Saturday, August 19, 2017

Having Trouble Gardening Under the Hot Summer Sun?

I have a suggestion for you: a portable umbrella on a tripod! 

I tested it this weekend and it worked beautifully.

The Tripod Umbrella 

It was around 1pm when I decided to garden. You are probably thinking to yourself: "In the middle of the summer? Was she insane?" Not if I had some sort of shade over me, right? Well, I did. I set up my tripod umbrella and moved it around with me as I clipped the spent flowers on my butterfly bushes (buddleia). Not only was I able to stay cool despite the hot August sun, but I was also able to see the spent flowers better. The idea of hiding under an umbrella while gardening came to me as I wrote my book on meditative photography. Bright sunlight is very harsh on photos; the subjects often look washed out. There are several ways to address this problem, one of which is to place an umbrella over the subjects to cast a soft shadow over them. The problem is that I would need a helper who could hold the umbrella over my subjects while I take their photos, but that isn't usually an option for me because I almost always take photos by myself. Taking photos while holding an umbrella would be quite challenging to say the least! I thought an umbrella on a tripod (same idea as a camera on a tripod) would solve my problem. In no time, the fabulous internet led me to my solution: a portable umbrella on a tripod. I bought the JoShade umbrella. It's super light and easy to assemble. Another feature I like about the JoShade is that I can adjust the height. This enables me to control the amount of light I want over my subjects. And as I moved my tripod umbrella around my garden to take pictures of butterflies, it dawned on me that gardening under my tripod umbrella would be very pleasant. In fact, I can garden whenever I want; neither the rain nor the hot sun will have a say on when I can garden!!!

A Peaceful Mid-August Day at Cedarmere

With my tripod umbrella over me, I spent hours trimming my butterfly bushes and admiring the pollinators that were feasting there, especially the Swallowtail butterflies.

Butterfly Bush - Buddleia

Butterfly bushes are super easy to grow and come in a wide array of beautiful colors. They have a light sweet scent. They come in bushes and small trees, so choose carefully depending on the space you have in your garden. They prefer full sun and moist but well-drained soil, but they are tough and can tolerate a variety of conditions.  

Butterflies LOVE them, hence the name. 

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail below was so engrossed in sampling the butterfly bush's nectar 
that he was oblivious to my proximity.

It was a treat to see this Zebra Swallowtail
 because we don't see this type of Swallowtail very often at our farm.

These skipper butterflies had a ball flitting from flower to flower
There were about 15 or so of these happy skippers in this particular bush alone.

Other pollinators LOVE them, too.

This bee was enamored of the butterfly bush.

This is an interesting moth. I have only recently encountered this pollinator.  It sounds and acts like a hummingbird, but it looks like a bumble bee. Despite its plumb body, it's quite agile and can suspend in the air as it sips nectar from a flower just like a hummingbird. There are several species of hummingbird moths in North America. The one below is the Snowberry Clearwing. It's a treat to spot this unusual creation of nature.

Swallowtail Butterflies

For some reason, while I was deadheading the butterfly bush this weekend, dozens of Swallowtail butterflies were swarming the butterfly bush. Most of them were old and had gone through a lot by the time they arrived at our farm. You can see that their wings were tattered and their coloring had badly faded.

They were so hungry and tired that they didn't care that my iPhone was only a few inches away from them.
Look closely at the head of the Swallowtail below. The two top lines with small clubs at the ends are her antennae. The third black line that curves down into the tiny little flower is her proboscis. Butterflies do not have mouths. Instead, they have a straw-like tube that extends from the front of their heads enabling them to reach deep into a flower to sip nectar. This proboscis coils up when not in use. 

The poor tired Swallowtail below was content to rest in the shade of my tripod umbrella even though my iPhone was only a few inches away.

The tattered Pipevine Swallowtail below was probably extremely tired because it (it's so tattered I can't tell whether it's a male or female) had its wings spread out flat for a long while. Butterflies are at rest when their wings spread out flat.

Plant a butterfly bush next spring
and you will be a hero among the pollinators, especially the butterflies.

Please join me and visit these beautiful blogs -

Floral Friday Fotos
Saturday's Critter
Macro Monday 2
Our World Tuesday
Outdoor Wednesday

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Bob's niece Marissa and four-year-old grand niece Alina visited us this past weekend.  We went to Washington, D.C. to visit the National Air and Space Museum and the Washington National Cathedral (and of course the Bishop's Garden!).  We also went paddle boating on the Tidal Basin and rode the Carousel on the National Mall.  We were very lucky, the weather was perfect.

Alina is a little girl after my own heart: she LOVES flowers.  Of all the fun activities she did in D.C., her favorite was visiting the Bishop's Garden at the National Cathedral.

It was not easy to get her to leave the Garden.  She meandered down every path several times.

She stopped and admired all the flowers (can you image how long that took?).

Her favorite spot in the Bishop's Garden was the koi pond.  She really wanted to "pet" the black and white one.

Alina's love for flowers was most apparent when she visited my garden.  Although it paled in comparison to the Bishop's Garden, Alina had the same look of awe in her eyes as she did when she was in the Bishop's Garden.  I took Alina around my garden to show her my flowers, all the while wishing I had more pink flowers, her favorite color.  To my surprise, she was totally into all of my flowers.  She wanted to know their names and would gently touch each flower and said "that's very pretty."  I asked if she wanted to pick some flowers and make an arrangement for her room.  Her almond shaped brown eyes widened as she gave me a big smile and gently nodded her head.  She stood silently next to me, basking in the bright sunshine, and surveyed my garden.  All of a sudden, her little happy sparkling sneakers skipped across my lawn to my pink azalea bush.  I knew at that point that Alina was totally engaged.

This azalea bush did exceptionally well this year.  The dazzling clusters of pink blossoms were shining in the bright sunshine.  Good Choice, Alina! We cut a few branches.

Then she spotted the grape hyacinths (Muscari), "how about that purple blue one?"

Purple blue?  Most children might have chosen either purple or blue to describe the hyacinths. But not Alina; and she was right, these hyacinths were deep blue tinged with purple.  This girl has a sharp sense of color!   We cut a few stems.

"I like that white one" pointing to the bridal wreath spiraea (Spiraea prunifolia).

This is a showstopper every spring without fail.  At this point, I was thinking, this child has discerning taste!  With their arching branches loaded with clusters of pure white flowers, these are elegant additions to any arrangement.


"OOO, that lavender one is very pretty."

Indeed!  The columbine (Aquilegia) is more lavender than it's either blue or purple!  I was impressed!  We cut a few stems.

We also cut a few lilac branches and a few stems of yellow rocket (Barbarea vulgaris).  

All of a sudden, Alina ran away from me.  I heard her say "let's get that magenta flower."  MAGENTA?  She stopped at my magenta azalea and waited for me.

After cutting a few branches of the magenta azalea, I asked Alina, "Do you have enough?" "Ya, let's go put them in water," she answered.  

As soon as we got in the kitchen, she pulled a step stool and positioned herself at the kitchen island waiting for her "water."  I gave her a blue plastic cup full of water.  Without waiting another moment, Alina went to work to create her arrangement.

All of a sudden, she looked up at me and said "let's get that pink heart flower.  I want to put it here," pointing to a little gap in her arrangement.  Now, this was the girl who knew what she wanted and saved the best for last!  When I first pointed out to Alina my old fashioned pink bleeding heart flowers (Dicentra spectabilis), she told me "that's very pretty.  I like it a lot."  I have to admit, as we went inside I was happy that Alina did not ask to pick the bleeding heart flowers even though we passed right by them on our way in.  They had just bloomed, and I find them to be unusual and very pretty.  Alas, no such luck!  Alina was just saving the best for last.


What a beautiful arrangement, Alina!

I am linking with

Our World Tuesday

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Happy Easter

Sending you warm wishes for Easter from the
Washington National Cathedral

Being only two hours southwest of Washington, D.C., our farm is an easy drive to impressive and beautiful sites in D.C.  In light of the fact that this is Holy Week, I will take you to the Washington National Cathedral.  

The Cathedral is dedicated to serving people of all faiths and is a spiritual sanctuary for the whole nation.  It has been the site of important national and international celebrations, dedications, and funerals.  For example, a service was dedicated in 1898 to the Peace Cross to mark the end of the Spanish-American War; a memorial service for King George VI was held in 1952; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., preached his last sermon in 1968; a service was held in 1979 to pray for the Iranian hostages and then in 1981 to celebrate their release; in 1995, the Archbishop Desmond Tutu of Capetown celebrated the birth of democracy in South Africa; in 2001, President George W. Bush and evangelist Billy Graham lead an interfaith service following the 9/11 terrorist attacks; in 2003, a memorial service for the members of the Space Shuttle Columbia was held; and His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama spoke in 2003.  The Cathedral has also been the location for funeral and memorial services for nearly all of the U.S. presidents since 1893. 


The Cathedral, a majestic and richly decorated Gothic style church, was completed in 1990 after two centuries of construction.  It soars over Washington, D.C, on a meticulously landscaped 59-acre plot of land in Northwest Washington.

In addition to these wonderful buildings (which are but a small fraction of all the buildings on the Cathedral Close), you will find beautiful works of art inside the Cathedral.  I would do injustice to the beauty inside the Cathedral if I attempted to share a few photos with you here.  Please make a special trip to the Cathedral if you come to visit Washington, D.C.  So, instead of taking you inside the Cathedral, I will take you to my favorite spot outside the Cathedral: the Bishop Garden.

The Bishop's Garden

The Cathedral is beautifully landscaped.  The Cathedral grounds are cared for by a dedicated group of volunteers.  My favorite area is the Bishop's Garden.  The photos below were taken in June 2015.  These photos cannot capture how peaceful and quiet the garden is.  When I was there, although there were quite a number of people there visiting, the garden was very quiet.  Somehow, everyone took it upon themselves to talk quietly; even children did not run around or climb the stone walls.

Bishop's Garden - main entrance 

Bishop's Garden - one side entrance

A visitor relaxing in the sun

My favorite spot to linger is right outside the Bishop's Garden.  The photos below were taken in April 2015.

The Prodigal Son Statute

This very old weeping cherry is breath-taking.

Although the Cathedral is a Christian church, being the nation's Cathedral, all are welcome.  The Cathedral is a wonderful place to reflect.  If you have a chance to visit Washington, D.C., make sure you save some time to visit the Cathedral.  The photos I have posted are a minute fraction of the magnificent beauty found in this Cathedral as well as the surrounding buildings and gardens. I hope you will have a chance to visit it one day. 

Happy Easter

I am linking with 
Image-in-ing,  Our World Tuesday 


- There is a sculpture of Darth Vader on the Cathedral.  (This link will take you there.)

- The Cathedral's central tower is the only place in North America to house both peal and carillon bells.

- The Cathedral labyrinth is a medieval design based on the one in the floor of the nave at Chartres Cathedral in France.

- The Cathedral is home to one of the few old growth forests still standing in the nation's capital, Olmsted Woods, designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr.

- The Cathedral was completed 83 years to the day after it was begun (September 29, 1907-September 29, 1990).

- The first tract of land for the Cathedral site (30 acres) was purchased in 1898 for $245,000.  Two other parcels of land were purchased later, bringing the total cost to $291,427 and the total area to 57 acres.

- The Cathedral is the sixth largest cathedral in the world and the second largest in the United States.

- $65 million: how much it cost to build the Cathedral.

- $0: the amount the Cathedral receives from the federal government or national Episcopal Church.

- 150,000 tons: the total weight of the Cathedral.

- 300 pounds: the weight of an average piece of stone at the Cathedral.

- 5.5 tons: the weight of the Moses boss stone above the west balcony, the heaviest in the Cathedral.

- 762: the number of boss stones in the Cathedral, which function as structural key stones.

- 288: the number of angels atop the two west towers.

- 26 feet: the diameter of the Cathedral's largest stained glass window, the north rose.

- 676 feet: the height of the central tower above sea level, making its top the highest point in the District of Columbia.

- 24,000 pounds: the weight of the largest of the 53 carillon bells, measuring eight feet, eight inches in diameter.

- 112: the number of gargoyles on the Cathedral.

- 215: the number of stained glass windows in the Cathedral.

- 10,500+: the number of pieces of glass it took to construct the west rose window.

- 234 feet: the height of the two west towers.

- 301 feet: the height of the central Gloria in Excelis Deo tower.

- 1,500+: the number of needlepoint pieces in the Cathedral.

- 10,650: the number of pipes in the Great Organ.

- 220+: the number of people interred in the Cathedral, including President Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller.

- 418,000: the number of visitors and worshippers come to the Cathedral each year.