Sunday, August 27, 2006

Stargazer Lily

This bright red has about as much impact as any lily out there. The color is far from understated, and the wide blossoms face you, not downward like so many lilies, It fact it was named this because the blooms face the sky. The fragrance is concentrated and wide-ranging. It opens in early August here in Western Oregon; for you the exact time will vary with your climate, as soon as early July in hot Southern areas and late August up North.

Here in our garden it grows a sturdy 5 ft. tall, so its easy to nose up to for the fragrance. Ours are not in the best of soils but are increasing and blooming well. There have been no pest problems at all. Like most lilies, give it sun and good drainage. Some gardeners in the South think its better in shade to preserve the flower color, so the general rule is more sun to the North, and more shade to the South. It needs no staking. Deadhead to get more plant energy into a bigger plant for next year. It grows well in Zones 4 to 9, taking temps down to -25 fF (-32 C).

Be careful to verify you are really getting the true Stargazer - reports indicate some nurserymen may be substituting other less popular lilies for this one.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Canada Geese

We sighted the first large Fall flock of Canada Geese this morning. About 20 silent birds flew low directly over the river, in a ragged lopsided V. This is early for this.

Several pairs raised their young on the Clackamas behind our house. The numbers in each clutch were large but constantly diminishing. These birds mate for life. The growth rate of the little ones is astonishing - they reach near adult size in as little as 40 days.
They flock and float together most of the year in large groups, but at nesting time the pairs find isolated nesting sites away from other geese. This is just the opposite of the habits of the Great Blue Heron.

On of the most interesting places to observe these sizable birds is at Chatauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado. A large number of Canada Geese rest overnight on the sloping mown grass park site. They are quite used to people and you can get fairly close to them. Early in the morning they fly to open water elsewhere. The birds take off one or a few at a time and just be careful to duck!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Bull of the Woods

The Clackamas River Basin Council sponsored an outing to 5523 ft (1683 m.) Bull of the Woods on July 15th.. Located on a watershed between various forks of the Collawash River, the Southwesternmost branch of the far-flung Clackamas,this mountaintop has a rare WWII vintage fire lookout, which is undergoing restoration. Formerly it was rented out by the Forest Service, and hopefully it will be available again. The 6.5 mile roundtrip follows a ridge with periodic views and alternating sections of forest, patches of flowery meadow, and rocky outcrops covered in natural rock-gardens. Diversity of habitat like this gives a wide range of flowers and shrubs, and additionally this locale is the westernmost outpost for some plants from the dry East Slope of the Cascades.

The little sunflower (shown here with Indian Paintbrush) is widespread to the East but confined here to dry meadow habitats and sometimes thin, rocky soils.
Washington Lily is common along the trail, and its strong delightful fragrance was picked up sometimes before that sight of the large white trumpets.

The Penstemon group embraces both evergreen shrublets and herbaceous perennials. Many of them are eminently gardenable. A rock garden type is Cardwell’s penstemon, an evergreen groundcover shrublet. It prefers sun and dry conditions, even growing from fractures in rock and road cut subsoils. The botanists tell us that some of the plants here may be actually Davidson’s penstemon instead. This is a lower growing, fewer flowered, more easterly species, but the two are so similar that many experts suspect they intergrade. Walking this trail one can observe both shorter plants with one-sided flower spikes, and taller, lusher looking ones like the one pictured with ’less distinctly one-sided flower spikes’. Cardwell’s penstemon grows well in the city and is a good choice for dry situations. Don’t try in on heavy clay. The blooming season is short but spectacular.

A taller herbaceous type is the woodland turtlehead. Its common throughout mid-elevations of the Cascades most often under trees but we also found it in meadows, like the one pictured here. Its a close offshoot of the Penstemon genus, given the botanic name Nothochelone instead, but most observers would assume its in the Penstemon genus. Plants out in the sunny meadows are more upright and less sprawling, and have a few more flowers than the same kind under the shadowy trees.

The widespread pink Pacific Rhododendron was past its flowering season on this outing. However, the less common white Cascades azalea was at its peak.

Friday, August 11, 2006

McNeil Point Travels

Our travels took us August 6th to McNeil Point on Mount Hood in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area. This is a popular high elevation hike with spectacular view of the broad Sandy Glacier and the terrain north and west of the mountain. Wildflowers abound in the open areas, which become common around 6000 ft. (1830 m.) elevation.

Last winters heavy snowfall appears to have at least temporarily reversed the decline of Sandy Glacier, Three years earlier, a large body of water impounded under this glacier broke out in a sudden and devastating jokulhaup outwash event, which removed or buried forests two thousand feet lower in elevation and deposited a thick layer of boulders, stones and glacial grit for miles down the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River.

The first picture, taken in 2003, shows the punctured snout of the Sandy Glacier the summer after the event. Taken with an 8X telephoto, it is somewhat foreshortened. The trees in the apparent foreground (actually half the way from the camera to the glacier) are 50 to 80 ft. high (15 to 25 m.). The opening itself is probably a couple of hundred feet across. An attempt to traverse closer to the glacier in an off-trail route to get a more accurate size estimate of the glacier may be made later this year.

This hole is huge. It remained open from 2003 through the summer of 2005, or three years.

In 2006, things were different. Here are side by side a 2003 picture followed by one taken in August of this year.

Among the meadow plants we hiked past were the Western Pasque flower, which had reached its interesting seed stage.

At this point in its life cycle it goes by a variety of creative monikers, like old man of the mountain, mouse on a stick, and mousicle. Its has a showy cup-shaped white blossom, early in the mountain spring.

The white mountain heather was in bloom.

Along side it was the red and the greenish-yellow species also. Its unusual to see all three of our heathers together.

Here are two meadow pictures. Meadows are the glory of the heights; these pictured are low in diversity but showy nonetheless.

This picture shows a sloped meadow with white valerian, blue lupine and red paintbrush. Other plants are present in small numbers. Distribution zoning is obvious - the red paintbrush forms a visible band running left and right, yet is absent elsewhere where conditions are not the best for it.

This closeup is dominated by blue lupine, the most adaptable plant up there, with paintbrush, a few scattered pale asters, and a cluster of yellow senecio.

By continuing up McNeil Ridge a hiker can soon leave most of the visitors behind. Another thousand feet up to 7,000 ft (2135 m) are dramatic stone cliffs with wide ranging views.
The view down the Muddy Fork of the Sandy River clearly shows the extent of the outwash event. Both branches draining the glacier show a fresh gray gravel channel. The closer fork on the right is much broader, the result of the jokulhaup. The left branch flooded from rapid warming, rain and snowmelt, but no glacial outwash event happened there. Before the event greenery covered most of the lower basin, but large sections of forest and brushfield were erased that Winter. Each sucessive outwash cuts away more of the moraine in the left foreground, depositing it far below. Heavy deposits of outwash material from earlier events extend at least 20 miles (32 km) downstream; the mile-wide Columbia has been moved over by the huge amounts of material carried down the Sandy. Mount Hood had erupted shortly before the 1805 visit of Lewis and Clark, and the amount of material dumped by the Sandy overwhelmed the much larger Columbia. To this day the Columbia bends around the delta of the Sandy in a shallow broad channel.

My ‘parting shot’ was taken partway down the steep face of McNeil Point, looking North at the heavily carved ridge which was long gnawed at by the two tongues of the Sandy Glacier. These days it is beyond the reach of the diminishing glaciers, but erosion from glacial melt-water continues to work away at the base of this ridge.