Six on Saturday – Tea for Two

A couple of weeks ago I posted an image of the first flower on my Blue Pea Vine and mentioned making tea from it. I have also posted my Roselles, the flowers may also be used for tea. I tried both yesterday. I should preface this review by saying I am not a huge fan of herbal teas and prefer Earl Grey or black tea.

Roselle tea tastes like Hibiscus flower tea, which is no surprise considering it is a Hibiscus. The Blue Pea Vine tea tastes like dirt to me. I asked my husband to try and he agreed. I have seen the tea served that is cobalt blue in color, perhaps more steeping is needed or more flowers, the question becomes does it taste like more dirt?

The Roselles were in my freezer from last year. I froze them and promptly forgot all about them. When I harvest the flowers this year I will try making some jam to serve with champagne, which seems like a good holiday project.

The Blue Pea Vine (Clitoria ternata).

Roselles in their current state. These are about a month out from harvest and are buds. They will flower and form seed heads; the calyx from the seed heads are what is used for tea.

Fall has arrived when the Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris) starts to flower. The temperatures were in the low 70s this morning. My greyhounds had a long run in the dog yard and I enjoyed a walk around the garden.

Native Senna (Senna ligustrina), another fall flower in bloom. This is a host plant for Sulphur butterflies. If the caterpillars eat the foliage they are green; if they eat the flowers they are yellow. The butterflies are all yellow.

The bag garden is coming along. Currently bagged: bush beans, tomatoes, radishes, criollo peppers, dill, and flowers for cutting – zinnias, sunflowers, nigella and some mixed seeds that will be a surprise. The sticks are to keep rabbits out, the squirrels are only slightly deterred by them. I had a first time experience with a Gopher tortise eating a globe amaranth.

That is my Six for this Saturday. Jon the Propagator hosts this meme at http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Follow the link to visit other gardens.

Happy Gardening!!

Six on Saturday – Reds and Purples

Another Saturday morning tour of my garden featuring six items of interest to join the SOS crowd at http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Follow the link to see more posts.

I have a lot of hot colors in my garden and fall is no exception. The red and purple flowers and foliage are out in force.

The Aechmea blanchetiana Bromeliads are in full bloom. These are almost five feet tall and last for months. A neighbor gave me a start of these and said “the flowers last so long you get tired of them.” I enjoy them!

The Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana). This is a very happy plant and flowers a lot. One of my favorite old reliables and a gift from a neighbor.

The Roselles (Hibiscus sabdaiffa) have reached five and a half feet in height and are setting flower buds. Eventually I will pick the red calyx of the flower to make tea or holiday cocktails. I planted the seed in April. Most of the plant is edible.

Purple Queen or Setcresea appears randomly in the garden. I prefer to call it Purple Queen, Setcresea sounds like a skin disease.

A new container I put together this week. The Bromeliads are cuttings from existing plants in my garden. In red, Fireball Neoregelia, varigated, Bossa Nova Neoregelia. Draped over the side is a Fish Hook Senecio and the plant in back is a Cardboard Palm (Zamia furfuracea). The Bromeliads should spill over the sides eventually.

The Milkweed devoured by Monarch butterfly caterpillars is making a remarkable comeback. I was amazed at the amount of foliage they ate – all of it and about one third of the stem.

That is my Six for this Saturday.

Happy Gardening!!

The Bag Garden

October brings the vegetable gardening season to South Florida. I started tomatoes from seed about a month ago and started work on a new concept for growing vegetables. Last year, my most successful vegetables were grown in containers and I decided to build on that. The soil in my garden is beach sand and while it can be amended, it is virtually impossible to get it to retain enough water for good vegetables. And then, there are root knot nematodes (bad nematodes) that love vegetables. They infested my tomato, snow pea and pole beans last year, slowly starving the roots by consuming the nutrients conducted by the roots, eventually destroying the plants.

On to containers!

I used 7 gallon containers to grow tomatoes last year and decided I wanted something a little bigger. I searched and found plastic pots weren’t that cheap and then I had to store them somewhere. While searching on Amazon, I found fabric grow bags, lots of grow bags. I have seen these around – but never tried using them. These are available in pretty colors, I almost succumbed to bright purple, green and orange grow bags then realized filling them with black soil mix would render the colors ugly. Basic black prevailed. I bought 8/10 gallon and 8/5 gallon bags for $25 delivered.

Here they are. Shipped folded – they open into something that looks like a handbag.

The 10 gallon bags hold 1.5 cubic feet of soil. I used the 10 gallon bags for tomatoes and bigger vegetables, the 5 gallon bags for cut flowers, herbs and smaller vegetables. I decided to try this organic soil mix, which is not recommended for use in containers. Since this is a spun fabric bag that breathes; I opted for the heavier soil mix and added a bit of compost from my pile.

During the course of filling the bags (they are a bit wiggly) it occured to me I was creating a rabbit height smorgasboard. I had leftover sections of rabbit abatement fence from last year and used the reeds like tiger (bunny?) sticks, this has worked on other delectables in my garden.

This week, I planted tomato and zinnia seedlings and seeds for bush beans, criollo peppers, radishes, dill, zinnias, sunflowers and nigella. When the weather cools, I will plant spinach, lettuces and snow peas.

The bags are currently in a half day of sun location, out of the wind, while the seeds sprout and the seedlings acclimatize. I will move these to a full sun location with a hand cart. Tried it and it works! Saves my back and the soil is stable enough to move.

The experiment continues… Hoping for bouquets of zinnias and lovely salads.

In a Vase on Monday – Torched

When September starts winding down and the Fall Equinox approaches there is an ever so subtle change in the weather and South Floridians feel less torched. Or maybe less scorched. The daily high temperatures are less than 90 degrees F/32 C. Eighty eight degrees with less humidity is refreshingly cooler. Sort of.

While searching for vase contents, I was happy to see a new bough of flowers on the Tropical Gardenias, then decided to cut the Flaming Torch Bromeliads as the centerpiece of the arrangement. The flowers are most likely courtesy of many late afternoon thundershowers in the past weeks.

A closer view:

The pink flowers are Flaming Torch Bromeliads (Billbergia pyramidalis), AKA Hurricane Bromeliads as they typically flower during peak Atlantic hurricane season. These are sort of a passalong plant in South Florida. I cannot recall ever seeing one for sale, these were shared with me.The white flowers are Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana diviricata) – I am wondering how long these will flower, it seems I have had them most of the summer off and on. Green dreadlocks and varigated foliage belong to the ‘Java White’ Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana). I am not sure it the dreadlocks are buds or seeds or flowers, so I took a close up.

Any thoughts? I have three groups of Java White in the garden and this is the only one with dreadlocks. The mystery continues.

Thanks to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting this weekly meme. To see more, probably cooler vases, follow the link.

Happy Gardening!!

In a Vase on Monday – Fall Colors

I think it is safe to say this is an unconventional use of a rose bowl. Of course, I have no roses and think it would be way too much trouble to try and grow them. Though it is possible. I would need to replace the dirt in my garden. So, I will keep using the rose bowl for non roses.

Fall will officially arrive in about 10 days. These are typical fall flowers in South Florida with a little bit of fruit. The grapes are dreadful tasting Muscandines that are very difficult to conquer. It makes me happy when they lose their leaves and I can’t see them anymore.

A closer view, the white flowers are Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana diviricata) – these will continue to flower until the weather cools off. I enjoy using them in arrangements; this one’s fragrance is a bit weird with the Gardenia and Mystic Blue Salvia. The green leaves are from a big Coleus that is so easy to propagate I have more and more everytime I use them in a vase they root and I can’t bear to throw them away. And..they go with everything. Like a little black dress. Who knew Coleus is a gift that keeps on giving. The orange flowers are Parrot Flowers (Heliconia psittacorum ‘Choconiana’) These are new to the garden and another plant that needs to be in a certain spot. Or else it dies. I think I got this one right.

The blue flowers are Mystic Blue Salvia, this has been blooming for so long I am wondering if it will ever stop. Now that I have put that in writing it probably will. The ‘fall leaves’ are the older growth on Piecrust Croton (Codieum varigatum).

Thank you to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting this garden meme. Follow the link to see more vases – maybe with some real fall color.

Happy Gardening!!!

In a Vase on Monday – Warm Fuzzies

My garden gives me warm and fuzzy feelings most days. I enjoy watching plants grow and flower. The humidity in the garden this weekend was really warm and produced a nearly visible fuzz in the air. I started pruning a Bougainvillea Sunday morning and soon was enveloped by a steaming column of moisture from the ground. I didn’t quite finish the Boug. The good news? I will feel much less warm and probably less fuzzy after the fall equinox !! A little more than two weeks away. Relief is in sight.

What makes this arrangment evoke warm and fuzzy emotional happiness?. I am not sure. The deep pink Chenille flowers are tactile and soft to the touch. The fragrance from the white flowers add soothing sweetness to the air. The chartreuse dreadlocks inspired the vase.

Not sure anyone has ever use the terms chartreuse and dreadlocks in the same sentence. Especially when referring to plant material and not hair.

Closer views:

The fuzzies; in deep pink, Dwarf Cheniile Plant (Acalypha pendula). I have these in pots, they are sold as groundcover in South Florida. Not so much, they die back in winter and take until nearly the next winter to flower and look decent. These are in a container on my front porch, I would not try using them as groundcover.

The container, there was nothing spilling over the side until June due to sheer laziness on my part. I was surprised and happy to see the Dwarf Chenille reappear:

I trimmed the big ones that were pink and used them in the vase – then realized the brown ones needed to come off as well. Watching to see the results of the pruning. The bigger plant is Mednillia cummingi. A funky orchid that has not flowered yet.

Another view:

The other side:

In white with yellow centers; Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica); in white draping over the edge; Tropical Gardenias (Tabernaemontana diviricata); chartreuse dreadlocks and varigated foliage are from Java White Copperleaf (Acalphya wilkesiana ‘Java White’) Ferns are a local weed, Asian Sword Ferns. The blue vase, a gift form my brother’s family years ago that I have enjoyed.

Thanks to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting. Follow the link to see more Monday vases.

Happy Gardening!!

Six on Saturday – Frogs and Fun

Another Saturday is upon us. I am sharing six fun items from my garden this week. Here is the frog:

This is a Cuban Tree Frog, native to Cuba *duh. These are considered invasive in Florida as they can out reproduce our native tree frogs. I was surprised by how small this frog is – they are very loud.

A Dancing Lady Ginger gifted to me by a friend. This is potted in canal mud and compost. I wish I had some canal mud to plant it in. Where to plant it is a bit of a dilemma.

A Medenillia underplanted with Dwarf Chenille Plant. The Medenillia is an orchid that grows in trees in Java, another gift from a friend. Hoping for flowers, they look like pink grapes.

This Cattleya Orchid lives in a pot in the garden – its blooms the first week of September every year.

Another favorite of mine. I love the stems for the flowers and the color. This is a non native Porterweed (Stachytarpeta jamacianensis, I think) Indestructible and reliable.

So happy to be using my house made compost. It took a couple of years for this to break down into compost, I started with a shredded oak tree and added to it…This week it is time to plant tomato seed for winter vegetables.

That is my six for this Saturday. To see more posts visit Jon at http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

Happy Gardening.

In a Vase on Monday-Bass Ackwards

Many Mondays I wonder how many gardeners out there recognize the flowers I grow in my garden…because, it is some pretty weird stuff and I will try just about anything. Gardening in South Florida can make you rethink the limits of what is possible or pull some hair out cuz you can’t figure out how to make it work.

Bass ackwards describes the seasons here. This may be a Southern term. Not sure of the origin; though I suspect it is a more polite version of Ass Backwards. A few examples. Mid summer, in South Florida, fresh corn on the cob and tomatoes are not available as it is too hot for plants to pollinate. In January, tons of both, and green beans and on and on. A fiesta of fresh vegetables, citrus and avocadoes in winter. I eat from my freezer in summer and gorge on fresh in winter. Bass ackwards.

Flowers are another story. We are approaching the height of the Atlantic hurricane season, it is raining and things are blooming. The reason, my guess, producing flowers utilizing rain while they know it is available, plants being smarter than we are. Our dry season starts the end of November.

The weird stuff in my vase:

The red flower, Aechmea miniata Bromeliad; blue flowers, Mystic Spires Salvia; the touch of grey foliage, a succulent, Graptosedum; white flowers ‘Miss Alice’ Bougainvillea.

The other side:

White and blue flower; Hallelujah Billbergia Bromeliad; green tropical foliage is a small Split Leaf Philodendron (P. selloum) from the garden. The vase in an old candlestick holder from Crate and Barrel.

Thanks to Cathy at http://www.rambliningthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting and Happy Gardening. Follow the link to see less weird vases.

Nymphfest in a Teapot

I have been rooting coleus cuttings in a teapot and put them on my porch intending to pot them up for winter porch containers. As these things go they sat there for a couple of days and I remembered and set out to do the right thing (instead of forgetting entirely and find them rotting in a few more days)

As I poured the water out, I noticed black things wiggling inside the teapot. Too big for mosquitoes. What in the world? So, I stopped and took some pictures to enlarge and see what the heck was in there.

Not even wiggling worms – a nymph of some sort. I find these guys on the porch from time to time. They are big bugs, probably the size of my hand, beating their wings when touched – usually recalcitrant about going back outside and do not like to be moved. Somebody found a little water and laid some eggs in my teapot and now we have the most likely suspect as the creator of my nymphfest in the teapot:

There are 150 different Dragonflies in Florida, I am not sure what dragon or damselfly this is. As I was reading about them it seems they can be in the nymph stage for years. I am thinking about rehoming the ones in the teapot..

In a Vase on Monday – Linear

My husband jokes me about my lack of linear thinking. I am completely lateral. This week I decided to seek some linearity to complement the line of purple berries from the Beautyberry. I am convinced Florida Beautyberries are different than Beautyberries in other places. Every August I am amazed at the quantity and beauty (yes!) of the berries produced by this shrub.

The Beautyberry story:

I went to a local native plants nursery ‘going out of business’ sale shortly after moving to Florida. The Beautyberries were 3 for 10 dollars. Of course, I bought three. Thinking about putting them in a couple of different locations, not really knowing where to site them in the atrocious sand in my garden. Also not realizing the dramatic seasonal shift of the sun in my new home; I planted one on the due north side of my garage near the exit from our screen porch. Reasoning (lateral as usual) for this location: I thought it would stay shady enough for what was an understory shrub to me and this shrub is supposed to deter mosquitoes.

Much to my surprise, the sun got higher and higher in the sky as the year progressed. Full shade in January is full sun by May! Frying full sun. Not fun to dig things up in frying full sun, so it was left behind the garage. And then, the berries showed up. Impressive berries. I planted the other two in a much shadier, understory location – one passed on and the other bears about a tenth of the fruit of the one I seemingly planted in the wrong place. Another gardening riddle.

Oddly, mosquitoes were much worse in my garden in Atlanta – though we do have astonishing dragonfly (they eat mosquitoes) swarms periodically here and I do stuff Beautyberry leaves in my shoes if there are mosquitoes about (it works). I rarely see mosquitoes on the screen porch. Floridians make jam from the berries. I have not tried this as everyone who has ever mentioned it says it is pretty but tasteless.

The Shrub:

Perhaps the purple berries are a bit clashy with my peachy garage wall..still not digging it up.

A closer view:

The purple and green berries are Beautyberries (Calliocarpa americana); blue spike flowers are Mystic Spires Salvia; purple spike flowers and varigated leaf are from a Coleus ‘Homedepotensis’; the long chartreuse leaves are from Lemon Aechmea blanchetiana Bromeliad. The vase was a gift from my late older brother; it always makes me smile when I use it – and its linear.

As always, thanks to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting this meme. To see more vases, follow the link.

Happy Gardening.