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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Sweet Pea Flower Study

Sweet Pea Hedge Bindeweed Dodder nature study @handbookofnaturestudy


Outdoor Hour Challenge

Sweet Pea, Dodder, and Hedge Bindweed Wildflower Study

From the Archives and the More Nature Study – Spring ebook

This week we are going to look at some flowers that are featured in the Handbook of Nature Study that are actually vines. Vines are an interesting study to most of us…be sure to watch the YouTube videos to get your curiosity going!

Use the ideas in this Outdoor Hour Challenge to make careful observations of whichever flower you have access to and then follow up with a nature journal entry.

Hedge Bindweed nature journal example @handbookofnaturestudy

If you would like some inspiration from our family, here is a post from the archives: Wednesday Flower Study – Sweet Peas or this one Hedge Bindweed – Handbook of Nature Study.

More Nature Study Book 3 Cover image

If you have an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership, you have access to the More Nature Study – Spring ebook. The challenge in the ebook has custom notebooking pages for you to use with your vine and flower studies.

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Prickles, Patterns, and Vines in the Garden

This week I had fun gathering lots of interesting images from the garden to share with you. I have been trying to work my way through the Summer Nature Photo Challenge and one of the topics is “something prickly”. The cactus on the left I call Hairy and he lives on my deck…I inherited him from a relative and we think he is over thirty years old. The image on the right is one I actually took at Home Depot as I browsed in the nursery. I love the patterns of the prickles on this cactus!

I have a wide variety of sunflowers this year and they each have their own unique charm…ruffles, bendy petals, variations in color and leaf size…so much to enjoy about our sunflowers.

This is the time of year that I take a morning walk with my cup of coffee, exploring for new things in the garden. As you slow to really enjoy each flower, the patterns of color, petals, and seeds make an impression. Learning to share these things with your children and watching them grow in appreciation is something we all can do and it is easy if you have a cutting flower garden. Let your children cut a single flower, bring it inside and find a vase for it, and then set it on your kitchen table for closer observation and enjoyment.

Climbing vines are a big part of my summer garden. After studying vines with the Outdoor Hour Challenge, I have learned to notice how the vines twine and which direction they twine around the stakes. Each plant is uniform in its twisting direction. I also have a passion flower vine and it doesn’t twine but it uses tendrils to grab onto the stakes.

One last image for you to see….this one is my thistle plant that is blooming and is super pokey! The birds (finches) love the seeds from this plant and I hated to pull it out but I had to. My husband does not always share my love of all things that grow in the yard. He is right that it had already spread enough seed to ensure that there will be more next year without letting the whole area get filled in with thistles. I am a reasonable person so we pulled it all up.

I encourage you all to take a look with fresh eyes at your yard or neighborhood…find some prickles, patterns, and vines to point out to your children. Let them make some oral observations and perhaps gather a pretty flower or two for you kitchen table.

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Wildflower Nature Study – Getting Out and Enjoying the Weather

My lovely hedge bindweed is really spreading out in the area I am allowing it to grow. I know in my heart that it is a weed but when a plant grows all on its own, with no need for lots of water, and has a pretty flower, I am willing to let it have its way. There is a whole lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 139) on hedge bindweed and it is also included in last year’s Vine Nature Study.

These are usually an early spring wildflower but I found a shady spot on our walking trail that had some blooming just this past week. We call them Fairy Lanterns but they are also known as White Globe Lilies. We see this one each year but I don’t think I have it in my nature journal…making a note to add it this week.

Now to the yellow multi-petal flower. I have such a hard time with identifying these sorts of flowers even using a local field guide. I will just enjoy it while it lasts along the trail.

It is the time of year that the Fireweed is blooming in our area…so pretty in its pinkish purple color.

There are two plants that run wild in our area and they are so common that you almost forget to stop and take a look. This is the Purple Vetch that grows like crazy along the roadsides and empty spaces. The second plant is the Sierra Nevada Pea….in shades of pink and purple.

We are enjoying our wildfower and weed grid study and will continue with it all month.

Have you found any wildflowers yet?

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Winter Garden for Wildlife – Part 2 Shelter

Winter gardening for wildlife allows our family to help sustain our local animal community during the long cold winter months when they are looking for their basic needs of food, water, and shelter. In my last Winter Garden For Wildlife post, I shared how we have structured our garden to help encourage wildlife to visit all year long. One of the vital components of a winter garden for wildlife is to create sheltering spots.This often means leaving a little “messiness” in your winter garden. With just a little effort and planning, you can be rewarded with daily visits from the birds and other animals who enjoy your winter garden.

Here are some ideas for you to use in your own winter garden oasis for sheltering spots —–
bushes, rocks, trees, arbor, leaf piles.

Spreading fallen leaves over your flower beds makes a place for birds to forage and other creatures to over-winter. I have observed the towhees and the juncos picking through the leaves looking for something to eat. We even add in a few of the smaller fallen branches to the pile which give additional spots for birds to perch and land under the feeder. If you have access to a few logs, making a log pile would be another option for a variety of creatures to use as shelter.

Rock Shelter for insects and invertebrates @HBNatureStudy

Our rock patches are the perfect place for overwintering creatures to hide in and under.I know there are insects of some kind living in these rocks….I have seen beetles. I also have observed that the Western scrub jays and robins poke around in these rocks which leads me to believe there are some tasty morsels in the rocks for them to enjoy.

large rock shelter mammals invertebrates @HBNatureStudy

Larger rocks allow for creatures to shelter from the winter temperatures and conditions. They seem to find all the nooks and crannies to squeeze into and to use as protection. I have even seen a few lizards out here on the big rocks…not my favorite creatures but still very awesome to see.

Vine Shelter for birds and insects @HBNatureStudy

Although we do prune back the trumpet vines and climbing rose twice a year, we leave it to grow over the winter to allow the birds to perch and shelter. Our main backyard bird feeder is just to the left of the edge of this photo and the birds will use these vines as landing spots on their way to and from the feeder. I have also seen the birds huddled inside the vines when the wind is howling away…they seem all snug tucked up inside. The littler birds escape the larger birds by getting up inside the vines…many layers of shelter going on in this spot of the yard.

Dried plant stem shelter for insects @HBNatureStudy

Leaving dry plant stems in the garden leaves a place for insects and spiders to shelter. I read somewhere that there are insects that will crawl into the hollow stems for shelter through the winter. I have not seen this yet but my eyes are on the alert!

Shrubs shelter for birds mammals and insects @HBNatureStudy

The shrubs and bushes in our yard provide the best protection from the rain and snow. I often will see birds tucked up inside the limbs of the bushes in our yard even in the hardest downpours. There are several spots in the lavender bushes that look like the image above where the birds have created a little hiding spot.

Planning ahead when you are finishing your autumn garden clean-up gives your winter garden a chance to provide the shelter your neighborhood creatures need to survive the cold and wet conditions of the season. Shelter from the wind, rain, snow, ice, and predators is a vital part of any winter garden plan.

Do you have any additional ideas for winter garden shelter for wildlife? 

You may be interested in reading this additional backyard habitat entry:
Making Your Backyard a Wildlife Habitat

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Ant Nature Study- Right in Our Own Backyard

I finally remembered where I had seen lots of ants….on our backyard trumpet vines. This morning I had a chance to go out with Mr. A and take a closer look armed with our cameras and a desire to learn more.

After watching the ants for a few minutes, I realized they were not the only insect enjoying this colorful vine. The honeybees were buzzing right at ear level and even though I knew they were not interested much in me, I felt the need to keep getting out of their way.  They were very active and in the photo above you can see there would be multiple bees in one flower. This one had four!

After coming back inside, we did some research online to reveal why the ants are on the trumpet vine. There seems to be two lines of thinking:
1. The ants are farming aphids that also live on the trumpet vine.
2. The ants are actually partaking of the nectar found in the trumpet vine blossom.

This led to more outdoor time trying to discover which it was in our case.They definitely were interested in the flowers so I think our ants were after the nectar of the flowers.

According to the USDA, the trumpet vine is a habitat to the hummingbird, the butterfly, and the ant.  I thought it was interesting that the USDA also considers the trumpet vine to be an “invasive weed”. We have had trouble with it sending out its sucker roots and coming up in the lawn but we just keep mowing them down.

Of course, Kona needed a little attention when we were out looking for ants. Smile Kona!

We ended up walking around the garden and ticking off a few of our insect grid tasks…and finding two surprising insects which I will save for my grid study entry next week. I love the way we start off looking for something as simple as an ant, find ourselves asking a question that we answer with more research, investigate some more about a plant we have in our backyard, and end up really enjoy our time together. Although we had a focus in mind when we went outside, the nature study part was very relaxed and natural.

Right in our own backyard.

I am going to record the insects we saw on my insect list from the monthly newsletter, make a nature journal entry for the trumpet vine since we did all the research, and mark off several of the squares on our insect grid.

OHC Blog Carnival
Hope you are enjoying your monthly focus on insects this month and don’t forget to send in your blog entries for the carnival.

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Learning about Vines With Nature Study

Vine Sulphur Pea
Vine Study with the Outdoor Hour Challenge

Our world is full of vines…I never noticed how many vines there are in our neighborhood until we focused on vines for the past few weeks during our outdoor time. The vine above is a Common sulphur pea that grows wild in our area and is a native plant. I always just call them sweet peas. These are growing on our hiking trail and they don’t bloom very long since they are on the sunny dry side of the trail. They are a delight while they last.

Vine Blackberry
Blackberry vines – This tangle is right alongside our walking trail. They don’t get a lot of water here on the dry side of the hill so they aren’t very sweet and plump. The wild critters benefit from these patches of blackberries.

I think these are Himalayan blackberries and are an invasive species in our part of the world. I have them in my yard…creeping in wherever I don’t whack them back or chomp them down. I keep a very small manageable patch in my front yard for the birds and for my own early morning picking pleasure in the summer. Nothing like a freshly picked, sun-warmed blackberry for your breakfast.

Vine Sweet Pea
Sweet peas – These are the purple-pink sweet peas that grow wild alongside the walking trail. They come back year after year. I am cultivating a nice patch of them in my backyard, hoping they will fill in a spot with their brightly colored flowers. We read in the Handbook of Nature Study that studying the sweet pea should be a garden lesson so we will save it for the summer. (We did a previous sweet pea study and you can read it here along with my little video.)

Vine Ivy
English ivy – This is a vine that grows over and through our fence from our neighbor’s yard. We spend quite a bit of time cutting it back since we really don’t want ivy taking over our yard. It is pretty and green but that is about all I can say nice about it.

Vine Hedge Bind Weed

Hedge bind weed – We have this growing under our birdfeeder. We are watching it grow and then in a few weeks after it has bloomed we will pull it all out. (I am keeping just a few of the hedge bindweed plants on the advice of a fellow gardener who told me it could quickly take over.) We did a previous study of this plant here: Hedge Bindweed if you want to take a look.
Vetch – This was the plant that led to a complete afternoon of study. We actually have two varieties of vetch along our hiking trail. The one above is Hairy vetch and then we also have Spring vetch.

Vetch 1
The spring vetch almost looks like a small sweet pea (same family, different genus). It took some time to find information on these two vetches because neither plant was in our wildflowers field guide. I presume this is because they are non-native plants. We found this interesting because these two plants are seen everywhere in our area. I have started keeping track in my nature journal of native vs. non-native plants…interesting exercise.

We decided we needed to keep this as an on-going nature study and we will be watching as the hedge bindweed and sweet peas in our garden as they mature over the next few weeks. We have had fun noticing if plants twine in clockwise or counter clockwise directions. It becomes sort of an obsession. Keeping a focus always adds an enjoyable layer to our outdoor time and nature study.

More Nature Study Book 3 Button

Don’t forget to share your Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. All entries done in May are eligible for the next edition. The deadline for entries is 5/30/12 and you can send them directly to me:

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OHC More Nature Study Book 3 – Vine Study

Vine Study Button
More Nature Study Book 3
Vine Study – Sweet peas, Hedge bindweed, and Dodder

Vines: Plants that have the habit of climbing upon other plants or upon sides of houses. Stems of vines are not strong enough to stand alone, seeking support to help get their leaves up into the life-giving sunlight. Some vines climb by twisting their stems around the support plant while others have special “holders” which are called tendrils. 

Inside Preparation Work:

  • Read these pages in the Handbook of Nature Study to prepare you for this week’s challenge. 1. Sweet Pea: 588-590 (Lesson 164) *vines with tendrils. 2. Hedge Bindweed: 518-520 (Lesson 137) *twining vines. 3. The Dodder or Love Vine: 520-522 (Lesson 138) *tendrils with sucker.
  • If you would like to start your sweet peas from seed, follow the instructions in Lesson 164. This study could then continue into the summer months and end in a study of the sweet pea flower using Lesson 164.
  • Read this page and view the images: How Vines Climb. You can watch these videos on YouTube: Twining Motion of Vines, Morning Glory Stop Motion, Time Lapse of Cucumber Tendril (Beware: 1812 Overture plays loudly.)
  • You can see some of our sweet peas in this entry: Sweet Peas and Blackberries.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  • Use your outdoor time for this challenge to explore your yard and neighborhood looking for vines of any kind. Don’t worry if you can’t find a sweet pea, dodder, or hedge bindweed but apply your knowledge and vocabulary to any vines you do find.
  • Make sure to observe closely how the vine climbs. If the vine is a twining vine, note which direction the vine wraps itself around the support plant. If the vine has tendrils, note their color, size, and direction.
  • Optional: Plant sweet pea or morning glory seeds for your own vines to observe over the next few months.

Follow-Up Activity:

  • Follow up your outdoor time with the opportunity to record an entry in your nature journal with your vine observations. Ebook Users: You can use the vocabulary found on the chart in the ebook.
  • Advanced study: Research more vines and how they climb (How Plants Climb). Summarize your information in your nature journal.
  • Advanced study: Make your own time lapse video of a vine twining or using its tendrils.
  • If you planted sweet pea or morning glory seeds, continue to record their growth over the next few months in your nature journal.

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Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Hedge Bindweed – Handbook of Nature Study

Hedge bindweed 6 11 (4)

We have hedge bindweed growing under our birdfeeder. I am guessing the seed came for our seed mix and now it is establishing itself under the feeder. It is such a pretty pink flower that I am tempted to let it grow but I am a little concerned that it will spread into other parts of the yard.

We looked it up in the Handbook of Nature Study (Lesson 129)and here are some points we gleaned:

  • When the bindweed doesn’t find something to support it up in the air, it will grow in a mat on the ground. Anna Botsford Comstock says that it makes an “exquisite pattern”.
  • She says that it winds itself in a clockwise manner as it twines around its support. We had to go look.
  • The leaves are arrow-shaped, glossy and perfect.
  • The flower bud is twisted….another great thing to observe!
  • She wrote that the pollen is white and looks like pearls under a microscope. We took a look at this too.

Hedge bindweed 6 11 (1)
She suggests two things, one we did right away and one we will be doing as an on-going project.

Hedge bindweed nature journal
Watercolor for the nature journal

Hedge bindweed 6 11 (3)
Compare the hedge bindweed to the morning glory. We have a pot of morning glories started on the front deck so as the vine appears and we see how it attaches to the railing we can make some comparisons.

This was another quick and easy nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study.

I also found the notebook page from’s Weeds and Wildflowers set to be handy to quickly jot down the points we observed in our study.

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Wednesday Flower Study #9: Sweet Peas

We have some sweet pea vines in our front yard but they are not blooming yet. There is a spot where they are growing wild alongside the roadway nearby so we were able to get a small piece of a vine with blossoms and buds to observe and then draw into our nature journals.

“The sweet pea has some of its leaflets changed to tendrils which hold it to the trellis. Its flower is like that of the clover, the upper petal forming the banner, the two side petals the wings, and the two united lower petals the keel which protects the stamens and the pistil.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 589

Want to see a demonstration? Here is a very short video we made showing the different parts of the sweet pea flower.

“In nature study the work begins with any plant or creature which chances to interest the pupil.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 5

The above sweet pea sketch is from Amanda’s nature study from many, many years ago. She is a flower girl and her journals have always been filled with colorful blooms of all kinds.

I love the delicate colors of this flower as it matures and blossoms.

Can you see the flower parts there between the wing petals?

The sweet pea is now safely recorded in our nature journals. This was a perfect study for this morning in the cool air in the shade. The afternoons are getting hot so our nature study is going to be limited to early morning and the evening hours from now on.

I copied the poem about sweet peas from the Handbook of Nature Study section on sweet peas. I think it describes this flower perfectly.

In other garden news…….

The garden is growing in this hot weather.

Our sunflowers are growing at an incredible rate right now.

The sweet smell and taste of ripe strawberries are a daily occurrence. Lovely, just lovely.

So a little late today for my entry but we have been busy with finishing up term exams and deciding on unit celebration plans. Please feel free to study any flower you have on hand and share your results on Mr. Linky so I can pop over and check it out. You can also just leave me a comment if you wish.

If you want to see our original list of flowers with links to all the entries, here you go:
Wednesday Flower Study

Our family has one more Wednesday Flower Study to complete next week and then we will be focusing on something else…not sure what yet but something close at hand. 🙂

Vine Nature Study Sweet Peas @handbookofnaturestudy

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Morning Glories and Passion Flowers

This morning I noticed for the first time that the newly transplanted passion flower is starting to cling to the garden arch that my husband made for me a few weeks ago.

I love the twirly little way it sends out its tendrils to grab the bars of the arch.

I also was interested to find that my morning glories are starting to get their first true leaves and how differently they are shaped than the emerging leaves.

I was looking in the Handbook of Nature Study for morning glories but couldn’t find them directly listed, except for a little mention in the hedge bindweed section on pages 518-519. But the description of the leaves sounds just like the morning glory plant.


“The leaves are arrow-shaped, with two long backward and outward projecting points, or “ears”, which are often gracefully lobed. “

We are really enjoying our study of garden flowers this year. We always have a garden but this time with the focus on learning each plants name, the names of their parts, and a little about it, we are seeing so much more.

I can’t resist sharing my new birdfeeder station with you. My husband picked up the pole to hang the feeders on and I chose two different kinds of feeders, hoping to attract a different kind of bird to our yard. We are also going to be planting the Thompson Seedless grapes on a short fence in this little spot to add a little green and shelter for the birds. The vines on the fence will also hide the ugly green propane tank you see on the right of the photo. 🙂

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