Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

A quick and easy vignette before I finally call quits on productivity for the day. Wednesday Vignette is hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.

A few leaves on Comptonia peregrina have clung to the branches and matured to a beautiful chestnut brown. I love the shape and texture. The tight little catkins at the base of the leaves are still some time from their quiet spring debut. They aren't very showy, but the promise of spring is still there. Meanwhile, the hazelnuts (or filberts, if you prefer) in the woods are displaying their showy yellow catkins already. They say it is spring. I like their thinking.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Pictures from the new camera

Back in December, I lost my camera, which had been a college graduation gift I'd had for almost four years. Already in low spirits, this was a crippling blow. With it went a camera case, several SD cards, the charger, USB cable, cleaning cloth, and there may have been more. I never took the case with me when I was shooting. It always stayed in the car or in the house, so the fact that everything went missing lead me to believe it was stolen. But I couldn't even remember the last place I saw it, meaning no leads to report the theft. I was crushed, but chose to be pragmatic and started looking for a new camera. I had been thinking of moving up to an interchangeable lens camera, either a DSLR or a mirrorless system, for several years. I just didn't want it to happen this way, or at a time where I really couldn't afford much for a new camera. I did the best I could in the interim, taking pictures with my smartphone. I learned some useful things about how to take pictures with it, but I really missed having a real camera.

Luckily, a friend had a Panasonic Lumix GX1 camera body that he wasn't using anymore and was willing to sell for cheap. We had some trouble meeting up, but this past Saturday we finally managed it (with no help from me, running over 20 minutes late) and I got my new camera. Then I drove north to my parents' for the weekend to find the new lens I ordered waiting for me. I hadn't expected it until Tuesday of this week, which would have meant a whole week before I could start using my camera. The fast deliver meant I had all weekend to start familiarizing myself with the new camera and lens. This is a long post of random pictures.

The lens is a 12-32mm compact zoom. Unfortunately, part of what makes it so compact is the lack of a manual focus ring, something I didn't think of. However, so far the automatic focusing of the camera has been quite good, and got even better as I learned to adjust the settings. It's also not very well-suited for macro photography, something I knew. Still, it handled this difficult close-up quite well.

Every camera produces different results with color, so I'm especially having to relearn things like white balance and picture modes. I like how it managed to capture the rich colors in the driveway island, something my phone has been struggling with.

I take a lot of close-up shots, even if they aren't true macro, so I tried a lot of close work.

Not quite as sharp as I'd like (I think I was a bit too close) but a pretty good shot of the opening flowers on my dwarf Billbergia nutans. The blue edges on the petals aren't as thick as the larger version I used to have, but unlike that plant, this one also has blue tips on the pink sepals.

Some nice back-lighting shining through the leaves and bracts on this side of the plant. The flowers on this form seem to rise higher above the foliage than on the full-size version.

This lens doesn't handle glare as well as my old camera. I'll probably be buying a hood for it soon.

My phone hasn't done a very good job showing the purple winter color on Satureja douglasii. The new camera does a much better job.

Dramatic shadows on Yucca filamentosa.

One of the reasons I chose the 12-32mm lens is for the wide-angle shots. It manages to capture views of the garden at large much better than my old camera.

Shadows on the wall.

Though I can't actually get this close with my current lens, The 16MP micro 4/3 sensor is both much larger than either my phone or old camera, and has a much higher resolution than my phone, meaning I can crop images more and still produce good, clear images at larger sizes. It's sort of fake macro.

Carex testacea and Erysimum. I love the olive/orange of the carex with the rich green of the wallflower.

The heaths have never been so floriferous as they are this year. And thanks to the deer fence, they don't have any dead brown patches in the middle where deer have stepped and broken the branches!

Galanthus shoots emerging at the edge of a patch of Sedum albiflorum. The sedum has spread a lot without the deer to rip it apart in summer.

Buds on Helleborus x sternii.

I liked the lighting in this area of the driveway island, with the grasses and old aster stems.

This shot would have been much improved by manual focusing, but the camera still did a great job.

This camera allows for some really fine adjustments to the white balance, allowing me to do a pretty decent job capturing the color of this Erica.

More use of cropping to "zoom in" on the subject. I couldn't actually get this close with the lens, but cropping out over 2/3 of the original gives this nice close-up. New growth on an unidentified Agapetes (or possibly a Vaccinium) from the RSBG.

New purple foliage of Cardamine diphylla emerging out of dwarf mondo grass next to an older leaf. I should probably spread some slug bait before they devour the cardamine.

I couldn't quite get this moss into perfect focus, or get close enough. This is the kind of thing I need manual focusing, and probably a real macro lens, to really photograph to my satisfaction. Still, I love the bright little points of new growth and the texture.

 Cotoneaster microphyllus var. thymifolius.
 
These crocus bulbs have been emerging since the end of November. With the recent warm weather, they could open any time.

The daylilies are emerging, too. Time to clear away the dead leaves and bait for slugs.

Billardiera longiflora hasn't stopped growing since fall. The two cold snaps did a little damage, but hardly slowed it down. I think it's going to get much larger and do it much faster than I expected, meaning I'll have to move it before it swamps the Acer griseum it's growing up. I was hoping for a thin tracery of thin leaves against the coppery bark, accented wonderfully by the purple/blue berries. Unfortunately, it's growing more densely than anticipated, obscuring the bark of the maple, and ants have decided they love clipping the new growth and demolishing the berries.

Garrya elliptica 'James Roof' didn't take any damage from the cold, despite being planted in November. I need more garryas. Lots and lots of garryas.

Irish heath with a bit of wind-blown lichen.

Cropped shot of Sorbaria sorbifolia (I think the cultivar 'Sem'). These buds have looked ready to burst almost since the leaves dropped in fall.

Another wide shot from the other end of the shadier, moister part of the garden.

I don't think I've ever taken the time to appreciate the old seed heads of Prunella vulgaris. They really are pretty. Another reason to appreciate this somewhat weedy native. It's not quite in focus. Again, I could have used that manual focus. Next lens.

Cropping to get a close-up of heath flowers.

And to get a close-up of  the buds on Erica arborea 'Estrella Gold'. This is turning out to be one of my favorite plants to photograph, and mine haven't even flowered yet! I love the bright buds among the darker needle-like foliage. They've been slowly expanding all winter, becoming more and more prominent. I'm looking forward to enjoying their rich honey scent when they open, but I think the buds are actually my favorite part.

I'm feeling more motivated to go places and take pictures now that I have a camera again. I hope this translates into more blog posts, but lately I've been spending more time with my paying jobs, working out in the garden, and reading, so we'll see.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Two Years

It's been two years to the day since I began my blog. Last year at this time, I was working to escape the toxic environment I had stumbled into, and such things as blog anniversaries completely escaped my attention. This year, I find myself much more happily situated back in the PNW. Work and my somewhat odd traveling living situation have made it a bit more difficult to blog, and recently I fell into a nasty bout of winter doldrums that I'm still fighting my way out of. Though it's sunnier today than I expected, I feel more like curling up on the couch with a book than dealing with Portland traffic to go out somewhere. Books are my other love, and they've been feeling a bit neglected, so I've been spending more time with them lately. Tomorrow will be busy enough. Among other things, I'm meeting up with someone to get my new camera body. Once the lens arrives, I'll probably be snapping lots of photos to get a feel for my new camera, which will result in more blog posts. Despite learning a bit of how to take better photos with my phone, I really prefer having a real camera in my hands.

Last weekend I finally took advantage of a dry, non-freezing day to do some gardening. Some Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire' came into work from someones yard, and after dividing and potting up most of the mass, there were some awkward odds and ends left over for me to take home. These bare-root bits of dogwood needed planting sooner rather than later, thus galvanizing me into action. Some went along the edge of the woods below the drainage field, an area I'm working on planting with mostly natives such as Ribes sanguineum, Lonicera involucrata, and Oemleria cerasiformis. The dogwood, though not native, will add some welcome fall and winter color. Other pieces of dogwood went in a spot near one of the new faucets, and still others went in along two sections of the dry creek bed that I'd been wondering what to do with. The dogwoods provided the necessary starting point for inspiration. However, I was so focused on planting that I didn't take any pictures. There's not much to see yet anyway, just a few scrawny twigs in the ground. I'll post some pictures once I fill in some of the areas with other plants.

So instead, here are some pictures of the plants I acquired last week at the Portland Nursery houseplant sale. First, though, some things that caught my eye, but were left behind:

Alpinia luteocarpa, gracefully holding dark green leaves with wine-red reverses. This is one of those plants I couldn't get into focus with my phone no matter how I tried. 

Stenosarcos Vanguard. I've actually wanted this orchid for some time, but recently I've been drifting towards plants that need less frequent or careful attention than orchids. Though this one is a terrestrial orchid with care more similar to a normal houseplant, it requires a period of dormancy, and I've always had trouble with houseplants that need that.

It was hard to walk away from these Neoregelia 'Guacamole'. I'm actually not sure why I did. I have several other Neoregelias, but none of them have the same colors or patterning. 

This Maranta had huge leaves, twice as big as I'm used to seeing. I'm not sure if it was just very well-grown or if it was a special, large variety. It was tempting. Marantas form small tubers in the soil that make them more drought-tolerant than their lush foliage would suggest. However, I already have one with very silver leaves and didn't feel the need to add this one.

This aloe (or Gasteraloe?) was very interesting. I'd never seen one with linear stripes like this. But while I found it interesting, I didn't actually find it that attractive, so it, too, was left behind.

There were many gorgeous sansevierias in 3 gallon pots, but at $50, they were too expensive (and too large) even at 30% off. So, what did I bring home?

Sansevieria trifasciata 'Silver Queen', one of the few sansevierias that wasn't in a 3 gallon container.

Since pots were included in the sale, I picked up a few of those as well, not specifically to match them with the plants I was buying. But this shallow, green hyacinth bowl did seem to fit 'Silver Queen', so I potted it up

I like it much better out of that plastic nursery pot.

I also picked up a Chamaedorea metallica, with metallic blue-green leaves like fish tails (or forked tongues).

I ended up pairing it with this charcoal-colored container with dragonflies and bright green leaves, which I got for 50% off because of a couple small chips the cashier noticed that I hadn't even seen. Such a nice person!


I didn't see the large Ludisia discolor that were there on previous visits, but these smaller plants were more affordable anyway. A good cleaning will remove those hard water spots and the leaves will be beautiful. I know, I passed on the other orchid because I worried about the care requirements. Ludisia doesn't have any tricky resting period in which the plant loses appeal, and it has very thick stems that make it drought-tolerant, though it does require good humidity.


I couldn't resist the stunning silver leaves of Philodendron 'Silver Sword'. This is a very young plant. The leaves get much bigger (and a bit more sword-like) as the plant matures.

On the 50% off table at the Division St. location, I found a selection of warm-growing Cymbidium hybrids and couldn't resist picking one out. Cymbidium Valerie Absolonova has yellow flowers with red speckling on the petals and more heavily on the lip. These small, warm-growing Cymbidiums have some of the best-smelling flowers, and I've been wanting one for awhile.

I experimented with my tillandsia collection this year by keeping most of them out in the greenhouse. Unfortunately, I lost a good number of them, probably by watering when I shouldn't have and the plants failing to dry out in the cool, humid greenhouse. So clearly I needed to pick out some new ones. I brought home 3 Tillandsia funckiana (2 shown here).

A new T. caput-medusae, since I lost both of mine, even my favorite purple-leaved form. I'll be on the hunt for a new one of those as soon as possible.

My favorite is this bright green one with a dark black/purple center. I think I actually found the ID for this one, but I've already forgotten.

I'm tempted to return, at least to the Stark St. location. There were several things I passed by there because I was holding back until I went to Division St, though I hardly need more houseplants.

Thanks so much for taking the time to leave a comment! I love hearing what readers think and answering questions. I also welcome suggestions for improvement!