"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. " ~Lindley Karstens

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Am I Ready To Go On My Vacation?

I am leaving for China tuesday morning for a three week vacation with my husband and two boys.  This would be the first time I leave my garden for this long time since I had this garden.

While I am excited to see my parents, sister and other family members again in China, I have also been very busy preparing the garden for my absence.

Although this is the raining season in South Florida, rain has been rather unpredictable these days.  I just can not take that risk to depend my plants' well being  on the natural rainfall, so we have been examining the sprinkle system.  Husband switched and adjusted some spray heads to make sure the water is spraying to the flower bed, not the pool!   My friends also will help me to hand water some plants that sprinkle system can not reach. 

For the plants that are still in the pots, I either planted them in the ground, or repotted them in bigger containers and mulched them so that they don't dry out quickly.  They are also repositioned to a spot that sprinkle system can reach.

Some plants were fed, trimmed...  Flower beds were weeded... 

Am I ready to go on my vacation? hmmm, I think so.... 

Before I leave, let me walk around the garden one more time to see what I can show you ...

Oh, first I must show you this zinnia flowers!  This was brought home by my eight year old son from the school, as the Parents' Day gift.  (Here, the school often combines Mother's day and Father's day together at the end of the school year to have a party that invite parents to join.)  After I planted it in the garden, my son keeps asking me when I can show the flowers on my blog, "Mom, Please tell them, I gave this  to you." , this was his words, very proud of his gift! 

I was kind of waiting for the plants growing a little bigger and having more blooms.  But now I want to show you first, I always can show you again when it is bigger, right? :)  The flowers are yellow/peach color, fit quite well in my Agave/Bulbine flower bed.

I bought this Variegated Canna Lily 'Pretoria' about two months ago.  When I bought it, I thought it would bloom very soon since it was quite big already (2 feet tall).  I had no idea if it is a dwarf type or the standard one since this is my first time to grow canna and did not have any knowledge about the cannas.   Only I found it kept growing taller and taller after I put it in the ground.  I almost thought I did something wrong  to promote growing the leaves only, not the blooming.  It is now almost 5 feet tall, and finally several days ago it had two flower spikes emerging, just on time for me to see before I leave!

Canna americanallis var. variegata
Common names: Praetoria, Bengal Tiger, Austriostriata
Isn't it gorgeous?  I love it!  Worth the long waiting...  Well, even it does not bloom, I will keep it for its variegated green/cream leaves. 

You might still remember how I whined about my milkweed munched by Monarch caterpillars to the bare sticks.  Now the leaves grow back, and bloom again! Yay!

Gardenia is setting the new round of flowers again.  I just can not get enough of this heavenly scent!

Can I show you one more time  my Blue Fox Tail Orchid?  Hope it is here to stay when I return!

Different purslanes in my garden are loving South Florida's heat, even this gardener prefers cool weather :)

Loving the soft pink color of this Vinca (Periwinkle)!

Cats' Wiskers (Orthosiphon stamenis) seems adapting my garden quite well.  After the initial blooms faded since I brought it home early this month, now it is setting the new blooms all over again. 
Cats' Wiskers (Orthosiphon stamenis)
The rosa ixora bushes in the front garden are finally blooming again after experiencing the unusual freeze weather in South Florida this past winter.

This skipper is enjoying the sweet nectar of 'Dipladenia pink'...

Although the Desert rose has passed its peak time, it still has lots of flowers.

This dwarf Allamanda was killed to the ground in the winter freeze, and it took half year to grow back to its original size, and now finally showing the flower buds all over again.  I am sure when I return, this bush will be full of bright yellow trumpet shape flowers!

Ok, I better go to finish my packing now...  (Am I really ready to leave my garden?)

You all have a wonderful summer, or a beautiful winter for my friends in south hemisphere!

Happy gardening!

**  Since I might not be able to post anything in China (blogspot is blocked over there for some reason), I have prepared three posts that will be auto published on scheduled time, so this site won't be completely "cold" during my absence :)  I will be able to read the comments, but not able to reply.  I will reply to you if the comments are some questions that need a answer from me either by visiting your blog, or on my post. I am sure I will have some pictures I take in China to share with you all once I return.  **

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Favorites -- June 2010

The 25th day of the every month, Susan at Simply Susan invites us to join her to publish our favorites of the month.  I thought this is the best way to document the garden favorites according to the season. 

However, I was feeling down last month about my garden, and missed it.  This month end is my garden one year anniversary.  When I look back one year progress of my garden, I feel quite happy how much I have accomplished in one short year.  And my garden also simply put its best show to celebrate this milestone month!

So here comes my favorites of June!!!

Favorite foliage:
From top left corner clockwise:  Lemon Lime Warneckii , Various Caladiums, Canny lily 'Pretoria' (Bengal Tiger) leaves, Copperleaf or Beafsteak (Acalypha wlkesiana ), Oyster plants

Favorite warm colors:  Warm colors are best for use to brighten any flower bed, or garden corners.  Here are some of mine.
From top left corner clockwise: Red Pentas,  Rudbeckia 'Tiger Eye Gold' , Hibiscus, Marigolds, Day Lily

Favorite cool colors:  Cool colors are my favorite of the favorite in the garden.  I keep find myself bring home more and more white, blue and purple flowers.

From top left corner clockwise: Angel's Trumpet, Blue Fox Tail Orchid, Tropical Lilac, Needle Flower, Crepe Jasmine, plumbago, Agapanthus, rain lily, Pentas.

Favorite plants combination:  I planted the pink vinca in front of the variegated devil's backbone early this year.  Now they all grew fully, and created a very nice combination in the flower bed.  Love a beautiful garden combo created by pure luck!
Variegated Devil's Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus') with pink Vinca (periwinkle)

Favorite garden critter:  Dragonflies are the most frequent garden visitors of the month, also one of my favorite critters!

Hope you enjoyed my garden favorites.  What are your favorites of the month? 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Blue Fox Tail Orchid and Other Summer Blooms

Just want to share some blooms that caught my eyes in my garden these days.

This Blue Fox Tail Dendrobium Orchid was a house-warming gift we received last year.  It is blooming again now. I love its deep purple color, not sure why the name is "blue" fox tail. Seems to me that blue and purple are often interchangeable in the plants world... Well, whatever name it is called, I just love it!
Blue Fox Tail Dendrobium Orchid
I found out that the best way to grow orchids is "leave them alone".  When I "over" cared about them before, they died.    Now I just put them outdoor in a bright shaded area, and water them maybe once a week based on if they got the rainfall or not, and fertilize them occasionally.  They seem love that way, there have been three orchids rebloomed for me this year since I learned this "tip" :)

While the ground orchids planted in the front garden are not doing very well, the ones located in backyard a more shaded area are shooting more flower spikes now.  I think I need to move those in the front to a more shaded area as well.
Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis)
These marigolds are the ones I started from seeds this year.  They just thrive in the Florida Sun!  I really love the golden/yellow/orange/red tones in it.  The color just looked so rich!

This concrete piglet statue was left in the mud by the previous owner when we moved in.  I dug it out and cleaned it.  I am not sure if it was originally made as a planter since the opening is very shallow and no drainage hole. I planted some purslane in it, and it now looks cute with a blooming body, doesn't it? 

This buttercup plant was self seeded from last year's plants.  It had so many seedlings that I have to pull lots out.  They open the flowers in the morning and close in the evening.  Then the cycle repeats one more time next day before it dies, then other flowers start opening again.
Mounding Buttercup
A couple of weeks ago, Floridagirl at Peace In The Valley posted a picture of this Rudbeckia 'Tiger Eye Gold' on her blog. I immediately fell love into it, and thought it would brighten my west flower bed border very nicely. The next thing I knew, three of them found the home in my garden :)
Rudbeckia 'Tiger Eye Gold' 
I found the flowers of the Pentas in the micro picture look so delicately beautiful with all those details in each small flower, which we usually don't notice with human eyes.
This rain lily was my recent purchase.  Only one was found.  I really love the water colored pink on this flower.  Wish it can multiply itself fast, so I can have more of this beauty!
Rain Lily (Zephyranthes candida)
Happy Summer Gardening!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

My Garden -- One Year Later

Time really flies!   By the end of this month, we have been living in our current house for one whole year.  Almost immediately after we moved in, I started planning, digging and planting my garden from almost scratch.

This would be a perfect time for this gardener to look back what have been changed over one year period, and what plants have worked well and what did not in their location.

** This post is majorly for my own record keeping, so it is quite long.  I won't blame you if you don't make it to the end :)  Hope at least the pictures are interesting to look... **

Before we moved in, the only landscape this house had is in the east side of the front yard, to which I only made some small changes.   Here is how it looks like today.

You can see my front patio and the left side of the walk way  are over-crowded with lots of containers.  That is because this is the only partial shade area that I can find for my Orchids, Begonias, Bird's Nest fern, shade loving Bromeliads, Persian Shield, Mona lavenders, and some house plants.  One of my fall/winter projects on my list is opening one shade/partial shade flower bed on the side of my house, so that I can move some of these plants there, and make the front patio more inviting :)

Here is from another direction.  The crotons (Mammey) became bare sticks after the devastating cold weather early this year, but now their colorful foliage is coming back.  The red Ixora behind the crotons are all showing the buds, so very soon this front bed will look very cheerful!

I did not change much in this area except planting some bromeliads, bulbines in the very front rock area.  I also replaced a white begonia bush (not performing well then) with the sago palm.  Now I think this might not a good change since the Sago palm could grow bigger over the years, and then it would block the front view to the house.  Hmmm, maybe a move is in the order before it is too late? 

This is the west side of the front yard.  It had some bushes that came with the original builder landscape around a small oak tree.  I removed all the bushes, opened and planted this bed from the scratch.

The two African Iris were doing fine, and now are almost done flowering. Blue/Purple verbenas obviously love their location in the center of the front border.

I am not very satisfied with this bed since the back of this bed is at a lower point, get flooded whenever we have a heavy pouring.  So, I may raise the level more.  Three ground orchids I put here are not thriving.  I think they might not like the afternoon sun this area got since other ground orchids in a more shaded corner in the back yard looked much better.  The two Brazil Red Hots were frozen to the ground in the past winter, and they are now bouncing back, but not quick enough.

Now please follow me to the back yard...

Our back yard is most taken by the swimming pool and the paved area around the pool.   There are 2 to 4 feet wide stripe of grass land within the fence around the back yard.    Along with the side of the house, all these stripes are pretty much all land that I can play with for my garden.

Here are two pictures that show how the backyard looked like when the house was on the market for sale early last year.

Backyard before #1 (March 2009)

Backyard before #2 (March 2009)

This is the southeast corner of the backyard today... 

Compared to the "Before" #1 picture,  I removed two ficus hedges from this corner (borrowed some muscle power from my husband) to open up the lake view more, and then created this corner bed last year. Then I changed this corner again in March.
Backyard southeast corner in May  2010

Major plants in this corner are: Jatropha tree (left side of the picture), three different kinds of Agaves, bulbines, purple queens, lantanas, Allamanda, marigolds and Celosia. These are all sun loving plants, and are doing fine in this location. Especially bulbines and agaves requires almost no care at all. Allamanda (the bush like plant on the left side of the picture) is recovering very well from the ground after the freeze, very soon their yellow flowers will bright this corner even more.

Overall I am quite happy with this corner.  When the plants grow to their mature sizes, I might need to move some plants out of this corner, but I think the combination of bulbine and agaves is working great so far.

As of the south side of the backyard, it had nothing but a lone Christmas palm (see "before" picture #2).  Around that Christmas palm, I opened my very first flower bed right after we moved in.  This takes about one third of the whole length of the south stripe.

This is the flower bed looked in May this year...

Backyard south bed in May 2010

This bed again is in a full sun area.  The plants go there are:  two rose bushes, diamond frost, pentas, Mealycup Sage (blue flower), sedum (ground cover), pink vinca, two purple fountain grasses, two blue porterweed, two lantanas, some bromeliad under the tree, one agapanthus, and some annuals. 

You can see since this was my first flower bed, I bought most of plants in pair.  And with no experience at all, I planted them quite closely since the young plants looked so small :)  Now they are all cowded, especially the lantanas in front of the purple fountain grass and porterweed can not get much air circulation, and developed some black spots on the leaves ( I post the problem in this post).  I may need to remove one porterweed, and/or move the lantanas to some other more opened area.

Now here comes the biggest bed I have opened, and my most work goes into this bed as well! 

This bed is on the west side of the backyard, which had absolutely nothing except the grass before.  The following three pictures are how it looked like in May this year.

Backyard west bed  in May 2010

Backyard west bed in May 2010
Backyard west bed in May 2010

Wow, how did I manage to stuff so much into this bed so quickly?!  I just remembered that I visited the nurseries at least once or twice each weekend since last year Novemember, and brought more and more plants home. Then I saw some plants posted by my fellow garden bloggers, and I just had to have them!  Almost all those plants I managed to find a spot in this bed, and then moved them around so frequently afterward.  I remember Kimberly at Garden in Paradise once claimed herself as a "professional plants relocator" in one of comments she left on my post.  I guess I can borrow that title as well! 

Most of my location consideration for the plants are by their favorable light condition, not the color.  As the result, the color scheme is not that in harmony in my opinion.  When I open more flower beds, I might have that luxury to do more color coordination since I will have more space to move them around :)

The end of this bed that closes to the lake is the "Rose corner" since it gets most of the sun, and the end that closes to the house is the "Bromeliad corner" which only gets some morning sun.

Since this bed is on the west side, and the neighbour's hedges and the coconut trees provide some shade in the afternoon, and the most of the sun the plants got are the morning and middle day sun.  I found majority of the plants are loving this micro environment.  For the same reason, the plants got some protection when the prolonged freeze weather hit South Florida in this past winter.

Here are more pictures this same flower bed looked like this month.  Compared to the ones in May, it is less colorful since the deep pink snapdragons in front of the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) were gone, and the bright red/pink geraniums are also done the flowering. 

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

Backyard west bed in June 2010

With the white Angel's Trumpet flowering in the middle, and the White Christmas caladiums leaves, it gives the cooling factor to this bed, very suitable for the summer of the hot hot South Florida.  I found myself like this June color better than the May color in this bed. What is your opinion?

In case you are interested to know the detail plant list of this bed.  Here are the major plants from the sunny area ( rose corner) to the partial share area (bromeliad corner).  I did not list some small plants I temporarily tucked in.

Six rose bushes (all hybrid tea rose) in the Rose corner.
One dipladenia pink
One porterweed
Two Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha)
Rudbeckia 'Tiger Eye Gold' (newly added this month)
Three Agapanthus africanus (Relocated here from the front yard)
One red and one pink Geraniums
Ornamental Sweet Potato 'Margarita' with chartreuse leaves
Three Devil's Backbone
Three Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade'
One Angel's Trumpet
Two Gloden Shrimp plants (behind Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade', along the fence);
Two Hibiscus bushes
Two Yellow Africican Iris
Two pineapples I rooted from the grocery-bought pineapples' cutting. One of my fun experiments;
Three Variegated shell gingers ( I am sure I need to move some out of this bed in the future when they grow bigger)
Pink Vincas
Three Ground Orchids (Spathoglottis)
Three Kalanchoe
About 15 bromeliads in the Bromeliad corner.

I hope I have not bored all you to this point.  I promise I am almost done with this post!

When I was writing this post, I realized that I have done quite a lot in the past year, and to be honest the result is better than what I expected.  I thought I just experiment with the gardening a little when all this started, never expected to this extent.  Within this past year,  I have surely experienced all the excitement, joys, disappointment and sorrows that a typical gardener, especially a new gardener would have experienced. 

A BIG "THANK YOU" to all of you who have read, commented my posts, provided help and supported me along the way.  I am glad that I started this blog half year ago, and which got me to know so many wonderful gardener friends out there.  I am sure that I will keep recording my garden progress on this blog and share with all of you! 

While all these flower beds are not complete yet (will they ever be?), more garden projects are on my mind for the fall and winter time...  Can not wait to materialize them! 

Stay tuned and thanks for reading :)

Oh, the last but certainly not the least.  Today is the Farther's Day.  I want to say "Thank you and Happy Farther's Day" to my kids' dad, my dear husband!  Thank you for the constant moral and muscle support you have given to me this past year on my gardening projects!  Thank you for never complaining about my frequent trips to the nurseries and all those extra time I spent in the garden!!!

And, Happy Farther's Day to all of the farthers who happen to read this post!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Angel's Temptations

Before I got this Angel's Trumpet's(Brugmansia) cutting, I already read about its narcotic and poisonous facts.  In the meantime, I was also fascinated by the beauty of the flowers this plant produces.  So, when my friend at work asked me if I would like to get a cutting, I said "Yes".  I took it as the Angel's temptations that I just could not resist.

Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia)
Family: Solanaceae
I received several cuttings in February this year.  I simply put them in a vase filled with water, and a week later, they developed the healthy roots.  Then I potted them up in different containers. 

One of the cuttings were put in the ground in the back yard in March.  This is how it looked like back then, about one foot tall.

Since then it just keeps growing like crazy.  It grew even faster after the ground warmed up in April, and then this week it opened the first round of flowers, about 15 of them!  I am training it into a small tree, so it won't take too much ground space, also the flowers will look even more dramatic when dangled from higher branches.

Those large, dramatic pendulous trumpet-shaped flowers are about 12 inches long.  They once again reminded me why I could not say "No" to it from the beginning.

Can you feel the Angel's temptations? 

As matter of fact, I got one more Angel's trumpet today with the pink colored flower, and I also have one devil's trumpet (Datura) growing from the seed at this moment.

**Warning: All parts of the angel trumpet (Brugmansia) are narcotic and poisonous. Deaths have occurred when the plant has been ingested or smoked for its narcotic properties.**

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