Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Spring Is Really Here.

4-26-17 SHORT HILLS: Rain, rain, rain since I got back here. Things had been a little dry so it’s welcome, but the forecast for the next several days is more rain.

I came down with a passenger, a Northern Catalpa tree, Catalpa speciosa, that I bought at Browns Nursery. The tree filled the right side of the car, but was very quiet and needed no rest stops. It’s a nice seven footer, now planted on the south side of the yard near the chestnut tree. The catalpas are spring flowerers with large leaves. No one sells them in NJ as they are considered ‘messy’, dropping cigar-like seedpods in the fall.

Spring is in full swing. Trees and shrubs are leafing and flowering, the grass is greening up, birds are draining the feeders.

I owe a public thank you to folks who fed me in VT, Donna and Bruce and Shari and Dave, thanks again for the company and dinner. Last night here we had dinner with Bill and Lynn.

New blooms: dogwood, viburnums—Chinese snowball, Korean spice, nannyberry, Kwansan cherry, yellow lamium, barberry, apple, blueberry, lilac, bleeding heart, red bud.


Kwansan cherry, if you like pink, this is your tree.

Chinese snowball viburnum has very sweet aroma.

Yellow lamium has a complicated flower. The pollinator goes for the nectar in the throat indicated by the orange markings while the stamens under the umbrella-like top petal dust the insect.

Apple the last fruit tree here to open.

Pink dogwood...

And red dogwood. The white ones are out also.

Red bud just opening. They seem to have no stem at all.

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Warm Day, with Sunshine.

4-24-17 VERMONT: Yesterday was beautiful and today looks to turn out the same, but I will enjoy it in the car on the way back to NJ. It was in the sixties yesterday.

Five turtles were sunning on the banks of the pond, the fish were all over the surface hitting a hatch of some sort of insects. Crocus and hellebores open up. The wood ducks were back for another extended visit as were the flickers.

I finished all that I can do in the gardens at this point. The bed border barriers are up. We still have snow piles, but they’re much smaller than a week ago.

New blooms: crocus, hellebore.


I wonder what she sees in him?

She's not a bad looker herself with that eye make-up.

White-throated sparrow.

Northern flicker.

Crocus.

More crocus.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Flickers and Ducks.

4-22-17 VERMONT: Yesterday was a washout with all day rain, and today is damp and dark and dank with a little drizzle. I will try to get out this afternoon if it warms up. I did walk around the pasture this morning and do some clean-up along the road until I got cold and came inside.

While I was in the pasture, I saw a large bird up high in an ash tree and took several pix. I noticed there was a second one, a pair. All the pix are partial views, but I think they’re Northern Flickers, the eastern, yellow-shafted variety.

Yesterday and again today a pair of Wood Ducks spent time in and around the pond. They walked the bank, the ate frog eggs, she ate a frog [video on FB], they swam the perimeter and were here for a couple hours. This morning a pair of Mallards were here for a brief visit.

New blooms: forsythia.


Yesterday a pair of Wood Ducks spent a couple of hours exploring our pond and environs, checking out the water....

The banks....

the reeds, can you see the female?

She's easier to see here. She ate a frog - video on FB.

Today we had a brief visit by a pair of Mallards.

I saw these birds in the pasture. I think they're a pair of Northern Flickers, yellow shafted variety.

There are no unobstructed views, but different images give you the whole picture, so to speak.

That's an ash tree BTW.

Two birds, male on the left.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Hawk and The Salamander.

4-20-17 VERMONT: I’ve been busy doing more clean-up, there’s always another cluster of dead branches someplace I overlooked before. Today I repaired the pond bank where it had broken down from the flood or from the winter frosts. I used Wellingtons and rubber gloves to keep my hands and feet dry. The pond temp is about 50° and still quite clear. I uncovered a family of spotted salamanders, but tucked them back in their nest.

This afternoon I started fertilizing the shrubs and flowerbeds and adjusting the pH for those who prefer it alkaline or acidic.

We still have snow piles under the eaves, but they’re all smaller. There was rain yesterday and last night that cut short my day outside.

Cousin John and I had dinner at Tuckerbox in WRJ last night.

This morning as I entered the pasture, I saw a big bird in a dead pine tree that stands taller than the rest of the trees out behind the pasture. I got a couple pix and am guessing it’s a Coopers Hawk. Anyone??

New blooms: red maple and sugar maple.


I saw this hawk in the woods and got this shot from the pasture gate.

Sunrise a couple days ago.

More pink.

Another shot of the hawk...Coopers Hawk??

You can see the red and orange of the maples on the whole hillside.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Flood.

4-18-17 VERMONT: I arrived yesterday afternoon to find the pond overfilled to the point of water flowing across the dam that makes the pond the pond. There is a large, vertical pipe near the dam that maintains the level of water in the pond by draining any water higher than the top of the pipe, just like in the bathtub.

The outlet of that pipe, out in the pasture, was blocked by a giant iris plant. With a shovel, rake and large crowbar, I was able to tear the plant away from the outlet. It came away in pieces and took about a half hour to get the pipe completely open. A huge torrent followed that actually washed out some of New Boston Rd a quarter mile away down the hill. In an hour the pond was at its normal level. I think that in another day, the dam might have washed out causing an even bigger flood. The town has filled the hole in the road.

Today I started spring chores. I unwrapped the terrace furniture that had braved the winter outside under a big tarp. I moved the picnic table back onto the deck. I started picking up the sticks and branches from the yard and got three cartloads. There’s more, but in areas to wet to walk on.

The pond has an army of frogs doing their spring thing. After the water level fell, I had to move the egg clusters back in the water. Newts and crawfish are active. I haven’t seen any turtles or fish.

New blooms: snowdrops.


The pond is way bigger than it's supposed to be.

The water has reached the top of the dam and is flowing over the top.

Back to normal. You can see the water line on the right bank. That bench  on the right was in the water.

I always say that spring cleanup has to be done in the fall. If I had to cleanup those places still under the snow after it melts, I would traumatize the new shoots in front.

Snowdrops and one crocus considering the weather.

On the right in front of the snow bank, are two cluster of snowdrops just exposed to the sun. the ones closer to the snow are still yellow and smaller than the others that have been snow free for a day longer.

Mts. Lafayette and Lincoln on the horizon still have snow. The red and orange color of the maples are the flowers opening.

Masses of frog eggs that I had to re-patriate when the water level fell and left them on the grass.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Spring Happenings.

4-15-17 SHORT HILLS: The weather has been seasonal, and there’s been no rain for a few days. I’ve been busy with various chores as well as anxiously watching for recovery of cold damaged plants, some of which have shown recovery, and the others are, hopefully, still asleep.

I planted two Red Osier Dogwood ‘Bailey’, Cornus sericea [stolonifera], in the ‘wet’ bed under the bald cypress. I think that cypress might be growing its first ‘knee’. I put three grape hyacinths, Muscari, in an open, but shaded woodsy spot. We had had some, but they seem to have disappeared.

We had wisteria near the front doors that never bloomed, I gave them a couple decades to flower, but pulled them out yesterday and put in two pink Clematis Montana rubens, that are already in bloom, and will grow up the porch supports. I felt bad about the wisteria, but gardeners must be as ruthless as politicians.

The house wrens are back at the birdhouse tidying up for the new season, and at least three goldfinches are in their summer outfits.

New blooms: march marigold, trout lily, violet, dandelion, purple lamium.


House Wren doing spring cleaning at Wren House.

One of these Goldfinches has decided that summer is here. Actually there are about three in yellow at the moment.

Marsh Marigold is one of the spring ephemerals that stands two inches tall. In less than a month it will vanish until next April.

Trout Lily is another two-incher, named for the mottled leaves.

A look under the bell. This, too, is only out in April.

Purple Lamium has an orchid-like flower, the pollen is under the upper umbrella petal. This is a four-incher, but the foliage lasts all season and is a great ground cover.

Violet, about one-incher, has another complicated flower, the foliage also stays out all season.

A different daffodil.

Here is the pear tree flower fully open. The last post showed it partially open.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Race Is On.

4-11-17 SHORT HILLS: The spring race to bloom has started. We were away for two days and missed the start of the explosion. A series of warm days has motivated the denizens of the yard make the leap.

I just checked, and last year the Yoshino cherries opened March 30. The next week looks like warm-to-seasonal weather through the 17th, and the chance of a severe freeze is unlikely after that, I hope.

We have one daffodil open, but many of the other daffodils stalks are curled up and black from freezing. I’m not sure that the bulbs will survive to bloom next year.

New blooms: Yoshino cherry, quince, daffodil, currant, clatonia, pear, pulmonaria, pussy willow.


Quince, is usually the first of the fruit to open.

Yoshino cherry.

Yoshino cherry.

Yoshino cherry with bee. This tree was swarming with pollinators, mostly bees.

Pear is a little behind the cherries.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Alligators and Vultures.

4-10-17 SHORT HILLS: We got back from Naples yesterday afternoon in time to pick up the dogs, who were incredibly glad to see us even though we had only been away for about 48 hours. Today’s weather here is as nice as Naples was yesterday.

Before we left Naples we all went to the Bird Rookery Swamp Management Unit. [Hopefully, they can come up with a better name.] It’s northeast of Naples in what is usually a swamp, but the rainfall in south Florida has been so scant that the swamp is drying up. There are small, shallow ponds remaining, and the critters congregate at those spots. The twelve mile trail makes a big loop. We did about a mile and half in and back out.

Black vultures were circling overhead almost continuously, two or three dozen and several were clustered around the water holes. There were several Immature white ibises, anhingas, double-crested cormorants, black snakes in the water and on land. And we saw alligators, one mom with about six babies that we saw and one solitary gator. Bald cypress with many knees predominate where we were walking. Unidentified butterflies were admired.


Double-crested cormorant.

Black vultures ominously circling.

Those cypress trees should be 'knee' deep in water.

Immature white ibises and a black vulture.

Momma gator warning us away from....

The kiddies.

Another gator catchin' some rays.

Snake doing laps.

Viceroy butterfly, who did get ID'd, can be confused for a Monarch.

Black vulture.