Where Did Summer Go?

Well, this is embarrassing. My last blog post was on August 14: bees hard at work in the blazing sun. Now it’s Thanksgiving. The trees are mostly bare, the ground is mostly covered with leaves. Chilly winds whip dark clouds across the sky, easing from time to time to let woodsmoke tickle the nose. Life is full of turkey anticipation, apple cider wishes, and pumpkin-spice everything. I have just one question:

Where the heck did Summer go?

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To Bee or Not to Bee

Deep into the summer, flowers are blooming everywhere. Flowers attract bugs, and bugs attract my camera. As I do every year, I’ve dug out my macro lens and gone tromping through fields and meadows in search of small flying insects to photograph.

Today’s collection features our bee friends, and some other friends that look similar to bees but aren’t.

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September Song

A melody drifts over the meadows, to the accompaniment of cicadas and crickets and birdsong. The tune is deep purple and golden, and it calls to the small creatures of the air with a silken voice: “Come to me! Feed on my rich nectar while you may!” The little aerialists are happy to oblige, raising their voices in sweet harmony to the music of the wildflowers until all the world is ablaze with the Song of September.

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Pollinator Parade

BUZZ BIXBY: Good Morning and Happy Harvest to you! Welcome to Critter Radio’s broadcast of the 73rd Annual Harvest Festival Pollinator Parade, right here on 99.9 KRTR!

I’m Buzz Bixby…

CECILY SWALLOWTAIL: … and I’m Cecily Swallowtail…

BUZZ BIXBY: …and we’re your hosts for this wonderful panorama of floats, performers, balloons and marching bands, all celebrating pollinating insects and their buggy friends. It’s a beautiful day for a parade… Continue reading

Weird and Wonderful Plants

141225 Longwood Gardens_3410acsThe Conservatory at Longwood Gardens is a welcome respite from the dark and dreary days of winter. Outside the landscaped grounds are cold, bleak and brown. Step indoors and we are welcomed with warmth and color.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3581acsBeautiful flowers are everywhere. Some dangle in delicate shades of blush…

141225_Longwood Gardens_3584acsWhile others offer a brighter palette.

141225 Longwood Gardens_3511aPast the Main Conservatory and the Exhibition Hall, the Silver Garden and the Banana House, each step deeper into the labyrinth of corridors and rooms reveals ever more exotic plants. Bird of Paradise.

141225 Longwood Gardens_3503acsRound the bend and we are met with a shaft of sunlight illuminating some unusual leaves. Ram’s Horn Croton.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3564acsWalking into the Fern Passage brings us among some truly weird and wonderful plants. Look up! See the intricate pattern made from the spore-dotted fronds of the Australian Tree fern that towers over your head.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3560aTurn another direction, and we find ourselves face to face with suspended carnivorous pitcher plants. Smaller ones share a planter with tiny Venus Flytraps.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3592acsWait – our favorite plants seem to be missing. Where are the club mosses? This is Longwood Gardens; they simply have to be here.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3600acsAnd they are. In fact, we were looking right at them. A helpful staff botanist is happy to show us what we missed.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3595acsNot mosses at all, club mosses are vascular plants. We are familiar with Lycopodium, which resembles a teeny tiny Christmas tree, but on this Christmas day, we are introduced to Huperzia, sometimes known as fir moss.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3594aThese particular Huperzia are called Tassel Ferns.

141225_Longwood Gardens_3550aPassing through the Cascade Garden, we find ourselves in the Rose Alley, which speaks to us of both spring gardens and tropical climes. Water droplets glisten on colorful hibiscus.

141225 Longwood Gardens_3531aOutside it is cold and windy, but inside the Conservatory of Longwood Gardens winter dreams blossom into weird and wonderful life.

Christmas at Longwood Gardens

Longwood Xmas Crop_4950 ACS Print Longwood Xmas Crop_4823 ACS PrintAs the year comes to a close, our souls protest the darkness of the oncoming winter. We must have light! Little wonder that many of our varied holiday traditions glow with strings of twinkling bulbs and shiny baubles.

On a cold, dark night, the holiday displays at Longwood Gardens are a particular delight for the eyes and the heart.

On entering the Main Conservatory, visitors are greeted with a towering tree trimmed in glass, glitter and feathers. White flowers and greenery line the dark pools and fountains.

Longwood Xmas Crop_4827 ACS Print Longwood Xmas_4795aTreasures of Christmas Past adorn a stair hall.

Longwood Xmas_4924 AS Orig A child’s whimsical interpretation of Rudolph.

Longwood Xmas Crop_4927 ACS PrintIn the Orangery, the trees bear both fruit and delicately woven ornaments.Longwood Xmas Crop_4928 ACS Print

Longwood Xmas_4869 AS OrigOh, look! Here is a table is set for a festive holiday wedding! Polished silver and sparkling crystal gleam among the flowers and gifts in red and white.Longwood Xmas Crop_4854 ACS Print Longwood Xmas Crop_4872 ACS Print

Longwood Xmas_5154 AS Orig When the sun sets, Longwood Gardens really shines. Lights twinkle from luminous trees everywhere you turn. Even a new moon adds its radiance to the festivities.

Longwood Xmas_5068 AS Orig

Longwood Xmas Crop_5069 ACS Print The Conservatory, aglow from within and without.

In this season of light in the darkness, I wish for a world without war, famine, poverty and pollution; a world where every creature has a healthy and protected home; a world where all people live in peace and prosperity.

Whatever your traditions may be at this holiday season, I wish for you good friends, good food, and good cheer!

Longwood Xmas Crop_5156 ACS OrigThe Wild Edge will return in early January. A Snowy Day!

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher.  – William Wordsworth

The Buds and the Bees

HNWR Crabapple with Bee_9593 a

Ha! You thought I would say “The Birds and the Bees”, didn’t you? Believe it or not, I do take photos of things besides birds. Herewith, a sampler of Spring Flowers and their Friends.

HNWR Dogwood_0569 acsHNWR Crabapple_9468HNWR Yellow Iris_9488 a Dogwood, Yellow Iris and Crabapple blossoms at Heinz NWR. Of all the flowering trees, I think I like the Crabapples the best. What’s missing from these photos is the wonderful aroma that wafts over you as you pass near them.

Macro Flower_3432 aA simple Dandelion in my yard, when I was playing with my macro set-up. I should have picked it long before it got to this point, but then I wouldn’t have been able to take its picture. Oh, well, more dandelions for me to photograph in the future!

Longwood_9329One day we went to Longwood Gardens. These are just some of the wonderful blooms we saw. And no, I don’t know all their names.

Longwood_9402 Longwood_9342  Longwood_9319Longwood_9294

HNWR Crabapple with Bee_9584 aFlowers need pollinators to reproduce, and here are a few busily at work in Crabapple and Wisteria.

Longwood Bee_9257

It’s not at all unusual for me to get photos of the back end of critters. I guess you could say I’m often a little bee-hind.

FUN FACT: There are nearly 4,000 species of native bees in North America, at least 50 of which are bumblebees. This does NOT include the honeybees, which are non-native, having been imported from other parts of the world for pollination and honey production. One way bumblebees extract pollen is by a process called “buzz pollination.” The familiar buzzing of bumblebees is produced by the vibration of flight muscles, which in turn shakes the pollen out of the flowers. Pretty clever.Longwood Bee_9262 a