June 17, 2009

Cactus Crazy 2009

Posted in blogging tagged , , , , , at 10:15 am by czygyny


They are at it again! My cacti garden is bursting with blooms!


Here is the one that started the Echinopsis collection, tentatively identified as ‘Stars and Stripes’.


A nice combo of pink and Schick hybrid  ‘Hot Lips’ red.


This one, I call ‘Pale Peachy Pink’, is a creation of my very own! It can take many years to get from seed to blooming plant.


Not too sure, but I think this is another of my creations. I am not a good records keeper, much to my detriment.


This yellow beauty came from Home Depot. It has a light citrus fragrance.


This is another of my seedlings. It differs somewhat from the original parent “Stars and Stripes’.


Here is another Schick hybrid, ‘Oracle’, an electric fuchsia and red combination I so love in cacti flowers.


Not just Echinopsis are in bloom. This Opuntia Santa-Rita looks like a color pumped image, but its delicate purple and blue colorings and its light yellow blooms look great against the backdrop of a purple variegated barberry.


Lastly is this sea urchin lookalike, Astrophytum. Its very pale yellow flowers with their red rings look like eyes looking back at you.

Only lasting a day in most cases, these cacti flowers are worth rushing out in the early morning to drink up their incredible and fleeting beauty, and they live through my colder than Redding winter temperatures, with the added bonus of not needing much water in the summer, but they do need afternoon shade.

If you would like to try your hand at these beautiful Echinopsis cacti, take a look at these beauties!:



August 25, 2008

Summer endings

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , , , , at 4:20 pm by czygyny


The sweetest of Springs has now past, a smokey Summer of freedom is passing away. Some blue-oak leaves are beginning to show drought-induced senescence, and the Canadian geese are starting to practice their migration flights, strengthening the wings of this year’s offspring to complete the long journey ahead.

The evenings are sneaking up earlier, and the nights are spangled with stars that have been veiled all summer. The symphony of crickets still fills the night air making me I wish I had access to a top notch recording setup to bottle up their song for silent, dark winter nights.

The garden has matured, looking a bit haggard by the insect invasion that attacks every leaf and stem. Pumpkins, melons and winter squash peek out from the broad leaves and the tiny winter veggie seedlings begin their little green lives under cover of row cloth to keep the melting sun at bay.

The luxury of sleeping in has passed, school comes around again, and its up at a dark 5:30 in the morning now, instead of 7 or 8. It is just as well, the days are still so hot it is better to be outside working in the early morning than to wait until it hits 90° or more.

I haven’t completed my list of things to do: I haven’t had my big yard sale, yet. My sheep haven’t been sold, no firewood provisions made, nor do I have hay in the barn. Where did the time go?

It’s been a great time of being home, life’s busy-making has filled in every niche and opening of time. But, money is getting tight enough to need to look ahead in a few months. Hopefully with the coming cold, dark and wet season, life will slow down to allow me to pick up the job search again.

But, lately I have let my worries get a hold of me when I look at the state of the world, today. We seem on the brink of disaster, our way of life has never seemed so tenuous. My thoughts turn to survival, not business-as-usual. The world’s weather seems to have become a foreign force, floods, fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes in various places and in ever larger magnitudes. Unrest in nations, the financial health of banks are suffering, the rock-solid investment in real estate has proven a foundation of sand.

I have a feeling that the next few years will be a testing time for all of us.

But, for now, the year turns on the downhill slide. Soon, blessed rain will fall, trees will bare their branches, birds will depart for warmer climes. The winter coats and mufflers will come out of storage, and the summer of abundance will pass its torch to the cleansing time of winter, with the brief and colorful interlude of fall as a prize to enjoy before darkness falls.


“Yeah, but what about the photographs?”

Well of course, I have been taking pictures!


Is this a bee, a wasp or a fly?

It is a wasp-mimic fly, as the large compound eyes that touch one another proves. Cute little guy.


Now this is the real deal! This red ground-hunter wasp has the most unique smokey, irridescent wings that reflect the blue of the sky. She looks potent and I believe it! I fished her out of the pool, so I had the opportunity to take a series of images of her before she gathered enough strength to fly away.

A relative of hers, a larger, black and irridescent green ground-hunter proves too elusive to get a good picture. She recognizes me, too, unlike the other species who ignore me. When I draw close she hovers in front of my face menacingly, all 2 1/2 inches of black venom! Maybe I can share her later. I hear they really pack a whallop in the sting business.


I don’t see these formations very often, lines and lines of cumulus undulatus. I more frequently see higher, smoother undulating clouds.


This is a close up of one of my Astrophytus cacti. This star cactus has a wonderful shape and is covered with tiny dots of white. Close up makes for a good abstract image.

Thanks for dropping by!

July 19, 2008

My summer garden

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 9:37 pm by czygyny



Summer has reached its midpoint. It is a summer of opaque, dull skies, opalescent clouds and hazy horizons. It is a summer of choking smoke and anxious days while the wildfires burn tens of thousands of acres. It is mornings of ash covered cars and evenings of sack-cloth dark suns and nights of blood red moons. Mountain skylines are obliterated, the layers of smoke revealing the hitherto unseen layers of coastal range peaks that had been viewed as one seamless line. 

Not much keeps me indoors, not rain, nor hundred plus degree days, nor choking smoke. A day spent inside is a day wasted. So, despite the eye burning, allergy inflaming air quality, I’ve been out weeding, watering, and loving my gardens.

The images above are two views of my front yard. You can see the vegetable garden in the back, and the smokey tree line to the south. ‘Nessie’ my limestone sea-serpent sculpture jealously guards her cache of dog-bones, thrown there to prevent them from becoming deadly projectiles under the blades of the lawn mower.


This view is the driveway strip, a dry, hot buffer between the gravel driveway and the lusher lawn and flowers. Hardy plants like Salvia gauranitica, lavender and germander show off my large driftwood piece.


This view used to showcase my 7′ tall Opuntia ficus-indica, but horrific winter winds toppled it, and now my Opuntia ‘Santa Rosita’ shines in the forground with sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ and various rusty things, at least until my tall specimen grows up again!


Here’s a bit lusher spot of the yard, my perennial beds. Here is Canna Tropicana, hibiscus moscheutos, Stargazer lily and pink phlox.

A bit earlier in the season, the Shasta daisies and pale pink phlox are in bloom with threadleaf coreopsis in the back.


I found the most amazing Calabrachoa, a pale orange with a terracotta center, grouped it with a purple Heliotrope, Amaranthus ‘Joseph’s Coat’ and a stiff trailing sedum, and it became a great focus in mom’s yard.


For a dramatic plant that is hardy, drought resistant and all-summer-long color, Hesperaloe parviflora can’t be beat! The flower spikes are nearly eight feet tall this year! Hummingbirds love it!




This is one of my sunflowers with a honey bee and Argentine ant. This photo just stops me dead when I look at it, for some reason. It looks like it has been drawn with colored pencil. The combination of smokey sky and facing into the sun has washed this subject out and given it a printed poster feel.

The pinnacle of the year, July. A summer we in California won’t likely forget for many years to come. The sweetest of springs has given way to the most scorching of summers. But a bit of beauty can still be found in the unfurling of a colorful petal.

June 8, 2008

Cactus crazy

Posted in blogging, photography tagged , , , , at 6:26 pm by czygyny

I am an avid collector of cacti, I have hundreds! Some of my favorites are Echinopsis and hybrids of Echinopsis. They have some of the largest flowers around, bright and beautiful, and fleeting. Many of them only last one day! Thankfully, a photo lasts forever. After trying to grow them in pots, I decided to plop some into the dry, gritty soil of my rock garden. Wow, am I glad that I did! The collection that is in the ground (yes, they are quite cold hardy) out-did themselves this spring. I want to share some of these prickly wonders with you. Some of these plants are Schick hybrids from Huntington Botanical Gardens, the largest of the flowers are around 7″ long and can be up to 5″-6″  wide.

Check out the luscious blooms of the Schick hybrids:  http://www.huntington.org/BotanicalDiv/Schick/catalogindex.html

May 15, 2008

Will the weather please make up its mind!?

Posted in blogging, garden, photography tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:59 pm by czygyny

Wow, it has been a while since I last posted an entry in my blog! My time has been filled with fire-suppression spring cleaning, garden planting, weed pulling, and taking photos. This first photo is an Echinopsis hybrid ‘peanut cactus’ in my most favorite of ‘found’ pots, an old rusty hibachi barbecue! It’s cultivar name is ‘Fire Chief’ and it does seem on fire. I thought the container appropriate for the flaming flowers.

The weather has gone from record cold, to record heat, where I go from scrambling to cover everything tender at night, to providing afternoon shade and adequate water to newly planted vegetable plants.



These California poppies look really ‘hot’, too. These wild flowers bloom on the gravelly banks of East Stillwater Creek.

The care of the property has been left largely up to me, this last couple of weeks. My helper’s life seems to be in a state of flux. While he is struggling to come to terms with adulthood and the pull of friends and fun, I am left to mow, spray, dig and clean alone.  It is a sad time for me, because we have been the best of friends, and we’ve gone through a lot together. At 16 his mom died, and in the next few years many more members of his family died, so he came into our lives at 20, with an unfinished place in his heart which I hope I have helped to furnish with good thoughts, memories, laughter, admonitions and direction, things that a mom and friend would be there to create. I knew that there would come a time for him to test out his wings and fly. I knew it from the start that it would be a very bittersweet time.

Our friendship will always be a treasure to me.

His wanderlust leaves me with a whole lot of chores to complete in a short amount of time, because one cannot let the clearing of the property go too far into summer-time, it has a fairly narrow time-frame to be completed. But, after a lot of long 10-12 hour days, line-trimmers, rakes, shovels, and lots of nasty stickers in my socks, I am nearly done! I am on the home-stretch!

My vegetable garden is in, its irrigation system is installed. Most of the seeds are sprouting. We’ve managed to clear and plant the whole 40′ x’70’ section, a first! Augh! Moles everywhere! Tiny grasshoppers, earwigs and aphids already at work. Good thing we have so many different types of birds about. I’ll even forgo a stolen strawberry if they will just eat the bugs.


The last few days have been wonderful for sunsets! These three images were taken Wednesday.

The colors were so sublime and delightful, a grand show!

 Even Bear Mountain was dressed up in finery. 



I’ve had some lovely visitors to my garden in the last couple of weeks. This tiger swallowtail butterfly loves my Firewitch dianthus. I sometimes get pale swallowtails, Lorquin’s admirals, pipevine swallowtails and monarchs for a visit, as well. I’ve had old-world swallowtails come by briefly, but they are always tattered and careworn.


Here is my front yard as of Monday. The annual boxes are finished being planted, spent big bucks on the flowers this year. When am I going to start them all from seeds and save a bundle? The valerian is blooming white in the foreground, to the right is chrome yellow coreopsis and behind it are my Leptospermum bushes blooming pink and magenta. My trees are just now coming out of the big freeze a couple of weeks ago.

I have been invited to write a gardening column for our Shasta County’s answer to ‘Martha Stewart’, Doni Greenberg’s website! I have done two articles so far and have introduced my cartoon character ‘Stikrz’ with her very own gardening tips.




What fun!

Ah. The sweetest of springs continues…

March 31, 2008

A gift to myself.

Posted in blogging, garden, photography, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 4:22 pm by czygyny


I bought myself a gift today.


It is a Canon EOS 40D digital camera with an awesome 18-200mm lens.


I have taken about a hundred images in just a few hours.


And there was an AWESOME 22° halo that was a perfect picture frame for my oak. For a time it had an upper tangent arc and parahelia with tails, and a brief circumzenithal arc.


Also takes great indoor images like my terrarium, without flash! (hey,  that is a real running waterfall in there)


And showcases my large cactus collection quite well. I am having a blast!

Stay tuned for more…

March 26, 2008

The sweetest of springs begins

Posted in garden tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:51 pm by czygyny


As the sweetest of springs unfolds, I thought it might be nice to share some of my favorite Miniature Dwarf Bearded Iris.


This image has a single purple/white iris and dwarf narcissus.


Miniature Dwarfs are generally no more than 8″, and perfect for rockgardens. These purple ones have already crowded out their rocky niche.

The last ones are my pale blue MDBI, it is a repeat bloomer. All of my stakes and tags have mysteriously disappeared, so I will have to do some sleuthing to find all their names, again.

My rockgardens tend to get a bit cluttered over time, since I am always bringing home more rocks, sticks and rusty things. Bits of broken crockery, glass and also tacky plastic lizards, dinosaurs, giant ants, etc. that are only seen in the dead of winter when your eyes are desperate to see anything bright and colorful.

This little Olympus digital camera isn’t too bad, but I can’t wait to get my digital camera.


January 16, 2008

A Blustery, Blissful Day, Away from Care and Strife

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 7:26 pm by czygyny

I find my fun in ways most folks don’t. I would rather dig holes than watch television, pull weeds than shop, and a day spent outside is a day well spent, indeed.

Today was such a day, a beautiful, sunny day. And it would have been perfect if not for the incessant, frigid, upwards of 40-50 mph, winds! Our wicked winds come from the north. Blasting, piercing, drying, static-producing, skin-withering, migraine-inducing north winds.

In the winter it drives through your clothes like icy needles, in the summer it heats up with a vengance as it sweeps down the mountains. The only good things about our north winds is that it keeps the frost at bay, and drives all of Sacramento and the delta area’s pollution back where it belongs. Hey, keep your rice stubble smoke down there with you, where it belongs! Oh, yeah, it’ll dry your clothes on the line quite nicely, if you’re one of those, like me, who love the smell of line-dried clothing. Even if you end up with scratchy towels, just bury your nose in it and breathe in the fresh. Other than that, it is right up there with the sound of dirt-bikes for irritation quotient.

So, today we were out in it all day, cleaning out areas that have been in need of work, finding enough stuff to make a dump run. It was a fine day for ridding the property of the last hidden caches of leaves, the piles that have eddied behind storage sheds, stacks of pots and in between buildings. The wind has dried them out nicely, and when I pointed the leaf blower at them, the fierce breeze took them far away. A simple, and somehow satisfying trick.

My poor face shows the effects of the day-long exposure to the screaming zephyr, bright red, wind-chapped cheeks. Not so good on 50ish flesh, makes me look I’ve had a drink, or two. That wind is still howling and beating on my darkened window, envious of my warm, calm room, trying to find any entrance to spoil my comfort.

Things I have hanging on the outside of my house bang and thump, the little metal and plastic lock on the electricity meter goes ‘tap, tap, tap…’ like a tiny bug-sized woodpecker. That one, of course, is right outside where I lay my head to sleep. Today, I saw quite a few trees that the wind and storms have leveled in just the last week. Thankfully my four stately valley oaks were not among the fallen. They raged and screamed in the wind today, shouting and waving about, their bare branches offering little refuge for the birds milling in the fray.  I think they’ll be glad when the winds die down, too.

The picture above is from my garden last year. This is one of two raised-bed annuals boxes I built out of 2″ x 12″x 20′ pressure-treated wood. They are four feet wide, just the right width to be able to tend to easily, yet wide enough to make a visual statement.

I stick with this theme every year, although I might try something a bit different next year. I would like to have this one much like it is, in bold reds, yellows and purples, but I want the other one in more pastels than I have been able to find in the nurseries. Time to thumb through the ever growing stack of seed-catalogs. Boy, once you get on ‘the’ list, then the catalogs just start pouring in!

Starting my own nursery will be another possibility for a new career (or part of many other money-making-stay at home projects). I need to find out what certificates I need to acquire and any other legal stuff I need to know. Perhaps that AA in Ornamental Horticulture I received 30 years ago will finally come in handy? I have hundreds of different types of plants, just the cactus collection alone has at least a hundred different kinds, then there are the perennials, succulents, shrubs, house plants, terrarium specialties, natives, herbs, etc. Something to think about. Mail-order might be the order of the day.

Echinopsis cactus
Who wouldn’t want to have these lovely cactus flowers in their garden? This echinopsis is planted right in the ground, and has weathered 22 degree nights. When it blooms it is a knock-out! It requirements are a well-drained soil, sharply draining gravel mulch around the bases, and seem to do best when crammed in between large well-set rocks. They grow much better in the ground than I can get them to grow in pots, and given filtered, dappled afternoon shade.

Tomorrow more great fun is planned!

We’re rototilling!