Wordless Wednesday – Spring Flowers/Tropical Style

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In a Vase on Monday – Spring Salad Surprises

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Winter in South Florida (or as I call it, Not Summer) is winding down. As I was planting my last crop of vegetable seeds, I noticed the lettuces fading and bolting. I grew Red Romaine lettuce this winter and was surprised to see how pretty the flowers are. While picking them, I could tell by the scent that the Romaine had turned bitter, no need to taste it. Even the rabbits have quit eating it and turned to munching on my Bromeliads and eating the old green beans.

20190303_100841-1Another surprise in the garden was the emergence of 5 flowers on a Guzmania Bromeliad I left in a container for a little too long. I did not know Guzmanias would even put out multiple flowers, so I cut one since it went so well with the Romaine.

In keeping with the salad theme, I added some Copper Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) to the arrangement. The vase is a junk store silverplate heirloom from my mother, gaining patina (rust) with every use.

Here is the Papaya update: More surprises, six fruit so far. I think there will be more.20190303_162431

In A Vase on Monday – Shell Loopy

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The Shell Gingers (Alpinia zerumbet) are flowering again. This is such a dramatic plant, I think it should be displayed on its own. Of course, me being me, I had to do something with it. Feeling there was a bit too much foliage in the arrangement I cut a lot of it out, enjoying the gingery fragrance and wishing for a Thai food lunch. As I was in a state of ‘garden dress’, lunch out was out of the question; so I persevered with my arrangement. I rolled some leaves into loops and added a few red burgundy Blanchetiana Bromeliad leaves.

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Shell Ginger needs a bit of shade to be at its best. Last year, my neighbor destroyed all the shade, removing trees on the other side of the fence. Oddly enough, the Ginger has responded with lighter foliage and a bounty of buds, the likes I have never seen before. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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News from the garden. I have been reporting/complaining about my Papaya experience. Well, the tree added some newly hermaphrodite flowers and now I am getting female and mixed (hermaphrodite) flowers – and more fruit. Four, so far. I can’t wait to see what the tree produces. Here is the first fruit from last week.

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In A Vase on Monday – Lion’s Tail and Firesticks

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The odd title reflects what is in my vase this Monday. The orange flowers in the front of the arrangement are from Leonitis nepetifolia (I think) Lion’s Ear or Tail, depending on who you ask and also called Dagga, the perennial version(L. leonurus) is smoked in South Africa like Marijuana. A blog friend sent me some seeds when Hurricane Matthew destroyed the one in my garden. I am now wondering if these are annual, biennial or just experiencing Florida’s seasonal weirdness. I am leaving them to go to seed in the garden, hoping for a straighter set of plants – these were knocked over by Hurricane Irma the following year and never straightened up. Florida’s seasonal weirdness at it’s inexplicable best.

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Here is a close up, the Firesticks in the arrangement are from a Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia ‘Firesticks’), they are the yellow tubular plants in the arrangement. These grow 12 feet tall and wide and I have a few around the garden, you can just stick a bit in the ground and have a whole new plant in a few years. No irrigation needed or wanted. Below is a Firesticks used as foundation planting for my house, the coloration reddens as the weather heats up.20190217_171624-1 (1)

As for the rest of the arrangement, here is another photo.

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The red flowers in the arrangement are from Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), a stalwart in my garden; multicolored foliage – I don’t think varigated adequately describes the foliage, Mammey Croton (Codieum “Mammey”); the ferns in the back are Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata, of houseplant fame). The Boston Fern, another unlikely volunteer in my garden.

The vase, dark grey, was picked up at a Department Store sale as was the red stool (with patina). I have enjoyed both of these items for IAVOM posts.

Happy Monday! Stay away from the Dagga.

In A Vase on Monday-Bling, Vegetables and Weeds.

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Earlier this year, I decided to add some bling and kinetic energy to my tropical garden. Never being shy about moving things around, I found myself hard at work Sunday, doing just that when it dawned on me I should put my Monday vase together.

It seemed all that was flowering abundantly was weeds, volunteers and vegetables. I decided to cut all three. The weeds in the arrangement are; in white: Bidens alba, common name usually Indian Needles, this is one of those really cute, chronically reseeding plant that knows no bounds. The reason fell from the flowers, I counted thirty seeds stuck to my shirt and the kitchen counter.

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The volunteers (a constant source of wonder in my garden) are Boston Ferns (Nephrolepis exaltata) in the back, the palm is a seedling from the Sabal Palm (Palmetto sabal), the red flowers are from Turk’s Cap Hibiscus ( Malvaviscus penduliflorus), yellow daisies are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) another prolific reseeder.

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The vegetable in the vase is the Red Mustard, I plant it for burgundy winter color as I hate the taste.

Here’s the kinetic garden bling:

 

A copper spinner in a checkerboard of salt finish concrete tiles and tumbled turquoise glass bits…plantings are still under consideration. I did go to a plant sale over the weekend.

In A Vase on Monday – Fruitless Efforts

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I decided to use foliage from my ornamental fruit plants in anticipation of my Papaya actually setting some fruit. I planted some seeds from a Hawaiian Papaya I had particularly enjoyed, knowing they have a reputation for being an extremely easy fruit tree to grow here. I ended up with three seedlings and planted them in my vegetable garden. They are reputed to produce fruit as early as 9 months after planting. Anticipation set it.

Hurricane Irma came along and blew 2 of the trees away, I thought ‘OK, I still have one, how many Papayas can I eat anyway’. Summer rolled around and the tree started to flower, anticipation set in again. Nothing happened. So, I did a little research – Hawaiian Papayas can be male, female or hermaphrodite. The remaining Papaya, female. I planted a hermaphrodite tree to pollinate the existing female. The female tree started flowering again a couple of weeks ago. Not one bud on the pollinator tree – then, on Friday after several days of rain, the hermaphrodite tree started flowering…

Anticipation has really set in now.

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The crystal vase is a gift from my long gone brother. I think of him every time I use it. The foliage in the backdrop is from my Ornamental Pineapple (Ananas ‘no idea’) and an Ornamental Banana leaf (Musa ensete ‘Something’). Ferns are Asian Sword Ferns.

I grow pineapples in my garden and bananas are possible, but we don’t really like bananas enough to water them.

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The flowers in the arrangement are: in white, Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata ‘Alba’), in purple, Tampa Verbena (Glandularia tampensis), in peach, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), the fruit in the middle is from the White Geiger tree (Cordia boissieri)

Here is the, thus far, fruitless effort Hawaiian Papaya:

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Still waiting.

 

Bromeliads for South Florida Gardens

I first encountered Bromeliads as houseplants in the 1980’s. Winter Gardens, Atrium and Interiorscaping were popular indoors in Shopping Malls and Office Buildings. At the time, I worked for a large Architectural firm as a Landscape Architect and designed these gardens using flowering Bromeliads as color beds in large planted areas. The Bromeliads I used primarily in these indoor plantings were Aechmea fasciata (left) and Guzmanias on the right.

 

 

Many years later, my husband and I relocated to the Treasure Coast of Florida. I was excited to learn about all the Bromeliads I could use in my garden. Houseplants rule the outdoors in South Florida. Now I have Guzmanias and Aechmea fasciatas  in my garden.

Bromeliads have a broad range of appearance. They range from highly colored foliage with flowers prized in our gardens to Spanish Moss hanging from Oak trees common in the Deep South. Bromeliads may also be found at the supermarket in the form of a Pineapple. Some are epiphytes living on trees (Spanish Moss) others are considered terrestrial and root into the ground. Bromeliads use specialized cells to collect water from the air, they also use cups to collect rainwater and derive nutrients from debris collected in the cup.

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While we have several native Bromeliads in Florida (Tillandsias for the most part), most of the showy ones we use in our gardens are from further south in the tropical Americas, many of my favorites hail from Brazil. These are easy to grow, tough plants that lend a tropical touch to our gardens. I use them as the icing in the garden, like using flowering perennials further north.

Being of different origins than most perennials, Bromeliads require a bit of understanding-the plant originally purchased eventually will flower and die. This is called the mother plant generally. The mother plant flowers, then begins to decline; offshoots called pups then appear around the plant. Pups can be left in place around the mother or clipped off when they reach a third the size of the mother plant. Pups removed may be replanted and usually require staking or a rock to hold them in place until they are established. Aechmea ‘Chiantinii Surprise’ with pups.

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Chantinii Surprise

My transition from a houseplant tender to the garden Bromeliad enthusiast had a bit of a learning curve. Soon after moving to the Treasure Coast, the very common (here) Blanchetiana Bromeliad began blooming around town. Being a burgeoning fan of the garden Bromeliad, I nearly wrecked my car trying to get a look at the thing. Orange foliage, nearly as tall as I am with a red and yellow spike flower of a similar size. No longer in houseplant territory- this was some serious vegetation!

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Now I make wreaths during the holidays from the flowers:

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Seeking advice on the needs of these plants proved to be elusive and I began to just plant them. If someone said it needs “some sun” – this means it really needs partial shade. I charco-broiled more than one plant seeking the “some sun”. There are some reliable full sun plants; finding the right plant for the right spot is key.

Some favorite sun Bromeliads:

 

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Some favorite shade Bromeliads:

 

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Another key to success with Bromeliads is planting them during the proper time of year. Dividing and installing new plants in your garden should be done between November and March, the reason, to allow the plants to slowly acclimate to the sun – the sun angles in South Florida are dramatically different between summer and winter. Some of the more sun tolerant ones may be planted year round. Landscape beds near a north facing wall can be full sun in summer and full shade in winter.

Design tips:

Consider the big Bromeliads exclamation points in the garden, use sparingly. Everybody can’t be the star. Even stars need a chorus. This is Aechmea Blanchetiana in a pool of Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)!

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Restrain the color palette to three colors. My favorite color schemes are:

In shade to partial shade: Colors and varieties

Red/Green/Burgundy – Neoregelia ‘Maria’, Neoregelia ‘Angel Face’

 

Good companion plants: Coontie Palms, Ferns

Gold/ Green/ Salmony Red: Vriesea ospinae ‘Gruberii’, Neoregelia ‘Super Fireball’

 

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Combination of orange, red and green for sun; named from left to right

Neoregelia ‘Fireball’, Neoregelia ‘Bossa Nova’, Bird of Paradise (not a Bromeliad), Aechmea ‘Alvarez’, Aechmea ‘Red Candles’

The Bird of Paradise is shown as a companion plant example.

Bromeliads also make great container plants. Here are a few examples we put together at Pinders Nursery in Palm City, Florida for a talk I gave (about Bromeliads!) last Saturday. These container plantings last a long time, until the plant flowers or you need a change of view.

 

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Plants are: in back ‘Imperial Red’ Alcanterea (for sun – these bloom every 10 years), in the blue container for shade, Aechmea ‘Del Mar’, the brown bowl has Aechmea ‘Bracteata Red’ and Neoregelia ‘Donger’ would take Sun.