February 08, 2017

It's Only a Rock Wall ... Or Is It?

mixed media

Nothing exciting is happening in my garden these days ...

Wait!

rock wall

Let's check out the rock wall!

spore capsule 1

Wow, this moss looks lush and vibrant, even in the middle of winter.

spore capsule 2

Up close, it resembles a thick forest landscape.

lichens 1

The lichens are alive and multiplying, too.

lichens 2

As the snow and ice retreat, their pathways and wanderings become colorful and dimensional.

moss hideout

Huh ... moss in a tiny "cave"; I wonder if insects or critters find refuge here?

structure & lichens

Each rock has a unique shape, structure, and colony of life forms.

snow wrap

The snow wraps around like the hug of a warm blanket.

snow receding

I'm curious about all the creatures, plants, and life forms that live between the rock and the snow.

layers of life

Nature offers fascinating collages, draping across the rocks.

sedum & berries

The warmth of the rock encourages Sedums to sprout early.

rock & hard place

And Lamiums caught between a rock and a hard place can thrive even during the bitterest season.

grasses

Shaggy, dormant grasses add winter interest.

collections

Did these tiny collections of sticks, nuts, and fruits occur only through gravity and happenstance, or did a small mammal bring them here?

food & shelter

Some of these spots actually look warm and comfortable. I guess the rock wall is more than simply a pile of cold, hard rock: It's a vibrant, active ecosystem!

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Update: The quality of this video is poor, but perhaps worth including with this post. It shows a Mourning Cloak butterfly checking out the rock wall (for a possible hibernation spot?) a couple of years ago:


Mourning Cloaks are among the few butterflies that overwinter as adults in cold climates. Visit Butterflies and Moths of North America to learn more about them.

52 comments:

  1. Lovely post, there are so many interesting things to see and find on and in a wall, love the mosses and lichens. Imagine been small enough to wonder through the fields and forests of moss..
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thank you, Amanda. Yes, the imagination runs wild when thinking about what the habitat looks like/feels like for a tiny little creature.

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  2. Lesson learned: we shouldn't be too hasty in declaring the garden dormant.

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    1. True! Especially as winter starts warming and early spring begins. Yay!

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  3. If you look close enough, you will always find amazing stuff going on in the garden. I've read that a stone wall is also good habitat for all kinds of insects and small mammals.

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    1. Yes, indeed. I know the chipmunks use it for shelter (there are pros and cons with that, but I have a soft spot for chippers). I've also seen Mourning Cloak butterflies moving around in the cracks during the fall--I'm thinking some overwinter there. I got a few photos/videos of a MC in the rock wall a couple of years ago, but the quality of the recordings wasn't great. Awesome to see, though!

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  4. How exciting to have all that moss and lichen on your rocks. Those little fruiting forms are amazing. They must like the cold. I have noticed that the green on my rocks are beginning to come out too. Nothing as pretty as your rocks though.

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    1. Yes, I love this little microclimate area. My plants at the base of the wall love it, too. The temperature doesn't vary as much from winter through summer, so it's a little easier on them. :)

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  5. Rock is such a wonderful element in the garden and I especially enjoy Pennsylvania Moss Rock, which looks like what you have there. The moss grows right on the rock and adds such a beautiful touch. Your wall is beautiful!

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    1. I'm not sure of the type of rock, actually. I think it's a mix of different types. It was here when we moved in, although we've added a few rocks here and there to fill in and to top it off after settling. I love rock, stone, and brick in gardens. :)

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  6. Oh those are lovely informative beautiful compositions for the uninitiated. It might be surprising for some to see a mixture of lives in the fiercest of conditions, and you beautifuly show them here. And that is not yet including the microorganisms that our eyes can't see. Someone has his blogs on those creatures as well, amazing world indeed!

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    1. Good point about the microorganisms. True macros are always stunningly beautiful, too! It's impossible to be bored with so much to explore! :)

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  7. So many details, a great reward for taking the time to look closer.

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    1. Yes, indeed. I'm not a big fan of winter photography, but when the temps increase above freezing, it's not so bad. Plus, we find fascinating stuff, right? :)

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  8. Oh, it's more! Much more! But, as usual, we have to slow down to appreciate it. Winter is not going to last long enough here this year to suit me. The Okame cherry is already showing color and I saw a Magnolia stallata in bloom yesterday.

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    1. Wow, Magnolias blooming already?! That's too early, even for you! Makes me think it will happen early for us, too. Usually they bloom in April, but maybe it will happen in March. I'm glad when winter is short, but then I always think about how it's not normal and that climate change is real.

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  9. Good for you for doing the winter creep around the garden. When I have my camera in hand, I have Bart in the other. Like most other Jack Russell terriers he has limited interest in wee bits of green, unless he can mark it. Thanks for the reminder that while we may be curled up with a blanket and a book by the fire, there's still bits of life percolating in the garden.

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    1. Yep--you got it...the winter creep. I wasn't excited about much of what I found, until I stared snooping around the rock wall. ;-) Have fun checking out the garden and surroundings with Bart.

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  10. Great post, and inspiring! I have an "expedition" planned for tomorrow to visit a pussy willow in a small canyon on the edge of town (should be in bloom). I will look more closely at the rocks. Btw, which way do your wall/rocks face?

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    1. Hi Hollis: Thanks! The rock wall faces north. This means that it's a very unique microclimate. The temperature doesn't vary as much from deep winter to hot summer. It also has several deciduous trees that shade it. Plants at the base of the wall stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer. It is one of my favorite spots in the garden. Enjoy your expedition!

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  11. Amazing photos, Beth! I always enjoy your "closer looks" at the garden--there is always so much going on there that most of us don't even notice.

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    1. Thanks, Rose! I have to remind myself, too, that there's always something going on even if I don't notice right away. I don't enjoy even going outside in the middle of winter. But when the temps warm a little and the sun is shining, it's not so bad. ;-)

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  12. Lovely to think of tiny creatures sheltering in a cosy rock hollow. There's always something happening in a garden. Super post Beth.

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    1. Thanks! Once I start thinking about it, my imagination paints pictures of little insects and mammals and other living things sleeping and growing--even in the wintertime. It would be fun to do a little children's film about nature and all that goes on in tiny places in winter. :)

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  13. A lovely post! There is always more than meets the eye in the garden.

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    1. Thanks, Karen. Even when we don't see much at first glance, there's so much going on under the snow and the soil (and among the rocks). :)

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  14. Very cool! I love looking at nature close up - there is always more to see and interesting things to find! I love how you can find signs of life, even in unexpected places.

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    1. It's especially fun to do this as the temperatures begin to warm. ;-)

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  15. I want a rock wall! It's a world unto itself. :o) Excellent observations. :o)

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    1. They are fascinating. I have to admit it's one of my favorite parts of this garden. :)

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  16. Your photos are incredible as always. Who knew moss could be so interesting and beautiful? By the way, it's going to be 80 in Raleigh today. So much for winter. Crazy!

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    1. Thank you, Sarah. Oh, I love mosses, too. One of these days, I think I'll spend a little more time photographing them in detail. We are warm lately, too--even here in the north--with highs in the 50s and 60s for many days in a row. Very unusual for us in February!

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  17. In a word, you have good look, and looks at the seeds of spring. I try me. Regards.

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    1. Yes, it's fun to check out the little nooks and crannys of the garden as the weather begins to warm.

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  18. Great post! Wouldn't it be fun to be the size of a small critter (temporarily!) and explore the landscape that grows on your rock wall?! It is an amazing and quite beautiful ecosystem.

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    1. Thanks, Deb. Yes, my imagination runs wild thinking about what the little critters experience. Nature is so fascinating.

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  19. As lovely as any flowers. I love those little moss trees!

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    1. Moss is so awesome! I was noticing huge patches of it today while I was raking.

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  20. I am certain much is snug in the rocks. The snow, like you said, is contributing to a cozy winter home too. Nice tour around your rocks.

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    1. It would be interesting to know how many creatures make this little rock wall home during the winter.

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  21. Hello, nature is beautiful. Love the mosses and lichen. Happy Valentine's Day, enjoy your new week ahead!

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    1. Hi Eileen: I hope you had a great week, too! I agree: Nature never fails to amaze me. :)

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  22. Beautiful photos. I' m likin' the lichens.

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    1. Thanks, Chloris. Tee hee. The quantities of mosses and lichens that survive and thrive during the winter are amazing.

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  23. Nature is always full of surprises! How lovely to find greenery in the middle of winter.

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    1. Yes, indeed. Late winter is fascinating. We are having a major record-breaking warm-up here in the Midwestern U.S. Usually, it's snowy and cold here, but we have a week ahead with highs around 16C-18C. Comfortable, but it seems like definite evidence of climate change.

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  24. Life amongst rocks! Great post, Beth and terrific accompanying photos.

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    1. Thanks, Tina. At the time of this post, not much was happening, but now we're having a major warm-up, with plants poking out of the soil and about to bloom. Crazy for February in Wisconsin!

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  25. What a great post Beth!... Michelle

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    1. Thanks, Michelle. Rock walls are awesome garden features. This one was here when we moved in--it's one of my favorite spots in the garden. :)

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