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.

Collecting Treasure Coast Passalongs

It is entirely possible the term “Passalongs” is Southern American slang. In the Deep South gardeners typically pass along their favorite plants to friends and neighbors by seed, cutting or division. Once I was the happy recipient of an air layered old fashioned Gardenia. Hence the term Passalong Plants.

There are varying superstitions about proper receipt of these plants. One is you never say ‘Thank you’ because this will result in the plant’s immediate demise – this seems so strange to me as Southerns are, if anything, polite.

Many of these plants might be considered ‘Roadsidea’ as they are superhardy and likely to have been collected by an intrepid gardener for their outstanding flower or other characteristics.

Everglades Tomatoes

Everglades Tomatoes

Here in South Florida, contrary to most of the Northern Hemisphere, the gardening season is winding down and gardeners are sharing plants for installation before the rainy season begins. In the case of the Everglades tomatoes, the seeds will be saved for planting next fall.

I am not so sure about the Everglades Tomato. They are the small tomato at the top of the picture, the bigger ones are Grape Tomatoes. These are native to the Everglades, hence the name, some people grow them year round. To me, they have a beefy taste and are too small to get the full tomato experience. I want a burst of sunshine when I bite into a tomato. I may have to stick with my favorite Sweet 100s.

I call these Groundcover Bromeliads, they are some type of Fireball Neoregelia, maybe Atomic. Commonly sold at Garage Sales and passed along by division. I have striped, spotted and red. They spread and form a groundcover. I find that I am not worried as many gardeners about botanical nomenclature when I find a great deal at a garage sale. Please forgive me for spreading ambiguity.

Groundcover Bromeliad

Groundcover Bromeliad

Groundcover Bromeliad

Groundcover Bromeliad

Painted Fingernail Bromeliad

Painted Fingernail Bromeliad

This is the aptly named Painted Fingernail Bromeliad, an Aechmea variety. My neighbor gave me a few pups from her plants. I saw these growing by the side of the road for a long time before I managed to find out what they were. Like many passalong plants, these prove to be pretty indestructible and will grow in sun or shade.

Succulents are another excellent passalong as they reproduce quickly with side shoots. Just break one off and replant in hot sun and infertile soil. They may need water once or twice. The Agave and Soap Aloe are from my friend, Eddie.

To a certain extent all of these plants are a double edged sword. Yes, they thrive in our difficult environment. Maybe a little too well. If not maintained through careful sharing, the garden could be at risk of being overrun. I wouldn’t mind with the Bromeliads, except they are pretty sharp as are the succulents. So, mine are kept at bay and cleared from the edges of walkways.

Now that I have collected all these plants, I have some ready to pass along, should anyone need a new plant or two t try. I do hate to throw plants away.

Fallout from Botanica

South Florida is rife with Garden fairs during the winter. This past weekend I went to Botanica in Port St. Lucie. Port St. Lucie is not what I would consider a garden spot, but for some reason they have a great botanical garden run by a very enthusiastic group of volunteers.

Botanica was held at the McKee Botanical Garden. At other times of the year they have a propagation area that sells rooted cuttings from their gardens. It is fun to meet fellow plant nerds and pick up a few Bromeliad cuttings.  Not this time, I pulled into the parking lot and realized this was a bigger event than a few cuttings. At least 4o vendors and a food court. I was in trouble. I had been to the bank.

I walked through most of one side and was not really tempted then through the propagation area. The prices had doubled since last summer, so I was again not tempted. Then I got to the other side of the lake..

The three for 10 dollar Bromeliads! One of the issues with buying Bromeliads in this manner is the sellers tend to have no idea what kind of Bromeliad they have. The seller advised me the larger one had blue flowers and was adaptable to light. Which really means do not plant in full sun or you will charco-broil the plant and be out three bucks. The others I am pretty sure are some sort of Fireball Neoregelia, I have some similar ones in the garden. Now potted, they have joined their friends from my last foray in plant shopping at Gardenfest.

My Growing Collection

My Growing Collection

The Palm Man, I believe he was called, grows Palms in his backyard nearby. The Palms were beautiful and so were the prices. I succumbed, and bought two Palms.

One of my favorite interior Palms, a Lady Palm – I can now grow these outside, so I bought one.

Lady Palm

Lady Palm

This is a Rhaphis excelsa, native to Southeast Asia Rainforests and highly shade tolerant. I have just the spot.

My next purchase was a Florida Thatch Palm, a new plant to me. One of the three palms native to Florida, this is a Thrinax radiata. Tolerant of sand, sea and alkaline soils. All things I have in abundance. Again, I have just the spot.

Florida Thatch Palm

Florida Thatch Palm

I did not quite violate my ‘never get a cart’ rule. Two nice young men from Junior ROTC showed up with a cart and met me at my car.

I have some planting to do this weekend, lest these palms turn into potted plants and spare parts for future use.

Another Bromeliad for South Florida – Aechmea blanchetiana

The Whole Plant

The Whole Plant

I found this on my doorstep earlier today and it is my birthday, so this was a great present. It is a Blanchetiana Bromeliad – another beauty from the rainforests of Brazil. The flower spike on this plant looks to be about 4 feet tall. These are fairly common on the Treasure Coast and they start blooming around Labor Day, I consider this a Fall color plant!

I know it seems weird thinking of a Rainforest plant as a Fall indicator, but, hey, they have fall in the tropics. The days shorten and things that are red and orange flower. Not much in the way of leaves changing color, but other things do.

The Flower

The Flower

The Flower is a funky thing that makes me think of crustaceans, King Crab legs or something like that. Now I just need to decide where to plant this…..

Winter Containers for South Florida

Here comes the Work Shop

Here comes the Work Shop

My husband likes to work with his hands, when we moved to South Florida there wasn’t enough room in our house for a workshop so we had one craned it. The picture is the shop being lifted over the house..I’ll get to the containers in a minute.

The shop ends up looking a bit like a trailer but with some landscaping and a porch it fits in. These sheds are fairly common in South Florida, I have never seen them before – they are even built and attached to the ground to resist hurricanes.

The whole adventure left me feeling a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Maybe in reverse.

After all this, my husband who has clearly been living with me too long decided he wanted some flower pots (containers if you are a landscape professional) on his shop porch. I put some containers together with the usual suspects last year sometime – yes, the annuals last that long here. It seems crazy to me as well. They last so long you get tired of them. When I lived further north I always did the containers twice a year, changed the colors with the seasons and enjoyed the variety.

Imagine my surprise when the old summer reliables, Bronzeleaf Begonias, rolled over and died in the summer heat. Time to revise thinking to plants that live in say, the Sahara. Pentas and Lantanas. I had gotten bored with Lantanas in Atlanta and really still am, they just smell funny. If I want fragrance, that is so not it.

The Lantana and Pentas were pooping out so I was trolling around in our yard to see what I could find to replace the spent annuals. One of the fun things about living in Florida is you never know what you might find growing in the yard. Boston Fern grows wild in the side yard so I dug a start of that and then found some Purple Wandering Jew (Zebrina), a Burgundy Bromeliad and an unknown groundcover Bromeliad (from a garage sale) that needed to be divided  and added them to the ‘Florida Friendly’ (this is a Florida Extension Service sort of approved plant) chartreuse Sedum that was already in the pots. As an aside, who ever heard of a sedum that does well in partial shade – this does. Whatever it is.

Groundcover Bromeliad and Sedum

Groundcover Bromeliad and Sedum

Voila, a purple and chartreuse themed container garden. The Bromeliads seem to be perennial in containers – the big Burgundy one was divided from a container I have had on my front porch for a year or so – I started with one and now there are three in there. You just never know what you will find growing outside…

Newly planted containers

Newly planted containers

 

Bromeliads in the Hood

Dr. Seuss

Dr. Seuss

I did my weekend garden touring at the McKee Botanical Garden in Port St Lucie, Florida. This is a surprising gem of a garden located on 20 acres in a suburban neighborhood setting. One of the interesting things about this garden, it is maintained almost exclusively by volunteers and  is beautiful. And they have lots of Bromeliads. I have no clue what that is above but Dr. Seuss almost certainly would have loved it.

McKee Botanical Garden

McKee Botanical Garden

This is an island in the driveway at the  McKee Botanical Garden, the tree is a ScrewPine underplanted with Blanchiata Bromeliads and Green Island Ficus. Pretty cool.

More Bromeliad pictures from my travels:

Burgundy Bromeliad

Burgundy Bromeliad

I have seen numerous Burgundy Bromeliads around here. Guess what, the foliage is Burgundy and people will tell you they need some sun. Some being the operative word. These are, as far as I am concerned, in nearly full shade and flowering. I have some slowly frying in my front yard, am going to move them.

 

This is a bromeliad currently blooming in my neighbor’s yard. I think it is a Quesnelia-please comment if you know? I keep calling these Quesadillas and it is making me crave Mexican food…

Quesnilla?

Quesnelia?

Tropical Ranch

I went on a mini garden tour yesterday to the Tropical Ranch Botanical Garden in nearby Stuart, Florida. This is a two acre garden owned by a local couple who are Master Gardeners; they live in the garden and open it every month or so.

The garden is beautifully maintained and available for events. Here are a few plants from my meander through the garden:

'Queen Emma' Crinum

This is a ‘Queen Emma’ Crinum – this plant is 5 or 6 feet tall.

Blanchietta Aechmea Bromeliad

Blanchetiana Aechmea Bromeliad

Another enormous tropical in bloom,  these are very popular around town and are available in Lemon, Orange and Raspberry. I am not sure which one this is but, I am guessing Lemon as the leaves have a yellow cast. The flower is almost 5 feet tall and out of this world. I have had these for a couple of years and mine refuse to bloom. One of the owners told me they used to have cows – maybe that is the secret.

 

Hala

Hala 

Hawaiians call this Hala, it is used for everything from hats to huts, not native to Florida it will grow here. Floridians tend to call this Screw Pine, not sure why, it seems odd – when I first heard the term I thought it was some weird tropical version of a Japanese Black Pine, not so. I have one in my garden, it is about 12″ tall, unlike this beauty.

And last but not least, another favorite, the Heliconia. I think it is some variety of Lobsterclaw. Another thing I am waiting for a flower from; I read the other day these shouldn’t be pruned or you cut the flowers off. That could be my problem – excessive pruning. But, the plant is seven feet tall. Gardening teaches patience, right?

Heliconia

Heliconia

Bromeliad update – Matchstick and Aechmea idon’tknowwhatitis

Pink Bromeliad

Pink Bromeliad

This is a close up of an Aechmea Bromeliad I bought two years ago. Totally pink and as weird looking as these things are sometimes. I used this in a an article that never got published. Being a cooperative plant it put out a pup and the mother plant died after hanging around for a while. I waited for the thing to bloom again and set in the ground in a relatively shady, sandy bed with some Bromeliad friends.

A month or so ago,  it started sending up a stalk -yes, it looked like a girl power corn cob.

Second Generation Pink Bromeliad

Second Generation Pink Bromeliad

I am calling this Aechmea idon’tknowwhatitis because the guy I bought it from did not know either. And there are a zillion of these things and from this I guess that they are not clones from the mother plant.

Here is a close up of the flower from Second Generation

Pink and Yellow Bromeliad

Pink and Yellow Bromeliad

Curiouser and curiouser, this flower just stays pink and yellow and has been around for a couple of weeks now.

An additional Bromeliad note, the Matchstick Bromeliads I planted in nearly full sun have all burned up with the exception of one that looks great. So, take the ‘this one likes the sun’ advice with a grain of salt and try a little shade.

The Sustainable Garden: Perennial Thoughts

I perennially have thoughts about flowers. In terms of sustainability I am not sure the native ones are always best. Many of the natives are simply weeds with attractive flowers or characteristics we like. I have a deep respect for Black Eyed Susan from a previous experience – as in being nearly overrun by them. I used to live in their native habitat and had bought some “improved” Goldstrum Variety and they bolted back to their native selves and then ran amok on a well drained sunny hill. A recipe for landscape disaster. As beautiful as they were in full bloom, it took a long time to get rid of the Black Eyed Susans. I could not cope with their joyful abundance anymore. So easy on the natives and seek those that do well in your climate without too much water and too much abundance. Easier to take care of and maintain.

In South Florida irrigation is a big deal. We have a rainy season and a dry season. While there are many native plants this is a tropical climate and some of them can go wild. I have found some escaped houseplants in my yard going wild. Mother in Laws tongues is an invasive species. Many plants commonly grown here will not survive without irrigation. I chose not to irrigate my entire yard to save water and to save my sanity. The areas in lawn and vegetables are irrigated; areas with lower water perennials are drip irrigated and I have some unirrigated low maintenance areas that I still want to plant with beautiful perennials. I am just looking at things a bit differently. So, I am paying close attention to who I am inviting to live in my garden.

Beach Sunflower

The Beach Sunflower from Wikipedia

I am about to plant some Beach Sunflower in an unirrigated portion of my garden, I live on a sand hill and these are native to our area – I believe if I planted them in an irrigated area I would be overrun in short order. So, it is time for some more garden experimentation. The Beach Sunflower is going to look great with the existing Blue Agave, Red Martin Bromeliad and Painted Fingernail Bromeliad. Eventually providing shade is a native Gumbo Limbo tree; if that doesn’t get you in the mood for a Margarita nothing will. All these plants are extremely drought tolerant and will survive without regular irrigation. The Gumbo Limbo and Beach Sunflower are native, the Blue Agave is from Mexico, and the Martin and Painted Fingernail Bromeliads are Neoregelia type Bromeliads that originated in South America.

Painted Fingernail Bromeliad

Painted Fingernail Bromeliad

 

Martin Bromeliad

Martin Bromeliad

Blue Agave

Blue Agave

It seems strange to me that Bromeliads, in my mind a rainforest plant, would thrive in the sun with little supplemental water, but they do. The Painted Fingernail Bromeliad is a passalong plant around here and I have seen large masses of it planted around mailboxes on the side of the road. A great example of a not native plant working in a sustainable way. The result of my selection of plant material is an evergreen perennial bed that blooms or provides year round color while being very drought tolerant and using very little fertilizer or maintenance.

Sustainability is about more than native plants – it is about selecting the right plants.

 

 

 

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.