"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

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A New Gardener's Confession

For those who visit my blog regularly, you might have noticed that I have not posted anything for about one week now.  Although I can not say this won't happen again, at least it is not very common since I started my blog about four months ago.   The only thing I can say is that I am feeling a little down about the garden recently...

While almost all other gardeners are celebrating the leaping growth that the warm weather brought to their gardens, my garden seems not happy with the South Florida hot humid weather.   When I do my daily walk through my garden, there are hardly something that can catch my eyes in an exciting way.  On the opposite side, I often find something disturbing...

Now when I muse it over, I think most of these disappointments come with my new gardener label... Lack of experience, planning, knowledge, and patience are four things this new gardener is not shy to admit.

Before I started my love affair with the planting one year ago, I hardly had any experience. The little experience I had was growing some vegetables and a handful of flowers in the containers when I lived in my previous house.  Among those flowers, I managed to kill several orchids by over watering and putting them under the direct sun. During my younger years in China, my family lived in small apartment in the city with no land at all.  The only time I had more close touch with the land was when visiting my grandparents in the countryside during the summer vacation.  But even then, I never personally grew anything.

I thought I am not too bad of a planner.  However, when coming to the gardening, I found the planning needs to be made and acted on one or even two seasons before.  Like for spring flowers, I should have sowed seeds in the fall.  For some perennial plants, I should have trimmed them earlier so that they can flush now.  For winter annual plants, I should have replaced them with the summer annuals before the intense heat hits. 
As a result, I ended having some bare spots in the garden after the winter annuals melted down to the ground, and some tired-looking perennials like the pink pentas in the front yard.

Or geraniums that might not be able to stand the summer heat even it is still blooming (barely).... The flower dries up even before fully opening.

I know all of these can be quickly fixed by a few trips to the nursery, and shrinking the wallet a little bit more.  But I do wish I had planned better...

Lack of knowledge is another thing that constantly hits me recently.  I realized that a gardener not only needs to know the plants themselves, but also the environment around them, which includes bugs (good and bad), soils, and etc. 

When I bought the milkweed, I only knew this is a plant that butterflies love, and I LOVE butterflies!  The thing I didn't know was  that the Monarch caterpillars love its leaves too!  So imagine how horrified I was when I found seven of these fat Monarch caterpillars nibbling my only young milkweed leaves!  Only this time, I learned  from the lesson of hornworm on my angel's trumpet, so I did not remove them.  After searching over the Internet, I quickly found out these are the Monarch caterpillars.  I decided to leave them alone, and only one day later, my milkweed had nothing but bare sticks!  Now those hungry caterpillars started chewing the stems!  I do hope my sacrifice can yield some beautiful Monarch butterflies visiting my garden.  The only thing I am not sure is if my plant will ever grow back, or even blooming again? 

Last but certainly not the least, lack of patience...(did I say that?) .  They say the patience is a virtue.  I know lots of my anxieties came from the lack of patience.  I expect if I did what the book told me to do, the plants should flower or grow perfectly just like what they show in the garden magazine.  Now I knew there might be so many failures before you can get to that stage.

Do you still remember not long ago, I was proudly showing off the new Princess Flower (Tibouchina lepidota)  I got as part of Mother's Day gift?  Well, I have to tell you sadly that it just died on me early this week after three week life in my garden.  It just happened so quickly.  One day I came home after the work, I saw it lost all leaves, and the branches turned to brown.  I tried to water more often, but there was no use. 

Oh, how I miss those delicate purple flowers!

I know the gardening is all about trial and error, especially for the beginners.  So, I won't let all these disappointments hold me down.  Like what they said: "There is always a next year!"  So this weekend, after I spit out this confession,  I will spend some time to do some clean up, and then move on with a new spirit!!! 

Here are something in the garden that brought the smile to my face ...

I got this Variegated Devils Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus') after our January freeze with good discount since it had some leave damages.  Now it recovers pretty well.  I planted it in front of the hibiscus.  The orange and the variegated leaves contrast quite nicely.  Don't you think?
Variegated Devils Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus') with Hibiscus
I can not help snapping pictures every time I pass by this Double Delight Rose bush!

This Dipladenia pink is my all time favorite in the garden, never failed to add the color into the garden.
Dipladenia pink
Caladium bulbs start popping up out the ground!  Should have planted more!
These two double layer Kalanchoes are my delightful surprise.  I thought they are cold weather bloomers.  So, after they finished blooming, I just stuck them into a shady corner.  See what I found this week!
These purple/blue verbena flowers really bright up the front yard flower bed.
My first African Lily (Agapanthus africanus) bud of the year!
First African Lily (Agapanthus africanus
More Needle Flowers are showing up from this little plant.
Needle Flower (Augusta rivalis)
Family: Rubiaceae
Garden creatures are definitely enjoying this weather...
Brown Anole flashing its dewlap

Dragonfly on rose bud

White Peacock Butterfly
 Have a great weekend!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

New Plants, Bromeliads Pups and Blooms

I got this Needle flower (Augusta rivalis) from Flamingo Gardens Member's Day plant sale.   Since we bought a family membership, they gave away two plants for free.  I will post another one in a future post when it flowers.

It is a young plant in a one gallon pot.  This exotic gardenia relative has slight fragrance, and has 5 inch long white tubular flowers flaring to one and half inch wide.  I think the needle shape of the bud is how it gets its common name.

Needle Flower (Augusta rivalis)
Family: Rubiaceae
I chose this plant not only for its fragrance, but also for its everblooming feature.  It is also cold hardy to low 30's.  I think it would look nice when it spreads a little bit wide and have more bloomings. 

Except the above information, I can not find any more information over the internet about this plant, and never seen it in others' gardens either.  Anybody grows this plant in your garden?  Any additional information is appreciated!

I bought this angel wing begonia at the same plant sale that day.  Members got 50% discount on all plants.  I just can not pass a great deal, and especially I am a little crazy about begonia recently :)  I love the rich red foliage and the red/pink bicolor flowers.

Here is another plant I bought at 50% discount that day.  This bromeliad did not have a label.  My best guess for its name is:   Neoregelia carolinae tricolor.  What do you think?

It is blooming right now, so I wish I can soon get a pup out of it.

Speaking of bromeliads blooming, I have some others blooming right now in my garden.  They are either passalongs, or bought without labels.  So, I put my best guess of their names under the each picture.  If you know the correct names, please let me know.
Neoregelia spectabilis

Neoregelia carolinae

Neoregelia spectabilis

The following three already have pups growing out of them.  This is a great feature I love about bromeliads!

Neoregelia 'Tequila'
Neoregelia x 'Ultima'

Right now, all my bromeliads are spreaded around my garden.  Some are in the ground, and some are still in the containers.  With the inspiration from my recent trip to Miami Fairchild Botanic Garden.  I am thinking to set up a bromeliad area in my garden, or maybe even do a little vertical gardening.  Just a thought in my mind.... Will see if it eventually can come true.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

It Is Not Always Pretty

By no mistake, my gardening passion all started with pure admiration for the beauty. The endless beauty of the plant world gives me the great temptation that I can not resist.

With one short year of gardening experience, I also quickly learned that it is not always pretty around the garden, and that perspective is still the hard part for me to deal with. 

Like what I found on my new Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia) leaves...  I caught two of these in the act!  I used two sticks to grab these two big guys off before they could nibble away all the leaves. 

What is this?? Except eating the leaves, do they do any other harms to the plants?

Ugh!  The below one really grossed me off!!!   These are two leaves I took off from my Lantana.  There are more of these ugly leaves on the same plant.  

My fellow gardeners, please help me to identify this pest, and what should I do with it to save my lantana?

I experienced the same thing last year with the lantana planted in the same spot. I sprayed with fungicide, and seems did not do much good. The plant stopped blooming all the sudden. When this plant regrow its leaves after this past winter's freeze, I was glad that new leaves looked healthy, and it even quickly bloomed. I thought the freeze might have killed whatever that has bothered it. I guess I laughed too early, now the same nightmare came back again!

Ok, enough of the ugliness.  I need some beauty to help me calm down...  Here are some of flowers currently blooming in my garden.

Rose corner is still going strong although some leaves have started some black spots.  It seems not impacting  the blooms though...

Peace (with color variation)

Double Delight

Desert rose (Adenium Obesum) is blooming its heart out!  Some cluster contains more than 20 flowers, which made the branch so heavy that it bended down.

Desert Rose (Adenium Obesum )
These marigolds are the ones I started from seeds this year.
These pink vincas are self seeded from last year's plants.  They grow like a weed without much care.

Vinca (Periwinkle)

New addition to the garden... Love the purple leaves and white flower combination.
Charmed Wine Oxalis
Ok, now I need to go back to think about how to get rid of those ugliness shown in the beginning...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden -- Part Three

This is the last part of my tour to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami.  If you have not read the first two parts and you are interested to read more, you can check out part one and part two.

In part two, I have shown you all kinds of the beauties Fairchild displayed in their "Window to Tropic Conservatory".   After visiting the conservatory, we had a quick lunch in the garden cafe, and kids got the ice cream to cool down.  Then we are ready to explore more...

Fairchild has a showcase called "The Lin Lougheed Spiny Forest of Madagascar ".  It is a representative display of some of the wonderful plants found in Madagascar’s spiny desert.  Some of them are unusual and rare plants found in that threatened habitat.

These two Agave plants have their flower spikes soaring up to the sky. 

This Mouse Trap Tree is full of blossoms.  What a beauty!
Uncarina grandidieri (Mouse Trap Tree, Succulent Sesame)
Uncarina grandidieri
(Mouse Trap Tree, Succulent Sesame)

Euphorbia Viguieri
Aloe Sinkatana
I am always amazed to see cactus blooming.  How can a plant with such a tough out look produces such delicate flowers?

After stepping out the area of  "The Lin Lougheed Spiny Forest of Madagascar",  we are on the way back to the gate.  

Found two Heliconias blooming... It won't be called a tropical garden without some heliconias! 
Heliconia subulata

Heliconia x Pabstii
Even these banana flowers are kind of hidden among their huge leaves, I was still able to spot them in distance.  The color and the shape of the bloom looks so beautiful against the green leaves with the sunshine penetrating through.

These bush is full covered by three colors of flowers, white, purple, lavender.  All are on the same plant.  I was not able to find the plant label.  The three color bloom feature is similar to the plant 'Brunfelsia pauciflora', also called "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow".  However, the flower shape does not match when I looked it up.  Anybody recognizes this plant? 

This flower looks just like its common name, "Chinese Lantern" or "Japanese Lantern"!
Hibiscus Schizopetalus
(Chinese Lanterns, Japanese Lanterns, or Fringed Rosemallow)
 I love the water lilies.  If I can ever have a small pond in my garden, water lilies are the must!

Wonder who is the lady sitting on the bench in front of that giant gumbo limbo tree (bursera simaruba)? It is a life-sized sculpture of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, created by sculptor and Fairchild volunteer Freda Tschumy.  Marjory was one of America’s greatest conservationists and the first editor of Fairchild’s magazine. The existence of the Everglades National Park is largely due to her efforts. She also lobbied extensively for the formation of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden.   A big salute to you, Marjory!

It was very hot and humid that day, and we were ready to head back home...

Hold on, do you still remember in part one that I said I was not only treated with a garden trip, but also some nice plants for Mother's Day?  Yes, it happened that day the Fairchild had a flowering tree sale going on! Guess it was my lucky day!   Even I was not looking for buying any trees (not I don't love flowering trees, I just don't have space for them in my garden, sigh...) , we went there to check it out anyway.

It turned out to be that they did have some other plants for sale in addition to flowering trees. 

Such as different color and types of Frangipanis, some in pots, and some sold as cuttings.... I have one grown in the pot right now, still trying to find a place to put in the ground.  I guess I won't get more. 

All kinds of Desert Roses (Adenium Obesum )...  Hmmm, I already have one in my garden as well.

Ooh, what is this pretty flower?  I want one!
Tibouchina lepidota nana
Dwarf Tibouchina
I believe this is also known as "Princess Flowers".   This type is supposed to grow much more compact than Tibouchina urvilleana, about 3 feet tall.  Perfect for my small garden, and purple is one of my favorite garden colors!

And how about this beauty?!  Ok, it is actually just the picture on the label, the plant itself does not have flower yet.  I recognized this Giant Apostle's Iris' flower from several Florida bloggers' posts.  I have been looking for it for a while.  Since only two was left, I grabbed one quickly!  It is not very cheap though, cost me $20.00, but I can not find it anywhere else.

Neomarica Caerulea 'Regina'
 (Giant Apostle's Iris)
I was quite satisfied with my two choices.  What a perfect way to end a perfect day!

Boys, Thanks for a perfect Mother's Day!  Oh, can not forget to thank my husband for his nice thought to bring me to this garden :)  I definitely will return here in the cool season, so that we can walk in the garden for longer time in much more comforts.

Thanks all for following along with the tour.  Hope you enjoyed it.
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