Friday, October 28, 2016

Sedona pt 2 Wild Animal Park

As noted in last week's posting, my recent Sedona trip yielded three very distinct day trips. Last week I shared photos of a walk in Oak Creek Canyon. This week it was our day at the nearby wild animal park called Out of Africa. There were two areas. The first, only accessible by the park's buses, went into the spacious open area. Here there were giraffes, antelope, water buffalo, longhorn cattle, ostriches and more, all in one big open area. The first photos are from that area. My friend and I then took a separate bus around the perimeter for a meet and greet with animals that had their own (spacious) enclosures. Lots of tigers, lions, hyenas, Lemurs and more. Our driver/guide had food treats that coaxed many of the animals over to the fence, meaning we were only 20 feet from them. Amazing. The day ended with an experience of Tiger Splash. Here was a spontaneous interplay between humans and tigers that was engaging, real and extraordinary. The guide, who's written a book on wild animal psychology, kept up a running play by play, explaining the fine line between tiger instinct (hunting) and learned behavior (trusting their human friends).
Okay, here are the photos.

"You looking at me? You looking at me?" Wasn't that DeNiro? Ostriches are perhaps the oddest birds on the planet. That said, don't piss 'em off cause one good kick could knock you out.

Sable antelope. Just hanging out but I love those horns. Guide said that unlike some other horned animals, if their horn is lost it doesn't grow back.

Texas Hold 'Em? Nope, pardner. These are African Ankole longhorns. Those are some serious horns ...

Who knew giraffes loved celery but that's what the guide gave us to feed them and they gobbled the treats faster than you can say "How long IS that tongue exactly?"  That would be an amazing 20 inches.

Though this shot is a bit dark, this guy is an African gray parrot. He's an extremely smart bird, probably a few points higher on the IQ scale than certain GOP presidential candidates.

Not sure what this floriferous bush is but they were all over the park (and elsewhere in this part of AZ). Beautiful.

White bengal tiger. Just magnificently beautiful creatures!

Here he is doing the 'stretch,' a new perspective of just how lean and muscled they are.

Hyenas get a bad rap for being scavengers. They're actually very bright animals and tender with their family. But they're fearless and will often hunt much larger and more dangerous game, including lions!

Ringtail lemurs are always a favorite and it's easy to see why. First, those amazing tails, which are much larger than their bodies. Then those cute faces, like adorable bandits. And of course the antics and the amazing acrobatic moves while in the canopy.

Here are two photos from the Tiger Splash event. Above, the white bengal has been lured into jumping into the pool (tigers are excellent swimmers and don't hesitate in getting in the water). Then below he's used those powerful hind legs to vault out of the water at a moving target (hunting mode).

Pythons. Sleeping of course. Two very different species.

Finally, two regrettably poor shots (through the wire cage of course) of one of my favorite smaller wild cats, the Serval. They are found throughout Africa, in the savanna regions. A few interesting facts. They weigh 30-40# yet have the longest legs relative to their size of any cat. They can jump an amazing 10' in the air. They can live 20 years in captivity. It is the only species in the Leptailurus genus. Servals are amazing acrobats and are comfortable in trees.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sedona's Beauty

I've just returned from a week in Sedona, visiting a friend. For those who have been lucky enough to visit this area, you know all about the famous red rock formations and the high desert beauty. We did three distinctive day trips that I will share here over three weeks' posts. I start today with our walk in Oak Creek Canyon, a National Parks area just north of Sedona. Here steep canyons have been carved out by Oak creek and where the creek hosts a great variety of riparian trees and other plants. This creek and the nearby Verde river are the only year round water sources in this area and because of the desert-like conditions elsewhere, they are particularly refreshing habitats to visit. So, here are a few photos of that walk. Please excuse the quality of the photos. My point and shoot camera has trouble focusing when viewing a visually complex scene.

Our particular hiking path takes one first through an open meadow, filled with abandoned apple trees. The photos above and below give two views of this area, the second showing the ever present cliffs.

As mentioned above, the source of water encourages the growth of a variety of colorful deciduous trees. The day of this walk, October 24th, we encountered quite a bit of fall color. They covered the complete spectrum - golds, oranges and reds. Conifers still covered areas further away from the water, especially pine trees.

The canyon cliffs are never far away. This photo gives you an idea of how steep they can be. It's a testament to the tenacious nature of conifers that they can gain a foothold in such craggy conditions. 

If one goes deep enough into the canyon the trail eventually skirts these over-arching red rock walls. Very striking and geologically curious. The next five photos show different locations along this one stretch. I was able to gain a foothold on the rock, in order to get these closeups, and still stay dry!

Finally, I used the full extent of my zoom to catch a closeup of a far off rock formation, perched on a nearby hilltop. It almost looks like a human structure, a cairn of sorts, but in fact it's a natural formation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Exploring Through Gardens

Every garden has its own beauty, from the simplest to the most sweeping. That's the power of gardening to me, that the humblest garden can be life affirming and satisfying. Whether you spend an hour a week in your garden or have the time (and passion) to practically live in it, the garden gives back in so many ways. I often tell gardeners coming into our nursery that gardening magazines are all well and good with their lovely photos of elaborate designs but that doesn't have to be you. Follow your own heart. That said, there is something to be said for being adventurous, for trying new things, be that with a fresh look at design or by exploring new plants. I used to work in the book business, at a book wholesaler, and one of the joys of the job was surveying new titles that arrived in our New Releases room. Similarly, working at a nursery allows me to see new varieties or entirely new genera as they first arrive. You don't need that advantage; gardeners can simply spend a little time at their local nursery, peruse the aisles, even ask the people there What's new?
It's that kind of curiosity that got me in the 'mess' that I'm in today, having a 'one of everything' garden. I could certainly put my garden on one or more of the tours (as friends have suggested) but I'm afraid my garden wouldn't neatly fit into any current tour's theme. Maybe I'll change my mind in the future. In the meantime, I have the luxury of sharing my garden via photos in this forum. So here are this week's windows onto one collector's garden.

I have gotten to appreciate succulents more than ever during my ten years at Grand Lake Ace nursery. I am currently enamored with gray and silver tones, a few of which are displayed here.

If this were a painting, would this be called 'Blue Pot with Butterflies'? Of course that's a nemesia in the pot and the butterflies here are cloth ones but it does have a rather painterly effect, n'est-ce pas?

Although I'm not a big fan of mums, I do like this coppery-orange color.

Here's a bit better photo of my new Salvia 'Love and Wishes.' BTW, look for my article on Salvia 'Amistad' in this coming Sunday's Chronicle (10/23). This new salvia is also mentioned. 

Winter is a great time for Protea family members. Here's my fabulous Leucospermum 'Veldfire,' already greening up in preparation for late winter blooming. The silver bush in front is the CA native Eriogonum giganteum. 

This pretty clover-like Oxalis is O. latifolium. It's a summer dormant, winter flowering type and I love the contrast between the lime green leaves and the orchid pink flowers.

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... well, my Tecoma x smithii. It's used a street tree for support and climbed a good twelve feet. There are dwarf varieties of Tecomas but this cross is clearly a full sized one.

Last week I presented a photo of my Solanum 'Jalisco,' where the flower buds had yet to open. Here you can see that the first of them have begun to open, revealing the yellow stamen.

Impatiens congolense. This plant has its own mind as to when it flowers, though in recent years it's choosing to bloom later in the season. 

Here's a photo of my rain lily flower, now fully open. Though I'm not big into white flowers, I do love the simplicity of this flower and the fact that its flowers literally pop up overnight once the rains come.

I finally was able to get a decent photo of my Hibiscus trionum's flower. Though the flowers are smaller than most other hibiscus, it produces great numbers of them.

I've now learned to prune back my Luculia pinceana in the summer, before it enters its fall and winter bloom season. I'm too late this year as it's getting an early start. I've written quite a bit about this plant in the past and it's no exaggeration that it's one of the MOST fragrant plants on this sweet earth. And for some reason I love the fact that the eventual flower first appears as a little round pink ball.

African boxwood may not ring a bell for many gardeners but this resilient shrub - Myrsine africana - is a lovely specimen. This variegated form won't get as large as the straight green specimen but hopefully will be just as hardy.

Finally, in honor of my recent article on Curious Seedpods in Pacific Horticulture magazine (Fall 2016 issue), here's a new favorite of mine. This waxy seedpod belongs to Cassia phyllodinia. But you knew that, right? Seriously I'd never heard of this Cassia species until it showed up in our nursery. I'm a big fan now.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Before the Rains

While it may not be the great flood, the forecast rains this weekend in the Bay Area is certainly welcome news to gardeners. It isn't just the precipitation itself but rather the prana that the rain brings to both plants and the air. There's no doubt that gardens benefit more from natural rain than the water coming out of our hoses. In any case, the rain will freshen the air, clean the streets and mean we'll be able to skip watering this weekend.
October is often a transition time in our gardens. Summer flowers are fading but winter shrubs such as camellias have yet to begin blooming. Vines are prominent now, as are fall-blooming shrubs such as Salvias. For those of us with diverse gardens, there's always a bit of wonder to discover.
Today's photos reflect that diversity, with a mix of later perennials, some shrubs showing color and some Passiflora vines in bloom. October is also a "preview" period for an assortment of bulbs, the earliest ones already poking their heads up.

Faucaria. The so-called Tiger Jaws is one of most readily blooming succulents. Here's one of its yellow flowers just starting to close. I love the rubbery 'leaves' and how nonchalant it is. It grows, it flowers. Repeat.

Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey.' The dark-spotted form of the 'money plant' appreciates being in some sun, which seems to bring out more of the darker blotching. This is one of the plants I chose for my Interesting Seedpods in the Fall 2016 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine. The wafer-thin seedpods look like coins, thus the common name.

It wouldn't be autumn without Rudbeckias so here's a shot of my Autumn Colors variety. 

Where the rudbeckia is all bright colors and a showoff, this Abutilon palmeri offers soothing, silvery-gray tones. The leaves are felty, adding another dimension of softness. There is color here though, as the flowers are a saturated golden yellow.

Speaking of my recent articles, my next SF Chronicle column will be on Salvia 'Amistad.' This recent addition is a real showstopper. I also mentioned a few similar varieties and one was this beauty - S. 'Love and Wishes.' It's a version of the well know S. 'Wendy's Wish.' Dark bracts and vivid burgundy flowers make for a real show.

Teucrium fruticans 'Gwen.' This new variety of the popular Germander is just beginning to bloom. T. fruticans is a tall, upright species, so good for adding some structure to a planting bed. It maintains its silvery foliage throughout the year.

Another shot of my ever evolving Aussie natives bed, with the front sidewalk-facing area populated by succulents. 

There's nothing quite like the blues offered by certain conifers. Here's it's a Cupressus glabra 'Blue Pyramid.' It's taken up temporary residence in my Dwarf Conifers bed.

Okay, so who am I? First clue is that these are flowers not berries. Got it? It's Solanum sp. 'Jalisco.' This variety was brought up from Jalisco Mexico and is proving quite vigorous. It is supposed to be long blooming and the flowers lightly fragrant, reminding some of Heliotrope. 

Begonia fans will recognize these flowers. In this case they belong to B. Irene Nuss, one of the showiest of all cane begonias. That's as much for the foliage as for the flowers, though there's no denying the beauty of these pink and white temptations.

Another shot of the fabulous Passiflora 'Oaklandii.' Love the color and even though the filaments are largely absent, the size of the flowers and the fact that the petals and tepals are the same rich color makes this variety a keeper.

I once thought this Calceolaria calynopsis was fragile but this specimen is proving more durable than expected. Pinching off spent flowers has brought on a new wave of blooms. 

This morning glory - Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade' - is unlike almost any m.g. I've seen, in part because the flowers have a ruffled, almost double petal form. Unique and vivid, always a great combo.

Hunnemannia fumariifolia. Hunny what? you may ask. This little known poppy is a real charmer. Related to CA poppies but bigger (it gets to 2' tall and wide), it features finely dissected bluish-green foliage and vivid yellow flowers.

Buddleja 'Cran Razz. This guy is just now putting out its first flowers, obviously later than is the usual case for Butterfly bushes. Then again it's always had a mind of its own.

Kalanchoe 'Elk Antlers.' This new variety of Kalanchoe does sort of look like antlers. So many Kalanchoes, so little time ...

Kudos to those who can ID this very particular and unique flower. If your answer was Haemanthus albiflos then you get today's gold star. This genus has the name 'blood lily' due to the H. coccinea having red flowers but here the albiflos has white 'shaving brush' flowers ('albi' signifies white).
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