In A Vase on New Year’s Day- Unreal


Some of the more tropical plants in my garden produce flowers that strike me as unreal. New Year’s Eve found me in the garden tending vegetables under a cerulean blue sky, wearing a sweatshirt and enjoying a bit of cool weather. December in South Florida can seem a bit dreamy. Beautiful beach weather for the most part, sometimes a bit foggy. Around town people can be seen surfing on the blue water… while pelicans dive into the river seeking a mullet for dinner.

It also seems unreal to me that tomorrow ushers in 2018! Where did the time go?

I can assure you that the flowers are quite real and from my garden. The orange, yellow and red flowers resembling Lobster Claws are from a Blanchetiana Bromeliad. The Bromeliad itself is probably 5 feet tall and 6 feet across, the flowers are panicle like affairs that are about 4 tall and maybe 18 inches wide. I had cut the whole flower, then realized there were ants living in the stem. Quick work was made of cutting the ant hill off and leaving it in the garden. The balance of the flower was placed in my big crystal vase, forming a swirling base for some other flowers.


The orange firecrackers are from Firebush (Hamelia patens), big leaves are from a Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet), the off white flowers from the mysterious Wireweed, the gift from Mother Nature that keeps on giving. Here is a close up:


The crystal vase, a wedding gift from a dear friend. The bells, to ring in the New Year, a favorite family heirloom of mine – my father brought them home from India, where he served during World War II. I have no clue what they really are, but my mother always used them on her wreath at Christmas.

Since it is New Year’s Eve, my husband and I are preparing a special dinner. He is baking an Apple Pie, I am working on homemade Pasta for Smoked Fish in Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce. The fish is Snapper caught and smoked by my husband, the sauce a decadent creamy vegetable sauce. For this we needed another flower arrangement.


The centerpiece, in my mother’s Rose Bowl features Salvia: the peach Salvia is a seedling of the Tropical Red Salvia (S. coccinea) – there are named cultivars like this, however, this one is mine! The purple Salvia is Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha). I had this plant as an annual further north and bought one late fall. It seemed annoyed, then started to flower. Orange flowers are from our Firebush (Hamelia patens). White flowers are Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata), Dark red flowers are Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana) and some Asian Sword Fern, there are also some Gallardia floating around in there.

New Year’s Eve dinner:




Happy New Year!!




Cheers to Resurgens


Resurgens is Latin for Resurgence, and the motto of my hometown – Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta’s resurgence was from the ashes of the Civil War, my garden is rebounding from the encounter with Hurricane Irma. Every good resurgence deserves a toast and this one is filled with Beach Sunflowers in an oversized Margarita glass given to me by a friend.


Joining the Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)  in orange, Firebush (Hamelia patens) and the foliage is a sprig of Setcresea (Setcresea pallida)  some call this Purple Hearts, I think that sounds better. The dark ferny foliage is from Copper Fennel, making a surprise reappearance in the herb garden.

The Beach Sunflowers are a profusion of yellow flowers and the Firebush is just starting to show color again. Other signs of resurgence, the Torch Bromeliads (Billbergia pyramidalis) are making their Autumnal appearance.


The foliage is a bit worse for wear,  but the flowers are beautiful. The most dramatic transition in the garden is from the Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea). Here is a picture of the Fig two weeks ago:




I will raise my glass for the Fig, now I need to find some limes and tequila.


In A Vase on Monday- Trimmings


I have been renovating the Greyhound Beach in my back yard this holiday weekend. It is Labor Day in the US and Monday is a national holiday. My Greyhounds, Alan and Charles, have been gleefully destroying the turf behind the patio for the past few years. The mini racetrack in the backyard – visible from space.


Here is Alan, with his favorite toy, Sharky, digging for reasons only dogs know. I flattened out the holes yesterday and installed edging for sod. Alan has been melancholy all day and refused to eat this morning. Later in the afternoon he relented and woofed down his dinner.



Back to the title, Trimmings. As a part of my reclamation of Greyhound Beach, I decided to trim and tree form a Firebush that has overgrown its space. Trimming off armfuls of flowers. I stopped trimming to contemplate if I could shear the back of the shrub for screening and tree form the front – an Arboricultural dilemma.

This shrub was sold as a Dwarf Firebush, which actually means it gets 10 or 15 feet tall. Only in the Land of the Giants would this plant be considered dwarf. This sort of horticultural nonsense annoys me. One of the first plants installed in my garden to screen the well equipment:

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Firebush Hamelia patens

Here it is, four years later:


And I have cut four feet off the top for the past couple of years, the Greyhound Beach is visible through the shrubs.

Now, this is where the Firebush trimmings ended up- in my vase. 20170903_114540

The vase itself is an English teapot in the Blue Willow style, one of my favorite flea market finds. There are two kinds of Firebush in the vase. The dark red is the native Hamelia patens var patens. The ones from the gigantic orange Firebush are Hamelia patens, I think, botanists argue about these plants. I thought some purple was in order and added Setcresea, some variegated Dwarf Pineapple foliage and some red weeds, um, native wildflowers. The name escapes me – one of those things you think is pretty until you realize the seedheads are like dandelions and there are 10 million in your yard.

Another wonderful attribute of the Firebush. Butterflies love them. Here is a Black Swallowtail that was passing by:


And a Zebra Longwing:


A gigantic Firebush in the garden has some advantages.

Happy Monday.

In A Vase on Monday – Floridian Fall


It’s another stormy Sunday in South Florida. Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas on Friday and is still pummeling the Greater Houston area. Our blog friend, the Automatic Gardner, is there.  According to her latest post, so far, so good. Best wishes and luck to her.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is in full swing, peaking on September 10. So far, our area has avoided any truly stormy weather. The flowers in my vase today are all native to the area and at their best during the height of Hurricane season.


All of the materials in this vase just appeared in my garden with the exception of one. Beautyberry . The purple berries come from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) I bought a few of these shrubs from a local nursery going out of business. The rest of the flowers just came up and me being me, I left these unknown plants to see what interest they brought to the garden. The orange tubular flowers are Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens), the yellow flowers are Chapman’s Goldenrod (Solidago odora), the blue flowers are Porterweed (still not sure exactly which one).


The white flowers and foliage in back of the arrangement are from our native Hymenocallis latifolia (or a friend) These are sometimes called Alligator Lilies and have a lovely scent at night. I found a huge clump of these in the front garden years ago, mistook them for Amaryllis, divided them and have an enormous border of Alligator Lilies in my back garden. Soon to be spectacular, October last year we had Hurricane Matthew here and then the Alligator Lilies flowered. I was surprised, humbled and happy I had divided all of them.

I think of the components of this arrangement as a gift from Mother Nature to remind us of the good things she provides.

Hurricane season notwithstanding.

Happy Gardening.

In A Vase on Monday – Back Up Pitcher


The concept for my Monday vase was to arrange a low bowl of Frangipani with spiky accents. The Bridal Bouquet Frangipani are blooming profusely and I wanted an arrangement for the foyer.  I started with (I found out later) my lowest Blue Willow bowl with a glass frog to hold the white flowers in place. While placing the white Frangipani flowers I decided to pick some spiky red and blue ones to go with the bowl. As I was meandering through the garden one of my greyhounds lost his collar and I had to stop and find it. By the time the collar was found and I got back in the house the red and blue flowers had wilted.

Then, I realized the flowers were too short for the bowl. In search of a lower bowl, I concluded there were none and happened upon the glass pitcher. The Back Up Pitcher. My husband is the baseball fan, Atlanta Braves specifically. The baseball is from the 1995 World Series, signed by Mark Wohlers, a backup pitcher.

Here is another view:


I left the spiky flowers soaking in the abandoned bowl, hoping for rejuvenation. Oddly enough, this worked. At this point a return trip to the garden was needed for some taller flowers.


The players in my Back Up Pitcher: in white, Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica), in orange, Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens), in rosy red, Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana), in blue, Porterweed, in red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), in red and yellow Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum). Foliage accents are Asparagus Fern and Split Leaf Philodendron. Practically as many players as a baseball team.

Is the arrangement a home run?

Happy Monday.

In A Vase on Monday – The Garden Comes Inside


This vase is the result of a happy accident in the front garden. Anyone who reads my blog will recognize the Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) as one of my favorite cut flowers. The Parrotflowers bloom nearly year round, are pretty indestructible and last a long time in a vase. The orange flowers in the front of the vase are from the Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens) that popped up behind the Parrotflowers making a stunning plant combination in the garden and the vase.


The vase (recently ‘found’) in the cabinet with the crystal, I thought it had been broken when we moved. This is a favorite of mine, a wedding gift from an old friend I worked with at the Architectural firm where I met my husband. We are still working on gardens together (his). Finding the vase again made me happy it didn’t have an accident! This vase takes a lot of tall flowers, so it is a dream container for big tropical flowers.


Speaking of cut flowers, these are recycled from last week’s vase. The Miniata Bromeliad flower and only the buds of the tropical Gardenia seem to be lasting well into this week in their smaller blue digs.

Thank you all for your suggestions to contact the editor of our local paper about a cut flower article. I sent a proposal in for writing an article and imagine my surprise when one appeared in the Sunday paper – not written by me and suggesting an all blue cutting garden. Really peculiar, but disturbing, coincidence.

Here is the interesting item of the week and a gift from a friend. The Pineapple Lily.



In A Vase on Monday – Butterfly Power


Florida by any account is filled with natives. The people are very proud of staying around where they were born and advertise their ‘native Floridian’ status with car decorations, bumper stickers, decals, etc. The plants, not so much. Exotic tropical plants from around the world are much more popular than what grows here naturally. I am, of course, as guilty as the next gardener for using exotic tropical plants.

In an effort to help native pollinators and power our Butterfly population I am planting a native wildflower border.  The border is about halfway finished and the resulting butterflies have been fantastic thus far. In the border I have seen Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Zebra Longwings and several orange and yellow butterflies I have yet to identify. I am not sure what happened to the Black Swallowtail caterpillars that were in the post from last week. Hopefully they appear in the border soon.


This vase started with an interesting branch I pruned from the native Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens). I decided to continue the native wildflower theme and used the firecracker flowers in the middle from the Firebush, to this I added Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), the purple flowers are Beach Verbena (Glandularia maritima), the royal blue bits are from Porterweed (Stachystarpeta) – people call this Vervain, which sounds a lot better. At the bottom of the arrangement, the mixed colored flowers are Gallardia (Gallardia pulchella) – a flower I have grown to love in a short period of time. The small sunflowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)

I am currently finding myself lurking through the shrubbery trying the photograph the elusive Butterflies. Here are the first successful images, a Zebra Longwing tasting the Firebush.