Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mother Nature's Artistry

This is a feature I do on the last day of every month. It is a photo of something unique or impressive or fascinating about the natural plant world. Here's this month's installment:

Enlarge the photo by clicking on it. Take some time to ponder, and leave a comment or guess as to what this is.  In a few days I'll post a final comment telling you what you're looking at.  Have fun!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bletilla striata (Chinese Ground Orchid)

Bletilla  is a hardy terrestrial orchid rarely growing more than 12" tall.  The foliage dies back to the ground each winter.  Purple flowers appear in late winter to early spring in Zone 9B, and range in color from pale pink to deep purple depending on the cultivar.  There is also a white color form.  There are usually 6-10 flowers per spike.
Native to China and Japan, it grows well in USDA Zones 6-10 in filtered sun locations.
These are often sold in stores with other packaged perennial bulbs such as Blood lily, Amazon lily, etc.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Loropetalum chinense

Loropetalums are native to Japan and southeastern Asia.  USDA Zones 7-10.  Grows up to 12' high and 6-8' wide in full sun or semi-shaded conditions.  Flowers have a stringy/papery appearance and are usually various shades of pink to red.  There is also a less popular white form.  Flushes of bloom appear several times throughout the year.  New leaves have a reddish tint and old leaves may also develop a red-orange coloration before dropping.  They are drought tolerant once established.  Loropetalums are often seen trimmed into short shrubs in roadway medians or parking lot islands but I think their true beauty is in their natural form as a small ornamental tree.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

India resists genetically modified food

The debate over genetically modified food intensifies as India halts release of the world's first genetically engineered eggplant (containing bacteria genes).
What is often lost in the pro and con discussions of genetically modified foods is that once these frankenfoods flower, their genetic material is released into the environment and passed on to the progeny of any nearby fields of the same crop that received pollen from the genetically modifed crop.  The genes are out of the bottle, so to speak.
Here are some good articles:
Genetically Modified Foods: Harmful or Helpful?
Wall Street Journal

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Billbergia Foster's Striate

Billbergia 'Foster's Striate' is a very reliable landscape bromeliad that has two to three bloom periods per year.  The flower spike arches and the blooms are held just above the foliage. The yellow and green striped leaves add a splash of color to shady areas, although they will tolerate a considerable amount of sun.
Here is a plant that gets full sun for about half of the day, intensifying the yellow tones in the foliage.
There is also an all-yellow leafed form of this plant named Gloria.
Buy Billbergia Foster's Striate offsets

Monday, February 15, 2010

Florida Bloom Day - 26 varieties!

Blooms are popping out all over.  Today there are 26 varieties in bloom!
1st row:  Dianthus, Oncidium Gower Ramsey
2nd row: Malvaviscus, Shrimp plant
3rd row: Formosa Azalea, Impatiens
4th row:  Camellia japonica, Knock-Out Rose

                                  1st row:  Cestrum aurantiacum, Surinam Cherry
                                  2nd row:  Tecomaria capensis, Peach
                                  3rd row:  Oxalis, Jacobinia
                                  4th row:  Petunia, Loropetalum

Bletilla striata (Ground Orchid)

And then we have some bromeliads!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Stinkhorn fungus -- appropriately named!

Most people find these repulsive, but I find them fascinating.  They appear out of nowhere but always announce their presence far and wide by the strong smell (usually described as disgusting but I think of as VERY organic).  They grow on decaying wood and are fairly common along the gulf coast states.  Their peak season is October through March.
The slimy brown portion is the smelly part and the part which also contains the spores.  Flies are attracted to the smell and spread the spores to wherever they travel next. 
Different species come in a variety of colors and formations but all have the distinctive smell.  The photo here is of Clathrus columnatus.

If you'd like to know more there is excellent information at Mushroom Expert  and at 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Resurrection fern

Resurrection fern (Polypodium polypodioides) is a fascinating plant that grows on the branches of trees as an epiphyte.  It gets all of its nutrients from the air, rainfall, and decaying debris that collects on the branch where it is growing.  It is so named because of the way the seemingly dead fern springs back to life after a rain.  The fronds will appear brown and withered for long periods of time, but within minutes of receiving moisture it is lush and green again.  It is found in large portions of the Southeastern U.S. and throughout tropical America, as well as Southern Africa (USDA Zones 6-11).
Before and after photos of the same clump of fern growing on the horizontal branch of an old camphor tree.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Camellia japonica

It's now the peak season for Camellia japonica and their beautiful blooms are everywhere.  Thousands of varieties exist, mostly in shades of pink, white, or red.  They are native to China but are popular in all regions where they grow (USDA Zones 6-9).  They prefer filtered light and an evenly moist, acid soil.  Camellias are slow growers with a shrubby habit but can eventually reach 15-20 feet after many years.  The dark green, glossy leaves are attractive year-round.
This is a favorite in my yard.  The blooms are 4-5 inches across.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Friday Creature Feature - Racoon

Here's another monthly event I'm starting:  On the first Friday of every month I'll be posting a photo of some creature that lives in my garden.  Today we have a mama racoon and her three babies in the crotch of an old oak tree.
Click on image to enlarge

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Give peas a chance (and other veggies too)!

A couple of weeks ago I ran across a cache of seed packets I had long ago squirreled away for a future garden and then promptly forgot about them.  They were now five years old.  Many people would probably just throw them away thinking they were too old to grow.  Not me.  I have difficulty throwing anything away that could possibly grow into a plant.  So.... into the ground they went.  Here is the result:
The snow peas are growing beautifully and it looks like nearly every one germinated.  I also planted some Alaska peas which may have had a slightly lower germination rate but still a high percentage.

The Beefsteak and Cherry tomatoes are coming up well, as is the curled parsley.  The sweet basil has excellent germination but oddly the purple-leaf basil did not germinate at all.  Likewise, the Cilantro and bell peppers have thus far done nothing.  The turnip greens though, came up very thick.  I'll have to do some thinning of these.
It just goes to show that if you want to throw out old seeds, throw them on the ground and you might be surprised!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Florida Harvest Monday- 16 varieties!

16 varieties of fruit ready to harvest this morning!
1st row:  Navel Orange, Orlando Tangelo, Minneola Tangelo (Honeybell), Sweet Lemon.
2nd row:  Ruby Red Grapefruit, Marsh White Grapefruit, Persian Lime, Key Lime, Kumquats.
3rd row:  Papaya, Starfruit, Banana flower, Pineapple.
Not shown:  Mandarins, Limequat, Calamondins.