Friday, August 5, 2011


   Some recent blooms in our yard:

Amaryllis belladona

In early August, the Amaryllis begin to appear. These are bulbs, and they produce foliage in December (without flowers), which dries up in May or June. In late summer, stalks emerge quickly, within 2-3 days, from bare, dry beds and set clusters of these wonderfully fragrant pink flowers. Like most popular plants used so frequently in southern California that they seem to belong here, Amaryllis are from somewhere else. They are native to South Africa, and do well in the climate here, which is very similar.
   They are often called "naked ladies", due to that fact that they flower without foliage. Another common name is "pink ladies". The bulbs commonly called "Amaryllis", that are sold around the holidays as forced blooms in little pots and jars are really Hippeastrum; the misnomer confuses some people a bit when encountering true Amaryllis.
   Amaryllis were once pretty popular in Orange County; they are most commonly found in older neighborhoods, and they are one of my favorite heirloom flowers around here. I do not notice them often in newer neighborhoods, probably because fewer people spend much time gardening now, and tend to prefer more structural landscape plantings of repeat-blooming perennials, or shop for "instant color" at Home Depot every few weeks. Amaryllis, like daffodils, narcissus, gladiolas, etc. are a more patient pursuit, which pays off only during a brief  three or four weeks each year.
   When we moved in, they were already scattered around the various unkempt and overgrown flower beds throughout the yard. We have gathered them into a few areas and encourage them to continue growing and multiplying.

This is the first cluster of this year.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Lake

   I just returned from a week's vacation, spent on the shore of Lake Ontario, about mid-way between Henderson Harbor and Sackets Harbor, New York (My family and I have been vacationing near this spot for more than 40 years, on-and-off).
   This year, while Syracuse was posting record-high temperatures, we enjoyed cool breezes, warm water and sand beaches.

Panorama of Henderson Bay (click for larger view).
   I live just 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean, but I rarely go to the beach. Having grown up frequenting lakes instead of the ocean, I prefer freshwater. The United States has about 5241 miles of freshwater shoreline along the Great Lakes, referred to by some as the "Fresh Coast". You can't see to the other side, so the view is as good as the ocean, and you don't need a shower after you swim, to deal with the smell and the salt.
   More great Great Lakes photography here, at The Fresh Coast Project.
   Some years ago, my family regularly rented a cabin from a friend who was a neighbor of my aunt and uncle, but they stopped renting the place around 1981, and after that, we would camp in nearby Westcott Beach State Park, along the same stretch of beach. In a chance encounter last year, while camping in the park, I met a woman whose family owns a cabin just up the beach, and she offered to let us stay a week this year.  My brother, with his wife and daughter, and my sister, with her husband stayed with me; my parents, as well as other relatives and friends, came up to visit occasionally throughout the week. We are already looking forward to nest year.
  Our little stretch of shoreline is fortunate to be slightly sheltered in a large bay with shallow warm water and sand beaches, and is about 20 miles from the start of the Saint Lawrence River. This view is old and familiar to us, but we never tire of it. We learned camping, swimming, boating, sailing, fishing and water skiing here on the lake: countless hours on the water watching how it moves and changes as the wind and light shift throughout the day, and as the weather and storms come directly in from the west, off the open lake.

The driveway to the cabin.

View of lake with blueberry pie.

View of the cabin in the early morning from the water.

View up the beach.

The following shots were taken on six consecutive evenings from July 19-24: