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~Written and photographed by gardening expert
Anna's at Salvia 'Amistad'

Anna’s hummingbird feeding on Salvia ‘Amistad’. (Photo by Doug Barragar)

For those of you that have read some of my previous Black Gold articles, you will know that one of my recurring themes is to enjoy your garden and consider it a haven to relax and relieve stress. While the original purpose of our computers and phones was to help us save time and accomplish more, I’m not sure that is the way it is working. We seem to be ‘tied’ to our devices and almost unable to function without them. I was recently at a dinner with some friends, and one person had forgotten her cell phone. The result was that she was distraught throughout the dinner and anxious for the evening to be over, so she could go home to her phone. We so often forget to take the time to slow down and unplug ourselves and as the old saying goes we forget to “stop and smell the roses”.
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~Written and photographed by gardening expert
Savory tomato pie is a perfect side for dinner or addition to breakfast.

Savory tomato pie is a perfect side for dinner or addition to a holiday breakfast.

Unlike the cool berry and citrus pies of summertime, pies made with fall fruits and veggies are warmer, spicier, and richer in flavor. Choosing a dessert to make for holiday gatherings can be a struggle when one family member craves a deep dish apple pie with a flaky crust and gooey interior, perfectly complimented with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, but another guest insists on an old-fashioned pumpkin pie, aromatic with cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and topped with a dollop of whipped cream. READ MORE

~Written and photographed by gardening expert
baby toes

Babytoes, another living stone, blooms like lithops in late winter indoors on a bright windowsill.

There are few growing experiences as disappointing as meltdown.  When your favorite indoor cacti or succulents get soft for no reason at all, it’s downright frustrating.  The phenomenon of succulent sudden meltdown is caused by an infection that enters the internal tissues and causes rot.  Like tooth decay, rot works its way throughout the interior of the plant before you ever know it’s there.  While a tooth eventually tells us through pain that there’s a problem, most gardeners never really know what killed their plant.  Nine times out of ten it’s moisture related because gardeners tend to overwater and microbes plentiful in home growing conditions aren’t naturally as numerous in the arid environments where these plants originate. Succulents lack the needed defenses to ward off rot. READ MORE

~Written and photographed by gardening expert
Craig Venus Fly Trap

“Oh, noooo!” Plants are a great way to add to the Halloween fun!

The gardening season we experienced this past summer and early fall has been one of the best that I can remember. Vegetable gardens performed beyond the expectation of most gardeners with tomatoes, especially some of the long-season and late-ripening varieties, benefiting from the warm summer and fall. However, this is October, and it is time to say goodbye to summer and hello to autumn and Halloween. READ MORE

~Written and photographed by gardening expert

When it comes to showstopping flowers and foliage the high-performing Dahlia ‘Yellow Hammer’ is exceptional.

Dark leaves and velvety flowers nearly as black as night–these are rare and wonderful garden plants. Though none are true raven black, they are so dark that they appear almost black, which is good enough. These bewitching plants may beautify our gardens all season long, but those that shine in autumn are perfect for Halloween plantings. Mix them with orange, red, and white blooms for instant seasonal good looks! READ MORE

~Written and photographed by gardening expert
4.21A hylocereus triangularis flower

The foot-wide blossom of Queen of the Night (Hylocereus triangularis) has many stamens that bats must wade through to reach nectaries deep inside.

It’s curious that an agave that flowers once at the end of life produces such an enormous bloom stalk.  These can range from 5- to 15-feet tall, depending on the species.  Many of the flowers are clustered at the very top, which is an adaptation for one particular pollinator, the bat.  Because bats use echolocation to guide them, it can be more difficult to navigate their way through brush and thickets.  So naturally a plant that seeks these night-flying pollen vectors would raise its flowers above the brush where they are easily accessed by bats.  Without bats there would be minimal pollination of these plants, which are the primary source of tequila production.
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