Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

I love, love, LOVE this week’s challenge topic! It allows me to share a bit of my “backstory,” a 21st century scratch on the wall about my urban roots.

A brief word re: the pictures below: NONE of them are my own. I discovered a wonderful photographer via Flickr, whose many shots so perfectly captured the urban environment, I had difficulty selecting the “best” ones!

Let’s begin!

I grew up in Everett, a working-class, blue-collar city adjacent to Boston.  Our street, Fremont Ave, was situated near the top of Lawrence St., in a section known as Hospital Hill.  From any backporch on the odd-numbered side of the street, you could see the entire Boston Skyline, the Shipyards, and Logan Airport.  On exceptionally clear days, a tiny corner of Revere Beach was even visible!

boston panorama 12 July 2007

Fremont Avenue is comprised of two-family homes. For 17 years my family rented in two different flats on this street. The yellow house in the photo below shows the second apartment we called home; we lived on the second floor. If you look between the houses, you’ll notice a bit of the urban skyline through the haze.  :)

everett massachusetts

Now let me zoom out, so you get a feel for the densely settled urban area that is Metropolitan Boston North:

Mouse over the center of the above picture….When you see the word Whidden, you’re above my old house! :)

Wave and say Hi!  ;)

Until next time…….

:) :)

Again many thanks to Scleroplex for the great pictures!

The Day the “Sky Turned Green”

On Monday mornning, August 27, 2012, Tropical Storm Isaac passed over Key West, enroute to the Gulf of Mexico and classification as a hurricane. During this journey, a rainband detached from her easternmost edge, and stayed for hours over Vero Beach, dumping a foot of rain.

What happened next threw me for a loop:

Front Page, Press Journal, Vero Beach, 8/28/2012

Twilight descended at 10am and deepened along with thunder unlike anything I’d EVER heard :arrow: sonorous and rumbling, a persistant drone beneath gusty winds and rain that fell like sheets along a diagonal line.  If this sounds  intense and dramatic it’s meant to…it was a scary, over-the-top kind of storm. We’d been under a tornado watch since the previous late evening, which the Weather Service upgraded to “warning” between 9-11am…standard procedure during tropical storms. Typically nothing happens…typically the sky doesn’t turn green!

Unlike northern construction, southern homes are built without cellars–(we’re too close to aquifers here,) so I decided my walk-in closet was the safest place to shelter. I grabbed Clarisse and hid, relieved I could still hear the local weather alerts from inside.

My blood ran cold when I heard this:

Within minutes, they updated the tornado’s location….my mother’s manufactured home park!!!   More than 30 houses had been demolished, and I could NOT reach her by telephone!

Vero Palm Estates aftermath, TS Isaac tornado, 8/27/2012

The phone and power lines were down, so I was unable to connect despite repeatedly dialing.  An hour ticked by, and part of the next…I kept thinking surely she’ll call (somehow) to say she’s ok! Why isn’t she using her cell phone?!   I admit I was getting increasingly panicked.  It’s atypical for her to turn on her mobile, but I called it anyway..worst case scenario, I’d at least leave a message.

She answered!!!!  :)  I sobbed hysterically, “I thought you were DEAD!!! For over an hour!! I thought you were dead!!”

She had been at the Doctor’s and had NO idea anything was amiss, until arriving at her next stop (the bank) where everyone buzzed about the tornado.  Then SHE panicked, afraid her house might lie among the wreckage.

It did not!!!

Vero Palm Estates

“I survived the Vero Beach Tornado of 2012″

In the annals of tornado history, ours will be listed as an F0-1, meaning windforce was somewhere around 85-100 mph.  It wasn’t on the ground for very long, either: in less than 2 minutes it traveled 1.46 miles, damaged 102 structures, including 30 on my mother’s street.

Given the extent of the damage, I’m amazed NOBODY was injured, or worse….but I’m especially RELIEVED the woman affectionately known to our family as “The Old One” is alive and well!!!  Phew!!!

Rita

I love you, Ma! :)

Until next time……

:)

Seeing the light…in a kayak!

Haulover Canal, built in the mid-1800s, is the only connection between the Indian River Lagoon to the West and the Mosquito Lagoon to the East. Located in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, the canal is a popular kayak launch site for eco-tourists:

Haulover Canal Launch Ramp, Aug 19, 2012

Haulover Canal Launch Ramp, 8:24pm, Aug 19, 2012

Considered one of the most diverse estuaries in North America, the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 3,000 different plant and animal species, like the wild boars :shock: we saw grazing at the boat ramp turn-off:

Wild Boars, Merritt Island Refuge

But we were there for other reasons, so drove off to find the kayaks:.

Kayaks, Haulover Canal

We were about to see the light! :)

Our eco-guide explained what lay ahead :!:

From July through October, the lagoon comes alive at night with bioluminescence, a unique microbial phenomenon found en masse in only 4 places on earth!  Tiny marine plankton known as dinoflagellates emit a bluish-green light when disturbed. Although these algae are invisible to the naked eye, when agitated in high concentrations they emit light so strong you could read a book!   A quick glance at the chart below explains the process:

The chemical reaction that causes bioluminescence in dinoflagellates.

Dinoflagellate species that rely on photosynthesis for food have luciferin (similar to chlorophyll) in their small bodies.

Simply stated, anything that brushes against, or snaps a plankton’s outer membrance triggers the light….much like snapping a glow stick, which ironically we wore for nighttime illumination on the VERY dark waters! ;)

Maggie with Glow Stick!

After receiving paddles and safety instructions, we launched, single file, into a night that suited our purpose perfectly. :) The sky was clear and sparkled with stars but wasn’t overly bright :arrow: dinoflagellates are best observed 5 days before or after a new moon.

Access to the the Bio Bay is via a narrow  “no wake” channel lined with banks of mangroves overgrown, and cypress branches joined aloft as if in handshake. Paddling through this vestige of Old Florida, I almost forgot the Space Shuttle launch pads and massive Vehicle Assembly buildings perched at the southern end of Mosquito Lagoon. When frontiers collide, it’s disconcerting!

And suddenly our guides were blowing whistles, gathering us round for one last caveat about flying fish and batting them away….but oh my goodness!!! Who could listen when the water below was glowing like neon and everyone gasped in awe?!

With 45mins to explore, our little armada split up, 14 kayaks traveling in 13 different directions,  paddles (and hands!!) disturbing  the surface for maximum effect! :)

That’s when it happened :arrow: with machine-gun fire syncopation, mullet exploded around our 2 boats!  Maggie and I were in a double kayak,  her fiancé nearby in a single when we heard him shout, “One’s in the boat!” :) What do we do?”

Seamus, Nighttime Kayaking, August 2012

Seamus with Kayak Paddle, aka the Fish Bat! ;)

We made our way closer to steady his kayak and help grab the desperate, flopping fish! :)  A funny scene, made more absurd when we realized the lagoon floor was only 2ft below and we’d been trying so hard NOT to capsize! hahahahaha!!

All’s well that end’s well, though!  The fish survived the adventure and so did we! Driving home, Maggie said, “I think that’s the best thing we ever did!”

So do I!  :)

karen and maggie nighttime kayaking, Aug. 2012

Until next time……

:)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

Florida is home to an abundance of tropical Epiphytes (non-parasitic “air-plants”) that live and grow on larger “host” trees.  You’ve already seen my garden’s tillandsias, bromeliads, orchids and ferns–but I’ve neglected to share our lone hemiepiphyte:arrow:an Epipremnum aureum that’s beginning to merge with its Queen Palm host:

Golden Pothos

Epipremnum aureum aka Golden Pothos  :)

I started this plant two winters ago from stem tip cuttings received at a yard sale. Because Palms have rope-like roots extending through the ground at shallow depths, I couldn’t dig deep holes for my new cuttings; instead, I propped them along the base of the trunk, anchored them with  3″ of  moistened Miracle Gro Cactus/Palm Potting Soil, and pressed the concoction HARD! against the tree-trunk :razz:

Let the merge begin!

Golden Pothos with Adventitious and Aerial Roots

Is this what they mean by stuck in rut?

The picture above illustrates Pothos different types of roots. On the right-hand side of the dark green stem are 4 adventitious roots through which the plant obtains nutrition and water.  Cylindrical aerial roots grow from nodes on the main stem and merge with the host tree, allowing the plant to trail or climb. If an aerial root reaches the ground during rainy season, it will oftentimes root, form another stem and repeat the life cycle! :)

Golden Pothos Stem between Aerial Roots

From root to stem and back again!

If allowed to climb, Epipremnum Aureum changes shape as it gains height. Upper leaves are more feathered than their heart-shaped, lower counterparts; they also measure wider and longer than ones near the ground.

Uppermost Leaves, Golden Pothos

These leaves are 7″L x 6″W : twice as big as those on the bottom.

Golden Pothos is part of the Aroid family, a group of plants well suited to indoor/container gardens…. but……buyer beware! :eek:  Big box stores and corporate nurseries commonly mislabel Epipremnums as  “Philodendrons” which DO look rather similar.  Learn how to spot the difference by reading this excellent article:

I hope you enjoyed this “Weedly” Challenge! :)

Until next time…..

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My Very First Wordless Wednesday!

Today marks my first participation in Wordless Wednesday!

I’ve been rather busy these last few days but there’s always time for a picture (or two!) of a favorite local “nightspot.”

Manatee Observation Deck, Royal Palm Pointe Park, Vero Beach

Manatee Observation Deck at Royal Palm Pointe Park

Sunset at Royal Palm Pointe

Sunset, Royal Palm Pointe Park

Royal Palm Pointe is equally pretty in daylight:

Until next time……

:) :)

Garden Exotica

Pantala Flavescens is the most widely distributed dragonfly on the planet; they live and breed everywhere except Europe where winds out of Africa create a barrier to their travels. Commonly known as Globe Skimmers or Wandering Gliders, they fly almost continuously, only stopping briefly to lay eggs or grab a quick meal….except for this one who slept away the ENTIRE afternoon in the Penthouse Suite at the Canna Hotel:

Pantala flavescens

The Himalayas will still be there…….after my nap! ;)

I let the little bugger be, but kept an eye on him while I went about my business. I wasn’t particularly quiet, either: the door banged shut a few times from the wind and I was repotting  peace lilies, dropping tools etc…not a hint of movement from 1:45pm when I took the picture until just after 430pm when I watched him lift off and zigzag away!

Bye-Bye!!!  Have a nice flight!  :)

After dinner, I got another unexpected surprise:

Brassia Maculata

First open Brassia of the season, Aug 17, 2012

There are four other blooms on this spike that should open over the next week or so. :)  It’s easy to see why these are called Spider Orchids, yeah?

The Bird of Paradise flower (mentioned a few days ago) opened last night. I’ve uploaded it as Flower of the Month for August, so check out the sidebar on the homepage.  And if you STILL haven’t seen enough, click on the recently finished May photo gallery for a retrospective on some of my prettiest tropical plants!

Have a great weekend!

Until next time:

:)

Weekly Photo Challenge : Wrong

Today’s submission dates back to June 2008, when a freak storm ripped through our former neighborhood with devastating results:

Microburst Damage June, 2008

A tree through the window!!?!! SO wrong!! :roll:

This photo was taken on the clear and beautiful morning after the previous night’s 10pm chaos!

See the ornamental porch peeking out beneath the tree?  Technically it wasn’t designed for “hanging out” but you can imagine how a spot slightly diagonal to her bedroom window appealed to Maggie and her teenage friends :arrow: in the warm months, she’d climb over the gap (and railing) with deckchairs/cds/magazines and whoever happened to be visiting: instant summer fun. :)  I realize most parents would’ve put the kabosh on such things, but I LOVED hearing kid sounds trickle down whenever I’d sit on the “real” porch, below…..but I digress!

When I tell you how FAST this storm roared through, believe me!!! Every tree on the street went from 0 to 60 in an instant and the wind was so LOUD!  I ran into Mag’s room yelling “Get the chairs!! they’ll launch like missiles”  HA!  Wrong missiles to worry about!

Trees felled in Microburst, June 2008

Surveying the damage!  Immediately after the storm, June 2008

The storm we experienced is known as a microburst,  a column of sinking air that lasts only a few seconds but produces dangerous winds at the surface. They often do tornado-like damage at ground level and can knock planes from the sky at upper elevations.

Afterwards, what scared us most was the sequence of events. We barely struggled the porch furniture through the window (and backed away!!) before the tree sailed 4ft into the room….still attached to what you see outside!!!!!

They say timing is everything…what if we’d gotten it wrong?!

Until next time….

Bird of Paradise…and a bit of Aloe!

With the exception of yesterday’s perfect beach day, our recent weather has been consistently humid and intermittently overcast with skies that look like this:

It might rain….or the sun could come out…who knows? ;)

On Sunday, rather than dodge sporadic 10minute monsoon-style rains, I opted to garden inside. :) I organized my March and April plant photos into a bloom gallery you can see by clicking here.

By suppertime, the threat of rain was long past, so I went out to look around.  Evenings like this are my favorites: no watering involved, just an after-supper wander in quiet, pleasant contemplation.

Early Evening, August 12, 2012What you’re seeing in the foreground are fully opened racemes from a summer flowering, spotted aloe. Despite significant time spent in research, I’m still uncertain which of 500+ varieties my pass-along plant might be!  I did, however, find a wonderful 5 page article to share with any interested readers: Aloe ID from A to Z. Check it out for lots of facts and photos!

At the Cutting Garden, I received a surprise 2 years in the making! The tiny 2.5″ potted Bird of Paradise ordered in 2010 from directgardening.com finally matured enough to spike an infloresence!

Strelitzia reginae aka Bird of Paradise

For as far back as I recall, Birds of Paradise have been among my top tropical plants. When I lived in the north–with no chance of growing them outdoors–I made up for it by insisting they appear in EVERY floral arrangement I’d order for special occasions.  Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover they’d thrive in my Florida yard and seeing this first flower spathe was a Red Letter Day!

Bird of Paradise Spathe

You might be surprised at how hard to the touch this beak-like spathe feels!  Note the hint of orange at the angle near the stem. This is the first of 3 brilliant orange sepals and 3 bright blue petals that will emerge one at a time, to form a flower structure that looks like a crest on a bird’s head. The individual flowers open in slow succession, with each lasting approximately a week.

Supposedly, Strelitzia grown in partial shade are said to be talller, with larger flower heads on longer stems, than their full-sun counterparts. Mine seems to be developing in the opposite pattern :arrow: although the Cutting Garden is very shaded, this Bird is fairly short. Time will tell if it’s due to immaturity or perhaps a different factor.

Because Strelitzia are rhizomatous, propagation can be done via division or by seed, although I’d not recommend the latter!  Growth from seed is very erratic and may take up to 18 months to germinate. Also, this species blooms best when crowded, so when growing via containers, re-pot only when super-necessary. FYI, Bird-of-Paradise tends to produce more flowers along the outside stems, so don’t be alarmed to see little (or nothing!) happening in the middle of the plant!

Until next time….

:) Happy Gardening!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

Although Florida boasts a year-round growing season, at no time of year is it more active (and spectacular) than during May!  Today’s submission was taken on 5/31/2012, just before sundown:

Clarisse in the Rear cutting garden, 5/31/2012

“Look at all this plant growth,” thought Clarisse.

I’ve changed the cutting garden around quite a bit since Spring. The calladiums outgrew their germination pots and moved to permanent homes throughout the bed; the groundsel bush has been replaced with lily bulbs and potted gaillardias that finally started blooming:

Rear Cutting Garden, August 9, 2012

August Growth, Rear Cutting Garden

This was my first season growing Blanket Flowers, (aka Gaillardia) and I started the seeds quite late. After this bloom cycle I’ll dig them into the “full sun” corner of the bed and suspect they’ll flower much earlier next year. :)

That’s all from my end!  Please click the Zemanta-provided links that follow for more EXCELLENT interpretations of this week’s challenge!

Until next time…

:) :)

Weekly Writing Challenge: From Mundane to Meaningful

On August 6th, WordPress announced a new series of Weekly Writing Challenges.  The debut topic, entitled “Mundane to Meaningful,” is designed to promote creativity by finding a deeper, universal meaning in the facts of your story.  Let’s begin!

The Mundane:
Yesterday, I saw a shopping cart of deeply discounted orchids at Winn-Dixie.  Most looked BAD, but one had a new 6″ spike.  I noticed it was severely potbound. After a cursory look at the info-tag, I decided to buy it.  I watered it thoroughly when I got home, then set about googling the info-tag. Had to work from memory because I somehow left the tag in the cart!?! Bottom-line: Wierd plant from an even wierder nursery.

The Meaningful:
Yesterday, I made a rather unusual purchase at the Winn-Dixie:

Phalaenopsis Lila Mystique

Although glaringly obvious when I snapped this outdoor picture, the strange blue splotches weren’t visible under the store’s florescent lights!  At the time, I was FAR more concerned with the plant’s severely potbound roots:

Potbound Phalaenopsis roots

The info-tag listed it as a Phalaenopsis Lila Mystique, and since I’m a sucker for anything with a flower spike, (and have successfully grown phals before)  I decided to buy it…and remember :arrow: I had yet to notice the strange blue tint!

But I was about to!

Upon returning home, I took Lila to the spigot for a proper watering and realized my hands looked like a pen had burst all over them!  Annoyed, I searched for more than 20 minutes for the dang plant tag before assuming I’d lost it somewhere between checkout and the car! :roll: Time to wash my hands and start Googling what little I remembered!

Turns out Lila Mystique is the latest creation of Silver Vase Nurseries, a Florida company with a patented technique for colorizing orchids!  When buds form during the spiking process, the stalk of a white phalaenopsis is injected with dye. The color is absorbed by the orchid’s vascular system and Voilá—petals soon open in shades nature never intended!

According to the company’s literature “the intervention is performed in an environment that keeps the infection risk for the plant at a minimum.” The non-toxic dye is not available to the public, nor is the exact procedure published anywhere online that I could find. The Silver Vase greenhouse is fully robotized and environmentally friendly, producing more than 2 million units for year-round distribution. Welcome to the brave new world!

As you might imagine, there’s been a fair amount of controversy since colorized orchids debuted at the 2011 Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition. Initially, many consumers assumed they were purchasing hybrids and were shocked when subsequent bloom cycles revealed white flowers!  Not to mention the HUGE price disparity between dye-infused and “garden variety” phals!!! Imagine paying 29.99 for the former and discovering a year later what you’ve actually bought is nothing but an overpriced 10.00 plant!?  :eek:

I’m pleased to say I only spent 9.99, so a huge “Thank You”  to Winn-Dixie!  As the old adage claims, “you get what you pay for”…in this case  a spiking orchid and the chance to learn something new!

Until next time!

:)