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!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Favorites...this month!

We're well into the first of the hottest two months in Florida. The time when the toughest plants...those that keep on smiling in the face of our searing sunlight and heat...are revealed. The true soldiers of summer! Undaunted by temps in the mid-90's and sporadic rainfall, this mix of hot and cool colors are the shining stars of my garden in July.

If only I could look this fresh on a hot summer day!
Liorope muscari 'Big blue' sports a stem of soft purple flowers, Pentas lanceolata...the red variety is my favorite, Rudbeckia "Cherokee' better known as black-eyed Susan...you knew I'd have some of these in my garden :-)...an unusual coloration, but pretty nonetheless.  The heat-lover Torenia fournieri in varying shades of blue and purple. Thryallis...Galphimia glauca is another plant that thrives in the dog days of summer. The soft texture of Pennisetum setaceum "Purple Fountain' grass...although I've always heard it referred to as red fountain grass...sways in the breeze ever so delicately. And, lastly, a bit of torenia with the gorgeous blue color of Lisianthus Eustoma grandiflorum. A flower you don't see often, but obviously doesn't mind a Florida summer.

Look closely at the foliage on this pentas.
Yes, it's variegated. I've never seen variegated pentas in the garden center...a friend gave me this one, and you can bet I'm going to root more cuttings from it. It's called the Stars & Stripes, and has grown nice and tall. I'll use it as a filler for some bare spots in my island bed.

Taking the heat
Torenia fournieri often called Wishbone flower is one of my "new" favorite annual plants for the summer months. It's a member of the snapdragon family, although it reminds me more of  violas. The hotter it gets, the bigger this plant get and the more it blooms. It grows into a nice mounded shape and so far, seems to be unaffected by snails or any other pesky pests...including those gargantuan lubbers.

In the shade
The Peace Lilies Spathiphyllum and impatiens don't mind the heat so long as they're planted in the shade or dappled sunlight.

A mix of sun and shade
The Blackberry lilies Belamcanda Chinensis in this border only receive a half a day of sunlight, but they don't seem to mind. I love to watch their butterfly-looking flowers bobbing along in the breeze. They seem so carefree.

Simple Summer Pleasures

Fresh Cut Grass...I always inhale deeply when I detect the scent of fresh cut grass hanging in the air. It's that age-old familiar smell from childhood that denotes the hot lazy days of summer...adults mowing in the heat, and kids running barefoot through the cool damp grass completely oblivious to the heat.

And, speaking of HOT...there's not much to do...well, there really is, but who wants to do it...but relax in the shade with a glass of sweet iced tea in a Mason jar, of course...better known down here as the "table wine of the South"...and a piece of  tart key lime pie (I like mine frozen...it's more refreshing that way).

There will be plenty of time come September to get my hands back in the dirt. For now, I'll just sit a while longer and enjoy my special treat in the shade of the Live oak...thank God for trees...LARGE ones at that!

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.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Tasty Experiment

I'm a little late on posting about this "tasty experiment" in the veggie garden, but they were so delicious I didn't want to miss out on the chance to pass-it-along.

It all started back in late January when my hairdresser...who plants a LARGE veggie garden...told me that a client of hers (I promise this isn't gossip) plants potatoes every year on February 14th. It's a family tradition of theirs. The client told her they're easy to grow...with very few pests...and oh, so delicious.

Well, that got the idea percolating in my head...hmmm, potatoes...that could be fun. It wasn't two weeks later when I read Tom MacCubbin's...over at Tom's Diggs...post on planting potatoes. He suggested buying a package of the fingerling potatoes in the grocery store and growing your own gourmet potatoes.  That's all it took because I LOVE the little fingerlings cut in small pieces...drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt...and roasted. I don't buy them often because they're expensive for the amount you get, but they really are delicious.

So, on my next visit to Publix I purchased the little delicasies and set a few of each variety aside to develop eyes. Next, we cut them into small pieces...each with at least one eye, created a nice mound of dirt and buried them about mid-way into the mound before the end of February.

Near the end of May, my impatience was getting to me and I started to dig around to see if there were truly any potatoes growing down deep in the compost-enhanced soil. And, guess what? Much to my jublilation there was! :-)

Had I waited until the green tops of the plants died...the sign that your potatoes are ready for harvest...I most likely would have reaped a little larger bounty, and some of the smaller potatoes would have grown larger. That's why "they" always say, "patience is a virtue." But, nonetheless, I was very pleased with our harvest and we enjoyed two meals of roasted gourmet potatoes for a cheap price.

With one success under the belt, I'm going to grow them again this fall, but this time...I promise...I'll be more patient and wait until they're ready for harvest. So, if you, too, love these potatoes...give them a try. They were super easy...no pests...I only fertilized them once and watered regularly. One note of interest though...it takes awhile for the potato sprouts to emerge from the ground. For a while I thought the experiment was going to be a bust, but then the sprouts emerged and grew quickly after that.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Dog Days of Summer Book List

During the "dog days of summer" (July  3 to August 11, according to the Farmer's Almanac), I spend less time in my garden. Early morning and evenings are about the only times I venture out (unless there's a poor drooping plant desperately in need of a drink of water)... to mow the lawn...do the necessary chores...take a dip in the pool or a stroll around the garden to see what's in bloom.

Less time in the garden means more time to catch up on reading...another favorite hobby. Since I never know what I'll be in the mood to read, I always have 3 or 4 books going at one time. 

Here's my favorites this summer:

Talking Dirt by Annie Spiegelman is one I mentioned in my previous post. The Dirt Diva writes with humor on, what else but...DIRT! And, that's not an easy subject to be funny about but she does a great job of keeping the reader engaged. Her helpful suggestions have encouraged me...and given me plenty of ideas...to continue improving my sandy soil.

I always try to read a book I missed as a child or teen, and The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien is my choice this summer. I can truly appreciate those blessed with the remarkable ability to create and delve into an imaginary world...and this book delivers with plenty of mystical characters...goblins, trolls, elves and the sort. And, speaking of imaginary worlds, as you can see by this photo...the fairies left their tell-tell sign...a fairy ring...that they danced with glee in the moonlight on my neighbor's yard this past week (I knew I could work something about gardening into a post on books). :-)

The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison and Traveling with Pomegranates by Sue Monk Kidd and Ann Kidd Taylor are both memoirs...one of my favorite genres. And, no, not the memoirs of "movie stars" but those of everyday people like myself.

The Gift of an Ordinary Day is a mother's memoir as she reflects on the changes in her life as her children grow and become more independent. She longs for a simple life and around mid-life they make a move to a small town where she learns to savor and treasure the most ordinary moments of everyday life. There's a heartfelt story about her extraordinary neighbor Debbie who manages to profoundly impact everyone...including the animals on their quiet country lane...in simple but sincere ways. A real eye-opener that you can (in the words of Clarissa Pinkola Estes) "Mend the part of the world that is within your reach." A simple but powerful message -- don't you think?

Sue Monk Kidd wrote The Secret Life of Bees and if you haven't read that book you missed a GREAT one! It's not often that you find one as good as the Bees.

 In her current book, Traveling with Pomegranates she cowrites with her daughter as they chronicle several trips they've taken to Greece while dealing with changes in their lives. I've read and enjoyed every book she's ever written...especially her spiritual memoirs. She's a kindred spirit...a seeker of truth...who writes with unbridled honesty

And, of course, I must dream about and make plans for my return to the garden come October...when the weather is more agreeable to gardening. Garden books, and I have plenty of them...another obsession, I dare admit...are my muse and inspiration. I can look through the same book a hundred times, and still find something new and inspiring. One of my favorites is Southern Gardens by Sunset. So many photos of gorgeous gardens ...they never fail to spark ideas in my head.

I'm always looking for a GREAT book to read...you know, the kind you never want to end because you'll miss the characters you've grown to love.  If you've read one of these rare but wonderful books, please share the title with me, so I can indulge my need to buy more books :-) and spend the "dog days of summer" with my nose stuck in a book...savoring every delicious word. Definitely...one of life's simple pleasures!

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer up North

On a trip to Pennsylvania to visit in-laws, I thoroughly enjoyed looking at all the colorful summer gardens and  flowers...some like ours...some not.

Now here's a hydrangea! There were many of these in bloom all over. Most were in the blue tone...rarely did I see a pink...and some were even a purplish-blue. Red geraniums were planted in the birdbath, while a tiny clematis flower clung to the fence.

This clematis vine is completely covered in flowers. Isn't it gorgeous? I wish we could grow clematis, especially since they come in many colors and flower shapes. It's probably a good thing that we can't. :-)

A waiting area outside a restaurant just seems to beckon someone to come over and sit for a spell. I wouldn't mind waiting for a table on this bench.

Here's a close-up of the container planting. All of the plants look familiar and wonderful together.

Across from a bakery and farmstand was their garden of blueberries and other vegetables available for purchase.

Inside were lots of gourmet goods, fresh veggies, plants, canned items and baked goods.

Now here's a familiar vine...trumpet creeper. By the looks of the size of this vine it's either a fast grower or it's cold-hardy.

Did I mention there were baked goods?
Pennsylvania-Dutch treats.

A visit to Pearl S. Buck's house and gardens was a real treat.

I captured this little fellow (see him to the left) taking a sip of nectar from the verbena. He looks like some sort of moth. At first, I thought it was a hummingbird, but a closer look confirmed it wasn't.

Pennsylvania gardeners plant lots of hostas, annuals, daylilies, daisies, coneflowers and even caladiums are planted in this partly sunny bed.

Here is another large perennial bed full of plants that I mostly do not recognize. Dayliles and coneflowers are the only ones I'm sure of.

I'm thoroughly jealous of the Japanese maple that hangs over this water feature. Oh, how I wish we could grow them in Florida. They would definitely be another obsession for me!

We took a drive into the beautiful Amish countryside which is a  mix of the past and the present. This Amish horse and buggy gave us a chance to slow down and enjoy the journey.

There's a lot to be said about the simple and sustainable lifestyle they live.

Take a long, deep breath and you'll know exactly what the Amish farmer uses to fertilize his crops. You'll know you're definitely in the country and not the city anymore. Rolling hills of lush green fields planted with corn and wheat, white farms and silos dot the countryside. And, the food is delicious, too...lunch included homegrown pork, homemade sauerkraut, chow-chow, mashed potatoes, whipped butter, bread and shoefly pie for dessert. Yum!

And, of course, you know I couldn't come home empty handed. My sister-in-law was gracious enough to share some of her plants with me. While I'm not sure if this plant...one of the stepables...will grow down here in the heat and humidity, it was worth a shot. This is one of those plants that you place between stones on a footpath. It quickly fills in and they're okay if you step on them...hence the  name - stepables.

But the plant I'm most excited about is this Hens & Chicks. They are succulents that grow in her yard...so they're obviously cold-hardy. I've seen them in magazines but never in nurseries. The mother hen puts out lots of little chicks. There's one cute little chick in the lower left, and another is just slightly peeking out in the lower right. I wrapped up several pieces in newspapers...tucked them inside a plastic strawberry container with holes and a cardboard pie box...and stuck them in the center of my check-on baggage. I was delighted when I opened the suitcase and saw that they made it home safely.

It just so happens that the book I took along with me...Talking Dirt by Annie Spiegelman...was very appropriate for this trip. After inhaling the earthy smell of soil fertilized with animal manure and reading the Dirt Diva's book, I was anxious to return home and put some of her tips for enriching my sandy soil to use. Oh, what I wouldn't give to have that nutrient-rich brown soil in my garden. Guess I'll have to settle for cleaning out my compost bin and a load of mushroom compost from a local farm.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

4th of July

 In honor of our nation's 234th birthday this coming weekend, I'm posting a photo of the 4th of July rose. This 1999 All-America Selection climbing rose sports stripes of varying shades of red...however, there are no blue stars.

Hope your 4th includes a fun family picnic...no thunderstorms, please (at least for one day)...and lots of dazzling fireworks.

Please keep our brave soldiers in your thoughts & prayers.
Have a GREAT 4th!

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