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.

 

About

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.

 

Installing Orchids in the Strangler Fig

This is a story I started last year, when I was gifted some Orchids.

One of the joys of living in South Florida is growing things outside that are houseplants almost anywhere else in North America. My neighbor showed up with a box of Cattleya Orchids yesterday. She grows these in her trees mounted on the branches; it is a beautiful sight when the clouds of purple orchids are blooming in the summer. Some are fragrant and cast sweet scents through the garden.

Orchids Ready for Banyan Tree

Orchids Ready for  Tree

These Orchids were declared unkillable. If this is true these will be the first Orchids I have ever not killed. I think of Orchids more as a floral arrangement; not something that actually is perennialSo, I followed directions:

Cleared a slightly sunny spot in the base of a big Strangler Fig tree in my side yard. There are unfortunately some very poorly trained arborists (?!) around here who left this bad pruning job on my tree. A few orchids will spice things up here and cover the bald spot..

Banyan Tree Trunk

Fig Tree Trunk

I added some dampened Sphagnum Moss; trying to place the moss so it would drain and not cause any rot on the bark of the tree.

Spaghnum Moss

Spaghnum Moss

Then I hoisted the Orchids into the trunk and tied them to the tree with sisal twine. This takes a bit of jiggling and looping to make things secure, but I think they will stay in place.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

Here are the Orchids in place. The idea is you water them (not too much) until establishment in the tree. Then maybe water every week during the dry season. Voila! Hopefully, I will get some of these next year; if these are truly unkillable!

The update here is the Orchids are alive and well and are teasing me with new shoots – hopefully I get some flowers like the ones below. The good news is they do appear to be unkillable!

Cattleyas

Cattleyas

Orchids in the Orchid Tree – Cattleyas and Bauhinia

Cattleya Orchids in Hong Kong Orchid Tree

Cattleya Orchids in Hong Kong Orchid Tree

This is the current scene above my neighbor’s mailbox. A flowering Cattleya Orchid she installed in the crotch of a Hong Kong Orchid tree. A delightful welcome to the driveway or mailbox.

I would say the Cattleyas are probably 3 feet in circumference and nestled in the center of a semi multi trunked Hong Kong Orchid Tree. The flowers are pink and white, fabulous and slightly fragrant; it should be noted that there are some really fragrant Cattleyas that can be used in this way. The Hong Kong Orchid tree is looking as good as possible for a Bauhinia so the Cattleyas are the star of the show.

The iambic pentameter or whatever hadn’t occurred to me when I started this post – Orchids in the Orchid Tree. Where’s an English teacher when you need one?maybe it is alliteration? In my experience, English teachers were generally offended by my writing so somewhere, somebody is feeling unhappy about comma faults – my specialty. I was nearly kicked out of the University of Georgia for my comma faults; my solution to stay in college – semi-colons! And it worked! I have a college degree and am still here offending innocent people with my punctuation. I can only wonder how many good, interesting writers were sidelined by English teachers. Carl Sagan comes to mind:Billions and billions. Ms. Ford, if you are still out there, I am published and somebody paid me!!

I digress, my neighbor offered a start of these Cattleyas to me and I enthusiastically accepted. I have a good sized Banyan Tree asking for some Orchid company. Research (and my neighbor) tells me that you need a rough barked area, then apply some sphagnum moss, add the orchid and tie it to the tree with string. Water until established and …Voila.

Orchids in the Orchid Tree…

Cattleyas

Cattleyas