In A Vase on Monday – Floridian Fall


It’s another stormy Sunday in South Florida. Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast of Texas on Friday and is still pummeling the Greater Houston area. Our blog friend, the Automatic Gardner, is there.  According to her latest post, so far, so good. Best wishes and luck to her.

The Atlantic Hurricane Season is in full swing, peaking on September 10. So far, our area has avoided any truly stormy weather. The flowers in my vase today are all native to the area and at their best during the height of Hurricane season.


All of the materials in this vase just appeared in my garden with the exception of one. Beautyberry . The purple berries come from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) I bought a few of these shrubs from a local nursery going out of business. The rest of the flowers just came up and me being me, I left these unknown plants to see what interest they brought to the garden. The orange tubular flowers are Firebush (Hamelia patens var patens), the yellow flowers are Chapman’s Goldenrod (Solidago odora), the blue flowers are Porterweed (still not sure exactly which one).


The white flowers and foliage in back of the arrangement are from our native Hymenocallis latifolia (or a friend) These are sometimes called Alligator Lilies and have a lovely scent at night. I found a huge clump of these in the front garden years ago, mistook them for Amaryllis, divided them and have an enormous border of Alligator Lilies in my back garden. Soon to be spectacular, October last year we had Hurricane Matthew here and then the Alligator Lilies flowered. I was surprised, humbled and happy I had divided all of them.

I think of the components of this arrangement as a gift from Mother Nature to remind us of the good things she provides.

Hurricane season notwithstanding.

Happy Gardening.


In a Vase on Monday – The Wildflower Blues



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.



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.


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:



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 where Cathy hosts In A Vase on Monday – every Monday!




Last week I posted about spring flowering trees in Tropic Florida. One was a new plant to me, White Geiger or Cordia, the other is a Geiger Tree which I have encountered fairly frequently. Both trees belong to the Genus, Cordia.

This is the Geiger Tree, named shockingly for a guy named Geiger, who was a prominent Conch (resident of Key West) in the 1800’s. The botanical name is Cordia sebestena. These are reported to grow to 25′ tall, I have yet to see one that size. This may be due to a fairly recent availability in the nursery trade. These trees are native to South Florida and the Caribbean. I see them flowering off and on during the year – the floral display seems more prolific in the spring.

Geiger Tree

Geiger Tree

Geiger Flower

Geiger Flower

The tree always seems a bit gangly to me, but the flower certainly gives an orange burst of tropical vibe to the surroundings.

White Geiger Tree

White Geiger Tree

In my opinion, the White Geiger Tree or Cordia (also called Texas Wild Olive, for reasons unknown to me) is a more attractive tree with a more formal shape. The botanical name being Cordia boissieri, this tree is native to the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. Reportedly more cold hardy but still evergreen and about 25 feet tall, White Cordias are not very popular yet in South Florida. I think they will be.

I have sourced a local grower with one of these in stock. It is just a matter of time before a White Geiger Tree appears in my garden.

Native Plants Class-

I think I have mentioned the natives plants class I have been taking. I decided to look around my neighborhood to see what natives I could find, here they are.

Wild Coffee Psychotria nervosa

IWild Coffee
Psychotria nervosa

Lancewood Ocotea coriacea

Ocotea coriacea

Ficus aurea Strangler Fig

Ficus aurea
Strangler Fig

Firebush Hamelia patens

Hamelia patens

Muscadine Vitis rotundafolia

Vitis rotundafolia

Earleaf Greenbrier Smilax auriculata

Earleaf Greenbrier
Smilax auriculata

Beautyberry Calliocarpa americana

Calliocarpa americana

Nephrolepis exaltata Boston Fern

Nephrolepis exaltata
Boston Fern

Florida Privet Foresteria segregata

Florida Privet
Foresteria segregata

Live Oak Quercus virginiana

Live Oak
Quercus virginiana

Muhly Grass – Muhlenbergia capillaris or filipes

Muhly Grass

Muhly Grass

I planted Muhly Grass recently for its interesting pink mist fall flowers and reputation for indestructibility. The Grass started blooming nearly as soon as I planted it in September and has been slowly filling out with misty pink plumes. This is an interesting grass – it grows as far north as Massachusetts west to Kansas and south to Florida. A huge range, at least 5 USDA hardiness zones, apparently with a native habitat on the edges of marshes. I found in previous attempts that it is virtually impossible to grow in heavy clay soil. So, it should be really happy in my front yard atop a sand dune.

I am getting a feeling I might have to water it a bit. Plants that are designated drought tolerant with conditions usually are not as drought tolerant as you would like.

Another common name for this is Sweetgrass, supposedly when dried it has a sweet fragrance like hay. I haven’t noticed the smell, but I haven’t dried any either. I think I prefer the Sweetgrass name to Muhly Grass. Muhly sounds like beer or something. Muhly Ale?!

This grass is the source of material for basketry by the Seminole Indians in Florida and the famous Sweetgrass baskets of the Low Country of South Carolina. The Low Country basketry tradition was started by slaves from West Africa imported to the American South to work in the rice plantations in the 1800s. The tradition continues and to this day sweetgrass baskets are made and sold in the Low Country. The grass is sewn in ropes, then coiled to make a basket – a time consuming task that produces a beautiful basket.

According to the Seminole tribe website they started making sweetgrass baskets 60 years ago. Their baskets are based on grass from the Everglades, which is dried and constructed in a similar way to the Low Country baskets.

Given that I now possess a mass of Muhly I might try a basket. I suspect this is a lot harder than I think it is.. and my backyard has been blessed with an overabundance of Muscadines (a native grape) – the local wildlife population eats all the fruit, but I have such a large amount of grapevine I may take up basketweaving or wreathmaking..

Winter Containers for South Florida

Here comes the Work Shop

Here comes the Work Shop

My husband likes to work with his hands, when we moved to South Florida there wasn’t enough room in our house for a workshop so we had one craned it. The picture is the shop being lifted over the house..I’ll get to the containers in a minute.

The shop ends up looking a bit like a trailer but with some landscaping and a porch it fits in. These sheds are fairly common in South Florida, I have never seen them before – they are even built and attached to the ground to resist hurricanes.

The whole adventure left me feeling a bit like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Maybe in reverse.

After all this, my husband who has clearly been living with me too long decided he wanted some flower pots (containers if you are a landscape professional) on his shop porch. I put some containers together with the usual suspects last year sometime – yes, the annuals last that long here. It seems crazy to me as well. They last so long you get tired of them. When I lived further north I always did the containers twice a year, changed the colors with the seasons and enjoyed the variety.

Imagine my surprise when the old summer reliables, Bronzeleaf Begonias, rolled over and died in the summer heat. Time to revise thinking to plants that live in say, the Sahara. Pentas and Lantanas. I had gotten bored with Lantanas in Atlanta and really still am, they just smell funny. If I want fragrance, that is so not it.

The Lantana and Pentas were pooping out so I was trolling around in our yard to see what I could find to replace the spent annuals. One of the fun things about living in Florida is you never know what you might find growing in the yard. Boston Fern grows wild in the side yard so I dug a start of that and then found some Purple Wandering Jew (Zebrina), a Burgundy Bromeliad and an unknown groundcover Bromeliad (from a garage sale) that needed to be divided  and added them to the ‘Florida Friendly’ (this is a Florida Extension Service sort of approved plant) chartreuse Sedum that was already in the pots. As an aside, who ever heard of a sedum that does well in partial shade – this does. Whatever it is.

Groundcover Bromeliad and Sedum

Groundcover Bromeliad and Sedum

Voila, a purple and chartreuse themed container garden. The Bromeliads seem to be perennial in containers – the big Burgundy one was divided from a container I have had on my front porch for a year or so – I started with one and now there are three in there. You just never know what you will find growing outside…

Newly planted containers

Newly planted containers


Spider Lilies – Hymenocallis latifolia


There was this clump of what I thought was overcrowded Amaryllis in a planter in my front yard that the landscaper dug up for me. The bulbs were so crammed in I couldn’t dig them out. So after Jon gave me a bucket full of bulbs, I separated them and spaced them out at 2′ on center in the front of a long bed in my backyard sometime last summer. There are probably at least 50 of these now.

I have been waiting for two years to see what kind of Amaryllis I had found in my front yard; come to find out it is not an Amaryllis at all! This spring I kept going out to check because I was waiting for a gigantic mass of color from the Amaryllis. Then June came around and I decided maybe the bulbs hadn’t been in the ground long enough. When I spotted this flower in my backyard, I recognized the genus from having Peruvian Daffodils in Atlanta. They were not quite cold hardy there, but similar to this with a creamy yellow color. Not quite sure what I had blooming, research was started on the plant, I found that this is a Florida native hardy in Zone 10 and 11. The advice was given to plant a single bulb 3 or even 5 feet apart so the clump would grow together. The next bit of advice I encountered was that the Dreaded Lubber Grasshoppers loved to eat them:


The Lubber was dispatched shortly after the picture was taken – 5 of his friends had been in the Lilies before and had eaten the first flowers..I may be having a Spider Lily sale soon as I planted at least twice as many as I should have.

Rain Lilies – Zephyranthes rosea

Rain Lilies

Rain Lilies


It rained here on Sunday. An inch or so. This morning I walked out in my front yard to find these blooming for the second time in a month. Rain Lilies, I had these in my garden in Atlanta and they bloomed maybe every five years. It was a real event. And actually a different kind of Rain Lily.

After a bit of research I find there are many kinds of Zephyranthes, 71 according to Wikipedia. I believe these are the rosea variety. Well, they are pink..I bought them at a garage sale nearby, so they could really be from anywhere. The native species in Florida is the Atamasco Lily; this lily has white flowers and occurs in low, swampy areas. As I live on a gigantic sand dune I don’t think I will be seeing any of those around here.

The latin for these plants is Zephyranthes, named after the Greek God of the West Wind. Interesting considering the rain is what makes them bloom.

These are about 12 inches tall and have grass like (really strap like) foliage my husband mistakenly weed whacked. After that it rained and they started blooming. This is my kind of a plant. Takes a licking and pops up with flowers. They will reseed in the garden but so far it has not been a problem but a nice surprise.

In Praise of Cabbage Palms

Looking up

Looking up to the Heart of the Palm

One of the pleasures of living in Florida is waking up almost any morning, walking out into my backyard to watch the soft yellow sunlight illuminate the canopy of the Cabbage Palm rendering its shadows almost russet. The much maligned but indestructible Cabbage Palm.  I have no idea how old this palm is but I am certain no one planted it. A native of the peninsula, the state tree of Florida and perhaps the most common Palm in the state it will always have a place in my heart.

I have always referred to these as Sabal Palms; because of their botanical name – Palmetto sabal. They are called Cabbage Palms in reference to Swamp Cabbage, which in culinary terms is Hearts of Palm. I love Hearts of Palm but rarely eat it as a Palm tree gave its life for my salad. Palms are monocots, more closely related to grass than trees and only have one growing point, the apical meristem, botanically speaking. If this is removed the entire tree dies. The growing point is in the middle of the fronds, hence the name Hearts of Palm. Have a heart, save a Palm tree’s life and go for the artichokes instead.

These Palms usually attain a height of 30 feet, but can grow up to 60 feet tall. Cabbage Palms are not self cleaning and need trimming to maintain a neat appearance. Or just leave it untrimmed and say it is a bat habitat to control the mosquito population. That would be true. Just stay in the house during high winds.

Native Americans used these Palms for many things, roof thatch from the fronds, brooms and brushes from the sisally parts of the boot, the trunks were used for pilings in the water and bread was made from the seeds.  However , they did not eat the hearts..until Europeans arrived with metal tools. If you had been eating palm seed bread, I am betting the Hearts of Palm seemed really tasty.