Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Going Home

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I'm back! Where was I for the past few weeks? In my home state of Nebraska, that's where! While not on the top of my list of vacation destinations, the occasional family event (in this case, a sister's wedding) can drag me back. While on the plane, in an attempt to resist the urge to throttle the screaming children in the row behind me, I finally did the math and realized that it had been around 6 years since I'd made it home. One thing I had not counted on...no cell phone service or wi-fi...eeek! It was very strange being "unplugged" for the better part of a week!

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We flew into Omaha, and on our way to one of the most sacred of spots (a Runza Restaurant) I spotted a commercial planting with one of my favorite grasses, Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). I'm not sure if the intensity is due to it being a different cultivar ('Blaze', maybe)? It could also just be the severe weather Nebraska endures...with horribly, hot summers and freezing winters. Either way, I was smitten by that coloring!

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A closer look reveals that the uniform reddish color is actually a rainbow of hues, from red, blue, purple, orange and green...wow! Seeing them up close was amazing. I resolved at that very moment to move my Little Bluestem to a sunnier position in the hell strips next spring (well...I had sort of already decided that after they flopped AGAIN this year). If you are ever looking for a shortish grass...go for Little Bluestem...it's great!

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On the way to my sister's farm, we stopped by my childhood home for a quick visit with my Dad. The house sits outside the nearest "town" (population 1,300) on an acreage.

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It was funny to see a few of the plants I had planted when younger were still going strong...indeed, Dad had divided them and filled in a lot of space! The Sedums and Tiger Lilies in particular made appearances all over the property.

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While we were busy working on the wedding details (if you can describe moving hay bales and stringing lights from barn rafters "details") during most of our stay, I'd occasionally sneak down the long, country driveway to snap a few pics of interesting plants. I was struck by the lovely form and coloring of these seedheads, Gray Coneflower, perhaps?

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I was totally intrigued by these seedheads as well...I remember them from my childhood, but never actually knew their name. After doing a little e-research yesterday, I can (almost) confidently declare them Desmanthus illinoensis (Illinois Bundleflower). They are actually related to Mimosa (which is evident when you see the finely-divided pinnate leaves).

Even the crops can be beautiful...here is Rye Grass waiting to be turned into hay bales.

And here is the resulting hay bale...I was always intrigued by the swirling pattern.

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The effects of a few frosts (or maybe herbicide) were visible in a few plants that had obviously gone over. I was struck by the spare, skeletal beauty of this weed.

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Grasses abound in Nebraska...each ditch of a gravel road can play host to dozens of species, which are at their loveliest at this time of year.

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Mind the barbed wire!

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One of the pastures used for my sister and her husband's cattle sported a nice colony of Little Bluestem...a little hard to see in this shot, the whole field glowed with orange and red when backlit!

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I shifted position and in this photo you can see the rich autumnal coloring of the Little Bluestem. I keep going back and forth about whether or not this is actually Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardii). It was taller than most Little Bluestem (around 4', if memory serves) but not quite the 6' that I've seen Big Bluestem reach...then again, if it had been grazed, it would understandably be shorter.

What about the wedding, you ask? It was really lovely...held outside the couple's house with the reception in their newly-build shed. Above, the happy couple!

The ceremony itself was held just as the sun set, which made for a beautiful service...but also tricky photo conditions!

Fall flowers were the order of the day...as were pumpkins!

The ceremony's setting...bucolic Americana!



  1. ...and then we lit the arbor on fire with million volts of electricity. :)

  2. Great, great post! That grass color is off the charts. Always nice to go back home ... and sneak off to snap some plant shots. Great share!

  3. Very cool trip - where I grew up in Denver, I often found myself driving east towards scenes like that, whether seasonal trips to college or just for a nighttime drive to smell the wheat, grasses, etc. Nice mellow post - the grass scenes you captured incredible.

  4. Thanks for stopping by! I love this post! Absolutely beautiful pictures and great information. I have a few grasses but looks like I need to get more! Jean

  5. Lovely photos. I really like your Dad's setup too. It's always nice to make that visit back.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  6. What a beautiful place to have a wedding. Thanks for sharing your trip home with us. :)

  7. Those photos are lovely and what a task photographing that wedding must have been. It took me 10 years to go back home!

  8. This just made my night. Absolutely stellar.

  9. Looks like Little Bluestem to me. I too love that grass. Great photos. What a beautiful time of year for a wedding. Glad you're back safe and sound and "plugged in" again.

  10. What a wonderful wedding, and a beautiful couple. I can't believe it's been six years since you've been home! I bet your family was thrilled. Your photos are beautiful, even of the barbed wire! The Illinois Bundleflower reminds me of miniature pinecones.

  11. Great post! Andrew keeps promising to take me to Nebraska but so far this is as close as I've gotten. Maybe someday. So were you the official wedding photographer? (should have been).

    And I am in-love with those Illinois Bundleflower seedheads, too cool!

  12. Not that I was lurking, but I saw your other photos on Flikr and it looked like a fun wedding, no stuffiness there. I really appreciate the openess of the plains, and the grasses and the sky. However, I am glad I don't live there, never being a student who took a desk in the middle of the classroom. Give me a seat near the door or the window.

  13. I've never heard of bundleflower, now i'm going have to keep an eye out for it! Also, that bouquet is really pretty!

  14. Gorgeous seedheads - I'm a new appreciator of little bluestem, first in Denver this March and now, in Nebraska. Absolutely lovely photos, Scott...

  15. You really captured the beauty of the farmland.
    What a lovely spot for a wedding.


  16. Nebraska is always where we head in the spring for the migrations. If you've never caught one, you simply must--it's spectacular, particularly around the Kearney area.
    Glad you made it home. And agreed-the grasses there are lovely!

  17. Stunning scenery here! Love the decoration ideas for the wedding, oh my, what a beautiful bride. Probably did you go to be 'unplugged' for a bit. Glad you are home.

  18. Beautiful post, Scott! I love the way the wedding party embraced the setting and location - the hay bales and pumpkins are unassuming and perfect accents. That little bluestem is a gorgeous grass: grasses that change color have always been my favorites and something to enjoy in fall...you know how I struggle with that! My favorite picture is of the barbed wire - it's an eloquent image of your home.

  19. You got some beautiful photos that really capture the beauty and majestic sweep of the farmland. So very different from your stuffed-full of plants, itty-bitty garden. It's rough to be without access to the web.

  20. Thanks for inviting me along on the 'bucolic Americana' tour.

    It's been years since I last drove through Nebraska...
    you've made it look lyrically lovely, Scott!

    Alice's Garden Travel Buzz]]

  21. Beautiful photos, are always.

    No wonder you grew up to love grasses! It must make you feel more at home to have them around your house in the northeast. Funny how our childhood likes resurface.

  22. What beautiful pictures Scott. I love the grasses and seed heads in the fields. The barbed wire fence and posts is a wonderful shot. A Fall wedding makes for some pretty colors. The wedding was beautiful.

  23. Beautiful photos, Scott. I see more than one that would make a great entry for this month's Gardening Gone Wild photo contest.

  24. What an amazing wedding setting, and amazing photos too! Every shot is my envy! WoW!

  25. It's always great to see the plants and places that hold memories for you and something in the way you describe it made me think of my country-ish roots too, even though they are very different. There's something about that connection that we have with the colours and textures of childhood that really came across strongly in this post. Brought back a lot of memories of lying in long grass aged about 7 or 8 and noticing for the first time that all the grasses around my head were wildly different from each other. Up until then I just thought grass was grass, all pretty similar. After that I loved noticing their different colours, heights, seed heads etc.

    Those seed pods you saw were gorgeous, it's no wonder you remember them, such a sculptural shape. They look lot like the way I construct some of my 3D textile works, with seams and pockets that open up to reveal things in the gaps. I've always been a bit obsessed with seeds and pods.

    It was nice to see signs of your earlier planting having been expanded by your Dad. It looked lovely in that autumnal light, as did all the fields and other plants. A lovely golden hued setting for a wedding.

    PS. Glad you like the Icelandic Edible Vistas post. I've been really slack about posting art and craft on my blog (which is what it was originally for) but when you mentioned you'd liked the paper model people I figured I should show you her work since it'd appeal to you miniature love and to the photographer in you. The top shot looked just like the Highlands of Scotland, it's uncanny how much atmosphere she conveys in them.

  26. Some lovely photos. Trips back home are great!

  27. Scott this is the 2nd time I've viewed these - the first time a few days ago on my mobile and I knew I had to come back and view them on a proper screen. I love grasses aswell only many varieties don't do well here. I loved that skeletonized weed shot and that DOF especially in the foreground where all of those grass heads just seem to merge.

    Your sister's wedding looks to have been just beautiful and ever so rustic. Love that blue you've captured in the shot with the moon while they are saying their vows.

  28. Scott, which variety of little bluestem are you growing? 'The Blues' flops for me no matter where it's planted. 'Carousel', 'Prairie Blues', and 'Blue Heaven' are much better about staying upright. Haven't trialed 'Blaze' yet, but it's supposedly upright as well.

    LOVE that last arbor shot. Looks like a magic portal. May have to duplicate something similar for a project I'm working on.

  29. Aaah, I felt like I was there with these beautiful photos. I love the capture of place but mostly the time of year: the light and colors are so obviously Autumn. Going back to my grandparent's place in rural NE Kansas looks so similar to the images here. Love seeing this place through your eyes.

  30. Sounds and looks as if you had a great time Scott. Only your photographic skills could make barbed wire so attractive :) Your sister looks radiant - what an absolutely glorious setting for a wedding ! You are so lucky to live in a country with such wide open sweeping spaces.

  31. So cool on so many levels. Love the wedding setting, love the pastures, the grasses, favorite pic is the barbed wire fencing. Bummer being without cell and wi-fi.
    Bluestem is one of my favorites.

  32. Mmmm, delightful. Your photos capture the mood of fall perfectly. What a nice respite.

  33. There's so much to say about this post. I love the bride's bold, prairie bouquet. And your photos of the fall grasses. The rolling, vast prairie you've depicted so beautifully. The lovely portrait of the bride and groom at sunset. The little bluestem! I just admired its rusty coloring at Bluestem's blog, Plano Prairie Garden: http://planobluestem.blogspot.com/2011/10/my-front-yard-prairie-is-full-of.html Do you know it?

  34. Oh, and like Caroline, I was going to suggest you enter the rye grass for this month's Gardening Gone Wild photo contest: Fill the Frame.

  35. Scott, what a lovely travelogue to one of the few states I've never been to. There's stark beauty in those vistas--quite stunning, as was your sister (and her beau). Thanks for sharing this heartfelt occasion.

  36. Enjoyed your post...beautiful photos!

  37. What beautiful pictures! After seeing them I'm ready for a trip to Nebraska myself. Your sister and BIL's wedding looks beautiful! I love the setting and her bouquet is so pretty.

  38. I love all of your plant photos, Scott... the way you capture the light is just gorgeous. But, as someone who has been looking at wedding dresses recently, I have to gush about how amazing your sister looks! That dress is awesome--and she looks so natural, and happy, and absolutely perfect. Congrats to the happy couple. :)

  39. The ceremony looks like it was beautiful- what a wonderful setting!!! I love that little bluestem grass- we have that here and I really like it.

  40. Norm: Hahahahahaha..ZAP!

    ONG: Thanks…yeah, the Bluestem kept calling me back :-)

    Deset Dweller / David C: Absolutely…there is something freeing about that type of landscape…there is a lot of scope for the imagination.

    J. Smith: Thanks…so glad you liked it…I want those grasses too!

    Sunray Gardens: It was so nice, I only wish I'd had more time for catching-up!

    Racquel: It was lovely, thanks for stopping by :-)

    leavesnbloom: Thanks, wedding photography is always much harder than I think it will be! 10 years, you got me beat!

    Ben: Thanks…glad you liked it :-)

    Grace: Totally, don't you just love Little Bluestem…I wish I had a huge plot of land to create my own little prairie :-)

    HolleyGarden: I know…I couldn't believe it either…it was so great to see all my relatives again…isn't the Bundleflower cute…I think they are rad!

    Loree/Danger Garden: Someday you too will get to witness the rolling prarie :-) Yes…I was all-around gopher and photographer! Aren't those seed heads awesome…I kinda want to plant some just for the seed heads!

    Les: Lurk away ;-) That is pretty much why I left (well, that and other reasons!). I love the prairies…they are uncompromisingly beautiful in their own, stark way, but yes…I'm much more at home among the forests and mountains :-)

    Tom: Totally…it's so cool! I wish I'd been smart enough to get some seed…doh!

    kate: Thanks…Bluestem is a great grass, more so for it's amazing fall color than anything else.

    Anonymous; Thanks, Zoey…glad you liked it!

    Sue: OMG…totally…have you seen the Sand Hill Cranes…SPECTACULAR!

    Darla: I think you are probably right…it was odd at first, but there is something very freeing about being unable to check e-mail!

    MulchMaid: Absolutely, it was very much in tune with the place, which was so nice. I agree on the grasses, my faces are the ones that change color…keeps things interesting. Be strong, we'll all get through winter together :-)

    Alison: Totally…hahaha! It's a big difference, but one I love :-)

  41. Bay Area Tendrils: You know, I don't think I really appreciated it's beauty until I had left…so strange how that happens sometimes.

    Wife, Mother, Gardener: It's so true, I was amazed last year when I realized how much I wanted to plant with grasses…it really is a comfort thing, on some level, I suppose!

    Lona: Thanks so much…I love them too! Fall weddings are the best…there's always something bittersweet about weddings that just goes with the Autumnal mood.

    Caroline: Thanks so much…I'll have to remember that!

    Andrea: Ahh, you're too sweet!

    Cally: Wow…that's totally how I was feeling writing this post…I think it's part of that "trying to get back home" thing we all do from time to time. I was amazed at how visceral the reactions can be to simple things that trigger memories. I have a VERY similar memory of laying in the tall grasses around our house as a child…so funny! Oh…and I LOVE those Edible Vistas…the atmosphere is exactly what amazed me…so fascinating…people never cease to amaze me…what we are capable of!

    Why I garden: Thanks so much…they definitely are…wish they weren't so infrequent :-)

    leavesnbloom: Thanks so much for the compliment…I'm glad you enjoyed them so much…I guess it's a case of the emotional attachment of the photographer coming through in the images :-)

    The Plant Geek: OMG…that is so good to know…'The Blues' is exactly what I have at home! I'm saving those others in my "must -have' list for next year! I've been so frustrated (with myself) because of it's floppiness, but that makes me fell a little better! That last shot is my gratuitous long exposure…they are so much fun!

    LeLo: Indeed, there is something utterly magical about fall, especially in places like the Midwest, where the seasons' change is so sharp.

    Anna: Ahhh, thanks so much…it was a lovely wedding…and yes, we have an amazing varied country!

    Janet, the Queen of Seaford: Thanks so much…yeah, no cell service was a bit crazy for the first few days! Isn't Bluestem just amazing…so lovely.

    Cat: Absolutely, wish we all had more like it!

    Pam/Digging: Thanks so much…and yes…I love Plano Prairie Garden…just discovered it this past year…it was like finding a kindred spirit! I'll have to remember about the photo contest!

    Tom/Tall Clover Farm: That's exactly it, beautiful, but in a very stark sort of way. Glad you enjoyed it :-)

    Amy: So glad you liked it!

    Catherine@AGardenerinProgress: It was such a lovely wedding…I even got just a tad choked up - though I'll totally deny it if you bring it up later ;-)

    Blackswamp_Girl: It was a beautiful dress…I admit, I barely paid any attention at the time, it was so busy, but when looking at the pictures, I fell in love with it too!

    Kacky: It was such a nice wedding, indeed. So glad to find so many Bluestem lovers…unite!

  42. Perfect wedding venue - how amazing is your grasses!!! My FAVOURITE!! The photography was inspiring and my best is also Verbena ....I have the lemno verbena in my veggie patch - apparently helps keep bugs at bay! In one of the first photos, what is that copper pipe structure?? Looks interesting. And thanks for visiting our blog - don't be a stranger!

  43. Not sure how I missed this post. You were just up the road, huh?