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.

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