Friday, April 30, 2010

Bronze Gorilla "Protects" Backyard

A bronze gorilla, complete with knowing eyes and swept-back hair, surveys a backyard garden. He appears to be the keeper of the place... (see photo below). His imposing size, despite being smaller than a real-life silver back, is still impressive. I've never seen such marvelous sculpture in someone's yard. a museum garden, perhaps, but not in a private yard. His mouth seems to say, "Don't come near. This is MY territory!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Moon Sparkles

This photo was taken last night without the aid of any filters or special effects. The moon glow can be seen above the tree tops and creates a sparkle effect on the leaves of one tree.

I have always looked up to the night sky and loved it all, even as a child. As an adult, when I lived in AZ, the night sky was particularly beautiful and clear. There was always something very special about seeing the moon rising over the Tucson Mountains as I drove east, early in the evening. And many a night at the full moon, I would drive down to the ocean in HI, to see how the moon would shine over the Pacific. Or, other times, I would drive the Hamakua Coast and stop just above Onomea Bay, to see how the moon sparkled on the ocean below. On my first trip to Santiago, Chile, as we flew in low over the Andes, I was treated to the wonderful convergence of the sun rising and the moon setting. What a great memory for me!

How many songs can you name that have the word moon in the lyrics? "Moon River," "Blue Moon of Kentucky," "Paper Moon," "Moon Over Bourbon Street," "Dancin' In The Moonlight," "Carolina Moon," "Moonlight Bay," "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," "Blue Moon," "Moonshadow." I am sure you can think of many more!

Do you have good emotions when you see a full moon? Any sweet memories? Below: "Moon Embraced by Leaves"

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Modern Art?

There's more to this neighborhood than pretty flowers. Many people would find these electrical lines unsightly but I find them reminiscent of a form of modern art. And, believe me, when the power goes out, it reminds all of us how dependent we have become on electricity. In September '08, Hurricane Ike hit Houston with a fury, knocking out power to all businesses and residents. Many ran out to get generators. They were the smart ones. I had actually lost power before the storm, when a transformer went out about 6 hours before the storm actually hit. It really didn't take long before all the food in the refrigerator was spoiled and had to be discarded.

Not having power meant no lights, no way to cook, no fans or air conditioning, and of course, no cable TV! We thought the power would be back on within hours. But hours turned to days and days to weeks. Without electricity for three weeks, the gas stations could not operate, the grocery stores were dark. Only Wal-Mart was the literal beacon of light in the neighborhood, powering back up with generators by late Sunday, fewer than 24 hrs after the worst of the storm had hit. Soon enough, we all looked to Wal-Mart for our literal survival. Every day I would walk up to the store to buy a can of soup and some crackers. They generously allowed me and others to charge our cell phones and even use an outlet for some medical equipment. Ironically, the Federal government, aka FEMA, would tell people who had transistor radios to go to the FEMA Internet site. Of course, no one had Internet access without power. They also gave out a 1-800 number that was never answered. We couldn't help laughing at their baffoonery. No help was ever forthcoming from the city, county, state or feds... but that much- maligned and under-appreciated store, Wal-Mart, came to everyone's rescue, even bringing in 18-wheelers full of bags of ice and keeping their staff working overtime to stock the shelves. This is a lesson we should all take to heart. PS: When I started this post, I didn't even know I was going to write about our experiences with the power outage during Ike, but it just flowed out of me after I uploaded the image.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Backyard Irises

A compact grouping of yellow and purple irises is framed by other flowers and stands at the foot of an old tree. You can see the head of a sprinkler system just to the left of the bright purple iris on the right. The right mix of sun and water and good soil can keep these bulbs going for a long time. Irises are a harbinger of Spring and are an early bloomer. There are many species of this popular bulb, which grows from rhizomes. One can easily understand why this flower was named for the Greek word 'rainbow" because of it's many colors. Mother Nature aka God has planned an ingenious way to pollinate these flowers so that insects actually do not pollinate the first plant they enter because of the way the Iris is constructed; when insects enter the plant, they get pollen on their legs only after passing the stigma. When they enter the second plant, they deposit their leg pollen on the stigma. The insect in the first case, as it backs out, avoids pollinating the first plant with it's own pollen. Just brilliant!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Surviving Salvia

This large salvia plant obviously made it through the frosty winter when many plants died completely or were severely frost-bitten. A robust plant for sure, gracing a neighborhood garden.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

House Sparrow Nest

On a sunny afternoon, rather late in the day, as I was walking past my neighbor's house, I heard a bird commotion. Lots of chirping ...and as I looked up high toward the vents on my neighbor's garage, in the direction of the "bird talk," I saw a large ungainly and messy nest. Out flew a pair of house sparrows. The male, easily identified by his characteristic black throat and the area around the beak, took to the air first. They have the typical multi-colored brown wing feathers and a mostly white breast, except for the less flashy female who has a dull eye stripe and an almost-yellow breast. She was there, too, only a little more reluctant to leave the nest. ...Anything to distract a potential enemy or predator, including a moment away from their nest.
No doubt these are the same house sparrows that frequent my yard in search of seeds and other food materials. I see the little birds hopping on the ground now that the squirrels have seized the bird feeders. Sometimes they stop for a drink at the bird bath.
Sparrows were an import from Europe to Brooklyn in 1850. With ease they have populated towns and cities all across the US, parts of Canada, and now are venturing into Central and South America.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Mexican Evening Primrose

All the highways and byways of Houston are awash in pale pink primrose. The Mexican Evening Primrose thrives in less than optimum conditions and is a perfect addition to a sloping garden. They do well as a drought-tolerant plant, so plant some and enjoy their delicate, tissue-paper petals.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Reminder of Hawaii

This is a plant that grows in Hawaii. I believe it is called a Selloum Philodendron. If you know the name of this plant, please post it here or confirm my guess. Thank you!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Outdoor Chess

Imagine having this huge, outdoor chess game in your yard! What fun!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bumble Bee and The Rose

I was lucky enough to snap this photo of a bumble bee enjoying a rose. I understand that bees of all types are in short supply. Many scientists have become alarmed by the fact that about 60%-70% of American bee colonies have collapsed. A number of theories for this have been put forward, but no one really has the answer. We need bees to pollinate fruits and flowers and nuts. Bees are especially vital in the pollination of almonds, apples and blueberries, three of my favorite foods!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Squirrels Are Getting Fat

Our neighborhood squirrel population is getting fat. This little squirrel almost looks like a prairie dog. He was still for a long time, before scampering away. There must be an abundance of food for them because it seems every yard is full of squirrels.

I took the photo below around the middle of March, 2010. This little squirrel turned toward me just as I was clicking the photo. The two squirrels have distinct looks, coloring and markings and must be a different type of squirrel.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Amaryllis? - Red, Rainbow and Striped

What kind of lily are these?

Our neighborhood has been suddenly beautified by the blooming of amaryllis in varying colors! How beautiful are these lilies. I am not sure if these lilies are indeed amaryllis, so if you know, please post a comment! These photos came from three different gardens, all taken today. As I was out walking, I noticed even more of these spectacular beauties.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Time For Periwinkles

Pansies are being replaced by periwinkles, or are they vinca vines? I believe the variety pictured here is a Madagascar periwinkle, known in the Caribbean for its medicinal properties. In Jamaica, a tea is made from the plant and recent scientific studies have found that it does indeed have important effective medicinal qualities. It is a classy ground cover and is often overlooked because of it's widespread usage and ease of growing in gardens. Take another look at this very pretty herb.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Navigating The Neighborhood

There are many residential neighborhoods in Houston with "road humps" signs, in an effort to curb speeding through areas where children might be playing. Many parking lots have multiple speed bumps to control speeding. Everyone seems to be in a hurry in Houston, and the drivers here take bigger risks than I have seen in any other city or town. It is not unusual to see someone go linear across four lanes of traffic and some take it even further by driving across traffic, into the median to make a U-turn in the opposite direction! Abruptly changing lanes is a common occurrence in order to gain one or two seconds on the traffic and too often the impulsive decision results in a crash. Houston has more than 200 vehicular deaths per year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Houston Garden

Another beautiful Houston garden...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Stately Magnolia - a Symbol of the South

The magnolias are not in bloom yet but when they start to bloom, they will be magnificent. Magnolias are quite common in yards in Houston. The drought has been hard on them but so far, they are surviving. My mother was an artist and worked in a variety of mediums. Her oil paintings were sought after and especially her magnolia paintings. I have one of hers that I treasure that hangs above a table in my living room.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Houston is a swampy kind of place. In fact, it's nickname is "The Bayou City," a name you might associate with somewhere in Louisiana. After the city attempted to shore up the banks of the bayous, making concrete troughs out of them, the Bayou Preservation Association was born to try to undo what was done, to make the streams grow green again and water to flow freely. This bayou is at the end of my street and provides a natural eco-system for the land and animals nearby.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Fabulous Fountain

Isn't this fountain beautiful? The camera even captured the water drops that were part of the spray of water at the base of the fountain. This afternoon, with camera in hand, I wandered around a neighborhood a few miles from home and saw this stunning statue. Her face reminds me of the marble angel bird bath I once had in my backyard in Arizona.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Manicured Gardens

Houstonians take a lot of pride in their yards. Citizens of this growing city still enjoy seeing well-manicured hedges and bushes, which are quite common in many neighborhoods. Having multiple heights of hedges is a popular look. Our neighborhood civic club selects a home every so often to be singled out for the "Yard of the Month" and a sign goes up to recognize a well-groomed yard.

Friday, April 9, 2010

French Marigolds - What's In A Name?

Marigolds are a member of the aster family and number in the tens of thousands of species. They are an ancient flower that has been popular for many centuries. The flower was well-known in the era of Roman and Greek gods and derived its original name, "Compositae," from the grandson of Jupiter and its complex flower head that is really comprised of many flowers. So how did it come to be known as Marigold? Because these flowers were often altar flowers placed there to honor the Virgin Mary and thus were given the nickname of "Mary's Gold" which, quite naturally, was corrupted into Marigold.

Many years ago when we had a vegetable garden, we heard that Marigolds deter insects, so we planted them along the entire perimeter of the garden. Even their roots are said to repel nematodes. Most nurseries carry a good supply of Marigolds at this time of year because they make a good summer plant in most areas.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Pink Azaleas

Azalea bushes are full of luscious blooms all over Houston right now. They almost remind one of a lily, the way the pistil and stamen are so prominent. Azaleas figure in several writings by poets and novelists in Asia, where the flower is valued for its sheer beauty. Around the US, there are many cities (several in Texas) that host a springtime event called The Azalea Trail, some as long as twenty miles. The annual River Oaks Garden Club Azalea Trail was held here in Houston March 5, 6 and 7. To see more about the 75th Azalea Trail, go to
Azalea buds.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Gerbera Daisies

This Gerbera Daisy is another beautiful cutting flower one can grow in a garden. They come in a variety of wonderful colors. I will forever associate this flower with the late Nicole Brown Simpson, because her family said it was her favorite flower and placed them on her grave.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Ornamental Pear Tree

On a recent day I was out in the neighborhood with my camera when I noticed this tree for the first time. It is amazing how often we walk right past sights of beauty or intrigue, and when one deliberately sets out to take photos, how much more is noticed! I had not taken note of this tree in the last three years. Like so many things we take for granted, it was just there. And now it came into focus. As I approached, I became aware also of the sweet fragrance coming from the blossoms. Like mock oranges, these trees perfume the air. Alas, their life is fleeting. A reminder of that famous quote: "[One must] gather the rose buds while ye may."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday - Lamb's Ear

How appropriate to have a photo of lamb's ear plants to share on this Holy Easter Day. Jesus was called the Lamb of God. No need to explain... to those who believe in Him, they know the reason very well.

Today is sunny and bright, with a slight cool breeze. The bees are out checking out the flowers. The squirrels and doves play in the grass in close proximity. The azaleas are in full bloom. Spring must be here to stay. Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Zinnias - The Perfect Garden Flower

The ordinary zinnia is a wonderful choice for the everyday gardener. It comes in a wide variety of colors, is lovely in the garden and makes a great cutting flower to bring inside. My mother grew zinnias in our garden when I was a child and when she retired to Georgia, she grew them there, too. Zinnias were a favorite of hers because she loved to have fresh cut flowers all around the house and what better way than to cut them from one's own garden.

On this Easter Eve, I am thinking of my mother and how she always fixed a beautiful Easter Basket for me, full of little candies and small, thoughtful toys, as a surprise on Easter morning. One day, when I was a teenager, I woke up on Easter morn and there was no Easter Basket! I was so disappointed. When I asked my mother about it, she said that she thought I was too old for an Easter Basket, had outgrown that sort of thing. I objected to the notion that one could ever outgrow an Easter Basket. And the next year, there it was, waiting for me to discover all its pleasures. Of course, we all looked forward to Easter Sunrise Service at our little, quaint, white-washed church, overlooking the ocean, with the sun coming up on the horizon. As I am writing this post, the sun is departing for the day. And, here is a look at the sunset on the Pacific Ocean. Enjoy!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday - Clouds

Today is the day on the calendar known as Good Friday. It is part of the Holy Week leading up to Easter, always the Friday after Palm Sunday. In my childhood customs, the day was set aside as a religious holiday and was a day for fasting, prayer, and much contemplation about the trial, suffering and death of Jesus. Eerily, on that day, the sky would grow overcast around 3 PM which lent a certain seriousness and quiet quality to the day. My father would always point out how the sky was growing dark. Based on an astronomical (not astrological!) method of computing the date of the Crucifixion, taking an eclipse into account, using the Apostle Peter's reference to a "blood moon," scientists calculate the actual day Jesus died as April 3, 33 AD. And, as I remember it, although a day off from school, it was not meant to be a day of frivolity.

A light rain has fallen over much of the city today. The plants welcome a drink of water.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wonderful Wisteria

Wonderful, Fragrant Wisteria

Wisteria is blooming all over Houston and it's fragrance is in the air! I happened to be surprised by a sudden recognition that many of the flowers I have posted are varying shades of purple. This marvelous vine is a wonder to behold. Each blossom is perfectly formed and shaped to make the whole of what we call a wisteria blossom. Wherever you may live, I hope you get to enjoy wisteria at least some time in your life.

How can a plant be native to America and to China and other Asian nations at the same time? That is a mystery to me. The odd fact is, many of the plants that thrive in Houston are native to China or Japan. I wonder how that could be and then I examine the latitude of Houston, draw my finger across the globe and there the latitude bisects China. How amazing!

Many years ago when I lived in Tucson, a woman at the end of my street cultivated a large wisteria vine on her weathered, wooden fence. I would go out of my way to pass by it, to take in its beauty and perfume. It isn't a stretch to learn that this vine is a relative of the pea. The blossoms are quite similar to sweet pea.