A Little Surprise of Orange

I haven’t gone batty – this isn’t orange by even a stretch of my imagination. It is a hens & chicks I bought last spring to put in a hot, dry spot where they thrive. When I looked at the tag, however, it said that it was hardy down to 40 degrees F, and Michigan winters get a tad bit colder than that. I bought it because it was beautiful and I have a perfect place for it on our lanai in Florida. I also had the perfect pot for it and it was happy on my front porch by my purple porch swing all summer.

Then I saw a blossom coming from the center and upon checking there was a baby chick. What a surprise, but the surprise was even greater when the blossoms opened.

What a pretty orange color and it keeps getting longer and longer although I brought it into the kitchen because our nights are getting colder now that we are going into the last half of October.

Brought to you in response to Jude’s, Life in Colour October “orange”.

June Close-Ups

Wildflower taken at a local natural preserve.

During the Covid pandemic we found fun, diversion, and emotional healing by spending time in nature where we could be almost normal when all social gathering was dangerous. The past two springs I have spent a lot of time in my garden attacking weeds (a good target for virus-anger), moving plants that weren’t thriving according to my original garden plan, and dividing plants (some of them 10 years old) to increase their flowering and to spread their color in the garden. Now, in the first week of June, my garden is covered in new green growth with small patches of color here and there. Within a month it should be a sea of color – in fact I think I can see the green growth quivering, just waiting for the right moment to send forth its blooms.

Geranium growing in a container.

Yes, I am waiting for June to do its transition from spring to summer. I look daily for signs of flower buds on my perennials and just finished up an application of liquid fertilizer designed for blooming plants – just in case nature (and my soil) needs a little help.

Bearded iris that has a beautiful variegated leaf.

I am having to wait – something my personality doesn’t do gracefully. My waiting is helped a little by the wonders of digital photography and computer science. I decided to go back to the digital files of past Junes to find close-ups and macro shots for the CMMC where Cee is asking us to provide close-ups or macro photos. I had a good number of them because I had bought a close-up lens filter in June of one year so I put in some practice time with it. I haven’t used it lately so maybe that would be a fun project as my garden begins to flower again.

Freshly washed local strawberries anticipated towards the end of June.
Wonderful black cherries grown on the northern sandy shores of Lake Michigan.
Last year three of us ate 60 lbs. (give or take) of Michigan high bush blueberries.

And how can I fail to mention the most important anticipation associated with June – the promise of freshly grown Michigan strawberries, blueberries, and black cherries. We wait all year for this production and June means that we have only one more month of waiting. Depending on weather conditions and where they are grown in Michigan, they may start during the last week of June and into/through July. Strawberries have the shortest season, sometimes only a couple of weeks if it is really hot.

Surface of Lake Michigan on a calm, blue-sky day.

June is also an excellent time to visit the northern Michigan resort areas because their tourist season doesn’t go into full swing until after the Fourth of July holiday. June holds all of the excitement of a new season of warmth while still being a bit cool for swimming in the Great Lakes and our many inland lakes. We will be heading up to the Traverse City area with our camper next week-end for a few days (we save the Upper Peninsula for later because summer is slow in coming that far north). I think I will put the warmer quilt on our bed as the nights are still pretty cold in June but too warm for flannel sheets (I hope). I am looking forward to walking the sandy beaches of Lake Michigan, shopping the charming stores of the small tourist towns, and maybe even visiting a winery on the Mission Peninsula for a sampling and maybe a lunch.

Very Bright Cat Tails

Couldn’t resist using this for Becky’s Bright Squares when I ran across it while perusing old files for spring photos. The back lighting of the seeds breaking free from cat tails really brightens things up.

A Bright Little Friend

Gray Catbird (Dumetella Carolinensis)

We had strolled around the Botanical Garden, walking out to the birding tower where wading birds were having breakfast in the shallow waters of the natural landscape. It was a good morning, and Jim had been very good-natured as I had taken lots of photos. Exercising this patience must have built up quite a hunger because he stated he was heading for the cafe for his coffee, scone and newspaper. More precisely, a chocolate chip scone. It has been eaten with no photographic evidence so you will just have to image picking up a slightly warm scone and biting into a tender biscuit with lots and lots of slightly soft rich dark chocolate. I’ll give you a minute to savor this moment.

We were savoring every bite, every crumb that we could retrieve from our shirt fronts, when we were joined by this little fellow who took a seat just to my left. It was a new bird to me but he seemed to know us or didn’t care who we were – he just wanted to let us know what he was expecting as our guest. Someone must have used the table before us because he very quickly swooped in, grabbed a crumb and flew away. But he returned and continued to communicate to us.

Jim is a very kind-hearted person and also loves feeding birds. Even though I reminded him that we aren’t suppose to feed wildlife in the garden, he put out an ever so tiny crumb of his half of the scone. This time the bird hopped onto the table, took a nibble and sat and looked at us. Could he be thinking that here were a couple of real suckers?

My Smithsonian Birds of Florida book says that this bird, “Often cocks tail upward and flicks from side to side.” Could we speculate what this behavior was communicating in this circumstance? In any case I’m thinking he is a “bright” little bird.

Linked to Becky’s Bright/Square challenge of the month.

A Tree Full of Surprises

Jim and I were strolling along the service path by the Deep Lake on a Tuesday early morning visit to the Naples Botanical Garden. I was watching for the sun and clouds to do their dance so an interesting illumination would fall on the palms across the lake or the grasses along the edge on our side.

Then I remembered to look up, toward the other side of the path where the more formal gardens are. Looking up means looking up into trees, but also looking up the side of a hill. Southern Florida is flat, so flat that the only hills are the Interstate overpasses – and a couple of hills in the Botanical Garden. They aren’t natural hills, however. A master plan for the Naples Botanical Garden was drawn up by a very talented team and construction on the first phase of the 170 acres future garden began in 2008 with the digging of Deep Lake and Lake Tupke. This resulted in 250,000 yards of fill for the sculpting of the site creating hills for water falls and raising the “formal” part out of the swampy Everglades landscape. That seems like a whole lot of fill, and I know that a couple of places are higher but not high enough to get my heart pumping as I walk to the highest elevations.

But that was a little (up-hill) digression. When I looked away from the lake I saw these orchids perfectly spotlighted by the morning sun. They are in a fairly large tree.

The tree is a Bottlebrush (Callistemon spp.) and obviously older than the garden, growing quite tall and sprawling along the incline of the hill that forms the Florida Garden. Trees in Florida are usually home to lots of plants – If you look closely you will see Resurrection Fern (looking quite dead) by the orchid and there is Spanish Moss hanging. I recently learned that Spanish Moss isn’t actually a moss, but is a bromeliad with tiny, yellow-green flowers in summer.

We were headed for the Florida Garden and when we reached the walk up onto the hill, I saw more of the orchids and realized that this was the end of Bottlebrush tree – you can see the red bloom. Probably the orchids were propagated in the orchid nursery and attached to the tree because I read that pollination of orchids in the wild is tricky if they aren’t native. We went about half way up the hill (not a high hill by hilly standards, maybe only considered a hill in really flat environments) and when I looked over at the tree I saw orchids planted all along a long horizontal trunk.

Even more surprising is that the trunk is supported by a very large rock. This is a landscape that doesn’t have an abundance of large rocks for landscapes so I would guess that this one was trucked in for this purpose. One of the missions of the Garden is conservation and preservation. I feel fortunate that this tree is growing and being preserved. Many of the old trees were lost in 2017 when Hurricane Erma hit Naples with wind gusts of up to 140 mph.

We are starting to think about going back to Michigan for the summer. This year I’m especially excited about going back because I will get to see and hug kids and grandkids for the first time in over a year. And I am really looking forward to having vaccinated friends over for supper and maybe cards and game playing. As I am thinking about these things, I am also thinking about all the things we will want to do a few more times before leaving Florida. I probably have three more visits to the Botanical Garden so I better make the most of my visit tomorrow morning.

Thanks for joining me.