Monday, February 18, 2013

Happy Valentine February!

My brugmansia came from pots in New Jersey finally has adapted to the nematode soils and is thriving with 10" fragrant trumpets that bathe the garden in a jasmine scent at night.
I can typically chew gum and blog, but in reality that has not been the case for a while.  I have been deeply involved in a search process for a minister for the Unitarian Universalist Church here in Tarpon Springs.  I may be using it as an excuse but it has allowed me sometime to think about a lot of things.  If truth be told I don't chew gum either, as I come from a school of thought that says always try to look your best and chewing on a piece of gum for hours on end is not my idea of looking good - unless you are a cow chewing its cud.  

All that aside, this time away from blogging has allowed the garden to fill in just a tad. Gardens in Florida have a tendency to grow and grow and grow.  Mine is not an exception.  Even though the winter season here limits growth by lack of rain it is still a wonderful time to garden.  There are surprises along the way (aren't there always?) with a sudden drop in temperature that reminds you as nice as it is here were are not 100% tropical.  Last night for the first time this winter we reached 38 degrees which meant it was time to bring out the sheets and cover the really tender plants.  The Brazilian Cloak I feared could wither.  This morning after confirming  my Tropica I rediscovered it can withstand temperatures of as low as 20 degrees.  A bit of a shock as it were as it is native to Venezuela where I doubt temperatures ever get that cold.  As is I did more damage to it by somewhat crushing the red plumes with the sheet than the cold would have done.  Oh well, another lesson.
Brazilian Cloak

Brazilian Cloak Plumes

The gardens you can see are filling in nicely.  In this Garden Room  the lawn has returned and Limo runs circles around the edge of some central plantings into another garden room that is still being transformed.  I have introduced, thanks to some neighbors six clumps of a wonderful clumping bamboo that will tower 25 feet over the garden and provide total privacy from the street.  I suspect I may at some point regret planting so many clumps but it may be also provide the impetus for some industry that I could take up at a future point such as constructing bamboo scaffolding for  Tarpon Springs.

You can see a wheel barrow with the remains of the 4 trucks of mulch:  a small pile I am saving to spread around problem spots
The terrace plantings provide a staging area for plants that I find a rock bottom prices from nurseries and rehabilitate before putting in the destined location.  I just picked up two huge terrestrial (Bletilla) orchid plants of considerable size for $5.00 each at Lowes. They were a little past their forced blooming  and people who have no patience will pay $30.00 a piece for the luxury.  A month or two in the ground will have them twice the size and with hundreds of blooms each.

The backyard I have turned into more of a semi arid garden.  Contrasting a variety of aloes, agaves, and succulents that can live in total absence of water with lemons, tangerines, pineapples, mangos, loquats, avocados and calamondin oranges.  I irrigate the fruit and everything has about a foot of mulch helping to develop some soil quality.  The mango tree, due a lack of winter is covered in flowers.  It could prove to be quite a bumper crop of mangos this year.  I am anticipating going to our farmer's market and see what I can get for what will be thousands of 18 ounce organic fruits.

The papaya planted that I put in the ground at 6 inches last fall is now about 10 feet in the air with quite a bounty of fresh fruit for breakfast.  

Every now and then you find someone cooling off in the shade of its leaves.
The Elephant ear has grown so large that it flowered.  

The flower is rather exotic to say the least.  It is about 2 feet in length

On a trip some  a trip somewhere I found this bronze colored Clerododendrum with a maroon backing.  It is called Shooting star Clerodendrum or Clerodendrum quadriloculare as its stems are somewhat square rather than cylindrical.  As I said, I found it in an abandoned parking lot where it seemed rather adapted to surviving without any special attention.  It had grown into quite a jungle and there below were some small 6 inch pups that were trying to establish themselves amongst the parent plants.  Well, I supposed I helped the plant by thinning out a couple and put them in my own garden where they are thriving.  I intend to build a screen of them and place bright colored Crotons in front which will stand out in a dramatic contrast to this bronze/maroon wall of vegetation.  The Shooting star is not fragrant and may reproduce too fast for most gardens.  We shall see what it does.

Another Great plant is this Dombeya that is blooming for the first time. It is barely 12 inches tall.  This plant may one day become the great blooming flower of the garden as it grows to 15 feet and gets covered with these clusters of pinkish blossoms that hand like bells.  All you see is pink until after it has bloomed and the green heart shaped leaves take over after the flowers fade.  Garden gluttony and another deal at Lowe's allowed me to get two of these to create another screen of flowers.  

Finally, a trip to St. Petersburg on UU search matters allowed me to discover this second magnificent specimen of a Red Kapok tree  (I know two others, one more majestic and a smaller one in Tarpon).  Its voluptuous scarlet velvet flowers suffocate the tree with blossoms calling attention to its bounty and its beauty - a perfect match for Valentine's Day would you not agree?  Few can walk by and not close in on its spectacle.  As everyone walks around with camera phones these days they serve a function to capture and share its exotic beauty.  Happy Gardening and Happy Valentine February!


  1. Your garden is looking so beautiful! We have that Shooting star plant here on the property. I think it is very pretty, but it is considered an invasive species here in Hawaii. And fresh papaya! - nothing better! Sophia

  2. Absolutely beautiful. Your knowledge and care is impressive. But the passion that runs through your writing and photos is inspirational.