Sunday, November 29, 2009

A mama squirrel relocating her offspring?

We saw something we'd never seen before this morning - a squirrel with a largish youngster held on the scruff of its neck scampering through the foliage above us. We were on the back road in the Garden, near the nature trail through the oak-hickory forest (the Heusel Nature Trail) when we spotted her.

We had our binoculars, so had a good look as she leaped from tree to tree carrying her 'cargo.' There was lots of chattering going on nearby, perhaps fussing at the disturbance.

A web search found (LOTS of) interesting information about Eastern Gray Squirrels: mama squirrels are VERY protective of their offspring and, if feeling threatened, will move their babies to another drey. Apparently, gray squirrels have (usually) at least three dreys, and maybe a cavity or bird box, in addition.

Eastern Gray Squirrels breed twice a year, in mid-winter and in early summer. We probably saw a youngster borne in September, but one that will overwinter with Mom until spring. It takes a long time for squirrels to be weaned (10-12 weeks), and almost nine months until they're full-grown.

Of course, we just had binoculars, and no camera, this morning. But the photos of nest-building last weekend in an earlier post (on Natural Gardening) are fun, too.

(Note: this is a duplicate post: here and first to Natural Gardening, my own wildlife observation and gardening blog).

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eastern chipmunks

I enjoy seeing chipmunks scamper around the Fran Hanson Discovery Center and Bob Campbell Geology Museum.

They're exceptionally active now, as they're storing up their winter food caches. Their numbers seem to be stable now, as the feral cat that used to hang around isn't here anymore.

Watch for them in your neighborhood!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sitting still

Usually when I go to the garden I am walking with dogs, children and/or friends- chatting, playing and policing. This weekend it was just me and the dog. I forced myself to be different. I lingered and tried to focus on finding birds in the canopy.

I have just finished a class to be a Master Naturalist, and because neither they, or I are, still this is one aspect of the natural world I know little about. Every time I walk in the garden with a group I point out even rows of holes on Tulip Poplars and other trees. With great flourish I say can you say "Yellow Bellied Sapsucker!" and the kids do with great zeal. However, I have a quiet moment of worry - because I have never seen a real live Yellow Bellied Sapsucker - it's such a great name but perhaps they don't exist, perhaps the holes are made by someone or something else, perhaps for 7 years I've been giving the wrong information to elementary students???

I did learn recently that Sapsuckers over winter here - so they were actually in the back of my mind as I strolled looking up in the canopy by the Hunt Cabin. There! I saw small woodpecker-shaped bodies flitting from tree to tree. I stood still and looked closer trying to concentrate on features- size, color etc. There were 5 or six birds up there but I didn't have binoculars and once I focused on them - they flitted away or went behind the tree. I think I can say I have now seen at least two real live Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers hanging out with some red headed woodpeckers.
The next challenge is to find out the difference between downy and red-headed woodpeckers, and then between Red-shoulders and Red-Tailed Hawks and then .....

I love life-long learning ...

Oh and I did actually sit still later - which is what I intended to talk about. Down the creek in the Beech Grove I sat under a huge beach tree and gazed on the beauty all around me. Now I heard woodpeckers, but couldn't see them. But was was fabulous was the color of the leaves - the carpet on the ground of golden fallen leaves and darker beech nuts. You should try it sometime.

Friday, November 13, 2009

A fall afternoon

Late afternoon on Thursday was striking. Even though many of the Garden's trees have lost most of their leaves, the color on the Cameron walk was still nice.

Click on the photo for a closer (and better) view!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Gardening inspiration

You might be interested in a new post about Kathy's pathway plantings near the Hayden Conference Center and a fall view of the Hosta Garden.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Japanese Raisin Tree

Japanese Raisin Tree (Hovera dulcis)

A wonderful tree in the specialty arboretum was a treat to learn about yesterday. Japanese Raisin Tree (Hovera dulcis), in the Rhamnaceae (the Buckthorn family), has extremely interesting edible peduncles (the base of a fruit). If you're interested in the biology/ecology of this, I've written a bit more it in this post.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A wonderful pathway planting

My colleague Kathy Bridges, a horticultural staff member, works wonders in the Garden (as do all of our hort staff members, regular and student). She planted this new pathway last spring, and even in early November, it looks great.

A Salvia coccinea cultivar ('Coral Sprite', or something like that) is a highlight (click to enlarge the photo). The plants are huge; Salvia coccinea is a perennial native to the Texas Gulf Coast, so is quite marginal here over winter, so is treated as an annual.

The pink color (not evident here in the harsh light of this mid-day photograph) is lovely, connecting with a group of Encore azaleas at the end of the path.

The S. coccinea selection 'Lady in Red' is a summer stalwart in my home garden as hummingbirds love it, and it happily reseeds various places.

This pathway has had numerous positive comments over this growing season (well-deserved); I just wish I'd managed to get some photos in the early morning!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fussy squirrel

In the Garden this morning, a VERY fussy squirrel was squawking up a storm. This one was perched on one of the willow oaks next to the steps leading to the Cadet Life Garden.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

SC Master Naturalists

I was delighted today to spend a good bit of time with this year's graduating class of SC Master Naturalists, as well as some of the graduates of the last two classes.

This is the third class for the Upstate, so it now represents three groups worth of folks that are interested in the natural world.

We discovered and observed all sorts of things in the Garden, which is a wonderfully friendly place to connect with nature.

It's very much a human-influenced habitat, but it's a place that we're able to see how plants support wildlife, forests recover from long-term disturbance, and created ponds support frogs, cattails, and other organisms. Plants have stories to tell, whether they're native plants, or introduced ornamentals.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Mockingbird song

Both male and female Mockingbirds sing in fall, marking their feeding territories. Todd and I have been hearing one singing quite loudly outside the Carriage House recently. Mockingbirds are tremendous mimics, both of other bird songs and calls, and other sounds that they've heard.

Check out this link, for a great recording of a Northern Mockingbird song cycle, recorded by Lang Elliot. Can you hear the Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, and the Eastern Towhee?

This was another post about their songs.

Fall color walk

There were a nice group of families on the Fall Color Walk last week. We talked about berries, fruits, leaf color, and seasonal change, in addition to all sorts of other things.

Jessica Nelms, photographer for the Daily Messenger/Seneca Journal, took a great photo of several girls intent on observing dogwood berries.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Children's Garden

If you haven't visited the Children's Garden lately, you've missed something special.

Magic happens here.

In the Peter Rabbit Garden and the Ethnobotany Garden, flowers and foliage create spectacular views and vignettes, with interesting plants and diversity of color and form.

Ethnobotany Garden - Oct. 2009

The plants have been chosen with a purpose; they have stories -- of their uses, their scents, of their medicinal qualities, etc.

The morning light was lovely, and even though I didn't catch it at its peak (I had to run home and get my camera), it still reflects on how spectacular the Ethnobotany Garden has become, under the stewardship of Ginny Steadman, our Children's Garden manager.

And how inviting is the Peter Rabbit Garden, to be sure?

It's filled with exuberant flowers and welcomes children and adults alike.

We saw probably one of the last monarchs of the season there today, nectaring on the zinnias, planted by Sprouting Wings kids and adults, and self-seeded, too!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tagging monarchs

Garden volunteers Carolyn and John Turner are keen on butterflies, to be sure, but to have a goal of getting 100 monarchs 'tagged' during the fall migration as part of MonarchWatch is a commitment.

MonarchWatch is a great program because it helps us follow monarchs, and understand more about the biology of a fascinating insect - basically a 'Citizen Science' project.

These are images of John and Carolyn tagging monarchs on the afternoon of our Butterfly Garden planting.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Monarchs & John and Carolyn Turner

Many folks don't subscribe to newspapers any more, but I've continued our subscription to the Greenville News just to have a feel for what's going on in the Upstate.

Marian St. Clair, a SC Master Gardener and SC Master Naturalist, in her regular weekly gardening column last Saturday for the Greenville News, mentioned monarchs coming through (there have been lots in the last few weeks).

But more fun, she featured our butterfly gardening friends, John and Carolyn Turner, in her piece.

For now, this is the link to the on-line version.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Planting day in the new SCBG Butterfly Garden

Who-hoo! How fabulous to have a new site, many great new plants, and more to come, with such a nice group of folks to help plant and learn about butterfly gardening.

Rosie, Linda, Jackie, and Jeff planting

Here are more images from this morning.

Gathering together

Getting ready (the Turners and Kathy Bridges, an SCBG horticulturist)

Planting with Carolyn Turner, Donna Crader, Linda Alston-Binic, and Rosie Bayer

Our butterfly gardening friends, John and Carolyn Turner, and I are SO excited with the new site for the Butterfly Garden. John Bodiford and Kathy Bridges (our horticultural staff colleagues) along with James Arnold (on grader duty for this project - thanks, James!) were totally supportive, and I know I'm just grateful and pleased.

Our Lake and Hills Garden Club friends, who underwrote our initial butterfly garden planting (thanks so very much), turned out too, represented by club president Rosie Bayer and butterfly-garden liaison Linda Alston-Binic.

We had a monarch-tagging as a dedication. Photos to come.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A new butterfly garden

It's totally thrilling to get ready to plant our new Butterfly Garden, in a sheltered, but sunny area adjacent to (and really part of) the SCBG Children's Garden.

Our first Butterfly Garden site was on a windy hill, and designed by a gifted student, but she wasn't steeped in butterfly biology, and the plantings basically consisted of butterfly bushes, and a few other nectar plants.

A local garden club (Lake and Hills Garden Club) has been a devoted sponsor for many years of our original Butterfly Garden site, and we're delighted that they're participating in the new location as well.

Butterfly enthusiasts John and Carolyn Turner, along with me, have selected a large array of nectar and caterpillar host plants, at least in our first pass.

It looks like it will become a great garden. We've still got lots of plants to add, but our planting tomorrow will provide the basis for a lovely array of nectar-producing plants as well as host plants for most of our common butterflies.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Student volunteers

Thanks to Bethany Avery, the Snell Vegetable Garden is looking quite tidy. A student volunteer, she responded to our call for vegetable garden volunteers in September.

She's helped harvest cherry tomatoes, beans, and peppers (which go to the Clemson Community Care food bank), and helped zap most of the winter annual weeds that have popped up everywhere.

We're sowed turnip greens, radishes, lettuce, kale, arugula, and transplanted broccoli, cabbage, and collards for our fall/winter garden rotation.

It will be interesting to see how the season progresses.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hearts a'bustin

This past week I was lucky enough to walk on the Heusel Trail in the Garden. The road from the Discovery Parking Lot into the arboretum, which leads to the Trail, is one of my favorite areas of the garden (although I do have many, many favorites in the SCBG). Once on the Heusel Trail my eye was drawn to the beautiful fruit of Hearts a'bustin scattered throughout the woods. They are a sure sign of fall for me and their fruit is one of the most dramatic (aside from American Beauty Berry) I know. I didn't have my camera but if you find a small fruit with a pinkish cap and four deep red seeds hanging down you have discovered it. Walking this trail in all seasons is a wonderful treat, if you haven't found it yet you should check it out!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

An invitation for observations

I know some of you out there have great experiences in the Garden.

Why not share them? Please let me know if you'd like to be added to our posting list (if you're not on it already).

Who knows, you might find that you enjoy it!


Hydrangea Garden

The Hydrangea Garden, to the left of the service road heading up to the Support Area, has been fabulous all summer. The work of Garden Manager James Arnold, it's the epitome of a wonderful staff-driven project.

James is keen on hydrangeas, and has created this garden as a specialty collection, but it's open to all of our Garden visitors to enjoy. He's actually put in this garden single-handedly, without student crew assistance, much outside funding, or help from other horticultural staff members.

Most recently, he's created a lovely entrance into the Hydrangea Garden from Highway 76.

Our neighbor and friend, retired Microbiology Professor Fred Stutzenberger, is enjoying walking through the Garden on his daily walk back and forth from his office in Long Hall. It's certainly much nicer than crossing at the light and going along Perimeter Road.

The hydrangeas are still flowering, so if you're able, drop by and visit. He's just about got all of the individual plants labelled, and an introductory sign is in. I'll be working with James to do several more small interpretive signs this fall.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Visiting other botanical gardens

It's always rewarding to visit other botanical gardens.

I'm heading off tomorrow for a conference (Garden Writers Association) in Raleigh, NC. I'm keen as I haven't been to the 'Research Triangle' in NC for some years (at least 11 or 12) to visit the botanical richness there.

Home to three major universities, the 'Triangle' has the NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill (focused on native plants), a favorite of mine, the JC Raulston Arboretum (at NC State University, focused on interesting plants from around the world), and the Sarah P. Duke Gardens (at Duke University), which includes a variety of lovely gardens, including a wonderful native plant area. We'll be visiting all of these during the conference. In addition, there are wonderful private gardens (Montrose) and great nurseries (Plant Delights and Niche Gardens) included, and interesting gardening vendors in the exhibits.

I had a thoroughly enriching time last year in Portland at my first GWA conference. I think that garden writers (really garden communicators) are essentially gardening educators (like I am) and are keen gardeners, too (ditto).

So it's well worth self-sponsoring attendance (since SCBG currently doesn't have the budget resources to underwrite professional development experiences).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Finally a bit of rain

It's been a long dry 'end of summer' period. Most plants are suffering again without additional water, including many established plants. If you planted perennials, shrubs, and trees in the (then rainy) spring, do keep them watered deeply once a week through dry spells like this.

But thanks to irrigation, spring plantings on the walk to the front of the Hayden Conference Center from the Hanover House parking lot are looking fabulous. SCBG horticulturist Kathy Bridges has added an excellent array of long-flowering perennials that look wonderful now - please come take a look!

Late yesterday afternoon, when it started to rain, I was working in my office and activity out the window caught my eye.

Mockingbirds, a group of at least five, were perched in the Gordonia outside enjoying the rain. They were flapping their wings, fluffing their feathers, and definitely looked happy to finally have a bit of a bath.

What fun!

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Corn Moon Night Walk

I had almost 40 people for a full moon hike this evening. A big group, to be sure, largely family groups, but also couples and singles. There were also many more young children than usual, perhaps because of Labor Day weekend.

One of the things I love about summer and early fall evenings are the sounds -- ground crickets, tree crickets, katydids, owls, tree frogs, etc. And, with digital technology, it's increasingly easy to learn more and share the sounds (and sights) of nature day and night.

I used my iPod nano for the first time, attached to a small portable speaker, to play (the quite different) calls of crickets, katydids, and cicadas, with the backdrop of the real-time nocturnal symphony. It had helped me distinguish between their sounds and songs, so I thought it would be helpful for a group program (as long as the tech part wasn't too distracting).

It worked well, and hopefully encouraged participants to listen more closely on more peaceful night-time excursions. I've been using a simple Birdsong Identiflyer for birds and frogs in the field, which is great. Low tech and effective.

Check out for some excellent recordings (and information about more extensive collections. I have all of Lang Elliot's CD and accompanying guides (with Wil Hershberger for insects). They're great, especially with the portability provided by mp3 players.

Check out this great singing insect jukebox from their website.

(double-posted on this blog and Natural Gardening)

Monday, August 31, 2009

Gulf fritillaries

Gulf fritillaries are a summer butterfly to enjoy. They normally make it to our area through migration and successive broods from warmer areas along the coast and in Florida.

Their host plant is maypops (Passiflora incarnata), a temperate species in a largely tropical genus.

My biology professor spouse and his students in Field Botany enjoyed seeing the caterpillars on the Passiflora on the trellis in the Ethnobotany Garden today.

This photo is from the Carolina Butterfly Society's website. Thanks, Lynn!

What fun!

P.S. A late summer hiatus was due to some unexpected medical restrictions, but I'm now back in the Garden.

And any of you - please post your observations, too!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nature's cycles

The bluebird nestlings in the Museum's box have been (re)cycled into rat snake, a not surprising aspect of unprotected bluebird boxes.

The culprit was caught in a series of webcam images, sent by Jeff Appling (his son had set up the box and webcam) and reported by Christian Cicimurri (whose computer 'hosts' the webcam).

We'll probably need to add snake protection to this box, as we have a healthy population of rat snakes in the Discovery Center and Geology Museum area. They basically function like squirrel baffles, preventing a snake from climbing up the pole that supports the birdhouse.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Butterfly gardening

We'll be breaking ground for a 'new' Butterfly Garden near the Nature Center (in the Children's Garden area) in early August. It's an exciting opportunity to add more host plants for the caterpillars of native butterflies, but also to demonstrate the wonderful range of nectar plants that Upstate gardeners can grow in their gardens. Stay tuned!

I visited a seasonal butterfly house today that was simple and effective - an excellent model for the seasonal house that we hope to have in the future.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

We're on Facebook

The Garden and Museum now have Facebook fan pages. If you're on Facebook, please become a fan and help us spread the word. Thank you!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The bird cam is up, again!

The Bob Campbell Geology Museum's birdcam is working again, just in time to monitor some cool activity with a couple of nestlings.

Check it out.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Snell Vegetable Garden

The kitchen garden next to the Discovery Center is looking great, in spite of recent dry weather.

Shepherded by Kathy Bridges, the garden has been converted into a three-season vegetable garden, with cool-season vegetables alternating with traditional warm-season ones. Look for an unusual sort of heirloom okra (Hill Country Red) with extra-wide pods, along with Ronde de Nice and Cocozelle zucchini squash, yard-long beans, purple pole beans, tromboncino squash, cherry tomatoes and recently planted Black Russian tomatoes. Peppers, winter squash, lemon cucumbers, Thai basil, and Genovese basil round out the summer vegetables.

We'll start to change out crops to fall-maturing varieties in late August; in fact, I'll be sowing seeds over the next couple of weeks for transplants for this garden as well as my own, and for a fall vegetable gardening program in mid-August.

We'd love to have volunteer help in this garden for light weeding, harvesting, and planting. Let me or Kathy know if you'd like to help.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Burton House Pool

We have received funding from the Clemson Foundation to fill in the pool at the Burton House property (near the main parking lot). In the next several weeks, you'll likely see Garden staff filling in the pool with soil and planting it to look like a patio garden. They'll then remove the chain link fence, so the entire property will look more attractive and be safer for our visitors.

The Burton House property is owned by the Foundation, not by the Garden, but we are stewards of the land and want to be good neighbors.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Hummingbird visits

Dropping by the Nature Center this afternoon, it was fun to watch ruby-throated hummingbirds alternate between the feeder and the open flowers nearby. Our hummingbird residents (differentiated from the ones who passed through on their way north) have settled in now, and females are nesting. In our warm southern climates, they have time for a couple of broods each season, according to Bill Hilton, of Hilton Pond and

The webcam on the hummingbird feeder onn the Nature Center porch is on now, so we can get a close look from the monitor inside.

In the pollinator border, I saw one male visiting red Salvia greggi flowers, and probably also the blue Salvia gauranitica, always a favorite of hummmingbirds.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A Great Blue Heron

An early morning walk today found a Great Blue Heron at the edge of the Hosta Garden pond. She/he walked up the path above the pond, and must have flown on to the Duck Pond, where we saw him/her next.

We ran into Garden horticulturist Kathy Bridges on the Duck Pond dam, and she said that the Great Blue Heron was a 'regular' visitor each morning, moving from the Hosta Garden pond to the Duck Pond (presumably flying through the trees!)

How cool is that!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

An eastern box turtle and male hummingbirds

Along the Heusel Nature Trail this morning, we saw a Eastern Box Turtle crossing the path. The flattened shell and red eyes suggested that it was a male; females have a rounder shell, and brown to yellow eyes, although box turtles can vary quite a bit in appearance. His yellowish color was striking in the morning light.

Eastern Box Turtles have a home range of about 750 feet, which often overlap with those of other turtles. They're omnivorous, eating indiscriminately (everything from mushrooms to frogs), although younger turtles tend to be carnivorous, whereas older ones are more vegetarian.

I've seen a male hummingbird(s) outside my office window a couple of times over the last few days -- hummingbirds, like many other birds, have a hard time distinguishing windows, so collisions are always a hazards. But he seemed aware of the roof and flew off each time.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Springtime in the Children's Garden

With today's sun and rain over the past few days, the snapdragons, zinnias, and salvia have become to blossom in the Children's Garden making for a beautiful scene. Of course the volunteers have made it possible by helping to maintain the Garden.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bluebirds and phoebes

One of my favorite spring sights is watching our bluebirds set up their nests. We have active nests near the Discovery Center, at the edge of the meadow, near the Hydrangea garden, and probably in the other boxes, too. I haven't had time to check them all, but I see the male bluebirds standing watch on the boxes, and the female bluebirds foraging.

And a peek in the box along the loop drive in front of the Discovery Center (waiting for rotations of first-graders) revealed several nestlings. I didn't have my handy automotive mirror handy to check on their numbers, but it made a good interpretive point for the classes!

Leaving the Garden in late afternoon, a phoebe was foraging near the Geology Museum. Last year, a female built a nest above the Museum porch, and I wondered if this might be the same one -- they often come back to the same nesting site.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Garden Fest: Building Community, Growing Vegetables

What an excellent gathering we had on Saturday!

Information table (thanks, Celia, for a wonderful vegetable display)

Planning a Garden information table: Sue Ercolini,
John Landers, Corrie Norman, Celia Melville and

Chuck Cruickshank (not in this photo).
Improving your soil (Karen Terry, Martha Duke and CU Student Organic Farm staff)

A first community event organized under the 'umbrella' of the Garden to promote growing your own food and finding locally-grown food and reaching out to folks of all ages and neighborhoods had literally hundreds of people at the tents at the far end of the Discovery Center parking area. The parking lot was almost continuously full for the 3 hour event, not a common occurrence.

Vegetable transplants were a hit, along with expert advice provided by CU Home and Garden Information Center staff Joey Williamson and Janet Scott along with Geoff Zehnder of CU Sustainable Agricultrue.

Kids had fun with Vegetable Twister,
coordinated by Sprouting Wings staff members
Allison O'Dell and Kendra Vincent,
along with SCBG volunteer Fred Mettlach

A planted Earth Box (check out the size of the chard!) - thanks to Upstate Locavores Ellie and Ted Taylor (and the donated Earth Box project)

The volunteer staff numbered over fifty dedicated folks from SC Master Gardeners, CU Home and Garden Information Center, CU Food Science , CU Sustainable Ag. Program, CU Student Organic Farm, Upstate Locavores, Students for Environmental Awareness, SCBG volunteers and staff, and dedicated 'independent' volunteers. Clemson Area Transit (CAT) provided free transportation from Clemson Community Care and Littlejohn Community Center, and an opportunity to find out about CAT.

Container Vegetable Gardening (Debra Strange, Dee Person, Linda Alston-Binic)

Planting in hay bales attracted a lot of attention, thanks to Dee Person's demo.

Information tables spanned 'Planning a Garden,' 'Improving your Soil,' 'Keeping Things Growing' to 'Container Vegetable Gardening'. Demo edible containers brought by Linda Alston-Binic and Debra Strange were always surrounded by a crowd.

The Heirloom Seeds table offered heirloom vegetable seeds collected by Dr. David Bradshaw ('graduated' CU professor of Horticulture) now maintained and sold by South Carolina Foundation Seed, through the Heirloom Vegetable Garden at SCBG. 'Preserving the Harvest' - staffed by CU faculty members from the Department of Food Science) encouraged folks to safely can, freeze, and dry vegetables and fruits, extending the season throughout the year.

The Upstate Locavores, who initiated this event (thanks, Ellie, Catherine, and Steve!), provided information about local farmers' markets, how to find local food, crop sharing, and regional resources.Students for Environmental Awareness helped with set-up.

The Garden unveiled our new gift shop offerings and promoted supporting the Garden (anyone who follows the state budget will realize how vital our outside support is to our continued survival and growth, and how much we depend and appreciate the support of our visitors, members, and donors).

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Garden Sprouts find a crayfish

Yesterday we had our first beautiful day in the Garden for Garden Sprouts (3-5 year olds). We found this crayfish in the pool in Crucible - way cool!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Spring flowers

Rhododendron periclymenoides (Pinxterbloom Azalea)
Rhododendron austrinum (Florida Azalea)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A busy morning in the Garden

I showed up at 8 am Saturday in the Caboose parking lot for a OLLI birding class, led by Heyward Douglass.

There was also a small triathlon going on (the run looped around the Garden's back roads), a photography class (from Pickens County Museum), and an unidentified hiking group, who looked like they were ready for a much more challenging hike than the Garden presents.

A beautiful spring morning had a lovely show of birds.

A highlight was a pair of blue gnatcatchers (an early spring migrant) whose call tests hearing in higher decibel ranges.

A sharp-shinned hawk (about the size of a robin) raced by.

Among the Carolina Wrens and Tufted Titmice calling back and forth, we (at least Heyward did) heard a Yellow-rumped Warbler and other warblers.

An American Robin sang, and a mockingbird went through a complete song cycle, including an imitation of a hawk and a kingfisher!

The distinctive call of White-crowned sparrows was fun to hear, too.

But, the highlight of our walk was a group of Cedar Waxwings taking a break for a little sunning. Busy this time of the year eating berries of various sorts, they're usually on the move, cycling from tree perches to shrubs.

But here are several just apparently soaking in some sun.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A spring night hike

A spring night hike found us listening to early crickets, tree frogs, the final songs of resident cardinals, mockingbirds, and chickadees. It was a mild evening, a bit humid, but with signs of spring all around. There were more family groups this time (this is school spring break), and more than I expected (~ 40 people).

A couple of highlights were watching bats swoop around catching insects, and the flashes of lightning 'bugs' high in the oak-hickory forest. It's really early for lightning bugs; the warm weather probably encouraged them.

(This post first appeared on Natural Gardening).

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Colors of Spring

Near the Duck Pond the red of the Japanese maple is displayed next to the white of the dogwood. This was a cold, windy day, but these colors remind us that spring is on the way.

Monday, April 6, 2009

More cedar waxwings

Early this morning, more cedar waxwings were swooping from their perches on the red oaks behind the Carriage House to devour berries from the hollies behind the Terrace Garden wall. I watched them for a bit; they're orderly in their progression, taking turns eating, perching, swooping, eating.

The sight of so many cedar waxwings is impressive. I've seen more big flocks this year than I ever have before!

Fast forward and listen to Patrick McMillan's spot about cedar waxwings on Your Day (on the March 12 program) for his take on the phenomenon.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring green

The buds of the hardwood trees along Hunnicutt Creek in the Garden's forest had only a hint of green early last week, but by Sunday, spring leaves were evident.
The diversity of bird song was remarkable, too - spring is definitely here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More turtles

This report came from Cherie Whitman, who was 'supposed to shadow a tour' with Darlene Roehl, but since the group canceled, they took a turn around the garden together.

She also reported seeing the turtles playing “log roll” in the pond. "I truly wish we’d had a group of kids to see this. There were two logs floating in the water and both were packed along their lengths with turtles of various sizes enjoying the warm sunshine. Whenever the turtles shifted position or another turtle tried to join the sunbathers, the log would take a roll worthy of any lumberjack and spill some or sometimes, all of the turtles off so that they had to start all over again…and they did!" she wrote.

Now I haven't seen them do this, but they don't have much basking space currently!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Turtles Sunning

One can see some funny things in the Pioneer Pond sometimes. Three turtles were sunning on the log and fourth tried to join them. Trying to get on the log he dumped the other three in the water, but he got on. Then one of the three that had been dumped tried to get back on and dumped the one on the log back in. It was a Laurel and Hardy routine.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Rainy day blooming.

Trillium cuneatum in flower along the path to the Beech Grove.
Melliodendron xylocarpum in bloom near the Hanover House in the Specialty Arboretum. These shots were taken Saturday during the morning rain.