Tag Archives: blooms

soaptree yucca

I needed a photo of Soaptree Yucca booms for my flora guide sequel so I was ecstatic to see them in full bloom this year! They prefer higher elevation so if you want to see them, head up to the Northeast Valley or check out the North State Trust land (on the North side of Dynamite) if you want to hike. Remember to get a permit, though. You can apply online and have it mailed to you for just $15.

Here’s a preview of the page: Soaptree Yucca (Yucca elata)
Soaptree Yucca

mormon tea…..a desert conifer

The definition of conifer is a shrub or tree that bears cones. Have you ever looked very closely at a Mormon Tea? Surprise! It’s a conifer. Look even closer at this time of year and you’ll see the cones sprouting with blooms.

Extreme Close-up of Momon Tea Blooms
mormon tea blooms

Close look at Cones
mormon tea cones

A few common names for this plant are Mormon Tea, Joint-pine and Ephedra. Whatever you call it, take a magnifying glass with you on your next hike. Not just for the Mormon Tea but for all the tiny things blooming right now. The details are amazing.

Mormon Tea Shrub in Bloom
mormon tea shrub in bloom

Tech info for extreme close-ups: Canon SX1. Super Macro setting, ISO 200, f/2.8, 1/1600 second. It was windy and I was hand holding so even at 1/1600 sec, there’s still slight movement.

4 tons of topsoil

When I was cycling, I used to ride up to 200 miles a week. On really long rides, endorphins
kicked in causing a euphoric state of mind. I wondered if I could ever get that feeling again.

I can! It’s called “landscaping”. Digging/lifting/lugging/planting can put me in that same
meditative state which explains why I was actually excited as I watched the dump truck
unloading 4 tons of topsoil. (In case you’re wondering, the endorphins balance out the pain) 🙂

I forgot to get a shot of the full pile but here it is after removing 25 wheel barrel loads.


Front yard piles:


Back yard:


It’s been very hot so progress is slow. For every hour or so of work, I take a half hour of rest.
The last few weeks were spent on contouring ground for better rain runoff and implementing
other water harvesting techniques. I’ve also planted several native shrubs and two trees.

On my breaks during the last few days, I took photos of all the things that are blooming now.

First is the Little Leaf Cordia which has turned out to be a great wildlife attractor!


Yes, Joan...they do look like they're made of tiolet paper :-)
Yes, Joan...they do look like they're made of tiolet paper 🙂

Next is a Golden Barrel bloom. They’re so small that I sometimes miss them.


Then the red Candy Barrel. Only two blooms opened but check out that ring of buds! I’m hoping 🙂

As it turns out, I have 5 of our native Candy Barrel Cactus. I forgot about this one. Yummy.

The prize capture of the day, though, was this precious Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria).

(Sorry if it took a lot of time to load these images. In hindsight, I should have given you a slideshow. )

patterns from nature

What do you get when you fool with Mother Nature? A pattern that would look great as a silk scarf!


I started with a shot of blooming Sage.


The sky was heavily overcast so of course I couldn’t resist swinging my camera around 🙂


I began rotating it in Photoshop to find the best view which gave me the idea of blending two versions.
So I created a copy layer; flipped it horizontally, lowered the opacity and used the blend mode “darken”.
As a last step, I tweaked color and contrast using Levels and Curves.


christmas blooms

Christmas Cholla blooms (Opuntia leptocaulis) are a rare treat to see when hiking in the Preserve because they typically only appear very late in the day. Even if you did happen across one at the right time, you might not notice them because the blooms are very small. I’m lucky to have a few Christmas Cholla in my yard and because I watch my plants like a hawk, I noticed buds on one last week.

Christmas Cholla flower buds
Christmas Cholla flower buds

I checked every afternoon and was rewarded last night. I grabbed my SLR and a 180mm macro lens and started shooting. I wanted to use the SLR in order to get very shallow depth of field (fuzzy backgrounds) which is difficult (if not impossible) to get with a compact camera. Anyway, it’s been awhile since I’ve used my big camera so I’d forgotten how heavy it can be. After a few blurry pictures from camera movement, I upped my ISO to get a faster shutter speed but ultimately went for my tripod 🙂

Opuntia leptocaulis at sunset
Opuntia leptocaulis at sunset

leftover fruit on the same Christmas Cholla
leftover fruit on the same Christmas Cholla

Flower Fly. What is it about bug eyes! I can't get enough :-)
Flower Fly. What is it about bug eyes! I can't get enough 🙂

ironwood bloom time

My friends Mary and Neal C. wanted me to tell them when the Ironwood (Olneya tesota) are blooming so I better give them a call because the show is great this year! The overall color of the tree in bloom is pale pink but the pea like blooms are actually purple, pink and white. The blooms remind me of Walt Disney. Can you hear them singing? 🙂

Ironwood blooms
Ironwood blooms

Ironwood tree branches are heavy with blooms
Ironwood tree branches are heavy with blooms

One of my favorite shots turned into Photoshop art
One of my favorite shots turned into Photoshop art