Six on Saturday – Veg and Vermiculture

The humidity in finally diminishing and I had my first celebratory glass of Chardonnay in the garden yesterday afternoon. Celebrating the solarization, addition of a vermiculture bed and rabbit fence installation in the vegetable garden.

We have bad nematodes in South Florida – I have root knot nematodes in the vegetable garden. These are microscopic worms that feed on the roots of tomatoes and other vegetables eventually killing the plants. They are common in sandy soils and I was interested to learn recently adding compost and worms to the soil deters the nematodes. Solarization also helps. I solarized the bed during August and September, covering the bed with clear plastic held down with all kinds of junk.

This week I took the plastic off and figured out how to add a worm bed – digging a trench in the middle of the bed, then adding chopped paper, raiding my refrigerator for rotting vegetables (there are always a few) and sending my husband to the bait store for red wigglers.

The red wigglers come in containers and are kept refrigerated. I let them warm up and then put them in the garden to devour the yummy rotting vegetables. They dug right in.

The red wigglers enjoying old Romaine lettuce.

The next thing to do is add seeds and plants and water in with food grade diatomaceous (4 tablespoons to the gallon). The DE also deters nematodes. There is some conflicting info on how it affects the good worms so time will tell. The rabbit fence is made of reeds and is 24″ high. The rabbits ate what the nematodes didn’t get last year.

Cheers to the veg and red wigglers!

Happy Gardening.

To see more Six on Saturday posts, visit Jon at http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com

Six on Saturday – Orchids in the Gumbo Limbo

I am joining The Propagator today for his meme. Six on Saturday. Posting six items of interest from your garden, any six things. This week I am all about things I am finding in the foliage. To see more posts, go to http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com

You may wonder what is that and why is it wearing old pantyhose? This is a Hard Cane Dendrobium Orchid, a gift from a neighbor. The stem is about the size of a leek, a big leek at that. These are native to the South Pacific and grow in trees. There are over 2,000 varieties – I have no clue what type this might be. It could be a Dendrobium – Phaleonopsis that produces flower sprays about 10 feet long.

And it requires sun. I found this out after installing it in the wrong tree – the Strangler Fig in full shade. Oops, the Orchid spent one night in the Fig. The next morning I moved it to the Gumbo Limbo in my much sunnier front garden.

On to the Gumbo Limbo. I added some orchid bark mix and peat moss in the control top of the pantyhose and placed the roots in the mix. This will give the roots some nutrition while they grow into the trunk of the tree. Here is the Orchid in its new home.

It is mounted into the crotch of the Gumbo Limbo tree about six feet above the ground. It has a bud and I am hoping to see some flowers, though it seems these are summer bloomers for the most part. Fingers crossed.

Eventually the Orchid should put roots into the tree trunk and the pantyhose will go away. But, they do almost match the color of the trunk. I found a couple of other items of interest in the foliage this week.

This is a Stick Bug in the Beautyberry. Eating the foliage on the Beautyberry. I left him or her there to continue dining.

This is a Treefrog – this guy did not want to leave the Firebush I was pruning and finally jumped off on my bare foot. Feeling very reptilian to the touch. There are numerous types of Treefrogs that live in South Florida and I can’t tell them apart.

Happy Saturday from South Florida and Happy Gardening.

Six on Saturday – Summer Whites

It’s Saturday again and summer is still in full force in South Florida. Hot and humid. Heat index over 100 Fahrenheit this afternoon. I am joining The Propagator for his weekly meme, follow the link for more fun.

As summer is seemingly haunting me, I decided to feature ghostly summer whites. First up, the flowers on Cattleya Orchids that were buds in last week’s post.

A little fragrance for my short trips into the garden. This is a Sweet Almond Bush (Aloysia virgata) – I have been pruning it slowly, so many bees buzzing around the flowers they get angry and I have to stop.

Another fragrant flower, the Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana diviricata). These are not a fragrant as Gardenia jasminoides, releasing a subtle fragrance at night.

This is (to me) a bit of an obscure plant. A Tree Spinach (Cnidoscolus chayamansa) considered a superfood – supposed to cure varicose veins! Also toxic unless cooked 20 minutes and creates intestinal distress if cooked in aluminum pans…I have not eaten any. I planted it because it is a butterfly nectar flower, supposedly supplying protein to butterflies. A friend gave this to me about six months ago as a cutting and it is 3 feet tall now.

Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) is a stalwart in my garden. Oddly, it occurs in several other colors. The white version…

Salvia coccinea again, the pink and white version.

Hoping for some cooler temperatures next week. No more haunting from summer, only fall fun in the garden…

In a Vase on Monday – Cattleyas on the Rocks

My garden had a stormy weekend. Hurricane Sally passed within about 100 miles, hurling bands of drenching rain and wind in her wake. The air is so saturated with moisture it is difficult to describe; imagine air having a presence. I think of it as feeling the evil, hot breath of the tropical Atlantic Ocean. My slightly curly hair is literally standing on end, bigger by the moment. Given the humidity and knowledge that another hurricane is headed towards the Gulf coast, I will most likely look like I stuck my finger in the electrical socket on Monday.

The White Cattleya orchid opened on Sunday morning and was being buffeted by the winds, so I decided to cut if for a vase. The rocks are in the base of the glass vase holding the orchids in place. The title sounds a bit like a cocktail; I am trying to dream up something that tastes like an orchid, this one has a sweet fragrance and always blooms in pairs. Limoncello, Coconut Rum and something? Tonic water? Club soda? Hmmm.

Here is the bud from Saturday. I am surprised it opened so quickly and with little sunshine.

A closer view of the Cattleya, I have no idea of the variety, my neighbor gave me the orchid and I am trying not to kill it. Orchids usually meet an untimely end in my garden. Anything that needs fertilizer every two weeks is destined for demise. This one has been around for at least two years – though it is turning brown..sigh.

Happy Monday and Happy Gardening. Thinking positive thoughts for those in the path of Hurricane Sally.

Thanks to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting this addictive meme. Follow the link to see vases from gardens around the world.

Six on Saturday – Growing Toads.

Florida, the southern part, is backwards on summer gardening. We do it in the winter. I am trying several new ventures in vegetable gardening this year. Growing toads was not my idea, but I found one sitting on my tomato seedlings this week. I am hoping this is not a Bufo Toad, very poisonous to dogs and mine are always, ears up saying “What’s that” This toad hopped away before I could get a good look at it.

A Riesentraube tomato seedling, I put these in the sun to germinate and the seedlings are much sturdier than the first batch. This is a cherry tomato – from Germany!

San Marzano tomato seedlings, these were leggy, so I read up and followed suggestions to replant the seedlings deeply in new, fluffy seed mix. Seems to be working.

A new seed starting tray, arrived with a dry pellet in each cell that is soaked with water before planting and then self-waters from the bottom. I decided to forgo the plastic roof as the humidity outside should suffice. I put it in on my front porch, a sunny spot with bottom heat from the pavers. The seeds were planted on Monday. Parsley in under the foil, I have Verbena bonariensis, Nasturtiums, Zinnia ‘Zinderella’, Borage, Pink Double Click Cosmos and Apple Blossom Snapdragons. I have had very little luck seeding these directly in the garden. Borage, Zinnias and Cosmos have germinated.

The area for vegetables is currently under solarization to get rid of bad nematodes. Summer vegetables can be planted around September 15 here, the cooler season lettuce, peas, etc a bit later. I will plant bush beans, radishes, snow peas and some lettuce in here. The tomatoes are going into pots this year. The rabbits ate most of my crops last year, so I have a 24″ reed fence to put around the vegetables, I have a bad feeling about putting Borage within rabbit reach.

Another fall chore, pruning the Bougainvillea. While pruning, I spied this native Tillandsia growing on the trunk. The Boug, severely pruned a week ago has already started to put out flowers.

That is my six for this Saturday. To visit more gardens with six items of interest on Saturday, go to http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com.

Happy Gardening.

In a Vase on Monday – Taming Miss Alice

Miss Alice lives beside my front porch. An seemingly obscure variety of Bougainvillea I am training to a column on the porch, she is known for being nearly thornless. Other Bougainvilleas have 2 inch long thorns, I was pruning Miss Alice barefooted and stepped on a cast off branch – ouch! not thornless but I wasn’t punctured. The white flowers are from Miss Alice, a result of a fairly hard pruning as the Bougs transition from vegetative to flowering states. Day length drives the flowering cycle – native to areas near the equator Bougainvilleas flower most when daylight and night hours are equal. I did not realize I could use them as cut flowers, they seem to be lasting. So far, so good.

Here is a closer view:

The white ‘leaves’ are bracts and the actual flowers are the white and green tubes in the center of the flower. Lurid purple berries are from Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) which has been producing masses of berries this summer. They are so heavy with fruit the branches fell to the ground. Ferns are from my weedy Asian Sword Ferns and a seedling Sabal Palm (Palmetto sabal) frond completes the backdrop. The vase is a roadside find.

Miss Alice before and after she was tamed.

Happy Gardening and thanks to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden for hosting this weekly meme.

Six on Saturday The Good, the Bad, and the Bugly

A Zebra Longwing, the state butterfly of Florida, sipping nectar from a Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens). A good thing.

Another good thing, my Bottle Palm (Hyophorbe lagenicaulis) is finally making its bottle trunk. Eventually the old fronds fall off and the palm looks like it is sitting on a green wine bottle. This has taken about five years.

The bad thing about these next plants, they are so slow growing it is almost not worthwhile planting them. Both are Florida natives and come with the native hype…

This is a Thatch Palm (Thrinax radiata) It has been in the garden for about five years and might be 18″ tall. I am not sure I will live long enough to see an actual palm tree form.

A Satinleaf (Chysophyllum oliviforme), the back sides of the leaves. This is reportedly a tree, and sounds romantically wonderful when described by growers who have seen it blowing in the wind. At six years old and possibly a foot tall (the ferns dwarf it) I have to lie down beside it to experience the romance.

The front side of the leaves.

And now, the bugly. This is the dreaded Lubber Grasshopper, another hyped Florida native. These can be 3 or 4 inches long and love to eat plants. Filled with poison, they only have one natural enemy, a bird called a Loggerhead Shrike, the bird impales the grasshopper and leaves them around to dry out and then eats them. I find them dead in the shrubbery from time to time. I am also an enemy and have frightened my dogs gleefully stomping them.

That is my six for this Saturday. Stop by http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com to see more posts from around the world.

Happy Gardening..

In a Vase on Monday – Foraging for Flowers

Once in a while I give plant talks at a local nursery, one of the girls I work with there contacted me to say she enjoyed my Monday vases and had the idea for a talk about Foraging for Flowers in Your Garden. I love the idea and it truly reflects this weeks vase.

August can be unkind to to gardens in South Florida. We can have 3.5 inches of rain in a few hours, hurricanes or weeks long dry spells with temperatures in the high 90s (F) -37 Celsius. The garden can be baked, drowned and/or dessicated. The gardener as well. Last week I noted the much smaller size of the flowers from well, August. Foraging for my vase, I found some true stalwarts to cut.

The view from the side. The vase is a favorite and a thrift store find. Transcandentias are prominent in this vase. Solid purple foliage is Transcandentia pallida called Setcresea, from last weeks vase. Setcresea certainly sounds like a botanical name, but it is not. Go figure. My husband calls these secretions. The striped leaves are Transcandentia zebrina; Inch Plant, Wandering Jew, etc. Really hard to kill if it gets a little shade and water, hard not to love this one in August. The pink flowers are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); chartreuse flower is a fading Guzmania Bromeliad that begin life red. Grey foliage is from Barometer Bush (Leucophyllum frutescens). Inevitably I fiddle with these as I take pictures. I think I like it better without the Barometer Bush???

Happy Gardening and thanks to Cathy at http://www.ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com for hosting this weekly meme. Follow the link to see more vases.

Six on Saturday – Tropical Weather

Tropical weather is on the menu this week in Florida. Two forecasted hurricanes are lurking in the Gulf of Mexico, an unheard of meteorological event. Both are taking aim at the Gulf Coast of the US. Batten down over there. This weather brings downpours that can dump 3 inches of rain per hour in my garden – even hundreds of miles away from the storms. I am joining the Six on Saturday crew at http://www.thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com. Follow the link to see more posts of six items of interest from gardens around the world.

I am featuring my more tropical plants today. This is a Blanchetiana Bromeliad ramping up to full flower. The flower in back is about seven feet tall.

The flowers on a Java White Copperleaf (Acalphya wilkesiana). These shrubs should reach at least six feet.

A Travelers Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) I planted these last fall to screen a telephone pole behind my house. They will grow to 30 feet. They have just reached eight feet. These are planted as a sign of hospitality in the South Pacific. The stems hold a great deal of water and a thirsty traveler can cut one for a drink of fresh water.

Fruit forming on the Papaya tree. I am hoping the moths are done with my tree for the year and I get some fruit this winter. The tree is at least fifteen feet tall, so I will have to wait for the fruit to fall off.

The new Papaya planted last year from seeds of the tree above. Papayas are very short lived, so I started this new one. The tomato cage is for protection from my lawn guys

Leaves of the Pink Ball Tree (Dombeya wallachii) This is sometimes called Tropical Hydrangea and flowers during the winter. The shrub grew 9 feet in less than two years.

Happy Gardening!!

In a Vase on Monday – Rain Delay

Early this morning I was greeted with brilliant blue skies and informed by my phone of very little chance of rain. So, I hand watered some of the garden as our irrigation system had a valve get stuck open and couldn’t be turned off (we had to turn off the water supply to get one zone of sprinklers to stop) Strange going ons in the garden.

Then, an enormous thunderstorm blew in and it rained off and on until late afternoon. Relief for my parched garden; I was in and out between rain showers cutting flowers for this vase.

The vase is a Rose` bottle, I like the bottle better than the wine. I have wrapped the bottle with Bromeliad foliage to add some color. The burgundy leaf at the top is Luca Neoregelia, the yellow leaf is Lemon Blanchetiana Aechmea.

Below is a closer view, I was searching for contrasts in color and texture of the plant material. The lurid purple berries are from Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana); orange flowers are Mexican Bush Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and the ferns winding their way through are Wild Asparagus Fern that pops up in the garden.

To see more vases from gardeners around the world visit Cathy at www. ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com.

Happy Gardening, hopefully I will get the valve unstuck on my irrigation this week. Hand watering is not fun in the South Florida summer.