On Color…

31 08 2007

“I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn’t say any other way—things I had no words for.” — Georgia O’Keefe, American Painter, 1887-1986

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.



Snowberry Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

29 08 2007

Now that’s a mouthful, ain’t it? I was just out cleaning up the front yard garden (if one can even call it a garden at this point…I can’t believe how many weeds I’ve let sprout!) and while trimming the dead parts out of our purple butterfly bush, I spotted this little guy and knew it was a hummingbird moth (Debbi taught me about them a few years ago when we spotted one in the back yard). I grabbed my camera and got a few (mostly blurry shots—they’re not called hummingbirds for nothing). Here are the best shots I could get…you can barely see the “clearwings” because it was moving so fast. I identified it through several websites…the snowberry clearwing is the smallest of the hummingbird moths.

From my research:
Clearwing moths, the group to which the hummingbird and bumblebee mimics belong, lose the scales on their front wings after their first flight. Their wings resemble leaded stained glass with clear glass in the panels, much like a bee or wasp wing. The snowberry clearwing is often mistaken for a bumblebee. Not only does this clearwing have yellow and black bands, it also hovers and flits from flower to flower while sipping nectar.

Adults fly throughout the day in open woodlands and fields, as well as in gardens and suburbs throughout the state, between late March and September. This bumblebee mimic is yellow with black wings and abdomen. At 1.25 to 2 inches, its wingspan is slightly smaller than that of the hummingbird clearwing. Its larvae feed on honeysuckle, dogbane and buckbrush. Adults eat from many flowers, including thistles, milkweed and lilac.

If you want to learn more about this critter, click on the link below:



© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Go West, Young Women

28 08 2007

Clockwise, outer photos:
Sue stands in front of some wonderful sculptures at a studio on the way to Half Moon Bay…Sue eating apples (she claims she found on the ground) at Filoli (there are over 50 types of pears and apples growing in the Gardens)…Sue sits in “the big chair” outside the Napa Valley Visitors Center…Sue and Gina after dinner in Chinatown (we had Mexican food, if you can believe that)…in the second photo Sue looks excited and Gina’s going to sleep (too much studying!)…halfway between Filoli and Half Moon Bay, Sue spotted a family of eight deer grazing by the lake…Sue twirls in the grand ballroom at the Filoli estate…a recurring theme—watching our toes—the gull finds his feet as equally interesting as Sue does hers…while our gardens are waning, they’re growing begonias the size of salad plates in Half Moon Bay…Sue shows off her purchases in front of our cute (and fun to drive!) Jeep as we leave the Filoli Garden Gift Shop…Sue demonstrates how to wear sunglasses and map reading glasses simultaneously (most likely this is a Glamour don’twhere is my black cardboard swatch when I need it?)…Big portions and really great food at Big Joe’s Cafe in downtown Burlingame…CENTER: Sue hugs a very sharp metal elephant sculpture…Gina recovers from a day of studying and indulges in a bedtime bag of Trader Joe’s Pirate’s Booty popcorn…Sue almost fell into the basin at The Pulgas Water Temple at the Hetch Hetchy Waste Water Treatment Plant in Woodside, California. More information on The Pulgas below.


Far away from the Bay Area and within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park lies the Tuolomne River watershed. Each year, in the springtime, when the Sierra snows begin to melt and feed the many streams flowing into the Grand Canyon of the Tuolomne, the water accumulates behind the O ’Shaughnessy Dam in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. Then, through a remarkable series of aqueducts, tunnels and powerhouses, the water is transported across the Central Valley and into Crystal Springs Reservoir, located just north of Woodside, to quench the thirst of the Bay Area. As a monument to this achievement, the Pulgas Water Temple serves to remind us of the precious nature of this resource.

A variety of plants and trees (such as cottonwood, cotoneaster, and California coffeeberry) thrive in the well-tended grounds. A rectangular reflecting pool lined with cypress trees is an attractive accompaniment to the small columned temple. A quote from the Book of Isaiah (“I give waters in the wilderness and rivers in the desert to give drink to my people”) is inscribed on a plaque. Pulgas Water Temple was designed in the Beaux Arts style by William Merchant, a San Francisco architect trained by Bernard Maybeck. Merchant’s design featured fluted columns and Corinthian capitals to reflect the architecture of ancient Greeks and Romans, whose engineering methods were used to build the new water system. Artist and master stone carver Albert Bernasconi brought Merchant’s drawings to life.

(NOTE: We certainly don’t have anything this pretty to “honor water” at the Blue Plains Treatment Plant in D.C…..a little known fact: I’ve been there to photograph the site when I was a freelancer working for the Water Environment Federation…so I have behind-the-scenes information about treatment plants and photos of the entire process…more than you would ever want to know about!)


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

California Snaps

28 08 2007

Photos, left to right, clockwise, outer:
Sue braved the cold and blustery winds on the north side of the Golden Gate Bridge…a vineyard and garden statue at Viansa Winery and Italian Marketplace in Napa Valley (http://www.viansa.com/)…our cute red Jeep Liberty with a backdrop of Goat Rock Park (the Jeep was an upgrade we didn’t have to pay extra for!)…dancing gull at Goat Rock (speaking of dancing gulls (not to mention totally useless information)…did you know that they do dance on the ground to entice worms to come to the surface?

Don’t believe me? Click here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=LRnxLcpNUDA …Golden Gate Bridge from Sue’s perspective as passenger…shots on the beach at Half Moon Bay and Goat Rock Park…flora at Kendall-Jackson Vineyard in Sonoma Valley (http://www.kj.com/home.asp)…beachcomber at Goat Rock Beach (if you simply must experience Goat Rock Park now, watch this video (turn up your speakers!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CRbLNbf8iR0…vamping with Gina in Palo Alto—where we ate the best bruschetta on the planet at Pasta? Trattoria and Bar (http://www.pastaq.com/


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

California Through Sue’s Eyes…

28 08 2007

I armed Sue with my Nikon Coolpix camera while we were in California and let her go. Nice job on the closeup of the bee, by the way…didn’t think that little camera could focus that well up close. Well done, grasshopper!


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Green Spring Gardens 8.28.2007

28 08 2007

I went to Green Spring Gardens earlier this morning to do some garden photography…as usual, the place was abuzz with bees and butterflies!

The bright red and purple flower (top, center) is a Cuphea llavea ‘Tiny Mice’ plant. Its common name, bat-faced cuphea, describes it perfectly. Since cupheas are a desert plant, you assume it would be drought tolerant. But this little beauty, in its native haunts, grows close to streams, requiring moist yet well-drained soil.

I got several shots of Tiger Swallowtails and here’s a site with some good information on this species: http://www.oznet.ksu.edu/johnson/hort/Butterfly/TigerSwallowtail.htm


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Napa, Sonoma, and Bodega Bay

28 08 2007

Sue and I have discovered that you simply cannot tour the entire wine country region in half a day! We foolishly thought we could cover (quickly) both Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley in one day. (They looked much closer on the map!) Even with stopping only at two wineries, two olive oil companies, and a soap shop, we realized we were just scratching the surface of these two regions. And there are more than 200 wineries in each region!

We stopped at a few wineries—Sue’s wish list included CakeBread Winery in Napa Valley and Kendall-Jackson in Sonoma Valley. We also discovered The Olive Press, and St. Helena Olive Oil Co. and, after sampling our way in and out of both places, we came away with several bottles of oils and balsamic vinegars.

We made a quick stop at the heavenly-smelling Napa Soap Company, where I picked up a Hazelnut Pear Soap for Debbi and a Basil Soap for Michael. Some soaps are cleverly named for the region’s bounty: Cabernet Soapignon, Soapignon Blanc, Shea-R-donnay, and Tea-no Grigio! We only made it halfway through Napa Valley before cutting over to Sonoma Valley and the coastline, but we’ve definitely decided it’s worth another trip (maybe a weeklong one?), and we’ve discovered at least one property, Goat Rock House (with a magnificent view) that is now on our wish list to rent, but there are many other properties to check out on the Coastal Vistas website.

We discovered the Goat Rock House on Goat Rock State Beach just after we left Sonoma Valley. Goat Rock is near the mouth of the Russian River, and is known for its scenic shoreline. It is home to a colony of harbor seals (we didn’t see any) who make this area home during pupping season (March through August). We drove down to the beach and discovered this most peculiar gull (below). At first I thought he had a deformity on his beak (a tumor, perhaps), until I zoomed in with my longest telephoto lens and saw the dot pattern on the “legs” hanging out his beak. It was a starfish! And he was trying to swallow it whole. There were two other gulls nearby, just waiting for him to turn it loose. After I photographed him, I walked away and Sue observed him spitting out his lunch…so that confirmed that he didn’t have a facial malformity. He had just bit off more than he could chew, so to speak.

Speaking of starfish, I’ve discovered that a sea star has a mouth, but no head. It can squeeze out its stomach to get a meal. And it can sometimes grow a twin of itself from one of its arms. There are nearly 2000 kinds of sea stars, and they live on ocean bottoms all around the world. Sea stars are found in waters both cold and warm, shallow and deep. Many people call them starfish. But they aren’t really fish at all. Sea stars are echinoderms (eh-KY-nuh-derms). That name means “spiny-skinned.” The spines on sea stars are small and stubby—not long and show-offy like those on their cousins, the sea urchins. For more fascinating information on sea stars: http://oceanlink.island.net/oinfo/biodiversity/seastars.html

We had dinner later (Mexican food, not sea stars) in Bodega Bay, and then headed back over the Golden Gate Bridge.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Half Moon Bay

28 08 2007

After we left Filoli, we drove the short distance north to the city of Half Moon Bay in San Mateo County. For more information about this quaint town, click here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half_Moon_Bay,_California.

We toured the shops, had lunch and hot chocolate at a deli, and spent some time sitting on one of the beaches (http://www.parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=531). We made fast friends with a family who had never visited this particular area in the ten years they’ve lived nearby. I got a sweet and fun shot of Sue photographing Wendy, husband Steve, daughter Jennifer, and a son (whose name escapes me at the moment…Alex?). Wendy is a fellow gardener and highly recommended that we visit the Huntington Library gardens the next time we’re in California. (http://www.huntington.org/BotanicalDiv/HEHBotanicalHome.html) I checked out the site and it’s now on my list of garden-related places to visit.

The top photo pretty much sums up the feeling of being on the beach, surrounded by cool breezes, sand between your toes, with no pressing agenda, away from technology and computers and cell phones, on a beautiful August day.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Exploring Filoli with Sue 8.23.2007

28 08 2007

This past Thursday, Sue and I visited Filoli, a private property of the National Trust for Historic Preservations, in Woodside, California, just thirty miles south of San Francisco. Jeff was there last month and highly recommended it. The 654-acre estate has a 36,000 square foot historic house and sixteen acres of formal gardens. Filoli was built for Mr. and Mrs. William Bowers Bourn II and his wife, Agnes, in 1917. Mr. Bourn arrived at the unusual name Filoli by combining the first two letters from the key words of his credo: “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.

The Gardens grandeur was once shown in the opening scene of the popular TV series, Dynasty, and in movies such as Heaven Can Wait and The Joy Luck Club.

I had seen the photo of the knot garden (on the first page of Filoli’s web site) by photographer Saxon Holt (http://www.saxonholt.com/) a few years ago and never knew where it was shot until now. The best time to visit the gardens, according to a volunteer we spoke with, is in late April/early May. That’s the time when the knot garden is at its peak, and the garden is blooming with all the Dutch-inspired spring flowers. From late April to June, 500 rose bushes come into bloom. Their garden shop is one of the best (and most extensive) we’ve visited (and you know how we love garden shops). The weather was perfect (80 degrees or so), but then, almost every day in California is like that!

The garden is a succession of garden rooms, terraces, lawns, and pools. There is a large cutting garden, myriad fruit trees (ripening pears and apples abound, and Sue found some on the ground for us to sample), a cutting garden, and an extensive rose garden that would have Debbi smitten in no time. We were a little surprised at how much was still in bloom in this part of the country, particularly when our own gardens are waning in the recent summer heat. Go to the site here: http://www.filoli.org/garden_gen.html and peruse their gardener’s reference sheets. If you’re ever in San Francisco, it’s an easy half-hour drive to this beautiful estate.

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Green Spring Gardens 8.12.2007

12 08 2007

Jeff and I went to Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria early this morning to do some shooting and came away with some great butterfly photos…we saw Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Monarchs (several attached), Silver-spotted Skippers, cabbage moths, and various (yet to be identified by me) bees. We also saw several golden finches but they were far too quick to photograph. The weather was wonderful (80+ degrees), but the bright sunlight isn’t the best for photographing flowers and insects…but we got some great images despite the lighting conditions. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/gsgp/


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

The grammar guru strikes again…

10 08 2007

An e-mail from my Dad, in reference to me using “thankfully” inappropriately in my “Raindrops on Roses” posting….(in all honesty, I knew I was most likely using it incorrectly…I was just being lazy):

Thankfully is an adverb, a word which takes the action of a verb. The statement “And enough to soak the ground, thankfully” seems to indicate that the rain was thankful that it managed to fall in an amount sufficient enough to soak the ground. The use of a comma between “ground” and “thankfully” adds to that misperception—it causes the reader to pause, and thus adds emphasis to the notion that the rain was pleased with its performance.

One cannot say, with a high degree of certainty, that the rain was not, in fact, thankful that its efforts were fruitful, but given the vagaries of rainfall (at least in my part of the country), it’s doubtful that the rain felt such emotion—in fact, it’s somewhat doubtful that rain is capable of feeling any emotion, regardless of its output.

The misuse of adverbs is almost universal—learned people from all disciplines, some with impressive titles preceding their names (doctor, governor, senator, president, etc.) and long strings of letters after their names identifying degrees and specialties—MD, BA, RN, BS, MBA, SOB, etc.) frequently (no, not frequently—consistently) misuse adverbs.

In my experience the misuse of “hopefully” leads the pack, with “thankfully” running a close second.

If all the above seems to be a severe case of nit-picking, that’s because it is. I’m guilty. I admit it. I am a zealot—a registered, dyed-in-the-wool, confirmed card-carrying NIT-PICKER, and as the slogan of one of the nation’s hamburger chains says, “I’m loving it!”!

(Note the double exclamation point in the last sentence—that’s allowable when the exclamation points are separated by a quotation mark).

Bees (and Wasps) I have known

9 08 2007

I love photographing insects in the garden. Among my favorite: bees…they’re of ample size to fill a macro lens frame, they move fairly slowly, and they love a variety of plants, so you can always get a different background. If you want to learn more about the plight of bees, here’s a great article:



Egads! Another Zena Bethune?

8 08 2007

Not to be upstaged by her pesky brother, our cat ZenaB must have her share of the spotlight in this blog. We named her ZenaB after a not-so-well-known actress (at least to us) named Zena Bethune. When my sister Debbie and I were younger, we would always try to guess who a particular actress or actor was and my Dad would always pipe in (from his prone position on the couch), “It’s Zena Bethune!” No matter what movie, no matter whether the unidentified person was male or female, his answer was always the same. So throughout the years Debbie and I never realized there really was someone named Zena Bethune…that is, until a movie we were watching ended and in the credit listing was Zena Bethune’s name. (We apologize to Dad for thinking he made up the name).

When we got our born-in-a-barn-to-a-barn-cat-mamma kitten, we were searching for an appropriate and highly original (or so we thought) name…Michael and I were at a crossroads until Debbie reminded me of what Dad would always say when we were at a loss for a name….so that’s how ZenaB got her moniker. If Debbie hadn’t piped in, ZenaB would be Sexy Sadie or something to that effect…and given her clumsiness (ZenaB, not Debbie), that name would have definitely been a misnomer. On the other hand, judging by the not-so-ladylike shot of her sprawled out below, Sexy Sadie might have been a better fit.

I always thought it was Zena Bethume (with an “m”). In searching for information on Zena Bethune (the actress, not the cat) on the Web, I actually found another cat named Zena Bethume http://redfield13.tripod.com/ Apparently the owner of this cat and I think alike about the misspelling! And here we thought we were being original!

Regarding the human ZenaB, I’ve discovered she was on the soap opera, Guiding Light, for a number of years in the ’50s and was in the movie, Mean Streets, with Harvey Keitel in 1973. On one Website, http://www.ballettalk.com (no, I’m not a dancer nor do I have a fascination with ballet…the Web took me to some seemingly disconnected places in my research on ZenaB), someone wrote, “Does anyone remember Zena Bethune? I thought it fascinating when I was young that a ballet dancer would become a soap opera actress. This was back in the 60s. She later went on to star in a TV show called “The Nurses.” I seem to remember that after her television experiences, she went back to the performing arts in some capacity.”

She apparently started a dance company at some point—Zena Bethune Theatre Dance Co.

So, there you have it…the human ZenaB was a dancer prior to becoming someone whose name has inspired us (and apparently at least one other cat owner).

In the bottom photo, ZenaB serves as a consultant (and silent partner) to Michael as he starts his new business, JumpStart Computing.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Kenilworth Gardens

6 08 2007

Jeff and I took a photo road trip over to Kenilworth Gardens this morning…while the weather was perfect for humans (sunny but not hot), the breezes made it difficult for photographs! These are a few of the shots I was able to get when the breezes took a break….my jaunt there last year (as well as the year before that) was more fruitful, photography-wise. And since we were delayed by the drawbridge going up on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, we got there later in the morning than expected, so the harsh sun was also not conducive to garden photography….but I did get some nice ones. If you haven’t been, it’s really beautiful when the lotus plants bloom in mid-July (http://www.nps.gov/keaq/).

Mary Ellen (www.happytonics.org), you will be pleased to know that milkweed grows alongside the lotus ponds like, well, WEEDS! And we saw several Monarchs, as well as female and male Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterflies, taking advantage of this very important plant.
More Kenilworth Garden photos: www.cindydyer.com/KenilworthGardens


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos

Heavenly blue

5 08 2007

The top middle image is a shot of the massive morning glory takeover of the side of the house last year. The morning I shot this I counted over 300 blooms. It is truly a sight to take your breath away!


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos

Chanticleer Garden

5 08 2007

Michael and I took a day trip up to visit Chanticleer Garden in Pennsylvania on Friday. When we got there, we only got to see the gardens for about 1/2 hour and were halted by a severe thunderstorm. We headed back toward home, figuring the day was a goner, but then the sky cleared and the sun came out! So, we headed back to the gardens and were able to enjoy the sights for a few more hours. This place is an absolute paradise! If I won the lottery (would have to play to actually win, I suppose), this is what I would create. Exactly this garden (with my added artistic touches, of course)….it is joyfully whimsical, flows beautifully, a tapestry of colors and textures and shapes…myriad places to sit and contemplate…many side trails to explore…a beautiful estate home surrounded by tropical annuals of every kind and many different water features…majestic old trees anchoring the 35 acres…hummingbirds and butterflies at every turn…lotus blossoms, water lilies, several ponds…”ancient” ruins…waterfalls…trails leading through fern covered forests…even the restrooms (in two locations in the middle of the property) are decadent and beautiful!

While the original grounds were no doubt beautiful with rolling greens and stately trees, present-day Chanticleer is the work of 7 horticulturists (and supporting seasonal staff) with amazing imaginations and seemingly unlimited funding for their creative fantasies!

I shot as much as I could with the on-and-off again sprinkling, fogging lenses, and increasingly uncomfortable humidity level. This collage will give you an overall sense of how breathtaking this place is despite those photography obstacles. One of my favorite areas is the “ruins” of an old house (a NEW partially assembled “house” built on the foundation of an original home…it even has what I called a pool table (it was long like a real pool table but was filled with water)…a fireplace complete with a wrought iron screen and a “living” mantel built of succulents and cacti. And the best part? It had a “library,” complete with carved stone and marble “books” strewn around it. You can just imagine how this biblioholic felt about that room!

To learn more about this wonderful place, visit: http://www.chanticleergarden.org/

AND NOW FOR THE ARTISTRY IN THE GARDEN (my favorite? scroll down to the bottom of their website and look at the stone couch and chairs….I told Michael all he needed was a remote control and he’d be set…he then pointed out there already was a remote control carved out of stone with semi-precious “buttons” on the end of the couch!). Just imagine lying on that couch with a good book on a balmy spring day (and a cushion to soften things up).



© 2007 Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.

Plants that Sizzle, Not Fizzle

3 08 2007

On Saturday morning Regina and I attended a walking lecture/garden tour at Green Spring Gardens. The lectured was entitled, “Plants that Sizzle, Not Fizzle.” We were introduced to many plants both familiar and not (and Regina and I were quite proud that we could both spout off the names of the majority of them). We took home a checklist of plants that can withstand our heat and do well in drought conditions. We also got to take home free plants. And, of course, I had to bring all my camera gear.

Sherry, a gardener we met on the walk, pointed out this unusual butterfly on a coneflower in one of the demonstration gardens. It was such a strange looking thing (the butterfly, not Sherry!)….both ends appeared to be moving and we couldn’t tell which end was the head…it appears to have two heads with antennae at both ends.

On one of the Websites below I read that the tails on the hind wings with their associated eyespots resemble a head. The movement of the tails is believed to attract a potential predator’s attention to that part of the wings which then is torn away, allowing the butterfly to escape. It certainly had us confused….we didn’t know if it was two mating butterflies or a mutant one. Neat! (Thanks for the observation and leading us to this unusual butterfly, Sherry.)

I perused some butterfly identification Web sites and have discovered this is a red-banded Hairstreak (Calycopis cecrops), Insecta: Lepidoptera: Lycaenidae

Check out this site and scroll to the bottom to see the same butterfly



FYI…if you’re ever curious about a bug and are just itchin’ to identify it (who wouldn’t be? 😉 this is a great site that I use frequently. This link will lead you to a shot of the same butterfly I photographed.


On a subject not truly related to gardening (unless you’ve seen them IN your garden), but a very important subject nonetheless, Sherry told us about http://www.herorat.com. We were discussing Regina volunteering at the Alexandria Animal Shelter and the subject went from cats to ferrets to pet rats…she mentioned this site….very interesting and as she mentioned, it’s a well-done site. Michael and I had a pet rat (adopted from the outdoors when someone let their “feeder rat” go after their snake died)…and he was, surprisingly, a really neat pet. As much as I love all animals, having a rat wasn’t something that had crossed my mind. He lived for just over 5 years (a normal lifespan) and was just a wonderful little part of our family. Check out the site and see how rats are saving lives. www.herorat.com


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved. www.cindydyerphotography.com

Praying Mantis

2 08 2007

One of my favorite insects to photograph is the fascinating praying mantis. They are very still, waiting for their prey, making them quite easy to photograph. I did some research and found this very useful Web site below. I just love the site’s name—”insecta-inspecta.” See the center triptych? I watched this mantis for several minutes…then he reached over and grabbed the morning glory (presumably going after the myriad ants that love this plant) and left a hole after devouring his prey. (Hmmm….so that’s how those holes come to be!) It was good photographic luck to be able to witness and successfully photograph it.

And, speaking of praying mantis, this afternoon Gina and I stopped by Home Depot on Route 1 to look at the plant selection…there were some items on sale and when Gina reached up to check them out, she encountered a rather large green and brown praying mantis (he looked just like the mantis below–bottom row, far left). Figuring someone would buy the discounted plant sooner than a regular-priced plant, I took the plant he was on and embarked on “Operation Mantis Relocation.” I leaned the plant over a tall sedum (which I know they like since I’ve photographed them on sedums in our garden) and he casually sauntered onto it. It’s all about location, location, location!


And a tribute to this creature by poet Ogden Nash:

The Praying Mantis by Ogden Nash

From whence arrived the praying mantis?
From outer space, or lost Atlantis?
glimpse the grin, green metal mug
at masks the pseudo-saintly bug,
Orthopterous, also carnivorous,
And faintly whisper, Lord deliver us.

More poetry by Ogden Nash




© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.com/GardenPhotos

Name that Bug, Contest #1

2 08 2007

Preliminary results of the first “Name that Bug” contest

Head Weed’s comments are in italics and Weedette entries are in bold.

The first response: at exactly 1:18 p.m. today, Franci wrote:

milkweed bug!!!!!!!

(Wanna bet my Dad is cringing at all those exclamation marks? 😉

Realizing she hadn’t backed her entry with supporting research, Franci sent another e-mail one minute later at 1:19 p.m., referencing:

The bug was found on a butterfly weed, which I initially thought was a form of milkweed, but later realized it was Ascelpias tuberosa (note how freely I toss out those Latin names! 😉 Reading “Milkweed bug!” in Franci’s first entry convinced me it might just be a milkweed bug.

While only the bug at the very bottom of the first Web site link she sent looks a little like the photograph I submitted, it wasn’t identified as a milkweed bug, so this site is not convincing me she’s 100% correct. (I must note that the yin/yang two-toned multicolored Asian Ladybug shown halfway down this page is really interesting!)

At 1:20 p.m., Normie wrote:

It reminds me of a box elder bug, but I am sure that that is not an “official” name. They like box elder trees (a type of maple tree). It probably isn’t one, but that is the first thing that came to mind.

The Head Weed has acknowledged Normie’s entry but must note that she failed to follow the rules and provide supporting documentation for her entry. I stopped everything I was doing to verify her interesting claim….what’s really interesting is THE BUG LOOKS LIKE THE BOX ELDER, TOO!


At 1:23 p.m., Frantic Franci (who must REALLY want to win this yet-unnamed prize) sent the following support for her entry:

milkweed bug

Now THAT’S more like it, Franci Pants!

At 1:35 p.m., Sherry sent this response:

Howdy! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassin_bug
I think it is a Milkweed Assassin Bug. Lemme know what you think!

Sherry’s link shows a bug very similar to my bug…but the eyes are different, so I’m not sure if this is an exact match. I did a search on her Milkweed Assassin bug and there are some other kinds that don’t look like this one exactly.


Further surfing revealed a “Wheel bug,” and I just realized this might be the bug (that was devouring bees and stink bugs that were larger than it was) on the sunflowers Michael and I photographed a few weekends ago. Apparently this bug is a member of the “bed bug insect family.” As in, “don’t let the bed bugs bite ya.” Check out this info I found on what it does to its prey (warn your Monarch caterpillars, Regina!). See photo of a wheelbug at the top of this post (right photo, titled “no, it’s not this bug”)



Coming in later in the day, at 3:00 p.m., is Debbi’s response:

“It’s a pretty bug!”

Debbi obviously went with an emotional response when identifying her bug, so she receives honorable mention for bestowing a compliment on a bug that obviously does damage to OTHER pretty bugs! 😉 Alas, she did not back up her claim with internet research, but the Head Weed wishes to recognize her entry nonetheless and thanks her for her accurate observation.

I would like the Club to weigh in on these entries and offer their opinions. The stakes are high and the contestants are nervous. Is it a milkweed bug, box elder bug, or a milkweed assassin bug? Yes, we agree with Debbi that it IS a pretty bug, but that is not an official name, so it is disqualified from consideration. Who will be the big winner of the yet-unnamed grand prize? Tune in….

And then…Gina, the “proprietor of said property and garden that housed the plant that hosted the “bug in question” has written the following:
The bug (in the various e-mails that has caused such a commotion) and the proprietor of the property have jointly decided that the attention the contest has garnered his/her once laid-back lifestyle has become overwhelming. And therefore, must enter into rehab in an undisclosed location, far from the prying eyes of the aforementioned weedettes. Any future updates will be handled through the traditional “celebrity” websites such as TMZ & PerezHilton.com. With the positive influence rehab & paparazzi have made in the lives of Lindsay, Britney & Nicole, the bug is looking forward to returning to the same lifestyle he/she once adored.


And finally….the winner of the First “Name that Bug” contest is Franci!

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved

Raindrops on roses….

2 08 2007

and whiskers on kittens…these are a few of my favorite things…


Finally, rain! And enough to soak the ground, too. While on the way out to run errands, I dropped by Debbi’s house to drop off something…and noticed the mist was literally covering every bloom in her yard. I couldn’t pass this opportunity up, so I ran back to the house and got my equipment and shot almost 100 images. Debbi held an umbrella up to protect me and my equipment, and also served as art director (thanks, Debbi!), pointing out possible photo ops. They almost don’t look real. I’ve photographed dew drops on flowers before, but never when the flower was covered with mist.

© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.


Harvesting Grapes 8.1.2007

1 08 2007

In lieu of writing my own ode to grapes, I’ve borrowed a poem I found written by Raymond Foss, a lawyer from New Hampshire who writes poetry in his spare time…I thought it summed up my Concord grape experience so beautifully that I don’t believe I can top it. He’s quite a prolific poet, having written 1,455 poems in the last seven years: http://raymondafoss.blogspot.com/ My meager collection of personal poetry pales in comparison—I have some catching up to do.

To illustrate his poem, I have attached a photo of my constant model, Regina, enjoying the fruits of my labor; a still life with newly-picked grapes; and a shot of the gazebo from below (lying on cement is really uncomfortable, by the way—but sometimes one must suffer for her art). When I’m not stepping out my office door to pick them, the bluejays, cardinals, and sparrows are enjoying them. And there’s one squirrel which climbs up the stack of metal chairs to reach the arbor, too. I haven’t gotten any shots of the culprits (yet) with whom I share my harvest.

This grapevine was planted by Michael about six years ago. The second year it wasn’t thriving and I implored him to put it out of its misery (I was a much more impatient gardener back then). He stood his ground and we have watched this vigorous plant grow more with each passing year. This is the first year it grew in the direction where the gazebo is (the meter reader hacked back some branches to get to the meter and the vine redirected itself to the gazebo, where it now forms a green canopy that offers almost full shade below). Because of something called ‘black rot,’ we’ve never been able to get the grapes to ripen fully. This spring Carmen gave me a book, Joey Green’s Gardening Magic, full of helpful household remedies for garden problems. This year, before the “rot” happened, we followed a suggestion from that book and sprayed a concoction of cooking oil mixed with cornstarch on every single grape bunch hanging from the arbor. You must reapply if there’s a hard rain, though. But this not-harmful-to-insects mixture has apparently done the trick. We have a bountiful harvest now (not enough to become vintners, mind you, but a bounty nonetheless). Thanks for the book, Carmen…and thanks to the nebulous (until now) Ray Foss for his lovely tribute to Concord grapes.

Smell of Autumn

Another smell of autumn
sweet sweet smell
of Concord grapes
warming ripening
ready to burst with flavor
strong urgent smell
lured me closer
spreading outward
from the makeshift arbor
a plume twenty feet wide
enticing, coaxing
me to linger
luxuriate in its aroma
smile at the memory
of other pickings
long ago
Sweet fruit
high above me,
out of reach
up in the canopy
formed by wire and bush


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Homage to Jasper

1 08 2007

I realize that I may be just a tad biased, but I believe that our cat, Jasper, is arguably one of the most photogenic cats in existence. Most of the time he has a look of curiousity, but occasionally he does his “I’m putting a spell on you” look (see bottom right photo for clarification). And, of course, his spell always works.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

The Talbert Family

1 08 2007

Portraits of my sister Debbie and her family (and their polydactyl cat, Meeko)—San Antonio, Texas

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.


Atlanta Botanical Garden

1 08 2007

Happy birthday, Suebee!

I flew to Huntsville on Friday to visit Sue…we then drove to Atlanta on Saturday, returning Sunday night. We attended the Tea Expo and had our fill of freebie teas, catching up with people we met at the Las Vegas expo years ago, shopping, etc. On Sunday morning we went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It is such a beautiful place! And they have a really nice website, too: www.atlantabotanicalgarden.org

I got some nice shots of various flowers, orchids, and critters…as well as some fun ones of Sue hamming it up for the camera (as only Sue can do!).

We especially enjoyed the “Big Bug” sculptures that were on exhibit. This exhibit travels to gardens all over the country. My friend Norma first told me about it when she saw the exhibit in Minneapolis. We didn’t know the display was in Atlanta until we visited the garden. If you’d like to see some of David Rogers’ work, click here: http://www.big-bugs.com/

Just a few notes on some of the photos:
The pink flower is a Rain Lily (also called fairy lilies, zephyr lilies, zephyranthes)
Rain lilies, so named because of their tendency to burst into bloom after a rain, are originally from Mexico, Guatemala and the grassy plains of South America. These clump-forming perennials start small, but when left in undisturbed will develop over several seasons into truly impressive sights. Lovely starry blossoms, easy care, tough constitutions and inexpensive. The flowers face upward, much like crocuses. Plants grow to a height of 8-12 inches. In Zones 7-10 rain lilies can be planted in fall and left in the garden through over winter. From Zone 6 north, plant the bulbs in spring, dig in the fall and store over winter in dry peat moss, perlite or vermiculite. Plant the bulbs and 3 inches apart and 1 to 2 inches deep in full sun. They do well in containers outdoors, but not as houseplants. Keep the soil moist moist and feed monthly with a slow-release fertilizer throughout the summer. When the leaves wither, withhold water and food, then store in a dry cool place for winter.

Strange Orchid
The Atlanta Botanical Garden has one of the most extensive collection of (really exotic) orchids I’ve seen to date. This orchid looks almost like a bat running in mid-air, doesn’t it? It’s called “Stanhopea embreei,” and is named for Alvin Embree, an American orchidologist (didn’t know there was such a profession). It is native to Guatemala, Panama, Ecuador, and the Andes. It is usually found in cloud forests.

With most Stanhopea flowers lasting three days or less, the blooms must attract pollinators very quickly. These chemical attractants are generated in the hypochile, attracting the male euglossine bees to the flower. When the bee touches down on the flower, a great effort is made to collect chemical scent — he eventually slides on the waxy surface of the hypochile, gliding down on the slippery lip to exit the flower (sounds like an amusement park ride….wheeeee!). The long column is touched in the process, resulting in the bee taking up pollinia at the very tip of the column. When the bee slides down another flower, the pollinia are deposited on the sticky surface of the stigma. The majority of species are robust plants that grow readily in cultivation.

The Nun Inside the Orchid
In the conservatory, I stopped to change batteries and felt something staring at me…it was this tiny little “figure” inside this unusual orchid. At first glance, I thought it looked like a nun (see her habit?) praying inside….I called Sue over and she thought it looked like a sheep or lamb…how about this: a sheepish nun? If you don’t see what we saw, squint a little and it will come to you easier.


© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.

Baby Chickadee

1 08 2007

I have a newly-hatched family of chickadees in my backyard garden. I have a metal and wood bird feeder that I never even noticed had a bird house built into the top (and I’ve had it for four years!)…an observant Regina pointed out a chickadee had gone into the hole a few weeks ago.

Yesterday I was looking through the patio doors and saw a “miniature” chickadee on one of my plant stands (and you know how tiny an adult chickadee is), and realized it was one of the babies (there are at least two of them).

I got some “record” shots of him through the window yesterday, but this afternoon, as I was watering the garden, one of the babies flew up about two feet away from me and just sat watching me…I slowly went to get my camera (which was near the patio door) and went back to the basket where he was perched. I sat there for at least 15 minutes on the arbor bench, just watching and photographing him…at several points I was less than two feet away from him…so I was able to get some beautiful shots. Momma (or Dad) and the baby were chirping back and forth….I’m sure they were telling him to “be careful, that’s a red-shirted-frizzy-haired human about to pounce on you!”

Learn more about these beautiful birds at the links below:




© 2007 Cindy Dyer, All rights reserved.