Monday, December 6, 2010

Psanky egg decorating

working on a egg
wax being melted off
an egg revealed

It was a fun workshop!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Great blue heron and azolla in the Meadow Pond

There's a shallow pond in the meadow near my office  -- we've called it unofficially the 'leaky' pond, since it's never held water very well, even though we've tried to seal it a couple of times with bentonite treatments.

In spite of the shallow water (and probably because of it), it's been a good pond for frogs, dragonflies, and birds.
heron and azolla in the Meadow pond
Leaving work the other day, I spotted this Great Blue Heron (perhaps a young individual), 'knee deep' in the azolla or mosquito fern (that's colonized the edges of the pond, and is turning red with cold weather).  Presumably, it's Azolla caroliniana, a native mosquito fern, rather than one of the invasive ones.

It's interesting to consider how it's colonized the pond.

I'm thinking that it may have come in with some of the semi-aquatic plants that were transplanted on the edges of the pond at the end of a research project.  But, that's just a guess.

Click on the photo for a closer look.

Note: this is a duplicate post from my blog, Natural Gardening.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two wonderful Japanese maples

In the Schoenike Arboretum, there are many great trees, but these Japanese maples are standouts.  They're huge (by garden standards), since they're older than most, and almost always have spectacular fall color.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fall color

It's been a stand-out couple of years for fall color.

Gingkos near the Butterfly Garden
The droughty conditions in late summer and fall seem to correspond with intense reds, especially if we have just a bit of rain, and a cold spell, followed by clear sunny days.

The dogwoods and maples are at their peak, along with the clear yellows of hickories and gingkos.

The bald cypresses are a wonderful rusty color, starting to drop leaves in an apron of golden brown.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Psanky eggs: a Ukranian tradition

Although I wasn't familiar with it, Psanky egg decorating sounded interesting, so it's our holiday craft offering this December.

Sue Watts, our part-time Garden educator, is teaching the class.  She'll lead a program about how to decorate eggs using lines of wax and and rich-colored dyes on Friday, Dec. 3.  A longer description is on our website.

These were some of her creations. Wow.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spotting a gray tree frog

An unexpected visitor appeared in our garden office building this afternoon, a gray tree frog (Hyla versicolor).  I'd seen anoles inside before, but not a tree frog. 

But Patrick, my new office colleague and Director of the Garden, spotted it in the stairwell, and we took a look.  Gray tree frogs vary in color, depending on their surroundings, temperature, and humidity;  this one was a solid dried-leaf gray.

I was surprised to see a frog still out and about, maybe seeking warmth?  But, doing a bit of research, I learned that gray tree frogs survive the winter by hibernating 'on land' - under leaf litter, rocks, and logs; their bodies 'freeze' but are protected from damage by high glycerol levels in their tissues.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

CU student vegetable garden (Ecoplex vegetable garden)

Ecoplex vegetable garden (late October)
The students at the Clemson University Ecoplex (a duplex retrofitted with energy-conserving features) were up for trying a vegetable garden this fall.

They weren't experienced, but game, and following soil prep (and support and encouragement by an committed CU Housing staff member (Gary Gaulin), I helped them plant out transplants of lettuces, mustards, and red cabbage as well as sowing seeds of mesclun mix and other greens in late September.

I was delighted to receive this photo late last week (in addition to reports along the way).

The fall vegetables have been flourishing, and the students report that they've been sharing lettuce and greens with neighbors and others.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Woodland explorations

This morning's school groups were lucky to experience the Garden in an overcast, rain-threatening condition. Often, teachers are reluctant to let their students 'get wet' - but these teachers were hardier.  Their kids didn't get damp at all, as it turned out, but the promise of rain focused our awareness on the forest and woodlands, and what we could observe, hear, and smell.

Seeing cavities used by squirrels, discovering the large leaves of big-leaf magnolia, and listening to Tufted Timice calling back and forth, punctuated by Carolina Chickadees, and the ever-present American Crows made for an interesting morning.

We looked at lichens, talked about mosses, and where butterflies (and other insects) 'go' in the winter. 

It made an excellent morning, and more immediate than my rain backup plan (also interesting) which involved using excellent Thayer Birding software to learn bird calls while watching video clips and seeing photos of different common garden birds... 

This software is worth pointing out, as they're using Cornell Ornithology Lab's data and partial interface to provide an excellent resource at a reasonable price.  For iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone (and probably other smart phones), iBirdExplorer is an excellent portable field guide that's user-friendly and highly informative.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Children's gardens

We have a wonderful (developing) Children's Garden.

It's been a staff-driven, bottom-up sort of project, supported by generous donations from local garden clubs and our Foothills Master Gardeners, in addition to individual gifts.

We're fortunate to have the work of a gifted gardener, Ginny Steadman, transform the basic plan and suggested ideas into a much more whimsical and engaging space, thanks to support from Sprouting Wings, SCBG Children's Garden, and SCBG Education Programs.

But this support is still shoestring compared to what would be need to truly transform this area (originally shop and support greenhouse, turf sheds, research areas, etc.)  The accounts listed above are open for public contributions, so if you're interested, we'd welcome your support.

Last summer,  I was able to visit a delightful Children's Garden at Phipp's Conservatory It was great fun, and on the perfect scale for their space.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Fall color

Some of the yellows and all of the reds are promising so far this year. The hickory behind the Carriage House is a clear yellow, and the red maples along Perimeter Road have been putting on a show.

But still to come are the gingkos near the Duck Pond (and Children's Garden), the witch hazels, and fothergillas (although the latter are already looking nice.)

Enjoy the color in your landscape if you're in the Eastern U.S.  We live in a special place, and share fall color with temperate Asia, but no where else (naturally) in the world.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Sap oozing from bark

Aside from some sorts of sap-tapping (such as of sugar maples for human consumption), most sap-oozing is in response to wounds or insect damage, as far as I've been able to find out via internet research.   I'm not an expert on plant pests or plant diseases by any means, but as a plant ecologist, I do know it's not 'normal' for trees to ooze sap.

But, it's been interesting to observe the red admirals, commas, question marks, hornets, and other insects visiting the (obviously stressed) oak in the center of the planted area between the Caboose parking area and the Garden sign.

Take a look while the weather is still warm, if you're in the area.  It's the oak at the highest point, closest to the irrigation faucet, directly across from the Cadet Life Garden.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Butterflies seeking sap

Garden volunteers, Master Gardeners, and fellow butterfly enthusiasts Carolyn and John Turner told me today about butterflies visiting oozing sap on an oak near the Caboose Parking area and showed me some remarkable photos. 

There were Red Admirals, and Commas, and others taking advantage of the fresh sap, perhaps as a consequence of Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers drilling into the bark.

Garden horticulturist Kathy Bridges had alerted them to this, having just observed the masses of butterflies, and having talked with the Turners that morning;  it was the regular maintenance volunteer day for the Butterfly Garden.

Hopefully, I'll be able to post a few of their photos!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gulf fritillaries, monarch, and others

The purple lantana against the walls in the lower lawn garden (next to the Discovery Center) have been alive with butterflies the last few days.

Monarchs, pipevine swallowtails, tiger swallowtails, gulf fritillaries, variegated fritillaries, and skippers of all sorts are all over the flowers.

Similarly, the new Butterfly Garden has been full of flowers, caterpillars, and butterflies. It's been magical.  I wrote a post about a Gulf Fritillary chrysalis, spotted early this week, on my Natural Gardening blog.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The 'new' butterfly garden

It's been a fabulous first year for our Butterfly Garden.  It looks great, but more importantly, has hosted butterfly adults and caterpillars in abundance.  This summer and fall, we've been thrilled to see Sleepy Orange, Cloudless Sulphur, Monarch, Gulf Fritillary, and Black Swallowtail caterpillars taking advantage of the host plants we planted for them.

Here's a piece I posted on Natural Gardening with a photo of a cloudless sulphur butterfly. 

This is a great example of how providing host plants means adult butterflies (they were fluttering around this afternoon).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Full moon walks

It's great fun to share viewing the full moon with others at the Garden.

For the Harvest Moon walk last night, I enjoyed doing a lovely stroll through the meadows (at dusk), dropping into the forested areas near the stream (as it became dark), and emerging up to the Arboretum just about the time the moon rose.

We caught glimpses of the full moon as it rose, up through the trees, and since it was clear enough, the full moon from the meadow was gorgeous.

It's magical.  So, last night we saw quite a bit.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The 'new' Butterfly Garden

Our new Butterfly Garden site, planted last fall and added to this spring has proved to be an excellent one.  Shelter from wind, combined with plenty of sun, has created a wonderful spot to see adult butterflies, and their caterpillars.

A recent Butterfly Garden tour (under the aegis of the Carolina Butterfly Society and the Garden) found us excitedly seeing Cloudless Sulfur and Dusky Orange caterpillars on Cassia, Black Swallowtail caterpillars on fennel, Monarch caterpillars on Common milkweed, and Gulf Fritillary and Zebra caterpillars on passionvine.  The caterpillars are exciting because host plants are a fundamental element of our butterfly garden design, in its new incarnation below the Children's Garden.

We saw plenty of adult butterflies, too. Quite a magical morning, in spite of the cloudy weather. Photos to come (it's been a busy couple of weeks...)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Visiting gardens

I'm away from the South Carolina Botanical Garden this summer, tending our mountain garden and visiting gardens elsewhere.   It's a great experience and opportunity for me, to learn from and appreciate other places, but also appreciate our Garden, when we're back home.

Talking with some fellow Garden bloggers at the Buffalo 2010 Meetup, I was reminded of how much we're grounded in our gardens and gardening.  Folks here in Buffalo, who have maybe 4 months of good gardening time, make the most of it -- their pocket gardens in the fronts and sides of houses are packed full of hardy perennials, all in flower now.

GardenWalk, in Buffalo, at the end of July, has over 350 gardens on tour.  Wow.  It's re-energized neighborhoods, rejuvenated blocks, etc.  Nothing not to like about that!

I love the idea of spreading gardens of whatever sort across neighborhoods and cityscapes, creating new vibrant green spaces.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Cherokee Worldview Garden Celebration

In spite of a hot, humid morning, close to a full house (judged by a packed Discovery Center parking area) enjoyed an excellent celebration of the Cherokee Worldview Garden today.

Events included a Cherokee dance performance, Cherokee story-telling, 'painting' with mineral pigments, and primitive technology and guided tours of the garden.

The heat didn't diminish the enthusiasm of the crowd, as willing 'volunteers' were invited to participate in the dances!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Cherokee Worldview Garden Celebration

If you're in the area, come to the celebration of the Cherokee Worldview Garden on Saturday, June 19 (10 am- noon). There will be garden tours, traditional music and dance performances.

The garden is devoted to plants that have meaning for the Cherokee people (whether medical, edible, or useful for other things) and is designed to help encourage you (as a visitor) to experience the connection with nature that is an essential part of the Cherokee world.

Garden Naturalists

The Garden Naturalist Program currently meets every Wednesday from 9 to 11am to explore the natural history of the South Carolina Botanical Garden. These are images from our last walk.

A Red Shouldered Hawk
Click on to enlarge.

Dragonflies around the Leaky Pond.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Visiting the Garden

The Garden is a great place to visit any time of the year, but summer and fall are stand-out times.

Check out the Children's Garden (and all of its individual gardens), the Hydrangea Garden, the Butterfly Garden, the Hosta Garden, the pathway and borders above the Hayden Conference Center, and the (in the process of renovation) Flower Display Garden for interesting plants and great ideas for your own garden.

But also, visit the Geology Museum's garden (the Lawrence Sutherland Family Garden) and the Fran Hanson Discovery Center's Terrace Garden, perennial garden beds, and Snell Vegetable Garden. All have interesting selections of perennials and woodies (and edibles in the kitchen garden) to discover.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Big-leaf magnolia

I haven't managed to take a photograph, but the big leaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) near the back gate to the Arboretum is impressive at the moment. It's in full flower. The large white flowers are striking, and the tree is getting to be a good size.

Big-leaf magnolia has a limited range in nature, occurring in a small area between Rock Hill, SC and Charlotte, NC. Andre Michaux 'discovered' it, and it's among the many species he named.

But it makes an excellent garden tree (we have one in our home garden), and we have a number of them in the Garden. (You'll see their offspring, too, in areas far from the parent trees, thanks to bird dispersal).

Monday, May 10, 2010

They've fledged!

The first brood of young bluebirds successfully raised in the Bob Campbell Geology Museum's nest box have left the nest.  Yesterday, they were all there!  There's currently an egg in the nest, probably one that didn't hatch.

Their departure is right on schedule with the developmental timeline that I posted (after the eggs hatched).

Friday, May 7, 2010

A promethea moth

A beautiful promethea moth appeared on the Bob Campbell Geology Museum porch yesterday morning. Maybe it had emerged nearby, or simply had sought the recessed light of the porch fixtures.

In any case, 1st graders from Pickens Elementary School were delighted to take a look, in between their explorations of the Museum and the Garden.

It was a lucky sighting; these large silk moths aren't so common that we see them frequently.

I didn't have my camera during the day, but returning yesterday evening, I managed to take a not-so-good picture, washed out by the light from the lamp.

Happily, this morning, BCGM staff member Darlene Evans had a fellow butterfly (and moth) enthusiast, Carolyn Turner, take a look, and she moved the moth to a safer spot at the edge of the porch. Hopefully it's out and about this evening!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Red-shouldered hawks

We've been hearing the Garden's red-shouldered hawks quite a bit;  they're feeding hungry nestlings, so are out and about foraging for food.

I was surprised, though, to look up from my computer a minute ago, to see one perched in the Gordonia out my office window! S/he didn't stay long, but swooped down toward the mixed hardwood forest behind the Carriage House, maybe having spotted a chipmunk or squirrel on the lawn.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Growing fast

Baby bluebirds waiting for food
The bluebird nestlings are looking hungry in this screenshot from the Geology Museum webcam.  We're hopeful that our first successful brood will be fledged from this nesting box sometime in the coming weeks, thanks to the snake baffle Dave Cicimurri installed this spring.  All of the other boxes I've checked have eggs or nestlings in various stages.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Evening stars and planets

It was a perfect evening for a walk in the Garden. The cooler than normal weather subdued the insect and amphibian songsters, but we enjoyed nice temperatures, clear air, and good company. As a group of adults, we were able to (quietly) explore the Garden's forest, look at wildflowers, and listen to birds, as light faded to dusk and then dark.

As we finished our walk, the stars started appearing, along with an incredibly bright planet to the southwest.

We puzzled about the orientation of the Garden (hmm, I'm great with directions and spatial remembrance but have trouble with knowing which direction is north, south, or elsewhere).

This Google Earth view shows our orientation!

Coming home, the moon was huge and luminous, remarkable for spring.

Poking about on the web, I discovered that Mars was our mystery planet.

This from Stardate Online:

This Week's Stargazing Tips

April 28, 2010 The brightest stars of Libra stretch to the upper left of the Moon as they rise in late evening. The closer one is Zubenelgenubi, while the more distant one is Zubeneschamali.

April 29, 2010 Mars stands high in the southwest at nightfall and looks like a bright orange star. As it drops toward the horizon after midnight, its celestial "rival" climbs into view in the southeast: Antares, of Scorpius, the scorpion, whose name means "rival of Mars."

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spring moon

The full moon hike on Wednesday should be nice. This time of the year starts the wonderful array of summer evening songsters, and we'll be able to experience the transition from day to dusk to night.

The moon was high this evening and I heard the beginnings of the seasonal nocturnal symphony just before coming inside. Crickets, cicadas, katydids, and tree frogs are just a few of the players.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby bluebirds

All of the eggs have hatched now! 

I was going to post a screenshot, but newly hatched bluebirds are remarkably unattractive and not ready for prime time (they are cute with their mouths open). 

Take a peak when you have a chance.  The last post shows how quickly they'll feather up and grow.

Just looked at the webcam again....
Mom's back with food!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A bluebird family

The eggs have started to hatch in the Museum's bird box.  This morning, the webcam showed first one, then two young hatchlings.  Mom reappeared shortly after I saw the two chicks, and now has just left.

Click on the image of the nest with eggs to see what's happening now!  Both parents will feed and care for the young, removing egg shells and fecal sacs.

Here's a developmental timeline from (All about Eastern Bluebirds) --  we'll have an interesting couple of weeks ahead before fledging!
  • Development: When they are first born, they look a bit like hairy shrimp. Both parents feed the young. Nestlings defecate right after being fed - parents often wait for this and then take out fecal sacs, dropping them 21- 110 yards from the nest (rarely eating them.) See day by day photos to help with determining age.

    • Day 1: dingy gray down, eyes closed. The babies heads look huge. Their wings are nubs, and legs are weak and spindly. Uncoordinated, raising head weakly and unsteadily, faint vocalizations.
    • Day 2: contour feathers start to develop. Soft gray down is now along the edges of wings, the head and spine. The skin beneath looks blue-black as feathers begin to develop beneath it.
    • Day 3: femoral tract feathers begin emerging.
    • Day 4: wings are dark.
    • Day 5: feathers appear in crural region. Eyes open day 5-6. While sleeping, head held limply in front or curled to side.
    • Day 7-8: able to maintain body temperature.
    • Day 8: secondary wing-coverts break out of sheaths.
    • Day 9: capital feathers, secondaries and retrices are out of sheaths; birds use bill to work all major feather tracts. Nestlings may show fear if handled, can crawl. Yawning first observed. May lay head on scapulars while sleeping.
    • Day 10-11: most capital-tract feathers emerge.
    • Day 11: Feather sheaths start to disintegrate (leaving a white dust behind) and wing feathers begin to emerge. Nestcams indicate nestlings start to stand up at this age. Nestlings start to preen, pulling at the sheaths of emerging feathers.They may flap wings, stretch and hop a little to strengthen muscles.
    • Day 12: almost completely feathered. except for mid-ventral region. Incomplete bill-wiping movements and head scratching first observed.
    • Day 13: Mid-ventral region is feathered. sleep with head on scapulars. Can tell sex by bright blue color of primaries and retrices, and white on retrices. Sleep in typical adult manner.
    • Day 14: no unfeathered areas visible. Wings are longer. Capable of weak, short-distance flight. Bird can right itself and make short shuffling movements backwards and forwards.
    • Day 15: completely feathered. Nestlings huddle together, preen, exercise, stand on edge of nest and look out of nest cavity.
    • Day 16: able to hop well by day 16. During final days in nest, nestlings flap wings vigorously.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jack-in - the- pulpits

At this time of year, when the spring ephemerals are out in force, I go and check in front of Crucible. There are generally one or two Jack-in-the Pulpits there, down by the stream side. Last week during my Garden Naturalist Class we made an amazing discovery. We found hundreds and hundreds of "Jacks" just before you enter the woods for the bird watching trail. This area used to be covered with bamboo and has recently been cleared. (It is below the new butterfly garden). Once you enter the woods you start seeing that in several places the path is lined with even more patches of plants.
Iris, foamflower and trillium.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Garden Fest

The Garden was busy today, with Garden Fest, the Unity Project, and a regional Girl Scout Council Brownies activity this morning, not to mention a large afternoon wedding in the amphitheater.

And there were lots of 'regular' visitors.

This was the second year of Garden Fest.

Master Gardeners John Lander, Sue Ercolini, and Talley Parker with advice about planning a garden

Supported by a network of groups from SC Master Gardener volunteers, Clemson University's Home and Garden Information Center, (CU) Students for Environmental Awareness, Upstate Locavores, CU Dirt to Food, a troop of middle-school Girl Scouts, and SCBG and Bob Campbell Geology Museum staff, it was a rewarding event.

Ellie Taylor of Upstate Locavores sharing ideas about container gardening
We're basically encouraging folks to grow more of their own vegetables, and providing information about how to do it.

At the introduction table, I talked to young families, retirees, and mid-life folks, all who were interesting in growing more of their own food. It was a nice event.

Joey Williamson and Janet Scott, from CU's Home and Garden Information Center providing advice

Vegetable transplants (a variety of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, tomatillos, and herbs) went off to new gardens (I donated the seeds so I feel a lovely sense of potential bounty shared).

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A red-shouldered hawk and 'Green and Gold'

Green and gold is one of my favorite spring wildflowers. It's a tough customer, thriving on the edges of paths and trails and woodland edges.

This patch is along the Arboretum Road, below the Heusel Nature Trail. Quite lovely.

Looping back, one of the red-shouldered hawks was calling, and from the meadows, I could see two of them soaring - only barely within reach of my camera's lens.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring ephemerals

I love spring ephemerals. This year I have spent more time than usual observing the progression from the earliest scattered flowers to the carpet of blooms today on the Woodland Wildflower Trail.

Today I walked without dogs and children and was able to take a little time for photographs. These small pictures do not do the flowers justice, click on the images for a larger view.

Yellow Trillium - a toadshade trillium. Its flowers are sessile- meaning there is no stem or petiole joining the flower to the rest of the plant.
This could be a variety of Sweet Betsy, which does come in yellow.

Vasey's Trillium this is a easily overlooked trillium. Although its leaves are large the flowers are "nodding", ie. underneath on a stalk and not "sessile" ie. perched on top without a stem.

On the Botanical Garden Trail look to your right, by the stream as you walk from the Hunt Cabin and before you cross the small stone bridge by Crucible. There are several Vasey's Trillum by the small wooden bridge on the left bank of the stream. There is also a very nice crop of Yellowroot in flower in the same location.

Vasey's Trillium

Catesby's Trillium

A nodding, or wake robin trillium.

Once in a while a combination of plants takes your breath away. This grouping did not photograph well but was so striking that other people on the trail also pointed it out to us.
You can find it on the trail it is past Crucible and just past the new woodenbench* and on the left had side of the trail.

*Check out the bench dedication to a man and his dog- so sweet. (I believe the man's name was Gary Schramm).

flower, trillium and ferns

Mayapples are generally seen from above and appear as a lush swath of miniature umbrellas. I took this shot lying prostrate on the ground - a mouse's eye view of mayapple flowers.

Towering Mayapples

New bog garden in the new butterfly garden -pitcher plants
This is a wonderful new site in the garden -look at that pitcher plant flower!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Museum Bluebird box

Snakes, prepare to be baffled!

We are hoping to have a first successful bluebird brood from this box, originally set up by an Eagle Scout with a web cam connection.  Dave Cicimurri has secured a metal baffle, which hopefully will prevent predation (quite common in these boxes).  The female bluebird is, right now, sitting on her eggs.  This is a screen shot of the web cam minutes ago.  See the previous post for a view of the eggs.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

A nesting bluebird

The birdcam at the Geology Museum's bluebird box now shows 5 eggs.  Time for a snake baffle!  Last year, a black rat snake managed to thwart nesting in this box.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Vegetable gardens

The Garden has three excellent areas that demonstrate how easy it is to grow vegetables.

The Snell Vegetable Garden (next to the Fran Hanson Discovery Center) is a perfect kitchen garden. Surrounded by brick walls, it's warmer in winter, fostering great winter greens. Summer is lovely, too, with full sun, and rich soil (enriched by composted chicken manure over the past few years).

The Food for Thought Garden is a raised bed garden that's part of the Children's Garden project. We've planted all sorts of things in these beds over the seasons, from potatoes and onions, to herbs and yard-long beans.

And the Heirloom Garden is a certified organic vegetable garden that has been used for some years to keep a variety of heirloom vegetables going, thanks to (now retired) CU horticulture professor David Bradshaw. It'll be partially fallow this year, to deal with some pest issues, but will also be used for herbs, and a Master Gardener Plant-a-row for the hungry initiative.

Let us know if you'd like to help out with any of these gardens as a volunteer!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Squirrels and habitat

I spotted this pair of (maybe young) squirrels in the 'squirrel' tree yesterday.

They were seemingly quite content to poke their heads out of a familiar cavity.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A haze of green

Warmer weather has brought a concentrated spring (in a flash). The haze of young green leaves surrounds the riparian gallery forest along Hunnicutt Creek, birds of all sorts are singing spring breeding songs, and buds are rapidly expanding into shoots and leaves.

It won't be long before we see our first hummingbirds here (time to get the feeders out). And some of the earliest butterflies have already been spotted.

The spring peepers are singing in the Cherokee Worldview Garden pond, very loudly, and I imagine the shallow Meadow pond is full of frog calls, too. I need to get over there in the evening.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Garden Naturalist Program

On Wednesday the Garden Naturalists visited the Hopkins Beech Grove to learn more about beech trees and their associated habitat. It turned out to be a fabulous class, and not just because of the beautiful, statuesque beeches.

(Image: Wiki Common)

We have started to think about Phenology "the study of recurring plant and animal life cycle stages, or phenophases, such as leafing and flowering of plants, maturation of agricultural crops, emergence of insects, and migration of birds."On our walk to the Beech Grove we passed through the Woodland Wildflower and Gordon Belser Native Wildflower Trails. We had visited this area of the Garden the previous week so we were able to see significant changes in the landscape in just those few days. Spring ephemerals have popped up all over. There are Trillium, Oconee Bells, Dog-Tooth Violets, Trout Lily, Bloodroot and Yellow Root in all in flower along the trails. By Herb Parker's Crucible there is a huge swath of Mayapples. We discovered how beautifully the Mayapples come out of the soil - they are like tightly furled umbrellas who quickly unwrap and stand tall (4 inches) above the forest fall.
Here are some images of spring ephemerals in the South Carolina Botanical Garden.

Our next stop was the Meditation Garden, a recently beautifully redesigned area of the Garden. We were drawn to the water's edge (I'm not sure why) and then noticed something moving under the surface. It seemed like there were small sticks moving rather more purposefully than sticks usually do. Thesewere Caddis Fly larva, wonderful architects of the natural world, who take sticks or stones (or even precious jewels and metals) to make a protective case. Once we spotted one we began to notice more and more, until most of the small one inch long sticks seemed to be moving.

This was all before we reached our final destination: The Hopkins Beech Grove. This is one of my favorite areas of the Garden. There is one large beech in the center of a meander in the stream, and smaller beeches and tall Tulip Poplars all around. We stood for a few minutes enjoying the bird song and music of the brook, then we started seeing woodpeckers. We saw several Downy and Red-Bellies flitting up and down the tree trunks, flying from tree to tree. Then one of the Naturalists said "Look! Over there! A Pileated ..." There it was on the base of a tree about 20 yards away. We were able to observe it pecking at two or three trees before it took off out of sight. It was a wonderful experience.
Next week our topic is Bird adaptations, habits and habitats. I am excited to see what we will discover next week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Other flowers

Here's another favorite of mine - Camellia japonica 'Julie".

This magnolia near the Sprouting Wings greenhouse was also spectacular!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Garden in Flower

I am a new member and this is my first post, so please forgive me as I learn the ropes!

Friday was such a beautiful day that I took 2 neighbor friends to the garden to see what was in bloom now. Of course we started in the Camellia garden and it is in full bloom - the best I have seen it! I always look for the varieties I have purchased at the plant sales for my own garden. We came across this beautiful 8' specimen of Camellia japonica 'Professor Charles S Sargent'! (My own just produced it's first blossom last week on the lowest branch; as I was showing it off to my friends my cat decided to come and rub it off!! Thank goodness I got a picture first...)

Prof 'Sargent'
You can see why I really like this one! This blossom is unbelievable!

Friday was such an unbelievable day - in the 70's - brilliant blue skies and the birds were especially vocal! The Helleborus were enjoying the elbow room they have in the Hosta Garden this time of year and of course daffodils were everywhere!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Praying mantis egg cases

On a morning walk recently, I noticed that the Clethra alnifolia shrubs at the head of the ornamental grass meadow (below the Fran Hanson Discovery Center) were dotted with praying mantis egg cases.

There must have been at least 15 egg cases, scattered among the shrubs.

I haven't seen that many in a small area before; it would be impressive to see when they hatch later in spring.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

First spring wildflowers

After Hepatica, trout lilies (Erythronium spp.), violets (Viola spp.), and in our region, a rare and endangered wildflower, Oconee bells (Shortia galacifolia) are often the next to flower. Sue Watts and I saw all of these yesterday morning.

Photos by Tim Spira (copyrighted)

Foamflower (Tiarella cordifolia) and trillium (Trillium spp.) and all the rest aren't far behind.

And we spotted one of the red-shouldered hawks on a bald cypress near the Meadow Pond (aka the Leaky Pond).