In A Vase on Monday – Tropical Blues

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July in South Florida can give any gardener the blues. The temperatures have been in the mid 90s with a similar amount of humidity and it has basically refused to rain here despite the calendar’s insistence this is our rainy season. The tropical plants with big leaves are scorching, actually the weeds anywhere not served by our irrigation system are scorching, withering weeds incite a gleeful response from me and offset the gardening blues to a certain extent.

The summer blooming tropicals I have sited properly (always a good trick) are coping well and flowering, the others are, well, scorching. My blue vases are from the happy tropicals! The tropicals not getting quite enough water are really blue. And scorched.

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The big red, green and yellow bud is from Heliconia rostrata, Lobsterclaw Heliconia. I decided to cut this just to see how long it will last. Waiting for the flower to open seems to shorten it’s vase life. It will be interesting to see if it opens as it usually takes a week or so to get this:

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The small footed vase holds some Firebush flowers and Parrottflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) The Parrottflowers are having a tough year and seem a bit shrunken. Drought does not defeat Firebush here and they are feeding my butterfly brigade. Here is Zebra Longwing enjoying the nectar.20170608_152406-1

The blue violin holds a Miniata Bromeliad, the huge tree that shades this ground got a haircut from Hurricane Irma and yes, they are a bit scorched, but have graced me with a flower accompanied by a bit of Asian Sword Fern.

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The blue vases are all heirlooms, the violin belonged to my grandmother, the bottle is from my mother and the footed vase belonged to my in laws. No one was scorched.

That I am aware of.

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In A Vase on Monday – Summer Surprises

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Every gardener gets a few surprises. Some are better than others. I have been doing a lot of design work lately, hence the funky picture.

My summer surprises have been the good kind and primarily pink this week.

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The Shell Ginger (Alpinia zerumbet) is in the pink champagne bottle a friend left after a holiday celebration, these are reported to flower three times a year – this is the first year for a second flowering, surprising me.

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In the grey round vase, it seems the Garden Gods have rewarded me with a Pink Cactus Dahlia, not.  My Dahlia quest continues.

This is one of my ubiquitous $5 garage sale finds. No one knows what the Bromeliad is or where to plant it, but one can be had for $5. For five bucks I got a wonderful surprise and there are pups. I think it is a Aechmea ‘fasciata’  variety- please let me know if you recognize it.

The leaves are from a nearby Sweet Begonia ( Begonia odorata)

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The third vase has the survivalist pink and chartruese Alabama Sunset Coleus I had lost hope for and pink and white (yes) Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). Another surprise.

My biggest surprise this week was the hatching of the rare Atala Butterfly in my Coontie (small shrubby palms)

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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.

A Tale of Three Shrimps

Horticultural pursuits sometime follow Culinary pursuits. There are different types of Shrimp Plants as there are different types of Shrimp to eat. Shrimp Plants are a new favorite of mine. These plants seem to be pretty bulletproof and bloom nearly year round. The evil Lubber Grasshoppers like to eat them, but other than that they have been remarkably pest free.

I had not realized there were (at least) three different kinds. The one I have in a pot on my front porch, commonly called Yellow Shrimp Plant is Pachystachys lutea, a member of the Acanthus family. Sometimes the common name Lollipop Plant comes up, not sure why?  I have tried to propagate this, but it was a grave failure. The plants wilted as soon as I took the cuttings.  Online research tells me to try again in late Spring with softwood cuttings.

Shrimp Plant Pachystachys lutea

Shrimp Plant
Pachystachys lutea

I have another type of Shrimp Plant growing in my garden, the Red Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeana. This is sort of a passalong plant in Florida my neighbor gave me. A different genus, but still in the Acanthus family. These make good cut flowers and seem to reproduce effortlessly without taking over. Needs a bit of shade, but don’t we all. Butterflies and Hummingbirds like this plant and so do I.

Red Shrimp Plant

Red Shrimp Plant

Recently I found out there is an evil Shrimp Plant in South Florida, the Green Shrimp Plant. The Green Shrimp Plant is also known as Brown’s Blechum, Blechum pyramidatum. Blech, is right, this is an invasive in frost free zones. Oddly enough, another member of the Acanthus family, but the black sheep. If you live in an area that receives frost this can be a good addition to the Butterfly Garden. A host plant for Buckeye, White Peacock, Malachite and Painted Lady Butterflies those with less than 32 degree weather can enjoy this in peace. Beware further South.

Green Shrimp Plant

Green Shrimp Plant

What is confounding me is why these are called Shrimp Plants in the first place and why the Green Shrimp Plant clearly has blue flowers?

Another horticultural mystery to solve.