Friday, August 17, 2012

While I Was Working

Some weeks I never know what I'm going to get when I look through the pictures I have randomly snapped while doing other tasks.  Makes for some random blogs, like this one...

I think my favorite "wow" moment this week was today when I was intently destroying all large weeds in my path with the string trimmer.  Gradually I realized the tree I was approaching had the largest leaves I had ever seen.  I had never noticed this particular tree before because it is tucked away in a corner of the arboretum where I seldom go.  I stared at it for a while, before the whirring of the string trimmer brought me back to the task at hand. As soon as I was done, I had to find the camera.

The fruits are starting to turn red, and are quite a handful.

Look at how big that leaf is! It is as long as my arm from shoulder to fingers!  A little research and some tips from my boss helped me learn the identity of this large leafed magnolia.  I think this is Magnolia tripetala, also known as umbrella magnolia.  Unfortunately, I also learned the flowers are pollinated by flies, which means they smell really bad.  I'm not sad I missed seeing it bloom.  Probably a good thing this tree is tucked into a forgotten corner.

Now for much smaller, but not any less random, things I came across that interrupted the mundane.
Meadows in bloom

Deliciously fragrant Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'


White begonia



Japanese anemone

Beautiful variegated perennials: ginger, painted ferns, lungwort

The occasional slightly pretty weed, that I photograph before obliterating it...

Toad lily

I also noticed the seven-son flowers are starting to open up, so I am hoping I can catch those at their peak. There is always something to see at Welkinweir.

Visit our website and then come see the real thing!  You can also find us on facebook. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

When Welkinweir Goes Wild

The Rodebaughs, who were the original owners of the estate and arboretum at Welkinweir, wanted to "provide sanctuary for biodiversity." Over the course of many months, whenever I've been lucky enough to have the camera with me, I have taken pictures of some of this biodiversity, or some of the unmistakable evidence of their presence.
A beaver (and possibly one or two more) lives in the big pond.  It likes to cut down the trees near the water's edge, and build extravagant dams on our own dam and spillway to stop the water.  Beavers cannot stand the sound of running water.  It creates some extra maintenance needs at the arboretum, and some hazards, but the beaver likes to dine on the water lily tubers and keeps them from overtaking. So, we let it be.  The beaver itself is hard to photograph, but its handiwork is not...
Talk about persistence...or maybe lack of judgement. I think some of our arboretum visitors explained this strange behavior best, "It has to be a male beaver. He just doesn't have a wife around to tell him that tree is too big for him to handle!" And another added "Or to make him finish a job when he starts it."  And yes, both comments came from males.  It is thought it was a lone male beaver for a while, but someone claimed to see 3 swimming in the pond earlier this year.  His extreme show of strength must have won some lady beaver's heart. 
We have a lot of bird boxes at Welkinweir, and admittedly the season for baby birds has mostly passed.  The picture above is from much earlier in the year, and I think (don't quote me on this) that those bug-eyed, yellow billed monsters will eventually turn into the beautiful, graceful looking tree swallows.  Right now we have Carolina wrens nesting in a cardboard box by one of the entrances to the estate house.  This species is a southern bird, like the name implies, but are slowly expanding northward and live here year-round.  Maybe that explains their late nesting.

While I'm still on the subject of birds, I was lucky enough to watch a bird banding demonstration given to summer camp kids at Welkinweir.  It was a lady and a gentleman whose names I do not recall, but apparently they come here every year to band birds.  You have to be licensed to do this.
The unsuspecting birds fly into a very fine netting and fall harmlessly into a little pocket, and are then carefully retrieved.  This one was being very vocal about how displeased it was to be in that predicament. 
When freed, this irate tufted titmouse latched on to her thumb for a few minutes.  Another defense this species has is to puff up its "tuft" when threatened to make it appear larger. 
After a while though, it let go, and she was able to show the kids how to record data. They measure wing span, and use a straw to blow the belly feathers to determine about how old the bird is.  The kids really enjoyed the straw part, I think because the bird would protest loudly every time.  Finally, she attached a band to the bird's leg before releasing it.  The bands are uniquely numbered and species specific, because the diameter of the bird's leg will not change throughout its lifetime.  The unique numbers allows the individual to be identified if it is ever netted again.  This allows people to study bird dispersal and migration, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success, and population growth.

We also have many reptiles and amphibians at Welkinweir.
This amphibian was trying to blend in.  If you visit Welkinweir, you can hear a bullfrog on the pond.

These reptiles were laying eggs earlier this year, which is about the only time of year I see them.
Snapping turtle, laying eggs on right.

Painted turtle 

I also see many snakes, sometimes eating some of our amphibians, but thought I would leave those images to your imagination. :)

And finally, there is an abundance of insect life and a variety of arachnids here.  I can do without the ticks, but I saw an interesting, and sufficiently ugly spider to photograph for your enjoyment.  

Red Admiral butterfly

When you visit Welkinweir, don't forget to bring your camera, and keep an eye out for wildlife.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Naked Ladies and a Bunch of Hot Air

One of the tricks to getting someone to read an article, or a blog post in this case, is to use an intriguing title.  If you just read that sentence, you fell for it.  Now I should probably explain myself.

It's not every day that a hot air balloon lands at Welkinweir. Probably because they really aren't supposed to, but due to some miscommunication, we had a rather large "flower" in the garden for a minute or so.

And there is a lily, affectionately known as naked ladies.  It has other names too, like magic lily, surprise lily, and resurrection lily.  If you're going to google it, I suggest typing in Lycoris squamigera.  They are blooming among the ferns near the spring house.  They have such interesting names because the foliage disappears before the flower stalk comes up.

Naked ladies and hot air aside, I want to share several photos of what is blooming in the Barn Ruins, or what was blooming during the past few weeks.  The Barn Ruins is second to the Children's Garden for summer interest, and definitely worth a visit, but I suggest bringing insect repellent and coming in the early morning.
gooseneck loosestrife, Lysimachia clethroides

The black and blue salvia on the right is quite beautiful, but the blue is hard to capture on camera. Come see it in person!

Geranium 'Rozanne' on left, and ladybells, Adenophora confusa on right 

blue eyed grass, Sisyrinchium

Crocosmia 'Lucifer'

Belamcanda chinensis, also known as blackberry lily. The one on the left is 'Hello Yellow'. I do not know the red spotted variety.

Japanese Jack-in-the-pulpit

perennial sunflower, Helianthus

Lonicera sempervirens, 'John Clayton' on left and 'Major Wheeler' on right

The portulaca are putting on a great show. I believe these are Portulaca grandiflora, more commonly known as moss-rose.  We seem to have almost every color out there.

If you come too early you might miss the portulaca since they wait until mid morning to really open up. but definitely put visiting Welkinweir on your list of things to do this coming week.