Allium coming out

Spring. What a great time to be spending a lot of time at home, when we are lucky enough to have a garden. The daily progression of some of the plants is quite remarkable. Here, individual allium flowers are just starting to come out, 6 petals and 6 stamens each; there was just a single one a couple of days ago. Just look how many individual flowers there are, burgeoning out. Soon it will be a huge ball of flower.

allium coming out

Wild garlic

It’s wild garlic time in the woods, with that strangely garlicy-but-not aroma. With dappled shade, there can be strikingly lit patches amid the gloom.wild garlic

It lifts the heart, makes the spirit sing, to see such patches. I almost get that sense also with the photograph. But actually it doesn’t bear technical scrutiny. The contrast is too much, the light too bright, the shade too dark. So nothing’s very sharp, if you look up close. Never mind, I love it!

This plant is also called ramsons or wood garlic. The latter seems most appropriate.

 

 

Wild strawberry flowers

Following success in identifying the cuckoo flower, what were these similar small white flowers seen in a huge mass under trees during our next escape to Anderton Country Park? These had a yellow centre.

wild strawberriesThe obvious answer did not immediately occur to me. Scanning through the wildflower book it became clear from the shape of the leaves that it is a wild strawberry, also appropriately known as the woodland strawberry.

Interestingly, my telephoto close-up attempt did not work well – if you look closely, what is best in focus is the grass stalks rather than the flowers.

wild strawberry grass

 

Jay

English jays are usually careful to stay hidden, unlike their black crow cousins and magpies. This one stayed around on the grass at Anderton Country Park just long enough to take a photograph before he flew off.

jay

These are also known as ‘brown jays’ or ‘old world jays’ to distinguish them from more colourful variants, such as the American blue jay.

Cuckoo flower

The other day we heard our first cuckoo of spring, in fact the first for several years, in Anderton Country Park. Cuckoos were ubiquitous in my youth, but alas no longer.

We then saw these small white flowers by the canal, which I had seen other years and been meaning to look up. What a surprise, when they turned out to be cuckoo flowers – so named because their appearance tended to coincide with the hearing of the first cuckoos!

cuckoo flower

Buttercup clump

A clump of coarse grass in a grassy field studded with buttercups.

buttercup clump

This was a large field, lots of clumps and lots of buttercups. This was the only framing that seemed to work. What do you think?

The genus ranunculus is poisonous, even to cows in significant quantities. But it’s OK when dried, as in hay.

Hawthorn blossom

Anderton Country Park is now resplendent with one of the later spring delights, hawthorn blossom. While growing up I remember its being called ‘May blossom’ – this is also known as the May tree. Its appearance is the herald of the coming summer.

Some of the trees or bushes are almost overloaded with glorious white blossom.

white hawthorn

An unfortunate accompaniment is the really heavy pungent scent, which is not good for the hay fever.

According to Wikipedia, “the young leaves and flower buds, which are also edible, are known as “bread and cheese” in rural England” – indeed I recall that this is precisely what my father called it.

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Mint Moth 2

It’s nearly three years since I last saw a mint moth in the garden. It doesn’t mean they’ve not been around, they’re just so small (under 2 cm) and fleeting. This one was in a similar place, on a forget-me-not flower by a patch of oregano, which they’re said to like as well as mint.

mint moth 2

These moths fly by day, as well as by night. Seen close up they have an amazingly furry body. This is probably the first of two breeds within the year in England.

This was a telephoto shot, whereas my previous post used the camera’s macro facility and is slightly sharper.

Quick… heron overhead

You know that moment when you suddenly see a large bird flying towards you, grab the camera, switch on, point and shoot as it passes quickly overhead? Usually the result is a blurry picture of empty sky. I got lucky with this grey heron at Anderton Country Park.

grey heron overhead

Of course, the lighting is pretty impossible, and it’s nothing like the great shots done by the pros with their expensive equipment and oodles of stalking time (this was during a walk with my Panasonic TZ200 pocket-size superzoom). Just try this great blue by Ted Jennings or this one. Follow him!

Mr Blackbird’s bath

After Mrs Blackbird’s bath it was her partner’s turn the other day. The technique involves dipping the tail in, then dipping the head in, and then the wings, each time splashing furiously.

I really wanted to see his eye more clearly, so crept round the garden to get the sun behind me. He flew off, but soon came back to complete his ablutions. A bit of a show-off really.

Click twice to see an image full screen. In the last image the tail flicks water up as the beak submerges.

Purple Archangel

This plant is ubiquitous in our garden, the ultimate survivor which spreads rapidly in some areas every year. The patches are quite pleasing, with green variegated leaves all year and splashes of purple flower in spring/summer. But get in close and it’s magnificent!

dead nettle

The posh name is lamium purpureum, and the popular name is dead nettle, due to its resemblance to the common nettle but lack of a sting. With such close-up beauty, its third name, purple archangel, seems far more appropriate!

Garden fruit

With the unusually sunny April weather, the fruit bushes/trees in the garden are all suddenly bursting forth in their various ways to flower and then fruit. Lockdown gives the time to look daily, and the speed of development is quite astonishing.

 

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History suggests this development is perilously early, as the danger of a frosty night is ever present until June. We shall see.

Bottle brush

It’s difficult to believe that we would only just be home from Houston according to our original travel plans. We’re just left with family Zoom time and memories, including this pretty bottle brush tree, one of my more successful ventures into gardening in Houston. This one flowers well, early in March. It’s easy to see why it has the name.

bottle brush
flower
bottle brush buds
buds

These plants originate from Australia. They appear to be happy with the Houston climate.

 

Blue and Yellow

The most striking flowers in the garden at the moment are the blue muscari in the flower border and the yellow marsh marigolds by the pond, now taking over from fading daffodils and tulips.

Click twice to see an image full screen.

The name marsh marigold is said to refer to its use in medieval churches at Easter time as a tribute to the Virgin Mary (“Mary gold”.) Also known as water buttercup or kingcup, amongst many other names.

Blue muscari is also known as grape hyacinth, corresponding with the resemblance of its hanging urn-shaped flowers to bunches of grapes.

Now well established, both plants come back reliably year after year with little attention.

Spring peacock

Having coffee in the spring sunshine today, on impulse I grabbed the camera to shoot some spring flowers. Then this over-wintered peacock butterfly presented him(/her)self, wings a bit raggy and faded, but still beautiful, first sunning himself then feeding on those very flowers.

Click twice to see those furry wings and body, antennae and feeding.

And who should come along to see what’s going on?

peacock dog

Insects in the Houston garden

As coronavirus gradually reduced our horizons during our recent stay in Houston, it was surprising how many insects one came across in the garden. Surprising because continuous chemical warfare is waged against termites and cockroaches, which would both soon become very widespread without it.

The presence of lizards and birds, such as cardinal, mocking bird and blue jay, does suggest that there are insects around, and if you go in the summer there will be mosquitoes due to large amounts of standing water. Fortunately these were not significantly around during our recent visit. We did see odd cockroaches, the great survivors, but these are not my favourite photographic subjects.

Bees were around on emerging spring flowers, but my two best pictures were of a monarch butterfly and a colourful paper wasp(?).

Click twice to see full screen.

Lizards in the Houston garden

Wander around the garden in Houston and there is usually the odd small lizard, a few inches long, scuttling out of sight or sunning itself on a wall. There seem to be two sorts.

 

The green anole (left) is native to the south eastern US. They have the ability to change colour to brown, hence sometimes called American chameleon, but these are not true chameleons. Their natural habitat is trees, although house walls seem to provide an alternative.

The brown anole (top right) is a native of the Caribbean, more recently introduced via pet shops and pot plants. This lizard is said to displace green anoles from their preferred habitat, so represents a threat to their long-term survival.

My third picture (bottom right) is probably a brown green anole, as it lacks the strong patterning of the brown anole.

Click twice to see full screen.

For reference here is a list of reptiles in Texas.