High Summer

Geraniums and Bronze Fennel

Geraniums and Bronze Fennel

We find ourselves at the Summer Solstice again; the high point of our solar year.

It is the official astronomical beginning of summer in the Northern Hemisphere.

But for most of us, the transitions from one season to the next are somewhat blurred.

This rabbit is a frequent guest in our garden, relaxing on our lawn like a pet.  I've only found him eating grass and clover.

This rabbit is a frequent guest in our garden, relaxing on our lawn like a pet. I’ve only found him eating grass and clover.

We listened to a discussion on our local news last night about when summer, and summer heat, actually begins.

The conversation came in the context of  our brutally high temperatures this week, coming days before the “official” start of summer at the Solstice on June 21.

What signals “summer” to you?

Hydrangea Macrophylla always speaks of summer to me.  It has been a favorite since I was a small child.

Hydrangea Macrophylla always speaks of summer to me. It has been a favorite since I was a small child.

Is it the onset of uncomfortable heat?  The end of the public school year?  Memorial Day weekend?  Graduation?

Traditionally, the Summer Solstice falls on the longest day of the year.

That is, the longest period of time between sunrise and sunset.

It was almost 9 PM when I took these photos of our rabbit on Wednesday evening.  A long day, indeed.

It was almost 9 PM when I took these photos of our rabbit on Wednesday evening. A long day, indeed.

Although day length varies with latitude and altitude, most of us still count on our “longest day” falling around June 21 (or December 21) each year.

And, it stands to reason that when our hemisphere of the planet is tilted towards the sun on our annual circuit through space, we experience our warmest weather.

But our planet is in transition.  Our seasons, like our weather, are shifting.

Abundant holly berries speak to a possibly intense winter ahead.

Abundant holly berries speak to a possibly intense winter ahead.  This holly shrub has never produced a crop of berries like this since we’ve been in the garden.

Partly due to strong earthquakes which have shifted the angle of our planet’s axis, and partly due to the ongoing movement of our magnetic poles; our climate is not what it was even ten years ago.

I’ve noticed that the “astronomical” equinoxes and solstices have been shifting these last few years, too.

Generally they occur earlier than their official dates.

Our Rose of Sharon shrubs have burst into blossom this week, a sure sign of summer.

Our Rose of Sharon shrubs have burst into blossom this week, a sure sign of summer.

So, I looked up the actual times of sunrise and sunset for our latitude to see what is happening this year.  (Follow the link for your location in many parts of the world.)

Here is what I found:

On June 1, 2014, our sun rose at 5:48 AM and set at 8:21 PM.  Our sunrise reached its earliest time on June 7 at 5:46 AM, and sunrise will stay at that hour until Saturday, June 21, when it will rise at 5:47 AM.

So our time of sunrise doesn’t change at all for 14 days from June 7 through June 20.

This is Begonia, "Flamingo" coming into its first flush of blooms this summer.

This is Begonia, “Flamingo” coming into its first flush of blooms this summer.

On June 1, our sun set at 8:21 PM.  Sunset came a minute later about every two days until June 18, when sunset came at 8:30 PM.

Now, here is what is strange.  June 18, Wednesday, was 14 hours and 44 minutes long.  But so is today, and tomorrow.  June 18-June 20 are exactly the same length with the same hours of sunrise and sunset in Williamsburg Virgina. 

So, we have a three day summer solstice this year, and we are experiencing measured temperatures in the high 90s, with heat indexes over 100 nearly every day this week.

This is our rose scented geranium finally in bloom.

This is our rose scented geranium finally in bloom.

In Norfolk yesterday, the Berkley Bridge wouldn’t close properly due to the heat, and traffic backed up for over an hour.  We had warnings on our local news of “heat health emergencies” all over the area.

On Saturday, our day will be a single minute shorter as sunrise moves to 5:47 AM, but sunset remains at 8:30 PM.

But on Sunday, sunset comes at 8:31, so we are right back to  a 14 hour and 44 minute day- the same length of daylight we are experiencing now at the Summer Solstice.

Sunrise will come at 5:47 AM on June 21 through June 24.  And, sunset remains at 8:31 PM through July 6.  There is no change in the time of astronomical sunset  for a total of 15 days.

Ivy Geranium

Ivy Geranium

Please check your own tables for sunrise and sunset, and see what is happening in your neighborhood.  Here, we will have three more days of “longest day of the year” on June 22, 23, and 24.  Sunrise and sunset will both be one minute later than June 18, 19, and 20; but the total number of minutes of daylight will be exactly the same.

Our time of sunrise returns to a more normal pattern around the first of July, where we will finally have sunrise time stay the same for two days at a time, then shift to a minute later on the following day.

Our Canna, "Australia" came as a bare root tuber this spring.  I hope it will bloom by the first of July.

Our Canna, “Australia” came as a bare root tuber this spring. I hope it will bloom by the first of July.  Hibiscus in the background is showing buds, as is the Butterfly bush to the left.

So, the year turns yet again.  After June 24 our days will continue to grow shorter by a minute or two each day until the Fall Equinox, in September.

Summer weather generally lasts well into October in our part of Virginia, long past the start of school, the “first day of fall” and the Labor Day holiday, which is the official close of summer in the United States.

June 19 garden 012

Perhaps because I’m outside in the garden nearly every day, I’m keenly aware of the weather, and the rhythms of our Earth.  In this time of transition, please stay in touch with what is happening in your part of the planet, also.  These larger rhthms affect us all in so many ways, large and small.

Asian Magnolia generally blooms in early spring, before the leaves come out.  This shrub is ready to bloom a second time.  The photo was taken this morning.

Asian Magnolia generally blooms in early spring, before the leaves come out. This shrub is ready to bloom a second time. The photo was taken this morning.

Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

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Where’s Waldo? At Forest Lane Botanicals

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Assorted Sarracenia species available at Forest Lane Botanicals. Can you find the dragonfly in the photo?

Do you remember the Where’s Waldo books?

My daughter and I enjoyed them when she was just learning to read.

We would page through the drawings, competing with one another to find “Waldo” before the other one could.

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A friend came with my partner and me to visit at Forest Lane Botanicals today.

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We enjoyed the company of a beautiful blue dragonfly as we admired Alan and Wendy’s Pitcher Plant collection.

Have you found the dragonfly in the photos yet ?  (The dragonfly appears in the first, second and fourth photos.  It may be in the third one, and I just haven’t noticed it …)

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We could also hear the frogs, but never spotted them today, sadly.  We found a few tadpoles darting around the partially submerged pots, and heard a tell-tale “splash” as we drew near.

Tadpoles

Tadpoles

Mostly we enjoyed Alan’s guidance to the garden, and the sheer pleasure of wandering around discovering one beautiful plant after another.

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We especially enjoyed the many varieties of Hosta and fern in the garden.  We can grow the ferns, but our attempts at Hosta are usually “grazed short” by our visiting deer.

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We are always inspired with new ideas as we explore what Alan and Wendy Wubbels have done with their shade garden.

We left with pots of new treasures to grow and share. 

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I with a Saxifraga stolonifera, Strawberry Begonia or Strawberry Geranium- (both common names are used) and my friend with a pot of beautiful Selaginella, or Spikemoss.

Salginella, Spikemoss

Selaginella

Both will grow in the cool shade in beds beneath mature trees in our gardens.

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Readers in Eastern Virginia who have not yet  visited Forest Lane Botanicals nursery will be delighted once you find them.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  I believe this is an unusual cultivar known as "Ocean's Fury" and introduced in 2007.  This is a hardy deciduous fern.

Athyrium, a Japanese Painted Fern.  This is an unusual cultivar known as “Applecourt  Crested” according to Wendy Wubbels. This is a hardy deciduous fern.

A gardening friend told me about Alan and Wendy’s nursery last summer, but it took us nearly a year to make our first visit.

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We are so glad we did.  Now we enjoy watching the gardens evolve as spring turns to summer.

There is always something new to notice and enjoy.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2014

All photos were take at Forest Lane Botanicals in York County, Virginia

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