Kinda looks like the pumpkin carving party is turning into a “tradition”, starting with the invitation. Last year a severed finger arrived in the mail. This year it was a box of sparkly spiders.

flamingo devil

No ordinary flock of flamingos marked the walkway.

flamingo zorro

No, these birds were all decked out as she-devils and masked Zorros.

appetizers & wine

Getting in the mood to tap into our creative potential.


What you can’t see here is the mountain of tools, from felt pens to wicked saws, piled in the middle of the table. Twenty large pumpkins, already hollowed out and ready to be transformed, awaited our ministrations.

rougues’ gallery

Silly, scary, funny, wonky…you name it: here is the rogues’ gallery of Jack ‘O Lanterns lined up for their glamour shot. Then it was time to dig into a homemade feast of chicken enchiladas and chile relennos (sp?) followed by apple pie and/or pumpkin pie. So who doesn’t get off on Halloween?

april foolishness

No, I will not try to trick you. Instead, in the spirit of this crazy holiday, I thought I would share some of the weirdness from my latest walk around the ‘hood.


I am continually having to talk Richard out of arborvitae. Admittedly, they are serviceable in some situations, but here is what happens when left to their own devices for too long.


Ah, country living. These people built their, um, dwelling smack in the right of way for the extension of our road. When the authorities came to evict, out came the shotguns. No further action has been taken.


At the other end of the spectrum is the neighbor who carries tidiness to extremes. Crews are in almost constant motion mulching, mowing and giving the lollipops their haircuts.


This tree is on that same property. I find it strangely wonderful. Have you ever seen anything quite like it?


Here is evil ivy at work. See how it climbs trees, then puts them in a death grip?


Is this what the Easter Bunny really looks like? I hope not! People around here seem to have a thing for these inflatable monstrosities. Wendy, over at Greenish Thumb made an excellent point about snootiness in talking about others’ gardens, and now I am feeling sheepish about this post. I will try to compensate next time by showing some of the delights, some in the very same gardens shown here. Above all, I must declare these biases to be mine alone. Yours may be different, and you may even convert me. After all, I am beginning to feel twinges of affinity to pink, thanks to Grace.

here’s to the wearin’ o’ the green


Happy St Patrick’s Day! This is one of my favorite holidays for a couple of reasons. First of all, I am three quarters Irish. My dad’s family was from County Cork, and my mom’s side had just enough of the auld sod thrown in to make up the other quarter. More importantly, my son, Din, was born on this day. Then of course there’s the greenness of it all. Any gardener would have to appreciate that! And the beer…but I’m getting carried away beyond my professed “couple” of reasons. I’ll just encourage you to enjoy yourselves on this whimsical holiday.

day for love

Happy Saint Valentine’s Day to all you sweethearts out there.


Here’s my sweetheart in front of our “sweetheart trees”. We call them that because they have been standing there together long enough to grow that tall. Richard is 6’3″, so the trees are mighty tall indeed. When I mentioned, in a previous post, the logging that had gone on here, Jo asked if there were still big trees standing. Oh, yes.


I could point my camera in any direction and get a shot like this. Hemlock, Fir and Cedar, mainly, with Alder and Maple taking over in the logged areas (we’re hoping these will eventually shade out the dreaded blackberries)…living proof that nature abhors a vacuum.

by the book

Our favorite book for identifying the birds visiting us, or those we see in the field, has long been Sibley’s Guide to Birds of North America. The carefully rendered illustrations make them easier to identify than any photograph. Now, after eight years of painstaking effort, David Allen Sibley has brought the same meticulous attention to detail to bear in a book on trees. It was Richard’s one request when asked what he would like for Christmas, and of course I was only too happy to oblige.



The book is, of course, a valuable field guide. What surprised me was the poetry in Sibley’s prose as he talks about trees.

Then there is this little gem, which found its way to me as a gift.



The first book by Paul Bonine of Xera Plants, its squareish format makes for a pleasing layout (close-up, dramatic photo on the right-hand page, descriptive text on the left). Oddly, I never went in for scary movies, but the noirish character of these plants really appeals to me. Take, for instance, the ‘Vampire’s dracula orchid’

…best known for their bizarre flowers. Three large petals or sepals are veined with black and white lines, each terminating in a long, midnight-black tail. The interior of the flower is no less sinister with yellow stripes that radiate from a central white to light pink pouch, reminiscent of a small coffin.

What fun!

easing into the new decade

Man, oh man! The holidays totally knocked us out for the count. Lots of family, friends and fun, computer in the hospital and still not working properly, finally colds that made us too fuzzy to accomplish much. I finally popped out of bed this morning feeling fairly frisky and realized January is one-third gone and I haven’t even wished my virtual friends a “Happy New Year”. Is this a foreshadowing of the way the whole new decade will unfold? I hope not. Don’t know about you, but I am just as happy to whisk all those aughts into the dust bin and move on.

Contemplating the garden’s future, I hope to bring whimsy and an artist’s heart to all future endeavors. I just came across a piece I wrote for the Ventura Reporter a couple of years ago. Rereading it is what put me in this frame of mind, so I’ll share it with you.

The Art of Nature

Several years ago, I wandered into a small flower shop. There, on a pedestal amidst sprays of orchids and exotic foliage, lay an open book. The photograph was of the highest coffee-table-book caliber. The scene depicted looked like a natural phenomenon, but not like any I had ever seen. I leafed through a few pages, each of which revealed a new image as startling, in its own way, as the first. I had just had my first brush with Andy Goldsworthy.

Here was a book I had to possess, and an artist I must learn more about. I hadn’t been so excited about art since DeKooning. I snatched up Andy Goldsworthy, A Collaboration With Nature right then and there, and mooned over the other books so vocally that they eventually came my way as gifts. Unlike most glossy art books, they are opened, and pored over, long and often. Guests are pressed to dip into Andy’s world, and lo and behold: they “get it” and immediately fall under his spell, whether they have any arts background or not.

The works in question are in nature and of nature, but not exactly nature. The artist goes forth onto the land, looks around, and sees the tools and materials of his trade all around him. He carries no sketchpads, no brushes: nothing but a sharp eye and a brilliant imagination. A piece might be as simple as picking a lot of dandelions, transporting them to a nearby stream and covering the surface of a quiet pool with them. The effect of the splotch of color where least expected is displacement, intrigue and a whiff of humor.

Not all of this man’s ideas can be executed so easily. When he chooses to create a tapestry of leaves, he will use thorns to stitch them together. Coloration for a cairn of stones might be achieved by pounding and scraping other stones of the desired colors until they produce a fine powder. Sculpting with ice means working in punishing weather and resorting to bodily fluids as mastic, then willing the shards or icicles to stay where he puts them.

Most of these art works are ephemeral by nature. It is only through the wonders of photography that most of us will ever experience them. A starburst fashioned from icicles, nimbly perched atop a rocky, snow-dusted cliff, seems on the verge of melting from the very page. Rocks piled precariously speak of impossible balancing acts and make you want to hold your breath. Sand sculptures on the shore invoke the tingle of suspense we felt as kids, waiting for the tide to obliterate our handiwork.

A film, Rivers and Tides brings time into the equation, and thus enriches the viewing experience. We can actually watch the process of nature reclaiming its materials, redistributing them and, in effect, erasing the artist’s work. A streamer of brightly colored leaves placed in a rushing river becomes a contortionist on the currents, finally to be torn asunder. Handfuls of russet rock dust flung into the air create a pattern for an instant before falling back to earth. The fleeting images burn into the brain, leaving a little ache in the heart.

Film gives us the opportunity to meet Goldsworthy’s family, taste their cozy life and tramp with him over the rugged fields of Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where he developed his unique aesthetic. One glimpse of his ruddy cheeks, ruined hands and puckish demeanor, and we know him to be an outdoorsman who will never take himself too seriously. We watch him slowly and painstakingly construct a frieze by inserting hollow reeds into each other. When he pushes the construct too far, the whole thing collapses. He laughs good-naturedly and starts over, assuring us that the failures are all part of the process.

If art is a new way of seeing, Andy Goldsworthy is better than laser surgery. See through his eyes only briefly, and I dare you to look at the world in the same old way. His gentle stride through nature leads him to change it utterly, and yet leave it as if untouched.

Now I am going to hop on over to Netflicks to put in an order for Rivers and Tides to watch on one of these chilly winter evenings.

trees, part two


As promised, here’s the tree all tarted up.


A close-up of one of the Margaret Furlong porcelain angels. A client gave me one of these, autographed, each of the fourteen years that we worked together. The artist lives in Salem. Each year she comes out with a new edition, holding a different object. This tree creates perfect planes for displaying them.


The tree also has open spaces, allowing ornaments to dangle. I love that!


The torso came from a guy down the road who made mannequins. It was quite a sight back when he had his shop in an old house along Hwy 30. Body parts were bursting from windows, chimneys and balconies. It looked like the frat party of all frat parties was in full swing. Here, our rather tame torso is wrapped in strings of twinkle lights.


Here’s a shot to show you how I tucked it in amongst the vacationing plants, so they wouldn’t seem like such a strange counterpoint to the decorated tree.

Things are going to begin livening up around here, so if I don’t get back here for a while…Have a wonderful, fun-filled, friend-filled, family-filled time of it in the next few days. Thank you for enriching my life. HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

crowded in here


All of those plants that spruce up the great outdoors all summer long have to go somewhere when the temperatures drop into the teens (or even the twenties and low thirties…I’m just being dramatic). The southeast facing windows will keep them happy until liberation day. This is a little bit like one guest room and five guests: we love ’em, we want ’em, but where will we put ’em?


Every windowsill has been pressed into service.


But these are the spots where seed starting occurs in a couple of months. Oh dear, oh dear! I am developing empathy for the old woman who lived in a shoe.