September 15

Making Mushrooms [Cooking]

So my partner has been on a mushroom kick lately. I think it started when she happened upon this YouTube channel. I was also pulled in after watching a few of their videos. I’ve always enjoyed mushrooms, incorporate them into a few of my dishes, but I really don’t know much about them.

White button, portobello, shiitake, oyster, and chanterelle. That’s the extent of my mushroom knowledge.

It blew my mind to learn just how many varieties there are, and that’s just the ones that are safe to eat. And the nutrition. That was another unexpected bit of information. I highly recommend the YouTube channel I linked above. After watching a few, I think you’ll have a better appreciation of our fungi friends.

Sidenote here: About ten, maybe fifteen years ago, I picked up a bed-full of mushroom compost in the back of my old pickup truck. A small town about twenty minutes east of here has a lot of mushroom farms, and occasionally they sell off the spent compost the mushrooms grow in. While it’s done as a growing medium, it makes for amazing lawn and garden fertilizer. White mushrooms in my yard

I scattered it across my backyard and all the plants and grass loved it. However, I now have a lot of mushrooms popping up here and there. I don’t know enough about them to dare harvesting, but they’re pretty to look at and photograph.

But I digress – The point of this post is to note that I purchased a mushroom kit from North Spore. I figured, if I’m going to try my hand at mushroom farming, I should start with something simple. The kit is for Blue Oyster Mushrooms, which sound both tasty and pretty. Mushroom grow kit box.

I started the kit the other night and it can take up to two weeks to sprout, so I’ll update when that happens. Of course, it’s trial and error and when it comes to growing things, there’s always the chance it doesn’t work out. I’m keeping my fingers crossed this works. I like oyster mushrooms.

Now I need to find recipes so I’m ready to cook when they’re ready to harvest!


July 27

Carnivorous Plant Update [Nature]

It was ridiculously dry here in North Florida this past spring. We’ve gone for weeks without a single drop. At least at my house. My partner and I have watched storm fronts plowing their way towards our location, only to see them dissipate or break around us. We joke that someone built a dome over our part of town. I blame Mr. Burns.

But Tropical Storm Claudette seems to have broken the dry streak. She made landfall hours to the west of here a month or so ago, but the majority of the rain was on the east side of the storm (as it is with most tropical systems) and we finally got some rain. And then every single day. My yard is transforming into a jungle.

Which is great. Especially for my carnivorous plants. My big pitcher plants were in rough shape and my smaller plants – flytraps, sundews, and small pitchers – were struggling. Even my rain barrel was bone dry. I was getting desperate.

A bit of rainfall made a huge difference. The big plants are still recovering, but the small ones are thriving.

I think my little shop of horrors is going to be damp and happy for the foreseeable future. In fact, I’m so happy about their recovery I thought I’d share some recent photos of my little shop of horrors.


I picked up a new flytrap last year from California Carnivores and he (or she?) is doing great. Lush and green and gobbling up little insects. The brown traps are ones that are used up. Meaning, they’ve caught at least one insect, no more than two, and now the plant discards the trap and develops new ones. Venus fly trap

But what I’m most happy about is this little one on the right side of the screen. I’ve had this flytrap for over five years, but this past spring was especially rough on it. I thought it had died off, but I left the pot alone because I still had hope. Carnivorous plants, although somewhat difficult to take care of, can also be surprisingly resilient. Venus fly trap

And I wasn’t disappointed. About two weeks ago I noticed a tiny bit of green poking up through the moss. Now it looks like it’s on the way to a full recovery!


These guys are my small Nepenthes and Sarracenia pitchers. Both are new additions to my patio. These guys grow low on the ground in the wild. I have them because I love the colors and patterns on the pitchers.

Pitcher plant and sundewThe one on the left, with the companion sundew, will have to be transplanted once the weather cools. Winter dormancy is the time to uproot them or take cuttings. The sundew was a bonus. I had ordered the pitcher, but the sundew suddenly appeared and almost took over the pot.

This one has beautiful coloring and, judging from the dead/dying pitchers, has been eating well. In fact, if you check out the second photo you’ll see a recent victim.

Pitcher plantInsect floating in pitcher


I have a few more members of the ensemble, but I’ll save them for the next post. I hope you enjoyed seeing these unique plants. Remember, carnivorous plants are protected, so please don’t dig them up if you find them in the wild. If you’re interested in adding a few to your garden, please do your research first and buy from a reputable dealer.

If you have any questions or comments, you can post them below.



April 30

A Photo Moment – Amaryllis

One of the reasons I love flowers is because they remind me of the impermanence of things. It’s a tenet of Buddhist philosophy, that nothing lasts forever and our attachment to things is one of the causes of suffering. We have to appreciate things while we have them because we never know when they’ll be gone.

I’m reminded of this every spring when the Amaryllis in my yard begin to return to life. They’re flowering bulbs, meaning, they sprout and bloom when the weather begins to warm, then remain green through the summer, and die off in the winter. Amaryllis blooms

I have several of them in pots on my back patio, and a few growing in a bed further out in the yard. It’s kinda funny how excited I get when I see those first shoots rising up out of the soil, the flower stalk pointing at and reaching for the sky like a green rocket ship. I know what’s coming and I know it won’t last long.

Amaryllis bloom

This year they bloomed in a staggered fashion, first breaking the surface in one pot, then another, then another, as if they were trying to make the beauty of their blooms last a little bit longer. When they finally were in full display, the deep, rich reds were a sharp contrast against the greenery that served as a backdrop.

But my focus is always on the flowers. The colors are so dense, with the delicate stigma looking like alien antenna. Amaryllis bloom

Of course, there is one aberration, which is the one I call the candy cane. Predominantly white blooms with red stripes. There’s only one in the yard, but it’s my favorite. I don’t tell the other ones, though. Amaryllis bloom

The photos posted here were taken a little over a week ago, so now the blooms have faded and drooped and are ready to be cut back. It’s unfortunate, but inevitable.

However, I know they’ll be back again next year to brighten my yard for a few days. I’ll be waiting patiently.


April 16

Pitcher Plant Flowers

You may already be aware of my love of carnivorous plants. Now that the weather is warming, most of them are starting to bloom and their flowers are amazing. The pitcher plants tend to bloom the earliest in my little shop of horrors, and this year I thought it would be interesting to take a photo every day to capture the flower’s life cycle.

I initially created a gif, but the finished product ended up too small to appreciate the beauty of the flower. That, and the file size was a bit too large.

So I ended up tossing together a video. It’s only about a minute long, but it gives you a chance to see just how incredible these plants are.

I also wrote the music, too. In case you were wondering.

Hope you enjoy this short educational moment.


April 5

My Little Shop of Horrors

One of my favorite rites of Spring is watching my carnivorous plants come back to life. Most of the ones on my back patio are indigenous to my area, so they taper off and die back during the cold months, then slowly, stealthily, come back to life when the temperatures begin to rise.

Pitcher plant flower buds.
Poking their little heads up out of the sphagnum moss.

For my sarracenias (trumpet pitchers), the focus is on flowering. Initially, I’ll see these tiny, pea-sized balls breaking the surface of the sphagnum moss, then they quickly spring up on long stems. Over the next week or so they slowly open to reveal an alien-looking flower.

In theory, I should cut the flower stems so the plant can focus more energy on creating pitchers, which is how they get their sustenance. But I love the flowers and like to spread the seeds around for propagation.

This year I have a few new additions to my Little Shop of Horrors (as my partner likes to call it). This includes another type of pitcher that grows lower to the ground. What I’m proud of is the fact that the new pitchers are so much larger than the old ones. I interpret that to mean this guy loves his new environment and is ready to get to work on the local insect population.

Pitcher plant.
Look at those little red capillaries.

Of course, I always feel the need to clarify that having carnivorous plants on your patio doesn’t mean you’ll never need to call for pest control. They aren’t active bug hunters, laying in wait in the tall grass for the unsuspecting beetle to happen by. No, they are passive. Incredibly so. And they don’t always capture what I want them to. For example, I’ve found honeybees decomposing in the bottom of a pitcher trap, along with the occasional lizard that probably wandered down the tube thinking it was getting a free meal.

Fun fact: In Southeast Asia, some pitcher plants get so large that people have discovered small primates in the traps. One wrong turn…

The other issue is mosquitoes. Here in Florida, mosquitoes are a problem nearly year-round, and unfortunately, carnivorous plants like to sit in water and stay moist. In other words, their environments are breeding grounds for the little bloodsuckers. And no, carnivorous plants don’t attract mosquitoes. Every once in a while I may see one stuck to a sundew, but that’s just the result of bad piloting on the part of the mosquito.

Speaking of which, my sundews are doing exceptionally well at the moment. One is indigenous to the area, so that’s not surprising. What did catch me off guard was my Australian sundew. I originally purchased it about ten years ago from a local plant breeder (licensed to breed carnivorous plants). At the time, he told me the plant was sterile. It would flower and possible go to seed, but the seeds would never sprout. No worries, I thought, I can live with that.

And it did flower and go to seed. Repeatedly over the years. Unfortunately, two years ago it died back and never returned. That happens. Plants don’t live forever.

But to my surprise, early this year it rose from the dead and showed up in a completely different pot on my patio. So I guess that life found a way (to quote the book of Goldblum).

Australian sundew
A small forest of Australian sundew with pitcher buds.

My other sundew has become an eating machine. In this photo you can see the paddles covered in little bugs. Sundews are one of my favorites. In fact, I will occasionally bring them into the house and put them on a windowsill when a fly wanders inside. It usually doesn’t take more than a day or two for them to meet and my sundew ends up with a nice meal. Sort of like a watchdog, but with a lower profile and less barking.

Well-fed sundew.
A well-fed sundew.

I’ve also been tracking the pitcher buds as they rise up and prepare to bloom. I’ll post some shots of those soon.

Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my little shop of horrors. You should visit some time. Audrey would love to have you for dinner.

Venus flytraps
Say ‘hi’ to Audrey.


April 2

A Photo Moment – Azeleas

I think the prettiest time of year is spring, and here in North Florida, spring means the azaleas start blooming. I’m lucky enough to have quite a few of these shrubs in my yard and it’s always nice to look out a window and see these bright, colorful flowers everywhere. In fact, azalea flowers can last for weeks. This means that a bush can remain fully colored in pink, red, or white for a month or more.

Pink azalea blooms.
Blooming in the shade of some live oaks.

Azaleas are perfect for the average gardener, and even more so for the lazy ones. They are incredibly hardy with temperature extremes, can be propagated by planting cuttings, and need very little attention other than an occasional trim (if you want them to have a specific shape or keep it from becoming tree-like).

And here’s a fun fact for you: Every part of the azalea is toxic, even the nectar in the flowers. This has, in turn, inspired people in parts of the world to purposely feed azalea nectar to honeybees because it then develops into a ‘mind-altering’ – and potentially lethal – honey. In other words, don’t try this at home.

I’ll pass on the honey. Just seeing the blooms in my yard is enough to lift my mood and bring a smile to my face.

At the moment, I have pink ones blooming in my backyard and on one side of my house, along with a hedge in my front yard that’s displaying white flowers. If you look closely, you can see that they aren’t solid colors. The outer petals are pink or white, but closer in you can see they have this speckle pattern.

Pink azalea flowers.
Pink azalea flowers.
White azalea blooms.
Soft white azalea blooms.

Luckily, the weather is warming up and the pollen is finally being washed away with the spring rains, so I’ll be able to travel further afield soon. I’m looking forward to hiking in the local parks and forests, taking photos of the beauty I find, and getting some fresh air. I think my dogs are ready for it, too.





March 15

A Photo Moment – Clover Flowers

There’s a saying with gardeners that, “a weed is just a plant growing in the wrong spot.” In fact, there are quite a few quotes that reflect on this premise.

I’ve always liked that idea. Dandelions, clover, thistle, among others, are always getting a bad reputation from people who believe that gardens should be perfectly manicured. I’m not a member of that group. I mean, I can appreciate the hard work and creativity that goes into what I call ‘display gardens’. However, I’m more of a natural garden aficionado. Or as a friend calls it, ‘lazy-person gardening.’

My backyard is one of those semi-natural places. I like to keep it so because it attracts birds, and I love birds. In fact, I’ve had generations of cardinals, brown-thrashers, and house wrens that have called my backyard home for the past twenty years. I must be doing something right.

It also allows me to have a wide variety of wildflowers – oftentimes called weeds – growing amidst the St. Augustine grass that once dominated my yard. The most prolific is the clover. It’s great ground cover, feels cool under my bare feet on a hot day, and attracts honeybees. There’s actually a guy who lives down the road from me who has hives in his yard, so I assume these are his bees that I see buzzing around the blooms.

Clover blooming.
One of the many small patches of clover in my yard.

What I love most about the clover are the flowers – soft pink in color, a sharp contrast against the green leaves, the way they flutter in a gentle breeze. I sometimes get distracted looking at them when I’m watering my potted plants. I find it meditative. Maybe it’s the Irish in me.

Now that spring has arrived, and yellow pollen is covering every outdoor surface, the clover is again blooming..and I’m a happy man.


November 6

Carnivorous Plant Update

Here in North Florida, the weather if beginning to cool, and with that means my carnivorous plants will be going dormant. It’s sad to see my pitcher plants begin to wither, dry up, turn brown and brittle. My sundews and flytraps will also wither a bit, but they’ll maintain most of their color and simply stop eating and producing new growth. Luckily, most of my carnivorous plants (except for the flytraps) are indigenous to my area, so they’re used to the weather.

But it’s also a good time for some cleanup. Once the plants have dried up, I’ll cut them back some so, come springtime, the new growth will have room to flex. Also, I’ll take some cuttings and get them potted. One of the main things I have to do is replant two of my flytraps. A stupid squirrel got into the pot earlier this summer and decided to dig around like a maniac. I was able to salvage the plants, but the big one needs to be reset and the smaller one needs his (or her) own pot.

Venus flytraps

Here’s another flytrap that’s beginning to get ready for winter. You can see the browning traps. A trap will die off after a meal or two, then new ones will come up. In this case, traps are dying, but no new growth to speak of…just one little trap that’s trying his best (see the very center of the plant).

Venus Flytrap

The colors are still popping on a couple of my pitcher plants. This little guy is still vibrant, and his partner, the sundew, is still producing dewy drops on its leaves.

Pitcher and Sundew

This guy is looking good, too. In the second photo you can see his latest meal. I think it was some sort of wasp. You can also see the fine little hairs that line the mouth of the pitcher. Helps to keep the little critters from crawling back out.

Pitcher Plant  Pitcher Plant with Snack

Like all gardens, they have to cycle with the seasons. I’ll be sure to keep them comfortable, cover them if there’s frost, and make sure they stay wet until spring. I’ll post updates over the next few months as I make cuttings, transplant, and prep them for next year.

Oh, and let me know if you have any questions. As you can probably tell, I adore these little buggers. And yes, gardening is just another way to be creative.



October 2

Carnivorous Cultivars

If you follow me on social media you may have seen a few posts about my carnivorous plants. I’ve been fascinated with them since I was a wee lad and my father bought me a Venus fly trap from an ad I saw in the back of a comic book. The poor thing didn’t last long. It didn’t come with instructions so I was giving it tap water and trying to feed it bits of raw ground beef. Both are big mistakes when it comes to these types of plants.

About fifteen years ago my interest in them was renewed when I attended a lecture at a local plant nursery. I then picked up a couple of books on the topic and discovered that there are carnivorous plants growing in my area. Of course, carnivorous plants are protected, so digging them up in the wild is a big no-no and can result in fines and jail time. Luckily, there are licensed nurseries all over the U.S. that cultivate and sell them.

I’ve picked up most of my plants from California Carnivores. They offer an amazing variety that caters to both amateurs and professionals. I’ve also picked up a couple of plants locally. There’s a guy here who cultivates them in his backyard bog garden, then sells them through a locally-owned nursery.

Right now my pitcher plants are doing well. I have them planted in five gallon pots in a mixture of sphagnum moss, perlite, and pine bark. Odd, right? The thing about carnivorous plants is that they don’t get much, if any, nutrition from the ground they grow in. Regular potting soil will kill them. Even tap water can be deadly, so I have a free-standing rain barrel that I use to water them. Despite their meat-eating habits, they’re actually quite delicate. To try to and keep them as comfortable as possible, I mostly leave them alone and let them do their thing, only pruning in the winter and leaving some of the dying pitchers until they completely dry out.

I don’t want to bore you with all the cool biology and tongue-twisting scientific names, but I think you might enjoy seeing a few of my pets.

This is a white pitcher plant that’s indigenous to my area here in North Florida. They grow wild in the national forest just south of town. The pitchers, at least in the pots on my patio, grow to a height of three to four foot. The lip of the pitcher excretes a sweet substance that attracts bugs. Then they slip and fall into the pitcher where they drown, and are digested, by enzymes in the water that gets trapped in there. The plants also have fine hairs pointing downwards that line the interior of the pitchers. In this photo, one pitcher is open for business while the other one is just about ready to open. If you click and zoom in, you can seem some of those fine hairs on the lid of the open one.

White Pitcher Plants

And here are some of my red, hooded pitchers. They tend to stay low to the ground. The interesting thing about this type of pitcher is the hood. When bugs fall in they obviously try to get back out. The white spots on the hood allow light in, which tricks the bugs into thinking that’s the way out. What they do is bounce off the inside of the hood over and over until they’re exhausted, then down into the enzyme soup they go!

This photo is of some regular hooded pitchers. The same thing applies here with the white ‘bubbles’ on the hood helping to render the victims immobile. If you look close, you can also see an Australian sundew that’s moved into the neighborhood.

Fun fact: When I bought the Australian sundew I was told it was sterile and wouldn’t propagate. Over the course of three or four years it would flower like crazy and seed up, but that’s it. Then, earlier this year, I found that some seeds fell into this pitcher pot and sprouted. I must be doing something right.

Green Pitchers and Australian Sundew

I’ll share more of my deadly little garden in the future. I also have Venus fly-traps, sundews, and a variety of other pitchers.

Hope you enjoyed this foray into my weird world.

Me and my pitchers