In A Vase on Monday – Memorial Day


Monday marks the beginning of summer in the US with the first holiday weekend of the season, Memorial Day.  Memorial Day honors those who have served our country. My nephew, Jake is currently serving in the Army. My father served during World War I and my oldest brother, Warren during the Vietnam War. Thank you to all who served.

My vase this Monday reflects our flag. Red, white and blue in a red vase. The first named storm of the season, Alberto, is blowing through this weekend , so I tiptoed through the thunderstorms and wind to pick flowers.


The vase is sitting on the cabinet that holds my father’s crystal collection. In the vase – in blue, Plumbago (Plumbage auriculata), Angelonia (rescued from the death rack at Lowe’s); in red, spikes of Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); Coral Plant (Jatropha of some sort); in white Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divericata) and spikes from the Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata) and a white Tropical Red Salvia (it happens).The American flag was crocheted by my mother in law many years ago.


I have been writing about my native pollinator garden. I witnessed my first butterfly birth this weekend. I am fairly certain this started from the Corky Passionflower in the garden. This is a Gulf Fritillary butterfly, it emerged from it chrysalis, sat for a while then dried its wings and flew away. I had some difficulty getting a clear picture.


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 – A Fine Kettle of Heliconia


A fine kettle of fish seems to be an expression indicating you have gotten yourself in a dilemma or odd situation. The dilemma involving this old copper kettle was how to put flowers in it – it is so old there are holes in the bottom. Problem solved by cutting down a milk carton to fit inside the kettle. The result – a fine kettle of Heliconia. No fish whatsoever.

The copper kettle is a favorite of mine, bought at a flea market in the mountains of North Georgia possessing such a patina I feel as though I am the kettles steward rather than owner. Obviously handmade and repaired many times it sits in different places around my house, currently in the foyer filled with flowers.


Our oh so dry spring has turned into a rainy summer, normal for South Florida. The tropical plants are loving it and the Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) are blooming like mad. I had to cut a bunch and then decided to use coppery and white hues in the kettle. Joining the Heliconia are natives Galllardia (G.pulchella) and Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) hanging over the side. The white flowers are tropicals, bigger flowers with yellow centers are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica) and the buds hanging over the sides are Florida Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divericata) Not sure why they are called Florida Gardenias as they are from India! Rounding out the kettle as green foliage accents the Asian Sword Fern.

Here is my interesting/weird tidbit for the week. This is the bud of a Night Blooming Cereus Cactus – the white fuzzy thing, first ever, can’t wait to see the flower.


In A Vase on Monday -Grapes and Gardenias



This idea germinated as I was surveying my new natives garden. My natives garden is currently a repulsive field of weedy grasses, sand and Indian Needles. The Indian Needles are a native that look like Coreopsis, reseeding like Crab Grass. Crab Grass averages a quarter million seeds per head. Dreadful stuff. The one weed I have not encountered in my garden. Thankfully.

I digress. The grapes in the arrangement were noted on my survey as well as the Tropical Gardenias (they are the buds) The grapes are also native and frighteningly prolific. These are Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) I have been pulling them out for five years. The grapes, while attractive stay this size and turn purple. The wildlife usually eats them before they ripen. It took me a while to find out what these are, terribly seedy and bitter, they are male muscadines, the female grapes are larger and sweeter. My grandfather used to grow these and make wine with them, it is syrupy, treacly wine.


The Tropical Gardenias are the double white flowers with buds. Commonly called Florida Gardenia, the botanical name is Tabernaemontana divaricata, probably native to India and not tolerant of freezing, this Gardenia is from a different family than its more well known counterpart, Gardenia jasminoides. The foliage is a lovely dark green and the flowers are not quite as fragrant as G. jasminoides although the fragrance carries nicely on a breeze at night.


In the center of the arrangement is a flower from my Frangipani, there are also a few flowers from the culinary Fennel and some Asian Sword Ferns. I have been calling these Boston Fern forever, but they are truly Asian. Tuberous Asian Sword Ferns, is the whole name, Boston Ferns have pointed tips.

I decided to stick with a white, chartreuse and green color scheme and the arrangement is held in a Fostoria pitcher from my mother’s collection of American pattern Fostoria. This pitcher graced the table filled with iced tea at many family gatherings. The arrangement is in my foyer as the fragrance from the Frangipani and Gardenia gets a bit thick!

In A Vase on Monday – Jungle Gardenias


As a teenager, I determined I needed a signature fragrance (too many magazines and/or romantic stories once again) I chose Jungle Gardenia as my fragrance. Unfortunately, I soon realized most people did not want to ride in a car with me due to the robustness of the perfume.

Growing up in the Deep South, I associate Gardenias with summer and sleeping by an open window  (far away from the shrub) with breezes drifting in wafts of the fragrance of my mother’s Gardenias. A pleasant thought unless you consider the windows were open due to lack of air conditioning and July is miserably hot. Nevertheless, I have fond memories of the fragrance of Gardenias and was looking forward to the flowers on my tropical Florida Gardenias.

Florida Gardenias are different from Gardenias I grew up with. Botanically they are Tabernaemontana divaricata, native to tropical regions of India and Southeast Asia, these are tropical and frost will kill them. The Gardenias I grew up with are Gardenia jasminoides and they will tolerate some frost. The Florida Gardenia in my garden was unearthed after clearing out the overgrown missteps of a previous owner (polite description) I was surprised to find a 10 foot tall sort of oversized Gardenia growing under all sorts of junk that hadn’t seen fertilizer, water or the light of day in who knows how long. I cut off a few bad pieces and hoped for the best. It has bravely regrouped and is flowering, I hope someday it will be a nice tree form Gardenia, the foliage is lovely and somewhat bigger than G. jasminoides.

Here is a close up of the Gardenias, the Gardenia jasminoides is in the center and the Florida Gardenias are on the sides. Some people call these Pinwheel Gardenias for obvious reasons.

Rounding out the posy in pink, Coral Vine, the foliage is from Culinary Fennel and Boston Fern. The cobalt blue vase was a Christmas gift from my brother and sister in law years ago.


Nom de Plume-Brazilian Plume

Brazilian Plume

Brazilian Plume – Justicia carnea

The truth is, I guess I have a Nom de Plume, not relative to how recently I learned to spell the word. I am, after all, from Tucker, Georgia, USA, and for the most part we do not speak French. Or Italian, for that matter. I foolishly took Italian in college, not realizing that my Southern accent would render it, for me, near impossible to trill R’s. Think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.. With an Italian accent, if you are not laughing now, you should be. Maybe not, Vivien Leigh was indeed English and I don’t really sound like that, at all. Fortunately, my mother did, kind of. Italians just laughed at me and said “we do not understand your southern dialetto” or something like that. Eventually I successfully ordered a glass of white wine.

Brazilian Plume

Brazilian Plume

My Nom de Plume is The Shrub Queen, but today I am writing about a different plume, one in my garden, The Brazilian Plume, nope, not the wax, not the butt, the plant. I had seen these on the internet and was in search of one. Living in South Florida and the time was winter (All the disposable income in North America is Here) I found one at a garden show a bit north of here and grabbed it.

As these things sometimes go, I left it in the yard, for a while, sporadically watering it..hmm, hmm, hmm, then noticed it had a really, really terrible case of scale and whitefly (i.e. nearly dead) Well, that just wouldn’t do, so I cut it back, treated it, and miraculously cured it. After spending a month in the Garden ICU, the Plume is ready to go in the garden. These supposedly grow to be 7 feet tall and wide. I think that is a little more than 2 meters for metric users. I just need to decide where to put it.

Here are the other things blooming in the garden:

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We have a bit of fragrance going now and while I am enjoying the Florida Gardenia, it is about 10 feet tall and is never so covered in flowers the smell knocks you over – I am glad the romantic sounding Arabian Jasmine is a fair distance away, it’s like that guy you know who uses so much aftershave he can’t tell it is too much anymore.

The Blue Plumbago is the Hydrangea of the tropics and so much easier to grow. That Hibiscus is an old fashioned variety planted by my neighbor’s grandmother on the edge of the property. If I knew what it was I would search for another.