My Many Affairs with John Steinbeck

I met John when I was in the ninth grade. He was too old and wise for me.

His Grapes of Wrath was too detailed and wordy. I only liked the “Turtle Chapter.”

Years later, I was so engrossed in the Joads’ struggles that I skipped the turtle.

We met again while I was in college. His Red Pony broke my heart.

The short story “Junius Maltby” made me a more empathetic teacher.

I read The Log from the Sea of Cortez while in graduate school.

I could smell the sea and hear the seagulls.  It was such an adventure.

An older,  fellow biologist sharing his life at sea.

“Travels with Charley” took me places I had never been while in my thirties.

I am traveling with Charley again. I have been to these places now.

My experienced eyes recognize the land and the people.

He has been a great traveling companion over the years.

Now I know, he was not some brilliant, mysterious, older man.

He was just a real person looking closely at life and recording it for the rest of us,

who were too young, inexperienced or busy to notice these things for ourselves.

I still love him,

but now we are just friends.


Shopping During a Storm

yI know, I complained about them last spring in “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble.”

Maybe they have changed…or I have changed.

My plan was to cut some of each type of flower to bring into the house.

My mother was coming.   She cannot walk the gardens anymore,

so I wanted her to see the blooms up close by bringing them in.

I have those eleven vases, you see.

My daughter and I went shopping on Friday evening.  A violent storm hit while we were away.

Hundreds of my flowers were beaten down by the rain and wind.

Instead of cutting flowers for my vases on Saturday morning, I was cutting them to clean up.

By Saturday evening, only a few iris were left.  There were a few Columbine stems.

The only flowers worth their weight were those double peonies.

The very one that I complained about staking last spring.

Bowed, but held in the storm.

They filled one vase the iris another and that was enough.

Sometimes it takes just the right flower.

Not the large number, just a few.

Like friends.

Worth their weight in gold when you need them.

My apologies to my new friend the Duchess de Nemours Peony.



Saving Sea Turtles

I have always loved reptiles and amphibians.  Their little faces are so cute. They seem to be tiny dinosaurs. They have personality. Quit running from them and make friends.

My favorite part of my visit to Florida was not the gardens.  It was my time spent at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Palm Beach County.  Maybe I should be turtlealley.

This organization was started by a Eleanor Fletcher decades ago. She noticed turtle hatchlings heading toward land instead of seaward. She studied sea turtles and started teaching classes.

Now this nonprofit is located at Juno Beach which is considered the most active nesting beach in the world. The dark dots on the map are nests of different species of turtles.

I was surrounded by passionate turtle lovers there.  Many were volunteers.

The recovering turtles had names. Each one’s medical history and progress were known by the workers. They stood by the tanks and talked about each patient like it was a friend.

I saw several turtles get shots.

One big guy was loaded onto a stretcher

and taken inside to be treated and given an IV.

I felt like I was in a well-run Emergency Room.  It’s a miracle!!!

Many of the patients had been found stranded by an ailment or injury.

One had gorged himself on shells and was bloated with fragments.  They showed the bottles of fragments.

Another had a hole clear through its carapace that needed mending.

The saddest one of all was so sick that it stopped swimming, so that barnacles and other epibiota grew on its back and weighed it down.

It is a great place for school children to go visit. They will care more about turtles because they actually know some.

I really did not want to leave, but the bunnies would not like it if I hadn’t come home.

Creatures great and small, the FLOWER loves them all.




James J. Smith’s Bonsai Gallery at Heathcote Gardens

Heathcote Botanical Gardens is located in the Treasure Coast section of Florida.

The James J. Smith Bonsia Gallery is located there.  This is the largest collection of tropical bonsai in the United States.


I marveled at the craftsmanship and time it must have taken to create such specimen. I took a photo of the information on Bonsai. Click on it to enlarge it, if you are interested in reading it.

Here are just a few of the dozens of tiny trees.

Crepe Myrtle (2002)
Black Olive (1992)
Water Jasmine/ Wrightia religiosa (1990)
Water Jasmine in bloom
Bougainvillea (1989)

I especially loved the trees in bloom. They were like magical , trees from a fairyland.

Dwarf Jade/ Portulaca afra (1961)

This Surinam Cherry even had fruit on it.  It was my favorite.

Surinam Cherry/ Eugenia uniflora
Surinam Cherry fruit
Surinam Cherry branch

I wish I were tiny and cute.


Cat Private Eyes and Lizard Spies

Mr. Flower and I recently visited the beautiful but not so peaceful

Heathcote Botanical Gardens in Fort Pierce Coast, Florida.

The gardens are all themed and connected by shady walkways.

I truly enjoyed wondering along the paths and examining the flowers.

But I could not shake the feeling of being watched.

I slowed my paced and quieted my breaths.

Yes. I heard tiny footfalls through the vegetation.

Yes,  there were little eyes peeking out at me.  Were they guarding the bonsai?

Not only that, I was being followed.  I was tailed by one pursuer, then another.

Every time I turned around with my camera, my stalker would sit down and look the other way.

I even tried to hide in the facilities, but there were eyes everywhere!

This lasted longer than Mr. Flower’s patience. He wanted to get on the road toward home.

While I was running for my life, he was lounging on this lovely bench.

He cared nothing about my being spied upon.  When I pointed out the culprits, he only laughed.

He wouldn’t know a good mystery if it jumped down from the tree and bit him.

I guess I should share some flower photos from Heathcote Botanical Gardens.

Stay tuned for more.

FLOWER in no Fool.

The Bluestone of Boaz Vaadia

There was a visiting sculpture exhibit at the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden.

The art was by an Israeli-American, Boaz Vaadia (1951 – 2017).

Sculptures were displayed on the lawn. They appeared friendly and playful.

Yo’ah with Dog by Boaz Vaadia

Small, bluestone homonids were posed doing various tasks.

Shimshon by Boaz Vaadia

Some were accompanied by their little bluestone dogs.

Each little stone man had personality.  I am sure the folks that work there (and the bird) will miss these little guys when they move on to their next location.

This Boaz Vaadia exhibit at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens was supposed to end on May 6, 2018.  I am so glad we got to see it.


Sculpture with Spirit

Ann Norton’s Sculpture Gardens at West Palm Beach, Florida was full of rare plants and huge sculpture,

but was never overwhelming or cluttered.  I need that skill.

Each large piece was carefully placed in its own palm grove alcove

to be discovered and experienced separately.

Ann Norton’s huge ‘Gateway’ pieces were formed from handmade brick. They were engineering marvels.

Gateway 4
Gateway 5

These two peices were made of bricks from North Carolina.

I especially loved the huge Horizontal piece in its own canal.  It’s bricks are from Mexico.  I love art that can be interpreted in many ways.  Ann Norton’s artwork left room for the imagination.

The ‘Seven Beings’ grouping of giant human figures could have been from the ancient past or the distant future.  They were not intimidating despite their size.

I loved how “someone” was looking at you no matter where you were standing.

Ann Norton ‘Seven Beings’

They stood silently in their own alley of palms. The individuals were slightly separated, so that each could be considered on its own as well as part of the “family/tribe.”

Each Being’s pose seemed to send some message through body language. I should have taken more photos of these. They were worth studying.

Ann Norton ‘Seven Beings’

Her former studio was open to be examined. I always find the workspace of others fascinating and inspiring.

Ann Norton Studio

In addition to her sculpture, there was a visiting exhibit of fabulous work by Israeli-American artist Boaz Vaadia and two hundred and fifty rare palms and cycads.

No, I will not be posting all 250 of them.  You wish!

Stay tuned.  Those are coming next.  The Florida blog blitz will continue.

FLOWER in Florida


My Trip to Another Planet to Visit the Queen

Okay, I was really still on Earth; but Zone 10 seemed like another planet.

Everything was bigger there in Florida… the plants, the shrimp, the hotels, the prices.

The Shrub Queen was my “Plant Identification” tour guide through the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.

I would ask the name of the plant I was pointing to and she would supply both its Latin and common name.

Many times I would respond with “Holy #*@, that’s a house plant.”  So even the houses are bigger in Florida.

Just joking.  These plants grow multiple times bigger in Zone 10 because there is so much more sunlight to make food through photosynthesis, also heat and time to grow.  The growing season slows in “winter” , but never stops like here. Many of our plants die back to below ground and go dormant during the winter in Zone 7.

If I had chosen the name Flower Queen, I would have to demote myself.  My little tropical plants that I have been so proud of are itty-bitty versions of these giants.

Here are examples.  My epiphyllum has been growing nicely for three years.

Here is a wild one in Florida.

I have been super proud of my Cereus which greats folks in the foyer. Here is my “monster.” Zone 10 is 10x this size. (Not pictured)

The last example is quite an embarrassment.  Mr. Flower and I had been marveling at a certain tree whose silhouette we had spotted numerous times on our journey southward. I took a photo for the Shrub Queen to identify this possibly unusual and rare species.

To my chagrin, she informed me the it was a Norfolk Island Pine.

Here are my two.  Notice how especially pitiful the smaller one is (Rachel).  I was ashamed.

So I will conclude with; The Queen knows her stuff and the Flower knows her place.

FLOWER : Zone 7

We Are Real!

Have you ever wondered if the bloggers that you follow are real people?

Well,  I have proof that both the Shrub Queen and the Flower are both real.



I went on a trip to Florida with Mr. Flower. I sent Shrub Queen a message.

I was going to be staying near her location.

She came and picked me up.


We spent a lovely day at the Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens.


That post will follow.

For now you can rest easy in knowing the Shrub Queen and the FLOWER are not robots.

The real FLOWER.