In A Vase on Monday- A Trio of Heirlooms with Comments from the Cats.


This week I decided to use my heirloom vase collection and limit myself to one type of flower per vase using different foliage types to accent the flowers. The terracotta cats are also heirlooms, inherited from my mother and they are offering comments on the arrangements. The cats are contented by the brown vase, interested in the blue vase and napping by the vase on the right.


This vase was acquired by my mother on a trip through the Western United States shortly after my parents retired. The origin of the contented cat I am not so sure about. The plants in the vase are: in red, Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum), the bigger leaf is from a Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum), the green stem is a budding flower stalk from a Draceana reflexa, some people call these Pleomele. The actual Draceana flowers are an odd brown stringy affair that I was very disappointed in the last year.


This is another vase collected by my mother on her Western adventure. Made by the Ute Indian tribe, it remains a favorite of mine. I think the cat is excited by all the foliage in this one. The purple flowers are from a Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia purpurea) tree, the fine textured fern is the Asparagus Fern, viny elements are Muscadine Grape (Vitis rotundafolia) shoots, a few sprigs of Miniature Varigated Pineapple foliage, and the berries of Gumbo Limbo (Bursea simarouba)


The vase is a blown glass footed object collected by my in laws at their various arts and crafts show outings. It reminds me of them and I use it for small arrangements. The cat is snoozing here as he is worn out from remembering the botanical names in the previous vase. This is simply a bunch of Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) backed by Asian Sword Fern.

I also inherited my mother’s cat, she is now old enough to drive.


Gardening in the Rain


One day this week I was waiting for the rain to start so I could go work in the garden. I stopped to think – this seems really stupid, do other gardeners do this? And then went out into a gentle rain to move some Beach Sunflower around. It has been so dry lately the sandy soil has tightened its grip on roots to the point it is difficult to pry things out of the ground. Soil is an overstatement in my garden – I should face the facts, it is Sugar Sand, white, infertile and oddly capable of growing many things. I pried some intractable Johnsonsgrass out (and threw it away) then went looking for more beautiful things.

Here is what I found:


This is a Bromeliad, Billbergia pyramidalis, I think, bought as a cutting in February. I was told it would grow up the trunk of a tree. As a planted it, I was scoffing. Well, whoever told me that was absolutely correct – it is growing up the tree and much to my surprise, flowering at the same time.

This made my time in the rain worthwhile and hopefully the skies will open again soon.



Charles for President


On the campaign trail

Given the Republican primary results coming into the State of Florida today. I would like to nominate Charles the Greyhound for consideration as a candidate for president.

An elder stateshound with a spotted record, Charles has always sported a red collar indicating his support of the GOP.

At the ripe old age of 9 and a half, he is perfect in human years (65) to lead our country. Here he is reaching across the aisle to work with his blue colleagues from the Democratic party. Note the size of his paws, evidence of no problem in that department.


Reaching across the aisle

And in case of an international emergency,

Greyhounds always know what to do.


Solving World Problems

In A Vase on Monday – Surinam Shrimp


I am aware ‘Surinam Shrimp’ sounds like a dish at a Vietnamese restaurant, however the two main components of this vase are Surinam Cherries and Shrimp Plants. The Surinam Cherries are the fruit in the lower part of the arrangement.

I have a large hedge of these shrubs and was pleased to have a fruit producing hedge, thinking (silly me) the fruit could be eaten. I kept thinking the fruit wasn’t ripe or something as it tasted so bad. Finally my neighbor, a Florida veteran, picked one for me – properly ripe. Still tasted bad. I have seen the taste described as resinously bitter, and the description fits the fruit. Given the taste of the fruit and the colors in various stages of ripeness an arrangement seemed like a better use of the fruit. The rest will be left for our wildlife friends.


Here is another view with the nearly ripe Surinam Cherry beside the vase. As for the other members of the plant crew, we have: in dark red, flowers of the Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana); the foliage of Boston Fern and the upright sticks are from a ‘Firesticks’ Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’); in orange and chartreuse, the fruits of the Surinam Cherry (Eugenia uniflora).

The vase was a long ago Christmas gift to my husband from his ex-wife’s cousin! We have absolutely no idea what it is, so if anyone has a clue please send a comment. We have been wondering for years what this is. The top of the vase is much thinner than the base and has a hole in it. It reads “Gd Cafe des Viticulteurs”

As for the ‘Firesticks’ Pencil Cactus’ here is a picture of the plant. Euphorbias still blow my mind, hello, Poinsettias? so weird- I have a few of these around the garden as they easily root from cuttings:


Now I am craving some Shrimp Pasta for dinner. Without the Euphorbias, of course.

Autumnal Thoughts – Flights of Forest Fancy

Seasons can be difficult to recognize in South Florida. You have to look hard to find fall color, last year I found some Red Maples with red foliage in the nearby swamp – long about December. I have learned to look to the Indian River for signs of fall, there is always a mullet run when the seasons turn and I am just starting to see the little fish jumping out of the water, I enjoy the mullet run – it is a sign that relief from the oppressive heat is close at hand.

Royal Ponciana Delonix regia

Royal Ponciana
Delonix regia

Another sign of fall is the Poncianas are slowing down on the flowering and producing gigantic green pods. The ferny foliage is still shimmery green, but the pods foretell a soon to be naked tree. Getting in touch with my inner plant nerd (not difficult) I did some research on the Ponciana and found it is native to Madagascar and rarely seen there anymore. Another Madagascar native that is popular in landscaping here is the Bismarck Palm. This one is planted unfortunately near a power pole – that is not fruit. This Palm has huge silvery fronds, costapalmate! and literally 4 feet wide. The fronds sound like big pieces of cardboard rubbing together. Fruit is borne in grape like clusters of 2 inch wide shiny mahogany colored nuts. I planted one a month or so ago and it is supposed to take more than 2 months for the seed to germinate and 86 degrees Fahrenheit is the required temperature. So far nothing on that front.

Bismarck Palm Bismarckia nobilis

Bismarck Palm
Bismarckia nobilis

Here is my Flight of Forest Fancy, both these trees supposedly occurred in Forests.

Just imagine these forests – the Palm and the Ponciana can get to be 60 feet tall.

Avoiding the Technicolor Yawn

Red Hibiscus

Red Hibiscus Flower

One of my horticulturally oriented friends used to say “those annual beds look like Mickey Mouse threw up”. You know the ones; the aptly named “Cocktail Mix” Begonias backed up by Multi colored Caladiums. A kaleidoscope of red, pink, white and green so variegated you can’t focus and then start feeling queasy.

I realized the bed I was trying to use my entire assorted collection of plants waiting to be planted (that I bought because they were interesting or a great bargain or I had never seen one before or..) in was headed in that direction and decided to settle the colors down before I planted something ghastly. Colors were edited to this:

Then I added two green textures:



Pringles Dwarf Podocarpus

Pringles Dwarf Podocarpus

There is an ancient Red Hibiscus at the end of the bed (the top photo) it doesn’t bloom often, so I am hopeful no one ends up nauseated. My problem is I still have 10 or 15 assorted plants around and I just bought two more.

Weirdness Wednesday

Pygmy Date Palm Flowers

I was walking through my house this morning and glanced out the side door for a moment and spied a large bird walking down the driveway. Like four feet long. Upon further study, I realized it was a Peacock! Very strange. I grabbed my camera and went out the front door to sneak up on the bird and get a picture.

And the bird was gone. Vanished. Had I dropped some acid last night and forgotten?

I did see the Pygmy Date Palm flowering and took a picture of that (above) Because, well, that is pretty weird as well.

Later I realized that Peacock must have been one of the ancestors of Frances Langford’s famous flock. Frances Langford was a movie star who lived nearby in the 1950’s and had a Polynesian style resort with a flock of Peacocks.

No acid was taken here. I did have another cup of coffee.

Chopped Gardening

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Foodtv. I have a few favorite shows that are religiously recorded for later viewing, Chopped is one. For those of you not familiar with Chopped, a group of four chefs is given a basket of sometimes bizarre food items – say, venison, gumdrops, cinnamon liqueur, broccoli rabe and rice cereal, then the goal is to make a gourmet three course meal  (using the basket ingredients) within a certain timeframe. Other ingredients may be added, but all the basket items must be used. The chef’s food is reviewed on a course by course basis until all but one is left. That chef wins and the rest are chopped.

I was standing outside contemplating where to plant the odd assemblage of plants I had acquired when I realized that my garden is a continuous episode of Chopped. My ingredients are plants. Gardening in Florida adds a few wrinkles to the design process – interesting things just tend to pop up in the garden and there are numerous irresistible plant sales. Then a friend or neighbor leaves an interesting plant on the doorstep. It’s a dilemma.

After two years of dreadful well water, we joyfully hooked up to our public water system last year. I had left a blank spot down our side property line for the purpose of running the line to our house. After the water line installation was complete the plan was to finish the side landscaping.

Life intervened and I had to have hernia surgery. Doctor said in four weeks it should heal. Sounds great, by the way it could take up to six months. It took 5 months, two weeks and then I could move things around in the garden that weighed more than 2 pounds.

The side garden is now weed o rama and I have more than the usual stockpile of odd plants to use in the landscaping:

From friends:

American Agave

American Agave

Large  Orange Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Large Orange Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Things that have just popped up in the yard: Orange Clerodendrum, Pink Pentas, Boston Fern, White Spider Lilies, Pink Rain Lilies and Purple Oyster Plants. A Plant Palette I could not have dreamed up.

How to combine all of these plants in addition to my usual collection of 5 or so Bromeliads is taxing my brain. It’s a real episode of Gardening Chopped. I hope I make it through the first round.

Pink is the New Orange

Most of our gardening power tools are a really lovely shade of orange I call “War Damn Eagle Orange” In honor of, or perhaps to spite the fans of my alma mater’s rival Auburn University in Alabama. An Eagle is their mascot, team colors blue and orange. Southeastern Conference college football is serious business.  WDE Orange is very practical in that if you drop something into a green hedge it can be easily found. There is a new and disturbing trend in color for gardening tools. Pink.

Should really practical tools be pink? Some of these saccharine sweet garden implements are starting to get on my nerves. As a woman in the garden do you really need a pink trowel? Or does it match your Yorkie’s pink leopard outfit?

Or is your gardener using an entirely different trowel as you admire his work while having a pink cocktail with said Yorkie? The next question is does the dog have pink painted toenails?  If so,  then things have gone entirely too far and it is time to order one of these:

The Proverbial Pink Powertool

The Proverbial Pink Powertool

To complete the ensemble I have found pink fringed cowhide chaps and an appropriate hardhat:

Once all is assembled, we will need a lady who can actually lift that chainsaw.

Head gear

Head gear