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 27, 2012

A Closer Look

Here's the closer look . . . that I promised . . . of the picture-perfect landscape beds leading up to the Hotel Iroquois on Mackinac Island, Michigan. This space is no longer than . . . maybe 25 feet and you can get a good feel for the width . . . but you'll be amazed at the variety of plants it packs into this small space.

It has a nice back drop of green on the left side and a couple of medium-sized trees on the right to frame it all.

It all starts with a welcome sign at the very front. You can already get a good feel for how they intermingle a number of different plant varieties and colors. The colors seem to be repeated down the line . . . white, dark red, and green.  A row of higher growing plants fill out the back of the bed . . . hydrangeas, alocasias and some other green shrubs.

Flipping over to the left side this colorful combination shows off nicely in front of the evergreen trees. So many different varieties packed into one small space.

Here I see some hostas hidden in the back, coleus, impatiens and some more Autumn Joy sedum up front.

Some of the plants I can identify are more of the sun-tolerant impatiens, hostas, sedum, petunias and sweet potato vines. I really like this layered look with the flat stone.

Here's a little higher stone wall with a beautiful color combination of flowers. The buds on the dark leaved plant with the yellow flowers resemble peony buds but I'm not familiar with the plant. It is a stunning color especially when contrasted with the yellow flowers. 

Here's a little closer look. The black and chartreuse leaves next to each other are absolutely fabulous!

Another beautiful spot that contains impatiens, elephant ears (2 different varieties) a grass that grows in water, lilies and petunias.

The master behind this piece of artwork definitely has a green thumb and a talent for combining colors, textures, shapes and sizes.

Love how the chartreuse and black foliage play off each other and then add the beautiful soft pink flowers and WOW...it's gorgeous! When you think it couldn't get any better . . . take a look at that soft fluffy grass at the base of the pink flowering plant.

A combination of ornamental grasses look beautiful against the white bark of the birch tree. So much color in this photo with mostly foliage.

A  crisp and traditional look with simple elements - a white fence, green plants, stone wall, impatiens.

Another birch tree simply planted with two varieties of fern, two different large-leafed plants and impatiens. This gardener knows how to make impatiens sparkle.

The detail is incredible. The dark color in the coleus is picking up the dark color of the stems of the alocasia. Nice combination of leaf shapes - large, spiky, soft and rounded. All it takes is 3 plants to create such an eye-pleasing look. This would make a great container combination. 

Great example of the varying heights in this border and as you can see the bed is not very wide at all.

There are so many lessons to be learned from these beautiful garden borders. I know I'll be studying these plant combinations over and over, and in the future I'll be definitely looking at my own beds from different angles to see if I can accomplish something even 1/10th as beautiful as this. 

Hope you enjoyed a close-up look at this magnificent garden space.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Gardens of Mackinac Island

We recently enjoyed a visit to Mackinac Island in Michigan. One of the most enjoyable parts for me were all the beautiful flowers and gardens.

The weather was perfect....highs in the low 70's and lows in the mid 60's. Do I hear a bunch of sighs out there? Yes, those temps were a nice break from our endless summer in Florida.

 This particular garden walkway was fabulous. I'll share more up close photos of this garden in another post as it was absolutely picture-perfect!

Don't you love these flower boxes? Breathtaking!

Here's a close-up shot.

To a Florida gardener the dahlias are X-tra special and X-tra large.

Striking color!

There were many containers overflowing with pretty color combinations.

I felt like I was walking through a garden magazine. So much beauty everywhere.

This gardener used only 3 colors...pink, purple and white.

Here's a another view of the same garden.

 This gardener filled the front bed with zinnias only. Love how the colors blend nicely with the house color. 

This was a particularly pretty garden area with a great view.

This is another shot of the garden above.

And, there's nothing like looking through a circular opening in a garden gate to grab your attention. The vine is a climbing hydrangea. 

Hydrangeas appear to be a signature plant on the island as most people have them in their garden.

Really nice color combinations.

Isn't this place adorable? So colorful and welcoming. So much candy for the eyes.

The butterfly house was landscaped very nicely and they had a nice array of butterflies, too.

Slopes like this one on the fort were landscaped with mostly wildflowers (yes, that's goldenrod). This particular one included some hollyhocks, too. 

 So much color everywhere. I feel like I've died and gone to heaven.

Love the cat hidden amongst the flowers.

And, how about this...they even know how to make a garbage can look pretty.

More of the beautiful hydrangeas in the landscape.

The Grand Hotel had tons of colorful flowers.

And a long border filled with zinnias and sunflowers.

Lots of wildflowers were blooming on the island.

Here's a pretty collection on the beach.

Not sure what this large bud is...but it's pretty cool looking.
Added Note: Thanks Flowerlady over at Flowerlady's Musings for identifying this plant. She said it looks like Queen Anne's Lace.

Here's what the flower looks like when it's fully opened. 

Goldenrod tucked in between the large white rocks that are common throughout the island.

And, I'd be remiss if I didn't include a photo of the Mackinac Bridge . . . a fantastic sight, too. 

If you ever get the chance to visit Mackinac Island...you won't be disappointed. It's a wonderful place to meander around...relax...ride bikes...and tour by horse carriage. 

There's lots of fresh air, clean water and beautiful gardens. Definitely one of my favorite trips.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Two New Discoveries

Yesterday morning when I opened the blinds a spot of red color grabbed my eye. My first thought was that Mrs. Cardinal was visiting the feeder, but after a closer look I realized it wasn't a cardinal after all.

I'm always on the look-out for new birds in my garden and here one is on a hot August morning . . . A Summer Tanager - This particular tanager is molting according to a photo in my Florida's Fabulous Birds book. I like this book for identifying birds because it's so much easier for me to identify birds based on photos instead of drawings.

These photos were taken through a window so they are a bit blurry unfortunately as she's so pretty. My bird book says they are not that commonly seen in Florida even though they breed here and in other southern states in the summertime...they spend their winters in Central and South America. She is a small bird...somewhat along the size of a sparrow.

Predominantly they eat large numbers of insects which they catch in flight, but here she was nibbling away on a few sunflower seeds. Lucky for me she was perched on the feeder again this morning. Hopefully, she'll be a regular visitor until she heads further south for the winter.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This Great Crested Flycatcher below was spotted on the same morning, in the same tree as the Summer Tanager above, but he was not nibbling on the seed. His bright yellow stomach caught my eye and at first I thought it was a goldfinch who arrived super early, but he was much larger than the tiny finches. Isn't it amazing how well he blends in with the foliage.

He was busy snatching insects crawling along the branches of this Tabbebuia tree. It looks like he caught me taking his picture in this photo. I could hardly contain my excitement as I photographed him . . . eager to run and get my book to make an I.D. Wow, two new birds both on the same day!

Here's a look at his backside which is mostly gray in color. 

Here's another look at him from the rear and the side. He's a medium-sized bird. A Mockingbird chased him away but he soon returned and I could see him flying back and forth between the Tabbebuia and the Crape myrtle.

Here's a nice photo of him. He looks like he's watching an insect in anticipation of scooping it up. He also returned again this morning to the same tree. We watched as he snatched a Cloudless Sulphur caterpillar off the Christmas Senna and landed in the tree with his big fat catch of the day. When he finished eating it he took off after an insect in mid-air swooping and curving around until he landed another morsel for breakfast.

It's always exciting to see a new bird in the garden. Along with these two new birds we also saw two Pileated woodpeckers, Mockingbird, Mr. & Mrs. Cardinal, Titmice, Sparrows and a cute little hummer busily in search of breakfast.

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