Stumperies – Beautiful Horrors

Summer Stumpery 2020
My summer stumpery

“Quell’orror bello che attristando piace”  – that beautiful horror which delights while it saddens (Italian poet Ippolito Pindemonte)

Stumpery. First time I heard the word was one of those finger-snap moments, a cerebral light bulb thing.

St. Louis Botanic Garden
New stumpery at the St. Louis Botanic Garden

I mean, who’da thought it was a thing? I mean, we’ve been doing it all along, right?

But here I am, nearly thirty years later, actually standing in the oldest stumpery in the world, and thinking about how to enlarge my own backyard collection of tree trunks, stumps, and gnarly limbs (and how my kids will have a hell of a time dismantling or burning it all down when I’m gone). Continue reading “Stumperies – Beautiful Horrors”

Silence Personified

Señor Misterioso is silence personified.

Señor Misterioso Examining the Pomelos
Señor Misterioso Examining the Pomelos

With clasped hands and half-hidden smile, his stoic, contemplative, non-judgmental demeanor is immutable, whether checking out seasonal pomelos at the local market, or communing eye-to-eye – at a safe distance, of course – with an ancient garden gnome whose eerily-unchanging mute smile is as enigmatic as the Señor’s taciturn regard.

Communing with Gnome
Communing with Gnome

Only thing breaking the silence is a sigh, which may just be the soft susurrus of a breeze wafting through the thyme.

(For a little background on Señor Misterioso click here)


An authentic old Mississippi whiskey still in my garden has weathered beautifully with its copper patina

Patina on Authentic Copper Mississippi Whiskey Still
Patina on Authentic Copper Mississippi Whiskey Still


This old wooden swing has seen its better evenings…

Weathered Old Swing
Weathered Old Swing

Señor Misterioso

Senor Misterioso
Inscrutable Expression

NOBODY really knows who he is. Or much of anything about him, other than the whispered rumors that the Dos Equis guy – who is said to be the “most interesting man in the world” – wants him dead. Don’t know why he wears such an impeccably-tailored glow-in-the-dark suit and fedora. And even less is known about the even more enigmatic Senorita Misterioso – his sister perhaps?

I first found him alone on the second shelf of a dusty VooDoo shop hidden on a side street of New Orleans (true story). For years he stood on the dash above the steering wheel of my antique truck; one stormy night his glow-in-the-dark ability helped comfort and guide me and Dr. Dirt through a Texas deluge so heavy we couldn’t see the edge of the pavement.

When the old truck was temporarily stolen, he disappeared for awhile, along with our dashboard hula girl (a ceramic beauty I rescued from an antique shop in Hawai’i). They have made it back, and while she gyrates around America in the truck, he travels the world with me, occasionally coming out from his special pouch of my canvas murse.

Senor Misterioso in Felder's hand
Pocket Size and All-Weather

With clasped hands and half-hidden smile, his stoic, contemplative, non-judgmental demeanor is immutable.

Oh – and have I mentioned that he glows eerily in the dark?

Other than claiming somewhat cheekily that “I’ve got Señor Misterioso in my pocket – at least for now” there’s really nothing more to say. Either you get it, or you don’t.

Scroll over these images to see where the iconic man has been sighted.





Cavern Club, Liverpool, where the Beatles performed over 300 times



Blackpool Tower
Blackpool Tower


Soaking in a beer reputed to be one of the world’s best in the Czech Republic


Southernmost Point in the US - 90 miles from Cuba
Southernmost Point in the US – 90 Miles from Cuba

ADDENDUM: Turns out, as I discovered after an alert follower shared a possible connection, that Señor Misterioso is actually based on a revered Venezuelan physician and popular folk figure, Dr. José Gregorio Hernández, who died in 1919 and  has been venerated by the Catholic church (and considered a candidate for sainthood. Striking resemblance, and there are many small statues of Dr. Hernández – including this small one –  which pretty much nails him as the original inspiration for Señor Misterioso…

Statue of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández
Miniature statue of Dr. José Gregorio Hernández

Swinging Garden Saints

Feel a little oddly uneasy on your garden swing? There’s a saint who may offer comfort.

There are some quirky saints, to be sure, patrons of every imaginable profession or situation, from farming to protecting beekeepers, even keeping ants out of the house. But some are peculiarly suited for gardeners.

One of my favorite garden sculptures is my three-foot concrete statue of a saint – not Francis, the environmental/wildlife guy with the bird on one hand, but St. Fiacre, the most popular and official patron saint of gardeners.

St. Fiacre in Felder's garden
St. Fiacre in Felder’s garden

St. Fiacre is said to have sailed from Ireland to France looking for a quiet place where he could devote himself to God. An obliging bishop offered him as much land as he could turn up in a day,  and clever Fiacre, instead actually plowing the expected small plot, used his wood staff to dig a row all the way around and enclosing a larger area. His garden became a hospice from which he shared his vegetables, herbs, and flowers with travelers, some of whom claimed he performed miracles. He is now recognized as the patron saint of gardeners – and, by the way, of Paris cab drivers, whose taxis are called fiacres – because the earliest commercial rides-for-hire in Paris originated near the hotel Saint-Fiacre. Continue reading “Swinging Garden Saints”

Bark Side of the Wood

In spite of my laid-back approach, sometimes I think I notice little details that don’t bother other gardeners. But have you ever run across a wood deck barefoot, or sat on a wood bench, and got splinters? You can blame whoever put the boards on in the first place.

Not bogging down in all the details, ’cause it’s eye-rolling even to this retired scientist. But in general if you live in a warm, moist climate like mine, wood won’t last long without rotting, and before that happens the boards will probably  cup or form raised edges and begin to splinter.

Which way you lay a board can make a difference between smooth and safe, or a butt full of splinters. Continue reading “Bark Side of the Wood”

Fastest Garden on Earth

Moving Pollinator Garden
Moving Pollinator Garden

For the past thirty years – since my now-grown son was still in a child restraint seat – my old antique pickup truck has had a diminutive but productive potager garden overstuffed with flowers, herbs, and vegetables. That’s right, the working truck has a working garden in the back!

Truck Garden in Mid-Summer
Truck Garden in Mid-Summer

I started it out from frustration with one too many people whining about not having a place to garden. Thinking “What’d be the hardest place, the acid test, to give it a go?” I decided to try it in the back of my pickup truck.

Continue reading “Fastest Garden on Earth”

Felder Afield – Western Africa

When fellow board members of the American Horticulture Society approved a venture in which American students would share school gardening projects with those from other countries, I packed my man-purse with seeds, grabbed my worn-out passport, and headed to the airport. First stop: Ghana, West Africa.

Long Story Short: The project involved growing vegetables in portable, water-saving EARTHBOX® which had been donated for the project. Participants shared experiences and results online.

Earth Box demonstration
Earth Box demonstration

My job: Make sure the crops were grow-able by young students – in both countries. Continue reading “Felder Afield – Western Africa”

ORIGINAL Reason for the Season

Not saying anything about anything anyone believes or not…

Felder's Winter Solstice at Stonehenge
Felder’s Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

…but WAY before church leaders – both ancient and modern – deliberately started putting their own holy days onto the existing festivals of others (look up syncretism), people noticed and rejoiced on the day the sunshine started coming back…

Regardless of your own beliefs, it’s a good day to celebrate – hope the new sunrise brings you good cheer and comfort through the next year!