Around the Yard

Bees Made Honeycombs

Sandhill Crane (4 feet tall)

Cottontail Rabbit

Mushroom Fairy Ring

Ladies Tresses (native orchid growing in lawn)

Blooming Agave Spike at Sunset

Pink Hidden Ginger

Sunshine Mimosa Flower

Purple Passion Flower

Front View of Plumeria Flowers

Back Candy-Stripe View of Plumeria Flowers

Rain showers made our yard lush and green and the flowers happy. Here is a little tour of what we see every day.

Huge Night Blooming Cactus Flowers!

Close-up of Cactus Flower

Three Cactus Flowers

Cactus Flowers on Sabal Palm

Daytime Before Blooms Open at Night

It’s that time of year here in Florida – our Queen-of-the-Night cactus is blooming every evening!  This unassuming snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus), which is unremarkable for most of the year, steals the show in early summer.  It is easily propagated because there are rootlets all along the plant.  Each bloom opens and lasts only one night.  The flowers are the size of dinner plates – wow!  

Spectacular Pincushion Flowers!

Leucospermum cordifolium, Yellow Bird

Leucospermum Spider Portrait

Leucospermum Spider Pair

Leucospermum cordifolium (Perry’s Orange)

Leucospermum veldfire: Close-up of Ribbons

Leucospermum erubescens (natural “bouquet” of flowers at various stages of bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (closed bloom)

Leucospermum Tango (open bloom)

Leucospermum grandiflorum (Rainbow Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum luteum (Yellow Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

Leucospermum reflexum (Red Comet / Rocket Pincushion)

The pincushion flowers at the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum are spectacular!  These evergreen shrubs in the genus Leucospermum originated in South Africa.  Proteas are one of the Earth’s oldest families of flowering plants.  The flower structures are incredibly complex and interesting, and heavy nectar attracts birds and insects.  Learn more at:  https://arboretum.ucsc.edu/

Sebastian Inlet State Park Beach Collage

Sebastian Beach Collage

We enjoy going to Sebastian Inlet State Park on Florida’s central Atlantic coast.  It is a spectacular place to visit!  The weather this winter has been especially beautiful.  We made this collage of our favorite scenes at the inlet (click on the picture to enlarge and see details).  Info and live cam links are available at:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/sebastian-inlet-state-park

Bok Tower Gardens at Christmas

Bok Tower and Reflecting Pond

Golden Brass Door at Base of Tower

23K Gold Snake Gnomon Timepiece on Sundial

Pinewood Estate 1940s Sparkly Christmas Tree

Holiday Candles

Poinsettia Courtyard

Orange Bowl with Mr. and Mrs. Claus

Bird-of-Paradise “Red Christmas”

Camellia “Sweetie Pie – Red Stripe”

Red Camellia

Orange/Red Camellia

Pink Azalea

Purple “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”

Yellow Celosia

Beehive Ginger

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake, Wales, Florida, is spectacular over the holidays!  The decorations are beautiful at the Pinewood Estate, and the camellias and azaleas are gorgeous too (peak bloom time is January and February).  Plus the weather can’t be beat!  More info is at:  https://boktowergardens.org/christmas/

Arizona: Life in the Desert

White Winged Dove on Saguaro Flowers

Cluster of Saguaro Flowers

Young Saguaro (100 years old)

Multiple Saguaro Arms

Mature Saguaro (200 years old)

Barrel Cactus Group

Barrel Cactus Flower Smile

Purple Prickly Pear Pad

Reg Manning – Cartoon Cactus Postcard

Reg Manning – Cartoon Elf Owl Nest in Saguaro

Horny Toad on Opuntia Cactus Pad

Desert Spiny Lizard

Sonoran Gopher Snake

Javelina (Peccary) and Twin Piglets

Round Tailed Ground Squirrel

Male Gambel’s Quail

Anna’s Hummingbird on Nest

Desert Pollinators Sign

Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly on Red Salvia

White Datura Flower (Moon Lily)

Cercidium Desert Museum Palo Verde Tree

Giant Easter Lily (Red Cactus Flowers)

The abundance of life in the Arizona desert is amazing!  If you look closely, you will see all kinds of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and plants.  

The cacti in Arizona are especially fascinating.  Barrel cactus act like a compass and usually lean south.  Saguaros come in endless shapes and sizes.  They grow their first arm when they reach 75‑100 years old, and don’t reach full size until the age of 200!  They are 98% water and can survive 4 years without a drink.  Bats pollinate the flowers at night, and hummingbirds visit the flowers during the day.  Sometimes little elf owls and woodpeckers nest inside the cactus – it keeps them nice and cool.  Saguaros are so unique and full of character that a funny cartoon book was written about them by Reg Manning: “What Kinda Cactus Izzat?”.

Although the desert may seem somewhat barren during the dry season, flowers can appear quickly after a rain.  The desert is most beautiful at that time!  We are already planning another visit!

Arizona: Petrified Forest National Park

Painted Desert Overlook

Teepees Rock Formation at Blue Mesa

Blue Mesa Badlands Trail

Photography from Crystal Forest Trail

Petrified Wood Bark and Knot Hole

Sectioned Petrified Logs in Landscape

Sign Describing Who Cut the Wood (no one)

Colorful Petrified Wood

Postcard: Origin of Colors in Petrified Wood

Sign Describing Time to Petrify Wood

Painted Desert Inn

Inn’s Glass Skylight Ceiling with Pottery Designs

Famous Mountain Lion Petroglyph

Newspaper Rock Petroglyphs

Petrified Forest Visitor Center by Architect Neutra

Rock Shop Outside Park

Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona has one of the best concentrations of petrified wood in the world!  One of the largest logs (Old Faithful) is 35 feet long, 10 feet wide, and weighs 44 tons! 

The trees (mostly conifers) were buried in mud during the late Triassic Period 225 million years ago.  The mud contained volcanic ash.  Silica in the ash was absorbed by the wood and crystallized into quartz over time.  This happened through a process called permineralization – the minerals do not actually replace all the organic material, but instead take on the shape of the cells.  Some petrified wood is so perfectly preserved that you can see individual tree rings, bark, and even knot holes!  Color results from minerals in the ash. In general, iron oxides produce red, yellow, orange, and purple; manganese oxide produces black; and pure quartz produces white.  Since petrified wood is so brittle and splits easily, it looks like someone took a chainsaw and cut up logs across the landscape.

A portion of the Painted Desert is contained within the park – scenic badlands with rocks of every color and hue (blue, lavender, red, and pink).  Vivid layered deposits of clay and sandstone make the scenery particularly dramatic.  You can hike through this landscape at Blue Mesa Badlands Trail.

The Painted Desert Visitor Center (at the entrance to the park off I-40) opened in 1963 and was designed by architects Richard Neutra and Robert Alexander.  Large windows let the sun in and high walls keep the wind out.  Neutra is famous for his midcentury modern buildings in Palm Springs and Los Angeles.  Nearby, the Painted Desert Inn National Historic Landmark showcases a variety of historic artifacts.  The Rainbow Forest Complex at the south entrance contains the Rainbow Forest Museum, Visitor Center, Bookstore, Gift Shop, and access to the Giant Logs, Long Logs, and Agate House Trails. 

In June 2018 Petrified Forest National Park was designated an official International Dark Sky Park, which means it is one of the top places in the world for star gazing!  If you would like to enjoy the park’s night sky programming or other park activities, more info is at:  https://www.nps.gov/pefo/planyourvisit/index.htm

A kid’s guide to Petrified Forest National Park is at: https://www.nps.gov/pefo/upload/YoungerStudent2006.pdf

Remember, if you want your own piece of petrified wood, please don’t take it from the park.  There are plenty of rock shops outside the park with an amazing selection for your collection.

Florida: Night Blooming Cactus!

Cactus Blooms Ready to Open

Cactus Flower Extravaganza at Night

Blooms on Snake Vine Climbing up Palm Tree

Night Blooming Cactus Pair of Flowers

Our night blooming cactus was in its full glory this week – 30 HUGE flowers opened at once!  It was spectacular!   In the old days of Florida people would have parties in the evening centered around the blooms.  Our snake vine cactus (Selenicereus pteranthus – Princess of the Night) was grown from a cutting planted only 6 years ago!

Arizona: Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument

Sunset Crater Volcano

Bonito Lava Flow

Yellow-Orange Juniper Mistletoe

Beautiful Weathered Juniper Wood

Tiny White Spider on Lava Flow

Yellow Newberry Twinpod Growing on Cinders

Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument is a beautiful place to visit just north of Flagstaff, Arizona.  The sunset colors reflect the volcano’s composition of silica, iron oxide, and gypsum.  The volcano erupted about 1040-1100 AD .  It is amazing how life returns and survives on the tough conditions of the lava flow!  Information about visiting is at:  https://www.nps.gov/sucr/index.htm  and https://www.livescience.com/50237-sunset-crater-photos.html

Florida: Our Orchid Collection

Purple Phalaenopsis Orchid

Orange and Yellow Sunset Phalaenopsis Orchid

Yellow and Purple Golden Phalaenopsis Orchid

White and Purple Tiger Stripe Phalaenopsis Orchid

Pink, White, and Yellow Brilliant Smile Dendrobium Orchid

White and Purple Angel Moon – Love Letter Dendrobium Orchid

Lady Slipper Atticus Orchid

Fragrant Fringed Star Orchid

Recently we became very interested in orchids and now have a collection on our back porch here in Florida.  Orchids are fascinating on many levels and produce the smallest seeds in the world.  Besides the tropica flora already on our porch, we recently added a tree rose to the area and will soon add a fragrant gardenia.  Our goal is to turn the pool deck into a beautiful lush atrium and relaxing retreat!  A great article about orchid collecting in the Wall Street Journal (Feb 18, 2019) is at:  https://www.wsj.com/articles/roses-are-red-orchids-are-addictive-11550516025?mod=flipboard

California: Huntington Garden Favorites

Chinese Garden’s Scenic Lake

Tranquil Japanese Garden’s Weeping Willow Overhanging Bridge

Japanese Garden’s Entrance to Bamboo Forest Walkway

Historic Mexican Pincushion Garden

Mammillaria Pincushion Cactus with Pink Flowers

Hundreds of Globular Golden Barrel Cacti

Shapes of Barrel Cacti and Agave

Desert Garden’s Blooming Agave

California Praying Mantis on Red Hot Poker Flowers

Matchstick Bromeliad

Sundew Carnivorous Plant

Flock of Wild Red Crowned Parrots in Garden

Sweet Dog Statue Beside Camellia Flowers

Besides favorites detailed previously on roses and orchids at Huntington Gardens, we also enjoyed seeing the Chinese Garden, Japanese Garden, and Desert Garden.  The plants and landscapes are stunning at this California treasure.  Some of the largest specimens were first planted in the 1920’s, and the golden barrel cacti collection is one of the largest in the world.  If you get lucky, you  might see a flock of wild red crowned parrots and hummingbirds too (read about urban parrots in the Los Angeles area at:  https://www.kcet.org/shows/earth-focus/creating-an-urban-ark-for-endangered-species-in-los-angeles). Our anticipated one day visit was not nearly enough, so we returned again a second day.  There are also multiple museums in the garden and so much more to see that is not detailed here.  If you would like to visit, more info is at:  http://www.huntington.org/

Huntington Gardens: Roses

Red and White Striped Rose

Vibrant Pink Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Pink and Cream Rose

Lavender Rose

Peach Rose

Butterscotch Rose

Red Roses

Huntington Gardens’ historic rose garden contains over 1,400 cultivars covered in thousands of blooms.  Two beds are devoted exclusively to fragrant varieties – joy! Roses do exceptionally well in the area, which explains why Pasedena, California, is home to the annual Rose Parade every New Year’s Day.

Florida: Fall Around the Garden

Pink Rose with Rain Drops

Fragrant Yellow Rose

Floating Flower Bowl 1

Floating Flower Bowl 2

Bat Flower

Banana Magnolia (strong fragrance – a favorite!)

Mahoe (Sea Hibiscus)

Tapioca Plant (used to make pudding)

Dwarf Buddha Belly Bamboo

Stapeliad (Starfish) Flower

Blue Dragonfly at Pond

Kingfisher at Pond

Female Quail

We are starting to get our first cool breezes of Fall here in Florida, which makes it great for walking and working in the garden.  Plants love this time of year and grow like crazy!  Click on pictures for more details about the flowers.

Dragon Fruit Cactus

Dragon Fruit Cactus Flowers

Huge Size of Blooms

Pink Ripening Dragon Fruit

Sliced Dragon Fruit Ready to Eat

Sphinx Moth Pollinator (day and night)

Our dragon fruit cactus finally produced fruit! It opened two dinner plate-sized flowers at night in early September.  Each bud was over a foot long!  In the tropics the plant is pollinated by bats, but here in Florida it is pollinated by moths.  Happily I did see two Sphinx moths flying around the flowers in the dark.  

This week we enjoyed eating its beautiful pink dragon fruit.  It tastes something like a slightly sweet pear with poppy seeds.  Our home-grown fruit was much sweeter than the commercial fruit available in the market.   Some great looking recipes are at:  http://www.tfgsf.com/?page_id=546, and an especially promising chocolate cupcake with dragon fruit buttercream frosting recipe is at:  https://sugarandcharm.com/2013/09/chocolate-cupcakes-with-dragon-fruit-buttercream.html

Florida: Fantastic Waterlilies

Lavender Waterlily with “Sunflower” Center

Lovely White Lotus

Yellow Waterlily

Purple Waterlily with Red Center

Red Hibiscus

Vintage Movie: Woman Feeding Deer

Vintage Movie: Chimps Eating at Table

Summer is peak waterlily time at McKee Gardens in Vero Beach, Florida.  Lots of waterlilies are in bloom, along with many other beautiful flowers. There is always something new to see!  The park first opened as McKee Jungle Gardens in 1932 as one of Florida’s earliest roadside attractions.  At that time the park was much bigger and monkeys roamed the garden.  A vintage eight minute movie from 1939 named “A Man-Made Jungle” is always on display and fun to watch.  You can see it yourself at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zY7SZT1B-c    More info about McKee Gardens is at: http://www.mckeegarden.org/

Nature Outside My Window

Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Group of Cactus Flowers

Cactus Wrapped Around Sabal Palm

Wildlife Cam: Raccoon Trio

Wildlife Cam: Deer Peekaboo

Wildlife Cam: Tom Turkey

Wildlife Cam: Mother Turkey (right) and Chick (left)

Wildlife Cam: Mottled Duck

Wildlife Cam: Cardinals, Blue Jay, and Woodpecker

It is amazing how much nature is visible outside my home office window.  Since it is summer, we are enjoying a spectacular show of cactus flowers every night.  The automatic wildlife camera captured these raccoons playing beside the flowers.  During the day the female white-tailed deer was caught visiting the same spot, as well as wild turkeys, mottled ducks, and many other birds.  I always have handy a flashlight, binoculars, and camera to look at and capture any surprises I might see.  

Palm Springs: Top 10 U.S. Places to Travel

Greater Palm Springs Area

Desert Oasis

Looking Up at Oasis Fan Palms

Golden Barrel Cacti

Roadrunner in Desert

Close-up of Roadrunner Face

Anna’s Hummingbird at Mexican Honeysuckle in Desert Garden

Greater Palm Springs was voted one of the top ten places to travel in the United States by Lonely Planet in 2017.  We visited in early spring and loved it as usual!

Disney’s Epcot Flower Festival: 30 million blooms!

Pluto Topiary at Entrance by Spaceship Earth

Lakeside Flower Beds and Floating Mini-Gardens

Buzz Lightyear Topiary by Mission Space

Pooh and Red Balloon Topiary

Piglet and Eeyore Topiaries by Flower Tower

Tigger Topiary

Scarlet Passion Flower

Yellow Poppies

Queen Butterfly on Milkweed Flower

Lady and the Tramp Topiaries

Bambi and Friends Topiaries

Fantasia’s Dancing Hippo Topiary with Bromeliad Skirt

Panda Topiaries at Chinese Pavilion

Spinning Lettuce Hydroponics Garden at The Land Pavilion

Bioluminescent Anemone at The Living Seas Pavilion

The 2017 Epcot International Flower Festival at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, is a total delight to the senses!  There are over 30 million blooms on display!  Visitors can view 100 topiaries, 240 floating mini-gardens, dozens of flower towers, and lakeside flower beds containing 70,000 plants.  A video about preparation for the annual festival is at:  http://www.icflorida.com/entertainment/attractions/channel-9-goes-behind-the-scenes-of-epcots-flower-and-garden-festival/511547714  Planning for next year’s festival has already begun.  More info is at:  https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/events-tours/epcot/epcot-international-flower-and-garden-festival/  Details about some of the most popular topiaries are at:  http://www.hgtv.com/outdoors/gardens/garden-styles-and-types/31-magical-walt-disney-world-topiaries-pictures

Florida: Spectacular Oak Tree

Oak Tree in Black and White

Oak Tree in Black and White

This spectacular oak tree was photographed at the Malabar Scrub Sanctuary in Florida.  An entire community of organisms make their home on this tree.  

Florida: Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Yamato-kan

Yamato-kan

Woodruff Memorial Bridge

Woodruff Memorial Bridge

Walk through Shinden Garden

Walk through Shinden Garden

South Gate and Stone Lantern

South Gate and Stone Lantern

Morikami Falls

Morikami Falls

Karesansui Late Rock Garden

Karesansui Late Rock Garden

Hotei, God of Happiness

Hotei, God of Happiness

Chenille Plant (also Caterpillar Plant and Kitten’s Tail)

Chenille Plant (also Caterpillar Plant and Kitten’s Tail)

Recently we visited the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida (http://morikami.org/).  The gardens, named “Roji-en: Garden of the Drops of Dew”, are meant to complement the museum.  It is a beautiful place to visit!

Spectacular Beautyberries

Colorful Beautyberries

Colorful Beautyberries

Beautyberries are one of Florida’s best native plants.  This shrub attracts both birds and butterflies, and the purple color of the berries in Fall is spectacular!  Although the berries are not tasty straight off the bush, they do make a wonderful jelly or sauce (recipe is at:  https://authenticflorida.com/articles/time-to-make-authentic-florida-beautyberry-jelly/). 

Iceland: Fragile Moss Fields and Tiny Wildflowers

Moss Covered Lava Field

Moss Covered Lava Field

Moss Covered Lava Ridge

Moss Covered Lava Ridge

Alpine Mouse Ears in Moss

Alpine Mouse Ears in Moss

Sea Campion

Sea Campion

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage

Purple Saxifrage Close-up

Moss Campion (cushion pink; lambagras)

Moss Campion (cushion pink; lambagras)

Angelica Flowers

Angelica Flowers

Fragrant Lupines

Sea Pink (Thrift)

Close-up of Sea Pink

Meadow Buttercups

Sea Mayweed (Icelandic Chamomile)

Wood Crane’s Bill

In Iceland there are vast areas of pillow-like moss covering the black lava landscape.  This unique moss is rare outside Iceland and extremely fragile.  It grows less than an inch per year, so you must never step on it.  Walking on it would be hazardous anyway, because the moss covers up lava with unseen crevices and jagged edges. 

Wildflower peak is in June and July.  Many of the flowers are tiny and grow close to the ground in response to the arctic climate.  Fields of lupines in early summer are spectacular! 

Iceland: Gorgeous Waterfalls

Seljalandsfoss  Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Waterfall

Seljalandsfoss Flow into Basin

Seljalandsfoss Flow into Basin

Skogafoss Waterfall with Angelica Flowers

Skogafoss Waterfall with Angelica Flowers

Mighty Skogafoss Waterfall

Mighty Skogafoss Waterfall

Gullfoss Waterfall with Dandelions and Buttercups

Gullfoss Waterfall with Dandelions and Buttercups

Gullfoss Waterfall: Tourists on Rock Ledge

Gullfoss Waterfall: Tourists on Rock Ledge

Close-up of Gullfoss First Tier Waterfall

Close-up of Gullfoss First Tier Waterfall

Iceland is filled with gorgeous waterfalls – the variety and beauty are amazing!  Our favorite waterfall is Seljalandsfoss (on the south coast).  You can walk behind its curtain of water.  Another favorite nearby is Skogafoss.  A short stroll there leads up to the base of this mighty waterfall.  The most powerful waterfall of all is Gullfoss (along Reykjavik’s Golden Circle Tour).  This waterfall generates more power than Niagara and features a double tier of falls.  Many other beautiful waterfalls can be seen by simply driving around the Icelandic countryside.

Los Angeles: Getty Center and Gardens

Getty Center Campus

Getty Center Campus

Building's Curvilinear Design

Building’s Curvilinear Design

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Giant Travertine Slab of Fossilized Reeds, Mosses, and Algae

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Travertine’s Fossilized Crystallized Bubbles Formed in Ancient Hot Springs

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Natural Ravine and Tree-Lined Walkway of Stream Garden

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Blooming Bougainvillea Arbors

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Central Garden Overlook of Getty Logo formed by Floating Azalea Maze

Flower Bowl Garden

Flower Bowl Garden

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

Waterfall into Floating Azalea Pool

South Promontory Cactus Garden

South Promontory Cactus Garden

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Close-up of Barrel Cactus

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

Van Gogh’s Irises Sold for $53.9 million in 1987

When we visited Los Angeles, California, last summer we toured the Getty Center and Gardens.  The $1.3 billion Center opened in 1997 and sits on a hilltop overlooking the Los Angeles basin.  Featured on campus are the Getty Art Museum, outdoor sculptures and fountains, the Central Garden, and the Getty Research Institute.  Buildings are covered in white Italian travertine that comes from the same quarry used to build the Roman Coliseum (look for fossilized plants, marine life, and crystallized bubbles in the stone).  The architecture is stunning.  On a clear day the view extends from the mountains to the sea.  Indoor spaces emphasize the use of natural light.  Masterpiece paintings on display include those by Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Edgar Degas.  

The ever-changing Central Garden is so exquisitely planned down to the last detail that it is registered as a piece of art in the Getty collection.  Even the way the soil is tilled is part of the master plan created by artist and designer Robert Irwin.  A fun television show called “California’s Gold” by Huell Howser features details and interviews about the garden: https://blogs.chapman.edu/huell-howser-archives/2008/01/13/getty-garden-californias-gold-10006/

The Getty Center was an all day excursion that far exceeded our expectations – it is a very impressive and amazing place to walk around.  It is a monument to both nature and culture.  And besides the parking fee, the Center is free!   Don’t miss this gem in Los Angeles.  More info is at:  http://www.getty.edu/visit/center/­­­­­

UPDATE:  The Getty Center escaped damage when a wildfire raged on a hillside nearby in early December 2017.  An interesting article about how the Getty Center was constructed to withstand fire and protect the art is at:  https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/12/12/arts/design/getty-center-fire-evacuation.html?smid=tw-share.  

An interesting article about fire-chasing beetles (genus Melanophila) is at:  https://baynature.org/article/fire-chasing-beetles-make-appearance/  Charcoal beetles are known by firefighters to follow smoke – they encounter them most often during cleanup operations when the beetles swarm out of burned out stumps.  There are even reports from the 1940s of beetles swarming people smoking en masse at California football stadiums!

Catalina Island: Wrigley Botanic Garden – Amazing Cactus!

Photographing the Garden

Photographing the Garden

Photographing 80 year old Barrel Cactus

Photographing 80 year old Barrel Cactus

Trail Past Cacti and Succulents

Trail Past Cacti and Succulents

Cactus Garden

Cactus Garden

Tropical Aloe (Quiver Tree)

Tropical Aloe (Quiver Tree)

Stone Aloe

Stone Aloe

Blooming Pachypodium

Blooming Pachypodium

Barrel Cactus "Face"

Barrel Cactus “Face”

Heart Shaped Opuntia Cactus Pad

Heart Shaped Opuntia Cactus Pad

Wrigley Memorial

Wrigley Memorial

View Down Canyon to Pacific from Wrigley Memorial

View Down Canyon to Pacific from Wrigley Memorial

Tile Arch of Memorial

Tile Arch of Memorial

Close-up of Tile Arch

Close-up of Tile Arch

Beautiful Catalina Tile on Memorial Walls

Beautiful Catalina Tile on Memorial Walls

Catalina Mule Deer

Catalina Mule Deer

One of our favorite activities at Catalina Island was visiting the Wrigley Memorial and Botanic Garden. The idea for the 37-acre garden came from chewing gum magnate William Wrigley’s wife Ada in 1935. She wanted to showcase a Desert Plant Collection. Many of the original cacti and succulents still thrive in the garden today. New plantings are focused on those unique to the Channel Islands – many are extremely rare or endangered.

The Wrigley Memorial contains beautiful examples of locally made Catalina tile. The memorial sits on a hill overlooking the Pacific.   Wrigley’s greatest legacy was his vision to protect most of Catalina Island in its natural state for future generations to enjoy. Over 88% of the island remains undeveloped and is under management by the Catalina Island Conservancy. More info is at: www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=visit&p=Wrigley_memorial_and_botanic_garden

California: Stunning Glass Church

Wayfarer's Chapel on Hill Overlooking Coast

Wayfarer’s Chapel on Hill Overlooking Coast

Garden at Front of Chapel

Garden at Front of Chapel

Round Window in Center of Chapel

Round Window in Center of Chapel

View Looking into Chapel

View Looking into Chapel

View Looking Up in Chapel

View Looking Up in Chapel

View Looking Out from Chapel

View Looking Out from Chapel

Chapel Wedding Picture in Visitor Center

Chapel Wedding Picture in Visitor Center

Chapel Bell Tower

Chapel Bell Tower

View Overlooking Foggy Pacific

View Overlooking Foggy Pacific

Black and White Image of Walkway Outside

Black and White Image of Walkway Outside

Beautiful Pink, White and Yellow Rose in Garden

Beautiful Pink, White and Yellow Rose in Garden

Colorful Bird-of-Paradise Flower in Garden

Colorful Bird-of-Paradise Flower in Garden

The Wayfarer’s Chapel is a beautiful church for people of all faiths in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.  A natural cathedral is formed by redwood trees arching over the chapel’s clear glass walls.  The chapel is a place of meditation with emphasis on the harmony of the natural world with the inner world of mind and spirit.  Only natural colors and materials were used in building the Chapel, such as sky blue on the bell tower, green on the floor, and local wood and stone.  The sanctuary and garden sit on a hill overlooking the foggy Pacific Ocean.  The overall effect is stunning!  This Swedenborgian church was designed by Lloyd Wright (son of Frank Lloyd Wright).  Wright believed in the principle of “organic architecture” – creating buildings in harmony with the environment, including repetition of patterns in nature such as those found seashells and trees.  The Chapel is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a popular place for weddings.  One of the most famous Swedenborgians was Jonathan “Johnny Appleseed” Chapman, who distributed church literature while planting trees across the American Midwest.  Info about visiting the Chapel is at: http://www.wayfarerschapel.org/

Florida in Winter

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Sebastian Beach Ocean Waves

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

Black Skimmers Sunbathe Flat on Sand

White Ibis at Lagoon

White Ibis at Lagoon

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Laughing Gull with Mouth Open

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Pink Spoonbill and Blue Water

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Lesser Scaup at Backyard Pond

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Tricolor Heron with Purple Eyes

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Great Blue Heron with Windblown Feathers

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Bald Eagle and Black Vultures Near Home

Alligator in Pond

Alligator in Pond

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

Double Rainbow Over Backyard

In Florida we enjoy an outdoor lifestyle year round.  Although it may get chilly from time to time when winter cold fronts blow through from the north, the weather usually warms back up to 70°F within a few days.  That means we go outside and enjoy the beach, gardens, and wildlife. 

Florida is home to over 500 species of birds, which makes it one of the top birdwatching destinations in the world.  Our local birding and wildlife festival is the largest in the nation!  Info about the festival is at:  http://www.spacecoastbirdingandwildlifefestival.org/   Come on down and enjoy nature in the Sunshine State!  

Unusual Stinkhorn Mushrooms

Stinkhorn Mushrooms in Flower Bed

Stinkhorn Mushrooms in Flower Bed

Stinkhorn Mushrooms Emerge from Egg-Like Bulbs

Stinkhorn Mushrooms Emerge from Egg-Like Bulbs

Cross Section of Stinkhorn Egg

Cross Section of Stinkhorn Egg

Cross Sections of Agate and Stinkhorn Egg Look Similar

Cross Sections of Agate and Stinkhorn Egg Look Similar

Close-up of Stinkhorn Stalk

Close-up of Stinkhorn Stalk

Hollow Tube of Stinkhorn Mushroom Stalk

Hollow Tube of Stinkhorn Mushroom Stalk

Stinkhorn Mushroom with Curly Cap

Stinkhorn Mushroom with Curly Cap

Close-up of Curly Cap with Hole in Top

Close-up of Curly Cap with Hole in Top

Horse Fly Attracted to Stinkhorn

Horse Fly Attracted to Stinkhorn

Close-up of Fly's Compound Eyes

Close-up of Fly’s Compound Eyes

Recently we were walking down the sidewalk in front of our Florida home and wondered what that unpleasant smell was.  Turns out it was stinkhorn mushrooms!  They must have come in with the last batch of mulch.  The mushroom emerges from an egg-like bulb.  Sometimes you can find a “nest” of eggs the day before a cluster of stinkhorns emerge.  Some people consider stinkhorn eggs edible, but only with considerable caution.  The stalk of the mushroom is a hollow tube, and the cap is covered in stinky slime.  Flies are attracted to the cap’s smell, and they spread the mushroom’s spores. These mushrooms are considered beneficial to the soil, and each one lasts only a day. You never know what you’ll see in the garden!  A web page featuring an unbelievable variety of stinkhorn mushrooms is at:  http://www.mushroomexpert.com/stinkhorn_fame.html

Our Florida Yard in Fall

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Chinese Lantern Flowers

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Giant Cassia (butterfly favorite)

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Cardinal Flower at Pond

Red Passion Flower

Red Passion Flower

Goldfish Vine

Goldfish Vine

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Peacock Butterfly on Jatropha Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Zebra Longwing at Firebush Flower

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Baby Raccoons in Sabal Palm

Here are scenes from our Florida yard in November.  So many beautiful flowers blooming all the time, and the baby raccoons are adorable!

Florida: Huge Night Blooming Cactus Flower

Cactus Flower 1

Cactus Flower 1

Cactus Flower 2

Cactus Flower 2

Cactus Flower 3

Cactus Flower 3

Cactus Flower 4

Cactus Flower 4

Apple-like Fruit of Cactus

Apple-like Fruit of Cactus

Inside of Cactus Fruit

Inside of Cactus Fruit

Our night blooming “Apple Cactus” flower opened around midnight one evening last week (Cereus peruvianus monstrose). Common names for the many different varieties of night blooming cacti include “Queen of the Night” and “Princess of the Night”.   I dug out our camera gear and photographed the flower for about an hour, while fighting off hordes of mosquitoes. The apple cactus is native to South America, and is named after its edible red fruit (a similar fruit available in the grocery store is the “dragon fruit”).  The delicate white petals of the cactus flower remind me of feathers. This huge 6-inch flower is a real beauty!

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