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.