Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mother Nature's Artistry

This is the top view of an Aechmea maculata inflorescence.
Mother Nature's Artistry is featured here on the last day of every month. Check back again next month to see what Mother Nature has been up to!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bush Daisy (Gamolepis chrysanthemoides)

Bush Daisy (Gamolepis chrysanthemoides) is a small carefree shrub, growing in a naturally rounded form about three feet in diameter.
The plant is nearly everblooming, and quite cold-hardy. After the past two severe winters, Bush Daisy is moving up on my list of desirable shrubs. It is native to South Africa and is recommended for USDA Zones 8-11. In the warmer parts of this range it is evergreen. In Zone 8 and 9a, it will die back in the winter and resume growth in the spring. Here is Zone 9b it is evergreen, and flowers non-stop in part shade to full sun. They can be planted in a row to form a low flowering hedge.

The bright yellow flowers are about two inches in diameter and are held well above the foliage by five-inch long stems. They will last several days as cut flowers. The foliage consists of dark green, deeply lobed leaves, giving the bush a somewhat ferny texture.
Bush Daisy is fairly drought-tolerant, but will bloom best if given supplemental moisture during dry periods. Butterflies will feed on the nectar of this plant, but they seem to like other flowers better. This plant is also reported to be deer-resistant.
Some reputable sources indicate this species is now correctly identified under the genus Euryops.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Aechmea warasii

Aechmea warasii has a colorful, pendulous inflorescence. The stem of the flower spike is a dark purple color. Red buds give rise to dark blue flowers. The buds retain a berry-like appearance, and keep their color for two months or more. Flowering occurs in early spring.
The plant gets about a foot tall, and grows slightly wider than tall. Leaves are thin and flexible. The foliage often takes on a reddish-orange tint. This could be from sun, cold, or drought. My plants have to contend with all of these.
This species prefers a shady spot.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aechmea maculata

Aechmea maculata is one of the bromeliads that grows well in sunny locations. Flowering takes place in late winter or early spring. The inflorescence stands straight up, rising about a foot above the foliage. The stalk is decorated with pinkish-red bracts that are upright or at right angles to the stem. A gray, cone-like structure holds the yellow flowers, which open from bottom to top over a period of three to four weeks.
The vivid coloration of the inflorescence fades by the time the last flowers are opening.
Individual plants grow from two to three feet in height and about two feet wide. Leaves are stiff and armed with sharp spines along the edges. The foliage is arranged in an upright growth habit.
Ae. maculata is fairly hardy to cold, but leaves will be damaged if frost settles on the plant.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Billbergia distachia

Billbergia distachia is a bromeliad that blooms in late winter or early spring. It has distinctive dangling flowers.
The stalk of the inflorescence is held erect, along with the pink bracts. The greenish flowers are tipped with blue, and sway freely in the breezes. The green leaves are lightly spotted.
This species develops leaf damage when frost settles on the plant, but that doesn't prevent it from blooming profusely once the weather starts to warm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Bloom Day - March 2011

Here's what's blooming in my garden today!  Click on any of the hyperlinks for more information on the individual plants.

Cherry of the Rio Grande, Loropetalum
Brunfelsia, Mammilaria
Shrimp plant, Yellow Cestrum
Elderberry, Tecomaria

Malvaviscus, Citrus
Macadamia, Tabebuia
Formosa Azalea, Bush Daisy
Russelia, Aloe zebrina

Setcreasea, Bletilla
Spiderwort, Salvia lyrata
Ananas bracteatus, Aechmea distichantha, Ae. maculata, Billbergia nutans
(note: these bromeliads are all natural species, just the way they're found growing wild!)

On the 15th of every month, gardeners around the world show off their blooms.  To see what other gardeners have in bloom today, visit May Dreams Gardens.

Citrus from seed

Many types of citrus can easily be grown from seed.  Depending on variety, they may not be exactly like the parent, but most will be close.  It may take five to seven years before a seedling tree starts to fruit, and the quality of the fruit will improve over the first few years of production.  Many people think five years is a long time to wait for fruit, but that was the year 2006, and when you put it that way it doesn't seem like so long ago!

The photo above is the fruit from five different orange trees that were volunteer seedlings in my garden.  I simply left them to grow where they sprouted.  I have no idea what their parents were like, but they all turned out to be sweet and juicy, average-sized, with normal rind thickness that peels easily.  The number of seeds per fruit varies from almost seedless to an average number of seeds for an orange.

The result is that I now have five additional orange trees that didn't cost a penny, and I didn't even have to plant them!

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tabebuia impetiginosa

One of the showiest trees to bloom in late winter is Tabebuia impetiginosa (tab-eh-BOO-yuh  im-pet-ih-jih-NO-suh).  The pink to lavender colored flowers are produced in profusion at the ends of the branches, covering the tree.  Flowers are tubular with a yellow throat that turns to pink as the bloom ages.
This species grows up to 50 feet tall.  Leaves are semi-deciduous and palmately compound.  Most of the leaves will drop just before blooming.  It is recommended for USDA Zones 9b to 11.
Tabebuia impetiginosa is native to large parts of Central and South America.   It has been used medicinally by the native peoples of that region since before the time of the Incan empire.  Even today, Brazilians call the tree pau d'arco, or "divine tree".
The wood of this species is one of the heaviest and most durable available, and is used extensively in the construction of decks, docks, and boardwalks.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tabebuia chrysotricha

Even people with no knowledge of plants can spot a Tabebuia chrysotricha (tab-eh-BOO-yuh  kriss-oh-TRICK-uh) tree a mile away when it's in bloom. At a time when most other trees are still a drab winter color, this species is a show-off. The bright yellow tubular flowers pop open before new growth emerges in the late winter to early spring. The flowers can be up to three inches in diameter.
Individual trees are variable as to whether they are fully or partially deciduous, but all of them lose more of their leaves after a cold winter. This makes the flowers more visible when they open.
Native to Brazil, they are hardy to 24°F, and grow up to 35 feet tall. They grow best in USDA Zones 9B to 11. Full sun is the preferred exposure.
Flowering starts at a young age and nurseries will often have them blooming in ten-inch pots. The flower buds, leaves, and young stems are all covered with a brown fuzz. Leaves are palmately compound.
Tabebuia chrysotricha is also sometimes known as the Golden Trumpet tree, but several other trees have similar sounding common names.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Harvest Monday - March 2011

This year I've been selling more of my excess fruit.  This is a shot of my sales table at the Sanford Farm Swap Meet.  In the photo you can see Marsh Grapefruit, Ruby Red Grapefruit, Orlando Tangelo, Honeybells, Navel Oranges, Mandarins, Valencia Oranges, Sweet Lemon, Meyer Lemon, and Starfruit.

I'm also harvesting Kumquats, Calamondins, Arrowroot, and some late Persian Limes.

In the herb garden, I've got Mint, Basil, Parsley, Cilantro, Culantro, Lemon Balm, Greek Oregano, and Cuban Oregano.  I harvest these at dinnertime so they go directly into whatever I'm cooking.

To see what other gardeners are harvesting today, visit Daphne's Dandelions!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Creature Feature - Blue Tailed Skink

The blue tailed Skink is more properly known as the Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus).  They are usually black or dark brown, with five distinct stripes running the length of the body.  It is one of the most common lizards in Florida, growing up to eight inches in length.
Juveniles have the distinct bright blue tail.  The stripes and the tail both fade as the Skink ages.  In males, the tail turns brown, and in females it becomes a dull blue-gray.
Eggs are laid in the spring in clutches of 15 to 18, usually in a crevice or hollowed cavern under logs or rocks. The incubation period ranges from 3 to 8 weeks, depending on soil temperature.

These just-hatched skinks will take 2-3 years to reach sexual maturity, with an ultimate lifespan of up to 6 years.

The Five-lined Skink prefers a moist, vegetated habitat.  They are carnivorous and will eat just about anything that will fit in their mouths.