Even More Bearded Iris

(Toledo, OH) I falsely predicted the end of the blooming of bearded iris at my house. I stepped out into the yard today and saw that several of these blue-and-yellow bearded iris blossoms had bloomed overnight.

I may take another picture in the sun; while there is decent clarity in this image, I think the shade inhibited the capture of the flower's true colors.

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Sun Setting Over the Trees

(Toledo, OH) The clouds and haze in the atmosphere provided residents of Northwest Ohio with some spectaular colors in the sky at dawn and dusk today.

I have a lot of reading to get accomplished this summer, so I shouldn't be photographing every sunrise and sunset, but viewing these has become a sort of calming ritual for me.

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Blessed, Blessed Clouds

Summer clouds on a sweltering day(Toledo, OH) Temperatures in the middle of the Rust Belt broke 90 degrees today, and I was thankful that we had a few spells with cloud cover like the clouds at your left.

There were enough breaks in the blazing sun to provide a bit of relief and, despite the high humidity, a respectable breeze kept conditions just this side of hellish.

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Solo Yellow Rose

single yellow rose (Toledo, OH) The appearance of this solitary yellow rose each year is a bittersweet memory for my wife. Her mother came to live with us for a few years after a series of strokes, and she enjoyed gazing out the window from her wheelchair at this blossom.

For some reason only one flower blooms at a time on this plant, so it's one per customer, folks.

A part of me likes to think my mother-in-law lives on in this plant, but that's crazy talk, right?

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First of the Red Roses

red rose in a rose bush (Toledo, OH) I can almost set my watch by one of my rose bushes, which blooms right around the first of June every year. This flower was the first among many that will fill this bush within a week.

The air in the vicinity of this bush will soon be redolent with the sweet aroma of scores of red roses.

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Frowning Wallaby

(Toledo, OH) Well, perhaps this wallaby is not frowning, but its facial expression does not seem to be communicating happiness. I suppose my expression would be sullen, were I caged in a zoo like this animal.

Related to kangaroos, wallabies can be found across Australia, especially in more remote, heavily timbered, or rugged areas. Wallabies are less likely to be found in the semi-arid plains that are better suited to kangaroos.

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Beautiful Sunrise

Beautiful sunrise(Toledo, OH) At times there is something almost magical about viewing the rising and the setting of the sun. Such was the case this morning, as the sun broke through some overnight cloud cover.

I especially enjoyed the orange-pink clouds themselves, framing the sun in drapes of soft colors.

Even though I am not by nature a morning person, I stood in awe at the beauty of this dawn.

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Unidentified Purple Flower

(Toledo, OH) I am not sure what the name of this flower is, so if any readers recognize it, feel free to leave its name in the comments section.

I have seen this plant several times around town, most recently at the Toledo Zoo.

The image is a bit blurred due to the cloudy skies on the day I took the photograph, but you should be able to make enough of the flower out to identify it.

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Bored-Looking Giraffe

(Toledo, OH) While visiting the Toledo Zoo yesterday, I spent a few minutes at the Africa! exhibit, which opened in 2004. Among the animals who live in this exhibit are several giraffes.

This particular giraffe seemed a bit bored with the goings-on at the Zoo on Sunday. Perhaps it was hoping for food a more appetizing than the grass that was available at this moment.

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Excavators at Rest

Excavators at rest near the former Haughton Elevator CompanyLeft: Gigantis destructus; click for larger image

I came across this hungry pack of excavators while driving on the Anthony Wayne Trail. Also known as Gigantis destructus, these scavengers were getting ready to feed on the remains of the former Haughton Elevator Company.

These pack animals are sometimes found roaming in large numbers in Toledo, as much more effort is expended by city leaders on tearing down facilities than in attracting new manufacturing.

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Raindrops on a Hosta Leaf

(Toledo, OH) I thought that the accumulated raindrops on the leaf of this giant hosta plant looked like small gems, diffused light refracting through them on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the Toledo Zoo.

Or maybe like chunks of broken glass, like the kind you find in automobile windshields.

I enjoy the ground cover that hostas provide, as well as the general ease of maintenance with these impressive plants. Just give them a litle water now and then, and hostas add a sturdy decorative element to your landscaping.

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Queen Butterfly

(Toledo, OH) Also known by its scientific name, Danaus gilippus, the Queen butterfly can be found throughout North and South America.

Related to the Monarch, the Queen butterfly prefers to feed and lay eggs of varieties of milkweed plants. I took this photograph at the Toledo Zoo, amidst the buzzing of employee golf carts. I am not sure where one goes locally for golf cart parts, but I sure see enough of these vehicles.

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White Stork

(Toledo, OH) To the left is a white stork that is currently residing at the Toledo Zoo. Also known as Ciconia ciconia, the white stork breeds in the warmer parts of Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia.

Ciconia ciconia is a migrantory bird, and winters mainly in tropical Africa, as far south as South Africa, and also can be found wintering in the Indian Subcontinent.

The Toledo Zoo's white storks are part of its ambitious Africa! exhibit, which opened in 2004.

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Zebra Longwing

Heliconius charitonius, Zebra Longwing(Toledo, OH) I photographed this Zebra longwing butterfly at the Toledo Zoo today.

Also known as Heliconius charitonius, the Zebra longwing is a tropical butterfly that happens to be the state butterfly of Florida. This slow-moving creature can digest both pollen and flower nectar, unlike most other butterflies that only consume nectar.

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Celosia argentea

Celosia argentea, or plumed cockscombCelosia argentea, or plumed cockscomb; click for larger image

(Toledo, OH) This is the first year I will be planting Celosia argentea in one of my flower gardens. I have long been fascinated by the fiery red of this variety of Celosia, which is also known by the name "plumed cockscomb."

I was surprised to learn today that the leaves and flowers of Celosia argentea are edible, and are often grown for use as food items in Africa and Southeast Asia.

If it gets too hot this summer - a summer in which I have vowed not to turn on the air conditioners in the house - I will sit in my auto air conditioning and appreciate these beautiful flowers.

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Pink Rose

(Toledo, OH) I came across this solitary coral-colored rose today at the Erie Street Market, its soft hues providing my eyes a moment of floral-induced peace.

Of course, had I been wearing a pair of Wiley X sunglasses, this delicate blossom would have seemed much less impressive, and I also might have had the urge to grab an M-16 and go on sentry duty.

Walking through the open stalls at the Market is always a change in habit for me, and reminds me of merchants from a bygone era or, at least, a different setting, like that in a major metropolis.

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On Walking and Perspective

(Toledo, OH) I took the occasion of the holiday weekend to drop off my car to get an alignment and an oil change, and decided to walk home from the repair facility.

And, even though I drive the same roads every day, I saw a nearby world that had previously escaped my awareness.

Pewter-colore lichen growing on an old oak tree. A woman advertising $15 pedicures. A rose bush overflowing with bright-yellow blossoms. A business advertising network cables. A neighbor whose unkempt yard is beginning to become an eyesore. A freshly-killed possum on the side of the road.

You think you know your neighborhood, but taking a walk through its streets might bring you in touch with sides of it you had never considered.

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Yellow Roses

(Toledo, OH) I came across these yellow roses in the most unlikely of places: a commercial and industrial stretch of a major thoroughfare in this Midwestern city.

I did not stop to smell them, being both allergy-ridden and congested, but I did spend a moment to appreciate their simple beauty in the midst of urban decline.

Growth, urban decay, new life, city soot... we could make some metaphors here, but I'll get a cup of coffee instead.

A Woodpecker's Lair

(Toledo, OH) Somewhere in the heights of this oak tree there lurks a very active woodpecker. I have yet to get a decent photograph of the bird, but the telltale sound of its beak digging into the wood of the tree is a dead giveaway.

I am looking forward to seeing what variety of woodpecker this is. In the past I have seen and heard the Red-bellied woodpecker around my house.

Beating the Rain

(Toledo, OH) Occasionally I show moments of foresight and planning in my hectic life, and yesterday I made the fortuitous decision to cut my grass. I figured that I would heed the advice of the weather wonks and head off the scattered showers that are supposed to be hanging around the Midwest this holiday weekend.

Alas, I woke today to find that the rain has started, and now I have the rest of the weekend to sit around on my comfortable home furniture, reading a book, and secure in the knowledge that my yardwork is complete.

Or at least that I have an excuse not to finish the rest of the yardwork.


Yet More Bearded Iris

(Toledo, OH) In an earlier post this week I mentioned that all of our iris plants have bloomed, but I was mistaken.

These azure-and-white bearded iris plants began to bloom today, and I had forgotten just how beautiful was the contrast between the colors in these flowers.

Unfortunately, we planted these at a depth a bit too shallow to support the heavy blossoms and long stems, so they tend to droop. I will have to remind myself to pack an extra six inches or so of dirt around these plants this fall.

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Lavender Weigela

(Toledo, OH) We have several different varieties of weigela bushes around out house, and my favorite are these magenta-colored blossoms.

They also appear to be a favorite of the local honeybees and bumblebees, as the shrubbery was almost alive with the humming of the winged creatures.

There weigela also give off an aroma not unlike hyacinth, a relaxing scent that simultaneously reminded me that spring does not last all year long.

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More Rogue Clematis

(Toledo, OH) As previously mentioned, we have a group of clematis plants that miraculously reappeared after a period of time in which we had given them up for dead.

There are now four blossoms in this area, and there are a few more unbloomed buds remaining.

Now, if I could get my bank account to perform such feats of spontaneous growth...

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Cloud Cover

Cloud Cover (Toledo, OH) Temperatures in Northwest Ohio climbed into the high 80s yesterday, but the presence of some heavy clouds prevented the mercury from rising into the 90s.

I resolved not to engage in any outdoor activity, given the forecasted high temperatures, but I ended up doing some yard work and getting overheated. My body has not yet acclimated itself to this kind of heat, and I am too old to be running around like some foolish 20-something.

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More Bearded Iris

(Toledo, OH) This image features several varieties of bearded iris that bloomed within a few days of each other in one of my gardens.

Please ignore the weeds and stray blades of grass, as I have not spent much time on weeding. I promise to catch up on the weeds this weekend.

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Jumping Spider

(Toledo, OH) I thought I had a decent picture of this jumping spider, but I was disappointed in the resolution of the image after I cropped it.

I think that this specimen, which was hopping around on the side of my house, is a variety of Salticus scenicus .

I think a flash would have helped with this image, since I took this picture in the shade.

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Chasing Bumblebees

Bombus griseocollis, side view, bumblebee Bombus griseocollis, side view

(Toledo, OH) I spent more than a few minutes trying to photograph bumblebees that were collecting nectar and pollen from my weigela bushes. I believe the species that I photographed is Bombus griseocollis.

Yes, I have a life, thank you for asking.

Anyways, I had in my head that I wanted to get some images of bumblebees in flight, but I had no luck in capturing any in-flight images that were not blurry. Still, I especially like the way that this image on the left turned out, especially after I cropped it and enlarged the image by fifty percent.

Bombus griseocollis, top view, bumblebeBombus griseocollis, top view

In the second image I am pleased with catching the wings in motion; if you look closely you can see the trailing edge of the blurred illusion of multiple wings.

Bumblebees are quite placid so long as you do not harass them. Howeevr, the queen and worker bumblebees can sting, but the sting is not barbed like that of the honeybee, so they can sting more than once. Be forewarned!

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Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris (Toledo, OH) More of our bearded iris plants bloomed this week. These have an intriguing blend of a cranberry and golden hues.

Bearded irises will grow in almost any soil. The smaller species need only the occasional addition of turf ingredients - such as peat or loam - to keep the soil light and open in texture.

The earliest irises to bloom are the dwarf forms of Iris pumila, which blossom during March, April and May, depending ou your latitude. Isies are actually perennial herbs, growing from creeping rhizomes or from bulbs.

After these, I will not have any irises blooming until next spring, so I have to hold out for the annual arrival of my tiger lillies to brighten up the yard.

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Rogue Climatis

climatis (Toledo, OH) Perhaps "rogue" is not quite the right word; "given up for dead" might better describe the circumstances surrounding this plant.

I was doing some yard work and saw what I thought to be a piece of bright blue cloth or paper, but it turned out to be this brilliant azure climatis flower.

Good thing I hadn't dusted off the weed whacker yet!

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It's Almost Strawberry Time!

(Toledo, OH) Pictured at left are my strawberry plants, some of which have already developed small green fruit.

I am looking forward to the first day that I can walk out into the yard and stuff my face full of fresh-picked strawberries. I never wash them first; I tell myself that the small amount of microbes I pick up are a form of immunization.

I also drink straight from the garden hose, using the same logic.

Variegated Hosta

Variegated Hosta, Hosta albomarginata (Toledo, OH) I love hostas for many reasons, not the least of which is the ease with which these plants grow and multiply.

This particular variety, I believe, is Hosta albomarginata, and we are gradually lining our driveway with these plants. We started out with a few small hostas about four years ago, and one entire side of the driveway is now bordered with these variegated leaves.

Best of all, hostas require little maintenance beyond the occasional watering during especially dry periods.

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Clematis Viticella

Clematis Viticella(Toledo, OH) My own clematis have yet to blossom, so I had to photograph my neighbor's Clematis viticella for vicarious pleasure until mine bloom.

I especially like the way the amethyst-hued petals contrast against the weathered wood of this split rail fence.

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Ethical Loans from The Co-operative Bank

If you are looking for a loan, consider visiting the website of The Co-operative Bank.

In addition to excellent rates on a loan, you can be assured that the money you borrow has not come from the profits of unnecessary pollution, human rights abuses, or any other activity which conflicts with the strict ethical policy of The Co-operative Bank.

For example, the Bank will not invest in any government or business which fails to uphold basic human rights within its sphere of influence. In addition, the Bank will not invest in any business whose links to an oppressive regime are a continuing cause for concern. It is commendable that The Co-operative Bank has taken such a tough stance on issues of human rights and the environment.


Three Dogs

three dogs (Toledo, OH) Pictured are the three dogs who currently take up residence in our abode. The brown-and-white Sheltie mix is Jimmy, the white Westie mix is Candy, and the gray-and-black Schnoodle is Dr. Bombay, who arrived in our house today.

We are fostering the Schnoodle until another home comes available, or unless we decide to adopt this handsome boy ourselves.

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Urban Sunset

red sunset, Toledo (Toledo, OH) In a lengthier post on my main blog I groused about urban disconnection with the natural world. This photo is emblematic of that discussion, as I took it while stopped at the light at Monroe and Talmadge; in frustration with my ability to find a clear space to photograph the sunset, I just stuck the camera out of the car window and snapped a few pictures without looking.

The results were almost ethereal, the setting sun emitting an orange-red glow over motorists as they drove to points unknown. If I were in a depressed and highly cynical mood, I might create a metaphor with the red-sun and a hydrogen bomb, but I won't go there.

At least not tonight.

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Azalea Time

(Toledo, OH) Members of the Rhododendron family, the azaleas bring forth a veritable wave of color in the yards in which they are planted. We have been unsuccessful in the past in getting azaleas to take root, so I had to sneak pictures of a neighbor's azaleas.

Perhaps this year we will be able to get an azalea to like our yard. I am especially fond of the bright red azaleas I see around town.

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Weigela Regalia

(Toledo, OH) Our weigela bushes on the east side of the house went into bloom over the last few days, and the neighborhood bumblebees are overjoyed.

I learned today that the genus weigela is named after the German scientist Christian Ehrenfried Weigel, best known for his development of the counter-flow condenser.

Our bushes - which I believe are Weigela praecox Variegata - are a bit raggedy at the moment, as I like to first trim them after they have bloomed.

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A Sea of Bearded Iris

(Toledo, OH) Most of our bearded iris flowers have now bloomed, and the circular flower garden that last week was nothing but green leaves is now alive with a variety of violet and golden hues.

If you look closely you can see my Sheltie mix Jimmy nosing around in the flowers.

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Bumblebee in Weigela Bushes

(Toledo, OH) This bumblebee find our weigela bushes to be an excellent source of the nectar upon which it feeds and the pollen it gathers to feed the young in the colony.

I learned today the distinct buzzing sound made by the bumblebee is not from its wings but rather by vibrating its flight muscles. Stick that under your hat for the next cocktail party and pull it out when the conversation lulls.

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Unnamed Copper Statues

(Detroit, MI) I came across this copper staue in a common space at Wayne State University. The female figure has a male counterpart who gawks at her; she seems refined and sublime, while the male figure looks more Neanderthalic.

Unfortunately there were no placards naming the artist or the title of the copper sculpture; if any reader knows the artist's name of the title of the work, feel free to leave it in the comments section.

The male figure sits in a pose reminiscent of Rodin's The Thinker, but the look on his face stuck me as anything but pensive. Then again, my assumption that the male figure might be lusting after his female companion might say more about my state of mind than that of the artist.

Perhaps the male is merely studying his complex female counterpart.

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Belcrest Hotel, Detroit

(Detroit, MI) A list of the many beautiful old buildings in Detroit must include the Belcrest Hotel, better known today as the Belcrest Aprtments. Built in 1926 as a luxury residential hotel, this Cass Avenue landmark offers a view of the Wayne State University area.

If you click on the image you can see some of the extraordinary details on this building, which was the brainchild of architect Charles N. Agree.

I am especially fond of the intricate brickwork on this building, especially the creative use of differently-hued bricks on the facade of the Belcrest.

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Everywhere Green

(Toledo, OH) Looking down my street this evening I was amazed at the seeming explosion of green that envelops the neighborhood. Most of the trees in my neighborhood have reached the point where leaf growth is well underway, and green is the dominant color around me.

Yet this image does not quite do the scenery justice, as the asphalt roads take up at least one-fourth of the pixels, and heck - part of the experience is the smell of flowers and singing of birds.

Springtime is most definitely a multi-sensual experience...

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Snowballs in the Spring

Viburnum opulus, snowball bushViburnum opulus (click for larger image)

(Toledo, OH) Also known by its scientific name Viburnum opulus, this snowball bush brings spherical clusters of white blossoms every spring.

The bush also attracts the fancy of children - both my own and those passing by - with the result that many of these blossoms end up getting hurled.

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Pine Tree at Sunset

(Toledo, OH) I had to turn my camera sideways to catch all of the height of one of our pine trees. This spruce is about 35 feet tall, and provides shelter to quite a few bird nests.

I enjoyed the way that the colors of the tree were heightened by the setting sun. I used a photo editor to remove a pesky electrical line; can you spot my lazy editing?

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View Down the Tracks

(Toledo, OH) A Norfolk Southern engine revs up as I crossed the railroad tracks at Westwood Avenue today, preparing to continue a journey to points unknown.

The railway crossing arms came down in the middle of my passage across the multiple lanes of track, and I decided to stop before continuing across the four-track section to make sure it was clear to cross.

Even though I am an adult, I still get a thrill watching trains pass in front of me, and I find the sound of train whistles at nighttime to be quite relaxing.

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Uprooted Tree

(Toledo, OH) The thunderstorms that roared through the area yesterday caused little damage in my west side neighborhood, but South and East Toledo got a meteorological smackdown yesterday evening.

This 40-foot pine tree on Spencer near Ingomar was uprooted during the storm last night, smashing a section of fence and taking out several power lines in its wake. In my eagerness to take this photo I nearly walked into an electrical line, which dangled just above the sidewalk.

Caveat ambulator...

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First Bearded Iris of the Season

German bearded iris, Iris germanica (Toledo, OH) Sometime in the last few hours this German bearded iris (Iris germanica) decided to open, and I was quite happy with the clarity of this particular image.

I must admit that I took almost 50 before I found one I liked, but the drive for perfection can be toxic. I learned today that the essential oil derived from from Iris flowers is sometimes used in aromatherapy as a sedative scent, while some people use the dried rhizomes to help babies with teething.

Note: I would not personally give a baby a rhizome, so don't pin that one on me if you feed infants stuff you dig up in the backyard.


American Flag in the Wind

American Flag in the Wind(Toledo, OH) While waiting to pick up my son from school yesterday, I watched the flag waving in the heady wind that blew in advance of the storms to the west of the city.

Despite the struggles our country faces, there remains deep inside me an idealistic patriot who still wants to believe in concepts like "freedom" and "democracy."

I am not sure if there is a metaphor here with "flag," "wind," and "storm;" perhaps a cup of coffee will stimulate my brain cells...

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Pair of Mourning Doves

Pair of Mourning Doves (Toledo, OH) These Mourning Doves are but two of several pairs that can be heard near my house near dawn and dusk.

The female is on the left, distinguished by her grayer coloring. At the risk of attributing human characteristics to these birds, I found it interesting that the male was busy stuffing his face, while the female followed me with a wary eye.

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