Raritan River Liatris

liatris by Raritan River, Donaldson Park
According to Wikipedia, there are many kinds of liatris. These purple flowers grow by the Raritan River at the edge of Donaldson Park, a large county park situated in Highland Park, New Jersey.

liatris donaldson park raritan river raining
Three weeks ago, when my daughter was in camp and I had a little more time, I went to Donaldson Park and took some photos. I took several of the Raritan River, such as this one with the tall, bare tree at the river bend. I really enjoyed the Raritan River liatris, the purple spikes bursting out of the sandy banks by the river.

liatris rainy day raritan river
It was raining that day, but not enough to get me soaked, despite the fact that I had not brought a raincoat.

liatris new brunswick raritan river donaldson park
In this photo, you can see a little of New Brunswick, New Jersey – that’s where some of Rutgers University resides. New Brunswick is more urban than Highland Park, but it is still small, especially compared to Philadelphia or New York City. Or Newark or Trenton. Actually, all you see is a bit of the bridge of the route 18 highway.

In other nature news, I started filling my bird feeder again (it got neglected as I paid more attention to my garden, but as I explained to my kids, only in the winter am I really concerned that the birds in our area need food to eat). I’ve seen blue jays, a cardinal and mostly lots of sparrows. Maybe soon I’ll have more bird photos.

Sage Leaves Watercolor

sage leaves watercolor
I participate in an online Facebook group called One Watercolor a Day, based on the book by Veronica Lawlor. There are many exercises in the book, and every few weeks I do an exercise and share it in the group. Recently, I’ve been sharing the watercolor exercises on this Sketching Out blog as well. The most recent exercise was Do a Study of Nature, and it was fun to sit outside and paint:
sage watercolor with watercolor paints outside

This particular painting is a sage leaves watercolor: I took a look at my sage plant that has come back year after year and did a little painting study. I once tried to plant more sage in the back of my yard, and those sage plants unfortunately died. This sage plant, however, that is close to my kitchen back door, has managed to re-emerge after many a winter. Happy that today was such a nice day, so I had an excuse to sit outside and paint in between cleaning my house for Passover.

I find sketching from nature a great way to learn – you really need to observe to come up with a little watercolor painting quickly. I did two others before I decided to limit my color palette and limit my subject to the sage leaves.

It has been a while since I’ve participated in a Nature Notes, one of my favorite online memes run by my friend Michelle over at Rambling Woods. Here is a cardinal shot I had in my stash but never got a chance to share until now:
cardinal with cocked head in tree

Do you cook with sage? Do you have it in your yard? Have you ever painted outside?

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Nature in New Jersey and Maryland

Peace and Friendship Garden
Peace and Friendship Garden

We visited my eldest son this past weekend at University of Maryland. Because most of the events were at the Hillel, we walked back and forth numerous times between the Hillel and the hotel. On the way to the Hillel we saw this garden, and on Friday afternoon I had my camera with me so I took this photo. I was impressed by the “natural” looking sculpture that was part of the garden, and I love seeing well-cared for perennials. You can learn more about this Peace and Friendship garden. The sculpture is by Chinese artist Han Meilin and named The Peace Tree.

pond in Holmdel Park
Here is the pond in Holmdel Park in New Jersey (photographed two weeks ago). Nearby is a lovely arboretum (I was too tired to take my big camera, but there was some great hawthorn trees with berries and some interesting evergreens). I photographed the pond with my Samsung Galaxy 4. There was a London plane tree on the other side of the pond – its “fruit” or nuts look like tennis balls.

Longstreet Farm pig
Here’s a pig at Longstreet Farm (part of Holmdel Park in New Jersey). We also saw pigs at University of Maryland – there is a little farm on the campus for those studying animal science and also horses for the equestrian club. Both sets of pigs seemed to like to eat dirt. Explain that one to me. My daughter named the Longstreet Farm pig “Piggles.”

Rutgers Gardens in October

Rutgers Gardens flowers
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite places in central New Jersey: Rutgers Gardens. Rutgers Gardens is maintained by staff, students and volunteers. You can learn more on the website for Rutgers Gardens.

bench garden area
There are various garden areas within Rutgers Gardens. The one above with the bench is part of the rain garden. Vegetation in a rain garden area needs to be acclimated to prolonged periods of inundation, followed by equally prolonged periods of drought. From the Rutgers Gardens website:

Rain gardens look attractive when newly planted, but can and often deteriorate over time with the invasion of unattractive weeds and a resulting decline in vigor from the ornamental plantings as they become ‘choked-out’. The intent at Rutgers Gardens was to design and develop a garden that had all the positive environmental aspects, yet remained attractive throughout the year with minimal maintenance.

yellow flowers Rutgers Gardens
These attractive yellow flowers are part of the Donald B. Lacy Display garden. Wish I knew the name of the yellow flowers (and those red pom ones as well – maybe a kind of Gomphrena – maybe Gomphrena globosa ‘Fireworks’). I believe the magenta/purple pom ones I showed last week are Gomphrena globosa. Some of the flowers and vegetables are grown inside a fence with a gate, and the public is not allowed to enter, but it is easy to peek in and view.

fall foliage raritan river
One of the great features of Rutgers Gardens are the hikes you can take – we like taking the walk that goes along the Raritan River. There was some colorful foliage but not a lot. I like the pretty colorful reflections in the river.

As I said on the Rutgers Gardens post last week, we saw two chipmunks. Here’s one more photo of the chipmunk in the woods:
chipmunk at Rutgers Gardens in woods

Jewish Holidays and Nature

Gerber daisy in front of our house

It is Jewish holiday season, and ideally, I would be writing a lovely post about how the Jewish holidays are related to the seasons. In reality, I feel I am constantly preparing for the next holiday (in between having more than plenty of web work). The flower above is one of the gerber daisies my daughter gave me for Mother’s Day (with my husband’s help), and I have managed to keep it alive for the whole summer. Yay, me.

The upcoming holiday this week is called Sukkot, and we do indeed interact with nature. Here is the little booth called a sukkah that we eat meals in for seven days. We cover the top of the sukkah with light natural material called schach, and through this natural material we can sometimes see stars at night. Some people actually sleep in their sukkah.

sukkah door
Here are some of the decorations inside our sukkah. This is from last year – on Wednesday, it will be a mad rush to finish cooking and decorate the sukkah. In New Jersey, it often rains, so we don’t want to decorate too early. Hard enough to keep the decorations going.

This was our old sukkah, that we no longer have. It took too long to put up, so my husband gave it away. We now have a pre-fab sukkah, but I can’t paint the walls. I have to decorate with this velcro tape. I don’t enjoy that as much.

As this post is related to nature, here are some not yet shared nature photos from Israel:
rocks on the top of Mount Meiron
Those are rocks on the top of Mount Meiron. Learn about my hike on Mount Meiron.

pink flowers on Meiron
Love these delicate pink flowers from Mount Meiron. No idea what they are. Any guesses? Update: might be a bindweed – convolvolus oleifolius.

bright red trees in front of Tel Aviv Museum
These trees had bright red blooms in front of the Tel Aviv Museum last May. Any guesses? Flame tree (Delonix regia)? Seems quite similar to the red trees in this Tel Aviv image. Tel Aviv in late May probably has a similar climate to southern California (maybe warmer and more humid).

Getting back to Jewish holidays and nature, the holidays follow the lunar calendar. So the moon is important. Tonight my daughter noticed the moon looked quite full, but it’s not quite the 15th of the month. It’s 13 Tishrei, so I suppose that is close. This year Thanksgiving and Chanukah will coincide, but according to this post, it will not happen again until … year 79,811. Will you be around to celebrate?

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Seagulls at Point Pleasant Beach

seagulls at Point Pleasant beach in New Jersey
What a lot of seagulls we saw at Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey. My daughter was a bit frightened of how low they swooped while we sat on the beach. It was crowded with humans; I’m pretty sure there were more humans than seagulls, but that fact is debatable.

umbrella two seagulls at beach
What do you notice about the seagulls?

seagull by blanket
I couldn’t figure out when they wanted to hang out and when they preferred to fly about. There was a lot of both going on.

flying seagulls
A whole lot of flapping of wings and flying off in this photo.

jumping seagull
This seagull in the middle looks like he is jumping.

crowd of seagulls some flying
A crowd of seagulls do their thing, flying or flapping or hanging around.

seagulls in sky
And they are off: flying in the sky are the seagulls.

Thank you to this seagull for posing nicely for my camera.

There are more than just seagulls at Point Pleasant Beach. There are amusement rides, mini golf, arcades, a boardwalk, a fun house, lots of junk food being sold (at about 4 pm half the people I saw held an ice cream cone), and many beach umbrellas.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Ma’alot Israel Flowers and Birds

blue globe thistle
Not far from the home of my friend in Maalot Israel is a little forest. One can see flowers such as the blue globe thistle, Echinops adenocaulos – קיפודן מצוי.

Maalot View
Ma’alot is a city built on hill. My friend’s home has lovely views from her back deck and from the nearby forest. You can see there are lots of trees in the valleys and neighboring hills and villages on the far hills.

bird in Ma'alot
I have no idea what species is this big bird on a wire (a crow?). But he was bigger than the pigeons, sparrows or doves that I saw. All the birds I saw on my Israel trip were brown, gray or black – none were brightly colorful. I did look up a few birds from the Hula Valley and found some colorful ones shown.

In addition to featuring this buttercup on this Ma’alot Israel Flowers post, I saw buttercups on Mount Meron (Ranunculaceae, נורית).

queen anne's lace
I believe these large white bouquet-like flowers are Queen Anne’s Lace.

From the deck of my friend’s house, I could see sparrows, mourning doves and pigeons. I saw what may have been swallows flying above, but I wasn’t quite sure. Do you see the little sparrow in the large palm tree? I told my friend her back deck would be a lovely spot for birdwatching, and she offered for me to stay a few months to make my observations. Maybe one day I will take her up on her offer.

mourning dove in Ma'alot
Here is a mourning dove hanging out on some sort of gadget. I don’t see these often in New Jersey, but I have seen them a fair amount in Israel. On my trip to Israel five years ago, I believe I incorrectly identified this bird as a pigeon (it’s a mourning dove). I’ve learned a bit about birds since then – I hope to have the opportunity to learn more.

Jacaranda Trees with Purple Blooms

jacaranda tree in bloom in Nahariya, Israel

jacaranda tree in Naharia, Israel
When I was in Beit Shemesh, Israel, I saw some beautiful trees with purple blooms. I saw them again in Naharia, a northern beach town in the Galil. The jacaranda blooms above are in Naharia. Then I visited Ma’alot, and I was pleasantly surprised by yet more jacaranda blooms.

According to this Flowers in Israel post, jacaranda trees are originally from South America. Looks like the Hebrew name is סיגלון.

Derivation of the botanical name:
Jacaranda, a Brazilian vernacular name.
acutifolia, with pointed leaves.
mimosifolia, with leaves like genus Mimosa.

On the Wikipedia page for jacaranda it says: This article’s factual accuracy is disputed. I wonder why. See also: Jacaranda mimosifolia:

The Blue Jacaranda has been cultivated in almost every part of the world where there is no risk of frost; established trees can however tolerate brief spells of temperatures down to around −7°C (20°F). In the USA, 30 miles east of Los Angeles where winter temps can dip to 10 degrees F (-12 C) for short several-hour periods, the mature tree survives with little or no visible damage.

jacaranda tree blooms in Maalot Israel with Israeli flag below
This jacaranda tree (above and below) was photographed in Ma’alot, Israel. Ma’alot is about twenty minutes inland from Nahariya, Israel.

Blue Jacaranda in Maalot

The name may be Blue Jacaranda, but I think those blooms are purple. How about you? Do you think this is some botanist’s desire to see blue in nature?

Sabra Plants – Prickly and Sweet

cactus sabra prickly on outside sweet on inside
This is no ordinary cactus – it is a sabra plant. We continued our journey up beyond the village of Meron and into an area above that had caves, rocks and flowers. I photographed this large green cactus, and my friend informed me that it is a sabra. Native born Israelis are referred to as sabras, because like the plant, they are supposed to be prickly on the outside and sweet on the inside.

sabra - prickly pear cactus
Here is the sabra flower up close. Known in English as a prickly pear cactus, on Wikipedia I learned:

Prickly pears typically grow with flat, rounded cladodes (also called platyclades) that are armed with two kinds of spines; large, smooth, fixed spines and small, hairlike prickles called glochids, that easily penetrate skin and detach from the plant. Many types of prickly pears grow into dense, tangled structures.

The Hebrew word for the cactus fig is tsabar, “similar to and derived from the Arabic ‘صبار ṣubbār’.” It is reportedly also used as fencing. Have you ever eaten a sabra fruit?

kalanit poppy
As this lovely little kalanit plant was growing near the sabra, I’m sharing it as well in this post. To see more of those red poppy anemones, visit my post on my hike on the Peak Trail of Mount Meron.

For more Nature Notes:

Nature Notes

Watching Birds in Beit Shemesh

pigeon in Beit Shemesh
I had fun looking out the window (and standing on the balcony) from the apartment where we stayed in Beit Shemesh, Israel. Beit Shemesh seems to be a combination of urban with rural. I heard roosters crying on my first morning in Israel – they were up at 4 am. Watching birds in Beit Shemesh is not as exciting as watching them in the Hula Valley or in Eilat, but I enjoyed the show.

sparrow on wood plank in Beit Shemesh
The sparrows don’t look that different than our sparrows in New Jersey.

pigeons on a roof
This photo of pigeons on a roof can give you a bit of an idea of how the urban buildings are right next to the rural countryside.

pigeon in flight in Beit Shemesh
Oooh, I got this pigeon in flight!

I got to see this etrog on a tree in my friend’s backyard. It’s too bad I didn’t have a chance to take photos from her balcony – she lives on top of a high hill in Beit Shemesh, so you can see all around from up high.

beit shemesh ramat
I think this is the edge of Ramat Beit Shemesh. There are several sections to the city – it’s grown a lot in the past twenty years.

urban beit shemesh - buildings
From this photo of apartment buildings, you can see what I mean by urban.

farm in beit shemesh
I believe this is where the roosters live, right outside Beit Shemesh in this farm.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

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