A Home for a Lonely Christmas Tree

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I am not quick about getting the Christmas decorations up. Anyone who knows me is aware I detest fake, silk or faux plants. So, the wreath on my front door is always real and never hangs around very long. South Florida is not kind to cut foliage hanging outdoors in the sun. This particular wreath is hanging in sling with a bottle of water holding Saw Palmetto, dried Bromeliad flowers, Brazilian Pepperberries, Frazier Fir and a dried miniature Pineapple.

I try to remember to buy a Christmas tree on Monday as fresh trees are delivered on Monday and the least amount of time spent broiling in the sun on an asphalt parking lot the better. This year it slipped my mind and I managed to wait until the Monday before Christmas. Oops, no fresh trees and what was left over was well, less than optimum. I sorted through the Frazier Firs marveling that the needles were still bending and not brown at all. Then decided to see if anything else appealed to me to use as a tree. Podocarpus and Palms are just too far afield to use as a Christmas tree.

Back I went to the Frazier Firs, finding one in reasonably good shape and looking a bit forlorn I was checking for a price tag. Not one to be found. I went inside and asked the cashier who replied ‘they’re free, we are trying to get rid of them’

Minutes later I was dragging the tree through the parking lot and a lady stopped to help me. I told her about it and she was off to the Christmas tree tent. Hopefully all the trees found homes.

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Merry Christmas!

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In A Vase on Monday-Chrismukkah

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This year Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah fall on December 24, the media have christened the date Chrismukkah, which I suppose sounds better than Hanukmas.

In honor of the season and Chrismukkah, I have done two arrangements, one in Christmas colors, red and green and another in traditional Hanukkah colors, blue, white and silver. Being perpetually and cursedly curious, I wondered about the origin of the color schemes.

According to Cambridge University the Christmas color scheme could go back to the Celts who used a red and green tree to mark boundaries. Here is the link, Who color coded Christmas. More research tells me the Hanukkah colors are based on the Israeli flag, why blue.

Now that we know the origins of the colors, here is the Hanukkah arrangement. The silver goblet is an heirloom from my mother’s collection and the flowers are in blue and white – Pom-Pom Asters (inspired by Cathy, our hostess) I started some seed in September and now have blue, white and perhaps pink Pom-Pom Asters, who knew they would grow in Florida in the winter.? The Asters are thriving, but alas, so far my other IOVOM flowers, the Cactus Zinnias are a disappointment. Another inspiration, White Italian Sunflowers are going, but they are showing signs of mildew, time will tell. The other blue members of this arrangement are Evolvulous, Blue Daze the annual peeking out here and there. The White Begonias are Sweet Begonias, a perennial here, the silver flowers are from Flapjack Kalanchoes. Deep plum foliage along the edges is from Purple Oxalis, from my neighbor. I think this plant may be the common thread between all of us. Asian Sword Ferns provide a bit of green.

 

Here is the Christmas arrangement, the original thought that it looked sort of non tropical. Then, the white Bridal Veil Plumeria is a bit difficult to explain. The dark green Yew is Japanese Yew, Podocarpus macrophyllus. Unabashedly tropical as are the red berries of the Brazilian Pepper, outlawed years ago as invasive, but determined to stay around, it is sold as Pink Peppercorn the world over and I have not eaten one of the berries near my house, but many birds have – and on the Brazilian Peppers go, The red striped foliage is from Martin Bromeliads and the ferny foliage is Copper Fennel. I think I have cut more of this than we have eaten, though it is tasty. The vase is an old Brandy snifter from my husbands ‘flaming things in a glass phase’. Go figure. Drinking flaming liquids is not my area of interest.

So, there we go. Happy Holidays to all.

In A Vase on Monday – Tropical Zen

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Much to my surprise, the day after Hurricane Matthew grazed our beach I was picking up debris and found the native Spider Lilies had sent up buds. A few days later, the flowers appeared.

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These are probably three feet tall and quite sturdy, they appeared in my garden and I mistook them for Amaryllis, separated the bulbs and planted a long mass in my back garden. As these things sometimes go a third did well, another third are still alive and then another third didn’t really take or were eaten by the gigantic Lubber grasshoppers we have here. Still, these were a nice surprise and I decided to cut a few for a vase.

My husband’s comment was “that is really minimalist for you” – which is true, I think this vase belongs in a modern spa or a sleek black granite lobby.

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The flowers  present a bit of a design dilemma – while striking they are in my imagination tiaras for fairies and my dilemma was to cut the flowers off and use them as a short stemmed element with other flowers or emphasize the lean whorls of crowns in a simple vase. Simple won out for a tropical minimalist vase.

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The flowers are our native Spider LIly (Hymenocallis latifolia) they grow in pure sand on the back side of dunes and in hammocks. The foliage is the leaf of a Heliconia ‘Splash’ and a Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum). A burgundy leaf from an unnamed Bromeliad anchors the stems together in the glass vase. I remember buying the vase to force Cherry and Forsythia branches in winter and could never get that to work. I think the vase was waiting for some Tropical Zen on Monday.

The View from Inside the Cone of Uncertainty

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Hurricane Matthew is currently a top story, a Category Four Hurricane wreaking havoc in the Carribean as I write. The National Weather Service has announced we are in the cone of uncertainty, currently there is a 20 percent chance of hurricane force winds where we live. Meaning put up your hurricane shutters, buy batteries and water, and hunker down.

This is the current view of my front door. The hatches have been battened. My greyhound statuary will stand sentry over my front porch regardless of what winds may blow. My real greyhounds will stay inside with me. This front door is relatively new and I am happy we have it. The majority of the house is covered with corrugated steel storm shutters installed by my husband – who is, fortunately, a very handy guy. Unfortunately, the shutters cast a sepulchral gloom over the interior of our house.

The front door was installed earlier this year, as we like a bit of light in the house. I was the designated painter and thought this sticker was kind of funny, until today:

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Not feeling like I want to know the exact definition of large missiles – but am planning to go outside in the morning and put any potential missiles into a safer place.

I decided to stock up on non perishables and water this afternoon. I could tell by the atmosphere at the grocery store that all hell was just about to break loose. Men (yes, men) were rushing through the aisles throwing anything canned into their cart. One guy was running through the front of the store, cell phone glued to his ear, saying “Oh My God, they are out of bottled water”. Well, they were not out of bottled water by a long shot, in fact, the office supply store I had just been in was selling bottled water. I am not sure I needed bottled water as we are on city water and I was assured by the guy in charge of utilities it always works during hurricanes. Better safe than sorry, so we will see what happens.

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Here is the haul from my grocery adventure. Four kinds of tuna fish, (my husband and I both hate it – I was trying to find one to love), sardines ( he made barfing noises when he saw it), Cannellini beans (OK, I aspire to be Italian and there is Rosemary in my garden), cat food (for the cat), candles ( hoping I can find matches that work), crackers (not the Florida kind) and bottled water.

Anyone for dinner?

Being the chatty Southerner I am, I asked the cashier what the most popular supplies were today. It seems canned Ravioli followed by beer, many people eschewing water for beer and others opting for Gatorade as their beverage of choice.

I am not really sure what to think of that, although they may know something I don’t. As of right now, the hurricane is supposed to pass 5o miles offshore, with a 49 mile margin of error. I think that gives us about 4 miles. Feeling a little queasy.

Until further notice, my tongue is firmly inside my cheek – unless I bite it off.

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.

Mangoes in Mass Quantity

July in South Florida means a couple of different things, heat, humidity and Mangoes. Lots of Mangoes. This year is a bumper crop. I am philosophizing the rainy winter produced many flowers followed by many fruits.

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Followed by many baskets of Mangoes, which I find irresistible.

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These are Haden Mangoes, from my neighbor the chef, who I suspect just eats his mangoes. I ate some of them, but my husband is not a big fan of plain and won’t eat them straight. So, I made a Mango Amaretto Cake. Not very pretty, but delicious. Last year my Mango effort included a Mango Rum Cake which I believe lasted longer due to its higher alcohol content. Something to consider if your household is not highly populated.

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After a few servings of the Mango Amaretto cake, I decided to take a more savory adventure with Mango Salsa for grilled fish (Pacific Swordfish in this case). The salsa is made with mango, red bell peppers, sliced green onions, cilantro, lime juice and honey.

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Great stuff, and I still had some leftover to have with my Blueberry Bread  from my lasr fruit overload and vanilla yogurt.

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Just when my Mango supply dwindled to this another basket was left on my front porch.

What to do? Bake some Mango Pecan Bread, of course.

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I used the same recipe as my Blueberry Pecan Bread and it turned out fine. This is not particularly sweet for a quick fruit bread but the resinous quality of the mango shines through.

On to my next culinary adventure in mangoland. Another neighbor gave me some Speckled Perch, a local freshwater fish. So, here it is – pan sauteed Perch in lemon butter sauce with Mango Tomato Sauce served with Parmesan Herb Rice and Sauteed Mixed Veg.

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Still have Mangoes. The only thing left to do is make granita. It can be eaten straight up, with vanilla ice cream, yogurt or vodka if you are feeling frisky.

The remains of the day and this is all I have left!

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Compost

In A Vase on Monday -Grapes and Gardenias

 

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This idea germinated as I was surveying my new natives garden. My natives garden is currently a repulsive field of weedy grasses, sand and Indian Needles. The Indian Needles are a native that look like Coreopsis, reseeding like Crab Grass. Crab Grass averages a quarter million seeds per head. Dreadful stuff. The one weed I have not encountered in my garden. Thankfully.

I digress. The grapes in the arrangement were noted on my survey as well as the Tropical Gardenias (they are the buds) The grapes are also native and frighteningly prolific. These are Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) I have been pulling them out for five years. The grapes, while attractive stay this size and turn purple. The wildlife usually eats them before they ripen. It took me a while to find out what these are, terribly seedy and bitter, they are male muscadines, the female grapes are larger and sweeter. My grandfather used to grow these and make wine with them, it is syrupy, treacly wine.

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The Tropical Gardenias are the double white flowers with buds. Commonly called Florida Gardenia, the botanical name is Tabernaemontana divaricata, probably native to India and not tolerant of freezing, this Gardenia is from a different family than its more well known counterpart, Gardenia jasminoides. The foliage is a lovely dark green and the flowers are not quite as fragrant as G. jasminoides although the fragrance carries nicely on a breeze at night.

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In the center of the arrangement is a flower from my Frangipani, there are also a few flowers from the culinary Fennel and some Asian Sword Ferns. I have been calling these Boston Fern forever, but they are truly Asian. Tuberous Asian Sword Ferns, is the whole name, Boston Ferns have pointed tips.

I decided to stick with a white, chartreuse and green color scheme and the arrangement is held in a Fostoria pitcher from my mother’s collection of American pattern Fostoria. This pitcher graced the table filled with iced tea at many family gatherings. The arrangement is in my foyer as the fragrance from the Frangipani and Gardenia gets a bit thick!