Saturday, May 28, 2011

Learning the lay of the land

When I purchased the house in Collingswood it had no garden. It was just a lawn sitting, in what I would later discover, a clay pan. A clay pan is a pretty daunting natural feature that is a layer of soil (if you want to call it that) better suited for cutting up and making bricks than for plantings. Yet, I persisted and eventually had the garden you all have seen.

Tarpon Springs is at the polar opposite of Collingswood; it is a reclaimed beach dune. Florida, fertility comes predominately from its sunlight and abundance of rainfall. The soil is more or less the weakest element. Yet, the soil because of its porous nature allows plants to tap deep roots into a water table that is not too far below the surface. The mangos around my neighborhood grow primarily under the shade of large Live Oaks. This co-existence would not happen if they did not each have a steady water supply. Very few houses around me have sprinklers and those that do use it to water their concrete. The Greeks in my neighborhood have an usual aesthetic nature so they concrete most of their yards and leave holes for planting. This is great for not getting too much movement of sand, but not necessarily great for plants. Yet this is Florida, incredibly fecund!

Above gives you an idea what I am working with. When I bought the house it had an above ground pool that left a circle of solid white sand. Add a little water and pull out the weeds and I suspect in a few months it will be a solid lawn. I had a bonfire to remove a lot of debris and spread the ashes around to add some nutrient to the soil. I am not thrilled with the idea of keeping lawns, but for now green will suit my purposes until other and better ideas for groundcover can be implemented.
It is so fecund that the sprigs of vines or plants appear in the strangest places. Here coming out of my porch baluster cap a bleeding heart vine (some form of clerodendron) that appears to grow out of concrete in some places. It is quite gorgeous and delicate looking as you can see from the picture below.

If palms are the basic tree stock around these parts then Hibiscus are the prevalent shrub. They come in so many color and forms. There are single and double forms. There are up facing and down facing; some fully open and others remain always closed. Here are a few in my garden and the fabulous pink is from a neighbor who has agreed to give me a cutting so I can propagate my own.

A simple red hibiscus. I remember these as a kid growing up in Cuba where they were as big as trees. Mine are up against the house and soon to be relocated.

A double or triple form that is referred to locally as the poodle hibiscus because when seen from a certain angle it does resemble the profile of a poodle. What can I tell you? I did not make it up!

This beauty is a towering ten feet and covered with these delicate flowers that do not flinch in 90 degree heat.

Well, all this fecundity is not going to waste believe me. There appears to be bugs here to eat it all if allowed. This is the lubber grasshopper that appeared one day as cute little darlings the size of a paper clip. My neighbor started stepping on them as he claimed they ate everything very fast even though they are not fast themselves. The one picture above is roughly four inches across! This one like most others were naturally removed by me or Limo who has developed an appetite for them. Good boy!

Of course, the Lubbers are not the only creatures around. These White ibis, are up early in the morning catching what few worms my soil has. So I have take to shooing them away in order to build up my stock soil producing worms.

There is every manner of lizard and gecko around. These keep the bugs at bay they serve a little like my birds did in Collingswood. Here for some strange reason I see few flocks of birds in the garden. There is very little for them to eat, but that will come. However, if I get too many birds they will probably hunt the lizards and other bug eating reptiles. Yes, reptiles. I saw a large black (three or four feet) one about a week or so ago making its way through the garden. I am told it is called a black racer. Harmless and beneficial as it eats fruit rats! Yes, with all these marvelous gardens producing bumper crops of fruits we have rats that eat them. Fortunately, there are snakes to keep them in check. So far I have only seen the snake and not the rat.

In my rain barrel a large toad appeared one day and the then there were two. Somehow these manage to survived buried deep underground and surface when the wet weather comes. I suspect they eat more bugs so that is good and possibly if too many they can be a snack for the snakes!

I guess you can see that I am having fun. It is marvelous to get up everyday and have beautiful blue skies and warm weather greet you. I never thought these two things would be so important to me. I have been meeting people and getting cuttings from their gardens. My friend Paula has misters where I currently have possibly 100 different plants growing for future planting. I guess, for now, I am on my discovery period, dazzled by all that is fresh and new and I am sure some of the new may not be so wonderful when it gets old, but for now....

It is not everyday that you wake up to find this magnificent White Egret perched on your kitchen chimney. Well, it happened a few weeks ago and it was there casing the joint (as it were) and looking for something to eat no doubt. Limo was actually quite taken by it and the egret did not run away until it chose another spot. I wonder if it might return like a stork and set up a nest. Well, there is something to investigate. Happy Gardening.

1 comment:

  1. ll the pictures are really heart touching and breath taking. It gives me immense pleasure to come across this post. Thank you very much for the same.