Purple bee balm

Many of the photos in this blog are taken along paths trod time and time again on weekend “photo safaris,” which usually consist of an hour walking an area less than a half-mile radius from the house. There are mornings where the thought forms, (with sigh): “There doesn’t seem to be anything new today.” And almost before it’s completed, something new does appear. This was the first time in all the years on the mountain that we’d seen these purple bee balms. These were perched comfortably on a steep, south-facing slope.

Purple monarda
Purple bee balm.

An iris evening

Blooming of the crested iris is a moment I look forward to every spring. Last year, they bloomed midweek and by the time the weekend, and my first opportunity to shoot arrived, the delicate blooms were spent. Not so this year — we saw them on the way home this evening. Once home, threw on a pair of sneakers and ran down the hill with camera in hand. Handholding longish exposures in the fading light was a challenge, but well worth the effort.

Crested iris blooming.
Crested Iris in the woods this evening.

4-16-Crested-Iris-Field

Where the wild things are

Some random wild things on our first sunny day in weeks. The luna moth was hanging upside down, tightly clutching a piece of crabgrass. Maybe it thinks it’s a bat.

Gaudete Sunday

Today is Gaudete Sunday, the next-to-last Sunday in Advent. Advent, like Lent, is a time of introspection; a time to prepare the soul and mind. Advent encompasses four Sundays in anticipation of Christmas and Lent does the same before Easter.

During three of the Sundays in Advent and Lent, the priest wears violet vestments — a symbol of penance. Gaudete Sunday is one of two holidays in the Catholic calendar where rose vestments — which symbolize joy — are worn, the other being Laetare Sunday, the third Sunday of Lent. (A nice summary on liturgical colors can be found here: http://www.ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/LITCOLOR.HTM)

In the West, pink is a culturally difficult color. It’s OK for women, but often taboo for men. It takes a big man to wear rose, and they don’t come any bigger than B16. Biltrix has a great photo of Il Papa in his rose vestments. (In Thailand, pink has become associated with the king.)

A trend we’ve been seeing in the pews is parishioners embracing the colors of the season. At the Saturday vigil Mass, the pews were filled with men,  women and children who had worked rose or violet into their Sunday (or Saturday) best. It’s a powerful external symbol of the inner states that  Advent and Lent are meant to touch.

Flowers in two time zones

My father’s Pacific Time backyard is overflowing with color. Blue irises, pale coral moon flowers, brilliant bougainvillea and all sorts of other treats for the eye. The neighbors’ yards are equally filled with color — trees dripping with exotic tropical flowers, ripening lemons and oranges, and brilliant scarlet pomegranate flowers.

Yellows dominate the Central Time Suburban Ferndale mini-gardens.

IRIS -- Purple iris with its yellow beard flanked by coloring that looks like it was borrowed from a nautilus.
DOCKING MANEUVER -- Bee with pollen-covered legs moves into a moonflower.
BLUE AND ORANGE -- These two shrubs were growing together in the neighbor's yard.
A GOOD KIND OF BLUE -- This shrub was dense with these blue-violet blooms.
CLASSIC -- Fragrant rose opens as clouds clear away.
BIRD OF PARADISE -- Like a heron with an 80s 'do.
BLACKEYED SUSAN -- Hooray! Something new in the Suburban Ferndale garden. This lone wolf is outnumbered 1 to 200 by coreopsis though.
BLACK SWALLOWTAIL -- Pays a visit to the wildflower garden. Wildflowers are like cats. You're glad they like you enough to stay, but don't think you actually exert any control over them.

Almost torrid, very florid

It’s been warm here in Arkansas. National Weather Service records show that during February 2012 there were only four days where the temps fell to freezing or below and there were two days in February that hit 80 or higher. In January, there were only 13 days that saw lows at freezing or below and three days hit 70 or above.

The warm air and warm soil temperatures accelerated this year’s flower show.

LAVENDER -- Flower spikes reach for the sky on a gorgeous blue-sky day.
IN BLOOM -- Little lavender plants from a big box store fare surprisingly well into their second season on the mountain.
NOTHING BUT SUNSHINE -- The coreopsis that came in a native wildflower seed mix has produced blooms almost non-stop since last summer. A great choice for brown thumb gardeners like us!
YELLOWBEARD -- A colleague from the office shared cuttings from her prolific irises.

Muscadine

Last year, there was so much rain, none of the grape vines twined around the trees was pollinated. No grapes. Anywhere. This year, there were grapes, but the hot dry summer caused many to become raisins on the vine — which is why it was so surprising to see these plump muscadines ripening.

Muscadines are a hardy grape and often wind up in jellies and wine.

Muscadines on the vine
Muscadines ripen in late summer in the Ouachita forest.