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!

Monday, August 30, 2010

The Amazing World of Nature

What do you get when you cross this flower

with this flower?

Voila' ... a new Indian blanket flower!

Isn't nature amazing?

I've been thinking for awhile that my blanket flowers were cross-pollinating because subtle but different variations seem to show up next to each other. This weekend a new plant that seeded itself bloomed, and my suspicians were confirmed. Gaillardia blanket flower Torch ‘Red Ember’ (upper right corner) mixed with 'Goblin(lower right corner).

Have you've noticed cross-pollination at work in your garden?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Favorites...this month!

It's August...what can I say about August. Well, let's see...hot, humid, sticky, sweaty...oh, I'll hush for now, that's enough complaining. On the brightside...fresh, thirst-quenching rainshowers!

Thankfully, there are a host of plants (and creatures...I'm just not one of them) that thrive in these conditions.

And the winners are (from left to right)...Java Glorybower Clerodendrum speciosissimum insists on showing off and blooming the entire long, hot summer...yeah for her! But buyer beware...this tropical beauty is a wanderer, and she'll take over an entire bed if you let her. You can't miss the flourescent orange bloom on the Torch bromeliad Billbergia pyramidalis which blooms in profusion this month. Hawaiian sunset hibiscus is one of my favorites with its warm color scheme.  And the bromeliad on the left looks great planted in a wire basket. I don't know the common or botanical name (perhaps Steve at Rainforest Garden can help identify it). I think it might be Indian feather...but not sure. And, lastly the cute green anole soaking up some sunshine. I always smile when I see these guys in my garden. I definitely prefer them over the brown dinosaur-looking brown anoles that inhabit the screened patio.

And, now for a few cool-colored varieties.
It looks like bromeliads are at the top of my list this month. The white portion of this bromeliad turns a pretty soft shade of pink if planted in sunlight. Sorry, but I don't know the name of this one either.  Steve...please help! Another irresistable soft pink is the Brazilian Plume Justicia carnea. It's a real standout in the shade garden. The remnants of a thunderstorm...these delicate looking rain drops look like fingernails on the tips of a Norfolk pine. Star flower more commonly called pentas Pentas lanceolata is a fabulous butterfly-attracting plant. And, lastly, the delicate blue flower of Golden Dewdrop Duranta erecta. Another wonderful plant for butterflies.

Torch bromeliad Billbergia pyramidalis
You're more apt to know this commonly found passalong bromeliad by its more common name..hurricane bromeliad...because it blooms during the peak months of hurricane season. It spreads into large clumps quickly and is even known to climb the trunks of trees. If you see these growing in someone's garden,  I can guarantee you they'll be glad to share some with you. The blooms are bright and eye-catching. Unfortunately, the color fades quickly, but on the good side they bloom prolifically and they survived our past winter undamaged. 

Summer's Simple Pleasures

 Mowing the grass in August is a good old-fashioned workout. Why pay dues at a health club when you can accomplish two tasks at once. When I'm finished I head to the pool to revive myself with a tall cold one and a few salty pistacios. A reward for my hard workout!
 Ahhh, I feel sooooo much better now.

Canna lily 'Tropicana' and a sprig of Devil's backbone.

Now, that the end of August is drawing near...what seems like an "endless summer" will soon be changing. Already, the maple and elm trees have quietly been shedding their leaves. The raintrees will soon be in bloom, and within a few weeks the humidity will begin to ease up...ever so slightly...and the morning air will contain the most subtle hint of pleasant coolness. It's subtle, mind you...so you'll need to pay close attention. I'll take advantage of the milder mornings to start getting caught up in the garden. It won't be long now until the best "gardening" days are here!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thirsty? Not these Plants & their Friends

Up until recently, rainshowers have been few and far between this summer. It seems as though the rain has skirted around us, but we rarely find the clouds opening up and dropping buckets of water on our little plot.

And, you know what it means when there isn't any rain during these "dog days." While the plants and (surprisingly) the grass have held up pretty well, it's the container plants that insist on being hand-watered daily...lest they wither away. I think they actually wouldn't complain if I watered them twice a day during the dry periods.

Much to my relief, though, are the containers filled with succulents (and a few of their close friends) that are making my job a whole lot easier. They seem to shoot me a wink that says..."Not thirsty yet! We're doing fine."

I'm sorry to say that I don't know the names of most of these delightful succulents, but this container is one of my favorites. I love the soft green shades combined with splashes of cream and pink.

The foliage comes in so many different shapes...round and elongated or tiny and delicate...all waxy feeling and plump with water.

They don't even seem to mind being out in the full sun.

There are many varieties of aloes as I have recently discovered. The two pictured here are from my aunt's garden. The bottom plant is the steppable plant from my sister-in-law that I posted about in Summer up North.

Because these plants don't like wet feet, I plant them in terracotta pots, in the event we get a rainy spell...such as the one we've had the last few days. The pots absorb a lot of the water, and I don't have to worry about them getting waterlogged.

Here's a close-up look at the two aloes pictured above. One has more slender, solid-colored leaves, while the other has thicker spotted leaves. Both have a pretty good set of spines along the leaves.

This monster Aloe Vera is growing out of its pot, and it's also produced a number of outstanding blooms. The flower stalk is about 2 1/2 feet tall and is bending slightly from the weight of the soft peach and green-colored flowers. I grow these plants both in containers and in the ground.

Another sharp-sided succulent from my aunt...this one grows low to the ground and multiplies nicely. And, it produces a beautiful spike of yellow flowers in spring. My aunt lived in New Mexico before moving to Florida, and she's always had a small cactus and succulent garden.

This Wide Zebra Haworthia attenuata succulent is quite small.  The inside of the leaves are solid green, while the outside is covered with white stripes.

And, while this plant is not a succulent...it is worthy of mentioning because it, too, is not a thirsty plant. It can go for what seems like forever before showing any signs of stress. It's called Snake plant Sansevieria trifasciata...or more commonly...Mother-in-law's tongue (not the nicest name).

Thursday, August 05, 2010

In Style, Out of Style, It Doesn't Really Matter!

Have you noticed that plants, like clothing styles, seem to be "in style" or "out of style?" One thing for sure is that roses never seem to go out of style. Although, antique roses seem to have been enjoying a return to popularity in the past decade thanks to the "rose rustlers" who began to identify and grow cuttings from plants found in cemeteries. And, fortunately so, since they are not only beautiful but very durable, as well.  Roses, in general, also received a burst in popularity due to the carefree nature of the knock-out varieties, like this Pink Double Knock Out ‘Radtkopink.

Coleus varieties are also basking in the sun again these days due to a renewed interest, and many new colorful varieties. My sister and her husband inherited a very large powderpuff bush when they bought their first home. Every year this G-normous bush would freeze, making it a job to cut it back. Fortunately, the beautiful powderpuff is back in vogue, but in a smaller, more manageable size for the normal garden.

Blackberry Lilies Belamcanda chinensis are a hummingbird-attracting plant that's showing up on lots of garden blogs these days. If you want one, you'll need to find a friend who'll share some seeds or find a company online to purchase them from, since they can't be found in local garden centers. I started my plants from seeds I found hanging on a sad and bedraggled looking plant at my daughter's preschool some years back. So now this plant holds sweet memories for me, especially since the preschool no longer exists at the old location.

My sister's mother-in-law grew stokesia in her yard back in the 80's. Now and then I've stumbled upon this plant, like the one pictured below known as Stokes’ Aster Stokesia laevis ‘Omega Skyrocket’  in a local family nursery that's been in town forever. The blue color is absolutely fantastic, and as you can see the bees simply adore this beauty.

We had Candlestick plant...as we referred to it...Senna alata X Cassia alata in our yard when I was a kid. The plants I grow, in my garden today, come from the seeds of plants that sprouted in my mother's garden. For us it is an heirloom plant with memories attached to it. Now, some 40 years later, this plant is coming back into style which is fabulous for Cloudless sulphur butterflies who use it as a host plant.  I get very excited when I see the bush covered in caterpillars. It freezes back every year, but readily comes back from the roots...and grows very quickly and quite large. It also reseeds itself generously around the garden, but is not a nusance.
When I lived in Pinellas county, 9 years ago, I learned that fields of gladiolus' (also known as sword lilies) were grown back in the 50's in Clearwater for the cut flower industry. It seemed strange to me at the time since I had never seen them growing in people's yards, especially since bulbs can be purchased in big box stores and garden centers. Why you rarely see them is a mystery to me because they are a great filler plant that reappears each spring and produces a tall, slender spray of gorgeous flowers that look fabulous in the garden or in a flower arrangement.  

A plant that I inherited in my very first garden back in the late 80's was Rose of Sharon Hibiscus syriacus or Althea. This plant is a member of the hibiscus family, but it doesn't freeze. It does, however produce beautiful soft-colored flowers throughout the summer. The only place I've seen this plant for sale is at Lowe's in early spring.

This pretty purple variety is growing in my sister's garden. Isn't it beautiful? Both of us grow them under Live oak trees where they only receive partial sun each day.

She told me she's had the plant for about 8 years and as you can see, it has reached a nice size and has a  soft-flowing and airy look to it.

One additional plant that I haven't seen in garden centers is Turk's Cap Malvaviseus arboreus. Another hummingbird favorite. This plant is also a member of the hibiscus family and it will freeze back to the ground in a cold winter. If it doesn't freeze, it will most likely be in need of trimming back as it can grow quite tall. I found this plant for sale in a very small backyard nursery.

This is a close up view of the flower. Unlike, it's sister...the hibiscus plant..this flower does not open. That's probably one of the reasons why the hummers like it so much.

In style or out of style...it doesn't really matter. I'm just happy that I can still find some of these old-time plants that hold sweet memories for me, and include them in my garden. And, anytime I can passalong seeds or cuttings from these plants...I'm happy to do it. A great plant deserves to be admired and shared.

I'll have Candlestick plant and Blackberry lily seeds, this fall, available to share with anyone who wants some. Just send me an email and I'll be happy to mail some to you. :-)

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Garden Dreams

Do you ever dream about gardens... your own or some unknown garden? I know Steve at The Rainforest Garden wrote in a recent post that he sees his garden fully grown in his dreams. I don't generally dream about gardens or gardening, but I had the strangest dream a couple of weeks ago that is still baffling me. And, since I don't often remember most of my dreams...especially not several weeks later, I'm wondering why this dream is still fresh in my memory.

I'm in need of a little Jungian dream interpretation help, so I'm going to share my dream with you to see how you interpret it. Here goes:

I was riding in a boat on a freshwater lake when I came upon a small round island of land with a very simple but beautiful garden on it. I was surprised to find a garden in the center of a lake. I got out of the boat to walk through the garden which was broken into 3 separate parts (see photo below). Toward the back and in the center of the island were 3 red Knock-out roses, these roses were surrounded by a partial ring of grass, and the outer ring was a border of a variety of colorful flowering plants.

A person or voice (unknown to and unseen by me) on the island said, "I could take care of the garden." I was so happy that I quickly returned home...gathered my garden tools and some plants...and returned to the island. As I walked onto the island with my tools and plants, the person or voice said, "You can't plant any plants, you can only take care of the garden." End of dream.

I woke up because I was so stunned that I wasn't allowed to plant any plants. And, for some reason the phrase, "You can't plant any plants, you can only take care of the garden" has stuck in my mind, and I keep asking myself what does it mean, especially the part about not being able to plant any plants...you know for a gardener, that's a nightmare! ;-)

Go ahead...give it your best shot. What deeper meaning do you draw from my dream?

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