In A Vase on Monday – It’s A Dilly


It’s a Dilly, is that an American phrase? As far as I know, Dilly translates into it’s remarkable, notable or wonderful. Sources on the Internet say this is Canadian or American slang. Vasers will tell.

This vase is all about my herbs, I am mourning the impending passing of my Dill plant (this plant has been wonderful) this week. I love fresh Dill with salads, fish, tomato cucumber salad and on and on It has been flowering for at least a month, I keep cutting the flowers hoping for more foliage to eat – alas to no avail. So, I decided to cut most of the flowers for a vase. Some wasps seem to like the flowers as well – I left those guys alone. I hope the wasps inspire more edible Dill.

The Heliconias (Heliconia psittacorus) nearby suffered from something so I cut back and fertilized them a week or two ago. The plants are responding nicely and their flowers have joined the Dill. Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata “Alba”) in white are flowering again and joined the dirge as well as an unnamed Bromeliad with nice red foliage and some big Ferns that popped up in the garden, again no idea what the ferns are. The red flowers are the native Turk’s Cap Hibiscus (Hibiscus malvaviscus pendiflorus)that rewards me with flowers with the least bit of attention. I watered them!

The vase is a gift from my dearly departed older brother. Always a bittersweet reminder of that makes me miss him. Though I am certain he would be happy I am using the vase and thinking of him.

Here is a close up:


It’s a Dilly!



In A Vase on Monday – Make America Garden Again


All political commentary aside, watching events unfold this weekend sparked a patriotic arrangement for this Monday. The primary colors in the arrangement are Red, white and blue for the United States of America. Hopefully we will put aside our animosity and pick up our tools and get out in the garden again. I do think a new era of activism and civic participation has been unleashed and was amazed to see the rest of the world joining in.

The props with this arrangement are a flag crocheted by my mother in law (we just realized Joan has been gone almost 15 years) as a Fourth of July gift some years ago. After she retired, she sat in her Living Room and crocheted- we had a crocheted something for every occasion and then some.  At some point I reached crochet overload and was relieved to find that volunteer organizations (Women’s shelters, especially) often like these handmade items and have been happy to pass them along. The bells (Let Freedom Ring, anyone?) were collected by my father when he was in the US Army stationed in India during World War II.

The vase is English, a teapot in my favorite Blue Willow pattern acquired while junk shopping with my mother about 20 years ago. I was thrilled to find a new piece at the thrift shop this week, I inherited some from my grandmother and have been collecting it for about 30 years.

The flowers are in red, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), in blue, Tropical Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata), in white, Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata ‘Alba’) in the center, difficult to see is a Hallelujah Billbergia Bromeliad. There are a few sprigs of Dill flowers from the herb garden and some Asian Sword Ferns for foliage. Here is a close up of the Bromeliad flower:


Hallelujah Billbergia Bromeliad seems pretty patriotic! Getting back out in the garden to find Hallelujah sporting red, white and blue started the vase idea.

In A Vase on Monday – Contrasting Elements.


My goal this week was to use an actual vase! Check. The vase is one of my thrift store finds that I have greatly enjoyed. As I was thinking of what to use in the vase I realized my native Firebush was starting to flower after  I cut it back in December, so that started the ball rolling. Here is a better photo of the vase:


I had to bundle up to wander outside today. We are having winter today, when I woke up this morning the weather said it was 47 degrees (F) and felt like 37. There is also a gale warning and the wind blowing in from the north off the Atlantic Ocean is cold in January.

The plants seem perfectly content in the breezy cool, thus far and it always surprises me what I find when it seems not much is flowering. Since I started with orange Firebush flowers I remembered a professor from design school saying you always need a color jump (jump being from one side of the color wheel to the other) in your compositions. My color jump was to the blue Pom Pom Aster. Then I added a pink one and some Tropical Red Salvia. After that the color was getting pretty jumpy so I decided some grey was needed to cool things down. The Flapjack Kalanchoes are blooming and seemed just right.

Complicating my mental dilemma was another sacrosanct axiom from design school, all elements must occur in odd numbers. Ones, threes, fives and sevens are best. Fortunately, there were three Pom Pom Asters. A friend from school told me once he thought fours were best when planting a featured perennial because the fourth plant makes your eye go round in circles and focus on the plant. Perhaps my nearsightedness prevents me from perceiving the miracle of four.

Finding myself dangerously close to a self inflicted design lecture – I cut some different foliage for contrast. Dwarf Red striped Pineapple, Muhly Grass and Copper Fennel were added, coarse and fine texture and color all at once. Breathing a sigh of relief from all this thought I decided to make lunch.



In A Vase on Monday – Goodness Gracious, Great Balls of Milkweed?


Happy New Year! My plans for a traditional vase container were foiled when a friend (a known connoisseur of Champagne) appeared with this lovely pink bottle. The contents were rapidly dispatched and the bottle on its way to recycling when I said “Stop, that would make a great vase for the first Monday of the new year”

And here it is filled with a favorite color combination of mine, pink and chartreuse. My neighbor brought the cut chartreuse seed heads as a Christmas gift, these are from the dubiously named Hairy Balls Milkweed (Asclepias physocarpa). Finding this common name a bit crass, I looked the plant up online to find the other common name ‘Family Jewels’ Milkweed. Oh, well. She tells me her Milkweed is ten feet tall, I think I need to go and see this!


Other members of the ensemble include at the base, ‘Alabama Sunset’ Coleus, a sprig of Copper Fennel on the right and flowers and seedheads of Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris). The green foliage is from the Milkweed. This is one of those oddly interesting arrangements I like. I think I will keep the pink bottle for future use.


In A Vase on Monday – A Cross Cultural Experience


This is truly a cross cultural experience. The plants, while grown in South Florida, hail from both sides of our planet, Southeast Asia and Brazil. The terracotta man in the vase is an incense burner from Pier One that belonged to my brother in the late 1970’s. I am not sure exactly where he came from but the concept was Pre Columbian. I think.


The red and yellow swirling crab claws are the flower of a Blanchetiana Bromeliad, a native of the eastern side of Brazil. The plant itself is about four feet tall by six feet wide. It has been flowering for about six weeks, of course the flower is on the side I can’t really see unless I am turning the compost heap. So, I decided to cut it and enjoy it in the house as long as it lasted.


These Bromeliads are relatively common in South Florida and I nearly wrecked my car the first time I saw one. Talk about wild and crazy plants, the foliage can be orange, red, green or yellow and it is big. Even though I had experience with Bromeliads I didn’t realize how big they grew. Another houseplant myth busted by Tropic Florida.

The foliage is a frond of a Lady Palm (Rhaphis excelsa). This palm is native to the Rainforest in Southeast Asia, an understory plant that enjoys shade and water. Relatively hardy, it will grown north to Orlando, and is a favorite of mine for interior use as a potted plant. I bought one a couple of years ago and it sat in the pot a little too long, so it is a bit lopsided and has finally recovered its healthy deep green color and need a little trim.

Here is a shot of my Rainforest Garden, where the Lady Palm lives.


In A Vegetable on Monday – Faux Fall


I like gourds in the fall. My husband told me once he knew when it was fall because I had the gourd arrangement on the dining room table. So, here is the 2016 version.

Florida is tricky about fall. September, in my opinion, should be, the transition to cooler weather. September, in Florida is a sweaty repeat of August. Fall manifests itself subtly, fruits appear on the Beautyberry, Muhly Grass bravely sends up a pink cloud and then slowly the calendar reaches October and becomes the savior of all things pleasant outdoors. We have now reached the magical day when a cold front arrives, humidity disappears and all windows and doors can be thrown open to invite the outdoors back in. In celebration of all things autumnal, here are the gourds filled with flowers from my garden.


The gourds aren’t all gourds. The striped centerpiece is a Carnival Squash, a vegetable, my husband wouldn’t eat squash on a dare, the result of a Midwestern upbringing featuring Butternut Squash baked with a lump of sausage. I had no worries about wasting an edible squash for a flower arrangement. This green one is an inedible gourd.


The mini pumpkins are just that and completely ornamental. Flowers from my garden include – in red, Tropical Red Sage (Salvia coccinea), in yellow, Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis), purple berries, Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana), pink plumes of grass, Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia), orange firecracker flowers and foliage are from Firebush (Hamelia patens). The off white spikes are a mystery volunteer (i.e. weed) . The ‘Autumn’ leaves strewn about being from the Raggedy Ann Copperleaf (Acalphya wilkesiana ‘Raggedy Ann’)20161023_122725

It occurred to me that almost everything here is native to Florida with the exception of the faux leaves from Raggedy Ann, and the gourds, maybe there is fall in Florida – you just have to open your eyes and see it.

Tortoise Thursday

Gopher Tortoise

Gopher Tortoise

Thursday is my day for reptile sightings. I was in my garage this afternoon and heard a strange scrabbling noise. I looked down to spy a Florida Gopher Tortoise trucking down my driveway, heading into my garage. I quickly closed the garage door, which makes a racket, the tortoise just watched it come down and kept going.

These are burrowing tortoises and share their burrows with more than 300 other species, including rattlesnakes. They are a protected species in Florida and permits must be procured to develop a site where there are Gopher Tortoises. There are some empty lots nearby and I am guessing that is home for this one.

I finally got him or her pointed in the right direction and he headed for home, I hope.

Throw the books away

The sunsets and the dogs on the beach are great reasons to live in South Florida. Trying to figure out how to garden here might be another story. Having spent most of my life 600 miles north of here, I thought I would be able to buy some books about what grows here and figure it out. Come to find out there really aren’t any good books.

The title sounds like something Hitler might have done. Actually, it was a bit of advice given to me by a longtime Treasure Coast gardener a few years ago. I had been lamenting the lack of good gardening information for our area and frustrated by what I had been reading in the Florida Gardening books. She said ‘throw the books away, they have no meaning here’.

Mondo that has seen better days

Mondo that has seen better days

This kernel of knowledge proved correct and popped into my brain this morning as I was looking at the charred remains of my Mondo Grass (that supposedly grows in Zone 10 – where I live) My suspicion is Mondo Grass will grow in Zone 10 if you import soil and water for it and keep an umbrella over it at all times, otherwise, forget about it. I had Mondo Grass further north and it was a reliable nearly indestructible groundcover. It was used as lawn in places too shady for turfgrass.

The Mondo Grass was my last rely on the books installation. My other major char broil was Bronzeleaf Begonias, which I did not even know could be burned up. I planted them in front of my Soap Aloe in my South facing front yard. Once the summer started they curled, browned, withered and unceremoniously died. The Aloe looked and still looks great. I feel bad about throwing away the offshoots sometimes, but not everybody wants a Soap Aloe. Instead of gaining sea legs on a ship, I am gaining sand legs in gardening. And usually end up covered in it.

Our Soapy Friend

Our Soapy Friend

This had left me wondering if it is really possible to write a useful gardening book with plant selection advice for a wide geographical area. I think not.

Avoiding the Technicolor Yawn

Red Hibiscus

Red Hibiscus Flower

One of my horticulturally oriented friends used to say “those annual beds look like Mickey Mouse threw up”. You know the ones; the aptly named “Cocktail Mix” Begonias backed up by Multi colored Caladiums. A kaleidoscope of red, pink, white and green so variegated you can’t focus and then start feeling queasy.

I realized the bed I was trying to use my entire assorted collection of plants waiting to be planted (that I bought because they were interesting or a great bargain or I had never seen one before or..) in was headed in that direction and decided to settle the colors down before I planted something ghastly. Colors were edited to this:

Then I added two green textures:



Pringles Dwarf Podocarpus

Pringles Dwarf Podocarpus

There is an ancient Red Hibiscus at the end of the bed (the top photo) it doesn’t bloom often, so I am hopeful no one ends up nauseated. My problem is I still have 10 or 15 assorted plants around and I just bought two more.

Chopped Gardening

One of my guilty pleasures is watching Foodtv. I have a few favorite shows that are religiously recorded for later viewing, Chopped is one. For those of you not familiar with Chopped, a group of four chefs is given a basket of sometimes bizarre food items – say, venison, gumdrops, cinnamon liqueur, broccoli rabe and rice cereal, then the goal is to make a gourmet three course meal  (using the basket ingredients) within a certain timeframe. Other ingredients may be added, but all the basket items must be used. The chef’s food is reviewed on a course by course basis until all but one is left. That chef wins and the rest are chopped.

I was standing outside contemplating where to plant the odd assemblage of plants I had acquired when I realized that my garden is a continuous episode of Chopped. My ingredients are plants. Gardening in Florida adds a few wrinkles to the design process – interesting things just tend to pop up in the garden and there are numerous irresistible plant sales. Then a friend or neighbor leaves an interesting plant on the doorstep. It’s a dilemma.

After two years of dreadful well water, we joyfully hooked up to our public water system last year. I had left a blank spot down our side property line for the purpose of running the line to our house. After the water line installation was complete the plan was to finish the side landscaping.

Life intervened and I had to have hernia surgery. Doctor said in four weeks it should heal. Sounds great, by the way it could take up to six months. It took 5 months, two weeks and then I could move things around in the garden that weighed more than 2 pounds.

The side garden is now weed o rama and I have more than the usual stockpile of odd plants to use in the landscaping:

From friends:

American Agave

American Agave

Large  Orange Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Large Orange Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Things that have just popped up in the yard: Orange Clerodendrum, Pink Pentas, Boston Fern, White Spider Lilies, Pink Rain Lilies and Purple Oyster Plants. A Plant Palette I could not have dreamed up.

How to combine all of these plants in addition to my usual collection of 5 or so Bromeliads is taxing my brain. It’s a real episode of Gardening Chopped. I hope I make it through the first round.