Hummingbird mom-to-be…

While walking through the Ruth Bancroft Garden, we passed this eucalyptus:


It’s a nice plant but I didn’t stop. Amy did. She spotted a hummingbird, sitting on a nest! It took me a very long time to see the bird/nest and by the time I saw her, we had irritated the poor bird so much that she flew away. When we walked back by later, she was sitting on her nest.


We very carefully took pictures and it wasn’t easy. She was so well hidden that it was hard to figure out where to point the camera. It made me wish for my big camera, the one with viewfinder that you look through rather than a digital screen.


I realized as I was admiring this bird and her nest, that I had not ever thought about where the hummingbirds that frequent my yard build their nests. I’m going to have to be a little more observant and maybe I’ll spot one!

If you want to read more about hummingbird nests, click here, and here, and/or google it.



So succulent…

My friend, Amy, is a succulent gardener and while I was there on a visit, she gave me cuttings from several of her plants with instructions not to plant them for a couple of weeks. If you put them in the ground too soon, the stems rot and the cutting dies. Who knew?! They came home in my carry-on bag, carefully protected in cake pans with some crushed newspaper padding.


Due to Amy’s inspiration, last year I planted succulents in pots on the deck by our pool. Steve likes them because they don’t drop stuff that ends up in the skimmers. I like them because they are so interesting to look at. Most of my plants did well, some did not and now I know—bad dirt.

We visited the Ruth Bancroft Garden… I’ve never seen so many succulents in one place. It was fabulous! (I’ll show more pictures from the garden tomorrow.) I learned at the succulent garden to mix little rocks (pumice if you can get it) evenly with potting soil. Sand holds too much water, as does straight potting soil.

Two weeks ago I re-potted all of my succulents with potting soil. They got rained on and I thought that was a good thing until I checked them yesterday morning—they were all sitting in wet dirt, more than a week after the rain. Sigh. So I went on a hunt for pumice and ended up buying two 5-gallon buckets of very small granite gravel (the next size up from decomposed granite). I re-potted my succulents, again. Here are some of them…


Adding rock to the dirt makes the whole pot heavier! So heavy that I decided not to touch the big aloe on the left. It appears to be happy as it is and I’m going to wait and break it apart in the fall.

Here’s a question: Do any of you know what this plant is?


One of Steve’s colleagues moved away a couple of years ago and couldn’t take this with him. I love it and have managed to keep it alive but the leaves are a bit yellow and it looks like it needs something I’m not giving it. The leaves are stiff, almost woody. If you look at the base of the plant you can see the ‘trunk’. It’s sort of like a palm, but not. Right now, it’s in regular potting soil… I didn’t want to mess with it without knowing what it is. Thank you in advance for any help with this one :-).

Update: Many thanks to Lisa who suggested that it could be a Cardboard Palm. After googling (I do love to google) I think she’s right… it’s a zamia furfuracea. I think it’s OK in the potting soil I have it in, I think I’m not over-watering it. It might want some palm food. But the thing I found out that makes me wonder if I should find this plant a new home is this:

“All parts of the plant are poisonous to animals and humans. The toxicity causes liver and kidney failure, as well as eventual paralysis. Dehydration sets in very quickly. No treatment for the poisoning is currently known.”

Amanda, if you are reading this, I wonder if you and Keith might want to give this plant a home. It was Jason’s, and it is in a lovely square pot…



Tiny bitty lady bugs…

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen baby lady bugs until Sunday. I was planting zinnias and was about to put disturb this area next to the fence. Do you see the tiny red spec on the little green leaf in the center of the photo? TinyLadybugs-1

It was a lady bug! And there were others, lots of them! They scattered but some brave ones stayed put while I fetched the camera…


Isn’t it amazing what you can see if you just keep your eyes open!



On being hopeful…


Spring is the season of hope and I keep running across interesting articles that are hope-related. You would imagine that I am referring to uplifting and happy articles, but these are not. In fact the second article is depressing, just so you know.

Yesterday in the NY Times Simon Critchley wrote an op-ed piece, Abandon (Nearly) All Hope. It requires a certain amount of focus even though it is a short read. I was tired when I read it so had to concentrate more than I normally do when eating my granola. The upshot is that dewy-eyed hope can be harmful. For example, when we elect someone who promises things we that know are not remotely possible, why do we let the hope that ‘this time will be different’ allow us to believe in the impossible? This is true not just in politics, but in everyday life. There is a lot to be said for realistic hopefulness.

In the Times Sunday Magazine was another, longer article: It’s The End of the World As We Know It… and He Feels Fine. It is about Paul Kingsnorth, a long-time environmental activist and novelist who has given up activism—not because he doesn’t believe in climate change, but rather, he doesn’t see the human race changing in time to avert disaster. This is not a happy article.

I’ve been mulling over the ideas presented in these two articles and how well they dovetail. I am married to a scientist and I do believe that we are altering our planet, and not for the better. I would happily do my bit to change things but real change requires a collective will to make changes that none of are going to like. For one thing, it’s going to be expensive. And I live in the South… should I give up air conditioning? I would if everyone else did but I look around and I don’t believe that many of my fellow Texans would willingly sweat through our summers. What to do?

This brings me back to hope. I am an optimist by nature. I am hopeful that somehow, we’ll muddle through. I am not sure that this is a realistic hope and I can understand Mr. Kingsnorth’s point of view, but I am not going to live my life constantly depressed. Instead, today I planted flower seeds in the bare areas of my yard. (Luckily there aren’t many bare areas.) I did change the sprinkler system this year to drip irrigation. I can water less and less water will be lost to evaporation.


I’m going to enjoy this beautiful Spring  and I hope for many more. I am going to try to be willing to make hard changes when the time comes. I am going to be happy—and I hope that you will be too.


PS: My stacked rocks are beginning to resemble something (Jabba-the-Hut?) with two large front teeth. I may need to do something about that…