Background Switcher (Hidden)

Another Egregious Dog PhotoBomb

Thursday, July 16, 2015

I was going down the side steps to take in laundry when I noticed that all the rain this summer has created an explosion of color in the plantings on the stone steps. These steps, created with hand-hewn native Ohio sandstone from the foundation of a barn that once stood where our house now stands, are a little too widely spaced to be comfortable for navigation. I'm used to traversing them; I run up steps two by two anyway, so they work fine for me. (Are you surprised?) We only had five hand-hewn blocks, and a pretty steep hill to put them in. But they’re pretty darn fabbo for a terraced garden.


For this south-facing site, I choose dry-adapted plants that also give maximum color impact: portulacas, purslanes, catnip “Walker’s Low,” and golden thyme. The staple is ice plant, Carpobrotus edulis, a beachfront  perennial, native to South Africa, that persists and multiplies year in and year out. It's the one with needlelike gray-green leaves and finely cut magenta daisy flowers. I about croaked when I saw it growing wild along Monterey Bay, CA.  I assumed then that it was native, but now understand (thank you, readers!) that it crowds out native plants and is really bad news on the California coast. Here in Ohio, it's well-contained and I like the fact that it's a perennial; that such an exotic-looking creature comes back after the toughest winters. It's easy to propagate by sticking a cutting in moist soil, so I do.

The beauty of ice plant is that rabbits hate it. I've tasted it and see why--very salty-bitter. Not sure why its species moniker is edulis. Purslane (the redder one in the photo above) is also low on the rabbit nom list. Yuck. Now, rabbits eat portulaca like candy. So I interplant portulaca after the ice plant and purslane have taken off, and their yuckiness seems to protect the weaker portulaca from bunnehs. Just to be sure, I sprinkle dried blood over the portulaca until it's established.

So the kids are sitting at the top of the steps discussing some mail-order shoes Phoebe just got, and it makes such a nice summer tableau that I'm shooting away at them before switching to the flowers. Chet Baker always assumes anything that comes in the mail is a present for him. So he's nosing around the wrappings, hinting that he'd like a present, too. It's all very cute.

The kids don't know I'm taking their picture, and that's how I like it best. I have my shutter sound turned off so I can be stealthy. But Chet Baker notices me shooting silently away.

He comes trotting down the hill toward me. Is he doing what I think he's doing?

Yes, he is. He positions himself on the step right in front of me and looks up at the camera. Stares right into the lens, he does.

That was not my best smile. Here is a better one. Now, isn't that a much better picture than you were taking before? With me, Chet Baker, in it?

At this point the kids notice that Chet has bombed yet another photo, and they can't believe he took it upon himself to do it, unbidden. I didn't call him--I didn't say a word to him. He just assumed I wanted him front and center. He looks a little hurt that they're laughing and exclaiming at his hamminess.

But he soon recovers his composure and offers me his trademark noble stare into the distance. They're still laughing. Honey badger don't care.

Bacon, you are something else. Just something else. Thank you for immeasurably improving my photos of kids and flowers.

Any time, Mether. You know that everything's better with Bacon in it.


Sweetness and beauty abound in this post.

Posted by Cynthia July 16, 2015 at 5:41 AM

Dear Julie
I love the plants and Chet and the kids too. It is so lovely to see the plants I can only dream of living in south Florida.

When I visited Berkley to bird the area I was stunned by the multitude of ice plants. I was told it is not native, so after reading your post I had to look it up. I found this interesting state park pamphlet about the plant.

You being a science chimp, I thought you would like to know.

Love Kathy in Delray Beach

Posted by Anonymous July 16, 2015 at 7:08 AM

Dear Julie,
Your July blog has been so fun to read. Beautiful photos of family and flowers...birds galore
Enjoying "The Bluebird Effect".
Thank you for sharing your gift and love for nature.

Posted by Margaret July 16, 2015 at 7:26 AM

So much fun to read and look at kids, flowers, dog. No need to respond to this, but I have to ask and hope you'll write about it someday - does Chet look at and react to photos of himself? I've heard animals don't recognize themselves in mirrors or pictures, but Chet's not just a dog, right? So nice to start the day with something joyful and funny... CT P.S. Love the sandstone steps, I'm big into stone and old rusty metal stuff....

Love the flowers. I'd never hav thought of spacing them that way. As to purslane, I'm not sure why the rabbits won't eat it. Humans do, especially in Mexico. You can find it as a staple in any of the markets. I've come to appreciate what spontaneously comes up in our garden and use it in salads. Maybe yours is a different variety.

[Back to Top]