Thursday, August 30, 2012

UGA Trial Gardens

The University of Georgia has a wonderful little Trial Garden hidden away on campus.  When everything else is beaten down by the heat of summer, the trial gardens are a riot of colors.  Beds, pots and hanging plants filled with annual and perennials of every color.

There is so much packed into such a small space it is hard to decide what to paint. everywhere you look there is something to catch your eye, begging to be painted.  Over several weekends I have managed to paint just a few of the many plants at the Trial Gardens.

The Trial Garden had a whole bed of ornamental pepper plants.  They have been selected for both form and color, both the leaves and fruit come in many colors.  Some were large bushes, others trailed along the ground.  Some held their fruit up high while the fruit on others were hidden by the leaves.

Black-eyed Susans , Rudbeckia sp., are a common garden flower, but there are many different varieties now.  The Trial Garden has a bed full of different varieties.  Some are yellow, others orange or brown.  There are large flowers and small flowers, tall flowers and short flowers.  I made a composite sketch of only a few of these beautiful flowers.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Tao of the rocks on Ellison Bay

Many people think of an expansive white sandy shore line when they think about going to the beach.  But not all beaches are made of 'sand', and not all sands are white.  I've walked on 'black sand' beaches made from tiny bits of lava, and 'pink sand' beaches made from coral.  I spent many summers on the rocky beaches along the north shore of Long Island, but the beaches on Ellison Bay were different still.

Door Peninsula is made from Silurian Dolomite of the Niagara Escarpment.  In some places, the bluffs along the bay are 200 feet high.  Silurian Dolomite is hard, and fractures horizontally and vertically.  This makes it a good rock for building structures, like the School House.  They also readily crack off the cliff sides along the bay, and formed a sandless beach.  Piles and piles of roughly square rocks are a enormous temptation to the builder inside most people.  There were man-made stacks of rocks as far as the eye could see.

The general term for a man-made pile of stones is 'cairn'.  Cairns were used to mark trails, landmarks, serve as a monument, or act as a protective entity.  The 2010 winter Olympics in Canada introduced the world to 'inuksuk'.  An Inuit word meaning "something which acts for or performs the function of a person".  Often rock stacks are made to resemble to human form.  So often, in fact, that there are words for these rock forms in several languages:
  • inunnguaq - Inuit meaning "imitation of a person"
  • steinmann - German meaning "stone man"
  • steenman - Dutch meaning "stone man"
  • ometto - Italian meaning "small man"
Some of the cairns on the shore of Ellison Bay could be called 'inunnguaq', others are just 'inuksuk'.  But as the rays of the setting sun washed over them, standing on the shore facing out to sea they all remind me of 'Sea marks'.  

The question remains, Do they protect the shore from the ships, or the ships from the shore?  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Berries at the Clearing

While at The Clearing I took many photos of the local plants.  Often they were flowering, but just as many were covered in berries.  Berries in shades of yellow, orange, red and blue filled the woods and gardens around us.  I was able to identify several of them, but one remains a mystery.

Red Elderberry, Sambucus racemes, bushes surrounded the cabins.  Tree like shrub have compound leaves with 5 to 7 lance-shaped leaflets with irregularly serrated edges.  The panicles of flowers at the ends of the branches had long since been replaced by bright red-purple fruits.  This is not the edible Elderberry, that is the Black Elderberry, Sambucus canadensis.  It is however eaten by birds, and we watched Bluebirds eagerly feeding on the berries. 

The kitchen garden had a Red Currant, Ribes rubrum.   The small bushes have palmate 5 lobed leaves that spiral up the branch.  Pendulous racemes of yellow to red translucent tart edible berries. 

Thickets of thornless Thimbleberry, Rubus parviflorus, covered clearings in the forest floor.  Their 8 inch palmate leaves are soft and fuzzy.  Composite bright red 2 inch tart fruit stand above the bush.  Like other raspberries and blackberrires, the fruit is not a true berry, but numerous drupelets around a central core.

The unknown groups of blue colored berries sat above short plants that had leaves that reminded me of anemone plants, but they have seeds not fruits.  The mystery remains.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Owl Hill

Sometimes things just don't work as planned.  Last summer I had written a post to go with the sketches I did at Owl Hill.  For several reasons I didn't publish it at that time.  Latter, when I tried to 'Publish' it the post simply vanished!  So this is the second edition of the post.

Day Lilies never seem to mind the heat as much as we do.  While other flowers are fading, they are opening new flowers daily.  I have a few day lilies in my garden and look forward to seeing them bloom every year, but they don't compare to the day lilies around Owl Hill.   Here day lilies of every shade fill the summer garden with wonderful color.

There are many other plants in the well tended gardens at Owl Hill, and not all of them provide just flowers.  A zucchini runs along the ground, spilling over the rock wall onto the lawn.  Its large leaves reach for the sun between the rose bushes.  The birds don't mind the leaves that circled the base of the bird feeder, and the zucchini this plant produced were used to make many delicious breads.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Heading home

On our way home from The Clearing we took a side trip to see Cana Island Lighthouse, one of 10 lighthouses in Door County, northeast of Bailey's Harbor.  The steel cladding encases the original 1869 Milwaukee cream brick lighthouse.  The lighthouse and associated structures sit on a small island surrounded on three sides by Lake Michigan.  The rooms in the attached Keepers House have exhibits and displays that explain what life on the island was like.  Excerpts read from the Keepers journal fill the air, describing interesting and dangerous events from the past.

At 89 feet it is the tallest lighthouse in Door County, and you have to climb up a graceful cast iron spiral of 97 steps to for a view from the top.  Luckily for the climbers there are three landings along the way with port hole views which allow you to catch your breath, and for ascenders and descenders to safely pass each other.

The third order Fresnel lens was hand-crafted by Henry Le Paute in France.  The lens previously lit by an incandescent oil vapor burner that used oil (whale, lard or mineral) or kerosene, later an acetylene light was installed.  Electrified and automated in 1944, no Keeper is needed today.   The current apparatus uses a 500-watt bulb, and can tell when it is burned out and automatically rotate to put a fresh bulb in place.

The lighthouse was once described by a Keeper as "one of the most inhospitable and undesirable places that can be imagined".  Which is not surprising.  Due to its location it is vulnerable to severe storms which resulted in waves flooding the causeway and crashing through the buildings.  However, the view from the top looking out at Lake Michigan is wonderful.  As you move around the top, views of Moonlight Bay, North Bay, the island grounds and the peninsula appear.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Door county Wisconson

While at The Clearing we managed a few side trips to other locations in Door County.

From The Clearing we had a view across Ellison Bay of the tree covered bluffs of Peninsula County Park.  When we visited the park instead of a view looking back at the rocky bluffs of The Clearing we looked far across the lake at Wisconsin.  Even so, it still was a nice park with a great view.

Sister Bay and Fish Creek, are two tourist destinations on the western side of the peninsula south of The Clearing.  We drove through the towns several times while we were staying at The Clearing.  They were both pretty (if crowded) lake side towns with colorful shops.  One thing I had never seen before was a live bait vending machine.  They can hold containers of live night-crawlers, leaches, meal worms or minnows (apparently the marine versions have frozen bait as well).

Newport Point State Park is the state's only designated wilderness, located at the top of the peninsula.  It is a lovely park with hiking trails and 12 miles of lake front.  From two of the parking lots trails lead to a sandy beach.  We spent an hour or two one very hot afternoon happily lounging in the cool waters of  Lake Michigan.