"Pay attention to the world." -- Susan Sontag

Bernadine Clematis, 2022 Version

From Plant Families: A Guide for Gardeners and Botanists by Ross Bayton:

“[The Clematis] flower bud is enclosed by the sepals, which protect the inner workings of the flower. As it grows and expands, the sepals open up and become much more colorful, just like the petals within.”

From The Language of Flowers by Anne Pratt and Thomas Miller:

“Many plants, besides possessing tendrils, have a stem and leaf-stalks, which grow in a spiral slope, when the plant requires the support of another. Thus the traveler’s joy, or wild clematis, that beautiful ornament of our summer hedges, by its stems as well as tendrils, so clings to the bushes that it is impossible to sever a large portion without tearing it. The large clusters of flowers, and the numerous dark leaves, seeming to belong to the brambles among which they entwine, so closely are they interlaced by the convolutions of their stems.”

The fabulously oppressive heat and humidity that settled on large portions of the U.S. last week made outdoor activities — including photography! — possible only in short bursts, but it did give me some indoor time to work on a backlog of photos. This week is supposed to be even hotter, though much lower humidity may mean outdoor-things are more possible, especially in the mornings. Yesterday and today I heard the upcoming high temperatures referred to as a heatwave, heat blast, heat bomb, and heat dome — but I really think that if they’d just call it a “heat igloo” we’d all feel a lot cooler…. or not!

Earlier this year I posted photos of flowers from one of my clematis vines — see One Clematis, Two Clematis — but somehow I forgot about pictures I’d taken of another one: the Bernadine Clematis whose images appear below. My third clematis plant — a President Clematis (see President Clematis, from 2021) never bloomed this year: it started producing flower buds very early during a warm February, but they all got crinkled to death by a week of freezing temperatures shortly after. That’s a weird new weather pattern that This Gardener hasn’t quite figured out how to work with: early year temperatures in the 60s and 70s cause some plants (in my garden: clematis vines, hydrangeas, and ferns) to respond to the warmth by putting out delicate new growth too early, then they never quite recover from the freezing that follows.

I’ve posted photos of Bernadine here a few times; so this year I just took a double-handful of new photos, and focused on getting sharpness, color, and texture as correct and accurate as possible. This Bernadine blooms into a striking mix of blue, purple, violet, and magenta, in stripes that emanate from the center. The center structure features the deepest purple, so rich in color that it always reminds me of purple marzipan with a tiny yellow frosting cap. But I did not try to eat them, I promise; I only took their pictures.

Thanks for taking a look!

Dogwoods, Red and White (3 of 3)

From Self-Portrait with Dogwood by Christopher Merrill:

“A small deciduous tree, the flowering dogwood belongs to the understory in a hardwood forest, occupying the middle space between the ground and sky, providing nectar for pollinating insects, branches and foliage and fruit for perching and nesting songbirds, nutrients for the soil, ingredients for medicines, wood for bowls and shuttles and tools, and an open invitation for an aging man to reflect on his walk in the sun, to reconsider his relationship to nature, to pay attention to the worlds revolving in his memory, his imagination, and all around him.”


This is the third post in a series featuring photos of dogwood blooms that I took a few weeks ago. The first two posts are:

Dogwoods, Red and White (1 of 3)

Dogwoods, Red and White (2 of 3)

For this post, I “rearranged” bracts and blooms in some of the images, then painted the backgrounds black — because that’s what I like to do!

I just bought Self-Portrait with Dogwood by Christopher Merrill (quoted above) last week. It’s now part of my collection of books about specific types of plants or flowers (see Bearded Irises in Purple and Blue (1 of 2)), and is a series of essays where the author explores the connections between his life and nature, as he researches the history and lifespan of dogwood trees.

His description of dogwoods as “understory in a hardwood forest, occupying the middle space between the ground and sky” caught my eye. It may be a literary flourish; but, also, it’s a fitting characterization of the way natural spaces develop (or redevelop) in layers, in a kind of hierarchy of shorter then taller and taller plants, with each layer serving its purpose in the creation of a woodland, forest, or even garden, as lower layers sometimes (and eventually) get supplanted. Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels is an excellent introduction to interpreting the history of such natural spaces, and — if the subject interests you — I definitely recommend it.

From the book — which focuses on New England in the United States as the author’s source for instruction — you can learn how to observe a natural space and understand decades of its development, based on the appearance of trees and tree trunks, layers of plant growth, the impact of past fires or storms (called “disturbance histories”), and man-made events and structures such as dividing land into pastures by plowing and creating boundaries with the upturned stones. You will also read about tiny plants called “basal rosettes” that are evidence of new beginnings for a wild area; how a tree develops a split or “coppiced” trunk; the meaning of “deadfall” and how broken trees will push up “stump sprouts” because they’re not as dead as they look; and what “pillows and cradles” mean in the appearance of landscapes. These are just a few of the delights contained in its 200 pages, which will teach you to see every natural space with brand new eyes.

(If you would like to view some photographs I took at the time I first read Wessels’ book, photos I took with what I’d learned from the book in mind, see Before and After: Fun with Big Rocks and Before and After: Swamp Things.)

Thanks for reading and taking a look!

Dogwoods, Red and White (2 of 3)

From Beautiful at All Seasons: Southern Gardening and Beyond by Elizabeth Lawrence:

“Dogwoods have their troubles. Some springs the blossoms are marred by late frosts, and in some seasons the leaves are disfigured by brown splotches. The beauty of dogwoods in April makes these drawbacks seem unimportant. Other good points are the rich autumn color of the foliage, the bright fruits that hang on after the leaves fall, the lovely form of the bare trees, and the winter pattern of the bud-tipped branches.”

From Let Us Build a City: Eleven Lost Towns by Donald Harrington:

“Not far west of Newton County [in Arkansas] is an actual locale called Dogbranch, and a timeworn Dogbranch Cemetery, and then of course there are dogwood trees everywhere, and also dogbane, dogtooth violet, dogberries, dog days, dogpaddling, dog sled, dogtrot, dog’s life, and dogma, and… ‘dog’ is pronounced ‘dawg’ everywhere….”


Here are a few more dog-dog-dogwood blooms! And, of course, we learned in the previous post (see Dogwoods, Red and White (1 of 3)) what part of these plants is the dogwood flower, didn’t we?

Thanks for taking a look!

Dogwoods, Red and White (1 of 3)

From Seeing Trees: Discover the Extraordinary Secrets of Everyday Trees by Nancy Ross Hugo:

“We take psychological possession of the things we can recognize. To me, getting to know a tree is like getting to know a human being — the more you know, the more the relationship deepens, and a person’s (or a tree’s) capacity to surprise you never ends….

“You may, for example, think you know the flowering dogwood. If it is your state tree, as it is mine, you have probably learned that the white appendages that look like its petals are technically bracts (modified leaves) and that its real flowers are in the center of what we think of as the blossom. But only when you look closer, into the dogwood’s real flowers — about twenty of them clustered in the middle, each with four yellow-green petals — and actually see them blooming, each tiny flower with its complement of four stamens and pistil, does this distinction become meaningful. Like discovering that a person you knew for one talent is accomplished in another… discovering new tree traits broadens your appreciation of the tree….

“And there is absolutely no end to the tree traits waiting to be discovered even in an ordinary backyard.”


I’ve never had the privilege of naming a plant or a tree, but if I ever did, I’d want to change the species name of the dogwood tree from its current name — Cornus florida — to Canis florida since “Canis” is part of the species name for our four-legged barking friends and they surely deserve such an honor. I realize that might cause some species-confusion — naming a tree after a puppydog — but, hey, the names are all made up anyway so people would get used to it after a while. I’m sure you agree…. (or possibly not).

Bark! Bark!

I actually didn’t know that the red or white portion of the plants you see below was not the flower until I read about them in Seeing Trees, quoted above. As noted, the flower is only the center yellow part, barely the diameter of a penny or dime; the rest is a modified leaf — a rather spectacular one, I think. Intriguing to me that the plant evolved that way; presumably the brightly-colored bract is designed to attract pollinators and guide their attention to the flower at the center.

I took these photos during Dogwood Season — late March and early April here — but didn’t work on them until I had finished with my photos from Iris Season (which runs concurrently with the late Dogwood period). You have probably seen those if you’ve been here recently. Driving through parts of my ‘hood earlier, I noticed that Lily Season is starting and developing quickly, so I hope to have some lily photos to show shortly after I finish these three dogwood tree posts. If you would like to see some previous year lily photos, click here.

Thanks for taking a look!

Bearded Iris Motley Mix (2 of 2)

From “Fleur-de-Lis” by Walter Stager in Tall Bearded Iris (Fleur-de-lis): A Flower of Song by Walter Stager:

Blue of the skies,
Pink of sunrise,
Red of the sunset-glow,
Purple so bold,
Yellow of gold,
White of the driven snow;
Solid and dashed,
Veined and splashed,
Mottled and reticulated,
Suffused, o’erlaid,
Bordered and rayed —
All colors and shades collated.

From “Iris” by Blanche Marie Louise Oelrichs (writing as “Michael Strange”) in Tall Bearded Iris (Fleur-de-lis): A Flower of Song by Walter Stager:

Iris, pallid blue, gold veined,
And as if coloured from dawn chills,
Or from the yellow-fingered touching
Of curious starlight…
Purple Iris,
Streaked with amethystine memories of the night,
Health-glossed and firm are those ripe wings
Of Oriental butterflies….


This is the second post featuring the last of my iris photos for 2022. The previous post is Bearded Iris Motley Mix (1 of 2), and you can click here to view all of my posts containing photos of irises.

Thanks for taking a look!