In A Vase on Monday – Winter Wildflowers

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Oftentimes when I start my vase I have to decide between tropical and well, non tropical seeming flowers. This week’s decision was in favor of the non tropical which are in fact somewhat tropical. For some reason, even though I live in a frost free area populated with Mangoes and Birds of Paradise the climate is considered subtropical. My favorite Florida plant material author, Frederick Stresau, calls this area Tropic Florida. No one else does. I like the title.

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Tropic Florida is home to some amazing wildflowers, so amazing in fact they will take over. Last week I think Chloris was featuring Bidens, on her blog not the B. alba from my garden-a relative.  ACK, I have Bidens running out of my ears and can only hope I have pulled enough out. The onset of cooler weather brings the reseeding annuals out of their slumber and starts a new season of flowers.

The components of this vase are either native to Florida or something that just appeared in my garden. The hat is hardly necessary this time of year, but hand pruners are a must..

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The white flowers are Spanish Needles (Bidens alba) cute but annoying. The yellow daisies Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis); red and yellow daisies, Native Gallardias; deep blues, native Porterweed; red spikes, Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea); the grasses flowing in the background, Muhly Grass (Muhlbergia capillaris).

The vase? A Portmerion canister I received as a wedding gift. Thinking I would complete the set I held onto it for almost 25 years.. The canister remains alone in my mother’s china cabinet, awaiting flour and sugar containers with similarly abandoned Botanic Garden pieces.

The first harvest from the garden, 12 green beans with a cherry tomato (one,very tasty)

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Happy Monday!

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In A Vase on Monday – Ducking the Challenge

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In A Vase on Monday is a meme on WordPress that originated in the UK four years ago this Monday. Cathy from the blog Rambling in the Garden is the host (or hostess) of the meme. This year, in honor of the fourth anniversary of In A Vase on Monday- Cathy issued a challenge to not use a vase on Monday but a different container.

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My container is a vintage watering can I inherited from my mother. So vintage, in fact, it no longer has a handle or holds water. I keep it around because I like the patina and it reminds me of my mother, a great gardener and lover of vases. The extreme vintageness of the container required some floral engineering:

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I half filled the can with Styrofoam packing peanuts and bubble wrap, then cut down some drinking water bottles to hold the flowers and water.

The ducks arrived on the scene as it was a pouring down rain, windy day in South Florida. A great day for ducks, humans,  not so much. It really started pouring after I had collected about a third of the arrangement. I stopped, waited the downpour out and went back out to the garden, collected more flowers as this is a good sized container. Finished. Decided it needed some more ferns and something taller, more rain. Stopped, then completed the arrangement again, only to find it too dark in the house to take a picture. Put everything outside and of course, it started raining again.

So, I added the ducks – then my phone ran out out battery so I had to charge it to take the picture! Stopped for a moment to visit our mermaid under construction. Everyone in South Florida needs a concrete mermaid. Mine is going to be painted and used as porch art. Yet another project.

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Finally, the contents:

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The white flowers are Bridal Bouquet Frangipani (Plumeria pudica); the red and yellow flowers are Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum), the red and white flowers are Red Shrimp Plants (Justicia brandegeana); the large foliage and white flowers hanging over the edge are Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata); the off white spikes are a mystery plant. Foliage in red, Copperleaf (Acalypha ‘ Raggedy Ann’); yellow varigated foliage is from the Pie Crust Croton (Codieum ‘Pie Crust’); ferns are Asian Sword Ferns. There are some bits of Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers in the back of the arrangement for height.

Visit Cathy’s blog to see Anniversary vases from the world over.

Happy Gardening and thanks to our hostess, Cathy.

In A Vase on Monday -Funky Fall Flowers

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I get some interesting comments from readers about my plant selections. Exotic is the most common description, though weird, unusual and alien have been bandied about. I tend towards the unusual, possibly due to spending over 30 years designing landscapes for corporations. Corporations like a clean, green hedge around their buildings, parsley around the pig is how I refer to the clean green, preferably not interesting in any way. Think Viburnum of any kind clipped into submission. Gardeners tend to be a lot more fun to work with and also avoid workhorse Viburnums.

My garden sports no workhorse shrubs, all selections are off the wall and flowering and fruiting to their hearts content. Corporations would hate it. Not a clipped Viburnum in sight.

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Even I think this vase is funky, put together for texture and color. It speaks of South Florida in the Fall.

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The purple flower is an Orchid, Spathoglottis ‘Cabernet’. The pink vine is a Coral Vine (Antigonon leptopus), some call this Queen’s Wreath. The white spikes are from Snake Plant or Mother In Law’s Tongue (Sanseveira) – they flower here and are considered invasive – it would take a bulldozer to rid my garden of these. Purple berries are from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana) I think the berry production in Florida is triple what my northern plants produced. The striped leaf is from a Screw Pine (Pandanus sp.) I love these and bought a small plant that is surprising me with variegated foliage. Screw Pines are common in the South Pacific and remind me of Hawaii.

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A Screw Pine (Pandanus) on the Pacific Ocean near Hana, Maui. Kinda funky, had to have one in my garden.

Cheers to Resurgens

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Resurgens is Latin for Resurgence, and the motto of my hometown – Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta’s resurgence was from the ashes of the Civil War, my garden is rebounding from the encounter with Hurricane Irma. Every good resurgence deserves a toast and this one is filled with Beach Sunflowers in an oversized Margarita glass given to me by a friend.

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Joining the Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis)  in orange, Firebush (Hamelia patens) and the foliage is a sprig of Setcresea (Setcresea pallida)  some call this Purple Hearts, I think that sounds better. The dark ferny foliage is from Copper Fennel, making a surprise reappearance in the herb garden.

The Beach Sunflowers are a profusion of yellow flowers and the Firebush is just starting to show color again. Other signs of resurgence, the Torch Bromeliads (Billbergia pyramidalis) are making their Autumnal appearance.

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The foliage is a bit worse for wear,  but the flowers are beautiful. The most dramatic transition in the garden is from the Strangler Fig (Ficus aurea). Here is a picture of the Fig two weeks ago:

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Today:

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I will raise my glass for the Fig, now I need to find some limes and tequila.

Cheers!

In A Vase on Monday- Soothing Relief

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This morning our temperatures were in the low 70’s with a nice breeze from Hurricane Maria passing by (a long way off). The humidity was down a bit as well, so I worked in the garden getting my vegetable garden going. South Florida’s gardening season is opposite most of the Northern Hemisphere. Summer vegetables are planted in September and October, so I will have tomatoes in the winter. Hopefully. Corn is not even grown in the summer here as it is too hot for the plant to pollinate.20170924_132320

The anchor flower in this vase is a Soap Aloe (Aloe saponaria) which is supposed to be a soothing shampoo ingredient until you read up on it, seems more people are irritated by it than soothed. Stick to the Aloe Vera for relief. The Soap Aloe is the apricot and green candelabra shaped flower. The red flowers are our native Hibiscus, Turk’s Cap Mallow (Hibiscus malvaviscus). The mad funky flowers that look like Lobster Claws are Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers – Hurricane Irma was not kind to these and I have trimmed the prettier parts for use in this vase. I have been channeling my Southern mother lately and am thinking of drying the rest and spray painting them gold for a holiday wreath. Although, that might be too funky.

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The vase is a big crystal affair that was a wedding gift – oh, many years ago from a dear friend who called the day before Hurricane Irma hit “just to hear my voice”, a truly lovely man. The components of the vase are of such a large scale (2 to 3 feet tall) I thought it called for the addition of some big tropical foliage. The smaller leaves in the arrangement are from Frangipani (Plumeria), the long reddish leaves from the Blanchetiana Bromeliad and the ferns are the ever present Asian Sword Ferns.

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The vegetable garden under construction. Hard to believe anything will grow in this ‘soil’.

In A Vase on Monday – Resilience

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Last Sunday we were already feeling the hot breath of Hurricane Irma. It seemed the earth was sweating, so much tropical moisture swirling in the air. Sunday and Monday were spent hunkered down indoors with two greyhounds and our cat. One of the dogs nervous, the other and the cat not so much. More about the hurricane later.

My vase, this Monday is filled with resilient plants from my garden. I had to search a bit to find likely candidates, winds burned or knocked many plants down. Amazingly the berries did not blow off the Beautyberry or the Firebush and I don’t believe the Parrotflowers even paused for Irma. Look closely at the Parrotflowers and note the tips of the flowers are burned black.

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The red berries in front are from the Firebush (Hamelia patens), the purple berries from the Beautyberry (Calliocarpa americana), Parrotflowers (Heliconia psittacorum) in red and yellow. Blanchetiana Bromeliad flowers are beside the Beautyberry and Asian Sword Ferns in the back for some greenery. The ferns are missing a chunk (most of them are) but are amazingly alive and green.

Hurricane Irma:

Hurricanes are generally terrifying. I experienced my first last year, Matthew. A local told me Matthew was a good starter hurricane! One of the most agonizing parts of the experience is the endless news cycle of weather forecasts. At one point 130 mph winds were forecasted for my Living Room. Eventually Irma ended up on the other side of the state. We had sustained winds of 70 mph and gusts to 100 mph off and on for a day or so. And 10 inches of rain. Adding to the fun, Alan (the nervous greyhound) dislocated his toe before the storm. His leg was ensconced in a splint that was NOT TO GET WET.

Needless to say, even though I wrapped the splint in plastic to take him outside, he took off and punctured the splints raincoat with his toenails. During the hurricane. No help available. Fortunately, I have a Facebook friend who is a vet – who advised me to take off the splint. Alan was much happier and chilled out to rest. Toe is much improved.

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The Garden:

The garden is surprisingly resilient. I don’t believe anything was lost to the wind – except all the leaves and foliage that was burned off. We are going to ask the Rainbow Eucalyptus to leave the garden. The top has blown out twice now and the tree just keeps getting taller and heavier.

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The back side of my neighbors ugly fence was completely covered with Shell Ginger, Lobsterclaw Heliconia, Bridal Bouquet Plumeria and a Mexican Bush Honeysuckle. By Friday, when I got around to pruning- all were coming back from the ground with new growth. I just cut off the dead and righted some of the Plumeria.

The hedge in back:

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This is a Surinam Cherry hedge, it was fully covered in foliage. The wind blew the leaves off and there is not one in sight. I have been planning to do this exact thing to the hedge and Irma saved me having to haul all the clippings to the curb. I am still contemplating what to do with this and will probably do some additional pruning.

This is a Strangler Fig, the canopy was not quite fully foliaged, but pretty close:

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Again, the wind blew nearly every leaf off and took them along. Saving me hours of raking and bagging! New growth is already on the tips of the branches.

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This is a Papaya tree I started from seed last year. It is about 3 feet tall and looked dreadful until this morning. It is beginning to shed its burned foliage and producing new leaves.

Resilience. The garden seems to be doing better than we are. Still exhausted. I am told the Hurricane Hangover lasts about a week. Next week should be better. But wait, Hurricane Maria is lurking in the Atlantic. I need a chant for human resilience.

In A Vase on Monday- Trimmings

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I have been renovating the Greyhound Beach in my back yard this holiday weekend. It is Labor Day in the US and Monday is a national holiday. My Greyhounds, Alan and Charles, have been gleefully destroying the turf behind the patio for the past few years. The mini racetrack in the backyard – visible from space.

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Here is Alan, with his favorite toy, Sharky, digging for reasons only dogs know. I flattened out the holes yesterday and installed edging for sod. Alan has been melancholy all day and refused to eat this morning. Later in the afternoon he relented and woofed down his dinner.

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Back to the title, Trimmings. As a part of my reclamation of Greyhound Beach, I decided to trim and tree form a Firebush that has overgrown its space. Trimming off armfuls of flowers. I stopped trimming to contemplate if I could shear the back of the shrub for screening and tree form the front – an Arboricultural dilemma.

This shrub was sold as a Dwarf Firebush, which actually means it gets 10 or 15 feet tall. Only in the Land of the Giants would this plant be considered dwarf. This sort of horticultural nonsense annoys me. One of the first plants installed in my garden to screen the well equipment:

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Firebush Hamelia patens

Here it is, four years later:

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And I have cut four feet off the top for the past couple of years, the Greyhound Beach is visible through the shrubs.

Now, this is where the Firebush trimmings ended up- in my vase. 20170903_114540

The vase itself is an English teapot in the Blue Willow style, one of my favorite flea market finds. There are two kinds of Firebush in the vase. The dark red is the native Hamelia patens var patens. The ones from the gigantic orange Firebush are Hamelia patens, I think, botanists argue about these plants. I thought some purple was in order and added Setcresea, some variegated Dwarf Pineapple foliage and some red weeds, um, native wildflowers. The name escapes me – one of those things you think is pretty until you realize the seedheads are like dandelions and there are 10 million in your yard.

Another wonderful attribute of the Firebush. Butterflies love them. Here is a Black Swallowtail that was passing by:

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And a Zebra Longwing:

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A gigantic Firebush in the garden has some advantages.

Happy Monday.