Waterlilies at Longwood Gardens

One of my favorite places at Longwood Gardens in the late summer/early fall is the waterlily courtyard. Last weekend was no exception. It was a sunny day – and not too hot. We had left our house early enough to be at the visitor center about 15 minutes after the gardens opened. There were a couple of groups that had obviously planned to meet others waiting in the building or just a little way into the garden. Everyone was enjoying the prospect of the day at Longwood – just as we were. As usual – we headed for the Conservatory first…..making our way to the waterlilies half way through the conservatory walk through.

The courtyard always has a few photographers and there is usually someone around to answer questions. We were around early enough that it wasn’t crowded. I love catching the bees on the flowers. My favorite picture of the slideshow below is a flower with 4 bees (there were probably more on the inside of the flower)! Waterlilies often look somewhat alien to me because the colors are vibrant, and the flower parts are robust. I love photographing them….and enjoying the images after I get home.

Patuxent Research Refuge – Part II

Continuing about our visit to the Patuxent Research Refuge last weekend (map)…

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At the very beginning of the Loop Trail near the visitor center, we saw a blue dasher on a sign! A great way to start the morning at Patuxent.

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After leaving the bird blind on the Loop Trail, we crossed the bridge heading toward the Cash Lake Trail and began to realize that it was getting hotter every minute…the hike was going be a short one. Looking back toward Lake Reddington, I took one landscape picture

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Then zoomed in for waterlily pictures. The bright sunlight made the water look very dark.

There was a thistle blooming nearby….and going to seed.

After photographing the herons, we came back to the Viewing Blind at the end of boardwalk. I noticed something fly into the tree and was lucky enough to zoom in to find it – a cicada! It was probably the highlight of the trek for me.

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On the way back to the car I noticed the milkweed…looking too good to have very many Monarch caterpillars.  There don’t seem to be many Monarch butterflies this year in our area – noticeably fewer than last year. I hope they are more numerous elsewhere.

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Zooming – September 2018

The zoom on my new camera (60 vs 40 optical zoom…and then comes the digital zoom too) makes it even easier to stand well out of the flowerbed, get a good angle, not scare the butterfly or bee. It’s easier to hold myself steady using the viewfinder rather than the screen like I had to previously. Sometimes I use the monopod…but other times I find that I can simple hold myself steady enough that the camera image stabilization does the rest.

The images I selected this month are from several places: Longwood Gardens, home, Brookside Gardens, and Howard Count Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm. Some of my favorite places to be.

Enjoy my picks of zoomed images for September 2018!

Longwood Gardens – Part III

The water lilies are in a courtyard surrounded by the Longwood Gardens Conservatory. There are several shallow ponds and then beds around the edges with water loving plants. The courtyard is closed in the winter – everything there requires warmer temperatures that the Pennsylvania winter.

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Even the lily pads and leaves of water plants are different than the native water lilies we see elsewhere.

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The day was cloudy which makes for excellent waterlily photography because the water often looks black. I was surprised it was bright enough to create any reflections. The variety of blooms - colors, structure, stage of development…always something a little different to photograph.

And then there are the bees. This time I observed some bees that entered through the side of the flower center and then exited through the opening at the top!

Tomorrow – the gardens away from the conservatory. They were profuse and colorful.

Weekend in State College - Sunday

On Sunday morning we headed to the Arboretum at Penn State.We spent the most time in the Children’s Gate Childrens Garden just like the last time we visited in October 2016 (posts about that visit are here and here). The entrance includes a water feature with a slightly stylized Great Blue Heron sculpture.

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There are areas growing food plants and models of fossils…a water feature to wade into, rocks positioned enable close examination, and a man-made cave (the included bat models hanging from the ceiling)… snake sculptures and real chipmunks that seemed to be everywhere. I kept thinking about how wonderful the garden would be for field trips!

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One of my favorite features is a bowl with kaleidoscopes positioned around it. Last time it had colorful gourds and squash. This time it had succulents.  I took pictures through the scopes!

In the rest of the garden there were many late summer blooms…and spiders too.

There was a lily pond. They had quite a variety of water lilies.

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The one lotus plant they had was spectacular. It must be a hybrid with all the extra very curly petals. I was glad I took a closer look at it.

After lunch we headed home. It was a short but spectacular jaunt into Central Pennsylvania.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in August 2018 – Part I

Last week we made our last trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens for this year. The lotus flowers are nearing the end although there were still a few plants blooming.

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There are many more seed pods than flowers now…at all stages of development.

The button bushes have a few blooms still…but are also showing off seed pods.

There was an oak leaf in the parking lot that looked a lot like a city map (white roofs) with noticeable greenways.


The rose mallows are still full of buds and blooms.

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I was glad to see the water lilies still blooming. The extra rain might have prolonged their season a bit this year.

Stay tuned for a post about insects and a turtle we saw at Kenilworth tomorrow…and then the birds we saw will be featured in the post for Friday.

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers III

Yesterday I was at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont for photography hikes with the summer campers. We could hike because the rain moved out during the night and the morning was sunny. The cardinal flowers near the entrance were blooming well after the deluge of the previous days.

I started off the younger group with an activity looking at sycamore leaves from the branches I had cut from my tree at home: looking at the holes made by caterpillars and comparing the sizes of the leaves. We made a pattern on the pavers of the patio in front of the Carriage House as a subject for our first photographs.

We found a very small caterpillar on one of the leaves.


Then we went around to the other side of the house and looked at the pollinator garden and the surrounding vegetation.

The older group of campers went to the formal gardens behind the manor house. There were three kinds of butterflies that I managed to photograph….but missed the monarch that some of the campers managed to catch on the cone flowers. I took the common buckeye, a cabbage white, and a hairstreak (maybe a gray hairsteak). The last one was new to me….had to look at it closely when I got hope. It looks like it has antennae on both ends!

We gathered around the water feature in the gardens and enjoyed the variety water lilies and a lotus growing there. There were bees – usually head down – in several flowers.

Dragonflies are hard to capture with cell phone type camera (which is what most of the campers were trying to use) but everyone saw them…and I managed a picture.

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Behind the formal gardens – the campers with cell phones experimented with the macro lens to photograph lichen.

There were tree roots damaged by mowers that look like eyes in the soil!


Overall – a good day for hiking and photography!

Kenilworth Gardens - Lotuses and Water Lilies

We try to make a trek to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens when the lotuses are blooming….and last weekend was a good time. The day was partly sunny, and we managed to get to the park before the parking lot filled up. There was plenty to see. I’ll be posting about it over the next few days; today I’ve collected the best images of lotuses and water lilies.

There were lotuses in all stages of development. Everything about these plants are beautiful: the shape and texture of the leaves, the buds and flowers standing above the leaves gracefully opening and following the sun, the pods beginning to form. My favorites are the flowers that have a lot of white in their petals with ping around the outer edges.

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I saw a petal in some water near the path and photographed it as the water turned it.

The petals wilt quickly once they fall from the flower so catching them in the cradle of a leaf always seems special to me.

There was an unusual white plant at the edge of the ponds just as we came into the gardens. Was it a kind of lily? I don’t know. It looked exotic to me and I took a picture.

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The water lilies were still blooming in the ponds. Sometimes they are beginning to ebb by the time the lotuses are blooming but this year they seem to be still blooming profusely.

Two flowers that I noticed in my pictures after I got home that looked like they had punches out of their leaves – a lotus and a water lily. I wondered what insect made the holes!

Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens – Part 1

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We made our first trip of the season to Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens yesterday. We usually do not go until late June when the lotuses are blooming….but we both wanted a short activity for the morning that involved photography. Kenilworth was a good choice.

The sweet bay magnolias that have been planted within the gardens over the past few years were blooming. They are not a large as the southern magnolias – their smaller proportions a quite appealing along paths of places like Kenilworth.

There were three types of flags in bloom at the edges of the ponds: 2 native – Iris prismatica (the slender blue flag iris)

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And the Iris versicolor (the larger blue iris), and

One invasive Iris pseudacorus (the yellow flag iris).

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The water lilies – white and pink – were the most numerous flowers of the day.

Tomorrow I’ll post about the animals we saw.

Some last images of South Texas

As I finished up the post yesterday about the San Antonio Botanical Garden – I realized there were a few more miscellaneous pictures I wanted to share from our South Texas adventure. Every day near sunset hundreds, maybe thousands of birds gathered on the roofs and electrical lines around our hotel in Harlingen. The last night I managed photograph some with some sunset color behind them. Many of them are grackles.

The next morning we headed to the National Butterfly Center first but decided it was too cold and wet for butterflies to be out and about when we got there. I photographed a male and female Boat-tailed grackle on the lawn and

The water lily in the little pool.

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Then I noticed a red-eared slider in the water too. It is native in southern Texas…but invasive in Maryland. It’s included in the list of the world’s most invasive species!

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We headed out for a state park in lieu of the Butterfly Center and then heading toward San Antonio. The one rest stop we made along the way had this forest mosaic.

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As we drove into San Antonio, I managed a picture of the Tower of the Americas through the car window. It was built for the HemisFair in 1968 and I remember making the trip to the event with my Camp Fire Girls group; I was in the 8th grade.

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One last bird picture: a cold White-winged Dove taken from our hotel window.

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