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, February 27, 2009

February Orchids

Most people use their patio furniture to dine outdoors but I use mine to display my orchids. This outside deck sits a little higher than our patio and I get a great shot of these orchids from my kitchen window. I get a chance to enjoy them and they are able to stay outside where they prefer it.
I didn't even know we had this little cutie. It has such a cheerful bloom in the midst of winter.
Here's one of my favorites - a green orchid. I love this orchid for its unusual green-colored flower and the frilly edge of the bloom. Green flowers are not all that common. I am lucky that this orchid blooms several times a year.

I found this orchid at Home Depot. It grows in regular garden soil and wants full sun. The more sun it gets, the more bloom spikes it produces. Down here it can bloom for 9 months out of the year.

This orchid is a good producer. As a matter of fact it bloomed just a couple of months ago, and has now put out a new spike of blossoms.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The First Signs of Spring

Here at latitude 27 and longitude 88, spring creeps in slowly way before the official vernal equinox on the 21st of March.

The first sign of its arrival is in early February. It slips in between occasional cold snaps, and is evidenced by the colorful blooms of azaleas. Like the bulbs of the north, these pink, fuschia, white and red flowers bring cheer and hope to yards dotted with the frozen remnants of tropical plants.

Around the middle of February the moment of dawn arrives sooner and dusk stretches out minutes later each day, giving us more time to enjoy the increasingly pleasant temperatures. A small group of Purple Martins arrive ahead of the pack to scout out the territory where they will migrate to next on their journey northward.

The oaks begin their amazing transformation. One by one, handfuls of dry brown leaves float to the ground. The giants are shedding their old leaves and quietly gearing up for the start of a new season.
About the third week of this month, the first trees in my yard to complete this transformation and herald the spring is the laurel oak, followed by the maples, sweetgums and lastly, the live oak. With trees adorned in their fresh green canopy of leaves and azaleas looking like bouquets of flowers, my mood is lifted and once again the hope and promise of a new gardening season springs alive. I become obsessed with ideas and plans for the garden.

The Osprey also come back to life as they begin to rebuild their nests for the next brood of young 'uns. They soar through the air, happily chattering away as they collect branches in their strong talons and carry them back to their gargantuan nests perched atop cypress trees.
With congenial temperatures in the 70's, I can hardly resist being drawn outdoors with a rake in one hand and clippers in the other. I no longer can wait until February 28 -the last expected frost date for our region- to begin cutting away the dead reminders of winter.

As I begin cutting back plants, I notice tiny leaflets emerging from the bare branches. Once again the plants are quietly and mostly unnoticed, undergoing the process of recovery from the harsh breath dealt them by old man winter. Hope does spring eternal, even in plants!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Fourth "R"

A few posts ago I wrote about cleaning out my stash of empty pots in Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. Well now I have a fourth "R" to include among the original three. - RETURN. My mother was reading the post and in the photo she noticed a pot of hers that has been missing for some time. She called me on the telephone, and kindly asked if I would return her missing pot.

So, when you clean out your stash of pots, don't forget to reduce, reuse, recycle AND return.

Monday, February 23, 2009

A Distant Memory

Here's what's left of my angel trumpet after cutting back the damaged branches from January's cold weather. It's amazing how tough this tropical plant really is. Last year the bark on the main trunk actually split away from the tree. At that time, I thought the tree would die back to the ground. Instead new shoots shot up from the main trunk.

Here's a photo before it succumbed to the freeze. I took it just days ahead of the cold weather because I knew all the blooms would be gone. Its lush canopy was covered in sweet-smelling blossoms. I really hated to see it all turn to mush.
The trumpet-shaped (hence the name) blossoms are about 10 to 12 iniches long and dangle from the branches. I'm guessing the other part of the name "angel" must come from the heavenly scent of the blossoms. It's such an unusual flower and a real eye-catcher in the garden.

Here's a stunning view of the tree from underneath. A mixture of green and apricot that just looks so cheery!
And, a close-up view of the gorgeous trumpet blossoms as they hang suspended in air. The bees really have to travel deep into the heart of this flower to reach the hidden nectar. The good news is that the angel trumpet won't be a distant memory for long, as new green leaves are already emerging from the scarred trunk. I look forward to her return and can't wait for the first bloom later this spring.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Please Don't Toss the Leaves

It's the time of year when our oak trees totally transform themselves by shedding their entire canopy of leaves and regrowing a fresh new cover. Just think of all the energy it must take to complete this cycle. A really awesome and magnificent undertaking of nature in my opinion.

I'm fortunate to have 10 oaks (laurel, live and water) in my yard that create a great canopy of shade that I am especially grateful for during the summer months. With a good portion of leaves already off the branches we can see more sunlight and blue sky, and it's easy to spot squirrel and bird nests.

Many people get rid of their trees because they're messy and grass doesn't grow well beneath them. But I feel that their benefits far outweigh the falling leaves, as well as branches and moss that I pick up throughout the year.

As their leaves slowly float to the ground many end up in my flowerbeds as mulch. It's a real time-saver to have self-mulching flowerbeds. And, they're FREE! Which translated means - you can spend more money on plants when you don't have to buy mulch. These azaleas love oak leaf mulch.
And, then there are the ones that end up on the grass. That's where I come in. Every couple of days I go out and rake them into the flowerbeds. But most of my neighbors rake, bag and toss them to the curve.
And that's when I find myself (among protests from my embarrassed daughter) pulling over to the curb and quickly tossing a couple of bags into the back of my S.U.V. I have to agree with her that it is a little embarrassing but I just can't resist a bit more of free mulch especially when I didn't have to rake it.

By the way, I must confess that I come by this practice honestly. I actually never saw my mom snitch the neighbor's leaves on the curb. Instead she raked the neighbor's yard each spring and now she has beautiful garden soil. So, there we have it, another one of mom's ideas!

Monday, February 09, 2009

Lone Survivor

The winter freeze of 2009 will not long be forgotten in Florida, for it has left a path of dead and damaged plants in its wake. The 5 or 6 nights of 32 or below temps damaged all of the tropical plants in my garden except for this poinsettia. It is the lone survivor.

Generally, my poinsettia will be hanging its head after one night of freezing temperatures but not this year. I don't understand it because the tropical plant right next to it (I already cut if back) was brown and dead after the first night of freezing weather.

My angel trumpet (more on that later), hibiscus, impatiens, and crotons (not under tree cover) are brown. Even the pygmy date palm branches are singed.

Everytime another freezing night was projected, I figured that would be the end of the poinsettia. My neighbor told me I should cover it up, and my mom said I should cut it back and plant the cuttings. I don't understand how it survived but I'm glad it did. It looks even more beautiful among the brown and dead plants.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Uninvited Visitor

I caught a glimpse of you out the corner of my eye.

A feeling that was hauntingly familiar crept over me.

Oh no, not again!

You're welcome in the yard where your appetite for small delicacies is much appreciated.

But not in the house where you creep me out!

So, out you go. No personal offense intended.

Please don't drop in again next year.

Here he is trying to find his way back outside. Last year another rat snake (same size) was actually inside the house wrapped around a wall sconce. I still shudder at the thought.

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