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Posts Tagged ‘Runnymeade’

Lilies are now blooming in the garden of my neighbor, Cindy Dyer, who is also my photography mentor and muse. There are all kind of lilies there, including daylilies, Asiatic lilies, and giant white ones. Cindy deliberately likes to plant flowers that she knows will be photogenic.

I always feel overwhelmed when trying to photograph groups of anything, so I naturally gravitate to close-ups of individual flowers, focusing in on details that grab my eyes. Sometimes it is shapes, while at other times it may be colors or textures. Here are a few photos from my visit on Tuesday to Cindy’s garden, my impressions of some of the beautiful lilies that I encountered.

lily

lily

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is prime time for the bearded irises in the garden of my dear friend and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. There are several dozen irises in bloom now in multiple colors, including these beauties, and it looks like even more flowers will be blooming soon.

Beauty is everywhere.

bearded irises

Bearded Iris

Bearded Iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is now the season for irises. All kinds of irises are starting to pop open in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. We are neighbors in a townhouse community in Northern Virginia, which means there is relatively little space for gardening, but Cindy manages to pack an amazing amount of flower power into her limited area. Fortunately, she and her husband, who is also a Michael, live in an end-unit, so they have a bit more space than the interior units.

Cindy likes to select flowers to grow that she knows will be photogenic and love to pore over the flower catalogues on line. Our challenge is to figure out how to capture the  beauty of these carefully selected flowers in the crowed garden. One of Cindy’s techniques is to use a small artificial background to help to isolate the flower. Often she uses a white foam core board to which she has attached a piece of black velvet-like material. She can then create studio-like images with a black or white background, depending on the flower.

This technique requires two people, because it is almost impossible to hold the background in place and frame a shot at the same time. I took these iris photos yesterday while Cindy held the background in place for me and then we reversed positions. In some of the images it looks like I was using some kind of studio lighting, but it was all natural night on a somewhat cloudy day that diffused the light nicely.

You don’t really need any special equipment to create this effect—you could use almost anything for a background. The day before, our improvised background was a collapsible black storage cube from IKEA that Cindy had just given me. The final photo, taken by Cindy with her iPhone, shows me holding that black cube and gives you a sense of the garden environment and how the technique is used.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

iris

background

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into spring, more and more flowers are popping up in the garden of my neighbor, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. It is a fun adventure to walk over to the garden every few days to see what new bits of beauty have sprung forth out of the earth.

One of my favorites that I look forward to seeing each spring is the Lady Jane tulip (Tulipa clusiana var. ‘Lady Jane’), featured in the first photo below. It is a small tulip with pointed petals and a delicate pink and white coloration.

The red tulips are a bit more traditional in terms of their shape and coloration. I love to explore them from all angles and their bright, cheery color is a joy to behold.

Some more tulip buds are beginning to mature and it looks like there may be yellow tulips next. Spring is such a beautiful season.

Lady Jane tulip

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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In the springtime we often watch and wait in the garden, anticipating the beauty that is to come. Sometimes, as was the case with these tulip buds, we have a sneak preview of the coming colors, but often the blooms take us by surprise. I love those kinds of surprises.

As many of you know, I do not have my own garden. However, fellow photographer Cindy Dyer is one of my neighbors and she has an amazing garden, full of fun flowers to photograph.

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the early signs of spring is the emergency of the tiny stalks of Grape Hyacinths (g. Muscari). As their name suggest, these spiky little flowers look a bit like bunches of grapes. Most of the time grape hyacinths are bluish in color, but they come in other colors too and sometimes, as you can see in the second photo, there may be multiple colors on the same flower stalk.

I captured these images in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Cindy is used to seeing me skulking about in her garden and I usually am able to keep her informed about what is blooming in her own garden.

Using my short macro lens, I was able to capture some of the interesting patterns of these grape hyacinths. In the first image you can see how the little “grapes” grow in a spiral pattern. The second image shows how the “grapes” open up at their ends as they mature. I really like the way that both images feature the raised three-petalled impression on so many of the grapes—the shape looks almost like it was embossed.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was scanning my neighbor’s garden for new growth yesterday, a small bit of bright orange caught my eye. I moved closer to see what it was and was shocked to find a tiny ladybug crawling around one of the plants.

The ladybug was pretty active, moving up and down the leaf, so it was challenging to get a shot of it. Eventually, though, my patience paid off and I was able to capture this image. Later in the year photos like this will become more commonplace, but during the month of March I am overjoyed whenever I have a chance to photograph an insect.

I did not get a good look at the face of this insect, so I cannot tell if it is an Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) or one of the native ladybugs, which are less common in most areas. Whatever the case, there is something whimsical about ladybugs that makes me smile, so I was happy to spot this one.

ladybug

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this tiny red tulip yesterday morning in the garden of my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer, my first tulip sighting of the year. One of Cindy’s passions is gardening and she deliberately plants a lot of flowers that she believes will be photogenic.

Last fall she planted bulbs for some large, frilly, multi-colored tulips that she hopes will bloom later this year. (See my posting from last spring entitled Fire-breathing dragon to see an example of one of those crazy-looking parrot tulips.) I will be looking for those exotic flowers, but I have to say that am often drawn more to the simple, spare elegance of a single bloom, like today’s tulip.

When I first started to get serious about my photography almost ten years ago, I imitated the type of photographs that Cindy was taking, with a lot of emphasis on macro shots of flowers. Cindy taught me a lot about photography during those early days, lessons that have stuck with me as I have ventured into other areas of photography.

One of those lessons was about the value of a well-composed, graphic image, like today’s simple shot. Anyone, in theory, could have taken this shot, but they would have had to be willing to get on their hands and knees in the dirt to do so, another one of Cindy’s lessons. (If you want to see more of Cindy’s tips, check out her article How to Grow Your Garden Photography Skills that was featured several years ago on the NikonUSA.com website.)

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My thoughts have already turned to spring, with visions of colorful flowers and dragonflies dancing in my head. However, it turns out that winter was not quite done and last weekend we had a couple of inches of snow, a final hurrah for the season of winter.

Here are a couple of shots of my “winter dragonfly,” a metal sprinkler in my front yard that I featured in a previous post that showed the intricate detail of the dragonfly. I am also including a shot of some of the green shoots in the garden of my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. I think some of these might be tulips, but must confess that I am pretty clueless when it comes to plants.

Many of you know that I am somewhat obsessed with dragonflies. In 2020 I saw my first dragonflies of spring on the 3rd of April, the earliest I have ever seen dragonflies—see my 6 April 2020 posting First dragonflies of the season. I will probably go out and search for them in earnest during the final week of March. There are a couple of early emerging local species that I will be searching for along with migrant species like the Common Green Darner that might be passing through our area.


dragonfly

dragonfly

plant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Pushing out of the still dormant winter earth, several crocuses in the garden of my dear friend Cindy Dyer were shining brightly yesterday, a hopeful sign of the spring beauty that is yet to come.

For the first image, I shielded the sun with my body to avoid the harsh highlights that the sunlight was creating. I then changed my shooting position so that the sunlight was streaming from another angle, which caused the yellow parts of the flower to glow.

Please continue to pray for the people of Ukraine and for all those affected by Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Crocus

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through my neighborhood yesterday, I was delighted to spot some daffodils (g. Narcissus) that were already in bloom. The ground is still brown and bare and not very photogenic, so it is hard to take a “pretty” picture of these beautiful little flowers.

I used a short macro lens capture these images of the early daffodils, the advance guard for a multitude of spring flowers that will arrive before long. I am ready for the spring.

daffodil

daffodil

daffodil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It has been several months since I last saw a dragonfly and I will have to wait for a couple more months before they reappear in my area. As many of you know, dragonflies are one of my favorite subjects to photograph—there is something almost magical about these beautiful aerial acrobats.

As I was shoveling snow after a recent storm, I glanced over at the front yard of my townhouse and was struck by the beautiful patina of the dragonflies that are part of a lawn sprinkler.

The metal dragonflies reminded me of the beauty that is to come, of the new life that will burst forth when spring arrives. Those thoughts filled me with hope and happiness and help to sustain me through the often bleak days of the winter.

dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There is something really soft and gentle about Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), and we seem to have quite a few of them in my neighborhood, as I discovered while walking about on Tuesday after our snowstorm the previous day. Some of the ones that I saw were by themselves, like the dove in the first and second photo, while others were in pairs, like the two in the final photo.

Mourning Doves always seem long and angular to me. In these shots, the birds seem to have puffed up their feathers a bit in an effort to stay warm. I am always amazed that birds and other wildlife manage to survive when conditions get this harsh and inhospitable. On this day, at least, there was some sunshine, which allowed the birds to warm up a bit.

mourning dove

mourning dove

mourning dove

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It was delightful on Tuesday to photograph cardinals with a brilliant blue sky as a backdrop, but many of the birds that I try to photograph do not perch high up in the trees. Birds like this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) spent most of the time near the ground, poking about in the undergrowth. If I am lucky enough to get a clear view of one of these birds, the background is likely to be cluttered and distracting.

Snow has a way of decluttering the image, obscuring some of the pesky background branches. This was the case in the first image when I was able to capture the intensity of the sparrow in mid-cry. His little white “beard” is a perfect for the match for the snow and I was happy to be able to capture his little yellow eye stripe.

The second image has a much more gentle feel to it. The blurred snowy background allows us to focus on the puffed-up sparrow perched on the tiny branch protruding from the snow. The sparrow seemed to be taking a break, resting and recovering as it contemplated its next moves. As is usually the case, the sparrow did not sit still for very long and resumed its foraging a short time later.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday afternoon I trudged through the snow in the wooded areas of my townhouse community and was thrilled to spot a few birds. The sun was shining brightly and the skies were blue, but the temperatures never really rose above the freezing level.

It felt invigorating to be outdoors, though I must admit that I felt a little self-conscious skulking about behind my neighbors’ houses with a camera with a long lens. However, nobody called the police to report a peeping Tom, so I guess that I was ok.

When it comes to iconic shots of birds in the snow, nothing beats the impact of a bright red Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis). The only problem was that I could not find one. Fortunately I was able to spot an equally stunning female cardinal that appeared to be basking in the warmth of the sunlight. I had to maneuver about quite a bit to get a clear shot of her, but am pretty happy with the composition that I was able to get, especially in the first photo that captured some of her personality.

Eventually I did find a male cardinal, but he was not very cooperative. I could see his color clearly—it is impossible to hide when you are that brightly colored—but branches kept me from getting a clean shot. The final image shows the only unobstructed view I could get of the cardinal when I was almost directly below him as he steadfastly ignored me and refused to look down at me. Still, I really like the shot, which has an abstract feel to it that I find really appealing.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am helping this weekend to take care of three cats that belong to my friend Cindy Dyer and her husband. I mention Cindy fairly often on this blog because she is a constant sources of encouragement and inspiration in my photography and has mentored me over the years—she is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. She is also an amazing gardener and most of the times when I feature flower photos, I have taken the shots in her garden.

Cindy works from home, so her three cats are used to having someone around during most of the day. Over the years I have taken care of the cats multiple times and they are relatively comfortable with my presence in the hours. That being said, each of the three cats has his own personality and shows me varying degrees of attention and affection.

I took these shots of Lobo, Pixel, and Queso yesterday afternoon when I stopped in to check on them. All three cats seemed to be evaluating me and I like the way that I was able some of their personality in these informal little portraits.

Lobo

Pixel

Queso

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer has some crazy-looking colorful flowers in her garden, like this one, which I think is some kind of double Tiger Lily. The not-yet-opened petals in the center of the flower at this stage of development remind me of the tentacles of an octopus. I love the way the fence in the background turned out, with all of the colorful bokeh balls in parallel columns.

tiger lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you draw attention to the main subject in your photograph? One effective way is to choose a camera setting that will give you a shallow depth of field, so that only the subject is in sharp focus and the rest of the image is blurred. Another way is to ensure that the colors and texture of the background contrast with those of the subject.

I used both of these techniques yesterday morning when I spotted this metallic green sweat bee (g. Agapostemon) on one of the Shasta daisies growing in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. I love these little bees with their large speckled eyes and shiny green bodies and got as close to this one as I dared with my Canon 60mm macro lens.

I opened the aperture of the lens all the way to f/2.8 to let in lots of light and to achieve the narrowest possible depth of field. That is why the center of the daisy falls so quickly out of focus. As I was composing the shot, the flower reminded me of an egg that had been fried “sunny-side up” and I chose an angle that emphasized that look. (In case you are curious about the other camera settings, the ISO was 800 and the shutter speed was 1/800 sec.)

There is nothing super special about this image, but it is a fun little photo taken close to home that reminds me that beauty is everywhere. A series of creative choices in camera settings and composition by the photographer can often help to draw a viewer’s attention to that beauty. (I encourage you to click on the image to get a better view of the beautiful details of the little green bee.)

green sweat bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the spectacular colors of the Asiatic lilies that are now blooming in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. These brilliant colors, which look almost neon in their intensity, were especially welcome yesterday, when it was gray and rainy the entire day.

Asiatic lily

Asiatic lily

Asiatic lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Many of the irises have withered in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, but her lilies are now starting to open, like this beauty that I photographed early on Sunday morning. It is hot and humid today, so I did not feel much like venturing outside with my camera. Instead I decided to share this burst of bright color.

Have a wonderful Monday.

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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More bearded irises? Yes, I decided to do another posting on the colorful bearded irises in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. We are probably near the peak period right now and there is a wide variety of irises  in bloom. There is only a stem or two of some of the irises that I photographed, each with several blooms, but there is also one patch, shown in the final photo, where there are at least several dozen irises of the same type concentrated in one area.

One of the challenges of photographing these irises is that the background tends to get very cluttered. I have tried to blur the background by choosing my angle of view and camera settings, and the results are ok.

Cindy has come up with a more elegant solution—she photographs them in situ against a black velvet-like background, which requires the assistance of another person to hold the background in place. Usually her husband Michael is drafted, but yesterday in the late afternoon I was an emergency fill-in when the late day light spontaneously prompted her to photograph the irises that were blooming outside of her yard around an electrical junction box. The final photo is one that Cindy took with her iPhone of me in “action.”

What kind of results do you get with this process? Check out Cindy’s blog postings Bearded iris blooming in my garden and Bearded iris (taken last year) to see some samples of the stunning studio-like portraits of these flowers that Cindy has taken.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

photo assistant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Raindrops on flowers are among my favorite things. Yes, I am a huge fan of The Sound of Music and as soon as I see drops of rain on the petals of a flower—it doesn’t have to be roses—Julie Andrews starts singing in my mind the memorable song “My Favorite Things” that begins with the words, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”

I captured these iris images yesterday morning in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer during a break in the rain. Right now there are probably at least thirty irises of various colors in the process of blooming in her wonderful garden, an endless source of delight for me when I feel a need to take some photos or just desire to lift my spirits.

“I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”

bearded iris

bearded iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I don’t have my own garden, I am blessed to have a neighbor and friend, Cindy Dyer, who loves to plant photogenic flowers, like these beautiful bearded irises that are now in bloom. Cindy is a self-employed photographer and graphic designer who I consider to be my photography mentor and muse. She and her husband Michael make up the rest of my “pod” that has helped to sustain me through this past pandemic year.

What else does Cindy do? Here is a little extract from the “Stuff About Me” page of her blog.

“Oil and acrylic painting, photography (portraits, glamour shots, nature, macro, floral/botanical, travel), cement leaf casting, crocheting hats like crazy come winter time (what else can a gardener do when it’s cold out?), needle felting, sewing, murals, faux painting, Polaroid transfers (if it’s something crafty, I’ve probably at least tried it once), biblioholic (any topic, you name it—we probably have at least one book on the subject…don’t even begin to guess how many gardening books I’ve amassed!), animal lover—currently three cats…”

You can get a look at some of Cindy’s photography and writing on her blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com. If you want a real treat, though, you should check out the slide show of her portfolio at cindydyer.zenfolio.com, where your eyes will be delighted as you see an amazing series of stunning images.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Are you the kind of person who sees shapes in the clouds? If so, then perhaps you too may see the shape of a fire-breathing dragon in this amazing parrot tulip that I photographed yesterday in the garden of my dear friend Cindy Dyer.  As more of Cindy’s parrot tulips pop open I am becoming convinced that these are the craziest flowers that I have encountered, with all kinds of wild shapes and colors.

I am equally convinced that we all need a little whimsy, fantasy, and child-like fascination in our daily lives. As adults we tend to take ourselves too seriously too often. Wouldn’t it be cool to see the world afresh as a child does, full of excitement and imagination?

Keep your eyes open today—you too might unexpectedly encounter a fire-breathing dragon or equally fanciful creature.

parrot tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here’s another beautiful tulip that I spotted yesterday morning in the garden of my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, an elegant variety known as the Lady Jane (Tulipa clusiana var. ‘Lady Jane’) . The pink speckles in the background are fallen petals from her crabapple tree.

As I returned back to my townhouse, I could not help but notice that my front yard was carpeted in pretty pink petals from my crabapple tree, thanks to the gentle wind and light rain in the early morning. I felt like I should be lighting candles and pouring champagne—clearly all of those lovely petals meant that I was loved. Yes, I am an unapologetic romantic.

Lady Jane tulip

petals

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Tulips come in many varieties and my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, who is also my photography mentor, likes to find photogenic ones to plant. For several weeks I have been keeping an eye on her garden, waiting and wondering what type and color tulips would emerge from the green growth that was slowing pushing upward.

This week some of those tulips finally burst open and I was delighted to see that they are Parrot tulips. Parrot tulips are whimsically-shaped, with uncontrolled ruffled edges that somehow make me think they have a bad case of “bed head.”

I captured these images on Friday, a gloomy day punctuated with periodic rain showers. The colors of the tulips are more subdued and do not “pop” as much as they do in the sunlight, but I like the moody feel of the images. The raindrops add a nice touch too—I love to photograph the drops of rain that bead up so beautifully on so many plants and flowers.

 

parrot tulip

parrot tulip

parrot tulips

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to mating, many male insects are really aggressive—they will do everything they can to prevent their rivals from hooking us with a desirable female. I think that is what was going on in this image I captured on Sunday of three bees outside of a bee house in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. It looks to me that the top bee in this ménage à trois was trying to dislodge a rival and somehow gain access to the female. Yes, as the old song simply states, “birds do it, bees do it.”

Perhaps you have a better explanation of what was transpiring, like they were simply playing piggyback and wanted to see how strong the bottom bee was. What do you think? I encourage you to click on the image to see the details better.

I often tell you that I was not as close as it seems, because I generally shoot with a telephoto lens or a long macro lens. In this case, though, I was shooting with a 60mm macro lens and was only a few inches away from the “action” and had to dodge bees that were entering and exiting the tubes of the bee house.

bees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love simple beauty, like that of a single tulip flower that opens in the sunlight to reveal its colorful center, and closes at night as if to protect its precious treasure. This red tulip was the first full-sized tulip to bloom in the garden of my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. I spotted it early on Easter morning when it was closed up, as shown in the second image. I was pleasantly surprised that afternoon to see that the tulip was open and I captured the first image.

I love this time of the year, when so much color is beginning to appear. Take the time this season to smell the roses—tulips do not seem to be particularly fragrant.

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I photographed this beautiful hellebore flower, sometimes referred to as a Lenten rose, early this Easter morning in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Have a wonderful Sunday and don’t forget to stop and to look for the beauty that is everywhere around you.

hellebore

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Some of the tulips in the garden of my good friend Cindy Dyer are almost ready to bloom. Already we have a hint of the beauty that is to come—a preview of coming attractions. Many of the flowering trees in my neighborhood recently popped open, seemingly overnight, but others plants, like this tulip, force us to wait patiently for their fully beauty to be revealed.

Delayed gratification is supposed to be good for the soul, but sometimes I feel like a small child cooped up in a car on a long journey, incessantly repeating the same question—”Are we there yet?”

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I never realized that grape hyacinths (g. Muscari) come in so many different colors and varieties. Here are some that I spotted yesterday morning in the garden of my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. The coloration of the flower in the first photo is what I traditionally associate with grape hyacinths—it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that it looks like a little cluster of grapes. The ones in the second image are much paler and have a bluish rather than purplish tint.

Some of you may recall that I recently featured a grape hyacinth that was different in shape as well as color. If you have not seen that posting, check it out at Unusual grape hyacinths. We have had a lot of rain and warmer weather recently and I can’t to wait to see what pops up in Cindy’s garden next. I usually alert Cindy of newly-opened flowers well before she notices them, a system that Cindy has nicknamed “Powell’s Flower Forecasts.”

Happy Palm Sunday for those who are celebrating that Christian holy day today.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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