In A Vase on Monday – Holiday Shrimp


This holiday shrimp is not for dinner or appetizers, it is for the vase and from the garden, not the sea. I love shrimp from the sea, my husband has unfortunately been somewhat shrimphobic when it comes to eating the shellfish. I cope with this by having garlic laden Shrimp Scampi when we dine out, sometimes to his chagrin.

I was looking for holiday reds and greens this week and the Red Shrimp Plants caught my eye.  A burst of flowers appeared just in time to fill the cranberry glass vase, a thrift shop find from earlier this year

The red flowers on the menu are the Red Shrimp Plant (Justicia brandegeana); off white spikes, the mystery plant that appeared last year; white flowers are from Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata), burgundy and green foliage is Solar Sunrise Coleus. A simple but tasty holiday concoction.


The Red Shrimp Plant is a passalong from my neighbor as is the Solar Sunrise Coleus. Below is the Shrimp Plant in the garden, thriving in full shade and sugar sand. It flowers off and on year round, I don’t think I have ever fertilized it or sprayed it for any reason. My kind of plant. Happy go lucky with benign neglect.


We are having a cool spell here in Florida, temperatures were in the mid 40’s this morning. The clear, sunny day was made for gardening – I finished planting seeds in what is becoming my tropical potager, if there is such a thing.


The green beans and tomatoes are already bearing fruit. Work is ongoing in this kitchen garden. I have included flowers for cutting in blocks with the vegetables, most are seedlings about an inch tall. A total experiment as I usually don’t start with seeds. So far, so good.


In A Vase on Monday – Bus Redux


Last year during the holidays I made an arrangement in this biscuit tin. A friend of my husband had brought cookies from the UK, my husband ate the cookies and I used the tin as a vase.

This year I decided to go as tropical as possible and keep a green, red and white theme. The result is reasonably festive and has a large variety of plant material included.

The tin is deep, so I nestled three bottles from drinking water inside with the tops cut off, then filled them with water and made three matching arrangements in the bottles. I feel certain I would regret filling the tin with water (or the furniture would)


The arrangement includes: in red and yellow Parrotflower (Heliconia psittacorum), the red flowers hanging over the edge are Turks Cap Hibiscus (Malvaviscus penduliflorus), foliage hanging over the sides is Sweet Begonia (Begonia ‘Alba’). The dark green foliage in the back of the arrangement is Snake Plant or Mother In Law’s Tongue (Sanseveria something, runs wild here), the white striped foliage is from ‘Martin’ Bromeliad. Whoever Martin is, he has come up with an amazing bromeliad, red striped in shade and white striped in sun thriving in both places. The ferns are the everpresent invasive Asian Sword Fern and finally, the conifer like bits are from Firecracker Plant (Russelia)

Here is last year’s bus, a much different look:


Things are looking festive around my house, even if we don’t have a Christmas tree yet. Here are all the arrangements:


They are not all living in the foyer, this was a holiday portrait. The watering can is on the screen porch and the basket in the living room.

Merry Kitschmas and Flapjack Plants


CAM00060-1If you are in search of kitschy Christmas decorations, South Florida should be your destination. Within walking distance of my house we have lighted Flamingo Santas, Santa on a surfboard full of presents crashing into a palm tree and my favorite, a full sized sled with Santa pulled by 8 Flamingos (pink, of course) Very festive and very kitschy.

I have to say I really love the Flamingos, having spent many years in the company of proper design professionals a few Kitschy Flamingos just make the holidays more enjoyable. The mascot for my Landscape Architecture class in college was the Pink Flamingo.

Tonight Santa arrives in my neighborhood in a convertible Mustang complete with Christmas lights and the stereo blaring Christmas carols, drives around and gives candy to the children in the neighborhood.

Blooming in the garden is another sort of kitschy plant, the Flapjack Plant. I had originally thought this was a variety of Jade Plant (Crassula, for botanical name lovers) The Flapjack Plant turns out to be a Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, hmmm, interesting. These are used as summer annuals further north,  but are perennial in South Florida. I had never seen one bloom, the flower spike makes the plant about four feet tall.

Flapjack Flowers

Flapjack Flowers

The foliage looks less like flapjacks as it gets bigger:

Flapjack Foliage

Flapjack Foliage

Kind of red and green in the spirit of Christmas?!

Happy Holidays, Merry Kitschmas, er, Christmas and Happy Gardening..


Holiday Hounds

For many years I have held a dream of taking an oh so cute picture of my Greyhounds with Christmas antlers and using it as a Holiday card. Here is the result of my latest attempt.

Charles not enjoying headgear

Charles not enjoying headgear

The cat was asleep so I tried it on her:

Cat not even wearing headgear

Cat not even wearing headgear

A few years ago I tried with two dogs, Bullitt and My Girl:


And they got bored:

Is there a treat in the house?

Is there a treat in the house?

I finally got one good picture of Bullitt:

Bullitt as Reindog

Bullitt as Reindog

Then realized the antlers should have been behind his ears. After thinking it over, perhaps this is the best solution:

The most cooperative Greyhound

The most cooperative Greyhound

Buy some cards and put the antlers on the concrete Greyhound.


Pygmy Date Palm – Friend or Foe

Pygmy Date Palm Phoenix roebellini

Pygmy Date Palm
Phoenix roebellini

I had a Pygmy Date Palm installed last year in front of my house. This is a dwarf palm rarely exceeding 10 feet in height and it looks great in front of my bathroom window. I selected a triple trunk palm to accent the house and landscape because as the largest element in the foundation planting  it needed some mass.

These palms are native to Southeast Asia and are common in South Florida. They actually do bear dates, but a male and female plant is required. I am perfectly happy without dates. Dates have always reminded me of roaches and I just don’t like to eat them.

I let the palm grow for about a year before attempting to prune it. Pruning done right reveals a trunk that resembles neatly stacked rows of whole wheat crackers- I have heard these called Triscuit Trees. What is not mentioned is the enormous spines at the base of the palm fronds. The spines are up to two inches long. Somewhere in a jungle I think Pygmies used these for poison darts. Later in the week I was talking to a physician, these palms are well known to the medical community due to the thorns. Wounds from the thorns tend to fester and cause infection.

While getting into the holiday spirit I decided to wrap the trunks with miniature white lights. It would have been wise to drink some spirits and don opera length leather gloves before attempting this. As I was decorating I was skewered through the hand and the thorn hit a vein; I now have a 3 inch bruise on my hand that looks terrible. Then I got stabbed in the head and decided to stop for a moment and go in the house. It took a while to get the thorn out of my hand and the bleeding from my head wound staunched. Duly anointed with antibiotic ointment, I persevered and completed my light display, then waited for darkness.

Ahh, holiday magic.