Category Archives: Gardening

“Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” now for sale!

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" front cover

My book, “Nature’s Geometry: Succulents,” officially is for sale now at my new Etsy shop.

Next day shipping with free shipping to anywhere in the world.

For now.

That might change as I get more experienced in shipping,
so order now while shipping is free!

https://www.etsy.com/listing/750414133/natures-geometry-succulents?ref=listing_published_alert

“Nature’s Geometry: Succulents” uses over 600 photographs to examine how the Fibonacci sequence of numbers is exhibited in Nature, particularly succulents. About 99% of the photographs are mine, and about 95% of the plants are mine, as well.

Soft cover only. 174 pages.

Covers the shape of plants, the number of plant ribs, the number of spines in areoles, golden angles, phyllotaxis (the divergent angle), golden triangles, Fibonacci triangles, golden squares, golden rectangles, circles, fractals, and, most fascinating to him, golden spirals.

Who is Russel Ray? A quick Russel Ray timeline:

  • 1962—Received his first plant, a heartleaf ivy, from his first grade teacher.
  • 1966—Got started in photography as a volunteer elementary school events photographer.
  • 1968—Created a 100-square-foot cactus rock garden in his grandmother’s yard.
  • 1973—Became fascinated with the Fibonacci sequence of numbers and how they are expressed in nature.
  • 2019—Finally published this book. (It has a real ISBN!)

I have one review so far, posted on Instagram by dr.cactus_man, the President of the Long Beach Cactus Club:

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" review

My 2020 calendars “Nature’s Geometry: Spirals,” will be in my Etsy shop by tomorrow. Price will be $20 with free shipping to anywhere in the world.

2020 "Nature's Geometry: Spirals" calendar cover

I will have a sneak peak of the full spirals calendar tomorrow.

I also will have other 2020 calendars available by December 1: Nature’s Geometry: Succulents, for sure, and others featuring roses, orchids, cats, animals, and trains. I’m sure I’ll find more subjects as I’m browsing my huge collection of photographs.

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I guess I’ll find out whether it really likes me

I live in my own little world

Long-time friends and followers know of my infatuation with plants and mathematics, especially the Fibonacci sequence of numbers.

One of the numbers is 13.

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89….

The Fibonacci sequence is expressed throughout nature in many ways: golden angle, divergent angle, golden spiral, golden triangle, Fibonacci triangle, and more….

So when I saw this Echinopsis atacamensis ssp. pasacana with 13 ribs….

Trichocereus atacamensis ssp. pasacana

….offered for sale by Gnosis Nursery of Ramona CA, well, I thought it would look good in my gardens with all my other Fibonacci plants.

I planted it yesterday.

I like it, and I think it likes me.

This plant is native to Argentina and Bolivia, and grows at elevations of 6,500 feet to 13,100 feet above sea level on steep slopes. It does not like high humidity, extreme heat, or lasting frost. The mean maximum temperature in its native habitat is about 85°F, and it only gets about 6 inches of rain each year.

I’m at 682 feet high, and we do get extreme heat out here, many consecutive days of 100+°F with a maximum (so far, in 2½ years) of 118°F.  Since January 1, 2019, I have had 46.75 inches of rain.

Consequently, I planted it on the side of the house that gets bright light and shade rather than in full sun. 

I guess I’ll find out whether it really likes me.

When things don’t work out as planned

I have been doing landscaping, both paid and unpaid, for fifty years, all of it in flat, dry, desert conditions between sea level and 338′ above sea level.

In July 2017, I moved from 17′ above sea level to 682′ above sea level. I neglected to check the USDA zone (I’m in 9B-10A), and for the first time in my life, I did not drive the neighborhoods at the elevation to see what the neighbors are growing.

Consequently, I’m discovering that plants that I grew very well at lower elevations just are not happy out here at high elevation in the East San Diego County boondocks. It’s understandable since we have had lows of 28°F and highs of 118°F. The highs are more prevalent than the lows; just two consecutive days of freezing temperatures but, so far, 63 days of temperatures above 100°F and 21 days above 110°F.

The poor plants are sunburned or just barely existing, so I’m in the process of pulling out the plants that are not doing well, mostly aeoniums, and replacing them with ferocactus, red-spined barrel cactus. I have several that are doing spectacular out here, and I like the effect of the red spines.

Ferocactus herrerae
Ferocactus herrerae

Ferocactus gracilis
Ferocactus gracilis

Ferocactus cylindraceus
Ferocactus cylindraceus

I’m buying more to fill in where the aeoniums were. I like the effect, as seen below, which I believe are Ferocactus cylindraceus:

Ferocactus and Euphorbia

On Monday I’m getting about twenty Ferocactus wislizenii. Here’s the picture provided by the nursery:

Ferocactus wislizenii

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Pereskia, the grandmother of all cacti

Did you know?

Yellow rose

When I was but a youth of 15, my wise old grandmother employed child labor (me!) to create a rose garden for her. I do admit that she had some beautiful roses, but that experience, as well as all those pokey pokeys hiding in that lush, green foliage forever soured me on roses. They are beautiful, as long as they are on someone else’s property.

Fast forward fifty years and I discovered the rose of the cactus world. Looks like this:

Pereskia grandiflora v. violacea

That’s Pereskia grandifolia var. violacea. It’s a very leafy plant, and the opened flowers look like miniature roses. Just like rose bushes, it has some serious pokey pokeys hiding in that lush foliage, albeit far worse than any rose bush I ever have come across. Here is a tall bush at Waterwise Botanicals in Fallbrook, California:

Pereskia grandifolia v. violacea

Mine is on its way to looking like that.

I discovered this plant in May 2018 and was so enamored of it that I did an education display at the Summer Show & Sale for the San Diego Cactus & Succulent Society, garnering second place:

Pereskia education

Nature's Geometry: Succulents by Russel Ray

Order proof book—check.

I finished my book this past Monday. I changed the cover from dark green to dark brown.

Jeff Moore’s book, Spiny Succulents, has a dark green background, courtesy of me when I was doing the final editing and design layout, so I didn’t want it to look like I copied his book.

The new cover looks like this:

Nature's Geometry: Succulents by Russel Ray

I ordered a proof book on Wednesday, but it will take a couple of weeks to get here. Meanwhile, I’ll have to find something else to do, like, perhaps, playing with Queen Olivia, if she ever decides to quit sleeping.

Queen Olivia

Oreocereus trollii

Out & About—The 34th Annual Inter-City Cactus & Succulent Show

Out & About

Although I have been collecting, growing, killing, and destroying plants since 1962 or so, it wasn’t until around 1968 that I started specializing in cacti & succulents.

In my retirement years, which began on January 1, 2017, I have been extraordinarily bored. That boredom has led me to develop even more my interest in cacti & succulents, so much more that I’m now entering my cacti & succulents in competitive shows. I’m doing fairly well, having received many first, second and third place ribbons, as well as a Judge’s Choice ribbon and a Best in Show ribbon.

This past weekend, I entered 33 plants/items in 28 categories at the 34th Annual Inter-City Cactus & Succulent Show at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. It is the largest cactus & succulent show in the nation, and probably the world, and probably ranks as one of the largest plant shows, as well.

Founded in 1985, the Inter-City show combines the expertise of members from the Long Beach Cactus Club, the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society, and the San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society. I belong to the Long Beach Cactus Club, which was founded in 1933 and is the oldest cactus & succulent club in the nation.

According to the show’s rules, I am a novice, simply because I haven’t been entering competitive shows for very long, so I don’t have the 41 first place ribbons from competitive shows that would bump me up to their Advanced category.

Out of my 28 entries, I came home with 5 first place ribbons, 10 second place ribbons, and 3 third place ribbons, as well as one of the prestigious “Outstanding” show plant ribbon. I also won a “Trophy Cup Trifecta” by sweeping first, second, and third place in the Photography, Novice category.

Here is a video I made of my entries in this year’s Inter-City show:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Perhaps if we renamed them

Did you know?

About a year ago a friend of mine was out trying to buy milkweeds for her gardens. That reminded me that I wanted a milkweed, too. I went searching but couldn’t find regular, everyday milkweeds at any of the nurseries. I’m thinking that, perhaps, if we were to rename them, say, butterfly bushes, the nurseries might carry them. Anyways……..

The last nursery I stopped at had an interesting tree near the checkout stand. Looked like this:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I wandered around the nursery looking for plants that I didn’t have, that I needed, that I wanted. I found a few, but I kept coming back to that tree with the Chinese lanterns hanging on it.

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

I had not seen any for sale so I asked about it. The plant lady told me that it was a Gomphocarpus physocarpus, that it was in the milkweed family, and that it always had monarch caterpillars and butterflies on it each year. She said she thought it was about ten years old.

I asked her if she had any for sale. She had “a few in back” so she went to get me one. It was just a little thing on July 17, 2018:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

Here is what mine looked like on May 26 when I saw the first monarch butterfly on it:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

It looks like this today, full of Chinese lanterns:

Gomphocarpus physocarpus

This thing blooms year-round, and I have seen monarch butterflies on it, lots of caterpillars, but no chrysalises. I’m thinking there might be some predators around who snack on the caterpillars before they can hide in their chrysalises.

Here is a 31-second video of a monarch caterpillar chomping down on it: