Posts Tagged ‘flowers’

Wordless Wednesday Celebration

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After the Storm

Tropical Storm Debby pulled away on Wednesday after dropping a total of about 7 or 8 inches of rain on the area. As the skies cleared and the sun started to dry things out, I was able to return once again to my garden and make an inspection tour. I was actually very pleasantly surprised to find that nearly everything had not only come through unscathed, but seemed to have been relishing the deep, soaking rain. I will use the pictures I took during that tour to give you a quick guided tour.

The pictures below provide an overview of my vegetable garden. The first one shows two of my 4×4 raised beds in the foreground, with my cowpea patch just beyond. Although they’re hard to make out in this picture, I also have a row of green beans (White Half Runner) planted along the fence in the background. Those beans were planted in March and have about run their course, so I will be taking them out in the next day or two.

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The next picture shows my SFG bed, a 4×4 raised bed which is the only bed I currently have planted in strict accordance with Mel Bartholomew’s Square Foot Garden specifications. As you can see, the plants in this bed are thriving, so thus far I give a big, green thumbs-up sign regarding this approach.

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My fourth and final raised bed is the 3×6 bed shown below. Its primary purpose is to be a blueberry bed, but from this angle the two blueberry bushes are hard to discern. One is located just to the right of and slightly behind the bean tower in this picture; the other is in the mirror-image location on the left. The beans you see growing up past the top of the picture are Kentucky Wonder beans, all growing from a single square foot.

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You may notice above that the square just to the left of the beans is empty. I had to remove the cucumbers previously growing there, because sometime during the storm, they succumbed to what I presume was a squash vine borer attack. Here is what they looked like when I found them.

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Moving on to happier thoughts, the next two pictures show some bell peppers (Sweet California Wonder) and the first okra pod (Clemson Spineless) of the season.

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The next two pictures show varieties I have never grown before, and which I am anxious to see on my dinner table. First, you can see a close-up of Lina Sisco’s Bird Egg beans. The pods become streaked with purple shortly before ripening. They are then allowed to dry on the vine before harvesting. The shelled beans themselves are very pretty little dried beans with a white or cream color, mottled with purple. Second, you can see a Fish pepper plant. It is now blooming quite a bit, and although I couldn’t get a good picture showing one, it has some little tiny pepper pods beginning to grow. Like the plant, the pods should be streaked with white.

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I also noticed during this tour that the first of my cowpeas are developing pods. The picture below shows some California 46 Blackeyed peas on their way to becoming harvest-ready.

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As you can see in this next picture, the marigolds are really beginning to come into bloom now.

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And the rose bush I just planted the other day made it through the storm okay, even though it needed to be staked to stabilize it.

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In my butterfly garden, several of the nectar sources are really popping out in blossoms. This picture shows some Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea).

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Next is one of only three species of lantana native to Florida, Lantana depressa, so named because it stays low to the ground, rarely exceeding a foot in height.

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Towering above the other plants in the area is this rosinweed (Silphium integrifolium). This is the same blossom that I showed being weighed down by the rain in my Wordless Wednesday Walkaround blog post earlier this week.

As an aside in case you are wondering, I do have other tall varieties planted nearby; they just haven’t grown yet. I am hoping they will catch up by late summer.

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Since the storm left, I have noticed an incredible number of butterflies hanging around, but I have yet to get a picture worth posting. So far, I have seen several Zebra Longwings (Florida’s state butterfly), a couple Giant Swallowtails, a Black Swallowtail, and numerous Gulf Fritillaries. Speaking of Gulf Fritillaries, I found several Gulf Fritillary caterpillars on my passion vine, including the one in the next picture.

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Before signing off, to keep from leaving you with the false impression that everything made it through the storm without problems, I’ll show a couple examples of things that didn’t fare quite so well. First, before the storm I had quite a display of tithonia torch (Tithonia rotundiflora) blossoms here and there around the yard. They are supposed to look like this:

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Unfortunately, most of them now look like this:

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I also have a couple hills of young, still rather tender pigeon pea bushes. The sandy soil nearby must have taken quite a pounding with the rain, as the plants now look like those below. Although they are still standing upright, I am concerned about the sand filtering too much light, inhibiting photosynthesis. For that reason, I will try to gently wash the sand off the leaves tomorrow. However, anyone who has tried to wash sand off themselves or anything else following a visit to the beach will recall that sand doesn’t loosen its grip easily, especially with just a gentle washing.

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I will leave you with that for now. I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour around my garden!

Happy Gardening!

Wordless Wednesday Walkaround

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Simple Pleasures

Up to this point, I have blogged exclusively about vegetable gardening, but that’s not the only kind of gardening I enjoy. In fact, the spark that rekindled my love of gardening was my butterfly garden, which I started a little over a year ago.

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This evening, after returning from a few days out of town, I was struck by the simple beauty of some of the flowers I have here and there around my house. My iPhone, which has a remarkably good camera, was conveniently located in my pocket, so I decided to turn my walk-around into a photo shoot. I liked some of the results so much, I was inspired to write a blog post so I could share them with you.

Because my butterfly garden is in a way responsible for all this, I will give a selection of those flowers top billing here. The first two pictures to share are milkweed. Milkweed flowers will attract just about any nectar-feeding insects, including multiple species of butterfly. What makes milkweed a central component of any butterfly garden, though, is that it is the only plant that can serve as the host plant for Monarch caterpillars. As such, Monarch butterflies are particularly drawn to them.

The picture above is a scarlet milkweed, asclepias curassavica, also known as a tropical milkweed. This is the typical color pattern for that species. The one below is somewhat of an enigma. About a year ago, I purchased a butterfly milkweed, asclepias tuberosa, and planted it in this spot. It promptly died. What you see is the plant that grew up in its place. A typical butterfly milkweed flower looks similar to the scarlet, with red and yellow, giving it an orange appearance from a distance. The easiest way to distinguish the two species is by the leaves, as the butterfly milkweed leaves have a somewhat crinkly appearance, whereas the scarlet leaves are smooth. All-yellow flowers like you see below are a known variation of butterfly milkweed, but the leaves on this one look like those of a scarlet milkweed. I suspect this is actually a yellow butterfly milkweed, and if the leaves become crinkled as the season progresses, I’ll know for sure. For now there is that element of doubt.

(Those of you with keen eyes may notice the crinkles in the top picture and think that I have the descriptions backwards. No, that once simply needed watering when I took the picture.)

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The two pictures of daisy-like flowers below are strictly nectar sources in my butterfly garden. That is, they do not serve as larval hosts; they merely help attract and feed adult butterflies. The first picture shows some of Florida’s state wildflower, the coreopsis. If you can remember the common name, coreopsis, it’s easy to remember the scientific name of the genus, coreopsis. This particular species is the C. lanceolata, so named because of its lance-shaped leaves. The second picture shows a couple of Rudbekia hirta, better known as Black-eyed Susan.

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The next few pictures show flowers located elsewhere in my yard. First is a double hibiscus. Nearly all the hibiscus I have growing are the scarlet variety; I just happen to like this one because it’s so unusual. I don’t even know the name of the color. The second and third pictures are of different flowers on a bottlebrush tree. We only get hummingbirds here for a few months during the winter, so if I’m lucky enough to have it in bloom then, I’m hoping it will attract some.

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The next picture below is of a relative newcomer to our yard. We planted several of these to fill in the space along the entranceway to our front door. They should spread nicely to fill in the space over the next few months. What you can’t tell from this picture is that the underside of each leaf is actually black. It gives the plant a rather striking appearance. This plant is known as a Plectranthus Mona Lavender.

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Lastly, since this is the beginning of the three-day Memorial Day weekend here in the United States, which marks the traditional psychological start of summer, I’ll leave you with a sampler assortment from the container garden found around our pool. I wish everyone a safe and enjoyable holiday, but most of all, please take some time to remember why we have this holiday in the first place. It is because of the sacrifices of those whom we honor that we are able to enjoy our simple pleasures.

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Memories and Aspirations

20120510-013140.jpgMy earliest gardening memories are from about the age of four or five, following my grandfather around his backyard garden in the Bluegrass region of Central Kentucky. He would always grow a wide assortment of vegetables, almost all of which were heirlooms, most of which were quite common, more than a few not so well known. He always seemed to know what to plant, when to plant it, and where to plant it to get the best combination of water, sunshine, and synergy from other varieties planted nearby.

From whenever the ground would first thaw in the spring until a heavy frost would take down the last of the crops as winter moved in, he would work his garden day after day, bringing in all sorts of delicious delights that would make their way to the dinner table. I remember radishes, beets, and peas always being first in the ground and first on the table. Potatoes would be planted about the same time, but wouldn’t be harvested until much later. By midsummer, we would have tomatoes galore, corn and green beans every day, yellow squash running out our ears, and more okra than anyone could ever eat. Each fall, one of the last of the foods to be brought in was an enormous type of winter squash called a cushaw.

Granddaddy wasn’t just a vegetable gardener. I remember him having several ornamental plants as well as blooming perennials in various places around the yard, and I vividly recall the bright colors that would adorn his bed of annual flowers each spring and well into the summer. I can call to mind the texture and scent of a fresh mint sprig as it slipped into a glass of iced tea, and if I close my eyes, I can still feel the peach fuzz on my tongue and the peach juice dripping down my chin on a hot summer day. He could name every butterfly that wandered by and every weed that sprang up. He knew which insects would help him out and which would cause harm. He grew worms in a chest in his basement. He made bird houses by hand, and kept bird baths and bird feeders around, fully stocked and ready for the next wave of avian visitors. He would announce with uncanny accuracy when the hummingbirds would show up to feed on the nectar from his four o’clocks.

My grandfather has been gone for more than a quarter century now, and I have grandchildren of my own. I took up gardening again a little over a year ago. In that time, I have had a few gardening successes, and quite a few failures. What I wouldn’t give now to be able to roll back the clock long enough to reclaim some of the wealth of knowledge that he so willingly tried to impart to me! And oh, how I wish I had some seeds that he passed down!!

Instead, I’m left with a few imperfect fragments of memory, some pointers he gave me to help with my own gardens decades ago, and the boundless set of resources now available literally at my fingertips. To complicate matters, I now live in Central Florida, yet my gardening memories are from Kentucky. Though much is the same, even more is different. The seasons are completely different. The pests are different. The soil is different. Some things grow here that could never grow there, and others from my past stand little chance of making it here. I could go on. Suffice it to say, I’m learning, and will probably be in learning mode for some time yet to come.

With this blog, I hope to share my gardening adventures with you. I look forward to sharing what I have learned, to celebrating the excitement of each new harvest, and to learning whatever lessons my garden decides to dish out for me. This blog itself is a salad. I don’t have a recipe for it, but I do have a vision. In my mind’s eye, it is chock full of fresh ideas, with an assortment of tastes, colors, and textures. It is light, but filling, and very nutritious, with no two bites the same. There’s more than enough to go around, so pull up a chair and join me!