West Maroon Valley Wild Flowers

west_maroon_valley_sketch_10_aug_2014I promised two things in a previous post. One was the incomplete sketch I did of Crater lake and West Maroon Valley (not far from Aspen) that I started before the downpour began, last weekend. It is on the left (click to enlarge.) The other is a collection of the wild flowers and other pretty things that I picked for you (non-destructively) from my little hike in the West Maroon valley. There’s Columbine, Indian Paintbrush, and so forth, along with […] Click to continue reading this post

Morning Sex

gardening_3rd_july_2014_2Yep. This is an exciting new discovery for me. No, it is not what you think! I’m talking about gardening matters. It seems that a lot of my cucumber and squash plants are not producing a great deal this year, (with several small squashes not developing much before falling off) and I could not figure out why. On the other hand, I’ve done a better job of building sun shields for them, to stop them being fried by the intense heat over the course of a hot day. I now think that maybe these things are connected. First of all, I’m not seeing a lot of bees of any sort in the garden, and so I wonder if it is simply that there’s not a lot of pollination going on. Couple this with the fact that the sunscreens (some quite low) are probably hiding them from some bees that might be passing by, I’ve begun to wonder if it is time to help things along a bit. […] Click to continue reading this post

A Present

rose_animation_jan_2014My mum has been visiting for the holidays. For her recent birthday I decided that instead of making a birthday card from a photo of one the roses from my garden (as I usually do) I would make her a drawing/painting of one on a card instead. The paper of the card has a ridged texture and I imagined that this would be an interesting component of the final piece. Using a photo of one of my roses as reference on screen in front of me, I sketched onto the paper […] Click to continue reading this post

They’re Back!

…And this time they mean business…

That wonderful giant cactus plant in the back garden has done its trick of suddenly producing a host of lovely large flowers again. (Click to enlarge photo, and see below for links to earlier years’ posts on the very same phenomenon).

I saw them Tuesday morning, and I think they’ll be gone very soon (by Wednesday or the day after).

So lovely, so massive… and so sad that they last for so short a time.

But such is life. Enjoy and revel in things while they last, and then move on, holding the essence of it close inside you.


-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Sidewalk Colours

You see such lovely things along the side of the street if there’s time to notice. (Click for a larger view.)

This is one of the many reasons I often walk each day to and from the bus stop or subway station. You miss this stuff in a car (or sometimes even when on a bike).

By the way, I’ve updated my earlier post with photos from the LA Times Festival of Books, as promised.



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Tasty Salad

Saw these on campus the other day. I’ve forgotten what these are called, but I am always impressed with them.

They are part of a set of ornamental plants that in another closely related universe would (along with their neighbors) perhaps feature more on our dinner plates than in gardens, I fancy. I must try to find their name at some point.

But the point here is that I’ve never really studied their flowers before… They’re amazing and unexpected in form!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Looking Back and Forth

Somehow after Wednesday I lost track of time, in a sense, in the natural course of having another very busy week. There were several things competing for time, and some of them may be of interest to you. (Left: Some lovely pink gladiolus flowers that have sprung up in my garden.) The Nobel Prizes kept coming, of course, with some very interesting winners announced. In addition to the ones I mentioned already in two earlier posts, I’ve got to find some people among our faculty who’ll be willing to spend 10 to 15 minutes making some informal remarks about the Who/What/Why aspects of the prize at one of two lunches I’ll be hosting in the coming weeks about the Nobel Prize. I’ve mentioned this before. It is an annual event I’ve tried to get going as part of the Dornsife Commons (formerly known as College Commons) series. I’ve locked in Physics and Peace, and want to get people for all the others. This year I know that if I have problems with Chemistry, I can step in if need be, although I’d rather not have to do that – I want to broaden participation, not do everything myself. Look out for those lunches (see here) and come along!

Speaking of doing everything myself, I’ve been continuing the weeks long struggle to get support, interest, and participation for the Science Film Competition I told you about earlier. Having spent a lot of time meeting with many faculty and other parties to build support and understanding, getting lots of faculty to make announcements (one time even coming down from Santa Barbara to campus to give a ten minute announcement in a class at the film school and going up again after!) and so forth – and thanks everyone who has helped! – I decided to amplify my focus on tackling […] Click to continue reading this post


After just having walked down a few minutes from Electric Pass Peak back towards the Pass (the peak is a fun 13635 ft / 4156 m elevation), I remembered to take this short panorama to show the surroundings. You can see the peak just descended in the middle of the film, and just before you’ll see Cathedral Lake in the distance, along with the meadow of wild flowers through which the hike to the peak takes you.

The 15 seconds of film is after the fold: […] Click to continue reading this post


As you might guess from the flower to the right, I’m presently not in California, but Colorado. In fact I’m in Aspen, a place to which, you might have gathered from previous years’ blogging, I come to work for a while in the Summer. The Aspen Center for Physics is here, as well as some great mountain trails, river walks, bike trails*, several other organizations of interest, festivals, and of course, some good cafes. So I’m pretty well set up in terms of things I need to think and work on various projects.

The flower is the columbine, the state flower, and I encountered them (and a host of other lovely flowers of many types) on Saturday on my first hike since properly being acclimatised to the altitude and so forth.

I’ve already had some great conversations at the Center, which included catching up […] Click to continue reading this post

Happy Mother’s Day!

It is Mother’s Day over in the USA today, and although my mum and sister (both mums) are over in the UK where they have Mother’s Day a bit earlier (no, not hours earlier, weeks earlier) I still try to remember to make and send them cards to arrive in time for the USA one. For the card I made for my mum this year I used these spectacular roses I spotted on campus (during the recent festival) in the garden next to the USC Alumni house (it used to be the original USC building some 131 years ago):

Stunning, aren’t they?

I wish all Mothers, far and near, Happy Mother’s Day!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post


flowers_at_joshua_tree_1_1I was in Joshua Tree for a couple of days on the weekend, camping and hanging with some friends. It was a very pleasant time indeed, with groups of us taking turns making meals, and with bouts of talking and walking here and there, and sleeping in our tents listening to the evening wind howling at times.

Here’s a closeup (click for larger view) of a flower bundle of the Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens ), which is just a stunning plant.

The whole bush is pictured below.

[…] Click to continue reading this post


fremont_pincushion_death_valley_2It does look a bit like a coconut macaroon, and a particularly tasty one, but I must report that it is in fact an example of a Fremont pincushion (chaenactis fremontii), a white flower blooming in the deserts of the South West. I took this one in Death Valley yesterday. (It is Spring break, and I decided to get away for a bit.) Click for a larger view. There’s a tiny little creature of some sort perched on one of […] Click to continue reading this post

‘Tis the Season

There are a lot of silly, ill-informed things said about Los Angeles, mostly in the form of lazy clich├ęs. Sometimes said by people who are otherwise quite sensible, but the power and groove of a truism is hard to resist, even when it is an untrue one. One of them is that there are “no seasons” here. This is just a silly thing that people say in place of saying that they are used to seasons from a different climate and they have not taken the time to listen and watch for the march of the seasons that is evident here. (I think also that we have it amplified by popular culture that the standard symbols of the Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter cycle involving snow and red and gold leaf colours and bare trees and jack frost nipping at your nose and so forth are “the way things are supposed to be”.) A friend of mine has in her email signature the slogan “I have a life. It is just different from yours”, and so I will retool it here: “We have seasons. They are just different from yours.”

jasmine_in_bloomJust like anywhere else, the seasons wink or call (sometimes even shout) at you through certain combinations of colours, smells, temperatures, and so on. I think people miss a lot of cues in Los Angeles because they don’t get out of their cars and walk the streets very much. Even a few gardens or hedgerows passed along the way can show a lot about the mood of the season the city is in. For me, colours and smells are very big cues in Los Angeles, and there are times when large parts of the city seem to be dominated by a single plant’s smell or colour or sometimes both. For me, it is the Jasmine time of year now. This is when the night-blooming jasmine bushes (cestrum nocturnum, apparently) of the city all seem to work in concert and fill the air with a great scent, and lovely clumps of creamy […] Click to continue reading this post


passion_flower_pairGreetings of the birthday sort to my younger nephew.

I made a card for him out of these lovely passion flowers (click for larger view) from my garden, and I posted it, but apparently there are postal delays due to volcano ash and so forth, so it might not get there in time.

So this blog post is to serve as a card and wish him Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Happy Mother’s Day!

It is Mother’s Day in the USA. The UK version was earlier, in March, but since my mother is there, she usually gets two greetings from me, one for each version of the holiday.

oleander_flowersMother’s Day for me means flowers, at least in part. I often (although not this year) make and send her a card featuring a flower from my garden. Roses are usually the ones that make it to the card (my mum loves them) but as I stood in the garden this morning and looked around, the Oleander caught my eye. The bushes are covered in pink flowers (click the image on the right for a larger view), with many more to come, and I was suddenly put in mind of the years I lived in the Caribbean. Oleander plants were very common, and I recall many of them (in a selection of colours, I think) in the grounds of St. Augustine’s where my family went to […] Click to continue reading this post

Aloe Earth

aloe_flowers_2It is Earth day today, the 40th anniversary, in fact. Have you had it in mind at all? I was pleased, in following the leadership debate that took place today over in the UK, to hear very interesting and serious content in the answers about what the various party leaders were doing on environmental both personally and in terms of policy. Over the years we’ve rapidly come to a point where it’s no longer a trendy or fringy issue in front line politics, but a mainstream one with impact in all aspects of policy.

On the left (click for larger view) is the rather elegant flower (two of them) of one of my several aloe vera plants. They’re quite unexpected and rather lovely I’d say. Several different types of bird have been attracted to them and it is a pleasure to look over at them (and others) and see what birds are settling on […] Click to continue reading this post

Calla Lily!

calla_lily I’m very pleased to see this flower (and always delighted to say the name out loud: Try it: Calla Lily.). (Click for larger view.) I discovered a patch of shoots growing in the shade of a tall tree some time ago, struggling against a thriving ground cover plant, and decided to clear some space for them and let them grow up, giving them a supply line off the drip system. That was a year ago. Now, they’re nice and large, and […] Click to continue reading this post