The flowers in my vase this week are Cattleya Orchids, from a plant gifted to me several years ago by my neighbor. I have been watching this plant for years, moved it around in the garden – nothing. Finally – three buds appeared, weeks ago. I watched, waited and watched some more, not a sign of opening. Just big, juicy buds displaying a tasty reticence. I occasionally had to chase some leering grasshopper away. Sigh, more waiting.
After a rough couple of weeks, my husband and I decided we needed a change of scene and took a few days to walk on the beach and rest. We packed up Alan the Greyhound and some coolers and headed to a lovely semi deserted beach miles from home.
Of course, I checked the Orchids just prior to leaving and one bud was opening! Sigh, again. Hoping I wouldn’t miss the show, off we went. The picture is sunrise on North Hutchison Island, Florida.
Deciding to cut the flowers was easy, I have two more buds and these were browning on the edges a bit. I’ll enjoy them in the house as long as they last. The vases (three again) were another story. Seeking a simple container for these complex flowers; I decided they needed a backdrop of a big tropical leaf (Seagrapes – Coccoloba uvifera). For vases, I started with a rose teapot, then went to the black vase, then the glass vases.
No leering grasshoppers in my house, but I did bring in a little bee.
Gardenias always remind me of corsages. My mother, for some inexplicable reason, wanted a Gardenia wrist corsage when I married-unfortunately, it was April and no Gardenias could be found. She settled for Orchids. Non wrist at that.
These are Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divericata). The fragrance is not as strong as Gardenia jasminoides, but similar. This particular one is about 10 feet tall and I have been slowly reclaiming it from the blob of plant material that separates me from my favorite neighbor. The blob is a professional term I learned while in design school at The University of Georgia. One of my professors is probably feeling a really bad vibe right about now.
My favorite neighbor also shared her big white Cattleya Orchid with me. Never one to struggle with convention, I installed it on a tomato cage hoping for an Orchid tower in the garden outside my Living Room window. I have been rewarded with three huge buds and am hoping for another corsage ready vase next week. Wrist band optional.
Sunday in my neck of the woods began stormy and transitioned into a cool, overcast day (high of 80 degrees F) My husband and I sat on our screened porch for the first time in months. Fall is elusive in South Florida and sometimes the flowers speak for the season. Chapman’s Goldenrod is flowering in my garden, an indestructible and polite native wildflower that reminds me of much more Autumnal months spent further north. Our weather is not reliably cooler until mid October, so this first whisper of Fall was a welcome respite from the usual steamy late summer temperatures.
The Chapman’s Goldenrod (Solidago odora ‘Chapmanii’.) is the yellow flower in the middle of the arrangement. Here is a link to More about Chapman’s Goldenrod .
Clockwise from the Goldenrod, in red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); a sprig of Blueberry Flax Lily (Dianella); The orange tubes are Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens);white buds from a Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana divericata); Daisy mixture is Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) and Gallardia pulchella. The far left side of the arrangement has a Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana); the background plants are Wireweed (in white); and a bit of Dwarf Pineapple foliage (the spear).
For an arrangement in a vintage Dansk candleholder- there is a lot stuffed in there. Initially, I decided to try a hand tied bouquet (which I do not know how to do) gave up on that, kept adding flowers, changed vases three times and ended up here.
Listening for more whispers of Fall.
Many gardens sport a Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana). Native to a large portion of the Eastern United States, the promise of lurid purple berries is hard to resist. Add to that the buzzing of native pollinators around the flowers in the form of rare Atala butterflies in my garden and the natural mosquito repellants in the leaves of the Beautyberry, these shrubs are a must have in my garden. I was surprised to see the Atala butterflies sipping the flower nectar.
Continuing with the purple theme, I added foliage and flowers from Purpleheart (Setcresea); accenting with a few white flowers and dark green foliage from the Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana divericata) and a few stems of the chartruese little black dress of the garden – Alabama Sunset Coleus.
Voila, the beauty of Beautyberries and a welcome sign of summer winding down in my garden.
The garage sale Bromeliads continue to amaze me. The red flowers are from Aechmea miniata, a Bromeliad I stumbled upon at a garage sale a few years ago. Five bucks is my limit for a plant unknown to me, as this one was when I found it. Bromeliads tend to run anywhere from 12 dollars for a small unnamed mystery plant at the Big Box stores to $100 and up for a named, big, lush specimen. The problem with these named, expensive plants is generally no one can tell you where they will grow “move them around til you find a place it likes” or “I think it flowers”. I am too frugal for this sort of nonsense and think if a plant is sold for prices like that you should get some reasonable directions. Or at least knowledge of whether it flowers. More Florida gardening nonsense. The market here demands nothing.
I have been trying to decide if the flowers look more like trees or broccoli. Neither, really. The flowers are crunchy and last about two weeks in a vase. The green swirling fern is a cutting of Asparagus Fern I twirled around the base of the Miniatas.
The Miniatas are flowering madly and have been for a month or so. The tree that shades them got a fairly major pruning after Hurricane Irma last year. The normal olive colored foliage has burned from the sun (or lack of rain) but has been bravely sending up flower after flower. Time will tell what happens next should be interesting, the other Garage Sale Bromeliads are producing pups – I should have hundreds of dollars worth of Bromeliads shortly. Unfortunately, I hate having garage sales.
Sad news from my garden this week. I lost my sweetest, spotted Greyhound to bone cancer on Friday. Farewell, faithful Charles.
I am embarking on my sixth year of gardening in South Florida. What a ride. As always, I am amazed by what will grow in infertile beach sand. My summer favorites have changed with my gardening location. I used to love Hydrangeas, Roses and Clematis. Now I am loving the contents of this vase and more…
The smorgasboard of plant material that grows in South Florida continues to boggle my mind. I love Bromeliads and there are 200,000 varieties! Mind boggling. My garden is on the northern end of tropical, so the trick of siting the plant and maintaining a proper environment has been a challenge. Then, there’s always the native plants to consider.
So, my new favorites are a little bit of everything.
The white flower is a Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana divericata) – not a true Gardenia, mine was rescued from the underbrush and is now recovering at 8 – 10 feet tall, I continue to prune the jungly interlopers.
The red flowers with blue tips are Miniata Bromeliads, Aechmea is the genus, I think – then again there are 200,000 others?!
The pink and red Salvia are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) – a reseeding native perennial that never dies but doesn’t look very good unless it is raining.
The foliage. Well, Asian Sword Fern is hard to beat in an arrangement and the garden. Considered invasive, it would take a bulldozer to remove it from my garden. Finally, the striped foliage, the indestructible New Zealand Flax (Dianella) if only there was a dwarf variety…. It would be my new favorite.
I was going to call this post swanning around, but there are way too many interpretations of that term to have it in a title. Mind boggling how many ways a saying can be taken from sexual to merely showing off.
The late summer daisies are showing off – in yellow, Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) the red ones are Gallardias (Gallardia pulcherra). The white flowers are Bridal Bouquet Plumeria (in full glory) and Sweet Almond Bush (Aloysia virgata) backed up by a few Asian Sword Ferns.
The Green Swan is actually a candy dish I inherited from my mother. She was a collector of swans and loved to say ‘Why, I’ll Swanee’ – the polite Southern lady version of I swear.