Dear Future Self,

I hope you like the tulips I planted.


Tom brought me a bag of tulips. I mixed the colors up so they would be random.

Ok, it’s the time of year to plant bulbs and corms! A month ago I had decided not to plant anything until Spring, giving my soil a chance to rest and time for me to bring in a truck-load of compost. Then Tom brought me a bag of tulips and I just had to prep a bed and plant them! He also brought me a bag of compost, remembering my plans. He’s just the most to say the least.

In front of the bench along the outer edge of the meditation circle, where they can be seen from the patio and my bedroom window.

So the compost was worked in and the soil was turned over three times to a depth of, well the depth of my pitchfork blades, about 8″. Plant your tulips in a well drained area so they don’t rot over the winter and put them in about 5″ deep. That should just about do it. Check back in Spring!

Tom's Gnome keeps out the rif-raf, when the cats don't knock him over.


The Savage Garden

“Every stress leaves an indelible scar, and the organism pays for its survival after a stressful situation by becoming a little older.” ~ Dr. Hans Selye

....weathered, yet beautiful...Muir Woods, California - Sept. 2011

Yesterday was an awesome day. There was a big test in Botany, which was my focus for the last week. We have been studying cellular respiration, and photosynthesis. They are very similar, with one being basically the reverse of the other. That kind of fooled me into thinking I was going to memorize it without a lot of pain. I was wrong. We’re talking about 100 different steps and half that number in atoms and molecules of this or that chemical, which dance around and punch each other out until they make molecules of yet more this-y and that-y chemicals. There are no generalities either. Every move, every chemical, needs dissecting and remembrance. There was no high school biology for me, so now that I’ve caught up a little, I find myself thoroughly humbled by the elegant and complicated brew that Mother Nature has managed to cook up. She’s a bad-ass and I wish she would have imprinted this knowledge on my gray matter. Indelibly. Well, it’s over for now and I can catch up on other parts of life. Like my new plant!

..Carnivorous Pitcher Plant...Nepenthis x mixta?

Sunday, Tom brought me a Pitcher Plant. A Nepenthes x mixta hybrid, most likely. These are among the easiest to care for in the carnivorous plant world. This is great because my last try at carnivorous plants did not end well. It was years ago, but I kept the book I bought for reference, since I knew I would someday have another one. The book, “The Savage Garden: Cultivating Carnivorous Plants” by Peter D’Amato is now on my reading list, especially the chapter pertaining to my species. It gets excellent reviews, and I kept it all these years for a reason.

...a pitcher full of digestive fluid. Bwahahahaha!

Carnivorous plants are nothing less than utterly awe-inspiring. Their response to living for millenia in crappy soil conditions, was to modify their leaves into all sorts of contraptions like pitchers, pipes, and snapping jaws. All of this so they can lure insects, and sometimes small rodents, kill them slowly, then live on the nutrients left by the decaying bodies. Plants don’t sit around and whine about the cards they were dealt or envy and get angry at the carrot living in a garden full of luscious, mineral-rich soil. They just take care of business. I have a serious respect for plants.

...Enter at your own risk. Insects, ye be warned!

“Ah, but we are splendid devils, aren’t we? “Hunters of the Savage Garden,” I said.
The Vampire Lestat
-Anne Rice

Tiny Grandeur

The botany class I’m taking has introduced me to the microscopic world. The first time we looked at plant cells under a microscope, I could hardly contain my excitement. The other students were not jumping up and down so I tried to maintain my composure…mostly. There were suddenly a million things I wanted to bring to class so I could see what they looked like 100 times their normal size. A thimble sized ball of moss looked like a huge forest through one microscope, and I can see tiny green packets of chlorophyll floating in plant cells through the other one. It’s all very exciting and sometimes I get carried away with my eye glued to a lens and am the last person cleaning up after class. My professor seems patient and mildly amused, for now. So, when I came across this collection of prize-winning photomicrographs this morning, I thought I would share them with you. There are not very many of them, enough for a few minutes’ break in your day. There are even a couple of plant specimens, so you can see what I’ve been gazing at in class. Digital photography has come a long way and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Enjoy:

Tiny Grandeur at Live Science

Many Thanks

Many thanks to all of you for your kind words and positive reinforcement following my last post. The collaboration with Ruth was a resounding success and I can’t wait till our next one. I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say that the response from our audience put some much needed wind in the sails. Most of us take photos, write poetry, paint or draw, garden – whatever form the creative process takes – we do it because we love it, audience or no. But, when it brings even the smallest amount of pleasure to someone else – well, it’s a pretty awesome feeling. Plus, I made some new friends. Thank you again, Ruth, for sharing your wonderful words and your kind friends with me. Until we meet again…

...Muir Woods - California - September 25, 2011

Late September

Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce a talented poet and artist, Ruth Bavetta. We met online several years ago through a mutual book friend (thank you, Ginnie) and have been corresponding ever since. She has agreed to let me post a few of her previously published poems here on my blog. This is perfect timing, since I’m embroiled in some biochemistry at school and haven’t been up to the task of posting – stay tuned in the days to come as I post more of her work with some of my photos. Enjoy…and Ruth, thank you so very much for sharing.

...The Muir Woods - California - September 25, 2011

Late September

and so still much to do—
the bending over the bowl
of dough, the mending
of socks worn through the toe,
the paring of peaches, lovely
in their waning.

Statice beyond the glass, lusterless,
like fog against a window, fading
purple blossoms dry
as paper. Dusk is brittle
on my shoulders. I will leave
as I came in, already falling.

~ by Ruth Bavetta

Previously published in Verse Wisconsin Online

...The Muir Woods - California - September 25, 2011

Still Weaving

...the neighbor's tree is in bloom and tiny yellow blossoms are dropping like rain

Pardon my absence, ladies and gentlemen, but I’ve been busy with a passionate love affair…with science! I am loving my new botany class. Learning the new biology vocabulary has been super intense and now we’re moving into the chemistry. That’s even more intense. Not sure how I’m going to remember all these little atomic formulas but I’m certainly going to try.

...green grasshopper resting in the Sunshine

Also, our professor set up a few plots on campus for us to garden. We started last Saturday and I got a good feel for what it’s like to start a community garden. It was so uplifting to spend a little time on a beautiful morning all pitching in to turn the soil over and over, sift out the lumps, and pull weeds. We got it ready and next time we’ll do the planting.

Staking our claim!!

All that turning over and perfecting of the soil in preparation for planting has inspired me to do the same to my soil. So many plants have been overcrowded for so long, it’s pretty exhausted and cramped soil. For the rest of the year, I will be removing weeds and plants that need division. The soil will get fluffed and turned, fluffed and turned, fluffed and turned. Next Spring it will be much more receptive to something new. The plants I choose to keep will have more room and grow better. That’s the plan anyways.

...a lovely abandoned spider web

Today I found this spectacular tomato hornworm, or Manduca quinquemaculata. Those tomatoes weren’t doing well, so I left it there to enjoy the buffet. Maybe she’ll still be in the backyard later and I’ll get to see her in moth form. They’re about the size of a large hummingbird – quite amazing really.

...Manduca quinquemaculata

Right next to the hornworm, I found a Deadly Nightshade plant. This is some seriously exciting news and I will share the photos later when I do a little research. Right next to the Deadly Nightshade, was this garden orb weaver spider, most likely some species of the Argriope genus. They’re common in gardens and are generally quiet and stick to themselves. This one has a broken leg but is still manning the web, although the web itself looks messier than it did a few days ago before she broke her leg. Maybe she got in a fight with a bird and won. Hey, we all have hard times but we keep plugging along weaving our web the best we can right!? Right!

...garden orb weaver against California blue sky

The Purple Gladiolus

When we moved into this house in December of 2004, my son Thomas and I planted several bags of bulbs purchased from the local nursery bulb bin sale. There wasn’t any landscaping here at the time and it was the season for planting them, so that was pretty much the first thing I ever did to the house to make it a home. Years later, the purple Gladioli still come up, bright luscious purple happiness. Ahh, home.

There are more than 250 species of Gladiolus, most of them native to South Africa. Gardeners call them bulbs, but they are technically a corm. Bulbs and corms look alike and are mostly treated the same, but the difference is on the inside. If you cut open a bulb, you’ll see it’s made of layers of modified leaves called scales. Like an onion.

But, if you cut open a corm, it’s solid tissue all the way through. What you’re planting when you plant a corm is a piece of stem, complete with nodes that will grow into a plant and roots and give you a big happy purple flower. When a root grows directly out of a stem or a leaf, it’s called adventitious – which mostly means it’s in an unusual place.

The brown papery skin covering on a Gladiolus corm is called a tunic, another modified leaf that the plant uses for protection from animals and insects, or getting soggy when there’s too much water in the soil. It also keeps too much moisture from escaping the stem before it can start to grow into a plant.

Some corms have contractile roots. This means that these roots will literally contract under ground in a way that pulls the corm deeper into the earth allowing for temperature control and space for growth above the original corm.

As a matter of self defense from animals who find them tasty, corms will develop cormels which are tiny and get left behind in the soil to grow new corms.

Some corms can be dug up, cut into pieces and replanted for more new plants.

I don’t dig mine up, I leave them be and they do their thing.

The older I get, the more I appreciate plants that do their thing without my intervention.

These are among my favorite plants in the garden, mostly because of their color and the ‘fleshy-ness’ of the flowers.

They bloom in Spring at the same time as the Matilija Poppy flowers and the color contrast is gorgeous.

The best photos are actually taken in the evening when the darker shades of purple don’t get washed out by the Sun.

I always take a hundred photos of every flower.

No, I do not think that’s excessive in any way.

Here’s a rare photo of Tom in the garden.

I made him pose there so I could see how tall the Gladiolus growing in the meditation circle gets. This one was about 6’4″. It’s always much taller than me.

Next year they’ll come up again and I’ll be reminded of my favorite color, a day fondly spent digging in the Earth with my son, and the ever-eternal optimism that is Spring.