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Arizona Sun Gaillardia

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Gaillardia “Arizona Sun”
Picture found online.

We lost another of our beautiful big oak trees a few weeks ago, and the shade that came with it. Consequently, the bromeliads that had been planted around the mailbox were suddenly in full sun, and burning up rapidly. Mark moved them out, and I bought three nice looking bright yellow lantanas, one for behind, and  one for each side of the mailbox, and then I went looking for something low and colorful (and cheap) for in front of it. I ended up with some very nice looking gaillardias that I think will give me several months of color, while I consider something more permanent in this spot. The variety I found was Arizona Sun, and I’m really looking forward to seeing them in full bloom. Hope they will look just like these pictures! Who grows gaillardia? Have any luck with it?

In Florida, winter is the time for many annuals that just can’t take our heat, including petunias, nasturtiums , and dianthus, to name a few. This is my favorite time of year to garden…or at least, it soon will be. I can feel just the tiniest hint of fall weather first thing in the mornings, even though it’s still hitting 90 or so by mid-afternoon. But even that little bit is enough to get me in the mood.

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It’s Time To GARDEN Once Again!

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Purple Hyacinth Bean, or Lablab
(Photo found online)

Wow. Summer is leaving, thankfully, and cooler temps are beginning to pop up, a day here, and a day, there. That means I can start to spend an hour or two in my yard again, clearing out “excessive horticultural overgrowth” and planting winter annuals and veggies. For the last four months, I’ve been trapped inside, but I’ve been so busy working on my third novel, I didn’t have time to go outside, anyway, so I guess it worked out okay. Now as I near the end of my first draft, I can afford to take a few hours off a week to do the other thing that’s good for my soul. Plant stuff! 🙂

Question for any of you loyal followers who have stuck around while I was busy elsewhere. How many of you grow lablab, or purple hyacinth bean? I ordered some seeds from amazon a few weeks ago, and have been very pleased. I found a supplier offering 100 for $4.95 (the same price as those offering TEN!) I crossed my fingers that the seeds were viable, and planted them in a container by the framework of my patio gazebo. It said germination was ten days to two weeks. In three days, sprouts were popping up everywhere. In 3 weeks the first vines were nearing the top of the gazebo. And now, roughly 8 weeks later, the vines have flowers galore and purple bean pods coming out.

I’m really pleased with this one, and am planning to do the same thing on the opposing corner of the gazebo, so the vines can meet in the middle.

I’d like to hear from others who’ve grown this. There is an online argument as to whether the beans are edible, and from what I can gather, MOST sources say they can be toxic in large amounts, and recommend boiling them twice, throwing away the water each time. I don’t think I want to eat anything enough to go to that much trouble. I’ll just grow mine for looks, because the color of both the blooms and the bright purple pods is beautiful. What do you think?

Finally! I’m BACK!

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Coral Honeysuckle in Full Bloom, and Carolina Wren in Residence in the Old Birdhouse

I know I’ve said it before, but honestly, you have no idea how much time writing and publishing a book can eat up. I’m spending at least 60 hours a DAY on it, so you know I’m in Time Deficit Mode, here! 😀 But. I’m trying to find ways to manage my crowded days better, so I can get back to my blogs again. I’ve already gotten Bookin’ It back to speed, and I can’t leave Who’s Your Granny just abandoned and lonely, now can I?

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View from My Patio Table

So…here’s the scoop. My sad and neglected garden is undergoing a metamorphosis as I try to get it cleaned up, replanted, and looking good before the heat becomes unbearable.

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First Don Juan rose of the season. Reddest & most perfect rose, ever! (Ignore all the photos
on my inspiration board. This is my writing desk, and you never know who or what might
be displayed! 😀

I dug my pathetic looking roses, which do not like my soil, and potted them in huge containers last month, and they are already leafed out and starting to bloom. They LOVE the richer potting soil, and the extra TLC.

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I’ve raised and released six monarchs already this season, which is pretty good, given that I don’t have as much milkweed available for them to lay their eggs on as I usually do. It’s on my shopping list.

Found a decent source of good terra cotta and glazed pots at my local Wal-Mart. Much better prices than Home Depot, and certainly better than most garden centers. So I’m collecting pots and moving a lot of things out of the ground and into containers. Easier to care for, and I have more control over the growing medium. I’m trying to do more xeriscaping for the inground stuff…native plants and low maintenance things. And annuals, which I’d have to replace every year, anyway. Thinking of broadcasting some wildflower seeds, if it isn’t already too late here.

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Mama Cardinal on my Jasmine vine, just outside my screen porch. Can you see her? (Look for her orange beak.)

We’ve been having 90 degree days regularly for several weeks, so summer is upon us already. Stay tuned for more frequent updates! And please let me hear from you, those of you who are still with me. I’ve missed chatting with my fellow gardeners and friends.

Love/Hate Plant Relationships…

You got any? After ten minutes of trying to pull up some weeds and yank some vines down, I sure do. And here’s the first one:

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Black-eyed Susan Vine, also called Clock Vine (Thunbergia alata) is simply gorgeous when it stays where you want it to stay. But it will take off during the summer (especially when you’ve been AWOL from the garden for months) and cover everything in its path. It is an annual, so it will die, but it will leave behind a LOT of seeds that come rushing back in the spring, each year. 

Now if you wonder why a mere ten minutes of yanking this out of my trees, off of my shrubs, and down from the roof of the Bali hut is such a big deal, I’ll tell you. Because it is 95 degrees in my back yard today. NINETY-FIVE! And ten minutes is the absolute maximum I can take before I run back inside to cool down again, cursing the black-eyed Susan vine every step of the way. It’s bloomin’ HOT out there, pardon my pun. So I wish I didn’t have to deal with this vine smothering all its neighbors, beautiful or not.

What grows in your garden or yard that you love the look of, but hate dealing with? (Not counting lawns. I don’t know why anyone, anywhere grows grass, so I’m going to ignore that for the purposes of this post.) What troubles you to the point that you really want to get rid of it, but like the flowers or fruit or leaves so much, you just can’t bring yourself to do so? I’d love to know.

 

The Beautiful Chaste Tree

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Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

I’ve been admiring the lovely chaste tree for some time, but only planted my own last summer. It was about two feet high and had only two stems on it at that time. This year, it has branched out like crazy and is close to five feet tall. The flowers are a wonderful shade of lavender, and to me, this little tree makes up for the fact that we can’t grow buddleia (butterfly bush) in central Florida worth a diddly. 

The chaste tree is so named because in medieval times, it was believed you could make a potion from it that would curb the libido. Oh, those medieval husbands! Apparently, they were always worried about what their wives would get up to while they were away crusading or jousting or whatever the heck they were doing. This would have been another tool in their arsenal—along with the infamous chastity belt, I guess—to control their women-folk. (It’s totally erroneous, of course! As if!!) Seems to me, it would have been easier just to stay home and be good husbands, but what do I know of those times? I’m old . . . but not THAT old! 🙂

I particularly like how my tree’s lavender blooms look next to my Abraham Darby rose. And when the plumbago between them is flowering, I have a nice little pink and blue bed going there. So far, the tree seems to be easy to care for, although it is deciduous and loses every leaf in winter, so you would want to keep that in mind when you decide where to plant yours. (You will be getting one, won’t you? How can you resist?)

Here are some closer views. 

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And one more. Notice the monarch butterfly? I never saw it until I opened the picture at 100%. I knew bumblebees were fond of these flowers. Now I know butterflies like them as well. What could be better?

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My plan is to limb the tree as it grow, so I get a nice “umbrella,” and can grow smaller plants beneath it. These trees usually top out at ten to twenty feet, though I’ve never seen one around here more than twelve or so. I’m looking forward to watching it grow. 

Do you have a chaste tree in your yard? How has it done for you? Do you have one of the lavender or blue varieties, or do you grow the pink or white ones? Inquiring minds wanna know!

Bits & Pieces

 

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Clematis crispa

Just a couple of pictures from my bedraggled, weedy, overgrown and now soaking wet, garden.  The photo above is a native clematis that I just adore. Yes, I know the bloom is tiny, and pretty tame when you compare it to the cultivated varieties you can grow in the north, like this:

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Or this:

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Or even this:

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But it is dainty, and sweetly shaped, and just look at how those raindrops hang from the tips of the “petals!” I’m sorry the picture isn’t sharper, but it was raining, and I was rushing a bit. 

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Last month, I replaced my hanging baskets in my front bed. I didn’t want to pay $25 or more for established hanging baskets, so I bought six 99 cent plants and made my own. Each basket got a Dipt In Wine coleus, a bright red New Guinea impatiens, and a Margarita sweet potato vine. They started out looking like this:

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And three weeks later, they look like this:

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Not bad for $3.00 worth of plants, eh? And I fully expect them to get much larger before summer is over.

And finally, I was all excited a few weeks ago when I found a really cool blue planter to put my coral “drift” rose in. I’m happy to report, it is thriving, and is on its second round of blooms. I’m still loving both the planter and the rose. And the Purple Showers ruellia behind it has begun to bloom again, after I cut it back severely in May. Tomorrow, maybe I can get a good picture of my little chaste tree, which has started to bloom nicely. 

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You’ll notice I’m only taking close up shots, here. A wide-angle view of what’s going on out there would make you run screaming! Ha. But I can only do so much in a day, and my days are pretty well booked right now, until I finish my novel. (Get it? Booked??? Oh, ha, ha, ha. Sometimes I crack myself up! *snort*)  So, that’s about it for Granny’s Garden right now. What’s new in  YOUR yard?

Love Shared!

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“Dulce Maria”

What better way to express your love for a friend than to share flowers from your garden? My good gardening friend and fellow Urban Fantasy reader, Felix, gave me a rooted cutting of a rose he received as an unidentified cutting from a relative, and now it is growing in my garden. It’s still a small plant, but it produces really big, sweet-scented flowers that are a wonderful shade of coral pink. That is an over-sized mug next to the rose, so you can see how large it is. I love this rose, and I think of Felix, my generous friend, every time the rose blooms! Starting my day with a rose and a cup of Earl Grey tea is my idea of heaven!

And just look at how truly beautiful the bloom is! If anyone recognizes the real name of this rose, which Felix calls Dulce Maria (or Sweet Maria), please let me know. I will still think of it as Dulce Maria, of course, but it would be nice to know how to find another one, should I ever want to add more to my garden. 

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My Poor, Neglected Garden…

…and my poor, neglected blog! I’m so sorry to have been AWOL yet again! My only excuse is that writing a book is a major time-suck beyond all imaginings. I am in the revision and editing stages, and it seems like I’ve been sitting at this computer at least 8 to 12 hours every day.  The house is full of dust bunnies the size of small ponies. Some of them are asking to be fed, now, along with the real animals. And the garden? Well, let’s just say it’s best not to go out there  without leaving a note indicating what part of the yard you’ll be in and when you expect to return—just in case search parties become necessary.

Okay, you get my drift, here. No time in the garden tends to mean not too many posts on Who’s Your Granny. But I did go out there yesterday and take note of the most offensive areas, hoping I might be able to do some yard work over the weekend. My granddaughter is coming to see us next weekend. She’s 8. And not very tall yet. I don’t want her to get lost amid the rampant horticultural overgrowth. And while I was walking around making notes on what should be done, but probably won’t, I found that my volunteer gloriosa lilies (Gloriosa superba) are blooming. Because they have popped up in various places, I have little control over where they wander, and their tiny tenacious tendrils (how alliterative!) cling to neighboring plants as well as any supports in the area. Thus, their spidery red flowers are dripping off of bushes, trees, and weeds, instead of being neatly organized on the supports I offered them, but never got around to tying them to. 

I cut several for vases, and have discovered the fragile looking flowers last quite a long time in water. It’s raining today, (oh, no…no yardwork for me, darn it!) so I’m sharing a picture of the ones inside my house, instead of outside. If you have never grown these wonderful vines, you really should. They grow from tubers that you can buy as you would other bulbs, and they die back to the ground every year. But they multiply underground, like many other tubers, and soon you will find them popping up in the warm months to cover an entire trellis with their wonderful blooms. They come in yellow and a few other shades, but none so truly worth of the name “gloriosa” as the red one, which is sometimes sold as the variety “Rothschildiana.” 

Without further ado, I present to you, the gloriosa lily! Enjoy!

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If you notice, the top leaf in the picture has a curled tip. That is the tendril. This is the only vine I’ve ever seen that clings via leaves that modify themselves into curling tendrils. Maybe some of you know of another that does, but I don’t. And that little curl can extend to wrap around and around a support stem.

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Another angle. BTW, that “Green Anthology” you see lying there is a great little book of collected poems, short stories, essays, and book excerpts, all featuring the theme of “Green.” I was very lucky to have been asked to contribute, and have one of my poems in the book. And June 15, the “Summer” anthology comes out, in which I will have three of my poems. I’m really excited about having some of my work published, and can’t wait until I have a novel out there, too. I guess it’s been worth neglecting my garden for a while. The book is available here, should you want to check it out. 

Sometimes It’s The Little Things That Make All The Difference!

Like finding exactly the right planter for your new rose, and it turns out to be bargain-priced, too! Doesn’t that just make you happy? Or am I just easily pleased?  Either way, I really like how my new Coral Drift rose looks in my heavy, clay planter that I found for only $17 at Home Depot. I’m a happy camper, now! (BTW, it’s larger than it looks. Nearly 2 feet long. This isn’t a miniature rose. Low-growing and with small flowers, but not a mini.)

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What little things make YOU happy? In the garden or anywhere else?

San Diego Gardens

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California Pepper Tree

(Click on any photo to enlarge)

I took quite a lot of pictures in my daughter’s neighborhood while in San Diego. They live in an area where there are lots of older craftsman and Spanish style bungaloes and cottages, with front yards just filled with flowers. These smaller homes do not waste space on water-hungry lawns, but instead, landscape with beds of plants suited to the hot, sunny and dry climate. Except for roses, which do need regular watering, but don’t like rainfall. If irrigated often enough, roses love San Diego, and San Diego loves them back. Even the smallest and plainest of houses often have yards filled with enormous rose blossoms. And when I say enormous, I mean 8″ or more across…salad plate sized, and bigger. They are amazing.  Here are a few pics I took walking around the area. Many of the plants are ones I see here in central Florida, but many more were new to me, and so interesting.

This home was much larger than most within walking distance, but not nearly large enough to warrant the $1,000,000 it just sold for, if you ask me.  No one did of course, but I would have trouble paying that much money for a home less than 2,000 square feet in size. I think Erin said it was about 1,800. Of course, I would have trouble paying a million dollars for ANY home, since…well, not to put too fine a point on it, but…I don’t HAVE a million dollars! At any rate, it was very nicely landscaped, and I couldn’t resist a picture. The upper vine is bougainvillea, of course, which is RAMPANT in San Diego. (They even trim it until it becomes bush-like and use it as hedges.)  The lower vine had a very pretty cup-shaped flower on it that I didn’t recognize. Inside the fence was a small courtyard with various container plants. Small citrus trees, and jasmines, and the like. It not only looked good, it smelled great, too.

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This garden fascinated me by the use of black rock as a mulch. The purple and orange color scheme really popped against it, though the picture doesn’t do it justice, I’m afraid. The purple plant in the background is sea lavender, which is planted in medians and commercial planters, too, and is very pretty. Up close, the flowers look like statice. In the foreground was salvia leucantha (Mexican sage), and bird of paradise, plus some smaller annuals.  It was really striking and well-maintained.

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This is just a cute little cottage with a very small front yard that was packed with roses. I thought it was very sweet.

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There were a lot of areas planted in front of fences, near the sidewalks, which was nice, because I could stop and take a good look at what was growing. This mixed bed had purple fountain grass, salvia leucantha, something that looked like a type of cuphea, and a glorious patch of pink small-leafed ice plant. Both that and the more typical ice plant are everywhere you look, and come in the brightest shades of red and pink you can imagine. I believe some of them are probably on the invasive side, but they are still widely used in gardens, too, and frankly, they are so beautiful, it tends to make you overlook any problems, I imagine.

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This is another patch of small-leafed ice plant, interspersed with some type of succulent. I thought it was gorgeous!

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Sadly, the day I took most of the rose pictures was so sunny, they are mostly way over-exposed. This one was a wonderful blend of pinks and yellows, and the bloom in the foreground was probably close to 9″ across. It was wider than I could spread my fingers!

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Many fences enclose smallish courtyards with containers of plants grouped here and there. This one was rather modest with the planters, but the colors of the roses were just wonderful.

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Others were really packed with plants, both in ground and in containers, and almost all of the gardens were beautifully maintained.

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This is a tree rose from the same garden.

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Erin is new to gardening, but she planted this lavatera last year as a plant about 18″ tall, and it is just fantastic now. The hummers love it. She also planted peppers, tomatoes and CORN in the back part of the garden.  In the foreground, you can see the big green leaves of Myres’ grapevine.

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Close up of Erin’s lavatera.

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A picture of one of the millions of succulents seen in nearly every yard, maybe an agave of some sort. I’m not sure, but it had wicked points and was about 2 feet wide. I just liked the color.

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A wildly over-exposed picture of Erin, Myres and Kaelen, but I swear to you, the bougainvillea was just that red, and I’ve never seen one with more blooms on it in my life!

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And lastly, the most…er…unusual thing I found “blooming” in a neighboring garden. And believe me, this guy wasn’t going to stop grazing for anyone.

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Lots of photos for one post, I know, but I wanted to get them all up while I had a chance. Hope you enjoyed them!

Fantastic Solution for Flower Beetle Problems!

Abraham Darby David Austiin Rose

Abraham Darby

I was outside working today when Mark asked me to come look at something and tell him whether he should rescue the critters or not. (He has learned that many insects are welcome in my garden.) Imagine my surprise when I looked into a white plastic 5-gallon container and saw about 50 dead or dying flower beetles (see earlier post) floating in 3 or 4 inches of water!  I remembered that when I was reading about them, most articles said they were attracted to pale colored flowers, and I had noticed that  seemed to be true. They were ignoring Louis Philippe, for instance, which is red. I think they saw that white bucket, thought it was the biggest white flower in the world, crawled in , and conveniently drowned!  I plan to test my theory by locating several of them throughout my rose garden until this year’s infestation is over. It beats the heck out of walking around and plucking them one by one to drown them in a butter container full of soapy water. Not that that’s hard, but it does take some time. How nice it would be to wake up each morning and find that the beetles had been thoughtful enough to commit suicide during the night!  Will let you know if it continues to work, but I am optimistic. I mean, how likely is it that the drowning beetles would have yelled out warnings to their friends to stay away from the big white flowers? I’m thinkin’ this might be the best answer, ever!

Louis Philippe, Angel Face, and “Dulce Maria”

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(Click to see larger image)

A couple of my roses had buds yesterday which I quickly snipped to save them from marauding flower beetles. I just had to share.  The glorious coral-pink one was a rooted cutting given to me by my good friend, Felix. He didn’t know the name, but calls it Dulce Maria. This is the first time it has bloomed for me, and I just love the enormous petals and the vibrant color. The fragrance in this first bloom was very mild, but the flower makes up for it in size and beauty. The red one is Louis Philippe, which smells very nice, but these first blooms of the spring are a bit on the smallish side. It is never a huge flower, but is one that I love probably more than all other roses, for its history, as well as its blooming habit. And the third one is Angel Face, which is the most beautiful, feminine, and heavenly smelling little rose imagineable. The lavender color is fantastic, too. I wish my iPhone did a better job at capturing the colors for you, but maybe you can get an idea of how nice these three roses are. 

And here is my cat, Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, checking out Dulce Maria. He’s a nosy boy! But he knows a pretty rose when he sees one! Again, click to see full sized photo.

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Are your roses blooming yet? Which are your favorites?

They’re BAAAA-AAAAAAACK!

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Japanese Beetles

Run far, run fast! The Japanese beetles are back. Or possibly they are Chinese Rose Beetles. But what they MOSTLY are is HUNGRY. For my roses. They manage to squeeze inside the buds and eat them from the middle out, completely destroying the blooms before they can even open. There are so many beetles on the rose above, they can’t hide. On mine, you often have to pull the petals apart to find the sneaky little devils! I hate them with the hatred of a thousand burning suns!!  But there are two good things I try to keep in mind. One, they are only here a few weeks, and then they disappear for another year. And two, they are ridiculously easy to hand pick and drop into a dish of soapy water for the Bath Of Death. So no need to use nasty pesticides. I just fill a plastic margarine tub with some water and a heavy squirt of Dawn, and I walk through the gardens plucking the nasty little blighters from every rose I see them on, dropping them into their Day Spa of Doom, and voila. Soon, the roses are safe again.

Do you get rose beetles?  How do you handle them?

My Favorite “Weed!”

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Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

All weeds are not created equal. Some of them are noxious, annoying, ugly things that take over your flower beds and make you shake your fist at the sky and use words no really nice gardener would use. At least not in public.  Others are much nicer to find popping up here and there. If I like how they look, or think birds and butterflies will like them, and I don’t need the space for anything else, they get to stay in my garden. Probably my favorite of these would be spiderwort. I love the beautiful blue blooms, and even the foliage is nice, looking very much like strappy daylily leaves. This picture doesn’t do the blue color justice. It isn’t nearly this purple, but more of a real, true blue, which isn’t all that common in the garden. That’s probably why I like it so much.

I think weeds and wildflowers are often under-appreciated, and give a garden a sense of being more like a meadow.  Do you have any that you allow to remain in your beds?

Mexican Flame Vine

I have an annoyingly blank and ugly stretch of privacy fence along the side of my yard.  It’s absolutely necessary, due to the traffic on the other side, but it sure ain’t purty, as they say.  I’ve tried for almost NINE years to get something growing on it that would hide the whole thing. I’ve planted every kind of sturdy, easy-to-grow vine you can think of.  Some that can be downright monsters.  All have failed over time. (I’m thinking they salted the earth along the fence line when they installed it!  Gack.)  Anyway, I finally tried planting several vines in huge pots along the fence, hoping the enriched potting soil would fix the problem.  One of the vines was a wisteria vine.  Wisteria!  A vine that has been known to swallow entire HOUSES in some parts of the south. Ha.  The Fence of Death wasn’t impressed. 

But a few months ago, I noticed that a Mexican flame vine I planted over three years ago had decided to grow.  Keep in mind, this vine had died back to about 3 leaves and was maybe 6″ tall all this time.  And brown and unhappy looking.  Now, the flame vine has risen up in rebellion against the evil fence, and in doing so, swallowed up the pathetic wisteria and finally, finally begun to bloom.  In a fiery splash of day-glo orange, it is something to see right now.  And since we haven’t had a freeze this year, I’m thinking (though I wouldn’t dare voice this out loud) that it might be here to stay, this time. 

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…tada!…Marcia’s Mexican Flame Vine!  Um…sorry about the sad pictures. The light was bad, and I can only do so much with an old, outdated iPhone.  But you get the idea. It’s splendid!

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Mexican Flame Vine On The Fence Of Death

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More of the Same, On The Same

I tell you, folks. Life is good. And life with a thriving Mexican Flame Vine is even better! What kind of problem areas do you have in your yard?  Anyone else got a Fence of Death to deal with?

February In My Garden

I finally, finally got to spend some time in my garden today, potting a few things for around my front entryway, and starting the huge, ginormous task of weeding and pruning. It felt good to sweat over some actual, physical labor, instead of just over what word to put in front of another.  But you might have known I couldn’t stay away from the computer for very long, so here I am to share a couple of pics from this morning.  The garden overall is pretty dismal yet, but there are some things that shine, in spite of the weeds and neglect. 

My white bird of paradise hasn’t frozen back this year because…well…because there hasn’t been a freeze, of course! (Though there was some ice in my birdbaths last week, so it had to have dipped below 32 briefly, anyway). If you look closely at this monster big plant (about 10 feet tall, probably, and just as wide), you can see a couple of BIRDS in the middle.  For some reason, these blooms are buried in the center of all the stems and huge leaves, guarded against prying eyes like mine. But I found them anyway! 

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White Bird of Paradise Blooms

As I poked around here and there, I found a few other things of interest, too.  Most obvious to anyone in the garden is the coral honeysuckle vine which climbs up a large pole with a big birdhouse on top. Ummm…honest, the pole and birdhouse are under there, somewhere. This vine is a favorite of our ruby-throated hummingbirds, and I’ve seen a few feeding from it already this year.

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Coral Honeysuckle Vine

A couple of my roses are blooming, too, even though they have barely begun to leaf out since I cut them back the other day.  This first one, Double Delight,  is still quite small, but the blooms are divine, both to look at and to smell, hence the name.  The rose-red coloring on the outside of the petals will continue to bleed inward for days, until the rose is more red than white. Sorry I couldn’t get a better picture with my iPhone.  You can tell I’m not a photographer!

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Double Delight Hybrid Tea Rose

Another small rose I love is Florida Home Run Pink, a single rose that has a lovely “wild rose” look to it.  It was “created” by the same folks that came up with the Knock Out Roses, and is just as easy to grow.  I have a semi-circle of three in front of one of my birdbaths.

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Florida Home Run Pink

There are a few more things blooming, but I didn’t get any more pictures.  I’m hoping to spend some time out there tomorrow, as well, so I’ll try to get a few more.  What’s blooming in your yard? Or are you still under a layer of that white stuff? 

February In Central Florida

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Pink Firespike  (Odontonema strictum)

Photo Taken Half Hour Ago Near My Patio

(Notice very blue sky, and hot, hot sunlight)

I was just watching the news today, and saw the images of the awful blizzard that struck the northeastern part of the country yesterday and over night.  My heart goes out to those without power, and who have suffered damages from the storm. I have to say, it seems surreal to be sitting at the table in my shorts and t–shirt, watching the news and trying to imagine how cold it must be up there. The local weather came on immediately afterward and promised that we will have 84 degree temps by Monday.  It’s a mere 74 degrees right now, so that’s a ten degree hike in the next day and a half. Frankly, 84 degrees is too hot to suit me, but it’s better than digging out from under a five foot pile of snow, I know, so I’m not going to complain.

I’m actually working in the garden today, pruning back roses that are trying to send up new growth already, and weeding things that normally would die over the winter, but haven’t this year, since we haven’t had a freeze yet.  Even my firespike is blooming for the first time in three years.  It’s really too tropical for here, and normally freezes right before the buds open every year.  Go figger!

Ain’t life strange?  I’m sweating, those folks up north are freezing, and still, things go on, for better or worse. It’s left to us to just play the hand we’re dealt, I reckon.  So, with that thought in mind, break’s over, and it’s back to the garden for me.

Herbs In The Garden – Borage

borage

Borage Officinalis

With temps hovering in the mid-70’s and even predicted to go as high as 85 degrees tomorrow, I’m feeling pressured to get my winter gardening underway, and to find time to clean up my beds and get ready for spring.  I really love planting herbs in and among my other flowers and shrubs, and in containers scattered throughout the garden.  One of my favorites is borage, which has edible flowers and leaves, but which I mostly grow for the lovely, Victorian look of the plant.  With its velvety leaves and gorgeous blue, star-shaped flowers, it just feels so romantic to me.  And it is a bee magnet, so it is always welcome in my yard.

I’ve read that both the flowers and the tender new leaves have a mild cucumber taste, and make a delicious and attractive addition to salads.  I’ve never tried this, and I’m curious to hear from anyone who has.  If nothing else, how beautiful would a sprinkling of these blue flowers be across the top of a crisp, green salad?  I have heard it recommended to try borage sparingly at first, as it might have a mild laxative effect on some people.  I find that can be true of many vegetables, so it doesn’t worry me overly much, but if you have a sensitive system, you might want to heed the advice.

Borage is an annual, but it often reseeds and comes back on its own.  I just picked up a beautiful plant this weekend so I could use it to jump start a container garden in a cobalt blue planter.  I also found a healthy seedling that volunteered in my raised bed. 

If you’ve never tried growing borage, you really should.  With its fuzzy leaves and sweetly nodding flowers, it will give a softness and a touch of beautiful blue color to any garden, whether you grow it as an edible herb, or just as a pretty and unusual plant.

Borage 1

(Click to see Full Sized)

What herbs do you enjoy growing, and what time of year can you plant them in your area?

Garden at Giverny

“I must have flowers, always, and always.”

–Claude Monet

Claude Monet's Garden at Giverny

Garden at Giverny Painted by Claude Monet

(Click to see larger version)

I thought perhaps while my own garden is in such a disreputable state, I might share a few garden images and quotes with you over the next few days.  If you are a gardener at heart or an art lover, you may already know of Monet’s love of flowers. His garden is still considered one of the most beautiful in the world, and attracts thousands of visitors to Giverny, France, every year. For information and some lovely photos of the garden that inspired so many of Monet’s paintings, check this link:

Monet’s Garden in Giverny

Wouldn’t you love to go there?  Maybe some of you have?  If so, was it as beautiful as it looks?

Image found online.

Don’t You Love It When…

Angel Face Rose

Angel Face

(Click for Close Up)

…you come across something you’ve been hunting for for two years?  And better yet, when it is sitting next to something you’ve been hunting for six months?  How cool is that?  In my case, I’ve been positively longing for an Angel Face rose for my garden.  Everywhere I checked for Angel Face, they told me they hadn’t been able to get any in for a very  long time, and thought maybe the grower wasn’t growing them any more.  Roses do come and go in popularity, and it had been a decade or more since I had one in any of my past gardens.  I had just about given up on finding one until two weeks ago.  I stopped by my one of my favorite local nurseries (Lukas, for anyone in this area) and as I was walking along with my friend, Nicki, looking at plants, lo and behold!  What did I spot right in front of me but one little Angel Face!  I was so excited!  And then, I realized it was sitting right beside a Double Delight, the rose I had been trying to get for at least six months.  Double Delight was still being sold everywhere, but somehow I always arrived the day AFTER the last one had been sold.  Yet…here they both were, side by side.  They may as well have had a sign over them saying, “Yooohooooo!  Marcia!  Here we are!”

Double Delight Hybrid Tea Rose

Double Delight

(Click for Close Up)

Being nobody’s fool, I grabbed them both up, and they are happily planted in my backyard now.  It’s the little surprises along the way that make everything worth while, I think.

Both of these roses have heavenly, old-fashioned fragrances, and are prolific bloomers.  They are subject to black spot in Florida, like pretty much all but the antique varieties, but overall, they are generally vigorous plants.  Double Delight is a hybrid tea, and Angel Face is a bushy little floribunda.  I’m tickled to death to have them both in my garden, now.  

Any of you guys been hunting for something you really want but can’t find?

Photos found online.