Saturday, June 24, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: Fish Crow Bowls!

As you know, I am Corvid Fangirl. Bigtime. Our local crows are Corvus ossifragus, the Fish Crow. They are playful, intelligent, and highly sociable. Our local Clan Munin has two new fledglings this year, which I named Hoppin and Pippin. They are on the sand dune right now, hunting ghost crabs and bugs. Brunch! They have found good use for my avian cooling station during this hot spring, also.
Hopping in for a second bath.

And then a third....
To mark the end of nesting season, I designed and made Fish Crow bowls. Duncan has a great glaze called Shimmer Black Diamond which has flashes of deep blue, just like a crow's feathers. You can't see it in photos, but it's great IRL.
Fish Crow Bowl central design.

Greenware bowls.

Finished Fish Crow Bowls and SeaCeramic beads.
Have a wonderful weekend walkabout and enjoy the company of your local birds!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Five Years and Counting: A Big Thank You to My Readers!!

I can't believe I've been keeping this blog for 5 years! I'm so happy you've found a spot to learn more about Tillandsias and Mesembs, and share in my gardening adventures. I hope you have enjoyed the posts on all sorts of sundry and various things of passing or abiding interest to me, your humble blogger!
Our celebrity Mesemb, Babytoes
So a big shout-out to my readers and followers, and a big bloom from Babytoes, perhaps the first internet celebrity Mesemb?? Or is that going too far? ;-)

And yes, I still grow Lithops. I've come to feel, however, that it's best to support policies and laws that support their wild environment, where they grow best. Growing them at home certainly improves their fan base and helps more people become aware of how precious and amazing these little plants are. So let's grow some more! I think we can all agree on more Lithops in the world....
My sand dune at night. Painting by MRobb


Mesembs in bloom
Learning about all sorts of Mesembs and cacti is a wonderful hobby, and I'm going to continue, most likely, for the rest of my life. Tillandsias are native to my area, and frankly, I'm running out of space to grow them, as they are extremely happy in my home and garden. So you'll be reading more about them, too.
Los Tres Amigos.
And my artwork and pottery continue, so thank you for your wonderful compliments.

So have a wonderful weekend walkabout, and once again, thank you so much! See you soon!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: The Avian Cooling Station

We're in an extreme drought. That's the actual, scientific category name. Extreme Drought. And yeah, it's hot, too.
But we have A/C and fresh water (for now). The birds don't. Nesting season has come smack in the center of this drought, the worst since the 1800s. Birds suffer heat stress and dehydration and can easily die from it. If you see a bird with its bill open, it's suffering from heat stress. How to help our avian neighbors? With an Avian Cooling Station!
By keeping a patch of lawn green and unmowed, the small reptiles, insects and bugs that ibises and other birds need can thrive. Letting some backyard go to seed gives the seed-eating birds some desperately needed food. Here are some local ibises getting some tasty grubs for breakfast.
Here's a local mourning dove taking a bath. Bird mite populations have exploded in the hot dry weather. The heavily infested birds need water in the form of rain or baths to keep the mites from making them anemic. (FYI: Bird mites don't affect humans, generally speaking.) The setup is simple. A small lawn sprinkler set on low creates a great bath and doesn't use much water. Several clean basins with fresh water, changed several times a day to prevent the spread of disease. Don't mow the lawn. Plant some native plants. That's it!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mothers' Day and Starting Over With Plumeria

Happy Moms' Day!
As you may remember, my outdoor garden was destroyed by Hurricane Matthew last year. A good friend gave me a piece of her plumeria tree, which was also destroyed by the hurricane. Fortunately, tropical trees like plumeria are smart and know how to regenerate after a nasty storm. This spring, my new plumeria is in bloom!!
All you really need to do is take a big stick of plumeria, dust the base with rooting powder, plant it about 10cm deep in decent, well-drained soil, and water daily until it takes root. Wonderful!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tillies Then and Now: Spanish Moss

Tillandsia usneoides, also known as Spanish Moss, is one of my favorite Tillies. A clump of Spanish Moss is actually a huge congregation of little individuals, growing en masse. A Masse of Moss! Here is my first little bowl of T. usneoides from 2012:
And here it is in 2017. It likes to capture other Tillies, such as this T. intermedia. After a few weeks, it's impossible to untangle the plants, but they seem to do all right together.
Spanish Moss is a natural air filter- it pulls all sorts of junk out of the air, even heavy metals. This makes it very helpful at times like these, when we are in a severe drought, with lots of wildfires spewing ash and smoke into the air. I wish I had enough Spanish Moss to cover the walls of my house! It's being used as a natural bio-filter in Asia, and of course, helps improve the oxygen levels in cities where oxygen is low. Tillies are indeed the future!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Hyacinths of Spring, and a Perfume

As those Alert Gardeners who have kindly followed my blog for awhile know, I always have a pot of hyacinths on my writing desk in springtime. The incomparable scent fills the whole house, and I know that spring has sprung! They change markedly over a few days time, and each stage is wondrous:
Fresh from the florist- this is as neat and tidy as they get, very little scent yet....
Here's the full bloom, with a greener, more floral scent. Starting to scent the house!
A couple days later, and the heavy blossoms have drooped over the side. The scent is even more powerful, with a touch of salt and indoles.
My favorite hyacinth perfume is Serge Lutens Bas de Soie, (Christopher Sheldrake, 2010) which really captures the early phase of the blooms. It's kind of the mean green phase. If you know of one that highlights the later phase with that swoony, salty, indolic richness, let me know in a comment!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Tillies Then and Now: Tillandsia Caput Medusae

Wow, what a difference a few years can make for a Tillie! Here is one of my T. caput medusae- this is one of the more common, sturdy, and beautiful Tillandsias that one can find for sale. They are well worth the effort! So, then and now....
You can see a pup or two, very small. Now fast forward a few years....
Wow! The pups have pupped, and one has bloomed, and now we've got the third generation growing. In terms of size, it has tripled from the earlier version. Not so easy to water now! T. caput medusae can grow into huge clumps of dozens of individuals. They like to hang sideways or upside down, and in the wild, they harbor a lot of ants. Mine is ant-free, and happy enough. I'll keep you updated on its further growth, provided there is still space for me in my living room!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Bloomin' Orchids Indoors and Out, But Why?

Spring is blooming time for most, though not all, of my orchids. Two of my Phals are in mid-bloom. One grows indoors, and the other, outside. What's weird is that though they are the same species, one was languishing indoors with the same care as the other, which thrived. I moved the laggard outdoors and it did very well. Now they're in bloom at the same time, yet totally out of contact with each other. Maybe they just didn't get along??
These two really look like they're having a laugh, don't they?
And these blooms are giving Garden Gnome Jeffrey something to smile about, but he's still frowning. He's always been a grumpy gnome, could be the hurricanes....

Do you have any plants that, though the same species, prefer to live in different environments?

Do We Have Enough Space to Garden? Yes!

This Japanese couple is amazing. For reasons that have nothing to do with gardening, they have a very tiny, yet tall house. They have incorporated vertical gardens. And the wife is an artist! If we put our creativity to work, we can achieve so much! Watch the whole clip to see the gardens---

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Two Sad Notes: Bunns, Chicks, and Tillies (OK, 3 Sad Notes)

There've been a lot of these in past couple years, yes? Perhaps for you, too. Anyway, here goes-
First, there will be no Raven Cam this year. Henry, the husband, flew into a glass window and died of his injuries. The students are debating with their teachers whether to help his widow with their nest, or "let nature take its course", whatever that means these human-dominated days!
No photo, the Raven Cam has been turned off. Most likely permanently.

Second, let's all get the word out about baby bunnies and chicks as Easter presents. NOOOO! Let's go with chocolate, or plushies, instead. As a member of our local rabbit rescue group, I thought I'd share this poem, which pretty much sums it up. Feel free to share, fellow gardeners, and let's save a bunn or chick! Just click on the poem to get the big, readable version:
I'm working on a comprehensive post on "Tillies Then and Now" to show how my Tillie garden has grown and changed over the years. I'll be posting soon, so stay tuned, and remember, Tillies Are the Future! :-)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

(Possibly) Irrelevant New Photographs

I've been trying to catch up with folders of photos I've taken over the past 16 months or so. Yeesh! So here are a few....
This is Fish Crow Munin, of Clan Munin, sittin' on my fence. They are back again this year to nest, hurray!
Pelicans (who are they kidding, they are Pteranodons!) at dawn....
And "Walking the Dogs" in Sarasota, Florida, on vacation, fun!
I'll be back with a proper gardening post in a few days, enjoy your spring or autumn gardens!

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Perfume Post: Gaultier Classique vs. Classique Intense

"This smells like my grandmother!" That's what my DH said when he first smelled Gaultier's Classique, from 1993 by Jacques Cavallier. Now my DH is from Eastern Europe, and he means this phrase as a high compliment. Florientals were well made and worn with pride: his grandma smelled good!
In fact, Cavallier designed Classique with his own grandmother in mind:

"One part dusty loose powder, like my grandmother wore -- I think it was old Coty; one part that smell you get when you are sitting in the front row of the theater -- for me, I think of going to The Chatelet when I was 12, and the curtain goes up, and the hot lights are on the costumes, wigs and sets, and you breathe it all in. And, just to be modern, one part nail polish remover!"

Yup, that nail polish remover bit makes you think the perfume's gone off, but don't worry, it hasn't. This is the perfume that Rita Hayworth could have worn in "Cover Girl" with Gene Kelly in 1944.

Then, suddenly, it was the new millenium, and time for an update. Francis Kurkdjian redesigned it in 2014, and Classique Intense was born. He said it was 40% the old Classique (classic Classique??) and 60% his own stuff. The result? Well, I love them both. The original feels retro and comforting. The Intense, very light and, though the word is now a cliche in perfumery, solar. It really feels like the most intense sort of golden light is permeating my skin. Great for mornings when I have a new project going and need to be totally focused. Flankers don't usually add much to the olfactory conversation but Classique/Classique Intense is an exception you should really seek out!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: Infrared Beach and an Owl Cactus???

Well, yeah, it's been a little weird here, I guess. But fear not, I always share the fun.
Conversing, MRobb, mixed media

 Back in the Jurassic when cameras were manually controlled and film was actually made of stuff that you had to develop and print with other stuff, I loved to shoot in infrared. Ordinary scenes (which of course, were never ordinary, I was just used to them) turned sort of...mythical. So I was delighted to learn how to create infrared photographs, digitally. Here is my beach with our handsome terns, beloved winter visitors:
Terns on the Beach, MRobb, 2017
And here's what the scene looks like without all the high-tech tinkering:
Terns 2017
I really love their sassy orange beaks, and little black head tufts...!
In addition to all this, my Mammillaria is still blooming, after many months. Why? I do not know. She tries on different looks. This week, she is clearly an owl:
Mammillaria Owl Cactus, MRobb, 2017
Can a cactus be a frustrated actor? What do you think?

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Weekend Walkabout: Let's Visit the Ant Farm!

Thanks to Alert Gardener Jim from Florida, we are going to learn more about ants today than might make us comfortable:

Hello, fellow gardeners! We all know about ants herding and tending aphids for their nectar. This work demonstrates that ants actively cultivate a supportive, growth-friendly ecosystem for six different species of epiphytic plants in Fiji. The ants manage the growing conditions, disperse the cultivated plants' seeds, and pollinate their flowers. The ants then eat the fruits from their gardens.

Pretty remarkable considering that H. sapiens only mastered the technique about 13,000 years ago!

Ants farming plants     Sacha Vignieri  Science  11/25/16 

Mutualistic interactions between ants and plants are relatively common, most often occurring in plants that produce specific structures for ant occupation. A relationship that more closely approximates farming occurs between ants and fungi, in which ants actively create growing conditions for and propagate the fungal partner. Chomicki and Renner now describe a system in Fiji in which ants in the genus Philidris conduct such gardening activities in six different species of epiphytic plants, often simultaneously. Specifically, they not only manage growing conditions but also disperse and plant seeds and pollinate flowers. This more intensive management helps to ensure reestablishment of plants that provide fruits and resources to the ants and that might otherwise be harder to come by.       Nat. Plants 10.1038/nplants.2016.181 (2016).
Tillies Living Free and in the Wild, MRobb, 2014

Some of my Tillies only do well if they are outside attracting ants. Some do well inside, but only start to pup if they are outside, full of ants! Are the ants bringing them needed nutrition, or are those tickly little feet a signal that it's time to start reproducing? I'd sure like to know, and I'd like to know what that swarm of black ants was doing near my living room window yesterday....
C. Addams from Monster Rally: "Goodness, Murray, it wouldn't be a picnic without ants!"
Have a wonderful weekend walkabout, and be careful what, or who, you step on!


Saturday, February 4, 2017

February Perfume Post: Kenzo Flower and Olympic Orchids Sakura

There's a lot to be said about perfumes that smell nothing like anything in nature. At least, those that work. A hot synthetic mess is no fun to wear and even less fun to smell. But when "unearthly" or "unreal" is part of the brief, some amazing perfumes are born. I'm looking at you, Mugler Cologne! My favorite "unreal" perfume is Kenzo Flower, which is based on an imagined flower that links nature with urbanity:
My Kenzo Flower Collection (bottles mostly empty now)
Alberto Morillas designed Flower in 2000, and as you can see, there are many flankers available, and yup, I've pretty much tried them all, and bought most. Flower smells nothing like an actual flower, though notes of violet and rose are mentioned. It's a synthetic wonder.

There is as much, or more, to be said of perfumes that conjure up a piece of Gaia in her entirety. The designer does not need to use only naturals for this, but must be intimately familiar with the territory she/he wishes to evoke in scent. My favorite indie perfumer, Ellen Covey, excels at this art. Her perfumes can create utterly realistic "scent scenes" and "scents of place". Dr. Covey is also an Alert Gardener, primarily of orchids, and she knows her plants! The Olympic Orchids perfume I am reaching for almost daily this winter is Sakura, an ode to cherry trees in bloom. Not just the flowers, the whole bloomin' orchard, dirt included!
Cherry Trees, MRobb, 2015, mixed media
Cherry blossom perfumes are a staple of late winter and early spring in Europe and Asia. Even the most renowned don't smell much like actual cherry blossoms, and they certainly don't smell anything like the trees themselves, or the ground they grow in! Dr. Covey has included accords for every aspect of a cherry orchard in bloom, and I can attest to its realism. It's a springy heaven for a gloomy winter, and I'm charmed and amazed a perfumer can create such a realistic tableau. Great work!
Olympic Orchids Sakura, photo by MRobb, 2017
If you want to read more about Kenzo Flower or Olympic Orchids Sakura, here are the links:

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Goodbye, Crazy 2016, and Hello 2017!

2016 was one crazy year. For quiet gardeners like you and me, even. Just a few highlights from the garden:

Unprecedented heat. Exceptional aridity. In March, the worst toxic algae event on our river in remembered history. It killed every living thing in the river, and poisoned many of the inhabitants who lived on its shores, including me. I won't show a picture, too heartbreaking.

Then TS Hermine. TS Julia. Hurricane Matthew. And much worse for people living on the islands, especially Haiti and Cuba, and for the Carolinas, Georgia, and Louisiana, than for us here on our sand dune.
TS Hermine approaches.
Munin and Hugin, Fish Crows In Residence
Horseshoe crab in the garden after Hurricane Matthew.
After Matthew roared by (thank you for that wobble!!) the sun came back, the air was cleaner than it's been in years, and I found wonderful paintings by Andy Lakey. Finally, rebuilding it all.  That's some gardening year....
Andy Lakey's cheerful "Brilliant Nature" painting.
Related to gardening, because the garden is probably where we met some bad mosquitoes, Zika Virus roared through my family, turning us into scarlet-speckled aliens with bright red eyes. Not a pleasant disease, but again, much worse for those who were starting or building their families. We lost several beloved family members in 2016 also. We know they're in a good place, but we miss them terribly.
Sooo, with all that in mind, I set to painting my annual New Year watercolor. This one is more subdued than usual, but I like it- It's called "Angels, Blue and Green"- Here's to a peaceful 2017 full of growth and joy!
New Year 2017: Angels in Blue and Green- MRobb