Grande Dame

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This week’s “Wordless Wednesday” post features a shrub of Rosa Grande Dame with luscious blooms of Old Rose fragrance combined with modern hybrid tea vigor and height. Hybridized in 2009, this rose cultivar reaches five to six feet at maturity and spreads two to three feet.

Drop-in guest

Yesterday afternoon, late, a black-throated sage sparrow swept through my “casa aperture” library doors and straight to the top of the bookcase and landed on the Atlas — a National Geographic edition.

I don’t know which one of us was more startled. And in that moment I couldn’t recall what its particular call sounded like — it’s a high-pitched tit –so I merely spoke in my own language.


He just looked at me.  He begin to explore along the top of the bookcase and hopped onto the old copper kettle on display up there, as though to gain a better perspective, while stretching his neck this way and that as he searched for a way out again. I turned off the ceiling fan, then before I could bat my eyes he streaked across the room and out into the garden.

“Y’all come back to see us, sometime,” I called after him.

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According to the Seattle Audubon Society, the black-throated Sparrow is a small, grey sparrow that has a distinctive triangular black throat pattern. A bold white stripe runs above each eye and another along each cheek.

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The black tail is outlined in white except at the tips of the middle tail feathers. Adults are not streaked, but this one was, so I assume it was a juvenile. Its mama must have been in a panic!

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This sparrow breeds in a variety of arid habitats from eastern Washington where I live, south to Arizona and Texas, as well as in northern and central Mexico. In my garden, they congregate under and inside an English yew hedge next to my courtyard. I can sit in my favorite little corner and observe their flitting and fluttering among the branches,  and listen to their soft tit-tit-tit before they fly across the lawn to the lilacs and down to the birdbath.


Photo Credit: Copyright © 2020 Cornell University; National Audubon Society; Seattle Audubon Society

He came back . . .

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A hummingbird moth zipped back and forth in front of me as I enjoyed the evening cool on my courtyard. Perhaps the little creature was searching for the honeysuckle that used to climb the herb garden wall. 

Sorry, little fella, we cut it down last fall. 

He came back today, in the heat of broad daylight. This time, I recognized him.

So what’s a hummingbird moth — bird or bug? To answer that inquiry, I’m reposting part of a story from last summer . . .


The common Hummingbird Moth (Macroglossum stellalarum) is found in North America and Europe. Although Hummingbirds are Plain Janes, they do sport colorful bodies.

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In flight, as it flits rom one blossom to another, this moth does look like a tiny hummingbird flapping its wings and probing with its “needle” tongue. It can fly backward and forward, even sideways, as well as hover in mid-air, mimicking hummingbirds. So, what’s the difference between the two?

Size. Hummingbird moths average from 2 to 2.5 inches, whereas the bird ranges from 3 to 4 inches.

Body Shape. Hummingbird moths’ bodies are thick, barrel shaped, covered with grey hair resembling feathers with white and rust or brown markings. Hummingbirds’ bodies are tapered, delicately shaped, smooth and sleek.

Eyes. Large, rather menacing eyes of the hummingbird moth appear to warn predators that this is no mere bug for dinner.

Antennae. Hummingbird moths sport two long antennae facing forward. The hummingbird head is smooth, although some species bear a central feather plum on its crown or forehead.

Mouth. Instead of a bird beak, the hummingbird moths have a long, tongue-like proboscis double the moth’s length at its longest.

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It rolls from its coiled tube to reach the nectar of flowers. Hummingbirds’ needle or sword beaks can reach up to four inches.

Wing Span of the hummingbird moth ranges from 2 to 6 inches.

Wing Colors. Bold patterns and colors deck out the hummingbird moth, and some bear transparent wing sections like story-book woodland fairies.

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Legs. The hummingbird moth dangles all six of its legs as its flies and feeds.

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Hummingbirds, on the other hand, tuck their two legs close to their bodies for better flight aerodynamics.




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“As for marigold, poppies, hollyhocks , and valorous sunflowers, we shall never have a garden without them, both for their own sake and for the sake of old-fashioned folks.” Henry Ward Beecher

Old-fashioned folks like me, with old-fashioned sensibilities. I grew up with hollyhocks, not so much in my grandmother’s garden but in English storybooks, especially the original Mother Goose based on the 1916 edition, and the Beatrix Potter series.

Inside their pages were simple pen-and-ink drawings of farm animals and children playing in English country lanes and cottage gardens with an occasional clump of tall hollyhocks growing in a corner.

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Hollyhocks are a cousin to the Hibiscus, which I wrote about last week, and grow up to nine feet tall. Thus, classic hollyhocks can accentuate the corners of a cottage or house and provide stately points of interest in the flower borders, especially against a wall or fence, in a variety of colors: pink, red, yellow, purple, white, and even black. As biennials, they reseed themselves quite liberally, whether as singles, semi-doubles, or doubles, and bloom from July through September.

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Native to Asia and Europe, the hollyhock is one of 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae. Dwarf varieties have been developed and cultivated in recent years. If you ask me, nothing quite beats the drama of tall stately beauties in full bloom in my favorite colors, especially en mass, as in the water color above.

According to, common hollyhock is grown as an ornamental flower world wide. Ancient Romans used the flower as a medicinal plant. In fact, both alcea rosea in Latin, and the name of Althea in Greek, mean cure.

For further reference regarding hollyhock teas, see

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Six on Saturday

With all that’s been occurring during these past (nearly) three months — not to mention the past two weeks — is it any wonder that some of us forgot the anniversary of the Normandy Invasion? The one in World War II, that is, when Allied Forces stormed the northern coast of France to begin the greatest land and air offensive against the Nazis.

Well, my flags are out. Since Memorial Day, in fact. They’re smaller, hand-held flags that I stuck into flower urns and the front door basket of late spring pansies. Speaking of which, a few bees visit the courtyard urns packed with pansies still flourishing. These were slow to take off, but now they are thick as — well — bees on a honeycomb this lovely June morning.

My project today is the front entry garden bed. It’s time to follow P. Allen Smith’s instruction to cut off the pods of spent peonies. I had thought those were seed heads. Well, they are, but unless I want to go to the trouble to propagate more plants, I really should remove them, I suppose.

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In a group at one end of this bed grow bushy Valerian and Veronica, the “Two V’s.” I’ve decided on whimsical names for them: “Virginia” the blue Veronica and “Vanessa” the rose red Valerian. These two sisters grow side by side next to a lavender Russian Sage. Together, they form a show stopper in May while the peonies all but steal the show. Now past bloom, they provide a natural fencing along the front entry.

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Over by the front gate leading to the rose garden, the once charming Meadowrue “Lavender Mist” has become wild, flopping over and detracting from the late-blooming lavender rhododendron and purple clematis climbing the arbor. It certainly lives up to its name with it myriad miniature blossoms giving the effect of mist. A half-round basket-type support will rein it in nicely.

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My purple Clematis climbing the gate arbor is making a more bold statement this year instead of shrinking like shy violets. This one is called Jackmanii Clematis.

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And that wraps up this week’s showcase on Six on Saturday. Let’s pray that the tumult of the past two weeks settle down. None of us needs another long hot summer like 1968.


Yellow Hibiscus

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As a follow-up to my Florida cousin’s painting shown on this week’s “Wordless Wednesday” posted two days ago, let’s look at the real thing, above. I first became acquainted with the genus of Hibiscus the year I lived with extended family in South Florida while attending my second year of college. These large blossoms spelled “exotic” in my limited horticultural lexicon.

Hibiscus is a genus of flowering plants in the mallow family, comprising several hundred species native to warm temperate, subtropical and tropical regions throughout the world.  If you’ve ever heard of Rose of Sharon as mentioned in the Bible, this is it, also called Rose Mallow. Not surprisingly, then, it originated in tropical Asia.

According to the University of Florida, Hibiscus flowers can be many colors, come in single or double forms, and often last for just a day. Although individual flowers may be short-lived, the plant itself will produce blooms over a long flowering season—nearly year-round in South Florida. Quite sensitive to cold weather, they will freeze to the ground in North Florida.

In fact, the closest hibiscus species I knew as a child in North Florida was my mother’s collection of purple Altheas, also known as Rose of Sharon, growing along the front side fence.

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Althaea is a genus of perennial herbs native to Europe, North Africa and Western Asia. It includes Althaea officinalis, also known as the marshmallow plant — hence, it’s common name. Its root was formerly processed to make marshmallow confections. But I’m getting off the subject here.

Hibiscus plants, grown in full sun, feature flowers in an array of colors ranging from yellows and oranges, reds and pinks, as well as purple, lavender-blue, white, and even bi-colors.

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But perhaps the original color of the exotic hibiscus really was yellow? What do you think?