Wednesday, April 30, 2008

(Faded) Glory of the Snow

Chionodoxa forbesii 'Luciliae' (aka: Glory of the Snow, Star of Bethlehem, etc. ) is usually one of the first flowers to emerge along with Snowdrops and Crocus, though this year it was a bit tardy to appear because the spot they occupy in the main boulder bed stayed frozen much longer than sunnier areas out front ...

In any case, it appears that, like other small bulbs closer to the surface, it managed to escape the ravages visited upon the Tulips and Fritillarias due to the severity of last year's long, late freeze and this past winter's nastiness. In fact, it has definitely expanded its clump since last year, much to my delight. I definitely want to get some more of these planted this fall, as the original spots I planted only contained about 3-4 bulbs each (they're small), because they are definitely happy naturalizers. I think they'd make excellent companions for Snowdrops, Crocus and Squill, with their pale blue stars that gradually fade to almost a pale lavender (see second shot). They're not the easiest subjects to shoot (at least for me!) ... not enough light and they look 'muddy blue' and too much sun makes them look bleached out. Just one of those flowers that needs to be seen in situ to truly appreciate the delicate hues of blue they exhibit ...

Carefree and every bit as easy to grow (and prolific) as Crocus, Squill and Snowdrops, they're worthy additions to any garden area ... the border or even in the lawn, where they do quite well, and are gone before you need to mow. Add this one to your list, Boran2 ... you won't regret it!

Photos taken 16 and 23 April, 2008 using the S700. The first shot (4-16) was taken while these were at their peak of blooming, whereas the second, taken a week later, as they were inevitably winding down.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Daffodil Butts

We (and I suspect most people) don't ordinarily tend to pay much attention to the backsides of flowers, but as these two shots demonstrate, there's still a lot of interest going on behind the front side of the early spring show. Fernymoss took these on a whim over the weekend just to see how they would look from this perspective, and I have to say, from a textural point of view, they are quite attractive in their own right! These angles also really show the structure of the mature flower and just how they're put together.

You can already see the (obviously pollinated) flower's ovary swelling, so I expect this bloom is on its way out and well into the next phase of
its reproductive cycle. I've never really let them go too far in this direction and once the flowers are done, I usually just cut them off so the leaves can spend their time storing up energy for next year's show. After last year's disaster when they barely bloomed at all, at least they appear to have weathered the winter relatively unscathed, unlike other gardeners' daffodils. Fernymoss asked his co-worker again about her bulbs today and it appears that most of her tulips perished as well, and those that did come up are doing poorly, just as ours are. *Sigh* I guess we're now resigned to having to replant a bunch in the fall, so we've already been looking at which ones we want to get ... mostly the Olympic Flame, Red, Yellow and Purple Darwins (pretty much what we had before). We'll know more when the ones that did survive manage to bloom, but they're looking really unhappy and stunted, so what usually is a really bright show in the front garden is going to be rather bittersweet this year.

One note about Daffodils: I have noticed in past years that a lot of people just mow them down once they're done blooming, which is a truly idiotic thing to do ... (People also do this to peonies, which really gets me wagging the finger and lecturing!). Just let them die back when they are ready and just pull them out of the ground when they've pretty much dried up. I once saw Martha Stewart suggest braiding the leaves to get them out of the way and still let them store up energy. Nice idea, Martha, but honestly, what gardener has the time to spend braiding them when there are more important things to be done in the garden! And when you have upwards of a couple hundred bulbs planted ... it would just become an absurdly impractical thing to do. We prefer to just let them complete their own natural cycle, which might be the lazy gardener's way, but it's always worked for us!

Photos by Fernymoss, taken on 26 April, 2008 using the S700.

Monday, April 28, 2008

A Headline I Was Glad to See Today ...

Just a quick update on a story I wrote about way back on 17 April in this post. Today, a lawsuit was filed by some 12 Environmental and Animal Rights groups to get Federal authorities to return the Gray Wolf to Endangered Species protection, after the government removed them from protected status back in February of this year. Good for them, and hopefully the Rocky Mountain Wolf packs as well! (Click on the headline to read the short update from USA Today.)

Now, I'm not a particularly litigious type ... in fact I tend to agree that all sorts of suits without much merit are filed every day, but this one I intend to follow closely as it proceeds (slowly, of course). The groups are also asking a judge to issue an injunction that would stop state management of the wolf populations in the Upper Rockies states. The net effect would be to halt the indiscriminate killing of Gray Wolves while this suit makes its way through the courts. That would buy the wolves some breathing space for now, but I'm sure we can expect a nasty battle to save them lies ahead. I'll plan to post periodic updates as I find out more, but if anyone runs into good links to more information about this, I'd appreciate you posting them in the comments section.

And while I'm at it, speaking of lawsuits without much merit, this headline also caught my eye tonight. Submitted, without further comment, as it pretty much speaks for itself ...
300-pound inmate complains Ark. jail doesn't feed him well.


Here's a mossy landscape that just beckons you to take a long, leisurely and contemplative walk among the really little faerie people ... that's what this photo evokes for us. Fernymoss has for quite some time aspired to plant Faerie friendly areas in various spots in the garden and this stepping stone is one of them. (Yes, he's into making those as well!) We do try to encourage moss to take hold around the garden, just because we find it fascinating and really pretty and it lends a certain aged gravitas to wherever it prospers in the garden. For us, it connotes a sense of garden maturity ... that things have been around long enough that the moss has taken hold and incorporated itself into the landscape. And as the old saying goes, a rolling stone gathers no moss, it tends to convey a somewhat comforting aura of permanence ... it's taken a while to get where it is, and it's planning on sticking around for the long haul.

Mosses are bryophytes or non-vascular plants, and have a rather fascinating sex life of their own, as this entry in Wikipedia details quite well. Obviously I have some more homework to do and research to read before I can even begin to consider myself competently conversant in the ways of the mosses. Though an often overlooked (perhaps even considered bothersome) element of gardens, we're fully on board with having them in ours ... They make stellar companions to the various ferns which also tend to inhabit the same spaces as the mosses. We like 'em and want them to multiply freely!

Photo by Fernymoss, taken on 21 April, 2008 using the S700. Note the clearly visible sporophytes on the right side of this photo.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

IT Has Emerged!

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for ... the emergence of the fabled Dragon Arum who first bloomed last year, its second, in the Woodland Garden. Those of you who are regular readers probably recall this post from late last May when it unveiled itself in its full smelly glory to the world, much to the delight of flies from all over the neighborhood. (But if, by chance, you're not already acquainted with this florally bizarre member of the Arum family, I encourage you to use the tag links and check out just what this will eventually become.)

Astute observers (or merely awake ones) will note, that unlike last year when we posted its emergence, that there are now three spears piercing the ground where it's planted. This development has us really excited at the possibility of at least two, if not three blooms this year! The more, the stinkier, we say. And we are definitely planning on putting in at least 2-3 more of these bulbs in the fall, along with some other types of Arums that we have lusted after for a few years now (most notably Arum italicum). The Araceae are a fascinating family of plants, which among their relatives include the common Philodendron, Monstera Deliciosa ('Swiss Cheese Plant'), the various Jacks in the Pulpit, Anthuriums, the incredible Titan Arum, Calla Lilies and even the lowly aquatic duckweed, which I used to grow in my aquariums when I was a kid. I have to say that Wikipedia link is a great source of intriguing information about Arums, with links to some great pictures of the various species. I had never dreamed that one of the most common, easiest of houseplants, the Philodendrons and Nepthytis belonged to this extremely varied and often bizarre plant family!

Ain't Wikipedia grand?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Friday Night Dog Blogging

Posting too cute doggie pictures isn't something I do regularly here, but tonight afforded us an opportunity that we just couldn't resist. Pepa and Rolly often snuggle together on their couch, but we rarely are able to catch them like this because invariably one or the other will notice the camera and then hop down, thus ruining the cuteness factor ... but this evening, as we were watching a particularly exciting new episode from Season Four of Dr. Who, they decided not to share in our excitement and took a long nap instead. So we got lucky and took a series of them while we could ...

I was never a fan of the original Dr. Who series when I was younger because it was just too cheesy for me ... I couldn't get into it, no matter how I tried. Fernymoss, however, has been a long time fan and knows all the arcana regarding the history of the Doctor in many of his incarnations. As you may know, the BBC revived the series in an entirely re-imagined (with vastly improved production values, writers and actors) conception in 2005, and we've both been hooked since BBC America started showing it here in the US. Sure, the SciFi Channel throws us an episode here and there, but doesn't seem (at least to me) to show the episodes in their proper order. Anyway, Season Three concluded last week with a hum-dinger of an episode, and I'm already wanting to see Season Four, which is currently playing in the UK. Tonight was one of those lucky finds from SciFi and they broadcast the first (official) episode of Season Four. In a word, it was captivating for humans ... not so much for dogs, apparently.

Of course a Dr. Who episode always sets me to thinking about Space and everything that's out in there in its depths ... the wondrous beauty as well as the darker sides of the Universe. Earlier today on My Yahoo page, one of the featured photos caught my eye ... an image of two colliding galaxies called 'Arp 148' taken from the Hubbell Telescope ... so I obviously had to check that out. Wow, the Hubbell has been taking some breathtaking photos of galactic oddities! For those interested, I'm going to include a couple of links here ... the photos are really worth an admiring look! Here's the link to a gallery that displays some 59 incredible photos, each of which has a link to a more detailed page about its location and what is currently known about them.

And to think that a couple of years ago we heard talk that they wanted to just trash the Hubbell Telescope completely and de-fund it ... I'll try (and fail) to refrain from political diatribe here. The knowledge we've gained from it since it has been in orbit is almost unimaginable, except to those scientists who dedicate their lives to analyzing the data ... to my mind, it's a national treasure that attests to what we can attain when we aim for the stars. Instead of Middle Eastern oil deposits.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Squill Dreams vs. Squill Reality

Guest photo courtesy of Olivia in Ottawa.

The other night, my friend Olivia emailed me a shot she had taken earlier that day in one of the Public Gardens in Ottawa (where she captures a lot of great shots of flowers). She was pretty sure that it was a patch of the Squill she had seen recently in one of my posts. Sure enough, she had indeed discovered a lovely naturalized drift of this beautiful, yet ephemeral Spring Flower.

I think it's now safe to say that Spring has now (finally!) arrived in Ottawa, after a particularly snowy and brutal winter this year.
Yay! Let's hear it for Ottawa and for Olivia, who's been anxiously awaiting the banishment of the snow and the arrival of this year's flowers! And most gracious thanks for allowing me to use this photo on Urban Oasis.

It occurred to me that it might be fun to do a post contrasting what an obviously long established drift of Squill looks like compared to one of our (still) relatively young patches in our front parking grass. Obviously, Olivia's shot is what we dream of our parking looking like one day, but as you can see in the second shot, we've got a long way to go! Though, as I mentioned last night, since we're going to have to put in more bulbs this fall, we might as well get a large quantity of Squill to help "pad" our own drifts. I still suspect we will be waiting a few years for ours to even begin to rival that one Olivia captured so exquisitely ...

I mentioned last night that we are now sure that we lost some bulbs over the winter. With further observation around the neighborhood, as well as some anecdotal accounts, we don't appear to be the only ones who've had some bulbular losses in the garden. An avid gardener who works with Fernymoss told him the other day that she lost lots of daffodils planted on the south side of her house ... they just disappeared and not a one bloomed this year, or even came up. That got us to thinking about one of our neighbors who used to have daffodils and tulips planted on the south side of their house. Go figure, we haven't seen a single daffodil over there this year, and theirs always used to precede ours by a week or two. Nothing this year, and their tulips look pretty spotty as well. It will be interesting to see if this has happened to other gardeners in the area ... but I think it's safe to theorize that that horrible freezing spell we had last year must have had something to do with it. It's a sad reality every gardener faces with all sorts of plants, but losing bulbs has a particular sting to it. Not only are they not particularly "cheap," but they also demand some deep digging for the larger ones, such as tulips and daffodils, which can be challenging when the weather puts you under the proverbial gun in the fall when they need to be planted. Oddly enough, the bulbs that don't require deep digging seem to have really prospered since last year, namely the Squill and Crocus. I have no idea why that would be, given that we lost quite a few of our larger ones, but it does set one to wondering about possible causes ...

Thursday, April 24, 2008

More Daffodils and Bonus Bugs!

Here are some more of Fernymoss' shots of the daffodils currently blooming in the Woodland garden on the north side of our house. (Taken on 21 April, 2008) Today they were nearly in their full glory, although some plantings are a bit behind others --more in the shade-- but we like them to stick around a little longer, so we don't mind at all.

As for first picture in this series, it's obviously the bee venturing into the flower that commands the center of attention. It's good to see the bees coming back already ... I've seen a few bumblebees recently, as well as the occasional honey bee (of which we don't seem to see many).

In one of my recent posts about the Crocus, I talked about how I had inadvertently gotten a very small Lacewing in the shot. Now, we're not sure it's the same one (I have no idea how fast they grow), but in two of these shots you can see a Lacewing in pretty good detail ... the first and second ones show it in full view, and in the third you can see it off hiding behind one of the petals. And then it flew away, as winged insects are likely to do when the lens is focusing too intently upon them ...

I took a few pictures today after work, and though it was clouding up (rain is on the way tonight) and it was a bit on the breezy side, I did manage to get a nice couple of shots of the Hyacinths that have just opened up (last night). I'll soon be adding those to a post on Hyacinths I've been preparing for a week or so ... just to chronicle their progress from buds to blooms. Actually both Fernymoss and I went on an inspection tour out front when he got home from work, and as I had been suspecting, we both concluded that we've lost a significant number of tulips since that nasty, long freezing spell last year. We're hoping for the best but it now looks like we will have to be replenishing the tulip plantings again in the fall.

And I'm afraid those weren't the only casualties ... Unless something akin to a miracle happens, I fear we have lost both of our big Fritillarias as well. As I mentioned in an earlier post, they really got zapped last year ... came up early, froze off and disappeared. Add that to the list of bulbs we'll be replacing in the fall as well. (Sigh)

On a more positive note, it appears that other bulbs are taking it in stride and actually increasing their share of the real estate. The Purple Globe Alliums we have out front have definitely been multiplying ... from three original bulbs planted, we easily have 8-10 coming up this year, so those should be exciting when they bloom next month! We also have a Hyacinth that seems not only to have multiplied but mutated in color as well ... In short, there's a lot going on out there right now. I'm also planning a post or two documenting the emergence and growth of some of the perennials, because a lot of them have appeared and are gearing up for their moments in the spotlight. Things such as the Dicentras (Bleeding Heart), Columbines, Ferns and even one of the Toad Lilies ... And on a closing note, I should also mention that a bloom on one of my Primroses (Primula polyanthus) was open today! They too have been busy multiplying and what were once five plants now appear to be about 7 or 8! More on them later too ... But for now, enjoy the daffodils and bugs.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Reports of Our Demise Have Been Grossly Exaggerated ...

Despite all my recent predictions of the imminent departure of this year's Crocus, we were surprised to see these cheery ones springing up over the weekend. We don't recall planting these where they came up, but over the past few years (since we've been constantly working on the boulder bed out front) a lot of things have gotten displaced and are now resurfacing (much to our delight in this instance) in different spots in the garden. We definitely like this sort of surprise ....

There are a few other places out front where similar things have happened ... before we built the boulder bed, we used to have a variety of bulbs along both sides of the steps leading up to the house, (mostly tulips, daffodils, squill and crocus), but when we built up the bed along the steps, a lot just got buried under rocks and the soil we used to fill the bed. We lost most of what we didn't manage to dig up in the process, but a few things have managed to return ... there are a few Squill that peek out at the base of the rocks and there's one particular Grape Hyacinth (Muscari) that even pokes through a gap in the rocks and blooms every year. (I'll make sure to get a shot of it when it appears.) So that's testimony to the tenacity of the smaller bulbs ... they may get jostled around or moved inadvertently, but they still find some way to accomplish their purpose every spring and bloom no matter what ... that's floral dedication, I'd say!

Photos taken by Fernymoss using the S700 on 21 April, 2008. In the first shot you'll notice an ant exploring the flower (bug sightings are always welcome in our pictures, just wait until the next post to see a really great one!). The second shot, taken moments later (and essentially the same shot), s/he's gone! I had to post both just for fun ... besides we had a hard time deciding which shot to post, so I decided on both.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

More Squill!

Today was another near classic Iowa Spring day in our neck of the woods with a bright sunny morning just perfect for gazing at and photographing the emerging flowers. Fortunately Fernymoss had the day off from work (I was diligently slaving away up in my cubbyhole.) So he went out with the S700 and started snapping away ... so here are a few more of the Squill (Scilla siberica) that are now popping up in all sorts of places in the yard.

The first two shots are examples of Squill growing out in the front parking by the sidewalk ... I think the first shot is one of Fernymoss' best so far, and he got some quite nice shots of them today. I chose these three examples to give them several representative views to give you an idea of how they grow and just how diminutive these little beauties really are. And to think they are originally native to the steppes of Eurasia ... these little expatriates seem to fit in just as naturally in our landscape!

Check out how deep blue the anthers are in that first shot, as well as the purplish hue of the stem leading up to the flower ... they're just positively regal in the range of hues that just one little flower displays! The second shot also really shows off the depth of color each bloom stalk contains and you can see the transition from green to purple stem much more closely in this picture. And the third shot is a volunteer that just popped up by one of the tulip plantings. I think Fernymoss did an astounding job on this one capturing not only the beauty of the flower itself but also the shadow, which, for some reason (combined with that 'alien eye' in the tulip leaf), seems vaguely sinister to me. (Maybe I've just been watching too much sci-fi lately?)

I can't laud the Scilla species enough, as they are, to my mind, one of the easiest and most carefree bulbs any (aspiring or not) gardener can have in the landscape. Of course, there's the initial planting, which can seem like a lot of work, but really, after getting them into the ground, they are virtually maintenance free (just like crocuses)! And since the bulbs are small, they only have to go down about 2-3 inches, so no huge trenches or holes as you have to do with the larger bulbs such as tulips and daffodils. Since they naturalize so freely (after three or four years or so), I'd recommend planting them right down there in the grass in the fall, where they'll return the following spring, bringing a brilliant blue to wherever they grow ... just what we need (along with the bright crocuses) when winter finally loosens its grasp in the garden. You'd be well advised to plant as many as you can the first year out (I have seen recommended that you should never start with less than 100!) and plant several at a time in an area to give them a preliminary 'stand' that they can expand upon in future years. They're very hardy (growing from Zones 2-8!) and reliable bulbs who return year after year to banish the blues of winter and herald the coming vibrant colors of Spring.

Boran2, do you have Squill envy too now? They'd be a dynamite combo planted near Crocus and will generally bloom at about the time the Crocus are at their peak, and then linger a bit longer (primarily to develop their 'bulblets') until disappearing entirely for the rest of the year. The nice thing about having them in the grass is that by the time the Squill are done they can be safely mowed over, where they recede into the ground until the next year's show ...

Photos taken by Fernymoss on 21 April, 2008, using the Fuji S700.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nearly the Last of this Year's Crocus

As I've mentioned in a couple of recent posts, the crocus have been on the wane in the last week or so, and these shots (taken Wed. 16 April) are probably going to be the last we'll see for this year. We're sad to see them go, of course, but their time is always brief as the true harbingers of Spring, and they do a remarkable job of setting the stage for the bulbs to follow ... and now with the daffodils are taking over center stage, with the tulips soon to follow...

Though I didn't get any new shots taken today (household tasks again got in the way), I did notice that more and more daffodils are opening, and the hyacinths are starting to take on their true colors ... and that 'Spanish Squill' (which I've discovered recently was a misnomer, as they are really in the hyacinth family) are growing profusely and apparently have spread since last year.

And with certain exceptions (the cold and rainy last few days), the weather looks to be cooperating to encourage a quite showy display for the tulips this year. We can't wait to see the masses of red, yellow and purple tulips yet to come, and with any luck, this year they'll be blooming upright this year, unlike last year's disaster. As I said, so far, so good, but with fickle Iowa Spring weather, anything can happen but this year I'm fairly confident that the worst is finally behind us.

The first shot here is of what I call the 'Buttery Yellow' snow crocus, which the more I see them, I'm more and more admiring of their simple beauty. Though a bit more subtle than their bright yellow, orange, gold and purple cousins, I think they really add something different to the mix with their tulip like Inner Bits and diminutive, unprepossessing presence among their showier relatives. I'm thrilled they have done so well and appear to be spreading out each year. The second shot shows the 'Pickwick' variety that I featured in an earlier post (though unopened). The veining on this variety is just lovely and carries a lot of variation from flower to flower, which makes them an even more fascinating addition to the early spring garden. Enjoy them now because they won't be back before next year!

P.S. We're now on 'Arum Watch' for the Dracunculus to emerge. No signs yet, but given this Spring's tardy arrival, doesn't seem unusual yet. We'll have the first signs up here when it does break ground, and are really looking forward to the shots we can get of it this year with the new S700! Yes, we're getting impatient too, and hope that we might get two blooms this year instead of one ... so stay tuned!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Purple, Yellow and White Crocus

Well, as Crocus Explosion Week at Casa IVG draws to a close, I'll share some more shots Fernymoss took last Sunday when there was still lots of color bursting out of the ground all over.

Now, after a week of extremely windy and damp conditions (except for that glorious day yesterday), the crocus are pretty much done for this year. Their petals have been blown who knows where by the wind ... they've been pounded quite a bit by the rains that are still continuing tonight (and likely through Friday as well) ... and, well, their bloom time just isn't all that long in the larger scheme of the garden.

That doesn't mean we don't miss them (already), just that their role in the seasonal garden cycle this year is almost done. Now it's the Daffodils' turn to dazzle the stage while the Tulips progress off in their spaces ... they'll be along soon to complement the Daffodils, along with the Muscari ('Grape Hyacinths') and hyacinths. I've been trying to get some decent shots of the Chionodoxa ('Glory of the Snow'), but it was actually too bright yesterday and they got all bleached out a bit and I wasn't happy with the results. Hopefully they'll still be around on Saturday when it's supposed to be dry and sunny again, but given their rather ephemeral stay in the garden, I may have to post what I consider inferior views (hate it when that happens).

We're still apprehensive about the appearance of the 'Crown Imperial' Fritillaria, but we do think one is poking through now (the big orange one), so we still hold out hopes they'll do fine this year after being frozen and essentially banished by the cold April we had last year. The primroses, however, are really perking up and growing lushly now, and after all this recent rain, I don't think it will be long before they are blooming. They look like they're starting to spread a bit, which delights me to no end, because I can think of few things prettier than a big planting of mixed Primroses blooming! So ... stay tuned!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Is Just WRONG ...

I came across this article from USA Today this evening and it really got my hackles up in a big way. Wolves are being "gunned down" ... primarily in Wyoming where 13 of the recently killed 20 wolves lived. These fools actually allow sanctioned wolf hunting year round ... This is just wrong.

Apparently, a government ruling in February just decided that they should no long appear on the endangered species list.**

Here's the lead to give you a taste:
The killing of 20 wolves in the Rockies since the animals lost endangered status is an unprecedented death toll that must be stopped in court, environmentalists say.

"There's a great sense of urgency," says Michael Robinson, a wolf expert at the Center for Biological Diversity, one of several groups that plan to file a lawsuit this month. "The wolf population is being gunned down right now."

Now, go read the rest....

I should, by way of disclosure, say that I've been a defender of the Wolf for many years now, and have been fascinated by them since I was a child. Despite all those stereotypical childhood nightmares, wolves do not (or very rarely) attack humans. They are intelligent, elusive and shy. They are the progenitors of all modern dog breeds. They live in well-defined social structures, displaying an astounding degree of cooperation and attending to the community needs of the pack. I've often wondered if humans' fears of the wolf were founded, at least partially, on the fact that in our collective psyche, wolves subliminally function as a reflection of our own selves. They're just too much like us.

Well, why wouldn't they be? The practice of selective breeding of dogs dates back millennia, but the wolf (in whatever form it had in antiquity) is the prototypical ancestor of all the dog breeds currently in existence. Wolves became our partners, and inevitably, as humans do, we failed them. As much as we've bred most of the true wolf out of the common dog, there's still enough that remains ... fortunately for us. We dog lovers treasure the intelligent companionship and unconditional love of our dogs, but it's too easy to gloss over just how much the ancestor has been bred out of them. As one documentary I saw on National Geographic TV asserted, we've bred them down to be perpetual puppies, children as it were. And precisely in that way, we assert our superior dominance over them ... since we never really let the wolf mature, we're left with a mostly docile (and probably very affectionate) dog who is but a poorly realized hologram of its ancestor. A pale comparison, you might say.

My intent here is not to wring my hands and gnash my teeth at the state of the current dog (no matter which breed), and I've been the proud owner of some remarkable dogs over the years, most currently Queen Pepa (Approximately). I truly love dogs ... and their ancestors even more. We humans probably learned a great deal from the wolves back in the way way back days. But what have we given them in return for the Devil's Bargain they made with us? We've either bred them into creatures of our own design or driven them to the precipice of extinction, more than once.

Enough species are either now extinct or on the brink, just clinging to their ways ... Polar Bears are drowning, seals are losing their habitat in Alaska ... whales are beaching themselves ... the list goes on and on. I have to admit that wolves are a particular species of concern to me, however the larger, global picture has to be taken into consideration. The more we (or that inconvenient climate crisis) drive wildlife from their natural habitats, the more likely we are to eliminate them from the picture entirely. To my mind we cannot even begin to calculate the losses we will eventually maintain (as our own species, should it survive) as the consequence of doing nothing. Stopping the hunting of wolves in Wyoming would be a good start.

** I want to research this more and find out just who was behind this action, particularly because I suspect some possibly aggressive lobbying coming from the state of Wyoming. Hmmm........................

As Promised ... Daffodils!

I finally was able to get out after work today and snap some more pictures around the front garden areas and managed to catch a nice sunny moment to take these shots. At least the wind calmed down today and these were only subject to occasional breezes. Finally, the first Daffodils of the year have arrived and much happier than they were last year after being frozen for almost a month during that cold spell!

These were some of the very first Daffodils we planted back in ... well, let's jus
t say they've been there for probably about eight (?) years. This variety is called 'Dutch Masters,' which is just about my favorite Daffodil of all time. With their brilliant yellows that positively radiate in the sun, a nice tendency to naturalize freely and carefree non-maintenance ... what more could you ask for? And unlike their 'fancier' hybridized cousins, they come back true to form every year no matter what. We've come to disdain the latest and greatest varieties constantly in development because they just don't have the reliable longevity of the simpler, classic varieties. And the others just don't naturalize like you (well, WE) want them to ... usually after about 3-4 years they devolve and then just disappear. That's the same reason we tend to avoid the fancier tulips as well and stick with the tried and true Darwin varieties.

I also got some nice shots of the rapidly declining crocus --*sigh*-- and some of the perennials now emerging ... I may post some of those soon while we await the big tulip parade. As of today most of the columbines are up, as are the bleeding hearts and I also noticed that the Ligularia is poking through the ground. And with a high temperature of 78 today I'm sure more things are beginning to wake up ... unfortunately we're due to another few days with rain and cooler temperatures, but nothing in the freezing range and no mention of the 'S' word to be seen!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Gentle and Lovely Lacey ... (and Queen Pepa too!)

Consider this your bonus pup pic for the day! I've been taking care of this sweetheart for a couple of days while Fernymoss and his parents (she belongs to them) had to go out of state to attend a family funeral. We always just love having Lacey visit because she's so pleasant to have around and gets along famously with Pepa and Rolly ... they even seem to enjoy each other's company and there's never a snarl or snap to be heard, she's that delightful.

Admittedly, having a 100 pound barrel of wiggling red furry love barreling at you can be a bit intimidating sometimes, but her overall demeanor is so kind and loving you get over that really quickly! She's back home with Mom and Dad now and was overjoyed to see them return to get her tonight. Her visits are always too brief and we hate to see her go, but she'll be back again at some point ....

While on the subject of all things doggie, Olivia tipped me off a while back to a great photo blog by a great photographer named Anna Kuperberg, who specializes in (among other things) taking amazing portraits of dogs. If you need a (near) daily dose of puppy love, I highly encourage you to visit Slobberspace ... you'll be glad you did!

More Shades of Lavender

I'd better have something yellow by the end of this week or I'm going to burn everyone out on shades of purple! I was hoping to get some shots of the newly opened Daffodils today, but a powerful low pressure system literally BLEW through the state today and winds were fierce until after sundown. I did see the Daffodils waving at me in the wind though...

These are two varieties of the 'Giant Dutch' crocus, which are later blooming species (but not by much!) than the Snow Crocus and much larger (at least in crocus terms!). I can't remember what the first variety (the lavender one) is called, but the second flower I know is called 'Pickwick.' (Always easy to remember due to the Dickens reference.)

We have some others blooming currently (including some gorgeous white ones) that I hope to shoot before they're done, but the last few days have been so windy and/or gloomy I haven't gotten to them yet. Anyway, Fernymoss took these on 13 April, 2008 during his photographic garden inspection.

In other bulby news ... we think the 'Crown Imperial' Fritillarias are breaking through, and we think we'll know for sure later this week. The Hyacinths are up and looking all 'Alien-y' ... squill are popping up all over and a few of the Globe Alliums are also up ... seems like there's something new to discover every day. Too bad I don't have the time to inspect every day ... seems that lately all the nice days during the week are work days and I don't always get out at that point in the day. We'll get in the groove more regularly once the chilly days are gone for the season. Ack, so much clean up still to be done!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Purple Crocus IB Bonanza

Lately we've had more crocus than you can shake a lens at popping up all over the place! These three shots are more of those Fernymoss took on Sunday during his photographic tour around the front gardens. It seems these guys are really coming into their own this year (they were planted in 2005) and staking out nice little clumps here and there in the main garden and along the sidewalk.

We're really liking the colour combinations I somehow achieved when I planted these particular bulbs ... nice combos of purple, white, and yellow all mixed together. As I recall I had several bags of specific bulbs, plus a mix of coulours and I just dumped them all together and set about planting 3-4 bulbs per hole all over the place on the North Woodland Garden side of the house. Last year wasn't a good one for them due to that unexpected very cold snap we had. They bloomed only briefly and then beat a hasty retreat until this year, where they are really shining now!

These shots are two different clumps with varying numbers of flowers currently blooming ... I think the first one really shows off the fantastic range of variations within a single variety, from the soft gradations of colours to the bold veinyness of others. And as for those buttery yellows, I'm just in love with those delectably creamy blooms ... they have the brightness of most crocus, but with much subtler gradations. If you look closely at the interior of the yellow one in the second shot, the IBs almost look like those of a tiny tulip! Oh, and there's a bonus bug pic we discovered when going over these photos ... can you find it? Fernymoss thinks it looks like a very small Lacewing up close ... good news, as we alway welcome them in our garden, due to their propensity to dispense with less desirable insect pests. Besides we think they're really pretty with their delicate almost transparent wings .... I guess this week is now officially Crocus Week at Casa IVG, so stay tuned for even more!

Photos taken by Fernymoss on 13 April 2008 using the S700 in ' Flower Scene Position.'

Monday, April 14, 2008

Very Unsettling ... Indeed Disturbing!

I ran across this article tonight while browsing my Yahoo news modules ... somehow the headline of Sludge Tested as Lead Poisoning Fix just caught my eye so I had to read it out of curiosity ... I do encourage you to read the entire article, but the skinny on it is that basically a government program in Maryland has been duping lower income (mostly African American) families into being guinea pigs in an experiment to use industrial and sewage sludge as a sort of 'neutralizer' of lead. Just take a look at the first couple of paragraphs here:
Scientists using federal grants spread fertilizer made from human and industrial wastes on yards in poor, black neighborhoods to test whether it might protect children from lead poisoning in the soil. Families were assured the sludge was safe and were never told about any harmful ingredients.

Nine low-income families in Baltimore row houses agreed to let researchers till the sewage sludge into their yards and plant new grass. In exchange, they were given food coupons as well as the free lawns as part of a study published in 2005 and funded by the Housing and Urban Development Department.

Yes, it gets worse ... just read on. And it's not unique to Baltimore, as these almost Mengelian experiments were also conducted in other low-income predominantly black areas such as E. St. Louis, IL. All, apparently, carried out without the clear informed consent of the families who agreed to put themselves and their children at potential risk, just for a "new lawn" and some food coupons. Despicable.

And lest you think I jumped too quickly to make the Mengele comparison, it appears that the Maryland Court of Appeals already went there well before I even read this article:
The Maryland Court of Appeals likened the study to Nazi medical research on concentration camp prisoners, the U.S. government's 40-year Tuskegee study that denied treatment for syphilis to black men in order to study the illness and Japan's use of "plague bombs" in World War II to infect and study entire villages.
That's the Alphonso Jackson HUD administration in action for you. Fortunately that particular scumball has finally been forced out and his last day at the government teat is this Friday. But as with most of the scandals that have emerged over the past seven and a half years (!) it's going to be a long time cleaning up after these thugs.

I think a lot of those people who were so quick to condemn the Rev Jeremiah Wright's comments from the pulpit as the ravings of an angry black man need to do some serious back-pedaling now. With revelations like this, it's increasingly hard to dismiss our government's more nefarious projects, carried out ostensibly in our names. Shameful, shameful, shameful ...

Siberian Squill

I've been grousing and fretting a lot lately because I've just not been seeing the Squill yet, though I knew they'd be popping up eventually ... I've just been impatient I guess ... and with the chilly weather of the past week or so with its drizzle, rain, snow and general dreariness I wanted my Spring Blues! So here's to the first of this year's Siberian Squill, captured so naturally and stunningly by Fernymoss on 13 April, 2008.

This little clump seems to have migrated a bit from a larger colony in the same area, as I can't recall planting any near the tulips in this particular spot, though they are naturalized nearby. That's another really nice feature about these early little charmers ... they tend to spread and move around any sunny area where they're planted. Given enough time, they establish themselves in beautiful drifts of blue and though they naturalize readily (and happily!) they are never aggressive and I can't imagine anyone but the harshest flower hater not wanting as many s/he can get in the garden or lawn, whichever may be the case. It'll be a long time before we ever consider them beyond capacity!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

First Hibiscus of 2008: Erin Rachel

It's got to be a true sign of Spring for real this time! Erin Rachel has ended her long winter rest from blooming and finally opened her first flower this weekend! You might remember this stunner from a few posts I did last year, and in particular a great Trifecta shot from last July.

didn't seem to take well to indoor dwelling at the beginning of the winter and dropped most of her leaves in protest, despite being in one of the sunniest spots we have in the house at the base of the stairs. She's definitely one of those high light plants who basically refuse to bloom until the light is intense enough and lasts longer ... so I've been encouraged more the last two months as she's bulked up on the leaves again and started to put on small buds, some of which, unfortunately dropped off before they developed much. Such is indoor life for a tropical hibiscus unless its humidity and light requirements are met more successfully than we were able to provide this past winter.

Though her first flower this year is significantly smaller than they will be once she's happily back outside again, it was a most welcome 'Hellooo!' to go downstairs yesterday morning and see this electrically bright bloom at the base of the stairs! Especially on a day when outside it was once again back to snow, rain and clouds all day ... Even with the lack of sun, I took this shot in natural light! Ah the emerging wonders from the S700 ... the more I use it, the more I'm impressed and less intimidated by its prowess. I just used the 'Flower' scene position with its built in macro settings and needless to say, I was really pleased with the results! Your thoughts ...?

Oh yeah, the previous 'Pink Wave' post was a detail of a portion of this flower ... if you look closely, I'm sure you'll find where it is in the larger context of the bloom ...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Riding the Big Pink Wave ...

Just a fun shot and preview of sorts for tomorrow's post ... Here's a big pink wave bordering on peachy good textures ... For an under the weather friend (aren't we all again at this point?) ... you know who you are, Olivia! Thought you might enjoy some positively pinky vibes this weekend.

Hope you shake that bug soon!


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Too Funny ...

It seems that much has been made of ABC News' recent acquisition of those videos taken during Wal Mart company functions and board meetings. Apparently Wal Mart contracted with the company to make these videos dating from the 1970s to 2006, when Wal Mart unexpectedtly severed their contract with the company (based in Kansas). Now, ABC News has posted several of them online and is making quite the splash with this little coup. Karma's a vengeful bitch, eh?

Now, in a deliciously ironic turn of events, Flagler Productions (producers of the videos) has put the entire library of videos up for sale ... And of course, Wal Mart is none too happy about this. It appears the range of the videos is vast ... from prancing employees in drag, to Sam Walton's admission about the company's failure to fairly promote women (for which they are currently defendants in a class action suit), to video of Hillary Clinton's time on the Wal Mart Board of Directors, when she was curiously silent about their Union Busting tactics during her tenure on the Board and as the then Arkansas Governor's First Lady. Yes, this is the same "champion of rights for the working person" Hillary Clinton currently running for president. (See video of HRC here.)

When Corporate Hypocrisy comes to America and runs for President it will be dressed in a pantsuit purchased at Wal Mart. (Apologies to Sinclair Lewis, whether he really said this or not.)

Shades of Purple Haze

These are some of the many shades of purple popping up around the garden over the last week ... I just love the many variations of purple the crocuses offer, often mixed with one of my other favorite colors, yellow. That's the best of both worlds for me, and when you can get a dynamic tricolor variety such as the one pictured in this post, I'm beyond delighted!

Of course there are the Dutch "Giant" Crocus (some of which were featured previously here) that display much deeper hues of purple, and some even have dramatic veining in the petals (pictures forthcoming) that just have to be seen to be believed. Some are already up and ready to bloom, but the weather has been rather chilly and rainy the past few days and the forecast only predicts more of the same (rain and perhaps more snow) for the next several days and through the weekend. So who knows when I'll be able to get some good shots of them, as they've pretty much "closed up shop" the last couple of days. Though I've been disappointed with the overall lack of sun of late, as well as the chillier temperatures, I did decide that one upside to this was that it will probably prolong the crocus bloom time, keeping them ready but not overly enthusiastic about blooming just yet. At least I was lucky enough to get these shots late last Friday afternoon to hold me over until I can get out and take some more. Stay tuned for more to come ...

Photos taken 4 April, 2008 with the S700 ...

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

How Dare We Be Optimistic?

We've all been complaining a lot lately (not unjustifiably) about this past winter's seemingly interminable succession of snow, rain, ice, snow, ice storms ... not to mention how it just dragged on and on ...

We've observed in the nearly 10 years we've gardened at this house, that our winters have gotten increasingly erratic and just downright weird. We'd get one really harsh, cold and snowy winter that killed perennials, then one with hardly any snow and the premature appearance of spring bulbs. And, last year, in December I was worrying that the daffodils would be trying to come up ... Last March we also had a precocious early spring warming that set everything in motion, then three weeks of sub-freezing, downright cold conditions. That's what zapped a great deal of last year's tulips, daffodils, fritillarias and other bulbs. And, as one who spent his formative years in Iowa (before my prodigal son phase), winters just aren't what I remember being the norm as I was growing up.

How anyone can deny the growing climate crisis we're experiencing is beyond this simple gardener's comprehension. The climate is changing, and by all indications, we're only seeing the initial effects on the local level at this point, probably because that is only what we know most intimately. As Al Gore demonstrated so dramatically in An Inconvenient Truth, the global effects are already ominously apparent. And
alarming recent reports about break away parts of the Antarctic ice shelf (one the size of Manhattan!) only serve to bolster scientists' and Gore's arguments. A couple of years ago, when I was researching something for the blog, I found this link to the Arbor Day Foundation's animation of Hardiness Zone Changes since 1990 to 2006. It bears witness to what we've seen personally, here in our little corner of the world. Folks, this is real. It's happening now, and it will affect not only us, but those who come after us ... as if we didn't have enough trumped up reasons for war and conquest already, can catastrophic weather changes make it even worse? I fear the educated answer must be yes.


How Dare We Be Optimistic?

This is the titular theme of Al Gore's recent presentation to the TED (Technology Entertainment Design) Foundation in March, 2008. As he showed in An Inconvenient Truth, Al is no mere prophet of doom, he's also an apostle of optimism who believes in the innate goodness of humans to recognize a problem and to seek its solution. Yes, he is sounding the alarm bells to try to wake people up, and though the task ahead of us is daunting, he offers a multitude of small ways to bring about positive change on a personal level. Whether it be changing all light bulbs to compact fluorescents (have you done that yet? You should ... you'll save money!) to adopting more carbon neutral practices in our daily lives, recent Nobel Prize winner Al Gore remains on the forefront of this crucial issue. You need to listen to him tell it like it is ... it's alternately alarming and inspiring, passionate and informative.

We're all going to have to change the way we think and live our everyday lives, no matter what . Whether we choose the optimistic path and work to effect positive changes to alleviate the problem or that of passive participant, it's ultimately up to us. I'm not as sure as Al is that we're up to the task, but I'm hopeful that were on the cusp of a sea change of political and generational change in our thinking.

Note on the video linked above: this talk lasts about 25-30 minutes, with a brief Q/A exchange at the end.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Chilly Crocus and A Farewell to Snow(?)

This shot was taken.after the most recent snow on 3 April, 2008. We're hoping this is the last of it we will get this Spring, but there are no sure guarantees in the often fickle climate here in Iowa. The first year I lived here (1994) I recall it snowing as late as early May, with lows in the 40's lasting into June ... we're just keeping all appendages crossed that a repeat of last year's disastrous cold snap is not in the offing. I don't think our Spring bulbs could take another extended spell like that one, not to mention that it virtually destroyed our normally colorful Spring bulb show.

Though it's supposed to go down to about 32/0 tonight, nights like that shouldn't affect things too much, but we sure hope it doesn't become ingrained pattern over the critical course of this month! Some comfortably coolish type weather really would be to our advantage for a while, to give us the chance to mass sow some early spring seeds we'd like to get out, namely a bunch of Larkspur, Foxglove and Rudbeckias. Perhaps a few of the pink poppies as well, but we usually don't even bother with those or calendula because they seem to do quite well left to their own devices. I think we might also consider sowing some Convolvulus tricolor as well, because we never seem to get that in soon enough, and we always end up wanting more than we get!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Galanthus Forever! (I wish...)

Some more shots of Snowdrops ... in the snow this time, albeit briefly! I took the first shot Friday late afternoon, when the sun was literally pouring through the flowers out front (such as the crocus in the previous post) on a really nice spring day ... whereas Fernymoss took the second shot just the previous day when we got that surprise snow. Though the second environment is how we usually expect to see the Snowdrops emerge (which usually happens in February, not late March!) ... eager harbingers of spring, bearing promises of crocus soon to come ...

Though I didn't get out to take some more shots today (household tasks got in the way), I did take a quick tour around the back yard and front gardens to see how things are progressing ... still no signs of the big Hyacinths, the Crown Imperials or the Siberian Squill, but there are lots of crocus, tulips, Daffodils, Chionodoxa and Spanish Squill breaking ground. It won't be much longer, that is, if the weather cooperates!

Olivia asked me recently if the Dragon Arum had broken ground yet, to which I of course had to answer Not yet... If I recall correctly (I should check the archives on this), it broke through in late April or Early May last year, and was in full bloom a month later. We're hoping that this year (its third) it may actually be able to muster up more than one bloom, though even if it's just one (as last year) we'll be more than happy. We're planning on adding one or two more of these spectacular oddities in the fall, if all goes well ... we'd love to incorporate some more Arums into the scheme of things, but I think we'll need to take stock of the landscape after everything is up here to see if there is enough room. They're somewhat pricey bulbs to plant, but well worth the results they offer!

If you're interested in planting some interesting bulbs, I'll conclude by linking to two resources we have used (to great satisfaction) for purchasing bulbs online.

The first, McClure-Zimmerman bulbs has a fantastic selection ranging from the more common bulbs (tulips, crocus, etc.) to more esoteric collectors' items such as a wealth of Fritillaria species and of course, Arums.

Van Bourgondien bulbs and plants was the original source for the Dragon Arum, as well as that half bushel of daffodils we planted several years ago. They have competitive prices, a great selection and best of all, they ship exactly when you're ready to plant, so you can order in June (usually with a significant discount) and they'll arrive right about when you're ready to plant. They usually also include a freebie or two with larger orders (we got a couple of Iris from them last time) and don't charge your card until they ship (in case that's a concern). --End of shameless plug-- But I'm often asked where one can get certain things they've seen on the blog, and these are two sources we consider reliable, high quality purveyor of bulbs.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Snow Crocus, Indeed!

As the saying goes, What a difference a day makes! These shots of our purple "Giant" crocus in the bulb bed out front were taken late afternoon yesterday and today ... under obviously different weather and light conditions! What a difference, indeed ...

Yesterday we got about 1.5 in of snow (not counting the rain and sleet earlier) and these trusty, hardy crocus were keeping the shop closed for the day ... who could blame them? But bring out the sun on a warm day (it got up to 59) and it's a wholly different world among the crocus, and a lot brighter too!

I took the top shot at about 5:15 (CDT), just after work when the sun came out in earnest (after appearing off and on during the day) and I had to take the new S700 out for another spin. I was really pleased with most of the shots I got, many of which will soon be appearing here ... I can see I've still got a ton of learning to do with this camera! The S700 has a lot of what Fuji calls "scene positions" geared toward certain subjects and lighting conditions, as well as an automatic super macro setting. I'm going to experiment, of course, but I think I may end up using this setting a lot ....

Fernymoss took the other two shots yesterday at about 5:45 (CDT), just as the day's snow was beginning to melt already. The second shot not only centers on the rich purple of the crocus, but also provides a good perspective of the (original) bulb bed out front. The third gives us a slightly closer view and really draws attention to the water droplets and snow.

Now I'm really beginning to get excited about the arrival of the flowers, as well as the new S700, which you can be sure will be getting lots of use as the seasons progress. (We'll see where my learning curve has gone by fall!)

Friday, April 04, 2008

Snowy Miniature Iris

These ultra diminutive and lovely miniature Iris are extremely transitory bloomers (a flower may last up to three days at best) and don't seem to last long in the larger garden scheme of things either. But when they do deign to appear among the other spring bulbs, they sure manage to steal the show from the crocus, even if briefly.

We originally planted about twenty or so bulbs about six or seven years ago, and the two or three that come up in the back corner garden are the only survivors. In the other areas where we had them planted, they came up for a couple of years and then vanished, so we kind of wrote them off as short lived. So we're always pleasantly surprised when they do make an appearance! They are truly gems among the early spring bloomers ...

I'm beginning to think we should perhaps give them another chance and plant some more in the fall ... we're already dreaming of planting as many crocus as we can afford, along with two or three more Dragon Arums, as well as more snowdrops. We think we can find lots of spaces for small bulbs like these (in the yard and parking), whereas honestly, we probably won't have the oomph or ambition to undertake another couple hundred tulips and daffodils like we did in 2005! That was a huge undertaking of planting some 200 tulips, 200 daffodils, 100 Spanish Squill, 50 Muscari and numerous other smaller bulbs (including some crocus previously featured here). Neither of us is ready to do that again any time soon, but on the other hand we just can't get enough of these spring beauties ....

As you can see, there's snow on the ground and flower. Today started off gloomy, with occasional rain, then went downhill from there ... by early afternoon it was a cold, steady rain that eventually progressed into full on snow showers in earnest, accumulating quickly on the yard and garden, but sparing the streets and sidewalks. (We'd love to put that snow shovel away!) Hello, weather! Take the hint from the flowers and get this Spring rolling along ....

Photos taken 3 April, 2008 by Fernymoss, using the new Fuji S700. This photo was reduced by about half from its original size to make it manageable for posting ...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Shades of Yellow!

I stopped by Olivia's place earlier and discovered she beat me to the yellow factor for the day. Not that I had to counter or compete or anything, but I've had these shots in the can (so to speak) for a few days, but just haven't gotten them up yet. (Something about the arrival of the S700 slowed me down...)

Anyway, here are some more examples of the early "snow" crocus we have planted in various spots around the yard and garden. The first shot is a small clump of what I call "Butter Crocus" for obvious reasons ... they were part of a mix we planted back in 2005 during the massive bulb planting. These particular ones are along the sidewalk, along with some Grape Hyacinths and Spanish Squill ... at this point only the crocus are blooming but the Grape Hyacinths are up, and the Squill will come along a bit later (they're one of the last bulbs to bloom in the spring).

The second shot is the same variety that I first posted recently ... Golden Snow Crocus is what I call them, because I've long since forgotten the specific variety. This humble little clump is apparently the same variety, only it has moved out into the yard a bit, actually a good distance from the parent bulbs. I'm always delighted to discover little clumps of flowers that have moved around in the garden (can't wait for the Siberian Squill to show up soon!). To me, that's a sure sign they're doing well and like growing here. Good!

Finally, some more of the "Golden" variety planted in the original bulb bed, which is now filling in rapidly with more emerging crocus (including some of the Dutch Giants), daffodils and tulips. These aren't far from the Snowdrops I posted the other day, just to provide a bit of context. Even though the weather has been a bit on the too chilly side the last few days (especially Monday), things are still breaking ground and getting ready for their spring début ... I noticed that the two plantings I have of the dwarf tulips (in the big boulder bed) are already up as well ... still no sign of the big Hyacinths though ... hope to see those soon!

Photos taken with the Fuji 2650 on 29 March, 2008.

P.S. I just got my copy of Sweeney Todd today (along with my 2GB memory card for the S700) and we watched it in awe tonight. Wow, whatta musical! Of course I think Tim Burton has always had that in him (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), but he really pushed the proverbial envelope in this one! Definitely not for the squeamish, but it's bloody good fun with an impeccable cast led by Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat and Ali G) even has a short, but incredibly fun turn as a poisonously unctuous rival barber. Alan Rickman (Prof. Snape from the Harry Potter films) also really shines as the villain who instigates the whole revenge plot enacted by Sweeney. If you're a fan of either Burton or Stephen Sondheim, you won't be disappointed by this film ... great singing, a little dancing, and a lot of gore. What more could you ask for?