Category Archives: Nature

Under the spell of succulents

Out & About

When I came to San Diego in April 1993, I left all of my beautiful plants in the gardens back in Texas. Since I lived pretty much in hot, dry areas of Texas, and I intensely disliked paying water bills, most of my gardens and plants were cactus and succulents. So I had to start all over again in San Diego.

I didn’t get that start until November 1995 when the consulting job I took in April 1994 stationed me permanently in San Diego. My first task after moving into the new digs was to find the cactus and succulent nurseries in San Diego County.

One of my favorites was Solana Succulents, 355 N. Highway 101 in Solana Beach:

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Map location of Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Solana Succulents is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and Noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Those are Daylight Savings Time hours. During Standard Time, they close at 4:00 p.m. on all days.

Solana Succulents is where I bought my first Stapelia. Looked like this when it bloomed:

Stapelia

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The plant is so unlike most cactus and succulents that I took an immediate liking to it. But when it bloomed, I became Stapelia’s greatest fan. Here are some other pictures from my Stapelia collection throughout my years in San Diego:

Stapelia

Stapelia

Stapelia flower

Stapelia

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Succulent chess set at the San Diego County FairWhen I started my home inspection company in October 2001, I stopped by Solana Succulents because they always had a stack of 10% discount coupons at the front entrance. Pick up a discount coupon and use it ten minutes later!

I wanted to know if I could include a discount coupon with each of my home inspection reports. They said yes! So each of my Clients got a 10% discount coupon. I know from follow-up conversations that many of them used the coupon, and that made me happy.

Yesterday I went to Carlsbad to get a picture of the new Cecil the Lion mural (see yesterday’s post here: I’m going to call animal abuse on that). On the way home, I drove down the Pacific Coast Highway with the specific intent of stopping at Solana Succulents. I spent nearly an hour talking to the owner, Jeff Moore, and taking pictures.

Here are twenty pictures taken on August 19, 2015:

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Can you guess which picture is my favorite?

NONE OF THEM!

It’s this one:

Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sadly, all of my Stapelias got left behind when I moved from Spring Valley to La Mesa in June 2001, and gardening then took a back seat to the commencement of my home inspection company just a couple of months later.

Stapelias are difficult to find in nurseries here, which puzzles me because they are so easy to grow, are drought tolerant, and have such beautiful star-shaped flowers.

Yesterday, Jeff was kind enough to give me a piece of that Stapelia in the very last picture. My life is complete again now that I once more have a Stapelia!

Jeff has a newly published book about succulents, a copy of which he also was kind enough to give me yesterday. The cover looks like this:

Under the Spell of Succulents by Jeff Moore

There are 244 pages with over 800 color photos in an 8″x10″ soft cover book for just $29.95! Contact Jeff at 858-259-4568 or solanasucculents@sbcglobal.net for your copy!

I can highly recommend “Under the Spell of Succulents” as an absolute necessity for cactus and succulent lovers, and for those who simply love beautiful pictures of beautiful plants.

Jeff also said that I could create a 10% discount coupon specifically for my wonderful followers here, so when you stop by Solana Succulents to choose YOUR special succulent or display, give Jeff the coupon below.

10% off coupon for Solana Succulents in Solana Beach, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

It doesn’t look like Earth

Out & About

One of the most beautiful areas of San Diego County is La Jolla at low tide.

There’s nothing quite like it with its natural beauty looking like something from Mars; its pelicans, cormorants, sea lions, and seals; and its opportunities for great sunsets.

Here’s a slide show to illustrate:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Pay someone a compliment

Out & About

A collection of pictures taken near the Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach and the neighborhoods nearby (map location at end).

Cat utility box

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Brick walkway with child's police car toy

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway landscape

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Walkway stairs

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ocean Beach near the Crystal Pier Hotel

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pelican statue at Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Octopus art at Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pay someone a compliment graffiti

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Never again

Picture of the Moment

It’s rare that people are in my pictures but sometimes it just can’t be helped.

img_0575 pelican crystal pier la jolla stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That giant pelican is located near the Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach:

Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Crystal Pier Hotel in Ocean Beach, San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

Friday Flower Fiesta (8-7-15)

Friday Flower Fiesta

I’m very close to leaving the home inspection industry, having had an interview this morning with DeepSea Power & Lighting.

I want to be their Marketing Coordinator, so if everyone can just repeat after me:

“Hey, DeepSea! Hire Russel Ray as your Marketing Coordinator!”

Thank you!

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program: Friday Flower Fiesta featuring Photographic Art flower stamps from these past couple of weeks.

img_6522 iris stamp IMG_7336 gerber daisy faa stamp IMG_7340 daisies faa stamp IMG_7344 green and gold bug altered faa stamp IMG_7371 daisies faa stamp IMG_7373 faa stamp IMG_7834 faa framed IMG_8347 faa stamp IMG_8351 faa stamp IMG_8353 faa stamp IMG_8355 faa stamp IMG_8360 faa stamp img_9432 blue agave stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

The cotton ball tree

Did you know?

Although San Diego is defined as a desert in terms of annual rainfall, it also has a Mediterranean climate, so if you can meet the water needs of virtually any plant, it can grow here in San Diego. There even are redwood groves at the San Diego Zoo (coming out of the polar bear exhibit) and at Safari Park (going up to Condor Ridge).

One of the more unusual trees that grows here is what I call the “cotton ball tree.” Looks like this:

img_5749 floss silk tree stamp

img_5748 floss silk tree stamp

flower (21) floss silk tree flower stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The top two pictures were taken at the San Diego Zoo. The tree is so tall that I had missed it until a few years ago when it was dropping flowers and cotton balls. I asked at the Information Booth what the name of the “cotton ball tree” was. They knew exactly which tree I was talking about.

It’s a silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa).

The lower part of the trunk often is swollen, while young tree trunks and the upper trunk and branches of older trees are covered with thorns. Roses don’t have anything on this tree!

file000023991 silk floss tree stamp

_MG_9162 silk floss tree thorns framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The silk floss tree is a deciduous tree native to the tropical and subtropical forests of South America, mainly in Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, northeast Argentina, and southern Brazil.

It is resistant to drought and moderate cold, and grows quite fast when water is abundant. It can get up to 82 feet tall. In an unusual twist for trees, the trunk is green, which means that it is capable of photosynthesis when leaves are absent. In older trees, the lower part of the trunk usually turns to gray. The swollen trunk stores water, as do the thorns.

The fruit is a ligneous ovoid pod, which sounds like something out of a Stephen King novel. They look like this:

_MG_8748 framed

IMG_0917 framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Once the pods ripen, they burst open to reveal a mass of cotton balls surrounding seeds the size and color of black beans.

img_3021 floss silk tree stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The cotton is used as stuffing (think pillows) and in packaging, and to make canoes, paper, and ropes. The seeds provide both edible and industrial vegetable oil.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift for a special occasion?

Use code YLNNRX for a $40 discount on
Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

San Diego, a desert with marshes

Out & About

Many millions of years ago (10,000 years ago if you’re a Republican rightwing religious nut), much of downtown San Diego and the coastal areas were swamps. Think Florida Everglades. In terms of annual rainfall now, San Diego, with a mere ten inches, is defined as a desert. That’s called climate change.

When I came to San Diego in April 1993, a news exposé announced that Los Angeles had accomplished its goal of concreting all of its natural river channels. Many of the San Diego powers-that-be wanted to accomplish the same thing. Here’s an example of a concrete river in San Diego:

concrete river

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Along with river channels, estuaries and coastal swamps throughout Southern California were being drained and filled so that we could have new homes, strip shopping malls, freeways, and water parks like Mission Bay. SeaWorld San Diego is built on what once was a huge marsh; thus, many of our marshes and estuaries will never be returned to us.

Fortunately, we now know that concreting the rivers has a significant effect on the flow of water, causing the water to flow faster. When the rainfall is too great and the channels fill up, which often happens, and flood, fast-moving water causes more damage than slow-moving water. Turns out that the river vegetation, such as cattails and reeds, not only soak up the water but they slow it down, providing a lesser opportunity for the water to undermine nearby buildings and infrastructure. The soil itself also soaks up water, something that concrete doesn’t do very well.

We also know that the marshes and estuaries are critical to the well-being of the environment, including the fauna that feed and nest in them, and the flora that provide food and shelter for the fauna. All up and down the Southern California coast, cities and counties are taking steps to return the marshes and estuaries to their natural states, and it’s a joy to visit them.

Recently I visited the San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve. With 915 acres, it is one of the largest remaining coastal wetlands in Southern California.

img_0342 san elijo lagoon stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Between 1880 and 1940, dikes and levees were built that allowed duck hunting, salt harvesting, and sewage settling ponds. The construction of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1887, Pacific Coast Highway 101 in 1891, and Interstate 5 in 1965 each required supporting berms that restricted natural water circulation and the influx of ocean saltwater.

The lagoon’s mouth, which is where the Escondido Creek meets the Pacific Ocean, is at Cardiff State Beach. The mouth is mechanically dredged each spring after the winter storms to restore the tidal circulation between the lagoon and the ocean.

img_0357 san elijo lagoon stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pampas grassNative plants have been restored and invasive plant species removed, important since many organisms rely on native plants for food and protection. Invasive plants, such as pampas grass (picture►) and castor bean, upset the ecosystem by crowding out and out-competing native vegetation.

Monthly bird counts have identified about 40% of all bird species in North America using the lagoon at various times of the year. There are 6 plant communities (coastal strand, salt marsh, riparian scrub, coastal sage scrub, freshwater marsh, and mixed chaparral), more than 300 species of plants, 23 species of fish, 26 mammal species, 20 reptiles and amphibians, more than 80 invertebrates, and 300 bird species. Some of Southern California’s most endangered species, many of which occur nowhere else on the planet, make the Reserve home.

img_0374 san elijo lagoon stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The 5,600-SF visitor center opened in the Spring of 2009 and is Platinum-Certified by U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). It was built using recycled materials; relies on solar energy, natural light, and ventilation; has irrigated roof plants; and uses recycled water for landscape irrigation.

img_0341 san elijo lagoon visitor center stamp

img_0343 san elijo lagoon visitor center stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There are 8 miles of trails, open from dawn until dusk. There are no restroom facilities on the trails but there are lots of places to sit and relax.

img_0334 san elijo lagoon stamp

img_0339 san elijo lagoon stamp

img_0361 san elijo lagoon stamp

img_0372 san elijo lagoon stamp

img_0375 san elijo lagoon stamp

img_0377 san elijo lagoon stamp

san elijo lagoon map

img_0360 san elijo lagoon stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post