Not Shopping for Tropicals

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This afternoon I have been glued to the television watching Hurricane Michael make landfall about 500 miles north my garden. The sheer size of these storms always amaze me. I can feel the hot breath from Michael flowing through my garden if I step outside. Praying for those in the storm’s path.

Earlier this week I went plant shopping – heading south to the numerous nurseries supplying South Florida. Much of the plant material grown in this area is too tropical for my garden, though I enjoy looking. This is ‘instant effect’ plant material, the above Heliconia is about 15′ tall – prices are not displayed.

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This is a hanging basket filled with Medinilla myriantha, 3 or 4 feet wide and tall. These plants are famously difficult to keep. Usually a very expensive flower arrangement.

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This is a pink and yellow unnamed Heliconia psittacorum. I could probably grow this one, but couldn’t lift the container it was in!

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Huge, grey Bromeliad.

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A Starfish Plant, variety lost to me.

 

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Tiny Aloes.

I bought nothing at this nursery, but gained an idea for a palm tree with boots I was planning to remove (growing into power lines)

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I can have the top removed and keep the trunk, then tuck Bromeliads, Ferns and Orchids into the pockets left by the boots. Like this:

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A stumpery – in tropical mode.

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In A Vase on Monday-Trading Vases & Places

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The flowers in my vase this week are Cattleya Orchids, from a plant gifted to me several years ago by my neighbor. I have been watching this plant for years, moved it around in the garden – nothing. Finally – three buds appeared, weeks ago. I watched, waited and watched some more, not a sign of opening. Just big, juicy buds displaying a tasty reticence.  I occasionally had to chase some leering grasshopper away. Sigh, more waiting.

After a rough couple of weeks,  my husband and I decided we needed a change of scene and took a few days to walk on the beach and rest. We packed up Alan the Greyhound and some coolers and headed to a lovely semi deserted beach miles from home.

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Of course, I checked the Orchids just prior to leaving and one bud was opening! Sigh, again. Hoping I wouldn’t miss the show, off we went. The picture is sunrise on North Hutchison Island, Florida.

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Deciding to cut the flowers was easy, I have two more buds and these were browning on the edges a bit. I’ll enjoy them in the house as long as they last. The vases (three again) were another story. Seeking a simple container for these complex flowers; I decided they needed a backdrop of a big tropical leaf (Seagrapes – Coccoloba uvifera). For vases, I started with a rose teapot, then went to the black vase, then the glass vases.

No leering grasshoppers in my house, but I did bring in a little bee.

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In A Vase on Monday – Gardening with Armadillos

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Sunday got off to a bit of a rough start, about 3 a.m. one of my greyhounds started to run around and whine. I got up, thinking he needed to go out and opened the door – only to hear a strange sound crashing around in the garden. Decided to turn on the security lights and low and behold, I spied an Armadillo. The shelled rodent (IMO) digging beside the metal screen enclosure on our porch, bashing his shell against the metal. Driving my poor dog mad and depriving both of us our beauty sleep.

As the dog ran out the door the foolish Armadillo ran into the fenced part of our yard – who knew an Armadillo could out run a greyhound?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armadillo

Cartoon time 3 a.m. My backyard. Starring Alan the Greyhound. Shown below in his usual state. Alan is the brown dog, the other one has no interest in getting up at 3 a.m.

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A few hours and cups of coffee later, I went to look for vase components in the garden the Armadillo had been digging in. Sure enough, he or she had been overturning Bromeliads, a favorite pastime for some reason made better by overturning burgundy or spotted Bromeliads. By trial and error, I eventually found out cardboard and mulch will keep the armadillos away, needs another application. Sigh.

20170806_100322 Seeking the components of a vase, I noted the Spathoglottis is flowering again. I know this really sounds like a disease, but is actually a lovely little Ground Orchid called Caberet. This is the second round of flowering since I planted it in January. It is the purple flower in the vase. The blue flowers are Porterweed, the jury is still out on which one and today it is really shedding for some reason. The yellow flowers are Lantana, Silvermound would be my guess for variety. The purple spotted foliage is from a Bromeliad the Armadillo overturned ‘Hallelujah’ Billbergia. A sprig of fern finishes the vase.

The Armadillo’s work last night:

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The Perennial Rites of Spring in South Florida

The Rites of Spring may be a ballet, a music festival or a rock band depending on where you look on the Internet. Seasonal changes can be subtle in South Florida so my Rites of Spring are landscape events marking the passage of the seasons to spring.

In the perennial garden, spring is marked when the Dwarf Jamaican Heliconia (Heliconia stricta ‘Dwarf Jamaican’) and Ground Orchid (Bletilla) flower.

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Dwarf Jamaican Helicona

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Ground Orchid

The Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata ) , usually flower off and on, stop for a rest in mid winter have started back up. This year a surprise has been the Poinsettias I used in Christmas containers flowered again after being set out in the garden. The Bromeliads (Aechmeas – Blushing Bromeliads) are sporting their red markings (these tend to go back to green as the weather warms) The Shell Gingers (Alpinia zerumbet) are in full bloom, covering an extremely unattractive 6 foot fence, and have been outstanding thus far.

 

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Sweet Begonias

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Poinsettias

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Blushing Bromeliad

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Shell Ginger

Vegetables and Herbs are at their zenith and starting to wane. A post for another day. Happy Friday.

Cattleya Orchids, Finally Flowering in my Fig Tree.

 

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I have been writing about my ongoing attempt to grow Orchids in the trunk of my Strangler Fig for two years! It finally flowered!

This is a Cattleya Orchid gifted to me by my neighbor. Hers looks much better having been in place for a lot longer than mine-here are my neighbors Cattleyas just starting to flower, these are in the trunk of a Hong Kong Orchid tree.

Sometimes the best thing for a garden is time.

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I think my flower is a bit more purple. Curious. I also think I nearly killed the orchids by not watering them enough during dry weather. They were looking pretty puny a couple of months ago, then I started watering them daily or so.

Feeling very lucky today.

Summer Color in Tropic Florida

The snowbirds are home cool and safe in their beds while visions of winter gardening in Florida dance in their heads. (not quite an original poem)

The rest of us are basking in the steamy weather post Summer Solstice in South Florida. Summer can be wonderful here, traffic slows as does time. Days are long and comfortable time spent outdoors occurs early in the morning or early in the evening.

Our plant life puts on a spectacular show during the summer. The show is a must see for any gardener.

Poincianas are in full flower and the Mango trees are filled with cascading boughs of fruit.

Many shrubs here flower year round, but once the rainy season kicks in the flowers go into overdrive. Especially on the Hibiscus, Ixora and Allamanda.

Our native Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens) and Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) are flourishing:

On the tropical side, Heliconias and Bromeliads are budding and blooming, I associate these with later in the season but some are going already. Yes, I cut most of my Parrot’ Flower (Heliconia psittacorum).

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Orchids are starting their summer season. My neighbors Ground Orchids (Epidendrum radicans) yes, groundcover Orchids! have been spectacular thus far, these are called Fire Orchids and there is a pink version

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Of course,  one of the real pleasures of the tropics in Summer is the scent of Frangipani in the garden. This white one has started flowering with the onset of Summer and I have a new one from a gardening friend on the verge of flowering- rose pink on the outside opening to pale yellow. I sited it near my screened porch for maximum smellability.

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I love the term ‘Tropic Florida’. To the best of my knowledge, it was coined by Frederick Stresau, in his book Florida, My Eden. This book, while titled like a romance novel is actually a really good manual of landscape plants for Florida. The tropic part supersedes the ubiquitous and perhaps American zone phobia. I think I live in Zone 10A, I am not sure anyone else would agree, but we can agree it is tropic. We have seen freezing temperatures here 4 times since 1980. That is pretty tropic.

Art in the Garden

I usually write about the art of the garden, but here is a bit of art in the garden. The above photos are of a woven willow structure currently under construction at the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, Florida. This piece of environmental art is nestled in a grove of palms and constructed of willow saplings and bendable twigs woven together to form a temporary structure. The structure will eventually have three willow towers. Here is a close up of the twig structure:

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And here is an overall view:

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The artist is Patrick Dougherty and the concept is STICKWORK, here is a link to more information on the artist and installation,  http://www.mckeegarden.org/current-exhibition.php

I am usually not very enthralled with environmental art, but I love this. The organic willow towers complement the formality of the palms and I like the facts that the structure is built from willows grown in a sustainable tree farm and after a few years the structure will be evaluated to decide to keep it or compost it. I have visions of the entire thing rooting into the ground and growing a twisted fairy tale castle in the palm grove.

The rest of the garden has a bit of a fairy tale feel as well. Conceived by pioneer developers in South Florida during the first half of the twentieth century – the first buildings were based on Polynesian structures in keeping with the “Jungle” theme. The garden fell into disrepair and was reborn in the early 2000’s shepherded by a dedicated group of garden enthusiasts. Below is one of the original buildings, a great hall centered around a table constructed from a 38 foot long single piece of Mahogany:

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The rest of McKee is well worth touring and has a wealth of tropical plants. I saw many types of Bromeliads I had never seen before and an array of Palms, Orchids and tropical trees. The garden began in a mature forest hammock and boasts some incredible native trees and a pathway meandering through the garden inviting you to stop and study the flora. Here are some of my favorite photos from my trek through the garden.