Frequent rains and cool temperatures have given summer flowers a boost this year. Daylilies cover the cemetery’s bank and are impressive in late afternoon sun (above). Click to view the larger image to see them better. Along Main Street and Mill Pond Lane, planters maintained by area merchants and restaurants are awash in color. Yellow begonias grace a large pot at the rear entrance of Sagano Restaurant (below).
It’s petunia time in Brighton right now. The businesses on the north side of Main Street have window boxes brimming with them, and there are mounds of them in the Veterans’ Memorial urns. Petunias thrive in 5-6 hours of bright sun and aren’t bothered by summer heat so they are often the choice of gardeners. They are so ubiquitous passersby don’t give them much attention. That’s true of several other easy to grow annuals like begonias and daisies, too.
Besides petunias wide variations in color and stripes, they fill the air with fragrance and attract several pollinators including Hawk Moths that hover in front of them like hummingbirds. I haven’t seen any along Main Street yet because, well, I’m like everyone else. I don’t spend a lot of time standing to admire petunias. Maybe I should. Perhaps I could bring you a moth photo before the first frost.
Bet you didn’t know petunias are related to tobacco, tomatoes, and potatoes. Those plants are all in the same family that includes deadly nightshade. As common as they are, you’d think I could find reams of information about them online. That’s not the case. All I could find were standard gardening advice about planting and deadheading them in mid-summer. Guess they are so common and easy to grow, few sites feel there’s a need to tell us more about them.
Veer off the millpond trail near the north end to swing by the garden at the Wooden Spoon Restaurant and Market.
As autumn rolls in, zinnias have become the major players. They tolerate summer heat very well and bloom until frost brings down the curtain. Small mounds of some varieties are punctuated by giant blooms on 3′ tall stems on others. Butterflies and bees pay daily visits while the patrons enjoy the colorful show.
Even in crisp weather, the patio is cozy and the wait staff couldn’t be warmer or more welcoming.
They may be Asian since they grace containers at the entrance of Sagano Japanese Bistro & Steakhouse. Brighton has become a popular dining destination. It’s centrally located between Detroit and Lansing, Ann Arbor and Flint. Families and groups gather at the millpond before they dine or stroll there after their meal together. There are restaurants at every price point with cuisine for foodies, the unadventurous, and those craving ethnic fare.
Although we’ve had many hot days, gardens near the millpond still have a fresh, bright green appearance. Later, as heat intensifies, leaves turn from yellow-green to blue-green and start to rattle in the wind. You can actually ‘hear’ summer when it happens although the buzz of cicadas often drowns it out.
Pink stars grace a raised bed beside the millpond thanks to plantings done by the City of Brighton (top and bottom). While it’s beautiful, Purple Loosestife (left) isn’t a welcome guest in America from its European origins. It should be unceremoniously ripped from the earth because it severely clogs wetlands and makes it impossible for native, often endangered, plants to grow. A single plant grows near the city hall but I’m not worried about it. Some park visitor will surely pick it before it sets seeds.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church’s garden hosts several clumps of bright gold coreopsis. It’s always a welcome summer flower. Each of these images click through to larger versions.
In glancing through the posts for the past week, I realize the images are all the subdued colors of autumn. Thought I’d spice up the mix with this shot. Potted plants graced the back entrance of Impulse, a women’s fashion boutique, in Brighton, Michigan, on a cool night in mid-October. I think these are asters, but they might be mums. I’m not sure of the characteristics that distinguish one from the other. The flowers were in a nook to protect them from the increasingly low temperatures at night.
While these sisters were photographed in early July, their relatives are still popping up around the pond well into September. The blooms aren’t as plentiful now, but they still dot the masses of lily pads and open wide to the sunshine.
A yellow daisy plant is blooming with such vigor in the corner of a background near the Brighton railroad tracks it’s spilling onto the sidewalk. Since the center of these flowers is brown, they’re called Brown Betties and shouldn’t be confused with the dessert although they look delicious at Midnight in mid-summer.
In Michigan, Lantana is a cultivated annual in the verbena family, but in other parts of the world, it’s often an invasive species. I found this group of umbels (the official name for their flower clusters) in an urn outside of the Keehn Funeral Home on Main Street in Brighton, Michigan. The blooms open from the outside inward and change colors during the process, vibrant pink to orange to yellow. The scented flowers attract butterflies and, if you scrunch a lantana leaf, you release another odor. It smells a bit like pineapple to me.
My grandmothers had antimacassars* on all of the living room furniture. The blooms on the millpond’s elderberry (I think) bushes reminds me of them. They are like doilies full of intricate white and buttery yellow details once the pastel green buds open. They start opening from the outside inward making the blooms look like fireworks that are suspended in time. Click these images to see larger versions.
*Antimacassars were placed on furniture to protect the fabrics from macassar oil that was used in most haircare products in the Victorian era. For samples of them, visit the Antimacassars Search Page on Esty. The original link I had for offsite images of antimacassars had Diana Krall’s “A Blossom Fell” as background music. The song has absolutely nothing to do with this post now, but it’s too wonderful to remain undiscovered by my readers.
Some photographers take a spray bottle with them to add an oh-so-beatiful dew-covered look to flowers and insects before they shoot. I haven’t had to do that. First is was the sprinkler system. Now it’s the heavens. :-) I had to shake off as much water as I could so the peonies’ flimsy stems would support the large flowers. They were almost touching the ground when I arrived after a downpour.
I found flowers with the palest of colors on single blooms. They included light grays, whites, yellows, pinks, and mauve. That’s quite a range! The flower is shown in its entirety, below. I’ve got more good shots of peonies from that night. I’ll post them next winter when colorless days bore me so I don’t bore you with too many flowers now. Click either shot to see glorious detail.
In an effort to be clever, I wanted to tie this group of peonies to what a group of swans is called. They’re both white and the petals have the same delicate quality as feathers. Well, I discovered this is no small task. The exact term for a group of swans isn’t universal. The Queen of England calls them a “herd” and employs Royal Swan Herdsmen. When in flight, a group of swans is called a “wedge” because of their “V” formation. That could work for these peonies, too, since they are suspended in air. But the Oxford English Dictionary tells me the proper word is “bevy,” also used to describe a group of beautiful women. So you can decide for yourself the term to use when describing this bunch. I give up.
You would think no one in their right mind would grow primroses based upon this definition for “Primrose Path”:
A course of action that seems easy and appropriate but can actually end in calamity.
But these are grown next to the Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce in a space carefully tended by the Brighton Garden Club, a fine group that tends public gardens around the city (and bless their hearts for doing it).
Note added in August, 2013: This garden no longer exists. It was leveled to make room for a new office building more than a year ago. The plans for the building feel through so the lot is now a field of grass.
No plant matches the spectacular color of a burning bush in the autumn (almost flourescent red!), but in the spring, their flowers are so timid they hide under the leaves. They are the size of ladybugs with colors so tame they can’t possibly be attracting pollinators. Another interesting tidbit about burning bushes is that their branches have ribs on them making them almost square. The ribs provide structural reinforcement for twigs that would be weak otherwise.
One of the delights of photographing things at night is how it eliminates distractions. If you saw this single tree twig during the day, it wouldn’t stand out from its surroundings. At night, the flash from my camera highlights its color and shape making it a precious hanging jewel. Note how the flower stalks are projected at right angles from the twig to place them beyond the reach of the leaves where flying insects can pollinate them. I like their gentle, gravity-defying curves, too.
When seen en masse (below), much of their individual charm is lost, but there’s a beautiful unity of disparate elements between these jumbled bundles of twigs, leaves and ready-to-bloom flower stalks.
There’s virtually no cost to taking digital pictures. Once you’ve got the camera and computer, snapping the shutter only costs you time to point, shoot, download and review the images. Gone are the days of paying per print. Almost gone are the days of needing space to store your photographs, but we’re still on the bleeding edge of how to index those images to make accessing them a breeze. iPhoto by Apple and other similar management systems are a start.
Consequently, I’m a professional photographer’s worse nightmare. I don’t plan my shots. I just shoot. I’m voracious and reckless with my camera. I’ll return home with 150-400 images. More than half of them will be trashed and most of the rest will never be seen by anyone but me. One or two have a chance of appearing at Words4It. It’s the Infinite Monkey Theorem at work.
When I shot it in the dark, I had no idea there were flowers in the above image. None. I noticed the small, light green leaves popping out in the underbrush and thought they were an interesting “sign of spring” shot because most of the brambles were still bare twigs. It wasn’t until I got home and saw the shot on my large monitor that I realized there were tiny yellow flowers covering the foliage. Even in daylight, I doubt if most people would notice these wee beauties.
Ah, spring. From the first frost in autumn, most of us yearn for it here in Michigan. The only naysayers are those ski bunnies and snowmobilers who revel in that white stuff. For the next few weeks, if you aren’t interested in plants, stay away from Words4It. They will be the predominant topic for a while. The plants’ buds are bursting and it’s showtime!
I have no depth of knowledge about trees and plants. I can’t identify them, but this particular species is one I’m familiar with because there were several bushes in front of my former office. One of them had a tag that read “Viburnum Carlesii.” While the clumps of flowers are white, their buds are red. The most striking feature of this plant isn’t the bloom. It’s the fragrance at night that attracts moths to pollinate it. Wow. It’s a heady clove-mixed-with-lilac scent. The shrub’s common name is “Korean Spice.”
Doesn’t this look like a tropical plant from some distant island? It isn’t. It’s a common 2″ zinnia blossom seen from the side photographed in a Livingston County garden. Sometimes we miss incredibly interesting visual things because they are so common we think we know them. We merely glance in their direction instead of looking closely. See the larger version, if you need a winter dose of color.
While prepping photos and text for Words4It, I discover a lot. It’s a loose process. Today, I searched for something green (to avoid monotonous pictures of snow) and located this early July shot of milkweed in full flower. I found a surprise along the right edge when I opened it in Photoshop: a bumble bee is banking a turn to land on a flower! [Sidenote: Tiny bee / big flower. It’s like a human finding a 50-foot tall hot fudge sundae.] I wasn’t aware of the bee when I took the picture. The larger image shows more detail including another tiny critter I’ll let you find for yourself. Zoom in to see it.
Once I select a photo for a post, I tackle the text. I remembered reading an Edward Albee play decades ago where a child was referred to as a “bumble of joy.” It has nothing to do with this photo except providing the title, but the fact that phrase rattles in my brain 50 years says something about the power it had when I first read it. Here’s a synopsis of Albee’s An American Dream and a mention of the bumble.
The city lets milkweed grow near the millpond. It’s the prime food source for monarch butterflies that migrate from Mexico to Michigan each summer. How do they make this round trip spanning 3-4 generations of butterflies? If you check milkweed plants, you might find a monarch caterpillar feasting or a chrysalis hanging on the undersides of leaves.
In August, the planter in front of ArtVentures was overflowing with white petunias and gold strawflowers. After dark, they were washed in light coming from two directions. The street light illuminated the bouquet in unearthly golden-pink and drew crisp shadows on the wall while bright white gallery lighting cascaded through the window reviving the original colors of the flowers and made them glow.
After posting the previous entries, I realized this blog has been monochromatic for too long, and we’re not even half way through winter. Expect more snow shots in the coming months. It’s my world for a while. I’m returning to summer and brilliant sunshine for a moment to remind Michigan readers that color grows here and it’s glorious. Maybe we appreciate it more because of the gray months.
The iris are beside a pond in front of the First National Bank in Brighton on Challis Road. The peony, below, is in a parking lot at an apartment complex. Both are in urban settings although they don’t look like it in these photographs. The color of the peony is not accurate. My camera turns particular reds into shocking flourescent pinks sometimes. I don’t know why. I’ve reduced the saturation of this image but it still looks like it might glow in the dark. The iris can be a desktop pattern if you need a winter blues remedy. It’s very large. The larger peony photograph isn’t like this close-up. You can see the whole flower. Both photographs were taken in early June, 2009.
As winter builds to full strength here, it helps to look at summer flowers. As explained in my earlier post, I’m pursuing a series of images of gardens and foliage photographed after sunset. My camera’s flash does interesting things, good and bad. The camera-mounted flash can cause harsh shadows behind objects. It’s also easy to bleach out colors if I get too close. I’ve found it’s best to stand back ten feet and use my zoom. On the positive side, distracting background objects quickly fade into the unifying darkness. I use available light from street lamps if I can. Images taken at night sometimes surprise me. Colors may become richer or fade toward subtle grays. The wide open aperture often softens the focus very nicely. Stay tuned for more.
These iris are a detail from a larger photo. Click through to see it. They are in the well tended garden at the Brighton Area Chamber of Commerce.