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, December 30, 2010

My Favorites....this Month!

Since we had an early cold snap, my favorite flowers in the December garden are the ones that survived the frosty breath of Old Man Winter. And, these cold-hardy flowers are definitely bringing a ray of sunshine to my frostbitten yard. From left to right: pansies, cassia (can you believe they survived the frost?), ornamental kale, Sparkling Burgundy camellia and Gerbera daisy (notice the odd shape center).


But, what's really catching my eye this month is the colorful tree foliage. The sweetgums and maples are astonishing! So much so, that I couldn't stop admiring them and snapping picture after picture. Generally, our leaves will fall before cold weather arrives...never having the chance to turn a brilliant color. Needless to say, I'm thoroughly enjoying the autumn color in early winter.

Feast your eyes on these beauties!
Maples, Sweetgums and Cypress

Simple Holiday Pleasures

Baking sweet holiday treats for my family.

A few quiet moments to enjoy the treats with a good steaming cup of java!

I hope your holidays were filled with joy and laughter, plenty of good food, and sweet family memories.

It's been an interesting gardening year as we experienced one of our worst winters, followed by a dry summer, and now ending with a colder than normal December. Who knows what surprises January and February have in store for us. Here's a look back at all my favorites in 2010.

Happy New "Gardening" Year Everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Our orchids (many of which have been gifts over the years) are showering us with blossoms this Christmas season.


The early cold weather has mean't that the plants have been spending most of their time indoors where I've been able to enjoy them even more.


And, their scent, especially in the  morning is heavenly. It makes me feel like I'm living in a florist shop.


I'm always amazed that a tightly wrapped bud produces such a large...completely perfect...flower. How that happens is truly a mystery of nature.

 

Both of these orchids are gifts from my mom. As her plants grew larger, she split them and shared them with me. Her same plants are also loaded with blossoms right now. Her light colored one has 10 flowers on it. It's amazing!


They love hanging in the shade of the Live oak, and hopefully they'll be outdoors again for a while before another cold front arrives.


These phaeleonopsis blossoms will last for months.


The cattleya blossoms don't last as long...a few weeks at most, but they are the most beautiful.


Here they are enjoying a good soaking and a little time outdoors in between cold snaps.

I hope all of you will find a "gift that keeps on giving" under your Christmas tree this year. :-)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Holiday Cheer

As I turned into Peterson's Nursery to buy the Yuletide camellia I blogged about earlier, their sign said they had 13 poinsettia varieties to choose from. WOW - 13!

I usually only see the traditional red and occassionally the white varieties at the local box store. My curiosity was peaked, as I quickly parked the car and headed inside, eager to see 13 different poinsettia blooms. 

Their small shop was stuffed full of holiday cheer in the form of poinsettias. Plants lined the shelves, floor and counter. Wandering from one plant to another, I oohed and awed at curly and speckled flowers, varying shades of pink and red, small and large blossoms, and plants with variegated foliage. 

Of course, I knew I wasn't leaving there with just the Yuletide camellia :-), but the problem was how to decide which one to purchase. That decision soon became impossible and I left with 2 varieties. 

Sometimes indecision can be a good thing! ;-)

Here's my first choice - a pink and cream colored flower (I know these are actually the leaves, but I call them flowers).

The soft pink was just too irresistable! I have a holiday table runner with pink flowers on it that will go perfectly with this selection.

Then I discovered this variegated variety, and it was an instant decision that this plant was going home with me, too. Can you blame me?


These 3 colors are stunning together. I'm going to grow these poinsettias in pots, so that I can bring them indoors and enjoy them again next Christmas.

May your house be filled with the Christmas spirit, and a couple of beautiful poinsettias!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finally...Flowers!

Two years ago I purchased this Christmas senna a/k/a Christmas cassia or golden shower for two reasons...obviously for its beautiful blossoms, but also because it does double duty as a larval and host plant for Cloudless Sulphur butterflies. 

It did not disapoint me or the butterflies. For 12 months of the year (surprisingly it did not freeze last winter) the beautiful yellow sulpur butterflies hover all around this large shrub eating leaves and laying eggs. Large numbers of caterpillars can be found feasting on its leaves and flowers, and therein lies the problem when autumn rolls around.



Last year this time, I eagerly waited for the shower of yellow blossoms. I could picture what this shrub...which had grown larger than I expected...was going to look like, and I knew it was going to be fabulous. So, I eagerly waited...and waited...and waited.

When it didn't bloom, I took a closer look and realized that all those hungry little caterpillars were devouring the flowers, too. Yikes - I had no idea they ate the flowers! I fed it some bloom booster fertilizer hoping to encourage some more buds. As soon as those buds developed...the hungry little caterpillars feasted some more. As a gardener...who eagerly awaits 11 months for a plant to bloom...you know how disapointed I was. 



Well, this year I decided to take matters into my own hands. I love the Sulphurs and they are welcome to feast on this plant for 11 months out of the year, but for one month...I want to enjoy this plant. So, I hand-picked the caterpillars off...NO, I didn't destroy them...instead I placed them on the candlestick plant...another great host plant for them. YES, it was a lot of work...but it was worth it as you can see in the photo above.

By the way, did you know that the cats that feed on the leaves are green, while the ones that feed on the flowers are yellow? I read that on Grower Jim's blog...Garden Adventures (check out the photos of the caterpillars on his blog), and sure enough I had both colored cats on this plant.

Isn't it great what you learn from other gardeners?


Here's a close-up of the clusters of luscious yellow blossoms, and you can see there are still some buds to open. I go outside numerous times a day...don't laugh at me now...just to feast my eyes on this beauty, and then I just have to go over and touch the flowers, and tell the Senna just how gorgeous she looks. I know...I sound silly, but I've waited 2 years to see her loaded with blooms. A "real gardener" understands what I'm talking about. ;-)

After nurturing these buds along for two months, I only hope that all these blossoms won't be a distant memory after tonight's freeze. Oh well, for now I'll enjoy her spectacular display and then turn her back over to the Sulphur's.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Round One

Winter appears to be early this year as round one of...who knows how many...cold fronts has come, and is now slowly leaving. As our early morning temps hovered right at the 32 degree mark, the garden was remarkably untouched...including our poinsettia.

A quick look at the vegetable garden...and the only casualty so far is the green beans. The tomato bush is hanging in there, but I fear with round two coming early next week there's not much hope for it.

So, I took NanaKay's...at My Garden Path...advice and purchased a Yuletide camellia bush. She'll be planted beside the front porch, and each year we'll look forward to the holiday cheer she'll add to our December garden. Thanks for the great tip, NanaKay...she is a beauty!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Right on Time

It's December...can you believe it?

This month always seems to creep up on me before I know it. I may not be expecting it, but my plants are always tuned in to the changing seasons.

For instance, the poinsettia in the garden is right on time...displaying red for the holiday season.

And, the aptly-named Matchstick bromeliad is right on time, too. I love the fluorescent purple and blue color.

Paired up with impatiens in the same color...it's a good match...no pun intended. :-)

Another bromeliad in similar colors is also right on time. My mother calls this the Christmas bromeliad...because it always blooms around Christmas time. Sorry I don't know the name of it...I should because Steve from Rainforest Gardener...identified it last year for me. Sorry Steve! Perhaps you will be so kind as to I.D. it again for me. It is a real beauty!

I'm sure glad my plants don't rely on me to remind them when to bloom.

As life gets busy this month with all its added demands...don't forget to see what's blooming in your garden.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

My Favorites...this month!

There's one plant in particular that thrives in autumn --- the rose.
The milder temperatures produce a bounty of large, sweet-smelling blossoms. So, this month I'm keeping it simple, and featuring only the roses in my garden as my favorites.

A mix of modern shrub and antique varieties

What simple but extraordinary beauty!
Sombreuil

 

Belinda's Dream

With a grateful heart I give thanks for all my blessings, and I wish each of you a wonderful day spent with family and friends.


If you'd like to join me in posting your favorites for the month, please do...they don't have to be in collage form...but do leave a comment, so I can drop by and see your favorites.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Five Years Later

Little did I know that five years ago this month, I was about to get hooked on blogging. Five years, and 235 posts later...I'm still blogging, and enjoying it more than ever.

It all started when I discovered Fragments from Floyd...a blog written by Fred First about life in Floyd County, Virginia. I was so taken with his beautiful photography and heartfelt thoughts, that I decided to give it a whirl. My blog didn't start out as a garden blog...it was more about life's simple pleasures...but it quickly evolved into one.

Blogging has been a positive force for me and my garden. I have enjoyed reading other blogs, making new friends and interacting with them through their blog, as well as meeting some in person. It's tremendous how much I've learned from what others have written. It has made me a better gardener, and my garden has flourished with newfound ideas and knowledge. Gardener's are very warm and generous people by nature, and they love sharing information as well as plants.

From my humble perspective, garden blogs are one example of  "what's right" in this world --kind and passionate people, communicating and generously sharing what they know -- making the world a better place!

To all of you who write such wonderful blogs, and those of you who visit my blog-- I would like to say "thank you!" It has been sooooo much fun, very enjoyable as well as enlightening, and I look forward to the fun continuing.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Now for a look back...  

My first post was created from a template of a poem written by George Ella Lyons that Fragments From Floyd posted on his blog. It was a lot of fun to write, and it brought back memories that I hadn't thought about in years. In visiting the past, I realized the profound impact those years have had on who I am today.


Where I'm From


I am from the humid and still heat of the South, from Noxzema and home-cooked German meals.
I am from a simple place, a dirt road, the saving grace of books, and endless summer days.
I am from orange blossoms and palm trees, saturating the air and swaying in the breeze.
I am from memorable holiday celebrations, from sensible German heritage-hearty stock, frugal and stubborn.

I am from an inner world where thoughts and feelings are closely guarded.
From the endless affirmation that a good work ethic is a virtue.
I am from the traditional realm of Martin Luther, idealism, the voice of intuition, fairy tales & happy endings.
I am from the land of Spanish moss and oak trees, from the old world of castles & knights, orangesicles & sauerkraut.

From an optimist and a homebody, from grandparents I barely knew but inherited a love for the soil.
I am from a world neatly saved and cherished, the earthy smell of steamy rainshowers, family walks after dinner, unending thoughts & questions.

Keep blogging everybody as your beautiful photos and your love and care of the earth along with its wild creatures...in the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes...really do help "Mend the part of the world that is within your reach."

And, don't forget to create your own "Where I'm From" poem - you'll learn a lot about yourself!

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Favorites...this month!

Autumn Favorites



Summers in Florida are long and hot, so when autumn rolls around there's much to celebrate...crisp mornings, pleasantly warm afternoons, low humidity, soft golden sunlight, and LOTS of color.

It's not our tree color that will take your breath away...
it's the flower color...in every shade imaginable...that puts a smile on my face.

So, please forgive me in advance  for this long post on my October favorites....but autumn makes me a very, very happy gardener. 




Flowers

Roses love autumn, too, and Sombreuill's (antique French variety) simple beauty and intoxicating fragrance is wonderful. I love the unique color and the name of the waxy-feeling flower of Allamanda 'Cherries Jubilee'.  The bright yellow Cassia "Alata' or, as I prefer...Candlestick bloom is a real eye-catcher and a favorite of the Cloudless Sulphur butterflies, and the chubby little bumble bee you see in the photo. Right on schedule, the Sasanqua camellias 'Sparkling Burgundy'...which are loaded with buds...will bloom into winter. And, lastly this cute little red tubular flower (sorry, but I don't know the name...perhaps someone can identify it for me) is popular with the hummers.

Orchids
The orchids got off to a late start this year, but the wait was well worth it.

Plants
Soft purple and green foliage seems to dominate the autumn garden. The pretty cordyline was one I received as a passalong plant from my neighbor Nancy. Striking leather-looking foliage on the Alocasia 'Amazonica' was what attracted me to this plant...it's a real standout in the garden. One of my newly favorite plants is the Lorapetlum 'Ruby'. I love the dark-colored leaves in shades of burgundy and green, and the dark hot pink flowers that it produces a couple times of year is the icing on the cake. And, lastly American Beauty Berry is so very pretty in the garden....and, the birds love it, too!

Grasses
Ornamental grasses are so fall...don't you think? The upper left and lower right...at different stages...are from the same large variegated variety of grass. It was a variety that was unfortunately unnamed when I purchased it, but I liked it so much that I decided to give it a try, and it has done well over the last two years. Other ornamental grasses shown are Pink Muhly and Red Fountain.

Wild Things
In my wildlife area, I let the native wildflowers take over in the spring and fall. I was delighted to discover the plant...Showy Rattlebox 'Crotalaria spectabilis'...with the pretty stalk of yellow flowers. They look like little orchids. I'm definitely going to save some seeds from it. The upper left photo with the yellow stuff on a rotting log appears to be some kind of fungi. I love the bright yellow color. And, the cute little pink flower...I think it's some kind of mallow is a favorite of the Bumble Bees.

Autumn's Simple Pleasures




Chrysanthemums are the quintessential autumn flower. While some folks might think of them as too old-fashioned or ordinary a flower...it wouldn't feel like autumn to me without these traditional beauties gracing my front and back porch.

I love their scent, too!
                Pretty at all stages of bloom.

Just take a look at their simple beauty!

This year I'm borrowing an idea from my neighbor, and planting these in the ground. He's got a nice sized patch of yellow mums that rebloom twice each year, and they look stunning in his garden.

Breakfast on the Patio
Coffee and hot chocolate...with marshmallows, of course...along, with some apple streusel muffins for breakfast enjoyed on a refreshingly cool morning.

What amazing autumn color is in your Florida garden?
 If you'd like to join me in posting your favorites for the month, please do...they don't have to be in collage form...but do leave a comment, so I can drop by and see your favorites.

Monday, October 18, 2010

First Harvest

While watering the garden, I discovered some green beans that were ready to be harvested. It seemed to early to check, so I was surprised at my discovery. I guess I better check my veggies a little closer from now on.

A few to eat with the promise of more to come.

The green onions and the leeks are progressing nicely.

Strawberries (on the left) planted last year are still looking good and are now producing babies. We're looking forward to some sweet berries in late winter. And, the sweet potato plant (on the right) continues to spread itself like a blanket across my limited garden space.

The delicate tendrils of the cucumbers are attaching themselves to their support, and climbing higher by the day.
I'm always amazed at how this process works.
But, there is a pesky little pest that is starting to make the pretty fuzzy leaves look like lace.
Does anyone have any tips on how to stop their destruction?

Herbs from early spring are still providing us with plenty of spice for our food, as well as some pretty flowers on the basil.

Soon I'll be eating summer squash....one of my favorites! 

More green onions...left over from early spring are still going strong. These onions are one of the easiest crops for me to grow. No pests attack them, and they even tolerate drying out in their container when I forget to water them. And, since the cooler weather has arrived...the tomato plant has ballooned in size and is beginning to set fruit. Can't wait for some yummy beefsteak tomatoes.

I hope all of your veggie gardens are growing well, and that your harvests will be plentiful!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Autumn Joy

The days of autumn are pure joy!

My garden is happily transitioning into autumn, as evidenced by the changing color of the foliage and berries on the Heavenly bamboo. This plant looks good in all four seasons.

The hibiscus that were so severely damaged last winter have returned to their full glory. I have missed their gorgeous flowers, and am so happy to have them back.

So colorful are these tropical beauties basking in the sunshine.

This cordyline...a passalong from my neighbor...is sporting some creamy white flower spikes for the first time.   

And, the very unusual Dutchman's pipe is loaded with buds and flowers. Such an odd sight...but the butterflies love it.

Getting back out in the garden means visiting my favorite nurseries for some replacement plants. I was pleasantly surprised to find this flowering maple and leopard plant at my local Ace hardware...they aren't plants that you find everyday. They make a great combo...don't you think? Unfortunately, one prefers sun while the other needs shade, so I'll have to find other companions for them. 
I've admired the leopard plant at our local public garden for a number of years, and knew I would search for one someday in the future. The leaves remind me of begonias, and the soft yellow spots add nice color to the garden.

The humidity-free days of autumn, along with the cool morning air and the warm sunny afternoons are pure joy to a Florida gardener!

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