In a Vase on Monday – Solstice Solace

I decided not to do a vase after a rough weekend, emergency room visit at 2 am, etc. We had rain showers overnight, this Monday morning the sky is clear blue, sunshiny and warm. Some December mornings I really love South Florida.

I took a cup of coffee into my garden, met a lovely friendly cat (I put her outside the greyhound fence, though the dogs were fascinated) then noticed I should cut the Zinnias or they would stop flowering. A stroll through the tropical garden revealed the Tropical Hydrangeas had just started to flower.. a vase was calling and I answered.

Here is a closer view:

The pink flowers and green bud are Tropical Hydrangeas (Dombeya wallachii); Zinnias are Zinderella, grown from seed started in August; white flowers are Sweet Begonia (Begonia odorata ‘alba’); a few bits of Asian Sword Fern in back. The vase is a well loved thrift store find.

I wrote an article about Tropical Hydrangeas for The American Gardener, published in November. Here is a link if you would like to read more about Dombeyas. People like to call them Pink Ball Trees, I prefer Dombeyas!

Thanks to Cathy, at for hosting and Happy Holidays!! To see more vases visit Cathy’s blog..


Six on Saturday – Tropical Weather

Tropical weather is on the menu this week in Florida. Two forecasted hurricanes are lurking in the Gulf of Mexico, an unheard of meteorological event. Both are taking aim at the Gulf Coast of the US. Batten down over there. This weather brings downpours that can dump 3 inches of rain per hour in my garden – even hundreds of miles away from the storms. I am joining the Six on Saturday crew at Follow the link to see more posts of six items of interest from gardens around the world.

I am featuring my more tropical plants today. This is a Blanchetiana Bromeliad ramping up to full flower. The flower in back is about seven feet tall.

The flowers on a Java White Copperleaf (Acalphya wilkesiana). These shrubs should reach at least six feet.

A Travelers Palm (Ravenala madagascariensis) I planted these last fall to screen a telephone pole behind my house. They will grow to 30 feet. They have just reached eight feet. These are planted as a sign of hospitality in the South Pacific. The stems hold a great deal of water and a thirsty traveler can cut one for a drink of fresh water.

Fruit forming on the Papaya tree. I am hoping the moths are done with my tree for the year and I get some fruit this winter. The tree is at least fifteen feet tall, so I will have to wait for the fruit to fall off.

The new Papaya planted last year from seeds of the tree above. Papayas are very short lived, so I started this new one. The tomato cage is for protection from my lawn guys

Leaves of the Pink Ball Tree (Dombeya wallachii) This is sometimes called Tropical Hydrangea and flowers during the winter. The shrub grew 9 feet in less than two years.

Happy Gardening!!

In a Vase on Monday – Harvest Mood


img_20191103_135728It has been a rainy, overcast, blustery weekend in my garden. Feeling like a somewhat warmer and more humid version of fall further north. I went searching for some vegetation to fit the moody weather. The plants in the arrangement speak of fall in Florida – fruits from flowering and shade trees and “fall” leaves.


The green fruit is from a White Geiger tree (Cordia boissieri) a smallish white flowering evergreen tree. The berries are from the Gumbo Limbo (Bursera simaruba) a native shade tree affectionately called the Tourist Tree because of its red, peeling bark is similar to sunburned skin. The fruit is not edible from either tree. The “fall” leaves are from “Louisiana Red” Copperleaf (Acalypha wilkesiana) they are this color year-round. This is a recent addition to the garden and has just started showing color.

Here is a more edible fall fruit, my first Corkystem Passionfruit, something other than me ate it. I planted it as a larval butterfly plant, the butterfly caterpillars have been eating the leaves, not sure who ate the fruit.


Happy Gardening!!

In A Vase on Monday – A Cross Cultural Experience


This is truly a cross cultural experience. The plants, while grown in South Florida, hail from both sides of our planet, Southeast Asia and Brazil. The terracotta man in the vase is an incense burner from Pier One that belonged to my brother in the late 1970’s. I am not sure exactly where he came from but the concept was Pre Columbian. I think.


The red and yellow swirling crab claws are the flower of a Blanchetiana Bromeliad, a native of the eastern side of Brazil. The plant itself is about four feet tall by six feet wide. It has been flowering for about six weeks, of course the flower is on the side I can’t really see unless I am turning the compost heap. So, I decided to cut it and enjoy it in the house as long as it lasted.


These Bromeliads are relatively common in South Florida and I nearly wrecked my car the first time I saw one. Talk about wild and crazy plants, the foliage can be orange, red, green or yellow and it is big. Even though I had experience with Bromeliads I didn’t realize how big they grew. Another houseplant myth busted by Tropic Florida.

The foliage is a frond of a Lady Palm (Rhaphis excelsa). This palm is native to the Rainforest in Southeast Asia, an understory plant that enjoys shade and water. Relatively hardy, it will grown north to Orlando, and is a favorite of mine for interior use as a potted plant. I bought one a couple of years ago and it sat in the pot a little too long, so it is a bit lopsided and has finally recovered its healthy deep green color and need a little trim.

Here is a shot of my Rainforest Garden, where the Lady Palm lives.


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.

In A Vase on Monday – Plum Tropical

20160124_133405-1I started my Monday vase thinking I was going to have a plum and grey theme as the Kalanchoe ‘Flapjack’ plants are blooming. These are grey, somewhat otherworldly and I thought they would look great with some purple flowers in my plum blown glass bowl.


Flapjack Flowers

So, I cut some Flapjack Flowers. As all gardeners know, Mother Nature often has other plans for us. I went over to my ‘it was blooming last time I looked’ bed and no purple flowers. Plan B, the Heliconia were blooming a little as well as the Tropical Blue Plumbago. I cut some of those and proceeded to another bed and my wonderful white Sweet Begonias were blooming. For greenery, I cut some Boston Fern and from the vegetable garden a little Fennel foliage. I grew some Fennel last year and ended up with volunteers this year I am hoping to eat. I love roasted Fennel.


The bowl is a souvenir from a long ago trip to the North Georgia mountains where my husband and I stopped in a local artisan cooperative. We both appreciate handmade items and have enjoyed this little bowl.


After starting a vase around the Flapjack flowers, they are barely visible (grey flowers and succulent leaf) I think the result is more Tropical Punch or Plum Tropical.

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.


Nom de Plume-Brazilian Plume

Brazilian Plume

Brazilian Plume – Justicia carnea

The truth is, I guess I have a Nom de Plume, not relative to how recently I learned to spell the word. I am, after all, from Tucker, Georgia, USA, and for the most part we do not speak French. Or Italian, for that matter. I foolishly took Italian in college, not realizing that my Southern accent would render it, for me, near impossible to trill R’s. Think Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind.. With an Italian accent, if you are not laughing now, you should be. Maybe not, Vivien Leigh was indeed English and I don’t really sound like that, at all. Fortunately, my mother did, kind of. Italians just laughed at me and said “we do not understand your southern dialetto” or something like that. Eventually I successfully ordered a glass of white wine.

Brazilian Plume

Brazilian Plume

My Nom de Plume is The Shrub Queen, but today I am writing about a different plume, one in my garden, The Brazilian Plume, nope, not the wax, not the butt, the plant. I had seen these on the internet and was in search of one. Living in South Florida and the time was winter (All the disposable income in North America is Here) I found one at a garden show a bit north of here and grabbed it.

As these things sometimes go, I left it in the yard, for a while, sporadically watering it..hmm, hmm, hmm, then noticed it had a really, really terrible case of scale and whitefly (i.e. nearly dead) Well, that just wouldn’t do, so I cut it back, treated it, and miraculously cured it. After spending a month in the Garden ICU, the Plume is ready to go in the garden. These supposedly grow to be 7 feet tall and wide. I think that is a little more than 2 meters for metric users. I just need to decide where to put it.

Here are the other things blooming in the garden:

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We have a bit of fragrance going now and while I am enjoying the Florida Gardenia, it is about 10 feet tall and is never so covered in flowers the smell knocks you over – I am glad the romantic sounding Arabian Jasmine is a fair distance away, it’s like that guy you know who uses so much aftershave he can’t tell it is too much anymore.

The Blue Plumbago is the Hydrangea of the tropics and so much easier to grow. That Hibiscus is an old fashioned variety planted by my neighbor’s grandmother on the edge of the property. If I knew what it was I would search for another.

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..


Strange Fruits



Here it is almost December and I walked out into my backyard to find a Passionflower in full bloom and fruiting. Very nice and so typical of the landscape in South Florida. Just when you are wrapping your brain around the fact that the holidays are here and the temperature outside is around 80 degrees – there is a Passionflower.

I was wondering if this was a culinary Passionfruit and apparently it is not. This is called a May Pop in northern climes. My father in law was from Northern Ohio and one of his favorite childhood memories was stomping May Pops on the way home from school. Probably in May and not December.

Passionfruit comes from Passiflora edulis, which is native to South America. The North American version is Passiflora incarnata, the May Pop. There are an additional eight varieties native to North America, the culinary variety is tropical and may be grown in South Florida.

Ponciana Pods

Poinciana Pods

Here is some more interesting fruit. These are the dried pods of the Royal Poinciana tree, a member of the bean family. The pods are about two feet long and I enjoy spray painting them a metallic color and using them in Holiday decorations. I am truly getting in touch with my inner Martha Stewart.

The last bit of strange fruit I spotted at my local library. I have watched these trees bloom for the past couple of years, but had not noticed the fruit (it is strange that I did not notice this fruit)

Golden Shower Fruit

Golden Shower Fruit

My husband was snickering when I showed him this photo. It is pretty strange fruit, the whole thing is around 3 feet long and looks like someone has been making green sausages and hanging them on the tree. The tree is a Golden Shower (Cassia fistula) – in the spring and summer it has chains of yellow flowers that resemble Hawaiian leis hanging down from the branches. Beautiful and kind of peculiar. Like many things in South Florida.