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!!




In A Vase on Monday – Winter Wildflowers


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.


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..


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)


Happy Monday!

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day – Tropical Fruit


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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-The Pumpkin Chronicles


In a Vegetable on Monday, Part Two. My gourd collection from last week was looking pretty good so I decided to add to the arrangement with an heirloom pumpkin for Halloween. Today is Halloween in the US, traditionally the time to carve a pumpkin into a Jack O Lantern then go door to door seeking chocolate (or that is how I think of it).20161028_185146

This is a Jarrahdale Pumpkin, totally non traditional and it hails from Australia. My father was an enormous fan of pumpkin carving so in his honor, I carve a pumpkin every Halloween. I decided to research this one a bit to see if it was edible – it is, and reportedly has sweet, melon like flesh perfect for pies. My husband is regionally famous for his pumpkin pies – so I read on to find that I should roast the pumpkin for 20-30 minutes if I wanted to save the flesh and then scoop out the flesh and continue with my ‘decorative use’.

Upon the completion of the short roasting time, the shell had changed color a bit and the flesh was slightly softer, but not cooked, so I chiseled it out with a serrate knife, being careful to use my not so nice knife in case it snapped. The pumpkin looked a bit like a crocodile so I carved a mean face into it. The flowers may offset the meaness.


Not so sure about the flesh, I just collected it and put in back in the oven to roast and set about arranging the flowers.


Starting in the front, the yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) the coral star shaped flowers are Dwarf Red Ixora, with a bit of Asian Sword Fern. The red and green leafless stems are from a Firesticks Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), red and yellow flowers are Parrot Flower (Heliconia psittacorum), red bell shaped flowers are from Firecracker Plant (Russelia), the grey foliage is from Flapjack Kalanchoes and a leaf from Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum) completes the arrangement. The flowers are in a glass I put into the pumpkin, there is also a tealight candle in there, but I have mixed feelings about lighting it.

About this time, I took the pumpkin out of the oven, let it cool, had a taste and discovered it it really good and does taste of sweet melon – unfortunately, after all that I ended up with 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. Pumpkin bread, anyone?


Here is a much more traditional Jack O Lantern from years past, Happy Halloween!

A Plethora of Papaya

Fall is Papaya season in South Florida. My neighbor has a tree and has been sharing his bounty. These are Mexican Papayas, slightly less sweet than the more pear shaped Hawaiian Papaya – the latest one in my kitchen weighed in at 5 pounds. My neighbor uses a dehydrator to save them. Not being a fan of dried fruit, it is a challenge for me to figure out how to eat five pounds of Papaya with only two people.


The first order of business was to bake some Papaya Raisin Bread, these freezes well and I will enjoy it for weeks. Click for recipe

The Bread:


The bread used about 1/5th of the fruit. I decided to make a Grilled Chicken Salad for dinner. The chicken was marinated in balsamic vinegar, garlic, rosemary, olive oil and red pepper flakes. The salad was made with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, celery, fresh herbs, boiled eggs and yes, papaya. Divine. I had papaya and vanilla yogurt for dessert.


Several times.

Faced with papaya overload and some pork chops in my refrigerator, I did some sleuthing online for another dinner dish. Aha, a stir fry -Thai Style Papaya Pork Click for recipe


This was so good we made it twice.

And that was the end of the Papaya, all five pounds! Til next year.

Mangoes in Mass Quantity

July in South Florida means a couple of different things, heat, humidity and Mangoes. Lots of Mangoes. This year is a bumper crop. I am philosophizing the rainy winter produced many flowers followed by many fruits.


Followed by many baskets of Mangoes, which I find irresistible.

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These are Haden Mangoes, from my neighbor the chef, who I suspect just eats his mangoes. I ate some of them, but my husband is not a big fan of plain and won’t eat them straight. So, I made a Mango Amaretto Cake. Not very pretty, but delicious. Last year my Mango effort included a Mango Rum Cake which I believe lasted longer due to its higher alcohol content. Something to consider if your household is not highly populated.

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After a few servings of the Mango Amaretto cake, I decided to take a more savory adventure with Mango Salsa for grilled fish (Pacific Swordfish in this case). The salsa is made with mango, red bell peppers, sliced green onions, cilantro, lime juice and honey.


Great stuff, and I still had some leftover to have with my Blueberry Bread  from my lasr fruit overload and vanilla yogurt.


Just when my Mango supply dwindled to this another basket was left on my front porch.

What to do? Bake some Mango Pecan Bread, of course.


I used the same recipe as my Blueberry Pecan Bread and it turned out fine. This is not particularly sweet for a quick fruit bread but the resinous quality of the mango shines through.

On to my next culinary adventure in mangoland. Another neighbor gave me some Speckled Perch, a local freshwater fish. So, here it is – pan sauteed Perch in lemon butter sauce with Mango Tomato Sauce served with Parmesan Herb Rice and Sauteed Mixed Veg.


Still have Mangoes. The only thing left to do is make granita. It can be eaten straight up, with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or vodka if you are feeling frisky.

The remains of the day and this is all I have left!



Blueberry Madness


The height of blueberry season is upon us here in the US. My husband is famous for his pies, see photo above for reason. I was tasked with blueberry procurement for pie production. Five cups were ordered, five pints were purchased. Oops. I was faced with an extreme overabundance of blueberries.

The pie was baked, tasted and deemed delicious. We still had a lot of blueberries, having recently read a blueberry feature in Better Homes and Garden, I decided to try Blueberry Corn Salad:


An interesting idea, corn with a garlic lemon vinaigrette and spices. A bit weird, but good. Still, blueberries speak of baked goods to me and I still had some left. I thought Blueberry Pecan bread sounded like a good idea and freezable. Found a recipe for just the thing with a pecan crust on top. Baked it up, this is good and freezes well, so I will have some for later:


Then, the horrible truth revealed. I still had some of the blue things left. And didn’t want to eat anymore at the moment. Realizing dogs could eat blueberries and they are actually good for them, I whipped up some Oatmeal Peanut Butter Blueberry Dog Treats:


The overabundance of blueberries, finally conquered. I walked the dogs and gave them a treat. Everyone was happy.