Cards Hot Off the Press!

You know that rush of relief when you check things off that have been haunting your to-do list for too long? I am supremely happy that I met one of my biggest goals before the end of 2014. Way back in March I told you that the wonderful sales rep who was selling my greeting cards to stores stopped repping. It took me awhile to scramble back to my feet, to decide to sell my cards on my own, and to master the many moving parts involved in that.

Greeting cards

Designing a brochure was a big part of the project, since I can’t go visit each store to show them my cards. I kept it simple (just the facts, ma’am) – a nice large photo of each card, its number, and basic info.

Greeting cards

My wonderful local printer, Jayne at Cerrito Printing, made the process easy and affordable, and I think the brochure turned out beautifully! Hummingbird cards take up 3 pages, the largest portion of my line.

Greeting cardsButterfly cards are really popular.

Greeting cardsA lot of garden stores order the flower cards, and few can resist the squirrels!

Greeting cardsThe back page has an enlarged image of my favorite card and more order info. But wait, by the time the brochure was printed I had added another large task to my to-do list – I decided to design eight new cards. When those were all printed (thanks, Cerrito Printing!) I designed an insert page to show them off, and even had room for an order form.

Greeting cards

So now I’m well on my way selling my own cards, a lot of work but really fulfilling. If you know of any shops that carry my kinda greeting cards, also garden stores or nurseries, send me an email with the name of the store and I’ll contact them! You can click here to see my entire card line, and here’s a link to the brochure as a pdf

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Tilden Botanic Garden

What to do for George’s birthday? We hadn’t taken a walk through the Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park for a while, so we headed up there after birthday brunch. The Garden is amazing, ten acres of native plants, including many rare and endangered. We were welcomed by two red-tailed hawks, circling high above.

Red-tailed hawksOne dipped a bit lower, riding the warm air.
Red-tailed hawk

A dragonfly zipped by and rested on a branch for a moment.

Dragonfly

There have been some additions and changes to the Garden since we last visited. Or maybe we never noticed this stand of Darlingtonia californica, or California Pitcher Plant, a carnivorous plant.

Darlingtonia

The California Pipevine, or Dutchman’s Pipe (Aristolochia californica) is resplendent in several places through the Garden. And although we didn’t see any mature Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies, we saw several caterpillars. This one had just shed its skin.

Pipevine swallowtail caterpillar

This is a Dutchman’s Pipe seed pod.

Pipevine seedpod

On to an amazing display of Humboldt’s Lily. There were several towering up to about 6 feet high, just covered with flowers.

Humboldt lilies

A single Humboldt’s Lily flower.

Humboldt lily

The honeybees and bumblebees were out in full force. Here’s a honeybee, with a pollen pack on its leg, busy feeding from a flower on a flannelbush shrub.

Flannel bush flower with beeI couldn’t believe how many bees were on the many flowers of a Matilija Poppy plant. This one flower had at least ten bees coming and going for the half hour we sat and watched, amazed.

Matilija poppy

A wonderful birthday walk in the Garden, and now … a nap.

George restingHave you been to the Tilden Botanic Garden? Is there a Botanic Garden in your city? What’s your favorite plant or animal there?

Butterflies & Barbie at the Albany Library

Together again for the first time! Christina Van Horn, creator of the amazing Barbie Display – last spotted in October in the El Cerrito Library display case, and I with an expanded version of the butterfly display I had there in June, have teamed up and taken our combined show on the road – actually just a few miles down San Pablo Avenue to the Albany Library.

Barbie and Butterflies

Barbie and Butterflies at the Albany Library

Christina’s “Say Hello to Barbie!” is a loving tribute to an icon, a playful and creative reminder for us to reach back to that part of ourselves that we may have packed away when we put our toys and dolls aside. The power of Barbie to evoke emotions was evident when several people stopped to share their memories of the dolls as we were putting the display up.

Say Hello to Barbie!

Say Hello to Barbie!

Christina has dressed and accessorized seven Barbies from a range of years. The variety of the garments in which Christina chose to dress the Barbies is amazing. And check out the great hairstyles! Christina even constructed and sewed the sumptuous bed and bedding in which ‘middle-aged’ Barbie lies, reading. She also describes Barbie’s history, and discusses her impact, including citing controversies, which, she notes, often involve parodies of Barbie and her ‘lifestyles.’

Butterflies in Your Garden

Butterflies in Your Garden

One of my aims for my part of the display is to show people that they can garden to attract and nurture butterflies in their gardens.  Along with some of my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and of the anise swallowtail butterflyand my artwork and crafts from my butterfly photos, I’ve put together lists with information about local butterflies, their food sources and helpful plants.  I’m attaching the lists to this post as pdfs for you to read and print out for your own use.  If you want to copy them for any other use, please contact me for permission.

It’s great timing to have the display in Albany right now – the monarch butterflies have returned in great numbers to the shelter of the eucalyptus trees on Albany Hill.  This is a photograph I took two weeks ago there.

Monarchs wintering on Albany Hill

Monarchs wintering on Albany Hill

If you have any questions about Barbie or butterflies, just let Christina, George, and me know in the comments.  We hope you can make it to the display!

Here are the pdfs I mentioned above — click on the bolded text to download each pdf.

First, a partial list of Bay Area butterflies, with my photographs of a few of the butterflies:

Bay Area Butterflies

Second, a partial list of larval host plants for local butterflies. These are the most critical plants, because the butterflies need them to lay their eggs on. When the eggs hatch, they eat the plant to survive until they change into chrysalises:

Gardening to Attract Butterflies: Larval Hosts

Third, nectar plants for butterflies. This is also a partial list to give you some ideas about what you can plant to provide nectar for Bay Area butterflies. Most adult butterflies feed on flower nectar. Not all flowers provide nectar, so if you really want to help the butterflies, try to include as many nectar-providing plants as possible. The butterflies will waste energy visiting flowers that don’t provide nectar. And of course butterflies are great pollinators, and as they feed on the nectar they carry pollen from previously visited flowers:

Bay Area Butterfly Nectar Plants

George also wrote a wonderful description of the evolution of our garden and yard into a wildlife habitat:

Killing our lawn, by George McRae

Butterflies in Your Garden

My butterfly display at the El Cerrito Library  is up! It’s in the glass case at the front of the library.  It will be there from June 5th through mid-July.

One of my aims is to show people how to garden to attract and nurture butterflies in their gardens.  Along with some of my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and of the anise swallowtail butterflyand my artwork and crafts from my butterfly photos, I’ve put together some lists with information about local butterflies, their food sources and helpful plants.  I’m attaching the lists to this post as pdfs for you to read and print out for your own use.  If you want to copy them for any other use, please contact me for permission.

First, a partial list of Bay Area butterflies, with my photographs of a few of the butterflies:

Bay Area Butterflies

Second, a partial list of larval host plants for local butterflies. These are the most critical plants, because the butterflies need them to lay their eggs on. When the eggs hatch, they eat the plant to survive until they change into chrysalises:

Gardening to Attract Butterflies: Larval Hosts

Third, nectar plants for butterflies. This is also a partial list to give you some ideas about what you can plant to provide nectar for Bay Area butterflies. Most adult butterflies feed on flower nectar. Not all flowers provide nectar, so if you really want to help the butterflies, try to include as many nectar-providing plants as possible. The butterflies will waste energy visiting flowers that don’t provide nectar. And of course butterflies are great pollinators, and as they feed on the nectar they carry pollen from previously visited flowers:

Bay Area Butterfly Nectar Plants

Fourth, I compiled a bibliography of books related to butterflies, native plants and gardening that are available in the El Cerrito Library.  This is the link:

Books about Butterflies and Native Plants at the El Cerrito Library

Last, but not least, George wrote a wonderful description of the evolution of our garden and yard into a wildlife habitat:

Killing our lawn, by George McRae

If you have any questions, just let me know in the comments.  Hope you can make it to the display.

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.

Butterflies emerging!

What a celebration we had for the first beautiful warm day after a horrendous stretch of pounding rainstorms, hail and cold — two of our swallowtail butterflies emerged!

Anise swallowtail butterfly

Anise swallowtail butterfly

Number one came out in the morning.  He’s an anise swallowtail butterfly that we raised from an egg we found on fennel in our garden.  We let this guy sit inside for a bit, then after his wings had firmed up, we opened the cage and away he flew.  Anise swallowtails are interesting, because they don’t emerge according to a set timetable (as monarch butterflies do).  The swallowtails stagger their emergence, possibly to insure that some of them at least emerge at a time when there will be plenty of food for them.  We have some swallowtail chrysalises in our butterfly nursery that date back more than 2 years.

Swallowtail chrysalis

Swallowtail chrysalis

You can tell they’re still viable because there’s movement inside if you touch them.  After checking some of them, George noticed that another chrysalis had darkened, which they do when they’re getting ready to emerge.  And shortly after that, number two came out!

I only got a few shots of these guys, but if you want to see my photos of the life cycle of the anise swallowtails, go to this gallery in my smugmug website.  I have closeup shots of the entire process — from egg, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly.  Oh, and we haven’t seen any monarch butterflies in our yard yet, and we don’t have any of them in our butterfly nursery, but you can see my photos of the life cycle of the monarch butterfly at this gallery.  Happy Spring!

Heritage Rose Show – May 16, 2010

Despite the cold weather, I’m getting signs that spring can’t be far off.  The farmer who sells incredible tomato plants at the Civic Center Farmer’s Market had a bumper crop of starter plants yesterday, so after consulting with family gardener George I toted six plants home on BART.   And just as exciting, I got news yesterday about one of my favorite events in our town (El Cerrito California, a bit north of Berkeley) — the Celebration of Old Roses, sponsored by the Heritage Rose Group, and held the Sunday after Mother’s Day.  This year the Show will be on May 16th from 11 am to 4:30 pm.  It’s at the El Cerrito Community Center, a few blocks east of the main drag in El Cerrito, San Pablo Avenue.  The Center is at 7007 Moeser Lane, cross street is Ashbury.  The event and parking are free.

Double delight rose

Double delight rose

The heart of the event 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 show. They are grouped and arranged, and the result is an intoxicating display of scents and colors.

Blue girl rose mandala

Blue girl rose mandala

In addition to the roses, an array of arts and crafts and rose-related products will tempt you — just view, or  purchase if you can’t resist!  My favorites include a vendor who sells rose and nature themed books, and two vendors who offer rose flavored jellies and jams and  locally-produced honey.

Rose and bouquet collage silk scarf

Rose and bouquet collage silk scarf

We have had a booth with our artwork and crafts at the Celebration for the past five years.  This year we’re going to be in the main hall again, competing with the rose display for attention.  I’ll bring the work that I make from my original photographs, mostly 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…

Garden Delights booth at Rose Show

If you have any questions about the Show, please email me at HeidiRand@gmail.com

Despite the cold weather, I have been getting signs that spring can’t be far off.  The farmer who sells incredible tomato plants at the Civic Center Farmer’s Market had a bumper crop of starter plants yesterday, so after consulting with George, the family gardener, I toted six plants home on BART.   And just as exciting, I also got news yesterday about one of my favorite events in our town (El Cerrito California, just north of Berkeley) — the Celebration of Old Roses, sponsored by the Heritage Rose Group, and held the Sunday after Mother’s Day.  This year, 2010, the event will be on May 16th from 11 am to 4:30 pm.  It’s at the El Cerrito Community Center, a few blocks east of the main drag, San Pablo Avenue.  The Center is at 7007 Moeser Lane, cross street is Ashbury.  The event and parking are free.