In A Vase on Monday – Ahhhhtumn is Here

 

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Sometime during the month of October there is a collective sigh of relief from the inhabitants of South Florida. It finally happened last Friday, temperatures and humidity dropped. I spent the day in my garden, then later in the afternoon enjoyed a glass of wine amongst my burgeoning collection of Bromeliads.

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After my glass of wine, I quickly put all the cushions back in the house as Tropical Storm Phillipe was forecast to pass through on Saturday. Philippe dumped a few inches of rain on the garden and then headed to New England to wreak havoc further north.

Sunday turned into a beautiful, somewhat windy day and I spent time searching for vase components with the Dragonflies (swarming to eat post storm mosquitoes) and Longwing Butterflies searching for a sip of nectar. In the background, I heard Sand Hill Cranes, home for the winter calling out to friends and lovers.

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The contents of my vase include in red, front and center, Turks Cap Hibiscus (Hibiscus malvaviscus), the red spikes and seedy spikes are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). The yellow and orange spikes are from the Blanchetiana Bromeliad (Aechmea blanchetiana). The creamy white spikes are a mystery plant that appeared in the garden several years ago, I have not been able to identify it, but it is a great fall vase component and seems well mannered enough to live in the garden. The fluffy pink background grass is Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris) I am loving my Muhly Grass this fall.

Ahh, Autumn is finally here. It is seventy degrees, cool not experienced since last spring.

Happy Halloween!

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Container Gardening Information for the Treasure Coast

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Last week I gave a talk to the Hibiscus Circle of the Stuart Garden Club about container gardening. The Treasure Coast of Florida operates basically opposite of the rest of the US in terms of gardening. Our gardening season is moving into full swing now. I have just planted tomatoes and vegetables and will be renovating my containers as we move outside for the winter. Below is the omnipresent theory for Container Design.

 

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I find this concept to be sound advice. Planted in an 18″ container, a 6″ nursery pot with a thriller and two 4 or 5″ nursery pots with a filler and a spiller make a wonderful addition to your front door step, porch or outside seating area. Plant selection is another story. More about specific plants later. As far as planting the container goes, see below for the idea:

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Tips and tricks for planting containers include:

  • Always use potting soil.
  • If the container is going outside, be sure there is a drainage hole and cover the hole with coffee filters and pebbles to keep the potting soil in the pot.
  • When planting an oversize container, the bottom can be filled with Styrofoam noodles separated with coffee filters or weed check fabric to keep the soil around the plants in the upper part of the pot. Always maintain a 12″ depth of soil in pots to keep watering chores to a minimum. The exception to this rule, Bromeliads, Orchids and succulents can be grown in less soil.
  • Allow an inch of soil from the rim and keep soil level an inch below the rim of the container.
  • Add time release fertilizer after planting, 13-13-13 is best for our area and lasts longer in the heat.
  • Check container daily and water accordingly, many containers need daily watering.

RECOMMENDED PLANTS FOR CONTAINER GARDENING:

Tropical Plants: Many tropical plants thrive in containers on the Treasure Coast. There are many kinds of Bromeliads and Aglaonema, all of the plants pictured require a shaded area.

 

 

 

 

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Many annual flowers are good for use in containers, they generally don’t last the summer here so be prepared to renovate your containers every 4 to 6 months. Here are a few plants to consider:

 

 

 

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Vegetables and herbs are great plants for containers. Many vegetable gardeners use containers exclusively to avoid weeding and backbreaking labor in soil preparation. Notes on seed packets and vegetable plants will sometimes include recommendations for container sizes.

Herbs for Treasure Coast Gardens:

 

 

 

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There are many other herbs that can be grown here. Fresh herb plants appear in the big box stores and garden centers this time of year. I grow what I like to eat. My favorites are:

Basil: I always have a pot of Basil around, my preference is basic Sweet Basil with the large green leaf. It can be called Genovese or Napletano. I also like Greek Columnar Basil but it can be difficult to find. Basil lasts about 3-4 months in a container so I replace mine quarterly.

Bay Leaf: My first attempt with Bay Leaf failed, I planted it in the ground and it did not flourish. I bought two more and they have happily provided Bay Leaf from their perch in a terracotta pot. Bay Leaf plants can be difficult to find in our area so buy them online. Be careful to buy the culinary Bay Leaf (Laurus nobilis) – there are other types used for decorative purposes and not to eat.

Dill: Dill is a favorite for use in soups or with sauteed vegetables or fish. A tall, ferny plant this is a cool season plant and will go to seed in the late spring. The seeds are a bonus and can be used in breads or saved to grow more Dill next fall.

Parsley: I prefer Italian Parsley (flat leaf) for flavor, Curly Parsley can be easily grown here as well. This is a cool season plant and will grow here from October until late spring.

Rosemary: Rosemary lasts year round in a pot. Eventually, it needs replacement – I consider this maintenance as we eat a lot of Rosemary. I like the flavor of the upright plants rather than the creepers.

Thyme: Thyme is another cool season herb. I may have managed to get it to live through a whole year once, but this requires a lot of attention in the summer. My attention tends to wane as the humidity rises. I prefer the Lemon Thyme to German for the flavor.

My Fall Containers are currently under construction, I will work on another post when they are complete.

For more information about Garden Design follow this link https://theshrubqueen.com/garden-design-and-consulting/

In A Vase on Monday – Maximum Minimalism

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Maximum minimalism seems a contradiction in terms. I was planning to call this Deconstructed Corsage, due to the Gardenia and Orchids. Shortly before I started writing the post, my husband came in and said ‘minimalism’. I countered ‘”it can’t be, too many different things in the vase”. Upon further reflection, there is something minimal about this arrangement, despite the use of six different plants. I think it is the long lines of the vase and Muhly Grass blending all the elements making it appear to be one plant. One spectacularly unusual plant.

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Fall has been slow to arrive here, there are some 50 degree low temperatures forecast this week. The temperature this afternoon was less than Autumnal, 86 degrees (feels like 95), 97% humidity. I will believe Fall is here when I see or feel it! The flowers on the Muhly Grass are a better indicator of the season than the weather.

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Plants in the arrangement from the top, Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris), ‘Cabernet’ Spathoglottis Orchids, ‘Hallelujah’ Bromeliad foliage behind the orchid, striped purple leaves are from Transcandentia zebrina, white flowers are Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana divericata) and Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata). The vase is a thrift shop find.

I still think this would make a good corsage.

In A Vase on Monday- Dark Glasses

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Dark Glasses, my theme this week involves two types of dark glass. First, the vases made of smoky grey (like Ray Bans) and dark blue glass. Next, the contents of the vases, bright enough to require sunglasses.

20171015_101924-1The bigger vase, in Ray Ban grey, is filled with Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) and Asian Sword Fern, the devil in fern clothing (invasive fern) – the Parrotflowers have rebounded magnificently from Hurricane Irma, causing me to realize cutting them for vases really improves their existence and mine. Probably my favorite cut flower.

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The smaller cobalt blue vase is filled with a larger variety of flowers. My husband’s comment ‘it looks like a meadow’ – a sort of tropical meadow, I think.

The foliage is from Pie Crust Croton, a mad tropical plant by all counts. This shrub sports black foliage with orange, green, yellow and red spots, new growth green and the leaf edges crimped like pie crust. Planted in honor of my husband, the pie maker.

 

The crusts are reminiscent of the Croton, no? Blueberry and Apple pies.

The ferny foliage is from Asparagus Fern, this finely textured foliage tends to just pop up in the garden and I usually cut it for arrangements.

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The flowers are mostly natives, the yellow, Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis), orangey rust Gallardia, orange tubular, Firebush (Hamelia patens), the red spikes Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) the bright red flower in the middle is from the Coral Plant – an oddity that is a variety of Jatropha, not native.

Happy Monday and I hope Ophelia misses everyone!

In A Vase on Monday -Funky Fall Flowers

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I get some interesting comments from readers about my plant selections. Exotic is the most common description, though weird, unusual and alien have been bandied about. I tend towards the unusual, possibly due to spending over 30 years designing landscapes for corporations. Corporations like a clean, green hedge around their buildings, parsley around the pig is how I refer to the clean green, preferably not interesting in any way. Think Viburnum of any kind clipped into submission. Gardeners tend to be a lot more fun to work with and also avoid workhorse Viburnums.

My garden sports no workhorse shrubs, all selections are off the wall and flowering and fruiting to their hearts content. Corporations would hate it. Not a clipped Viburnum in sight.

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Even I think this vase is funky, put together for texture and color. It speaks of South Florida in the Fall.

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The purple flower is an Orchid, Spathoglottis ‘Cabernet’. The pink vine is a Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus), some call this Queen’s Wreath. The white spikes are from Snake Plant or Mother In Law’s Tongue (Sanseveira) – they flower here and are considered invasive – it would take a bulldozer to rid my garden of these. Purple berries are from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) I think the berry production in Florida is triple what my northern plants produced. The striped leaf is from a Screw Pine (Pandanus sp.) I love these and bought a small plant that is surprising me with variegated foliage. Screw Pines are common in the South Pacific and remind me of Hawaii.

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A Screw Pine (Pandanus) on the Pacific Ocean near Hana, Maui. Kinda funky, had to have one in my garden.

Cheers to Resurgens

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Resurgens is Latin for Resurgence, and the motto of my hometown – Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta’s resurgence was from the ashes of the Civil War, my garden is rebounding from the encounter with Hurricane Irma. Every good resurgence deserves a toast and this one is filled with Beach Sunflowers in an oversized Margarita glass given to me by a friend.

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Joining the Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)  in orange, Firebush (Hamelia patens) and the foliage is a sprig of Setcresea (Setcresea pallida)  some call this Purple Hearts, I think that sounds better. The dark ferny foliage is from Copper Fennel, making a surprise reappearance in the herb garden.

The Beach Sunflowers are a profusion of yellow flowers and the Firebush is just starting to show color again. Other signs of resurgence, the Torch Bromeliads (Billbergia pyramidalis) are making their Autumnal appearance.

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The foliage is a bit worse for wear,  but the flowers are beautiful. The most dramatic transition in the garden is from the Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea). Here is a picture of the Fig two weeks ago:

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Today:

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I will raise my glass for the Fig, now I need to find some limes and tequila.

Cheers!

In A Vase on Monday- Soothing Relief

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This morning our temperatures were in the low 70’s with a nice breeze from Hurricane Maria passing by (a long way off). The humidity was down a bit as well, so I worked in the garden getting my vegetable garden going. South Florida’s gardening season is opposite most of the Northern Hemisphere. Summer vegetables are planted in September and October, so I will have tomatoes in the winter. Hopefully. Corn is not even grown in the summer here as it is too hot for the plant to pollinate.20170924_132320

The anchor flower in this vase is a Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria) which is supposed to be a soothing shampoo ingredient until you read up on it, seems more people are irritated by it than soothed. Stick to the Aloe Vera for relief. The Soap Aloe is the apricot and green candelabra shaped flower. The red flowers are our native Hibiscus, Turk’s Cap Mallow (Hibiscus malvaviscus). The mad funky flowers that look like Lobster Claws are Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers – Hurricane Irma was not kind to these and I have trimmed the prettier parts for use in this vase. I have been channeling my Southern mother lately and am thinking of drying the rest and spray painting them gold for a holiday wreath. Although, that might be too funky.

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The vase is a big crystal affair that was a wedding gift – oh, many years ago from a dear friend who called the day before Hurricane Irma hit “just to hear my voice”, a truly lovely man. The components of the vase are of such a large scale (2 to 3 feet tall) I thought it called for the addition of some big tropical foliage. The smaller leaves in the arrangement are from Frangipani (Plumeria), the long reddish leaves from the Blanchetiana Bromeliad and the ferns are the ever present Asian Sword Ferns.

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The vegetable garden under construction. Hard to believe anything will grow in this ‘soil’.