Monday, February 16, 2009

A Journey in Time and Space

Last week I traveled to Cocoa Beach, Florida. The original plan was to visit with my husband while he worked on a project at Kennedy Space Center and use his credentials to watch the latest space shuttle launch up close. (Well, not that close; no one is allowed within three miles of the launchpad. But we still would have been close enough to be amazed.)As we knew might happen, the original launch date of February 12 was postponed. My plane ticket wasn't so easily postponed so I went anyway. The beach is usually enough of a lure for me anyway.
The space center is located on Merritt Island, which also includes the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I loved seeing the alligators, tons of herons and egrets, and my favorite bird of the trip: the roseate spoonbill.As I looked through the many pictures I took, I saw a pattern of patterns that caught my eye.
These palmettos covered the dunes of the Cape Canaveral National Seashore. You're not allowed to walk on the dunes although I have no idea how you would or why you would want to. The prohibition is to mainly to protect the sea turtles that lay their eggs here in the spring.Oh wait, I think I got ahead of myself. This pattern (above) isn't one found in nature. It's actually the interior of a Saturn V rocket.
We may not have been able to watch the launch but we were able to see the shuttle still on the launch pad.If you look really closely, you can see the orange shuttle booster. The shuttle itself is kept under wraps. The closest we got to it was the shuttle launch experience. We also checked out the exhibits showing some of the experiments on the shuttle.
These plants (fake because they are in the exhibit) represent the experiments to test how well plants will grow with little water and poor soil.Hmm. Maybe I just should have invited the astronauts over to my backyard?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dormant or Dead?

Here's a little game I like to call Dormant or Dead. Won't you play along? When you grow only vegetables, you don't get to play this game. But when you foolishly boldly add three new flower beds during an epic drought, you get the joy of determining whether your plant will return in spring or if it's gone to the great compost bin in the sky.

First contender: the chile pequin, shown above. The friend who gave me this one had several and told me that the plants she treated worst grew the best. This one she neglected, and it looked fabulous when she gave it to me. It even produced a few chiles before realizing it had been moved into the equivalent of a plant's lap of luxury: Hill Country garden soil from the Natural Gardener.
It has since lost all its leaves.

Verdict: Dead (?)

Up next: Forsythia sage

I am a little more confident that this one will come back. I haven't grown this particular sage before, but I know that in general sages will come back.
This growth at the base gives me even more hope. Of course, I then went and moved it this weekend, perhaps thwarting its return to brilliance.

Verdict: DormantNext up: blue porterweed, aka rat's tail
I bought this plant on sale at the end of the season. It was in bloom, with long thin blue flowers that looked, well, like rat tails. After my husband's long ago brush with the namesake and my more recent one, I'm not sad to see this one go. Too many memories of the tail brushing past my head.

Verdict: Dead (it may actually be dormant but won't be for long. I'm pulling it out and replacing with a plant that will offer more pleasant flashbacks.)

Mexican mint marigold: I'm not sure about this one. I actually have two. One looks more pathetic than the other.
I'm guessing with "Mexican" in the name I might should have covered it when we had those freezes, but that would have violated my tough love gardening credo. (Okay, and it would have required me to get outside in the cold. Hey, if tough love works for the Ogdens--and those people are professionals--it works for me.)

Verdict: Dormant (I think I see some green on some of the stems when I pruned it. Time will tell. I did move both of them this weekend so they might have a little more of a struggle.)Okay, yes, I realize this isn't a plant, but when I saw it I thought this worm totally fit the game. I mean other than a disgusting globule, what could it be other than a dormant worm? It had twisted itself into an impossible knot. I wondered if it would be able to unfurl itself.Verdict: Dormant. When the sun hit it, the worm definitely unfurled itself, until I finally relocated it to an area where it would be in less peril.
The last contestant in this game is the American beautyberry. I couldn't get a good picture of it (them really, there are two) because neither has any leaves. They are just a stick in the ground with a few small branches.

Maybe, maybe this tip shows that some new growth will come.

Verdict: Dormant. Goodness, I hope so. Otherwise, combined the plants above that I've killed, I may only have living plants in two of my three new beds!