Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Monday, August 03, 2015

Old West Road Trip - Utah

Our next couple of stops are in Utah with the first being Zion National Park.

More red rock but different from Sedona and the Grand Canyon. Each park we visited had its own distinct look and the rugged rock - different colors.

Our shuttle bus driver told us about the "ledge gardens." You can see one pictured below. Of course, my ears perked up when I heard the word "garden."

A ledge garden is a perfectly orchestrated little garden that can be found growing on ledges on the walls of these stone mountains. It actually looks like someone planted a nice selection of plants, but this little vignette was planted by Mother Nature. And, what a beautiful job she did!

You can see that Zion is still very much desert terrain but has a nice variety of drought resistant plants awash on the mountainsides. 

Here's another ledge garden that we came across. I love the spiky little plants that are tucked in the center of  the green shrubs and trees.

We stayed overnight in the City of Springdale, Utah which is nestled in at the base of Zion National Park. It is an adorable small town filled with adobe type homes and businesses. One thing that I really liked was that the towns near the national parks are small and completely uncommercialized. No McDonald's or towering hotels. Two story small hotels and mom and pop restaurants. I found this to be refreshing and wonderful!

We left Springdale on the morning of July 4th after we watched their small town parade. On our way out I snapped a photo of this apple tree growing among the plantings.

A closer look revealed two plants that I recognized because we can grow them here in Florida. The shorter plant in front is Russian Sage and the taller plant is a Chaste tree with its lilac-type blooms. It was a very pretty little landscape.

On Our way to Bryce Canyon City we drove through the Dixie National Forest where we discovered more RED ROCK. But, again strikingly different from all the other red rock we had encountered. This particular rock looks like a castle perched atop the hill.

We enjoyed 4th of July fireworks in Bryce Canyon City in - believe it or not - 55 degree weather. That was a first for me - 55 degrees on the 4th of July. All my memories of the 4th are hot and humid! These little western cities really know how to celebrate. The streets are packed and they play patriotic songs on large speakers during the firework display. At the end everyone hooped and hollered their approval. It was great!

The next morning we headed in to Bryce Canyon National Park where more spectacular views of red rocks and canyons filled our day. This park was one of my favorites. For some reason, the rock formations look like an ancient civilization to me. It is a much smaller park but its beauty is extraordinary and mystical in nature! 

Those rocks look like they hold millions of years of secrets, and for the life of me I cannot fully grasp how all of this beauty was created, for the most part, by water.

A close-up photo of the Pinion Pine with its cones.

One final look at the wondrous towers and peaks of Bryce Canyon National Park. I do not want to leave but there are still miles to travel and more rock to see. 

One last photo of Aspen trees with their beautiful white bark. I would love to see these in autumn when their leaves are golden.

We headed north to Salt Lake City with a stop planned at the great Salt Lake. One cannot drive through Salt Lake City and not see, touch and taste the Salt Lake. Here we discovered more rugged desert beauty.

And, of course, a dip - at least ankle deep - in the salt water. The only marine life is Brine Shrimp because of the salt. We, of course, tasted it and it definitely is a lot more salty than our beaches. 

The next morning we were headed to Wyoming along the Historic Pioneer Scenic Byway that cuts through the lower southeastern portion of Idaho.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Old West Road Trip - Arizona

In mid-June, 5 of us set out on a 2,500 mile "Old West Road Trip" that spanned 5 states: Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota. Our intention was to see as many national parks as possible.

The trip was without a doubt one of the BEST vacations I have ever taken. The scenery - -  absolutely BREATHTAKING and AWESOME. In my next few posts, I will share some of the beautiful scenery and wildflowers that we saw in all 5 states. I hope that you will enjoy photos of this unspoiled and pristine nature that has forever been preserved for us in our national parks.

Sedona, Arizona

Some 10 plus years ago I had visited Sedona and loved it. So, being able to return back there again was a true blessing. It is impossible to take a bad photo in Sedona. The crystal blue sky, bright white clouds, terracotta red rock and green pine trees are a perfect combination of natural elements for creating stunning photographs.

Being from the south, I do not know the names of most of the trees, plants, shrubs and wildflowers in the west. But that did not stop me from enjoying their rugged and soft beauty.

The vistas leave me speechless! The open and rugged beauty is totally divergent from our lush, tropical landscapes in Florida, but they have a distinct beauty that takes your breath away.

The fact that wildflowers - or anything for that matter - can grow in the dry red soil of the desert is beyond me. It's a testament to the Almight Maker and His creative powers.

Most people think the desert is not pretty, but I would strongly disagree with that belief. Even though it is at complete opposites from the climate I live and breathe in, it does not lack for beauty, and I thoroughly enjoyed this unique landscape with all of its scruffy and coarse plants interspersed among the gorgeous red soil.

It's a harsh climate and you've got to be one tough plant to survive and thrive in the crevice of pure stone!

Most of my photos will be of natural landscapes because this is mainly what you see in the national and state parks, but occassionaly we came upon a landscape with annuals and perennials, so I will include the few of those that I have because they are pretty, too.

This little vignette was right outside the The Chapel of the Holy Cross which is a Catholic church sitting high a top a red stone mountain in Sedona. This little sign in the bottom left (which I didn't quite capture) is cute. It says, "Please don't pick us, we're smiling at God."

Grand Canyon

Grand - Magnificent - Majestic - Glorious - Grandiose - Monumental 
Everyone of these synonyms fit this magical and majestic canyon!

To think that any plant would have the audacity and conviction to set root in stone is beyond my comprehension.

But, there are many different varieties that thrive in these conditions.

And, they are beautiful . . . 

rugged . . .

and, artistic!

As we hiked the south rim trail we could see lightning and rain showers in the distance. It was breathtaking to watch! Never was able to catch the vertical bolt of lightning - it was truly amazing!

Lots of Pinion Pines - they produce the pinenuts used for cooking - thriving on the walls of the canyon.

I could post hundreds of photos of the Grand Canyon but I don't want to bore you, so I'm posting this last shot of the canyon from the east rim. A very different view from the south rim.

Navajo Nation 

We headed north into Navajo Nation which is located around Page, Arizona. This area has 2 things that are definitely worth seeing. This photo gives you an idea of how expansive the view is. It's like this everywhere - wide open as far as the eye can see.

The Navajo people are very friendly and many sell jewelry they make from local stones and seeds at roadside stands which you can barely see in the left of this photo. A gorgeous view looking out over the desert. 

The first must-see is Horseshoe Bend. This is a view of the Colorado River flowing around this outcropping of rock. One gorgeous view!

Wildflowers and grasses growing beautifully on hot sand. You'd think it would burn them right up. 

One very dainty but tough little plant.

The second "must see" place is in Antelope Canyon. The Navajo native-Americans will take you on a hike through a slot canyon. A slot canyon is a narrow passageway between two stone hills. We walked through the opening you see below

which can be as wide as shown below or narrower as you walk through it. This is a tour group that was ahead of us. The shapes of these rocks have been formed by flash floods that have rampaged through these two hills for thousands of years. It is the handiwork of Mother Nature at her best!

The two hills are slowly moving towards each other and thousands of years from now this slot canyon will not be accessible.

What makes these photos so gorgeous is the sun shining (see it at the top) through the opening at the top of the slot canyon.

The photos are all different depending on the time of the day and the location of the sun. 

It is a truly remarkable feat of nature!

In the next post, we'll travel to Utah to see Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park and the Great Salt Lake.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's the Great Pumpkin(s), Charlie Brown!

Not to long ago I posted about the serendipitous pumpkin vine that launched itself all over my tiny backyard. When I recently returned from vacation, I noticed the extra large leaves floating on top of the fence had died, and the fence was no longer holding up the BIG pumpkin.  Fortunately, the BIG GUY hit the ground gracefully without splitting open. 

A few days later I carried it (at least 20 lbs.) and the other 3 over to this bench for a photographic memory. I couldn't let this opportunity slip by as I certainly would not have had this much success had I planned this whole "veggie tale" event out. We had a total of 5 pumpkins - I left the one on the other side of the fence for the two sisters who live behind me. They were excited a few months back when they discovered a pumpkin growing on their side of the fence. I totally believe in "sharing the joy!" 

Now, I seriously want to display these beauties (yes, I'm proud - even though I can't really take any credit for them) in the front yard, but GOOD GRIEF it's the middle of summer!

Do you think if I put them inside my dark and cool closet that they'll last until autumn?  It's only 73 days away.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hooray! I Have Massive Plant Damage

Exciting things are happening in the garden. Last week my Corky-stem passionvine looked like this . . .
If you look close you can see two Zebra Longwings on the upper left and lower right. 

Today it looks like this . . .

And we have these 3 newborns who will soon be fluttering around . . .

You can see the pupae they emerged from right above them. In fact, we counted over 20 empty pupae. How exciting!  All this on one single passionvine. I didn't realize they would attach their pupa onto the passion vine. Now that I know, I'll have to watch more closely to see them emerging. 

I hope they discover the other passionvine in the garden so this one can recuperate a bit. Who would ever think a gardener could be so excited over massive plant damage in the garden. From the perspective of a gardener who plants with the hope of attracting wildlife . . . Massive plant damage is a good thing and a 'BIG HOORAY' that you're on the right track!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Serendipity in the Garden

Some of the best gardening experiences are those that are unplanned and unexpected.

Last autumn I purchased a couple of ornamental pumpkins to display on the front walkway. When Christmas rolled around, I sat the pumpkin (still in good shape) next to the compost bin in the backyard. In Spring, I noticed a large-leafed vine was starting to creep along the ground. When it started to take over and attach itself to all the plants, I decided to hang it along the top of the fence.

It wasn't long before large yellow flowers began to appear.

Look at the size of this flower and leaf. You can use the fence posts in the background for comparison.

At first the flowers died and did not set fruit, but then  . . . I noticed a yellow fruit getting bigger and bigger.

It looks like a large lemon hanging on the fence (LOL)! And, I swear, everyday it gets BIGGER! 

I'm not sure if the vine can hold this pumpkin up until it ripens. I may have to add a support beneath it. Isn't it huge??? 
Every time I see it I have to laugh!!!

I absolutely love seeing the fence covered by this large-leafed vine, and am going to miss it when it's gone. The ginormous leaves look so lovely as they float face up atop the fence. Another positive is the squirrels don't like it there. It interrupts their ability to scamper at top speed along the fence line (ha-ha). 

I'm so glad I didn't pull it out when it was small. It feels like a Jack in the Beanstalk kind of vine as it meanders along. It has truly been a source of entertainment and delight ~ ~ it obviously doesn't take much to amuse me (LOL)!

 As you can see in the photo it has also set additional fruit. There are at least 5 pumpkins altogether. Hopefully, I'll get a couple to display for autumn. 

It grows at least a foot a day and has covered the south side of the fence and is also growing on the west side (pictured above). I just keep weaving it through the fence posts, and enjoying this unexpected, serendipitous, wonderful surprise in my backyard!!!

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