Paradise Valley

John La Farge, Paradise Valley

John La Farge (1835 – 1910)  –This is a link to the blog of the very kind person who nominated the Secret Gardener for the Versatile Blogger Award.
I don’t fully understand what it is, but I was incredibly encouraged and sort of proud to be mentioned in lists made by other nominees whose blogs are wonderful, so it’s exciting to be included in such a worthy group. Also a bit excruciating because–as the form my blog takes probably makes clear–I avoid using my own words whenever possible. I have put off responding publicly as long as I could by entreating my correspondent to lay out the rules, the requirements, the whys & wherefores, the intentions, the history–and whatever else I could think might guide me narrowly & directly into the correct approach to my responsibilities as a nominee—but was left to the basics I’d already come across, and the common sense that I ought to have tucked away somewhere. I’ll reveal to ‘intergenerational’  seven probably pretty unamusing things about my unremarkable self – but what I really wish I knew how to do effectively is present 15 deserving blogs to SG readers, and I’m afraid I will simply emphasize the circular nature of this process, because the blogs I read are the ones which have appeared somewhere along the line (my links, for instance) already;  because we have interests in common, because I admire them, and because they have been recognized more widely. However:

I have to begin with one -having to do with gardening only if you want to get mired in metaphors about cultivating the soul, and I am not accustomed to discussing the soul. But if I believed I had one–I’d want to learn to cultivate it so that it bloomed like hers:

For the beauty I need, but here applied in service of the scholarship I envy (but am too undisciplined to acquire)– a really exhilarating combination– and for their ability to clarify & put into context the accumulated information; enormously edifying & satisfying:

For the thrilling sense of somehow being in the midst of the art-creation process:

To tell the truth -it isn’t the blog at all, but the radio show that I love. But as a doorway:

Interiors–the paintings I always want to enter. And the books I found by chance in libraries and reveled in all alone–wondering why I’d never heard the authors’ names.
Turns out there’s someone in London who’s been putting them together for years now:

Pictures. Color: Delicious. – Lovely talk about it: More delicious:

How to really, truly get things done in the garden–the right way.

And what bliss is this? Thanks to Streets of Salem blogroll I was introduced to someone whose studies encompass current passions– the 17th century, early science, philosophy–and the original and enduring love- literature:

The miracle &  marvels of the brain:

A geologist/ environmental scientist/ teacher, and someone clever enough to live in a spectacularly beautiful spot on this earth,
unpacks, unfolds, and spreads in front of us each day of the voyage of The Beagle as recorded by Darwin–in real time:

And, because if you are a woman –or even a half-decent human being– she is on your side:

This has been hard. And I’m not much out and about–not even virtually.
So I am going to reserve one spot for another discovery; perhaps it will prompt one.

Thanks to all of you for existing – in such a realm as this might be,
and for acknowledging the existence of the Secret Gardener–such as it is.

Steal Into the Pleached Bower

Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (1794 – 1872)

Chickens, thrushes, pigeons and parrots have all been shown to be sensitive to various illusions, and–lacking the peacock’s tail–males of many species display themselves to females at a particular angle and distance with deliberate intention, because–for instance–the females may prefer males with larger coloured patches on their bodies.

Male Great bowerbirds spend many months building true marvels of complex architecture which consist of a thatched twig tunnel forming an avenue approximately half a metre long, opening out onto a court whose floor is covered with bones, shells and stones.
When a potential mate steps into the avenue, the male stands in the court just by the avenue’s exit, displaying to her the colourful flotsam and jetsam he has collected, one piece after the other.

They are  magicians – the bowers they build are like a house of illusions, with visual tricks that manipulate females’ perceptions.
The objects covering the floor of the court are arranged so that they increase in size as the distance from the bower increases. Thus, when the female is standing in the avenue all of the objects in the court appear to be the same size from her point of view, so she may perceive the court as being smaller than it actually is, and the male to be bigger.

Scientists reversed the objects by placing the larger objects closest to the bower and the smaller ones further away, and found that the birds corrected the  disarray very quickly.
In all cases the pattern was almost identical to the original within two weeks.

The birds go to great lengths examining their work and rearranging objects to make the pattern as even as possible.
“Males spend most of their time on the bower going into the avenue and looking out, then moving objects, going back into the avenue, and so on. They sometimes fix the twigs in the walls, too.”

During his courtship display, the male waves his treasures towards the female, causing their apparent size to increase.
The more time a female spends in a bower, the more likely she is to mate with its builder so holding her attention longer is important.
After carefully constructing a twig avenue on the forest floor; the Satin bowerbird chooses decorations, arranging them around the sunny northern entrance.
He favors blue, but may use yellowish-green ornaments, like the female’s plumage.
If anything outside his color scheme (such as a white flower) falls onto the bower, he’ll quickly remove it.

The male bowerbird is one of the few birds known to use tools. He forms soft bark or other plant fiber into a sponge to absorb a mixture of saliva and bushfire charcoal, holding the sponge in his bill to daub the bower’s inner walls. He also paints the twigs by rubbing them with the juice of pulped blueberries.

The Vogelkop gardener bowerbird of New Guinea builds an astonishing courting place — a hut up to 5′ wide with a moss front garden on which he arranges flowers and fruits. MacGregor’s bowerbird builds a 2′-high twig maypole ringed by a circular dance floor because the brightly colored male dances around his bower to entice a female to enter.

Rival males steal trinkets from an unguarded bower and may even demolish it if the owner doesn’t return in time.
The bowerbird is an accomplished mimic whose repertoire has been known to include the mew of a cat.

All male bowerbirds decorate their bowers lavishly with flower petals and sparkly manmade trash: plastic bottle caps, straws, paper, jewelry, teaspoons …

Chief threats to the bowerbird’s future are forest clearance and shooting by fruit growers, which has led to extermination in some areas.


Reference: Kelley, L. A & Endler, J. A. (2012). Illusions Promote Mating Success in Great Bowerbirds. Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.121