Weekly Photo Challenge: MOVEMENT

I took these photos last Summer while we drove through the one-way tunnel that is the entrance into the Marin Headlands of Northern California, a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  I can’t remember how long the tunnel was, but it was a long one — I mean, there is a sign that instructed drivers to turn off their auto engines while waiting in line, if that says anything… Luckily, I’m not claustrophobic and driving through tunnels don’t bother me.  It was actually a fun drive and a good photo opportunity.

Weekly Photo Challenge: CREATE

I met my Hubby at a time when I was exploring different career options.  At that point in my life I was feeling very jaded with the healthcare career option, so I decided to take a couple of art classes.  Appreciation for art was always part of my life (thanks to my father) and I thought, “Why not?”  Although I am now a healthcare professional, I certainly do not regret my 5-odd-years diversion.  If anything, I am glad for it.  My decision after all led me to a wonderful time of my life where I nurtured my artistic side whilst meeting and surrounding myself with other artists, Hubby included.

The above photo features a painting of his.  In the background is a painting of 2 of his electric guitars and his amplifier.  In the foreground is one of the guitars in the painting.  Look closely at the guitar and you will see a reflection of the other guitar in the painting (which is not in the photo).  Not only did the Hubby create the painting, he also built the guitar…

Weekly Photo Challenge: CLOSE

This old photograph
seems to me like a fading dream
and I am chasing
of us
so distant
so far away
and I wonder if this is all I have left
a distant memory
of how close we once were
a longing for the past…



My Father, My Inspiration for Writing

I write.  I always have.  My earliest (and fuzzy) recollection of my own personal creative writing was a journal that I kept — I believe a Laverne & Shirley episode inspired me to start one.  It was an episode where one of the two characters was writing in her diary how the other was particularly annoying — and I thought I would write about my sister in my diary as well…

My writing stems deeper than imitating characters on TV though.  I owe a lot of it to my father, my inspiration.  I loved reading his typewritten letters to me written during a long and sad separation between us.  I loved reading the articles he wrote for the newspaper that he worked for as well.  He is a retired journalist now…

He sent me these 2 photos taken early on during his career (ca. late 1980s).  Whenever I read his letters, I always imagined him typing away, pouring his heart out… Those typewritten letters are now replaced by emails, instant messaging and social networking (it took a LOT of convincing him to join the 21st century though!)  I do miss the tactile sensation of typewritten letters and receiving and opening a letter.  Nonetheless, I still love reading them, I still collect them, and I am still inspired by his writing…

Journalist, typing away…

Journalist, resting…

Happy Father’s Day, Papa Dearest!

Weekly Photo Challenge: FRIENDSHIP

A dog can have a friend; he has affections and character, he can enjoy equally the field and the fireside; he dreams, he caresses, he propitiates; he offends, and is pardoned; he stands by you in adversity; he is a good fellow.  ~~ Leigh Hunt

A moment captured between my cousin and my sister’s puppy… It was adorable to watch her puppy sit in front of him and stare and stare and stare instead of begging for a bit of ice cream.  Instead, he bestowed the puppy kiss…

Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Cheers to Thursday)

Ah, it’s Thursday, the last day to feature a hardy perennial from my garden via the WP Weekly Photo Challenge… I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I’ve enjoyed putting together a daily feature… But it’s not quite over yet — not without introducing today’s featured perennial, Tradescantia “Concord Grape”, also known as Spiderwort.

A good friend and fellow gardener introduced me to this spindly beauty.  I remember looking at it at the garden center, thinking that it looked unkempt and disorderly (which, based on my tendency towards unusual plants, should attract me to the plant in the first place).  I did bring a pot home that day, based on her recommendation and assurance that it provides beautiful blooms all season and that it is low-maintenance.  And, obviously, I was not disappointed…

I divided the pot in half — I admit that I wasn’t yet quite convinced — and planted each half behind a row of Hostas in a little patch next to our back door.  The placement was a good one since we’re greeted by lovely purple blooms all season and throughout the day as we pass through the back door.  And the unkempt and disorderly foliage?  I actually like it for the texture that it adds to that of the Hostas.  The foliage reminds me of wild blade grass and its blooms makes it even more interesting.  This Spiderwort is definitely a must-have — I mean, with a name that conjures witchy tales and a wild appearance to match it, why not?

Cheers & Happy Gardening!

Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Not So Wordy Wednesday)

Almost to the end of my hardy perennial series via WP Weekly Photo Challenge and I just cannot not feature an absolute garden staple: Hostas.  I am undoubtedly a Big Fan — not a Collector, but I do seem to collect them.  It’s really hard not to since they are gorgeous plants that are great garden performers and there are so many varieties (and many more introduced each year!)  I could go on and on and on but today, I will let the Hostas “speak” for themselves…

Did I mention that I have a tendency to collect Hostas?

This blue variety is one of my favorites…

White Hosta blooms, part 1

White Hosta blooms, part 2

White Hosta blooms, part 3
























Small Hands, Big Hosta


Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Spicy & Sweet Tuesday)

I had to go to work rather early this morning so I couldn’t do a leisurely stroll while picking a plant or two to feature for my series via the WP Weekly Photo Challenge.  But all I had to do was walk outside of our sitting room…  Today it pleases me to feature an excellent shrub called Calycanthus floridus, also known as Carolina Allspice or Sweetshrub.

I have to admit that I bought this shrub based on my favorite garden center‘s catalog description, which basically let me know that it was a low-maintenance shrub (YAY!) and it had fragrant blooms throughout the growing season (double-YAY!)  I forget where I read it, but there was also planting advice that said to plant the shrub in a spot where one can smell the fragrance… So, with all this info, I purchased my 2-feet tall flowerless shrub — yes, flowerless, which means I put all my trust in what I read about how the Carolina Allspice blooms smell sweet and something like crushed strawberries — and I planted it right outside of our sitting room where we spend most of our time.

Luckily, this shrub did not (and does not to this day) disappoint.  It has grown well over 6-feet tall so it provides a natural screen plus it provides shade for my shade-loving Lenten Rose.  The leaves are a lovely shade of green and the flowers look like small leather lotus-like blooms.  The fragrance?  Very hard to describe — it definitely has an intense scent, but Hubby and I don’t think it smells like crushed strawberries.  It is a sweet fragrance though and it almost smells like the Chico fruit (at least that’s what the scent reminded me of a couple of years ago…)  Spicy?  Not really.  Sweet?  Definitely.

Carolina Allspice outside the sitting room

Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Got the Blues Monday)

It’s Monday and I’m midway through my hardy perennial series via this week’s WP Photo Challenge.  Monday, typically and very generally speaking, signals the beginning of the week for some of us and thus can generate a blue-toned sentiment.  Today then is Got the Blues Monday featuring two of my plants with lovely blue blooms, Geranium “Rozanne” and Amsonia “Blue Ice”.

Differences between the two plants are mainly in their leaves and their blooms:  Geranium “Rozanne” has deep-cut leaves and single-petaled blooms where Amsonia “Blue Ice” has willow-like leaves and star-like blooms.  Their differences set them apart from each other and definitely add texture to the garden but their similarities are what I like most about them:  both are low-maintenance (sensing a theme??), both grow in low-height mounds (making them wonderful edge plants), both have lovely blue blooms, and the leaves of both turn into lovely colors in the fall.

I delight in these two lovely plants and I hope you enjoy the photos below, perhaps providing a bit of a lift from the Monday Blues…

Hardy Geranium “Rozanne”

Amsonia “Blue Ice”

Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Hot Pink Sunday)

This is day 3 of this week’s series of hardy perennials via the WP Photo Challenge.  Today is Hot Pink Sunday and today’s feature is an absolute favorite of mine, Callirhoe involucrata.

I do not like the color pink — at least not on my person (i.e., a quick survey of my closet will confirm my non-preference for pink).  I don’t know why this is, but it is — possibly because my father insisted on pink dresses-and-lace when my sister and I were growing up or maybe it’s because I associate the color with “sugar-and-spice and everything nice” (which I am not made of).

Regardless, I do not mind pink flowers.  I definitely do not mind the hot pink/magenta flowers of Callirhoe involucrata, also known as Purple Poppy Mallow or Wine Cups.  I like the common name Wine Cups myself — it seems more appropriate for the cup-shaped blooms.

Callirhoe involucrata

If I remember correctly, I decided to get them because they are drought-tolerant — which translates into low-maintenance for me, which then means that it meets my garden plant criteria.  But what I love most about this plant is that it blooms all season and its color lights up its part of the garden.  It is a spreader, which I do not mind at all, and it trails among the other plants without choking them.  I call that well-behaved, but I know that other gardeners may not share the same sentiment.  Actually, I even like how it “spills” over the sidewalk, making my front garden look more like a cottage garden — but I’m thinking that my mail carrier is not too keen on this particular habit.  I find it funny though, because it seems that the mail carrier carefully steps around them as well…

Winecups happily spilling over my sidewalk…

Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Whole Lotta Rosy Saturday)

This is the second post of this week’s series that showcases some of the hardy perennials in my garden via the WP Photo Challenge.  Today is Whole Lotta Rosy Saturday featuring the deep pink flowers of the William Baffin Rose and the pure white flowers of the Rosa rugosa alba.

Roses??? How can they possibly be hardy (especially in the Midwest)???  Well, I admit that before I started gardening I always thought that roses required a lot of care and pampering for them to look their best and that meant that roses would not have a place in my garden.  And then I started to do some research and found out that there are roses suitable for the Midwest and were practically care-free.  Of course reading can only get one so far — in my mind, it’s much like online shopping: ( ____ ) looks great online but doesn’t meet expectations when ( ____ ) is delivered and in hand.  So I went to my favorite garden center and there I saw roses that thrived in the same growing conditions that I had and I took a few of them home with me.  I’m only featuring two of them because one is not blooming yet and the other has blooms that are currently beyond my reach…

I would have to say that the William Baffin rose is my favorite rose.  I’ve had it for a few years now and it has not disappointed me.  It is definitely an exuberant and vigorous rose both in growth and in bloom.  It is a climber so one has to train its canes, which is a challenge since it is also a spiny rose.  In the first year we were able to take some canes and attach it to a trellis and just let the others arch over.  That same task would be a challenge now that it’s a monster shrub.  Luckily, it’s in a spot where it can grow happily and unimpeded… It is a beautiful sea of pink when it is in full bloom.  Sometimes it has a second wave of blooms but not as numerous as the first.  Its leaves turn into lovely shades of yellow in the fall and it has rose hips as well…

I got the Rosa rugosa alba for its hardiness.  Well, I really got it because of its beautiful, big, single, pure white blooms that looks even more white against its dark green foliage.  Its buds are a delicate pink (there’s one in the photo above) and, just like the William Baffin rose, its leaves turn into lovely shades of yellow in the fall.  It also has rose hips but they are bigger than that of the William Baffin… Its beauty is one thing, but it is very hardy.  I mean, this is an old, old rose variety — and if its been cultivated for centuries, then it should do just fine in my little garden…

I mentioned earlier that William Baffin is my favorite rose.  Well, I would like to share a photo of my monster rose shrub in bloom.  This year’s bloom is not as prolific as the past few years (perhaps the result of the strange weather pattern we’ve had or perhaps the lack of rain), but it is still lovely to behold… This photo was not taken today (so it is not part of the WP Photo Challenge), but I thought that I would share it nonetheless…

Weekly Photo Challenge: TODAY (Cheerful Yellow Friday)

It is the first day of June and my garden is doing its usual thing:  growing exuberantly without much help from me.  I don’t think that it’s because of the weather since the weather in the Midwest has been a bit out of whack this year.  I definitely know that it’s not my doing since I haven’t been an attentive garden-mom in the last 6 years.  A good friend tells me that I just have a green thumb — although I hardly try so it must be in my genes (my father has a veritable tropical jungle garden!)  She also thinks that it must be the “nuclear-grade” soil in my garden, owing it to the rumored 1960s bomb shelter supposedly installed underneath my garage (mind you that this has not been verified, but there are certain elements that make Hubby and I almost believe the rumors…)

I do think though that my garden’s success is mostly because of the plants that I’ve chosen.  By “success” I mean that my garden is low-maintenance in the sense that I don’t have to constantly pamper my plants — of course, the downside to that is that I may not go around weeding as much as I should (and that is another woeful story that will be told another time).  When I started gardening, I chose plants that only needed to be put in the ground and required not much else from me except maybe for the occasional watering at the beginning.  If the plant did not survive, then it was not meant to be in my garden.

I’ve decided to use this week’s WP Photo Challenge to showcase some of my hardy perennials.  Today is Cheerful Yellow Friday featuring the chartreuse yellow flowers of Alchemilla mollis and the bright yellow flower of Centaurea macrocephala.

Alchemilla mollis

I adore my Alchemilla mollis (also known as Lady’s Mantle).  It has hairy lobed leaves that are fascinating to look at after a rainfall when it has spheres of raindrops on its surface.  I love the neon yellow-green (chartreuse) of its flowers — they appear early in the season and are in bloom throughout.  It’s not fussy, so it meets my garden’s requirements.  It self-seeds (the photo above is actually a product of self-propagation), which may not be desirable for some gardeners, but this particular gardener doesn’t mind it at all…

Centaurea macrocephala

I have a thing for unusual-looking plants.  In fact, I seem to gravitate towards them.  The Centaurea macrocephala definitely fits the bill.  Its common name is Giant Knapweed but it is also known as Armenian Basket Flower — I guess depending on your personality one common name will sound better than the other… Before the buds start to show, it’s easy to mistake this plant for a weed — I have to make sure that the Hubby doesn’t mistakenly uproot it early in the season.  I love the flowers — they are a lovely bright lemon yellow in the summer and its textured seed heads provide winter interest as well.  Besides, it may not be so unusual since it is also grown in the Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Gardens