Autumnal orchids: Chocolate Drop and Tropical Pointer Spot

This is a special time of the year for my orchids, as many bloom shortly after I move them into their indoor growth chamber. Here are two that I particularly like. Both were found one late summer's day in the bargain bin at my local Lowe's hardware store. While it took a bit of effort to get them up and growing, they grew rapidly and bloomed regularly. The first photo is Cattleya Chocolate Drop and the second one is Lc. Tropical Pointer Spot.

Lc Chocolate Drop, color

Tropical Pointer Spot, color

Both are fragrant, but Spot's aroma is out of this world. (Its blooms aren't bad either, I must say.) Having these flowers now that our weather has decidedly turned wintry is a real treat.

I hope these photos brighten up your day, and thank you for viewing. I welcome your comments.

Best wishes,


Pictures of Pitchers, Plants

As you may know from my previous blogs, I maintain a small, but vibrant bog where I grow venus flytraps (Dionaea muscipula), sundews (Drosera spp.) and a variety of pitcher plants (Sarracenia spp.). All three are desciduous, and require a resting period during the winter. As a result, each year in the autumn when the first frost has arrived, I pack up the plants, and move them into the relative safety of the garage. There they stay, receiving the minimum of sunlight and moisture, until the early spring, when once again they are moved back outdoors.

Their trip indoors occurred a few weeks ago after we received an unusual blast of arctic air that killed any of the remaining green foliage. As I moved the plants, I could not help but stop to photograph a few of them. They're passed their glory for this year, but still hold a unique beauty.

Open wide, color

Gossiping, color

Audrey's Spawn, color

Fascinating to look at, aren't they? I welcome your comments, and until next time, enjoy life.

Best wishes,


Helene Belas -- May 2, 1916 - November 1, 2017

Helene Belas GE portrait, monochrome

My mother, Helene Mary (Guterch) Belas, passed away on November 1, 2017 at the age of 101. While I, her family and friends mourn her passing, we also celebrate a life well-lived. She was born May 2, 1916 in Indian Orchard, MA, the daughter of the late Jacob and Katherine (Bednarz) Guterch. She was the youngest of the three children, watched over by her late sister Wanda and late brother Eugene.

Jacob Guterch family  1918, monochrome

The family moved first to New Haven, CT, and later to Southington, CT, where Jacob and Katherine remained for the remainder of their lives. There, my mother grew up, and when World War II began, enlisted in the Navy WAVES. As a member of the WAVES, my mother was stationed in Washington, DC working at the Navy Dept. as a Yeoman, 2nd class. She often told me how much she enjoyed Washington and her time with the WAVES, having made life-long friends who she visited long after her duty ended in 1946.

Yeoman Belas, monochrome

After the war, my mother returned to civilian life and Southington. She earned a degree from what is now Quinnipiac College, and joined the General Electric Company as an executive secretary. (The first photo in this blog entry is from her GE employment.) During this time -- approx. 1948 to 1950 -- she and her girlfriends frequently traveled and vacationed together. I regret only vague memories of their names: Lola, Elsie, and Polly (Fogliotti, I think) is the best I recall. However, while names escape me, it's very obvious from numerous photographs of their exploits that they enjoyed each others' company, and had a lot of fun together skiing, boating, site seeing, and golfing.

The "girls", monochrome

While golfing at the Southington Country Club in 1950, she met Michael (Mickey) Belas, the man she would ultimately marry in late 1951.

Helene and Michael Belas Wedding, monochrome

Helene and Mickey raised two children: I was born in 1953 and my brother, David, in 1955. After her "boys" grew up, my mother rejoined the workforce, as a teacher's aide working in the Southington School system for many years, and guiding the path of enumerable children who are now adults with kids of their own.

Mom and Bob 1955, monochrome

My parent's marriage of nearly 50 years closed at the passing of my father in 2010. Since his death, my mother lived at Mulberry Gardens of Southington assisted living, where she enjoyed playing bingo, assorted card games and walks around the yards. My mother thrived while at Mulberry Gardens, in large measure due to the never-ending attention given her by my sister-in-law, Lorraine, and her two children, Stephanie (Blanchette) and David Alan. We also deeply thank the staff at Mulberry Gardens for the wonderful care they gave her during her stay.

We said goodbye to my mother this past Saturday, November 4, 2017. She was buried with military honors provided by two Navy seamen and three VFW members, including a flag-draped coffin, a gun salute, and the playing of taps. It was a moving experience, and I'm sure my mother would be pleased.

And so, we celebrate her long and well-lived life, and from her son: Mom, thank you for everything.

Helene Belas June 2017, color

Best wishes,


Orchids of Autumn: Miltonia 'sunset'

Miltonia 'sunset', color

Autumn is truly here. The days are shorter and our weather has finally transitioned from summer to fall. And so, it was time to move my orchid collection indoors, specifically to a basement grow chamber. Before doing so, I couldn't help but capture an image of one of my Miltonia 'sunset' plants. This particular plant is the parent of several others, and was originally bought in the early 1990's. It's one of my oldest and most prolific orchids. As you can see, its flowers are stunning. This year, these plants produced flower spikes in both spring and early autumn. By the way, although the flowers are beautiful to behold, their fragrance smells like cut cilantro, not what many expect from an orchid.

I hope you enjoy 'sunset'. Please leave your comments, and thank you for stopping by.


Orchids of Summer: Mtssa Shelob 'Tolkien', Redux

I had some free time to photograph outdoors with flash and a scrim to soften the sunlight. This orchid still has a beautiful spray of flowers, although they are beginning to show signs of age; aren't we all? I hope you enjoy them.

Mtssa Shelob Tolkien V3, color

Orchids of Summer: Mtssa Shelob 'Tolkien'

Mtssa Shelob 'Tolkien', color

Mtssa Shelob 'Tolkien', color

For those who love big, showy flowers, here is Miltassia Shelob 'Tolkien', named after the giant spider in "The Lord of the Rings". It is the epitome of orchid hybridization gone crazy, in my opinion, with genes from 4 or 5 genera and who knows how many species or cultivars interspersed in this baby. Especially prominent are the characteristics of the spider orchid genus, Brassia, evident in the flower shape that resembles its spider namesake. Not only are the flowers showy, but they're also fragrant, with notes of spice and pepper that permeate the area immediately around the plant in the morning until early afternoon. This spike has five flowers and a bud, but as the plant matures, I anticipate up to 15 flowers per spike, with two spikes blooming at a time. That would be a sight worth seeing.

Thank you for stopping by, and please feel free to leave your thoughts.

Best wishes,


Orchids of Summer: Oncidium boothianum

Oncidium boothianum, color

Oncidium boothianum, color

While I enjoy orchids hybrids, I am a sucker for species plants. They tend to be more difficult to maintain and are often not all that glamorous, yet there is something special that attracts me to them. Case in point: Oncidium boothianum, an orchid from the cloud forests of Venezuela. I acquired this plant over a year ago not knowing what to expect. To be honest, it's kind of a ratty, nondescript plant even as orchids go. But its flowers are something else. While they're small (dime sized), there are hundreds carried on a multiply branched flower spike that, in my plant's case, is about 5 feet tall. It looks like a fountain of yellow, red, and umber flowers right now. I'm still waiting to smell what is reported to be a "strong honey aroma" from these blooms, but even it that doesn't happen, I hope you will agree that the flowers are quite nice.

Oh, one other thing: this plant is not for the impatient grower. That flower spike first appeared in early February when my plants were still indoors. That's seven months waiting for the darn thing to bloom!

Best wishes,


Orchids of Summer: Miltonia clowesii

Miltonia clowesii, color

Miltonia clowesii 2, color

Here's another of my orchids that recently bloomed. Miltonia clowesii is a native to Brazil producing 4 or more flowers on a single flower spike. The small flowers are mildly fragrant and have a rather waxy surface, but are richly colored in purple, bronze, and white. This particular plant surprised me with its flower, as it has had a rough time this summer, with our unusually wet and hot weather. There are three other buds (off camera), giving me hopes that this orchid is here to stay.

Thanks for stopping by.

Best regards,


The Great US Solar Eclipse, August 21, 2017

Here in Maryland, we expect about 80% of the solar disk to be covered by the moon, reaching a maximum at 2:42PM EDT. I had practiced getting my camera set up days before hand and had everything ready for the event. Unfortunately, the weather wasn't the best: it clouded up and sprinkled a bit right up to 2:10PM, just 22 minutes before maximum. Luckily, the rain stopped, and the sun appeared. I immediately set up my camera at the spot I had marked off in my backyard to capture this timelapse of the eclipse as seen from the Baltimore area.

US Solar Eclipse of 2017, color timelapse composite

I hope you enjoyed the eclipse and my photo.

All my best,


Orchids of Summer: "Willette Wong, The Best"

Blc. Willette Wong "The Best", color

Here's another one of my orchids currently in bloom. Blc. Willette Wong "The Best" is an old, award-winning hybrid that's been around for decades. As orchids go, this plant is huge, and its flowers equally large. I'm guessing they're 11 or 12 cm (~ 5"), and certainly the biggest blooms in my collection. Although big and beautiful, the flowers are not fragrant. I have only recently obtained this plant, so I can't say much else, save that it sure is pretty. I hope you'll agree.

Best wishes,


Orchids of Summer: "Helene Belas"

Rhyn. 'Helene Belas', color

In the early 1990's, around 1992 (if my memory is correct), I crossed Cattleya schilleriana and Blc. "Ruben's Verde", and propagated the seeds. Years later, I have 8 or so plants from this cross that is registered with the Royal Horticulture Society as Rhyncholaeliocattleya Helene Belas, in honor of my mother. This hybrid is a vigorous grower that reliably produces two to three large, highly fragrant flowers per spike twice a year (summer and winter). It is beyond measure the most fragrant orchid I own, and I personally find its scent to be out of this world, with a near-perfect blend of spices and sweetness. When it's inside and blooming, you can smell it from just about anywhere in my house. It's flowers strongly resemble those of Laelia species despite the heavy dose of Cattleya genes in its genome. All in all, she's a beaut.

Best wishes,


Orchids of Summer: Leptotes bicolor

Leptotes bicolor, color

Here's another orchid currently in bloom: Leptotes bicolor. It's a miniature, with flowers approx. 2 cm tip to tip, and a native to Brazil, Paraguay, and other areas of South America. I understand that the seed pods of this species have been used in past as a substitute for vanilla (also from the seed pods of another orchid). Many sources say that L. bicolor is fragrant, however so far this has not been the case with my plant. Nonetheless, it does produce handsome flowers imho. I hope you will agree.

Thank you for stopping by,


Tillandsia bulbosa

Tillandsia bulbosa, color

A few of my Tillandsia plants, aka air plants, are showing signs of blooming for the first time. The one shown here is Tillandsia bulbosa, or at least that's the best identification I have been able to come up with. I'm not sure how many flowers it will ultimately have or how long they last. So, I thought I'd better spend the time to photograph it. The result is from a 71-image stack, and I hope you like it.

Good day to you,


Orchids of Summer: Lc Tropical Pointer Spot

Laeliacattleya "Tropical Pointer Spot", color

Several of my orchids are in bloom, and one of my favorites is this one: Laeliacattleya "Tropical Pointer Spot". It's a very reliable bloomer, July and December each year for the many years I've had it in my collection. Its flowers are rather small, but dainty, with a wonderful spicy fragrance that appears each morning from sunrise to approx. noon. This summer it really let loose with a multitude of blooms on several individual plants. Unfortunately, we're having a heat wave with temperatures nearing 100F, which doesn't bode well for the flowers, as they're already showing signs of an early die-off. Such are the woes of the orchid hobbyist.

I hope your flowers are doing well, and you're enjoying the summer too.

Best wishes,


We Interrupt Our Normally Scheduled Broadcast...

Hollofield Trash 1, color

When I started this webpage several years ago, I wanted to keep it focused on photography, nature, and wildlife, leaving statements to others. However, I feel strongly compelled to say something that affects me as well as any lover of nature and wildlife: the wanton dumping of trash in our state parks and wildlife areas. As a hiker and fisherman, I frequent the Patapsco River area and nearby reservoirs and lakes on a weekly basis. At these sites and particularly at the Patapsco River Hollofield area (downstream from the Hollofield bridge), I have witnessed repeated dumping of large amounts of trash often, as seen in the photograph above, directly next to signs clearly stating that doing so is a violation, not to mention an affront to 'common sense'. If this occurred once in a while, I suppose I'd write it off as an aberration, but it doesn't occur occasionally: I see a manifestation of this every time I go out to fish or hike. Fishermen leave their bait containers, plastic water bottles, food wrappers, spent monofilament line, hooks, and lures. Others leave the leftovers from picnics and parties (as witnessed in the photograph). Still other leave religious artifacts and shrines behind. (I learned of the hindu festival of ganesh after wondering why there were clay statues of that hindu god submerged in the Patapsco last year.) I have seen all of these and more littering the streams, banks and areas adjacent to the Patapsco and bodies of water that we use for recreation as well as drinking water supplies, i.e., Liberty and Loch Raven reservoirs. And it disgusts me.

In particular, the Hollofield area of Patapsco State Park is highly trafficked by fishermen, bathers, tubers and kayakers, as well as others seeking a spot for a summertime picnic or other activity. It's wonderful to have such a place as the Patapsco River and the State Park, and to be able to enjoy it and and the natural environment around the area. I think it is reasonable to assume that people who visit Hollofield do so because they enjoy being in this natural setting so close to Baltimore city. So, why would anyone want to diminish the pleasure of communing with nature by leaving their trash behind? Are they under the false belief that their trash is someone else's concern? That it will be picked up and removed by others? What others? Sadly, there are no others, except for a limited number of volunteers and good samaritans who take it upon themselves to remove the trash others leave behind. I thank them for those efforts, and ask everyone to do their part in helping keep these bodies of water free from trash.

Best wishes,




Crocosmia Fireworks

Each year my gardens erupt in a brilliant display of floral fireworks as the Crocosmia bloom. Their small but plentiful red flowers attract hummingbirds and insect pollinators, and are a sure sign that the hot, humid summer weather is here to stay, at least for a while. While I think the flowers are beautiful, the flower buds are equally pretty and interesting. I was out a few evenings ago with my macro setup, and took these photos of some of the buds with their wild reds, greens, and yellows. I hope you enjoy them.

Crocosmia buds 1, color

Crocosmia buds 2, color

Crocosmia buds 3, color

Crocosmia buds 4, color

Crocosmia buds 5, color



The Glowing Spider

Glowing Spider 3, color

Glowing spider 1, color

This species of spider is a frequent inhabitant of my gardens where it makes beautiful orb webs. It's a relatively small spider, probably no more than 1 cm from anterior to posterior leg tips. Oddly, I've never seen the spider's dorsal side, as they build their webs close to plants or other surfaces, making observation of their backs difficult at best. But, their ventral abdomen is really neat: it has patches of yellow that simply glow when light hits them.

I was lucky enough to capture this one while it waited for its next meal by my orchids.



Walking On Fire

Walking On Fire, color

'Tis the season of coneflowers and their pollinators. On an evening stroll through my garden, I spied this small fly on top of an opening blossom.




Droplets, color

You're seeing a highly magnified image of a cluster of tiny water droplets that have adhered to a spider's web in between the leaves of one of my Tillandsia plants. Fascinating, isn't it?

Best wishes,


Day lilies

This time of year is so special. Daylight extends from before 6AM to 9PM and beyond. Dusk is long and its light luxurious. I often find myself wandering in my gardens at this time, listening to the cardinals chirping away before nesting, and watching the soft light illuminate the flowers. It's still early for many of my plants, but the day lilies are in full bloom and magnificent.

Here are a couple of black and white photos I recently took as twilight approached. I really like to present flowers in black and white, as it removes the color aspect while emphasizing shape and textures. I hope you agree.

Day lily #1, black and white

Day lily #2, black and white

Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment, if you wish.