Posts Tagged ‘Pets’

The Feline Retention System (FRS) I installed this past weekend to keep my cat Gretchen contained to the safety of the patio garden here at Casa de Froio has been a rollicking success thus far! We currently have a better escape-proof track record than Alcatraz! Sadly, Miss Gretchen is not at all convinced that curtailing her movement was the best option available. Apparently; she is still in early stage denial and refuses to see the larger picture right now. Understandable.

Here is hoping her outlook will brighten soon!

Here is hoping her outlook will brighten soon!

Miss Gretchen is definitely still interested in venturing out onto the patio; however, since the FRS install she rarely ventures further than the sliding glass door. I catch her just looking up at the fence and then looking at me; as if asking where the new door to the world is. The one fact that soothes my soul during her time of turmoil is that I now know that Miss Gretchen will no longer be party to the wholesale decimation of our native wildlife.

Miss G; the Jungle Cat!

Miss G; the Jungle Cat!

In January 2013, the website The Huffington Post ran a story with the findings from an August 2012 University of Georgia study, produced in conjunction with the National Geographic Society, which estimated that free-ranging domestic cats kill about 4 billion wildlife animals annually, and of those, 500 million are native birds. During the study, researchers attached video cameras to 60 cats and monitored how free-ranging felines spend their time. What they discovered was disturbing to me to say the least. The research footage showed that one-third of a cat’s day outdoors is spent killing smaller creatures! I knew that cats were essentially just pint-sized versions of their larger wild relatives and that they hunted; I just never realized how massive the scale of their predation actually was.

The tipping point for me to make the decision that Gretchen was either going to be an indoor cat or a restricted movement indoor/outdoor cat was a report prepared by the American Bird Conservancy. The report; DOMESTIC CAT PREDATION ON BIRDS AND OTHER WILDLIFE‘. included facts and figures gathered from various studies of free-ranging domestic cat predation in the United States. One of the areas their report highlighted is literally in my backyard; the East Bay Regional Parks District; home to a vast array of unique and wonderful wildlife and it also just happens to be one of my favorite places to ride my bicycle. I definitely did not want to put the regions wildlife in danger by allowing my cat to roam free.

Following is the East Bay entry in its entirety:

‘East Bay Regional Park District, CA:
A two-year study was conducted in two parks with grassland habitat. One park had no cats, but more than 25 cats were being fed daily in the other park. There were almost twice as many birds seen in the park with no cats as in the park with cats. California Thrasher and California Quail, both ground-nesting birds, were seen during surveys in the no-cat area, whereas they were never seen in the cat area. In addition, more than 85% of the native deer mice and harvest mice trapped were in the no-cat area, whereas 79% of the house mice, an exotic pest species, were trapped in the cat area. The researchers concluded, “Cats at artificially high densities,sustained by supplemental feeding, reduce abundance of native rodent and bird populations, change the rodent species composition, and may facilitate the expansion of the house mouse into new areas.” Hawkins, C.C., W.E. Grant, and M.T. Longnecker. 1999. Effect of subsidized house cats on California birds and rodents. Transactions of the Western Section of The Wildlife Society 35:29-33)’  |  View the full PDF report here
And, the land shall repair itself

And, the land shall repair itself if we allow her to…

So Miss Gretchen; it must be that your days of roaming free to plunder and pillage like a drunken Viking on holiday vacation be permanently relegated to that of fond memories. Thankfully; I have found companion animals to be incredibly adaptable to change and I know that Gretchen will come to love the extra space the patio garden affords her to roam.
Miss Gretchen's Outdoor Domain

Miss Gretchen’s Outdoor Domain

My Muse

My Muse

Speaking of the patio garden; today is one of those seemingly rare and wonderful days that I can just sit and enjoy the garden; having done any chores necessary last week during the fence install, I can just sit and enjoy the quiet morning. The morning sun is slowly entering my garden, bathing the garden space in dappled light as the rays pass through the bamboo forest that is my fence line. It is a lovely time of day to enjoy a cup of coffee and soak in the quiet solitude this space provides; the indoor chores of the day can wait a little while.

A splash of green courtesy of one of the flowering gingers!

A splash of green courtesy of one of the flowering ginger!

Nature forms her own fence within the ginger field

Nature forms her own fence within the ginger field

I will leave you today with a trip indoors to say hello to Ms. Anthurium and Ms. Schefflera; who are spending today hanging out to enjoy the view onto the patio beyond.

Old Friends; Anthurium and Schefflera Chillin'

Old Friends; Anthurium and Schefflera Chillin’

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving Day with friends and family! Until next time…


~ Noah


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pleaded Miss Gretchen!! She presents a compelling case; with her piercing and inquisitive green eyes watching the materials being loaded onto the patio, I could tell she knew the gig was up, her escape routes were foiled! The look in her eyes was nearly enough to make this gardener, and admitted softy, cave into her wish for freedom to roam; yet, I knew the fencing had to be done and forged ahead with the cat patio escape proofing project as scheduled.

    "I do not condone this sort of thing at all!"

“I do not condone this sort of thing at all!”

Sorry sweetie-pie; the fence really is best for all concerned, including the resident feline (Miss G) and any wild visitors that she may or may not play well with if left to her own devices on a freedom stroll. Let the construction begin!

The perimeter hole

The perimeter hole #1 (upper knee wall )

Perimeter Hole (lower)

The perimeter hole #2 (lower knee wall)

Supplies in hand thanks to the good folks at my local garden/hardware center (Grand Avenue Ace Hardware); some basic fencing & screening materials which should work just dandy at keeping my dear cat safely enclosed to the confines of the patio garden.

Items procured are as follows:

  • 8′ x 18″ lattice screen
    • to be cut down and affixed atop the knee wall which measures 49-7/8″
  • 5′ x 24″ wire mesh screening
    • to be attached to the lattice frame to make climbing and escape not an option for Miss G
  • Household rain gutter cap
    • to be used to close the gap at the bottom of the knee wall
  • Pack of 100 8″ zip ties
    • for securing stuff to other stuff
  • 6 wood screws
    • for attaching wood things to other wood things
Lattice / Trellis Screen

Lattice / trellis screen, wire mesh, rain gutter cap

A plan so cunning, you could brush your teeth with it!

A plan so cunning, you could brush your teeth with it!

If there is one lesson I have learned from hours spent watching the DIY Channel, it is that one should always go into a building project with a written plan in place. So, I broke out my trusty Stanley tape measure, a blue pen, and pondered the best course for the job ahead. After some measurements, a reality check or two, I came up with the following; admittedly somewhat hastily drawn, plan which should work out just perfectly for making the patio a safe haven.

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong?

Cat Fence v. 1.0: Time to git ‘er dun! Plan, don’t fail me now!

Cutting wire to proper size

Cutting wire to proper size; yep, tedious but necessary

Handy zip-ties bring the screen together nicely

Handy zip-ties bring the screen and frame together nicely

Rain gutter cover made the perfect lower escape hatch blocking material

The rain gutter cap was a perfect blocking material for the gap under the knee wall

Now, I just need to keep working at the screen’s frame to cut it down to the necessary width (49-7/8″); unfortunately, I find myself in a hand saw challenged position and have been attacking the frame sizing problem with a serrated kitchen knife! So far my attempt to score and snap the three horizontal frame rails to the perfect size have been slow going at best.

Pro Tip: A kitchen knife in definitely NOT the best tool for the job!!

20/20 Hindsight: Ordered a hand saw from Amazon, which sadly will not arrive until Monday. Knowing myself and my general lack of patience, I have a feeling that there is a very high probability that I may not wait for the saw to arrive and an even higher probability of my old kitchen knife getting much older.

Making a decent dent with the old knife though!

I did make a pretty decent dent with that old knife though!

Thankfully, my Dad came by today with a saw and a much-needed helping hand in cutting and installing the roam-no-more fence! My ankle injury has left my balance about as good as drunkard’s on New Year’s Day at 3:00 a.m. and maneuvering around the planters and patio tables was going to be difficult at best, dangerous at worst. About 10-minutes of final cutting and fitting, plus a couple more attaching with zip ties and screws and voila, we have a secure zone for Miss G!

The No Climbing Zone!

The No Climbing Zone!

49-7/8" x 24" of cat consternation!

49-7/8″ x 24″ of cat consternation!

It has not been all kittens and fence design here in my corner of the garden multiverse as of late. The forthcoming rainy season sent us a glimpse of things to come in the form of 2-days of heavy rain showers, followed the next night by epic winds! The local news reported wind speeds upward of 50 MPH in some parts of the Bay Area. The winds didn’t quite get that bad here at Casa de Froio; however, they sure did make quite the mess of my recently swept patio! Thankfully, it doesn’t appear to have caused any permanent damage or any downed trees in the area; sadly not all neighborhoods in Oakland were as fortunate. The patio plants appear to have been oblivious to the blustering winds and soaked in the refreshing showers. Indeed, the garden does seem much happier, looks more green, and the remaining flowers are beaming brightly to Mother Nature in thanks for the cool drink.

Euphorbia glistens with fresh rain drops

Euphorbia glistens with fresh rain drops

Mr. Big Boy Avocado

Mr. Big Boy Avocado continue his ascent skyward!

Late Season Strawberry

A Welcome Late Season Strawberry

Adieu from the Primrose

Adieu from the Primrose

Elsewhere around the garden; the Calla Lily have all died back, the flowering ginger are growing like rampant weeds hell-bent on reaching the top of the fence line, and the resident Dragons (snapdragons, to be precise) have begun their annual retreat to places unknown to we mere mortals. The garden gently hinting to me that she is ready for her winter rest; I find that I too am looking forward to Mother Nature taking over the routine watering duties for a while. Soon enough, my cat and I can enjoy the winter garden from the sidelines, bystanders to her evolution into dormancy, and planning for the Spring that seems all too distant right now.

The Patio clean again and at peace

The Patio; clean again and enjoying the remains of the day’s sunshine!

Well friends, that is about all which is fit to print from this garden this week. Next week, construction will have been tested and the results will be in on the effectiveness of the newly installed Feline Retention System!

Until next time…


~ Noah

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So my beloved little cat; Miss Gretchen, has finally decided that she likes exploring the outdoors! However, this is not necessarily a good thing as I have found that my patio is definitely not escape proof for even the most timid of cats. This definitely has to be addressed for both the well-being of the wildlife and for Miss Gretchen’s own safety and security! She is a bright cat, who grew up feral; however, I don’t know how many of her 9-lives she has already used up!

Miss G; pining for the fjords?

Miss G; possibly pining for the fjords?

I have been looking at garden trellises and screens that are already built and ready to install for the ease and speed of getting the holes blocked. I have to say that I was absolutely shocked at how much some gardens companies are asking for simple garden trellises or lattice fences! The prices ranged from about $80.00 and went up to over $200.00! Dang, are they made of gold and install themselves?? So, being the frugal person I am I checked my local big box shop; The Home Depot, and found that they carry all of the pieces needed to build a great screening fence for under $50.00. My plan is to get a 4′ x 8′ x 2.5″ sheet of lattice screen ($26.00), two lattice rails to provide rigidity for the screen ($12.00), a pack of 8″ zip ties to secure to the chain link fence ($6.00), and a handful of wood screws for the side connecting to the house ($1.50).

Miss G is incredulous of my endeavors

Miss G appears slightly incredulous of my endeavor

I am hoping to get this project underway sometime this weekend; I just need to find some kind soul to give me a ride to pick all of these odds and ends up. My broken ankle continues its limiting effects on my self-reliance and I can’t express how much I am looking forward to getting back to 100% – or however close I eventually get to that percentage!

These are indeed exciting times in the Shire

These are indeed exciting times in the Shire

Outside of corralling kittens; the primrose continue their season ending show in lovely fashion. The profusion of pink I wrote about a couple of weeks back has now been accompanied by the blue/purple primrose which recently jumped into the fray of foliage and have put on their own season closeout display.

Bright blooms for a chilly day!

Bright blooms for a chilly day!

A second stalk of blooms rises from the planter!

A second stalk of blooms rises from the planter!

Not to be outdone by his pink cousin

Not to be outdone by his pink cousin

Blue & Yellow Primrose

Blue & Yellow Primrose

I have also noticed that one of my coleus plants has decided to make a comeback; this is Coleus v. Rustic Orange (Solenostemon scutellarioides), and she is the last of my coleus collection to have survived over the years. She is definitely a survivor; having been thought dead on at least two occasions, I set her pot outside and she has slowly grown back time and time again. I guess she likes the outdoor environment a little better than she does the sheltered indoors with the pampered plants of my collection.

coleus v

coleus v. rustic orange

Coleus blends stealthy into the patio collection

Coleus blends stealthy into the patio collection

Finally today, I  wanted to take another trip indoors as I am just falling in love with my now 3-year old Poinsettia! She was a rescue from a former colleague who received it as a Christmas present in 2010 and was going to throw the little lovely plant into the trash after the holidays. Thankfully I intervened and have been enjoying watching her grow in a natural state for the last few years into this beauty I have today. She doesn’t get enough time in total darkness to put out her signature red holiday bracts; however, I am totally okay with that as I like her in her natural state just fine.

No red bracts in store for this Christmas!

No red bracts in store for this Christmas!

She keeps growing and growing and growing!

She keeps growing and growing and growing!

For today’s parting shots; I will leave you with a nod to the winter season to come: A Snowflake!

Happy Gardening!!

Let it snow; Let it snow; Let it snow!

Now my friends, it is time for this gardener to get back to teaching himself how to walk properly again. Definitely not an easy, painless, nor fun task; however, it is for sure a necessary task if I want to get back on my bicycle next year. Wish me luck!

Until next time…


~ Noah

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Well, I must say that it was a pleasure to have you stop by!!

Am I the only one who feels as if September went by extraordinarily quickly? Oh well, she was a darn good month all things considered; with amazingly nice weather for the gateway to winter month and the fact that I was finally able to complete the dreaded re-potting/re-soiling of most of my patio plants; however, the highlight of September 2012; was for me, the celebration of being able to share the preceding 6-months with my first cat; Ms. Gretchen!

Ms. Gretchen!!

Ms. Gretchen has had a roller-coaster of a life over her 8-years of wandering the big blue marble. Born feral on the rather unfriendly streets of East Oakland, CA, she spent the first year of her life living in an abandoned lot that the neighbors used to raise chickens. After being rescued by the good folks at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary when a staff member learned that the lot was to be built upon, Gretchen was adopted by a woman who runs a cat sitting business in Berkeley.

One cat soon became four cats – with the addition of three young males to the family. The relationship was fine for a while; however, the tranquility was smashed when the males decided that she would be the target of their aggression and she endured repeated attack and spent much of  the last two-years in hiding. Unable to find a home for the now 8-year old Gretchen, the sad reality of euthanasia became a frightening reality. With so many companion animals in shelters that never get adopted, the chances of a fearful and super shy cat such as Gretchen being considered adoptable by shelter staff was an unrealistic expectation. Sadly, the end result of the rampant over breeding and thoughtless casting off of dogs, cats, and other companion animals in America when they become inconvenient is that cats like Ms. Gretchen get euthanized. There is simply not the physical space for cats that cannot be adopted due to aggressive or overly fearful behavior.

A lazy Saturday in the Sun

Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary again stepped in as Gretchen’s guardian angel and listed her on their re-homing page. A chance cross-posting of the ad by one of my friends to her Facebook page resulted in Gretchen and I meeting (well, not really meeting, but seeing each other). I agreed to provide her the home she needed and for the first two-months, Gretchen hid under the bed until I went to work or until I fell asleep before she would venture out to eat, drink, or visit the litter box. Thankfully, with a little patience and understanding that I was working on her schedule, those days are now in the past. Today, as soon as I get home, she comes out, meows, I meow back, and she comes over for her showering of love session, then she eats her dinner, we play a bit, and she spends the rest of the night on the back of couch right behind my head (she is there right now as I type this – meowing every now again to ensure that I am still here – don’t worry Gretchy, I’m not going anywhere).

I was fortunate to find her, it is hard to express how much you learn about yourself when you have a frightened, shy cat to care for.

Happy Six-Month Anniversary Gretchy-Cat!!

——— ———

And now, for something completely different…  

Let’s take a trip out to the garden, shall we? First, let’s make a quick pit-stop to visit the orchids!!

I think the orchids are getting ready to say hello!

The orchids appear to be going into super growth mode, with new foliage and roots appearing and growing bigger everyday! I cannot wait to see what their flowers look like. I have three varieties and being a complete orchid neophyte, I can’t even begin to guess at what species they are. The orchid that bloomed last year (which actually opened right around this time last year) is a Paphiopedilum orchid (see her in bloom!) which I had to wait until the flower opened to identify! That is okay though, I love the process of learning by research and the identification of a plant species as vast and diverse as the orchid was definitely a learning opportunity!

Ms. Orchid enjoying the late afternoon sun

The orchids new foliage continues reaching outward

Outside, a few snapdragon are blooming alongside the ever resilient primrose and voila, the coleus v. kong mix is rebounding amazingly after its near soil level pruning, and it appears that Mr. Squirrel’s rooting-up and partially eating most of last season’s Yukon Gold potatoes is causing volunteer plants to spring up in various containers around the patio!

I can imagine Mr. Squirrel digging up a ‘tater, eating a bit of it, dropping the uneaten portion where ever it was that he was enjoying his tasty morsel (apparently the relative safety of my patio’s various containers), and then returning a few more times to sample another spud from his recently unearthed treasure trove of tasty comestibles. The reality of the situation may not have gone down exactly (or even remotely) like that; however, that is the story that I am running with!

Volunteer ‘tater plants! Thanks Mr. Squirrel!

White Primrose


Coleus v. kong mix

That is about everything new from my little patch of green in the concrete jungle! As usual, I leave you with my parting shot:


The quickly spreading Euphorbia garden



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Dana Ash Froio – 11/7/1998 – 5/19/2012

Yesterday was a sad day for my ex-wife and I, we lost another one of our German Shepherd Dogs – Dana passed away peacefully at home with her remaining family at age 13 1/2.

Thankfully, I was able to spend a couple of hours with her yesterday, to let her know that I loved her, and to tell her that I will see her at the Bridge when that time comes. She passed away two hours after I left, I have a feeling that she was waiting for me to come, she has always been a strong girl, and I know that she would have wanted to give me the chance to see her one more time.

I will miss her sooooo much, she and I had a bond that was different from the bond that I shared with the others. A mix of our immediate bond when we rescued her, plus that our personalities are actually very similar – think last, act now, deal with the consequences later.

Sleep well Dana, I will see you at the Bridge later – I hope you and Krychek are back together again and causing mischief! 🙂

Dana (L) and Krychek (R)

On the gardening side, I am still awaiting the Amaryllis’ bloom, but she is definitely ready to unfold and she looks like she will be gorgeous

The present on X-Mas Eve…

Looking up from below the Amaryllis

The June bearing and ‘Lipstick’ variety strawberries are filling in very nicely. I decided to move the main June bearing strawberry planter back into the house as Mr. Squirrel is apt to eat a majority of any berries that remain outside long before they are ripe enough for me to eat. There are still a number of strawberry plants outside, so, he will definitely get a few – he is definitely welcome to them.

Strawberries in the making!

Grow little berry, grow!

The pink flower of the new strawberry, fragaria x. lipstick

In other garden happiness, the hydrangea flowers are starting their first furtive opening and deliver the promise of beautiful blue and purple orbs of summer color!

A little constellation erupts into summer color

That’s about all the new items in the garden, it has been a hell of a weekend, and I think that I will be calling it a night early.

Today’s parting shot: Dana on her final day, saying goodbye

The last photo of Miss Dana – RIP baby



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I took a week of vacation…

I am not particularly doing anything or going anywhere; however, I am sure that I will find something fun and interesting to do. The main goal of this coming week will be to get the patio all pruned, weeded, and looking great! The other goal, is to continue to get to know my cat, Gretchen, a little better. I adopted her about a month ago, and was finally able to pet her for the first time since adopting her on Thursday.

Action cat! Ms. Gretchen

I have been taking lots and lots of pictures of the new growth, new flowers, and of my new tomato plants on my desk at work. I figured since I can’t really grow tomatoes on my patio due to insufficient amounts of direct sunlight, that my desk (which has a skylight right above it) would be the perfect place! Plus, I can bestow fresh tomatoes upon my colleagues as they grow.

A field of fledgling tomatoes!

Tomatoes up close & personal

Stay tuned for future updates on the in-office tomato patch!! On the home front, the pansies continue to flourish and provide great color! I also learned that pansies are edible, and will be making great additions to a spring salad sometime soon. I have three different colors growing now, a blue on blue, a yellow on brown, and a white on purple variety. They seem to be picking up where the violas are slowing down, which is fine, as I like the pansies color and size more!

Perfect pansy in glorious bloom

Yellow and brown pansy

Vibrant blue on blue

In other patio happenings, the strawberries continue to set their pre-fruit flowers, I have two varieties growing, the generic, basic June-bearing variety, and a new cultivar, fragaria x. lipstick, which is said to be mainly ornamental. The new variety does set nice fruit; however, last years couple of berries were eaten by the neighborhood squirrel before they ripened so I have no idea if the fruit is tasty or not.

The flower of fragaria x. lipstick strawberry variety

More of the fragaria x. lipstick flowers

June-bearing strawberries starting their fruiting stage!!

One of the three bulbs that my ex-wife gave me appears to be ready to send up a flower stalk soon. I believe it is some form of Iris; however, only time will tell if it’s an Iris, a Lilly, or something else completely! The ornamental ginger also continues to grow and are sending up random spears that I am not sure if they will turn into foliage or flower, again, stay tuned!

One of the bulbs (Iris?) about to send up her flower stalk!

Ornamental Ginger

Finally today my friends, I will leave you with a couple of photos that I am particularly fond of, the usual Parting Shots:

My dainty daisies

Thyme setting flowers

Bright White Violas



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It’s Raining, It’s Pouring, the Old Man is Snoring!

Well, maybe no snoring, but it has definitely been coming down decently lately. With the vast amounts of rain that Oakland has been getting over the past couple of weeks, I am thinking it might just be time to start looking into building that Ark once and for all!

Violas in full bloom grace my living room

I admit, I have mixed emotions about the rain – I love the rain for its cleansing ability and for the fact that the rain saves me a lot of time usually spent watering the plants in the mornings. However, the rain is a pain in the arse for those of us that do not have an automobile and need to get groceries, go somewhere, or just about anything that requires a trip outdoors.

A pansy bloom, with multicolored primrose in the background

The plants are all doing great and really loving the rain! The snapdragon have started their magnificent bloom and I am reminded just how beautiful the pastel blooms are and look forward to a long season of beautiful blooms. The main snapdragon patch is bursting at the seams with buds that promise an explosion of color in the coming days – I can’t wait!

Snapdragon central is about to burst into color!

A purple, white, and yellow snapdragon says hello

The violas have also recently had an explosion of blooms. The color spectrum ranges from bright pure white, golden-yellow, to the 3-color variety in the photo at the start of this post. The bang you get for the buck out of additions of garden color such as violas, pansy’s, and snapdragon, must be one of the best deals in gardening. The violas, for example, were only $3.99 for a 6-pack of starter plants that grow quickly, and as you can see, bloom profusely once they get going.

Snow white violas in full bloom

My pint-sized planter

Golden yellow viola blooms


The rain today has a special significance, it is serving as a cleansing entity to wipe away a recent loss – it also clears a path for a new addition to my life – an 8-year old cat named Gretchen. More about her will be forthcoming in future posts as she acclimates herself to me and I her. She was born a feral cat and has lived with 3 other cats (all males) for most of her life. Sadly; however, she has been getting progressively more and more unhappy about having to share her existence with the males cats and her person made the tough decision to seek out a new home for her.

I feel so fortunate that Gretchen’s care has been entrusted to me – the benefit of sharing your life and caring for another creature is something that is so precious and wonderful, and that I have definitely been missing lately. I can’t wait to welcome her home tomorrow.

Anywho, I have lots of additional photos to post; however, I think this post has enough pictures for one day so stay tuned for new posts through the next week for more updates on the patio and lots of pictures of everything in bloom or preparing to bloom.

I leave you with this parting shot – a close up of the Poinsettia that one of my friends at work received from her Mom for Christmas in 2010. I have been caring for and nurturing this once scrawny little Poinsettia and she continues to repay my care with colorful bracts and delicate foliage. She continues to be a wonderful and interesting addition to the menagerie of plants that are currently occupying my desk!

New bracts in bloom - up close and personal!


~ Noah

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