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Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 1: The Sunken Garden and MUCH MORE! (+10 insets)

(+10 insets) (bigger is better for lovely details!) Trip Talk: Marvelous Butchart Gardens When I began to figure out the itinerary of our trip to Vancouver Island, there was one place we were definitely going to visit: Butchart Gardens in Victoria. Listed as one of the top 10 gardens in the world, this 55-acre horticultural masterpiece simply cannot be missed--especially for a person like me who's crazy about macro and flower photography! When I visited their website, the beauty and opulence of the grounds had me so excited that I could barely wait! Another reason we wanted to go was memorial in nature. Steve has often told me how much his mother loved Butchart Gardens. Although we could only take her there in our thoughts and hearts, we would dedicate the day to her. I wished I'd gotten to meet Steve's mom, but it felt nice to know we could go to a place that she loved so dearly. We hoped to avoid a weekend visit but ended up going on a dreaded Saturday. And as predicted, it was totally swamped with thousands of people. However, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that everything about Butchart was set up for huge volumes of people. From their uniquely organized parking lot to masterfully designed paths winding through the gardens, this place handled the enormous crowds easily with plenty of room for everyone! When we arrived, we were directed by a team of helpful attendants to our spot in the vast parking lot. Before walking to the entrance, we used a parking app that saves your location so you can find your way back to your car. We didn't need to bother. Butchart actually has every aisle of parking marked with an enormous brightly colored banner with an animal and a number to make it really easy to remember where your car is. We'd never seen this before and thought it was totally brilliant. (There's nothing like leaving a venue of some sort and realizing that you have absolutely ZERO idea where your car is in the literal acres of cars laughing at you…Steve has a story of wandering around a football stadium parking lot for HOURS before finally discovering where he'd parked the car.) There is nothing about this park which isn't beautifully manicured, elegantly designed, or perfectly landscaped. Both of us were totally blown away from the second we entered the parking lot…and by the time we arrived at the ticket booth we realized that Butchart Gardens was going to be even more incredible than we'd imagined. It turned out to be a totally mind-blowing experience and I would end up taking over 1,000 pictures during our visit! To be honest, I've been working on this folder for days and STILL I haven't taken a close look at most of the pictures! I recognize that I simply won't be able to process all of the "winners" that I captured that day. However, I'll have at least five presentations to share from our day at Butchart Gardens and hopefully you'll get a sense of this incredible place. Today's Pictures My main image is the classic, iconic display of Butchart's most dazzling gem and the heart from which this Eden sprang--The Sunken Garden. If you can believe it, this place was once a limestone quarry! Robert and Jennie Butchart built a cement plant here in 1904, but as the quarry was exhausted, Jennie envisioned a garden to take the quarry's place. Dirt was carried in by horse and wagon for literally YEARS in order to create this lovely place. As decades passed, more and more landscaping was lovingly nestled into the sprawling 55 acres. Eventually the entire estate was turned into different sections which include, among others, the wondrous Japanese, Italian, and Rose Gardens. It is a wonder, just standing there and looking down into that garden. But of course we did more than just look from afar. After all…I had my macro lens with me, heh. Inset 1: Gorgeous Lantana blossoms opening up in lemon and magenta…how incredible these flowers are! Inset 2: Be still my heart, it's Candy-Striped Gazania, *SQUEEEEE*!!!! Too beautiful for words!! Inset 3: This periwinkle blue Clematis stretches elegantly up to the heavens. I'm crazy about vining flowers and some day I would like to have an assortment of these huge favorites of mine! Inset 4: I noticed a large, unassuming succulent growing below a huge flowering bush and the flash of what looked like glowing tendrils immediately caught my eye. Upon a closer inspection I could see that these weren't tendrils at all, but a sort of fraying at the edge of the sturdy leaves. I love finding gems like this, it makes me feel like I won a prize! :D Inset 5: Glowing leaves are magnetic to me and these enormous and colorful canna leaves always blow my mind when I see them. Absolutely breathtaking. I cannot resist taking picture upon picture of these amazing plants! (more pictures coming in other presentations!) Inset 6: Everywhere you looked there were planters filled with collections of flowers paired with lovely foliage plants, and these rainbow coleus leaves were as pretty as the flowers they were accenting! I couldn't resist having some fun with them and I used a filter which intensified the colors and created a psychedelic glowing blacklight effect. (I have another version of this which shows the normal beauty of this plant but will have it in another presentation.) Inset 7: This ridiculously colorful gold and wine-colored rudbeckia stood by itself in front a wall of short, orange marigolds and screamed for attention, which I gladly gave. After I'd taken pictures and moved on a bit, I heard Steve yell, "OMG Janet, did you see this flower?!! It's incredible!" I looked over and grinned happily, as Steve was now falling all over himself to take pictures of the floral diva! :) Inset 8: After several hours stumbling in flower-filled ecstasy, Steve and I left the main part of the park and walked out to the parking lot to have our lunch. This grand display, just 100 feet from our parked truck, was the Mediterranean Garden, surrounded by a perfectly manicured lawn. How would you like to lay out a picnic blanket, spread out lunch and enjoy this sight as you nibbled goodies?! That's just what we did! Inset 9: As we brought our lunch into the Mediterranean Garden, we found a bunny enjoying the grass and we were delighted to see it hopping around while we arranged our lunch. There were many bun-buns in the Butchart Gardens and they weren't scared of people so they didn't instantly disappear and we could enjoy their cuteness! Inset 10: Throughout the park were many sculptures and tasteful artwork. I really liked this piece but its setting made the birds' pretty details hard to appreciate. So I challenged myself to see if I could create a pretty collage which made the sculpture stand out. I hope I succeeded!! :) Pam, Pam, Pam…how you would love this place. There aren't words grand enough to describe how incredible and vast this garden is. Think about it: 55 acres, totally covered with ornate landscaping! I've got loads of pictures and they might give you a clue but you have to experience this place to understand it! Just as I thought about Steve's mom as we walked around this stupendous place, I also thought about you. *BIG HUGS* Explored on 9/29/19; highest placement #1.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 2: Macro Photography and More! (+10 insets)

(+10 insets) (bigger is better for lovely details!) Trip Talk: Macro photography at Butchart Gardens: you can't see it all through your macro lens! Anyone who loves macro photography knows how long it takes to photograph a small area. If you're photographing really small stuff like tiny mushrooms, lichen or itty-bitty bugs, a few feet can take an hour. Flowers in a compact, colorful garden will keep a person busy for many hours. Now, just imagine the idea of trying to get pictures of all the various flowers, plants, art, architecture and people in an immaculately kept garden that sprawls across 55 acres. In other words, there is no way, no how, that a macro photographer is going to get images of even a small fraction of that real estate. It ain't gonna happen. What's a person to do? Well, you just do your best. It was a good thing that Steve kept pulling me along by my ear or I would have never left the parking lot to enter the actual Garden! Seriously, everywhere I turned there were 100 more things yelling for my attention! No, I didn't get a close look at everything in the park. But we did visit all of the different areas and I did get to spend many hours taking pictures of hundreds of flowers and countless other cool sights! Today's Pictures My main picture today shows a pair of Fuchsia "dancing ballerinas" and a row of buds, set against a sea of bokeh. Throughout the park were endless enormous pots exploding with color, and wherever there was a place to hang a planter, outrageous displays cascaded to delight the eye..the combinations of flowers and colorful foliage plants was incredible! Like I was saying above, I could have spent an hour just taking pictures of exactly ONE of these huge arrangements. When I saw this hanging planter, I couldn't help making these pretty ladies the star of the show! (By the way, there are over 120 kinds of Fuchsias and there were dozens represented at the park!) Inset 1: This is a group of Calibrachoa flowers, often confused as small petunias. They are related but not the same, yet nearly everything else about them matches. Easy to grow and care for, they churn out blossoms like crazy for an entire summer and come in a billion colors and combinations (There are about 25 species). At the park, these were often parts of lovely, multi-species planter displays, but I found this group celebrating their singular, outrageous beauty! Inset 2: I'm going to guess this is a Camelia, though I don't really know for sure. This was another kind of flower that has about a billion species! Ok, well over 200 anyway, and never in my life had I see so many kinds! This one was glowing at me and I was only too happy to give it some love! Inset 3: The lovely Japanese Garden was such a delight to stroll through, and I really loved this fabulous Sturgeon Fountain, sculpted by Sirio Tofanari , an Italian artist known for his animal sculpture. Inset 4: When Steve and I entered Butchart Gardens, one of the first things we saw were planters filled with Hibiscus plants, all of which were covered with huge blossoms in several colors. Because the red was really vibrating against the green behind, I chose to desaturate the background and add a strong vignette! Inset 5: As the evening began to make itself known with the sun getting lower in the sky, I looked up and saw this tree glowing at me and stopped to gawk. I got Steve's attention and together we did our best to immortalize this lovely tree. Inset 6: Camas leaves just kill me…they are so incredibly beautiful when the leaves are open, and yet, just look at how amazing the unfurling leaf looks! Be still my beating heart! Inset 7: I used to think Hydrangeas were boring, ugly plants. That's because the two that grew in my family's front yard weren't given proper nutrients…one had flowers which were a sort of grey-green and the other was dirty off-white blechy pink. But here at Butchart, the flowers were electrifyingly bright and beautiful! In fact, this picture was bright to the point of being a bit blown-out. So I decided to play with my Topaz Labs' Black and White Effects filter suite. The effect I ended up with really makes me happy! Inset 8: Oh, don't you just LOVE Lantanas? I had a lot of fun playing with focal depth and bokeh with this image! :) Inset 9: This is another Camelia but this time in white with lemon! So pretty…there were countless bushes in many colors and I stumbled around like a zombie doing my best to get nice pictures of what I saw. Inset 10: After we got pictures of the glowing tree, I made my way out to a main path way and saw this jaw-dropping sight. It's too bad there isn't any way to totally do justice to the warm translucence of the flowers but at least you get an idea! Pam, I don't know what your favorite flowers are but I am confident we'd find them here for you, as long as they were in bloom! :D The insects…holy cow they were EVERYWHERE! It was quite the happy convention for a zillion happy critters and you'll see some of my attempts to get pictures when I get to posting them! I hope that you are getting some good results with your photography experiments! Sending *BIG HUGS* your way! Explored on 10/01/19; highest placement #2.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 3: Macro and More! (+10 insets)

Trip Talk: Eavesdropping and Fun Conversation at Butchart Gardens While Steve and I were enjoying our day at Butchart, I noticed a young girl concentrating on aiming her phone camera at a flower. Next to her was an older man and I heard her say, "Oh, look at this one!" The older man, I guess her grandfather, was watching with a smile on his face. "That's a beauty!" The girl replied, "Do you think mom and dad are going to be worrying about us?" Leaning into a flower for his own picture, he answered, "No, they knew what would happen if both of us went off with our cameras, there's only one Butchart Gardens!" I had to laugh as I meandered on…they got that right! While Steve and I were stumbling around in the Sunken Garden, Steve saw a couple taking pictures of each other. Whenever he sees this, he walks right up and offers to take the couple's portrait, and this pair was very happy that he offered. Steve gave them modeling cues and made a joke to get them to laugh for their photo. I was focusing on the imageI was taking but couldn't help overhearing their snickering and the happy chatter from the couple. We wandered down the path together and talked about the park and pictures until parting company at some point. Later on we ran into them again and it was fun to say hello. What an amazing place to be. Today's Pictures I had a really hard time choosing which picture should be my main one--they are all such a bunch of screaming divas! I finally just closed my eyes and picked at random. It turned out to be another Candy-Striped Gazania, this one in yellow and red with a very shallow dof. The enormous patch of gazanias we found threatened to shackle me to the spot…I just couldn't get enough of these ridiculously colorful flowers! (I've included an inset of the other gazania picture I shared) Inset 1: a pair of purple-blue Lobelia against a sea of flowers transformed into colorful bokeh Inset 2: a brilliant orange and red Marigold in front of many others Inset 3: a perfectly pink Impatien Inset 4: an ornate coral and white Impatien with a group of back-up beauties Inset 5: a hot-pink Impatien in a pack of others Inset 6: here's a punch-drunk honey bee crawling around on Lantana…there were so many insects enjoying the bounty offered by the Garden's millions of flowers! Inset 7: another glowing abstract of a Canna leaf Inset 8: more lovely curls from the succulent I saw when entering the park Inset 9: a carpet of colorful Coleus Inset 10: a human-sized chess set! I enjoyed watching this boy heft pieces around on the board. Apparently one of the pieces wasn't there judging by the sign, "We apologize for the missing chess piece. It is currently being repaired." Pam, have you ever tried growing flowers like gazanias? I'd like to at some point but won't bother until we can have a garden in a cooler setting and without critters I have to fight with! I hope you're having a good day. It's rainy and cold here today, not lovely like Butcharts! Explored on 10/04/19; highest placement #11.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 4: Hummingbirds and More! (+10 insets)

Where did I go? I've been busy with my metal detector! You may have noticed that I'm not posting as often as I usually do. At one point I was posting every day when I was working on my Pictures for Pam project. Though I'm still dedicating my pictures to Pam I'm not posting every day. I'd like to but I'm just too busy with other things going on around me. The biggest culprit is my new metal detector, a wonderful present which I got a few weeks before my birthday. With that, my attention has been pulled away while I go snooping around our property looking for treasures. I haven't found many special items but I have found a few things: my year-lost bracelet, a fancy chrome show collar for a dog, some old tools, a quarter one of us dropped in our meadow years ago, several corroded pennies and even an old rusty motorcycle chain! The majority of what I've found is metal junk: nails, screws, bolts, washers, wire, and…exploded bombs. STOP THE BUS! WHAT-WHAT-WHAT?!! DID I SAY EXPLODED BOMBS?! YES!! I kept finding these chunks of totally corroded metal all over the place and couldn't figure out what they were. So I searched online for any information I could find. I posted a picture of the metal shards on a metal detecting forum and of all the odd luck, a fellow who lives less than two miles away replied and told me exactly what I was finding: artillery shrapnel circa 1942-5 from Camp White, which was a temporary WWII training camp. At one point there were over 50,000 soldiers there in training. The US government purchased the entire area around we live, including about 10 miles in total, which they used for training. The whole area is littered with the results of their artillery fire. A lot of what I've found is buried several inches down or deeper, and that's because when Camp White was disassembled, crews went around and turned the soil over the whole area to bury the majority of the shrapnel. Is that crazy or what?! So anyway, my attention is severely split. I have, however, been working on my pictures and the bottomless pit of amazing images from Butchart Gardens is just unbelievable! Looks like I'll have a sixth set of images to share because I can't stop processing them! Today's Pictures My main picture today was a wonderful surprise! Steve and I were wandering around and suddenly I saw a hummingbird zoom in for some nectar! I believe it's a Rufous but I'm not positive. I did my best to take a bunch of pictures but I really had no idea if any would come out. SURPRISE! I have four winners to share, two of which I'm posting today and the others in my next presentations. :) Inset 1: another winner from my hummingbird attempts! Inset 2: a very busy bee, delirious from the amazing flowers, is an example of the vast number of happy insects there at Butcharts! Inset 3: a gorgeous banana leaf glowing in front of translucent greenery at the Mediterranean Garden where Steve and I had our picnic! Inset 4: this lovely hydrangea looks like a mini pink tree! Check out the shadows!! :D Inset 5: a leaf abstract showing the glowing, translucent details of some of the foliage at the Mediterranean Garden Inset 6: an artistic view of the whole leaf and another in its mature form…these may be two different plants though! Inset 7: this is not your ordinary begonia! I saw this and nearly fainted! Who ever SAW such an incredible begonia?! Soon after we began walking along the first path leading into the heart of Butchart Gardens, we saw a covered area that had about a billion flowering planters hanging from the structure. This was "Begonia Bower" and I was utterly blown away by the mind-blowing collection. I didn't get a picture of the area but I found one for you to see at Butchart's Facebook page. Seriously, I could spend days taking pictures in that lovely little spot! Inset 8: mottled magenta Lobelia (I think) with a red petunia glowing warmly in the background…this is a picture of some flowers from one of the outrageous flower baskets found everywhere in the park. Inset 9: although this isn't the best picture, it shows one of the hanging baskets I've been telling you about. If you want to have some fun, just try counting the different flowers and decorative plants that you can see. Mind you, the other side is equally stuffed with more species! Can you even believe it? Now, consider what I've been saying…the park has literally hundreds of these hanging baskets and planters totally overflowing with these explosions of color, shape and texture! Every single one could be studied and photographed for hours. Getting an understanding of how ridiculously amazing Butchart Gardens is? Trust me, you have NO idea! :D Inset 10: this is a stunning pond that, like the Mediterranean Garden, resides outside the main park, bordering the parking lot! It gave a tiny clue of what we were about to see inside! Pam, what species of hummingbirds live in your area? We have quite a few species, though I think I have pictures of Rufous adults and juveniles. They are so darn cute. And each is a flying jewel which is so very special! You've been on my mind and I hope all is as well as can be! *BIG HUGS* Explored on 10/07/19; highest placement #2.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 5: Begonias, Hummingbirds and More! (+10 insets)

Trip Talk: We Will Need Another RV… So Steve Went to the Largest RV Show on the West Coast! Steve and I are serious about going on the road full-time, but what that also means is that we need a better RV (Recreational Vehicle). We've learned so much since we got our RV and a critical point is that we have a "weekender", not a "full-timer" RV. Industry companies have several tiers for each of their models and they vary DRASTICALLY in quality. The businesses themselves are also vastly different in policy, quality, and customer support. From the frame to every last detail, a trailer can be a "low price-point" build that is utter and complete garbage (not that first-time shoppers would have the slightest clue!), all the way up to substantial and extremely high quality across the board. However, RV companies are notorious about hiding bad workmanship behind the shiny exterior. It may be hard to believe but spending more money does not mean you are guaranteed a better RV. Steve and I learned that even the most luxurious RV can be a total lemon because every single RV is hand-made by an industry starved for a workforce which is ultimately a hodge-podge of labor which ranges from literally "never-held-a-hammer" to wizened professional. In other words, each trailer must be scrupulously inspected from top to bottom and anyone who plans to get an RV seriously needs to do their homework before buying. Bottom line: these companies are all about making money and most don't care if they're putting out actual road hazards as long as they make bank. Buyer beware. This being said, we found out about a 10-day RV show here on the West Coast and thought it would be the perfect opportunity for Steve to get some serious first-hand research done. The hope was to narrow down the choices and figure out which trailer(s) would be right for us as a full-time rig. We decided it made better sense for me to stay home with Steve giving me the important details, so this past Sunday he drove down to the show and on Monday he started his research. The California RV Show was totally overwhelming! Over 1,000 RVs of all sizes, shapes, price-points, 37 dealers selling them, and bunches of other companies selling all things RV-related. You'll want to click on the link above if you want a tiny idea of what that crazy place is like. Let's just say that Steve's eyeballs have been rolling around in his head from the enormity of it all! Steve went with a job at hand so he didn't look at anything that didn't fit in our criteria, and even still, it took him two whole days of looking, scrutinizing, hours of talking, and figuring out what made sense for us. However, after all those long and exhausting hours of focused energy, Steve has been successful in his research! There are a couple of different models from a pair of companies which meet our needs and now it's just going to be a matter of time. Much needs to happen before we get a different RV but finally we have a real understanding of what's out there, which companies are total crap, and which are more trustworthy than others. Even though we have plenty of RV dealers around here, it's been amazing to see, first-hand, the offerings from just about every last RV company out there. Yesterday Steve spent his last day at the show with his sister, who just recently bought a new (used) trailer to replace her old one. They had a great time looking around and checking out all of the fun trailers and options out there. And this evening Steve will be home! Hooray! :) Today's Pictures The begonia in my main image was part in one of the hanging baskets that we found in the main courtyard inside Butchart Gardens. So outrageously colorful, don't you think?! I think this is called "Glowing Embers" and certainly comes by the name perfectly! Until we came to this park, I had absolutely no idea that begonias came in so many varieties! They are truly remarkable flowers. :) Inset 1: here's another glorious banana leaf. Just can't get enough of these beauties! Inset 2: such a lucky shot of this bee in a purple haze! Inset 3: this is another one of the hummingbird pictures that turned out well! Inset 4: did anyone say, "breathtaking begonias"? Sheesh…what a bunch of divas. :D Inset 5: I'm such a sucker for pond lilies! I believe this is Nymphaea 'Andreana' Inset 6: another jaw-dropping begonia, this time in variegated red and white! Inset 7: this golden echinacea was just one of dozens that glowed brilliantly in the sunlight! Inset 8: I noticed movement when I was leaning in to take a picture and look what I found! This is a Northern Alligator Lizard! :D This species is also found in Oregon but I think the only kind on our property is the Southern Alligator Lizard. Inset 9: a single lavender blossom against the bokeh of a pair of cream-colored zinnias! Inset 10: a small army of lemon-colored marigolds looks out on a vista of beautiful flowers as far as they can see! Pam, have you ever been to an RV show or a really huge RV lot? They are so overwhelming! When I was a kid my grandparents would take us kids to the San Francisco Sports and Boat Show every year and I remember going into every single RV and boat, pretending that I was picking out the exact one I would have as my own. What about you? Did you do that as a kid? I have to say…it's pretty exciting when it's for real! :) It's our plan to eventually end up on your doorstep with our new on-the-road home so you can see it for yourself! :) *sending all my love* Explored on 10/10/19; highest placement #4.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 6: More Begonias, Hummingbirds and the Butchart Wharf! (+11 insets)

(+11 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: OMG We Bought a Brand New RV, Are We Certifiable???! Yep. We did it. I am the first person to tell you that buying a new vehicle is a total waste of money because the second you drive off the lot, it's worth a lot less…and it only plummets from there. So WHY in the world would we drop such a chunk of change for a new trailer, when we know full-well that we're throwing crazy amounts of money into the wind? We did it mostly because the RV industry is notorious for hiding damage, flaws, problems and issues. It is nearly impossible to find these faults and everything that comes up must be repaired by the owner or by a shop. It's expensive and time-consuming no matter how the issue is fixed. If you buy a new RV with a good warranty, it's not our problem. It's theirs. What I haven't told you is that on our Vancouver Island trip, we suffered an extremely frightening and potentially dangerous frame failure while on the road. When we were arriving at Campbell River--exactly two weeks into our six-week trip--Steve noticed with great concern that the trailer was leaning to the left. We pulled into a Walmart parking lot to take a closer look. Crawling under the trailer revealed a badly bent frame that was so warped and crumpled that both of us thought our trip was over right there. I'll talk more about this on a later post but long story-short, a local welding shop saved the day and allowed us to continue our trip and get home safely. That being said, the underlying worry of developing more structural damage made an indelible impact that was never far from our minds. Every "travel day", where we drove from one camp spot to the next, was filled with worry and tension because we could no longer trust our trailer. We were so relieved when we finally got home without any incidents! And yet, our trailer had totally let us down. We initially thought the build-quality was good enough for at least a year of use while we wrapped our heads around long-time RV travel. Instead, we got a serious reality check about the difference between a "weekender" RV and a "full-time" RV. Thinking about what might have happened in a worst-case scenario made us realize that we needed to get away from that trailer as soon as we could. Truthfully, our plans were to upgrade to a full-time trailer within a year or two. We were going to use our Grey Wolf for at least another six months or so but our narrowly avoided disaster changed everything for us. What price do you assign to the lives of you and your family? What's that? "Priceless" is your answer? Exactly. And THAT is the real reason why we bought a new trailer. Today's Pictures Today's main picture showcases one of my favorite things to photograph: shadows. I am forever stopping to gaze dreamily at dappled shadows on trails we walk on, and leaves captivate me when I see shadows creating lovely shapes on them. As Steve and I slowly made our way along one of the many explosively colorful paths of Butchart Gardens, my eye was immediately drawn to the shadows of a fern cast upon a richly-colored peach geranium (Thanks to Neira-Dan for identifying the species!) I don't know about you, but I find it very difficult to capture nhe magical quality of shadows because I think you need to see them in person to get the diaphanous effect that's happening. I was able to capture some of what I saw, though the reality was even more spectacular! Inset 1: this is my last lucky hummingbird picture, and it's feeding on gorgeous blue penstemon blossoms. Be still my beating heart you pretty little thing! Inset 2: I used to think that "ordinary" wax begonias were so boring. These dazzling red flowers which resemble coins to me, totally vindicate themselves of a description of blasé! Inset 3: how is it that I've never realized that begonias have such incredible foliage?! I've noticed their pretty leaves in the past but Butchart Gardens knocked me to the ground. This picture is just one example of the outrageously gorgeous leaves these plants can have. The park was overflowing with countless shapes, sizes and color combinations of leaves…I couldn't believe the variety! Inset 4: what a gorgeous group of fiery orange impatiens! This group was part of a huge plot completely covered with blossoms! Inset 5: here's another picture of a punch-drunk bee pigging out on flowers and not caring at all about the huge black thing hovering so close to it! Inset 6: this enormous pair of Elephant Ears was growing within a massive planting at the Mediterranean Garden. I just love the wonderful shape and texture of the leaves! Inset 6a: I made another version of the Elephant Ears with a darker background. It's more dramatic but maybe too distracting? Which version appeals to you more? Inset 7: I think this lovely blossom must be a white begonia, as there is a crimson one in the background and there are plenty of white begonias that look just like this one! Inset 8: in addition to having a staggering garden, Butchart also has their own little harbor! In fact, half of the park is surrounded by waters from Brentwood Bay, called the Tod Inlet. This is a view of the Butchart Cove harbor through a natural window created through a thick hedge! Inset 9: this is a view of Butchart's dock. If you can believe it, the docking area that leads out to the bay is designed for the pickup and drop-off of sea plane passengers! Inset 10: this is Butchart's little fleet of cute little tour boats. They offer 45-minute ecological trips around the Tod Inlet during the summer and if lucky, passengers might get to spot sea otters and many kinds of birds and other wildlife. Pam, one of the things I most admire about you is your creativity. Seeing the shadows cast upon the begonia in the main image makes me think about you because I'm sure you would have gone crazy if you'd seen the lovely shadows on these flowers! I sure do hope that you're able to get back to the point where you can once again create the marvelous artwork that comes from your heart, because it's part of what makes you complete. Maybe you'll need to change how you do things but I have a feeling that it will be possible! *BIG HUGS FROM SOUTHERN OREGON* Explored on 10/12/19; highest placement #1.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 7: Outrageous Echinacea, Luminous Blossoms and Much More! (+10 insets)

(+10 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Great Timing, Tub Transfers and Preparations! The RV we chose for our home on the road is so popular that only a few are available across the country. In fact, the one that Steve got to walk through wasn't even at the RV show! The manufacturer, Keystone, had only just delivered the rig to the RV seller that morning. It was still at their receiving facility, waiting to be shuttled to the show for display. After Steve described the sort of trailer we were after, the lady he was talking to took him around to a few units that fit our needs but she couldn't find the one she really wanted to show him. Eventually she realized that it wasn't on the grounds yet, but told Steve it was only 15 minutes away if he'd like to check it out. It was the first day of the show so Steve made plans to go see it the following day, which he did. He was totally delighted and sent me lots of pictures--I was immediately smitten as well. When the best choices were compared, we decided this was the winner. The reason this is cool is because our RV was not at the huge show, though it would have been. The show was so popular that instead of getting a few thousand visitors each day, they got over 10k every day! That translates to a lot more people tromping through units with potential damage and wear. When we made our decision to buy that model, we learned that we'd be getting the very unit that Steve walked through at their receiving facility! Totally pristine and unmolested by the hoards, hooray! It's extra cool that Steve has physically been inside our new trailer—how excited and happy we are! Within two weeks, all of the financial and prep work will been completed. Then we'll be able to drive down to pick up our new RV and since it will be a trade-in (hooray! ), we'll be taking our Grey Wolf, dropping it off and switching over to our new RV. We are so excited! It's also going to mean moving everything from the old trailer into the new, so we'll be getting a bunch of tubs to help in the transfer. We'll put everything into these containers before we leave and when we arrive, we'll just carry them into the new trailer, easy as pie! Happily, we don't have any excess junk with us so we won't have to spend any time going through our stuff and pulling out the excess clutter. The pieces will soon be coming together! :) Today's Pictures You may not know the love affair I have with echinacea, but let me tell you...this flower and its zillions of hybrids totally steal my heart. They are so photogenic and have such lovely details that I lose my mind when I find a garden brimming with blossoms. My first introduction to echinacea was years ago when Steve and I were on a bike and rode past a garden full of hybrids. I nearly flew off my bike for lack of attention to the task at hand! We did an about-face and returned, where I proceeded to spend the next 20 minutes going crazy with my camera. Since then I am always on the lookout for these beauties and of course Butcharts had bunches of species to swoon at. What can I say about this crimson beauty?! ALL BOW BEFORE ITS RADIANT BEAUTY! It's even got a "sweep of hair" to add to its loveliness. I got many pictures of others around it but this one is the queen of all she surveys. The moment I saw this picture, there was no question about her presentation...and now she has stolen your heart too. :) Inset 1: a magnificent golden echinacea with others in bokeh behind...oh my heart... Inset 2: this purple petunia was glowing like neon with the afternoon sun shining through its petals. The background is added candy that makes this a favorite for me! Inset 3: on the way in and out of Butchart Gardens is a pathway lined with decadent plantings including a parade of hydrangea that would knock your socks off. Here is a stunning trio of blossoms paving the way for the enormous ball of flowers to come. Incredible! Inset 4: cascading down from their hanging planter, these begonias were lit by sunshine that warmed their petals and made them look like Mother Nature's most beautiful lamps! Inset 5: I was lucky enough to get a nice picture of this pewter-colored damselfly as it sat on a golden echinacea! Inset 6: the sun shining through this begonia's petals made the original image look so overly saturated that I decided to turn it into art instead, muting the colors and giving a richer and darker background. Winner-winner-chicken-dinner!! Inset 7: a lovely lavender bud stretches up before a field of coral zinnias, what a sight! Inset 8: what a lucky day I had with insects! Here is Pine White butterfly sipping eagerly on a stalk of yellow blossoms...I don't know what species they are though. (do you know??) Inset 9: another plant that makes me fall over and float away are hostas! So many varieties, colors, textures and sizes, the only bummer about them is the required shade they need. As Steve and I headed up a path above the Sunken Garden I turned and looked into an inset area next to us and couldn't BELIEVE the vast carpet of hostas and other gorgeous plants growing pristinely below. Are they not breathtaking?! *swoon* Inset 10: Butchart Garden has their own incredible computer-controlled fountain, which mesmerized all who gazed upon it. Cycling through many formation of elegant displays, Steve and I couldn't help but wish we could see it lit up at night in a rainbow of colors, accompanied and tracking some beautiful classical piece. If you have ever been to Las Vegas's Bellagio Hotel, you will know the incredible fountain show they have. The experience left me sobbing from the incredible beauty and emotional performance and every time I see this show (they have many), it threatens to reduce me to tears once again. Please, do yourself a favor and end your visit with me by clicking on this link to see Bellagio Fountains: Time to Say Goodbye show. Bring tissues. Pam, have you tried growing echinacea in your garden? The native species is supposed to be quite hardy but I wouldn't know...the few I've had are merely deer and squirrel food! I hope this bright and sunny day is the same for you my dear! *BIG HUGS* from southern Oregon! Explored on 10/15/19; highest placement #1.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 8: Black Petunias, Lovely Lilies and So Much More! (+10 insets)

(+10 insets!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: Upgrading From a Bumper Pull to a Fifth Wheel Trailer...or is that a Gooseneck Trailer? Our Grey Wolf is what's called a "bumper-pull" trailer. They aren't ideal in a towing sense because a truck cannot utilize its full power. Also, maneuvering is much trickier and they are not as stable. However, they are the usual type of trailer people start out with because most trucks have a bumper hitch and if they don't, installation isn't a big deal. Our new trailer is the higher-quality version called as a fifth-wheel. It gets the name because of the type of hitch it has. There's another type of hitch called a gooseneck but those are more commonly found on livestock and commercial trailers. Finally, there are hybrid hitches which are a blend of the two. TERMINOLOGY: bumper-pull, fifth-wheel and gooseneck (because you know you're curious!) Bumper-pull (also known as a "drag-along") : a trailer that connects to a towing vehicle usually by a square, sliding receiver located below a truck's rear bumper. Fifth-wheel: The term comes from a similar coupling used on four-wheel, horse-drawn carriages and wagons. A more-detailed answer, including a diagram is found on this page: Why is it Called a Fifth Wheel? Gooseneck: arched like a goose's neck and swiveled to the motor unit. Wait. Aren't fifth-wheels and goosenecks the same thing? That's what I thought, but there's a big difference. The trailers themselves are the same--it's the connection to the truck that's different. Trailers with a fifth-wheel hitch slide forward into a heavy-duty, jaw-like coupler seated on the bed of the truck. Trailers with a gooseneck hitch connect by lowering onto a ball socket coupler. Each type works extremely well, though goosenecks are reputed to be slightly better. To see pictures and read more detailed explanations, this article is perfect! Goosenecks vs. Fifth-Wheel Hitch Since our truck is only set up for a bumper pull trailer, we need to add a hitch that will accommodate a fifth-wheel trailer. That meant a lot of research to understand the difference between each hitch type and ultimately, which was the safest and most reliable. In the end, Steve learned that hybrid hitches have the best aspects of fifth wheel and gooseneck hitches without the negatives, so right now he's outside beginning the install of our new SuperLite Pullrite hitch. When we get down to our RV dealer to pick up our new trailer, it will only take about half an hour to upgrade the trailer's hitch to work with the Pullrite. Then we'll have a marvelous hitch that is capable, quiet and safe! Today's Pictures We were staggering around Butchart Gardens when I happened to look up at one of the countless hanging planters that resembled a burst of fourth-of-July fireworks. I stopped in my tracks and exclaimed, "STEVE, LOOK! BLACK PETUNIAS!!" I gazed in disbelief. I've seen "black" flowers before. They're dark purple. These flowers were a rich, velvety black and only where the sun shone through the petals could you see a hint of their deep purple origins. Absolutely phenomenal. Steve and I took pictures with reverence and attracted a small crowd when each person saw what we were so excited about. I don't know about you, but I've never seen a truly black flower like this before! Incredible! Inset 1: a gorgeous ring of deep pink blossoms ring a lacecap Hydrangea. At the top you can see the tiny fertile flowers--the larger blossoms are actually infertile. In fact, the petals are sepals--the tiny buttons in the center are the flowers! I didn't know that this kind of hydrangea doesn't become a ball of flowers. Those are called "mophead" or French Hydrangeas. Inset 2: a macro of the jaw-dropping Stargazer Oriental Lily, showing the beautiful burnt-orange anthers which are brimming with pollen for visiting insects to carry away to other flowers. Did you know that the pollen can cause very hard-to-remove stains?! I had no idea! Inset 3: here is an entire group of Stargazer Lilies that we saw at a glassed-in garden. There were several large observation openings for eager photographers which we thought was really cool. It was no surprise there was a line of people taking turns to stare at and take pictures of the lavishly planted conservatory! Inset 4: These remind me of tiny purple Brussels Sprouts! I don't know what they are, but you cannot deny this is a pretty sight as it arced over many more behind it! :) Inset 5: a spike of lovely deep ruby-pink flowers overlooks many dozens behind it! Inset 6: I nearly passed by these clusters of white flowers before I stopped and took a closer look. WOW! Aren't they sensational? I thought they might be a kind of "Pussy-Toes" but no, these white beauties are called Ageratum and come in lots of different colors! Inset 7: this magnificent ruby-centered golden hibiscus was on a bush that was totally covered with flowers. All around it were dozens of planters, each with its own ridiculously profuse display of hibiscus! Inset 8: an elegant pink and purple fuchsia with a background dotted with purple-flowered bokeh! Inset 9: I ask you: have you ever seen such an incredible planting of flowers and ornate foliage in your life? Try counting all of the species…I found 22 types of flowers and foliage plants. Outrageous! Inset 10: finally, this is a pristine lawn found in the Sunken Garden. I'm glad it's off-limits to people so that we can see these amazing swaths of color without anyone in the way. Here you can see what I was talking about when I mentioned the huge carpets of flowers…it's all just mind-boggling! Pam, I know that you have a gorgeous collection of bearded iris but I don't remember if any of them are a "black" variety. I've tried to grow various species of black flowers before but every time I'm disappointed because the flowers are just a dark purple at best. Still, they're gorgeous and I was very happy to have them! I hope all is well with you, it's just starting to rain…a big storm has finally rolled in as forecast, and it's going to be here for several days! We're hoping that things dry out a bit by the time we drive down to pick up our RV! (It's hot and dry in LA…as usual!) Many *BIG HUGS* from southern Oregon! Explored on 10/17/19; highest placement #2.

Victoria's Butchart Gardens, Part 9: Ravishing Roses--HFF!--and the Last of My Butchart Show! :D (+10 insets)

(+10 insets!) (View Large!) (Please scroll down to "Today's Pictures" for image information) Trip Talk: The Installation of our Pullrite Continues! I am married to the handiest man I've ever known--other than my father of course! It's said that men marry women that most resemble their mothers and women find those who have traits of their fathers. Think about it…is that true for you? I always considered my father to be a superhero…he could do anything, fix anything, create anything, and he was my personal hero, protecting me and teaching me as I grew up…he was the most amazing person to me, so it's no wonder that I found Steve. He shares so many of my father's most admirable traits! With the same caliber of brilliant mind as my father, Steve is totally amazing with creative solutions and problem-solving. In regards to our truck's hitch, Steve seized the opportunity to research and zero-in on exactly the right hauling solution for us. He learned that it would cost $500+ to have the Pullrite installed--on top of the expense of the hitch itself. Wondering if it was possible to do the installation himself, he watched a number of videos which showed exactly how a handy person could do this job and save the money. Though tricky and requiring some exacting work, Steve was totally confident that he could do this himself. As he expected, the job has been more difficult than what he learned in the videos and installation how-tos. Nobody ever talks about the physical weight of the various parts, nor does anyone mention the awkwardness of working around a truck's underpinnings. We were both overjoyed that the most critical--and unforgiving--step of the job went perfectly! He had to use a hole-saw drill to cut a round hole through the bed of the truck, which needed to line up perfectly with the installed underparts of the hitch. There could be no error. The strength of the truck's bed depended on this cut being exact, and he nailed it! What he didn't count on was the poorly added suspension bar that he encountered when he came to another critical point in the installation. An important part that needed to slide into place…couldn't. There was something in the way and upon scrutiny and comparison to videos and pictures, Steve learned that the previous owner put in a bar as part of their own hitch setup--it needed to go! This removal project added hours to the installation but he was successful and very pleased when he was able to complete the important step he'd been working on initially. The Pullrite is nearly 75% installed now and Steve's delighted at how things are going. Yes, it would have been a much faster job for a professional mechanic to do, but being able to do this himself is incredibly gratifying and satisfying for Steve. Don't we all feel best when we can achieve a very challenging and important goal?! Down the road, as we pull our trailer around the country, we'll have that extra glow of knowing that part of our hitch solution came because Steve is such a handy guy! Hooray! :) Today's Pictures Among flowers, few are as popular as the rose. With over 300 species and well-over 1000 cultivars, the variety of these flowers is completely mind-boggling. You may be surprised to learn that roses are native to most areas of the world, though the largest number of native species are found in Asia. Here are a few other things you may not know: not all roses have a scent! The act of hybridizing new cultivars will often kill the scent in a rose, which must then be carefully re-hybridized to get the fragrance back! Also, did you know that a rose's fragrance is strongest in the early hours of the day and fades as the hours pass? (I found a really neat page with a list of interesting rose facts if you'd like to know more about these wonderful flowers. ) Naturally, Butchart Gardens had an enormous area devoted to roses of all kinds. Specifically, they have 7 types of roses, 280 varieties, 2,500 rose plants and 30 rose arches! Upon arriving, you sort of have to just stand there and gawk with glazed eyes, while drool gently trickles down your face. Preposterous! The rose in this main image is one that I particularly liked because of the wide panorama view as it looks out over the splendiferous (Thanks, Keith! *high five*) view beyond--which includes a lattice fence covered with more roses! By the way, my many presentations of Butchart Gardens has finally drawn to a close. Truthfully, I could process another 25-50 winners but honestly, 100 pictures is enough already! Believe it or not, we actually visited more than just this incredible place on our 5-week adventure around Vancouver Island! :D So for now, I hope that you enjoyed the show. If you ever had a question about the high price to visit (US for Summer was $27 for the day; www.butchartgardens.com/rates prices are less at different times of the year), I hope my pictures and commentary have convinced you to build a trip with Butchart Gardens in mind as a delicious destination for you. Without question, we will be back. It was an incredible experience and I'm so happy that I could share a small taste of what it was like to be there. Inset 1: this shaded-cotton-candy-pink rose is totally perfect in my opinion with its elegant petals and marvelous details! I'm so happy I found it so I could share it with the world! Inset 2: a classic open rose in tints of pink and white with a warm glow of gold in the center, you have to wonder how in the world it was developed this way! Inset 3: an unusually-shaped peach rose with pink outer petals leaned down from its bush so I could freeze its beauty for immortality. Inset 4: glowing like a beacon, a bright red and yellow rose beams radiantly in the fading afternoon light. Inset 5: Steve posed for me in one of the many arbors around the rose garden. Inset 6: Wait! This isn't a rose! No, it's a gorgeous yellow and gold rudbeckia! (I would have filled this last presentation with roses but I had extra pictures from the rest of the Garden so here they are!) Inset 7: what a wonderful surprise to find a Bucket List Bug! :D This little beauty is a Candy-Striped Leafhopper sitting on a golden rudbeckia…what a beauty! Unfortunately I wasn't able to get the best pictures but this one turned out pretty well. Inset 8: this is the other picture I got of a Candy-Striped Leafhopper after it hid on a shaded petal. The image is dark and grainy but I wanted to share it anyway because I'm so happy I found one of these marvelous insects! Inset 9: you may remember the coleus leaves I shared on the first day of my presentation. That one was highly filtered, but this is the original; I'll include the filtered version below this picture for comparison. Inset 10: last but not least, this is the entry sign for The Butchart Gardens. It, like everything else about this park, is lavish and beautiful! Pam, do you have any roses on your property? We have a number of them out front and one in back, but I'll admit that I don't care for them at all. They're rather a mess but the flowers are wonderful! I love to step out in the morning when their fragrance is strongest and bury my nose in their petals. Thanks for all of the great comments you've been leaving for me, I'm so glad you've enjoyed the Butchart Garden show and I'm with you--I'd LIVE THERE if I could, lol! Here's hoping you're having a good day! *BIG HUGS!!!* Explored on 10/19/19; highest placement #6.