Mackinac Bridge

(St. Ignace, MI) I took the photograph on your left while sailing on a schooner in the Straits of Mackinac last weekend. The view is from the near northwest side of the bridge, perhaps two miles from the northern coast of the Upper Peninsula.

The schooner excursion was one of the most pleasant ways to spend a few hours on a summer evening that I can recall. My wife and I traveled with my brother, my sister, and their spouses (along with a handful of other guests), and these hours on the water were among the most peaceful in my entire life.

I vow to spend more time away from work and enjoying the company of my family.


Female Goldfinch

(Toledo, OH) There has been a flurry of activity among the American goldfinches that take up residence near my house. The female goldfinch pictured on your left is eating a piece of a sunflower head in a stand of sunflowers I have growing in my yard.

This has been a banner year for goldfinches, perhaps in no small part due to the quantity of sunflowers I planted. I think there are a dozen nesting pairs within 100 yards of my house, at least based on the traffic my sunflowers are attracting (I could provide greater accuracy in the count if there were avian accounting equivalents of POS systems). If I continue to provide thistle seed in the bird feeders this winter, they might stick around all year (they tend to migrate by November or so).


Honey Bee With Pollen Baskets

(Toledo, OH) Pictured on your left is a honey bee visiting one of my sunflowers, and this particular bee is laden with a considerable amount of pollen in its pollen baskets. At first glance I thought this was some unusual variety of honey bee, but after I magnified the image I noticed that this was simply a bee with a very full load to bring back to the hive.

No thinking involved here: just work, work, and work.

Dressing Up Dead Spaces

(Toledo, OH) I have been consciously re-evaluating some of the areas of my yard that I previously wrote off as "dead spaces. Pictured on your left is an area that is heavily shaded and that had been dominated by a rather unruly weigela bush. After cutting back the branches and sculpting the bush into a more tame state, I considered options to brighten up this otherwise dull area.

My wife suggested a few guacamole hostas to contrast with both the shade and the dark leaves of the weigela bush. I also added some color and definition with the paving bricks you see in the picture. While this space will win no honors at a Better Homes and Gardens review, nonetheless the area is brighter and more eye-appealing.

Giant Marigold

(Toledo, OH) The seed packaged advertised these marigolds as "giant," and the superlative terminology accurately described the flowers that are now beginning to emerge in my yard. The flower heads of these yellow and orange beasts are about eight inches across, and they provide a burst of color in the late summer and early fall; this is akin to the effect of adding Casablanca fans to small bedrooms.

Some gardeners despise the lowly marigold, but I enjoy the colors they provide, their low maintenance, and the fact that you receive many months of beauty for a relatively inexpensive investment. Even better, marigolds sometimes re-seed themselves, meaning you can derive several years of horticultural enjoyment for a few dollars worth of seed.


Color Contrast in Gardens

(Toledo, OH) I have been experimenting with colors in some of my gardens the past year, and in the accompanying photograph you can see an example of this approach. Previously this display around the base of a red maple tree contained lilies and decorative grass, but yesterday I relocated the lilies to another spot in my yard and replaced them with some chartreuse-hued hostas.

When the hostas fill in the space there will be an eye-appealing blend of colors, and I think these lighter hostas will brighten up this space considerably. The art of blending colors in a garden space does not require a great deal of skill, unlike the sort of knowledge one would gain at Forex training seminars, but with some practice and experimentation there is much enjoyment that can be derived from color contrasting.