In A Vase on Monday – Summer Surprises


Every gardener gets a few surprises. Some are better than others. I have been doing a lot of design work lately, hence the funky picture.

My summer surprises have been the good kind and primarily pink this week.


The Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) is in the pink champagne bottle a friend left after a holiday celebration, these are reported to flower three times a year – this is the first year for a second flowering, surprising me.


In the grey round vase, it seems the Garden Gods have rewarded me with a Pink Cactus Dahlia, not.  My Dahlia quest continues.

This is one of my ubiquitous $5 garage sale finds. No one knows what the Bromeliad is or where to plant it, but one can be had for $5. For five bucks I got a wonderful surprise and there are pups. I think it is a Aechmea ‘fasciata’  variety- please let me know if you recognize it.

The leaves are from a nearby Sweet Begonia ( Begonia odorata)


The third vase has the survivalist pink and chartruese Alabama Sunset Coleus I had lost hope for and pink and white (yes) Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). Another surprise.

My biggest surprise this week was the hatching of the rare Atala Butterfly in my Coontie (small shrubby palms)



In A Vase on Monday- Fruitless Effort


The big leaf in this vase is from my Papaya tree. Papayas are easily grown here, the time from planting seed to picking fruit can be as little as 9 months. But, it’s always something in the garden. I like Hawaiian Papayas, smaller like pears, pink flesh and sweeter than their bigger cousins from the Tropical Americas. I planted some seed last year from a Hawaiian Papaya I had eaten, numerous seedlings came up and I selected three to plant in the garden. Hurricane Irma took out two and I was left with one reasonably good looking tree. I was elated when it flowered recently and then nothing happened, raisin like bits fell out when the flowers were finished. Turns out seedling Papayas can be male, female or both. This one is female, so fortunately I was able to buy a self pollinating Papaya that should pollinate both trees. Next year sometime. Maybe.20180708_104558-1

Joining the Papaya leaf in the arrangement are: in white, lower, Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica); in white, upper, Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata); orange tubular plants are our native Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens); in red and yellow, Parrottflowers (Heliconia pssitacorum); at the top a few stems of Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea).

A closer view:


Here is the Papaya tree:


To view Papaya free vases from the world over, visit our hostess, Cathy at

In A Vase on Monday – Rock Lobster

20180701_152900-1Rock Lobster is a song by the B-52’s, circa 1980. I was in college at the time in their hometown, Athens, Georgia. To say the song was popular around town is an understatement. It will always remind me of college. In case you are not familiar with the song here is a link Rock Lobster video. 

I guess I have some splainin’ (explaining) to do. The red and yellow flower in the vase is – a Lobsterclaw Heliconia (Heliconia rostrata) – the rock is a crystal from my father’s collection, I think it is Halite, rock salt. My father was a geology professor and liked to say pass the NaCl (chemical name of salt) at the dinner table. Rock Lobster!


The orange flowers in the vase are from the Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera). The vase is a Rose` bottle I liked and saved from recycling. The Rose` wine, an international award winning $8 bottle from Aldi,  not so memorable. Then again, I am a fan of Chardonnay. The bottle/vase seemed kind of boring, so I added a Pandanus leaf around and tied it with a jute string. True confessions – Scotch tape was involved.

Heliconias fascinate me. So tropical. This one started to flower about two weeks ago, here it is on June 17. They slowly expand and then don’t last very long in a vase.


News from the butterfly front. Here is my latest addition, another Swallowtail from the Parsley. I found him or her on my crushed shell driveway, trying to get wings unfurled. Scooped the butterfly up and placed it on a nearby Firebush (a nectar source) – see the white bits in the picture, crushed shell. The butterfly was gone when I came back, hopefully on to new adventures in the garden.


The Swallowtail caterpillars completely consumed a large Parsley in a pot on my front porch. Usually, Parsley is a cool season annual here and gone by the first of June. This one has put on a new set of foliage and the Swallowtails have laid their eggs again. They are in the recently regenerated Fennel in the vegetable garden as well.

In A Vase on Monday – Tropical Elegance


It is difficult to pinpoint what makes me think of these flowers as elegant. The long lines of the buds and stamens; the clear orange red color of the flowers in contrast to the simple heart shapes of the dark green foliage? I am not sure, so I arranged them simply in a brown pottery vase with Muscadine twigs.

Pretty simple. The vase I bought at our local charity shop.Something I am sure someone’s mother or aunt made and the ability to appreciate such things was lost in time or translation. My next comment was edited; as so, so many people don’t appreciate things made with our hands and hearts.


The plants in this vase are very simple, Clerodendrum speciosum, Java Glorybower, in red orange flowers and Vitis rotundifolia, in twigs.


It is what it is. Flowers and twigs. Simple and, hopefully, elegant.

On the butterfly front, here is another newborn:


This is a Swallowtail, who grew up in my Parsley and hopefully flew away.

Toxic Algae at My House – Again




Here is what we are seeing around the Greater Stuart, Florida area this week. Yes, it’s back – the Toxic Bluegreen Algae.

The last time I wrote about toxic algae was the Summer of 2016. Our beaches were closed over the Fourth of July weekend because the water was polluted by blooming bluegreen algae – cyanobacteria that spawns toxic Microcystin if it blooms. I am not certain the toxic part is well understood, the toxins (among them microcystin) can cause rashes, upset stomach, breathing difficulties and are implicated in causing ALS (Lou Gehrigs disease) and non alcohol related liver disease. Oh, by the way, the area I live in has the largest unexplained cluster of liver disease in the country. Many people drink and bathe in well water. Follow link below for more information.

Liver Disease info

Florida Sows Sewage

How does the algae get to my house, you may wonder.  It comes down the St. Lucie River from Lake Okeechobee where the State of Florida brews a toxic stew in the Lake and the Federal Government’s Corps of Engineers open the floodgates to prevent flooding downstream. Who is responsible – no one entity. The toxic stew is caused partially by poor land development management and storm runoff measures and the continuation by the state of Florida allowing large Agricultural entities to sow partially treated human sewage (Class B Biosolids) as fertilizer on enormous swaths of land. Then the state doesn’t inspect, regulate or oversee any of it. Best Management Practices BMPs, (practices that are developed to prevent nutrient runoff from fertilizers -nutrients feed algae) – Agricultural BMPs are in place in Florida but were rolled back to voluntary by the current gang in power.

Would you get a driver’s license if there were no requirements, meaning voluntary? Think about it.

Class B Biosolids are currently under consideration as the culprit in the impending ruination one of the last pristine lakes in Florida, Blue Cypress Lake. Toxic Bluegreen Algae is keeping everyone out of the water there this summer.  Interestingly, the practice of spreading biosolids was outlawed in two out of three of the nearby watersheds due to problems with phosphorous (nutrient) pollution. Ironically, the sewage polluting Blue Cypress Lake originates in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale and is used as fertilizer to grow Bahiagrass to feed cattle 200 miles north.

Blue Cypress Lake

Cattle Produce Manure, a lot of Manure

About one quarter of the land area in Florida is agricultural. In addition to all the fertilizer used to grow grass for grazing and crops, there are 1.6 million head of cattle in the state, producing 67 pounds of manure each daily on average. We are drowning our water resources in sewage. To what end.

The end of tourism – a 67 Billion Dollar Industry?  Tourists really like clean water.

The end of land development – 6 million additional residents are projected by 2030! They are going to have to poop somewhere  and they like clean water, too.

The end of Agriculture – how much sewage can you sow before your nest is fouled? Plants and animals like clean water, too.

As for me, I like clean water and can only opine that something needs to change, soon and drastically. Our experience this year with our government and leaders thus far has been nothing short of tragic.

An email to my County Commissioner (from last week) – unanswered. Really kind of strange, if I had to name the most hated person in Martin County, he would be at the top of nearly everyone’s list I have encountered locally. I have never met the guy.

The State Department of Environmental Protection – answered but is not testing all algae sites reported. Our community has a toxic algae Facebook page. That the DEP admitted to reading. More than strange, they read our social media yet don’t follow upon algae sightings.

The State said the County Commissioners should issue health warnings about the algae, the County said the State Health Department should issue health warnings about the algae. Our Facebook community started a petition to get our county to post signs about the algae.

The scuttlebutt from Martin County was the algae wasn’t toxic enough to issue warnings. It is toxic but not toxic enough.

I would never have imagined the entire chain of command for the State of Florida, charged with protecting our life safety cannot even be bothered to post warning signs near swimming areas.

When Florida sows sewage, algae blooms in our estuary.

Toxic Government?

In A Vase on Monday – Tropical Serendipity


The rainy season is in full swing in my garden. Heat and humidity rule the great outdoors. The truly tropical plants love it and are starting their summer show. Two out of the four plants in the arrangement just appeared in the garden, I am not sure this ever happened in my previous garden, serendipitous shrubs and perennials placing themselves perfectly – garden karma. Patience rewards the gardener, I suppose. I rarely pull anything out unless I am sure it is not welcome.


The white flowers in the arrangement are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani, the red and yellow are Parrottflowers (Heliconia psittacorum). I planted both of these and they are finally recovering from the double whammy of Hurricane Irma and mid thirties (Fahrenheit) temperatures in January. The other two just appeared. I have embraced the Asparagus Fern for use in arrangements, a better filigreed texture cannot be found and  it is the perfect foil for the coarser tropical flowers. It grows under some shrubs in my Rainforest garden. The red plant is a Java Glorybower (Clerodendrum speciosis), I cut one of these last year and dumped it out beside my front porch – where it rooted perfectly centered on an 8 foot peach colored blank stucco wall. If I had tried to do that it would not have worked. The shrubs grow about six feet tall and I am looking forward to seeing it in its glory. bower. There are Orange Bird of Paradise in front of these. Mother Nature is wise.

On the butterfly front, I have a chrysalis in my herb pot. The Swallowtails have nearly consumed the Parsley. In the picture you can see young and old caterpillars and a green chrysalis. It seems it take weeks for the Butterfly to emerge…


In A Vase on Monday – Brain Prunings


Last week I found myself a bit overloaded with work. One landscape design project in South Florida, another 600 miles north. Palm trees on one plan, Azaleas on another. My brain is as crowded with plants as my garden. Both needed some pruning. The Firebush was looking overgrown, so I wanted to cut some flowers to use in the arrangement, only to find really weird bugs on the foliage I didn’t want in the house. I dumped most of the cuttings into a recycling bag.

The rest went into my vase. The Soap Aloe was looking really weird with the flowering Ixora.


Yes, contrast lacking there? I think so. The Soap Aloe went into the vase.


The Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria) and one stem of Firebush (Hamelia patens) are joined by: in red, Red Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana); a few Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum); and some Asparagus Ferns.

My brain needed some additional pruning. Palm trees on which plan??

If you would like to see more vases from around the world, follow this link, on Monday morning:ramblinginthegarden