Category Archives: Mother & Father Nature

When you wish upon a star….

Did you know?

It’s no secret that the world loves stars. After all, “When you wish upon a star….” More:

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
—Stephen Hawking

Keep your eyes on the stars and your feet on the ground
—Theodore Roosevelt

The sight of stars makes me dream.
—Vincent Van Gogh

I will love the darkness for it shows me the stars.
—Og Mandino

Look at the stars. See their beauty. And in that beauty, see yourself.
—Draya Mooney

There wouldn’t be a sky full of stars if we were all meant to wish on the same one.
—Frances Clark

I would be willing to stake my reputation (what reputation?) on stars being the number one shape of Mother & Father Natures beautiful flowers. Indeed, stars are a significant portion of my book, Nature’s Geometry: Succulents.

Cover of "Nature's Geometry: Succulents" by Russel Ray(Book is being sent on Monday to publisher for printing
and should be available for purchase around November 1, 2019.)

I am not ashamed to admit that stars happen to be my favorite flower shape, especially when the star is extraordinarily well pronounced, as in these two pictures from this past week of star flowers in my gardens:

Stapelia gigantea
Stapelia gigantea

Stapelia grandiflora
Stapelia grandiflora

Stapelia gigantea by far is my favorite flower ever. The flowers are up to ten inches in diameter, somewhat hairy, feel leathery, and just look like something that an alien Mother & Father Nature might come up with on a star millions of light years away from us.

These two flowers, particularly Stapelia gigantea, attract flies for pollination like today is going to be the last day on Earth for pollination opportunities. They do this by smelling horrible, like rotting flesh. As a friend of mine said, “Lovely….”

Although mine attract flies, I have not yet smelled any rotting flesh, and I even have stuck my nose deep into the flower, after shooing the flies away, of course. I used to think my nose simply wasn’t working properly, but I can smell pizza, Mexican food, and margaritas from miles away. Maybe I just don’t have any “rotting flesh” sensory cells in my nose. Yeah, that’s it.

Stapelia gigantea flowers are so big that it is easy to sit and actually watch the big flower buds open and attract flies. In 2019, I had 23 flowers on my one Stapelia gigantea (there are 17 so far this year), so I started doing time Stapelia gigantea flower lapse photography last year.

Following is my best time lapse video from last year. Note the number of flies enjoying their time at the buffet. This video is 5 hours of photos taken every 5 seconds (3,500 photos!) and condensed into just 1 minute and 4 seconds. The flower on the left opened the previous day, and the middle flower will be opening in the video.

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Sunset in Winter Gardens, California, on 9/25/19

Picture of the Moment

Sunset on 9/25/19 in the East San Diego County boondocks at 682′ elevation. This is looking north northwest since a mountain blocks my view to the west.

Sunset in Winter Gardens, California, on 9/25/19

Out & About—Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On Friday I drove 77 miles to Dana Point, California, to take a 3-hour ride on the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point. The occasion was the opening of the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by Ocean Institute.

Since these events are quite popular in Southern California, I left at 4:00 a.m. to get there earlier than everyone else so that I could get good parking. I parked and walked around the harbor watching the sun rise.

9/6/2019 sunrise in Dana Point harbor, California

In the 1830s and 1840s, the natural harbor was a popular port for ships bringing supplies to the Mission San Juan Capistrano located nearby.  The earliest known visit to the harbor was in 1818. Argentine sailor Hippolyte de Bouchard anchored in the harbor while conducting a raid on the mission.

Dana Point was incorporated as a city on January 1, 1989, and had a population of 33,351 in the 2010 census. The city was named after the headland of Dana Point, which was named after Richard Henry Dana Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840, who had docked his ship, Pilgrim, in the harbor in 1835.

Dana Point headland

Two Years Before the Mast is an account of the Pilgrim’s 1834-35 voyage between Boston and California. In it, Dana described the area as the only romantic spot on the coast.

Pilgrim was a sailing brig 86½ feet long and weighing 180 tons. It had been built in Boston in 1825 and went down in a fire at sea in 1856. There is a full-size replica at the Ocean Institute in the harbor at Dana Point.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

Pilgrim used to sail but it is in need of major repairs. Right now the money isn’t available to make those repairs, so it appears to be permanently docked at this time.

The harbor is quite beautiful and a joy to walk around watching people, boats, wildlife, sunrises, and sunsets.

Dana Point, California, harbor

Dana Point Harbor, California

Dana Point Harbor, California

Dana Point Harbor, California

Pelican at Dana Point, California

Person at Dana Point, California

Sunset at Dana Point, California

Coming up next: More about the Ocean Institute.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

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

Exploring pays off!

Picture of the Moment

On the first Sunday of each month, I drive 226 miles round-trip up to Long Beach to attend the monthly meeting of the Long Beach Cactus Club. I guess you could say I’m dedicated to this cactus thing.

I have an intermediate stop at the La Costa Park & Ride to pick up Annie Morgan, Program Chair (and more!) of the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Society in Escondido, California.

Usually I get there a couple of minutes later than my ETA because traffic conditions just are not consistent in large metroplexes. This past Sunday, though, I got there 30 minutes early, and it’s only a 40-minute drive. I did not speed. Believe me.

Whenever I get somewhere early, I make it a point to walk around and explore, never knowing what I might find. This past Sunday I found this pretty little flower:

Unknown flower

Exploring paid off! That picture will make a nice puzzle or something, especially if I can find out the name of the plant.

I have no idea what the plant is. It was bare of leaves but with many dozens of half-inch pink flowers, looking very beautiful in the dry heat where I found it.

Map from home to Long Beach

X marks the spot

Raindrops on not-roses

Picture of the Moment

According to the great and all-knowing Microsoft Excel, this is my best selling raindrops picture and my #9 best-selling picture overall.

Raindrops on an aeonium

It might rank higher but it hasn’t been available as long as the other best-sellers.

I think it will make a great (that is, difficult) 1,014-piece, 30″ x 20″ puzzle. Yes?

Surprisingly, I have never entered it in either a cactus & succulent show (the plant is an aeonium, one of my favorite succulent species) or a photography show.

I think I shall have to do something about that next year.

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