I am a lover of horticulture, gardening and the environment. At age 8, I sent away for a package of Zinnia seeds for 10 cents and I've been hooked ever since. After 25 years of being self-employed, I retired. That only lasted 4 years and I now work in a water conservation program: I buy grass from homeowners who are willing to convert to desert landscaping and lose that thirsty green stuff. I pursue what interests me and you can blame my sister for getting me into this blogging thing.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Spring in the desert-It's no place for sissies

Last Monday, I went hiking with my friends on the north shore of Lake Mead. It is an awesome place, some would describe it as desolate. For those who appreciate the hardy plants and animals who survive here, we love the renewal that spring brings. The first thing we saw was an incredible display of the endangered Bear Paw Poppy, the plants thrive only in gypsum-rich soils. Technically, they are Arctomecon califonica.

Besides the fact that they are rare, their existence has held the land hungry developers in the Las Vegas Valley at bay. Expansion here has created many problems, not the least of which is congestion, a shortage of teachers, medical help and poor air quality. The BLM is protecting this innocuous little plant and slowing down development, so hooray for the Bear Paw Poppy.

Many of the plants are very small, like Sun Cups and Phacelia or desert primrose (the purple flower). Each is a little treasure when we find it and identify it. Very tiny flowers are called belly flowers, you have to lay down on your belly to see and appreciate them. Yellow seems to be a predominant color in desert plants. I think it makes them more attractive to pollinators, like bees. Once I was in Death Valley and saw a whole field of yellow, purple and white flowers. It inspired me to go home and create a flower bed in those colors.

These spectacular beauties are called Sun Rays. They will often grow in distrurbed soils along the road. I think the infrequent rain helps them thrive because it washes off the roads and gives the plants a little more water. It's pretty dry here so I have so much admiration for these tough plants that are so showy.

This is where we stopped for lunch, it's called Rogers Spring. It was a welcome break because there are bathrooms. It's a thermal hot spring and home to many unusual fish and turtles. There is an unusual amoeba that lives in these waters, a sign warns prospective swimmers that it can cause death if it enters your nose or ears. That's one of the reasons the desert is no place for sissies. This area is a haven to many birds including migratory birds so it's a favorite stop for the people who love birding. Rogers spring is a part of a national wildlife refuge. The stream that runs off of this 30 foot pond waters the many species of plants that surround the area. I love going to the desert, it brings peace to my soul.

P.S. For all my blogger friends who are waiting for the Costa Rica pictures, I'm still working on editing them, I took over 700 pictures.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Greetings from Costa Rica

Even though we are on vacation in a gardeners paradise, I am still able to reach out to my blog friends. This has been an amazing experience. We have seen a vocano, a turtle refuge, a rain forest, and many species of wild life. I am so sorry that I cannot include some photos with this message. Today we saw an 18 foot crocodile, from about 30 feet away. They are awesome creatures. We had howler monkey waken us at dawn and toucans sitting on a branch outside our room. The flowers are gorgeous. They plant tree fences here by cutting branches off of trees then sticking them into the ground. One thing I have to mention tho are the really skinny cows, they have a lot of brahmin cows from India. For someone born in the middle West, they are pretty darn ugly. People here have manditory education up through the 12th grade so they have a high literacy rate (95%). But it seems the average person only makes about $400 a month. People in the countryside live pretty poor lives. It gives you pause when you realize what a privileged life we have in the United States. I am grateful for all that I have in my life and will count my blessings even more often than I do now. I feel fortunate that we can experience this country and the Costa Rican people who have greeted us with friendship. I will post some of my pictures next week when we come home.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Dick Tracy would be proud

I was thinking about motherkitty's blog the other day about not keeping up with the times and learning new computer skills. I thought about all our childhood toys..Dick Tracy watches, walkie talkies, etc. We pretended to really talk to our playmates.

Well, I've come a long way. Today I'm surfing from my wireless laptop toughbook computer. I'm eating lunch, and I can entertain myself by reading my email and the news, while signed in wirelessly. I will read various blogs to catch up with all my blog friends.

I just love a good toy, I have two cell phones, one personal, one for work. Then there are three computers, home, work and mobile. Digital cameras for work and instant gratification. We have digital voice recorders, atomic clocks, satellite television. I even have a washing machine that weighs the load, uses 40% less soap and water, computes agitation time and sends a message to the dryer via a computer cable telling it how long to dry the clothes. Our grandkids have gameboys, x-boxes and PS2's. Just go to Costco and Fry's Electronics, the possibilities are endless.

I don't get nostalgic for party lines, ice boxes, wringer washers, or manual typewriters. I remember sitting on my grandmother's bed, listening to her stories of the old country. She emigrated here in 1905. It seems they had electric street cars in Kiev and horsedrawn streetcars in Chicago. As kids we had radio shows like "The Shadow" and Amos and Andy. Finally some neighbors got a TV, we went over to see Howdy Doody. My parents used an old mechanical cash register in their grocery store and an adding machine that had a handle you pulled every time you wanted to enter an item.

Now we have bar codes, self check out, wireless everything. We can talk across the world instantly on our cell phones. Personally, I'm loving every minute of the electronic revolution. You'd have to drag me kicking and screaming back to the "simpler life". I'm just waiting for those teleporters so I won't have to commute to work.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I love a project

Nothing makes me happier than having a project. As if I can't think up enough on my own, I now have HGTV. It's very addicting. Everyday my husband says Oh no, not that again. But I love Curb Appeal, Designed to Sell, Designing for the Sexes, Designers you see a pattern here? I've been designing gardens for many years, I love my private space. Other people seem to like what I do and it's easy to get sucked into a project for someone else. I once worked on a guys yard for two years, my grandchildren call it the job that never ends. It was great fun, no budget and I got to do whatever I wanted.

Here are a couple of projects I did in my front yard, I had a seating wall and arched stone gateway built. Then I hired a couple of kids to help me. We put in a flagstone patio and path, lighting and lots of plants. My husband helped me build the trellis. It's redwood that I ripped on my table saw and screwed together with coated deck screws. I have a grape vine and a passion vine planted on it. When I landscaped the front, I wanted it to look like the edge of the desert. I had recently completed a botany class called Plants of the Southwest Deserts. I was in love with all the native species. Not many desert gardens looked good. Unfortunately, a lot of people plant a tree, spread gravel and drop a boulder on the yard and think they have a desert landscape. As a photographer, I notice things. I think Mother Nature is the best gardener. When I'm hiking, I will photograph natural settings that I think can be translated to the home landscape. I created rolling elevations and buried the boulders in my yard making them look as if they're erupting from the soil. Nearby plantings of native grasses or other plants give them a more natural look. My biggest turnoff is the alien boulders that dropped from outer space. I also like to create a transition from the public space to the private space. It only has to be a visual barrier, not a wall. Small plants planted in masses can create a big impact.

I never had any training in landscape design but I've bought a lot of books along the way and I guess you could say I'm self taught. The results look pretty good if I do say so myself. A lot of people stop to ask questions when I'm working in the yard. But it's all in the planning and the execution. Maintenance is a drag but part of the game. Make no mistake, a desert landscape is low water use but not low maintenance. The big payoff is the satisfaction I get when the plants mature and I see my vision become reality.