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!

Friday, July 20, 2007

A Cool Old Man

Our neighbors have a GIANT of an oak tree in their yard. One day as we strolled by it, we noticed it had a face on it. We had actually looked at this tree many times before but never noticed it. It looks so natural that it is not easy to see upon first glance. It makes you wonder how much we miss around us because we don't take the time to really look at something. I've never seen a tree face like this, but it's really cool. The tree actually looks as though it's alive (of course, it's alive - it's a tree), and I want to pull up a chair and listen to his stories of all that he has seen in his long life.

The Lights of Summer

The first night we stayed in our new home I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the vacant property next to us (the one with the foot high weeds) was alive with the twinkling light of Fireflies. I haven't seen Fireflies in Florida since I was a kid, and actually hadn't thought much about them since then either. The discovery brought back childhood memories of warm, sticky summer nights and the delight of watching the luminescent little creatures buzz off and on. I quickly yelled for my daughter to come outside. Her mouth fell open with the discovery of such a unique insect. She instantly named them "glitter bugs."

I looked them up on Wikipedia and discovered some interesting facts. Even the eggs and larvae of some species glow, and that's where the name "glow worm" comes from. They are beetles and 90% of the firefly's energy is converted into light. In some areas (including North Carolina) large groups of them synchronize their flashes. Here is a real interesting tidbit of information, especially if you're a male firefly - The male flashes patterns of light to the female. The females signal in response from the ground (they don't fly). When he sees her flash back, he continues to signal and move closer. Some females of different species have become so good at mimicking the right flash in order to prey on the males. As the male flies down to the mimicking female, he is captured and eaten - this process is referred to as "femme fatale." And, they call females the weaker sex!!!

Now, whenever we stay at the new house, I make a point to go out and enjoy the mysterious blinking summer lights.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

HELP! Any Suggestions?


This picture doesn't show clearly the problem in this flower bed. It is a nice bed of azalea plants (about 3 1/2 feet tall) that has a number of unwanted trees (they're the scraggly lookings things on the top) growing up through the bushes. I keep clipping the trees back but that only makes them come back thicker. I've tried to dig them out but many are lodged up against the azalea roots and others I just can't get to. This is an annoying problem that I have to keep addressing, and as you can see by the photo I haven't addressed it in quite some time. Any suggestions on how to rid this bed, once and for all, of these unwanted trees would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks!

Avocado Surprise


My step-dad gave me this avocado from the tree in his yard. I was eager to slice it and enjoy the creamy buttery flavor of it with a salad for dinner that night. When I opened it and saw the seed, I got this "brilliant idea" that I could grow a tree from it and plant it at the new homestead. Then I would have this tree to remind me of him in the future. I called him up and asked if it was possible to grow a good tree from seed. He said I could but it would take about 10 or 12 years to bear a fruit if it didn’t freeze in the meantime. He said I would be better off to buy a grafted one for $10 or $12. So much for that “brilliant idea!" And by the way, I took a bite out of the avocado and almost choked on the bitterness. Yuk! The sharp taste of that bitterness lasted for a good 15 minutes, even after I downed a tall glass of iced tea (southern table wine). Next time I’ll let it fully ripen before I slice it open.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Bit of Thanks



Some days you just have to count your lucky stars and be grateful for life as it is. It's so easy to breeze through the day without noticing the beauty that surrounds us. How the light filters through the tree branches or the mandevilla vine covered in soft white flowers. It's so easy to walk past people without making eye contact or smiling at them. Then a day comes when you see someone innocently suffering from the uncertainties of life, and your eyes open and, even if, for a short period of time, the world looks different to you - warm, inviting, complete and beautiful. You slow down, count your lucky stars and give thanks.

These bold and colorful flowers for the young woman I crossed paths with this morning. Best wishes!

A Clean Slate


Having just completed building a new home, I now have a clean-slate of a yard in which to begin the fun of landscaping. This is the first time that I won’t have to assume an existing yard full of bushes that need trimming. Trimming bushes is my least favorite thing to do in the yard, and I’m not good at keeping up with the trimming at all. Personally, I like my garden to look a little soft and free-flowing. Yards that look pruned and manicured to the max leave me a little cold.

But now, with such a clean slate, I find myself constanly lost in thought about what to plant. I know I want simple, low maintenance shrubbery around the front of the house, lots of flowering plants and colorful foliage. Pathways with butterfly plants, in the back. Plus plenty of large formosa azaleas, bromeliads, sitting areas and a "real" vegetable garden.

Currently there is only one straggly maple in the front and two nice big Live oaks in the back. Two cabbage palms that came up from seed are a nice size and, fortunately, are located in a good spot alongside the driveway. We had to bring in lots of sand (the builder’s type) to build up the site for the home, so I have soil that is absolutely devoid of any organic matter of any kind. I feel sorry for the plants that will be forced to endure this beach sand (minus the salt) environment.

My dream garden is one that embodies that “old Florida” look with large oaks draped abundantly in Spanish moss, towering palm trees swaying in the breeze, large curvy beds stuffed with tropicals, roses, azaleas, childhood favorites (angel trumpets, 4 o’clock s, yellow-candlesticks, etc.), and blooming butterfly-attracting plants, all outlined with lots of thick robust border grass (liriope).

As you can see by the photo, I have a real challenge ahead of me. Patience will be the name of the game as I wait for my new garden to take on an old established look.

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