Monday, December 25, 2006

Doggie Bone Blogging

I think the title says it all ... here are three really enthralled and happy dogs working on the brand new bones Santa Dog brought them today, and which they are currently, obsessively gnawing away at in the living room.

They were all very good pups this year (even Andy!) so Santa Dog was very generous with them, bringing them Puperoni galore, various biscuits and Scooby Snacks, T-bone snacks, and host of other delectable doggie treats ... in addition to new toys... Pepa got a stuffed cow, a barball toy, Rolly got a rope ring with a ball, and Andy (ironically enough) a stuffed pig squeaky toy ... all of which they have been enjoying all day, along with the mounds of wrapping paper serving as nest space!

They were and remain some of the best dogs in the world and we feel very fortunate that they share our lives and bring so much love and joy to the house! I know my life would feel empty and incomplete if we didn't have them with us and we hope to spend many future Christmases together!

From the top:
Pepa and Andy getting down to business (rear view of Rolly!)
Pepa gnawing away to her heart's content ...
Rolly concentrating hard on getting the last of the "nasty bits" off the bone

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The Whole Enchilada ...

Ok, so it's not really an enchilada, it's the holiday tree! We've been trying to get some good shots of all (or most of) it, and will probably get a few more before all is said and done, because we want to get the presents in as well ... along with any cooperative santa pups!

This should give some better perspective as to where some of the previously posted ornaments actually are found on the tree ... and I will work on getting some close ups of those new glass hummingbirds I found super cheap at World Market yesterday, as I was finishing up my shopping. As of about 5:00 pm on Friday, I was officially, categorically DONE with shopping for gifts! And I must say, though I restrained myself somewhat this year, people are doing well by me nonetheless!
And the dogs ... they're eagerly awaiting the arrival of Santa Dog late tomorrow night, as they lie asleep dreaming of biscuits and meaty treats and bones to come ... And with any luck, at some point tomorrow night, our very own Santa (Pepa) Dog will make an appearance here! That's a post I will definitely make, even if it comes late at night (as Santa Dog does, anyway!) ... I have to admit we really get a kick out of the dogs unwrapping their presents (yes, there will be pics!) and this year they're doing very well... Pepa gets a stuffed cow toy, Rolly is getting a tugging ring with a tennis ball, and Andy is getting a stuffed pig (no irony there, lol!) As well as they will get Puperonis, a bone each, biscuits, Scooby Snacks and mini t-bone steaks and jerky treats ... they'll be set for treats for some time to come! But, you know, the holiday is for children (of all ages) and dogs, so we have to do it up right! Then Monday night, we all collapse in our post-frenzied wallow in paper and gifts, to dream the dreams of the partially contented ... at least for one night. That bit of the magic still remains for us old farts, if only for a day or two ... but it's a great feeling while it lasts!

Still working on finishing up my baking and candy making... I bought 8 pounds of butter and have currently used about 6 I think, between all the cookies I made yesterday and the candy today (3 batches of peanut brittle, 2 of pecan and almond toffee) ... I've been busy! And the house has been smelling great to boot! We always theorize that this is the dogs' favorite holiday... what we think they probably call "The holiday of good smells," even though it does drive them a bit batty with all the great cookie and candy smells wafting through the house ...

So with that, I'll bid a good night to all, and to all a good night! More festivities to come, so give a look again in the next day or two!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Ok, who else has a pickle on their tree?

I don't exactly remember when I heard you needed to have a pickle on the tree, but I do know there's a story behind it ... even if I can't remember it now. Of course we have all sorts of fruit on the tree ... along with wine bottles and champagne, but the pickle always seems to command a prominent spot ... So here's our pickle ornament, which, along with some of the others I've posted, came from DIA a couple of years back ... I'm sure those poor schmucks stranded in DIA now don't have anything near as cheery as this one ... I just hope they can get out of that airport and home in time for family celebrations ... the year I got these ornaments it was touch and go as to whether I'd get out of that airport on time, but I made it ultimately....

So, here's our pickle ornament, another one of those made in Poland ones I got at the Discovery Store in the airport ... we like it, and with any luck soon, I can supplement this one with the chili pepper ornament (for you Manny, and Bud too!)

Update: I finished the last of my shopping today at Border's and World Market. So now I'm facing a wrapping crisis session today, along with more cookie baking and candy making! But, not to despair, we are taking a break to finally getting out to see Borat before it leaves town ... then back to elfin duty baking! Today I managed to bake about 7 pans of sugar cookie cutouts and 3 batches of snowball cookies before I had to call it quits ... today? 3 batches of spritz cookies, peanut brittle and almond/pecan toffee... yikes! It's going to be a busy day and night around here ... how are the rest of you coping with the last minute holiday preparations?

I often think I'm the only one who puts himself through this frenzy ... am I alone?

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Ok, now this one, I'm leaving as a WTF?? moment for anyone who happens by here ... I'm going to challenge any occasional, as well as regular readers here, to figure out what this is ...

All I'm going to say is that it's seasonally appropriate and fiber/fibre optic in design.

What do you see here? We already have many interpretations, but I'd love to hear what others are seeing ... tell me in the comments, and at some near point, I'll try to provide a clearer image of what this is all about ....

Ancient Artifacts

This is perhaps the oldest of all my holiday decorations ... my prized, oh so ancient, and wonderfully kitschy ... Santa in a Rickshaw!!

Yes, this is a bi-cultural sort of artifact that my mother bought me at a Woolworth's in Clarinda, IA, when I was about 4 or 5 years old ...

I, of course, didn't get the rickshaw thing at that age, but my sister has always found this particular piece amusing ... You'll note that not only is Santa riding in a rickshaw, he is also being drawn by a mere six reindeer! What happened to the other two is something only China will ever know.

For me, this is another of those wtf were they thinking? kind of decorations ... the odd melding of West and East, confounding our usual expectations ... like the previously posted Snoopy, this is one of those items I look forward to unearthing every year when we get the holiday stuff out ... it takes me back a long way, and always makes me smile when I see it again. Santa may have survived some hard times and many years since we first met, but they've been interesting ones.

All of which to say ... if I could only keep one of my prized holiday kitsch-objets, this would be the one.

Let me know what you think ...

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Champagne, anyone?

I got this nifty champagne fountain last year in a specialty store where I had only gone in to see if they had Holiday Crackers (they didn't) ... there was a big markdown on these for some reason (hmm, maybe they were overpriced to begin with??), so I picked up a few for the paltry sum of $1 each ... the others were given out as gifts, but we kept this one for our own tree.

Further proof that the holy grail of the kitchen sink ornament must be out there somewhere ...and I'll find it one day, or my name isn't Ahab! (Wait, never mind... it's not. Carry on the tour of ornaments ....)

Ok, this one is just weird ...

At long last, here is the strange Flying Snoopy-Reindeer-Goat ornament I referred to last night in a previous post. This guy came to us via my sister, who was clearing out stuff a few years ago ... my best guess is this is at least 30 years old, if not older, given the time when there was a Snoopy everything out there on the market. All I can say is that whoever designed this little number clearly had some conflicted ideas about 1) Snoopy and 2) what a holiday ornament should be ... But in any case, we love the oddness of this one ... morphing a flying Snoopy with antlers and a beard just embodies the non sequitur factor for us. On the other hand, perhaps he comes from the workshop of the FSM? You tell me ...

If anyone else has seen one of these, I'd really like to hear about it ... because this is the only one of these I've ever come across ... and as I mentioned last night, this guy manages to spend most of the year on display hanging somewhere in the house ... usually on the end of the switch pull for the ceiling fan in the dining room ...

Beginning the March of the Critters

And our last post of the evening is one of a series of animal ornaments we found at Pier One several years ago ... this one is of course the Camel. We also have a Horse and a couple of Elephants like this one ... we like the style ... sort of chi-chi primitive, with the extra feature of a little bell on the bottom. Since they're basically unbreakable, we put these (and other like ornaments) on the lower branches of the tree, where things are often knocked off by an enthusiastic wagging tail ... plus the bell also helps to alert us if the pups are getting too close for comfort. Though the dogs are remarkably good around the tree and don't generally bother anything, their enthusiasm sometimes does make us cringe when they get too close.

Some of the other critters yet to come ... a penguin, a peacock, lion and zebra balls ... and then there are the fruits and veggies ... lots of em! So come back soon for those as we continue to catalogue the multitude of details from this year's tree ....

Golden Swirls and Purple Egg

Again, another couple of recent acquisitions from the last few years .... the first is one of the many egg type ornaments that we think are meant to evoke those famous Fabergé eggs of yesteryear, though these were obviously much cheaper or they wouldn't be hanging on our tree! They come in man colors and all have a really jewel like look that we really like ... this is actually one we got this year, as this shade of purple wasn't available last year. There's an incredible amount of detail work on these ornaments, and I can't imagine how painstaking that kind of work must be, but hats off to the workers who produce such beautiful examples!

The second one here is part of a set we must have gotten at least five years ago ... just ordinary, yet sparkly, basic balls we got from Target .... but they do add a lot of flash wherever we put them, and help complete the all but the kitchen sink aspect of our tree decorating style. What's not to like about these two?

Shiny Blue Balls

We got these two last year, and though they are on the more traditional side, we really liked how they added a different classy splash of color to the tree. C is always on the lookout for more blue and was actually the one who picked these out ... on the periphery you can also see some of the glass icicles that we received as a gift last year ... they really pick up the colors of the lights and sparkle beautifully wherever they are on the tree.

Atmospheric Views

I thought I'd post a couple of the more atmospheric views of portions of the tree, even if the focus isn't ideal, we liked the effect of "haze" and the light play in these two shots.

The first shot is of our cardinal with her nest, an old ornament that I got from my sister a few years ago when she was clearing out a lot of decorations from years past. Given how long my sister hadn't been using this particular ornament, I would guess that it's at least about 25 years old, if not older. It was a part of a trash and treasure trove decorations she just left here one day with the instructions to either use them or just pitch them ... we kept almost everything and there's a real range of items ... from flocked plastic mice (yes!), to miniature furniture and assorted other oddities ... one of which is a bizarre flying Snoopy with antlers and a goat beard, something else I need to get a shot of to post here ... it's an ornament so strange that we usually leave it up most of the year. More on him later ...

The second shot is,the seahorse and his surrounding glittery neighbors ... I hope you enjoy the play of the lights and shadow in these shots ... some more "perfected" ones will follow.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

And now, for something completely traditional ...

Here's one of the more classic retro style balls we like to collect ... the kind I remember fell out of fashion when I was just a kid, though we had a lot of them kicking around that never got used and pretty much just got broken ... what a pity. This style of ornament has always fascinated me for its ability to catch the light and add a magical flash to the tree. We have a lot more of this style and love them ... if I keep up this ornament blogging, you'll probably see more of them soon!

Mushroom Festival In Hell

And now, without further obscure references, here we have a detail shot near the top of the tree, highlighting the mushroom we found at World Market.

Not the best focus we've ever gotten, but we think the perspectives are at least entertaining ... I kind of prefer the first shot without the flash myself, since it captures the light play better ...

See what you think ...

Of Pink Flamingos and Cuckoo Clocks

I'll start tonight by posting a couple of other recent finds, including my precious flamingo ... and this one is spurred by just having seen about the last hour of Pink Flamingos. And if you've never seen that particular John Waters film, well put it on your list of twisted treats to find one day ... But if you're really intent on having a John Waters Holiday, you might want to get this one first ... it's probably my all-time favorite Waters film (and I rave about almost all of them!) But Female Trouble really does have a direct holiday connection involving an overturned tree that has to be seen to be believed. There's even a heart warming rendition of Silent Night ... But I digress!

Here are the goods: The Pink Flamingo I got last year (woo hoo! 50% off sale!) and though it's still not my ideal flamingo ornament, it'll do. The cuckoo clock I got the same time as the JRT I posted last night ... thanks DIA Discovery Store clearance! There's also an assortment of various art glass balls we've been collecting the past couple of years ...more to come ...

Oh, and if you really want to celebrate the season in the properly trashy way as only John Waters can do it, you might want to check out this holiday CD!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Proof that Halloween never dies ...

At least at our house, it doesn't ,,, and this is one of the odder finds I've made in the past few years, one which C fell instantly in love with, though he didn't want to spring for the price of this one ... Another Polish made glass ornament. They do them well in Poland, I have to admit, and this is one that rarely gets put away, and finds a place elsewhere in the house during the rest of the year. Say what you will, but we think she's pretty fetching as she flies by the blue moon at the top of the tree, which is where you can see her now ...

This should suffice for one night, but I'll be posting more in the following days, if for no other reason than to catalogue the eclectitude of our tree!

One of my very favorites ...

This little girl, a Jack Russell Terrier, decided to come home with me while I was on a layover in the Denver airport about two years ago ... I think it was near December 23 or so, and I was on my way home from Los Angeles (I think?) ... my flight had been delayed (big surprise, given it was on United --we screw you with a sneer-- Airlines ... so I wandered into the Discovery Store in the airport, only to see one of my favorite words in the shopping lexicon ... CLEARANCE. So she had to accompany me back on my flight, as I killed time and racked up some charges on the old Visa.... along with a cuckoo clock and a pickle. I almost bought C a talking Steve Irwin doll, but backed off ... now I wish I had! But I have to admit, that voice sent me into many a fit of grimaces ... much unlike this lovely little dog made in Poland (surprise! for once the ornament was not made in China!).

I like to think that Pepa has some Jack Russell (to hell with this "Parson Russell" AKC nonsense!) in her, but even if she doesn't, the JRT is one of my favorite dog breeds, and as Catherine O'Hara and Eugene Levy sing, God Must Love a Terrier!

Not exactly a holiday themed film, but it's Christopher Guest, and I hope to soon be doing a piece on his films here, but there's the link to get you going ...

How many of you have one of these on your tree?

This is a find I made last year ... and I thought, hmm, how many people have a seahorse on their tree? Seemed like a perfect addition to the various birds and animals we have scattered about the tree ... and I really loved the color of this one (and I got it at a 50% off sale! woo hoo, that made the price reasonable instead of outrageous). Anyway here he is ... we think he's pretty cool.

Yet to come ... camel, penguin, pink flamingo, dogs, horses, elephants and other assorted critters.

I'm still looking for that kitchen sink ornament, but I've yet to find it .....

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Hiatus, interrupted

Yes, it's been a while, hasn't it? Hope those toes aren't worn out on your shoes, FM ... but seriously, my apologies to any who have been coming by and gotten tired of the Halloween pictures! Frankly, I'm really tired of them too! So with the change of holiday seasons full bore upon us all, I've decided to share a bit of our current holiday decorations day by day till Billy Bob leaves me a nice fat fifth of bourbon (Woodford Reserve would be nice) under the tree. And if you haven't already started your cycle of holiday themed movies, here's a delightfully nasty one to get you started.

So, here's the saga of the IVG household HOLIDAY TREE ... we bought a really nice, fat, full Scotch Pine a couple of weekends ago and brought it home. We left it on the porch for a few days in a bucket of water to keep it fresh ... that is until it froze and we brought it in last Thursday night to thaw out. Friday was the way too long ordeal of getting this huge 7 foot by probably 5 foot tree ensconced in the stand until it no longer wanted to fall over! Saturday found us installing some 750 lights ... 300 "Shimmer" lights (which are a very cool discovery I made at an after holiday sale at Sears last year), some 300 multicolor rainbow chasers and I think about 150 faceted multicolor lights ... in short, a lot of lights. Sunday was spent hauling up the multitude of ornaments we have collected over the years, some of which are very nostalgic for us (examples you'll see in the ensuing days), as well as a host of newer ones we have gotten in recent years. And since Monday, we've been adding to the tree every night, and think we're just about done at this point. Time to start wrapping gifts and getting them under the tree.

Yes, it's that other manic time of the year around here... the holiday decorating, baking and celebrating frenzy. I'm girding myself mightily to face the avalanche of tasks ahead in the next week or so ... marathon baking and candy making (if anyone's interested in recipes, I can supply them, just ask Olivia) ... you know, the stuff we all gladly obsess about before the big day arrives. But this is definitely the other high holiday for us, the one in which we get to express our appreciation for those in our immediate life surroundings and hope that carries us through this wretched year and well into the next one.

So, without getting too much more philosophical on the subject tonight (I have a report to finish writing on Friday... Ack), I'll just start out with a few posts on some of our favorite ornaments you'll find on the tree in our house right now. I hope you enjoy them and let me know if you want to see more. Well you probably will, whether you want or not, so consider yourself forewarned.

The two shots here are of what we've nicknamed "Sinister Santa," a detail from near the top of the tree ... the other is (despite its delicious blurryness) called "Twinkle Wonderland." We had fun taking these, and there are many more in store, so stop back in for further views. I even promise we'll get some decent shots of the whole tree at some point ...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Trick or Treat!

Well tonight was the big night for the kids, both young and not so young ... when the cold (and I mean cold!) wind was blowing, the leaves were rattling and there was a definite scent of spookiness in the air ...

Though the weather was wonderful earlier in the day --reaching 70 degrees-- by late afternoon, a strong cold front came whipping through and dropped the temperature by over 30 degrees. We think this dampened some of the trick or treaters' plans, as we only had 55 visitors this year (57 if we count the two dogs who stopped by!). But those who were brave enough to venture out were amply rewarded with treats of candy, toys and pencils ... Our new feature this year -- the coffin of joyful doom -- was popular with the kids, who had to reach into the spooky coffin with a skeleton resting in it, to pull out toy prizes we had been collecting since last year.

As promised, here are the costumes ... in the first shot you can see FuManPhantom (aka IVG) holding forth at the door to help greet (and frighten a good number!) those brave enough to trek up the steps and on to the porch ... Next is her Devildogginess Herself guarding the candy before the kids started arriving. And finally, the scary CrowMan (aka C) shows off his labor of spooky love that took quite some time to assemble. Unfortunately the head is so dark it doesn't show up that well in these pics, but believe me, it's very authentic and creepy! He frightened more than one tonight as he sat in wait for unsuspecting beggars to enter his lair ...

Though we had the usual assortment of kids who threw their costumes together quickly (when will those Scream masks finally go away?), there were some stand outs with some of the kids, most of which seemed to involve Star Wars ... We had a delightful little Jawa with glowing and blinking eyes, as well as our own neighborhood Darth Vader, who arrived in an illuminated Darth suit. A good number of vampires as well ... the usual little princesses and even some toddler cows!

All in all it was a fun night for the gang here (except for the dogs who had to stay in for most of the festivities (4 bounding barkers was too much for our small treating area). But the dogs were also greatly rewarded afterwards with biscuits and beggin strips, so they didn't seem to mind too much. We ghouls later dined on mystery meatballs and cheeses, then watched The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which is actually a pretty good film. Supposedly a true story, it was a more than literate tale that we found appropriate for a cold, windy and definitely spooky night! I hope everyone else's Halloween will be a good one, and we'll treat our visitors here to one more day of images from our haunted house, so do stop by again for more spooky treats tomorrow!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Devil Dog on the prowl!

By popular acclaim, Pepa has donned her Devil outfit just for you as a special Halloween treat! She'll be greeting the kids in her special suit tonight, wagging and guiding them to the big cauldron of candy and toys we have prepared for them. You'll also see Andy here, in his bumblebee outfit (well, it's really Pepa's but she is loaning it to him for the night), though he pulled off the antennae before I got this picture.

Rolly and Lacey were not exactly hiding when I took these, but they were having nothing to do with the costumes! Maybe we'll yet get them to keep something on and I'll post it here later?

That's it for now, as I have to get going and get my regalia on before the trick or treaters start arriving at 6:00 ... Des Moines has a weird tradition for trick or treating ... not only do the kids have to tell a joke to get a treat (and yes, we hear the same old groaners every year that they publish in the DM Register), but they are only allowed to go house to house for a mere two hours! We think that sucks, because we remember going for hours and coming home with huge bags of candy ... so we're extremely generous since they get so little time to beg.

Come back later for pics of the humans in their costumes, and more shots of the decorations ... I'll keep posting more later and throughout tomorrow, so check back often!

And, as you can see in the last shot, Pepa had to head back in to continue her preparations for the Devil Dog's big night!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

BooMan Tribune fOtofair 2006

I neglected earlier to post this link to the 2nd Annual BooMan Tribune fOtofair! For those not familiar with it, it's an annual occasion to show off photography in a community situation. Kind of like a big meta-gallery where anyone can post their work ... well worth checking out, and while you're there, if you're not a regular reader of BT, make it your new habit! A great place to join, blog and meet fascinating people from all over. This blog would not exist if it weren't for BT and those who got me started ....

I encourage you to spend some quality time feasting your eyes on the many talented photographers in the fair ... My humble contribution is on the Sunday list. Here's the link to the master list of fotodiaries!

Stop by and enjoy!

Halloween is nearly here!

The most wonderful time of the year ... at least we think so. And we decorate for the occasion in high spirit as well ... so that's the theme for the next few days ... letting you all know what it looks like around here once the flowers have pretty much expired and the beds become a nice stand in for a graveyard.

We have first, our porch witch denizen, Grizelda, who haunts the porch casting spells with her demons and ghosts in tow ... you'll see more of her soon as well.

Then there are Bucky and LeVorpse, the two garden corpses who show up this time of year, just in time to impress and scare the trick or treaters ... LeVorpse even lights up! Though you can't see his feet here, they are pushing up from the ground.

We'll be getting more pictures taken tomorrow and Tuesday to post here, but these will make a nice teaser of the front porch/garden display for now.

We had our annual Halloween bash last night and it was a smaller, quieter affair this year than in some years, but was great nonetheless to get together with like-minded ghouls who like hanging out in a spooky atmosphere.

Coming soon (tonight or tomorrow) ... pics of our costumes, and the dogs in costumes as well!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Glad Late-Season Surprise ....

... Guest photos by Fernymoss ...

Tonight, we're going to revisit an oddity I posted about earlier in the summer ... the mysterious gladiolus that we initially thought was a long ago planted Crocosmia (Lucifer), but after having put up leaves for the past several years and never blooming, decided to treat us finally this year. Well, this past week, it decided to give us a repeat show very late in the season ... as we face an almost likely frost later this week.

Perhaps it's a gift from the goddess in the autumn garden ... but no matter the source, we're glad to see this lovely combination of pink, yellow and white make a rare re-blooming appearance. Though we've never known gladiolus to re-bloom, this has been an odd year for such occurrences around the garden here ... what with the hibiscus that ceased flowering in late August, only to have reappeared in full bloom (if a bit smaller) in the past few weeks though the Delphiniums seem to have taken to their autumn rest for now... Other plants are giving us their best farewells to sunny weather ... the zinnias, the Spanish Flag, morning glories and other annuals, as we face the prospect of a likely freeze later this week. We'll hate to see them go, but in the cycle of the garden itself, it's an inevitable moment we face each fall .... so a late-season surprise such as this seems even more worth savoring while it lasts ....

In the first shot you can also see a small visitor near the top of the shot ... it's a lacewing, a more than welcome predator who has decided to call our garden home. These are the kinds of guys you want in your garden, as they feast in the most discriminating way upon those little nasties such as aphids who want to consume and destroy your flowers. And unlike the especially proliferous Preying Mantises this year, lacewings won't just eat anything in sight ... they will selectively choose the bad guys who may be trying to devour other flowers. So if you see them in your garden, give them a smile and thanks for making your flower beds their home ... they will prove to you that they're worth having around.

The last two shots are especially luscious tight shots of the flowers, where you can get a much better look at how they look slightly unopened, as well as revealing their inner bits in more detail. The mass of chartreuse green you see in the background of the third one is Ipomoea battata or Green Sweet Potato vine... which alas, is now putting on lots of buds that may never have the chance to reveal themselves this year .... if we do dodge the freeze and they do bloom, you can certainly expect to see them here soon.

Enjoy these while they last ... that's what we plan to do!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Late Night Lobata

No, it's not another brain operation or a fad dance, just more of my new favorite vine, Mina Lobata. Regular visitors will recognize this showy member of the Convolvulaceae family from earlier posts, but it was especially spectacular yesterday, so I had to try for more shots of it ....

I especially like the view of the old maple in the background, as it reminds me of the grumpy apple trees in The Wizard of Oz. There's just not enough I can say about this plant .... I love it!

I think I saw some beginnings of seed pods yesterday on the earlier blooms, so I'm hoping that the weather holds out long enough to let them mature so we can collect them for next year.

I'm still working on the perfect shot of these blooms while I can, but even if I don't get it just yet, I think these examples show it off to great effect. If you're interested in planting this unusual member of the Convolvulaceae family, see my previous posts for more tips.

Oh, and NDD, I'm working on collecting those seeds for you and Ms. NDD. If we get some from this, I'll include them as well ....

And to any other readers out there who are interested in things they've seen here over the past summer, just let me know in the comments and I may be able to accommodate requests. Remember, gardening is all about sharing as I like to say, and our mentor Frank says .....That's good enough for me!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Fletcher's Castoria ... Oh, a Castor Bean Tree!

Well, it's been a while again hasn't it? At least I have the excuse of having had to travel for work last week to the East Bay area of California! That's a whole other post to come, but in the interests of showing off some things I got in the garden today, I thought I'd put up a few shots I got of the castor trees we have planted out in the front bed.

For those of you who are old enough to remember, Fletcher's Castoria was a popular children's laxative back when I was a kid ... and as any kid who knows what taking Castor Bean Oil was like, apparently it was much tastier. Cherry flavored, if I recall correctly ... though I don't think I ever got the branded version ... if it came to that, I got the nasty tasting stuff that came in the medicinal looking bottle.

Odd preface, you might say? Well, the thing that has always fascinated me about Castors, and especially since I've been growing them, is that the entire plant is poisonous. Deadly, in fact. Leaves, seeds, flowers, it's all going to make you either violently ill (its purgative qualities are historic) or kill you.

Despite those rather ominous remarks, Ricinus Communis, v. Carmencita is a marvelous ornamental well worth growing in your specimen bed. Though I got these in rather late this year, they have reached at least 7 feet at this point, and if they are able to make it further before a hard freeze, we may even see mature seeds develop. And we're hoping they do, as our supply from previous years is getting somewhat depleted ....

Yes, this is the infamous Castor tree reputed to repel moles (if you have them) and can be the basis of a deadly toxin called Ricin. But in any case, as an architectural element planted in the garden, there's little less dramatic than the huge coppery leaves and their late summer blooms, which you can see in some detail in these two shots.

They're best planted in a full sun position where they can get ample moisture to grow ... they are fast growers, who if planted early enough, can easily top 8 feet or more in a season. Their green cousins get even bigger ... often topping 12-13 feet, but we didn't get any of those in this year, as this is our favorite of the species with its rich reddish foliage and odd blooms.

I'll be commenting more on these fantastical plants soon, but wanted to just give you a taste of things to come in the next few weeks, so here you have it ... the plant that produces a laxative (though I'm still not sure how they process it to eliminate the toxic properties) much dreaded by children of my generation ... I wonder how many of today's kids have even heard of Castor Bean Oil and actually know what it's used for ....

A few more for Olivia's 'to plant' list ...

AND, finally, a couple of Nasturtium pics for Olivia ... not so subtle persuasion as to why she needs to plant these beauties in her garden next year ...

Eminently edible, deliciously fragarant and all around easy, the only thing Nasturtiums ask is that you don't plant them in too rich a soil, otherwise you'll get fantastic foliage, and few flowers.

And not so subtle hint again ... throw them in your salads for a nice zippy peppery flavour ... if the flowers aren't enough for you, go for the foliage as well! Unlike the Castors, Nasturtiums are wholly edible and tasty too!

And, for the Monarch lovers in all of us ....

I managed to get a few nice shots of a Monarch butterfly dining on the yellow Butterfly Bush (Buddleia weyeriana) this afternoon ... funny thing is, I was working more on getting shots of the late season blooms of the white Hibiscus when I looked over and saw this one perching on the Butterfly Bush! So here are a couple of the better shots I was able to get before s/he winged off into the breeze ....

Alas, it seems as if fall is really here, and serious about its last hurrah, since these guys have been a bit more scarce of late due to cooler weather and less sun ... but with the nice warm up this weekend in the low 80's, they are making sure they still show they're around and appreciative of what we have to offer them .... We'll miss them when they're gone, but sure are enjoying them while they're still here!

I hope you do too .....