A friend of mine who has lived in Florida for a long time claims Mother’s Day is the bitter end of snowbird season. Another friend says the rise in humidity make the tourists skedaddle. I think both are right, the humidity went up this week and Mother’s Day is next Sunday. Another symptom of Summer is the flowers and scent of Frangipani and Gardenias in the air.
I was standing on my back porch Sunday morning, keeping an eye on Zepp the Greyhound, who is tall enought to eat Mangoes off the tree and just might do so. He is a fruit eating dog and has been sniffing and licking the unripe Mangoes. This is our first fruit from this particular tree and I want to eat it! Anyway, while dog watching I noted the wonderful fragrance of a nearby Frangipani. The Gardenia is more fragrant at night.
A closer view: In white, Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana diviricata); in yellow, Frangipani (Plumeria spp.) I have no idea the name of this Frangipani, a friend gave me a cutting and this one is fairly common around town – a small tree with pink buds opening to yellow. The purple flowers are from Mona Lavendar Plectranthus, seemingly a relative of Coleus and Creeping Charlie houseplants. I have been enjoying the flowers for months and am interested to see how they fare as cut flowers and through the summer. The purple striped foliage is from Transcandentia zebrina, one of the groundcovers called Wandering Jew. This plant is so prolific I have been making compost with it. The vase is a thrift store find.
The Mona Lavendar in situ.
Well, I love the color and have enjoyed it even if it fries in the heat shortly. It is sharing a container with Begonias, I had this odd idea Bronzeleaf Begonias made it through anything…except South Florida Summer.
Last Saturday I took a day off from my garden and joined a wildflower walk in the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve in Central Florida. The Prairie is the last dry prairie in Florida, encompassing 54,000 acres and is grassland as far as the eye can see. There are three seasons of wildflowers in the prairie and the butterflies are reported to be spectacular. Last Saturday was too windy and overcast to see the butterflies, though I did see amazing wildflowers. The flowers in the photo are Whitetop Sedge and Black Eyed Susans.
We saw several types of Milkworts, this is Yellow Milkwort (Polygala rugelli). Native Americans used this as a snakebite remedy.
This is Purple Milkwort (Polygala cruciata, I think) there are a lot of Milkworts. These are also called Drumheads.
Yet another Milkwort, these are commonly called Swamp Cheetos.
This is a Rhexia virginica, a Meadow Beauty. I think the common name is right.
A Purple Thistle (Cirsium horridulum) This this is a bit sharp, but a wonderful butterfly host and nectar plant. For some reason I have the much less attractive Yellow Thistle in my yard. It is usually asked to leave the garden.
This Monday’s vase had two Sunshine Mimosa flowers in a tiny purple vase. Several people commented on the flower, so I decided to write a post about it.
Sunshine Mimosa (Mimosa stringillosa) is a flowering groundcover native to Florida. A member of the Mimosa genus, it is sensitive to touch and closes its leaves when touched. It produces pink powderpuff flowers during the spring and summer months. The flowers are 4-6″ tall and rise above a green, ferny foliage that creeps along the ground on thick brown stems. I would characterize this as semi evergreen, the foliage fades a bit during the cooler months.
This plant is touted as a drought tolerant, native substitute for lawns and it is usually raved about growing beautifully in full sun. I have Sunshine Mimosa in two places in my garden. It is thriving in the area with partial shade and no irrigation, producing flowers that are a much deeper color. I have it in a larger area in my native pollinator garden – the butterflies do enjoy the flowers, but if this is what people think lawn should look like I will take the faux, recyclable lawn.
This area is irrigated, mulched, and fertilized in full sun. I am hoping it fills in a bit more over the summer and am planting some other flowering annuals in the mulch islands in the planting. The Mourning Doves ate the first round of Cosmo and Zinnia seeds I planted, seems like they were gleefully gathered nearby looking for cocktail nibbles and spied me planting seeds. Another drawback to the plant is its growth habit; The foliage is borne on runners that are so strong they can get caught around your foot and trip you.
Especially if you been having cocktail nibbles in the garden.
Here’s the collection of blues. The violin bottle belonged to my grandmother, she always kept unusual bottles on her windowsills, some filled with colored water. The footed glass was found in my in-laws house whilst cleaning it out to sell it. For some reason they collected one glass each time they went to an Arts Festival, so there was an odd collection of ones, many of them pottery wine glasses. The corked bottle holds dried rose petals I collected from bouquets my husband brought home.
I started with this one, my husband came in and said, ‘It looks like the violin is playing music’ – maybe the blues! The flower in this bottle is from a Miniata Bromeliad (Aechmea miniata) These are very easy to grow and bloom regularly in July. A simple Heliconia leaf has been added to the bottle. Here are the Miniatas in the garden.
The footed vase has a sprig of Frangipani and a few clippings of our native Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens)
Here is what has me singing the Bromeliad Blues. I bought this grey foliaged Bromeliad this spring at a Master Gardeners plant sale. No one knew what it was, but I liked the shape and foliage (the leaves have a deep pink tip) and it was $6, so I bought it. Check out this flower, I think this is a Bilbergia ‘Soundwaves’, but I am not sure!
I think Heliconias are pretty neat. My collection has grown to four varieties. The super special ‘Splash’ Heliconia refuses to flower (purported to have a 3 foot long lobster claw type flower – orange splashed with red). Fortunately the humble Dwarf Jamacian (Heliconia stricta Dwarf) and Parrot’s Flower (Heliconia psittacorum) have been cheerfully flowering since I bought them. This vase is filled with Parrot’s Flower, neat.
Neat in cocktail terminology means a serving of whiskey with nothing added then served at room temperature. I felt compelled to add the water. I found the seemingly simple arrangement to be a bit daunting to produce as many stems had to be trimmed a touch to make the arrangement even. Then my husband came in and said ‘I guess you are not finished?’ followed by ‘where’s the rest of it’! Then ‘Oh, that’s really simple’ Yes, neat.
I can imagine why these are called Parrot’s Flower – however, if the three foot long Lobster Claw Splash Heliconia ever actually flowers it is going to be front and center on the next In A Vase on Monday post. Neat.
This winter I finally indulged my desire for a Bird of Paradise (Strelizia reginae), debated with myself about placement of the plant, read all sorts of conflicting recommendations, ignored most of them and planted it in a morning sun location that I pass on the daily dog walk. The greyhounds remain unimpressed.
The above picture is full bloom on the first flower. The bud teased me for about two weeks sending a straight stem up that I wasn’t sure if it was a leaf or flower bud, until it started to bend and turn orange and blue.
Thinking these were long lasting flowers I was disappointed when the flower only lasted four or five days. Much to my surprise it bloomed again on the same stem
A curious plant to begin with- I am wondering what it will do next. It seems to be shooting up another something. Stay tuned. Here is the show thus far:
I started to use a Rose Bowl for this arrangement, but the bowl must have sensed my true feelings about Roses (too much trouble and ugly shrubs when not flowering) the flowers were just not sitting right so I had to go to a more straight sided container. See picture above, Rose bowl on the left and Fostoria on the right. The picture is to clarify which Rose Bowl I was writing about, my husband asked if I was blogging about football this week. The other Rose Bowl is a college football game.
I have a set of these Fostoria glasses, inherited from my mother in law. My husband refers to these as the Butterscotch pudding bowls because that is what she served in them. I really don’t know what they are, it is an oddly sized container for food or drink but works well as a vase. Here is a better picture of the Fostoria.
To me the star of the arrangement is a new arrival in my garden, the orange Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), research tells me this plant blooms nearly year round and is a desert tropical that likes regular water. I wonder what these people are smoking who come up with these descriptions sometimes, no doubt something horticultural. Regular water on your desert tropical. Apparently it comes from a weird desert.
The balance of the arrangement contains more Justicia – J. brandegeana, the Red Shrimp Plant in darker red. The lighter red is buds of the Heliconia psittacorum, the white flowers are Bridal Bouquet Plumeria (P. pudica). Greenery is Asparagus and Boston Ferns.
All this talk about Butterscotch Pudding has inspired me to make some. I think from scratch……Just have to find a recipe with actual Scotch as an ingredient.
The promise of the eventuality of summer is evidenced by the Frangipani starting to flower in South Florida. The Frangipani in this vase is Bridal Bouquet, a columnar, semi evergreen variety I have come to love in my garden. It is not as fragrant as other Frangipani but the evergreen foliage and form of the plant make up for any shortcomings in fragrance. I have been waiting to see what color the larger Frangipani in my garden are and blast it they are white as well. So, I am in the market for some more colorful friends for the white flowers.
The failure in this vase is the Fennel, the chartreuse starbursts looking like Dill or Queen Annes Lace. I have been trying to grow culinary Fennel for years from seed. It gets about half the size of a grocery store Fennel and then bolts. I think the climate here is just wrong for Fennel, but have enjoyed eating the foliage and using it in flower arrangements.
The Burgundy foliage is from my latest Bromeliad bargain. Not a clue what it is. Bargain Bromeliad $5, named specimen, $40. I can live without knowing the name and to me, part of the fun of gardening is seeing what happens next. The other foliage is my everpresent Boston Fern or more likely its evil lookalike tuberous Asian Ferns.
Here is the Bromeliad, burgundy with chartreuse spots, a perfect foil for the yellow green Fennel flowers. If anybody knows its name, please let me know.
The smoke grey glass vase was from a bargain store near my house bought years ago when I was overrun by a beautiful but much too enthusiastic Red Alstroemeria. The red and gold flecked flowers looked wonderful in the vase, I had a smoke grey glass vase full of Alstroemeria all summer for years.
It was Mother’s Day as I was plotting my Monday vase, so naturally I thought of what my mother might like in a vase. My mother (passed nearly seven years ago) was not nearly as snooty as I am about her flowers and enjoyed just about anything she could grow successfully. I am hard pressed to think of something she really didn’t like. Growing up we always had a seemingly magical forest of Cosmos and Scarlet Runner beans to play in. Many of the plants grown in the garden would end up in a vase on Monday! She would definitely get a kick out of all my wacky tropicals and the vases every Monday.
I ended up with her favorite teapot. I am fairly certain it was a wedding gift, the rim and base stained russet from untold thousands of pots of tea, many shared with me. I walked through my garden and cut everything that was in bloom and arranged it all in the teapot.
The big leaves in the back are Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera), the pink flower in the middle is a Brazilian Plume (Justicia carnea), Florida Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divaricata) on each side in white, Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata ‘alba’) the smaller white flowers, Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis) are the yellow and Parrot Flower (Heliconia psittacorum) the red and yellow on the sides. The teapot is marked Hall, made in the USA.
My husband wandered through as I was assembling the vase and asked me, aghast, ‘Is that your Monday vase?’
This is a side shoot from Sweet 100 tomatoes I hope to root to extend my tomato season.
Here is my mother, ever the Southern Belle, at the peach packing house with her grandfather in the late 1940s.
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.