In A Vase on Monday – Christmas Presence

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The holiday season is making its presence known here in South Florida. I bought myself some early Christmas presents today at our local Big Box store. Hand clippers and a big weeder/hoe combination to use on the dreadful Torpedo Grass I have been fighting in the vegetable garden. While navigating the parking lot, I noticed a tent, featuring a plethora of desiccating Frazier Fir Christmas trees. The tent, adding insult to the injury of being cut down, shading the trees to contemplate their ultimate demise after being dumped into an asphalt topped parking lot 800 miles south of home. The fragrance was intoxicating, but taking a tree home this early leads to a crunchy fire hazard before Christmas.

Bing Crosby was crooning ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas’ in the background of the store; meanwhile the ambient temperature is above 80 degrees and the locals are buying Poinsettias to be used outside as bedding plants and strings of holiday lights to festoon their Palm trees. The favored theme decoration – The Flamingo, perhaps in holiday drag. Not sure how they feel about fake fur attire. The whole shebang tends to bend the mind.

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The flamingoes, embarrassed, perhaps. This always seems a bit odd to me.

The container for my vase today is a Christmas gift from a longtime friend. I have decided to stop saying old friend for good reason. We met in college, need I say more? The container is locally handmade from all natural materials and a bit of a challenge to use because it is very light – and tends to fall over. I finally put a heavy glass frog in the base and added flowers. And it worked!

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This is my artistic photo, a rarity, but I like it.

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More arty photos. I use the term loosely, a vase that was difficult photographing.

The vase includes in red and yellow, Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum); the red flowers are Turks Cap Hibiscus (Hibiscus malvaviscus); red and orange bits from the Blanchetiana Bromeiliad, varigated foliage from the Pie Crust Croton (Codieum varigatum), Asian Sword Ferns and a Split Leat Philodendron (Philodendron selloum) in the back.

Happy Holidays!

 

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In A Vase on Monday – Winter Wildflowers

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Oftentimes when I start my vase I have to decide between tropical and well, non tropical seeming flowers. This week’s decision was in favor of the non tropical which are in fact somewhat tropical. For some reason, even though I live in a frost free area populated with Mangoes and Birds of Paradise the climate is considered subtropical. My favorite Florida plant material author, Frederick Stresau, calls this area Tropic Florida. No one else does. I like the title.

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Tropic Florida is home to some amazing wildflowers, so amazing in fact they will take over. Last week I think Chloris was featuring Bidens, on her blog not the B. alba from my garden-a relative.  ACK, I have Bidens running out of my ears and can only hope I have pulled enough out. The onset of cooler weather brings the reseeding annuals out of their slumber and starts a new season of flowers.

The components of this vase are either native to Florida or something that just appeared in my garden. The hat is hardly necessary this time of year, but hand pruners are a must..

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The white flowers are Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) cute but annoying. The yellow daisies Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); red and yellow daisies, Native Gallardias; deep blues, native Porterweed; red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); the grasses flowing in the background, Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris).

The vase? A Portmerion canister I received as a wedding gift. Thinking I would complete the set I held onto it for almost 25 years.. The canister remains alone in my mother’s china cabinet, awaiting flour and sugar containers with similarly abandoned Botanic Garden pieces.

The first harvest from the garden, 12 green beans with a cherry tomato (one,very tasty)

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Happy Monday!

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – Tropical Fruit

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Having spent most of my life much further north of South Florida, I enjoyed eating tropical fruit, but never knew what they looked like while growing. I have included tropical fruit trees and plants for shade and foliage in my new garden, the fruit is a bonus. Some of the fruit producing plants I have in my garden now I had never heard of – because, well, in my opinion, like many things you have to grow up eating them to appreciate the fruit.

Above is the foliage of the Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera).  This is a native tree that produces clusters of grapes in the summer that are mostly seed and taste similar to figs. Natives of Florida and birds like the fruit.

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This is Mango (Mangifera ‘Nam Doc Mai’) a Thai Dessert Mango. Delicious and easy to grow. The leaves were burned by Hurricane Irma.

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Silvery backed leaves from a Pineapple I grew from the top of a fruit bought at the grocery store. I have no idea what kind it will be. Pineapples are very easy to grow here and my new hometown, Jensen Beach was once considered the Pineapple Capital of the World. Here is a link to an article I wrote about how to grow pineapples  Link.

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This is a Rangpur Lime, grown from seed by my neighbor. Rangpur Limes have orange skin and are incredibly juicy. I believe these are not well known because they do not keep very well.

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This is a Papaya, I believe Hawaiian, although I won’t be sure until it bears fruit. I grew this from seed last year. Curiously, I sometimes see Papayas growing wild on construction sites. Papayas are native to South and Central America and a bit of an acquired taste. I like them in pork stir fry, bread and sliced.

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The new foliage on a Cuban Avocado tree. Cuban Avocados are the size of footballs and I had never seen one until landing in South Florida. The fruit is a bit sweeter and creamier than Hass Avocado and the rare avocado that is true to seed. A friend grew this for me with a seed from her tree, which she got from a Cuban guy!

The trees are integrated into my back garden along with vegetables and a native pollinator area. Everything but the Mango was grown from seed so I have a few years yet before I will taste the fruit.

Gardening in many cases is all about patience. Someday soon I will have some fantastic salsa and guacamole.

In A Vase on Monday – Ducking the Challenge

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In A Vase on Monday is a meme on WordPress that originated in the UK four years ago this Monday. Cathy from the blog Rambling in the Garden is the host (or hostess) of the meme. This year, in honor of the fourth anniversary of In A Vase on Monday- Cathy issued a challenge to not use a vase on Monday but a different container.

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My container is a vintage watering can I inherited from my mother. So vintage, in fact, it no longer has a handle or holds water. I keep it around because I like the patina and it reminds me of my mother, a great gardener and lover of vases. The extreme vintageness of the container required some floral engineering:

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I half filled the can with Styrofoam packing peanuts and bubble wrap, then cut down some drinking water bottles to hold the flowers and water.

The ducks arrived on the scene as it was a pouring down rain, windy day in South Florida. A great day for ducks, humans,  not so much. It really started pouring after I had collected about a third of the arrangement. I stopped, waited the downpour out and went back out to the garden, collected more flowers as this is a good sized container. Finished. Decided it needed some more ferns and something taller, more rain. Stopped, then completed the arrangement again, only to find it too dark in the house to take a picture. Put everything outside and of course, it started raining again.

So, I added the ducks – then my phone ran out out battery so I had to charge it to take the picture! Stopped for a moment to visit our mermaid under construction. Everyone in South Florida needs a concrete mermaid. Mine is going to be painted and used as porch art. Yet another project.

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Finally, the contents:

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The white flowers are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica); the red and yellow flowers are Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum), the red and white flowers are Red Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana); the large foliage and white flowers hanging over the edge are Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata); the off white spikes are a mystery plant. Foliage in red, Copperleaf (Acalypha ‘ Raggedy Ann’); yellow varigated foliage is from the Pie Crust Croton (Codieum ‘Pie Crust’); ferns are Asian Sword Ferns. There are some bits of Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers in the back of the arrangement for height.

Visit Cathy’s blog to see Anniversary vases from the world over.

Happy Gardening and thanks to our hostess, Cathy.

In A Vase on Monday – Ahhhhtumn is Here

 

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Sometime during the month of October there is a collective sigh of relief from the inhabitants of South Florida. It finally happened last Friday, temperatures and humidity dropped. I spent the day in my garden, then later in the afternoon enjoyed a glass of wine amongst my burgeoning collection of Bromeliads.

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After my glass of wine, I quickly put all the cushions back in the house as Tropical Storm Phillipe was forecast to pass through on Saturday. Philippe dumped a few inches of rain on the garden and then headed to New England to wreak havoc further north.

Sunday turned into a beautiful, somewhat windy day and I spent time searching for vase components with the Dragonflies (swarming to eat post storm mosquitoes) and Longwing Butterflies searching for a sip of nectar. In the background, I heard Sand Hill Cranes, home for the winter calling out to friends and lovers.

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The contents of my vase include in red, front and center, Turks Cap Hibiscus (Hibiscus malvaviscus), the red spikes and seedy spikes are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). The yellow and orange spikes are from the Blanchetiana Bromeliad (Aechmea blanchetiana). The creamy white spikes are a mystery plant that appeared in the garden several years ago, I have not been able to identify it, but it is a great fall vase component and seems well mannered enough to live in the garden. The fluffy pink background grass is Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris) I am loving my Muhly Grass this fall.

Ahh, Autumn is finally here. It is seventy degrees, cool not experienced since last spring.

Happy Halloween!

In A Vase on Monday -Funky Fall Flowers

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I get some interesting comments from readers about my plant selections. Exotic is the most common description, though weird, unusual and alien have been bandied about. I tend towards the unusual, possibly due to spending over 30 years designing landscapes for corporations. Corporations like a clean, green hedge around their buildings, parsley around the pig is how I refer to the clean green, preferably not interesting in any way. Think Viburnum of any kind clipped into submission. Gardeners tend to be a lot more fun to work with and also avoid workhorse Viburnums.

My garden sports no workhorse shrubs, all selections are off the wall and flowering and fruiting to their hearts content. Corporations would hate it. Not a clipped Viburnum in sight.

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Even I think this vase is funky, put together for texture and color. It speaks of South Florida in the Fall.

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The purple flower is an Orchid, Spathoglottis ‘Cabernet’. The pink vine is a Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus), some call this Queen’s Wreath. The white spikes are from Snake Plant or Mother In Law’s Tongue (Sanseveira) – they flower here and are considered invasive – it would take a bulldozer to rid my garden of these. Purple berries are from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) I think the berry production in Florida is triple what my northern plants produced. The striped leaf is from a Screw Pine (Pandanus sp.) I love these and bought a small plant that is surprising me with variegated foliage. Screw Pines are common in the South Pacific and remind me of Hawaii.

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A Screw Pine (Pandanus) on the Pacific Ocean near Hana, Maui. Kinda funky, had to have one in my garden.

In A Vase on Monday – Resilience

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Last Sunday we were already feeling the hot breath of Hurricane Irma. It seemed the earth was sweating, so much tropical moisture swirling in the air. Sunday and Monday were spent hunkered down indoors with two greyhounds and our cat. One of the dogs nervous, the other and the cat not so much. More about the hurricane later.

My vase, this Monday is filled with resilient plants from my garden. I had to search a bit to find likely candidates, winds burned or knocked many plants down. Amazingly the berries did not blow off the Beautyberry or the Firebush and I don’t believe the Parrotflowers even paused for Irma. Look closely at the Parrotflowers and note the tips of the flowers are burned black.

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The red berries in front are from the Firebush (Hamelia patens), the purple berries from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana), Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) in red and yellow. Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers are beside the Beautyberry and Asian Sword Ferns in the back for some greenery. The ferns are missing a chunk (most of them are) but are amazingly alive and green.

Hurricane Irma:

Hurricanes are generally terrifying. I experienced my first last year, Matthew. A local told me Matthew was a good starter hurricane! One of the most agonizing parts of the experience is the endless news cycle of weather forecasts. At one point 130 mph winds were forecasted for my Living Room. Eventually Irma ended up on the other side of the state. We had sustained winds of 70 mph and gusts to 100 mph off and on for a day or so. And 10 inches of rain. Adding to the fun, Alan (the nervous greyhound) dislocated his toe before the storm. His leg was ensconced in a splint that was NOT TO GET WET.

Needless to say, even though I wrapped the splint in plastic to take him outside, he took off and punctured the splints raincoat with his toenails. During the hurricane. No help available. Fortunately, I have a Facebook friend who is a vet – who advised me to take off the splint. Alan was much happier and chilled out to rest. Toe is much improved.

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The Garden:

The garden is surprisingly resilient. I don’t believe anything was lost to the wind – except all the leaves and foliage that was burned off. We are going to ask the Rainbow Eucalyptus to leave the garden. The top has blown out twice now and the tree just keeps getting taller and heavier.

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The back side of my neighbors ugly fence was completely covered with Shell Ginger, Lobsterclaw Heliconia, Bridal Bouquet Plumeria and a Mexican Bush Honeysuckle. By Friday, when I got around to pruning- all were coming back from the ground with new growth. I just cut off the dead and righted some of the Plumeria.

The hedge in back:

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This is a Surinam Cherry hedge, it was fully covered in foliage. The wind blew the leaves off and there is not one in sight. I have been planning to do this exact thing to the hedge and Irma saved me having to haul all the clippings to the curb. I am still contemplating what to do with this and will probably do some additional pruning.

This is a Strangler Fig, the canopy was not quite fully foliaged, but pretty close:

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Again, the wind blew nearly every leaf off and took them along. Saving me hours of raking and bagging! New growth is already on the tips of the branches.

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This is a Papaya tree I started from seed last year. It is about 3 feet tall and looked dreadful until this morning. It is beginning to shed its burned foliage and producing new leaves.

Resilience. The garden seems to be doing better than we are. Still exhausted. I am told the Hurricane Hangover lasts about a week. Next week should be better. But wait, Hurricane Maria is lurking in the Atlantic. I need a chant for human resilience.