Butterfly Gardening

  Butterfly Gardening. The North Carolina Arboretum in Asheville has 434 acres, with over 10 miles of trails winding through forests. I especially enjoy the 65 acres cultivated as assorted gardens, including the delightful quilt garden. This has been planted for over 20 years based on the quilting pattern known as tessellation, where simple shapes […]



Eternal Lotus

  Social media is full of images from fabulous European vacations. Though a tempting travel destination, I saved time and money by visiting a vicarious version of it much closer to home. The Biltmore estate in Asheville was designed after Renaissance chateaus of France, and the elegant gardens and grounds are definitely worthy of a […]

Not Bored on the Boardwalk

  When coming back from Cuba last month I was flying through Miami and decided to delay my return home to explore the Everglades. I was last there when I was a kid, and then it just seemed a hot and buggy place. I wanted to return now so I could truly appreciate its unique […]



Farewell Fur Friend

Siggy came to me at one and a half, not quite a puppy, but not quite a dog. In a strange way he seemed to stay this way all the time I knew him, wise beyond years but with a youthful exuberance for life. Though incredibly photogenic he didn’t like having his picture taken, and […]

Living Fossils

    Cycads are the oldest insect pollinated plants. The Jurassic is known as the age of the cycads, when these then well established plants were a major part of the dinosaur diet. In spite of the ancient origin of their ancestors, most of the modern species are only 12 million years old, when there […]



Dinosaur Den

I’ve just returned from Cuba, a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years. After a full passport followed by an empty one, this island nation kicked off my return to exotic travel. I was fascinated by the vibrant urban life of cities like Havana, and also by the more remote natural areas. One of […]

Glass Garden

  Seattle Center was built for the 1962 World’s Fair. When I left Seattle the area below the Space Needle was the run down Fun Forest amusement park. What has sprung up in its place is an equally fun forest, without the rides. The glass artist Dale Chihuly collaborated with architects and gardeners to bring […]



Deer Diner

  At just under a mile high, Hurricane Ridge experiences both the strong winds it is named for and the possibility of snow pretty much any time of year. Looking closely, the rock that forms the Olympic Mountains developed under the sea, with marine fossils on top of the peaks. I lived in Washington for […]

Fresh Forest

I am currently in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for my second visit this month. I have been here on and off the past couple weeks, with highly intermittent Internet access. After becoming used to the lack of Instagram and email, I am enjoying being immersed in the moment in a way I rarely […]



Abundant Azaleas

I am named for my father’s sister, Ruth Happel Smiley, who for most of her life worked on the gardens at Mohonk Mountain House in upstate NY. I am very much her namesake, as her love of gardening, nature and photography inspired my own interests. However, I don’t have the luxury of gardening for a […]