Category Archives: Flora

Around the grounds: August

Harvest time in the garden.

A fresh layer of gorilla hair (shredded redwood bark) really spruces up the place. I like that it stays in place better than chips on a slope.

Naked ladies (Belladonna Amaryllis) everywhere.

Big beautiful Meyer Lemons year round. Billbergia Bromelaid in bloom.

Blue ribbon winners

Checking out the exhibits at the fair every year is always so interesting. This was my first year with entries in the Santa Cruz County Fair… and brought home eight first place ribbons!  County fairs are always a fun competition and a chance to meet other plant lovers.

Snow Tower Echium

Echium pininana alba, also known as Echium ‘Snow Tower’ is a rare white form of the Tree Echium. This perennial/biennial is a huge source of nectar for bees and butterflies. It has grown over 10 feet tall and has been blooming for months. It will drop seeds in the fall, and the new plants will emerge and grow to bloom the following year.

Succulent dish racks

I’ve always loved pretty dishes and hate to hide them away in the cupboard. This is a nice way to enjoy them every day. The salvaged dish racks are lined with moss and filled with potting soil and dishes. The succulents that I’ve chosen for these will stay compact and are meant to look like bubbles overflowing the sides. The silverware adds the finishing touch (and support for flowers).

Around the grounds: June

This huge aeonium flower stalk is amazing! Already trimmed off a couple dozen stems of blooms for table vases, and it’s still going strong. Love the way the lower leaves are turning color.Nasturtiums climb over everything with their perky (and also edible) flowers. This cactus used to be a 4″ tall in a pot on my windowsill over 20 years ago. Epiphyllum mixed with burro tail succulents love the shade of this oak tree.

June berries

Our berry bushes (mix of blackberries, raspberries and olallieberries) have produced like never before this year. The new vines that will bear fruit next year have had to be cut back so I can get in there to pick them… a bowl like this every 2 or 3 days!  I can’t make pies fast enough, and there’s already bags in the freezer for those fruitless winter months.

Stink lily

This stink lily (Dracunculus vulgaris) came up this year bigger than ever. Beautiful and unusual, but once it warms up… it reeks of rotting meat (yuck), and is covered in buzzing flies.


What has caused everything this spring to bloom so above and beyond? The long suffering drought… followed by above normal rain this season? We don’t know, but it’s amazing!
This Epiphyllum (Orchid cactus) has over 50 buds!! We can hardly wait until it’s a huge, hanging mass of flowers. My sweet peas have grown so tall that I have to use a ladder to cut my daily bouquet. I learned to plant sweet pea seeds in mid September when I lived in the hot San Joaquin valley. They sprouted nicely in the warm fall weather to about 6″ tall. Peas handle cold winter temperatures easily, and they start to shoot up by February. You get blooms early, that fizzle later in the hot weather. Now with the cool summers here on the coast, they keep blooming for months!This Echium pininana alba, also known as Echium ‘Snow Tower’ is a rare white form of the Tree Echium. It’s grown over 12 feet tall (so far), and is covered with bees. Totally drought tolerant, this plant doesn’t need any summer watering, and really dresses up the cactus garden. The lupine across the street is putting on a show like never before. Until last year, Popeye the neighborhood horse lived there, and kept everything trimmed to the ground. This property was sold and he had to move next door. Hopefully the new owners like lupine too.

Wedding sunflowers

Put these together for a small beach wedding a couple of weeks ago. Sunflowers aren’t in season in California yet, so they had to be shipped from Baja, Mexico. They turned out very summer-like with succulents and all! The mini-sunflower-like mums worked perfectly for corsages and boutonnieres. The attendants (2 daughters and 4 sons) were wearing navy blue, so blue ribbons were added to match. Congratulations to the happy couple!

Succulent stuff for sale

It’s been busy around here, getting things ready for the Smart Gardening Fair.
Kitchen containers such as colanders are so pretty planted with succulents. This succulent dish rack looks like soapy water bubbling over with dishes and colorful silverware mixed in. Frames, succulent bonsai trees and assorted baskets are ready to go. The succulents growing out of the watering can looks like water pouring out. A planted side table holds a purse teacup and cute baby shoes filled with succulents. This iron bar stool is double-decked with succulents.

Tiny succulent pots

I put together these cute little succulent pots for holiday gifts during the first week of December. Just a small piece of floral foam stuffed into the pot, topped with moss… and a succulent cutting stuck in, to hold it together. Almost two months later, they are still thriving. The four on the left have been inside and are totally dry. The three on the right were outside on the patio, and are soaked from rain. So hardy and long lasting! And of course, they can be planted outside at any time.

Staghorn fern in oak tree

This old Platycerium bifurcatum is thriving in the rainy weather we’ve had recently. You can see the brown spores on the underside of the frond on the left. The spores will be released when it warms up this spring… although unlike Platycerium superbum, this variety is usually propagated by ‘pups’ instead of spores. More Staghorn ferns

Fancy Fungi

What is this round orange ball poking out of the dirt? After getting several inches of rain, the ground is thoroughly soaked… and the mushrooms are emerging!The Amanita muscaria is one of the most striking of all mushrooms. The tops are beautifully speckled white and dark orange, with a frilly skirt around the stem. They grow as big as a dinner plate!

Smaller white capped mushrooms are popping up all over under the cedars. These glossy brown caps blend in well with the wet leaves. Kuehneromyces mutabilis, commonly known as the sheathed woodtuft are edible.

Terrarium: How To

Recently, I accepted the challenge of planting a terrarium for another member of AHA… and I just love the container! With the recessed area in the middle of the stone-like pottery base, it’s obviously made to be a terrarium. Great design – it’s stable and will not tip over. So this is how it came together… First I filled up the recessed area with 3/8 inch gravel mixed with some activated filter carbon (to filter the air and water). Then added a piece of fiberglass screen cut to fit, (or you could use moss), to keep the soil above the gravel. Gathered together some ferns, mosses, pretty rocks, and one of the ceramic frogs that our friend Marcella makes. So perfect for this piece!  I mixed and moistened approximate equal parts peat moss and potting soil and shoveled in a few inches. Then carefully added the plants and arranged the rocks and frog.008_1As an experiment, I added a small tillandsia (air plant) and bromeliad…  just to see if they will thrive in this new little ecosystem.

Succulent Firepit

Found this fire pit frame at a yard sale and knew it would look good planted with succulents that looked like fire. First I lined it with aviary wire and sprayed it black. Then came a layer of moss, and potting soil.

The ‘Campfire’ crassula capitella and Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’ really do look like flames.

Queen Protea

The Queen Protea is definitely out shining everything else on the grounds right now. This was after some recent rain… which we are so grateful for after such a long drought. This variety didn’t seem to be affected at all by the lack of water.

Staghorn moose with antler

The moose head staghorn fern on the right has more fronds on one side, so I added an old deer antler on the other side to even things out. Every so often I hear a loud crunching noise and have to chase a squirrel away, who has been chewing on the antler. I’ve tried spraying with water and cayenne pepper to keep it away, but it is undeterred. Google revealed that squirrels and other animals eat antlers for calcium and other nutrients. Learn something new every day…

Winning entries at the Monterey County Fair

010_1We’re excited that Nest Egg Gardens did so well at the fair this year! Participating is a fun way to showcase special projects and living art as well as a good way to meet other plant collectors.  We brought home the special award for Excellence in Horticulture (aka grand prize). Two entries won both first place and Best of Show for their category: 1) our big staghorn fern that looks like a moose and 2) the double brain cactus in the head vase pot. The succulent frame won 2nd place. The frame is one of the many works of art being donated by Aromas Artisans to the Art Raffle drawing November 22nd at the AHA Holiday Art Fair in Aromas.

Succulents – Living pictures

I got a few frames for free and thought I would try using them for succulents…. here’s how I did it: First I sprayed the inside edge with sealer to help it repel water and hopefully last longer. I built a box to fit using a composite decking board (it’s made with plastic and won’t rot).

Sprayed one side of a piece of hardware cloth black (the dark color blends in better than shiny metal until the plants cover it up) and stapled inside.

Lined the hardware cloth with a layer of moss and filled with potting soil (packed tightly).

Stapled some shade cloth and plastic fence over the potting soil into the back and added wires for hanging (either vertical or horizontal). Inserted succulent cuttings by poking roots into the moss with a skewer or stick. Lie flat and water regularly until the cuttings are rooted well before hanging.

Pitcher plant – summer color

You can tell that summer is almost here by noticing the fabulous color on these Pitcher Plants. When the wasps start coming around, they will be attracted to them. Once they crawl down inside, they aren’t able to climb back out… providing a meal for the plant.