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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Animals

The squirrels in Texas are very bold, let me tell you!  I didn’t need a long lens for this shot, in fact I was half-inclined to take a step back, as this feisty little critter gave every indication that he was about to run straight up my leg!

For more on Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge go to Any Animal (no birds)

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Our Garden – So Far

So far this year we’ve had a colorful show of flowers in our garden, with a couple of nice surprises and only one or two disappointments. The early spring bulbs in the rock garden did very well and the daffodils made a fine display.



The tulips, however, were a different story. I don’t know if it was because of the cold winter weather or if the bulbs are just getting past their best but most of the plants were stunted or just didn’t flower at all. I noticed in a couple of public gardens that they hadn’t seemed to do so well this year, so I didn’t feel too bad.  The ones that did manage to flower made up for the ones that didn’t.



Meanwhile, the lilac was a very pleasant surprise.  The shrub itself was starting to get very tall and ragged so at the end of last year I cut it right down to the ground, leaving just a couple of offshoots that I hoped might survive.  I hadn’t expected it to bloom again for at least another year or two but it put out some beautiful, fragrant blossoms.

Back in the rock garden, things continued to flower, the cushion spurge, dwarf iris Lil’ Red Devil and Japanese anemones providing a nice show.

I tried eradicating the chives from the garden last year as they were coming up everywhere, but I have to admit I was rather pleased that this bunch by the back doorstep managed to survive. I think I would have missed seeing these colorful flowers and the butterflies that they attract.

As I discovered the other day, this seemingly innocuous clump of pinks hides a massive ant hill. I must take care not to disturb it when I’m weeding this particular flower bed. I had enough trouble getting stung by the hornets last year, without getting bitten by ants!

We had a spell of very wet weather last week which produced a bumper crop of mushrooms – or whatever they are – in the lawn.

Things are drying out now and the sun, accompanied by warmer temperatures, has prompted the first iris (Lacy Snowflake) and the first poppy to bloom, while the queen of the garden, the pink Japanese tree peony continues to dazzle passersby with her beauty and fragrance.


Elk Spotting

Maybe it’s because I’ve always driven by at the wrong time of day, but I had become increasingly concerned that I hadn’t seen any sign of the elk lately and feared that, owing to inevitable budget cuts, the Forest Preserve had decided to abandon the idea of maintaining the herd in Elk Grove Village.  It would surely be unthinkable!  But you never know, these days. I decided to stop and take a closer look.

I saw plenty of wild flowers including some red things that I think are trillium and some purple things which, as far as I’m concerned, must remain nameless. There were dozens of squirrels running about and a woodpecker was making quite a commotion up in the treetops while a few frogs gently burped in the background. Still no sign of the elk.

I walked up as far as the bridge that spans Higgins Road and then came back, keeping well to the side as some of the cyclists who use the path go speeding past dangerously fast. PLEASE! PEOPLE! Remember that pedestrians use this path too, some with small children.  Almost back to the parking lot and still no sign of the elk, but then, just as it seemed like my worst fears may be realized, there they were.

Phew! What a relief! They’re still with us, looking a bit ragged as they shed their winter coats but seemingly healthy. Elk Grove Village just wouldn’t be the same without the elk!

 

Weekly Photo Challenge – Place in the World

Ever since I was a little kid, growing up in post World War II London, I have loved gardens. We didn’t have a garden of our own until I was seven years old but some of my earliest memories are of playing in my great-aunt’s garden and visiting my grandma’s house in Hackney.

One of the things that stands out in my mind from those early days is the heady perfume of the flowers; roses in the rain and the gorgeous scent of lilac blossoms, which is why, every year when May comes around, I head to Lombard for the Lilac Festival. I may never be able to go home again but visiting Lilacia Park at lilac time is probably the next best thing.

The timing of a visit to Lombard is everything and, although I was a bit too early to catch all the lilacs in full bloom this year, I was able to see the accompanying tulips at their best. They always have an interesting variety of these spring flowers at the park, with names such as Yellow Pomponette, Copper Image, Orange Princess and  Dream Touch.

Of course, the lilacs are the stars of the show and their heavenly scent made me feel nostalgic, thinking of Mum and how she loved to visit Lombard in May, both of us missing home and remembering the long-ago days of lilacs, primroses and bluebells in the wood.

A beautiful garden will always lift my spirits though, and with the sun shining, making the colors come alive, I quickly set about capturing these images. I guess you could say that a garden is my most favorite place in the world, no matter where we are.

For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post go to Place in the World

 

The Darling Buds of May

There was an abundance of buds, blossoms and blooms at The Chicago Botanic Garden this week, and with almost perfect weather conditions it was an ideal time to take some pictures.

As Shakespeare so aptly put it, “Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May, and summer’s lease hath all too short a date:” The flowers that we enjoy during these spring months only last for a brief spell so it’s good to get out to the Garden as often as possible in order not to miss anything. The daffodils are almost finished now, but azaleas are making a beautiful show and the tulips are still looking spectacular.

One of my favorite walks in the Garden is along the path by the Sensory Garden where primula, columbine and anemones among others, vie for attention in a colorful display. Christina Rossetti certainly got it right when she wrote, “There is no time like Spring, when life’s alive in everything,

There are plenty of seats available to rest awhile so relax and soak up some of that welcome spring sunshine and then on to the other end of the walk where the vibrant hues are just as breathtaking as the flowers all along the path.

At every turn, the Garden is aglow with color and when these flowers are spent there will be different ones to take their place.  It won’t be long before Summer is A- comin’ in!

Weekly Photo Challenge – Unlikely

Those of you who follow my posts regularly are aware that it’s highly unlikely that I will knowingly or willingly go inside anywhere where birds are flying about.  I had a suspicion that there might be birds in The Domes at Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park but we had made the trip specifically to visit there and thankfully the domes are so huge that, after poking my head round the door to make sure it was safe, it became apparent that any winged inhabitants were, at least for the time being, staying well out of the way.

That’s not to say that I wasn’t very much aware that there were birds nearby. I could hear them. But there was just so much to see and photograph in The Desert Dome that after a while I became a lot less nervous.

The Desert Dome was the last of three conservatories to be completed at Mitchell Park and was opened to the public in 1967. Cacti and succulents from Madagascar, South America, Africa, Mexico and the American Southwest are featured in appropriate settings and the variety of plants in this dome is simply astounding.

Despite keeping a wary eye open for any birds that might be about, there were thankfully no close encounters.  Does that mean that I would cheerfully enter an enclosed space where there are birds flying free in the future.  It’s extremely unlikely, but never say never.

For more on The Weekly Photo Challenge at The Daily Post go to Unlikely

 

Under The Domes

It’s been a long time since we last visited The Domes in Milwaukee’s Mitchell Park, Wisconsin, but with the better weather now upon us, we thought we’d take a drive up there and see how things are doing.

First, a little bit of history and a few facts and figures.  The Domes were designed by Milwaukee architect Donald L. Grieb, and the first of the three domes, The Show Dome, was completed in 1964. First lady Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the facility to the people of Wisconsin in 1965.  Each dome is 140ft across and 85ft high and has 2,200 triangular panes of glass. No pesticides are used on the plants inside the domes so beneficial birds, insects and toads are used to keep things under control.

The theme for the Show Dome is changed five times a year and it’s usually closed for about two weeks in order to prepare for each show, so make sure you check ahead of time before you visit to make sure it’s up and running.  I didn’t think about that before we left home, but we were lucky in our timing.  The current theme is Shakespearean with famous quotes from many of his works dotted around the displays.

The colors were brilliant and the perfume from the lilies was intoxicating!  These shows may last anything up to fourteen weeks so they require constant attention. The plants are watered by hand every day and are changed out as needed.

 

Tucked away, in a shady area of the Show Dome is an interesting piece of history.  This stone lion was one of eight animal heads that stood watch over the Mitchell Park Sunken Garden and Water Mirror from 1904 to 1966. I’m glad they managed to save him from demolition. I must say that Mitchell Park itself is looking very run-down now compared to how it looked when we visited many years ago but I imagine keeping The Domes looking as impressive as they do must take a lot of funding and the focus has obviously shifted over the years from the outdoor gardens to these magnificent conservatories.

That being said, unfortunately, the future of The Domes seems uncertain. The park’s website has a page dedicated to forthcoming plans and it would seem that they are asking everyone to keep an open mind as far as options for going forward with regard to repairing and rebuilding, which, reading between the lines, doesn’t sound too promising.  So I would urge you to visit The Domes now and enjoy this amazing facility and, if possible, show your support for one of Milwaukee’s most beautiful attractions.

More on what’s under the other two domes in an upcoming post.