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!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

More Books On My List

Electronic books are a neat invention, but I still like a good paper one in my hands. Winter is a nice time to read and the holidays are a good time for gifts (if you still need ideas this late!). 

Frosty days are perfect for reading

I’ve written about native plant and identification books in the past and those posts are still worth revisiting:

December 2010 – books about native plants and magazines that I like
December 2012 – beginner’s list ideas
December 2012 – beyond the beginner’s list and some more recent selections

This post is basically a continuation … books that I’ve come across since those posts or even books that I am hoping to read in the near future. I hope they may be of interest to you as well. Please note that links to a certain book-selling website are just to be helpful. I do not make any money from click throughs to the site. You are free to buy the book from wherever you want!

A friend gave me a copy of The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature by David George Haskell. This book is a winner of several awards, and I have found it to be thoroughly enjoyable. The premise is a year’s worth of observation over a specific area of the same spot in a forest in Tennessee. Each chapter is one visit to the site. Rather than describing the visit in details, an observation from the visit is an opportunity to expound on a topic in detail. I have learned some very interesting things!
The book What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz was also a gift, and a topic that I was skeptical of when I read the title. It has been very enlightening and refers to many scientific studies to illustrate how plants do have an incredible awareness of what goes on around them (and how they react to external events).

In January of 2014 a new book is coming out and I have pre-ordered it: Native Plants of the Southeast: A Comprehensive Guide to the Best 460 Species for the Garden by Larry Mellichamp and Will Stuart. I have heard Larry speak at the Cullowhee (NC) conference and have always found him to be quite knowledgeable and thorough in his subject matter. I am looking forward to his take on this subject and the very excellent photography of Will Stuart. Both fellows are from North Carolina.

I am a big fan of appreciating the critters that live around us (literally, the ones in our yard!) and so apparently is the author of The Urban Bestiary: Encountering the Everyday Wild (by Lyanda Lynn Haupt). After a glowing review by a friend of mine, this book is on my list to find.

Another book that is on my wish list is Gardening for the Birds: How to Create a Bird-Friendly Backyard by George Adams. It is a book that includes the importance of native plant choices for bird-friendly gardening rather than simply suggest that we put up bird boxes, bird baths and bird feeders.

A final book for consideration is Favorite Wildflower Walks in Georgia by Hugh and Carol Nourse. I appreciate the few books out there that are specific to Georgia in terms of subject matter. I have met the authors on several activities with the Georgia Botanical Society and I know they are passionate about plant communities and appreciative of places that represent them well. As the description at the link says, "Of the many walks the Nourses have taken, these are the ones they return to most often because of the density or the unusual nature of the floral display. All twenty of these wildflower walks are on public land; everything you need to know about how to find them and what to do once you're there is included."