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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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!




In A Vase on Monday -Grapes and Gardenias



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.


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.


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!

Piecrust Croton and Friends


Piecrust Croton

I have been reworking  the design of my front yard because the access point for the septic tank was in a lawn area and actually needed access. What this really means is once a year a 3 foot circle in the lawn  is dug up and destroyed to clean the (ewww, yes) septic tank filter. The joys of country living. I am certain I did not know septic tanks had filters prior to moving to Florida. I also realized I would like to have a pathway to the side.

For many years I have advised my clients to live in their houses for a while to see how they move around the property as sometimes a good guess just really doesn’t do the trick. The upshot is I did not take my own advice and I like to travel to my side garden (ah, future garden) more than I thought I would. Design that originates with how you live in a place is always a good plan. This may be Plan B as I did Plan A. Who knew St. Augustinegrass wouldn’t be happy over a septic tank. Oh, well. I am liking the new bed thus far.

A nod to my husbands pie making skills was the purchase of a Piecrust Croton, a multi colored tropical shrub that hails from the South Pacific. These shrubs are easy to grow and ubiquitous in South Florida. There are a few stalwart standby varieties that are common, but of course I love the weird stuff.

Here are the standard varieties:

At the top of the post is the foliage of the Piecrust – it looks like, you guessed it, Piecrust!  The rest, clicking on the picture will give the name. Being the plant freak that I am, I couldn’t resist photographing several more interesting varieties:

I  love all of these, but I think Stoplight might be the next Croton purchase on my Croton bucket list. How many people have a Croton bucket list?

Yes, the beds are getting bigger. The good news is I probably have a quarter acre left!!

Back to the inspiration for all of this, the piecrust. Here are a few of my husbands pies:

I think these merit a celebratory Croton in the front yard.

Speaking of celebratory, Happy New Year to all.

Autumnal Thoughts – Flights of Forest Fancy

Seasons can be difficult to recognize in South Florida. You have to look hard to find fall color, last year I found some Red Maples with red foliage in the nearby swamp – long about December. I have learned to look to the Indian River for signs of fall, there is always a mullet run when the seasons turn and I am just starting to see the little fish jumping out of the water, I enjoy the mullet run – it is a sign that relief from the oppressive heat is close at hand.

Royal Ponciana Delonix regia

Royal Ponciana
Delonix regia

Another sign of fall is the Poncianas are slowing down on the flowering and producing gigantic green pods. The ferny foliage is still shimmery green, but the pods foretell a soon to be naked tree. Getting in touch with my inner plant nerd (not difficult) I did some research on the Ponciana and found it is native to Madagascar and rarely seen there anymore. Another Madagascar native that is popular in landscaping here is the Bismarck Palm. This one is planted unfortunately near a power pole – that is not fruit. This Palm has huge silvery fronds, costapalmate! and literally 4 feet wide. The fronds sound like big pieces of cardboard rubbing together. Fruit is borne in grape like clusters of 2 inch wide shiny mahogany colored nuts. I planted one a month or so ago and it is supposed to take more than 2 months for the seed to germinate and 86 degrees Fahrenheit is the required temperature. So far nothing on that front.

Bismarck Palm Bismarckia nobilis

Bismarck Palm
Bismarckia nobilis

Here is my Flight of Forest Fancy, both these trees supposedly occurred in Forests.

Just imagine these forests – the Palm and the Ponciana can get to be 60 feet tall.

The Remains of the Day

I am thinking that the above was a movie title. Seems I didn’t care for it. So, we are currently experiencing the remains of what was once Hurricane Erika. The Hurricane from last week, Danny fizzled out, Erika was a Hurricane for a short period of time; forecast to hit the East coast of Florida (me) two days later it was going to hit the West coast of Florida (not me) then the entire state was going to be hit by a tropical storm and then Erika graciously dissapated and sent the mess north. As the farmers from Texas would say ‘it’s raining like a cow peeing on a flat rock’

Adding to the sayings (cliches) when I first looked outside this morning, the sky was red – as in Red Sky in Morning Sailor’s Take Warning. My actually green Cabbage Palm looked red..reflection from the sky.

Apocalyptic Palm Tree

Apocalyptic Palm Tree

No gardening for me this Sunday, so I decided to bake Cocktail Nibbles, as it was too early for cocktails.

Cheese Puffs under Construction

Cheese Puffs under Construction

These nibbles are a great old Southern recipe I got from an former client’s grandmother who was 104 at the time. She claimed she had lived so long because she never watched the news. If she ate these all day long there must be something to that claim! Simple, but divine.

Cheese Puffs:

1 stick room temperature unsalted butter

8 0z. Shredded Sharp Cheddar (Shred it yourself!)

1 cup All Purpose Flour

1/4 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

1/2 tsp. Kosher Salt

Pecan Halves

Mix ingredients at Room temperature until a dough is formed. Roll into 1″ balls and flatten, top with a Pecan half. Bake at 350 degrees (F) for about 15 minutes until brown around the edges. Cool and store in an airtight container. Get a glass of wine.

Cocktail Nibbles

Cocktail Nibbles

Have a glass of wine and think about how the aquifer is being recharged by the 3 inches of rain that is falling this hour, or maybe the nutgrass you should pull out of the front bed.

Perhaps I should mention the Atlantic Hurricane season peaks on September 10th. I am somewhat fascinated by the coastal weather and keep an eye on it. I’ll check. Oh, good, Hurricane Fred has formed in the Cape Verde Islands. Supposedly going out to sea. Maybe I need another glass of wine.

Bark for Bark’s Sake – Boots and Strangler Figs

I was looking at trees (perhaps an unfortunate habit) this morning as I walked my dogs and it occurred to me the bark on some of these tropical trees I pass everyday is different from bark in northern climes. Especially Palm Trees, palms do some funky things.

Cabbage Palm with Boots Palmetto sabal

Cabbage Palm with Boots
Palmetto sabal

Palm trees are available in some varieties booted, which means the bases of the old leaves have been left on purpose. While it is graphically interesting, I think this looks kind of messy and a lot of weird plant and animal life tends to go into the boots and proliferate – I had my Cabbage Palm’s trunk cleared off and there was a 6 foot snake living in the trunk. Another peculiarity growing in the boots is the Strangler Fig.

Strangler Fig

Strangler Fig trunk

There is a big Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea) beside my house between me and my neighbor. It looks a bit like something that would be growing at Hogwarts, where Harry Potter went to school.

Ficus aurea Strangler Fig

Ficus aurea
Strangler Fig

The trunk is probably 10 or 15 feet wide, including its aerial rooted trunks, at least 50 feet wide and probably a bit less on the height. I would love to know how old it is.

These trees are native to South Florida on both coasts and common in several habitats but not in the trade. They start life in the boots of palms or in cups of Bromeliads growing on the ground. The fruit is produced copiously and is the size of blueberries, as with many tropical fruits, not particularly good to eat, but the birds enjoy it and transport it around to grow new Strangler Figs. The reason these are called Strangler Figs is they can literally strangle the palm as they grow down the trunk hit the ground and put roots down, then overwhelm the tree and grow over and around it eventually strangling it.

This is a photo of a Strangler Fig reaching down from the Cabbage Palm:

Fig coming down

Fig coming down

Sleeping under the shade of a palm doesn’t seem like such a good idea now…

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!



Mango, Tango – no Rain, Though

It is Mango season here in South Florida and eventually someone with a tree finds me, to my giddy delight. One of my neighbors is a Chef and has a tree. We have discussed what kind it is – he thinks a Haden – I think it might be a type locals call Peach Mango, it has the slightest aftertaste of peach. Whatever it is, it’s peachy  Maybe that is a Haden anyway. The locals call one of these a Strawberry Mango..

Here is a bowl of Mangoes from a guy down the street:

Assorted Mangoes

Assorted Mangoes

This included the Strawberry and Peach Mangoes – Peach I could tell, Strawberry not so much, although one had a redder colored interior. All were good and I devoured them, my husband had a bite, maybe two.

Chef Mangoes

Chef Mangoes              

These are the Mangoes from the Chef, Peach, maybe..Haden variety. Divine, yes, after all the other Mangoes were devoured, I made Granita from two and a half of these. Granita is made by taking 3 and 1/2  cups chopped Mango, simple syrup made from raw Hawaiian Cane Sugar and the juice of one lime – put this in a blender, blend until smooth, then put it in the freezer in a shallow container and stir every half hour or so until the mixture is slushy. I keep mine in a Ziploc bag in the freezer and mush it up as I eat it.

Even the scraps for the compost heap were pretty:



It hasn’t rained here since June 30. Things were getting pretty dry and then our well (Irrigation water comes from a well) motor just died, on Saturday morning, of course. Murphy’s Law for gardeners at work here in South Florida. The well repair people aren’t bothered much if you have city water. So, they showed up Tuesday and took the motor away – we found not having water at all doesn’t bother these people much either. So, I have been running around with a pitcher, watering things. Ugh, I am however hearing thunder in the distance..

Think I will just have a little of that Mango Granita, the Chef says it is good with Rum..

The Heat is On

The rainy season officially started about a month ago here on the Treasure Coast in South Florida. It just didn’t start raining until the past week. Plants were getting crispy and I was having to provide supplemental water, even in the irrigated areas. My appreciation for the native plants has gone up. Here is the native shrub, Firebush, Hamelia patens, not missing a beat and attracting butterflies and a large selection of bees.

Firebush and Friend

Firebush and Friend

I have been waiting for precipitation to move plants around in the garden. Now the dilemma is the humidity – it has hit 100 percent several times already., not pleasant gardening weather. Some of the plants are enjoying the heat and humidity more than me. The Ixora burst forth as soon as the rain started, I take back all my grumbling about the special Ixora fertilizer I had been faithfully applying – it clearly works. I can’t recall having a shrub with more flowers, ever.

Dwarf Red Ixora

Dwarf Red Ixora

The Yellow Allamanda I trained to the fence liked the rain as well. Interestingly enough, the native version of this Allamanda was completely eaten by caterpillars! I think it hosts a good butterfly, so caterpillars were probably good.

Yellow Allamanda

Yellow Allamanda

The rainforest Bromeliads also enjoy the summer. This is a Miniata Aechmea, it reminds me of red hots and is painfully easy to grow.

Miniata Bromeliad

Miniata Bromeliad

My final happy plant is a container garden actually. I have had this Dragonwing Begonia around for a couple of years, it was getting puny so I cut it back, found some Boston Fern in the yard (another wonderful native plant, it just comes up!) and put it on my front porch in part shade.

Dragon Wing Begonia and  Boston Fern.

Dragon Wing Begonia and Boston Fern.

Dragon Wings are a long time favorite of mine and I am happy I can grow them here, where they are apparently a perennial. I rooted some cuttings and they are quite happy as well. Heat and humidity are good for something!

I just looked at the weather app on my phone, it said 88 degrees but it feels like 108! I am going to stay inside and perhaps join my dogs on the cool tile floor. Although there is a promising looking group of clouds forming to the south.

Royal Ponciana – Delonix regia

The Flamboyant Tree

The Flamboyant Tree

If Tabebuia is the harbinger of spring in South Florida, then The Royal Ponciana (or Flamboyant Tree) is the harbinger of summer and the rainy season. I prefer not to use the H word in regards to seasons.

I have heard people refer to these trees as Flamboyants, and I always have to stop and think about what that is for a minute. They are pretty flamboyant. I think the trees look as if they are covered in sprays of red orchids. Ponciana starts blooming in May and then continue  into Summer the leaves seem to follow the flowers and are ferny, deep green and eventually cover the tree with a fine textured foliage providing shade for the sun weary Floridian. The floral display is followed by large pods like beans (this is a member of the bean family) In some Caribbean countries, Poncianas are called “Woman’s Tongue” because the pods rattle in the wind.

A native of Madagascar and India these trees are planted the world  over in the tropics for their fine floral display. Named for  M. DePoinci, a governor of the French West Indies in the 1700’s, the Ponciana is celebrated with a Fiesta and a Festival in Miami around the first week of June.

These trees lend a tropical flair to any landscape and eventually take on an umbrella form reminiscent of trees in the African savanna. There are numerous Poncianas in my area. Of course, most of the horticultural literature I have seen says they shouldn’t grow here. Generally, I see 10B as the hardiness zone limit, I am pretty sure this is 10A – the coastal area of Martin County. Gardening friends in Vero Beach report Ponciana do not do as well there and I have heard that Ft. Pierce is their northern limit.  The lady down the street who is a great gardener advised throwing all the books away and just giving things a try. A reasonable suggestion.

These trees should be placed in the sun and are not for the faint of heart. Fast growing and with the potential of attaining a size of 40 by 40 feet, they need some room to spread and also produce a deep shade that it is difficult to grow anything under. They are semi-deciduous; so if you are a Snowbird tired of raking leaves this tree is not for you. The pods also are pretty messy. I got in touch with my inner Southern Belle at Christmas by spray painting some Ponciana pods silver and using them as a front door decoration along with preserved Cabbage Palm fronds..