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Long Weekend at the Coast

When you haven’t written a real post in months, it’s hard to jump back in! An intimidating backlog of photos from the past year or two brings to mind so much ‘never did,’ that I just want to give up before I start. But today was a sunny, plant-filled day, so I’ll just start where I am.

Live Oak outside Trask Colisseum at UNC-W

My niece’s graduation in Wilmington gave me a good reason to spend a few days at the coast over the weekend. For a couple of days, my daughter and her friend stayed with me, and granddog Stormin Norman entertained us all. He has his own Instagram account, being spoiled and prone to selfies and all, but he’s really cute.

My husband arrived just after Norm and the (grown up) kids left. We considered the deaths since last summer of two plants in the front yard — a parasol tree and a crape myrtle. My father-in-law was intrigued by the parasol tree, and had been charting its progress for years. The crape myrtle was a gift from family friends when my husband’s brother died in 2000. A hurricane took the plants. Matthew left two feet of water here last fall and neither withstood the salty inundation.

At some point I realized I wouldn’t get a chance to go to Shelton Herb Farm if I didn’t do it in the morning, so I headed out after breakfast. Barely a mile down the road, the new Ocean Isle Market was going on in the lot beside the island’s nature museum. For the rest of the summer, there will be a market here every Monday morning—an exciting development in this tiny town. I decided to turn around and take a look.

This is Michella of Ocean Therapy Potions. I talked with her for a bit about essential oils and bought her Sleep Spray — with clary, lavender, bergamot, and chamomile, and the Digestive Roll-on for stomach upset or motion sickness — with ginger, cardamom, peppermint, orange and chamomile. Both are really nice! Her apothecary and aromatherapy business are based a few miles away in Oak Island.

Richard is a local propagator of carnivorous plants who is passionate about the native flora. The pitcher plants for sale at the market were seven years old, all grown from seed on his property. His recommendations for those who would grow pitcher plants: Pot them in well moistened peat moss and don’t use nitrogen fertilizers. Full sun. They’re easy to grow, he adds.

Fresh local vegetables and herbs will be coming to the market soon. Woohoo!

Shelton Herb Farm is in Leland, about 30 miles north of Ocean Isle. Shelton’s is a favorite stop whenever I’m in the area because they have plants you usually find only through mail order.

Nearly any herb you’ve ever heard of or thought about will be there at one time or another. They have a nice selection of Southeast natives as well.

No credit cards accepted, but they do pass the savings on to you…and they have fresh eggs, too!

Today, I didn’t get anything I went there for— they lost a lot of plants during Matthew, too — but I did find a few other things. Duh.

Dwarf pomegranate (Punica granatum ‘Nana’)
Camellia sinensis (the plant black tea comes from)
Sweet goldenrod (Solidago odora)
Betony (Stachys officinalis)
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
Coral trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’), a favorite native selection that I’ve just never managed to plant in my own garden.

About 5 or 6 miles south of Shelton’s on Highway 17 is Ev-Henwood Preserve, where I had seen the silky camellia (Stewartia malacodendron) blooming on Mother’s Day weekend a few years ago. That would be right about now, so I wanted to see if I could find them again.

It took a while.

The Stewartia Trail did not appear where I thought it should, and I wandered around for a while.

Someone had left this bloom on the picnic table where I stopped for lunch. If I hadn’t seen it, I might have given up too early and left disappointed.

But eventually, I did find them.

And aren’t they gorgeous?! I think they might be the prettiest flowers I’ve ever seen. Those stamens! Perfection. (More in the Folium.)

By the time I found these and then got back to the exit path, the afternoon was winding down and thoughts were turning toward getting back for dinner — the ‘D word’ to my husband and me. I think we are both ready to retire that domestic responsibility, but inconvenient evening hunger prevents it from happening. We managed with leftover lasagne and salad, which I liked a lot better than he did, and which probably means grilled wings tomorrow night.

There was a last stroll around the yard after dinner, to admire the new plants one more time, and to say goodnight to the evening primroses (Oenothera laciniata) in the nearly non-existent lawn (Matthew again).

And then a hello to the moon, whose incredible brightness demanded attention. I grabbed my camera, and after several shots of blurry white ball, I got the settings on the camera going the right direction. I had to pretend I was shooting in bright sun to get the ISO and aperture right…or at least closer to right. I wanted to be able to see the craters, and there they are!

Goodnight, moon. Goodnight, you. Thanks for reading!

I thought they were bumbles …

Sleeping in the Basil — Carpenter Bee

Every morning in the summer garden, the bumbles are asleep on the basil until the sun comes along to warm them up. They just hang on to a leaf and conk out, apparently. They’re so sound asleep that you can actually pet them gently and they won’t respond.

Weird Alien Scoping Out the Garden

Nearby was this guy, but I don’t think he was asleep and I didn’t touch him. I believe he’s a native thread-waisted wasp (Eremnophila aureonotata). It’s good to see one of these because they indicate a healthy garden (no pesticides, lots of native plants – I bet he was checking out the mountain mint, which was right beside the basil). They like wildflower gardens, where skipper larvae are likely to be, because that is what they feed their young.

Carpenter Bee on Pineapple Sage 2

Once the sun has warmed things up and dried them off, the bees resume their busy-ness and head off for the pineapple sage.

Carpenter Bee on Pineapple Sage 1

When I decided to do this post I wondered how many kinds of bumblebees there are and thought maybe I should figure out which one/s mine is/are.

Wow, does that make writing anything take forever! There are at least 40 species of bumblebees in North America. Of course not all of those can be found in North Carolina, but many of them can.

Carpenter Bee on Pineapple Sage 3

But, none of the species looked right.

Eventually — it often takes me a while — I remembered that there is at least one other non-bumblebee that looks bumble-y.

Carpenter Bee Flying Away

Oops, there she goes!

It turns out she is a native carpenter bee. I think she’s most likely an eastern carpenter bee (Xylocopa virginica), but there is a similar species, the southern carpenter bee (Xylocopa micans). The southern one has a mostly coastal distribution, and I’m in the Piedmont, so I’m going mostly by that.

You can see her at the base of the pineapple sage flowers stealing nectar (without pollinating!) by chewing through the flower. That’s something that carpenter bees do. They are excellent pollinators too, just crafty from time to time.

Carpenter Bee on Goldenrod

Carpenter bees are not specialists, so you might see them on nearly any flower. I don’t know what that little black insect beside the big (male) bee is.

Carpenter Bee on Marigold 2

Close by, on a Legion of Honor marigold, another male carpenter bee forages. (Did that just sound like PBS? The voice in my head did when I read back over it.)

The male’s head is slightly narrower than the female’s, and there’s a white patch on his face. When I first looked at the photo, I thought it was a reflection.

Male Carpenter Bee with White Patch on Face

“What are you looking at?” He looks kind of perturbed. They are not likely to sting, fortunately.

Carpenter Bee on Marigold 1

He stops for a couple of seconds, but then it’s back to work.

Carpenter Bees

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