31 March 2013

Spring Fell From The Sky

You know it's springtime when there is snow on the daffodils. Welcome to the new normal. On Monday March 25, we received the biggest snowfall (or slushfall) of the winter. Alexandria woke up to one and a half inches (4 cm) of wet snow and slushy walks. Added to the previous snowfalls, we received a total of 3-1/2 inches (9 cm) of winter for 2012-13.

Hyacinths were stopped in their tracks, turning purple with cold, shivering under their new white blanket. The white forsythia was almost finished with its song, but was startled. The indoors amaryllis, planted to flower at Christmas, thinks it missed the snow by waiting so long to bloom. Ha! Think again, as it peers out the window at the frosty white covered deck chair.

The groundhog was wrong.

18 March 2013

Winter Walk Off

My walk is around a three block radius of my office in historic Old Town Alexandria. A bit of history lesson: Alexandria is on the Potomac River, was settled and became a thriving city in the 1700s through 1800s. It was a shipping (sugar and tobacco) and trading port with refineries and warehouses. It's old city homes reflected the very conservative population, and not the "flamboyant extravagance" found in Savannah and Charleston. Yes, George Washington lived down the road, had an overnight cottage in town, and not only slept here, but shopped and partied here.

This is my walk off, wishfully without sounding like a tourist magazine. Some of the photos were taken on sunny Friday's walk, and the remainder on cloudy rainy today. Frequent walks are taken on lunch hours; the pedestrian scale allows appreciation of details.

View other Winter Walk-offs at A Tidewater Gardener

A few cobblestone alleys like this have houses on them, in addition to the main streets. The several cobblestone alleys and two full cobblestone streets in town are murder to drive on and walk on. I can't imagine riding down in a wood-wheeled vehicle.

Two of the older homes sit across the street from my office. The industrial revolution brought the decoration and style on newer townhomes, but colonial-era buildings like these were simpler. When the street was eventually paved, its level was lowered, partially exposing the stone foundations on these.

How do you like the knockers? Norfolk is not the only place with mermaids.

I like the railing on the entrance of this house, although I don't know if it is original. This is a typical wealthy row house, brick, 3-story, probably 1800-1840. Gas lamps from 1800s are popular around town, running 24/7. I don't know where the gas comes from or who pays.

Hitch up your horse and hop down ...

... and scrape off your boots before coming in.

I call this flag alley because almost everyone displays a flag. These were the working class houses - usually wood, 2-story. These 'shacks' that appear to be falling down fetch about $600,000 on the real estate market.

These are fire marks from insurance / fire companies. They would be placed on your house above the first floor. When your house caught fire, the fire mark would identify that you paid for protection, and what company would be responsible for arriving to fight the fire.

Mostly brick sidewalks - every pattern a 4x8 can make. Women are always getting their heels stuck in between the bricks. Bricks are loose laid, so street trees get some water when it rains.

This poor soul is stuck in a planter surrounded by solid concrete, and probably had a mulch volcano in its younger days.

A cooking equipment store. Window boxes look like Europe. Pots in the summer used to be filled with cooking herbs but have heuchera now.

A view of the top of Second Empire style city hall from my office mens room window - the best view from any toilet in town. This roof top can't be seen well from anywhere on the streets.

City hall is a melange of buildings stuck together. The clock tower reminds me of New Orleans but I don't know why. It would look better with some palms in the foreground.

The back of city hall fronts a square hosting the oldest continuous farmers market in the country. When the fountain and pond are full of water, mallards from the river come up for a swim.

The 'Cherry Blossom' riverboat docked at the Potomac. I don't believe the Potomac historically had riverboats paddling around, but the tourists don't know that.

Old Town is very dog friendly. Many stores and residents put out water bowls in the summer. This station was dedicated to 'Molly,' a retriever I believe, and even has a high drinking fountain for owners!

02 March 2013

Butterflies in Winter

In reality, there are no butterflies in winter in Alexandria Virginia. This time of year brings little to write about in the garden blog, so I saved a few items from the past year for times such as this. The critter on the left is a 'Clipper,' native to southeast Asia.

The story started last winter with the seed swap I attended. I signed up for Washington Gardener magazine in order to receive a discount on the admission charge. Washington Gardener was the host and gave discounts for admission to its subscribers.

During the year, the magazine ran a contest with a question that asked, "what plant do you regret adding to your garden and why." Boy did I have a lot of material to consider. My response was, “Kniphofia uvaria - because:
  • bloom time is very short
  • for 11 months of the year, the plant is only an ugly tangled mass of leaves
  • takes up too much space for such a little blooming, messy plant”
Anyway, I won one of the prizes - tickets to the Wings of Fancy living butterfly exhibit at Brookside Gardens in nearby Wheaton, Maryland.

After being screened to enter the greenhouse, visitors were treated to a thousand butterflies fluttering about on plants, fruit, and people. Some were native, and some were non-native (butterflies not people.) I was itching to try out the video on my new iPad, so I assembled this collection of photos and video.

Some butterflies were shy, while some were quite convivial. If one stood still, they would land on you. I was sorry for the youngsters who were trying in vain to get one to land - we know young kids cannot be still for a moment.

I learned a thing or two about butterflies from the exhibit. It seems these butterflies preferred zinnias and 'rotting' fruit, although the fruit looked pretty fresh to me. They had a sweet spot for watermelon and peaches.

Blogger reduces the quality of the video, sorry. Some of the distant butterflies come out looking like fuzz - click the YouTube logo and then select a better quality setting. If reading this on an iPad, the video may be missing.

Dido - native to the Amazon & Andes

Red Postman - native to South America

Emerald swallowtail - Malaysia & Indoneasia

Zebra longwing - North-Central-South America

Leopard lacewing - India to S. China

Malabar Tree Nymph from India

Blue morpho - Central & South America

Queen butterfly - North & South America

Julia Heliconian - Brazil to S. United States

Owl butterfly - Central & South America