Monday, May 31, 2010

Mother Nature's Artistry

This month's installment of Mother Nature's Artistry is a group of water hyacinth leaves.  The plant is invasive in Florida but these are safely contained in a small goldfish pond in my back yard.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Cherry of the Rio Grande (Eugenia aggregata)

Cherry of the Rio Grande is a delicious subtropical fruit with a sweet, cherry-like flavor.  It is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11 and is hardy to 20° F once established.  It is one of the more cold-tolerant members of the Eugenia genus.
Eugenia aggregata is native to Brazil.  It grows slowly to about 12-15 foot in height with a somewhat shrubby habit.  It is a very ornamental plant with dark, glossy, green leaves.  Showy, fragrant, white flowers appear in the spring.  The fragrance is carried a considerable distance on a light breeze.
The oblong purple-black fruits ripen about three weeks after flowering. Fruit flies don't seem to bother the fruit, but birds like to peck at them once they start turning color. You'll have to watch them closely--fruits will be green one day, red the next and black the following day. These are edible when they're red and they'll also ripen to black a day after picking, so if birds are a problem, just keep them picked before they're fully ripe.

These are often compared to Bing cherries, but these have much more flavor! They can be eaten fresh, juiced, or made into jellies or jams.  Fruits can be up to 1 inch in diameter.  The ripe fruits reportedly freeze well but mine are usually all consumed right off the tree!
Cherry of the Rio Grande requires very little maintenance, but they do benefit from adequate watering during the period of flowering and fruiting.  In Florida, this corresponds with the dry season, so supplemental watering may be required for good production.

As the plant ages, the outer bark exfoliates, giving it added visual interest.
Attractive foliage, interesting bark, fragrant flowers, and delicious fruit...  This plant has it all!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis)

Walking iris is a stunning spring bloomer for warm climates.  The bright blue and white flowers are about 3 inches across.  
An entire bed of these iris will bloom on the same day and for only one day.  The spectacle is repeated every few days throughout the spring months.
After flowering, a new plant starts to form on the end of the flower stalk.
The weight of the developing plant causes the stalk to bend over and touch the ground, where the plantlet will take root. 

This is where the common name "Walking Iris" comes from.  The plants "walk" across the landscape (very slowly).  The long narrow leaves are arranged in a fan shape, typical of other members of the Iris family.  They are thin and droopy, giving mass plantings a soft billowy texture.  There is a related species with yellow flowers that has a more upright habit.
Neomarica will grow in mostly sun to full shade.  USDA Zones 8 to 11 (native to Central and South America).  The higher the zone you're in, the more shade you should give them.  Plants generally grow about 18" to 2 feet tall.  They make a nice evergreen groundcover under small trees where they'll get a little shade.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dewberry (Rubus trivialis)

Dewberry is a low-growing, trailing bramble that bears blackberry-like fruit.  White, five-petaled flowers appear in early spring and are followed by small fruit which are eaten by birds and small mammals.  Humans also enjoy the fruit, but due to its small size, it takes a large quantity of fruit to make a bowl full.  Fruit can be eaten fresh, or made into jams or pies if sufficient quantity can be picked.

Dewberries thrive in poor soils but reportedly fruit better when given an application of fertilizer in the fall.  The flowers and fruit appear on the vines from the previous year's growth.  The preferred exposure is sun or dappled shade.  Due to their low trailing habit, wild plants are most visible when in bloom.

The entire plant is covered with small prickles so it is necessary to wear gloves when cultivating the plant or picking the fruit.

Rubus trivialis is native to most of the southeast quadrant of the U. S.  There are several closely related species and the taxonomy of this group of plants is not completely resolved.
Some people make a tea from the dried leaves.  The fruit also yields a purple to dull blue dye.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Aechmea lamarchei

This is a large growing bromeliad that is great for landscaping.  Aechmea lamarchei grows about 3 foot tall and 4 foot wide. They tend to sprawl as they grow rather than remain an upright rosette of leaves, so give them plenty of room. Their wandering habit makes them difficult to keep confined in a pot. They nearly always grow off to one side, eventually tipping the pot and continuing to grow across the ground.

Individual plants stay in bloom for about 3 to 4 weeks, with large clumps having the bloom period spread out over a slightly longer amount of time. I have had plants bloom in spring, summer and fall, but usually several plants will come into bloom at the same time, making for a nice mass display.
Like many bromeliads, the foliage on this species changes color depending on how much light it is in.

The best color seems to be in light shade or filtered sun where it develops a light purplish-olive tint. 

In more sun, the color gets bleached out to a plain green.

They can take temperatures in the upper 20° F range without damage as long as frost doesn't settle on the leaves.

Buy Aechmea lamarchei!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Bloom Day - 51 varieties for May!

Lots of blooms for the month of May!  Viewing across, then down:  Dendrobium pierardii, Loropetalum, Don Juan Rose, Porterweed, Brunfelsia, Thevetia, Jaboticaba, Pomegranate.

Barleria (white & purple), Ruellia brittoniana, Ruellia elegans, Shrimp plant, Tecoma, Dietes iridioides, Dietes bicolor

Jewel of Opar, Yesterday-Today & Tomorrow, Turnera, Russelia, Bush Daisy, Duranta, Spiderwort, Plumbago

Cestrum aurantiacum, Cestrum diurnum, Jasminum ilicifolium, Jasminum sambac, Lantana, Dianthus, Petunia, Pentas

 Cattley Guava, Elderberry, Ascocentrum curvifolium, Magnolia grandiflora, Tipuana tipu, Mimosa, Passiflora incarnata, Neomarica gracilis

Aechmea lueddemanniana, Aechmea fasciata, Aechmea Burgundy, Aechmea Royal Wine, Aechmea distichanthaBillbergia Windii

Neoregelia carolinae, N. olens,
N. rosea-lineata, N. Sheba,
N. spectabilis, N. Tangerine

To see what's blooming in gardens around the world today visit May Dreams Gardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Space Shuttle Launch (as seen from my backyard)

Here's a photo of the launch that I took from my back yard this afternoon (located near Orlando, about 50 miles from the launch pad).  Second and third photos are zoomed progressively closer.


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Orchid waterfall

Dendrobium pierardii planted on a horizontal branch makes a waterfall of blooms!  This orchid is cold-hardy to the mid 20° F range, deciduous, and pendulous.  Since they are leafless in the spring when the blooms appear, there is no foliage to obscure the mass of blooms.

The flowers are lightly fragrant and when the sun shines through the petals, they sparkle!  The yellow lip is slightly fuzzy.
Dendrobium pierardii is a natural epiphyte and thrives when planted along with other epiphytic plants. Here's one growing with Resurrection fern.
They require no care whatsoever once they are attached to the branch.  A single staple holds small plants steady until rooted.  The roots run along furrows in the bark and gather nutrients from decomposing leaves and other debris falling out of the tree.  New green shoots grow from the base of the plant in spring and will produce flowers a year later. 
Each year they grow larger and more beautiful! This specimen has been growing unattended for more than 20 years!
Another four years of growth since the above photo was taken for this original post and here's what it looks like:
I had to stand back much farther to get the whole thing in the photo!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Nun orchid (Phaius tankervilliae)

This is a terrestrial orchid that behaves like a perennial in the garden.  Phaius tankervilliae is native to large parts of tropical Asia.  The long, pleated leaves grow from the base of the plant and arch over to a length of two feet or more.  In early winter the flower spike will start to emerge from between the leaves and the flowers will open in mid-spring on a 3 to 4 foot stalk.  The bloom spike will last for 4 to 6 weeks. 

The nodding flowers are a rusty brown color on the front side and white on the back, with a prominent purple lip.  Each flower is about 3 to 4 inches across.  It is the reproductive parts within the throat of the flower that give the plant its name.  If you peer inside you will see the image of a nun wearing a white habit.

Phaius can be grown outdoors in the ground in USDA Zones 9-11.  In cold climates the plant can be grown in containers and protected from freezing weather.  A light shade or filtered sun location is best.
One other interesting thing about these plants is that you can cut the old flower stems into sections and lay on moist soil or sphagnum moss and they will send out roots and grow new plants!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Gardening Mothers

This is dedicated to all mothers who garden with their children.  You are passing on knowledge and skills that could never be taught in a classroom.

You teach self-sufficiency when you grow food plants.
You teach appreciation for beauty when you grow flowers.
You teach forethought when you plan what to grow and when.
You teach compromise when there is not enough space for everything you want to grow.
You teach patience when you plant a seed that will one day grow into a tree.
You teach how to nurture and care for others when you grow young plants that need careful tending.
You teach discipline when the weeds must be pulled.
You teach cooperation when you work together to achieve your goal.
You teach decision-making skills when crops must be thinned or trees pruned.
You teach that hard work has its rewards when you harvest and eat your crops.

These are just a few of the immeasurable things a child learns while gardening.
Most of all, you are spending quality time with your child, getting to know each other better, and becoming friends.

This is dedicated to all mothers who garden, but especially to my own mother who gardens, and who taught me all these things.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Creature Feature - Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar

This is my monthly spotlight on one of the creatures that lives in my garden.  Today we have the Gulf Fritillary caterpillar feeding on Maypop (Passiflora incarnata).  Soon it will pupate and emerge as a beautiful butterfly!
For more creatures that live in my garden, click HERE

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Aechmea distichantha

The flower spike on Aechmea distichantha lasts a very long time, and if you have several plants the succession of blooms can extend for months!  The plants grow about three feet tall and the flower spike extends above the foliage.
The hot pink flower spike branches out and darkens with age becoming more of a dull red color.
These are very spiny plants with a sharp spine on the tip of each leaf.  They should be planted away from high-traffic areas, or clip off the terminal spines.  They are great barrier plants to keep out unwanted animals or people!
They will grow in full sun and are also very drought tolerant. The leaves are not damaged by frost or brief periods of hard freeze. This is one of the most indestructible bromeliads you can own!
Aechmea distichantha works well in arid gardens but can be used anywhere for a long-lasting splash of color in winter and spring.
Buy this plant!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

What's New

This is my monthly roundup of all the miscellaneous goings on in the garden.  It's May, and summer weather is here!  Highs in the 90s and lows in the 70s.  Humidity as high as it can get.  Where are the afternoon rain showers?  I hope they're coming soon!
The fragrant spring blossoms are filling the air with their blended scents.  Southern Magnolia, Sambac Jasmine, Star Jasmine, and Cattley Guava all combine to produce a heady aroma.  The heat and humidity seem to intensify the fragrance.
The spring and summer fruits are developing nicely.  Peaches, Chickasaw Plum, and White Sapote are all swelling with the promise of delicious flavors to come.  
Surinam cherries are ready now and make a delicious snack right off the tree while working in the garden.
The caterpillar population has exploded, which means lots of butterflies will soon be flitting about.

I spotted a box turtle under the lemon tree the other day.  Looking for a mate?  Love is in the air!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Quesnelia liboniana

Another of the spring-blooming Quesnelias, but this one looks completely different!  Quesnelia liboniana has rigid, erect foliage that is plain green in color and a single plant only produces 3 to 4 leaves before flowering.  The leaves grow about 18" tall (24" in shadier spots) and in the spring a vivid orange and blue flower spike emerges.
The colorful portion of the flower spike is about 4 to 6 inches in height and is held above the foliage for maximum visibility.  These plants are cold hardy into the mid 20° F range.  Offsets are produced on stolons, which quickly fill a pot and creep over the sides.
Due to its comparatively small size, this Quesnelia can easily be grown in a 6" pot and moved around when blooming for increased enjoyment!
Plants will grow in nearly full sun to mostly shade, developing lighter green leaves in more light.