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.

Some Stewart Family Photos

Photocopy of old photo, family standing before house

The Stewarts in front of their house. Notice the shiny windows; this family photo must have been an occasion. My great-grandfather Robert Parnell Stewart is second from left.

Photo of family posed

Great-great-grandmother Nancy Pilkington Stewart, children younger. This is probably the 1890s. Robert’s head above younger brother. The Pilkington line seems the source of this generation’s notable ears.

Photo of great-great aunts and uncle

Two sisters, one brother; the theme is probably the three eldest.

Photo of group outside house early 20th century

Into the 1920s, gathered on the family farm.


Stewart Family information

Charles Harry Stewart (great-great grandfather) born April 2, 1840-died October 22, 1890, birthplace Argyle, New York, married in Centralia, Illinois, died in Evansville, Indiana, a workplace accident (jostled off a railcar full of gravel that was being backed up to dump it, Charles being rolled along under the train’s wheels, severe injuries to head and extremities).

Worked as railroad machinist on Louisville and Nashville line. Served in Company D, 11th regiment, Illinois volunteer cavalry, September 24, 1861 to September 30, 1865. Civil War veteran. Enlistment papers describe him as 5 foot 6 inches tall, blue eyes, black hair.

(Father James A. Stewart; Mother Laura Brown)

Nancy Ann Pilkington (great-great grandmother) born April 1, 1850 Knoxville, Tennessee, married July 31, 1867, Centralia, Illinois. Died March 10, 1925, Salem, Illinois.

(Father John Pilkington; Mother Nancy Martin)

Signed for widow’s pension with mark (illiterate).

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.

 

 

 

Mature Days of August

Three Poblano peppers (one already cooked with garlic and chicken breasts to make sandwich meat) are my harvest this year. That’s not so bad, because I never usually grow vegetables, thanks to the deer. I gained a handful of Pinto beans, to use for seed next spring—but that was from trying the experiment of sprouting those things I could scavenge from my cabinets. And, as to the experiment, it’s a kind of fun apocalyptic exercise, where you challenge yourself to make a food garden out of whatever you have in your house right now. I learned that peanuts from bird seed sprout easily, but aren’t easy to keep going outdoors, where everything wants to eat them. Later, I bought one tomato plant, but it’s not getting enough sun in its safe location, and hasn’t made a flower…probably too late for fruit to mature at this date. Also, I have a single bell pepper that hasn’t disappeared yet; but it hasn’t got bigger than a pea yet, either.

 

This is an earlier picture of a curious wild grass, with seed heads like wheat. Prairie grasses do a great job conditioning the soil, their habit being to grow from a clump one year, then die at the center and spread out in a circle. The dead roots decompose back into the earth, acting both as fertilizer and having a spongelike effect of absorbing water. This is why the prairie soil of pioneer times was described as rich and black, before overuse degraded it. If you start a bed with prairie grasses, you can easily mow and layer on cardboard or paper, covered with bought topsoil or compost, which you can plant in directly (the roots will make a way)…or just hold it down with leaves, if you want to wait a season and rake off the dead stuff under the cardboard.

 

Another earlier picture of a pretty little red-capped mushroom.

 

Here’s what closeup photography can teach. I think these are some kind of very tiny insect on this monarda bloom. They can’t be seen with the eye.

 

A hibiscus I grew from seed this year. I never noticed, somehow, from growing them in the past, that the flowers last only a day.

 

And here’s the full Georgia O’Keeffe, showing how the little round female parts (I believe) have a ring of hairs that seems to reflect a glow.

 

 

Close Views in the Garden

Photo of lily pads in bog tub

Lily pads in one of my bog tubs. Being stagnant, the tubs have no frogs or fish. I saw a song sparrow plucking out mosquito larvae, a nice natural control for them. The lily pads themselves, when they’ve covered the surface will also keep mosquitoes off.

 

Photo of black-eyed susans

Black-Eyed Susans and a couple of tiny insects.

 

Photo of centaurea bloom

A centaurea in detail, made up of these lily-shaped florets—while the reproductive parts can be seen at the center, so the flower-like shapes are really just a petal formation.

 

Photo of small juniper

A juniper bush that was brought by the birds. I have several of these sprouted up, and I’m allowing some to grow (this one is about a foot tall) because for habitat my yard is a little short on evergreens.

 

Photo of weed with tiny flowers

This weed seems to fool me every year. The leaves look like coneflower, or some other desirable perennial, but when it matures, it puts out clusters of stems sporting the tiniest white flowers. I think it’s really a sort of bur.

 

 

Photo of bumblebee on tithonia flower

A smallish bumblebee that seems the most common type in my yard.

 

Photo of Spicebush Swallowtail in motion

A Spicebush Swallowtail in motion.

 

Photo of Spicebush Swallowtail wing detail

A crispier view of the wing pattern. Some members of this species don’t seem to have the double row of white dots on the upper wings, but I don’t know if that’s a gender distinction. Notice the striking mother-of-pearl coloration on the lower wings.

 

 

Flower Forms

Photo of rudbeckia flower

A fancy variety of rudbeckia grown from seed this year, that ought to be perennial.

 

Photo of monarda flower

Cheerful closeup of a pink monarda. Note the unopened flowers have little hairs coming off the ends.

 

Photo of blue geranium flower

What the inside of a blue perennial geranium flower looks like.

 

Photo of pickerel weed flower

This is the bloom of a pickerel weed, a bog plant. You can see that it’s covered in tiny tipped hairs, like a sundew.

 

Photo of butterfly on milkweed

I don’t know what kind of butterfly this is, enjoying the milkweed. It’s hard to catch one with its upper wings out.

 

Photo of milkweed seedpods

And here’s an inside view of the milkweed hedge, this year producing such clutches of seedpods that the look is a little tropical.

 

Photo of coneflower border

And finally, the abundance of coneflowers along the drive. Not much butterfly traffic so far this year. A fritillary and a yellow, and several of the tiny ones, but only one each of pioneering large butterflies: a monarch and a tiger swallowtail. The populations may pick up in late summer. And I have goldfinches feeding in this bed, mostly on tithonia seed.

 

 

 

 

Preservation of Habitat

Photo of large pin oak

For scale, this is a shot of one venerable pin oak in my back yard. (There are two.) This tree is probably not a hundred years old. The house was built in 1962; the oak has lived on for fifty-eight years, and might have been twenty or thirty years old when it and its friend were saved as a feature of the property. It could not have been very old, or the construction would have damaged its root system.

Going on from there, I want you to think how rarely, when you walk through a woodland, or state park forest, you see trees of this girth. Only areas preserved to protect significant trees are likely to have many several feet in circumference. “Old-growth” forest, of course, has trees of all ages, part of any habitat’s continual recreation of itself. But a hundred-year-old tree today still was born in the twentieth century. The woods and all they support: birds, mammals, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fungi, mosses, shrubs, wildflowers, ferns, etc., have to have been sustained in close to their condition when the most endangered species thrived there, for those species to thrive today.

Logged land that has grown back since the 1920s may look old, but represents a minor span in the history of—let’s say for the sake of argument—the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. If we want to believe some undiscovered population is still alive, we have to believe there are woods left alone from the time the last one was seen (1944, in the Singer Tract, which was destroyed). If, in the United States, no habitat for the Ivory-billed has been sustained since the 1940s, having the same mix of trees, allowed to live and die as nature dictates, then the survival of the species is unlikely.

All of which warns us that we can’t fall for restoration as the reassuring answer to environmental depredation. It’s easy to say that forests cut down can be replanted. Restoration projects are important and need to continue. But plans for the future, or the fact that it’s possible to make them, should not become an acceptable compromise against preservation.

Only commitment to both preserve and limit wild areas to human access will slow the rate of extinction, erosion, watershed alterations that lead to drought, and other effects we are running out of time to forestall.

 

Photo of bright orange daylily

I don’t take the trouble to label my daylilies, so I don’t know what their names are, but this is one of my favorite oranges.

 

Photo of deep ink daylily

And here’s a deep pink.

 

Photo of driveway border bed

And here is the front border by the driveway, already looking good with a lot of pinks and whites, but several more blooms to come.

 

 

Wildlife in the Garden

 

Photo of deer mother and babies

These are the guilty parties who have been nipping the heads off my daylilies. We had a bad convergence the other day, rain into the night, that prevented spraying the vulnerable flowers; then dry weather when it was too late to go out. That made a window of opportunity for Mama Deer and her babies.

 

Photo of deer trail through flowerbed

Photo of deer trail through flowerbed

Above are two deer trails I have created/enhanced in my under-tree bed. They look delicate, but deer have a tendency to blunder through the garden, knocking over edging, stepping on and breaking, or grinding, some of the flowers you were hoping to keep. I have four bits of advice for coexisting with deer:

1) Allow natural areas in your lawn; don’t take away all their usual food by having too-perfect grass. 2) Plant mostly deer-resistant flowers. 3) Spray the endangered things, including veg, that you want to protect from them. 4) Plant lots of anything you hope to see flower or fruit. A few will eke through under cover of other plants.

 

Photo close-up of squirrel nest

The squirrel population has been burgeoning this year. They’ve built themselves a squirrel McMansion up in the oak. But today, in a surprising and excellent development, I looked out my window and saw a Golden Eagle perched on the lawn. The squirrels were frozen in various semi-hiding places, giving off warning signals. It seems the rabbit population has gone down, so predators that depend on them may have to hunt other prey.

 

Photo of poison ivy leaves

Leaves of three. When poison ivy plants are just getting started, they don’t always have the characteristic lobes or teeth. One that looks like this, though it might disguise itself as a wildflower or shrub, is just as bad as the others.

 

Photo of garden pathway

This is the garden pathway, showing the deer trail pictured above, branching off. I load on as many fallen leaves as I can in autumn and winter, and you can see how completely they’ve decomposed by summer. Meanwhile, all the branches that come down make nice defining edges.

 

Photo close-up of nicotiana flower

Close-up of a nicotiana blossom, a nice purple, which seems to be one of the rarer colors.

 

Photo of cleome flower

Cleome is a funny sort of creature. The plants smell like sour lemon; they make these curious flowers with stamens like bundles of computer cable, and as the flowers fade, each petal/sepal (whatever it is) curls up like this, in a row. And they have thorns. Cleome are also super-easy to propagate from cuttings. Just include a leaf node on a piece of stem, and stick into moist garden soil directly.

 

Photo close-up of ageratum bloom

I always plant ageratum, reliable grown from seed; the periwinkle blue is a great accent to any other color. In this tight shot, you can see what the flower form really is.