Thursday, July 31, 2014

Beautiful Blue Flax Fields!

Last week driving a short distance north of here, I saw two beautiful blue fields of flax in bloom.  We hardly ever see flax as a crop around here, and the chance of driving by when a field is in the peak of its startling blue bloom is even less.  It's been ten years since I last saw one.

Flax is a remarkable crop when you see it in bloom.  Around here, most crops are green, with some like wheat and barley turning golden brown when mature, but flax is actually a flower, and its blue colour is striking.

Flax is used for linseed oil, an important ingredient of paints and similar products, for textiles - linen has been widely made from flax fibres for centuries - and for human consumption.

I was surprised to learn that Canada is the world's largest producer of flax; it's a northern crop that grows very widely on the Canadian prairies.  I remember driving west from Winnipeg on the Trans-Canada Highway, seeing alternating fields of bright yellow canola and beautiful blue flax, quite a sight.

For anyone interested, this is a flax plant in bloom.  It's an oil seed plant, so both for human consumption and linseed oil, the production comes from the tiny oil seeds.  Fibres for textiles are from the stems, and were some of the oldest fibres used to make textiles in the world.

And this is a close look at the beautiful little blue flower.

Among all our crops here in southern Ontario, a field of flax in bloom is pretty unique!

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Flowers ('Weeds') in the Meadow

It's mid-summer, and lots of weeds are blooming in the meadow.  I find them really appealing, giving the meadow a special flavour all it's own with splashes of colour here and there.  Here's a sampling of what's currently in bloom.
A bright yellow Coreopsis.

Close look at Queen Anne's Lace.

Two Lady-bugs in Crown Vetch.

A close look at Musk-Mallow.

Common St. Johnswort.

The multiple flowers of Canada Thistle.

The slender rays of Elecampane.

Butter-and-Eggs that sureptitiously grew in the garden..

Monday, July 28, 2014

It's Butterfly Month Again

In the past two days (not counting today, which is cold and windy), I've seen 10 different species of butterflies in our garden.  No monarchs yet, but a good variety of others, and I got a reasonable picture of several.  Here are the highlights.

This bright orange fritillary was the highlight, though it didn't want to sit still for long.  If I'm reading the patterns on the wing correctly, this is an Aphrodite Fritillary.

This Mourning Cloak did sit still, ignoring me, but it wouldn't open it wings to reveal the beautiful inner pattern.

I caught this Red Admiral several times; here it's perched on a fencepost resting.

And here it's long proboscis was probing up and down into the florets of this Coneflower.

This one appears to be a Coral Hairstreak.  They're hard to tell apart, but this is the only one without a 'tail' on the hind wing.

This species, the Northern Pearly-Eye seems to haunt the shrubs and fencerow rather than the garden.  You have to examine the dots on these ones carefully to tell them apart.

And finally, here's a Clouded Sulphur hiding in the grass of our lawn - another one that doesn't like to sit still.  It's been a good two days for butterflies.  Now if only we'd see a Monarch visiting some of our Milkweed!

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Sunday, July 27, 2014


The highlight of Thursday's paddle for me was the waterlilies.  Both the white and yellow native waterlilies are in bloom, and these small lakes let us see quite a few of each.  The white species, the Fragrant Waterlily, opens up into a beautiful flower; the yellow species, the Bullhead Lily, stays wrapped in a globe of yellow sepals.  Both float on the surface of the water, with their roots deep below.  I'll just let these photos speak for themselves.



You may not know the story of Claude Monet, the great French painter, the founder of the 'Impressionist' style of open-air landscape painting.  In his later life Monet established a garden at Giverny, outside Paris, with a large pond, which he made into his water garden.  He became immersed in painting pictures of waterlilies and their reflections in the pond for the last 20 years of his life.

His final gift to the people of France was a group of enormous waterlily paintings that wrap around two large oval rooms built for this purpose in the Orangerie gallery in Paris.  We had the chance to visit both Monet's garden at Giverny and his waterlily paintings in Paris earlier this year, and it was just amazing to see the link between the actual water garden and the famous paintings.  I guess I have waterlilies on my mind!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Paddling the Robson Lakes

We got out for another short paddle this week, exploring the three small inter-connected Robson Lakes, just east of Holland Centre a few miles north of here.  These lakes are so small I might not have bothered, but they turned out to be quite interesting, easy to get in to, and kept us busy for an hour and a half on a beautiful summer day.

There was a convenient put-in spot and parking, right along the road, where we entered the first lake, Hines Lake.  There are only a few cottages on this lake, and virtually none on the other two.

The lakes turned to have interesting shorelines, complete with lots of waterlilies, which made for interesting photography.  I'm training my canoe buddy to just paddle me quietly to where I want to get a picture!

A narrow channel led through to the second lake, which is actually Robson Lake.  Lots of fallen trees along the shoreline here, and as you can see, it was a perfect day weather-wise.

In places Robson Lake was quite shallow, and filled with thick aquatic vegetation.  It was thick enough that it slowed down our paddling considerably, so we aimed for the open channels.

I don't know aquatic plants, though I've seen lots of them while canoeing.  But this was one I have never seen before.  No idea what it is.

These bulrushes made nice reflections along the shore.

And this group of weathered stumps caught my attention.  I just missed getting a picture of a turtle that slipped away into the water.

Tomorrow, a closer look at the patterns of the waterlilies.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

And Daylily Season Too!

Although our garden started out mainly with Hostas, in recent years the Head Gardener has added a lot of daylilies, making our mid-summer garden much more colourful.  Once we discovered the amazing Artemesia Daylilies farm near-by, breeding their own new varieties, the colour in our garden started to explode.  So here are the bright oranges, reds and yellows that I promised you.

My favourite - Saugeen Sunrise

Jersey Spider

Calico Jack

Bright Lights

Long Stockings

Start Me Up

Across the Road