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!

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Roses - Another Favorite

Roses are one of those plants that if I'm not careful...I could very easily develop a new obsession over. Many yards ago, I had a small rose garden with probably a dozen or so hybrid roses. I loved the look of the large hybrids for cut flowers, but their downsides all too soon became apparent...blackspot, tall, gangling appearance and no scent. 

In the past few years, I have rediscovered my love for roses thanks to the "knock-out" series. These shrub roses are perfect for the hot and humid summers in Florida. Blackspot is never an issue, and the plant grows into a nice large bushy shrub. And, the color...WOW...the original Rosa 'Radrazz'...my favorite...is a bright cherry red that lives up to its name. It truly is a "knock-out" eye-grabbing, gorgeous color in the garden.

Rosa 'Radrazz'
2000 All America Rose Selection

This spring I decided to add several more roses to my garden...for a total of 15. Uh, oh...15...the number is growing. How many do you have to have before it's considered an obsession?

I'm careful to choose roses that are as carefree as possible. I don't mind trimming them a little in February and again in August, adding fertilizer a couple times of year, but spraying them for blackspot...NO WAY! Since roses are expensive (I never buy them from the big box stores...only from Peterson's -my local nursery), I always mix up a nice cocktail of soil amendments that will make my rose bush very happy. I figure, if my rose bush is happy... it will be healthy and produce lots of blooms...and that will make me happy. :-)

My organic rose bush cocktail includes: 1/2 bucket of homemade compost, 1 cup each bloodmeal and bonemeal, several handfuls of coffee grinds, plus a handful of epsom salts. Mix well, insert rose and cover with more homemade compost and surrounding dirt. 

Once the rose is in place I sprinkle a handful of rose fertilizer around the base of the plant, add a healthy covering of pinebark mulch and water well. This year I added this pink double knock-out 'Radtkopink" to a large flowerbed in my front yard. It already has lots of blooming flowers and looks great next to the yellow African bush daisies and variegated flax lily. It looks like it will be a nice addition to this colorful flowerbed.

Pink Double Knock Out 'Radtkopink'

A second rose bush I added is Belinda's Dream. I've read a lot of good reviews on this rose...it's resistant to blackspot, loves heat and humidity and grows into a nice shrub...it sounds like the "perfect" rose for Florida. I like to incorporate my roses into existing flowerbeds, instead of having them off by themselves in a "rose bed" that contains only roses. And, that is why I only plant shrub or antique (a/k/a old fashioned) varieties. They don't get lanky and they don't need spraying. I planted Belinda's Dream between dwarf viburnum, wild petunias and lady palms.

Belinda's Dream

The third rose bush I added this year is an antique or old fashioned (whichever term you prefer - the new term is "old world") French bourbon rose called Sovenir de la Malmaison (pronounced: Su von yeah day la Mal may sone)...Ooh La La...sounds pretty fancy - doesn't it? Thank goodness the nursery lady knew how to pronouce it. Now, all I have to do is remember how she said it.

I love the look of this antique beauty when her bud is fully opened...it's 5" wide and has an intense, spicy fragrance that you don't want to stop smelling. I know I'm just going to love having her in the garden surrounded by deep burgundy lorapetlum, Shirley Temple hibiscus and variegated flax lily.

A couple of other French antique varieties in my garden are...Louis Philippe and Sombreuil.

Louis Philippe a/k/a the Cracker rose was first registed in 1834. It is well documented in books that this rose was a garden staple in "old Florida." It is one of the few that produces blooms in a partly sunny/partly shady area which is why I have it planted in my backyard. It blooms 12 months out of the year and I enjoy seeing the gorgeous, sweet smelling blooms from inside my home. The bush has grown quite large but I do trim it back slightly each February.

Oh, and then there's Sombreuil (1850)...can you tell I'm in love with this rose. I've had her for at least 12 to 15 years...she even moved with us from our last home. Actually, she's moved twice! Now, that's pretty hardy...isn't it? Her scent...you wouldn't believe how wonderfully fragrant her perfume is. I never miss the chance to place my nose up close to a blossom and inhale deeply. The scent is heavenly. It's been said that a rose is a rose...but a scented rose is far superior to any other in my book.

Friday, March 26, 2010

In Memory of Mocha

It's always difficult to lose a true and trusted friend, and if you're a cat lover that's exactly what our kitties are. We, unfortunately, had to say goodbye to our beloved cat Mocha way to soon. She would have been 13 this year had she not experienced a sudden downturn in health.
She loved being outdoors and would follow me around the yard as I puttered around doing gardening things. She was my official "garden cat!" As I moved from one spot to another, she was always close by...sometimes watching me...other times talking to me...or rubbing alongside me.
Twelve years ago she was picked up by Animal Control as a stray, and it was our fortune that fate led her to our family. Mocha's personality was not that of a typical cat...it was more like a dog. She wagged her tail continuously, liked licking our faces, and following us (as well as repairmen) all around the house. She was a true "people-cat." Whenever company arrived...Mocha was there to welcome them, and to receive as much attention as possible.

We all miss our "special" Mocha...a/k/a Miss Mocha, MoMo, MochaJo, MoJo and Mo....very much. We knew the day would come but did not expect it to be so soon...we never do. The tears still spill from my eyes when I think of her. We lovingly buried her beneath the large oak in our backyard where our two other cats Roxanne and Gus were buried in the past three years. Together, the three of them will have a very special garden planted around them. We have enjoyed our time with her immensely, and thank God for entrusting her to our family for 12 years. We miss you MoMo!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My Favorites...this month!

(Click on the photo to enlarge it for better viewing)

At long last, spring has arrived -- HURRAY! I don't know about you, but I'm totally delighted to feel the warmth of the sun on my face and see the return of colorful flowers to my garden. Now, the fun begins!

Let's see...some of my favorite (mostly blooming) plants for March are.....

Well, the first photo (top left) is not actually a blooming plant, but its shape reminds me of a HUGE flower. As you can see our collard greens thrived during the long, cold winter. They're such good comfort food on chilly nights. Next, are some beautiful purple (a color I'm beginning to like very much) tulips. Now, I know you're thinking tulips in Florida...right? Just because we can't grow them doesn't mean we can't have tulips. Every spring I purchase a pot of them to enjoy and then compost the bulbs. These tulips looked especially pretty parked next to a green and purple foliage plant. And, they too enjoyed the below normal cooler temps. I'm going to jump down to the Johnny Jump-ups :-) or little violas, if you will. You can't beat the vibrant color combinations of these darling, pint-sized flowers.

The azaleas are a little late this year, but gladly appreciated. They are the epitome of spring in the south, and everyone should plant more. This purple formosa variety is one of my favorites...such a deep, rich jewel-tone color. Another flower that yells spring in Florida is the orange blossom. Each year I eagerly await the arrival of these simple, yet delectably fragrant blossoms. I'm constantly sticking my nose up to the blossoms...not that I need to because the air is heavy with their intoxicating scent. Guess, I better watch out for bees because they appear to be drunk with delight.

And, last but not least, the African bush daisy's are breaking out into a riot of bold yellow color. Their first buds were burned by the frost, but they have rebounded spectacularly and seem to be as pleased about spring as I am.

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, March 15, 2010

Orchid Obsession

Most gardeners have at least one plant they're obsessed with... and for me it's orchids. Who can resist such beauty. Given the right conditions...dappled sunlight..humidity..water..good air circulation...they reward their owners with a bounty of beautiful blossoms. Here are photos of some of our 50 plus plants.

(Click on the photos to enlarge them for better viewing)

Here are some large gorgeous cattleya blooms.

These phaleonopsis are pretty in pink.

What about some purple and green beauties. The green cattleya is one of my favorites and it blooms about 3 times a year. I've actually had that orchid for over 20 years and it's HUGE...

And, don't forget the hot-colored yellow and orange orchids. They really make a statement.

I photographed this orchid as it opened from a bud to the full-fledged flower. It was really neat to watch its progress each day.

Our orchids seem very happy to live beneath the Live Oak tree that shades our deck. This is the best location we've ever had for them, and fortunately, we can view them from inside the house...an added bonus for us.
 Remember that green flowering orchid I mentioned before. In this photo you can see how large the actual plant is.

A large majority of them are kept on a plant stand located on our back deck.

The others are hung on various metal and wood holders as the one below. My neighbor Nancy came up with the design and my husband built it. It works great for holding a number of large cattleyas.

Taking care of them is really easy. They're planted in a regular orchid potting mix. Anywhere from 3 to 4 times a week...depending on whether it rains or not...I spray them with the garden hose. Every six months I add a new packet of slow-release fertilizer...like Osmocote. The packet of fertilizer was my mother's idea.

Since you can't toss the fertilizer pellets on top of the bark...because they'll fall out..she came up with the idea to place them in a small piece of netting fabric...close with a twist-tie...and, voila' you've got a nice little fertilizer packet to place on top of the bark. Now, every time you water, the plants get fertilized...resulting in dark green healthy leaves. See, anyone can grow orchids!
 You can see the fertilizer packets sitting in the pots in this photo

One very important thing you must do...after the blooms have faded on newly purchased orchid plants, repot them with a prepackaged orchid bark mix into an orchid pot...clay (see photo above...the clay pot has large drainage holes on the side) or wire basket with a coconut liner. Most store bought orchids come in a plastic container that does not allow for good drainage. To leave them in the plastic container is surely the kiss of death!

In winter when the temperatures drop below 50 degrees we must bring them inside for protection. To make the job easier and less time-consuming, we place as many as possible on the table and cart shown below. We can easily bring them inside the house...and just as easily, place them back outdoors when the temps warm up a bit.

Growing orchids really is easy...but don't say I didn't warn you...buying one leads to another and another...next thing you know...you've developed a new obsession!

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Found Objects

Don't you just love it when you come across some perfectly good garden item that someone's disposing of? It's almost as good as winning the lotto...well, almost. Okay, here's the scoop on these 3 plant conainers and a piece of ornate metal...I have a weakness for ornate metal pieces.

I took a different road leading to my home one afternoon...minding my own business...when I noticed two pots (with dead and live plants still in them) sitting out by the road for garbage pickup. Yes, garbage pickup. :-( And, while I'm not one of those people who goes through other people's trash...I have enough of my own...I have been known to brake for worthwhile garden items, as I previously confessed in Thou Shalt  Steal.

I slowed down to look...drove on by...then quickly decided to turn around and check them out again. I didn't like the idea of being seen putting someone's trash into the back of my SUV, but these pots looked too good to pass up. And, I hated to see them end up in the dump. Soooo, I drove home...grabbed a plastic bag (to put the dead plant in)...drove back and quickly loaded up my "found objects." By the way, the dead tree had 2 1/2 foot roots growing out the bottom of the pot...it was impossible to pull it out, so I ended up taking the dead plant, too.  Shhhh, don't tell anyone about that.

When I got home I noticed there was a third pot inside one of the large ones. I also found the ornate metal piece...which is broken...but hey, I can find some use for it in the garden. Did I mention that I love ornate metal pieces? :-) I was delighted beyond belief with my "found objects." They are in great condition...a little cleaning is needed...but otherwise, they're fabulous finds and certainly not inexpensive. The larger pots are probably worth $30 each (maybe more) and the smaller one...well, at least $15.  That's $75 worth of flower pots....WOW...now I'm even more excited.

I gave them a good scrub with a little bleach and water, and look how beautiful they are.

I, especially love the smaller terracotta pot. It has a very pretty design and the shape of the pot is like no other that I have.

 As I looked around at my own pots, I realized how many different shapes, designs, and colors they come in. And, how beautiful each pot is, in it's own right.

 I like to find unique looking pottery for a low price. That pretty pot in the upper left corner is from Big Lots. I have many from there because they are priced so well. Terracotta pots look best when they have an aged look to them...like the strawberry jar in the upper right corner.

Terracotta pots have a vareity of great designs on them. Two of my favorites are shown above...upper right corner and lower left corner. And, who doesn't want one of those pots that sits on its side (upper center photo). They're great for trailing plants that softly overflow from the pot.

I'm thrilled with my new pots, and always open to divine guidance leading me to future "found objects." And by the way, in case you're reading this post Mrs. T (did I mention that I know the owner of these pots? She was my daughter's second grade teacher.), next time you're throwing away garden items.....pleeaaasssseee, call me! :-)

I guess the old saying (which I modified) is true..."One woman's trash is another woman's treasure!"

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