Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Last Sunset of 2015

What a roller-coaster year it's been.... To all my readers, I wish you many blessings and gorgeous gardens in 2016! Happy New Year!
Last Sunset of 2015, My Beach, MRobb

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays!

An encore presentation of the Holiday Lithops, aka We Three Lithops:
We Three Lithops, MRobb
Have a wonderful holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2015

A Simple Rainbow for Monday

Mondays always kinda...well, you know. So here is a simple, lovely rainbow from my sand dune to make it a little better.
Winter Rainbow in the Tropics, MRobb, 2015

Friday, December 18, 2015

Winter Walkabout: Garden Wrap-Up for 2015

It's been a fun year for gardening, most of the time....
My plant poster and motto for 2016 is:

And to prove that gardening is indeed beautiful and beautifying, a few more photos from my photosynthetic travels this year:
Citrus Orchard, Lago di Garda, Italy, MRobb 2015

Infrared Bougainvillea, Italy, MRobb, 2015

Koi and Turtle Pond, Heller Garden, MRobb, 2015

Mountain Saffron, Northern Italy, MRobb, 2015

And of course, some mesembs!
Bodacious Babytoes! MRobb

Monday, December 14, 2015

Holiday Art Part One: Plants = Love

It's great fun painting with the family during the winter holidays. Here's mine for the gardeners....
Plants = Love by MRobb, 2015

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another Sirmione Memory

With a swan!
Sirmione Swan_MRobb_Sept2015

Weekend Walkabout: Sirmione Memories and a Tillie Grandbaby

Today I am reminiscing about my wonderful autumn at Lago di Garda, Italy. This view of the lake from Roman poet Catullus's favorite town, Sirmione, sums it up:
Sirmione, Italy, Billboard by Yoko Ono, photo Marla Robb, 2015
In my own garden, far far away from Bella Italia, the crotons are blooming extravagantly!
Croton in Bloom, MRobb, 2015
And I am happy and proud to report that my Tillandsia intermedia has a grandbaby. Three generations of Tillie in a couple of years. T. intermedia is the one that grows upside down and can pup from either end. Mine has been pupping in pretty much a straight line. They kind of look like pale green squids:
Tillandsia intermedia, MRobb, 2014 (I think)
This Tillie looks high-maintenance but is cared for in the regular Tillie fashion. A few mistings per week, an upside-down perch, fertilizer in the water once a month, and weekly soaks. Moderate sun. Mine hangs in a north-facing window and I'm in Zone 10, USA USDA. So here's the grandbaby!
Tillandsia intermedia pup, MRobb, Dec 2015
Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy some glorious gardens while you're at it!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Lapidaria Blooms!

OK, here's Lapidaria margaretae in full bloom, as promised:

Lapidaria margaretae blooming, MRobb, 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mammillaria elegans blooms!

Mammillaria elegans is a native of Mexico.  They bloom in early winter. And what a sweet "face"!
Mammillaria elegans in bloom, MRobb 2015

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lapidaria margaretae blooms!

L. margaretae was sort of a Holy Grail mesemb for me. The beautiful celadon leaves tipped with pink, exceptional symmetry, and all around cuteness had me looking all over for one. I finally found a tiny, (just 1.5 cm in diameter) decrepit little creature at a nursery sale. For $5. It looked kind of dead, but it was the only one I'd ever seen, so I went ahead and bought it. After a year of nursing and Reiki, it has releafed and bloomed!
Lapidaria margaretae in bloom, MRobb, Nov 2015
Every gardener has a few plants they are particularly proud of. This is sure one of mine! I'll update as the bloom progresses.
Lapidaria are from Namibia and they are cousins to the Lithops. They do not like to live alone, and so this one is housed with some Gibbaeum and an Argyroderma that was rescued from the Death Cart (see the scar on top of the leaf). Laps don't like much water in winter, but more water is welcome in spring and summer. It likes bright, indirect sunlight, and warmth. It also likes to get cold occasionally, but not freeze. That's not going to happen where I live, but I've thought about putting it in the fridge overnight. Probably won't do it, though....

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Annual Perfume Post: A Soft Waft Whilst Traveling

I've been traveling around the globe practically since I was born. And I still love to travel, whether by plane, train, or boat (not by car, though, ugh). I recently went on my very first cruise ever. I can't believe I waited so long.  I had a great time and I’m experiencing Cruise Withdrawal Syndrome even as I type (yes, that is a real thing, I did not make it up)….

Over the past ten years, more of my friends and acquaintances have come down with what I call, as a catch-all-phrase, Olfactory Intolerance. Some have become allergic; some have developed scary autoimmune diseases and strong odors can act as a trigger; some now have adult asthma. These problems pose real ethical dilemmas for perfumistas, and we’ve all struggled with them. During travel, crammed into tight spaces with other members of my species for long periods of time, I’ve been opting for solid perfumes, sometimes even making my own. They are very comforting to the wearer, yet barely perceptible 5cm from the body. 

My mainstays in the solid perfume category were/are Crazylibellule and the Poppies, and Pacifica. Tibetan Mountain Temple accompanies me on every journey. Crazylibellule, while they were still in business, went to the gym with me every day. I was so sad when the company folded in 2010, and I bought up a bunch of their remainder stock, which is now all gone. I also learned to make my own solid perfumes. Thanks to a generous (and fragrant) friend, I’ve rediscovered the Libellules in the form of Le Soft Perfume.

Last year, Isabelle Masson, the founder of Crazylibellule, returned with a new lineup of twist-up solids called Le Soft Perfume. The fragrant cylinders are housed in the same paper batons decorated with whimsical designs and colorful patterns. And happily, they cost around $25 (US). Hurray!
I’ve been test driving “Nemamiah”, which is a sprightly floral citrus gourmand. The notes are mandarin, orange, passionfruit, mango, apple, musk, and amber. It’s really not an ambrosia fruit salad, I swear!  It’s a genuinely soft waft of delicious fruit, gentle musk, and cozy amber. And cozy is what I want when I’m standing in a 2,000-person passport control line! What about you? What fragrance, if any, do you wear in a travelers’ queue or a crowd at the pool?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Tillandsia Gift Cards: Darling or Dreadful??

Lowe's recently began selling small Tillies strapped to plastic cards. They seem to be grown/made by Altman Plants....

Most of the plants were totally squashed by the bungie straps that held them to the card. There were instructions on the back. They directed the proud owner to mist the plant twice a week (the video shows a tiny little mister, ah!), and to fertilize once in a while. No mention of fresh air circulation or light. Hmm... The plants I saw were about 50 percent dead from rot. Not impressed, but what do you think??

Personally, I think it's best to buy Tillies from a reputable nursery (Paul Isley is shown right after the Tillie card advert- I don't think he's connected in any way to Altman.) and make your own habitat for them, based on what's good for them, not convenient for the big box store or giftee.Well, hey, at least they didn't spray paint them obnoxious colors and glue little straw flowers on them....

Friday, October 23, 2015

(Italian) Weekend Walkabout: The Italian Hawk-Moth

Ah, Macroglossum stellatarum, how elusive and mysterious are your ways!


In Italy, skulking about with my camera while my hosts played golf,  I saw a very strange critter flitting through a patch of one of my favorite, exuberant flowers, Lantana! It hovered briefly over a flower and used a long proboscis, or was it a beak, to drink the nectar, then sped on:
Italian Hawk Moth with Lantana, MRobb, 2015
I love hummingbirds and thought, "Could it be? Hummingbird? Or alien life form taking botanical samples?"  Turns out it was actually the Italian Hawk Moth. Who knew? Here's another, clearer, shot from Wikipedia:
Italian Hawk Moth, Wikipedia
They are often mistaken by New World types like me for hummingbirds. Oh, and to make it even more confusing, they actually hum! I heard it hum, it's true. Not Sibelius or anything, but still. Is that weird or what? But what good fortune to meet such a charmingly deceptive creature. Have a wonderful gardening weekend!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The Glorious Giardino Botanico Fondazione André Heller

I call it the Heller Garden, and as it's full of British tourists (garden fanatics like me) this time of year, I'll continue to use the English name.

On my recent trip to Lago di Garda, Italy, I was accidentally sent to the most beautiful small garden I've ever seen. I'd been planning to visit the University of Milan's herbalist garden, because I'm an herbalist-in-training, so that made sense. My friends had no idea there even was such a garden so they took me to the garden they knew about, the Heller Garden, and left me there for the morning. Best mistake ever!
Heller Garden, Rodin Pond, MRobb, XPro, 2015
The Heller Garden was originally the house and garden of Napoleon's dentist, but was bought and completely revamped by Austrian artist Andre Heller in 1988. Mr. Heller brings in works by all sorts of artists, famous and not, and places their works throughout the garden, which is crisscrossed by walking paths, grottoes, bridges and ponds, and lots of other surprises. Here's the Poet's Pond:
Here's an inviting bench in the bamboo forest:
I was delighted to see that both orchids and Tillandsias are featured in the garden. Can you spot the Tillandsia xerographica, and the Spanish Moss?

And can you spot the blogger??
I'll be showing a few more scenes from this delightful place in the next few weeks. If you are ever at Lago di Garda, be sure to visit the garden. I'd recommend going right when it opens, as the light is perfect at that time, and it's not full of people yet!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Weekend Walkabout: Chihuly at Fairchild Tropical Gardens

I have two favorite gardens in the whole world: the Heller Botanical Garden at Lago di Garda, Italy, and the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami, Florida. I am working on a series of the Heller Gardens now, and you'll see them soon. For this weekend, I thought I'd post a few photos of works by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly and his studio that are featured at Fairchild, a wonderful combination of beauty by humans and beauty by nature!

Fairchild and Chihuly, Infrared, MRobb, 2014
They also have the most fun and whimsical Halloween displays at Fairchild:
A Coconut Spider, yikes!
I am happy to say that Tillies, particularly Spanish Moss, are included:
Mossy Ghosties, Fairchild Tropical Gardens

Coconut Husk Beastie, Fairchild Gardens
Have a wonderful weekend in the garden!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Cacti and Succulents Endangered

I was sad to read that quite a few species of cacti and succulents, many of which I've featured on this blog, are endangered because of habitat loss, climate change, and poaching.
Ah, Babytoes!
Los Tres Amigos

Lithops Younglings
You can read about it here:

Always buy plants and seeds from reputable dealers who care about the plants and the environments they evolved in. Make sure they have the correct CITES certificates for what they sell. That way, our grandchildren can enjoy these beautiful plants, too. Happy gardening, and join me in feeling grateful for our wonderful cacti and succulents!
More Lithops

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Chef Riccardo's Taste of the Garden: Fried Squash Blossoms

During my recent trip to Italy, I saw something colorful and interesting in the veggie section of the town's supermarket: vivid orange and green squash blossoms! I asked, "How does anyone except a rabbit or horse eat those??" Chef Riccardo answered my question with a marvelous recipe for Fried Squash Blossom appetizers.
You'll need:
About 20 zucchini blossoms
Olive Oil
a small jar of anchovies

and a thin batter made from:

about a cup of finely milled white flour (00)
about 2/3 cup of carbonated mineral water, very cold
One whole egg
One tablespoon olive oil
a pinch of salt
Beat all ingredients together and keep chilled.

The secret to light and fluffy fried blossoms is the carbonated, chilled water. Once you've blended the batter ingredients, keep that batter cold.

Remove the stems and all tough, green parts from the blossoms.
Open each flower on one side so it can lie flat. Then put one anchovy in the center of each flower and roll them up. Yes, anchovies, I know, I don't usually care for them either, but trust me, they are delicious prepared this way!

Now that you have a series of "squash blossom burritos", you can dip them gently in the chilled batter and fry them on medium heat in olive oil in a frying pan, just a minute or two on each side:

Transfer the fried blossoms onto paper towels to drain, then serve and eat! Absolutely delicious. Thank you, Chef Riccardo!
Squash Blossom Appetizers by Chef Riccardo, 2015