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, June 24, 2010

My Favorites...this month!

Summertime is here and the heat is on, but there's still lots of color in the garden. I noticed this month that most of my favorites are in shades of pink and purple...the cool colors.

I love the large cluster of bluish purple flowers that tower above the Lily of the Nile...also called agapanthus. I just recently found a white variety and can't wait for it to multiply. Caladiums...I can't get enough of them in any variety. Pictured here is a caladium in watermelon colors - sorry that I don't know the name of this particular variety. I'm finally having luck with hydrangeas...this one is planted under a large Live oak in ground that remains damp a good portion of the year. Peacock ginger with its multi-colored foliage and simple pretty purple flower returns every summer

(Click to enlarge for better viewing)

The thryallis with its bold yellow color is really loving the summer heat. Among the crape myrtle family, the rich purple color of the Catawba is one of my favorites. And, finally, my last favorite might seem like a strange choice, but it's not only beautiful but fascinating, as well. The mottled-gray trunk of the Natchez crape myrtle cracks and peels off revealing a beautiful cinnamon color.

Simple Summer Pleasures

Rain...Sitting on the front porch enjoying a late afternoon shower...minus the thunder & lightning, of course. Can you hear the plants sighing with relief?

A super ice-cold glass of water flavored with lemon and mint (from the garden) along with a bowl of crisp watermelon...a refreshing treat in June.

Here's a close-up view to really wet your appetite. Don't you just feel cooler already?

What are your favorites this month? 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. I won't be able to drop by for a few days, but I'll catch up with everyone late next week.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Glimpses of the New Garden

Starting a garden from scratch was something I looked forward to and dreamed about since we purchased the property in 1999. It was an opportunity to plant what I love, instead of working around an existing landscape. At first, it was a bit overwhelming as I tried to decide what kind of garden I wanted. My mind would jump from one area of the yard to another as a plan began to sprout in my head.

The front yard was, of course, the first place I started. As the builder was putting the finishing touches on the inside, I was busy outside placing plants in the ground...many of which I rooted or divided from my existing garden.

This sunny little spot is between the driveway and the walkway to the front door. It's a hot area, so it needs some tough...but pretty...plants. Rosemary, sagos, Indian blanket flowers, succulents and pentas join forces with a handful of rocks, that my mother collected from other states on family vacations, to form a small rock garden.

This is a view of the same flowerbed as seen a little further up the walkway. To the right of the sagos (babies from my mother's garden) are two Knock-out roses. There are 7 in this color altogether in the frontyard. This bed is bordered with Society garlic from my sister's garden.

Because the front yard is large, I picked bold colors...reddish orange, yellow and purple. This is a picture...from this past spring...of the bed along the front of the house. The beautiful pot (a gift from my mom) of bromeliads is surrounded by Indian hawthorne and fashion azaleas. And, the piece de resistance is the gorgeous yellow tabebuia tree.

The backyard has two large Live oak trees, so lighter colors were my choice back here. The west side of the backyard is a white garden...I've always wanted a white garden. However, hard as I try, I've not been able to be a purist. Some blue...at certain times of the year...has crept into this garden, as well as Miss Muffet caladiums. I should have planted white caladiums here, but I moved Miss Muffet here from my existing garden.

This back corner section of the garden is alight in white...Acoma crape myrtle and variegated ornamental grass. Other white plants include: sombreuill...white French rose, white guara, var. castiron, soft gray English ivy, tea olive, St. Bernard's lily and var. Chinese privet. Green foliage plants with different textures include: Australian tree fern, lady palms, Elephant ears, philodendron, holly ferns, asparagus foxtail ferns, sago and River birch.

Slowly, but surely, the garden is coming together. My planting beds are huge, so I'm waiting for the philodendrons, elephant ears, castirons and lady palms to fill in, and I've got  a few more favorites I want add. :-)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Outdoor Entertainment

Very little work is getting done in my garden these days. With temperatures soaring into the 90's, and the "feels like" temp over 100...honestly, all I want to do is stay inside.

While I was looking out the window...to see how my plants were holding up...this BIG guy...red-shouldered hawk...dropped by for a visit. Actually, he flew into the window...Yikes! Fortunately, he was only dazed for a moment.

Perhaps he was trying to get out of the heat, too!

In the somewhat cooler...if you can call it that...evening, I ventured out to the dock to check on the baby Blue Herons. For the first time, a nest with 3 baby herons sits atop an old cypress tree approximately 35 feet from our dock. Here they sit waiting for mom to bring home the bacon...in this case some fish.

Here's mom sitting on the shoreline getting a much needed break, but within site of her nest. She's a real beauty! Blue Herons are one of my favorite water birds...they seem prehistoric in nature with their giant wingspan.

The three young'uns are growing bigger week by week. For the last two weeks they've been practicing leaving the nest. They fly back and forth among the tree tops,

and our boat house roof, slowly but surely, growing more comfortable with leaving the nest. We're not sure if they'll hang around our area or find a new spot...either way, we'll miss seeing them sitting high atop their nest.

A new discovery was  made...on the underside of this rotted out remnant of a past branch on the maple tree. You can just barely make out the tail of a woodpecker...it's the triangle-looking shape located between the middle and right piece of Spanish moss. My husband noticed wood chips on the ground at the base of the tree, and started looking around to see where they came from.

And, he discovered the woodpecker had carved out a nesting cavity in this dead section of the tree. Unfortunately, mama or papa woodpecker slipped inside before I could take a photo. Soon we will have little red-headed baby woodpeckers to entertain us. What a blessing to eavesdrop on some of God's beautiful creatures as they busily prepare for and tend to their young.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Sun-Loving Island Up Close

 Our front yard is quite large, so I chose bold colors...orange...yellow...purple...that would stand out and be noticeable from the street.  A bit of pink appears in a couple of seasons...I just couldn't leave pink out. My main objective was to plant a variety of cold-tolerant perennials that would provide a bevy of blooms in all four seasons, and then fill in the holes with some variegated plants and a few seasonal annuals.

Indian blanket flower Gaillardia pulchella...Periwinkles Vinca

The majority of the plants are "cold-hardy" but there are some plants that may freeze but should return quickly in spring. My mother said to plant something white. Fortunately, I listened...mothers are always right, you know...and the yarrow with its white blooms and soft fern-like foliage was the softening touch among the bold colors.
African bush daisies Gamolepis chrysanthemoide...Double Pink Knockout  "Radtkopink'...Mexican Petunia Ruellia brittoniana 'Purple Showers'...White Yarrow Achillea millefolium

Gladiolus...African bush daisies Gamolepis chrysanthemoide...Mexican Bush Sage Salvia leucantha...Stokes' Aster Stokesia laevis 'Omega Skyrocket'...White rose Rosa 'Seafoam'...Indian blanket flower Gaillardia pulchella...Periwinkles Vinca

Here's one of my favorite combos...Stokes' Aster Stokesia laevis 'Omega Skyrocket' and African bush daisies Gamolepis chrysanthemoide. Blue and yellow always look great together and both of these bold shades are a  match for each other.

The daylilies started blooming in April and are still going strong. I'm going to toss a little bloom-booster fertizlier on them to encourage them to bloom a few weeks longer...hopefully until the middle of July.

Double Pink Knockout "Radtkopink' and White Yarrow Achillea millefolium were made for each other in my opinion. The soft fern-like foliage of yarrow look fabulous matched up with the soft beauty of a rose. The yarrow has grown to almost 3 feet tall. This delicate looking plant passed the "cold-hardy" test this past winter.

Other plants in the island include: Variegated Flax lily Dianella tasmanica 'Variegata'...Lily of the Nile Agapanthus...Amaryllis...African iris Dietes iridioides...Blazing Stars Liatris spicata 'Floristan White'...Gazania Daisies...Coneflower Echinacea "Big Sky Summer Sky 'Katie Saul'.

This photo gives you a great view of the plentiful blooms on the White yarrow.

Plants not identified previously is Red Fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' and African Blood lily Scadoxus multiflorus.

Adding an ornamental grass...Red Fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' was a must. The flowing movement of the grass and soft, fuzzy bloom spikes created by the wind adds another dimension to the garden. 

Mexican Bush Sage Salvia leucantha was added for its gray-green foliage and soft purple blooms. Other plants not shown, but included are Russian sage Perovskia atriplicifolia for its silver foliage, Heavenly bamboo Nandina domestica 'Firepower' a dwarf variety for its red-orange foliage in fall and winter Fashion azaleas for its reddish orange blooms from November through March, Yesterday, today & tomorrow Brunfelsia pauciflora, Purple Pentas Pentas lanceolata and Blackberry lilies Belamcanda chinensis also referred to as Leopard lily for its summer flowers and Blue Sage for its winter blooms and gray-green foliage.

It's a great feeling of satisfaction when a plan in your head begins to materialize in a way that exceeds your expectations. It's a given, as the seasons change, I'll be moving plants around...for better color combinations, and to compensate for plants that grow taller than expected, eliminating some that don't work, and testing new varieties. It's all a work in process, but for now...today...this moment, I'm very happy with the blooms this sun-loving island has produced from winter through early summer. As the seasons change, I'll post again on what's blooming in the island.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

A Sun-Loving Island

I bet you thought this post was going to be about some gorgeous "sun-loving" island in the Caribbean or the Mediterranean...right? Sorry to disappoint you, but the "sun-loving" island I'm talking about is a large island-shaped bed of sun-loving perennials in the front yard.

A couple of years ago we built a new house (that we will eventually move to), but for now we spend our weekends there relaxing, finishing projects and of course, creating a garden. Last summer every chinch bug in the neighborhood (or so it seemed) feasted on our newly established turf. From one weekend to the next, they decimated a huge section of grass in our front yard...OUCH!

So, as my husband began the task of resodding, I jumped on the bandwagon and claimed a large portion to create an "island-shaped" flower bed...an idea that had been perking in my head since the house was completed. It's a large front yard so it needed a large bed for the right scale. A small bed would surely have gotten lost in the sea of green.

To say the least, I was excited about the prospect of this large virgin space. I spent hours flipping through garden design books, researching specific plants and dreaming up the placement of plants. I rooted and separated existing plants from my own garden, and purchased new ones that seemed well suited for the area. Each weekend I stuffed "cold-hardy" perennials into my car, and my excitement of producing a four-season flower show grew with each plant I popped into the ground.

With each group of plants that were planted, the plan slowly began to come together. The finishing touch that gave the "island bed" a definitive look, and a strong presence in the front yard was the border of limestone rock.

All winter long the Indian blanket flowers, African bush daisies and fashion azaleas defied one blast of artic air after another. In April, the roses and the daylilies kicked into high gear and...WOW...my wildest dreams for this garden space were coming true.

Sorry that this post has gotten a bit wieldy...you know we gardeners can go on and on and on about our plants...so I'll show you close-up photos of the flowers and list the plant varieties I planted in the next post. :-).

Friday, June 04, 2010


To a self-confessed "girly-girl," pink really is a delicious color. And, the combination of pink and green is my all time favorite. When I see the two colors together, my heart goes pitter-patter and my soul sighs with satisfaction. While my living room is awash in pink floral and green foliage fabric, my garden is not. That revelation even surprises me, but the truth is that there are so many beautiful colors of flowers that I just "must have" (you understand that notion, don't you?) all of them in my garden. Nevertheless, during a recent stroll through my garden I was able to capture some of the "magic of pink" at work.

Moss Rose is a summer favorite, and this HOT pink color is a real standout! Everyday this drought-tolerant plant is covered with new blossoms...a great container plant for summer!

And, then there's the soft pink color of impatiens lounging in the shade. Lucky for them they get to live beneath the canopy of the Live oaks and out of the hot summer sun...we all know what happens to them in direct sunlight. ;-)

You might think this is a coleus leaf, but guess again. It's actually a begonia, and a very colorful one at that. I've never seen this plant bloom, and with foliage like this who cares about a bloom.

Ahhh, a dainty Lacecap hydrangea brings a smile to my face. You can tell by the pink color that my soil is on the alkaline side. How so? This plant with two personalities blooms blue in acid soil and pink in neutral to alkaline. But the mysterious part is that you can change the color to blue by adding lime or aluminum sulfate...I do believe azalea fertilizer will do the trick, too. I'll never understand how that works, but I find it utterly amazing.

The caladiums are popping up everywhere. Their large colorful leaves add a whole new dimension to the summer shade garden, and I truly believe that one can never plant too many caladiums. This soft pink variety (name unknown) is tucked between a spider plant...that by the way did not freeze...and some Peacock ginger.

This super-large leaf is a variety (name unknown) that is very unusual.

This caladium (name unknown) is basking in some dappled sunlight.

Oh, even a pink flower pot can be found in the garden. I have no idea where this ornately decorated pot came from...probably a purchase I couldn't resist.

Can you guess what this plant is? Generally, it's well known for it's beautiful tropical flowers. Do you recognize it? Give up? Okay...it's a hibiscus. A very pretty variegated variety whose leaves outperform its small and less than spectacular flower.

I'm sorry I have forgotten the name of this lovely succulent that sports a pink stem and pink edging on its creamy green and white leaves. It's really pretty!

I can't forget about the roses. If given a choice, I would prefer a gift of pink roses over red anyday. This is Belinda's Dream and it reminds me of all the beautiful china tea cups decorated with soft pink roses. To be so pretty and have a wonderful scent is the sign of one great flower.

A stem of pink and white gladiolas in the summer garden is a real treat. When half the flowers are open I cut the stem and place it in a vase so I can enjoy it indoors. They last a long time and remind me of orchid flowers. Looks like the Love bug couple clinging to the petal loves this flower, too.

Here is a Double pink Knock-out rose looking real pretty tucked between the Mexican petunia 'Purple showers' and white yarrow. A great color and texture combo.

And, last but not least, I found this delicate-looking cluster of pink angel wing begonia blossoms. So sweet!

I've really worked up a thirst walking around the garden in search of "pinkalicious" flowers, so I think I'll  sit for a spell and have a cold glass of pink lemonade. Then I'm going to head on over to How Sweet the Sound (where pink is not just a color, but an attitude) for Pink Saturdays to see the pink posts by other bloggers who also love pink!

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