Saturday, August 29, 2015

Summer is Winding Down

When I last posted here, Tanabata was nearing.  Since then, the festival of the sheep herder and the weaver has passed at the Bot. Garden.  Two more evening walks have taken place and the Bon Festival had over 80 candle-lit boats floating on the pond.  Music from Breaking Blues could be heard drifting over the entire garden and the turnout was huge.

It's been a busy summer with the completion of my shadowing requirements (apparently I was the first in my class to do so) and the twice monthly phenology study in the Cottonwood Gallery.  There was a volunteers appreciation dinner at the Zoo, which Caro and I attended.

I've added a few more photo spheres to Google Maps, but that was just before they restructured Google Views with it's convenient interface.  Now I'm not sure what the situation will be for 360° photos.

The home garden has been doing well, although the small patches of grass we have are suffering in some areas.  I think we'll re-sod instead of putting in flagstone... this year.  Eventually, we'll want to relocate the sprinkler heads and reduce the amount of turf we have.  The herbs and spices continue to be our best bet.  The peach tree gave us a great crop (thank you, Internet, for teaching me how to thin the fruit) and there is a bounty of pesto in the freezer.

Meanwhile, the seasons turn and daylilies have given way to crepe myrtles, the night heron at the Japanese Garden pond has raised a fine young offspring, and the roses in the High Desert Rose Garden continue to strengthen.  We've got an autographed copy of Judith Phillips' new book now (Growing the Southwest Garden) and are pleased to learn that she's struggling to work with North Valley clay soils, too.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

July Already

May and June have come and gone without an update.  It's been a busy time with National Public Gardens Day on May 8th followed immediately by the Annual Mother's Day Bonsai Show that weekend. 
Ginkgo group planting

Club bonsai stand for Shohin, Mame and Komono
I've been knocking off my shadowing requirements for my docent's work.  There was a tour for the ABQ Newcomers Club.  Two Mondays a month have me out in the Cottonwood Gallery for the Nature's Notebook phenology study.  I generally stay longer doing "general grounds" docent duty. 
Chinese pistache in the entry courtyard
Crabapple by the Heritage Farm

In June I gave two tours of the Sasebo Japanese Garden to Camp BioPark groups.  The High Desert Rose Garden opened to much fanfare despite the young plantings.  It's very nice to have facilities at that end of the garden.  Also, there's now a direct path to the Sasebo instead of the detour through the Heritage Farm. 

Peonies in May

There was also the first of three Night Walks in the Garden during June.  I was meant to second the tour, but one guide was late and I ended up with my own group. 

Also in June, Trudy took to laying eggs in the garden beneath my window one evening.  In the morning the nest was empty and she wasn't seen for 5 days.  While doing maintenance on the roof, I found her empty shell.  She had been killed and taken up there by a raccoon.  She's buried beneath the Buddha under the pinon tree, where she often burrowed.  To ease the sorrow, we do have four of her hatchlings that turned up this spring.  They are safely in a terrarium and growing steadily.  We've begun protecting Terrance and Ten-ten with a raccoon-repellent spray around the yard. 

Next on the Botanic Garden calendar will be that Tanabata Festival.  Poems and wishes on special papers will be set adrift on Tuesday the 7th. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Sakura, Ume, and Hanami

The Sasebo Garden

April 1.  We took the tour with Deb Firstenberg and it was well worth the time.  The Japanese Garden was awash with seasonal color:  cherries, plums, and crabapple.  The early Magnolias and quince were almost finished and the earliest cherries were dancing away in the light breeze.  Hanami is coming up next week and the garden is in good shape for it, even though there are only a few cherries blooming just yet.  

 Spring Green Connection

April 2.  I checked the box on my second BioPark education event by helping out with the discovery station in the Pollinator Garden.  Lots of 4-6th graders running around as "bees" collecting nectar while the "flowers" stuck Velcro-coated ping-pong ball "pollen grains" on them. 


April 11.  I helped Ron Fredericks and Courtney out with a tour from the Unitarian Church.  It turned out to be a small group and we had a nice time wandering through the Dolittle, Spanish-Moorish, Jardin Redondo, and Ceremonial Gardens.  There was a pause for people to pop into the Mediterranean Conservatory and then we walked out to the Japanese Garden for that loop.  All in all, about 90 minutes. 
April 15.  Caro and I took Debbie to the gardens for a delightful morning stroll that went all the way out to the Sasebo Garden.  As the breezes picked up, we took our bento boxes to the Vitex Plaza and had a picnic in the lee of the glass houses. 

Iris Show

April 19.  Caro and I took Gert to the Iris Show at the Garden.  Lovely cut flowers were there in profusion, but it was difficult to photograph given the background and table coverings. 

Caja del Rio

Somewhere in this busy month of April, Jeff White visited NM.  Kent and I caught up with him in Santa Fe and we bounced out into the Caja del Rio until Jeff's van cried "Uncle!"  It was a gentle hike to the canyon rim, but the trail down to the river was loose and steep.  We had a late lunch at a scenic vista, explored the rim a bit, and returned the way we had come.  Worth a repeat to explore the deeper into the canyon. 

Turtle Update

Tootsie and Tutu seem to be enjoying their new turtle-arium home.  Tootsie has been snacking on meal worms, but Tutu is still stand-offish about food.  I've upgraded their lighting with a UVB bulb.  They weathered the latest cold snap (right down to 32°) and things look to be warming up for the little guys.  All the big turtles have been spotted.  Trudy hangs out under a fescue in the Bodhisattva Garden while Terrance is in the Hidden Garden near the Agastache.  No idea where Ten-ten hangs out. 

Peach Update

Despite the brief excursion down to freezing, the peaches are far enough along that no harm was done.  The Wisterias survived without a hiccup either.  My bonsai Wisteria is a very late blooming variety with compact inflorescences; it has yet to open its blossoms.  Stand by for photos when that happens. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring into Summer

General Grounds

Friday I caught up with Ric in the Japanese Garden while I had my docent vest on.  He had a great time photographing the Magnolias plus the flowering cherries, peaches, and pears. 

We moved into the glass houses where he captured the Cyclamen, lilies, Ferrocactus, and palo verde.  Tulips and daffodils were in profusion throughout the garden. 

My interaction with visitors were wonderfully positive.  Whether local or from Canada, they all were enjoying the gardens on a picture perfect day.  I for one also got to control a number of blue Ingress portals and that pushed me over the top to 6th level. 

Tecolote Peak

Caro and I had a lovely 2½ mi. hike on Saturday.  Temps were record-breaking on the warm side, the NM skies were flawlessly blue, and an occasional cool breeze came by.  We ate bento box lunches, ascended to the top of Tecolote Peak, enjoyed the 360° views, and returned in good time. 

Mahonia and an unknown, low-growing, clumping mustard were blooming. The hike took us through areas with scrub oak, juniper, pinon, and cholla growing side-by-side with Ponderosa and fir trees -- a very heterogenous environment.  


Trudy is out and about, leaving only a large divot where her burrow was.  Interestingly, it's about 3' from where she was dug in when I last saw her in the fall.  When I see her next, I'll get a weight for the record books. 

Meanwhile, we haven't seen Tootsie, the new hatchling, eat anything.  Meal worms disappear, but I'm not sure if they are crawling away or being consumed. 

The two boys are, as expected, still hibernating.  They wake up at least a couple weeks after Trudy. 

Friday, March 27, 2015

Gathering Pace


The Nature's Notebook data collection continues apace.  We are tracking 3 cottonwoods, 3 four-winged salt bushes, 2 Siberian elms, a golden current, a rabbit bush, and a cholla.  The mobile app is not perfect, but generally useable. 

After making the rounds in the Cottonwood Gallery for 3 Mondays in March, I would do "general grounds" as a docent, which is just random wandering in the Garden answering questions for visitors. 

Turtles Awake

Tuesday March 24 when Caro went to water the plants in the backyard, she spotted a tiny turtle.  He or she doesn't have a yolk sac, so we believe it to be one of Trudy's hatchlings who survived by over-wintering in the ground behind the bed where our Cosmos were.  The little fellow has been dubbed Tootsie until we get a fix on its gender, which might take years.  Tootsie currently resides in a cat-proof turtle-arium indoors.  So far, it hasn't begun eating, but that's expected after coming out of hibernation. 

Meanwhile, Trudy popped her head out yesterday, March 26.  It won't be long with temperatures almost reaching 80 before she's roaming around the yard.

The Gardens

The Sasebo Japanese Garden continues to impress with blooming Magnolias, cherries, and quince.  Tours start next Wednesday and I'll be shadowing the first one.  Once that box is checked, I'll be certified to give tours on my own. 

Elsewhere, Crocus has given way to daffodils and the Pasque flowers continue to bloom.  Some early tulips are flowering and others are on the way.  Fruit trees and their ornamental cousins like flowering apricot are going strong. 

Next Thursday will find me at a pollinator discovery station for the Spring Green education event.  It coincides with spring break, so I expect the place to be overrun with kids of all ages. 

Miscellany at Home

We purchased a 7-gal. and a 15 gal. golden bamboo recently.  The smaller container was actually the taller plant.  We cut it in half, planted it in 2 of the areas where the Buddha's belly bamboo was.  The larger container with the shorter plant went in a new hole (thank you, Baldo, for excavating that monster). 

In the front, a sprinkler leak was unearthed but is beyond our ability to repair.  Sprinkler guy is due here any minute. 

Finally, the online county extension advice system worked well.  I submitted photos and a summary; they responded within the week.  Turns out our Photinia has red tip disease.  We cut all the infected wood out and Baldo hauled it to the dump.  Next step:  spraying weekly with Daconyl. 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Docent Training, Phase 2

Shadowing the Winter Wool Festival

From 12:00 until 2:00, I hung out at the Plant Fibers table, watching how a Discovery Station worked.  There were about 45 interactions tallied, most being with families who were enjoying the warm day. 

Garden Training

Deb Furstenberg and Maria Thomas spent the morning and the early afternoon walking us through the Sasebo Japanese Garden.  There was an amazing amount of information....

Tours to start soon on Wednesdays and perhaps Saturdays. 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Winter Strikes Back

The Mid-week Stroll

Wednesday was a cool but sunny day with only the occasional breeze out of the north.  The forecast was for rainy weather, so Caro and I thought to take advantage of the nice weather.  We hoped to follow up on the nice experience that Ric and I had had the week before. 

We strolled through the front gardens back to the Sasebo Japanese Garden.  As is so often the case, it was empty.  We enjoyed the koi, the winter views of the garden without the foliage that screened them in summer.

We took a brief stroll past the screwbean mesquite.  Eventually, we got back to the Vitex Plaza and watched the wood ducks.  The tame ones came right up to us while we were on the lower steps. 

Snow in the Garden

Thursday the predicted storm rolled in and by Friday morning we had 3" of snow on the ground.  More than we had expected, we saw that Ric was e-mailing us early about going to the garden for snowy photographs.  By the time I'd shoveled the drive and called him, he had left for the gardens. 

As it turns out, the entire city was on 2-hour delay, including the gardens.  Ric had been turned away by locked gates.  We caught up with him at 11:00 and the three of us headed back. 

We had the garden to ourselves.  The paths were largely clear and for the the next 2½ hours we enjoyed the winter scenery, photographing with abandon.  Every view was fresh and new.  Crocus poking out from the snow, dark Vitex branches topped with snow, bamboo tunnels frosted white, Japanese lanterns covered with 3" of frosting, roadrunners in the snow.  We got to leave the first footprints in the virgin snow as we got farther back. 

While Ric and Caro took standard photos, I was able to capture photo spheres of the garden and connect them into a constellation.  We stopped at the farmhouse to enjoy some hot tea from my thermos before feeding the ducks at the pond.  Ric and Caro came away with some great wood duck shots. 

The Winter Wool Festival

The snow resumed on Friday night.  By Saturday morning we had 6" and it was looking grim for my volunteer work at the Winter Wool Festival.  Indeed, soon there was an e-mail and then the follow-up phone call--the BioPark was closed (along with most of the city).  Within two days the snow was gone (except the piles I shoveled off the driveway).  The Festival has been rescheduled for this Saturday, so stay tuned for that. 


Another storm brought a brief nighttime rain shower followed by what was to be a cold and party cloudy day.  We picked up Ric and headed for the Crest.  There the wind was biting and the clouds stayed in place all day.  But we had a grand time snowshoeing over to High Finance (closed on Tuesdays) and then back through the woods, which were mercifully protected from the wind. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Spring before Winter

Phenology in the Cottonwood Gallery

Allison, Judith, and I made the observations for the Nature's Notebook project on Monday morning.  The Great Backyard Bird Count folks had already made their early morning sightings and were largely gone.  The Siberian elms were dumping pollen and the golden current was breaking bud.  Otherwise, all was quiescent. 

I took a side trip to the Japanese garden to see what the Zelkovas were doing--nothing at all.  Afterwards, Judith and I had a pleasant chat about things botanical:  landscaping with native plants, the Bosque trail issue.

An Afternoon in the Garden

Ric and I took as stroll through the winter garden on Thursday afternoon.  It was my first jaunt with a (borrowed) docent's vest.  I clocked 2.25 hrs of General Grounds towards my 60 hr annual requirement.  

Pasque flowers, crocus, iris, and Forsythia were blooming.  In the Mediterranean Conservatory there was a riot of Cyclamen, Kalanchoe, and other colorful nursery plants.  We drifted through the Desert Conservatory and then out to the Japanese Garden.  All in all, a great time to take early season photographs

We passed some birders from VT who were armed with 800mm of Nikon and Sony glass.  Ric had a splendid time chatting with one of them, JC.  We looped back along the west side of the pond.  While Ric photographed wood ducks, I captured a couple photo spheres

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ground Hog Day

Winter Photo Spheres

A long-duration winter storm moved across the area on Thursday (1/29/15).  Cheri sent an e-mail encouraging me to come out to the Botanic Garden to photograph it in the snow.  Unfortunately, other commitments (Bella's vet appointment) kept me away until the afternoon.  Even so, there was enough snow to be interesting.  I managed a few photo spheres in the Japanese Garden and a number of standard photos elsewhere. 


Last Monday (2/2/15) I went out to join the Nature's Notebook study at the Botanic Garden.  Things were a bit muddy from the half inch of snow and rain that had fallen on the preceeding Thursday and Friday.  Even so, the sun shone brightly and the day, which started chilly, quickly warmed up.  We stopped at the four stations and, no surprise, saw little change.  Some four-wing salt bush fruits had dropped, but they were from last season.  No buds were expanding on any of the target plants.

I did take the time to make photo spheres of each site.  These are now public on Google Maps

Later today (2/9) I'll repeat the trip.  Perhaps the extremely warm weather will have tricked some plants into breaking bud early.  Stay tuned.


Saturday (2/7/15) was Recognition Day at the BioPark.  Caro and I went early to the Zoo.  While I sat through the Volunteers Meeting, she strolled around looking at the kookaburra, koalas, and others.  A number of exhibits were shut down for the winter or closed for renovation.  By 11:00 graduation began.  I am one of about 40 new docents in the Class of '15.  We were amazed at the seniority of some of the volunteers--35 years as a zoo docent was the top.

Last Monday afternoon (2/2) I had met with Marlene to discuss my vest, the official "uniform" that docents are required to wear.  She took measurements, the official patterned cloth, and a t-shirt as a sample that looked like its color would be good for the lining. 

The Zoo

Yesterday (as I write this Monday 2/9), we took Gert to Le Crepe Michelle and then to the Zoo.  Lovely near-record-breaking weather, sunny, light breezes.  Spent most of the time looking at birds and reptiles for an easy loop.  About half the time I pushed Mom in her transfer chair, but she still got a lot of walking for exercise.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Bleah!  Double bleah!

I met with Cheri last Wednesday afternoon and unfortunately, by evening time, I had a sore throat.  Yes, that harbinger of a cold had left its death mark on my nasal passages.  By Thursday morning, I had the full-blown acid drip and I started medicating... zinc, vitamin C, Mucinex, pseudoepinephrine, aspirin, the works. 

Since then, things have gone through the usual stages, about one set of symptoms per day.  I had a miserable Friday night with congestion and I wisely gave up on my intention to go to interpretation training at the BioPark. 

As consolation, I'm posting below, one set of exercises that I had completed before the evile rhinovirus attacked me. 

Exhibit Interpretation Worksheet

Topic: Deserts plants

Conservation Message: Deserts = good, desertification = bad.

Three interesting things that I want my audience to learn
(Strive to include the “wow!” factor while building the knowledge they’ll need to understand your conservation message.)
  • Deserts are big. (They cover almost 1/5 of the Earth's land surface and are home to about 1 billion people.)
  • Deserts are diverse. (Many rare species, many plant species related to important crop species, many fascinating human cultures.)
  • Deserts and arid lands are used in many ways, but must be carefully managed to avoid “desertification.”
How I will make each of the facts above meaningful
(Hint: relate it to your audience, use intangible ideas, appeal to universal concepts)
  • Use a map or globe to point out deserts. Talk about where NM deserts are located.
  • Invite the audience to count or estimate the number of species in the Desert Conservatory. Ask what crops are related to desert plants.
  • Ask the audience to picture what happens to a lawn in ABQ that is not watered. Talk about historical changes in NM over the past 150 years. Discuss the biofuel plant at Columbus, wind and solar energy generation in the NM.
Three more facts I want my audience to learn
(in case I get bored of talking about the previous topics, or in case my audience is so intrigued they want to stay and learn more)
  • Desert plants are special. (They have many special adaptations: anatomy, chemistry, photosynthesis.)
  • Deserts are shaped by wind and water.
  • Deserts can be cold... very cold.
How I will make each of these additional facts meaningful

  • In the Desert Conservatory, ask audience to point out structural adaptations of the plants. Discuss phytochemistry (including remedios and pharmaceuticals). Discuss how important CAM and C4 photosynthesis are in crop plants.
  • Look at sand hills and/or examine desert pavement in conservatory.
  • The world's largest deserts are cold deserts in the Antarctic and Arctic. Use a globe or map to point out polar deserts. ABQ's nearby Great Basin Desert is only 9th largest. Other North American deserts are even smaller. Mars has huge deserts many times larger than the Sahara.
Three questions I can ask to facilitate discussion about my topic
  • Imagine you are lost in a desert. What do you need to survive? Do the native plants and animals need the same things? How do they manage to live in a desert?
  • What does “desertification” mean to you?
  • Can you name some important foods that are themselves or are related to desert species?
Our Actions Matter. The one action I will recommend to my audience and an explanation of WHY it matters.

Consider xeriscaping an area of your home landscape. This will reduce water consumption and your water bill. Water conservation has allowed Albuquerque to keep its water use at the same level as 20 years ago despite tremendous population growth. By limiting domestic landscape water use, more water is available for wildlife, aquifer recharge, agriculture, and industry.

Tools I might need to teach about this topic:
  • Globe or world map
  • Map of NM
  • Desert Conservatory species list
  • Before and after pictures of NM landscapes and Albuquerque area
  • Some curandera samples derived from desert plants
  • Xeriscaping pamphlet, poster

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

BioPark Distance Learning


Last Thursday I attended my first monthly BioPark volunteer meeting.  Events of the past fall managed to keep me from going to even one of these.  I continue to be amazed at all the activities that they support.   BioVan visits to schools, employee appreciation day, Kadomatsu, Sea Turtle Day, Orangutang Day, Cheetah Day, Story Time in the Garden, Aquarium Overnight, Touchpool tours, etc., etc. 

Distance Learning

I've been corresponding with Cheri V., the Aquarium and Botanic Garden Education Coordinator.  This afternoon we finally met in person and I began to get a feel for their needs and their use cases.  While distance learning can't and shouldn't be a front-line strategy, it has a definite role in helping to build the team for docents and for outreach follow-up.  We're still working through the details of the San Diego Zoo system while I try to riddle out the nuances of Edmodo. 

I also had a few moments for a Google Cardboard show-and-tell.  Definitely a hit for the BioParks STEM efforts.  We spent some time looking at my photo spheres and Jon's.

Finally we took a look at the phrenology notebooks.  The mobile app for the National Phrenology Network will definitely help with reducing data transcription errors and cut down on Cheri's workload.  This Monday I'm looking forward to meeting Ruby and Melinda, two of the current volunteers on this project. 


Expect a Saturday and a Monday post.  I'll be attending Interpretation Training on Saturday and then helping out with phrenology on Monday.