Funky Florida Flora-Miniata Bromeliad

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Roundabout the Fourth of July the Miniata Bromeliad started to flower. I thought how wonderful and patriotic – sort of red, white and blue. This is a rare find, a smaller reliable flowering Bromeliad that thrives in nearly full shade.

A member of the Aechmea genus, native to Brazil. The foliage is olive with burgundy backsides and not too sharp. The leaves will burn in the sun, especially in the hot midday sun. I cut the Strangler Fig that shades this plant back a little too much and the leaves are complaining by producing burnt spots and edges.

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The flower lasts for weeks and does well cut in vases.

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A. miniata flowers

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In a Vase on Monday The Wrath of Grapes

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I have been dreaming of a stumpery garden for years. I was inspired last week by the Orchids I posted on Wordless Wednesday and realized the booted Sabal Palm in my garden offered the perfect opportunity to add some orchids and ferns to its trunk during the summer for establishment during the rainy season.

The  orchids:

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The booted Sabal Palm (as I remember it)

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The current state of the palm:

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These are our native Muscadine Grapes (Vitis rotundafolia) grown up the palm from my neighbor’s fence in a period of six months or so. This happened while I wasn’t looking. Welcome to Florida. My only excuse is I am not as tall as the vines and didn’t look up. Sigh.

The wrath of grapes. The grapes are pretty, but inedible (big seeds with bitter flesh). I decide to cut some for an arrangement.

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The brown pods and green ferny leaves are from Senna ligustrina, a native butterfly plant; the chartreuse foliage is from ‘Alabama Sunset’ Coleus; white flowers are Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana diviricata) and with the yellow eye, Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica). I can’t resist the fragrance, especially with the sour grapes.

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In A Vase on Monday – A Southern Classic

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In college, I took a class about perennials and designing perennial gardens. The teacher was Bob Hill, he has a Siberian Iris named for him – a deep purple. He was a true Southern plantsman and longtime professor, teaching Planting Design and Plant Identification. My guess is, by the time I took his class, Mr. Hill, in his 50s, had one too many smarty pants student say something annoying. He did not suffer fools gladly and you did not want to be the fool. A good teacher, if you listened. I was lucky to have the perennials course, it was rarely taught and I sincerely doubt the powers that be would even consider such a course nowadays. God knows you don’t want to teach Landscape Architects how to landscape anything. I’ll stop there and save my opinion about Landscape Architecture schools for another time.

Here is the point! We were taught the correct color scheme for a summer perennial garden is cool blue, pale and lemon yellows and pure white. This was supposed to be cooling and soothing in the summer heat. White gardens were brought up as a possible alternative and one wasn’t supposed to use hot colors until the fall and then pastels in spring. I suspect Bob Hill is spinning in his grave if he has visited my garden from the great beyond. A garden he worked on:

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The vase is blue and white china, very popular in the South (probably approved by Bob) and I collect it. This teapot is English and one of my favorite pieces. The colors are Southern Classic per my college class. Here is a close up of the flowers:

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The blue is Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), a stalwart shrub of South Florida gardens and nearly indestructible. The bud and white flowers are from Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divaricata), the white flowers with the yellow eye are from Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica), pale yellow verging on apricot flowers on from Zinnias “HomeDepotensis”, the ferns are native Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exalata).

This teapotful of Classic Southern Summer color smells heavenly – and I do feel a bit cooler.

Hopefully, Mr. Hill understands and approves.

In a Vase on Monday – Under the Toasting Sun

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It’s the Fourth of July holiday week in the US, usually celebrated with red, white and blue everything. I have these colors in my garden, while poised under the Gardenia with my clippers I decided to forego the patriotic theme and create a vase that reflected the current state of affairs in my garden – Under the Toasting Sun. A brief walk to check the mail will envelop you with humidity that metastasizes into a form-fitting body glove consisting of a fine layer of sweat, soon beading up from head to toe, making the mail a forgotten task as one tends to turn and stride back to air-conditioned space tout de suite.

Last week in the garden was a bit hot, temperatures in the 90’s (30s Centigrade to feels like 40s) ‘but it feels like 108’ kept popping up on my computer. Add the astonishing humidity and an air quality alert due to Saharan sand – it was time to look out the window at the garden.

This indoor respite gave rise to weeds and fungus took a few innocent lives during the week. I am happy to have weed check fabric in many of my beds doing a fine job preventing the worst offenders. It was cool and cloudy Saturday and I plucked weeds not smothered by the weed fabric. The Zinnias I thought could last the summer in partial shade withered and browned overnight. They were plucked as well, I have Flapjack Kalanchoes propagated last year to stand in for the supposedly heat loving Zinnias. I will reserve Zinnias for fall and winter.

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Look closely and you see two Papayas, saved by netting from the Papaya Fruit Fly – a vile creature that lays eggs inside ripening fruit – unleashing a herd of maggots on unsuspecting gardeners looking for a ripe Papaya. The only cure- netting or pesticide, we will soon see how this works. I realized something was wrong and got rid of all the infested Papayas before the little devils reproduced.

Back to the vase, filled with hot colors and Firebush:

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The grey foliage represents smoke from the heat, Barometer Bush (Luecophyllum frutescens) from last week, not flowering despite all the rain it is supposed to predict. In the front of the vase in yellow, Beach Sunflower (Helianthis debilis) proposing a trip to the beach. Behind are Indian Blanket, the native Gallardia pulchella – suggesting what to sit on at the beach; the red spikes, Tropical Red Saliva (Salvia coccinea) hmm, tropical drinks could be a great idea. The Firebush is the orange tubular flowers and berries, well, it is hot as fire here! A few ‘Hallmark’ Bulbine implying a postcard might be a good idea.

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The word from my garden is..take an Indian Blanket to the beach with a tropical red cocktail and don’t forget to send a Hallmark greeting card to anyone left at home.

Seems like the advice I might take this week..

Happy Fourth of July. Red, white and blue flowers can wait.

 

In A Vase on Monday – Barometer Says Summer is Here

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My father always kept a barometer on the wall in my family’s kitchen. Looking back, I am not sure he ever read it. I am sure I don’t know how to read one, or, for that matter what it means exactly.

The barometer in this vase is a plant. The small purple flowers with grey foliage come from the Barometer Bush. I know this plant as Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens). I wanted to add some color to an area where my greyhounds hang out and did some research to be sure it wasn’t toxic to dogs (one of them will eat nearly anything).

Happily, they are non-toxic and I learned they are native to Texas, super drought tolerant and called Barometer Bush because they are well known to flower before a storm. This one did not live up to its name as it is flowering a few days after receiving a downpour of 2 inches of rain. And they bloom in winter in their native habit. Go figure. Here they are, growing in unamended sugar sand; the dogs run by them daily, pile sand on them and dig them up. It is safe to say this is a tough plant.

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As for the rest of the flowers, the Summer Solstice has brought nearly daily thundershowers so all the native wildflowers are lush with foliage and flowers. The Tropical Red Salvia has the seeds stripped off of every seedhead, the seeds must be really good right now. And the birds must be happy.

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The red and peach spikes are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), the white spikes are Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata), red clusters are Heirloom Pentas (Penta lanceolata), white flowers at the top are Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata), white flowers at bottom are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica), yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis), the ferns are Boston in back and Asparagus on the side. Both volunteers in the garden.

I am enjoying the scents of Frangipani and Sweet Almond from the vase. The glass vase was found on the side of the road while walking the dogs.  The Greyhounds are still digging up the Barometer Bush – maybe they are wondering when it will rain.

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Funky Florida Flora – Sea Grapes

IMG_20190619_090654Sea Grapes seemingly grow everywhere in South Florida. Native to South Florida and the Caribbean, this tree will grow in sun to semi-shade, is very drought once established, grows on the Oceanfront, shrugging off salty winds and hurricane,  and provides food for wildlife. They can be pruned into privacy screens or trained into multi-stem trees. The maintenance is a Sisyphean task if you dream of a rectangular privacy screen. Sea Grape is evergreen and it’s big, shiny green leaves with pinky red veins provide year-round tropical ambiance.

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Sea Grape’s botanical name is Coccoloba uvifera. The fruit, borne like grapes will eventually turn brown and drop to the ground. Grateful creatures devour the fruit, including my greyhounds – just one of the greyhounds, it took me a long time to figure out what he was crunching on while rooting around in the grass. A true Floridian hound, I suppose.

Florida natives (the human kind) eat the grapes when ripe, and make jelly and wine from them. My opinion, like many things, you have to grow up eating them to enjoy them. Kind of like being a Southerner and eating grits. They taste a bit like a fig, with a huge pit and are too labor intensive to make me want to eat them – and the birds usually beat me to them anyway.