Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Year of Native Things

Say farewell to 2013!
Our calendar year is coming to a close, and it brings a time of reflection for most humans. I decided to look back through my pictures and savor again the many beautiful critters and flowers than have passed through my lens this year. Each one (and many more!) have been a wonderful reflection of the native treasures that live around us.

Crataegus leaf bud

January found me looking at plant twigs, learning more about their winter characteristics so that I can recognize shrubs and trees even when they don't have leaves. On a rainy day in mid-January, I found this hawthorn bud encased in a drop of rain.

Vaccinium flower buds

While February brings some flowers (Hepatica and Erythronium), it is mostly a time of new growth and emergence.These are the expanding flower buds of blueberry (Vaccinium spp.), and they never fail to delight me when I come upon them.

Brasstown Bald

In March I yielded to the pleas of my friend Parrie to take a trip to Brasstown Bald, one of her favorite places. We enjoyed the plants, the bit of snow found there and the spectacular view. If you're in the metro Atlanta area, it is a nice day trip to the north Georgia mountains.


By April flowers were busting out all over the place but a special memory for me was seeing a Flicker near my house. I'm always amazed at the new birds I discover in my area; they are obviously always here all along, but finally something brings them into my field of view.

Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler'

May just might be the most floriferous month, so it’s hard to pick just one picture. The native honeysuckle cultivar Lonicera sempervirens 'Major Wheeler' was an amazing standout this year. It started blooming in January and continued until frost, but May was probably the best month in terms of total flowers.

Coreopsis tinctoria

In June my daughter and I went to a workday for The Nature Conservancy at Black's Bluff Preserve in Floyd County. It was fun to help, and we saw several very cool plants including this Coreopsis tinctoria.

One more picture from June ... bugs are a happy part of my nature exploration these days and what's not to like when you find bugs making MORE bugs?

The rookery

During our annual July vacation I talked my family into a half day trip over to Pinckney Island NWR to explore some of the plants of the Coastal Plain. The plants were great, but I think the highlight was the bird rookery there.

Monarda punctata

August found me admiring a new flower in my yard. Purchased earlier at the Georgia Native Plant Society plant sale, this Monarda punctata was all I hoped it would be.

Baby frogs started emerging in September from their tadpole forms. We had a lot of rain in the spring and summer and one of the tubs in the yard was a nursery to quite a few frogs. I loved this stage of life - new legs with the remnants of the tail still remaining.

Helianthus angustifolius

All year I enjoyed the fence work we had done in January. In October, a flush of bright swamp sunflowers (Helianthus angustifolius) reminded me how wonderful it was to have them protected from the many deer that roam our neighborhood. The Hydrangea next to it was always a favorite target. The blue flowers (Conoclinium coelestinum) outside the fence are apparently not tasty.

Euonymus americanus

November brings bright berries to tempt the local wildlife. Shortly after I took this picture, these Euonymus americanus berries were eaten by a cardinal.

Even in our mild winter, there isn't much going on with plants. So in December, my interest in the outdoors is mostly focused on birds. Cold days have me replenishing the suet on the back deck and breaking up the ice in the bird bath in the front yard.

Between the two spots, I can usually spot a lot of birds. As much fun as it is to see unusual species (like the visiting warblers), I am always thrilled when a bluebird stops by.

I hope you have had a good year of native things and that this weekly blog may have inspired you to have more native things. Onward to 2014!


  1. Love your calendar! I think the little froggies are adorable, too.

  2. Love your photos and the article! Thanks for sharing!

  3. Your blog has changed the way I look at the outdoors. Instead of just seeing what is beautiful, I now look to see if the plant or animal life is native and helpful to the environment or if it is harmful. I take daily walks around my area (in the city) and have been keeping a nature journal for a couple of years now. I try to draw something new each day in it. Here is a page selected from each month on my blog:
    I really appreciate the time and effort you put into the pictures and information on your blog; it has helped me identify much of what I've seen (and in some cases, change a wrong identification). Happy New Year!

    1. thesycamoretree,

      I'm so glad to read that you have begun to look at the outdoors in a new way--much more focused on what benefits the environment and aware of what harms it. I am a huge proponent of native plants. :)

  4. I had intended just to say "Great year in review" but after reading the previous comment, I must add, that as a native gardener, I too value your blog for inspiration and information. Thank you! Happy New Yea!r

  5. Great photos, Ellen!

    I especially love the creativity of using things from nature to write out 2013! Amazing and beautiful.

    The leaf bud encased in a raindrop also caught my eye--you should be so proud of that shot. :) I didn't even recognize the closed flower buds of the blueberry until I read your caption--I guess I better pay closer attention to mine this year.

    If I ever get to Georgia I'll have to look up Brasstown Bald--and the funny thing is, we just might be heading there this summer!

    The baby frog is adorable--and what a great photo capture...I had tadpoles this year, but never saw the intermediate stage that you caught. Thanks for sharing.

    Oh, and I am planning on adding Euonymus americanus to our yard--it is not one I grew up knowing or seeing around, but have since been introduced to it. I was even given some seed to try to start...we'll see how that goes...either way, I may end up buying some more mature ones so I don't have to wait.

    Nice to see you have bluebirds too--it is such a thrill for me to see them unexpectedly in the winter.

    Happy new year!