Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Mystery Solved!

Well, one mystery solved.

I have identified Mystery Plant #1. It is Pulmonaria, aka spotted lungwort. I'm not sure exactly which variety this is, but it's one with very muted speckling on the leaves, making it atypical.

The other plant remains a mystery:

Thanks to everyone who is visiting. A special hello to visitors from Japan, Hong Kong, Brazil, Peru, Norway, France, England, and Canada.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Angels in Stone

An Hour in Green-Wood Cemetery ...

[Click on any photo for a magnified view.]

Someday I might like to spend an eternity in Green-Wood Cemetery; an hour today was very pleasant. If you've never been, I recommend that you try to make the trip. Photography is frowned upon, but no one frowned upon me personally, so I kept taking photos.

Green-Wood is famous for its many angels (and parrots). We once saw a dramatic performance in which dancers dressed as stone angels posed among the tombs, occasionally perching themselves on walls and tree branches. It might sound eerie, but it was really beautiful.

Another angel from one side ...

... the same angel from the other side.

I liked this girl, too.

A view.

Another view.

The cemetery has its own views. (That's Manhattan and maybe New Jersey past the derricks through the mist.)

There are some flowers, too -- not as many as I expected. If you like big, old trees, there are lots of those.

And finally, there's "Our Fred."

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sunny morning after rain

Though presumably I have more important things to do, the sun was shining and I just had to go out and take a few photos. And I just had to post them. Forgive me. I promise to get to work soon.

[Click on any photo for a magnified view.]

More columbine in bloom.

It's interesting trying to photograph things in the garden as I really see them. The camera sees too much. When I look at this spot through my eyes (and mind and heart) ...

... I don't see the mess of dark fencing against the gray rooftop of the garage below. (The blocks here are terraced, so the back neighbors are below us.) I don't see the chain link fence. I see the glowing petals, the delicate tails of the columbine. Getting up close and managing the background help, even if it does mean twisting myself into some weird, barely-balanced positions. Here the camera's image is more along the lines of what I see:

It's all very interesting, at least to me!

A moment for poetry.

Flower, bee, ant, dew ... didn't Issa write a haiku about that? Or maybe I'm thinking of Emily Dickinson.

Bee, oh bee,
how do you do
that bee thing
that you do?

Mystery plant #1.

This plant has some distinctive characteristics that should make it easy to identify. But I am still stumped. If you are having one of those aha! moments, please share. Thank you.

About which I will have more to say later.

This is lamium.

It's very pretty, it has very pretty flowers and the leaves have an interesting scent. Also known as spotted deadnettle. I will have more to say about lamium later (see under "spready").

What happens when you rake up a mess of fallen leaves, twigs, and scattered dirt, which happens to contain seeds from last year's morning glory vine, and let it mellow in the rain for a while? This is what happens.

I will have more to say about morning glory later (see under "spready," "tenacious," "dear but only to a point").

A lady at her leisure.

The sun feels good to us earthlings.

Warm spot No.1.

Warm spot No. 2.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A Bit More

Just a bit of new action in the garden this week.

Click on any photo for a bigger view.

The verbascum has started to bloom. It's also known as mullein [mull'-en]. Pretty!

The allium (flowering onion) is also blooming. I had two, but one was dug up by the dog that lives next door. He dug clear under the fence over to our side. I found the bulb and replanted it -- I hope it comes up next year. Meanwhile, I've bunged the hole with empty flower pots, until I have the time to work in some chicken wire and refill the hole with dirt.

The columbine is in full bloom now. Here is one variety. There are some purple and white ones as well, which I'll photograph and post soon.

A close-up of the cranesbill/geranium. This is a Croatian variety. It's been keeping the bees happy.

Last year I planted this Japanese painted fern, and it's come back nicely. It used to be in the shade of the maple tree, but now that the maple has been replaced with the spindly little dogwood, its spot is not so shady. Fortunately, this fern can tolerate quite a bit of sun.

Out front, I stuck in some pansies and a plant that I bought on an impulse at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden shop: Diascia. Also known as Twinspur, it comes from South Africa and is related to the snapdragon.

Mitsie's World

The big news in Mitsie's world is that yesterday evening, she caught a bird. She caught it and she ate it.

I poked my head out the back door to check on her and ask her if she wanted to come in, and she gave me one of those "Leave me alone, I don't want to come in!" meows that told me she was up to something. I looked over the railing and saw that she had already disemboweled a small, yellow-headed bird. This was disheartening for a few reasons. First, it might have been a goldfinch or some other rare visitor whose numbers are already dwindling without Mitsie's help. Also, I'd already fed her, and here she was having a second dinner -- so much for her diet.

Last time she had a bird in her clutches, two years ago, she rather fumbled the play. I came downstairs one morning after my shower to find little feathers scattered everywhere. I thought, Did Mitsie tear up a pillow? I had left the back screen door propped open, so as I didn't see Mitsie anywhere indoors, I looked in the backyard.
I found Mitsie in her secret spying spot behind the lilac bush, with her paw on a sparrow. The bird wasn't moving, and I assumed it was dead. Mitsie wasn't trying to eat it; she was sniffing it and gently touching it with her paw, as if to say, Look what I have! Isn't it nice? And it's mine!

After a few minutes, she sauntered into the house, looking very queenly -- she had just proved her mettle, I guess, and moved up a rank. I went in the backyard to look for any remains, and the bird was completely gone. There was no sign of it. I decided that perhaps the bird had been stunned and flew off (though with a lot fewer feathers than it started out with that day.)

Last time, I found the whole thing really gross; suddenly Mitsie seemed like such a beast. This time, even though she ate every bit of that bird except for the tail, I took it more in stride. It's not that different, after all, from her eating ground-up chicken that comes in a can. Except that she caught it herself. And eating it involved some work: it took her 20 minutes to pick apart the bird, while she generally polishes off her canned food in about 50 seconds.

At any rate, it's time to put her collar back on, the one with the bell. She runs whenever she sees me with it, so I'll ask Robert to do it.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What's New in the Garden?

Hi, everyone! Here are some pictures of what's going on in our Brooklyn backyard garden.

Okay, this isn't our backyard, this is the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, but it got your attention, didn't it!

Now to my garden. Here are some wide-view shots of the whole thing, such as it is. Not much in bloom yet, but things are filling in nicely! (Click on photos for a slightly bigger view.)

After a pathetic show last year, our dwarf azalea really went all out this spring.

Our latest addition to the family: a dogwood tree. Doesn't look like much, I know. It's 2 years old and about 2 feet tall. But just you wait!

We had a maple tree there, but common sense finally prevailed, and we took it down. The dogwood should be just the right size for our mini backyard.

We have two mystery guests this year!

I lost the labels for some of my plants and I don't know what they are. Do you?

Mystery plant #1:

I have 3 of them. Pretty, but what are they?

Mystery plant #2:

I have only one of these. From where I placed it, I'm guessing that it will grow tall flowers. Any ideas? (Click on photo for a bigger view.)

Now on to some old friends.

The last of the iris.

The first of the columbine (aka aquilegia for you Latin lovers).

I love this Cranesbill, also known as native geranium or hardy geranium. Tucked nearby is a creeping phlox and, behind, bugleweed. Once the butterfly bush gets into gear, the bugleweed will thrive in its shade, though the cranesbill will suffer. (Click on photo for a bigger view.)

What else?

You can see that the back border is starting to fill in nicely, in an English cottage garden kind of way. (Finally!) Moving from front to back, there's creeping Campanula (bellflower), columbine, daylily, hollyhock, and one of the mystery plants. To the left, the iris keeps spreading like nobody's business. To the right, I'm going to be cutting the lilac way back, to encourage new growth deep into the corner of the fence. (Click on photo for a bigger view.)

That lilac must be at least 50 years old. Our neighbor Ruth, who used to live two doors down in #21 , gave a shoot from her own lilac to Mary Brown, when she was raising her two boys in our house, #17. Ruth sold her house the year we moved to the block -- Robert helped her to clean out the basement, and I helped her to attach a new toilet seat. She was impressed that I was so handy! Now she's living in the southwest with one of her daughters. We still have her Christmas cactus.

I bought a few Verbascum plants last year --- one died, the others didn't do anything. But this year, we'll be getting some blooms. I can't wait.

The hanging planter you see is a combination of petunias and some other things that is doing poorly (already?!), so it's back here in the plant hospital. Once it's looking decent again, I'll hang it out front.

This year I tried to start a number of things from seed. Not everything was successful. The morning glories, which I will train up the ugly laundry pole, all sprouted, but there's nothing remarkable about that. I'm happy that some of the sweet pea plants are thriving. Here is my sweet pea patch ... er, pot.

I also planted some nasturtium seeds -- Owen helped me. Now it's time to thin them out and transplant most to other spots. My neighbor Joe will take a few. How about you? Both the leaves and flowers are good in salads (so I've read).

In case you haven't seen our screen door and back steps lately, here they are, in all their painted glory. (With requisite junk underneath.)

Of course, everything displayed in this post really belongs, in her opinion, anyway, to one very special feline: Mitsie. Sometimes she is just too interested in challenging the bees, but so far, no stings.

More later!

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