The Mulchmeister

20190110_151300I could be the Mulchmeister, given the love/ hate relationship with mulch that I have nurtured for years. I love the appearance mulch gives the garden – a soothing blanket of hopefully brownish material, tucking all the plants in for good growth, saving water and helping keep weeds at bay.

Unfortunately, I hate to mulch. Below is the usual result of me buying 5 bags of bark mulch. After 3, I can’t deal with schlepping the bags around anymore and it stays in the garden so long the plastic bags are rendered rust colored from the iron in the well water. And the weeds! Arggh. Florida Jurassic weeds. Oddly, the bark is still fresh as a daisy inside the bag – making me wonder what is on the stuff and in the vegetables I grow?

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I am learning to love again with an old friend, pinestraw. Some call it pine needles, naturally shed by Pine trees! A good thing and more sustainable than chopping down and chopping up trees to use for mulch. It occurred to me to seek out pinestraw as I was working on a project in Atlanta, using pinestraw as mulch. For some reason, pinestraw is very uncommon in South Florida-even though it is harvested in North Florida.

I began the search and after a bit of asking around was gifted with 10 bags of QuickStraw, just in time for Christmas. Compressed and bagged for storage, I can move these around easily and am not ending up covered in mulch.

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I scraped the Jurassic weeds off, put down some brown woven (the key to long lasting fabric) weed control fabric and mulched with the QuickStraw.

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Ahhh, cozy plants, just waiting for everything to grow together.

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In A Vase on Monday – Winter White

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Winter lasted for about two days here. The temperature was 87 degrees Fahrenheit this morning. I gave up gardening in hopes of cooler weather later in the week. My vegetable seeds were planted this week along with lettuce plants (the lettuce probably has wilted and needs water by now).

My task this morning, moving Orchids to strategic areas, so I can see the flowers from inside the house. As I was wheeling pots around, I noticed most of the flowers in the garden are white currently, no idea why. I have been watching this native wildflower called Octoberflower bloom for about a month, it started right on time, October 31st.

20181128_110712Octoberflower is native to an area called Scrub in Florida – my garden is in Scrub, so you would think these plants would enjoy my garden. Not so much.  I find them very difficult to place and grow, moving them into the native pollinator garden, one out of five made it. Although, they are great cut flowers.

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Here is a close up of the vase, the blue glass bowl, a Christmas gift from long ago. The Octoberflower is on the right side of the photo, tinged with pink. Next to those, probably the last flower of the Tropical Gardenia (Tabernaemontana divericata); draping the vase are Sweet Begonias (Begonia odorata ‘Alba’); some clusters of White Lantana (Lantana montevidensis ‘Alba’); the bigger spikey flowers are from Snake Plant AKA Mother In Law’s Tongues (Sansiveria cultivar ‘It Took Over My Yard’); smaller white spikes from Juba Bush (Iresine diffusa); a few sprigs of pale pink Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea). The foliage in the vase is Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus ‘sprengeri’) and another native, Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa) – the berries look like coffee, but you can tell by the botanical name, not something you want to drink.

I am from the American South. Wondering how many gardeners relate to the term ‘Winter White’?

My mother, a well raised lady of proper breeding:?! – would have said Winter White is an off white color appropriate to be worn in winter; whereas wearing pure white after Labor Day (early September) is an abomination.

Comments?

 

The photos, Snake Plant and Wild Coffee.

In A Vase on Monday – Two Challenges

20181111_095353-1 Last week, in honor of the fifth anniversary of the meme ‘In A Vase on Monday’, Cathy, our hostess at Rambling in the Garden on WordPress challenged us to not use a vase on Monday. Hence, the watering can. My second challenge, issued by a gardening friend, to use all native wildflowers in my non vase.

The brass watering can had been around my mother’s house for so long I am not sure if I am the second or third generation to use it. I decided to leave the patina and fill it with delicate wildflowers from my garden and a few fall fruits, all from plants native to Florida – a surprisingly long plant list.

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As I was arranging this, I was surprised by how pretty these flowers are when closely observed. And how many flowers it took to fill the small watering can.

The purple flowers are Tampa Verbena (Glandularia tampensis); pink tubular flowers are Tropical Red Salvia (Salvia coccinea) – it seeds in red, pink, salmon and orange. The deep blue flowers are Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta jamaicensis); I have learned to love this plant along with the butterflies, it continues to open flowers after cutting and the stems are such a wonderful accent. The purple grasses are Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris). I am not sure this grass does as well anywhere else but in Florida. Sharp drainage is vital, mine grows in sugar sand with no irrigation.

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I have finally found out what the off white spikes are – Juba Bush (Iresine diffusa), identified by a wildflower expert who said “Juba Bush is named after a Afro-Caribbean step dance, because of the way it waves in the wind” It actually does have a lovely sway in the wind – and I like the story. The ferns are Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata),  porch plants the world over, these originated in the swamps of Florida and popped up in my garden. The white flowers are  Jointweed or Wireweed or Octoberflower (Polygonella robusta), started blooming on October 31!

Fruits are from the Senna ligustrina, the long brown pods. I recently added these to the garden to attract Sulphur Butterflies. They are doing their job, though I haven’t seen any caterpillars. The plants remind me of Soft Caress Mahonia, which l love but can’t grow this far south. The round fruits are from the Gumbo Limbo tree (Bursea simarouba) I love these for their names, the other one being Tourist Tree, for the red peeling bark resembling sunburned skin…

Happy IAVOM Anniversary, to see vases from around the world follow this link.More Vases

In A Vase on Monday – Mostly Wildflowers

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This vase is a result of my plant shopping trip last week. I posted some pictures last week on my blog from the tropicals nursery I visited with a friend (made through gardening on social media, not blogging, though). The idea for the vase was started by another nursery we visited, Indian Trails Natives Nursery located in Lake Worth, Florida. Here is a link to their website Indian Trails

 

 

The nursery has an extensive stock of native plants, a demonstration garden and they will give a price list. Meaningful. I bought several plants and decided to deadhead my new Black Eyed Susans in hopes of more flowers -the genesis of this vase.

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I have been working on my native pollinators garden for a little over a year. The results are amazing, so I keep adding butterfly and bee plants concentrating on natives. My big however is … I don’t feel that it’s mandatory that every plant is native. I would go as far as to say non natives enhance the appeal of the garden to pollinators. No elitism in my garden!

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Plants in this vase include: the Black Eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta) – these are Florida’s native Black Eyed Susan, I grew Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldstrum’ further north and tried to grow these Rudbeckia from seed to no avail. Hopefully, the plants fare better and I end up with too many. Red flowers are Tropical Red Sage (Salvia coccinea); blue flowers are from Porterweed (Stachytarpeta); off white spikes are Wireweed (Don’t know whatis); white flowers are from the one non native, Sweet Almond (Aloysia virgata) hailing from Argentina, our native (endangered) Atala Butterflies love this one. Pink plumes are from Muhly Grass (Muhlebergia) just starting their fall show; the sticks are from the native grape Muscandines (Vitis rotundifolia) – I stripped the leaves, the raccoons ate all the grapes.

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Here’s our native Atala butterfly emerging from their chrysalis on native Coontie Palms. Their mom enjoyed nectar from Beautyberry and Sweet Almond before settling down to lay eggs.

Not Shopping for Tropicals

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This afternoon I have been glued to the television watching Hurricane Michael make landfall about 500 miles north my garden. The sheer size of these storms always amaze me. I can feel the hot breath from Michael flowing through my garden if I step outside. Praying for those in the storm’s path.

Earlier this week I went plant shopping – heading south to the numerous nurseries supplying South Florida. Much of the plant material grown in this area is too tropical for my garden, though I enjoy looking. This is ‘instant effect’ plant material, the above Heliconia is about 15′ tall – prices are not displayed.

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This is a hanging basket filled with Medinilla myriantha, 3 or 4 feet wide and tall. These plants are famously difficult to keep. Usually a very expensive flower arrangement.

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This is a pink and yellow unnamed Heliconia psittacorum. I could probably grow this one, but couldn’t lift the container it was in!

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Huge, grey Bromeliad.

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A Starfish Plant, variety lost to me.

 

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Tiny Aloes.

I bought nothing at this nursery, but gained an idea for a palm tree with boots I was planning to remove (growing into power lines)

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I can have the top removed and keep the trunk, then tuck Bromeliads, Ferns and Orchids into the pockets left by the boots. Like this:

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A stumpery – in tropical mode.

In A Vase On Monday – Desperately Seeking Seasons

20180923_125831Today is the second official day of Fall.  Looking over my coffee cup this morning, I noted the temperature was already in the 80s (25 C) with 97% humidity. My garden is calling me to get back in the groove and clean things up for South Florida’s winter gardening season. I am desperately seeking the season and was inspired to create a Autumnal vase.

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The vase is a silver plate goblet collected by my mother on one of her many ‘junk store’ adventures. It doesn’t hold water, so it requires a recycled yogurt container tucked inside when used as a vase. I don’t think I would use it for beverages.

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My pseudo Fall flowers include: Gallardias (Gallardia pulchella) in red and gold; fruit is Surinam Cherries (Eugenia uniflora); the sprays of berries are from the non native Firebush (Hamelia patens); red “fall” leaf from Raggedy Ann Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana); grey background foliage is Texas Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) and the cream colored spikes are from Wireweed.

To see some real Fall vases, visit the hostess of the IAVOM, Cathy, at Link to more vases

For those who don’t remember Madonna in the movie Desperately Seeking Susan, here is the video from ‘Get Into the Groove’. Hoping to get back in the gardening groove soon

Madonna – it’s age restricted!

In A Vase on Monday-Trading Vases & Places

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The flowers in my vase this week are Cattleya Orchids, from a plant gifted to me several years ago by my neighbor. I have been watching this plant for years, moved it around in the garden – nothing. Finally – three buds appeared, weeks ago. I watched, waited and watched some more, not a sign of opening. Just big, juicy buds displaying a tasty reticence.  I occasionally had to chase some leering grasshopper away. Sigh, more waiting.

After a rough couple of weeks,  my husband and I decided we needed a change of scene and took a few days to walk on the beach and rest. We packed up Alan the Greyhound and some coolers and headed to a lovely semi deserted beach miles from home.

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Of course, I checked the Orchids just prior to leaving and one bud was opening! Sigh, again. Hoping I wouldn’t miss the show, off we went. The picture is sunrise on North Hutchison Island, Florida.

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Deciding to cut the flowers was easy, I have two more buds and these were browning on the edges a bit. I’ll enjoy them in the house as long as they last. The vases (three again) were another story. Seeking a simple container for these complex flowers; I decided they needed a backdrop of a big tropical leaf (Seagrapes – Coccoloba uvifera). For vases, I started with a rose teapot, then went to the black vase, then the glass vases.

No leering grasshoppers in my house, but I did bring in a little bee.

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