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.




In A Vase on Monday – Surinam Shrimp


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.


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:


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

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..


Cure for the Summertime Blues

My cure for the Summertime Blues are the Tropical Blues. I have seen loads of photos of Blue Hydrangeas from further north; while I miss the Hydrangeas, I never had tremendous luck with them because I gardened in dry shade – which is only conducive to Oakleaf Hydrangeas. I do miss those Oakleafs. Here is my best Blue Hydrangea ever. Not very impressive.

Blue Hydrangea Bud

Blue Hydrangea Bud

Down here in the hinterlands, I have Tropical Plumbago:

Blue Plumbago

Blue Plumbago

This is an interesting shrub; it arches to about 4 feet, then drops to the ground and roots so it is sort of a creeping shrub. I used these in pots as a summer annual further north and underplanted them with Blue Daze:

Blue Daze

Blue Daze

Blue Daze Evolvulus is a perennial here. Which still seems weird to me. I have a mass of this in my front yard that blooms nearly continuously, but only in the morning.

My final suggestion for curing the Summertime Blues, the Blue Agave:
Blue Agave

This looks like a Tequila Agave but is not. I think you could make tequila or perhaps, Mezcal out of this plant, but it is a long and involved process and it really has to be done in Mexico. So, have a Margarita and toast the last month of Summer.

Allo Aloes – Aloe saponaria

Our Soapy Friend

Our Soapy Friend

This is an Aloe an old friend of mine grew and gave me. It is a Soap Aloe, botanically identified as Aloe saponaria by the The University of Florida. Other sources call it Aloe maculatasaponaria makes more sense to me. Saponia being the usual latin word associated with soapy plants. This particular plant is nearly 2 and a half feet wide and the bloom stalk is 4 feet tall. Pretty interesting.

A fine drought tolerant succulent its original home was South Africa. It is adapting nicely to South Florida. I find that mine blooms quarterly just like paying estimated taxes. It somehow knows it is April 15th and someone at the IRS is feeling happy because of its orange flowers.

I have noticed it has a bubbly juice when trimming off the old leaves. Theoretically, this can be used as a soap substitute. However, upon doing a bit of research I found that the soapy substance also causes contact dermatitis in some people. For the time being I am going to stay with the store bought soap.

In my searching I also found that this can be used as a groundcover; I will have to say this stretches my concept of groundcover. It is spreading in my Rock Garden and I have seen quite a few large clumps of its relative Candelabra Aloe  (Aloe arborescens) in my neighborhood. The Candelabra is similar but only has one spike for a flower as opposed to more of a chandelier effect from the Soap Aloe. The Candelabras foliage is narrower as well. It should be noted that these Aloes are all decorated with sharp spines, so don’t plant them near a walkway or under the swing set. Unless you want to keep people away.