In A Vase on Monday – Winter Cheer

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Sunday in South Florida proved to be a sunny, blue sky cool day. I planted Arugula, Romaine Lettuce and Baby Spinach in the Potager. Getting in touch with my inner snooty gardener. I am about as French as my greyhounds or my Jeep. Potager is French for kitchen garden. I need to think of a word for a South Florida kitchen garden, preferably non French. Kitchen garden might be the answer.

We had some cold weather last week that is slowly taking its toll on the more tropical members of my garden. I live at the north end of South Florida, the Heliconias were not happy about temperatures of less than 40 degrees F and are turning brown and yellow to spite me.

I needed a little Winter Cheer and happily the garden provided. The vase is a thrift store find, made with love by some unknown and probably gone from this world potter. I hope they are feeling happy in the great beyond that I am using their vase.

The native plants are holding up admirably to the cold snap and are a large part of this vase.

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The yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); the bright red and apricot flowers are from the native Salvia (Salvia coccinea); orange tubular flowers from Firebush (Hamelia patens) – if you want to get into a botanical argument, this is your plant, probably from the Bahamas. The berries are from the evil scourge, Brazilian Pepper – trying to eradicate this and using the berries here. The off white fluffy stuff is from some sort of Wireweed, and then I added some Italian Flatleaf Parsley.

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This is a close up of the two Salvias, both S. coccinea, the peach is my favorite and seems to have reseeded from the red that has been in the garden for a few years.

For fun, here is the Snake Plant, the flowers have been in my vases the past couple of weeks. Some call these Mother In Law Tongues (Sansiviera), they have been flowering this winter in the garden. This plant is considered invasive – and it is, we keep it at bay with the lawn mower. My own Mother In Law was fine, no need to mow her tongue!

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Happy Monday, stay warm.

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In A Vase on Monday – Completely Different

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And now for something completely different! The theme from the past week or so around here. It has been oddly, well, cold. The greyhounds are perplexed, a lovely nap in the backyard sun has turned unpleasant and I have had to rethink my attire.

My personal definition of winter clothes – short sleeve shirts instead of tank tops, shoes, never and God forbid, socks. The middle of last week I found myself in my closet, searching for long pants, sweatshirts and shoes and the detestable socks. I haven’t put coats on the dogs yet, they are somewhat offended by canine jackets.

The good news, warmer weather is returning tomorrow. We had a low temperature of 38, nothing was damaged that I can tell. The garden still has Salvia, Beach Sunflower, and some other sort of regular things flowering – I decided to look for something different.

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I am not sure how much more different one could go. The plants in my different arrangement are in Salmon, a Bromeliad flower, Aechmea weilbachii forma viridisepala, Yah! a new friend from my garage sale collection-bought a couple of years ago for a few dollars, having no idea what the flower might be..In off white, Sansiveria (Snake Plant, Mother In Laws Tongue, etc),  The burgundy striped foliage is from a Ornamental Pineapple, Striped foliage from a Pandanus spp, fluffy fern – a volunteer Asparagus Fern.

Another different scene from South Florida, the Winter Vegetable garden, a few people have asked about the Potager, so far, so good. We have from the left potatoes, garlic, radishes, green beans, red peppers, tomatoes, snow peas, papayas. I am planting spinach, arugula and romaine lettuce next week.

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In A Vase on New Year’s Day- Unreal

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Some of the more tropical plants in my garden produce flowers that strike me as unreal. New Year’s Eve found me in the garden tending vegetables under a cerulean blue sky, wearing a sweatshirt and enjoying a bit of cool weather. December in South Florida can seem a bit dreamy. Beautiful beach weather for the most part, sometimes a bit foggy. Around town people can be seen surfing on the blue water… while pelicans dive into the river seeking a mullet for dinner.

It also seems unreal to me that tomorrow ushers in 2018! Where did the time go?

I can assure you that the flowers are quite real and from my garden. The orange, yellow and red flowers resembling Lobster Claws are from a Blanchetiana Bromeliad. The Bromeliad itself is probably 5 feet tall and 6 feet across, the flowers are panicle like affairs that are about 4 tall and maybe 18 inches wide. I had cut the whole flower, then realized there were ants living in the stem. Quick work was made of cutting the ant hill off and leaving it in the garden. The balance of the flower was placed in my big crystal vase, forming a swirling base for some other flowers.

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The orange firecrackers are from Firebush (Hamelia patens), big leaves are from a Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet), the off white flowers from the mysterious Wireweed, the gift from Mother Nature that keeps on giving. Here is a close up:

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The crystal vase, a wedding gift from a dear friend. The bells, to ring in the New Year, a favorite family heirloom of mine – my father brought them home from India, where he served during World War II. I have no clue what they really are, but my mother always used them on her wreath at Christmas.

Since it is New Year’s Eve, my husband and I are preparing a special dinner. He is baking an Apple Pie, I am working on homemade Pasta for Smoked Fish in Creamy Tomato Vodka Sauce. The fish is Snapper caught and smoked by my husband, the sauce a decadent creamy vegetable sauce. For this we needed another flower arrangement.

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The centerpiece, in my mother’s Rose Bowl features Salvia: the peach Salvia is a seedling of the Tropical Red Salvia (S. coccinea) – there are named cultivars like this, however, this one is mine! The purple Salvia is Mexican Sage (Salvia leucantha). I had this plant as an annual further north and bought one late fall. It seemed annoyed, then started to flower. Orange flowers are from our Firebush (Hamelia patens). White flowers are Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata), Dark red flowers are Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana) and some Asian Sword Fern, there are also some Gallardia floating around in there.

New Year’s Eve dinner:

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Dessert:

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Happy New Year!!

 

 

Gifts from the Garden

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I love the little surprises the garden provides. I had two surprises this holiday season from my expanding collection of Bromeliads from garage sale finds. Bromeliads were new to me as a garden perennial when we moved to South Florida six years ago. I find them really interesting and wanted to try some, soon finding they are very expensive, people who sell them have little to offer in terms of how to place and grow, on top of that I suffer from what my father called ‘cheap Scotch heritage’. Spending $80.00 for one perennial that may or may not make it, not happening in my garden.

Experience tells me the more expensive the plant the more likely Alan the greyhound will dig it up or sit on it..oops. I began noticing Bromeliads for sale at garage sales – no one knew the names,  but I knew they would thrive in my garden if people were selling excess plants. And they usually cost 5 bucks! Win, win. Plant and wait a couple of years..

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The flowers from these perennials take a bit to get going but they tend to last a long time. I watched the big pink bud with baited breath and finally it opened.

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Really kind of an amazing flower and worth the wait. I asked around for a long time and finally someone recognized this on social media as an Aechmea ‘Little Harv’, a Bullis Bromeliad from a South Florida grower and they do sell for $70.00 a piece.

My next surprise is another Aechmea, Aechmea weilbachii forma viridisepala. I have been calling it the LeSueur Pea Bromeliad. Identified by Facebook again. I have learned these are winter flowering and also long lasting in the garden.

 

Can’t wait to see what comes up next…I have been to a few more garage sales, and the foliage is turning out plum.

In A Vase on Christmas

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It’s Christmas Eve in South Florida, the temperature is hovering around 80 degrees (F) and sunny blue skies are smiling down on me, a few puffy clouds drifting by. Lurking in the back of my mind- the thought that Christmas Eve should be a drizzly, overcast 38 degree day, a day that makes you dream of hot chocolate or hot buttered rum. Rum drinks over ice with umbrellas are called for in my garden this Christmas Eve.

To add a little more holiday feel to the house, I challenged myself to find all the red flowers in the garden to make the Christmasiest vase possible. Here is a closer view:

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Red and green striped leaves from the Martin Bromeliad set the holiday tone, a few ornamental peppers add a festive touch of red. Turk’s Cap Hibiscus are hanging over the edge and the spike flowers are from the native Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). A deeper red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana) completes the red flowers. The grey flowers are from my Flapjack Kalanchoe, the green spike is a flower of the Snake Plant (Sansiveria). A bit of Asian Sword Fern adds foliage color and background.

Feeling more like Christmas already. Alan the Greyhound basking in the shade of the Christmas tree.20151213_162756

Merry Christmas to all!!

In A Vase On Monday – Local Color

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Strange as it may seem, pink is a holiday color in South Florida. Holiday pinks are most prominently manifested in a never ending parade of flamingo themed Christmas decor. My street features flamingos as Mr and Mrs Claus giving presents, flamingos with candy canes and a sleigh pulled by eight tiny flamingos in red capes. Last year I mentioned the flamingos in red capes and a fellow blogger who shall remain unnamed suggested I had overquaffed the eggnog. This year I have pictures.

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As unique as this may seem, there is another sleigh/flamingo configuration around the corner twice the size done entirely with lights – no capes.

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My pink holiday vase features, in pink, the Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet). The Shell Ginger was quite shredded by Hurricane Irma, I decided to leave it and am being rewarded with flowers about half the usual size, puzzling, but it is nice to have the flowers and there are many more on the plant. The grey flowers are from the succulent Flapjack Kalanchoe, the  off white flowers from the mystery plant finally identified by a blog friend of Eliza’s as  Wireweed, a Florida wildflower.

I added local color this weekend by making a wreath using components from my garden. No pink or pink flamingos.

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The yellow and red flowers forming the ring are from Blanchetiana Bromeliad, the green leaves wrapping the wreath are from a Pandanus, species unknown. I think this will last through New Years.

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Container Gardening Information for the Treasure Coast

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Last week I gave a talk to the Hibiscus Circle of the Stuart Garden Club about container gardening. The Treasure Coast of Florida operates basically opposite of the rest of the US in terms of gardening. Our gardening season is moving into full swing now. I have just planted tomatoes and vegetables and will be renovating my containers as we move outside for the winter. Below is the omnipresent theory for Container Design.

 

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I find this concept to be sound advice. Planted in an 18″ container, a 6″ nursery pot with a thriller and two 4 or 5″ nursery pots with a filler and a spiller make a wonderful addition to your front door step, porch or outside seating area. Plant selection is another story. More about specific plants later. As far as planting the container goes, see below for the idea:

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Tips and tricks for planting containers include:

  • Always use potting soil.
  • If the container is going outside, be sure there is a drainage hole and cover the hole with coffee filters and pebbles to keep the potting soil in the pot.
  • When planting an oversize container, the bottom can be filled with Styrofoam noodles separated with coffee filters or weed check fabric to keep the soil around the plants in the upper part of the pot. Always maintain a 12″ depth of soil in pots to keep watering chores to a minimum. The exception to this rule, Bromeliads, Orchids and succulents can be grown in less soil.
  • Allow an inch of soil from the rim and keep soil level an inch below the rim of the container.
  • Add time release fertilizer after planting, 13-13-13 is best for our area and lasts longer in the heat.
  • Check container daily and water accordingly, many containers need daily watering.

RECOMMENDED PLANTS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING:

Tropical Plants: Many tropical plants thrive in containers on the Treasure Coast. There are many kinds of Bromeliads and Aglaonema, all of the plants pictured require a shaded area.

 

 

 

 

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Many annual flowers are good for use in containers, they generally don’t last the summer here so be prepared to renovate your containers every 4 to 6 months. Here are a few plants to consider:

 

 

 

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Vegetables and herbs are great plants for containers. Many vegetable gardeners use containers exclusively to avoid weeding and backbreaking labor in soil preparation. Notes on seed packets and vegetable plants will sometimes include recommendations for container sizes.

Herbs for Treasure Coast Gardens:

 

 

 

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There are many other herbs that can be grown here. Fresh herb plants appear in the big box stores and garden centers this time of year. I grow what I like to eat. My favorites are:

Basil: I always have a pot of Basil around, my preference is basic Sweet Basil with the large green leaf. It can be called Genovese or Napletano. I also like Greek Columnar Basil but it can be difficult to find. Basil lasts about 3-4 months in a container so I replace mine quarterly.

Bay Leaf: My first attempt with Bay Leaf failed, I planted it in the ground and it did not flourish. I bought two more and they have happily provided Bay Leaf from their perch in a terracotta pot. Bay Leaf plants can be difficult to find in our area so buy them online. Be careful to buy the culinary Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) – there are other types used for decorative purposes and not to eat.

Dill: Dill is a favorite for use in soups or with sauteed vegetables or fish. A tall, ferny plant this is a cool season plant and will go to seed in the late spring. The seeds are a bonus and can be used in breads or saved to grow more Dill next fall.

Parsley: I prefer Italian Parsley (flat leaf) for flavor, Curly Parsley can be easily grown here as well. This is a cool season plant and will grow here from October until late spring.

Rosemary: Rosemary lasts year round in a pot. Eventually, it needs replacement – I consider this maintenance as we eat a lot of Rosemary. I like the flavor of the upright plants rather than the creepers.

Thyme: Thyme is another cool season herb. I may have managed to get it to live through a whole year once, but this requires a lot of attention in the summer. My attention tends to wane as the humidity rises. I prefer the Lemon Thyme to German for the flavor.

My Fall Containers are currently under construction, I will work on another post when they are complete.

For more information about Garden Design follow this link https://theshrubqueen.com/garden-design-and-consulting/