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.

 

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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.

In A Vase on Monday – Fall, Actually.

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I am aware I have been, well, complaining about the extreme subtlety of seasonal change in South Florida. As I was putting this arrangement together today, I realized this really reflects the seasonal change in my garden. As the weather cools, a few more plants produce berries – other plants flower. With the exception of the varigated foliage (which is year round and (I know, weird) a foundation plant. The balance of the arrangement is what comprises fall color in South Florida.

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The red flowers anchoring the arrangement are Turks Cap (Malvaviscus penduliflorus); the berries are from the Firebush (Hamelia patens); the off white flowers are Wireweed (Neverlearnedthe latin); yellow and red lobsterclaws, Bromeliad Aechmea blanchetiana flowers; dark foliage is from Copper Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpurea); amazingly still living after supporting several generations of Swallowtail Butterflies and my flower arrangements; varigated foliage is from Mammey Croton (Codieum ‘Mammey’)

Last weeks vase is still holding up and displays more of Florida’s actual fall colors.

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Not bad for Desperately Seeking Seasons.

In A Vase on Monday- Fire and Rain

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I have seen rain this week, every day, off and on, all day long. My husband is grumpy, the dogs are grumpy and I am getting gardening stir crazy. But, the Firebush is very happy and flowering magnificently.

If anyone remembers James Taylor’s song Fire and Rain here’s a link, before you click on the link realize there is always advertising and I had nothing to do with it: James Taylor. 

I decided a vintage copper teapot filled with warm colored flowers was necessary to lift my dreary spirits. After trimming some fiery flowers, I donned my red plastic raincoat and headed into the garden to see what I could find to join the Firebush. My greyhounds declined the offer to join me and sulked in their (sort of) dry beds.

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My neighbor’s Mexican Flame Vine (Senecio confusus) long ago left its bounds and was hanging down over a hedge that grows between us. Beaten down from all the rain (myself, my husband,my dogs and the Mexican Flame Vine) I cut a few stems to drape over the side of the teapot. Then I discovered some Tropical Red Sage flowers (Salvia coccinea) for the back of the arrangement; added some Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); and found a few Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum). I have been missing the Parrotflowers. Hurricane Irma followed by a mid thirties temperature in January nearly did them in. The few I found are about half the size they were last year. The flowers and foliage from the flourishing Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens) filled the framework of the flower arrangement. Say that 10 times fast.

Here is a close up of the flowers:

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It is raining again. The good news is the Frangipani loves it and I have my first blooms this year.

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Happy Gardening!