February 16, 2017

Join Me in the Sunshine at the
San Diego Botanic Garden

ocean view

It's looking like the Midwest will have an early spring this year. However, even during a mild winter my mind tends to wander to warmer places.

Last year, in March, when we traveled to San Diego, one of my favorite destinations was the San Diego Botanic Garden, in Encinitas. As with all botanical gardens, my time there was too short. But here are a few highlights.

childrens garden 1

In the children's garden, signage and garden descriptions are friendly and informative.

childrens garden 2

This whimsical planter on a post describes the precious resource of water and how to conserve it.

childrens garden 3

Without words: sculpture illustrating the importance of pollinators.

childrens garden 6

This sign explains hummingbirds' penchant for long, tubular flowers, as the little friends circle around the nearby flowers and hide in the treetops.

childrens garden 4

The San Diego Botanic Garden provides protected habitat for Monarch caterpillars.

childrens garden 5

And a "bed and breakfast" enclosure for butterflies through all their life stages.

giant swallowtail

Many butterflies, like this Giant Swallowtail, flit and float throughout the gardens.


This "Fiddler" steel sculpture seems to come to life at the center of a mixed garden area.

mariachi topiaries 1

Mariachis covered in succulents--perfect!

mariachi topiaries 2

And dancers nearby--pure joy.


One area of the garden is dedicated to a tropical rain forest theme.

tropical epiphytes

Including the specialized plants that inhabit rain forests.

epiphytes collage

Some epiphytes in the gardens are potted, while others perch on trees.

kiwi aeonium

Likewise with plentiful succulents, like this Kiwi Aeonium, planted directly in the soil.

succulent bowls

Others planted in pots.

And then more plants ...

lilac verbena

Lilac Verbena (V. lilacina; syn. Glandularia lilacina), native to Baja California and Mexico.


Olulu or Cabbage on a Stick (Brighamia insignis), nearly extinct and native to the Hawaiian islands.

coral tree

Coral Tree (Erythrina caffra), native to South Africa.


Long-Leafed Cycad (Encephalartos longifolius), native to South Africa.

baja fairy duster

Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica), native to California.

coast sunflower

California Brittlebush (Encelia californica), also native to California.

blue chalksticks

Blue Chalksticks (Senecio mandraliscae), native to South Africa.


Clivia (C. miniata) native to South Africa.

calif lilac

California Lilac (Ceanothus arboreus), native to California.


The botanical garden also has groves of Citrus, native to various Asian and Pacific locales.


And other fruits, such as Bananas (Musa acuminata), native to Southeast Asia.

secret garden 1

One of my favorite spots: the walled garden. Secret gardens with benches always beckon.

bottlebrush 1

Draping over the walled garden are giant Weeping Bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis, syn. Melaleuca viminalis) trees.

bottlebrush 2


bottlebrush 3

While I was in this walled garden admiring these trees, hummingbirds were buzzing by. But I couldn't seem to capture them in a photo--partly because of the great camouflage of the trees.


Later, I enlarged one of the photos and found a surprise hummer. You can see how easy it is for them to hide among the leaves and flowers. :)

secret garden 2

Bye, for now, walled garden and San Diego Botanic Garden. I hope I'll visit again before too long.


(Note: The San Diego Botanic Garden has a substantial collection of native and xeric plants. A future post will focus more on these plants.)

February 08, 2017

It's Only a Rock Wall ... Or Is It?

mixed media

Nothing exciting is happening in my garden these days ...


rock wall

Let's check out the rock wall!

spore capsule 1

Wow, this moss looks lush and vibrant, even in the middle of winter.

spore capsule 2

Up close, it resembles a thick forest landscape.

lichens 1

The lichens are alive and multiplying, too.

lichens 2

As the snow and ice retreat, their pathways and wanderings become colorful and dimensional.

moss hideout

Huh ... moss in a tiny "cave"; I wonder if insects or critters find refuge here?

structure & lichens

Each rock has a unique shape, structure, and colony of life forms.

snow wrap

The snow wraps around like the hug of a warm blanket.

snow receding

I'm curious about all the creatures, plants, and life forms that live between the rock and the snow.

layers of life

Nature offers fascinating collages, draping across the rocks.

sedum & berries

The warmth of the rock encourages Sedums to sprout early.

rock & hard place

And Lamiums caught between a rock and a hard place can thrive even during the bitterest season.


Shaggy, dormant grasses add winter interest.


Did these tiny collections of sticks, nuts, and fruits occur only through gravity and happenstance, or did a small mammal bring them here?

food & shelter

Some of these spots actually look warm and comfortable. I guess the rock wall is more than simply a pile of cold, hard rock: It's a vibrant, active ecosystem!


Update: The quality of this video is poor, but perhaps worth including with this post. It shows a Mourning Cloak butterfly checking out the rock wall (for a possible hibernation spot?) a couple of years ago:


Mourning Cloaks are among the few butterflies that overwinter as adults in cold climates. Visit Butterflies and Moths of North America to learn more about them.

January 28, 2017

What Is It About Reflecting Ponds?

como park 1

Why do I stop in my tracks every time I see a reflecting pond? Does the same thing happen to you?

como park 7

Anyone who attended the 2016 Garden Bloggers' Fling, in the Twin Cities,witnessed the magic of the Como Park Conservatory water gardens. Likewise, reflecting ponds in communities around the world are often among the best examples of the "garden as art."

Whether it's the way the light reflects images of adjacent buildings, plants, trees, or other structures, or the shadows and reflections of the pond plants, themselves, reflecting ponds create magical dimensions and colorful scenes impossible to ignore.

Reflecting ponds sometimes seem borderline overwhelming in their complexity; other times, they're studies in the beauty of simplicity. Brilliant with bright color in spring and fall; graceful in summer and winter. Large pools that stretch around buildings in great expanses; and tiny ponds housing a few goldfish and some simple plants.

What they all have in common is the power to capture and reflect the world around them--sometimes intentionally and often accidentally--in great scenes that create, display, and inspire art. Whether you stand this way or that, or view from the top or the side, each movement creates a new kaleidoscope of awesomeness. Sometimes it's their construction, and the props and materials around them, that fascinate.

Here's a small sample of ponds I've enjoyed--at Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota; Cabbage Town, Toronto, Ontario; Olbrich Botanical Gardens, Madison, Wisconsin; New Orleans Botanical Garden, New Orleans, Louisiana; Edison and Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers, Florida; and my own backyard. Click on the images to access the Flickr library with descriptions of the gardens and locations.

como park 5

como park 6

como park 4

como park 2

como park 3

cabbagetown 2

cabbagetown 1

olbrich 1

olbrich 2

nola botanical 1

nola botanical 2

edison 1

edison 2

edison 3

edison 4

edison 5

our pond 1

our pond 4

our pond 5

our pond 2

our pond 3

our pond 6

our pond 7

our pond 9

our pond 8

our pond 10

our pond 11