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.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New Wildflower Path

This is John Garton, a Garden volunteer, who works in the Woodland Wildflower Garden. He has just completed building this new path in the Wildflower Garden. The path is dedicated to the memory of Carol Barten and Mary Birchenough, wildflower enthusiast and dedicated Garden volunteers. We do thank him for his efforts.

First spring butterflies

I saw a couple of sulfur butterflies swirling up in a courtship spiral early this afternoon. They're the first butterflies I've seen this spring! I'm not sure which they were, possibly Little Yellows.

This Cloudless Sulphur, taken by Gene Hanson, is visiting Lantana flowers. Gene was kind enough to let us use some of his butterfly images for interpretive signage.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

A great blue heron having lunch

We often see great blue herons stopping by the ponds. Today, a group of SC Master Naturalists were lucky enough to see one nab a small fish in the Duck Pond, poke at it, and then, gulp!

On a cold rainy day, we were experiencing nature in the Garden, as we mused about holly berry 'tastiness', coral honeysuckle and hummingbirds, the nature of early flowering trees and shrubs, and talked about plants. We spent a good bit of the morning inside in the Nature Center, but then ventured forth for a loop around the Duck Pond.

I was pleased that the Duck Pond sign (with the nature note) had an observation to match!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Chameleon Meadow-In Praise of Shadow

Morning at the Redwood Meadow overlooking the last nature based sculpture by Hiroko Inoue and Yvette Dede.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turtles and wild geese

Who-hoo! There were three turtles basking on the banks of the meadow pond at midday. This wouldn't be remarkable for the Duck Pond or the Hosta Garden pond, but the meadow pond has quite a history.

Having mostly leaked throughout its ~15 year history, a final comprehensive bentonite treatment seems to have finally resulted in a decent amount of water remaining in the pond. But, now, cattails have colonized one edge, so the willows probably aren't far behind. Herons and wild Canada geese are stopping by, too, so it's getting some notice. I wish I'd checked over the last few warm evenings for frog calls, too.

But I was delighted to see the turtles; hopefully, they're an indicator that the meadow pond is finally stabilizing.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Oconee Bells

Was walking along one of the paths in the Woodland Wildflower Garden today and came across the first Oconee Bell (Shortia galacifolia) blossom of the year. Maybe spring is close at hand!

Here's another photo that Ryan took about the same time, showing a close-up of the flower (posted by lkw).

Friday, March 6, 2009

Trout lilies, Oconee bells, and bloodroot

On a lunch time walk, my friend Meg and I saw our first spring woodland wildflowers. An early bloodroot flower on the Heusel Nature Trail foreshadowed the hundreds that will soon be in bloom.

In the Woodland Wildflower Garden, a single trout lily was open, but a group of Oconee Bells were in full flower across from Crucible (our first nature-based sculpture).

We also admired a lovely deciduous holly (Ilex decidua) full of berries in the Arboretum, near the longleaf pines, along with a prickly juniper (which definitely lived up to its name).

A mystery Juglans species puzzled us; the fruits looked like miniature teasels, and very un-Juglans like -- Juglans is the genus that walnuts are in. (A Google search on Juglans ailantifolia reveals that this should be a Japanese relative of walnuts.... hmm. I think we have an imposter!)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Snow & Ice Damage

James Arnold, Garden Manager, just let me know that the snow and ice hit us hard. His staff has had to remove a lot of dead plants. They also had to drain the Hosta pond a second time (which has set back the pump repair project by several days). Most noticeable for visitors and tour guides will be the change in the Dwarf Conifer Garden, as staff had to remove many trees from the center of the garden.

I guess there's some things that none of us can control. At least the snow was pretty!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Cedar waxwings

Literally hundreds of cedar waxwings greeted me this morning from some of the tall oak trees near the Discovery Center parking area. They were facing the sun, and apparently waiting their turn to descend on the hollies near the Geology Museum for a berry feast. I saw almost a continuous flow of birds cycling from hollies to oaks, and occasionally stopping on the adjoining crape myrtle on the way. I wished I had my camera with me (this is a stock image from

Cedar waxwings are one of our most frugivorous birds, only eating some insects in the summer months. Otherwise, they rely on sugary, bulky fruits, and have expanded their range in recent years as habitat changes and landscape plantings have made fruiting trees more abundant. Juniper (red cedar) cones used to be a primary winter 'fruit,' but now hollies, serviceberry, and many other fruits are also eaten.

They're winter residents for us and primarily seen in large foraging flocks in late winter.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

This photo of Spirea thunbergii 'Fujino Pink" was taken in the Plant Sale area the other day and at this time of year is about the only plant in bloom there, but by April 24 & 25, Plant Sale time, there will be many more in bloom.