"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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

End of March Garden

Can not believe it is the last day of March already!  I have not got much time to post recently, but everyday I can find something new blooming in my garden. 

Let me give you a quick tour in my March garden without much words...

Catteleya Orchid
Sophrolaeliocattleya Jewel Box 'Scheherazade' AM/AOS

When I bought this moth orchid, it was in a bad state, so I got it at a bargain price.  Now after some tender loving care, it rewarded me its beautiful flowers.  Love the unique pattern of the flower.

This white moth orchid also blooms the second time for me.

Some of my favorite container combinations...
Mona Lavendar

This Seemannia sylvatica 'Bolivian Sunset' has been non-stopping blooming since last November.  It will be interesting to see if it can tolerate Florida heat and humidity as well.
Seemannia sylvatica 'Bolivian Sunset'

I recently bought two blue containers, and this is one of them.  The plants I have chosen to put in are:  One Cordyline baurei 'Red Star' , verbena (white and pink stripe) and another unknown plant (orange flowers).

A close look...  I lost the tag of this small orange flower.  Anybody who recognizes the plant please share the name with me.

We got lots of much needed rain on past Tuesday and Wednesday.  Bromeliads always look extra fresh and beautiful after the rain.

I cut back this Cat Whiskers to almost half before the winter, now it is growing like wild again.  The red leave coleus is one of my favorite coleus plants.  I planted it last summer, and it still remians its beautiful color even it has grown much bigger.  I also have rooted several cuttings successfully. 

Just love the hot pink of this Hawaii Ti leaves!

First several caladiums emerged from the ground.  I move them into this new side garden border, next to the air conditioner unit.   This spot used to be an eye sore, now it  has some much needed colors added.

Three of my ground orchids have started blooming again.  Ground orchids have long blooming period in South Florida, and they have become one of my favorite collections.

More Dietes bicolor flowers have opened since they opened the first flower about three weeks ago.

This Dipladenia pink certainly knows the spring is coming.  It has been climbing up against the fence, and peeking over neighbour's gackyard. 

I am also submitting this post to participate Noel's "Hot, Loud and Proud" meme, and Katarina's Blooming Friday -- 'On the ground' meme.  For more beautiful flowers around the world, please also follow the link to visit their sites.

Have a nice weekend!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Front Garden -- Finished!

...at least for now!

When we hired people coming to install the concrete border for us about one and half month ago, the workers did not follow the curve of the original front yard bed.  The result was that the bed got expanded by one foot length wise.  I have to say that I love this unexpected surprise.  In addition, I asked the extra grass area at the right to be included within the border.  

Here is a picture of this same area from last June.  Notice we have changed the exterior color and the front door color since then.  I am not a big fan of a pink house :) 

This front bed was the only area in this house that had some mature landscape before we moved in.   On this flower bed, from the back to the front, three palm trees, Crape Jasmine bush in the middle, Ixora bushes, crotons, sago palm with Acalypha reptans (Dwarf Chenille) as ground cover underneath.  Between the crotons and sago palm, there were something similar to Split Leafed Philodendron but much smaller, only 1 to 2 feet tall.  I used to see the names somewhere, but could not remember it now.  Two colors of stones were separated by the black border, with the dark red stones inside and the lighter color outside.

After the border was installed, I did the west side garden first, and I knew this front garden area would be the next one that I want to put my hands on.  Thanks for the day light saving time, I was able to find more time after work to start working on this front bed before the spring break. Last week was kids' spring break, and I took two days off.  Except for the two visits to some local historical places with family, we used most of the time to finish the front yard.

With all these activities, I cut the blogging time completely for the last five days. I am glad that today I can come here to have a garden update.

While I love to experiment different plants in the backyard for different seasons, I want the front yard to have a more "designed" look, low maintenence, and yet still provides enough interests and colors throughout all seasons.

The grasses were removed, weed-block sheets were laid on before husband carried white marble chips on the outer half of this bed.

Here is the finish look of the front garden.

Two out of three big boulders were moved outward to match the wider bed and make them more standing out.  Two ground orchids, two agaves and various bromeliads were planted against red stones or white marble chips to show the colors and stay low maintenance.

For the new area at the right corner, I have been picturing a welcome pot with plants trailing down for a while in my mind. Finally we found the welcome pot at a local store, and I planted Aptenia cordifolia 'Red Apple' into it. Since Aptenia cordifolia 'Red Apple' has been established in another container for a while, so that trailing effect was immediately achieved. More bromeliads and one crown of thorns were spreaded around the pot.

Most of "new" plants in this bed were moved from other areas of my garden except for the following three: Aechmea 'Mend', one unknown bromeliad, and one crown of thorn with large flowers.

Aechmea 'Mend'

Oh, I also found this cast iron blue bird stake in a store over the weekend, perfect for this corner too!

I probably will plant more bromeliads or other plants with foliage interests into the white stone area of this bed, but for now I consider this bed is "finished".  Since the day we finished it, I could not help walking around it again and again, feeling proud of this new design of my garden area.  I am sure you all felt the same thing when those pictures that have stayed in your mind for a while are finally becoming true!

I think by now, our neighbours should have known the lady living in this house love gardening since they have seen me working on this front bed to move the plants around almost every night for quite a while now :)

Spring is here, YAY!   Now I can play more plants in the back yard...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Spring Fever

My garden is definitely having a Spring Fever! Almost everyday I discover something new blooming.  Come to discover them with me...

This Gazania flower is almost too pretty to be real!  I started some seeds last fall, and only two seedlings eventually made it.  This week I discovered the first bloom, and it is not like those common yellow/orange tone flowers often seen sold in the garden center.  Isn't it a beauty?  Since the seed package I tried is a mix, now I am wondering what kind of flowers the other plant will have.  We shall see.

This is a real surprise to me!  I bought two yellow African Iris (Dietes bicolor ) when I just started my brand new garden almost two years ago.  They look like ornamental grass with their waving green sword-like leaves, and have multiplied nicely over the the time, but never bloomed. See what I found hidden in all green today?

Dietes bicolor 

Oh, my first Nun's orchid blooming!  I ordered this from Internet last November, and did not expect I can see a flower this soon.  It is still young, and only developed one flower spike.  I hope next year, it can bloom as prolific as what has been shown in other blogs.  Am I being greedy?!

Phaius tankervilliae
Common name: Nun's Orchid
I love the foliage of Variegated Devil's Backbone (Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus') since it adds nice texture and variation into the flower bed.  I did not know it even can bloom.  The flower is small and red, not very significant, but surely is showy and unique!

Euphorbia tithymaloides 'Variegatus'
Variegated Devil's Backbone
Remember how I whined about I missed my first bloom of Neomarica Caerulea 'Regina' (Giant Apostle's Iris) due to the busy schedule?  It quickly opened another sets of flowers to reward me! The flowers only last for one day, but surely worth the waiting!

Neomarica Caerulea 'Regina'
Giant Apostle's Iris
I bought this Proven Winners Senorita rosalita Cleome Hybrid  last summer after I encountered the mass of blooming of the classic Cleome in China.  This one is much smaller than the classic one.  I have to say even it is "Proven Winnders", I don't think it is really made for South Florida.  It has been attacked by a stem borer twice.  Each time, the  stem tip wilted and appeared dead.  Cutting them back to almost the base of the plant seems have saved it both time.  This attack has not occurred during the winter, and finally gave it a chance to bloom again! Hooray! 
Senorita rosalita Cleome Hybrid  
Yay, my ornamental pineapple bloomed too!  Just love this intense red on both leaves and fruit.  The leaves only turn to this bright red when the plant in blooming.

This Inca Lily (Alstroemeria) was one of those plants that I bought when I didn't  know much South Florida friendly plants (not I know it all now) at all.  After finishing its flower period last spring, it quickly melted away in the Florida heat.  Fortunately I did not throw away, and kept the pot in a shady place, and gave some occasional irrigation.  Once the weather cools down, it develops the new leaves, and now finally rewarded me with its flowers!

AlstroemeriaInca Lily
My Double Delight Rose still occasionally opens some flowers to reserve its spot in the garden. Yes, you are here to stay!

So much Spring Fever in my garden, contagious enough to spread to this gardener too!  I can feel so many ideas dancing in my mind to wait for me to execute!

Is your garden having a Spring Fever?

Monday, March 7, 2011

Garden Project: West Side Garden

I worked in the garden for most of the past weekend except the time for house cleaning, grocery shopping and sending kids to Sunday Chinese school.  In another word, I used every bit of the time I can find!  When I went to bed on Sunday night with sore muscles, I also felt a big sense of accomplishment :)

Since we moved into the current house almost two years ago (time really flies!), my majority work has been concentrating on the backyard, opening the flower beds from the scratch.  Since the land we own has very limited garden space, I know I need to utilize every bit of space, including the stripes at the both sides of the house. 

Since the side area is visible to the street, I want to give those future flower beds a more formal look than the backyard.  About one month ago, we finally hired somebody to come in and installed the concrete border in the front yard and both sides of the house.

The result is nice, and the border does give an instant face lift to the yard.  Now it is up to me to play with those bordered areas. 

As every new flower bed in my garden, before I can actually enjoy the planting fun, grass needs to be removed, big rocks need to be dug out, new soils need to be brought in.  Since I really have not got much time since the border was installed, the progress has been rather slow.  

The past weekend I finally "nearly finised" the west side garden.

Here is how it looked like in August last year. This area is at the low point of the land, even grass can not survive here.  We often have to walk in the water puddles during the raining season.  It really has become an eye sore for us. 

Here is how it looked like after I "finished" planting this past Sunday.

This is the view looking from the backyard side. 

The rain gutter downspout and the rain barrel we installed last year is cutting this flower bed into two sections. Right now we just paved the area where rain barrel is located with gravels, and put two stepping stones there. I also planted one Persian shield plant against the wall, and put an Aloe container in front of it. I need to think more about how to use this area, maybe for container plannting so it doesn't look too bared comparing other sections of this flower bed.

This flower bed is located the west side of the house, and the neighbor's house blocks some of afternoon sun, so I consider it is a partial sun area.

West side garden left section
In the left section of this bed, three Hawaii Ti plants and Plumeria pudica were planted there even before this area was bordered.  I added three ground orchids which were lifted from other part of the garden during the near freeze days in December. One of the new begonia is also planted here. I also squeezed in a dragon wing begonia at the back and a Brunfelsia latifolia (aka 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow').  I need to keep Brunfelsia latifolia prunned to keep it compact.
West side garden right section
In the right section, Plumeria rubra was planted last year, and now the leaves all fell off, left only the bare branches in the ground. I will see if it will do well this year, if not, then maybe it needs to be moved ino a more sunny area.

In front of Plumeria rubra are five Amaryllis bulbs.  I bought these five bulbs last December, and they finished blooming at the end of December. I hope by putting them into the ground can bring second round of flowers this year, or at least rebloom next season. At the back of this section, I moved two Cordyline fruticosa 'Kiwi' from other part of the garden. In addition, another dragon wing begonia, one very young Mussaenda luteola (Mussaenda White Wing) from cuttings, and a Cuphea ignea (Cigar plant) were also squeezed in.

Have you noticed that I used "squeeze" twice already? Yes, in my tiny garden, space is at premium, so I am used to squeezing plants into the flower bed when they are still young. Only if they grow out of the allocated space, I move them into another location. I am sure I will do quite some "moving around" for the next a couple of months depending on how the plants perform in their location.

As I said earlier, this flower bed is just nearly finished, still have some work to be done.

Meanwhile, I will give you an update to one of my existing flower beds, located at the right side of the drive way in the front.

A view from last year June....  Notice the border is still the old black rubber border.

West frontyard bed June 2010
Although this bed looked lush in the summer, Pentas and ground orchids don't have the best look over the winter. I moved them into other areas. Five Euphorbia splendens (Crown of Thorns) replaced them in this area to give this bed a tidier look and bring some consistent color through the year.

At the curve side of this bed, I planted two kinds of matchstick bromeliads around the oak tree base, and hoping some day they can grow up to hug the tree trunk.  Overall, I think the new plants in this flower bed will be low maitenence, easy controlled, and yet still have the tropical look.   When African iris comes to blooming, all those white flowers instant add more life and color into this bed.

Before I finish my garden update,  I want to also show you where I will work on for the future projects, the front yard and the east side.   
Front yard
There are one narrow stripe between the new border and the original rock garden edge.  The grass needs to be removed, and put more rocks on.  The border also contained more lawn area at the corner, so more plants are needed there.

At the east side, all the bushes against the wall will eventually be removed, so lots of planting opportunites in this bed.
East side
I am excited about all these projects, but don't know when I can get to them, so stay tuned :)
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