Friday, August 3, 2007

89° and Snow

We're having those 'dog days' of summer you hear about. Hot and sultry and the air stagnates. You can wake up in the morning bounding with energy and five minutes outside zaps it right out of you. The air is as thick as pudding and sends you running back to the comfort of air conditioning.

Dog days got their name because of the constellation Canis Major (Big Dog), which contains the star Sirius, the brightest star in the night sky. In late July, Sirius coincides with the sun and the ancients believed it added to the heat of the sun, making summer days extra hot. So for twenty days before and after, the period of intense heat became known as 'dog days.' Today, dog days occur between July 3rd and August 11th. The exact dates change a bit over time as the earth and stars gradually drift.

So, while dog days have nothing to do with dogs, it's still hot, but here in the flatlands of Ohio, we've got snow!

Euphorbia marginata ('Kilimanjaro') is commonly known as Snow On the Mountain and is an annual I grow every year from seed. It grows smack dab in the middle of Max's Garden and right about now it's glowing. At night, as I look out our second-story bedroom window on a moonlit night, I can see it in all its whiteness, when I can make out nothing else in the garden.

The flowers are quite small and it's the white-margined leaves (bracts) that really make this plant a standout in the garden. It grows quite tall, reaching three feet or more in my garden.

Though it's an annual, Snow On the Mountain will self-seed and if I'd let all the seed pods fall last year instead of collecting most of them, I wouldn't have had to plant any seeds at all this spring. Many of the plants you see in the picture above came up as a result of self-seeding.

A word of caution about this beauty, though. Its milky sap is very irritating to the skin for some people and can cause burn-like blistering when exposed to it, so handle with care!

*Canis Major sky graphic from All The Sky


Anonymous said...

I forgot all about Snow on the Mountain. I used to grow it years ago, and forgotten about it. Thanks for reminding me, I will put it on my list to grow next year.

Alyssa said...

That was a really interesting post about the history of "dog days". I had no idea where the phrase came from. I don't think the sun needs anymore heat right now! Ugh!

Those Snow On The Mountain are just beautiful. (I'd heard them called Snow In Summer.) The garden photo is lovely and they just pop. Things are winding down in my gardens and I'll bet they would be just what I need.

(Oh yes, I couldn't get that bug picture JPeg to work anywhere - kept saying it wasn't valid - so maybe you can post the picture on your blog some time. I'm very curious as to what it looks like.)

Kylee Baumle said...

Alyssa, I didn't really know why they were called dog days either! I just knew it meant it was really hot and sticky weather.

Snow-in-Summer is a different flower - Cerastium tomentosum. I have some of that, too, but I need to move it. Where I have it, it doesn't bloom much and when I've seen it in full bloom elsewhere, it makes me jealous!

Please refresh my memory about the bug picture? I've got a killer headache right now and for the life of me I can't think what you're referring to!

Connie said...

What a gorgeous plant. It is so nostalgic for me, because my grandmother used to grow it. I think this can cause a rash on your skin, though?

Kylee Baumle said...

Connie ~ Yes, it can cause a rash, which is why I posted the caution at the end of the post. I'm always certain to wear gloves when I'm going to be handling this.

kate said...

This is a beautiful flower. I didn't realise there was an annual Euphorbia to be had.

Your photographs are so striking ... I feel as if I could just reach out and touch your flowers through the computer. Amazing...

Unknown said...

Wow... how beautiful! This is the first time I've seen (or heard of) this euphorbia, and it looks so refreshing during these hot days.

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