Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Quesnelia lateralis

Quesnelia lateralis has an upright to slightly arching inflorescence of vivid red and blue. In early winter, the spike rises to about the same height as the foliage. Flowering seems to be best on specimens that have formed clumps of at least 4-5 plants. The blue flowers emerge in succession over a period of about a week or so, with the red portion of the inflorescence lasting a bit longer. In all, you might get about three week's worth of color.

The plant has an upright growth habit, reaching a height of about 1 1/2 feet. Leaves are solid green on the upper surface and the underside shows some random banding patterns in the trichome arrangement. The leaf margins have small spines along the entire length.
Mine are currently growing in morning sun and afternoon shade, but I've also had them in full afternoon sun where they did fine.
Several hours at 26°F hasn't bothered them during winter cold snaps.

Related species profiles:
Quesnelia arvensis
Quesnelia liboniana
Quesnelia quesneliana
Quesnelia testudo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Banana (Musa)

The many varieties of edible bananas all belong to the genus Musa. They are actually fast-growing tropical herbs, without a woody trunk or branches. Their large leaves lend a tropical look to any landscape, and their fast growth helps them bounce back fast after a hard freeze. Each leaf starts at ground level and grows up through the stem until it unfurls at the top. A few varieties have colorful foliage and are used mainly as ornamental plants.
Leaves on some varieties grow up to 8-10 feet long. The leaves can be used to wrap foods during cooking and they add flavor to the foods cooked inside them.
Plants multiply by means of underground rhizomes, so one plant becomes many over a period of years.
Growth and fruit production will be best if you allow only 2-3 stalks per clump to develop. Cut off any extras.
According to the California Rare Fruit Growers, most bananas flower after forming approximately 44 leaves. Dwarf varieties still send out the same number of leaves before flowering, they simply have shorter stems than tall-growing varieties. When the flower bud emerges from the top of the stalk, it is a massive arrangement of overlapping purple bracts that may weigh several pounds.
The bracts lift and fall away one at a time, revealing rows of flowers. I like to use the fallen bracts as salad bowls or fruit cups at tropical-themed parties.
Female flowers appear first and small bananas are already present at the base of each one. Fruits develop without any need for pollination.
After several rows of females, the male flowers appear and can continue for weeks or months on a slowly elongating stem below the developing fruit. Once the male flowers start, the bud can be cut off and eaten. There are many banana flower bud recipes available online.
Plants can bloom at any time of the year, but they will need 4-5 months of warm weather after flowering for the fruit to fully develop. Once the first bananas start to ripen, the entire stalk is cut and brought inside for easier daily picking of the ripe fruit.

Bananas are native to southeast Asia, but are grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions around the world. They are durable plants that survive heat, drought, flood-waters and freeze, but they perform best in a consistently warm, moist environment. Plant in nutrient-rich soils and full sun for best growth.
Here's a short video of one of my banana plantings:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Monstera deliciosa

The huge, dark green leaves of Monstera deliciosa bring a tropical look to any landscape or home interior. In tropical and subtropical areas this plant is often seen growing up the trunks of large trees. The leaves get larger as the plant increases in size, and the deep splits and holes become more pronounced. Mature leaves can be 3 feet long and 2 feet wide.
The stem of the plant sends out aerial roots that attach to any vertical support, allowing the plant to climb upward. Some of the roots extend from high in a tree all the way to the ground where they branch out and take nutrients directly to the top of the plant.

Given a tall enough tree, the vine can climb 70 feet or more.
In locations where Monstera is successfully grown outside, they flower and produce an edible fruit. The bloom is a large white spathe and spadix arrangement typical of most members of the Araceae family of plants. Flowering occurs in summer and, unlike many tropical plants that quickly mature their fruit, this species takes 14 months from bloom to edible fruit.
The fruit itself grows to about 8-10 inches in length and is covered with green hexagonal scales.

When the scales start to separate, it's time to pick the fruit and bring it inside.
Beneath each scale is a small individual segment of fruit. When the fruit is ripe, the scales loosen and start to fall off. Inside is a delicious white flesh that almost melts in your mouth.
The flavor is unique, but it is often described as a blend of pineapple and banana. It has a soft, slippery texture like mango. The black specks are part of the ripening process, but if you are squeamish, they are easily rinsed off under running water. Only the portion of the fruit where scales have fallen off is edible. Unripe parts contain high levels of oxalic acid and eating those portions is an extremely unpleasant experience, causing irritation of the mouth and throat.  It takes several days to consume the entire thing. Enclosing the whole fruit in a paper bag helps it all ripen at once.
Monstera deliciosa is native to the tropical jungles of Central America from southern Mexico to Panama. As a houseplant, it is quite tolerant of dry air and moderate to low light levels. As a landscape plant, it is recommended for USDA Zones 10-11. Mine are quite successful in Zone 9B, and regularly produce fruit anytime from summer to late fall. Bright shade and evenly moist soil produces the best-looking foliage.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Creature Feature - Spinybacked orbweaver spider

This month's featured creature is the Spinybacked orbweaver (Gasteracantha cancriformis), also known locally as the crab spider. This species is the only one of its genus that occurs in the New World and it is found from the southern U.S. to northern Argentina. Other members of the genus occur in tropical portions of the Old World.
Females are 5-9 mm in length and 10-13 mm wide (about 3/8”). Only the females have the red abdominal “spines”, with males having four or five small posterior humps. Males are also only about 1/3 the size of the females, and are slightly longer than wide.

The First Friday Creature Feature is a monthly event on this blog, held on the first Friday of every month. Check back next month to see what new creature is lurking in my garden!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bloom Day - October 2011

On the 15th of every month, gardeners around the world share their blooms.  Here's what's blooming in my garden today (click on the links for a complete plant profile & more photos):
Above: Dichorisandra, Brugmansia
Cheilocostus speciosus, Zingiber zerumbet
Senna alata, Plumeria pudica
Allamanda, Aechmea winkleri  

Above: Tecomaria, Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Caesalpinia mexicana, Thevetia
Periwinkle, Four o'clock
Ixora, Tecoma

Above: Odontonema, Bauhinia
Plumbago, Russelia
Porterweed blue, coral
Lantana, Pentas

To see what is blooming in other gardens around the world today, visit May Dreams Gardens, host of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Friday Creature Feature - Mole

The garden mole is a subterranean creature that tunnels through gardens and lawns in search of earthworms, grubs, and other small invertebrates. Their saliva contains a toxin that paralyzes their prey so that moles can store still-living food for later consumption. They dig special underground chambers for this purpose.

Moles do not eat plant roots, but may damage young plants by burrowing under or near fragile root systems. Reducing the amount or frequency of lawn watering, and reducing the square footage of turf grass in the landscape helps reduce visible tunneling.

There are six species of moles in North America. They are 6-8 inches in length, and females give birth in the spring to a litter of two to six young. A single mole consumes 45-50 pounds of earthworms and insects in a year. Moles can dig new tunnels at a rate of approximately 18 feet per hour, and move through existing tunnels at 80 feet per minute.
Mole fur is very fine and soft. Unlike most mammals, the hairs do not point toward the tail, but bend easily in any direction. This allows the mole to move forward and backward in the tunnels without accumulating dirt in its fur.

The First Friday Creature Feature is hosted right here on the first Friday of every month.  You're invited to join in!  Here's how:
1. Write a post featuring some creature that lives in your garden.
2. Within your post, include a link to my Creature Feature post so your readers will know where to find the creatures.
3. Add your link below and leave a comment.
Thanks for participating and please join in again next month!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Neoregelia rosea-lineata

Neoregelia rosea-lineata is a large-growing bromeliad, reaching up to 3 feet in width. The foliage is marked with red striations and the center of the plant blushes red as the plant approaches maturity and blooming. Sometimes the foliage has red mottling mixed with the striations as in the photo below. Other plants may exhibit only red lines as in the top photo.
One plant of mine put off a pup that was all mottled. I've propagated that one through several generations and it appears to be a stable mutation.
Like most Neoregelias, these tolerate brief periods of freezing temperatures without damage as long as frost is kept off the leaves. A little morning sun with shade the rest of the day keeps the colors bright.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Harvest Monday - October 2011

The past few days have finally given us a break from the 90° temps we've been experiencing since early spring. It sure does feel good!
Here's what's in the fruit basket this week(click on the links for a full plant profile & more photos):
From upper left: Persian lime, Key lime, Glycosmis, Maypop, Starfruit, and Sweet lemon. I'm also getting a few Jaboticaba here and there.
Harvest Monday is featured on this blog on the first Monday of every month. To see what other gardeners are enjoying today, visit Daphne's Dandelions, host blog of the Harvest Monday meme.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Mother Nature's Artistry

One day this month we had a rare morning rain-shower just after dawn. The result was this rainbow in the western sky. If you look closely, there is a faint second rainbow above the first one.
Mother Nature's Artistry is featured on this blog on the last day of every month. Check back again next month to see what Mother Nature has been up to!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica)

One of the most entertaining plants to own is Mimosa pudica. Whenever the leaves are disturbed, they quickly fold up. Here's a video that shows more than words can describe.
The leaves unfold again after only a few minutes.
Plants have a spreading habit, and make a thick groundcover if allowed to spread. They grow about 1.5 feet tall and several feet wide. Stems will root as they creep along the ground and young plants will spring up from fallen seed. The plant can become invasive in warm climates.
Although the foliage has a soft, ferny texture, the stems and petioles have numerous small, prickly thorns that would be hazardous to bare feet.
In late summer through fall, the plants are covered with lavender-pink flowers.
Mimosa pudica is native to tropical America, but has become naturalized throughout warm regions of the world.
Plants prefer full sun to part shade and established plants are very drought-tolerant. They can be grown as annuals anywhere, or as perennials in areas that receive only brief freezes.

One theory about why Mimosa pudica evolved its sensitivity is that it was a way to avoid being eaten by herbivores. Grazing animals would brush by the plant and, after all the leaves folded, it would appear there was nothing there to eat, so the animals would move on to more lush and leafy plants.

Buy seeds of this plant!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Friday Creature Feature - Grasshopper

The grasshopper is a menace to gardeners everywhere. Their feeding habits disfigure large-leafed plants, leaving irregular chewed areas along the edges of leaves. Fortunately, birds are effective predators. More than 200 species of birds are known to feed on grasshoppers, so planting seed- or berry-producing trees and shrubs to attract more birds to your garden may help keep the grasshopper population down. Sadly, the birds may also be interested in your vegetable garden and fruit-producing plants. Perhaps the best solution is vigilance and two bricks or a sharp pair of pruners to quickly dispatch any grasshoppers caught in the act of feeding on your garden.

The First Friday Creature Feature is hosted right here on the first Friday of every month.  You're invited to join in!  Here's how:
1. Write a post featuring some creature that lives in your garden.
2. Within your post, include a link to my Creature Feature post so your readers will know where to find the creatures.
3. Add your link below and leave a comment.
Thanks for participating and please join in again next month!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Neomea 'Ralph Davis'

Neomea 'Ralph Davis' is an interesting intergeneric hybrid between Neoregelia and Aechmea. The foliage develops a slight reddish tint in the center of the plant as blooming time approaches. The cream and rose-colored inflorescence contrasts with the foliage nicely. The actual flowers are small, even by Neoregelia standards, and are nearly inconspicuous.
The leaf texture is thick and stiff, while the inflorescence keeps good color for at least six weeks. Plants grow about two feet across.
Bright morning light or filtered light throughout the day helps keep good color in the foliage. The plants tolerate brief periods of freezing temperatures as long as no frost actually settles on the leaves.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Creature Feature - Opossum

This month's creature is a mostly nocturnal animal and the only marsupial in North America, the opossum. Although they are seldom seen and rarely heard, opossums are intelligent creatures that help control the population of vermin around homes. They eat just about anything, including insects, fruit, mice, rats and carrion. They are nomadic and go wherever the food is. Learning and discrimination tests indicate they are smarter than dogs. Opossums are clean animals that bathe and groom themselves as meticulously as any cat.
As a species, they are survivors. Fossil remains of these creatures have been found from 70 million years ago. They have a high level of immunity to most diseases and are more resistant to rabies than virtually any other mammal.
The gestation period of an opossum is only 13 days and the young are the size of a honeybee when born.  Litters of 5 to 8 are produced up to twice a year and they remain in the mother's pouch for about three months. Although they sometimes live in trees, they prefer nesting in underground dens. They do not dig their own burrows, but use those abandoned by other animals.
When cornered, opossums may hiss and bare their teeth, but if there is no avenue of escape, they fall over and play dead. They remain in this state until the danger has passed.
Now, don't you play 'possum! Join the fun below!
Y'all come back now!
The First Friday Creature Feature is hosted right here on the first Friday of every month.  You're invited to join in!  Here's how:
1. Write a post featuring some creature that lives in your garden.
2. Within your post, include a link to my Creature Feature post so your readers will know where to find the creatures.
3. Add your link below and leave a comment.
Thanks for participating and please join in again next month!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Harvest Monday - August 2011

Our temperatures have been running a few degrees above normal all summer and the rainfall has been below normal. Some crops have failed completely but others are still hanging in there.
Here's what's on the table this week:
Cherry tomatoes have been producing well all summer, even with the heat. I'm growing them in 10-inch pots that are under irrigation out in the nursery.
The elderberries are putting out less fruit now, but there's still enough for a small batch of jam.
The white sapote season is almost over. Just a few clusters of fruit remain on the tree.
There are plenty of strawberry guavas ready to pick every day.
Persian limes are another daily harvest...
along with the smaller, but plentiful, key limes.
The starfruit harvest seems to have started a little earlier this year. I will be picking these from now until spring (or a hard freeze).
This is the first year I've had a crop from Syzygium smithii (lilly pilly). I'll be profiling this plant soon.
I unthinkingly ate all of the ripe figs before I made my rounds with the camera, so no photos of those today. Who could resist?
To see what other gardeners are enjoying today, visit Daphne's Dandelions, host blog of the Harvest Monday meme.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Mother Nature's Artistry

Passionflowers have some of the most ornate blooms that can be found. There are many species and hybrids, all with intricate details in the flower.
Mother Nature's Artistry is featured on this blog on the last day of every month. Check back again next month to see what Mother Nature has been up to!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ardisia crenata

Ardisia crenata is one of the longest-lasting berry-producing plants you can grow. The berries turn red in late fall and hang on the plant until mid-summer. The color remains vivid red as long as the berries remain on the bush. Birds and other wildlife feed on them through the winter.
Flowers appear in mid-summer while the berries are still showing their color. Blooms appear in clusters on the ends of short stalks that extend just to the edge of the foliage.
Leaves are a dark, shiny green with a crinkled edge. The foliage itself is quite attractive, and small plants are often sold as houseplants. The shrub is evergreen and usually stays within a two to four-foot height range.
They are rather slow-growing so although many of the dropped berries will sprout, it takes the seedlings a long time to reach maturity. In some parts of Florida and Texas, it has escaped cultivation and become a pest plant.
Ardisia crenata is native to an area from Japan to northern India. It is recommended for USDA Zones 8-10. It prefers moist, shady conditions, but established plants are very drought-tolerant. In the coldest part of its range, severe freezes can cause die-back to ground level.
This species is usually just referred to as Ardisia, but it is also sometimes known as coralberry, coral ardisia, spiceberry, or Christmas berry.