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, December 19, 2016

The December Garden

It's hard to believe that it's December - - not because another year has almost come and gone, but because it feels more like May - - warm and humid!

We're used to having warm winters - - and quite frankly, I prefer it that way  - - but the humidity is another story. Even though the air is damp, we've had practically no rain at all since the hurricane back in October. Despite the lack of rain, the garden is dry but still humming along with the warm days. 

In the shade garden, the coleus is reaching new heights.

The Louis Philippe rose is bursting out all over, the kale is basking in the sunlight, 

and the strawberries and cherry tomatoes are beginning to blush.

On top of all that wonderfulness, we still have Gulf Fritillary caterpillars munching on the passion vine. I've seen quite a few butterflies in the garden this month. I've especially had a lot of Monarchs, which makes me very happy!

The Pipe vine is still blooming. I found this beauty on the ground and placed it in my potted water garden. Now I can enjoy it every time I walk by.

Even the native violets, in the walkway, are putting forth blooms. 

There's plenty of food around for the hummers, butterflies and birds. The red Firespike blooms, dotted throughout the garden beds, are adding to the festive season. So are the red pentas - sorry I was actually going to do a post without mentioning them. Guess it's just not possible (lol)!

These pretty little berries are dwindling on the Yaupon holly,

and, the Cardinal couple are foraging on the Firebush berries. Every time I walk in the yard, the birds are darting through the foliage for a tasty treat. Soon, I'll be rooting more plants to spread around the yard for my feathered friends.

So, as Christmas draws near, I'd like to wish my gardening friends a warm (going to be in the 80's) and joyous Christmas, as well as a blooming good 2017!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

The Autumn Garden

I, for one, am so GLAD that autumn days are here again!

A sure sign of autumn in my garden is when the Beautyberry plants are draped with their gorgeous purple-pearly berries. A Cardinal couple is always hanging out on this side of the house devouring these berries.

You will find numerous Beautyberries in my garden - all were originally growing here when I built my home. 

Two of my favorite plants - Thryallis and Cestrum have been keeping lock-step all summer with their yellow blooms. And, it doesn't look like they're slowing down a bit, as autumn arrives.

This collection of colorful foliage can be found on the left side of the front yard. 

Berries on the Firebush are another sign of autumn in my garden. The Cardinals also love these berries, while the butterflies and hummers love the nectar. It's a must-have plant in Florida. In fact, everyone should have several of these plants in the yard.

The Nandina is looking a bit fallish, too!

Another fall favorite - camellias! This is Sparkling Burgundy which I can count on to begin blooming in late September. Not one of the fanciest one, but she is the ultimate in reliability.

You knew I wouldn't do a post, without including a pic or two of my red heirloom pentas. I swear the butterflies would go on strike if I deleted this plant from my garden.  

 I have seen more Gulf Fritillary butterflies this fall than I did all summer. So glad they finally decided to come for an extended visit.

And, my final new exciting discovery in the garden - butterfly eggs. What's so exciting about this particular discovery is that these were laid by a Pipevine Swallowtail on my Pipevine. I saw a Swallowtail hovering on the vine, but had to leave the house quickly to pick up my daughter from school. When I got home, I immediately went outside and with a little searching found these eggs. I was tickled pink that the Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies have found my garden. 

That old saying - "Build it (or for gardeners - "Plant it"), and they will come" is so TRUE! It might take a while, but they will find it. I hope you make some wonderful new discoveries in your own garden this month.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Painful Relief

I spent the better part of last Thursday preparing the yard for the arrival of Hurricane Matthew. It's at times like these that you realize how much non-plant stuff you have in the garden. One day later and a garage and house full of patio furniture, garden doo dads, benches and various other stuff - - we filled our jugs of water and waited for the arrival of our uninvited guest. Thankfully the storm was not as strong as was expected but, nonetheless, he left his mark on my garden. From tattered and broken banana tree leaves . . .

 to branches and leaves scattered across the patio, his high gusty winds were busy wreaking their havoc.

 He blew and he blew until several plants, including my large elephant ears gave way and surrendered.

He snapped every dead branch in the oak and carefully disbursed them evenly across the walkway. He did a great job - don't you think?  He saved me some money since I won't need to hire a tree trimmer to clean out the trees now.

 He flattened my beloved red pentas and blackberry lilies. Even the amaryllis' look forlorn and exhausted after his unwelcomed visit.

He insisted that the yellow flowering candlestick plants would no longer be standing when he finished his unrestrained use of power.  He ripped a shingle from the roof of the birdfeeder and would have blown it down, too, had the crape myrtle not been there to lend its support. 

As I surveyed the yard Friday afternoon my spirits were lifted when I saw a hummingbird visit the red spike and a couple of teensy butterflies on the salvia.  They, too, were glad that Matthew was gone! The birds soon began squawking the good news, too. Things were returning to normal. The next day as I began cleaning up, I found 3 Monarch caterpillars on the ground and was able to place them back on the Milkweed plants - small joys in the life of a gardener.

As painful as it was to see this mess, it was a huge relief that all the big oaks around my home were still standing, and that the storm had been less than expected! We did however, lose electricity for 33 hours due to a huge oak down the road from us which took down the power lines. But, all-in-all it could have been a lot worse, and I'm thankful that it wasn't.

In closing, I must say it was so kind of Matthew to take the sticky humidity in our air with him when he left. It makes putting all that non-gardening stuff back in the yard a breeze!

I do hope my fellow Florida gardeners did not have any major devastation in their gardens. 

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Gardening Friends

Today I'm posting about something other than my own garden ....well, mostly anyway. I want to talk about my favorite garden blogs. My main purpose for doing this is self-serving! You see, I read my share of blogs on gardening (some from places other than Florida, too),  genealogy and what I call 'cozy cottage' ones. But, there are certain blogs (Florida gardeners) that I enjoy immensely and look forward to each new post.

So, I know over time that we bloggers can run up against dry spells in blogging. I've done it myself over the 11 years I've been blogging. Can you believe I've been posting on this blog since 2005. I can't believe it myself. It's not easy to find new things to talk about, and it often seems like we can post on the same old thing. Heck, you will most likely find red pentas in just about everyone of my posts over the last 6 months or more. Hey, I have a small garden now, so what can I say. Anyway, I'm getting off topic. My point is that there are about 6 blogs that are my favorites - folks with the same garden interests. One gardener in particular, Eli (sorry for mentioning names) says she feels like she's posting the same ole post over and over.  So, my selfish reason for writing this post is to encourage my favorite bloggers to keep on blogging!!!

You notice that I'm getting a few of my stray photos in on this post like this pretty Vitex bloom

Now, I must mention that as I was writing this post, Eli sent me a comment that she started blogging again. Hurray for that good news, and I know others will be happy about it too. You can find her new blog: Back to Eli's Place (love the new name) at www.elihart1018.blogspot.com.

 But, I want to continue on with this post because I want to make sure that my other favorites - even though they might take breaks - will continue to put fingers to the keypad and post about their beautiful gardens. There have been several Florida gardeners (whose blogs I really enjoyed) that used to blog and have stopped for several years now. Perhaps, they have created a new blog, and I just haven't found it.  I do miss the  updates from Sherry in Ocala, Nanette's Bay-Friendly Landscaping, Ami in the southeast, NanaK, Meems and a few others. 

Isn't this a busy little bee on the Indian Blanket flower!

For the blogs I currently follow: Leslie at Spruce Pine Cottage, Janice at Garden on Fourth Street, Lynn at Southwest Florida Garden, Lorraine (been following her for a very long time) at Flowerlady's Musings, and Rusty at Dragonfly's Garden, I just want to say that I look forward to each of your new posts with anticipation. You folks are like neighbors to me, and I feel as though we are chatting over the garden fence when we exchange comments. 

Each and everyone of your blogs is unique and provides a different perspective to me as a Florida gardener. The photography on your blogs is stunning, your gardens are beautiful and I love seeing what's blooming in your yards (even if I've seen it a hundred times, and it's in my yard, too). I still enjoy it! I love seeing butterfly and bird photos, and I always get new butterfly plant ideas from all of you. Seeing your plant combinations and different talents for matching plants together sparks new ideas in my mind. 

I managed to spare you from another pic of my red pentas :)

I like short posts, I like long posts, Leslie, I like posts on cats, new recipes and stories of the past. Janice, I want more stories on your chickens and  your colorful shade garden. Lynn's gorgeous bird photos introduce me to birds further south of me, Lorraine's openness and honesty about real life is heartwarming, Eli's butterfly garden is inspiring and educational, and Rusty's tropical garden is a feast for the eyes. You guys are the charming gardeners who make my soul blossom and help me to be a better gardener, so please keep on blogging!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Home Sweet Home

Since summer I've been, way, too busy running here and there and everywhere! I'm a homebody by nature and love it when I can stay home for several days without having to go anywhere. Sometimes life gets busier than usual, but I'm adapting to a more active schedule than usual and having fun at the same time.

I'm also, slowly and one-garbage-can-at-a-time, trimming back the 'jungle' in my backyard. Quite by accident, I discovered a wasp's nest when a small squadron of angry wasps attacked and inflicted two nasty stings on my arm. Even though pollinators are welcome in my garden and an essential part of it, I much prefer to come across the dainty little Skippers who don't seem to mind if I get a bit too close.

This BIG fella was an unexpected discovery I came across while working in the garden on Saturday. I looked him up and he is a Giant Leopard moth. He was flipped upside down and when I turned him over, I realized he was not in need of rescue but pretty close to death. I discovered him near my angel trumpet which is listed as one of his favorite food sources. He sure is intriguing and quite a specimen! Another new discovery ~ ~ just wish he wasn't in the process of leaving.

After my morning walk today, I was able to plant my tomato seedlings, cucumber seeds and 4 grow boxes with a variety of greens. I've been wanting to do this for the last 2 weeks, and can now mark that off my list. I always seem to procrastinate on doing this ~ ~ could it be the heat, I wonder!

We have a new addition to our family. Take a look at this cute little guy we rescued off a busy street in town at 7 am on the way to school. He was much smaller at the time (May) and was trotting down the sidewalk. We quickly made a u-turn (luckily there's not much traffic out at 7 am), and headed up the sidewalk to retrieve him. He hid from us in a sickly Sago with lots of stiff lower branches, when a guy out jogging stopped and pulled him out for us. 

He had an upper respiratory infection and was scared to death. We named him Henley and he has made himself right at home, as they always do.  Out of 8 cats that I've had in my adult life, he's my first short-hair kitty. He's very sweet and our other 4, with the exception of one (the siamese) have graciously accepted him. Who could resist such a sweet little face!!!!

He entertains us with his high energy which involves running at high speeds around the house or rough housing it with Arthur or Zoe. And, he's absolutely adorable when he's pooped out! 

This crazy little boy is showing off  his pearly whites. He provides a lot of entertainment around our house. We sit around watching his crazy antics and laugh out loud. I'm telling you - it's better than television or politics!  

Enough said about Henley. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to some less humid weather, which I hope is just around the corner. I have quite a few small projects I want to get started on, but don't feel like it when its 80% humidity outside. I know ya'll know what I mean!!!! On the flip side of that, we've been getting our fair share of rain this month and that is always something to be grateful for!!

Thursday, September 01, 2016

The Jungle

In my jungle, my mighty little jungle, the plants have soared this summer. As I walk down the pathway I, sometimes, have to duck down or push back a leaf in order to proceed forward. It's wonderful, and I always feel like I'm on an expedition out here in search of the latest new bloom or wild creature.

This Robellini palm is going to have to fight for its space next to the giant elephant ear. It was so tiny when I planted it 1 1/2 years ago, but it is finally about 4 ft tall. Hopefully, next year it will be large enough - or almost - to cover the fence. There's another one on the other side of the elephant ears, so this space should be nice and tropical.

This is the first time the elephant ears have bloomed, and what a giant bloom it is, and long-lasting, too.

The crinum lilies have exploded in size and have bloomed throughout the summer, along with the yellow cestrum which the butterflies and hummers love.

I once read an article that said when working with a small garden space, do not shy away from large-leafed plants. It stated that "giant" plants will make the space feel larger.

I don't know if that's true or not, but I do love LARGE-LEAFED plants, including this super-sized bromeliad that has been blooming all summer.

This corner of the garden has all melded together creating a wall of greenery and summer-long blooms of mostly crape myrtles, red heirloom pentas, milkweed, blackberry lilies, agastache, black-eyed Susans and several varieties of savlia.  Everytime I look out my family room window, this colorful little corner has brought me much enjoyment because it's filled with butterflies all day long.

 I've been trying to identify this Swallowtail without much success. There are several Swallowtail varieties that are present daily, and I think this one might be a Spicebush Swallowtail. Not sure, so if anyone can I.D. it for me, please let me know. Looks like this little beauty has weathered some tough times, losing part of its lower left side.

I added a shelf to the top of my fence for this Pipevine to grow, in the hopes of attracting the Pipevine Swallowtail. I've heard they're very difficult to identify, so I'm not sure if the one in the photo above might be one. Anyway, I noticed that something has been eating on the leaves of the Pipevine, so that is good news. None of those odd looking flowers yet.

One day I caught this little fella perched on top of a milkweed leaf. My daughter said it's some kind of Skipper - not sure, but she usually knows her butterflies. He's cute, whatever he is!

I don't have too many flowers in the shady part of the jungle, but there is plenty of colorful foliage to keep it interesting.

 The other corner of the garden is a sunny spot, too and is also filled with butterflies all day. This corner is filled with firespike, tropical salvia, passion vines and firecracker plants with a few red and green variegated banana trees tossed into the mix (for me). The Gulf Fritillary, and Zebra Longwings love this corner - and, I love watching them. The hummers also love this side of the garden!!! 

Rain was hit and miss for us this summer. It seemed as though everyone around us got rain but not our area. We had a steady supply for about 3 to 4 weeks in August which was great during the hottest time. 

The bridal bouquet plumeria is sporting its usual crisp white blossoms which are so cooling to look at in the middle of a long, hot summer.

The volunteer Black-eyeds Susans have slowly dried up, and have given way to a ton of volunteer milkweed in its place. I'm slow to pull up seedlings that sprout in the walkway. I don't mind tolerating them for a brief period of time if it brings more butterflies to my little jungle. I'm sad to say for the second year in a row, I did not see that many Monarch butterflies in my garden despite the presence of a plentiful supply of milkweed. I'll keep planting it and hoping they will come. How about you - have you seen many Monarchs in your garden this summer?

 One last towering giant in my jungle - and one of my summer favorites - is the candlestick plant. I love this plant as much as the Cloudless Sulphur butterflies. It is a bright and cheerful addition to my cozy little jungle!!!

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