I typically like to photograph light-colored flowers against a dark background, like the shadows in the woods, but the breeze was moving the shadows and sunlight around and a very light patch ended up behind these cranesbill geranium flowers. I love the shade of green, and I like the effect. They are in my back yard, and have naturalized in a nice row at the edge of my “woodland garden”. The are a native wild plant, and I brought home bits and pieces of plants from old homesteads about to be bulldozed for development. They are a geranium, and if you look at the shape of the flower you’ll see a similarity with the flowers that grow in clusters in the geraniums we find more familiar. The name “cranesbill” is derived from the shape of the seeds, which grow in clusters like the buds you see on the left, a small oblong shape but with a long pointed protuberance that is reminiscent of the beak of a crane.
Join us in Our World Tuesday blog hop.
I turned the soil in my garden during a sunny afternoon yesterday. The first turn in the spring always assures a few root crops left behind the previous autumn, like the tiny carrots, above. I usually also find tiny potatoes, a turnip or parsnip or two, and a few things sprouting early with edible greens and even a few edible natives are sprouting and greening up. Often it’s enough to make a soup or stew or a side dish, but this year these carrots and a basket of turnip greens were all that were to be had.
It wasn’t so long ago when people gleaned the fields for such things, food stores were gone, and what they found was the only thing available to them to eat. I sometimes wonder how society advanced when simply not starving to death was a daily battle, and I wonder how many lives were lost because only a handful of baby carrots was available for food. I will not complain about how had life is—modern days have their travails, but I have a refrigerator with food, and a store just down the street. Many thanks to our ancestors who had the will to survive.
It’s my annual paean to gardening and the cycles of life.
Every year in the month of March I awaken one morning with the knowledge it’s time to plant the peas, another step in the flow of the seasons. Though I have plants growing indoors, this is truly the beginning of the gardening season for me. Whether it’s the sun, moon, weather, schedule or simple urge to get out there and get my hands dirty I don’t know, but I enjoy the simple manual labor without assistance from any electronic device, ears open to the birds, face feeling the breeze, hands and feet feeling the earth. Many a photo, poem, essay and painting has been inspired by the simple acts of growing things.
Today is not the day, yet later this week, I feel, it will be, and then I will be far too busy, and nowhere near my computer, to post this essay, so I want to share it now, and share my excitement for the coming season of growing. I first read this essay for the first New Year Poetry and Prose Reading of the erstwhile Carnegie Writer’s Group which I’d led from 2003 to 2006. In the meantime, I’m soaking my “Early Sweetness” peas so I’m ready when the day comes.
On Planting Peas
It is early March and I am planting peas. The wan spring sun is finding its heat and lays like a warm hand upon my back as I work. Signs of approaching spring fill my senses in the mild air on my skin, the scent of damp soil and the shrieks of children as they run in frenzied circles of freedom, much like the birds swooping and circling above whistling their mix of songs.
We have passed the first intoxicating days of air that does not bite, endless sun warm enough to melt the last snowfall into a composition of dripping and trickling, soften the soil and make one’s blood run with the abandon of a stream overflowing with spring thaw. The dawns have come noticeably earlier and the muted indigo dusks have lost the sharp quickness of winter and softened to a moist lingering evening.
Perhaps it is the phase of the sun or the moon, the proximity to the vernal equinox or some eternal voice that speaks to those who will listen about the time and season of things, or my own impatience to join in with the cycle that has been going on without me for a few months. Whether it is any of these reasons or all of them or none of them, I awaken one day in March every year with the knowledge that this is the day to plant the peas. It is as clear a yearly anniversary for me as any holiday, and can…
The daffodils sprouted—today! I saw the leaf litter was lifted a bit yesterday, but no trace of green. Today, the sun touched the tips; the crocused, squills and tulips had also pushed aside the leaves but none looked so much like fingers reaching for the light as the new daffodils.
The dried flowers of this many-flowered aster have gone to seed, each tiny seed bearing a little frizz of down that will carry it away on the wind come spring. Here, lit by the sun of a late winter afternoon, they glow like sparklers.
A few last flowers unfold on a slightly warmer, sunny November afternoon.
Known for blooming in May and June along with the forget-me-nots and buttercups, clematis likes cooler weather and each fall, after the burning heat of late summer has browned most of the vine’s leaves, the rains of September and cooler nights of October revive the new growth and a few buds form and bloom, bringing a touch of spring color, albeit a bit faded, to the autumn garden.
Better late than never. Take the risk.
A ripe tomato surrounded by seed heads of grass , dried asters and goldenrod and her own shriveled foliage, doesn’t last in the November garden; her color is faded, and the warming sun has forced the frozen juices from her skin to form one hesitating, reflecting drop.
Cold rain fell on the peppers but didn’t dull their colors, a warming sight for a cold day. I applied the “fresco” filter in Photoshop to this photo; the original is below. The red chiles were so intense in the cool light that I couldn’t get the color under control.
Tiny pendulous raindrops held in place on the back of an impatiens leaf by surface pressure, the leaf bisected by its spine, the drops showing dark shadows on the bright side, brilliant magnified sun on the dark side of the leaf.
The tops of corn plants, the light through the leaves, and a teeny tiny spider tries to catch a final meal with a slight web between to plants.
Taken on black and white film with Pentax K-1000 in my garden years ago.
That’s actually the name of this particular autumn aster; I guess they ran out of creative ideas in naming the dozens of little white composite flowers with their raised warm yellow centers. I’m a pushover for little white flowers, especially when they are gently touched by morning sun against a backdrop of weathered wood.
Most asters have flowers only at the end of the stem, or they bloom in succession along the stem, but this particular aster also has many branches, each with their own sets of flowers, and when they bloom all at once the plant looks very snowy; this is probably the origin of the term “many-flowered”. Here is last year’s photo entitled “Many Flowered Aster”.
The morning glories are still blooming and in noonday sun add a big splash of color. Of course, I desaturated anything that wasn’t morning glories, but that was my impression of them.
The white Rose of Sharon flowers always reminded me of an old-fashioned bonnet or frilly hat, here caught the morning after a rain with water droplets weighing down the petals.
Who doesn’t welcome the sight of a brilliant pink rose on a dark autumn day?
Catching such voluptuous raindrops as these is a rare event—it either has to be right after the rain has stopped (falling raindrops will blur the photo with movement) or a day where rain falls intermittently and the humidity remains high so the raindrops don’t evaporate.
In either case, it’s generally pretty dark and overcast so all those lovely raindrops have few highlights, and shadows are saturated.
In this case, between the showers, the sky brightened enough to pick up each and every droplet, and to highlight the brilliant pink of this rose on one of my neighbor’s rose bushes. It had rained so hard that the water was even pooling in between the petals.
Raindrops on roses…and for my feline-oriented friends, we all know the next line!
One of my pink geraniums catches the late afternoon sun. Over the years these pink geraniums, kept in the basement over winter and set outside in spring to flourish another year, have each changed color, fading to palest petal pink or deepening to magenta, another to a bright coral. This one retained some of the deeper pink veins on the petals along with a blush of deep pink fading to the top, , but edged with the finest line of deep pink, which makes the florets appear deep and lush, yet lacy. Any cuttings I take will likely not look like this, but will take on their own identity.
My cayenne pepper plants are hanging with so many long slender peppers already, like ornaments on a Christmas tree, and still more flowers are blooming. It is all so green, but soon those peppers will turn red and warm many foods come winter.
Autumn is known for its brilliant reds and golds, not necessarily pink, but I love the slightly faded shades of pink in autumn, the Autumn Joy Sedum a soft rose and even the late summer phlox losing the edge of its magenta in the softer autumn sunshine as it leans down to mingle, green leaves relaxing their color too.
I’m back to that old white barn in my neighbor’s back yard. Each year morning glories grow at the corners and they always look fresh and new, no matter the color. The graceful vines and shapely bright green heart-shaped leaves along with the vibrant purple flowers look delicate and sweet clinging to the weathered boards with peeling white paint.
Another huge clump grows at the corner where the fence meets the building, and I’ve had my eye on that since it started twining on the fence, waiting for the flowers to bloom. I went there this morning to catch them in full sun but before the flowers closed for the day, but it’s been so dry they were wilted. I tossed my bottle of water on their roots and I’ll hope for a better outcome, a little earlier tomorrow morning.
Autumn wildflowers aren’t nearly as showy as spring wildflowers, but their lacy forms create clouds of shape and texture and delicate color, especially along a water’s edge.
These wildflowers are growing right along Chartiers Creek in Carnegie, and that’s the neat thing about wildflowers—they’ll spring up anywhere they can find a bit of soil for roots.
Starting from the left…
The yellow flowers are evening primrose, a native biennial that opens as its name predicts, in the evening. The flowers are just opening here.
The deep violet flowers are purple loosestrife, an non-native invasive perennial that was popular in gardens but which has escaped and is very successful growing along the edge of any body of water. It’s not too abundant here, but in areas where it becomes established it crowds out native plants that feed local songbirds and attract native insects for pollination.
Near the center, at about 11:00, there is one stem visible from blue vervain, another native with tiny seeds that finches love.
The fuzzy pink flowers are joe-pye weed, a native annual, and can grow anywhere from one to six feet tall with curved umbels of soft pink flowers. To the left of the joe-pye you’ll see some white flowers as if the joe-pye is fading to white—this is actually boneset, another native annual.
On the right you can see a spray of pink flowers. I first saw this several years ago and simply could not identify it with any of my guide books. Then two years ago I saw a specimen in a conservation garden and thought I’d marked it in my book when I got home, but no. I’ll have to go out and find it again.
They are just beginning to bloom after the drought, but the autumn colors are showing in purples and yellows. Here the spikes of purple loosestrife (an invasive annual best cut for presentation in a vase so the seeds don’t spread), and Queen Anne’s Lace, flower heads diminished after the heat with aromatic wormwood mix with everyday hybrids geraniums, impatiens and lobelia and my vintage phlox.
The view out my basement door as I did laundry today, the garden in the morning sun, flowers blooming, some dishtowels on the line, the brick patio, the trees in shadow behind. Some of the colors could be brighter, but it’s such a welcome sight nonetheless.
Part of the glory of summer is the flowers that show off their brilliant colors, and while we think it’s for our enjoyment, it’s actually for their own purposes.
Here are deep pink impatiens seen from behind like an umbrella turned inside out, with late morning sun shining through the petals and leaves, varied shadows and color changes in the overlaps, but a moment in the beauty they bring to the world.
The heat in this bleak over-paved overpassed area washes out nearly all color, yet green things still manage to grow.
I desaturated what little color there was except for the green.
On such a vivid blue-sky day when the trees are about as green as they are going to get and even the dirt looks like beach sand, this line of junked cars could be mistaken for a line of cars waiting to get to the beach. I went to an auto wrecking place to get a new back window for my 95 Ford Escort Wagon, and unless I pay more than the car is technically worth for a brand new one, this is where you go. An interesting walk-through seeing cars new and old sitting there waiting to be torn to bits to keep other cars going. Call it the vehicle organ donation place.
Really, the sumacs and hardy wildflowers don’t care where they grow, they are happy with just enough sun and moisture and they’ll produce their flowers and wave their green leaves in the breeze, sprouting through mashed bumpers and hiding missing wheel and doors and broken windshields left behind by an accident, a story in itself.
I accidentally left my little point-and-shoot on the “flower” setting because I was shooting in low light earlier and that helps to keep the colors defined, and this is why it looks like the Caribbean when it’s really only a fairly grim riverside junkyard in Pittsburgh.