Colorful Birds: Part 1

What’s the first thing you see when you look at these birds? For me, it’s their incredible diversity of color! And it’s not only tropical birds—even cold climates produce blue Steller’s Jays, red House Finches, yellow goldfinches, and pink rosy-finches. Or consider the ruby gorget on a Broad-tailed Hummingbird, flashing its iridescent hue when the sunlight hits it just right. How can feathers be all these colors? It varies.

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August’s Yellow Flowers

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What is it with August and yellow flowers? Last week Pete and I revisited the Yampa River Botanic Park in Steamboat Springs. As I expected, the gardens were in full bloom—dazzling in the clear mountain sunshine. As I strolled the pathways, I noticed expanses of Coreopsis, clumps of Rudbeckia, beds of sulfur-yellow buckwheat (Eriogonum), and sprays of goldenrod. And that’s when I realized that the majority of blooms were in some shade of yellow.

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Aspen Gold

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One of the joys of living in Colorado is the gorgeous gold of the aspen in fall. Other regions may boast more colorful foliage—the reds and purples of the hardwood forests to the east, for example—but nowhere else do we get the combination of cobalt blue skies, spectacular mountain scenery, and shimmering golden leaves. Such a treat is not to be missed, so we recently joined some friends and went leaf “peeping.”

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Plant Photography: Color

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My final post on photographing plants, in all their forms, deals with one of my favorite aspects of photography—color. My dad was an avid photographer as well, but he preferred to shoot a medium format camera loaded with black and white film. Then he’d disappear into his darkroom and spend hours dodging and burning, doing his best to emulate Ansel Adams.

Me? I want color, and the more, the better. Happily, gardens are colorful places.

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Garden Synergy

LAH_1195Does this pink look too garish? Should I match it with orange—or cream? Or would the gray be better? One of my favorite aspects of gardening is coordinating flowers. Sure, each plant is a beauty all on its own but, just as a decorator pulls together matching and contrasting colors to produce a total look, so the creative gardener selects flower and leaf colors that complement one another, creating a composite whole that outshines any single plant.

The first summer in our new home, we simply added basic landscaping—retaining walls, trees, large shrubs, planters, and the lawn. Our yard was mostly mulch with little green dots scattered throughout. Think of a living room with the couch, a couple of chairs, and an end table or two, but no rug on the floor, pictures on the wall, pillows on the couch, or books on the coffee table. It looked pretty bare. Continue reading “Garden Synergy”

Yellow Leaves, Red Leaves, Pretty Leaves, Dead Leaves

Fall color @TacomaWA 14oct07 LAH 015You probably remember learning about fall color when you were in elementary school. You know that leaves turn colors before they fall, and it had something to do with chlorophyll. But when is the last time you really thought about fall foliage from a botanist’s point of view?

As gardeners, we want to know which plants turn which colors so we can use them effectively in the landscape. Here in Colorado, most of us know that aspens turn yellow golden, Gambel’s (scrub) oaks become a flaming reddish orange, and burning bushes (Euonymus alatus) shine in stunning shades of fluorescent pink, purple, and red. But why exactly do they do that? And how?

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