Monday, December 31, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - Siberian Tiger

Siberian Tiger
Panthera tigris altaica

Palawan Peacock Pheasant

Palawan Peacock Pheasant
Polyplectron emphanum
Synonyms: Polyplectron napoleonis, Napoleon's Peacock-Pheasant

Yesterday I decided to drive down to the NYBG and on the way I saw a sign for the Bronx Zoo and decided to stop there instead. I haven’t done any photography at Zoos before so I thought that might be interesting. It was kind of funny as there were some people with huge lenses and really top notch cameras and there I was with my Sigma 28-200 on my D70 and the 50mm/1.8 on Karen’s D80. If you haven’t seen the 50mm it is very small and almost toy looking. The other shooters got a chuckle out of my equipment that is for sure. Despite my embarrassment and limitations I was able to get a few good shots. This was through glass with the D80 and the 50mm with a polarizer attached.

The Zoo wasn’t too busy and the weather was tolerable. A lot of the animals were out but I didn’t take the time to visit all the exhibits. I liked the World of Birds and that is where I got this picture of the endangered Palawan Peacock Pheasant. This is the male of the species. It inhabits the Central Philippines Island of Palawan and is under pressure from destruction of its habitat due to logging and mining on the island. Hunting has been banned but illegal hunting still continues for food and the live trade. There are fewer than 10,000 specimens in the wild and the Bronx Zoo has successfully bred the bird in captivity.

I had to clean out my brother in laws apartment this weekend. That was sad. We gave a lot of the stuff away to charity and sold a few things. We also kept some mementoes and furniture items. I was missing him greatly and we had some really emotional moments when we were going through his stuff.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dwarf River Birch

Dwarf River Birch
Betula nigra 'Fox Valley'
(BET-yoo-luh) (NY-gruh)
Synonyms: Little King

This is one of my favorite trees in the garden. It is almost an exact replica of its larger cousin Betula nigraHeritage’ without the big size. I planted my grove of 6 ‘Little King’ in 1995, four years after the tree was released by King Nursery of Oswego, Illinois. The final height is 10 -12 feet and the spread looks to be 8 to 10 feet. I like the densely packed twigs and of course the exfoliating bark is nice all year but really brightens up the winter garden. The bark on ‘Little King’ starts to peel at an early age compared to the larger River Birch. The foliage is double serrate and attractive, and I haven’t had any problems with insects. I have noticed the fall color is nothing really to speak of, often times the leaves just turn brown, although some autumns it has a nice yellow fall color.

There are two reasons I favor River Birch over most of the other species of Betula. They seem naturally resistant to leaf miner and the Birch Borer that can be such a nuisance with Birch cultivation. Another reason I like River Birch is that it can grow in tough conditions including bottom land and even periodically flooded areas. It grows in part shade area (although prefers full sun) and almost any soil type as long as there is enough moisture available.

This tree won the prestigious Cary Award in 2007 and I would have to agree that it is an outstanding tree for grove planting, accent or specimen planting or even a deciduous hedge. The Cary Awards are named after Ed Cary of Shewsbury, MA and are awarded to distinctive plants that have proven themselves in the New England landscape. They have three purposes:
1. To inform home gardeners which plants would be good choices in their landscape.
2. To instill confidence in the home gardener's plant selection.
3. To increase the diversity of plant material utilized by gardeners, landscape designers and architects.

I took these pictures at work yesterday, it was beautiful weather although there wasn’t much in the garden to see. The almost inch of rain we had last night probably got rid of much of the snow that was left.

"I heard a bird sing in the dark of December
A magical thing and sweet to remember.
We are nearer to Spring than we were in September,
I heard a bird sing
in the dark of December."

Oliver Herford

Friday, December 28, 2007

White Grape Hyacinth Muscari botryoides 'Album'

White Grape Hyacinth
Muscari botryoides 'Album'
(mus-KAR-ee) (bot-ROY-dees)

These pictures are from spring. The Grape Hyacinth is always a welcome sight to me in the spring. It is a reliable, hardy bloomer that naturalizes and spreads but in a way that is not weedy or invasive. Some people do consider it invasive but I really don’t mind it popping up in the garden. This white flowered form spreads a little less quickly and can be used on its own or, as I like, in combination with the blue flowered ones. The Grape Hyacinth is at home in borders, rock gardens, woodland gardens and even in lawns. If you do plant them in grass don’t cut the grass until the bulb foliage has turned brown. They are excellent cut flowers and are easy to force indoors. If you look at the top photo on this page you will see an example of ‘river’ planting with the blue type. One of my favorite local plantings of Muscari is at the Pepsico gardens in Westchester County. 1000's of blue Muscari planted under the White Birch forest. It really is lovely.

Muscari is native to Europe and Asia Minor and have been in cultivation since the mid-1500’s. There are several species of garden interest including Muscari latifolium, which has light and dark blue flowers on the same stem. Muscari armeniacum, which is most often thought of as the traditional ‘Grape Hyacinth’ and is the most recognizable. M. azureum and the less seen M. comosum also are species worth having in the garden. I have found them to reasonably deer resistant but have had them eaten before. The ‘Album’ type grows to about 6 to 8 inches tall and flower for several weeks.

I took these picture with my Nikon Coolpix 5400 and it was possibly the last time I used that camera. I should get it out again as I love using it. My friend, who is a fine photographer, was putting down Point and Shoot cameras the other day. He felt you needed your eye to a viewfinder in order to compose a shot properly. I had to disagree but basically kept the fact that I love taking flower photos with P&S cameras to myself. For the top picture I wouldn’t have ever been able to get that perspective with my DSLR. Well maybe if I had dug a hole for the camera to shoot up from and laid on my stomach. I also love the minimum focusing distance with the compact cameras; it is something under 2 inches with the 5400.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

ABC Wednesday – W

ABC Wednesday – W

If you are visiting for Wordless Wednesday please scroll down to the next post. Hey that is a couple of W's right there.

W is for wreath and this one is something that I saw a lot of this year, a Magnolia wreath. They were popping up everywhere this season. The Christmas Wreath is an old tradition that started in Germany with the Advent wreath. The Christmas wreath was a better idea since it didn’t require the candles that Advent Wreath did. It’s circular shape represents eternity and it’s greens represents life during the winter.

Happy Landings Park. Brookfield, Connecticut.

W is also for Windmill. This from is a local park named Happy Landings Farm. They managed to save this little patch of land and farm from the onslaught of development. I was able not to show the million dollar (and up) homes that completely surround it.I used a tripod for this shot. This is a little of what the 'old' Connecticut was like.

Westminster Abbey in London

Finally just to shake things up I thought I would post my first ever, on this blog, film scan. I won't be calling this site Digital Film anytime soon. It has been fun to scan a couple of oldies into digital format. It is a picture of Westminster Abbey in London. I think this was taken around 1998. It is a very interesting and special place that was built around 1060. The present church is from 1245 and is the resting place of 17 of Britain’s past monarchs.

Here is a link to a brief history of the church:


Here are some of the blogs that participate in ABC Wednesday.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Wordless Wednesday - Santa has Gone Fishin'

Santa is ready for a much deserved vacation. Hope he was nice to you!

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men! "

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

"Let the children have their night of fun and laughter, let the gifts of Father Christmas delight their play. Let us grown-ups share to the full in their unstinted pleasures"
Sir Winston Churchill

Monday, December 24, 2007

Paperwhite Narcissus

Paperwhite Narcissus
Narcissus papyraceus

I didn’t force any bulbs this year but in the past Paperwhites have proved to be very easy. Some people don’t like the fragrance but to me it is a welcome botanical smell. Paperwhites are native to the Mediterranean area and are hardy to USDA Zone 8. They are part of Division 8 (Tazetta) Daffodils which includes the bunch flowering Daffodils. Division 8 Daffodils have a least 3 to 4 flowers per stem and as many as 20. Paperwhites fall into the higher category and usually have a lot of flowers per stem. If you are interested in learning more about the various Daffodil divisions try this link to the American Daffodil Society.

Photo showing the bunch flowering habit of Paperwhites.

My blooms have lasted up to three or four weeks on Paperwhites before and I generally discard them after they flower. If you need instructions on forcing here is a link to White Flower Farm ‘s instruction page.

The last two photos were taken from the same group of plants. The top photo was at a local nursery.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Reed Stem Orchid - Epidendrum

Reed Stem Orchid
Epidendrum ‘Michael’s Rubelite’
Synonyms: Star Orchid, Crucifix Orchid

I think this orchid is named right, I bought it at a small plant sale so I wasn’t sure. It was blooming at work a couple of weeks ago and probably still is, since the flowers last a long time. I took this using the on camera flash since the light in the Conservatory is a little low, especially on a cloudy day.

Epidendrum is not the showiest Orchid to grow but is one of the easiest. It is an epiphyte type. Epiphyte is used to describe plants that attach itself to another plant for support. It is not parasitic and very rarely damages the host. Often referred to as “air plants” since they do not root in soil this only describes some of the epiphyte type plants, as there are some aquatic plants that are in this category, also. Epidendrum is a huge (mega) genus of Orchids and are native to the tropical and semitropical regions of North and South America. They grow in almost all conditions and elevations and have been distributed and naturalized all over the world. There thought to be about 900 species in the genus.

These are Orchids are easy to grow and can take a variety of conditions when grown indoors or outdoors. The main cause for them not to flower is low light. If yours isn’t flowering move it to an area that has brighter light. They do like a lot of water and regular fertilization.

I took this sunrise picture last week. I don’t remember which day but it was one of the few clear days. It seems like it has been cloudy a lot lately. The colors aren’t bad for Connecticut, eh? When it has been clear there have been some really, really nice sunrises. I guess that is one benefits of living on top of a huge hill. I know one of the bad things is how fast the wind whips through here in the winter.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Compact Summersweet

Compact Summersweet
Clethra alnifolia 'Compacta'
(KLEE-thra) (al-nee-FOH-lee-uh)
Synonyms: Sweet Pepper Bush, ‘Nana’

There seems to be a lot of varieties of this plant popping up. From what I have seen the selections generally have a better habit and even some flower color (other than white). This has always been an standby plant for me as it can tolerate wet and shady conditions and still put on a good show. It spreads by stolons and can develop quite a large patch if left unattended. That is one reason I have taken to using the smaller versions and cultivars. 'Compacta’ gets up to 3 to 4 feet tall which is quite a bit smaller than the species. I usually do a little trimming in the dormant season to help keep it a little smaller and bushier.

Stolon: Botany: a creeping horizontal plant stem or runner that takes root at points along its length to form new plants.

Here is Santa giving me a personal wave in Manhattan.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Harlequin Maple

Harlequin Maple
Acer platanoides 'Drummondii'
(AY-ser) (pla-tan-OY-dees)
Synonyms: Drummond’s Norway Maple

This is from a botanical scan I made this summer and I added the black background in Photoshop (CS2). This tree is really very beautiful but you have to watch for the leaves which can sometimes revert to all green. It is sterile so it does not reseed which is a major reason for not planting Norway Maple. Obviously with a name like Norway Maple it is very hardy (USDA Zone3). My particular specimen has been fairly slow growing when compared to the species. It is occasionally struck with a fungus in late summer but I have been spraying it with fungicide in the spring and that seems to stop that. If I miss the spray cycle the leaves sometimes turn brown during the summer. Plant this tree in an area where its 40 foot height and spread won’t be a problem. It can also have visible surface roots and not too many things will grow under it. I have Yellow Archangel (Lamiastrum galeobdolon) growing under mine and they both seem happy (Archangel can be invasive, plant with care) and Pachysandra will usually grow under Norway Maples. If you don’t want to use any of those try a good coat of mulch.

This is some boxed Dutch Amaryllis (Hippeastrum, hip-ee-ASS-trum) I saw at the nursery. They are pretty much a foolproof plant for the holidays and quite showy. I learned something from looking up this plant. They are not true Amaryllis. There is only on plant that belongs to that genus and it is called the Belladonna Lily (Amaryllis belladonna) or Naked Ladies. I will have to do some further research on that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Prairie Dock

Prairie Dock
Silphium terebinthinaceum
(SIL-phee-um) (ter-ee-bin-THIN-uh-see-um)

This is from late summer and was taken at the Bartlett Arboretum. Kris at blithe had a post asking about what names people should put on plant labels and the species name for this plant sure makes the argument for using common names. If you have time wander over to her blog she is a talented and knowledgeable gardener, one of my favorites. Speaking of blogs I sure did visit a lot of them in the last couple of days. It was a very interesting tour and thanks to all the people that returned visits to my site. I mainly went looking for some Christmas spirit and boy did I find it out in force. I saw Santa, Christmas Trees, Christmas food, family get togethers, kids, lights, religious passages, a few flowers and much more. It all helped me kick it up a notch on the spirit end of things.

This plant has a beautiful flower that is held erect over what I consider large coarse foliage; you could definitely call the foliage bold. It is a tall perennial that can be found growing wild and in gardens. The yellow color and symmetry in the flower looks like it would be nice in the back of a mixed border, the woodland garden and the edge of the woods. It is a very hardy (USDA Zone 4) and tough plant that can grow in part shade or full sun. It is not fussy as to soil or water requirements either. Prairie Dock does have some medicinal uses including a tea that has been used in the treatment of coughs, lung ailments and asthma. Resin from the stems can be used to make a gum for cleaning teeth and the mouth.

Here is a backlit Begonia leaf I saw at work the other day. I should take more opportunities to photograph backlit flowers they can be quite striking.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

ABC Wednesday - V is for Variegation

ABC Wednesday - V is for Variegation

If you are here for Wordless Wednesday kindly scroll down to the next post. Think about joining ABC Wednesday it is a good, fun group.

I really wanted to have seasonal tie in to this post so I went yesterday and found a Variegated Poinsettia. Here are two views of two different plants. I wasn’t sure about the second one since the leaves were solid green but since the colored parts of a Poinsettia are actually ‘bracts’ or modified leaves I think it counts as variegated. Actually I found out after writing this variegation counts on flowers, stems and leaves.

The reasons for and the types of variegations can get quite scientific. While I am fascinated by plant science and it is a necessary part of my work it really comes down to weather I like the looks of a plant and how well it functions in its position. In that way I guess I am more of a farmer then a scientist. I do like variegated plants and find them a good way to accent plantings and in shade gardens, especially, brighten up the garden. Most have a certain elegance about them that can add a touch of class to what would normally be a mundane planting.

A good low light houseplant, Pilea cadierei or Aluminum Plant is an example of blister type variegation.

Inch Plant (Tradescantia zebrina)

Simply put a plant is considered variegated when there is more than one color on the leaves. These colorings have to be genetic and not the product of soil deficiencies, pests or plant diseases. There different types of variegation including striped, mottled and margined. Generally variegated plants are less hardy, slower growing and considered weaker than their all green counterparts. They can only be reproduced by vegetative reproduction (don’t come true to seed).

A plant with a lot of synonyms, Buxus sempervirens 'Elegantissima' or Variegated Boxwood. An example of margined variegation. This picture shows some of the striking effect variegated plants can have in the garden.

If you want some more information on variegation here is a link to a good article on

Here are some of the blogs that participate in ABC Wednesday. I am finding new people all the time. I would like to wish everyone a Happy Holidays and thank them for the opportunity to be part of such a fine group. I can’t believe we have made it almost all the way through the alphabet! It is getting a little difficult to visit everyone now. I try and visit the UK people before I go to work as it about 11pm there when I get home from work and the US west coast people in my afternoon. I haven’t figured out exactly where the Aussies fit in to the timing.

One more thing, I see one of my favorite bloggers in ABC, Walks for Women has deleted her blog. I hope she is okay as she was a great Blogger whose site I often left thinking about what she wrote. If anyone knows what happened please email me. If you happen to read this WFW I really enjoyed your blog and I hope someday you will start it up again. God bless you and I hope your Holidays are filled with warmth, family and a sense of peace.

The elegant leaves of Variegated Blue Holly (Ilex x meserveae 'Honey Maid')

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another Rockefeller Christmas Tree Shot

Another Rockefeller Christmas Tree Shot

I noticed the compression and Blogger washed out the colors of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree that were previously posted so I wanted to post another picture that showed a little of the color of the lights (still doesn't show much, argh). Just to keep real and to follow along with the title of this blog Digital Flower Pictures dot com I am posting this picture of some cut Mums I saw at the Union Square Christmas Market. These were actually from the Greenmarket, which is what we call here a farmer’s market. It is always fun to see all the interesting stuff they sell at the NYC farmer’s markets. I think if I lived in Manhattan I would do a lot of my shopping there. The Mums were $5.50 a bunch with the tax included. They really had an interesting selection of wreaths but the 50mm lens just wasn't capturing them.

This final picture is of a beautiful child I saw riding a float in a Christmas Parade that I stumbled upon in Chinatown. It was an interesting parade because it had a combination of Little Italy and Chinese themed floats. There were a couple of marching bands and the Boy Scouts in between the floats. I wished I got the picture of when this girl waved at me, it was heart warming but it just came out a little blurry.

I spent most of this morning getting the trucks and car unfrozen and chipping the ice of the sidewalk. We only got a couple of inches of snow, a lot of freezing drizzle and some rain. I am not complaining because it wasn’t as bad as predicted. I don’t like ice storms because of the damage they do in the garden especially to the evergreens. I am bored already and winter doesn’t start until Friday!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

We decided to cancel our trip to Longwood Gardens since the weather is so bad. We have been having a lot of freezing rain and drizzle. That really stinks as we had so much fun last year when we went. Things are going to be too busy to try and fit going in the next couple of weeks *sigh*. I decided to go to Manhattan and I took the train in yesterday afternoon. I had quite a day. I am nursing two very bruised elbows and a hurt knee from a fall I took in the subway. Not sure what really happened but I almost caught myself but then fell down completely, just glad I didn’t tumble down the stairs also. I fell right on my camera which amazingly enough still worked. The lens didn’t break either which was astounding to me. A couple of nice New Yorkers helped my up and asked if I needed medical attention (dusted me off, too). I had the wind knocked out of me but managed to make it out of the station and after sitting for awhile decided to carry on.

I visited the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and despite the crowds got right up to the fence and was able to get a clear view of the tree. Since I had a nice view people were getting their pictures taken right next to me. That leads to me this next photo. I have been gathering a collection of photos of people that were posing for other photographers. I got about 10 or 12 shots this year. This was such a nice family that I snapped their picture while they posed for someone to take a shot with their camera phone. I ended up taking pictures of about 20 people who asked me to use their cameras. I really don’t mind and I got to check out a lot of different cameras. For some reason I get asked to do this all the time.

The tree was beautiful and even though the area was a total mob scene I enjoyed my visit. I didn’t try and enter from 5th Avenue where you can see the skaters I kind of went around the back. This years tree is a 84-foot tall Norway Spruce from Shelton, Connecticut. According to The Accidental Environmentalist the Rock Center Tree is much more eco-friendly with solar powered LED lights. I read the tree is recycled into 3 tons of mulch nad donated to the Boy Scouts.

In case anyone is interested I shot these photos with my Sigma 17-70mm/2.8-4.5 lens. Hand held at 17mm/2.8. I almost didn't take this lens with me but was glad I did because the 50mm would have never gotten the whole tree in. Also the Sigma seems pretty tough and I was glad it was on the camera when I fell. It is the second major impact it has had and it still works fine.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Two Poinsettias

Two Poinsettias

These are from the nursery I visited on Wednesday. I got one of these first Poinsettias. I am not sure the variety, but it caught my eye. They didn’t have as much of a selection this year, maybe since I went a little later than usual.

Karen and I are headed down to Longwood Gardens tomorrow so I may or may not be able to post. If not I am due back Monday afternoon I will see you all then.

The following facts on Poinsettias are from this page. Check it out there are many more interesting facts:

University of Illinois Extension

Written by:
Ron Wolford
Unit Educator, Urban Horticulture and Environment

“Poinsettias are native to Mexico.

Poinsettias were introduced into the United States in 1825 by Joel Poinsett.

There are over 100 varieties of poinsettias available.

Seventy-four percent of Americans still prefer red poinsettias; 8 percent prefer white and 6 percent pink.

Poinsettias are perennial flowering shrubs that can grow to ten feet tall.

Poinsettias represent over 85 percent of the potted plant sales during the holiday season.

Eighty percent of people who purchase poinsettias are 40 or older.

A study at Ohio State University showed that a 50 pound child who ate 500 bracts might have a slight tummy ache.

In a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine 22,793 cases of poinsettia exposures were electronically analyzed. 98.9% of the exposures were accidental with 93.9% involving children. 96.1% of the exposed patients were not treated in a health care facility and 92.4% did not require any type of therapy.”

December 12th is officially Poinsettia Day according to Paul Ecke Ranch (who grows over 80 percent of the Poinsettias in the US).

I wanted to post these pictures because I was amazed at how the fountain duplicated the Magnolia leaves in the garland. They were right next to each other in the greenhouse.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Frosty Fern Club Moss

Club Moss
Selaginella kraussiana 'Frosty Fern'
(sell-lah-gi-NEL-uh) (krau-see-AY-nuh)

Interesting little plant I saw at the wholesale nursery I visited to buy some Poinsettias. I didn’t buy one but wish that I had. Most Club Moss is hardy to 10 deg. F but a few are even less so. It likes to be kept moist and needs strong light but not direct sunlight. This is a good plant for a terrarium or maybe a shelf on the bathroom window. It likes humidity.

We are expecting a major snowstorm today. Gawd, I hate that, I still have a lot of work to do in the garden. The totals keep going up every time I watch the weather forecast. They are now saying up to 11 inches (about 28 cm.) by tonight. Ugh.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ABC Wednesday – U

Emerging leaves of Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila)

ABC Wednesday – U

My original idea was to use Umbrella Pine as my ‘U’ post. I just didn’t execute the pictures very well so I went with Plan B which are these pictures of Ulmus leaves that I took this spring in Santa Fe. I think they are Siberian Elm (Ulmus pumila) leaves and the second picture shows the flowers. I am going to have to not recommend this tree after some research. Apparently it is very invasive and some communities, including Santa Fe, have banned its planting. Its wind borne seed takes over pastures, gardens, railroad right of ways, and just about anywhere else it lands. The rapid growth rate and a resistance to both drought and heat make it easy for the tree to become established. Come to think of it these pictures were shot in the parking lot of the Guadalupe CafĂ© (a great Santa Fe restaurant). Plant guru Michael Dirr (he is like a demigod to people like me) said of the Siberian Elm “"one of, if not the, world's worst trees...a poor ornamental”, and that is good enough to me.

Here are a couple shots of the original subject I had mind, the Japanese Umbrella Pine (Sciadopitys verticillata). Too bad the close-ups didn’t come out. I just couldn’t manage the depth of field on the needles (they are actually cladodes, not needles) that were pointing towards me. It is an interesting tree and a bit of a botanical oddball. I learned a few new things about this tree when I looked it up. First was the correct pronunciation, sigh-uh-DOP-ih-tiss ver-ti-si-LAH-tuh. I already knew that it wasn’t a true Pine but didn’t know that it is considered different from almost all other conifers and fossil records for it date back over 200 million years. That makes it a living fossil. I didn’t know that were different selections available. The tree these pictures are from is about 8-9 feet tall and it has planted for about 18 years. It was about 4 feet tall when I bought it so I am thinking this might be the slower growing ‘Jim Cross’ cultivar. Here is a link with some more information:

I am going to have to do a whole post on this tree sometimes now that interest in piqued. The cone is the first one I have ever seen on any of the Umbrella Pines that I have grown. Kind of weird looking.

Just for fun here is a double ‘U’ picture. The United States flag and a vessel that is underway. The Nautical Dictionary defines underway as: a vessel that is neither anchored nor moored to a fixed object or aground. I am not sure of which of the Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company’s boats this was on. It is leaving Bridgeport, Connecticut for the 75-minute ride to Port Jefferson, New York on Long Island.

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