Top Twelve of 2014

For the last oh-don’t-even-ask-how-many years I’ve created a calendar to give George for Christmas. I design 12 pages of my photos from the year, each with a different category from our lives together, and a “Greatest Hits” cover. My walk down Memory Lane means hours poring through all of the year’s images (more than 3,000 in 2014) to pick out the treasures, which I collage into pages for each month. This is the May page: Bees!

George's 2015 calendar: Bees

During my journey through 2014, I pulled out 12 of my favorites to show off. First, this closeup photo of a honeybee landing on a fennel flower went onto the calendar’s cover.

Honeybee on fennel flower

I shot this beautiful Great Blue Heron strolling through a field next to the driveway at Ardenwood Farm, our favorite East Bay Park.

Great Blue Heron

I love the colors, and the delicate and intricate swoops of this bromeliad flower (Billbergia nutans) that bloomed in our garden in January.

Billbergia nutans

In February, George worked hard behind the scenes at the Pacific Orchid Exposition. I’m so proud of his accomplishments as current president of the San Francisco Orchid Society!

George at Pacific Orchid Expo

We found some glorious Calypso Orchids during our hike on Mount Tam in March.

Calypso orchid at Mount Tam

Of the zillion hummingbird photos I took this year, I love the attitude of this Anna’s, and his glorious magenta crown.

Anna's hummingbird

George’s Tiger Lilies bloomed in July, just in time for our birthdays!

Tiger lily

Speaking of birthdays – we celebrated George’s at the fabulous Oakland Zoo. He wants this lion tattooed over his heart, what do you think?

Lion at Oakland Zoo

Of my many 2014 photos of our children, this is my favorite of the furry ones. Daisy is our one-year old sweet and rambunctious young lady, and Lars our wonderful round-faced Russian Blue. It took a while, but they finally get along (well, mostly).

Lars and Daisy

And I can’t leave out my top photo of our feathered children – George cuddling Maureen and Louise while Gloria waits for a space on his lap.

George and hens

Sadly, we didn’t find many monarch butterflies on Albany Hill for the annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. Several flew around, but we saw no clusters. This one rested on a tree branch. To compare, click here to see my 2011 blog post — a photo near the end of the post shows a large cluster of monarchs in the eucalyptus grove on the Hill.

Monarch Butterfly at Albany Hill

2014 was a bumper year for Anise Swallowtail butterflies, though. This caterpillar happily munched on the fennel in our garden.

Anise swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on fennel

Do you keep a journal, or go through your photos at the end of the year? I’d love to hear about your favorites! Wishing you all sweet memories of 2014, and many more for 2015.

 

An Orchid Day in the Garden

Lots of George’s orchids are blooming madly right now. Here are three of my favorite wonders in the garden. First up, Mormodes tuxtlensis x sib. The saturated yellow glows in the morning and evening sunlight and it has a pleasant light scent.

Mormodes tuxtlensis x sib

Just beginning to open, several spikes of the Spiranthe Cernua orchid, also known as Nodding ladies’ tresses. George won a trophy for Best Species Orchid Flower a few years ago for the parent of this plant.

Spiranthes orchid

And finally, another yellow treasure: Oncidium Gower Ransey. This orchid has multiple flowers along the spike, and as they gracefully bob in the air it’s obvious why it’s known as the Dancing Lady Orchid. For this photo I focused on a single bloom.

Oncidium Gower RanseyWhat’s blooming in your garden?

A Celebration of Old Roses, Sunday May 20, 2012

Heritage rose block print

What’s your favorite rose? Impossible to choose? Well, I have just the event for you — the 32nd Annual Celebration of Old Roses, one of the best happenings in El Cerrito, is coming up next month. Always held the Sunday after Mother’s Day, this year it’s on May 20th, from 11:00 to 3:30. Sponsored by the Heritage Roses Group, it’s at the El Cerrito Community Centerwhich is just a few blocks east of the main drag in El Cerrito (San Pablo Avenue), at 7007 Moeser Lane (cross street Ashbury Ave).  The event and parking are free.

The heart of the Celebration is the hundred-foot display of roses — everyone from expert cultivators to garden-fanatics to hobbyists to people who just have one rose bush in their yard bring cut roses to share and show off. They’re grouped and arranged by type, and the result is an intoxicating display of scents and colors. So pull out your shears, clip off a couple of your best roses, and bring them by! Have a rose that you can’t identify? Bring a bloom and get an expert’s opinion…

Heritage rose

In addition to the roses (including heirloom and hard-to-find roses from specialty nurseries), an array of arts and crafts and rose-related products will tempt you — just view, or  purchase if you can’t resist! You’ll find jewelry, china, books, cards, prints, calendars, honey, and much more!

Garden Delights Arts & Crafts

I’ve had a table with my artwork and crafts at the Celebration for the past seven years.  I’ll be there with the things I make from my original photographs, rose and flower-related, including jewelry, scarves, tiles, boxes, vases, sachets, and much more!  Go to smell the roses, then stop by to say hello…  If you have any questions about the show, please email me at HeidiRand [at] gmail.com.

Orchid happiness

Orchid

The Pacific Orchid Exposition in San Francisco (at Fort Mason this weekend) is the largest orchid show in the United States.  George and I have gone nearly every year since he started growing orchids. He also volunteers and, most years, he displays his orchids with one of the several local groups of which he is a member. This year he’s the president of the Diablo View Orchid Society (DVOS), so he’s showing at their display, which he and a few other people from the group put together.  Here he is in front of the booth.

George at the DVOS display at POE

Check out the glorious orchid at the right, it’s a Pleurothallis restrepioides ‘Dragonstone’ – one of George’s orchids that grows best outside, at least in our climate. It usually lives on our front porch – which is sadly empty while the orchid is at the show. In 2008 it won a “Best in show” and “Best in class”.  It has since been through a hail storm and snail attack, but this year it still won a second place ribbon.

There were so many amazing things to photograph, and almost as many photographers. It thinned out later in the day and I managed to get some photos that I liked. Composition can be difficult at these shows because a lot of the displays have the flowers jammed in. I look for a plain background. Here’s one:

Orchi

I love ladyslipper orchids – they’re so ‘designerly’ with their lines and spots. This is one of my favorites.

Ladyslipper orchid

George loves to preach the gospel of orchids and and let people know how to take care of them. We met a couple who flew out from back East just to see the show. They used to live near the town in Massachusetts where George grew up!

George at DVOS display

This is another one of my favorite orchids of George’s, a Scaphosepalum antenniferum. I like it because it’s kind of strange. The photo is a closeup, it grows on a long stalk, and this part of the flower is less than 2 inches across. I wrote a blog post about it last August.

Orchid

One of the best displays at the Show was of pleurothallid orchids. I loved this one, another closeup – the widest part of the flower is less than half an inch.

Pleurothallid orchid

Finally, another ladyslipper that George grew:

Ladyslipper orchid

The show is open today, Saturday February 25th, from 9 to 6, and tomorrow from 10 to 5. If you missed the show, or live far away, look for a local orchid group – they often have shows or meetings where you can learn about growing these amazing flowers.

The Great Bee Count of 2011

Honeybee on lavender flower

Honeybee on lavender flower

The day has arrived – so go out to your yards and gardens and begin …. counting bees!  The Great Sunflower Project  was launched in 2008 to get information about urban, suburban and rural bee populations.  The Project also wanted to educate people about what was happening with the bees in their back yards, and to remind us of how important bees are — their motto is: “Bees: Responsible for Every Third Bite of Food.”   So they got people all over the world to observe their bees on Lemon Queen sunflowers, because sunflowers are relatively easy to grow and a great resource for bees. They expanded the list of plants, including bee balm, cosmos, rosemary, tickseed, goldenrod and purple coneflower.  But even if you don’t have any of those plants in your garden (yet — lots of time to prepare for next year!) you can still count.  The bees that come to our garden love the lavender, and I had a blast earlier this week taking photos of them.

Bumble bee on soap plant flower

Bumble bee on soap plant flower

The bumble bees also love the soap plant flowers (Chlorogalum pomeridianum), tiny, spiky flowers that bloom only in the evening. The flowers are only about an inch around, so watching the relatively large bumble bees (compared to honeybees) grab onto the delicate flowers, making them bounce and wave, is very entertaining.


The steps to participate in the Project are listed on their site, with links.  All you have to do:  sign up and plant your sunflower (or other plant); describe your garden; watch the plant for 15 minutes and enter the data online. With colony collapse disorder, pesticides, and other threats to the hardest-working pollinators, every little bit helps —

Even if you don’t have any of the listed plants yet, why not go outside and do the count anyway? It would be a good baseline to compare with the number you get next year, when you’ve filled your garden with plants to help the bees.  And let me know what you find!

NATURE + ART workshop

Join me in this hands-on workshop to inspire and teach you basic and advanced techniques to enrich your artwork with natural objects and images, including flowers and plants, and animals and wildlife.

I’m limiting enrollment in this workshop, and molding it to the interests of the participants. We can cover topics such as improving your nature photography, using nature in mixed media art, how to find natural subjects or attract them to your garden, and much more.

Masdevallia orchid box

Masdevallia orchid box

No equipment is required, but if you have them, bring along your digital camera and/or laptop computer (including iphone or tablet).  Or bring your favorite paints, pencils, pastels, etc.

Sunday June 19, 2011, noon to 4:00 p.m., $60 plus materials. At the El Cerrito Canyon Trail Park Art Center.  Pre-registration is required. If you have questions, or to register, please email me at heidirand@gmail.com

And click here for the complete list of my upcoming classes.

Vanilla orchids by George

Did you know that vanilla (the real kind, not imitation) comes from an orchid flower?

Vanilla orchid flower

Vanilla orchid flower

My amazing husband George grows vanilla orchids, cultivates vanilla beans from the flowers, and makes extract from the beans! I’m going to track the steps, beginning with the orchid flowering, through pollination and cultivation of the beans.  I’ll add photos along the way, since the entire process takes more than a year (and you wondered why real vanilla costs so much) …

The vanilla orchid grows on a vine.  It helps to have a lot of space, but George set up a trellis, so the vine winds up and down and around.  Here’s a photo of George’s helper, Lars, watching the vanilla grow..

The first step of the process: the flower.

This is one of the flower buds, as yet unopened. You can see a drop of nectar – so sweet! I’m not sure what the purpose of the nectar is, some think it may be there to attract ants, which would protect the flower.

This is one of the flower spikes on the vanilla plant. There are five separate flower buds, unopened, on this one spike. There are at least four other flower spikes on the plant.  Finally, one of the flowers opened!

Unlike many other orchids which have flowers that can last for a month or more, each vanilla flower only blooms for one day.  If you want to cultivate the vanilla, you have to pollinate the flower before it fades.  The natural pollinator isn’t present in most places, so it’s usually necessary to hand-pollinate vanilla.  It’s not easy to do, but George has a really good success rate.  He takes a wooden stick and transfers pollen from one part of the flower to another (the anther to the stigma).

Hand pollinating the vanilla flower

Hand pollinating the vanilla flower

This is the flower, immediately after pollination.  You can see the other unopened flower buds on the spike.

After a short time, the flower collapses.

Stay tuned for more … next, the flowers that were successfully pollinated will develop into beans ..  If you want to learn more, there’s a great wikipedia entry on vanilla.