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Signs of Autumn

The late great Woodrow Culvertson was a beggar lice (a.k.a. Desmodium) magnant.

Here in the Deep South, our seasonal changes are often less dramatic than they are in more northern states.

When Autumn rolls around here, the quality of the light changes and the sky becomes intensely blue.

The goldenrods, asters and rosin weeds begin to bloom in wild places and spider lilies pop up around old house sites.

Daytime temperatures are still fairly warm but nights begin to cool.

Another sure sign of Autumn is the sudden startling appearance of beggar lice.

Right now we are in the midst of the Desmodium (beggar lice, tick-trefoil, tick clover or hitch hikers) phase.

This plant is a member of the pea family.  The most common species here has bright pink flowers in late summer.  Triangular seed pods soon form and attach to clothing and fur with hooked  hairs.

My dog Woodrow could accumulate hundreds in his long hair on an average fall walk.

Woody passed a few months ago and this fall it seems like there are a lot of beggar lice with no place to go.

 

 

 

RIP Woody

Woody was a happy dog. He always seemed to be grateful to have been rescued.

On Saturday my number one garden dog passed.

He had a good run – fifteen and a half years.  I am proud to say that he was able to die at home surrounded by his people and his pack.

Our dear friend Marc dug a grave near the creek that Woody loved so well.  We planted a seedling of Mississippi’s state champion bur oak beside him – a fitting tribute.

But still I miss him.  I found this story that I wrote about him many years ago.  I will post it here.

WOODY

A.K.A Woodrow, Woodrow Culvertson, Booger, Boogie, Woodjananda, Eraser Nose

One cold rainy February day I noticed three young dogs roaming the roadside looking lost. As I stopped, the two brown pups ran in alarm.

When I approached the white pup, he laid down in a rut full of rainwater and quaked in fear. I touched him gingerly, afraid he would bite. Instead he continued to shake. So… I picked him up and took him home. Later that morning, the vet told us that he was probably part airedale and about 3 months old. Since I was on my way to get wood when I found him, we named our road find – Woodrow.

Woody’s brown siblings were later adopted by a friend of ours. She told us that the three pups had been living in a culvert under the interstate.

That first day, Woody was so traumatized that he would not look at us or wag his tail. We expected that it would be days or weeks before he relaxed into his new situation. He was traumatized further when we bathed him. Later that day,however,he began to realize his good fortune. He started wagging his tail and look deeply into the eyes of his newfound humans with gratitude.

Woody immediately found his place in the pack. He offered obeisance to all even to the smaller dogs. He quickly realized that Skipper was his mentor. Skippy, the alpha male was going on 15 years. He was one quarter pit bull, one quarter Australian ridge-back and half free-breeding street dog. He was a force to be reckoned with.

The young Woodrow Culvertson receives instruction from his dog mentor, Skippy and my husband Richard.

Skippy initiated Woody by putting the fear of dog into him. Every time Woody committed some grevious act, he would cower as Skippy towered over him snarling and snapping the air around Woody’s head. When the lesson was over, Skippy turned his mind to other matters and Woody immediately became giddy and gleeful again.

Woody’s favorite place is the creek behind our house. Every morning, he makes a bee line for the creek. He returns in about a half hour wet, muddy and happy.

In the photo, Richard and Skippy pause on one of our creek bridges to give young Woody a lesson.

After Skippy went  on to the Happy Hunting Ground, Woody rose in the pack to a position second in command (behind little 10 pound Malva of course).

Snow Day!

It’s been a few years since we had snow in my part of Mississippi.

Today about 3 inches accumulated and, of course, everything closed except a few convenience stores.

Down here very few people are equipped to or know how to drive on ice.  So even if you are prepared and are a great driver, it is likely that someone will crash into you without warning.

Instead of lamenting the prospect of being house-bound, I embraced it.

We had a righteous breakfast mid-morning and later I took the dogs and my camera out for a walk on my land.

 

The view from my back window enticed me to go play in the snow.

My two old dogs, Woodrow and Ursaluna acted like puppies in the snow.

The view was great but I could not bring myself to lounge on the creek deck today.

The cold tub wasn't very inviting either!

This is probably the only snow we’ll see this year.

It’s been a lovely day but tomorrow I’m sure my Spring Fever will be back with a vengeance!

The Ever Entertaining Bee Meadow

As those who subscribe to this blog have probably noticed, I have been on hiatus.  I have probably published only two blog posts this year.  Hopefully I am about to get back on track with this update on the Bee Meadow.

Newcomers to this blog can search “Bee Meadow” and read 12 or so posts that tell the story of this native pollinator planting that was installed in 2010.

I have discovered that the hill in my neighbor’s back yard is the perfect vantage point for taking photos of the site.

Ursaluna looks like a black bear headed off to rob the honeybees in this late April shot taken from my neighbor's hill.

During April we had a few scattered prairie phlox  and yellow false indigo flowers but mostly a carpet of white clover.  Now in mid-May, more flowers are blooming and budded.  This week the first flowers on the starry rosin weed (Silphium asteriscus) appeared.

Starry rosin weed shows off the chunky bracts that make up the silphium's unique involucre. The chunky bracts help to distinguish rosin weeds from sunflowers which have much narrower & pointed bracts.

Yellow false indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) has been blooming for a couple of weeks.  Since there is diversity in the population of plants, they all bloom at slightly different times.

Woodrow meanders behind a lovely yellow false indigo. This one came from my friend Allen Anderson in South Mississippi and is always the last to bloom.

I’ve noticed that my dogs enjoy grazing on a spring tonic of goldenrod and big bluestem leaves.

After snacking on goldenrod leaves, Dotsie pauses to admire the prairie phlox.

I have decided to photograph the Bee Meadow at regular intervals all summer.  I’ve chosen vantage point near the prairie phlox (Phlox pilosa) and will try to shoot from the same spot each week.

Since it looks as if we have four robust bee hives this year, I also hope to be spending time here harvesting honey!

 

A Late Splash of Orange

We had enough of a hard frost to fry the African blue basil in my front yard.  But then our weather progressed from balmy winter days to muggy winter days.

I can see this 'Georgia Gem' blueberry from my bedroom window. Wilbur B-Diddy Bobo likes it.

I am really appreciative of the fall leaf color that is hanging in.  Right now the blueberries are my favorites.  I try to never draw a landscape plan without using a few blueberries.  As landscape plants alone they have lovely late winter flowers, nice arching stems and day glow orange fall leaves.  Then, of course, the tasty fruit is there for me and the birds.

I’ve noticed several rabbiteye blueberries (Vaccinium ashei) in my neighborhood with very showy fall color.  My rabbiteye blueberries here have pretty good color but my showiest blueberry is a variety called ‘Georgia Gem’.

‘Georgia Gem’ is actually a southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum).  Here in the first week of December the leaves are a startling coppery orange.  They show no sign of dropping any time soon.

Woody strolled on a shag carpet of cypress straw last weekend.

This has also been a stellar year for bald cypress color.  It has been so fine, in fact, that I’ve been embarrassed to remember that I used to think that bald cypress didn’t have very good fall color.  I’ve officially apologized to cypress trees everywhere because I was just wrong!

After the hickory next door lost its leaves, we could see the Earth Day cypress glowing like a beacon even though it is well over 200 feet from our deck.

The Earth Day cypress was planted by my students during an Earth Day celebration at Meridian Community College where I used to teach.    Two years later I walked out the back door of my classroom one day to find the poor tree ripped out of the ground and lying there with roots exposed.

After walking past it for two or three days, I decided to take it home.  It was about 8′ tall but was so dehydrated and emaciated that I could carry it by myself.  Richard made fresh clean cuts on the roots where the tree had been ripped from the ground and we planted it in our wet area.

The Earth Day cypress lived to tell the tale.  It took a lick or two during Katrina but is about 40′ tall now.

My bald cypress trees are still holding a little of their bronzy foliage.   Most of the leaves are in a colorful pool beneath the trees.  Walking through the cypress grove is like walking on a soft spongy orange carpet.

It’s a soggy dreary day today.  But… no worries – orange color shows up well on cloudy days.

When I pass my bedroom window on the west side, I can see the Earth Day cypress.   When I turn toward the south, I am treated to a view of the ‘Georgia Gem’.

Thanks to these two – it’s a lovely day!

 

A Day in the Prairie – Part I

Two weeks ago I spent the day touring prairie remnants near Forest, Mississippi.

The outing was sponsored by the Mississippi Native Plant Society.  Heather Sullivan, our fearless leader, is a Botanist and Curator of the Herbarium at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science.  So.. we were in good hands.

Our primary goal was to visit Harrell Prairie Hill a 160 acre tallgrass prairie preserve to view the purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) display.  Harrell Prairie is part of the Jackson Prairie Belt which is a type of Black Belt Prairie.  The site is located in the Bienville National Forest.

I’m going to try something new with this blog post.  It will mostly consist of pictures and captions.

Here our whole group wanders through Harrell Prairie.  The sky always looks so large in a prairie!

We quickly found purple coneflower in bloom along with purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea), white prairie clover (Dalea candida) and yellow prairie coneflower (Ratibida pinnata).

Monty had more fun than anyone.  He paused for a brief moment in the photo above to pose with New Jersey (Ceanothus americanus) tea in full fruit.

Speaking of fruit – I have never seen a deerberry (Vaccinium staminium) with so much fruit.  Every one of these huckleberries that we encountered in the prairie was loaded.  But… unfortunately the fruit was not ripe.

Rosepink (Sabatia angularis) was blooming throughout the prairie.  I hope my Latin name on this one is correct.  At any rate, this plant is a member of the gentian family and is an annual that comes back from seed every year.  It is very delicate in appearance but tough as nails.

I was having such a good time  and finding so many interesting plants that I decided to continue the field trip after the main group headed out in search of ac and cool beverages.  Many might describe them as the “smart ones”.

Luckily I found three other diehards to accompany me.   I will post Part 2 of the Prairie Trip tomorrow.  Stay tuned!

Change of Heart

Junebug (aka Muffin) grazes behind a righteous clump of Spring Beauty in a disturbed area on our land.

Right now in my part of the world a humble little wildflower adorns the roadsides.  It even occurs in fields and lawns if herbicide has not been rampantly applied.

I am speaking, of course, of a frothy little thing known as Spring Beauty or Claytionia virginica.

Many years ago my friend Peter gave me a carefully nurtured pot of Spring beauty.  I accepted politely, but as he handed it to me I wondered “WTF?”.

After all it was not a very showy plant even in full bloom and it was everywhere in the Black Belt Prairie where I grew up.

Why propagate it and label it with a carefully scripted tag indicating date and place of origin?  Seemed like overkill…

But I was younger then.  I missed a few subtleties.

And I was not alone.  For the most part, I don’t think young people notice Spring beauty.

It is too small.  It is white or pinkish and seems to disappear in certain kinds of light.  It is difficult to photograph.

Now, however, my attitude has certainly changed.

I’m on a crusade.  I must have more Spring Beauty.  I crave it like Chris Walken craves the cow bell.  I’ve learned that the power of Spring Beauty lies in numbers.

I want it in every patch of lawn.

I want to watch it feed my honeybees.

I stop people and point it out to them.  They look quizzically at me.

And I realize that I’ve come full circle.

 

 

Memory Lane

The dwarf huckleberry is budded and ready to burst into bloom.

Today is my birthday.

I awoke to thunderstorms and the rain has continued for most of the day.

I usually spend my birthday doing a little planting and meandering around in the garden.  After all those are my favorite things to do.

But today, due to the weather, I spent a lot of time listening to the pattering rain – ensconced on the couch with my computer.

When the rain slowed to a drizzle, I went forth to plant.

First I excavated a hole for a batch of spider lily bulbs (Lycoris radiata) that my friend Jerry Palmer gave me.  Then I planted 3 mysterious daffodils pilfered by my friend Pete from a field behind the Meat Pie Store we often visit in Louisiana.

The Optician, one of Marc Pastorek's ceramic heads, is thrilled that soon he will co-habit with a coral honeysuckle.

I headed to the back yard next.   I had set several pots in place for planting and they’ve been waiting on me for almost two weeks.  They seemed to taunt me every time I looked out the back window.

Their roots are in the real dirt now.  The rain tonight will settle them in and the taunting will come to an end.

I planted a couple of coral honeysuckles (Lonicera sempervirens) from Dr. Dirt.  I will train them to scramble up the posts that hold our Marc Pastorek heads.

I prepared three lovely holes for the native bellflowers (Campanula americana) that I got from Terri and Mike at Gro-Wild.

I admired one of my first year daffodils.  It is a large golden trumpet called ‘California’.  It looks like a keeper.  Then I found the first flowers on an old favorite, the sweet little ‘Hawera’.

'California' is one of the newest dafs in residence.

I was surprised to find plump pink flower buds on my dwarf huckleberry (Vaccinnium darrowii) and glad that the early viburnums and the pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) are still blooming.

Like many garden rambles, this one felt like a walk down Memory Lane.  Almost everything that I planted or admired reminded me of one of my plant buds and brought a smile to my face.

I returned to the couch and my computer.  I was wet and muddy

The dogs slept contentedly after their garden romp.

In my younger years, I might have considered this to be a boring  birthday.

But… today was a good day.

 

The Most Fun I Had All Day

Boona likes to help me collect flowers.

I am in the middle of a house renovation.  It’s exciting but exhausting.

My mind is always going lickety split from one idea or task to the next.  What color should I paint the bedroom?  How much money have we spent?  Did I pick the perfect faucet?

This evening, however, time was suspended.  I wandered around my six acres and just looked and gathered flowers.  I compiled them into a bucket along with stems of foliage and fruit.

I collected native grasses, sunflowers, black eyed Susans, ironweed, beautyberry, mountain mint, devil’s walking stick and Joe Pye weed.

I will assemble these into a wildflower arrangement for our Mississippi Native Plant Society Meeting tomorrow at USM in Hattiesburg.

Stop by and check it out if you’re in the area.


 

Mellow Mallows

Turk's Cap Mallow's scarlet blooms attract hummingbirds and yellow sulfur butterflies.

As I’ve said before, I am very appreciative of the plants that came with my house.

Some of them are wild plants that migrated in from the fields and woods.

Others like the Turk’s Cap Mallow (which is native to only two counties in Mississippi) were probably planted.

In midsummer during my first year of residence, I noticed that the hummingbirds and sulfur butterflies flocked to a cluster of mounding plants with scarlet pinwheel shaped flowers.

The flower color seemed incredibly intense against the healthy lobed deep green leaves.

I knew immediately that this was some sort of hibiscus relative.   A little research led me to conclude that my mystery plant was Turk’s Cap Mallow (Malvaviscus arboreus).

My brand new feist dog puppy at the time weighed only a couple of pounds but was mean as a snake.  As we brainstormed for a flower name for the puppy we settled on Malva or “Malva Viscious” (no relation to Sid).

So that year I was out in the garden hollering for “Malva”  I also spent hours trying to capture the perfect hummer shot on film.  The Turk’s Cap bloomed from mid summer into the autumn.  I spent quality time with the mallow and used her name quite often.  I was smitten.

Some might think that the startling flower color could be difficult to use in a landscape design.

I have, however, noticed that it perfectly compliments creamy yellow butterflies as well as emerald green ruby throated hummingbirds.

As I wrote this post, I learned that the flowers are edible and can be used as a garnish or steeped to make a tea.

The red pulpy fruit looks like a tiny heirloom tomato and is edible as well.

I plan to make a pot of tea this week.  I’ll garnish a salad soon with a few flowers.   And later in the season I will sample the fruit.

I will report back regarding my culinary adventures!


 

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