Nature Friday ~ July 23, 2021

Nature Friday

Happy Fri-Yay! Please join us for this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we join those lovable ‘anipals,’ Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard but don’t forget to check out what others shared by clicking on the link.

It’s been another week of heat with the Ranch Hands wilting. We’ve been going out on our morning constitution at 5:45 am. to avoid the warmer portions of the day. I guess when you wear a fur coat the season known as Hades summer isn’t that enjoyable. And then there are the smoke filled skies that drift in as the day unfolds. Not exactly conducive to walks except early in the day. We continue to hope all the current wildfires get controlled soon. In Colorado as in most of the western U.S., wildfires continue to rage while last year’s burn areas are causing flooding conditions on nearby highways. I-70 has repeatedly been closed this week to cleanup mudslides near last year’s Glenwood Canyon fire.

The urban landscape though is full of sun-loving perennials. Let’s take a gander at a few we’ve encountered, shall we?

First up, a gorgeous trumpet vine. They guys are amazing. Strong and vigorous, they can shimmy up a wall or structure like nobody’s business. Although frequently considered invasive, pruning and deadheading can corral their vigorous growth which can reach between 30-40 ft. (9-12 m). They should not be planted near a house or at the base of a tree as they can damage foundations and strangle trees. Still they are beautiful on a telephone pole. Rated at Zones 4-9, they are readily adaptable in most conditions. Hummingbirds enjoy the tasty nectar while other birds often make nests or otherwise hide in the dense foliage.

Flowers

While running an errand this week, I noticed cattail was in full glory near a small drainage area. A herbaceous perennial sometimes referred to as reeds, these guys have always captivated my interest. There’s a large batch of them near West Pines that Sam used to investigate before we visited patients. Leaves are hairless, linear, alternate on a jointless stem that bears flowering spikes. The ‘flower’ forms a dense sausage-like spike on the stem. Once fully ripened, the heads disintegrate into a cottony fluff from which disperses seeds by the wind. What would otherwise be a rather unsightly drainage ditch becomes beautified with the addition of these plants.

Flowers

Back at home, the lupines continue to form seed pods oh joy but are being crowded by numerous sunflowers that mysteriously appeared a couple of seasons ago. In their 3rd year, they are beginning to seriously crowd the lupines. It’s certain heavy duty garden tools may have to be brought out to bring them both to heel as they’re both becoming too invasive. Still, how can anyone not smile whenever they see a cheerful sunflower, even if said flower ‘looks’ the other way (actually I couldn’t get a decent shot straight on because of the position of the sun)?

Flower

Wherever you’re at, we wish you good weather, clear skies and enough spare time to enjoy spending time in nature. My cherry tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen. The smell of fresh, garden ripened tomatoes are filling my senses and teasing my tastebuds.

Tomatoes

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ July 16, 2021

Nature Friday

Happy Fri-Yay. Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we join our pals, Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Make sure to check out what others have shared by clicking on the highlighted link.

We’ve had a full week with lots of happenings starting out with Norman visiting hospital staff and patients while bringing loads of smiles to folks wherever his bear-like shuffle took him. He had a couple of junior volunteers (high school student interns) shadow him as well. While he may may have problems feeling comfortable when riding elevators, he definitely knows how to bring smiles to people once he’s on solid ground.

Norman

But enough of how busy Norman and his chauffeur were…this post is about what Nature was up to and she has been very busy. The Mile High City is in the height of summer and she happily shared some real beauty from one end of the 80202 to the other. As we inch toward the weekend, temps are rising again but blooms around the ‘Hood don’t seem to mind too much.

This week’s “best of show” is the perennial Campanula, commonly known as Bellflower. I just love the delicate veining on the blooms. But don’t be deceived, this flower is quite hardy.

Flowers

We found this gorgeous beauty along this morning’s walk and it practically begged to be photographed. Campanula is a group of over 300 annual, biennial and perennial plants that appear from small to large size, in multiple colors. Typically found in shades of lavender, purple or blue, the open cup-shaped flowers also are found in shades of pink and white. These plants can spread over seasons with the shorter varieties making excellent ground cover although most bellflowers begin blooming in July and will keep flowering until the first frost. Bellflowers are cold-hardy and can be useful specimens in areas with hard winters. They usually prefer full sun for best flower production, and enjoy well-drained soil that receives moderate moisture. Once established, bellflowers can tolerate periods of drought. Bellflowers have been around since the Middle Miocene period as evidenced by fossil seeds being found in the West Carpathian Mountains of Poland in extracted, borehole samples of fresh water deposits.

Bellflowers weren’t the only beauties encountered in the urban landscape this week. Rudbeckia, (commonly known as Black-eyed Susan) continues to provide cheerful blooms during our daily walks.

Another fun flower we encountered this morning is a wildflower often naturalizes unlikely places…Ratibida columnifera, sometimes known as upright prairie coneflower, or “Mexican Hat.” There weren’t any at my previous home until a lone one showed up one day in gravel border next to the driveway and it multiplied to a large number of plants over the years. These cuties are members of the Aster family.

With long leafless stalks that bear flower heads of three to seven ‘sombrero-shaped’ flower heads that grow from 1-1/2 ft. to 3 ft. tall under the right conditions. The flowers range from dark red and yellow, to all red or all yellow. The brown disk protrudes 1/2 to 2 in. above drooping petals with leaves on the lower portion of the stem being feathery and deeply cleft. Seeds form from the brown disk and can naturalize in unexpected spots. A fun-looking wildflower to encounter when out and about, wouldn’t you say?

Flowers

Whatever you do this weekend, I hope you are able to get out and find some of the beauty Nature is gifting us this time of year. For those of you who have been broiling in the summer heat, console yourself with the fact that there are ‘only’ 68 days left before the official arrival of autumn. But who’s counting, right? Stay safe, cool and enjoy your weekend.
Live, love, bark!  🐾

Nature Friday ~ July 9, 2021

Nature FridayHappy Fri-Yay! and welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday where we join our ‘anipal fur-iends,’ Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Make sure you check out what others have shared by clicking on the highlighted link.

It’s been very hot in the 303 (the heat dome from the PNW has now moved eastward) but one day earlier this week a real gully washer of a rainstorm that moved quickly through the neighborhood was enjoyed. It cooled things off nicely for the evening, cleansed the air and hydrated all the parched trees and flowers nicely and I knew exactly what would sprout from it a couple of days later. Weeds…but that’s another story. What sprouted were mushrooms!

Mushrooms

Most of the time we get the little dome topped ‘shrooms known as Coprinopsis atramentaria (common name, Alcohol Inky or Coprinus comatus (Shaggy Mane, both images below courtesy of Coloradomushrooms.com) but these guys caught my eye in a yard we walked past this morning where the rain had definitely helped the weeds.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

So why did they spring up practically overnight? Mushrooms are fungi or at least the reproductive part of fungi, that live in the soil. Most of the time, fungi just stays hidden, working quietly as it breaks down organic material. But when conditions are right, they burst forth, like desert flowers blooming after a rain spreading spores into the air and disappear once the sun comes out or the soil dries up. And trust me, it’s been dry. And hot.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a good thing for the garden though I know most people don’t appreciate them in their lawns. Most fungi that sprout up in the lawn is not toxic but just the same, it is still probably best to not let your pet to nosh on any. Since Norman and Elsa only encounter mushrooms while on their walks, I feel confident they won’t, considering there are far more interesting things that will capture their interest (like the bunnies that have been seen a few times this week and of course, tree rats). They’d always prefer a moving target over any weird looking mushroom to check out.

Fungi decompose lignin based organic matter which is found in woody material like tree roots, stumps, tree leaves, or decaying mulch, twigs, etc.

The benefit of having a fungi rich soil is they help break down the  harder to digest tree leaves or stems that can often build up in a thatch layer in the grass. Fungi produce a strong enzyme that is able to break down woody material which is why you’ll find mushrooms near decaying organic matter such as stumps.

While I’m certainly no mycophile, I’ve always wondered why I’d see mushrooms under a drip line or near a tree stump.

The beauty of fungi is that they help plants survive conditions of stress; i.e. low fertility, drought, temperature extremes, and root pathogens. Ain’t Nature grand in the overall scheme of things?

So the bottom line is when you see mushrooms in your lawn/garden, it’s more than likely a very good thing while breaking down organic material.  Do you have ‘shrooms in your garden or just in your dinner salad or on top of a slice of pizza?

We hope you have a terrific weekend. Whatever you do, we hope you enjoy getting outdoors and looking at all the interesting sights Mother Nature provides.
Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ July 2, 2021

TDIF…our favorite day of the week where we join those adorable Pacific Northwest ‘fur-pals,’ Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Be sure to check out what other bloggers have shared by clicking on the highlighted link.

Welcome to the month of July where summer ramps up with gorgeous flowers and hot temps. While the Mile High is not suffering like our friends in the Pacific Northwest and Canada, we have been keeping an eye on news reports and shaking our heads at all those staggering temperatures. Please keep all those suffering with high temps in your thoughts and pray that Nature takes a deep breath and calms down by returning to a kinder, gentler version of its bad self.

So let’s take a look at what’s happening around the 303. This is the time of year where our garden blooms are for the most part fairly spent. While the yarrow has started blooming and Red Hot Pokers are beginning to send their orange spikes upward, the garden is in a bit of a transition right now as it’s more late spring blooming. This week’s highlighted superstars from our neighborhood are a gorgeous butterfly and a blooming food source for it and other flying insects.

Milkweed (Asclepias) is actually a kind of wildflower named for their milky substance, which provides a nice nosh for butterflies and other pollinators. Four species of native milkweed are found in most states in the U.S. and southern Canada (Common Milkweed, Whorled Milkweed, Swamp Milkweed, and Butterfly Weed) and thrive in a wide range of garden/meadow habitats from the U.S. eastern seaboard to the Rocky Mountains. Milkweed has had a long history of medicinal, every day, and military use in the U.S. (milkweed contains about 2% latex and attempts were made to use it as a natural substitute for rubber during WWII, though no large-scale success was documented).

Milkweed

Milkweed flowers are some of the most complex plants in the plant kingdom rivaling orchids with their complexity. Notice the five petals above as they reflex backwards exposing the staminal crown which is surrounded by a five-membrane corona in the center. That corona acts as a sheath for the inner horn with glands holding pollen sacs are located between the hoods. Milkweed provides an important source of food for Monarch butterflies which sadly aren’t seen often in my urban neighborhood with sightings of this week’s ‘critter,’ the Swallowtail flitting around it far more common.

Butterflies

Swallowtails are large, colorful butterflies who throw down the winged-gauntlet for Norman and Elsa to try to follow their flight patterns (unsuccessfully I might add). These “birdwing butterflies,” so named due to their exceptional size, angular wings, and birdlike flight, include over 550 species. Although the majority are tropical, members of the family inhabit every continent except Antarctica.

Butterfly

Did you know many states honor Swallowtails by naming them as their state insect? Oregon, Virginia, Georgia, Delaware, and South Carolina are among them and the Black Swallowtail is listed as Oklahoma’s state butterfly.

It’s a long holiday weekend in the Northern Hemisphere with the U.S. celebrating Independence Day on Monday and Canada Day on July 1. This year, Canada Day has been marred with the recent finding of hundreds of children’s remains at residential schools in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. Celebrations have been muted as the country reckons with its treatment of indigenous peoples. We bow our heads to the memory of those victims and hope investigations will reveal how this ever happened.

Do you have big plans for the long weekend? Whatever you do, stay safe, hydrated and wear sunscreen but take time to admire  the simple sights Nature provides us. As an outspoken critic of fireworks, we hope you’ll be considerate of our furry friends and those who suffer from PTSD who frequent struggle during this noisy time of year.

Live, love, bark!  🐾

Nature Friday

Nature FridayTDIF! Welcome to the this week’s edition of Nature Friday on the last Friday in June. We’re joining those adorable Pacific Northwest anipals,’ Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard. Where in the bloody blue blazes did June go? It seems like just yesterday we were walking in snow boots all bundled up in sweaters and mittens and now we’re spending most of the day sitting in front of a fan sipping a cool beverage. Perhaps because 2020 was the year from hell seeming to never end that 2021 is on a speedy trajectory to put as much space between it and last year’s train wreck. Either way, it’s hard to comprehend the year is half over.

Before we take a look at nature, did you know today is “National Take Your Dog to Work Day?” Celebrated annually on the Friday following Father’s Day, today is another way to honor one of our most beloved pets. Created by Pet Sitters International (PSI) in 1999, National Take Your Dog to Work Day celebrates our love for dogs.  If your employer is one of the approximately 300 businesses who host a National Take Your Dog to Work Day event, good for you! When I was working, I’d have given my left arm to bring a pet to work and think it’s why I’m so enthusiastic about bringing smiles to nurses and staff during pet therapy visits. Does your company allow you to bring your pet to work with you?

So now let’s check out what Nature brought us this past week, shall we? On Sunday I spent the day celebrating Father’s Day with my dad, son, grandson and one of my brothers. It was great fun spending the day with 4 of my favorite guys in the world, made even more fun over a terrific lunch at a local Mexican food restaurant with yummy food and yummier margaritas. Could we have a table for 5, er…no make that a table for six?

Lizard

Umm, sorry, ma’am…pets aren’t allowed in the restaurant. Since I wasn’t able to take that little guy inside with us to lunch, I just watched him out in the garden.

The Stella d’Oro reblooming daylilies are alive and well right now and make for a blooming cacophony around the neighborhood. These beauties prefer sunny conditions but will tolerate some partial shade and will tolerate humidity and heat. Their watering needs are mostly average, but they will require more water during dry spells. Generally, Stella d’Oro is an easy to grow daylily that will generally tolerate a variety of conditions and make a lovely addition to any garden.
Flowers

Not willing to accept competition from daylilies, Clematis vine is another strong contender for beauty of the week. One of my favorite vines, this particular guy greets me on my daily walks with the dogs. Don’t you just love these pale purple blooms? One of the better flowering vines that has adapted well to Colorado’s arid conditions, they come in a variety of shades of purple, blue, pink and white. Shades of red and yellow are also available. Clematis do best with at least 6 hours of sunlight in well drained soil and do not like their roots being water-logged, so mulching around their base is critical.

Flowers

While most of the Western U.S. continues to scorch with record setting triple-digits, the Mile High City gets a slight reprieve beginning today through the weekend. We’re hoping some showers will accompany the mild temps. While there were a few thunderstorms last night, mostly it was just noise with few drops. With 4 active fires burning in the state, rain would be most helpful so we’re keeping our paws crossed.

So what plans do you have for the weekend? Don’t forget to give your precious pet an extra ear or belly rub from us while you’re enjoying some of nature’s finest.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ June 18, 2021

Nature Friday

Once again TDIF (thank dog it’s Friday). Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday. We’re joining that pawsome quartet of ‘anipals,’ Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard to check out what’s shaking around Blogville. Be sure to click on the link to check out what others are sharing.

With this week’s triple digits being the new norm, we’ve kind of avoided getting out and seeing Nature much. Our walks happen  mostly at oh-dark-thirty to minimize the pizza-oven temperatures. Mother Nature doesn’t seem to mind our absence, pitching a hissy fit with her hot flashes. Too bad there’s not a hormone that could be administered to give the ole gal (as well as us) a break.

The garden peonies began to bloom late last week. Who doesn’t love that heavenly scent in a bouquet (just be careful who hitches a ride indoors-I’ve had a couple of insects catching a ride only to be unceremoniously removed upon detection)?

Flowers

The Dead Nettle has made its presence known in the shade garden. Did you know there are about 50 Lamium species in the mint family and they can create a beautiful tapestry beneath small trees or among plants who are willing to share the space. A note of warning, some Lamium can be somewhat invasive in fertile, moist soils. But their attractive foliage provides lovely textural interest even when flowers are not blooming. Lamium generally has finely-textured foliage and combines well with plants with large leaves like hostas. They also pair well with hydrangeas, hellebores, ferns and are perfect in dry shade gardens. Another plus for Lamium is they are deer resistant.

Flowers

The Catalpa trees are in full bloom despite the heat too. These large leafed, tall trees provide dense shade which has been most welcome this week. When the flowers drop, the sidewalk looks as though someone spilled a box of popcorn which always brings a smile. Even during inhospitable weather conditions, Nature shows she apparently has a whimsical side with a dash of humor on top. The deep-throated blossoms provide a quenching beverage for bees and other pollinators.

Trees

Needless to say the solar fountain has been very active this week. One of the neighborhood black birds visits this fountain narly every day for either a quick bath or a quenching drink. A couple of days ago he was caught admiring the climbing rose blooming. Sadly I couldn’t get my cell phone camera out quick enough to document before he took off for the roof, screeching his displeasure over his shoulder. Norman snuck out with me and looked at him like, “What’s your problem, mate?”

Flowers

Speaking of Norman, today will be his first day visiting patients at the hospital. He wasn’t very pleased about the bath he got in preparation but hope making new friends will more than enough make up for it. Keep your fingers crossed he does well and makes nurses smile today and tomorrow.

We hope you get an opportunity to check out some of Nature’s bounty this weekend. Whether you’re relaxing poolside or enjoying a cool beverage on the patio, we hope you make it a great time outdoors.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ June 11, 2021

TDIF (thank dog it’s Friday)! Welcome to this week’s edition of Nature Friday. As always, we’re joining that pawsome quartet, blog hosts Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard to see what’s going on with Mother Nature through the eyes of Blogville’s finest. Be sure to click on the link to check out what others are sharing.

This week has been a heat lover’s dream. For six days in a row, the temp has exceeded 90ºF. All those lush lupines are beginning their final hurrah. But no fear, garden pollinators are still enjoying them.

Yesterday morning I noticed a bumblebee slurping at rhe lupines. Did you know bumblebees have over 250 species in the genus Bombus and are generally found primarily at higher altitudes or latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere, although there are some lowland tropical species that have been identified in South America. Unlike honeybees, bumblebees have the ability to sting repeatedly, but they generally ignore humans and other animals.

Most bumblebee varieties are traditional social insects which form colonies containing a single queen, although their colonies tend to be smaller than those of their honeybee cousins.

Bees

Bumblebees have rounded bodies covered in soft hair making them appear and feel fuzzy. Their coloring which is known as aposematic (i.e. warning) coloration, consisting of contrasting bands of color. In our garden, the traditional black and yellow bands rule. Female hind legs are modified forming a pollen basket, a bare shiny area surrounded by a fringe of hairs, which is used to transport collected pollen.

Like their relatives the honeybees, bumblebees feed on nectar, using their long hairy tongues to lap up the liquid. Their proboscis is folded under the head during flight. This lady must have been on a real bender judging by her tenacious drinking of the lupine nectar.

Bees

Watching this female was quite zen inducing. She buzzed from one floweret to another, making sure she got every drop of that delicious brew. I sat and watched her for quite some time as she industriously went about her work. Notice the orange-ish pollen bucket?

Bees

Bumblebees weren’t the only visitors yesterday morning. Shortly after the bumblebee moved on to another part of the garden, I heard this guy buzzing about. Not sure what kind of bee it is, but it was noisy and frenetic with its pollen search. He’s kind of hard to pick out so the area where he was at has been enlarged for easy spotting. I’m guessing some kind of wasp. Not my favorite garden visitor!

Bees

But pollinators weren’t the only things we discovered this week. On yesterday’s early morning walk, we came across this mega dandelion seed head. It pretty much stopped me in my tracks. It was so fascinating to focus on the spines that hold the actual seed. It was a good 3-4 inches across. There’s gotta be a boatload of prospective weeds in this single plant!

Dandelion

Whatever you end up doing this weekend, we hope you are able to get out early to avoid the heat and be sure to wear sunscreen and keep hydrated. It’s gonna be a scorcher here and through next week as well so we’ll be getting out at sunrise to avoid the heat or hanging out in the shade seeing what nature offers us next. Have a great weekend!

Live, love, bark! 🐾

 

Two-Word Wednesday ~ June 9, 2021

Early morning.

Flowers

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ June 4, 2021

Thank Dawg It’s Friday (TDIF)! Welcome to the first Nature Friday of June. We’re joining our favorite quartet, blog hosts Rosy, Sunny, Arty and Jakey from LLB in Our Backyard to see what’s going on with Mother Nature through the eyes of Blogville’s finest. Be sure to click on the link to check out what others are sharing.

When I left the Mile High City to visit my dad, it was definitely early spring with cooler temps, late spring snow storms and our urban garden was barely awake with mostly spring bulbs taking center stage. A good week of wet, cool weather brought the garden to life. When I returned home, I barely recognized my yard. The Lupine had gone ballistic and the garden had taken on a rather jungle like atmosphere. I just stood there in awe taking in all the various colors and verdant greenery.

Just before Norman and I returned back to Denver, we were greeted with the strangest phenomena we’ve encountered in southeast Colorado. Fog. I don’t ever remember seeing fog over the years at my parents house but it provided an interesting shroud over prairie landscapes.

Flowers

It remained rainy and cool the entire time I was away (both in Denver as well as the Pueblo prairie) and when we returned home we encountered a very unfamiliar jungle.

Flowers

It was as though the lupine said ‘enough of this snoozing’ and promptly exploded into shades of blue, purple, violet, red and pink. For a second I thought I’d gone to the wrong house. These late spring bloomers showed their appreciation for all the rain that fell while we were away by exploding into colorful blooms. They completely covered the garden flagstone path that meanders through the yard. Even the ‘resident pony,’ otherwise known as Norman, was dwarfed in the lupine display.

Norman

FlowersWhile lupine is a general favorite amongst the neighbors, the real beauties making their presence known around the ‘hood are today’s featured plant…the tall bearded irises that are beginning to compete with the lupines. When I first moved into this house, I planted a small corner space of these beauties that have steadily expanded over the years.

Flowers

Bearded irises come in a variety of colors ranging from pale to deep. My favorites are the darkest of the dark or anything with a bluish tint.

Flowers

The tall bearded iris was once called “the extrovert of the iris world.” -M.Hamblen & K.Keppel, The World of Iris (1978). And no wonder. Just look at these lovelies!

Flowers

Flowers

Bearded irises are very easy to grow. Simply plant rhizomes in a sunny spot (but not too deeply) in well drained soil. Give them a bit of space, don’t mulch, and divide every 3-5 years. Remove spent blooms but leave foliage until autumn. Some varieties have variegated foliage which provides additional interest once the flowers have faded. With low water needs, bearded irises are perfect for xeric gardens. Reblooming hybrids are becoming more popular, blooming both in late spring and early autumn.

Flowers

With all their gorgeous looks, what are you waiting for? Get out there and enjoy tall bearded iris in your neighborhood.

We hope you have a great weekend and enjoy the bounty nature provides this time of year.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

[Nearly] Wordless Wednesday ~ June 2, 2021

Flower

Rain droplets on a dandelion make for an almost prickly looking image.

Live, love, bark! 🐾