In A Vase on Monday – A Fine Kettle of Heliconia

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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.

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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.

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In A Vase on Monday – Butterfly Power

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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.

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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.

 

In A Vase on Monday – Florida’s Fall Berries

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Crisp fall mornings and brightly colored Autumnal leaves are not something I associate with South Florida. There are 3 Red Maples that change color in a nearby swamp and that is about the extent of our fall color. As far as crisp mornings go, it is usually 80 degrees going on sweltering by late morning.

However, there are berries in the fall on some of our native shrubs. The purple berries are Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana), actually recycled from last week’s arrangement. The tubular orange flowers/ berries are from a huge Firebush (Hamelia patens) in my backyard. I cut it back to about 4 feet during the winter and it is now over 7 feet tall – and this one is called Dwarf. Currently covered in orange tubular flowers turning to berries (they look a bit like Pieris berries) this shrub is also a magnet for butterflies and I can’t bring myself to cut it back, yet. I have considered tree forming it!

The berries of the Firebush, a bit further along than the ones in the arrangement:

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Filling out the arrangement are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), a mystery weed and a few Asian Sword Ferns. The mystery weed popped up a few years ago and has nice cream colored spikes in the Fall, I may find out what it is someday.

The cobalt blue vase was a Christmas gift from my brother and sister in law many years ago.

I have planted my IAVOM inspired seeds and am pleased to report the White Italian Sunflowers, Cactus Zinnias and Asters are coming along. Hopefully soon to appear in a vase.

In A Vase on Monday -Cherry, Cherry on A Hot August Night

20160821_094215-1People of a certain age may remember what my title is referring to – a Neil Diamond album popular in the 1970’s.

Here is the link https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_August_Night

Hot August Night was a favorite of one of my brothers, who played the record a lot. Cherry, Cherry is one of the songs I associate with the album. Sweet Caroline would be the other.

What does this have to do with gardening? Well, the nights are really hot here in South Florida in August – the low temperature  last night was 78 (25.5 Celsius), the high this afternoon is 95 (35 Celsius) with heat index  104 (40 Celsius). I have been installing Microspray irrigation in the perennial beds during cooler hours as the irrigation system that came with the house won’t support anything but widely spaced tufts of torpedo grass. Hand watering while having irrigation is a bit tiresome and I have been planning a more detailed perennial garden.

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So, on these hot August nights when I am toiling at twilight I can smell the wonderful Tropical Gardenias (in bud in the arrangement) Tabernaemontana divaricata, the Tropical Red Salvias (Salvia coccinea) are the perennials in need of more water and the big Red Hibiscus – Cherry, Cherry. The Hibiscus is from an ancient old fashioned shrub and I wish I knew the cultivar, it is one of the great indestructibles. The Asian Ferns in the arrangement are probably going to be too happy after they get more reliable rain from the Microspray irrigation. The crystal Rose Bowl was inherited from my mother and I have not had a rose in it, so far.

The more detailed perennial garden I am working on this fall is going to include some alumni from this Summer’s vases – from all the Cathys, the Italian White Sunflower, Asters from Cathy, and the Cactus Zinnias from Susie and Cathy. I have the seeds and will start potting in a few weeks for planting later in October. A grand experiment is in the works.

As far as Neil Diamond goes, I am still humming Sweet Caroline..

 

 

 

In A Vase on Monday -Grapes and Gardenias

 

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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.

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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.

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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!

Summer Color in Tropic Florida

The snowbirds are home cool and safe in their beds while visions of winter gardening in Florida dance in their heads. (not quite an original poem)

The rest of us are basking in the steamy weather post Summer Solstice in South Florida. Summer can be wonderful here, traffic slows as does time. Days are long and comfortable time spent outdoors occurs early in the morning or early in the evening.

Our plant life puts on a spectacular show during the summer. The show is a must see for any gardener.

Poincianas are in full flower and the Mango trees are filled with cascading boughs of fruit.

Many shrubs here flower year round, but once the rainy season kicks in the flowers go into overdrive. Especially on the Hibiscus, Ixora and Allamanda.

Our native Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens) and Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) are flourishing:

On the tropical side, Heliconias and Bromeliads are budding and blooming, I associate these with later in the season but some are going already. Yes, I cut most of my Parrot’ Flower (Heliconia psittacorum).

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Orchids are starting their summer season. My neighbors Ground Orchids (Epidendrum radicans) yes, groundcover Orchids! have been spectacular thus far, these are called Fire Orchids and there is a pink version

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Of course,  one of the real pleasures of the tropics in Summer is the scent of Frangipani in the garden. This white one has started flowering with the onset of Summer and I have a new one from a gardening friend on the verge of flowering- rose pink on the outside opening to pale yellow. I sited it near my screened porch for maximum smellability.

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I love the term ‘Tropic Florida’. To the best of my knowledge, it was coined by Frederick Stresau, in his book Florida, My Eden. This book, while titled like a romance novel is actually a really good manual of landscape plants for Florida. The tropic part supersedes the ubiquitous and perhaps American zone phobia. I think I live in Zone 10A, I am not sure anyone else would agree, but we can agree it is tropic. We have seen freezing temperatures here 4 times since 1980. That is pretty tropic.