Inside The Amazon Spheres

Every first and third Saturday of the month Amazon lets the public tour inside the spheres and on this particular trip, the Corps flower was ready to bloom! I will admit, I am jealous of the employees of Amazon for having access to an amazing space to work and wish more companies would utilize more nature in their buildings. The Spheres exterior is made up of 2,636 panes of glass, making it a greenhouse/bio dome effect. For the plant nerd in me I was in heaven! This living wall in 60 feet tall and expands all the way up to the fourth floor of the middle sphere. The Spheres have over 40,000 plants from cloud forests around the world. The plants inside are native to mid-elevation cloud forest ecosystems at altitudes of 3,000 to 10,000 feet. The plants are a remarkable testament to biodiversity found in nature around the world with 3,000 of the plant species coming from tropical forests. All plants present in the Spheres are sourced through collections at universities, seed growers and are not taken from the wild. There are orchids, epiphytes, succulents, and carnivorous plants hidden among all the other tropical plants. The Spheres even houses ethnological species that cure disease and some are endangered in the wild. Now this rather large plant is the Corps flower which when it blooms it will give off a smell described at rotting flesh. If you are reading this live, the flower at the time of visit was just days from opening. The flowering plant is a rare sight to behold since it takes years for the flower to fully form to bloom. The canopy walk and the birds nest are crowed favorites! The wooden boards give the effect of an old tree house when taking across them! As a scientist and a nature nerd, I highly recommend going to see The Spheres and learn more about Amazon’s innovative thinking about the how workplace spaces in urban offices should have a direct link to nature. Also on weekends the public parking garages under the Amazon buildings close by are free.

Plants of My Life

Tulips in the garden

Now with April showers being May flowers, I thought it would be time to punch out this post about the plants I have acquired for the last few years. Most have been brought home to celebrate a milestone in life (like a bouquet of flowers) or others have been pass down from a family member through propagation from the original plant. A few weeks ago I started noticing every time I walk by a co worker’s desk, I wanted to bring home another plant. You can say I’m becoming a crazy plant lady instead of a crazy cat lady!

Plants Acquired:

Fig Rubber plant, Cyclamen, Jade plant, African violet, and Cuban Oregano plant.

Rubber Fig Plant (ficus “Burgundy” elastica):

I recently brought this plant home after wanting a baby rubber plant for so long. I would see these beautiful plants every where on Pinterest, but did not want to buy a fake one at Target. Back in January while shopping in Trader Joe’s I saw one in the floral department and decided right there the plant was coming home (screw the bagged lettuce!). Since January the plant has taken off with averaging new leaves twice every two weeks. The plant is going to be tree in no time!

Cyclamen (abchasicum):

I bought this plant to mark my second time graduating from college last spring. This plant has given me trouble from the beginning and at one point it nearly died. I has not bloomed since the day I brought it home, but I have been trying to force bloom it for a few weeks with fertilizer. Will see! The flowers are a range of light pink-purple to deep rich pink-purple. Some are white as well.

Jade Plant (arassula ovata) & Succulents:

The jade plant was too good to pass up when I first saw it. Since then it has exploded in growth near the window I have put it. Jade plants are succulents which may explain why I can go a few days with dry soil without much complaint. The other succulents were a prize at a friend’s baby shower a few years ago. One succulent created a few more after propagation, thus there are many.

African Violet (saintpaulia):

A reminder of Tanzania for me. Even thou these do not grow in that part of Africa, the blooms on the plant remind me of Tanzinite.

Easter Lily

Easter Lilies (Lilium longiflorum) & Peace Lilies (spathiphyllum):

The peace lily was inherited from my Grandmother when she was moving house. This one in particular has been re-potted a few times since, and has now bloomed more than twice a year. At one point it almost died when the roots no longer had enough soil to cover them in the pot! As for the Easter Lily, this was another plant from Trader Joe’s. Around Easter these lilies bloom into a long trumpet looking flower signaling rebirth. This year I had to get one.

Lucky Bamboo plants

Lucky Bamboo (Draccens bravnii):

My mother gave me this plant as a house warming gift for my first apartment. Since then it has thrived and moved from one location to another without much complaint. Mine is not planted in soil, but freely standing between rocks in a bowl full of water. I have found the plant is much happy being in a bowl of water and near as much natural light as possible.

Wandering Jew, and Peperonia w/ basil plant

Wandering Jew (tradescantia zebrina) & Peperonia Radiator:

I saw these plants on the clearance rack at Home Depot and with TLC, they are a lot more healthy. The Wandering Jew plant since has started taking over the window ledge and the Radiator Peperonia’s leaves no longer looks as if an animal took a bite out of them.

Poinsettia

Poinsettia (euphorbia pulcherrima) & Cuban Oraguno (plectranthus amboinicus):

This little plant was left over from the Christmas decorations from work. I brought it home after the company I work for closed for the holiday break. Since this little plant has stayed alive, and even started producing new leaves which are not red, but a dark green. My guess this little poinsettia will be still alive come next Christmas. The Cuban oragano plant is a propagation from another plant inherited from a family member. I has shared it’s space with many other herb plants over the years, and keeps growing.

But wait… you may have noticed I have plants that are poisons to cats. Yep I have a cat living with these plants. As a cat owner I am perfectly aware of how deadly a few of these plants are when a cat ingests them or breaths the pollen in. I take special care when it come to having plants that pose a risk. The lilies are always in a location where the cat cannot interact with them. As for the others, Maddie kitty does not have a habit of eating, chewing, or rubbing herself on the plant leaves of any of the above plants. Still, When it comes with tropical indoor plants, you really need to gauge how the cat interacts with the plants on a daily bases to know if there will be a problem.

Where I Buy:

  • Trader Joe’s Stores
  • Home Depot
  • Sky Nursery (Shoreline WA)

I’m not done yet with collecting more plants. I have a list of plants I’m looking to add to the indoor collection. I would like a prayer plant, dwarf date palm, banana tree (Musa oriana),and monstera deliciosa ( cottage cheese plant). Hopefully by then I will have a house roomy enough for the cheese plant to grow and the rubber plant!

Spring Has Come Finally!

Spring has finally arrived here in Seattle! As the cherry trees blossoms awash the area in whitish-pinkish color, there are many signs of spring has finally here! The tulips are starting to come out of their slumber, and the yellow heads of daffodils are shining brightly through the gray days of spring. Finally after a roller coaster ride of a winter season, spring has come.

While large crowds crammed themselves into the University of Washington’s quad full of cherry trees, the Washington Park Arboretum and the Japanese Garden’s cherry trees where in bloom minus the large crowds. For four hours I walked the winding paths through the different gardens soaking in the spring sunshine with the cherry trees and dogwood trees in full bloom.

Unexpected find in the rhododendron garden! These beauties are Camellias. They are a broad leaf evergreen shrub with pink, white and red large showy flowers. I want to have these in my garden one day!

Photography done on a Samsung Galaxy S9 phone.

Falling In Love With Bivalves

A long time ago I had some very bad mussels dish at a fancy seafood restaurant which was the reason I never touched certain bivalves. Clams where the only thing I would eat with a shell in this department. This all changed when I toured the Penn Cove Mussel Farm on Whidbey Island and Taylor’s Shellfish Farm in Bow. Not only did I get to sample fresh mussels, clams, and oysters, but I learned more about how each farm raises them in the most sustainable ways possible. I even was able to see a geoduck up close, something very few of us are afford in a restaurant.

Penn Cove Shellfish Mussel Farms

To get to the mussel beds out in Penn Cove, I had to board a boat at the old Coupeville Wharf. This is the famous wharf everyone has to take a picture of for social media, and on this morning, the wharf had a coastal seaport asleep vibe waiting to be awoken by the sun.

DSC00353Once in the boat, I sported the most stylish bright orange life vest and off towards the mussel beds we went. Once in the area, we saw mussel beds loaded down into the water with harbor seals lounging on top looking very happy. Most of the beds at the time had small mussels growing, but a few of the beds were big enough to harvest. It takes about a year for a mussel to grow the size for harvesting.

DSC00334DSC00311IMG_3299DSC00331Penn Cove Shellfish Mussel Farms grows more of a native mussel to the Pacific Coast-Penn Cove, but they also grow Mediterranean Mussels as well. The mussels are grown mostly in their Penn Cove location, but they also grow other shellfish like clams and oysters at their other location in Willapa Bay.

DSC00341After the tour was finished, our group received a 15lb bag of mussels to bring back to share with our friends.

DSC00395Interesting fact: mussels are more popular in Belgium, Netherlands, and other landlocked German-Franco countries. The first mussel farm on the west coast of the US was established in the 1970s and is Penn Cove Shellfish Farm.

Taylor Shellfish Farms

DSC00589When you hear Taylor Shellfish Farms, you may think of the Oyster Bars popping up all over the Seattle -Bellevue area of recent. But the real treat is to visit the location of the farm itself off Chuckanut Drive in Bow. Here you can have a taste of oysters while enjoying the view of the oyster growing beds and seeing first hand how those oysters are harvested.

DSC00593Here I tasted the different types of oysters grown and got an up close look at a delectably, the goeduck which goes for $70 lb which translates into $80-100+ at a seafood restaurant! I really wanted to try a small piece just to see why people want to eat this, but only if you buy one.

DSC00608DSC00611What does a person do with a geoduck? This even sparked some… let’s say.. inappropriate jokes regarding what a goeduck looks like. Even a shirt being sold in the market store played on this inappropriate joke. Pacific Northwest native the geoduck is known as “the good time clam.” Yep, I typed that!

IMG_3660IMG_3671The famous oyster shells are spread all over the ground outside which goes to show how close from tide to table really is.

Overall, I do believe I will be eating more bivalves in the future. Spending a whole day touring both shellfish farms was a treat, by had the opportunity to see how sustainable shellfish farming is and how it contributes to a healthy environment in our water ways, all the while eating homegrown shellfish in the process.