In the Garden: Don’t call it a comeback!


Last summer, an old friend came by my apartment for the first time. He noticed how many plants I had around the house and how healthy they looked … And then he saw my orchid.

“I guess you’re letting this one die,” he said, gesturing toward the plant.

“No!” I insisted. “This guy’s gonna come back!”

True, it was looking sad — almost stalk-less. But it had managed to grow a few new leaves and then there were the green(ish) roots.

Fast forward six months and, voila! The little green stalk that could began showing signs of spring. Then came the buds and then, last week, BAM! A flower!

Oh, of all the orchids I’ve loved before (and for which my love could not revive), this bud’s for you!

In my little, fast-paced and overly dramatic mind, I’m thinking, maybe this is a sign! Maybe new things I previously couldn’t get off the ground/get out the door/or get a handle on will suddenly start moving forward again or even for the first time.

Or then maybe it’s a lot simpler than that … Maybe I’ve just become mature and mindful enough to pay attention to what plants need. Either that, or this is a particularly persevering plant. 😉


I was so stoked when buds began to form on what had been a sad little green stalk.

plant being watered

I am not sure what one is supposed to do with orchids, but I hose mine down each week like a tropical storm is passing by …

draining orchid

And then I let the bottom sit up on something until it completely drains, before putting back on the “shelf,” which, in this case, is actually a bamboo bread box.

In the Garden: Memories of manta rays


Free leftover tins from Bora Bora become planters. A nice memory, long after the cookies and the tan have been gone!

In September 2010, I was lucky enough to visit French Polynesia. I stayed on the islands of Tahiti and Bora Bora. The fanciful cuisine of the former — particularly the long-standing food truck tradition — was certainly a favorite memory. But it was only off the shores of Bora Bora that I got to scuba dive. And I do love nothing more than being underwater. Whilst immersed in the almost too perfect turquoise seas, I swam with pregnant manta rays and big fat lemon sharks. Gifts from the gods, to be sure.

I hadn’t completely forgotten about the dives, but almost two years later, they were far from my mind. And then, about a month ago, I got a message from an old dive buddy — a Frenchman who lives near Avignon.

“I was watching a documentary about mantas in French Polynesia and I saw you,” he wrote. “Did you see this documentary? I can try to capture few pictures for you if you want.”

And then it all came back.

A screen shot of me after the dive, from "Les reines du lagon."

It so happens that a French film crew was on my dive boat that September, and they were making a documentary about the manta rays in the motu. They filmed the briefing, the dive and then interviewed me afterward. Miracle of miracles, I made the final cut.

The film, “Les reines du lagon” (The queens of the lagoon”) is by Dominique Martial. Mon ami francais sent me a screen shot and some video clips. Apparently, I sound way more sophisticated in French! The parts I saw were magical. Hope I get to see the whole documentary one day.

I had saved some cookie tins from the resort in Bora Bora where we stayed while diving. They were the tastiest tropical butter cookies I’ve ever had! I poked drainage holes in the bottom of the tins, filled them with soil and then planted a trio of succulents in each.

Now, whenever i water them, I will be thinking of Bora Bora and my magical moment with mantas, en francais!

In the Garden: Pilferage and propagation


A tea cup from the sale bin at my favorite Japantown porcelain store is now home to three of my proud propagates.

Succulents come in myriad shapes, colors and textures (including the spiny cactus) and pepper the planet in locales as diverse as India, Madagascar and the California coast!

They’ve been all the decor rage for the past few years, as they are both easy on the eyes and hard to kill. Though air plants — the fiercely survivalist tillandsia — are becoming “stiff” competition, particularly as wall art, succulents are still spreading their fleshy leaves at an ambitious rate. Surpassing the simple flower pot, they are showing up as floral arrangements, wreaths and framed hangings.

It’s crazy how plants can be trendy, but then there is the infamous tale of the tulip… I can’t say I know of any fortunes that have been won or lost over these fun little flora, though the local nurseries are probably making out quite well. (Succulents regenerate themselves at an amazing rate, with hardly any work on the part of humans.)

A second life for charity shop find. Rocks compliments of Bean Hollow beach.

I’ve been busy propagating my little thick-leafed friends for some time. Some of the parent plants were purchased, while others were plucked from obliging flower pots or pinched on a hike. You pick a little plant or just a part, leave it to dry for a few weeks and then, once roots start to reach out, plant the new sucker in some soil.

Finding the right containers is almost equally as fun. I peruse secondhand stores, sale bins and my own cabinets for candidates. (What better retirement plan for a chipped mug or bowl?) Fishbowls are a present favorite.

Picked up the beady bundle of red and green this afternoon near Alamere Falls in Point Reyes. What a lovely, though busy hike!!

I recently redid a few planters, as I hadn’t given them proper drainage on my first try. Now, with a bed of rocks in the bottom and a layer of charcoal just below the sandy soil, the roots should have plenty of room to breathe.

If you’d like to totally geek out on succulents, follow the goings on of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA), at

And if you’re curious about the tulip wars, an apropos analogy for our troubled economic times, check out “Tulipomania : The Story of the World’s Most Coveted Flower & the Extraordinary Passions It Aroused” by Mike Dash.

A bright yellow succulent in its natural habitat -- the dunes at Bean Hollow State Beach.

First try with the Sno maker: Bergamot mint and creme-fraiche ice cream


Take mint from the garden, and simmer with milk, cream and sugar. Let steep half hour before heating again and adding to egg yolks. Cool before pouring in machine.

After mixture reaches a thick but not-quite-done texture, toss in some creme fraiche and let churn for a bit more ...

Scoop into bowl, and top with more mint from the "garden." Eat. Yum.