One gardener's observations, discoveries and random thoughts whilst simultaneously worshipping and dallying in a Cape Cod garden. "A garden," said Ralph Waldo Emerson, "is like those pernicious machineries which catch a man's coatskirt or his hand, and draw in his arm, his leg and his whole body to irresistable destruction."

Behold, The Sun

forsythia-comin And so it rained, and it rained.   And the lightning flashed and the wind whistled and the thunder rattled the windows.  And it rained some more.

And then suddenly, at around 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the rain stopped.  The wind died back.  Behind the curtain of the storm was a monster chorus of peeper frogs from the now-deeper ponds, their alien songs filling the dark.

And in the morning, that bright light in the sky was back again and sunshine has been our companion through much of the week.  It’s been a big tease, though, since our temperatures have only flirted with the lower 40s since then, and snow flurries were even spotted swirling about in a few places yesterday.

Ah, April, you fickle thing, you.


With the rain coming upon my planting project so quickly on Monday, I hadn’t gotten a proper picture of the viola I planted as a contrast to the new pansies I featured on Monday.   This one’s a little tattered, but that’s okay, I sort of feel like the pansies and violas are really still in rehearsal.  Their big number will come in a few weeks, when they have settled into their new spots and spread around some, making nice little clumps of flowers. And with luck and a little extra care, they’ll continue to add their voices to the larger chorus throughout the summer season.


I can tell already that both the pansies and the violas will be a fun challenge for me, photographically.   These purple flowers always photograph so differently with only slightly different light conditions – I noticed how blue they appeared in the rainy photos of earlier in the week.   The barest hint of shade and the flowers go all blue in digital media, when their true colors are often more in these violet and purple ranges, as evidenced here in some late afternoon sunlight.

But there is also some strong blue color in the array of tones of this particular strain of pansies, so I expect there’ll be a great variety as the days go by, too.

Who’s in the spotlight right now, you ask?   Oh, that’s the Daffodil Dreamgirls.


These big cupped daffs – they are possibly more technically jonquils, but being a hobbyist and not a botanist, I can’t really say for sure – are on the south side of the house, down below those living room windows the Catsby’s so fond of.   I like the cups, which have just a hint of orange about them.  Their chorus girl look is a little brassy but still sweet.


Last evening – Wednesday – was the night of all this golden light.   The cooler temperatures were balanced by some strong late day sunshine and I hadn’t had a walk to the bay in a few days.   On the drive home from work, I’d spotted a host of flowers, so opted for walking along a busier road than usual.   Vigilence is key, as drivers tend to zip along this particular road, but the rewards were plentiful.

Around the bend, the show at the “daffodil house” is coming on strong and the different varieties glow as they float and flutter on the chill bay breeze.  They seem to capture the sun’s golden rays and magnify it, which takes away a little of the breeze’s bite.



glory-of-the-snow1Here is the reason why I sometimes long for a long-term garden:  bulb colonies.   I think it’s so incredible, somehow magical, the way a few bulbs carefully planted can – with time – spread into these grand little displays.  I’m eager to get started.

I’ve seen these glory of the snow planted with an array of crocuses in lawns, which was a pretty great effect.   But I think these little guys are so sweet, it’s nice to see a drift that’s purely them alone.  I like seeing how such tiny little flowers can make a greening lawn sparkle, even in the shade of late afternoon.

Across the street, there was a small colony of scilla, another little flower I love to see spreading itself around.





And then I’d reached the edge of the land.   The breeze off the bay was sharper there but the golden light kept drawing me on, as I tried to get as close to the sun as possible.    Did you know we’re in something called a “solar minimum” right now?


The sun is in a period of very few sunspots.   In 2008, the sun was free of them 73% of the time, which is a 95 year low.   2009 is carrying on just the same or better, with no sunspots 87% of the year, thus far.   You can read more about it and check the No Sunspot Days counter here.

It’s apparently not unusual in the overall cycle of the sun’s normal activity and scientists are quick to clarify that there isn’t anything wrong with the sun.  Mostly, the minimum is interesting because it gives “us” a better chance to study the star and learn more about it, without the sunspots to interfere with observances.

No matter what time of year here on the Cape, as sunny days come to a close, you can always find a small crowd at an east-facing beach parking lot, drawn to bear witness as that great golden globe slips silently beyond the western horizon.   I’m still quite amused to discover that we are not the only species to do this, as apparently sunset is a big show for a great flocks of blackbirds who make their homes in the tree canopies of our neighborhood.   They must have a great view from up there for sure.  But I recently wondered if they aren’t also using those black, heat-absorbing feathers to warm themselves against the cooler night ahead.


But if they’re just up there for the show I can understand that, too.



Comments on: "Behold, The Sun" (7)

  1. birdoparadise said:

    I love those small flowers sprinkled throughout the lawn, but my first thought was, “Don’t they get mowed down?” Do they fade away before the grass gets too tall? My head hurts from all this gardening thinking.

    Sounds like you need another cuppa coffee, Birdie. These minor, early bulbs have bloomed, stored up their energy for next year and faded back right about the time MOST gardeners are ready to mow, though a few non-gardening husbands eager for a close-cropped lawn have run afoul of gardening spouses with their plans to mow early throughout history.

  2. Beautiful pictures. You know it’s spring when the daffodils are in bloom.

  3. I just love your flower pictures :)

  4. I remember reading somewhere about a colony of rabbits that would all gather outside its cliff-top home every night to watch the sunset. The naturalists studying them (and yes, this was non-fiction, NOT *Watership Down*) could come up with no explanation for this behavior other than appreciation for the beauty. True or not, it’s a lovely image. I bet the blackbirds are charging up their solar cells AND enjoying the sight.

    Lovely images, as always, my friend.

  5. Do your pansies last all summer? It gets too hot or bright or something here for pansies to last through the summer. They do, however, brighten up our winters. Instead of pansies, the favorite summer annual around here seems to be petunias. I rather like petunias, not the least of reasons being the name. Petunia. Isn’t it a fun word?

    Java, I wouldn’t say they are the favorite or most reliable summer annual here. I try to give my pansies special care to try to keep them blooming as long as possible. For example, I’ve planted them on the north side of this bed, where they’ll be shaded by garden companions from the hottest sun, I hope. A little extra water should help, too, and regular deadheading often keeps them blooming through much of the summer, though not all of them survive.

    I like petunias, as well, though they are a little messier for deadheading. I do like the Wave petunias, and also the tiny-flowered Million bells, which can be fun, too.

  6. I read about the sunspots, too. Interesting cycling going on there. I was hoping to at some point in my life to see the northern lights–maybe cash in some infrequent flyer miles to do a trip to Fairbanks in October or something crazy like that–but I guess the auroras are pretty tame when the sunspots aren’t out in force.

    And in addition to your sun-loving flock and Patrick’s sun-gazing bunnies I remember seeing something National Geographic-ey with tropical monkeys standing up in the branches to greet the morning sun. It looked like monkeys worshiping the Sun God or monkeys working on their tans, but I suppose they’re just trying to get a little warmer. Spotted or not, I’ll take the sun most days unless it’s ridiculously hot. Enjoy your springy spring days, Mr. Greg.

  7. The daffodils are just starting to bloom here in Chicagoland. I love the shadowing effect the sun has on the first set of daffodils.

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