Sunday, October 28, 2012

Falling Leaves

Weather: Afternoon winds midweek, followed by morning temperatures below freezing yesterday and today; last rain 10/12/12; 10:49 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming: Chamisa, golden hairy asters, chrysanthemums.

What’s still green: Privet, red hot poker, winecup mallow, moss phlox leaves, large flowered soapwort, bouncing Bess, Dutch clover, sweet pea, snapdragon leaves.

What’s red/turning red: Bradford pear, sand cherry, spirea, rose leaves.

What’s grey or blue: Snow-in-summer, pinks, catmint.

What’s yellow/turning yellow: Cottonwood leaves.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: This week fall continued its progression towards the Armageddon that was yesterday morning’s cold temperatures. Afternoon winds continued to knock off the leaves that were ready to be released.

And leaves began to accumulate. Some may rake them; I let them mulch whatever lies below.

In their place, other leaves prepared to fall.

If you only see fall from a car or walking to the house, the darkening cottonwoods and baring trees are all you see. If you look close to the ground, you see more is happening. While some seed capsules remain closed

Most are opening. Seeds are falling below those leaves, hidden from the birds and free to drill themselves into the dry top layer of soil.

Here and there some plant that should know better is still blooming.

But most have finally made the final, self preserving conversion to seed production.

Photographs: All taken 26 October 2012.

1. Empty butterfly milkweed capsules and blanket flowers.

2. Shirley poppy.

3. Peach tree with few leaves left.

4. Peach leaves on the ground.

5. Privet leaves turning yellow; black berries more prominent

6. Blue flax leaves yellowing, with closed seed capsules. Sea lavender flower head at bottom right.

7. Hollyhock seed capsules.

8. Hollyhock flower.

9. Tansy flowers have turned brown.

10. Last of the Heavenly Blue morning glories finally killed by Saturday’s cold.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn Leaves

Weather: Morning temperatures generally just above freezing, last rain 10/12/12; 11:04 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses.

Beyond the walls and fences: Leatherleaf globemallow, goat’s head, chamisa, áñil del muerto, golden hairy asters.

In my yard: California poppies, larkspur, chrysanthemums.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.

Animal sightings: Goldfinches and other small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, other bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: As autumns go, this one has been orderly. When sun angles changed and with them temperatures, annuals and perennials went to send. Then, two weeks ago morning temperatures fell below freezing, killing off all but the most protected annuals and destroying leaves on the imported trees.

Since, the natives and colonized trees and shrubs have been preparing for winter. They slowed their production of chlorophyll. The green drained from the leaves, leaving the hidden pigments. From a distance, the colors are solid.

But sometimes, when the light is right, you can see what has happened, can see the leaves are not as solid as they were.

It isn’t just the red pigments. It’s the more common yellows as well. From a distance, like the far cottonwoods, they look the same. Then, when the light is right, you can see the yellow is really more chartreuse where the green hasn’t quite disappeared.

It isn’t just the trees and shrubs. The pink primroses have been turning red

and the Maximilian sunflowers have been turning yellow.

The animals are responding as well. There don’t seem to many fruit eating birds in this area; it took weeks for the sour cherries to disappear, and the sandcherries and Virginia creeper simply desiccated.

This week, the seed eating goldfinches returned to the Maxes. I can only see them through the window or from a distance. As soon as I’m detected, they rise, maybe a dozen, from within the toppled remains.

The leaves eventually will drop and blow away, or dry, shrivel and be worn away by winter winds. The finches will remain somewhere, showing up in the chocolate flowers after they’ve finished harvesting the sunflowers with some kind of territorial agreement with the resident chickadees.

Photographs: All taken 16 October 2012.
1. Cottonwoods through the leaves of the lilacs.

2. Virginia creeper berries.

3. Sandcherry leaves.

4. Sandcherry leaves in the sun.

5. Lilac leaves.

6. Pink evening primrose leaves.

7. Maximilian sunflower leaves.

8. Goldfinch on a Maximilian sunflower seed head.

9. Catalpa leaves.

10. Tansy flowers turning brown around the edges.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Freeze

Weather: Monday morning temperatures below freezing, strong winds Friday, last rain 10/12/12; 11:17 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses.

Beyond the walls and fences: Leatherleaf globemallow, white and pink bindweeds, goat’s head, chamisa, broom senecio, áñil del muerto, purple and golden hairy asters; cottonwoods yellow along the rive.

In my yard: California poppies, chrysanthemums.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, other bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: Microclimate and temperature gradient are abstract nouns until the first freeze of autumn. Then, as you wander about surveying the damage they become very real, as do all those terms like tender perennial that modern breeding and nursery stocked stores have rendered obsolete in spring.

Zinnias are always the first to go. You expect to see their dead stems and shriveled brown leaves. And they didn’t disappoint. Mine were dead, as were those along a stone wall down the road were dead. But then, my eye was startled by a spot of color. When I investigated, I discovered some near the near gravel drive had somehow survived.

I looked up. Across the drive, where the morning glories should all be dead, there was a bit of blue. It must be the gravel, which is too light colored to absorb heat, has trapped moisture, and that water did retain enough heat to create a protected zone in its immediate area.

The cosmos were the same. Dead where I saw them in the village. Dead when I saw them from the house.

But, when I got closer, I saw mine were only dead at the top. At the base, where the leaves were dense, some flowers survived to finish out their cycle.

And, it is all about going to seed. The native annuals had stopped blooming a while back, so their seeds could be ripening. Even so, some managed one final burst after the freeze, so short the flowers were never seen. Seed heads of goatsbeard and wild lettuce and rabbit weed were visible before noon.

Pods on the butterfly milkweed broke open and released their seeds.

Seed capsules on the fern bush opened. They were rewarded Friday by winds that never stopped.

The trees and shrubs that always suffer the late spring frosts were devastated. The grapes and Virginia creeper are brown, the roses of Sharon leaves are shriveled and gray. But while the temperatures were below freezing, the chilling followed some pattern that left the black locusts and catalpa leaves only partially blasted.

By Saturday morning I could see the yellow of the river cottonwoods from my back porch. When I drove into town, the chamisa was brighter. In one persons yard, where the zinnias had died, the chrysanthemums were revealed. They had been blooming since mid summer, but had blended into their surroundings. Now, they stand alone.

Perennials are different than annuals. What you see after the first freeze isn’t the workings of the laws of physics, but of evolution. Some adapt to our climate by blooming in summer, others in spring. California poppies go dormant in the heat, and resume blooming when sun angles change in late summer. They may continue into early winter, depending on the weather.

Photographs: All taken 10 October 2012.
1. Prickly poppy.

2. Peach tree leaves.

3. Zinnias.

4. Heavenly blue morning glories.

5. Sensation cosmos tops.

6. Sensation cosmos bottoms.

7. Goat’s beard seed head.

8. Butterfly milkweed head, surrounded by blanket flower heads.

9. Fernbush head.

10. Catalpa leaves, some dead, some still green.

11. Single daily chrysanthemum.

12. California poppy.

13. Catmint flowers on plant with some dead leaves, some still alive.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

South Carolina 1: Introduction

When South Carolina congressmen became more vociferous about the false theories of modern science, I began to wonder how Charleston had ever produced the important innovations in botany that underlay its lifestyle: the selection of new types of rice and roses. Periodically, I’ll be publishing the result of my inquiries into the lives of two innovative growers, Hezekiah Maham and John Champneys.

Weather: Gradually cooler weather preparing plants for winter; last rain 9/18/12; 11:37 hours of daylight today.

What’s blooming in the area: Hybrid perpetual roses, silver lace vine, datura, Heavenly Blue morning glory, African marigolds, Maximilian sunflowers, zinnias.

Man in line in the post office Saturday was giving away apples. He, and everyone, have so many they can’t find any takers. He said he finally had figured out how to freeze them.

Beyond the walls and fences: Leatherleaf globemallow, white and pink bindweeds, goat’s head, yellow and white evening primroses, chamisa, snakeweed, broom senecio, áñil del muerto, Tahoka daisies, heath, purple and golden hairy asters.

Leaves on catalpas and cottonwoods turning yellow; Virginia creeper burgundy red.

In my yard: Floribunda and miniature roses, calamintha, California poppies, nasturtium, chocolate flower, blanket flower, black-eyed Susan, chrysanthemum, Sensation and yellow cosmos.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, aptenia, petunias.

Animal sightings: Small brown birds, geckos, bumble bees, other bees, hornets, harvester and small black ants.

Weekly update: V. O. Key suggested South Carolina politics in the 1940's depended more on people’s relations with their neighbors and kinfolk, than it did with class, region, or ideology. In wars, like the American revolution, predicting people’s behavior is impossible without knowing more about their lives than statisticians like to recognize.

Hezekiah Maham was a small planter who represented upcountry Saint Stephen’s parish in the first Provincial Congress in 1775. John Champneys was a merchant who was on the Charles Town committee formed to prepare a militia later that year.

When war threatened in 1776, Maham was elected captain in Isaac Huger’s regiment. When war became reality, Champneys refused to swear an oath of loyalty in 1777 and was banished.

The two men who ended on opposite sides of the war were self-made men who became planters by their early thirties. They differed in that the one grew up in a rural area where he could only succeed if he ingratiated himself with his neighbors, while the other worked in an urban, commercial environment that necessarily made men antagonists.

Hezekiah Maham was born in 1739 in the borderlands between the French settled area of the Santee river (Saint James) and the English Santee (Saint Stephen). The area became more French as Huguenots moved up river. As another generation followed the Santee’s tributaries west into Saint John’s parish, however, more names were Anglicized. His name also appears as Mayham while Pamor became Palmer.

Nothing is known about his father, Nicholas. The name Maham itself is lost in obscurity. One genealogist found it in County Clare, the same area where the Guerins stopped on their way from France to the New World, but he may have confused it with Mahon. We know Hezekiah’s one sister, Elizabeth, married John Cook and another, Ann, married Huguenot John Cahusac. Hezekiah’s first wife was Ann Guerin, who died within two years of their 1758 marriage.

Joseph Johnson says Maham worked for a while as an overseer for Mrs. Sinkler “of St Johns Parish, grand mother of Jas Sinkler, the DuBoses and Glovers.” This would make her Elizabeth Mouzon, first wife of the Huguenot Peter, and the plantation was probably Lifeland. Sinkler’s brother James was granted land at Belvedere, St. John’s, in 1770 and established a retreat from the threat of malaria at Pineville in 1793.

By 1771 Maham was well enough established to be granted land in the area that became Pineville, and marry Mary Palmer, daughter of Catherine Farrell and Thomas Palmer. Thomas was the nephew of the more famous brothers, John and Thomas of Gravel Hill in the Fair Forest swamp, whose sister, Catherine, was the last wife of Peter Sinkler.

Unlike the planter Maham, whose early life is now found primarily in the genealogies and plantation records of descendants of the ancien régime, the merchant Champneys appears only in legal records. I’ve found nothing between his birth in 1743 and his marriage in 1763 to Anne Livingston.

There was a John Champneys who was a free holder in Charleston in 1737, and one who served as the province’s deputy secretary. They could have been the same man, but neither is likely to have been the father of our John who was 7 when the latter died in 1750 at age 77.

There was another John Champneys born in 1743 to John Champneys and Sarah Saunders in Saint Andrews Parish, but his descendants claim he married Amarinthia Lowndes.

Our Champneys went into business with his wife’s father George as Livingston and Champneys in 1763. When the older man died in 1769, his sons were storekeepers in Indian territory, and one can assume his business was related to deerskins or other aspects of that trade.

The younger man was more ambitious and, in 1767, requested a certificate to ship indigo to Bristol under the British bounties that had existed since 1749. A year later we know he was buying rice from planters for resale to Charles Town merchants.

Henry Laurens, the leading merchant and political leader, wrote William Cowles in London in May of 1768 to explain the reason he hadn’t fulfilled his contract for 600 barrels of rice was that Champneys had tried to send him damaged goods. He noted that the man had “try’d more than one trick in delivering rice.”

Later that year, Champneys struck out on his own and Livingston soon denounced him for harming his business. By then, the younger man had invested his profits into commercial real estate and owned the wharf where the older man did business.

In 1773, the overseer at his plantation, Johannes Jacob Zimmerle, was killed when he tried to capture a run-away slave. The land was on the Wando river, which empties into Charleston’s harbor between the Cooper and the ocean. The slave may have been the runaway Champneys advertised as “Banaba, of a yellowish complexion, looks like an Ebo negro.”

For reasons not made clear, he asked the General Assembly to pay for damages to his plantation in 1775. They ruled his request was inflated, and he owned them more for other obligations than they owed him. It was that body’s whose oath he rejected as illegitimate two years later.

We don’t know if he was the duplicitous businessman seen by Laurens, the elder Livingston and the assembly, or if any man who tried to become a factor had to start with the worst suppliers, the ones no one else would handle, until he built a reputation that would attract better ones.

We do know that after Livingston died, his son William moved to Saint Helena, the area at the mouth of the rivers draining into the Atlantic south of Charleston, where he bought indigo to send to Champneys. When he died in 1791, William was “regretted by a numerous and valuable acquaintance” in that area.

E. P. O. “Hans/Johannes Jacob Zimmerle (John Simerly) of SC,”, 31 Aug 2004.

Gueri, Pat. “Some Historical Notes on the Guerin Surname in Co. Clare,” clarelibrary website.

House of Names website. “Maham Coat of Arms and Name History.”

Johnson, Joseph. Traditions and Reminiscences, Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South, 1851.

Key, V. O., Junior. Southern Politics in State and Nation, 1949.

Laurens, Henry. Letter to William Cowles and Company, 9 May 1768, in The Papers of Henry Laurens: September 1, 1765-July 31, 1768, 1976, edited by George C. Rogers, Jr, David R. Chesnutt, and Peggy J. Clark; includes the information on George Livingston.

Webber, Mabel L. Death Notices in “The South Carolina Gazette,” 1766-1774, 1954 edition, on William Livingston.

Photographs: Late summer flowers, all taken 30 September 2012
1. Tansy.

2. Chrysanthemum, partly eaten.

3. Bee on a purple aster.

4. Zinnias.

5. Datura growing in the bunch grasses.

6. Heavenly Blue morning glories.