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      Text and photographs are © by Ellen Spector Platt & Ellen Zachos, all rights reserved.

      Monday, October 29, 2012


      Walking in the desert near Tucson AZ, each time I clicked my camera I imagined the collage that I would make when I got home. Here it is and here's how I did it. (click on any image to enlarge)
      If you scroll down to the post just below this one, you'll recognize many images that I printed out on plain paper on my very ordinary home printer. Then I cut away all semblance of sky because I wanted to create that myself in my collage.
      On a desert path I, whose balance is problematic even on a straightaway, was super-aware to watch out for wayward thorns. But in my collage I wanted to exaggerate the prickliness of the cacti so I cut some of my images with spiked edges as seen above.
      Starting with the sky of torn papers, I glued my way down to the first cut image of the hills bathed by evening light. I added a swath of tan, textured paper for the ground,
      then layered the various cacti, smaller near the top of the collage, bigger images layered over them to create an illusion of distance. At the bottom, I cut an image of a huge rock at the Sonoran-Desert Museum and glued on some actual desert soil.  No color manipulation in Photoshop but I took great liberties with relative sizes and placement of the plants. Notice a little yellow sun added to the sky just at the end. Purchase price $275. Contact Ellen Spector Platt.

      Monday, October 22, 2012


      Other Ellen and I went to Tucson AZ last week to a national Garden Writers Symposium, tours of public and private gardens, lectures about the newest plants and newest media, networking.

      I showed my new book, "Artful Collage from Found Objects", in the Trade Show and found  columnists, bloggers, radio and TV hosts who promised to spread my fame, if not fortune. As luck would have it my book has a desert-inspired cover, albeit with dried green foxtail weeds, not cacti.
      Three Tucson garden hosts fed us lemonade made with prickly pear cactus fruit, all made much too sweet for my taste.
      We were too late for bloom in the Sonoran Desert but saw remnants of other fruits like that of the fishhook barrel cactus.

       and the teddybear cholla. (below)
      And as the sun set in the West, Other Ellen and I cut our afternoon lectures and drove with two other writer/photographers to the fabulous Saguaro National Park where we learned that cactus spines not only protect a plant from animals but offer some shade and shield it from drying winds.  The  saguaro cactus, icon of  old Westerns, may be 75 years old before it sprouts an 'arm' and lives 175-200 years.
      When it dies, the woody ribs inside were used by the local Tohono O'odham tribe for building shelters and fences.

      Saturday, October 13, 2012


      What's wrong with this tree?   Nine years ago I planted two in 30" pots, both flowering purple plums, with regular drip irrigation.  Buffeted by winds on the 18th floor roof garden, one lists badly, the tips on both have many bare branches, bloom is now about 80% less than four years ago, and they are generally unattractive.
      Replace or replant? I chose the latter for now, a potential savings of about $500.
      First I drastically pruned the tops with my Fiskars long-handled pruner, my all-time fav gardening tool. Then, a better idea, since the trees were coming out of their pots anyway, I waited a bit to complete the top pruning job. Two strong men from the building staff provided the muscle and a crucial tool, an electric Sawzall. Because these containers have an interior lip the tree can't just be loosened and pulled out. One man loosened some soil with a spade,
      the other ran the saw blade down in the dirt about three inches from the lip,
      then with the muscle in four strong arms and two strong backs laid the tree on
      an old canvas.  I could complete my pruning job easily, cutting both the top of the tree and some of the roots, trying to release other of the roots from the compacted ball.
      A little new soil, less than half a bag and the tree is comfortably back in place, about1/3 smaller than it was before. As a woman of a certain age, notice that I saved the easy jobs for myself.
      And yes I do realize that there are uneven spaces and some unattractive cut off sticks, but always an optimist, I'm thinking that the new spring leaves will hide all that. Time will tell.

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