Nature Keeps On

Photo of violet stems
Photo of two types of moss
Photo of unusual large sleet

 

The time that plants and animals spend in winter dormancy is much shorter than the season. Here in Southeastern Ohio we have a mid-Atlantic climate, more so than it used to be. Most years we get few, if any, snows having more than a few inches of accumulation. The trees drop their leaves, perennials die to the ground, the grass turns browner. But after a month between December and January, a lot of things began their cycle of return. The birds have been singing territorial call notes, and the daffodils are sending up leaves.

In the first photo above, you can see the strange appearance of violets in an actual phase of their growth, when the rooty aboveground stems start to bud up, and turn progressively greener. In the second photo, some new moss, carpeting up like it might in a northern rain forest. The third photo shows an odd fall of sleet mixed with hail that came down heavily for a time, before the weather turned to snow. Finally, below, a short video of summer things, to help dispel the cloudy, rainy stuff of winter. 

 

Snow Shots and Animal Anecdotes

Photo of dead ash with snow

Snow, lining objects with white fluff, acts in photographs as a shape definer and contrast maker. A light snow works well for bringing out shapes and colors in the (near) winter landscape. Above, the dead ash tree with borer trails and some remaining bark.

Photo of shrubs with snow on branches

An evergreen and a deciduous shrub, dark green and crispy white tangle of branches.

Photo of red pear leaves and dead ash trunk

Oak trunk, ash, and the red leaves of the pear. 

Photo of owl pellets in bird feeder

Owls have been taking prey at the ground feeder. As the contents show, a lot of not long digested peanuts make up the bulk of the pellets. (Pellets are parts of their prey that owls regurgitate, usually fur and bone fragments.)

Photo of male deer lying down

This male deer spent several hours in my yard with his doe companion.

Photo of male deer facing lens

Here he is standing face to the camera.

 

Animal Anecdotes

 

Some time back I watched squirrels in my yard flinging from branch to branch, sometimes barely catching hold, and wondered if they ever fall. Then one day I heard a big cracking noise and suddenly a squirrel came plummeting from the oak. When it got to the ground, it managed to spring off its hind legs, catch its claws in the bark, and scurry back up the trunk. I assume the answer is, one, that their bushy tails work as gauges to detect air flow from surfaces, so they know how close to the ground they are; two, that they use the skin flaps between their front legs and bellies (modest compared to flying squirrels’ but still something…cats also, famous for soft landings, have those skin flaps) to create a parachute effect. Three, their bodies are lightweight and flexible.

Next story: I noticed a technique used by the Carolina wrens at my ground feeder. They have relatively thin, curved bills, the sort insect-eaters have, and insects are a large part of their diet. But this one, having peanuts available on a flat surface, banged down with its head and drilled out a core sample. So it was able to enjoy the favorite food even without having a finch’s bill to pick one up.

Last story: on that day the deer were in the yard, a Red-tailed Hawk was hunting, flying from tree to tree. I had my cat Ed out for his walk, which isn’t really a walk, only Ed wearing his harness and sniffing at things while mostly sitting. When he noticed the hawk, he rushed for the door. Then my other cat Chester was snuggled on the bed one night, while I looked at videos. One was of a wolf howling for her friends, and as soon as Chester heard the noise he sat up with round eyes, and after a moment ran off. Interesting that little house cats have instincts about predators they rarely if ever have any contact with.

Sights in the Garden

Photo of male downy woodpecker at suet feeder

Male Hairy woodpecker at the suet feeder.

Photo of northern flicker at suet feeder

Female Northern Flicker (woodpecker) at the suet feeder.

Photo of English Ivy leaf with fall color

Pretty fall color, and striking vein pattern, in an English Ivy leaf.  

Photo of ageratum in half shelter

Here we see the microclimate effect. The exposed half of the ageratum is shriveled from nights in the 20s, while the side closer to the garage is still alive.

Photo of sheltered garden border acting as microclimate

Here again, nicotiana looks fresh along this sheltered border, where underground water flows down from the hills, keeping the soil temperature above freezing for a longer period.

Photo of burgundy fall privet leaves

A privet in the brush pile, from a seed delivered by birds. The deer bite the growth off, leaving these fringe shrubs scrappy looking, but this one has produced excellent color.

A Few Things Linger

Photo of small bird's nest

A small nest uncovered when the leaves fell off the beech (that I originally thought was a birch, but I see it’s starting to develop some distinct eyes on the trunk.)  The nest is probably a song sparrow’s.

Photo of blue veronica bloom

One bright blue-purple veronica bloom. A few things will pop a random flower in the late fall.

Photo of catmint growth

Catmint, having a fresh spate of leaf growth, in the cooler weather. 

Photo of iris blooming in fall

An iris, that may slip this one past the deer. All my bearded iris are rebloomers, but last summer they didn’t bloom at all.

Photo of foxglove bloom

A foxglove, with a warped little flower, and others it’s trying to open before it freezes.

Photo of poblano pepper

One last poblano pepper. There are three ways to preserve a pepper, one of the few vegetables that may survive wintering over in a pot. You can start one from a stem cutting, pot the roots after trimming back the topgrowth, or save seeds from one of the fruits and start them in the late winter, or early spring, depending on your zone.

Photo of ruffled lichen

Closeup of a ruffled lichen, growing off a twig that fell out of a tree.

A Strange Seed

This was lying at the foot of one oak tree, a seed found someplace by a squirrel or bird. The only thing I’ve seen online that it much resembles is from the cocao pod. Which could have got into the local environment by a few means: someone’s potted tree, a health food store’s “grind your own chocolate” display…

Plants rescued from garden

A few of the garden plants that I’m overwintering: coleus, impatiens, and one sweet pepper. They should be all right for temperature in the garage window, and I can’t have many in the house because of cats.

A path in its fall state. I’ve used branches dropped by my trees for bordering, which should help block the leaves from blowing away. Over winter the weather will decompose and settle the branches, and in spring fungi will reduce the leaves to a thin layer. Preserving leaves preserves your insect population; a healthy insect population feeds birds, reptiles and amphibians, small rodents, bats. My other plan is to cut off seedheads from coneflowers and rudbeckia, and place them among the branches to make flowering edges.

Something interesting. Deer ate all the leaves off this nicotiana. But it grew back these strange ruffly stem-leaves.

A pretty little grass, that has blueish leaves, and spreads slowly in clumps.

Garden Bits and Plans for Next Year

One slightly raggedy Morden Blush rosebud that finds the weather too cold to open. And a bright sweetgum leaf that landed where it makes a nice contrast.

A few annuals will hang on and flower until a hard freeze. Even then, microclimates may allow a vestige or two to carry on until December.

An ornamental grass seedhead that, as you can see in closeup, has an extravagant quality of awns (the parts that look like hairs). A fall treasure, but this grass starting growing voluntarily, so I don’t know what it’s called.

This big branch fell off my dead ash tree, making a nice gift for defining the border between the bed and the path beside it. And all these logs I use for bordering make miniature habitats in themselves, also protecting the root systems of my perennials.

 


 

Bulbs I’m Planting This Autumn

 

Allium aflatunense (lilac-flowered onion)

Apricot Beauty Tulips

Dordogne Tulips (coral-pink)

Eranthis (yellow-flowered small bulb)

Galanthus (Snowdrops)

King Alfred Tulips (sunny yellow)

Little Beauty Tulips (red with blue markings)

Mt. Hood Daffodils (pale buttery white)

Salmon Impression Tulips

Silver Smiles Daffodils (white with pale yellow center)

 

 

Wish List Perennials for Next Spring

 

Artemisia

Astilbe (assorted colors)

Campanula persicifolia

Columbine (assorted)

Dalmatian Peach foxglove

Ferns (assorted)

Georgia Blue Veronica

Heuchera (a few pretty leaf types)

Hollyhock

Johnson’s Blue geranium

Old-fashioned Bleeding Heart

Poppy

Primrose

Pulmonaria

Rodgersia aesculifolia

Southern Charm Verbascum

Tall phlox (assorted)

Tall Sedum

 

Annuals from Seed

 

Ageratum

Bachelor’s Button

Cleome

Coleus

Datura

Double Impatiens

Marigolds

Meadow Sage

Nasturtium

Petunia

Salpiglossis

Scabiosa

Sunflower

Tithonia

Zinnias

 

 

Fall Arriving

Photo of oak galls and fly

A few of the oak galls. (And a visiting fly.😉) Probably the number of oak galls says something positive about the health of the local environment.

Photo of wild asters with wasp

The wild fall asters are covered with pollinators, though this photo shows clearly only one little wasp. These flowers appear on each plant in hundreds, but as you see, once they’ve been pollinated they turn pink, while the ones with something to offer stay yellow to guide the wasps and bees.

Photo of cleome flower with seedpods

Here’s a view of the cleome, which just goes on blooming until frost, and its entertaining spray of seedpods.

Photo of foxglove flowerstem eaten by deer

The deer are not supposed to bother foxgloves, but one bit off the flower stem of a late bloomer. As you can see, it still has buds at the leaf axils. But I hope it may act like a perennial and come back next spring, since its blooming was thwarted.

Photo of achillea foliage

Pretty nicotiana blooms, and a view of why achillea is a great perennial (easily grown from seed). In the fall, these plants will put up a thicket of lacey foliage.

Photo of burgundy elephant ear with purple veins

Sunshine through an elephant ear leaf. You can see the beautiful late-season color and the interesting vein pattern.

Photo of callery pear fruit

The tiny fruits of the callery pear, which in closeup definitely have the characteristics of a pear. The tree makes thousands of them, which are much relied on by all sorts of unnoticed critters. They also draw robins in late winter.

September Garden Photos

Photo of yellow haired caterpillar

Close shot of a lemon-colored caterpillar.

 

Photo of small mushrooms on decaying log

This, and the following, some small shelf mushrooms fruiting out of the logs I line my path with.

 

Photo of small mushrooms on decaying log

Photo of small mushrooms on decaying log

Photo of small mushroom on decaying log

Photo of poblano pepper in bloom and fruit

A few weeks ago, I posted a pic of my tiny poblano harvest. But now the plant has taken off in a flower-making frenzy, and I have several new peppers coming along.

 

Photo of morning glory flower

My morning glory, blooming. The color is luck of the draw, since I bought assorted seeds. You can see here the paper-thin petals and the ethereal quality of light shining through the center.

 

Photo of Liriope flower

What the flower of the liriope plant, a groundcover, looks like in close-up.

 

Photo of crookneck squash tiny fruit

Finally, this tiny squash, just starting when I photographed it, has grown in a week to almost full-size.

 

 

 

A Few Things of Interest

Photo of foxglove flowerstalk

At this time of year, you don’t mind seeing the garden chores diminish. There are plenty of other projects to do! One of this year’s foxgloves decided to shoot up its flower stalk after all, a pretty white with dark magenta spots.

 

Photo of foxglove blossom

Here’s what the flower looks like when I hold it upright for the camera.

 

Photo of super closeup foxglove

And in super closeup, we learn something new. The bloom usually hangs down, so the bottom petal has a fringe of hairs, maybe for the pollinator to take hold of; then, there are hairs coming out of all the guide spots going up into the heart. A female ruby-throated hummingbird has been working on this one, but the hair arrangement is probably beneficial to small bees.

 

Photo of morning glory vine

As robust a climbing vine as you could ask for, but this morning glory has yet to make a bloom.

 

Photo of goldenrod and aster

Goldenrod, one of the wildflowers I let grow in the beds, because they bloom late in the season, along with the wild aster in the background, so they do the local insect and bird populations some good.

 

Photo of elephant ear leaf

Pretty veining in dusty purple, with background shading of burgundy and dark green, on this elephant ear leaf.

 

Photo of spotted bird feather

Last week, I had a bat in the garage, which fortunately scared my cats, so they didn’t try to hunt it. I left the door open, and it went away. For the last two nights, something has been giving off rasping shrieks in my yard (unless its prey has been giving them off). Some bird with spotted feathers was made a meal of, but note, of the creature’s remnants, how the feather is translucent and the mulch shows through.