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’.

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In A Vase on Monday-The Pumpkin Chronicles

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In a Vegetable on Monday, Part Two. My gourd collection from last week was looking pretty good so I decided to add to the arrangement with an heirloom pumpkin for Halloween. Today is Halloween in the US, traditionally the time to carve a pumpkin into a Jack O Lantern then go door to door seeking chocolate (or that is how I think of it).20161028_185146

This is a Jarrahdale Pumpkin, totally non traditional and it hails from Australia. My father was an enormous fan of pumpkin carving so in his honor, I carve a pumpkin every Halloween. I decided to research this one a bit to see if it was edible – it is, and reportedly has sweet, melon like flesh perfect for pies. My husband is regionally famous for his pumpkin pies – so I read on to find that I should roast the pumpkin for 20-30 minutes if I wanted to save the flesh and then scoop out the flesh and continue with my ‘decorative use’.

Upon the completion of the short roasting time, the shell had changed color a bit and the flesh was slightly softer, but not cooked, so I chiseled it out with a serrate knife, being careful to use my not so nice knife in case it snapped. The pumpkin looked a bit like a crocodile so I carved a mean face into it. The flowers may offset the meaness.

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Not so sure about the flesh, I just collected it and put in back in the oven to roast and set about arranging the flowers.

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Starting in the front, the yellow flowers are Beach Sunflowers (Helianthus debilis) the coral star shaped flowers are Dwarf Red Ixora, with a bit of Asian Sword Fern. The red and green leafless stems are from a Firesticks Pencil Cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli), red and yellow flowers are Parrot Flower (Heliconia psittacorum), red bell shaped flowers are from Firecracker Plant (Russelia), the grey foliage is from Flapjack Kalanchoes and a leaf from Split Leaf Philodendron (Philodendron selloum) completes the arrangement. The flowers are in a glass I put into the pumpkin, there is also a tealight candle in there, but I have mixed feelings about lighting it.

About this time, I took the pumpkin out of the oven, let it cool, had a taste and discovered it it really good and does taste of sweet melon – unfortunately, after all that I ended up with 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree. Pumpkin bread, anyone?

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Here is a much more traditional Jack O Lantern from years past, Happy Halloween!

Recovering the Herb Garden

 

Terracotta Herb Container

Terracotta Herb Container

I have had abdominal surgery twice in two years. This has been detrimental to the quality of my herb and vegetable garden. The last surgery was in October and (knock wood) there are no more holes in my gut to repair. Yay, I have been pulling weeds (and am able to pull weeds!-very exciting) in an attempt to reclaim my two herb beds.

These two beds were constructed a couple of years ago and contain the most fertile soil on the otherwise laughably infertile sand dune I live on. The pure fecundity and variety of the weeds I removed was astounding. What is also interesting is the Rosemary, Bay and German Thyme have all managed to survive the onslaught. Thyme isn’t even supposed to grow this far south. Go figure. I like to use all of these herbs and have clipped the tips off while allowing innundation of the rest of the plant so things are a bit leggy or perhaps I will decide these are simply tree form herbs. Garden problem solving at its finest. The tree form.

Reclaimed Rosemary

Reclaimed Rosemary

I think the Rosemary will be OK. My experience with Rosemary is if cut back too hard it tends to die. Oddly enough the  Rosemary is leaning in the direction of the winter wind, it gives a sculptural effect to the plant.  I discovered the Chives had made bulbs about three times bigger than any I had seen before:

Overgrown Chives?

Overgrown Chives?

I looked at these and realized I probably have enough Chives for a restaurant. Chives, in my experience make maybe 1/2″ bulbs and retain circular foliage. These bulbs are 3 times bigger and the foliage is flat and not particularly tasty. My best guess is to divide and conquer, so I chopped them into bits and replanted them into a shadier area. Time will tell about the success of the chive chopping.

I have been using a terracotta container on my front porch for most herbs while the bigger beds languished in benign neglect. Currently the pot has Parsley, Creeping Rosemary, German and Lemon Thyme and Basil. It is close to the kitchen and a real plus is that the cats can’t get to it.

The refurbishing of the garden begins tomorrow. I have collected Lemon Thyme, Dill, Cilantro, Snow Peas and Radishes to grow with the existing Tree Formed Rosemary and Bay.

Hopefully it doesn’t rain.

The Vegetable Garden

One of the many weird things about South Florida is Vegetable Gardens. Whereas,  anywhere north of, say Lake City, Florida, tomatoes are planted in late spring and enjoyed all summer. Here it is Halloween. It is just not really normal. The other odd thing is you stop gardening around the summer solstice; sometime around the end of June it becomes too hot to leave the Air Con. The humidity also starts growing the most fantastic mildews and bugs and biblical type events. I have been told it is possible to grow tomatoes year round but you have to put umbrellas over them in the summer. This seems a bit much. Why do that when the grocery store has air conditioning?

Last year I planted tomatoes the week of Christmas, just so I could remember when I had planted them. This year I planted them in January because there had been some cold snaps and I was waiting for the weather to clear. The vegetables are proceeding normally, I have green beans, broccoli and herbs as well. Looking forward to picking some vegetables soon.

I have no fear of a tomatoless life. Worst comes to worst there is always Publix or our local produce purveyor. Our local farm stand has an incredibly reliable source of good Roma Tomatoes, actually ripe and tasty, I eat them year round. There is another vegetable phenomenon that is peculiar to South Florida..there is no summer corn on the cob, but it is here every other season. Winter corn was a discovery I have been enjoying.

I have recently learned how to make fresh pasta. As a result of this we have been eating fresh corn, red onion, spinach, garlic and herbs all sautéed in bacon fat over pasta. OK, it is low sodium Bacon with a little Olive Oil so it won’t stick to the inside of my veins.

This week I bought a Lime tree, Everbearing is what the label said. This brings my fruit tree count to three, a Dwarf Thai Mango and a Meyer’s Lemon are already planted. We have had some lemons and they were great. Eventually I will have to learn how to make Mango Margaritas and use all homegrown fruit. The jury is still out on buying a banana or a Papaya tree. Not sure I would ever be able to eat all those bananas.