Six on Saturday The Good, the Bad, and the Bugly

A Zebra Longwing, the state butterfly of Florida, sipping nectar from a Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens). A good thing.

Another good thing, my Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) is finally making its bottle trunk. Eventually the old fronds fall off and the palm looks like it is sitting on a green wine bottle. This has taken about five years.

The bad thing about these next plants, they are so slow growing it is almost not worthwhile planting them. Both are Florida natives and come with the native hype…

This is a Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata) It has been in the garden for about five years and might be 18″ tall. I am not sure I will live long enough to see an actual palm tree form.

A Satinleaf (Chysophyllum oliviforme), the back sides of the leaves. This is reportedly a tree, and sounds romantically wonderful when described by growers who have seen it blowing in the wind. At six years old and possibly a foot tall (the ferns dwarf it) I have to lie down beside it to experience the romance.

The front side of the leaves.

And now, the bugly. This is the dreaded Lubber Grasshopper, another hyped Florida native. These can be 3 or 4 inches long and love to eat plants. Filled with poison, they only have one natural enemy, a bird called a Loggerhead Shrike, the bird impales the grasshopper and leaves them around to dry out and then eats them. I find them dead in the shrubbery from time to time. I am also an enemy and have frightened my dogs gleefully stomping them.

That is my six for this Saturday. Stop by http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com to see more posts from around the world.

Happy Gardening..

Six on Saturday – Spring Refresh

Perfect gardening weather ruled this week. There was even some rain for successful transplanting and weed removal. After the first rain, I started to pull out the evil invader, Asian Sword Fern. These ferns popped up in my garden a couple of years ago. I thought they were pretty, no longer. They have grown through everything and can only be pulled out if the soil is moist.

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During the course of my weeding, I pulled out a Gru Gru Palm (Acrocomia aculeata) seedling. It is said this is what pygmy tribes in the Amazon use for poison darts. Covered in thorns, these sliced right through my leather gloves and they get bigger as the palm does. I hope I got rid of the thing, I did not plant it. I see these from time to time as a specimen palm in gardens, the appeal is lost on me. Way too sharp.

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Our front garden is always under renovation as a small area has to be dug up once a year to service the septic tank. I question the wisdom of this design, but it has been made as accessible as possible. I put in a shelf of shells on a pizza pan with a pot of succulents behind and rocks on weed fabric that can be pulled out and replaced easily. I am not quite finished with this project.

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The pot has Flapjack Kalanchoe, Graptosedum and a Miniature Pineapple. The Pineapple is pupping so this should look fuller later this summer. The access to the septic tank is under the pizza pan. I am probably the first person to ever write that sentence, and possibly use a pizza pan for such a thing.

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I decided to direct seed a new crop of Basil for the summer into my herb pots, so far so good.

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The Beautyberry is flowering luxuriantly, promising a bumper crop of purple fruit later this summer. This is native and a pollinator favorite, waiting to see some new butterflies.

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Wishing  the Six on Saturday crew a lovely gardening week and for more posts go and visit…. http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

In a Vase on Monday – Happy Anniversary

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In a Vase on Monday is celebrating its sixth anniversary this Monday. Cathy, of Rambling in the Garden blog, created and hosts this meme weekly and challenged us to create a miniature vase (6″x6″) in honor of the anniversary. This  ‘vase’ is just under that and I added a crystal for Cathy as I know she likes crystals.

I decided to use shells and a tiny glass pot as my containers and then determined that they wouldn’t hold water. An additional challenge, waterless vase. The shells are a Tortoiseshell Cowrie in the glass pot and a Lightning Whelk. These shells are common to the east coast of Florida and were found on this beach near the Fort Pierce Inlet about 20 miles north of my house.

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The  Lightning Whelk holds one of our native Bromeliads (Tillandsia utriculata). These are commonly known as Air Plants and it is actually illegal to collect them in Florida.  Most are grown in South America and shipped to Florida, this one came up on its own in a nearby Oak and I moved it to a booted Sabal Palm.

The brown pods are from a Senna ligustrina, another native I planted as a larval host for  Sulphur Butterflies.

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Here are the Tillandsias in the booted Sabal Palm,  I am planning to add Burgundy Bromeliads and some Cattleya Orchids to the Palm. The boots are the bases of old fronds, many palms are cleaned up with a chain saw for a smooth trunk.

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The  Tortoiseshell Cowrie holds the dried stems of a seedhead from an Adonidia Palm (Veitchii merrilli). The stems are white until the berries ripen and then turn brown. The white stems are from a younger seedhead.

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A heartfelt thank you to Cathy for hosting IAVOM, it is an addictive pleasure to share a weekly vase with gardeners from all over the world – and to see theirs! To see more miniature sixth-anniversary celebrations follow this link More Vases.

Happy Anniversary and Happy Gardening!

In a Vase on Monday – Fall Vase Theory

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This vase is filled with the fall colors of South Florida. All of these plants are native to the area and thrive without too much help from the gardener. These are my kind of plants, easy to grow and maintain and not too rude about taking over. An added bonus is they last as cut flowers (or berries).

This week I was asked for a post explaining how I arrange flowers, so my vase design theory will follow the components of the vase:

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The purple berries are Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana); orange tubular flowers are Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens); the off white spikes are from the Juba Bush (Iresine diffusa); pink plumes are from Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and the ferns are Boston Fern (Nepholepis exaltata).

Vase Theory

The way I go about arranging flowers is less theory and more ‘that needs to be pruned’. I do not have a cutting garden. Anything within reach of the clipper is a cut flower as far as I am concerned. And I like garden space to be year-round, with the exception of vegetables. Flowers feed the soul, vegetables the body. Of course, having spent decades in the design business, there are certain knee jerk reactions to any design problem. And designers can overcomplicate anything.

This morning I noted my Beautyberry needed to be cut back again and decided to use the purple berry stems in a vase.

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The long, skinny stems dictated a tall, slender vase to hold them, I chose the smoky grey glass vase to contrast with fall colors I was thinking about using. I usually put the dishtowel headed towards the washing machine under the vase to catch bugs and trimmed plant bits. For proper scale with the vase, I cut some Beautyberry stems twice the height of the vase.

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I added the Beautyberry stems splayed around the vase into thirds, leaving spaces for more flowers.

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I cut some Muhly Grass stems (taller than the berries) for wispy purple texture change from the berries and greenish-white Juba Bush spikes for color contrast. Then decided the wispy grass needed a more solid green background. Back to the garden.

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I liberated a few Boston Fern fronds from the driveway (only in South Florida would this happen), then compared the size to the rest of the vase, decided they were too tall and cut a few inches off the stems. After adding the ferns, I decided more color was needed and went back into the garden for some Firebush flowers to fill the lower third of the arrangement with orange tubular flowers and some leafy foliage.

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The result, In a Vase on Monday! IAVOM is a Garden Bloggers meme based in the UK. Cathy from Rambling in the Garden is the hostess of this meme. To see more vases follow this link. More Vases

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In a Vase on Monday – Feeling Cooler, Not.

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September in Florida. It’s still blazing hot summer, though the calendar is telling me otherwise. Fall doesn’t arrive until October and it could be really late in October. My mental calendar still lives further north sometimes and expects cooler weather after Labor Day. In hopes of some mental cooling, I went in search of autumnal hues for my vase.

The vase is a thrift store find that I have used frequently and love for its chunky pottery vibe and the grey color provides great contrast to high colors.

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This is one of those vases I would have never conceptualized (realize I am a very highly seasoned design person, grey-haired and spicy). Conceptualized is design BS for ‘wouldn’t have thought of this’. Ugh, I hate that stuff sometimes. But there it is. Just popping out.

Wandering through the garden, I cut some white and purple – the white flowers are from Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) – sometimes it is white. The purple flowers are ‘Cabernet’ Spathoglottis, a Ground Orchid. Then I saw the apricot/orange panicles, these are flowers from the Miniata Bromeliad, fading away. I was surprised to like the color. The usual color is below. The deep purple and gold berries are from a Spicewood (Calyptranthes pallens) – this is one of the supposedly ‘easy to grow natives’ that is not so easy to grow. It has been moved several times and finally seems content, in a place no book recommends. And it doesn’t smell like spices as of yet. The orange tubular flowers are from a Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria), supposedly people made shampoo with these in the past – and then, the disclaimer. Many people are allergic to this, so caution is advised. There is not enough Benadryl in my house to make shampoo with this Aloe. The graceful creamy white spikes are from the Juba Bush (Iresine diffusa) – this is named for a Caribbean dance – Juba, because it sways in the wind like the dancers, and it really does. I guess I need a Limbo plant. Striped foliage in the back is from Wandering Jew (Transcandentia zebrina) that grows wild in my garden.

Here is the Miniata Bromeliad in flower.

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An interesting difference in the Miniata, though I like both colors and this week the color is decidedly cooler.

I just finished a good book and would like to share it with you. This book resonated deeply with me, having many similar thoughts and experiences in my garden. (I talk to my mother – who is dead – often in the garden, usually about my lack of gloves) I was happy to read other people do this.

A very enjoyable read by Cynthia Reyes, ‘Twigs in my Hair’

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Funky Florida Flora – Sea Grapes

IMG_20190619_090654Sea Grapes seemingly grow everywhere in South Florida. Native to South Florida and the Caribbean, this tree will grow in sun to semi-shade, is very drought once established, grows on the Oceanfront, shrugging off salty winds and hurricane,  and provides food for wildlife. They can be pruned into privacy screens or trained into multi-stem trees. The maintenance is a Sisyphean task if you dream of a rectangular privacy screen. Sea Grape is evergreen and it’s big, shiny green leaves with pinky red veins provide year-round tropical ambiance.

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Sea Grape’s botanical name is Coccoloba uvifera. The fruit, borne like grapes will eventually turn brown and drop to the ground. Grateful creatures devour the fruit, including my greyhounds – just one of the greyhounds, it took me a long time to figure out what he was crunching on while rooting around in the grass. A true Floridian hound, I suppose.

Florida natives (the human kind) eat the grapes when ripe, and make jelly and wine from them. My opinion, like many things, you have to grow up eating them to enjoy them. Kind of like being a Southerner and eating grits. They taste a bit like a fig, with a huge pit and are too labor intensive to make me want to eat them – and the birds usually beat me to them anyway.

 

Funky Florida Flora – Jamaican Caper

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One of my favorite Florida natives (people not included) started to flower last week, the Jamaican Caper (Capparis cynophallophora). This plant is related to the culinary caper, but is not edible for humans – though birds enjoy the fruit. One of the interesting things about this plant is the flowers start white and the next day turn purple.

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The different colors make for a more colorful show and contrast nicely with the olive green and brown backed evergreen foliage. If you look closely at the foliage you can tell something has been munching on it. This is also a host plant for the Florida White Butterfly, many have stayed in my garden after starting life on the Jamaican Caper.

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The Jamaican Caper is reported to be a large shrub/small tree. I think it must be fairly slow growing as I have had one several years and it is only 3 feet tall. Although, my husband ran over it with the lawn mower and I moved it during the dry season.

This is a pretty good plant.

In A Vase on Monday – Long Stemmed Salvia

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For reasons unknown to me, I have a bumper crop of Tropical Red Salvia. Usually a short and somewhat scruffy looking perennial (or reseeding annual, it seems perennial due to the constant supply of seedlings). The Tropical Red Salvia this winter is bearing long, lushly foliated stems with fat blossoms. The bees were not happy with me and my clippers again.

The Tropical Red Salvia also comes in peach, pink and neon orange. I rarely get a neon orange, but I do enjoy the softer colors and seedling variation. You have to wonder why it can’t be called simply Tropical Salvia as it is native to Florida, or, Florida Salvia?

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Another native added to the vase, Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata) – These ferns graciously popped up in the nether regions between my driveway and my neighbors fence. I have been enjoying ferns in vases since it’s arrival. The red and orange zig zag shaped bits are flowers from a Blanchetiana Bromeliad; the sprays of blue/white flowers are from Dianella (some call it Blueberry Flax), the variegated leaves are also from Dianella. Grey fuzzy foliage is from Licorice Plant (Helichryseum petiolare) – a plant in a winter container that I just cut back. I was happy to learn the Licorice Plant will grow here. More plants to propagate. Or try.

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I am having the exact opposite experience with China Asters and will not ask them into the garden again. I love the flowers and am not sure if this is the second or third attempt. Here is a seedling- sowed in September! Had one flower about the size of a fingernail.

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Ironically, the seedlings coming up in the pot are Tropical Red Salvia.

Life in the Garden. Happy Monday.

In A Vase on Monday – Two Challenges

20181111_095353-1 Last week, in honor of the fifth anniversary of the meme ‘In A Vase on Monday’, Cathy, our hostess at Rambling in the Garden on WordPress challenged us to not use a vase on Monday. Hence, the watering can. My second challenge, issued by a gardening friend, to use all native wildflowers in my non vase.

The brass watering can had been around my mother’s house for so long I am not sure if I am the second or third generation to use it. I decided to leave the patina and fill it with delicate wildflowers from my garden and a few fall fruits, all from plants native to Florida – a surprisingly long plant list.

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As I was arranging this, I was surprised by how pretty these flowers are when closely observed. And how many flowers it took to fill the small watering can.

The purple flowers are Tampa Verbena (Glandularia tampensis); pink tubular flowers are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) – it seeds in red, pink, salmon and orange. The deep blue flowers are Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis); I have learned to love this plant along with the butterflies, it continues to open flowers after cutting and the stems are such a wonderful accent. The purple grasses are Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). I am not sure this grass does as well anywhere else but in Florida. Sharp drainage is vital, mine grows in sugar sand with no irrigation.

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I have finally found out what the off white spikes are – Juba Bush (Iresine diffusa), identified by a wildflower expert who said “Juba Bush is named after a Afro-Caribbean step dance, because of the way it waves in the wind” It actually does have a lovely sway in the wind – and I like the story. The ferns are Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata),  porch plants the world over, these originated in the swamps of Florida and popped up in my garden. The white flowers are  Jointweed or Wireweed or Octoberflower (Polygonella robusta), started blooming on October 31!

Fruits are from the Senna ligustrina, the long brown pods. I recently added these to the garden to attract Sulphur Butterflies. They are doing their job, though I haven’t seen any caterpillars. The plants remind me of Soft Caress Mahonia, which l love but can’t grow this far south. The round fruits are from the Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursea simarouba) I love these for their names, the other one being Tourist Tree, for the red peeling bark resembling sunburned skin…

Happy IAVOM Anniversary, to see vases from around the world follow this link.More Vases

In A Vase on Monday – Mostly Wildflowers

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This vase is a result of my plant shopping trip last week. I posted some pictures last week on my blog from the tropicals nursery I visited with a friend (made through gardening on social media, not blogging, though). The idea for the vase was started by another nursery we visited, Indian Trails Natives Nursery located in Lake Worth, Florida. Here is a link to their website Indian Trails

 

 

The nursery has an extensive stock of native plants, a demonstration garden and they will give a price list. Meaningful. I bought several plants and decided to deadhead my new Black Eyed Susans in hopes of more flowers -the genesis of this vase.

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I have been working on my native pollinators garden for a little over a year. The results are amazing, so I keep adding butterfly and bee plants concentrating on natives. My big however is … I don’t feel that it’s mandatory that every plant is native. I would go as far as to say non natives enhance the appeal of the garden to pollinators. No elitism in my garden!

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Plants in this vase include: the Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) – these are Florida’s native Black Eyed Susan, I grew Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’ further north and tried to grow these Rudbeckia from seed to no avail. Hopefully, the plants fare better and I end up with too many. Red flowers are Tropical Red Sage (Salvia coccinea); blue flowers are from Porterweed (Stachytarpeta); off white spikes are Wireweed (Don’t know whatis); white flowers are from the one non native, Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata) hailing from Argentina, our native (endangered) Atala Butterflies love this one. Pink plumes are from Muhly Grass (Muhlebergia) just starting their fall show; the sticks are from the native grape Muscandines (Vitis rotundifolia) – I stripped the leaves, the raccoons ate all the grapes.

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Here’s our native Atala butterfly emerging from their chrysalis on native Coontie Palms. Their mom enjoyed nectar from Beautyberry and Sweet Almond before settling down to lay eggs.