In A Vase on Monday – A Fine Kettle of Heliconia

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A fine kettle of fish seems to be an expression indicating you have gotten yourself in a dilemma or odd situation. The dilemma involving this old copper kettle was how to put flowers in it – it is so old there are holes in the bottom. Problem solved by cutting down a milk carton to fit inside the kettle. The result – a fine kettle of Heliconia. No fish whatsoever.

The copper kettle is a favorite of mine, bought at a flea market in the mountains of North Georgia possessing such a patina I feel as though I am the kettles steward rather than owner. Obviously handmade and repaired many times it sits in different places around my house, currently in the foyer filled with flowers.

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Our oh so dry spring has turned into a rainy summer, normal for South Florida. The tropical plants are loving it and the Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) are blooming like mad. I had to cut a bunch and then decided to use coppery and white hues in the kettle. Joining the Heliconia are natives Galllardia (G.pulchella) and Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) hanging over the side. The white flowers are tropicals, bigger flowers with yellow centers are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica) and the buds hanging over the sides are Florida Gardenias (Tabernaemontana divericata) Not sure why they are called Florida Gardenias as they are from India! Rounding out the kettle as green foliage accents the Asian Sword Fern.

Here is my interesting/weird tidbit for the week. This is the bud of a Night Blooming Cereus Cactus – the white fuzzy thing, first ever, can’t wait to see the flower.

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In A Vase on Monday – Butterfly Power

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Florida by any account is filled with natives. The people are very proud of staying around where they were born and advertise their ‘native Floridian’ status with car decorations, bumper stickers, decals, etc. The plants, not so much. Exotic tropical plants from around the world are much more popular than what grows here naturally. I am, of course, as guilty as the next gardener for using exotic tropical plants.

In an effort to help native pollinators and power our Butterfly population I am planting a native wildflower border.  The border is about halfway finished and the resulting butterflies have been fantastic thus far. In the border I have seen Monarchs, Gulf Fritillaries, Zebra Longwings and several orange and yellow butterflies I have yet to identify. I am not sure what happened to the Black Swallowtail caterpillars that were in the post from last week. Hopefully they appear in the border soon.

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This vase started with an interesting branch I pruned from the native Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens). I decided to continue the native wildflower theme and used the firecracker flowers in the middle from the Firebush, to this I added Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea), the purple flowers are Beach Verbena (Glandularia maritima), the royal blue bits are from Porterweed (Stachystarpeta) – people call this Vervain, which sounds a lot better. At the bottom of the arrangement, the mixed colored flowers are Gallardia (Gallardia pulchella) – a flower I have grown to love in a short period of time. The small sunflowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)

I am currently finding myself lurking through the shrubbery trying the photograph the elusive Butterflies. Here are the first successful images, a Zebra Longwing tasting the Firebush.

 

In A Vase on Monday – Contrasting Elements.

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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:

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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.

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In A Vase on Monday-Chrismukkah

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This year Christmas Eve and the first day of Hanukkah fall on December 24, the media have christened the date Chrismukkah, which I suppose sounds better than Hanukmas.

In honor of the season and Chrismukkah, I have done two arrangements, one in Christmas colors, red and green and another in traditional Hanukkah colors, blue, white and silver. Being perpetually and cursedly curious, I wondered about the origin of the color schemes.

According to Cambridge University the Christmas color scheme could go back to the Celts who used a red and green tree to mark boundaries. Here is the link, Who color coded Christmas. More research tells me the Hanukkah colors are based on the Israeli flag, why blue.

Now that we know the origins of the colors, here is the Hanukkah arrangement. The silver goblet is an heirloom from my mother’s collection and the flowers are in blue and white – Pom-Pom Asters (inspired by Cathy, our hostess) I started some seed in September and now have blue, white and perhaps pink Pom-Pom Asters, who knew they would grow in Florida in the winter.? The Asters are thriving, but alas, so far my other IOVOM flowers, the Cactus Zinnias are a disappointment. Another inspiration, White Italian Sunflowers are going, but they are showing signs of mildew, time will tell. The other blue members of this arrangement are Evolvulous, Blue Daze the annual peeking out here and there. The White Begonias are Sweet Begonias, a perennial here, the silver flowers are from Flapjack Kalanchoes. Deep plum foliage along the edges is from Purple Oxalis, from my neighbor. I think this plant may be the common thread between all of us. Asian Sword Ferns provide a bit of green.

 

Here is the Christmas arrangement, the original thought that it looked sort of non tropical. Then, the white Bridal Veil Plumeria is a bit difficult to explain. The dark green Yew is Japanese Yew, Podocarpus macrophyllus. Unabashedly tropical as are the red berries of the Brazilian Pepper, outlawed years ago as invasive, but determined to stay around, it is sold as Pink Peppercorn the world over and I have not eaten one of the berries near my house, but many birds have – and on the Brazilian Peppers go, The red striped foliage is from Martin Bromeliads and the ferny foliage is Copper Fennel. I think I have cut more of this than we have eaten, though it is tasty. The vase is an old Brandy snifter from my husbands ‘flaming things in a glass phase’. Go figure. Drinking flaming liquids is not my area of interest.

So, there we go. Happy Holidays to all.

In A Vase on Monday – A Day at the Beach.

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I usually conjure up my vases on Sunday morning as many things in South Florida can get wilted in the afternoon. This morning I was scratching my head as it didn’t seem to me much was going on in the garden.

As I was walking around the garden it occurred to me what a wonderful exercise  in seeing putting a vase together every week is. (This is also a flashback to design school -looking and really seeing) First, I noticed the berries on the Firebush (Hamelia patens)

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Then the fluffy seedheads on the mystery plant:

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Whatever this is popped up in my garden a few years ago  and I left it for the flowers or seedheads, please let me know it you recognize it. I thought it was some sort of Amaranth, but don’t really know.

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After finding the two base plants, I found the Red Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana) and Beach Sunflowers (in yellow, Helianthus debilis) are still flowering and the thus far, oddly small Cactus Zinnias were added. Then I went around to my herb pots and snipped some Copper Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare “Purpurea”) to complete my arrangement. The flowers were placed in an vintage amber glass candlestick holder from Dansk, a favorite of my husband, repurposed for a vase on Monday.

Then it dawned on me, this was so easy it was like a day on the beach. So, I decided to go see how things were on Jensen Beach. If you are in a cold place I hope this warms your heart.

 

In A Vase on Monday. Frogs and Hallelujah

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I know, your reaction was probably the same as mine. “Good Lord, what is that?”  Purple and white spotted foliage with a red, white and blue flower – who on earth could have dreamed that up?  As it turns out a guy named Don Beadle did, a famous breeder of bromeliads he created this one – the Hallelujah Billbergia. Here is a closer view of the flower:

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I bought the Billbergia a couple of years ago at a gardening show in Vero Beach, Florida. It was selected to add a tall purple accent in a terracotta wok container of bromeliads I was putting together for my front porch. I did not realize it would flower at all.

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I walked out on my porch a couple of mornings ago and thought someone had stuck something in the back of the wok planter. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a flower, a very funky flower. So I gave it a couple of days to see what it would do and decided to cut it for my Monday vase.

I cut it, brought it into the house and had this feeling something was looking at me. I looked down into the foliage and there was a tiny frog in the foliage surrounding the flower. The frog needed to go back outside, I took the whole thing back onto the front porch and the frog happily jumped over the wall and joined a friend in the Heliconias.

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Now there were two frogs looking at me. Hopefully, they are having some grand frog fun eating bugs in the garden. Bad bugs only, of course.

The vase in an old silver-plated something my mother bought in (her words) the junk store. I love the patina and I think it was a goblet, but at my house, it has only been used as a vase. Given the brilliant coloration of the centerpiece Hallelujah Billbergia Bromeliad adding a little green and white seemed the best option. Asian Sword Ferns and Asparagus Ferns are the greens and the white flowers at the base are Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata “Alba”)

Hallelujah!