A Poem: THE BACKYARD SANCTUARY

The Buddha Frog in Our Backyard Sanctuary.
THE BACKYARD SANCTUARY

No god is needed; My wife and I will do.
We split and weed, and plant seed.
We trim and choose, and rule our tiny spot,
but not --- like one such other.  
Mother Nature framed this scene,
and with her choices will be Queen.
But at least, I see my debt
and live to fill her coffers.

It is a special place, our world;
The world of life and persons.
It is our Response and Ability,
to keep it such and More.
And pass it to our future kind, 
for ashes soon we be.
For after all, we are a 'food'
in this Great Chain of Being.
Of what shall come hereafter,
we made our contribution, 
too.

All photos by GWW

(For the original and added context of these thoughts, see The Nature Religion Manifesto under the category Religion. Stay Safe!)

Logo by Marty

The Unappreciated Zinnia, as One and as Many

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The “humble Zinnia.”  All flower photos taken by GregWW from the garden of Sheri and Greg

I appreciate the garden.  Sheri and I work hard on it and have for 20 years.  We carved it out of a very ordinary suburban backyard with a rusting swing set, but some great trees.  I also want to understand that garden, and recently I sought knowledge of the humble Zinnia.  It’s an unassuming annual, that I have grown for years and often from seed.  Likable for its late bloom — mid to late August and into September — i.e. now.   After most else has withered, here comes old dependable.

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“Old dependable”, the Zinnia.

I learned the zinnia is a Compound or Composite flower.  It’s ‘a flower’ made up of many small flowers!  What?  Oh, there is that theme again: A ‘thing’ that is importantly many smaller things.  

But what is more important, the Zinnia as a whole or as a simple aggregation?  A pile of gravel is not an important development for the individual stones that make it up.  You can double its size, cut it in half, throw in some sand; you can have the right side, I’ll take the left:  Who cares?  Can we say the same for the Zinnia?  Is the whole Zinnia an important development of its pieces?  Remember, that ‘one’ flower ‘is really’ many flowers!

But Sheri sometimes says, “Shut up and just enjoy the Garden!”  Maybe she is right, but, please follow me down this rabbit hole, even if for just a little.

A  Compound flower

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The Zinnia is not a single flower.

How many flowers are there in a Zinnia?  Well, first of all, botanists call the thing we call its flower “an inflorescence”; it’s the group of smaller flowers.  To them, it’s important enough to have its own name for the various reasons we will discover.

In the inflorescence at right, there are at least 42 flowers, by my count!  Each ‘petal’ is actually a modified flower; about 27 of those.  They are not true petals because true petals are a modified leaf in a Simple Flower, but not a compound one. Here, they are modified flowers called Ray Flowers, each with (it varies) their own sexual equipment — pistil and stamen.  In the zinnia, though, these ray flowers are sterile, I believe; and each has for itself one large modified true petal that we see as the petal of the zinnia, thought it is not; it is the ray flower’s petal.  OK?

IMG_5063The other flowers that are obvious are the little yellow ones.  There are 6 of these and they are called Disc Flowers.  They actually look like flowers to us non-botanists and truly are.   They have a full set of  sexual equipment, fertile upon pollination, and produce one seed each in that case.

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Detail of a sunflower showing developing seed, wilted disc flowers and ray flowers.

I am including about 9 other disc flowers in this above photo, those being the little white spots near the yellow.  I believe they are soon to open or wilted ray flowers.

The Sunflower is also a composite flower.  In this photo, if you look closely, you can see the wilted disc flowers (black) each on top of a developing single seed (green and domed) with ray petals at the edge.

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Disc flowers in a Shasta Daisy.

But this is not all; 27 ray plus 15 disc equals 42 flowers in the inflorescence initially pictured.  There are many more disc flowers though not evident in the Zinnia.  A Shasta Daisy is also a compound flower and one with its disc flowers more evident.  By my count (two tries) there are about 70 to 80 in this inflorescence at left.  It doesn’t seem that many at a glance, but try for yourself; maybe I counted one twice!  I did include about 15 on the perimeter as opened (thus indistinct in appearance) disc flowers.

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The Daisy (all flower photos taken in The Garden of Sheri and Greg by GregWW)

Compounded Complications in the Composite

But the world of the Composite Flower gets even more complicated.  Some compound flowers are all ray lowers and no disc flowers!  As in the common Dandelion or Mum.  Others are all disc flowers.

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The mum is a compound flower with all ray flowers.

Even the Zinnia has a variety that is predominantly ray flower, the double bloom.

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The double petaled Zinnia is dominated  by ray flowers.

Returning to the theme of The One and The Many.  A disc flower in a composite flower is not only distinct in appearance from a ray flower, but also has its time or order of opening determined by its place in the disc.  Ray flowers open first, but then disc flowers develop from the perimeter of the disc moving to the middle.  This is most elegantly displayed in some varieties of Sunflower.

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(On left, the ray flowers opening on a new inflorescence of zinnia.  Right, the vague yellow circle within the disc of this Sunflower is the advancing blossom of disc flowers moving toward the center.)

That this Compound living together of the disc and ray flowers determines their maturation suggests a significant influence of the whole over its parts.  All is not causation through time; some is definition of part in relation to part, as in any significant Structure.  In other words, some is Participation not just causation.  In the composite flower, flowers participate in their large aggregation as if by agreement, and thus become more than a mere pile.  They become an entity with a significant unity that shapes their existence as individuals.  They are a whole that is more than the sum of its parts taken individually.

More could be said about this unity of the many in the zinnia and other composite flowers, but I do not believe it would enhance the case more than tax the reader.  Enough said.  Let us close with the following pictures.

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The Garden as Metaphysical Instruction: the Zinnia as an Autonomous Structure.

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The Nature Religion Manifesto

(We are smoke’n hot this morning here at The Connection!  A short post, And Already Once Revised!  I’ve been searching for a simple statement that gets to the point of what this blog site is about; maybe this is it.  Most of you will think it far fetched, yet there is a Logic to it and it stretches way back into Philosophic Tradition.  Try it on for size, Please!)

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The Backyard Sanctuary: Design Does Exist in Our World.  Photo by GWW.

In the spring and summer, each morning I take my cup of coffee and walk about our backyard garden.  I carefully inspect its progress from the previous day.  New shoots have appeared, old flowers fading, a weed to be pulled, new blooms opening and admired.  Various birds fly by and others are calling.  I stop and consider the weather, very pleasing, but other times not.  Too cool, or too wet, we are often in need of a few sunny days.  In either case, my plants soldier on and I consider what I should do to improve this beautiful place, our garden, our backyard sanctuary.

It is not a “strictly physical” place, not simply particles and chemical reactions and the qualities that those kinds of things directly exhibit.  This garden of my wife’s and mine is a human place of beauty with carefully selected plants, well considered placements, precisely cut borders and gently curved walkways.  A chosen mixture of both sun and shade, privacy and open sky.  A fairly complete composition, though always shifting.

It is a place of life.  Plants exhibit the most marvelous design.  Crocus poke up their heads in spring, first, with their delicate little flowers.  Then come the Daffodil with their trumpeting flower and the Tulip with its gracious cup, marked interior, and array of color.  In the shade, the Ostrich Ferns are unraveling their fronds, rolling them toward the light.  The Painted Ferns exhibit on each leaf detailed shades of green slowly verging on blacks.  In front of our long row of Hosta, my wife plants her border of Impatiens, an annual that flowers through the summer and produces best in shade.  The Empress Wu hosta is our crowning jewel.  Sitting back beneath our cottonless (male) Cottonwood tree, the Empress crowns at over three feet into the air and spreads more than eight feet in diameter.  She is a tremendous mound of foliage with each highly ridged bright green leaf running 18 to 20 inches long and a foot wide.  All her bio-mass bursting forth each spring from below the ground and fully in place by mid June. By August, she has finished with her rather insignificant flowering (to the gardener) and by fall is ready to be cut back to do it all over the next year.

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Glorious Morning Morning Glory, photo by GWW

Each plant is a tidy package It circles about itself in its own little cycle.  The perennials (above) — the crocus, daffodils, tulips, ferns and hosta — all have a prolonged life cycle lasting many years, but go through a distinct annual cycle, also.  The annual (above) — the Impatiens — completes its life cycle in a single season, but ends that cycle with a group of seeds, which are the Reproduction of “its form— its tidy package — into the future. It is as if part of itits Information — never dies!

Basically, fundamentally, essentially, a plant and its environment are a cooperative, self-enhancing effort.  It is not that they — the plant and its environment — always “get it together” or always “keep it together”; they do not.  There are “bad” seasons and difficult “spells”; but “at their core”, The Good MUST Out Weigh The Bad.  That much is inherent in the idea of Natural Design.  If Designs are real in nature, then any design, if it exists, is Good, is Functional; Better than a vast number of alternatives, but maybe not quite as good as some Possibilities that we can vaguely imagine.  This is the core of The Nature Religion Connection: If a lack of coordination and cooperation (Dis-Function, Chaos) were the predominant “tone” of the world, then complex entities like “plants” would not exist, nor would we!  “The world” is fundamentally Good, at least from our point of view, and, thereby, it becomes “Our World”.

So, to reproduce is a distinctly living feature, but so are several others.  To metabolize is to be so open to ‘your’  environment, that large parts of it are essential to ‘your’ continuation.  You stretch forth into them, but not into others; those seem completely irrelevant.  Light, water, carbon dioxide and soil with minerals, all are open to the plant in a cooperative and informative way: They are essential parts of it; they are components of the plant’s Design.  They are it, in many a way.

And to grow is to be alive, and that takes time.  A flowering plant only eventually flowers.  An animal only eventually becomes sexually mature, and a human only eventually becomes emotionally and intellectually mature.  Pulling together diversity into the unity of its form; Time is essential to life: It does not exist in an instant.   To be sensitive is the means by which living things distinguish this In-Formation from the noise; it’s self from others.  Life is these unique qualities.

(Crocus in the Snow and in the Sun. Photos by GWW)

A star, a volcano, a galaxy, an atom, our solar system, the various chemical elements do none of these: No reproduction, no metabolism, no growth, no sensitivity.  A star may swell and then collapse, as it runs out of (‘eats’) its fuel and ‘dies’.  A volcano can grow larger and even blow or become dormant.  An atom may bond.  Our solar system certainly cycles.  But none of these have all the characteristics of life, nor in as regular or systematic a way as do a living kind, and especially a person.

So, no God is needed: My wife and I will do.  We foresee rain and frost; we fertilize and occasionally spray.  We split and weed, and plant seed.  We trim and choose, and rule our tiny spot, but not — as one such other.  Mother Nature framed this scene, and with her choices will be queen.  But at least, I see my debt and live to fill her coffers.

It’s a special place, Our World, The World of Life and Persons.  It is Our Response, and Ability, to keep it such and MORE;  and pass it to our future kind for ashes soon we be.  For after all, we are a ‘food’ in this Giant Chain of Being — of what shall come hereafter, we made a contribution, too.

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All photos by GWW from the garden of Sheri and Greg.

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Logo Drawing by Marty

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Summary for “A Design Design-ates”

(On a roll here today at the Nature Religion Connection. High on yesterday’s Social Solidarity: “Black Lives Matter”, as do all. Upon reading “the added Therapy to my 12 Dose Regimen” (the previous post), I felt it needed to return to its main points in the end. But it was already long, so here is a Summary as an addendum. Start where ever you like, here or there. I do believe I’m refining my message! Thanks for your patience.

This post has been added to In The Garden category. For surely, plants are Designs and they Designate — Design-Ate — their immediate environment into the Forms of Kindred Plants, and needed animals natural material substance. Every plant ‘reaches out’ into The World and makes it Its World,in this way. It Design-Ates.)

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Fractal Art is a design repeating itself, layer upon layer, time after time. Is this “a design designating it’s environment”? (work’s creator unacknowledged, from AG androidguys.com)

A design does “designate its environment.” Like Fractal Art, and The Tree of Life, Mother Nature and Human Persons have filled Our Environment with kindred designs and products. ‘The World’ has now become “Our World” in this way.

As such, we can say, and in a way we do say, “Our world is an In-Formation.” All these designs share a common origin and great commonalities of structure. So, in addition, we share an “out look”. We are not primarily Caused to behave when we interact in “our world”; we act Freely and Creatively based on our Communication with our kindred designs. We pick up on All The Information and act upon that! I have argued this is how “to know” by Participating with them, and not by removing ourselves to some supposed lofty outside perch.

For this Participation View of Reality, designed things Represent Their World, and this is a constant feed-back loop. We create and test new approaches. We are very much familiar with this in our own lives, and we intuit it in the other designs around us. It is a mistaken philosophical position to think that we will ever ‘escape’ our representations and get to “the thing-in-itself”. This is not attaining “naked Truth” but a delusion that has held us captive and is no longer of good use. It has torn our world apart, pitting one ‘True Belief’ against another: Christian vs. Muslim, science vs. religion, subjectivity vs. objectivity, value vs. fact.

What is true is what allows us to act more coherently with other members of our culture —politically and morally— and the other cultures we communicate with. What is true is to attain greater compatibility between our different forms of Representation. Religious Fundamentalists are mistaken because their antiquated and literal interpretations clash with the very Cell phones in their pocket and jet aircraft they board to travel at near supersonic speeds. Scientists are often wrong because they think art and morals are simply matters of opinion. The “Far Left” and the “Far Right” are wrong because they believe the other side is simply evil. Our various representations of the world can and need to be modified and refined in light of The Value of Solidarity. Is this not what much of history has been about? In this way, we will achieve lives that are more fulfilled, on the whole.

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THE TREE OF LIFE is a Design ‘design-ating’ Its Environment. It a Whole seeking Fulfillment. Within its In-Formation we are given the cues to our Freedom and Fulfillment.

From the Backyard Sanctuary: Two kinds of Columbine, a Sunflower, a white German Bearded Iris, and a Water Hyacinth in bloom. Living Design creates more Design! Photos by GWW.

Nature and Religion, THERE IS A CONNECTION. (Drawing by Marty)

“Dancing With the Daffodils”

 

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Photos by GWW

In Glorious Disregard to the Corona Virus, the Daffodils are in bloom in Central Ohio!  An excellent example of how each glorious Design in Nature is Oblivious to some things, but very much Concerned with others.  They feel the warmth, the moisture. It’s their time.  They Spring forth and lighten our live, and their own, for a glorious week or two.  I guess I mean, It’s Glorious.  And Wordsworth liked them too (1815).

“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”

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I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Yes, “vacant and pensive moods” is what we have these days!  But the Dafs and the hyacinth and the forsythia are here to help.  All in Glorious Disregard to that Virus! 

Hemerocallis: The Daylily

(Back from vacation!  Thanks for your patience, I needed the break.  This first year of blogging has been very exciting and more tiring than I realized.  Much was accomplished, and yet the Human Freedom Series needs to be finished; hopefully just several additional posts.  This current post sets out in a very different direction, far more accessible, far more enjoyment.  I hope it works for you!  I apologize for some of the layout difficulties, some of them are just insurmountable.  All Flower Photos are by me and taken from The Garden of Sheri and Greg — “our little nature preserve”.   Thanks, GregWW)

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The beautiful goddess of the day — hemerocallis — the daylily, is in bloom in central Ohio.  Gracing the backyard with its ephemeral structure, each blossom lasts only a single unbroken span of daylight, yet, long enough to serve the plant’s purpose —fertilization and reproduction — and our purpose — delight and amazement.

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Hemera, a minor Greek god, goddess of the day.  Painting by William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1881) and ruffles from a large ruffled yellow.

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This Backyard’s Variety

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Large Yellow

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Ruffled Yellow

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Green-Throated Red

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Green tinted Yellow

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Ruffled Orange

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Green-Throated Purple

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Yellow-Throated Red

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Ruffled Pinks

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The Orange or The Old-Fashioned, also known as the Tiger or “road” or “ditch” Lily.

There are 19 species of Daylily, and the plant is native to Asia.  The Orange was first brought to America in the 17th century from England and it, and several other varieties, became subject to intense breeding. There are now over 80,000 registered cultivars!  Soon the original oranges escaped the gardens and populated roadsides and ditches.  That plant is now considered an invasive species.

Ironically, the Daylily is not a true Lily, as are Easter, Asiatic or the Oriental lily.  No longer considered part of the Lilium family the change occurred in 2009 due to genetic analysis.  It is now classified as an ASPARAGUS — Aspragales!   There is some structural similarities and this new classification is more consistent with the little known fact that the daylily can be eaten by humans and has been for possibly thousand of years!

Fresh asparagus, ready for preparation.

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The daylily flower stalk (right) resembles the flower stalk of an asparagus (left) in appearance and structure.  The above is the stalk of a Tiger Lily which I ate this morning, raw, after finding out they were edible.  Being a fan of raw and fresh asparagus, I found the consistency similar, but the more developed flower bud of the daylily was more leafy and lettuce-like upon eating than the asparagus and left a rather tangy, pepper-like, and pleasant aftertaste.

Size

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From the 6-7 inch wingspan of the above purple, to the 3-4 inch diameter of the above yellow-throated red, different daylily flowers vary greatly in size.  Their flower stalks can range from almost knee-high to those of the Tiger Lily which often soar above much of the rest of the garden at and above 4 feet.

Structure

One of the great joys of the Hemerocallis is it dramatic settings of Pistil and Stamen.

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These male and female parts flow from the throat of the flower with the pistil, the female part, always extending far beyond the male part, the stamen.  The Stigma of the pistil is its extended tip.  Here is where the pollen must land and almost literally take root.  The stigma is sticky and the pollen that lands there then grows a Pollen Tube that must traverse the length of the pistil, called the Style, to the ovary and its egg deep in the throat at the base of the flower.  The stigma is difficult to photograph, for me, due to its small size and luminous, glowing, surface.

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Avoiding self-fertilization, the female pistil extends far beyond the male stamen.

Mother Nature, in the design of the daylily, has chosen to follow a rule not often duplicated in many other flowering plants.  She, like the nuns at my Catholic grade school, has chosen to keep the boys and girls far apart at recess, in an effort to forestall any easy fertilization.  The longest pistil in my garden was over 4 inches in length, running far ahead of the stamen.

The stamen are a different story; they are dramatic and easy to photograph among all the contrasting colors and shapes.

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There are always 6 stamen, each composed of its Anther that tops its Filament.  The anther is, of course, the pollen producing organ. and it often displays noted markings and can be loaded with yellow pollen grains .

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Ruffles have been a characteristic sought and developed through Selective Breeding.  A cultivar is a variety of plant developed through the efforts of human breeders.  In the wild, Nature Selects the characteristics of living things  — the process of natural selection — but as is true of so much around us now,  humans select and design much of our own world (see post 5, “Advantages Within the Human Social Organism” in the Human Freedom Series).  This is certainly true of the Hemerocallis, with its 80,000 cultivars!  Ruffles, colors, sizes, bloom rate and repetition, all have been intelligently designed through breeding.

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But Selective Breeding comes at a cost.  It is through a brief description of the method that this cost may become evident.

A good Breeding Line of daylily will focus on a goal of enhancing a particular characteristic, say ruffles.  The breeder will seek to enhance the depth, the color, the definition, along with the reliability of each offspring having that ruffle; along with diminished unfavorable traits.

This is accomplished through some out-crosses, but mostly inbreeding.  A sibling-cross is the deliberate fertilization of a plant with the pollen of its sister/brother, in other words, plants with the same parent each with strong ruffles.   A back-cross is a parent being fertilized  by the pollen of one of its offspring displaying strong ruffles (or the offspring being fertilized by its parent’s pollen).  This inbreeding is repeated many times to secure a strong line of breeders for that traitThe result can be a good breading line, but also sterility.  These plants are no longer capable of reproducing sexually through seeds, but still capable of asexual reproduction through side-shoots.

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The daylily starts to push its finger-like foliage from the soil in mid spring here in central Ohio.  By time of flower bloom these leaves are about an inch wide, arching from the ground and then bending back ground-ward; their peak no higher than the knee but often lower.

By mid to later June, flower shoots begin to appear   IMG_E4771and rapidly stretch upward.  Their increasing maturity is apparent day by day.

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The blossom below (left) will open the following day.  The flower below (right) is in the act of opening early after the sun has risen.

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By later June, weather depending of course. flowers on some varieties will begin to open.  Each stalk will contain 4 – 6 buds that hopefully, and usually, will open in succession.  Total bloom time in central Ohio is about 4 – 5 weeks or from later June to about end of July.

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But as stated, the run of a single blossom is only a day.  The question now is “Has it been fertilized and will it set seed?”  First, the wilted flower must be left on, no dead-heading if you want your lilies to go to seed.  If all goes well, at the base of the flower a seed pod will begin to appear.  It takes 40 – 60 days for that pod to mature at which point it will dry and  begin to crack open.

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IMG_E4810 (1)Some experienced breeders contend Daylily seeds germinate better after experiencing  a stretch of cold weather.  They recommend seeds be put in the refrigerator for at least one month.  Others contend that seeds can be put directly into the ground or a paper towel and kept moist till germination in about 1-2 weeks.  I have no personal experience with this, but can happily report that the experiment is now under way in my backyard and refrigerator.

Reflecting Upon My Practice of Growing the Hemerocallis

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As writing this  blog, I began to think back on my own methods of growing Daylilies.   As has been contended on this site, Self-Reflection is what separates we humans from the rest of the animal kingdom and poor plants are left even farther behind.  I came upon several insights.

One of them was quite shocking.  I had no seed pods on any of my daylilies!  None.  In our 12 patches, we had not a single pod.IMG_E4819  At first, I though about sterility, but then soon realized that it was our meticulous habit of dead-heading. Nothing inhibits the enjoyment of the day’s fresh bloom, like the wilted mess of yesterday’s expired beauty right next to it.  Without allowing the faded flower, the seed pod cannot form.

As I began to think of this further, I felt some concern, maybe guilt, that our practice had so seriously disrupted Nature’s Cycle, Nature’s Goal.  The flower’s Purpose is the sexual reproduction of this organism; its goal is to set seed and disperse them.  Our goal, my goal, was their beauty.  Our Aesthetic Experience had supervened to disrupt this cycle.  Nature’s purpose had been superceded by our own!IMG_E4726 (1)

I have now decided to cut back on dead-heading.  I have started to allow some exhausted blossoms to remain and hopefully go to seed.  Experts contend that approximately half will go into pod production given a good environment.

And this will allow me to start toying with breeding.  Ironically, my realization of the disruption has now motivated me to further exert myself in shaping this organism.   And this, too, is Nature’s Way.  Long before human’s started to consciously breed plants (and animals), animals, including humans, Unconsciously Bred Plants.  The rule of thumb, ‘Eat the fattest and sweetest’ — and other such reasonable impulses — has led to the alteration of most of the plants that we consume.

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The original banana!  Thanks to science alert for photo.

For example, the wild strawberry is minute.  Natural apples are an inch in diameter.  The wild almond is bitter and contains cyanide!  The original banana held sizable and inedible seeds.  The list goes on and on.  And the effort of shaping plants to our use (and animal use, in general) started very early.  Evidence indicates that Peas may have been one of the first domesticated, deliberately grown plants by 8000 B.C.; “olives by 4000 B.C., strawberries during the Middle Ages and pecans not until 1846″, says Jared Diamond in his wonderful book Guns, Germs, and Steel.

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All flower photos are by GregWW and taken in the Garden of Sheri and Greg.

Goodbye to The Hemerocallis for This Year!

As I started this post, the daylily was starting to bloom; as I end it, they too are fading.  August is upon us and only a few of the latest bloomers still thrive.  This post is coming to an end also, and the effort to write it, and display all its photos, was far in excess of what I had anticipated.  I learned much, and enjoyed much.  I hope you did too.

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naturereligionconnection logo drawn by Marty