In A Vase on Monday – Surinam Shrimp

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I am aware ‘Surinam Shrimp’ sounds like a dish at a Vietnamese restaurant, however the two main components of this vase are Surinam Cherries and Shrimp Plants. The Surinam Cherries are the fruit in the lower part of the arrangement.

I have a large hedge of these shrubs and was pleased to have a fruit producing hedge, thinking (silly me) the fruit could be eaten. I kept thinking the fruit wasn’t ripe or something as it tasted so bad. Finally my neighbor, a Florida veteran, picked one for me – properly ripe. Still tasted bad. I have seen the taste described as resinously bitter, and the description fits the fruit. Given the taste of the fruit and the colors in various stages of ripeness an arrangement seemed like a better use of the fruit. The rest will be left for our wildlife friends.

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Here is another view with the nearly ripe Surinam Cherry beside the vase. As for the other members of the plant crew, we have: in dark red, flowers of the Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana); the foliage of Boston Fern and the upright sticks are from a ‘Firesticks’ Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’); in orange and chartreuse, the fruits of the Surinam Cherry (Eugenia uniflora).

The vase was a long ago Christmas gift to my husband from his ex-wife’s cousin! We have absolutely no idea what it is, so if anyone has a clue please send a comment. We have been wondering for years what this is. The top of the vase is much thinner than the base and has a hole in it. It reads “Gd Cafe des Viticulteurs”

As for the ‘Firesticks’ Pencil Cactus’ here is a picture of the plant. Euphorbias still blow my mind, hello, Poinsettias? so weird- I have a few of these around the garden as they easily root from cuttings:

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Now I am craving some Shrimp Pasta for dinner. Without the Euphorbias, of course.

Art in the Garden

I usually write about the art of the garden, but here is a bit of art in the garden. The above photos are of a woven willow structure currently under construction at the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach, Florida. This piece of environmental art is nestled in a grove of palms and constructed of willow saplings and bendable twigs woven together to form a temporary structure. The structure will eventually have three willow towers. Here is a close up of the twig structure:

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And here is an overall view:

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The artist is Patrick Dougherty and the concept is STICKWORK, here is a link to more information on the artist and installation,  http://www.mckeegarden.org/current-exhibition.php

I am usually not very enthralled with environmental art, but I love this. The organic willow towers complement the formality of the palms and I like the facts that the structure is built from willows grown in a sustainable tree farm and after a few years the structure will be evaluated to decide to keep it or compost it. I have visions of the entire thing rooting into the ground and growing a twisted fairy tale castle in the palm grove.

The rest of the garden has a bit of a fairy tale feel as well. Conceived by pioneer developers in South Florida during the first half of the twentieth century – the first buildings were based on Polynesian structures in keeping with the “Jungle” theme. The garden fell into disrepair and was reborn in the early 2000’s shepherded by a dedicated group of garden enthusiasts. Below is one of the original buildings, a great hall centered around a table constructed from a 38 foot long single piece of Mahogany:

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The rest of McKee is well worth touring and has a wealth of tropical plants. I saw many types of Bromeliads I had never seen before and an array of Palms, Orchids and tropical trees. The garden began in a mature forest hammock and boasts some incredible native trees and a pathway meandering through the garden inviting you to stop and study the flora. Here are some of my favorite photos from my trek through the garden.

 

In a Vase on Monday – The Wildflower Blues

 

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I have been watching a group of Yellow Lupines on the edges of a vacant lot nearby – thinking I could collect some seed and grow Lupines in my back garden. What I did not realize is when the seed pods are ready they explode and hurl seed far and wide. The pods exploded in my car and didn’t seem to think there was enough dirt to grow in the carpets, though there probably is as I haul dogs and plants around with equal enthusiasm. I am not sure if these plants are native to the area, but I am aware of other native Lupines in Florida; it seems peculiar as I associate these plants with Alpine meadows, the Rocky Mountains and cold, arid places. Here is another view of my three blue vases filled with native and/or wildflowers from the vacant lot.

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My blue vases represent three generations of women in my family, the violin belonged to my grandmother and has Yellow Lupines, the white spikes are Jointweed, the yellow daisy shaped flower is a Beach Sunflower.

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The tall bottle belonged to my mother and has Beach Sunflower, Yellow Lupines and seeds, background plants are Shrubby Buttonweed and Muhly Grass.

The corked bottle in the background belongs to me and holds the dried petals of all the roses my husband sent me during our courtship. The bells belonged to my other grandmother and are one of those touchstones that have been around the house as long as I can remember; my father brought them home from World War II.

As I was writing this post, it occurred to me how much more interesting and attractive these flowers appear in their Monday vase. So, I wandered over to the vacant lot and took a before picture:

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All the components of the vase are in the foreground. I think I like the flowers in their blue bottles better. This leads me to ponder if more people saw native plants in a vase instead of a vacant lot – native plants might be more popular.

If you would like to see vases from the world over, stop by the comments section of  https://ramblinginthegarden.wordpress.com where Cathy hosts In A Vase on Monday – every Monday!

 

 

It’s Winter Starburst Clerodendrum Again

Everybody in South Florida is talking about Winter Starburst again. This time of year the shrub bursts forth with a floral display like no other. The flowers eventually spread to about 10 inches across and the shrub itself can grow to 10 feet tall. A Winter Starburst Clerodendrum in full bloom is nothing short of spectacular. A bonus to the Winter Starburst is deep green coarse textured foliage with purple backs that look great year round.

My first January in South Florida I nearly wrecked my car trying to get a good look at this shrub and figure out what it was. It is a showstopper that resembles a funky tropical rhododendron. Here’s the scoop, the botanical name is Clerodendrum quadriloculare. These shrubs are native to Southeast Asia and members of the Clerodendrum genus of plants which encompasses vines, shrubs and vining shrubs. Given their viny tendencies these plants can be troublesome in our gardens, they can spread unchecked and lend either – overgrown or if you prefer, a cottage garden vibe to your environs.

The photos above are of my late Winter Starburst. It expired last year due to poor installation and maintenance by the owner. It is true that these plants need partial shade and moist soil until well established. As I live in Scruburbia (Florida Scrub – sand, not sandy soil) I did not take the advice to heart and prepare the soil or water regularly. However, having witnessed another winter display from this shrub, I think I will try another planting or three!

Piecrust Croton and Friends

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Piecrust Croton

I have been reworking  the design of my front yard because the access point for the septic tank was in a lawn area and actually needed access. What this really means is once a year a 3 foot circle in the lawn  is dug up and destroyed to clean the (ewww, yes) septic tank filter. The joys of country living. I am certain I did not know septic tanks had filters prior to moving to Florida. I also realized I would like to have a pathway to the side.

For many years I have advised my clients to live in their houses for a while to see how they move around the property as sometimes a good guess just really doesn’t do the trick. The upshot is I did not take my own advice and I like to travel to my side garden (ah, future garden) more than I thought I would. Design that originates with how you live in a place is always a good plan. This may be Plan B as I did Plan A. Who knew St. Augustinegrass wouldn’t be happy over a septic tank. Oh, well. I am liking the new bed thus far.

A nod to my husbands pie making skills was the purchase of a Piecrust Croton, a multi colored tropical shrub that hails from the South Pacific. These shrubs are easy to grow and ubiquitous in South Florida. There are a few stalwart standby varieties that are common, but of course I love the weird stuff.

Here are the standard varieties:

At the top of the post is the foliage of the Piecrust – it looks like, you guessed it, Piecrust!  The rest, clicking on the picture will give the name. Being the plant freak that I am, I couldn’t resist photographing several more interesting varieties:

I  love all of these, but I think Stoplight might be the next Croton purchase on my Croton bucket list. How many people have a Croton bucket list?

Yes, the beds are getting bigger. The good news is I probably have a quarter acre left!!

Back to the inspiration for all of this, the piecrust. Here are a few of my husbands pies:

I think these merit a celebratory Croton in the front yard.

Speaking of celebratory, Happy New Year to all.

Weirdness Wednesday – Agave americana flowers

More Tropic Florida weirdness. This looks like something from the Far Side cartoons to me. I posted a photo of the bud in mid August when this Agave americana started sending up a flower stalk:

American Agave bud

American Agave bud

Two and one half months later – the flower stalk is over seven feet tall and has these wonderful chartreuse flowers.

The Stalk

The Stalk

I am guessing these are florets? The flowers start out looking like rectangular budded broccoli and then bloom.

Agave Florets

Agave Florets

I am waiting to see what this plant might do next.

Ahh October

While it seems winter is bearing down on the Northern Hemisphere, things are looking up here in South Florida. The oppressive heat is abating and I have been madly renovating my screen porch furniture in preparation for our gardening season. All new cushion covers and some new (to me) vintage Rattan furniture for lounging. Temperatures are hovering in the 80’s (Fahrenheit, Centigrade confounds me) so it is becoming very pleasant.

I am always looking for signs of Fall here and the pickings aren’t as slim as I once thought. It is your perception that must change. I associate the Royal Ponciana tree with the beginning of Summer.  Their cousin of a different genus, Dwarf or Cuban Ponciana start blooming in earnest in October. The harbinger of Fall:

Dwarf Ponciana Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Dwarf Ponciana
Caesalpinia pulcherrima

These trees are smaller than but similar to the Royal Poinciana, and varieties are available with yellow and coral flowers as well as the red mixed which is most commonly seen. Other things I am now considering fall color are certain Bromeliad flowers (Aechmea blanchetiana) and Bird of Paradise. The tropical Golden Rain Tree (Koelrueteria bipinnatus) is just starting to flower here. In December the pods on the Raintree give us a little more Autumnal feeling.

Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Blanchetiana Bromeliad

Tropic Florida does have some more typical fall fruiting plants. The Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, native to a large part of the Eastern United States is common here as well. The red berries are from our native shrub, Wild Coffee, Psychotria nervosa. I have seen Beautyberry Jelly but never consumed any and supposedly the Wild Coffee has psychedelic effects so coffee brewed with something other than the Wild Coffee berries is a better idea. Blueberry Scones and Starbucks coffee are more in my line of thinking for breakfast fare.

Beautyberry

Beautyberry

Wild Coffee

Wild Coffee

I know that if I wait long enough, I will spy a Red Maple with some dull purple Fall color, usually in December and in a swamp somewhere. But with all these other Fall beauties I am not missing the Maples – Much.