Saturday, July 25, 2020

Be Shameless, Bee Red

'Midnight Marvel'
It's a red week here on Garden Musings, with several of ProfessorRoush's favorite bright red plants in full bloom at once.  I began the week stunned by the dinner plate size and brightness of Hibicus 'Midnight Marvel' as she came into full bloom.  This rose mallow is a toddler for me, the entire plant only two years old, but it reached three feet tall and wide for me this summer and it blooms every day with dozens of the most beautiful scarlet-red flowers I can imagine.

'Midnight Marvel'
Bloom, bloom, bloom, across the garden she's a beacon, a "come up and see me sometime" kind of gal.  All that red even spills over into the foliage, more burgundy than green, as if the red in this plant's veins couldn't be contained in the enormous flowers.  She is almost too red for a simple man to witness.

'Honeymoon Deep Red' foreground,
 'Midnight Marvel' background
'Honeymoon Deep Red'
'Midnight Marvel' has a similar but less attractive neighbor sharing her bed, one with equally-large blossoms on a more diminutive form, the frumpy Hibiscus moscheutos 'Ambizu', also known as 'Honeymoon Deep Red'.   These blossoms creep over the crimson line to slightly mauve and, because of that, I find her less attractive.  Alone, her lipstick mauve against the bright green foliage would be satisfactory, but, as you can see in the photo at the right, 'Honeymoon Deep Red' looks a little dumpy next to 'Midnight Marvel', just another poor sister to Cinderella at the Annual Ball.

'Centennial Spirit'
Simultaneous with 'Midnight Marvel', my favorite crape myrtle, Lagerstroemia indica ‘Centennial Spirit’, awakened in a nearby bed.   This morning, looking out my bedroom window, I was momentarily confused by its brightness and thought something new was blooming in the rose garden beyond it.  My sense of unease over something in the garden that didn't fit was compounded by the aftereffects of sleep and it took me a minute of staring to realize the "red" was nearer than the rose garden and, in fact, blazing forth in its expected space.

You don't need to listen to me spout the marvels of  ‘Centennial Spirit’, you need merely to follow the bees to see which red plant they prefer.  'Midnight Marvel', as bright and beautiful as she is, is a sterile wasteland for other life, while 'Centennial Spirit' buzzes with activity.  Bumblebees, smaller bees, and other insects are all over 'Centennial Spirit' in a frenzy, moving quickly from crinkled blossom to blossom, fighting each other to see who gets to the pollen first.  To the eye of Mother Nature, there is no contest for which is the better garden plant.  Look closely to the photograph at the right; see the "sweat bee" hovering nearby, waiting for the gluttonous bumblebee to move over?

I was caught up for a few minutes this morning, trying to capture some decent "bee on crape myrtle" still life photos.  Believe me, these weren't nearly so easy to get as my earlier pictures of bees on my roses.  On roses, bumblebees loiter, crawling over and over the pistils, collecting pollen from a wide area.  On this crape myrtle, it was almost like the plant was too "hot," the bees dropping onto a blossom briefly, but off again often before I could zoom in and focus.  At times like these, I'm thankful most of my photos these days are spontaneous and taken on a nimble iPhone; quick-to-focus and with a fast  "shutter" speed, almost, but not quite, able to freeze the motion of even a bee's wing.  But sometimes, just occasionally, and with lots of luck and patience, there comes a photograph worthy of framing.  Don't you agree?  I think I'll title this one Chub-bee in Red Lace.  Get it?

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