Category Archives: travel

Posts which describe or depict many journeys around the world.

Covid Autumn 2021

It is almost the end of October. The pandemic is still very much with us, and in spite of the expected anxieties, life must go on. The last three months have been unsettling as the rules of the UK pandemic has been eased with mixed results, some fearful and yet others manageable. Even now, well organized trips to the continent has offered a very difficult way of travelling. And yet it was very necessary to fulfil these journeys to remind us of how our need to survive fits in to the current landscape. I think after these two three day break in Europe, first to France and then to Spain worked well; now I am ready for the international trip. That should be challenging and yet very well worth the experience. In the meantime let us enjoy the rest of the autumn, and hope the winter is bearable.

The arrival of the vaccine and the ultimate debate of its significance took me by surprise. Even though I expected a few refuseniks ( people who were convinced that the jab was no use to them for numerous reasons), I was more than surprised by the number of people who objected.. For the rest of us it was seen as a much needed strike against Covid virus, which was definitely need urgently. Its impact has already been felt across the world, and yet the debate continues by some on why it is needed. Some of it leaves me quite sad as I see that events to follow will eventually be accompanied by lost of life.

The obvious conflict of the pandemic appear to be how best to prevent the spread of the dreaded virus, and in many instaces how to utilise our resources to keep people alive. The many lockdowns caused not only anxieties, but also demonstrations expressing surprising emotions and intent. Although most developed ccountries have had some of their double dose, poorer countries are still struggling to get even the first dose. This reminds you that whatever the so-called intentions of wealthier world, they are still fallling short. And lots of people are still suffering. The big question is when will it all end. That is difficult to decipher at the moment, as each day appear to introduce a new set of problems and you are left wondering when. The only joy of the last year is that I have had no contact with the Covid-19 virus whatsoever, and that has made my life free of fears and anxieties.

Winston James

A Park in Nice in the south of France.

Introducing YouTube

Making YouTube videos should make you conscious about the image you project, but sometimes you casually come up with a topic and resist the temptation to take the ideas much more seriously. Recently I had a look at the thumbnails I produce for my videos and thought they are not very good as they rarely encourage subscribers to run to my videos. Here are a few.

The general problem they look too similar and do not carry much individual characteristics I believe that distinguish them enough to to immediately attract. I should work on some new ideas. Winston

Arizona in Photos

At that this time of the month for the last few years I have always travelled to the state of Arizona. This year will be an exception as the current situation with the pandemic has literally ended all my travel intention. I thought therefore I will reflect via some photos on the areas I have visited in the last few years.

Sierra Ancha is a mountain range in Gila county in central Arizona. It now has improved roads which makes it easier to penetrate, and visit the many archaeological remains which exist.

Arizona for me is still the land of Agaves with many other succulents thrown in to the characteristic xeric landscape.

I love the succulents and I love them when the flowers are in bloom.

And it is important to remember this is the state of wonderful saguaros.

Plant Nurseries are numerous which means that if you are looking for seedlings and young specimens, you will find lots of them in Tucson and in Phoenix.

And there are the cities with active people.

Winston James in a cold wet London

Greenhouse Flowers

The last three months have been not surprisingly being very tense, and full with drama. Wherever we are, few of us could escape the events fueled by Covid 19, and yet for me the only activity that I managed to pursue with some kind of vengeance during that time, was gardening. This way, I organised to keep the bad news in check, and often was able many times to smugly admit I was having a great time. The failure of our government to test, track and trace successfully, did depress me, but I soon accepted this scenario had become commonplace among quite a few other leaders in Europe.

Gardening for me comes in three parts; the regular gardening which most people do … placing plants in the ground only happens in a very small scale as my back yard has to accommodate my three greenhouses in which I grow my pseudo tropical plants. Therefore a lot of my time is spent juggling pots in and out of the greenhouses, often dictated by the daily changes of the weather. The third part of my plant existence is to facilitate the selling of my succulents on my Ebay account . This is not always easy to manage, but since I do make a kind of living from it I believe I should not complain. Plant activity was far more evident around London, in spite of the emotional stress caused by the lock down and social distancing, and I am sure it went a long way to ease some of the pain. For me it was the perfect therapy for my survival for the last few months.

Here is a combination of flowers which appeared in my greenhouse in the last three months. Almost all of these plants are grown in pots, making the task quite easy to swap and change.

Epicactus(Epiphyllum) is a must in a greenhouse
Opuntia flowers appear in many shades
Parodia magnifica
Parodia species
Aporocactus species
Oroya peruviana
Opuntia flower
Euphorbia flanaganii
Sarracenia flava
Aporocactus flagelliformis
Echinicereus species
Pereskia grandifolia
the Greenhouse

Cylindropuntia spinosior
the Greenhouse

Succulents Collage

This is a very different approach to posting photos which I would love to get online. Grab a few photos at a time and within an instance you will have many multi-images. Well that is the theory, and we are going to put it to the test.

Aloe striata
Agave ovatifolia
Aeonium arboreum
Euphorbia resinifera (center)
Aghave horrida
Agave ovatifolia – End of the Road
Euphorbia trucalli
Aloe ‘Kujo’

Please enjoy my different approach in presenting this Succulent Collection. The challenge for you is to indentify them all. I will add a few more names when time permits. Most of the photos were taken in the Los Angeles area, at the LA Arboretum, The Huntington Gardens and at a few of the parks.

Winston James

Chasing Agaves 7000 Feet Up Mount Lemmon

Mount Lemmon, with an elevation of 9000 feet, is stuated in the Santa Catalina Mountains. It is located in the Coronado Natural Forest, north of Tucson, Arizona. To get to the the Agaves you can drive some of the way to a base point, and once parked there is a very obvious trail to follow up the mountain side. Following a circuitous trail for an hour you should have your first glimpse of the Agave parryi species at around 7000 feet, delicately perched on ridges, and encircled often by oversized rocks. There weren’t many of them, but more than enough to make the journey worthwhile.

Base Point: The start of the Trail
The V iew at around 7000 feet
Agave parryi var parryi

Mount Lemmon was named for the botanist Sara Plummer Lemmon who trekked to the top of the mountain with her husband. In the winter there is a Mount Lemmon Ski Valley on the northeastern side, which receives around 200 inches of snow.

Summer Greenhouse

It is almost the end of August and it is the time that I review my plant collection with an eye of getting ready for the autumn. Here in the UK the summer has been mixed, definitely not as warm as last yea. But surprisingly though the last few days have been very hot. Yet I have been able to keep with the usual chores of propagation and re-potting, and at the same time attending my ‘kaowinston’ Ebay site where I still insist on selling some of the extra plants which I do not need . This posting will offer you a surface look at my plant life activities this summer. But as always it is best to start with the accents of color which usually in special moments deffy my expectations.

Propagation is for me the very fun elelment of growing plants. Even if your motivations are not intented to the market forces, it does allow you to assist nature in maintaing some kind of order. Growing plant from seeds can be pleasurable even when you come up with unexpected results. Try roooting cuttings and rhizomes and you will soon learn this although offering you a different challenge, can also be very rewarding.

Species of Pereskia were very conspicuous the last three months. Not only were later to wake up after winter dormancy, some managed the impossible and unexpecteed feat of producing lovely flowers.

The greenhouse serves its purpose during the colder months, and although in the summer months you need to monitor its warmer temperature. Even then it can be quite useful.

Check out some more of the plants I grow in this video.

Ten Aloes For You to Grow

For some, Aloes are far away plants, and that means southern Africa. For others, aloes mean Aloe Vera, the most popular aloe plant around the world. For me, aloes are plants I grow, and plants which offer me a gateway to understanding a significant species collection of our succulent family.

The title is the name of a video which I have on YouTube, but for the purpose of this blog I will offer a different justification for my chosen ten. Obviously, like most plants, aloes come in many sizes and although most species will be selected for their aesthetic considerations, there are other limitations to what we all can manage. I shall split my collection into three groups based on size, from petite to large, and that should allow any specie newcomers a very different vantage point from which to start.

You may be asking what is a small aloe. To me, in this particular survey, any plant where the main stems are below one foot as in A sinkatana, A bellatula, and the numeous diminutive hybrid aloes which are gaining in popularity. Of course, I exclude the flower spikes which can be quite arbitrary, and sometimes much longer than the actual stems. The large aloes are the tree aloes, as in A trashkii, A marlothii and A excelsa, which usually grow above five foot tall and which are perfect specimens in any landscape setting. I deliberately avoided naming the center group preferring to fit four species in between the small group and the large tree specimens. Not surprisingly, there are lots to choose from, and my aim is to avoid popular names.

Are Aloes worth growing? Definitely yes, and I would add they present you with an incredible choice. In fact seeking out new plants to grow offer you an education, as you will find lots of uncommon species readily available. Even if you are are unsatisfied with what comes up, you may also go the longer route by growing from seeds. Either way, the experience earned is truly rewarding.

SMALL ALOES Aloe bellatula Aloe sinkatana Aloe cv ‘Christmas Carol’

MIDDLE SIZE ALOES: Aloe suzanne Aloe camperi Aloe elgonica Aloe vanbalenii

LARGE ALOES: Aloe speciosa Aloe marlothii Aloe barberae

Now that you have seen my final ten, I should offer that even in a temperate London climate, I am able to grow all of these. Of course you have to be selective at the start, but I will place a lot of emphasis on the right soil and genuine protection from the weather elements. If you choose to winter your plants outdoors you will need a kind of greenhouse protection, but a practical alternative is to do like me and move them to a cool basement with a few fluorescent bulbs. And that works adequately for what I need.


BROMELIADS: Understanding Dyckia

Bromeliads need no introduction as plants species go, and this is because they are admirably attractive, absolutely well known,  and are grown all over the world. The fact that most of them are native to Brazil, South and Central America gives them the perfect tropical fit which suggests when growing, that these plants will  flourish without even the simplest effort.  A recent survey of mine suggest that in spite of their popularity, not all bromeliads are equal.  With over fifty one genera and over three thousand species people are spoiled for choice.  But finally when they do choose, many species of plants are left out.  This is my experience when recently I tried, after reading an article on Dyckia , to acquire a group of plants.

I had assumed that it would be quite easy to visit my garden center, and collect a few.  That was not the reality. Yes,  my local garden center did have samples of bromeliads, but Dyckia was not among them. A much more detailed search offered an obvious explanation, attractive decorative bromeliads were always available, but fearful spiny species were not so, and they needed a much more thorough search.  Eventually I was able to find a small collection of plants, which offered me the the introduction to the genus I was hoping for.  For your information, there are over 150 species of Dyckia, and they are endemic to the arid and high altitude regions of Brazil and central South America. They belong to the Bromeliaceae sub-family, Pitcairnioideae. The genus is named after a Prussian botanist, The Prince and Earl of Salm Reifferscheid-Dyck (1773–1861).


This is the first Dyckia that I bought three years ago, long before I had any interest in the genus.  Dyckia marnier-lapostellei is a very attractive specie with a beautiful colour.  I bought in Italy while on a visit to the continent.  Below is a another dyckia, a hybrid of unknown origin, and another plant which I like.


Dyckia ‘Silver Spurs’


This is Dyckia platyphylla and is one of the few species I am familiar with, and I find that it grows quite easily.   Below are some identified species at the Jardim Botanico in Rio de Janeiro.  This Botanical Garden offers a wealth of experience for novices like me.



Below four close-up photo images of some of my plants.



My short experience with Dyckia tells me that hybridising is an important part of the Bromeliad business. Yet I feel it would be wise to get much more acquainted with the species before I chase many of the other complicated hybrids. plants.  I am also trying to grow some from seeds, which is not going all that well. This means that after a few weeks there is no sign of life.  We will see what will happen in the long term.