Monday, July 25, 2022

Self Starters

 My fascination with insects really took hold when our young daughter decided to do entomology for 4-H. We lived in town and grandpa had sold the farm, so while her she wanted to show livestock of any size or breed was totally out of the question, she settled on entomology.  Her collection over the years finally earned reserve champion at the Colorado State Fair. She followed in the footsteps of my dad who raised butterflies and moths in his bedroom during the depression years. I'll write about him soon. Jen's father, known here as the Head Gardener, also collected insects for 4-H, and now her oldest daughter Ellie proudly asserts that she is the 4th generation family entomologist. 

I prefer not to collect specimens, but rather to photograph them. I am especially intrigued with bees, particularly bumble bees. While honey bees get all the attention because they are having difficulty surviving these days, they are not the only pollinators in our gardens. On a recent bug collection walk with the Jen and Ellie, I expressed my concerns over catching bees for the collection. Still, I believe in research and learning about even the smallest and seeming most insignificant life forms, but we didn't capture any bees that day.

Colorado has 90 different bee species, so the lofty goal of photographing every one of them would be beyond my capacity.  I concentrate on my garden and other gardens that I visit. Last week we traveled east to Haxtun, CO, a very small town on the northeastern plains where our long time friends live. 

While the HG helped my friend pull weeds in her rose garden, I photographed the bees going about their morning work in Sherry's stand of echinacea by the mailbox. Using my 300mm telephoto lens in the athletic mode, I was able to capture some work place drama.

While this bumble bee worked quietly alone, another bumbler had a very rude encounter with another bee.

Of course these photos happen quite by chance. In athletic mode, the lens stays focused and the camera takes continual sequential exposures  as long as the shutter button is held open. So I was taking a sequence of photos, hoping to get the bee in flight. Instead I captured another bee flying in for a landing.

Things didn't go well for him. Instead of making a smooth landing, he collided with the bumble bee. It would seem that even pollen gathering has its workplace hazards.

I saw more than one collision and began to wonder if those small bees are blind. If not blind, they are very clumsy or rather careless aviators. The bumble bee--much larger--didn't seem phased, for he continued working while the other bee gathered his composure and stumbled to his feet.

I never did get a bumble bee in flight, but caught another bee headed for a crash landing, too.

Back at home in my own garden, the orange tiger lilies transplanted last year are beginning to bloom. I've waited all summer for them. We had a much needed heavy rain the night before, so I was out in the garden early to photograph the water droplets on the lilies.

Later in the morning, I went out to the vegetable garden to photograph the newest sunflower, a large self planted girl with a big face and a wide smile. I took dozens of photos of her along with other garden plants and even some of wildlife that lives amongst the leaves. 

Ladybugs are always a garden favorite. They have their specific job: eating aphids. This year we seem to have a larger ladybug population. Using the 55mm standard lens on my DSLR camera, I can get within centimeters of the my tiny subjects then I like to edit the photo, cropping it as tightly as I can without losing focus on the image to get as much of a close-up as I can. This photo is of a wild sunflower, cropped and edited for color effect. 

Ladybugs wandering amongst the sunflower leaves offer very exciting photos because the tighter the shot and the zoom, the greater detail. I'm not sure which I find more intriguing: the hairs on the sunflower stocks or the large, wicked looking lady bug mandibles. 

While the HG planted 6 cabbages, we only have two mature. I think they are ready to pick, which means that I'll be making krautburgers in the near future.

Even cabbage offer interesting photography opportunities

Still wet from the rain, the cabbage with an interesting texture can be fun to explore once the photos have been downloaded. Like that black speck on the water droplet. It could be just a speck of dirt.

I began with a wide shot, then began zooming in to get more detail. As I did so, the black speck flew away, but not before I got its picture.

Cute little guy that I never would have seen had I not zoomed for a closer image of a rain droplet. 

Cabbages are not nearly as much fun as the sunflowers laden with ladybugs, though. Here's another tightly cropped photo with more detail.

Most of us don't like to be photographed from our back side, but the sunflowers don't mind.

Isn't Bug World grand! Look for the rain drops on the lady bug's back.

From the wild sunflowers to the newly planted hybrid roses, the Garden Spot has plenty of stories. The rose story continues with little drama. One of the transplanted roses is ready to bloom, but on a stalk set off from the main graft, so I have a feeling that is from the old rose, but because it is pink, it may be First Prize, a Weeks registered tea rose. We shall see. Still the roses are doing well; all are showing new growth. It's doubtful that any of them will bloom this season, but maybe depending on when the first cold weather ends the growing season.

This giant girl showed up one her own. She's probably a descendant of the agricultural sunflowers grown as a cash crop in the area, her seed carried in by a bird. I didn't get around to planting any other sunflowers  this spring because it was so cold, so I enjoy the self starters, the wild ones that always make me smile.

So these are my two favorite garden things: Pop begging me to open the gate so that he can go eat his breakfast and the sunflowers.

Meanwhile back in Haxten. While wheat grower Dave Anderson lives in town, if we want to see much of him during a short visit, a trip out the family wheat farm is a must. The dryland corn (not irrigated)  is a total loss. Not enough moisture for it to grow. The wheat crop yield will be low this year, too, for the same reason--no snow over the winter and no spring rain. The winter wheat is planted the late in the summer then harvested the following July. Andersons farm nearly 15,000 acres--just a small family farm. 

We leave the main highway, taking the country road. Sherry knows exactly where her husband and the crew are cutting the last of wheat.

With the wind generators on the not so distant horizon,  half a million $$$ worth of equipment brings in the load of wheat.

The HG rode along with the combine driver, learning about the technology that not only guides the giant combine, but maps the field as it goes and provides data on the crop.

From the combine, the wheat is off loaded into the grain cart where the weight for that load is calculated by onboard computers scales then it is transferred to the semi trailer that will haul it to the storage bins. 

Our Colorado farmers had a rough season with a cold, low moisture spring, increased production costs, availability of fertilizers, pesticides,  and machine replacement parts, insects, and more weather. 

Thanks for visiting. It's always a pleasure to be with you. I'll be joining Angie at Mosaic Monday where you will enjoy other wonderful stories with their beautiful mosaics. 

This week, my mosaic tells the story of the self starters at the Garden Spot where the little quotation "Bloom where planted" offers inspiration for those times when we don't land exactly where we intended--like the asparagus seed that was transported from the Garden Spot over to the pond. At first first I tried to pull it out, but it kept coming back--now that is perseverance. I hadn't identified it as asparagus. Now it gets a reprieve.  I'm curious as to what it will do next season.


Join me, too, at Ann's Dollhouse Dreams where I indulge my inner child and chronicle my adventures in the land of miniatures. 

Sunday, July 10, 2022


 The front garden right in the middle of the driveway, has been such an awkward space to work with. When we first moved here 13 years ago, the pine trees were toddles, barely 6 ft high. The previous owner had mulched the front half of it with river rock--mini boulders--not gravel. It had an underground water sprinkler system and even an underground electrical hook up to Christmas lighting. I thought: "What a wonderful garden spot." That first spring red tulips popped up and continued to do so every year until this year they didn't bloom because we had an unusually dry spring( just say the ugly word, drought) 

Once the aspens and pine trees (truly Colorado natives) were large enough to provide shade, I began my plan to create a shade garden, adding more and more shade loving plants. Most of time I was able to keep the bind weed, wild morning glory, and thistle under control then last spring, a very wet one, we had an  gave growth power to to both the desired and undesired plants in the center circle--actually tear shaped--was out of control. The bad guys--bind weed and morning glory-- took over on the shade side, covering everything, chocking out some of my favorites cultivars. The vinca crossed the path, filled the path, and combined with the wild morning glory to cover everything, creating a tangled mess of unwanted plant material.

On the sunny side of the trees,  Canadian thistle took over and continues to be a huge problem, even after a lot of mitigation. One generation is killed, while the new generation pops up. 

We began working on a plan to clean up the mess, but last year, but didn't follow through, hoping, I suppose, that Mother Nature would take pity and miraculously take care of the undesirable plants.  The plan had been to use the push lawn mover to cut it all down, which the Head Gardener finally did last week. We had transplanted our favorite plants: hostas and bleeding heart earlier, along with some columbine and the knofphia.  I so hated to dig them, but the were being choked out, making center circle redo necessary. My neighbor at the old house had given me a start of the beautiful orange and yellow spiked plants, and when we moved from that house here, many of my plants came with me, including my knophia. 

We dug some of the Columbine, transplanting them, too. They have a huge main root, so hopefully they survive the move. 

The path that I once created with the river rock had all but disappeared with spreading vinca that has taken over this garden. The Weed Eater made easy work of cleaning the path.

We tried pulling some of overgrowth just to make the chore easier for the mower.

I'm hoping to save the Malva plants had spread nicely, but the weeds had taken over. Once we cut back the bad stuff, I thinking that it can be irradiated and we can sod around the Malva, leaving it in place.

Canadian Thistle continue to plague this part of the garden. Hollyhocks replant themselves, by-passing the garden plan. The iris and Oaks registered day lilies that were moved from our previous garden 13 years ago, have been relocated the vegetable garden where they will be nurtured and perhaps replanted in other places. Now the weed mitigation continues. Soon the Head Gardener will get the rototiller in to work the soil and hopefully sod by summer's end.

Around The Garden

Just playing around with the camera, taking photos of the wet rocks around the pond as the lawn sprinkler splashes over the water, lily, and rocks.

I like wet rocks. 

Plenty of critters in the garden last week, too. 

Up close and personal, watching a lady bug chomp on a wild sunflower.

The imposing caterpillar feeds on the same sunflower along with several others. Once it has had it fill, it will begin its metamorphosis into a beautiful fritillary butterfly. I looked this little guy up on Youtube. You'll enjoy the video, too.

"Raising a Variegated Fritillary From a Caterpillar"

Unrelated, this little Taxiles Skipper has been hanging around the flowers in the garden bed around the back patio.

And the bees have been busy, too, raiding the hollyhock by the patio. 

Gathering pollen is messy work.

It's common to see the Gold Finches feasting on the cone flowers in the fall after they have died back, but in summer? This was quite a lucky shot.

Poppies are late spring bloomers here, unless you plant them late then you get a surprise later on.

But the brilliant orange blossom does not last long and soon produces its

seed pod.

I love doing close up photos using my Nikon D3500 with the 70-300 telephoto lens. I don't have bend, stoop or put myself in compromising positions the might cause a fall to get a nice close up.

Even in the end of its cycle the poppy had a certain beauty. Who says purple and green don't go together?

Rose Update
 So far no new growth on the rose transplanted from around the corner from the dark side of the house.  In fact, this rose looks rather stressed.

But those three moved to the vegetable garden next to the hen pen are all showing signs of grown on the branches above the graft, meaning that the hybrid teas roses have been save--at least for the moment. So very exciting.

The vegetable garden looks amazing. We are eating lettuce from the garden now.

Finally the first wild sunflower shows a shy face.

Potpourri of Good Things:

Lucy and Mariah gearing up for county fair; a lost ladybug; Brody on squirrel duty, old, blind kitty,  and a sweet baby's hand--the little blessings in life not to be taken for granted. 

Have a fabulous week. I'll be joining Angie For Mosaic Monday. See you there.

A Rose by Any Other Name

Jackson and Perkins roses have been in the garden for at least 10-12 years. This year they have been spectacular. The bushes were taller and...