Welcome to my zone 9 garden. My roots are deeply planted in the sandy soil of sub-tropical central Florida, where the summers are long and hot, but the rest of the year is paradise!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Best Things about Summer - June

Even though a Florida summer is long and never short on heat and humidity, there are lots of good things about our summer and here are a few of them ~ ~

Eastern Black Swallowtail on heirloom red pentas

Monarch on heirloom red pentas 

You can't beat the old fashioned red pentas as a nectar source in the garden. Plus, it seems to LOVE the heat!!

Zebra Longwings on Passion vine.

I believe this is Horace's Duskywing on the native Tropical Salvia. This is an exciting discovery because I don't think I've ever seen this butterfly in my yard before. Love new discoveries like this!

 The  little mosquito-eating machines are back in full force these days. Dragonflies are one of the best insects in a Florida garden, especially if you have bromeliads in the garden.  

Sometimes when I catch a dragonfly in a certain position such as this one, it looks like a little fairy. Perhaps that is how stories of fairies in the garden originated.  

I do not know the names of these dashing fellows, but I love the color variations and their paper thin wings. I can't imagine that the wind doesn't obliterate those fragile-looking, cellophane wings.

Now that I've photographed a few dragonflies and noticed how beautiful they are, I'm really smitten with them. I always thought a dragonfly was a dragonfly, but these little guys are just stunning! I had no idea that I had so many different species of dragonflies in the garden. How awesome is that! This one looks like another fairy, although I have to say they also look like stained-glass helicopters hovering in the air.

A young Red Cardinal hanging out in the trees. His parents must have shown him where the feeder is because I catch him there many times during the day. 

Plenty of pollinators taking advantage of all the wonderful summer blooms - like this purple pentas (my second favorite pentas) - in my garden.

Bees are lovin' the Agastache

Here's a close up of the chubby little bugger!

This little guy is loaded down with pollen on his feet and underbelly

And, I am thankful for Swallowtail butterflies in the making as they devour my parsley.

Now, this little guy - - definitely not thankful for him!!! He is probably one of the worst things about summer, with the exception of a devastating hurricane or having your house struck by lightning! He creates his own kind of devastation.

Don Juan roses still in bloom are a definite plus, especially when they're mingled with palm fronds.

The 'Kwanso' daylily is one from my late aunt and a real beauty on its super tall and super beefy stalks.

Love, love an abundance of blooms in the June garden.

And, last but not least, is the return of the crape myrtle. This one is 'Dynamite' and I would agree that that is the perfect name for it. What would a Florida summer be like without crape myrtles? I, for one, can't even imagine!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Purple Passion

My latest passion in the garden is the purple passion flower vine also known as Maypop! 

Everyday it's loaded with the promise of many new flowers to come.

The large buds open quickly each morning to reveal a quirky, other-worldly, exotic and downright funky looking purple flower. I read that the bloom contains a lot of religious symbolism. 

I weave some of the vine through the fence, while some of it dangles loosely.

It attaches itself with these curly tendrils to the Beautyberry that's planted beneath it.

  I've never seen any flower like it. Each flower is an intricate piece of art. Look at all the detail in that flower. If I were an artist, I wouldn't know where to start to capture all the amazing detail of this passion flower.

Each flower lasts only one day, and then slowly a small round fruit develops. I read that they will ripen later this summer, and I look forward to tasting it and perhaps making some tea with it.

I resisted planting this vine in my yard because I know it can have a somewhat invasive habit, but I relented because of one reason - Butterflies. The Gulf Fritillary and Zebra Longwing (our state butterfly) is also passionate about the passion vine. It is a host plant for their young. I caught a blurry photo of a Zebra Longwing in the lower left corner, as she and her friends flutter around this vine from sun up to sun down.  

They lay their tiny little yellow eggs on top of the leaves,

 and when they hatch they chew on the leaves until they get big and transform into more Zebra Longwings.

 I was lucky to catch these two newly emerged butterflies drying in the sun one morning. 

I don't know why it took me so long to plant this vine, but I'm sure glad I did because I love seeing the gorgeous flowers and the fluttering butterflies through the French door. It's a real summer treat!

I find this flower so mesmerizing! I can't help but admire its bizarre, yet amazing bloom. 

The rock star Prince might have his 'purple rain' but I have my 'purple passion!'

Monday, June 06, 2016

A Feathered Nest

Shortly after I started working on my new garden, I hung a plastic gourd birdhouse from the arbor. I was hoping that a mama bird might use it to feather her nest someday. Nothing happened the first year, even though the Carolina Wren checked it out and placed a few sticks inside of it.

 But recently when I was working in the garden, I noticed the Carolina Wren flying back and forth to the gourd. I got all excited about it and headed inside to get my camera.

Standing far away from the nest, I zoomed in as far as I could and was able to see a couple of babies in the nest.  Isn't that the cutest little face ever? After mama flew away, I walked past the gourd and could hear the chirps of hungry little baby birds.

As I sat at the back of the garden and watched mama fly back and forth with tasty treats, I noticed that she was plucking Zebra Longwing caterpillars off the passion vine growing just a short distance from the gourd. 

That wasn't exactly what I had planned when I planted the vine but, oh well, there will be more Zebra Longwings in the future. And, perhaps, that is why she chose to feather her nest in the gourd. In the meantime, I'll just enjoy the striking purple flowers, and the adorable little wrens as they learn how to fly.

As my garden becomes more established, I'm happy - actually, I'M THRILLED - to see more and more wildlife making it their home.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

One Year Later

A few weeks ago I was strolling back through my blog and came upon photos of the backyard in May of 2015. I saved the pics so I could do a post on how the garden has matured in one year.

So, here we go! Let's take a look at the garden one year ago and one year later.

This photo was taken at almost mid-garden looking toward the north. Everything was very tiny, and the elevated area in the far corner was just barely a thought in my mind.

One year later and everything is filling in nicely, and the idea for the far corner garden is on its way.  More on that "secret" little space in a future post.

Now standing in about the same spot mid-garden but looking in the opposite direction (toward the south), it was pretty well planted but all very small.

One year later and it's starting to look a little more jungle-like.

At the very south corner of the garden is a view of the patio and the butterfly garden.

One year later and we've just about lost view of the wall surrounding the patio. 

This area is located right next to the patio in the above photo (where the corner of the house is) and is a view of the south side of the garden. 

One year later and most of the fence is covered with the exception of the gate. 

It's amazing to look back and see how it has grown and filled in in just one year. A mix of warm weather, plentiful rain and no winter freezes makes for perfect growing conditions. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Organized Chaos!!!

As I was strolling through the "sunny butterfly corner" of my backyard the other day, two words came to mind - Organized Chaos! 

Yes, I have become very good at packing the plants into my small space!

So good, that even the walkways are narrowing. All I can say is it's been a GOOD year for Black-eyed Susan's, as they have reseeded prolifically throughout the garden. I did relocate a few into the garden beds, but I love the look of random clumps of flowers taking up space in the walkway.

And, then there's the discovery of a plant that I had forgotten I bought (the lavender Agastache) until its blooms sprung up between the Tropical Salvia and more Blackeyed-Susan's. Uhm, I might be a little out of control!!

 I love it when the blooms of plants intermingle together in one beautiful blooming feast for the eyes. 

Red Pentas, Black & Blue Salvia take front stage with, of course, more Black-eyed Susan's in the background. Pure Joy!

More heirloom red Pentas and Wendy's Wish Salvia are blending together on the south side of this area, while MORE Black-eyed Susan's have jumped the border and planted themselves between the border grass and the walkway.  I will tame these prolific little beasts back later this year, but for now they are a welcome addition and the butterflies and bees are lovin' them!

After seeing the photos above of what I call 'Organized Chaos' - you might be thinking that a better description would be 'Utter Chaos!' But, I beg to differ! 

According to the Collins Dictionary, the definition of 'organized chaos' is "a complex situation or process that appears chaotic while having enough order to achieve its goals." 

My goal for this space is to have plenty of nectar plants to keep as many butterflies, as possible, happy - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

 Miss Makayla loves our 'wild little jungle!' Sometimes she's hidden away beneath the plants, and other times she oversees her blooming kingdom from up high.

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