Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer

With average January temps in the balmy 70s, it’s hard to think of summers here being less than year-round; especially when you ring in New Year’s Eve (and Day!) lying on the beach!  But while the seasons may be indistinct, the same cannot be said of our sunsets ➡ no time of year are they more dramatic than now, when heat and humidity are at their highest!  Take a look:

A May Summer Sunset in Vero Beach

May 4th, 2012, Sunset in Vero Beach

Vero Beach Power Plant at Sunset, May 4, 2012

I snapped this sequence as we crossed the Loy Bridge from the island to the mainland, in very early May.  It was extremely hot and muggy, the bank of clouds a threatening  army on a west to east advance.  These pictures show the passing jet stream disturbance, a battlezone between clouds above and the clear, narrow strip below along the horizon.

From May through September, sunsets like this are a near-to-daily event in Vero Beach.   Sometimes the clouds bring rain, other times they don’t…but they always reflect beauty in the setting of a summer sun

Until next time……



Let’s Hear it for Succulents!!

If there were no lilies in the world, succulents would rank first on my list of favorite plants: I love their different textures, unusual shapes, and chameleon-like reactions to heat, humidity and time of day. What’s pale green in the morning may look whitewashed at noon or red tinged by nightfall, like this Echeveria Elegans:

Echeveria Elegans

Echeveria Elegans at 730pm after a day of full sun.

There are over 150 recognized species of Echeveria, and though most exhibit standard mat-form rosettes (like Elegans,) others are strangely shaped like this one:

Echeveria glauca ssp. pumila f. cristata

Echeveria glauca ssp. pumila f. cristata

If the word ‘cristata” sounds familiar, you may be remembering my Mother’s Day Mutant 😉 with the cristate defect causing horizontal, wavy stem growth. Because the stem on the Echeveria above is flat yet undulating, the green, leafy, top-growth forms haphazard rows instead of neat rosettes.  But there’s another more interesting fact ➡ E glauca ssp. pumila preserves its cristate properties even when reproduced from small cuttings or single leaves!!!  If I hadn’t tried it myself, I mightn’t’ve believed it…look!

Echeveria glauca ssp. pumila f. cristata

Six months ago, a small, leafless section of the original plant broke off, so I unceremoniously popped it in the ground. At the time, I was doubtful such a tiny, unrooted piece would survive, and I definately had NO knowledge of cristate mutations!  Ahhh, live and learn (literally!) 🙂

I also recently (as in yesterday! :roll:) figured out why only one of my Opuntia species has been flowering:

Opuntia Humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear

Opuntia Humifusa, Eastern Prickly Pear in bloom

Unlike the Eastern Prickly Pear, the other Opuntia variety in the Ranchero is spineless:

Spineless Opuntia (rear) Eastern Prickly Pear (foreground)

Spineless Opuntia (rear) Eastern Prickly Pear (foreground)

Apparently the lack of spines indicates the original Ranchero Opuntias are most likely hybridized specimens created for use as cattle feed. Although flowering isn’t impossible, it’s less likely because “forage” varieties are grown for their edible thalli (pads) which can be fed raw to livestock or cooked for human consumption. The botanist behind these genetics was Luther Burbank, and you can read more about his work here. 🙂

Until next time….

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hands

Since February, we’ve noticed a Florida Box Turtle roaming the yard. Over the past few weeks, she’s been omnipresent and not exactly camera-shy, posing for great close-ups:

Florida Box Turtle head and hands

Whoa!!!  Those “hands” have some serious claws!!

Florida Box Turtle front left limb

The bones in a Box Turtle’s front limbs are similar to a human hand, with 4 fingers and a thumb!

Florida Box Turtle

Note the scraped carapace: evidence of prior confrontations, perhaps?

A box turtle nest?

Could this be a turtle nest?

Florida Box Turtle

Her body language said, “Go Away!!” 😉

Turtle Astaire!

Share Your World, Week 24….and a few cactus facts!

I’ve fallen behind with my Share Your World postings; rather than play catch-up, I’ve opted to jump back in with this week’s questions. 🙂

Are you left or right handed?

I always say I’m right dominant because that’s my “writing” hand, yet many things I do primarily left-handed. I do everything on my smart-phone with my left hand, exclusively. I stir pots and use cooking and baking utensils with my left, and only use my left hand when applying eye-makeup…wierd…yeah?  I remember reading that handedness is a genetic trait…If that’s true, I may have passed it to my sons, both of whom write “lefty!”

What is one thing you love about being an adult?

Making all my own rules, and conversely, throwing them out the window at will!  These things are huge to me. I hate feeling stifled, or like I “should” do this or “should not” do that! I’m well aware this makes me sound like a spoiled brat. 😉 Next question!

What do you need to unlearn?

Are you ready for this?  The ridiculously embarrassing way I count hours.  For instance: when I worked shifts at Staples we’d have to arrive at 8am. If I left the store at 3pm and you asked how many hours I worked, I couldn’t tell you without first doing this: 8 to 9, 1hr…9 to 10, 2hrs..10 to 11, 3hrs…11 to 12, 4hrs…and on and on until I got to the hour I clocked out! This is no joke….i DO this!  Thankfully, I didn’t work 12hr shifts too often!! I’d still be there “counting!”  LOL!!

What is success for you?

When I was young and looking toward my future, I only ever really wanted to be a mother.  I didn’t have professional/career goals beyond that.  If you’ve read my blog at all, you know I have 3 kids who have grown into lovely young adults who are also “fine citizens.” Success, for me is knowing they’re on paths that are right for them individually, and I take credit for allowing them to ALWAYS be themselves, especially on days I wished they were making different choices.  I think that was my biggest success as a parent…I had excellent instincts about when to get out of the way.

I totally enjoy answering Cee’s questions, but love reading everyone else’s replies more. Click the link, and consider participating, too. 🙂

Before I close,  I have to share a few facts I learned today, quite accidentally!

I was working in my gardens around 3pm and noticed one of my cacti had bloomed:

Mammillaria Sheldonii in bloom

We’re in rainy season now, so thunderstorms blow in most afternoons like clockwork, and today was no exception. 🙄  Although short-lived, the winds blow strong and the rain hits hard: I assumed when I went back outside, the cactus blooms would be shredded on the ground.

Mammillaria Sheldonii with buds

I was wrong!!

It seems that Mammillaria Sheldonii cacti flowers “self-protect” by closing during inclement weather. I had no idea!

I also learned something else by visiting the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum website: the mammillaria buds in my pictures were actually produced LAST summer. They stay dormant until the first big summer rain occurs, causing them to burst into bloom 5 days later!  Dang if that isn’t EXACTLY what happened ➡ the rainy season began here last week!   Fascinating!

Until next time…….

Planting trees with knees!

I’ve written before about local attempts to maintain the biodiversity of the Indian River Lagoon. One such effort has been the Arbor Day Project, started in 2008 by Brenda Davis of the Soil and Water Conservation District. The goal of the program is to retrofit urban storm-water retention ponds by planting 100 bald cyprus trees in 5 different subdivisions each year.  Planting trees along these shorelines boosts the ponds’ ability to clear fertilizer-runoff and other toxins from neighborhood water before it flows through the canals and into the lagoon.  Brenda and I were in the same certification training class, so when she asked for tree planting volunteers, I was happy to oblige.

On Friday, we reported to Mandarin Lake in Citrus Springs, ready to work!

Mandarin Lake, Citrus Springs, Vero Beach

Mandarin Lake at Citrus Springs, Vero Beach pic 2

Look at all the Cypress trees!

The bald cypress is perfect for this situation. Native to the area, it thrives in swamps and wetlands…and what is Florida, if not one big, barely-above-sea-level, landfilled swamp!?! 😉

We spaced the trees roughly 10 feet apart, as close to the waterline as possible, digging holes twice as wide as the depth of the rootball to leave adequate “spreading” room.  As you can see, the first few went in nicely! 🙂

Three Bald Cypress, newly planted

Bald Cypress, tilting badly!

This one, not so much! 🙄

Hopefully, in time it will straighten out, but I didn’t share this photo strictly for comic relief ➡ note the sapling’s placement in standing water; cypress thrive in this setting!  When our crooked specimen matures, tapered “knees” will grow vertically from the roots until they appear snorkel-like above the high water mark, but this is where the breathing analogy ends.  Although no one is absolutely certain, scientists now theorize the knees serve as basal stabilizing struts against the wind and “electrical” damage of hurricanes and tropical storms.  When a bald-cypress is stuck by lightning, the torturous root/knee structure protects the tree from a direct air to ground hit; it may explode at the point of impact, but eventually re-grows from the damaged trunk!!  Wow! Score one for evolution, yeah?!

While I wouldn’t say planting trees was “fun” 😉 I definitely enjoyed learning new horticultural “facts” and helping out a worthy cause!  And of course, I found a stunning flowering vine growing rampant in the Citrus Springs meadow!! I snagged several lengths (with good roots!!) to “re-home” along my back fence!

Here’s a picture of the flower, but what struck me most was the beauty of the vine’s 5-lobed palmate leaf structure and it’s ability to creep along the ground!

Cairo Morning Glory

“You will rue the day you took that home! I’ll have to hack you out with a machete” said Brenda 🙂

Until next time…


A Freakish Gift!

My mother gave me a freakish plant ;)….a mutant on a stick, as it were……and I love it!

Euphorbia Lactea Cristata

Coral Cactus (aka Euphorbia Lactea Cristata)

Coral Cacti are two Euphorbia varieties grafted together to create a single plant. The green “stem” is a cutting from Euphorbia Neriifolia; the fan-like “top” is the result of a genetic mutation in Euphorbia Lactea, causing it to grow in an irregular, horizontal, wavy fashion known as “cristating.”  Cristate mutations lack the amount of chlorophyl needed to maintain normal growth and green coloration, which not only explains these plants’ odd pastel-toned tops, but the reasons for grafting them to root stock :arrow:the graft allows chlorophyl to circulate upward and improve the cristates’ overall health and longevity.

So much work to keep this variety alive, and what do the growers do next? Package it for sale in a way that guarantees death!  The blue ceramic pot, while pretty, lacked any drainage holes, and worse, the little pea stones were glued tightly to each other AND the sides of the pot!!!  Hello, suffocation!!!

Glued pea stones and synthetic "dirt"

See you around the yard..

Euphorbia Lactea Cristata with glued rocks

Goodbye, Suffocation!

Euphorbia Lactea Cristate Roots



3" deep planting hole

Replanting Euphorbia Lactea Cristata

Whenever I plant something in-ground, I water the hole (twice!) before backfilling and tamping any remaining soil into place around the roots and stem.

Euphorbia Lactea Cristata, Rear Cutting Garden,

I Love this new plant! 🙂

Until next time….

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Our New, New York!

What I miss most about central New England is the diversity and excitement of a big city lifestyle: our old neighborhood was less than an hour’s commute to Boston via car or public transit and if we wanted something bigger, NYC was an inexpensive 3.5 hour busride away ➡ faster on days we didn’t value our lives and took the Fung Wah, but I digress! 😉

Yesterday I told you we spent the weekend on Miami’s South Beach, and by the end of this post I’m sure you’ll agree:

South Beach, Miami,

We’ve found our “new” New York! 🙂

Collins Ave, South Beach. daytime

Hustle and bustle by day….

Collins Ave, South Beach nighttime

…..and by night!

We stayed at the Catalina on Collins Ave, a hip and happening street of Art Deco style buildings for which Miami Beach is famous. What a fantastic hotel! Two restaurants open 24hrs:

Maxine's, 24hr Restaurant

Maxine’s, 24hr Restaurant

On Sunday, Maxine’s serves Jazz with coffee:

Jazz at Maxine's

The other 24hr place is The Red Cafe, with seating in the lobby

Red Cafe 24hr Restaurant

Red Cafe Lobby Seating

And outside on informal comfortable couches:

Red Cafe Outdoor Seating at Catalina Hotel

My favorite spot for people watching..especially at 2am!

Off the lobby we spied the cutest place to relax after our Saturday shopping marathon:

Bamboo Lounge, Catalina Hotel

Maggie’s favorite spot at the Catalina!

See the white curtained area in the back?  That’s actually a queen size bed 🙄 The hotel had them everywhere in the common areas, especially poolside:

poolside beds at Catalina hotel

Maggie examines the poolside beds!

There was a second pool (with full bar) on the rooftop, also ringed with beds but you’ll have to take my word for it ➡ only a wierdo perv takes pictures of people lounging in/on beds 😉  Instead, I took photos of the rooftop view:

View of Marseilles Hotel from Catalina Rooftop

View of Marseilles Hotel from Catalina Rooftop

View from Catalina Rooftop Pool

Weather wasn’t the greatest, but the view sure was!

Lest you think we never left the hotel…nay…nay!!!  South Beach shopping is akin to Olympic level sport, and Maggie and I are nothing if not well-trained!! 😉  Within an hour of our arrival we set out for Lincoln Road, South Beach’s answer to 5th Ave or Rodeo Drive.  From Allsaints-Spitalfields to Zara,  every high-end shop you can imagine is represented along this gorgeous open-air mall with sidewalk cafes and manicured parks:Lincoln Rd. South Beach Shopping

Lincoln Rd. South Beach

A nice spot to sit a spell!

We found a Farmer’s Market where Maggie bought some unusual ethnic spices and teas!

Farmers' Market on Lincoln Rd. South Beach

But even here among the upper crust are signs of the Great Recession:

Empty Retail along Lincoln Rd.

Who will lease this empty retail space?

We did our part for the economy, shopping at Lucky, Express, Rainbow, and a beach outfitters shop called Wings

Karen at Wings

Look! Better than a Zip lock bag !!!

Armed with my new waterproof beach wallet, we set off for the sand.  Along the way, Maggie took a rest in a floating “egg”

Maggie in the Floating Egg

Isn’t this a funny “yolk?” 😉

As we approached the beach, the weather was cloudy with a chance of doom:

18th St. Beach Access, South Beach

18th St Beach Access, South Beach (view from behind)

The view behind us as we entered the beach club

We knew we couldn’t stay long….just long enough to snap these pics:

Catalina Beach Club South Beach

Catalina Beach Club South Beach 2

Run for your life!!!!

Time to go!!!

Miami Skyline

Goodbye, “new” New York!!!! We’ll be back!!