Saturday, 28 September 2019

Saturday Photo: Asters, the Stars of Fall

 Two sort of asters have sprung into bloom in the last couple of weeks.  The first are the ones to the right which I've been encouraging in our little garden.  They are, I think, called New York asters, but I'm sure I read earlier that they were taken back to France by Samuel de Champlain.  The others, below, bloom a little later and are called New York asters.

My flower books mention that the lovely flowers are found in many forms, which indicates an interesting, varied genetic heritage.  Certainly they do seem to adapt to many habitats.  The way they bloom also is interesting: the ones above first, the ones below just about the time the flowers of the first begin to fade.  This means that bees and other pollinators can go from one to the other in the end-of-summer buffet without a day's lapse of good things.

Evolution is a wonderful thing! So is the way that names change.  In looking a little further, I find that North American asters are now classified as Symphyotrichum, based on genetic analysis.  But as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so an aster will still be the star of a the fall garden.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Saturday Photo: Lesson from Spiders

Don't know much about spiders but I think this time of year they are very busy, spinning webs, capturing prey, and setting up a cozy home for the next generation.

Of course, whoever spun this wonderful web may have a bit of problem with the last part of that charge.  Certainly as soon as the car starts, the web will be blown away.  But it's an example of the perseverance that we all need to make it through this life.  And that's something to remember as the kids demonstrate for action on climate change.

Memo to self: check out the stories of Charlotte and Robert the Bruce for more lessons from spiders.

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Saturday Photo: Good Summer for Bees

The weather is a little wet and cool right now, but one of the advantages of our hot and dry summer is the abundance of flowers and of bees who have feasted on them.

Nobody on my street uses pesticides that I'm aware of: either people don't care much about their little gardens, or they're eco-types who want to do things organically.  This means that every blossom is bee-friendly, and it's clear that they have been enjoying themselves greatly.

This of course is one of the ironies of modern life.  To some extent cities are friendlier to beneficial insects than the countryside.    In Montreal there also has been an increase in beekeeping, so much so that some voices have been raised to call for a cutback. In part this is because there seems to be too much competition between honey bees and native bees.

Don't know what kind of bee is visiting the hydrangea in the photo, but I find it very encouraging to see so many pollen-loving critters, no matter what kind they are.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

Saturday Photo: The Connecticut River and Boundaries, Walrus Talk

The photo is of the Connecticut River which separates New Hampshire and Vermont.  It's just one example of how boundaries--arbitrary and otherwise--divide and influence people.

In this case, the state line is not the middle of the river, but the high water mark on the western side.  This has meant that the good sites for power dams are mostly in New Hampshire, which in turn meant that it was much easier for that state to turn to manufacturing, while Vermont continued as an agricultural state.

I'll be talking about this boundary and others when I take part in one of the CIFAR-The Walrus Talks on Monday Sept. 23 from 7-9 p.m. at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau. The topic is Boundaries and my presentation is titled (at the moment at least) Across the River, the Height of the Land: Physical and Political Boundaries.  Tickets at

And of course boundaries lie at the heart of my new book Frenemy Nations: Love and Hate between Neighbo(u)ring States which the University of Regina Press will be bringing out next month.

NEXT MONTH!  Hard to believe since this project has been in the works for so long. There will be more about the launch later.