Sunday, February 17, 2008

picture contest- week 15- February 17

This Mardi gras pumpkin, decorated for fat Tuesday, now reflects the reality of life in Iowa in the second half of February 2008. I look at the 10-day forecast on the weather channel and wait for the 40’s to appear. They are not there yet. We are having another big snowstorm today, but first there was rain and in some places, freezing rain. Cold and snow are just a constant at this point. We forge ahead with the contest, expecting a break in the weather anytime. I must tell you that there are snow piles in my yard that will take a long time to melt.

Julia and I did get away last weekend. I will tell you a little about our escape to New Orleans in the bonus section below.
Last week the blue voters were out in force in our contest, just like in other parts of the country. The Blue Crocus is the winner, and second blue entry into the finals in just two weeks. The pink/peach peony was a spirited second.

Here were the results of last weeks contest:
1- Blue Crocus 34+7=41 for 50.6%
2- Peony Coralie 22+5=27 for33.3%
3- Emerging Poppy 6+2=8 for 9.9%
4- Daylily closeup 5+0=5 for 6.2%
The first number in the addition is the electronic vote, the second the email vote.

This week’s contest is the one semi final event without a blue entry.

The first picture is the pink waterlily, the winner from week 3, way back in November. It sure seems like that was a long time ago. What a contrast in this picture between the pink and the yellow. Last year a waterlily won the contest. Can this picture be a repeat?

The second picture is the wonderful hosta flower, the wildcard entry from week 12. Hosta are not known for their flowers. This picture makes you rethink that rule. On the blog you should be able to look at the archives of those old weeks.

The third picture is the closeup of the coneflower, the winner of week 9. Coneflowers are certainly a surprise plant for this new century. We all know about the up and coming plants like epimedium and hellebores. Who could have predicted that there would be so many wonderful new colors and even shapes for this “common” wildflower. Closeup pictures are also great. If you sprinkle in a little dew in the morning, close-ups become even more wonderful. If there is any question about this formula just look at the next picture.

This is the majestic calla lily, blooming in late August. This calla lily had to compete with the coneflower in week 9. It gets a rematch this week. Ah, the luck of the draw. We saw some big white calla lilies in bloom this past weekend in the New Orleans Botanical Gardens. I was about to say that yellow is my favorite calla lily color but then I remembered red and of course the white and what about pink. Oh well. They are all wonderful.

There you have it. Vote away.

So here is the bonus section. Julia and I did go to New Orleans this last weekend. It was very much a pleasant dream. We had parts of 5 sunny days with temperatures reaching the mid 70’s. It was an ideal get away from Iowa in February. It was zero when we returned to the Cedar Rapids airport.

My top 10 gardener’s observations.

1- The tulip trees, camellias and azaleas were blooming.
2- Elephant ears were growing wild, even growing up between the cracks in the sidewalk behind Katie’s house.
3- The Botanical Gardens in the big city park in New Orleans is much improved from a year ago. We enjoyed it a year ago but it is looking better. The toy train garden was up and functioning, much to the delight of the 3 and 4 year olds running around.
4- Indeed the botanical gardens were having a plant sale, which meant we got in free. We bought Katie another Louisiana Iris for the little garden in her front yard.
5- There were lots of geckos at the botanical gardens. We do not have lots of geckos in Iowa.
6- After getting the iris from the plant sale and after a trip to the local nursery, I planted a few things in Katie’s garden. Among other things I planted some cyclamen, the kind that are on sale at the local grocery store in Iowa. I guess they can be bedding plants in New Orleans.
7- Just getting my hands in the dirt was a wonderful feeling. There were even some earthworms in the dirt. What a feeling.
8- The plants we had gotten a year ago for Katie’s garden were now enormous, including a bougainvillea that is all over the fence, a brugmansia that is 6 feet tall and wide, and a ginger that jumps out at you with great yellow and green glory.
9- Birds were singing. I know there are birds in Iowa in the winter. I just do not hear them much in the winter.
10- We drove over to Mississippi one day. We went to the beach. We also drove through an area where the houses were swept away by Katrina, leaving slabs of concrete. The debris is now gone. The slabs are still there. At one former house where there was just a slab, there was a single clump of daffodils.

New Orleans was not just about the green grass or the flowers. It was also about trying to recover from the biggest natural disaster this country has ever known. There is some recovery. It is happening here and there. You get started on any project one step at a time. The pace of recovery however has been slow. There is a long way to go. You can’t escape that fact by looking at the flowers.
For a glimpse at what Katie is doing with her volunteer program go to

So here are New Orleans pictures.
This is the wonderful ginger, now a year old at Katie’s place.
It is called “Variegated Shell Ginger”, from E. Asia.

Here is a camellia from the Botanical Gardens.

This is a star magnolia.

This is a type of iris that blooms early in Louisiana. I do not know its name. It is little and grows on tall foliage like a Siberian iris.

This is an early blooming Louisiana Iris. I understand that the peak time to see them would be April. Then again there are so many places you would like to see in April from the Chicago Botanical Gardens’ bulb garden to your own backyard.

Here is a restored Creole plantation Katie took us to visit. Creole places, that is not the American places, were painted various colors other than white. It was pretty interesting. We were told that Louisiana, being of French legal descent, did not have primogenitor, or inheritance going to the oldest male. For that reason this plantation was mostly run by the smartest child during the 19th century. That was mostly one girl after another. Here is the link to this place

Here are several other pictures taken on the river road west of New Orleans.

Finally here is the mystery flower of the week. Guess what it is. Here is a hint: The plants were all over the neighborhood around Katie’s house.

Stay warm

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