In A Vase on Monday – Barometer Says Summer is Here

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My father always kept a barometer on the wall in my family’s kitchen. Looking back, I am not sure he ever read it. I am sure I don’t know how to read one, or, for that matter what it means exactly.

The barometer in this vase is a plant. The small purple flowers with grey foliage come from the Barometer Bush. I know this plant as Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens). I wanted to add some color to an area where my greyhounds hang out and did some research to be sure it wasn’t toxic to dogs (one of them will eat nearly anything).

Happily, they are non-toxic and I learned they are native to Texas, super drought tolerant and called Barometer Bush because they are well known to flower before a storm. This one did not live up to its name as it is flowering a few days after receiving a downpour of 2 inches of rain. And they bloom in winter in their native habit. Go figure. Here they are, growing in unamended sugar sand; the dogs run by them daily, pile sand on them and dig them up. It is safe to say this is a tough plant.

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As for the rest of the flowers, the Summer Solstice has brought nearly daily thundershowers so all the native wildflowers are lush with foliage and flowers. The Tropical Red Salvia has the seeds stripped off of every seedhead, the seeds must be really good right now. And the birds must be happy.

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The red and peach spikes are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), the white spikes are Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata), red clusters are Heirloom Pentas (Penta lanceolata), white flowers at the top are Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata), white flowers at bottom are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica), yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis), the ferns are Boston in back and Asparagus on the side. Both volunteers in the garden.

I am enjoying the scents of Frangipani and Sweet Almond from the vase. The glass vase was found on the side of the road while walking the dogs.  The Greyhounds are still digging up the Barometer Bush – maybe they are wondering when it will rain.

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In A Vase on Monday – Many Miniatas

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The garage sale Bromeliads continue to amaze me. The red flowers are from Aechmea miniata, a Bromeliad I stumbled upon at a garage sale a few years ago. Five bucks is my limit for a plant unknown to me, as this one was when I found it. Bromeliads tend to run anywhere from 12 dollars for a small unnamed mystery plant at the Big Box stores to $100 and up for a named, big, lush specimen. The problem with these named, expensive plants is generally no one can tell you where they will grow “move them around til you find a place it likes” or “I think it flowers”. I am too frugal for this sort of nonsense and think if a plant is sold for prices like that you should get some reasonable directions. Or at least knowledge of whether it flowers. More Florida gardening nonsense. The market here demands nothing.

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I have been trying to decide if the flowers look more like trees or broccoli. Neither, really. The flowers are crunchy and last about two weeks in a vase. The green swirling fern is a cutting of Asparagus Fern I twirled around the base of the Miniatas.

20180819_132030-1The Miniatas are flowering madly and have been for a month or so. The tree that shades them got a fairly major pruning after Hurricane Irma last year.  The normal olive colored foliage has burned from the sun (or lack of rain) but has been bravely sending up flower after flower. Time will tell what happens next should be interesting, the other Garage Sale Bromeliads are producing pups – I should have hundreds of dollars worth of Bromeliads shortly. Unfortunately, I hate having garage sales.

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Sad news from my garden this week. I lost my sweetest, spotted Greyhound to bone cancer on Friday. Farewell, faithful Charles.

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Charles

In A Vase on Monday – Fire Bolt and Disney

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Spring in South Florida, the ever subtle season. The Fire Bolt? The Firebush or Firebushes (Hamelia patens and H. patens var patens) have started to flower in the garden again. The bolt? The white flowers in the arrangement are from my salad garden bolting from the heat, specifically the Arugula. The rest of the arrangement I don’t necessarily associate with spring. Most of it may or may not flower year round. The vase/teapot  is English, a Blue Willow marketing device from a long ago tea merchant. I was enchanted by the teapot in an antiques store some years ago.20180415_121717

There are two kinds of Firebush and berries in the teapot. At the edge, the red flowers and leaves are from the native Firebush (H. patens var patens) It has not rained here very much this year (+/- 2.5 inches) so it is pretty dry and the leaves actually look burned? The berries and flowers are from its Bahamian cousin that cheerfully resides in my back garden attracting the rare hummingbird and numerous butterflies that call this area home. White flowers are from Arugula, the vegetable. Yellow daisies, Beach Sunflower (Helianthus debilis); red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); striped foliage and flowers, New Zealand Flax (Dianella spp) and the ever present Asian Sword Fern.

The Disney part, while we live a fairly short distance from DisneyWorld in Orlando, I haven’t been up there in at least 30 years. Circumstances led us to EPCOT and the garden festival this week. Here is my favorite topiary, Lady and the Tramp:

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Followed by my favorite dogs, Charles and Alan, making the post Disney commute from boarding. Note the tired, yet happy faces.

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I always like the real ones better.  Although the Lady topiary has ears made from Love Grass. For those of you not reared in the Deep South – Love Grass is used as erosion control grassing to stabilize slopes on highways. Because it holds on like love.

I love the sentiment of Love Grass, though I would be surprised if anyone at Disney was aware of this bit of horticultural trivia.

Happy Monday. Happy Spring. Happy Gardening.

 

In A Vase on Monday- Trimmings

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I have been renovating the Greyhound Beach in my back yard this holiday weekend. It is Labor Day in the US and Monday is a national holiday. My Greyhounds, Alan and Charles, have been gleefully destroying the turf behind the patio for the past few years. The mini racetrack in the backyard – visible from space.

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Here is Alan, with his favorite toy, Sharky, digging for reasons only dogs know. I flattened out the holes yesterday and installed edging for sod. Alan has been melancholy all day and refused to eat this morning. Later in the afternoon he relented and woofed down his dinner.

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Back to the title, Trimmings. As a part of my reclamation of Greyhound Beach, I decided to trim and tree form a Firebush that has overgrown its space. Trimming off armfuls of flowers. I stopped trimming to contemplate if I could shear the back of the shrub for screening and tree form the front – an Arboricultural dilemma.

This shrub was sold as a Dwarf Firebush, which actually means it gets 10 or 15 feet tall. Only in the Land of the Giants would this plant be considered dwarf. This sort of horticultural nonsense annoys me. One of the first plants installed in my garden to screen the well equipment:

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Firebush Hamelia patens

Here it is, four years later:

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And I have cut four feet off the top for the past couple of years, the Greyhound Beach is visible through the shrubs.

Now, this is where the Firebush trimmings ended up- in my vase. 20170903_114540

The vase itself is an English teapot in the Blue Willow style, one of my favorite flea market finds. There are two kinds of Firebush in the vase. The dark red is the native Hamelia patens var patens. The ones from the gigantic orange Firebush are Hamelia patens, I think, botanists argue about these plants. I thought some purple was in order and added Setcresea, some variegated Dwarf Pineapple foliage and some red weeds, um, native wildflowers. The name escapes me – one of those things you think is pretty until you realize the seedheads are like dandelions and there are 10 million in your yard.

Another wonderful attribute of the Firebush. Butterflies love them. Here is a Black Swallowtail that was passing by:

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And a Zebra Longwing:

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A gigantic Firebush in the garden has some advantages.

Happy Monday.

In A Vase on Monday – Gardening with Armadillos

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Sunday got off to a bit of a rough start, about 3 a.m. one of my greyhounds started to run around and whine. I got up, thinking he needed to go out and opened the door – only to hear a strange sound crashing around in the garden. Decided to turn on the security lights and low and behold, I spied an Armadillo. The shelled rodent (IMO) digging beside the metal screen enclosure on our porch, bashing his shell against the metal. Driving my poor dog mad and depriving both of us our beauty sleep.

As the dog ran out the door the foolish Armadillo ran into the fenced part of our yard – who knew an Armadillo could out run a greyhound?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armadillo

Cartoon time 3 a.m. My backyard. Starring Alan the Greyhound. Shown below in his usual state. Alan is the brown dog, the other one has no interest in getting up at 3 a.m.

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A few hours and cups of coffee later, I went to look for vase components in the garden the Armadillo had been digging in. Sure enough, he or she had been overturning Bromeliads, a favorite pastime for some reason made better by overturning burgundy or spotted Bromeliads. By trial and error, I eventually found out cardboard and mulch will keep the armadillos away, needs another application. Sigh.

20170806_100322 Seeking the components of a vase, I noted the Spathoglottis is flowering again. I know this really sounds like a disease, but is actually a lovely little Ground Orchid called Caberet. This is the second round of flowering since I planted it in January. It is the purple flower in the vase. The blue flowers are Porterweed, the jury is still out on which one and today it is really shedding for some reason. The yellow flowers are Lantana, Silvermound would be my guess for variety. The purple spotted foliage is from a Bromeliad the Armadillo overturned ‘Hallelujah’ Billbergia. A sprig of fern finishes the vase.

The Armadillo’s work last night:

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In A Vase on Monday – Back Up Pitcher

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The concept for my Monday vase was to arrange a low bowl of Frangipani with spiky accents. The Bridal Bouquet Frangipani are blooming profusely and I wanted an arrangement for the foyer.  I started with (I found out later) my lowest Blue Willow bowl with a glass frog to hold the white flowers in place. While placing the white Frangipani flowers I decided to pick some spiky red and blue ones to go with the bowl. As I was meandering through the garden one of my greyhounds lost his collar and I had to stop and find it. By the time the collar was found and I got back in the house the red and blue flowers had wilted.

Then, I realized the flowers were too short for the bowl. In search of a lower bowl, I concluded there were none and happened upon the glass pitcher. The Back Up Pitcher. My husband is the baseball fan, Atlanta Braves specifically. The baseball is from the 1995 World Series, signed by Mark Wohlers, a backup pitcher.

Here is another view:

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I left the spiky flowers soaking in the abandoned bowl, hoping for rejuvenation. Oddly enough, this worked. At this point a return trip to the garden was needed for some taller flowers.

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The players in my Back Up Pitcher: in white, Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica), in orange, Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens), in rosy red, Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana), in blue, Porterweed, in red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), in red and yellow Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum). Foliage accents are Asparagus Fern and Split Leaf Philodendron. Practically as many players as a baseball team.

Is the arrangement a home run?

Happy Monday.

Turtle Thursday

Florida Box Turtle

Florida Box Turtle

My greyhounds have been sniffing around a corner of the back yard for the past couple of days, I didn’t think too much about this as, well, they are dogs. This afternoon, my younger and most curious dog, Fuzzy’s Alan Alda (no idea why, this is his racing name – we call him Alan) came upon this turtle cruising back to his corner of the yard and felt compelled to observe from a safe distance the moving decorated rock.

The turtle was not too fascinated with Alan and proceeded to try and climb the BBQ grill cover. I thought ‘Wow, I did not know turtles could climb’

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The climbing wasn’t going very well so I put the turtle back where he came from – outside the fence away from Alan, who was and is still fascinated – about this time my other dog came out to assist with the investigation.

I brought the dogs back in the house and continued the investigation (they went to sleep). Based on the markings, I thought this was a painted turtle which is fairly common further north. Upon closer examination I realized it wasn’t and looked it up.

This is a Florida Box Turtle endemic to Florida and an endangered species (overdevelopment of habitat?) Hopefully, he or she is tucked safely away in their corner and eating mosquitoes.