In A Vase on Monday – Winter Wonderland


Winter Wonderland usually brings images to mind of snow and fir trees kissed with white frost. The Wonderland of Winter has a whole different meaning in South Florida. It caused me to  have the oddest thought yesterday, after looking at the 10 day weather forecast, I thought “I wish February would last forever” Suffice it to say we have clear blue skies and the temperatures are nearly perfect for spending time outdoors.


The Hong Kong Orchid (Bauhinia purpurea) tree is in full bloom in my front yard, so I liberated a few purple blossoms. The white flowers are from a Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata), a few Asian Sword Ferns for foliage and the purple green leaves in back are from a Moses in the Cradle (Rhoeo discolor, I think somebody changed the botanical name- generally people call them Oyster Plants) also blooming and I can see the reason for the name.


Purple Oyster Plant

On Sunday I celebrated by going to a plant sale at a local botanical garden. My karma was so good (may need to save more Greyhounds!) the first plant I set my eyes on was exactly what I was searching for – a Pickering Mango, a dwarf mango tree that fruits reliably and after only a couple of years in the ground.


While this was a great find, the deal of the day could have been this Bromeliad. Another unnamed Neoregelia – for $5.


I am not sure the photo does it justice, the Bromeliad is probably two feet wide, chartruese and hot pink and budding.

Winter Wonderland, indeed.


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.

Garden Bloggers Foliage Day -Succulents


I have a number of succulents in my garden. I like them for their interesting foliage and textures. Some I planted and some just appeared. The plant above tends to materialize in sand seemingly out of nowhere. And can’t be moved or disturbed, the one charmingly located itself on the front edge of a bed and got to stay. The common name for these Kiss Me Quick is also charming, a native Portulaca (Portulaca pilosa).


This is another favorite with a mad texture, a Pencil Cactus, Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Firesticks’. I have a few of these in the garden as propagating them is as easy as breaking a piece off and sticking it in the ground. Instant plant and difficult to kill. The Pencil Cactus is underplanted with a Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria) both thrive in my unirrigated Rain Garden baking in a bed between the house and driveway. Here is the Soap Aloe:


The Soap Aloe blooms quarterly with orange and green candelabras.


This is a Graptosedum a friend gifted to me. I have no idea what variety it is, but again this thrives in an unirrigated bed beside the mailbox. In the same bed is the Blue Agave below, happily growing with only rainwater and the occasional trim to remove the spiny tips. This is the type of Agave tequila is made from, again grown by a friend.


The Agaves have an Architectural character to them that I love.  Here is a Green Agave, I found growing behind my garbage cans and rescued.


Last but not least, another really easy to grow plant, the FlapJack Kalanchoe. These are popular as summer annuals but live year round in my garden.



The Perennial Rites of Spring in South Florida

The Rites of Spring may be a ballet, a music festival or a rock band depending on where you look on the Internet. Seasonal changes can be subtle in South Florida so my Rites of Spring are landscape events marking the passage of the seasons to spring.

In the perennial garden, spring is marked when the Dwarf Jamaican Heliconia (Heliconia stricta ‘Dwarf Jamaican’) and Ground Orchid (Bletilla) flower.


Dwarf Jamaican Helicona


Ground Orchid

The Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata ) , usually flower off and on, stop for a rest in mid winter have started back up. This year a surprise has been the Poinsettias I used in Christmas containers flowered again after being set out in the garden. The Bromeliads (Aechmeas – Blushing Bromeliads) are sporting their red markings (these tend to go back to green as the weather warms) The Shell Gingers (Alpinia zerumbet) are in full bloom, covering an extremely unattractive 6 foot fence, and have been outstanding thus far.



Sweet Begonias




Blushing Bromeliad


Shell Ginger

Vegetables and Herbs are at their zenith and starting to wane. A post for another day. Happy Friday.

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:


And here is an overall view:



The artist is Patrick Dougherty and the concept is STICKWORK, here is a link to more information on the artist and installation,

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:




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



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!



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!