More passionflowers

We’ve had a beautiful weather year for the garden.  The moist spring turned into a warm but not parched summer, and our fall cold front came almost a month early, bringing lovely cooler nights and plenty of rain.  Because of the way our weather works in this part of Texas, it’s almost like we have two springs – everything gets a second wind, picks up, and rejuvenates.

Passiflora “Temptation x Temptation”

Through the summer, I’ve had the occasional bloom on my “Temptation x Temptation” passionflower vine.  This is a cross originally made by Volker Sanders in Germany, although I got my plant from Passiflorista on Ebay (Jim Nevers).  During the hottest days, the flowers suffered horribly – they looked like they had been under a heat lamp, with wilted petals and limp coronas.  I will have to get a photo if it happens again – it was a real surprise the first time.  The other types do not have this problem.  Now, however, it’s putting out these luscious, plump flowers with the most amazing coloring.

Passiflora “Incense”

When I have just one in my hand, the flower on “Temptation x Temptation” looks a lot like the “Incense” vine that it is adjacent to (and mingled with) – big, purple, curly flower.  But the color is really quite different.

“Incense” (L) and “Temptation x Temptation” (R)

“Incense” on the left, “Temptation x Temptation” on the right. If you look, you can see the different leaves, too – “Incense” has five-fingered leaves, and “Temptation x Temptation has three-fingered.

Close-up of filaments on “Temptation x Temptation”


Very close to, the corona filaments look like something from under the sea – maybe a sea urchin…


Corona filaments on “Temptation x Temptation”

Or a sea anemone.

“Temptation x Temptation” from the side.

From the side, there’s a lot of difference between the two flowers.  “Temptation x Temptation” is strongly reflexed – meaning that the petals pull back from the flower and arch downward, so looking from the top you see the corona floating in the air.  They’re also very robust and fleshy – this plant is a tetraploid hybrid, meaning that its parent plants were chemically treated during the hybridizing process to give it double the usual number of genes.  Tetraploids are famous for thick, hardy plants and big flowers. The anthers on this plant are often a little odd – here, they’re pointing upward at the sky, instead of downward at the theoretical bee that should be pollinating the plant.  They sometimes manage to rotate downward before the flower closes, but sometimes not.

Side view of “Incense”

In the side view, “Incense” is nearly flat.


A new addition – this one is “Blue-Eyed Susan,” with parentage similar to “Temptation x Temptation” and another hybrid, “Bucky” bred by Jim Nevers in Florida.  I’m hoping with these three tetraploid hybrids, I might be able to get some fruit.  “Bucky” in particular is known for good fruit. Because of the different chromosome number, tetraploid (4n) plants can’t set fruit with normal diploid (2n) pollen; they need 4n pollinators.



And this is “Blue Bouqet” – another hybrid, this one made by Richard McCain.  This game little plant just got out after traveling cross-country in a postal box; the whole plant isn’t much past a foot tall, but it’s bloomed already.  It’s supposed to be more blue, so we’ll see if that happens.  A lot of this kind of flower difference comes down to things like humidity, soil chemistry, hours  and intensity of sunshine, etc.








The composting worm bin lives in the upstairs bathroom adjacent to my office/studio room.  So when things get weird in the bin, I know about it.

I think that I picked up earwig eggs when I added compost from the outdoor compost bin – I always do this to help stock up the micro-flora.  However it happened, I started getting more and more earwigs.

The pincers look fierce, but aren’t actually pinchy from what I can tell.  They stink a lot if squashed.

There are lots of them.  They thrive on the same kind of vegetable waste that I feed the worms, and they’ve reproduced like mad.  Of course, my options for insect remediation in the compost worm bin are quite limited.

Traps are usually the best.  I looked up how to trap these guys, and most of the sources pointed to a similar technique.  A straight-sided can, like soup or tuna, with a mixture of equal parts of molasses (or corn syrup), vegetable oil (with the possibility of a drop of added bacon grease, for fragrance attraction) and soy sauce.  Because of what I got hold of in the cabinet first, I’ve tried a couple of different oils.  It’s amazingly effective.



This is five or six days worth of earwigs.  They mostly end up in the trap overnight, as they are nocturnal.  I let it go a few days, then tip the oil out in a non-agricultural part of the yard (the chickens declare the bugs delicious!) and refill and reset.  Apparently it works in the garden or house as well.

Scientific American

I have a very definite niche.  Many of the things that I do, not a lot of people do.  And, I document most of what I do – with lots of pictures, which I post online.  So, when people are searching the web for something related to my unusual interests, they often find my pictures.  Then, if I’m lucky and they’re polite, they write me and ask for permission to use the pictures.  I usually say yes, although it’s case by case; sometimes there’s even a little money involved, or a contributor’s copy of a cool book or magazine.  I’m particularly likely to say yes if it’s for a museum supporting science, or for educational materials for schools – the only exception is if it’s for a religious organization promoting pseudo-science.  I think that teaching creationism to kids is an insidious and very damaging form of child abuse.  Sorry about the soap-box, but it’s something I’ve run into hard a couple of times.  If you want to tell children that God made silkworms for the express use of mankind, I respect your Constitutional freedom to say so – but I also have a right to sue if you use my copyrighted pictures without permission.



This time, it was a writer with Scientific American’s website; he was looking for some images to support an article on metamorphosis.  So, now, I’ve got a photo on their website, with links back to mine – and it’s a very cool article!

The article with my photo

Another article, related information, same author. 



This is not a paid ad.  I have received no promotional support for this endorsement – I just think these things are cool, and want to tell my friends.

We live in a lovely, wooded area of south Dallas.  We back up to the confluence of two year-round creeks, Crow Creek and Five Mile Creek.  This gives us a fairly lush vegetation, full of towering trees and wildlife – but it also gives us lots of bugs.

I hate spraying chemicals.  I use a few organic pesticides for the vegetables, but I also use a lot of old-fashioned, low-impact non-chemical solutions.  I catch grasshoppers in a net and feed them to the chickens; I encourage the wasps to eat caterpillars from the passionflower vines.  And starting this year, I started using Skeeterbags.

I had read about these last year, but didn’t get around to ordering them.  I tried a home-spun version involving tulle netting and duct tape… let’s just say, I decided that the price of the commercial version was definitely worth the cost.


Basically, it does just what it says on the box.  They’re easy to attach to a standard cheapo-model box fan, and they kill usually between 100 and 200 mosquitoes a night.  One is next to the chickens’ house, and the other is next to the garage.



The mosquitoes are all hanging on to the side of the netting first thing in the morning; by noon, they’re dried up and dead.   Every few days, I empty out the little pile of corpses.  They have definitely made a significant impact on the yard’s population.  Living next to year-round water, we’re never going to be mosquito-free, but we’ve gone from “I’m being eaten alive if I step out the door” to being able to walk over and check on the chickens without getting bitten.

Summer Update 3: Passionflowers and Butterflies

It’s been an exceptionally good season.  We had a warm, mild spring, followed by an unusually wet summer – so everything is green and lush!

I’ve been a fan of passionflowers for a long time. I have begun seriously collecting the hardy varieties, focusing on flowers and fruit.  Many of the new hybrids are cold-hardy for our Zone 8a garden, and the plants that I put in the ground last year and year before last, are really kicking in.


The biggest vine in the yard is Passiflora “Incense” – it is the first one I planted, and it has really thrived.  Sadly, it doesn’t make fruit – but it sets usually 30 to 50 of these flowers every day.  They’re usually between 3″ and 4″ across.



You can see how vigorous the vine is – it’s this solid across about fifteen feet of fence.



P. “Constance Elliott” is a color sport of P. caerulea; it is exceptionally hardy, and also has a sweet fragrance, especially in the evenings.  I love the water on the petals – it’s something that this species just does.  Except for the driest, hottest days, these flowers look like they’ve been freshly dew-kissed.  The buds actually drop water if you bump them.  Tennyson wrote in Maud, “There has fallen a splendid tear / From the passion-flower by the gate.” I like the idea of splendid tears.



This is P. caerulea, the species.  The plant is doing OK, but not as well as the Constance Elliott – I think that the location doesn’t allow it quite as much enriched soil to dig in to.  I’ve put alpaca manure on it, which has helped a lot.  Sadly, the fruit is fairly insipid – it tastes almost more like a vegetable than a fruit.



P. incarnata, the native species, is my favorite for fruit.  You can read here about foraging them on the freeway verge, and making jelly.



We had some surprise seedlings – I didn’t realize that Chris had re-used some peat pots I had (unsuccessfully) tried planting passionflower seeds in.  When he planted tomato seeds and put them on the heat mat, the heat caused the passionflower to germinate. These flowers are from the sprouts from this spring!  He made these bamboo and string trellises for them.  So far, haven’t gotten any fruit, but they’re working on it.



Along the lines of fruits and flowers – I’m also growing some new hybrids.  This is P. “Temptation X Temptation.”  It’s a tetraploid – which means that it has been manipulated to have double the number of genes.  This tends to yield very vigorous plants.  I’m hoping that they prove cold-hardy here; we’re on the edge of their zone tolerance.



This delicate and beautiful white flower is from P. “Bill’s Delight” – which I got by mail-order, and was doing really well until it just turned brown in the stem and died from the base upward.  I don’t know what got to it.  I’ll probably get another one this fall, and try it again; the flower is really lovely. There are other white P. incarnata sports that are supposed to have more fruit (this one has more flowers, fewer fruits) and I’ll probably try one of those as well.

Currently, in the yard I have: Passiflora incarnata, Passiflora “Incense,” Passiflora caerulea, Passiflora “Constance Elliott,” Passiflora belotii (=alatocaerulea), Passiflora lutea, Passiflora “Amethyst,” Passiflora “Bucky,” Passiflora “Temptation x Temptation,” Passiflora “Clear Sky,” and one hybrid that I’m not sure of the name, and I’m waiting for flowers to get help with an ID.



With passionflowers, we always get plenty of these – this is the chrysalis of a Gulf Fritillary, Agraulis vanillae.  Unfortunately, I have to use some organic insect spray against them to keep them from totally stripping the vines.  They can have any on the back of the fence, and I have the ones on the front of the fence.



Gulf Fritillary on the lantana.  This shot is from last fall, but we’ve had lots this summer as well.



This Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, really loves the lantana.  It doesn’t sit still very well, though!  Every picture of it was blurred somewhere.



With all the rain, the basil is doing great, we’ve got lots of squash and tomatoes… but also lots of bermuda grass and weeds.  It’s just too hot to spend much time weeding.


Summer Update 2: Silk

Summer is usually a slow time for silk work.  I’ve got a couple of wild native species caterpillars going, but no China silkworms, and not a lot of projects in the chute.  But in March, I took my silk show on a live news show, to drum up interest in the Dallas Handweavers and Spinners Guild‘s booth at ArtsPark (link to the video).  The show went very well, and I’m pleased with the visitors we saw at ArtsPark.


Summer Update 1: Chickens

I have been a bad blogger.

I got busy, and caught up in other things, and I realized that I haven’t posted here since February, and it’s now mid-July. I realized that part of it, is that I’ve been posting quick photos to Facebook, rather than writing things out; my new phone makes it easy to make those quick updates, but more difficult to make blog posts.

So, it’s time for a little catching up! I’m going to put up a couple of condensed posts.

Update on the chickens –

Sue was a very good momma. She mothered the little babies around the yard, making sure they were eating and thriving. However, we learned that the yard is not the right place for chicks. One got trampled by the other hens. Three got eaten by hawks. So, we learned that lesson, and the next batch of chicks was raised in the brooder box, upstairs in my bathroom. I wish we could have grafted them on to Sue, but they were days too old when we got them, and it just wouldn’t work.


We got these chicks at about a week old, on April 29. There are six, with three different kinds: two each of Salmon Faverolles, Anconas, and Andalusians. Between these three varieties, they should have a good production of eggs around the calendar. We knew that it was too many to keep; we sold off two of the chicks and one of the laying hens to make enough space in the coop. We’re still having some issues with the flocks not integrating – the young flock roosts separately at night on top of the compost bin, and I have to go tuck them into bed.

May 28, at about four or five weeks, they’re fully fledged, just about ready to go outside.



We sold one of the Anconas, one of the Andalusians, and Weezie.  We kept both the Faverolles, one Ancona, and one Andalusian.  The Faverolles are cuddly chickens – they’re easy to pick up and hold, and they don’t run from us.  It worries me a little bit, that they might not be smart enough to hide from a hawk or a bobcat – but so far, they’re OK.

I need to get some more new photos; they’ve grown so much since these were taken at the end of May!


Things You Learn from your Mom

One of the greatest delights in the whole process of having chickens has been watching the mother hen interact with the chicks. This relationship has a sweetness that gets me every time.


Sue is a really good momma.  She watches out for the chicks every step of the way, teaching them to forage, how to scratch, dustbathe, and all the skills it takes to be a good chicken.

When the chicks get tired, she cuddles up with them.  If it’s sunny and warm, they’ll lie next to her in the sun; if it’s windy or chill, she spreads her wings and hunkers down to the ground, and they wriggle beneath her to get warm.

She never lets the chicks out of her sight; that’s her shoulder on the left.

And, some videos of Sue and the chicks:


Here she is, teaching them to peck for food.

I love how the one little yellow chick keeps using Mom like a piece of playground equipment.

In this one, watch at about 0:46 – something makes a weird noise, and Sue is instantly on the lookout.


Sue, our broody Momma Hen, has done it again!  Four bouncing, healthy baby peeps.


Two of them are Lemon Cuckoo Orpingtons, and two of them are Silver Laced Wyandottes.  We don’t know yet (and won’t, for a few months) what we have in terms of boys and girls.



Why, yes… yes I did! Weaving QR code.

I’ve seen various versions of Quick Response (QR) Code made by fiber-arts methods – the most common are knitted (both hand-knit and machine-knit) and cross-stitched.  To get the reader to pick up the code properly, the grid needs to be fairly square, and the contrast has to be very high.  I looked at this, and thought it would be a perfect application for double-faced tablet weaving. I was pretty sure it would work, so I set up a short warp in black and white perle cotton as a proof of concept.



After working a couple of very instructive samples, I decided to put together a band with three coded sections into a small pouch.  Those are gift cards for scale.  At the simplest version of the QR code, which is 21 grids square, the pattern will hold about 16 to 20 characters; enough for a short phrase, a brief URL, a phone or ID number.  This little bag has a woven strap to carry it around my neck, with enough space to hold my ID, a couple of credit cards, and some cash. The pattern is carried on sixty-three tablets, with a border of 3 on either side.  The checkered strap is woven with 9 tablets.



The flap lifts up, and the cards go inside – the front of the pouch body has a different code on it.  One thing I learned – I should have situated the code further down the bag, where it would not be impacted by the bump of the hem.  Any curvature which changes the shape of the coded part can make it challenging for the little machine to read.


This one’s a little bit more square-on, and the reader gets it more easily.


This one in particular amuses me.




If you don’t have a QR reader on your phone, the three pieces say:

The front flap: ˙ʇı ǝʌoʍ ı ‘sǝʎ

The front of the pouch: ɯoɔ˙ʇıdsɯɹoʍ˙ʍʍʍ

The back of the pouch: ˙ʞɔɐq ǝɥʇ sı sıɥʇ