Friday, May 28, 2010

some notes from the wilderness...

Our Red Shouldered Hawks have babies! You can hear them calling when one of their parents bring them some grub. In a post from a week or so I ago I describe how to locate the nest in the garden. I'd like nothing more than to scale a nearby loblolly pine and get a glimpse of them, but the idea of falling eighty feet while being lacerated by an angry hawk does not appeal to me. The garden is bursting with birds right now. The goldfinches are feasting on the Columbine seeds near the Endangered Garden, and the waterfall in the Wildlife Garden is a perennially popular spot. Lots of fledglings about, chasing their parents and asking for regurgitated bugs, car keys, etc. The feeding stations are full as well with moms and dads trying to get some calories to fuel their never ending hunt for bugs to feed the babes. The Oakleaf Hydrangeas near the Blomquist pavilion and pond are quite striking (and fragrant) right now as well. You can see our information kiosk map with text online by visiting the Blomquist Website and pulling up the "Sneak Peek" page. There you'll see some images, one entitled "Blomquist Entrance Map". You can use that to locate all the special structures and exhibits within the garden. Print it and keep it to help find your way around. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


I wanted to go back a few posts and give you a link to an album of photos from my recent trip to DC. There are a few photos from a ramble my wife and I took through the invasive jungle of Rock Creek Park, a picture of a tiny Fiat in Georgetown, resting near the Lincoln Monument in my dorky hat, and a view of the Museum of the American Indian from the grounds of the US Botanic Garden. The majority of the photos are drawings by a group of elementary and middle school children from New Jersey and California. They were part of the United Nations Environment Programme School Art and Essay Competition for World Environment Day 2009. The images were on display in the education facilities at the US Botanic Garden, and I found them compelling and beautiful. As I mentioned, the theme for the sketches was the idea of humans finding ways, through conservation, stewardship and technology, to save the planet. Some of these kids were nine or ten years old when the drawings were done, with the oldest being seventeen. I think you'll agree that they put their considerable talents to good use here. Included with the text here is an image of Abby Hird and Andrea Kramer of BGCI (Andrea is on the left). I interviewed the two of them during my trip about the work their organization is doing to, you guessed it, save the planet.

Friday, May 21, 2010


just updated the "What's Blooming" page of the website. It's been a few weeks since the last update- sorry about that. The computer I use for the web design is at home, so I do this in my spare time. Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Almost Friday!

It's going to be a fun weekend- the boys want to go see Russell Crowe v/s King John in "Robin Hood", so hopefully we'll get to eat some popcorn and enjoy one of the world's greatest inventions: the movie theatre. Sunday we're having some friends over for brunch, so house and yard cleaning are in the near future no doubt. Time to mow the weeds, I mean grass. I'm also looking forward to Saturday, when we have our annual Duke Gardens staff barbecue in Bahama at my family property. The summer interns are starting next week, so we'll get to meet them for the first time at the party. Fishing, barbecue, volleyball, botanizing... always a good time.

A plant to watch for in the coming weeks in the Blomquist is on the rise, literally. There is a Lilium superbum (Turks Cap Lily) that currently stands at seven feet tall as of this morning. Last year it produced eight stunning orange explosions with black freckles. This year it seems to have taken it to a new level, and I fully expect ten to twelve blossoms and an ultimate height of over eight feet. I'm including a photo of one of last years flowers to get you interested. To keep tabs on it, you can find it near the waterfall amongst the Rhododendron maximum in the wildlife garden. To see exactly where that is, print the grid map from the "What's Blooming" page of the Blomquist Website and make a mark in J5. It will probably be another two weeks before it's in bloom, so take advantage of the intervening time to watch the flowers emerge. Whenever you see a plants name in a different color on the blog, click on it and it will take you to a page on the USDA website for that species. This is the site from which I verify all my nomenclature, provenance (where a plant originates from), etc. for all my record keeping. Scroll down to view a range map for the species, and then click on individual states to see in what counties that species is found in the wild.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey there!

My wife and I spent some time last week in D.C., one of my favorite cities. I needed to conduct a couple of video interviews for use in a short documentary I'm making about the conservation movement in the botanic garden world, and we needed some time away to enjoy each other's company. Our fifteenth anniversary is coming up at the end of the month, so a hotel in Dupont Circle was our getaway spot. Thursday was spent driving, and after arrival, filming. I met with Andrea Kramer and Abby Hird, both employees of the global organization Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI). Andrea is the director of BGCI operations here in the U.S., and Abby is a BGCI representative who works at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. The two of them spoke during the interviews about the work being done all over the world, and especially domestically by BGCI to realize the conservation potential of botanic gardens and arboreta. We met to do the filming at the United States Botanic Garden, and while I was there, I took a few photos from an artists wall of sketches by young people. I was particularly moved by a group of drawings from a group of elementary and middle school students from New Jersey who, it appeared, had been tasked with imagining how we might save the planet through collective action. I'll post photos of those sketches, as well as an image of Andrea and Abby in my next post. Friday, Erika and I walked from Adams Morgan to the Jefferson Memorial taking in all that is D.C. on a beautiful Spring day. Darlin, if you're reading this, I had a great time in D.C., and the past fifteen plus years have been the best of my life!

Friday, May 7, 2010


I wanted to add a post in honor of our Board members, and anyone else reading this for that matter, as a means to fill everyone in on some of the highlights inside and outside of the Blomquist garden during the last six months. Okay, now let me think....

Right, to begin lets talk about garden infrastructure. We now have proposals in place for us to consider from contractors interested in building our newest feature proposed in the garden, a covered footbridge. I'm very excited about this project, and the design process of this structure has been helped along by my colleagues here at the garden, most notably Paul Jones, Mike Owens, and Harry Jenkins. Here's an artist's rendition of what the bridge might look like:

It's been a great year for wildlife in the garden, and I don't mean Duke students. It's been three years since we embarked on a campaign to attract more wildlife diversity to the Blomquist, beginning with the addition of feeding stations for migratory and nesting songbirds, and continuing with a design focus on plant additions that attract a large variety of insect and bird pollinators, and culminating last year with the completion of the Blomquist Wildlife garden. Success in an effort like this can be hard to measure, but I'm happy to say that for the second year in a row, we have a nesting pair of Red Shouldered Hawks in the Blomquist, and we're pretty sure they have babies in the nest as I write this. These raptors typically will not nest in an area unless they have adequate prey available, so to have a pair of apex predators who feed on snakes, frogs and birds (hey, I 'm building a feeding station for ALL birds) and are happy and healthy and raising young on site says a lot about the ecological health of the area they've chosen to nest in. It's outcomes like this that I garden for. I've added a photo of a green friend from the Wildlife garden stream (she's got one eye out for bugs, and another out for hawks).

Conservation education and outreach has become an integral part of what we do in the Blomquist garden, and we've been fortunate enough to have formed some special partnerships recently. The most developed of these involves our work with Durham Public Schools and Easley Elementary School. Together with the Eno River Association, we put together a design for the construction of a native plant education garden at Easley, and after a fall and winter of periodic building it was formally dedicated on Earth Day this year. As our children spend most of their days at school, it seems imperative that we make those schools places where they will learn about and become champions for our embattled wild spaces. I hope to be involved with the growth and development of this garden for years to come. Click this link to learn more about this space that we've named the Easley Discovery Garden.

Photographs are portals into another place and time, and they can be valuable educational tools as well. During the last few months, a Blomquist photography project has come to full fruit that was begun four years ago. In conjunction with the Ladybird Johnson Wildlfower Center, we've made available the Blomquist photo catalog to any non-profit to use for educational purposes. That means anyone who works for an organization dedicated to the use, interpretation and conservation of our native flora can receive free digital copies of our images for use in their publications, websites, etc. In the past four months, I've noticed a huge increase in the use of the Blomquist Catalog by all sorts of folks who want to spread the word about the floral denizens of our fields and forests. You can view the catalog here. Images are being added 2-3 times per year, so check back periodically.

Finally, I wanted to mention the Blomquist Website as a tool for those who want to dive deep into what the Blomquist garden is all about. A significant amount of improvements have been made during the last few months, not the least of which is an improved "What's Blooming" page where you can, in real time, see photos of what's in bloom in the garden as well learn where those species are located in the garden and finally print a map from the same page where you can create your own self-guided floral tours. In the next few weeks I'll be adding an "Outreach" page
to highlight some of the community projects we're involved in, some of which include partnerships with the North Carolina Native Plant Society, The Southeastern Center for the Contemporary Arts (SECCA), St Phillips Episcopal Church in Durham, The Triangle Land Conservancy, and the list goes on.

Last but not least, ye old blog here is full o' information about what we do in the Blomquist Garden of Native Plants. Become a follower, share a link to the blog with your friends, and help us get the word out about the good work going on in the woods!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

birds, birds, birds...

a few very nice bird sightings in the Blomquist Wildlife Garden yesterday. There must be a good number of migrants coming through right now, as all three of these species haven't been seen in the Blomquist Garden so far this year. Come to think of it, I haven't EVER seen any of these in the garden. The fact that I saw all of them bathing in the stream in the WILDLIFE garden tells me all that advertising I did in those popular bird magazines, the banner ads I placed on those popular avian websites, and those focus groups I conducted with our local feathered friends has really gotten the word out to the migrants on the wing. It seems our B&B for the wilder set, complete with all of it's creature comforts, has become quite popular...

anyway, all puns aside, the birds I saw yesterday were the Summer Tananger, the American Redstart, and the Black Breasted Blue Warbler. There were a pair of the Warblers- here's a photo of the female. Click the species names for images of these striking birds. The sound and sight of the moving water in the stream seems to draw birds to the Wildlife Garden like a magnet, so if you have some species you're looking for, and you think the time is right for them to be in town, check out the rest stop we've made for them in the Blomquist Garden. If you want to learn more about the Wildlife Garden in particular, visit the page named for it on the Blomquist Website. Enjoy!

A reminder- join us tomorrow at 11:00 for the "Walk on the Wild Side" tour in the Blomquist Garden. We'll be discussing native ferns, their history, and their landscape uses and functions. As always, you can learn about the tour topics on the website as well by visiting the "Wild Side" page. I'd like to invite any members of our Board of Advisors who are in town for our Board Meeting tomorrow to join me and my regulars for the tour. See you then!

Monday, May 3, 2010

A week or so ago, a couple of us took a trip down to Pickens, SC to visit my friend Tom Goforth at his nursery Crow Dog Ferns. Tom is a green-industry leader in the propagation of our southeastern native fern species from spores, and his nursery is a testament to his dedication to the appreciation and conservation of these ancient plants. Click here for a short slide gallery from the trip, including photos of his laboratory where it all begins. The "Walk on the Wild Side" tour this week will focus on native ferns, and I'll probably add another post before Thursday on the topic. Enjoy!