Photography

Succulent Sunday

combo in the hothouse

combo in the hothouse

Just going to share a couple photos of succulents today.  See more photos at www.flora-file.com

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Hunter

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Pest protection at it’s best. One of my favorite predators stalking through the garden.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

 

The Nature of Texture

Texture is a feeling. Texture is an appearance. Texture is a consistency. Texture implies depth. Texture can be used to describe the look, sound, taste, or feeling of an object. Texture makes things interesting and delights the senses with contrast. There are so many competing textures in the world around us that sometimes they get lost in the sensory overload that is the modern experience, with all its immediacy and umbilical attachments to technology .

But one thing about texture is that it denotes a depth of experience that is best experienced in person, in three dimensions, and for that reason texture is difficult to convey on the flat surface of a video screen. But that will never stop us from trying.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

See more garden textures HERE (on my dedicated garden photography blog)

Aloe Vera Love

aloe flowerI originally bought this little Aloe plant when I was a sophomore in college more than 20 years ago. I remember going down to the local Westside Santa Cruz Nursery and picking out two little succulent plants—a Euphorbia trigona that eventually grew about five feet tall (and I have no idea what happened to), and this little Aloe vera. I wanted to create an indoor plant haven in the breakfast nook area of the house my friends and I had just rented. Every plant placed in that space flourished wildly, and that sunny little breakfast nook soon became known as the jungle room. Every plant in the jungle room was so happy. I even had a coffee plant that flowered and produced about 20 coffee beans, something I’ve never been able to recreate.

Fast forward about five years. I was beating a hasty retreat, having purchased a van and dedicating myself to the lifestyle of a nomadic surf bum, I was finally moving out of that house and liquidating many of my assets. Not trusting this particular collection of roommates, I started giving away many of the plants in the house to responsible non-alcoholic types, including the enormous  Yucca I had brought to college with me.  I wanted to take the Euphorbia to live with me in my van, but its length and spines made it impractical in that small space. So I decided to take my Aloe vera with me instead. After about 2 weeks living in my van it became apparent that the environment was too extreme for the Aloe. It was not happy with the daily temperature swings, and a couple times it had baked in the direct midday sun, a definite no no for an Aloe vera. After only a couple weeks it already looked wilted and sad, shrinking a little everyday instead of growing. I realized I had to give it away if I wanted it to live, so I gave it to a friend that lived close to the Boardwalk. She planted it in sandy ground, in a protected little corner of her yard, and the plant grew with renewed vitality.

A couple years later, when I was no longer living in my van, I was presented with a gift from the same friend, a little Aloe vera pup she had dug out of her yard and potted. I have been doting over it carefully ever since, and it has grown large and impressive for an Aloe vera. It flowers 2-3 times a year, and usually produces about 7 seeds that never sprout. I have a large container full of frozen aloe leaves in my freezer, which has become my way of preserving the leaves broken off during the tumult of life.  I had loved something and let it go, and a little piece of it had made its way back to me.

I’d like to think it loves me too.

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

Zig Zag

“Nature abhors a straight line.” – William Kent (via)

While nature provides many shapes that are pleasing to the eye, such as the parabola, the spiral, and the ellipse, the straight line is far less common in the natural world. It is human’s folly to try to impose such rigid regularity onto our constructs and architecture.

The zig zag is also a pattern that is seen regularly in nature, and sometimes it seems like an attempt at at straight line before the invisible artist that shapes the universe changes it’s mind.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge – Zig Zag

The Age of Grasses

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a path at Bamboo Giant Nursery

My Story about Bamboo

So part of the reason I like bamboo so much (besides the fact that it’s awesome) is that it was the first plant that I started to propagate and sell for cash. The story goes like this.

Once upon a time my Dad went through a Japanese Garden phase, (which is probably the root of my affinity for Japanese gardens), and planted some bamboo next to the patio of the house I grew up in. It was planted in a metal partition that was intended to keep this very aggressive bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) from spreading. But after my Mom and Dad separated and my sis and I went away to college, the yard went feral. Of course the bamboo burst through the partition and started taking over the yard, sending shoots up over fifty feet away from the original planting. Every once in a while the rhizomes would even make it all the way under the house and send up shoots in the front yard.

For years I went over to help my aging mother with the yard maintenance, and I would just cut the bamboo down, and sometimes even dig up the rhizomes. Sometimes I would just grab a stalk of bamboo and start ripping up the long underground roots, like pulling frayed carpet fibers away from the carpet backing. When I was done I would just throw all the boo into the green waste. Then one day I decided to try to put the rhizomes in pots to transplant them. After some simple trial an error in methodology and substrate I achieved a success rate of about 90% with my divisions. I would mix in a lot of sand into the soil mix to help increase drainage, which is very important for almost all species of bamboo. I would go to the dollar store and buy gallon dish tubs, because the bamboo grew better in wide, shallow containers.

Soon I began selling divisions of Golden Bamboo (P. aurea) on Craig’s List, planted in dish tubs, and returned to my Mom’s house about once  a month to restock my supply. I also started selling other plants on Craig’s, but the bamboo was my biggest and most expensive plant for sale. I made almost $1000 selling bamboo in one summer. Not exactly the summer job I had in mind, but from there things started spiraling out of control, not unlike the rhizomes of bamboo tangling through the soil in my Mother’s backyard.

Now, 10 years later, I am a complete plant junkie. I still have many of the divisions of golden bamboo that I dug up. I don’t sell them anymore. Instead I planted them in large pots, and they are all bushy and 8-10 feet tall. They are waiting patiently, I feel, for a careless moment when they can escape their container and begin taking over my yard, the state of California, and eventually the entire planet. I’ve thought about planting some in the earth, but decided I was tired of  breaking shovels trying to dig bamboo out of the ground. For now at least.

Bamboo has gotten such a bad rap as being invasive and rampant, and in many cases its true. Golden Bamboo is considered an invasive weed in many areas, and seeing how it started sending a web of rhizomes out through my Mom’s yard I can understand why.

I’ve also heard it said that if bamboo is so invasive then it would have taken over the world by now. But it is important to remember that the grass family (Poaceae) is relatively new in the plant kingdom, rising to its peculiar prominence during the most recent Cenozoic era. The Cenozoic is commonly known as the ’Age of Mammals’ (with our fauna-centric view of the world), but it could just as easily be called the ’Age of Grasses’. Even though Mammalia is a Class (K-P-Class-O-Family-G-S) and Poaceae is a family (two steps lower on the taxonomic hierarchy), there are twice as many identified species of grass than species of mammals. In fact, familyPoaceae is the fifth largest plant family, and three of the four most important food crops are grasses, not to mention the forage grasses provide for domesticated livestock. Grasses have not only drastically changed the course of human evolution, but the evolution of the entire planet as well.

Bamboo may still take over the world yet. It’s just getting up to speed. All it needs is another million years.

don’t let it escape!

 

Donne Sali

Nothing says summer like heat, whether it’s the atmosphere or the bounty from the garden. With this year’s bumper crop of hot chilies coming in extra spicy and all at once, its good to have a way to preserve that summer heat all year long. These photos are from last year’s crop. I had so many peppers last year that I still have a jar of this chili paste, even though I gave over half the chili paste away to anyone brave enough to take it. One of the biggest problems with growing hot chilies is that the peppers all ripen at the same time, and just one single pepper is way too much fire for one meal. This recipe involves no cooking and will help preserve that summer spice all year round, and you can add just as much at you need.


So you decided to grow hot peppers and now you have way too many. Solution: make donne. Donne is a chili paste made with spicy chilies and preserved with vinegar.

Ingredients:SONY DSC

Chilis, Garlic, Salt, Vinegar

  1. -Cut up chilies and garlic. Be cautious when cutting up very hot chilies. You may even want to use latex gloves.

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  2. -Place peppers and garlic in food processor. Add enough vinegar to allow the chilies to blend evenly. Sprinkle a small amount of salt on top.

  3. -Blend until an even consistency is reached. SONY DSC



  4. -Bottle and refrigerate.

 


The vinegar preserves the chilies and allows the paste to stay edible for up to a year. The flavor and potency will fade a little over time, but usually theSONY DSC paste is so spicy that  it is is barely noticeable.  Depending on how hot the peppers are, this stuff makes Sriracha taste like ketchup.

For this batch I had a bunch of Cherry Bomb peppers that were ripe, which have a very nice sweet flavor but are not overly spicy (I estimate ~2000-3000 Scoville units). To put a little more punch into it I added a couple ripe habaneros. Since this mix is ‘Sweet’, I used rice vinegar, though normally I used distilled white vinegar for a truer flavor.

I’ll be enjoying the peppers from my garden all year. Will you?

Read more about donne and the wild chilies of Guam click HERE.


Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin