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!




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..

Pygmy Date Palm – Friend or Foe

Pygmy Date Palm Phoenix roebellini

Pygmy Date Palm
Phoenix roebellini

I had a Pygmy Date Palm installed last year in front of my house. This is a dwarf palm rarely exceeding 10 feet in height and it looks great in front of my bathroom window. I selected a triple trunk palm to accent the house and landscape because as the largest element in the foundation planting  it needed some mass.

These palms are native to Southeast Asia and are common in South Florida. They actually do bear dates, but a male and female plant is required. I am perfectly happy without dates. Dates have always reminded me of roaches and I just don’t like to eat them.

I let the palm grow for about a year before attempting to prune it. Pruning done right reveals a trunk that resembles neatly stacked rows of whole wheat crackers- I have heard these called Triscuit Trees. What is not mentioned is the enormous spines at the base of the palm fronds. The spines are up to two inches long. Somewhere in a jungle I think Pygmies used these for poison darts. Later in the week I was talking to a physician, these palms are well known to the medical community due to the thorns. Wounds from the thorns tend to fester and cause infection.

While getting into the holiday spirit I decided to wrap the trunks with miniature white lights. It would have been wise to drink some spirits and don opera length leather gloves before attempting this. As I was decorating I was skewered through the hand and the thorn hit a vein; I now have a 3 inch bruise on my hand that looks terrible. Then I got stabbed in the head and decided to stop for a moment and go in the house. It took a while to get the thorn out of my hand and the bleeding from my head wound staunched. Duly anointed with antibiotic ointment, I persevered and completed my light display, then waited for darkness.

Ahh, holiday magic.


My Former Japanese Maple (s)

Best Red Dissectum Maple

Having moved to South Florida a few years back there are some things I miss about living in a more temperate climate. Spring flowers, for example. The thing, I think that is so enticing about spring flowers is the living proof winter is ending. Now, truthfully, I don’t miss winter at all and there are really a lot of flowers year round here that are so interesting it makes up for the lack of Yoshino Cherries (my all time favorite)

Ryusen Japanese Maple


The thing I can’t come to terms with is the lack of Japanese Maples. When I first married, we lived in urban townhouse, there was a seedling Japanese Maple in a weasley back garden. Weasley is the operative word. This Maple had a spectacular fall color and when we moved to a bigger house I took a seedling with me. This Maple grew to 10 or 12 feet tall over a period of 17 years and is one of my all time favorite trees. The above Japanese Maples are from my former garden, a ‘Best Red’ and the Green is ‘Ryusen’. When we moved to South Florida I decided to chance it and dug up a seedling and carted it down here only to find out it was a Red Maple!

The Red Maple

The Red Maple

Bah! Undeterred by my lack of Japanese Maple I decided to buy and prune into tree form a ‘Raggedy Ann’ Copperleaf. This is a burgundy and red tropical shrub with raggedy edged foliage kind of like a Dissectum Maple.

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann

Raggedy Ann turns out to be uncooperative and less than graceful. The tree form pruning attempt produced an ungainly shrub 5 feet tall with 5 stems,  with perhaps a width of 10 inches. However, the color is pretty good.

Some things just cannot be replaced.



Fall Color in South Florida?


Golden Raintree

Golden Raintree

Fall colorin South Florida. This is a seek and ye shall find situation. I have found some signs of the Autumn season here in the tropical Zone 10A hinterlands. The Golden Raintrees started blooming in late September which kind of freaks me out as I associate these trees strongly with Summer. The above pictured Fall color is actually seed pods – which are kind of cool and are fall color as far as I am concerned.

This is a Koelreuteria bipinnata, some call it a Chinese Flame Tree, some call it K. elegans. People in Florida seem to think this tree will grow as far north as Zone 7, this is not true. I am guessing maybe Zone 8. It’s friend Koelreuteria paniculata grows further north (to Zone 5 – I seem to remember these while in Chicago) and has brown much less attractive seed pods. Both are sort of weedy, rambling trees, but the flowers and pods make it worth having. I think well drained soil is key with these trees; my mother killed these trying to grow them on what she referred to as “road bed” yellow, impenetrable clay.

I planted some Muhly grass, for its pink clouds of flowers blowing in the wind during Fall. Mine are just starting to bloom and I am hopeful they don’t reseed everywhere and overrun me..always a concern in a no frost environment. More touches of Fall include the Pennisetums, which are in full bloom here as well, but apparently Miscanthus doesn’t grow this far south.

Muhly Grass

Muhly Grass

I thought Miscanthus grew everywhere! Oh, well. I have Bromeliads..

Rainbow Eucalyptus – Eucalyptus deglupta

Rainbow Eucalyptus

Rainbow Eucalyptus

This is my husband’s favorite tree; possibly the only tree he ever really focused on. The ornamental, exfoliating bark is the main feature of this tree. Native to the Phillipines and surrounding islands, it is sometimes called the Mindanao Gum tree. The tree provides most of the pulpwood for paper and is grown on plantations in the Phillipines.

We first ran across this tree and its spectacular bark on the road to Hana in Maui, Hawaii. Intrigued by the tree, I researched it and was interested to find that it can be grown in South Florida. The tree is not tolerant of frost and our average low is 40 degrees. It is sited in a protected area, but is getting pretty tall.



And grow it does. I bought this tree in November 2012 at a plant sale in West Palm Beach at Mounts Botanical Garden. It was run over with a Riding lawn mower shortly after being planted and smashed flat. This resulted in two scrapes down the entire length of the trunk. Eschewing arboricultural reason, I decided to try and save the tree rather than buy another one. I went to Home Depot and bought a tree staking kit, cleaned its wounds, took out the damaged bark and wrapped the trunk with tree wrap and staked  the tree until it healed. A few months later the bark had calloused and the tree was off to the races.

Currently, nearly two years later and overwhelmingly robust I would estimate the tree is 30 feet tall. It doubled in size in one year (it was 5-6 feet tall when I bought it!) and has grown 18 feet in the past year. Now I am a little afraid.

The bark is currently not showing any purple or blue, but I believe it will. The new growth is red and it flowers in summer, not terribly exciting flowers, little white panicles – fortunately, no fruit thus far. The bark is the star of the show.

Happy Fourth of July


Happy Fourth from my garden in South Florida!

These plants are currently blooming in my garden:

Miniata Bromeliad

Miniata Bromeliad

The red is a Miniata Bromeliad-Aechmea miniata, this bromeliad is reported to bloom at any time of the year, in my garden it blooms in summer. A reliable perennial south of Orlando, the backs of the leaves are grey mottled and shiny green on top. Foliage is not too sharp for a bromeliad and they seem to double in quantity every year.

Bridal Bouquet Plumeria

Bridal Bouquet Plumeria

The white is Bridal Bouquet Plumeria-Plumeria pudica. An evergreen Plumeria that is not fragrant but flowers on and off through the rainy season. The name is apt, it would make a nice bridal bouquet.

Blue Plumbago

Blue Plumbago

The blue is Plumbago – Plumbago auriculata. I think of this as the Mophead Hydrangea of the tropics. Reliable blue flowers primarily in the rainy season this is sort of a creeping shrub. And sort of indestructible, a good thing.

I hadn’t considered a patriotic planting for the Fourth, but I got one.

Bridal Bouquet Plumeria – Plumeria pudica


Bridal Bouquet ready for a lei

Bridal Bouquet ready for a lei

A near requirement for living in South Florida, especially as a year round resident, is a Plumeria or a Frangipani in the yard. This is not a good ‘Snowbird’ plant as most Plumeria is naked in the winter and reasonably unattractive.  Summer is a different story, the Plumeria have just burst forth with flowers here on the Treasure Coast and the fragrance and color make it worth having a deciduous tree in the garden.

This is the tree that provides flowers for leis in Hawaii. I was always under the impression the Plumerias were native to the South Pacific. Research tells me the variety Plumeria alba, which is the more common, fragrant, and deciduous Plumeria come from Central and South America.  Sources seem to agree that Plumeria pudica is from Central America. To add to the confusion there is a type of Plumeria called ‘Singapore’ that is native to Columbia. I will leave it to someone else to explain the Hawaiian lei concept.

Enter the Bridal Bouquet Plumeria, I discovered this plant in Stuart, Florida never having seen one before and was told it was evergreen. This particular variety of Plumeria has a columnar habit and I was looking for a plant to place between two windows in an unirrigated planter in front of my house. It is a perfect selection thus far it is about six feet tall and maybe 2 feet wide. There is some disagreement amongst the experts as to the evergreeness of this plant; apparently if it gets cold enough it will drop its foliage.  I can believe it even if Wikipedia doesn’t.

So far the Bridal Bouquet has performed admirably remaining evergreen and blooming profusely. The extension service states it blooms six months out of the year, mine is not quite there. The only complaint I have is the plant is a bit crunchy and high winds tend to blow parts off. It must be noted that the trade off for evergreen foliage is no fragrance. My husband is not a plant guy and he was in the front planter sniffing the plant to no avail. I decided the solution to the crunchies is to root the bits and plant them in front of my neighbors ugly decaying wood fence. Perfect recycle.

There are many, many varieties of Plumeria, and even a society devoted to the plant, inauspiciously called the PSA. I am hopeful this acronym was coined prior to the medical test.

Tabebuia – Tabebuia caraiba


The harbinger of spring in South Florida is, in my  opinion, the Tabebuia. There are several types of Tabebuia, this is the one I associate with spring. Sometimes called the Yellow Trumpet Tree, this may remind you of Forsythia up north, which also blooms in late March. Prior to blooming, the tree drops most of its foliage and then produces buds. The Tabebuia is letting you know the show is about to begin and will last a month or so.  Bright yellow tubular flowers unfurl on gnarly, corky branches when contrasted with the cerulean blue sky overhead it is an exhilarating sight. Yellow Tabebuias reach 25 -30 feet height and width and are a good small ornamental tree for homeowners. They are sometimes available in multi trunks, which is my favorite form. Drought tolerant once established and mostly evergreen this is a great addition to your sunny landscape.

Tabebuias have an interesting family history. The Yellow version is popular in South Florida as an ornamental tree. It is native to South America where it lives in the Rain Forest. A near relative, the Ipe Tabebuia or Brazilian Walnut (Tabebuia impetiginosa) is the source of Ipe lumber and the national tree of Paraguay. The lumber is a tropical hardwood that is super resistant to the elements and lasts a long, long time outside. The weather resistance of this wood has made it very popular and its harvest is one of the elements causing deforestation in the Amazon. The Ipe Tabebuia is also the source of Pau D’Arco, an herbal medicine used for many ailments by rainforest indigenous people and was once researched as a possible cure for cancer. The Ipe is a pink flowering version that will also grow in South Florida, but is somewhat less cold hardy and taller than the Yellow Tabebuia.

In Praise of Cabbage Palms

Looking up

Looking up to the Heart of the Palm

One of the pleasures of living in Florida is waking up almost any morning, walking out into my backyard to watch the soft yellow sunlight illuminate the canopy of the Cabbage Palm rendering its shadows almost russet. The much maligned but indestructible Cabbage Palm.  I have no idea how old this palm is but I am certain no one planted it. A native of the peninsula, the state tree of Florida and perhaps the most common Palm in the state it will always have a place in my heart.

I have always referred to these as Sabal Palms; because of their botanical name – Palmetto sabal. They are called Cabbage Palms in reference to Swamp Cabbage, which in culinary terms is Hearts of Palm. I love Hearts of Palm but rarely eat it as a Palm tree gave its life for my salad. Palms are monocots, more closely related to grass than trees and only have one growing point, the apical meristem, botanically speaking. If this is removed the entire tree dies. The growing point is in the middle of the fronds, hence the name Hearts of Palm. Have a heart, save a Palm tree’s life and go for the artichokes instead.

These Palms usually attain a height of 30 feet, but can grow up to 60 feet tall. Cabbage Palms are not self cleaning and need trimming to maintain a neat appearance. Or just leave it untrimmed and say it is a bat habitat to control the mosquito population. That would be true. Just stay in the house during high winds.

Native Americans used these Palms for many things, roof thatch from the fronds, brooms and brushes from the sisally parts of the boot, the trunks were used for pilings in the water and bread was made from the seeds.  However , they did not eat the hearts..until Europeans arrived with metal tools. If you had been eating palm seed bread, I am betting the Hearts of Palm seemed really tasty.