudbeckia, two colors of four o'clock, both yellow and orange Bright Lights cosmos, fennel flowers, and the first lantana flowers. One loquat fruit, not very large, but the first of the season, was discovered on the ground. We continue to harvest yellow wax beans, serrano chiles, and grape tomatoes grown in pots. It is quite a surprise that there are still cyclamen and clematis flowers. The transoms are not yet open for the summer season.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

In the pleasure grounds

Spring progresses. The pecan flowers have all dropped; there wasn't much sassafras scent this year. A great resurgence of Erlicheer brought the last narcissi. Only two of our Saint Joseph's lilies bloomed, but the ones across the street were spectacular. Among the poppies, we've seen showy Hungarian bread poppies, Shirley poppies, Iceland poppies, corn poppies, and true red old-fashioned poppies, although none in great profusion. The Hungarian poppies have been six feet tall, and some of the shorter, shinier types have appeared in picotee forms. All poppies are pollenated in a day, by honeybees or any of the various bumblebees. There are more coreopsis flowers and on more plants than there've ever been; not a one has been picked. Two stalks of delphinium are in bloom, on very stunted plants. Bachelor buttons are nearly done blooming. They have appeared in at least six different colors. We have counted over a dozen varieties of sweet peas. They're now past their peak and beginning to go to seed, but still scent their surroundings and look beautiful up close and from a distance. Pansies and violas are faithfully dead-headed, but they're becoming leggy and won't be with us much longer. Surprisingly, there are still cyclamen and clematis flowers. Some Pride of Barbados is returning from he roots; all lantanas and Turk's caps are springing anew. Giant swallowtail larvae are fattening on the fennel; gulf fritillary larvae are fattening on passion vine. The first hollyhock flowers have appeared on short stalks; they are a very deep, almost coral, rose. A ten-foot sunflower stalk is producing medium-sized golden flowers with dark centers in all the axillary parts of the plant, as well as atop it. As the leaves of daffodils, narcissi, and irises turn brown and loosen their attachment, they go to the compost pile. Some milkweed is volunteering, but not enough. Large toads are to be seen, and anoles and tree lizards share the premises in apparently equal numbers so far. Nasturtiums and hyacinth beans begin to twine, as do morning glories and moonflowers. We have been dining on the last of the English peas, lettuce, yellow crookneck summer squash, grape and cherry tomatoes, and extremely tasty yellow wax beans, all but the peas grown in containers. Serrano chiles are beginning to form. Such grass as there is has revived from dormancy. The last three days have brought delightful rain and a respite of coolness, for which we are very thankful.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Since last week

It was Tuesday a week ago that a tally was last taken. Since then, there's been a large flock of cedar waxwings seen and warblers heard although not seen. There's still one fresh Erlicheer, and anemones continue to appear. Pollinated oak flowers are still dropping; tassels of pecan flowers are fresh on the tree. We see at least one anole every day. The beautiful St. Joseph's lilies are very showy across the street; we haven't seen any in our own pleasure grounds. Anoles, not tree lizards, are prevalent so far this year. A coreopsis is covered in buds and blooms, and only three flowers have been taken by passers-by so far. There are still quite a few clematis flowers. Yellow summer squashes are growing larger every day. There are at least eight different varieties of sweet peas in bloom now. Amaryllises that have bloomed in pots indoors over the years have done well outdoors despite the frequent below-freezing temperatures this winter; several have bud stalks. Red ones will be the first to open. There have been a few true poppies in bloom, and yesterday brought the first Shirley poppy, a giant; there are giant buds on other plants. We continue to enjoy more pink evening primroses than we've seen in years. There are three rootstock roses running wild with beautifully scented flowers, and the bi-colored mystery experimental rose out front has produced one showy flower. The first bachelor buttons of the season were open this morning, blue ones. There continue to be blue pipevine swallowtail butterflies and numerous gulf fritillaries every day. Only the pecans are still leafing out. The views of downtown will soon vanish.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The day before yesterday and about a year ago

This is Tuesday; Sunday brought us our first bearded iris (see a heritage iris from a year ago). It has stood up very well against the extremely high winds and rain. On Sunday before the winds and rain of Monday we also saw an anole and a pipevine swallowtail butterfly, along with some gulf fritillaries. We know that there are larvae of giant swallowtail butterflies here, because they're consuming the leaves of the fennel, which is one of the few types of vegetation that over-wintered well this year. The yard is scented with sweet peas, fennel, and hundreds of flowers from the roses gone wild. The biggest difference between last year and this year is that lantana was touched by the cold severely enough that it has yet to put forth new leaves, except a few from the roots, and there will be no blooms for quite a while; the same is true of Turk's cap.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring in progress

The pollinated flowers are falling from the live oak tree in the front yard. Sweet peas are in bloom in two places, in pots and behind the house. There is one true poppy flower open. The roses that reverted to the root stock variety are covered with flowers. The pansies and violas in pots are getting leggy but continue to do quite well, thanks to faithful deadheading; They are a great attraction to the honeybees. We're seeing almost as many mourning doves as whitewings. The hailstorm seems to have accounted for the loquat fruits that had survived through the last killing frost. It was surprising to see that the show went on for Circo Hermanos Vazquez, according to a Circo Hermanos Vazquez: clown blog kept by one of the star clowns. Lantana is starting all over again from the roots and not releafing on last year's branches. There are no signs yet of revival of Pride of Barbados or of plumbago.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Stormy weather

Monday evening unexpectedly brought hailstones the size of peas, and lots of them. The ground was left white and, in shady spots, the slushy residue did not melt until mid-afternoon yesterday. (Speaking of peas, the pods of Wando were battered and almost shaved.) The accompanying exceptionally high winds brought down trees in some places. Here, the pollen and many new leaves from the live oak trees came violently to the ground. There may be few acorns for the squirrels this fall. Many plants of all types on the ground were left in shreds. The newly blooming pink evening primroses were entirely unaffected; so were the clematis flowers.

Friday, April 04, 2014

The progress of spring

We;re guessing that it's the large number of below-freezing days that brought such an outstanding display of old-fashioned narcissus and of Erlicheer. There were even more species tulips than usual, with Tubergen's Gem in two types, bright and more pastel, contributing to the amazing number of Lilac Wonder flowers. One Texas double daffodil appeared. One of the spectacular displays now is rank on rank of Dutch Iris: purple, blue, crimson, Japanese-style blue with bright golden eyes, white, bright yellow, yellow-and-white, and an astonishing blue-white tinged with lilac. We'd have had more of these if the last killing frost hadn't occurred right when the plants had many buds showing color; these never opened. White and also pink wood hyacinths appeared. Ranunculus flower continue to open; they're not as large as they are some years. There's been one handsome picotee flower, and the rest are mostly of the Sunset variety. Spiderwort plants have very large flowers this year. The roses that have reverted to the root stock are covered with buds, but no flowers have opened yet. Fig leaves were appearing before the last killing frost, but they fell off; now the fig is producing a new set of leaves. One live oak is sporting flowers; the other has yet to drop all of its leaves. There are no flowers yet on the pecan. Ornamental allium has produced a beautiful backdrop for all of the other flowers. It's past peak display, but now the small, second variety of allium is covered with buds. Another casualty of the cold weather was the planting of Wando peas; some survived and are now producing a few pods. We've eaten the peas raw from the first couple of pods--an indescribable treat! The one-dollar clematis plans from the supermarket are producing more flowers than ever before, and they're the size of saucers. A never-before-seen winged creature has been frequenting the premises: It's not very large and has a wooly black body, and black wings that with "polka dots" that appear to be white but, upon closer inspection, have the appearance of mother-of-pearl and perhaps are translucent. We think that we've heard toads calling.

Monday, March 17, 2014

New this weekend in the pleasure grounds

Among species tulips, we've been enjoying Lilac Wonder and Clusiana flowers. A visitor got right down close and informed us that Lilac Wonders have a strong and spicy scent, and it's true; they do. Other new flowers are Thalia, Flower Record, and Sun Disc. Red lettuce has volunteered and so has Tithonia. Pink oxalis is in bloom. Clematis vines are springing up anew. Geranium narcissus blooms should open very soon; they are prolific this year. An early hummingbird was prospecting yesterday among the hyacinths and narcissi.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Spring and more spring

The pear tree is more spectacular than it has ever been. Today there are two stalks of Thalia in bloom. The grass is beginning to green up. Leaves are dropping like rain from the live oak trees. This image shows a double blue-violet anemone and a stalk of Suzy narcissus.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

New arrivals in the pleasure grounds

Today brought us pink wood hyacinths and blue ones, plus the first poet's narcissus. The flowers of the Bradford ornamental pear tree have joined those of the redbuds. Volunteer seedlings include nasturtiums, morning glories, and Bright Lights cosmos.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

At the blue and violet end of the spectrum

Today's new flowers are grape hyacinth, Siberian squill, Dutch iris, and ipheion.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Now on display in the pleasure grounds

Ice Follies appeared late this year, so were not available to be removed during the night for use as someone's Valentine tribute. They began blooming only the day before yesterday. As to creatures, we've seen one anole and about a dozen kinds of butterflies. There is a nesting pair of large pale hawks checking out the various treetops. The light has always been wrong for really seeing them. The Montopolis heirloom narcissus display has been very showy, but it's now past its peak. Newcomers yesterday were flowers on one redbud tree, Erlicheer, ornamental alliums, and leucojums. We're seeing more single jonquils than there've been in years, with no bud blast. Avalanche and Minnow narcissus has been spectacular. Blue Dutch hyacinths are to be seen on the oak motte; they, along with pink hyacinths, are beginning to appear out front. Following are a few of the other flowers now appearing: Martinette, Carlton, Fortune, and Jetstar, plus other varieties of all sorts whose names have gone unrecorded, including the very tiniest of butter-yellow miniature narcissus. There are buds appearing on the Dutch iris. Anemones of red and of purple open with the sun every day and close as the sun departs. The wild anemone blanda is mostly white this year, but there are some blue flowers. Everything looks especially beautiful when the skies are overcast. There's so much more to come!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Monarchs and honeybees and more

A dozen or so monarch butterflies were seen in Mack's yard on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday (20, 21, and 22 October). The honeybees continue to be numerous among the Bright Lights cosmos. There are two little plants of some sort of wild aster that came from somewhere to bloom along Mack's fence. Yesterday, between morning and night, sprouts of paperwhite narcissus appeared everywhere. We've closed all the transoms until spring..

Collections of images that don't exist, but should

In years to come, they'd say something about this period in time:
  1. Angela Merkel in the close-up company of other world leaders, particularly Sarkozy in his day; the two-person close-up photographs of congeniality and rapport are very entertaining.
  2. Molded plastic stacking chairs, usually with arms, ubiquitous around the world, so inexpensive, light in weight, and handy: on ferryboats in China, in teashops, in all sorts of expected and unexpected contexts.
  3. Photographs of women holding gigantic handbags, some half as tall as they; these are in fashion magazines in both editorial content and in ads

Friday, October 18, 2013

Because it's now autumn

Despite the rains, it appears that the grass has stopped growing and will be dormant soon. Milkweeds are in full bloom again and so are four o'clocks. Tithonia flowers have made a surprise appearance. Honeybees are especially attracted to the Bright Lights cosmos. As soon as the buds on the loquats open, the bees will move their attentions to them. Every day is a beautiful one.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Bookstores: a list

Have any been overlooked? The name of the establishment on Red River where Stubb's is now located doesn't come immediately to mind, and it took a while for the Living Batch to be recalled.
Three Arts
The Living Batch
Grok Books
Half Price Books
Garner & Smith
Congress Avenue Books
Watson & Co.
Adventures in Time and Space
Europa Books
Domy Books

And here's a little list of  books on the shelves (bookx) as of 2006, not updated since then. Other than some comics, a very few items from used-book sales (e.g., Chambers's Encyclopaedia, 1860, at a quarter a volume, and still smelling fiercely of woodsmoke), childhood books, and gifts along the way, books in this household came from one of the above establishments.

After the rains

Now that the ground is cooler, there are volunteer seedlings everywhere, many of them Bright Lights cosmos, sweet peas, nasturtiums, and hyacinth beans. Anemones have been visible for a couple of days, now, sprung up overnight. Lantanas are covered with flowers and so are hyacinth beans. Fennel plants are sending new shoots. The spider plants that didn't bloom this year (lycoris radiata) are sending up clumps of leaves everywhere, preparing for next year. We still enjoy morning glories, cosmos, and torenia, now renewed. It was a surprise this morning to find tithonia (Mexican sunflower) blooms in a neglected corner of the yard.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Just wondering

Why don't people seem to know the difference between cobblestones and pavers? Anyone who has ever seen a cobblestone could never confuse one with a paver.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Oxblood lilies are tapering off

But we still have some fresh ones each day. Garlic chives have gone to seed. Newly with us this season are spiderwort and pink oxalis. Turk's caps, lantana, and four o'clocks have been refreshed, thanks to the slightly cooler weather and the bounteous recent rains. There are a few new serrano peppers. Hyacinth beans are beginning to bloom. Morning glories, Bright Lights cosmos, and milkweeds have been refreshed and are producing more flowers. Two days ago, we saw a half-dozen monarch butterflies.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

What the cooler weather has brought

There are now flowers on one rose plant, chile plants, four o'clocks, cosmos, milkweed, hyacinth beans, Turk's caps, and lantana. The rain certainly helped. After beginning slowly, the show of oxblood lilies (rhodophila bifidis) may be the best ever. There are white rain lilies and stalks of small pink schoolhouse/oxblood lily flowers from something bought on sale at Wheatsville on sale. Perhaps this will be a year when lycoris radiata shows itself.

Friday, September 06, 2013

Harbingers of autumn

Tiny sprouts of oxblood lily (rhodophiala bifida) have been visible for a week. Yesterday brought the first bloom stalk and today, the second. Garlic chives are in bloom. The squirrels are busy with scant and very small pecans. The slant of light is different. The end of summer can now be envisioned.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Trespassers and thieves

Hours after we took this picture on 20 July, we went to admire the new pink rain lily again, and it was gone, evidently snipped off, leaving half the stem.

Do these work as cut flowers? We've never cut any of the several kinds of zephyranthes in the yard.

During the past week, we've had people pick wild sunflowers and fennel in addition to this beautiful flower. Someone also stole a survey flag.

We don't know if the rude people doing these things are "hotel" guests or just new arrivals from some California suburb.

These days, we put very little in the front yard and reserve all the best for the back and side yards.

We continue to enjoy the sight of hummingbirds every day. The very largest figs are gone, thanks to the creatures, but they're willing to leave the smaller ones to become larger.

Pennsylvania saw

We bought an 8-point number 226A hand saw from Davis Hardware (downtown on Congress with the giant clawhammer sign) for $8.99 more than 35 years ago. It still does everything it's supposed to do, taking down a lot of pecan and oak limbs to manageable size for the large-brush collection next week.The World Wide Web reports that the manufacturer made saws from 1938 to 1979 in York, Pennsylvania, and was bought out by Stanley. The current eBay asking price for a used saw exactly like this begins at $12 these days. It would be great to have a decent sawbuck. Just as carpenters always  made their own sawhorses, sawbucks were also always handmade within living memory.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Even if pink flowers are not a particular favorite

Who can resist the fleeting beauty of pink rain lilies? Two appeared on the same day next to the front sidewalk. We'd found them on sale at Wheatsville and just plunked them down amidst the roots of a live oak. Hummingbirds may love Turk's cap the best, but we can see them very close to the open kitchen windows, very busy at a rose of Sharon (white with a crimson center) that we could reach out and touch, were the screen not there. Honeybees are paying particular attention these days to the Bright Lights cosmos.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Hummingbirds at last

They're definitely in the pleasure grounds, smaller than the giant swallowtail butterflies. They are of the black-chinned variety and prize Turk's cap above all other sources of sustenance. Beginning this past Wednesday, June 18, we've been harvesting ears of  On Deck corn, grown in large pots. The ears are of medium size, with sweet, tender, bicolored kernels. They filled out quite well, thanks to all the bees, including honeybees and several kinds of bumblebees. There was a corn ear-worm inside one husk. The silks do not seem to become darker than medium brown. We'll certainly grow it again, if only for its ornamental qualities: prominent and ornamental tassels and leaves of a beautiful color green with quite a broad white stripe down the middle. Wax beans were delicious but we'll probably not enjoy many more. The yellow summer squash is done. All the hollyhocks have made seeds. Pride of Barbados is beginning to be very showy, much later than those we see elsewhere around here.

Friday, June 14, 2013


It was delightful to find a stalk of shell-pink gladiolus. The three plants return every year but it's been a very long time since we've seen a flower. We dined on yellow summer squash grown in a pot. The first pride of Barbados is blooming. There are fewer honeybees around now that there are flowers everywhere, but we're seeing bumblebees of three kinds around the corn tassels every day. The large blue bees are especially handsome. There are several ears of On Deck corn beginning to form but not brown silk yet.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Yarden update

A week ago we were home for a late lunch and heard a vehicle suddenly slowing down. It had courteously stopped to allow the largest armadillo ever to cross in front of it. The 'dillo pushed through the gate and marched eastward until it disappeared, perhaps into the burrow among the stump roots of a pecan that's no longer there. The creature had a pinkish splotch on its back toward its neck. We've never seen one in broad daylight before. The On Deck corn now has tassels and silk. A nocturnal creature has been consuming squash as it forms.