Thursday, April 19, 2012

Moonflower Vine Opening

From what I've heard, sitting and watching the grass grow is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Luckily though, sitting and watching a Moonflower vine open is much more exciting!

You can tell when a flower is about to open because it goes from this:

 To this:

 And, finally, to this in about three days' time:

Then you go out to run some errands, come home, and find that it has turned into this

So, the next time you see a bud getting ready to open, you sit your happy self down in front of it with a camera and stare at it until it opens up. No pressure. Maybe you have a glass of wine so the flower doesn't feel like it's your only entertainment. Or a beer. I'm just sayin'.
You can see that it starts out all tightly closed at 4:00PM

By 4:12, it's starting to crack open just a tiny bit.

4:35-It's really starting to look like something might be happening.

4:40-Even the aphids are getting excited and moving in for a closer look!

4:43-Ooh! Hello?

4:55PM KA-BAM!

Hey! Wait a minute! What happened between 4:43 and 4:55? Well, from 4:49 to 5:53 I shot video, of course! I trimmed it back so you don't have to watch the whole four minutes (who has that kind of time??) but otherwise, the video hasn't been altered-this is all real-time footage, no time-lapse or anything.

You can see that it was a little bit breezy when I was filming this, but at about 0:12 you can see the flower start to do this sort of waggly dance that lasts about 5-6 seconds before it really begins to unfurl. I have other video (yes, I'm that big of a dork) that shows the same thing happening in other Moonflowers on other days, so I'm pretty sure this is the flower moving on its own, not because of the wind. Cool!

I have either photos or video of seven flowers opening, four on one plant and three on another. The four that opened on the one plant all opened between 4:49PM and 5:27PM (within 38 minutes of each other but on different days)--pretty consistent. The other three opened between 6:20PM and 7:21PM, all on the same day (still within nearly an hour of each other, but much later than the other four and they unfurled more slowly). There are several factors that could have contributed, so I'm not sure why the difference, but here are some possible causes:
  • The four early-openers are in a tall, deep container; and the three later-openers are in a low, shallow container.
  • The four early-openers opened on fairly sunny days. The three others opened on a cloudier day.
  • The late openers also opened more slowly. I don't know if this is because there were three of them opening on one plant at one time, and so more energy was needed to get all three open, or if this had something to do with it being darker when they opened, both because it was a cloudier day and because by the time they opened it was dark.

So, there you have it. Now you all know what a flower nerd I really am...of course, if you made it this far, I'm assuming I'm among friends, so thanks for being nerdy with me!

If you want to see more videos of plants doing what they do, visit Indiana University's Plants-In-Motion, and click on the different Movie Categories on the left-hand side of the screen.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I'm Reading Now-A Monster Calls

A Monster Calls: Inspired by an idea from Siobhan Dowd by Patrick Ness and Jim Kay-I read this book all in one sitting, which is something I rarely do. Granted most books I read are longer and have fewer illustrations, but still. Speaking of illustrations, this book has several full-page illustrations and nearly half the pages in the book have at least some illustration somewhere on them. I would tell you to click on my (Amazon Affiliate) link above and click on the "Look Inside!" feature, but they showcase the Kindle version, not the hardback version...which is dumb.** (Instead, you can go to Jim Kay's web site and get an idea of what his work is like.) The illustrations are wonderful and lend a lot of atmosphere to the book. If you are going to read this book, I would encourage you to find a version that allows you to enjoy the artwork as well.

I didn't realize it when I picked it up, but A Monster Calls won the Red House Children's Book Award-Older Readers and was short-listed for the Galaxy Book of the Year Award-2011 (where Ness won in his category, National Book Tokens Children's Book of the Year). The book has also been shortlisted for the 2012 Kate Greenaway Medal, Carnegie Medal, Oxfordshire Book Award, and the German Children's Literature Award (Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis). It was also nominated for the 2012 BSFA Award for Best Art.

Whew! That's quite a bit of recognition, and rightfully deserved. All I knew when I picked it up was that I added it to my TBR list after I read Nymeth's review of it last year. She does a great job of explaining exactly why this book is great, so please go read her review. Mine is going to be a lot more...utilitarian. Here goes:

There's always a lot of mixed feelings when a loved one is dealing with a protracted illness, and, often, those feelings don't feel OK. Sure, sadness is expected, and anger and frustration; but what about when it gets really bad and the person is really sick and they're not going to get better? Is it OK to be upset about the way it's affecting your life? What if you have your own problems that you're dealing with? What if you just want it to be over already? Does that make you an awful person? These things are hard enough to deal with as an adult, but as a kid I'm sure it's even harder.

I think this is a book that has the potential to provide a lot of comfort. For kids (or even adults) who have had to deal with death, it's a chance to see that all the things they are feeling might be totally normal, that they aren't alone. It's also a chance to process all those feelings that adults are always trying to have awkward, sympathy-laced/keep-your-chin-up conversations with you about. For adults it could provide a good opportunity to see things from a kid's perspective as well as start a (hopefully productive) conversation with a young person who is trying to deal with loss. Also, sometimes it's just helpful to have a book that allows you to have a good cry.

I definitely think this is a book that needs some adult interaction; the main character, thirteen-year-old Conor O'Malley, goes through a destructive phase due to feelings of loneliness, anger, and frustration, not to mention the bullying he's dealing with at school. A child reading this on his own may see this as an example of how to handle such feelings, instead of how not to handle these feelings. I have a hard time sympathising with destructive kids in general, but I found Conor totally relatable and sympathetic, and there is great potential here for conversations of the "Have you ever felt like Conor?/What else could he have done in this situation?" variety.

Also, how could I not love a book that has a giant, ancient tree monster who lets you sleep in his branches?

**Also, be careful searching for "Monster Calls" on It brings up several options that you probably don't want coming up when you're doing a search at work or with your kids in the room. Be sure to include Patrick Ness, Siobhan Dowd, and/or Jim Kay in your search.  

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-April, 2012

Well, I wasn't even going to do an official GBBD post today because there's hardly anything blooming in my yard right now, but then I went outside and saw this. 
I figured since it went through all the trouble of opening for me on exactly the right date, I couldn't NOT post a picture of my rose, "Mardi Gras (Jacfrain)".

My ice blue plumbago is always blooming, and so is my Cuphea hyssopifolia (False Heather/Mexican Heather/Hawaiian Heather).

My lantana is spilling over our rock wall, which is nice because normally it's all on top of the wall, where I can't see it or photograph it.

My red ginger is a little overexposed here, but I like the way it came out all glowy, so I'm keeping this picture in the lineup.

That's it for today, but please visit our Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hostess, Carol, at May Dreams Gardens to see what else is blooming around the world.