Midwinter Blooms

Some pretty-in-pink winter flowers from Australia courtesy of Lofty.

Although its midwinter here there are still plenty of bright little things to see on the non rainy days. These little flowers are around 1/2″ or 12mm long and were trying to hide in a dark corner, but a sunbeam surprised them. Described here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epacris_impressa

Epcaris Impressa ©Lofty, all rights reserved

Bonsai for Beginners – Part 1 – Reasons and Requirements

I am sorry it took me so long to actually begin with this since several of you said you’d like to read it, but I feel like I am chasing my tail most of the time this year. It is very frustrating, being behind schedule on absolutely all fronts all the time…


I am not going to try and persuade anyone about anything, but in my opinion, if someone considers having a bonsai tree, they should have good reasons to actually do so successfully, and they must meet some criteria too.

Some of the good reasons are if you like growing things, whether in the garden or in pots doesn’t matter, and you want to try something new. Another good reason is if you are interested in studying Japanese culture and you see caring for a bonsai tree as a way to try and to get a more personal feel for it. Or you just think bonsai are cool and you would like to have one (that was my reason for starting).

Some of the bad reasons might on the surface look very similar to the good ones, I am not going to list those, however. Just a note – New Age is crap.

But whatever your reasons, the main underlying requirement on you as a person, if you want to have a bonsai tree, is liking nature and plants. Another is not minding to get your hands really dirty from time to time. The third one is patience. Lots of it. And lastly, you must be prepared to cope with loss and disappointment. Some trees will just die randomly.

Cupressus sp. In memory of a tree that got killed by unpredictably fast changes in weather. © Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

What is my reasoning for this? Having a bonsai tree means committing yourself to take years or even decades-long care for a living organism with its own needs and unique properties. Good reasons are in my opinion those that would be favorable towards such commitment, bad are those that would undermine it. And being really interested in something is not the same as being infatuated with the latest fad.

Enough of pseudo-philosophical babble though, for introducing this suffices. In this series, I will concentrate first on some basic aspects of bonsai care – what tools to use and where to get them, what are your space requirements, etc. Then I will list several species that are well suited for beginners in various environments, species that are more challenging and also species that a beginner should avoid like a plague. I will occasionally also write detailed articles about how to actually care for several of those species in order to have a prosperous and beautiful bonsai.

So, stay tuned, I will post on weekends whenever I find the time.

Fungi Friday

A few Fridays back I posted photos from Avalus of some pretty cool fungi with the title of It’s Fungi Friday. Well, I’m pleased to say that for the next little while Fungi Friday is going to be a thing.  Opus has sent in some sensational portraits of fungi and they’re going to roll out on Fridays because Fungi Friday sounds way better than Fungi Monday or Tuesday.

Here’s Opus’ first wonder-filled photo.

Blooming Moss, ©Opus, all rights reserved

The Art of Book Design: The Epicurean

Today’s book comes to us from Marcus’ collection (stderr) and it’s a classic. Published in 1920, the book is a complete culinary encyclopedia written by a master chef. Its art deco binding is beautiful and being a first edition, the book is quite rare. It’s in excellent condition, too, with its colours still bright and its tactile cover still inviting. It looks delicious.

Charles Ranhofer. The Epicurean: A Complete Treatise of Analytical and Practical Studies on the Culinary Art. Including… a Selection of Interesting Bills of Fare of Delmonico’s, from 1862 to 1894. Chicago, Hotel Monthly Press, (1920).

The book  has been republished countless times since 1920 and remains a comprehensive guide to cooking and entertaining, The book contains 800 illustrations, including some that are full-page. I’ve included a sampling below the fold.

The book is available to read at The Internet Archive.

[Read more…]

Tree Tuesday

One of my favourite perspectives for photographing trees is looking up, way up, because a tall tree silhouetted against the sky is majestic. In winter their uppermost bare branches create beautiful patterns in the sky that look sculptural to me. Some trees, though, create sculptural bare spaces in the summer, too, through a phenomenon known as “crown shyness.”

If you look up toward certain types of towering trees—including eucalyptus, Sitka spruce, and Japanese larch—you may notice a unique phenomenon: the uppermost branches don’t touch. Known as “crown shyness,” this natural occurrence results in rupture-like patterns in the forest canopy that seem to perfectly outline the trees’ striking silhouettes.

Numerous scientists have been studying crown shyness since the 1920’s and several theories have been put forward, but no one knows for certain what causes it.

One possibility is that it occurs when the branches of trees (particularly those in areas with high winds) bump into each other. Another suggested explanation is that it enables the perennial plants to receive optimal light for photosynthesis. Perhaps the most prominent theory, however, is that the gaps prevent the proliferation of invasive insects.

My favourite theory is the one that postulates the trees are trying to avoid bumping into one another. It seems so polite and I can imagine woody conversations along the lines of “oops – so sorry old chap – didn’t mean to crowd you. I’ll just move over here.”

I think it’s stunning and hope I get a chance to see it someday. If you’re lucky enough see it, please take a photo and share.

Here’s one last photo from the story, but I encourage you to check out the full story and look at all the photos. The link is below.

The full story and more photos are at: My Modern Met

My thanks to rq for sending this story my way.