Sunday, June 13, 2010

Hands Across the Sand

As the oil spill nears our beautiful white sands, I'd like to send out a plea to all of you. There is a movement that is being organized to gather people on beaches everywhere to join hands and show support for protecting our coastlines. The website of the organizers is at Please visit the site and check your area to see where people are gathering in your area and join in this event. Even if you live in a land-locked state or outside the US, you might find a gathering to show support.

While we can't undo what has already occurred, lets all make sure this doesn't happen again.
"Hands Across the Sand is a movement made of people of all walks of life and crosses political affiliations. This movement is not about politics; it is about protection of our coastal economies, oceans, marine wildlife, fishing industry and coastal military missions. Let us share our knowledge, energies and passion for protecting all of the above from the devastating effects of oil drilling."

Monday, June 07, 2010

Water Water Everywhere...

I've been a little slow in posting recently, but not slow in working on the garden. It's been hot and humid, and I've just had to dive in, pull weeds, and tame vines.

The talk around here is all about the big oil spill. Tar balls have finally appeared on our beaches, and the smell is bad when the wind blows in from the southwest.

We live a mere block from the sea, but we are not directly on the Gulf of Mexico, but on a sound that has two narrow passes. As long as they can keep the oil out of those two passes, our waters will be safe.
We have a creek that winds through our property that originates from an underwater spring a few blocks inland from us. Our little peninsula is full of creeks like ours.
The creek widens as it moves towards the sea. The above photo shows the widest part of it, which is at the edge of our property. Our little creek is tidal, which means whatever is in the sea can be pushed up our little creek. Right now it's teaming with life.
The above picture is the canal they built across the street from us. The creek runs under the street, and into the canal, which empties into the sea.

Whatever happens in the next few weeks and months is hard to say. I do know that Mother Earth is a tough old lady who has endured much worse. Life prevails, and even wounds from disasters--natural or manmade--eventually heal.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spidey Sense

Spiders are not creatures I'd be inclined to keep as pets, but I do appreciate the work they do around the garden. In fact, it's forbidden in my house to kill a spider. The correct method of elimination is to make use of the Eviction Jar and relocate them outside somewhere. If you're brave, like my husband, you can pick them up with your fingers to deport them, but squashing is not allowed.

This odd-looking fellow turns up every year and hangs out in the same spot on my live oak tree. He makes his web high enough not to be a problem to anyone. Apparently, he's called a spiny orb-weaver and you can see that he's busy making a snack of a careless fly here.
The most numerous spiders in my garden are the orchard spiders. For years I thought they were brown widows, until I looked closer and saw that they are more green. The problem with these guys is that they tend to make their webs in pathways. So, every walk through the garden includes a Spider Stick to clear the way.
Does anyone else see a smiley face on this spider?

I have hundreds of other spiders, of course. Black widows, brown widows, little jumping spiders, huge wolf spiders, and those pale ones that hang from the oak trees, to name a few--all doing a great job of eating insects in my garden.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Doing the Garden, Digging the Weeds. Who Could Ask for More?

The thing about really diving into the garden and getting some work done, is that at the end of the day you don't always have the energy to blog about it, let alone run around with the camera. I am happy to say, though, that the garden is finally starting to shape up.

I've been weeding and transplanting and keeping the local economy afloat by visiting my local nursery several times a week. It's dangerous when you have an amazingly awesome nursery barely a mile away from your house.

My bananas have finally woken up. My property may wind up looking like a banana plantation, because I purchased two more banana plants, just in case the old ones hadn't made it. That's okay, though. I'm using the new bananas to block an ugly view of our neighbor's property.

Most of my caladium did not survive last winter's frost, but I snatched up bags full of them when they went half-price at Lowe's. They were already sprouting in the bags, so they put out their leaves almost immediately when I planted them. I'm also happy to report that I have achimenes plants popping up.

I was fussing so much at a gardenia shrub that has been so yellow and sickly for so long (and not blooming yet), that I completely overlooked one deep in my "jungle" that is blooming like crazy.
I wandered outside with my camera, and the lens fogged up from the humidity. I thought I'd wiped it enough, but the pictures came out blurry anyhow. I do like the soft dreamy look, anyhow. That's the bottom side of my Queen Anne's lace which has grown to about five feet high.
A pair of mourning doves have built a nest in the live oak tree just outside our front door.
This dragonfly was napping on the same twig for hours. I was beginning to think he was dead, but then he suddenly flew away.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

A Shore Thing

So, what do Gulf Coast gardeners do when the heat kicks up in the garden? We get in our boats and ride.
In keeping with the gardening theme, I did see these brave little flowers growing in the sand on Santa Rosa Island. 
We walked across to the Gulf (of Mexico) to see that our beaches were still un-touched by the impending oil slick.
The beach was still clean and beautiful. There's much at stake here. We have some of the whitest sands in the world. (No kidding, I've been to beaches all over the world and I've never seen any as pretty as ours.)
They've set out numerous orange barriers in various areas of Santa Rosa Sound. It was great to see that even though the pass that feeds our sound will probably be protected, that they are taking no chances with the wildlife. 
We'd just jumped off the boat and were walking back home, when we spied this osprey high in a dead pine tree enjoying some sushi.

NOTE:  Last night we received our first whiff of the stench that folks in Louisiana are complaining about when the wind blew in from the direction of the oil spill. Yuck! 

Monday, May 03, 2010

Rain and Daisies

I've always loved wild daisies. They don't grow as rampantly down here as they do farther north. The weather has been foggy and overcast all weekend--not much for photography. I did pick some daisies and posed them in my kitchen window beneath my "bottle curtain". 
I did manage to catch a photo of this tiny bee working on one of my oxeye daisies.
We've had lots of rain this weekend. It's welcome, as is was becoming crunchy-dry around here, and even though we have a well-fed sprinkler system, there's nothing like rain to perk a garden up. 

This is my crazy season, though. This is the time of year I prefer to spend every available moment planting, weeding, and beautifying my garden. This is the time of year when I don't care what I look like, and most money I spend goes on plants. May is the month when I can finally assess the damage from the harsh winter. It looks like my pygmy date palms (roebelenii) did not make it. My bananas, however, are finally making an appearance. I still don't know if my caladiums are coming back. 

I keep hearing thunder, so I probably should post this...

PS--Here's a full picture of my bottle curtain:

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Some Creatures in My Garden

We have a tidal creek that winds through our property. When the tide is high, small fish like to swim around.
I have no idea what kind of fish they are, but they have these beautiful iridescent tails.
We have all kinds of snakes. This is a water snake, which apparently is not venomous. We have the "bad" snakes on our property too, but we leave them alone, and they leave us alone.
This tree frog is enjoying a little shelter from the sun.
A dragonfly is resting in my bamboo.

Monday, April 26, 2010

A Touch of Blue

So, what does a budding ceramicist do when her tiny house is beginning to overflow with pottery? She starts on the garden. Any bowl with a hole in the bottom becomes a flower pot.
This is also a sneaky way to ensure plenty of blue color in the garden. Above, the pot to the right with the bromeliad was originally designed to be a small birdbath, but the bottom split open in the kiln, so it will not hold water. (There are no mistakes in art, just changes in plans) A bowl becomes a flower pot when you poke a hole in the bottom.
Some of my pots were getting lost in my flower bed, and it was starting to look boring having everything at the same level. A large cobalt blue vodka bottle becomes an instant plant stand when you stuff it into the ground.
I got a little crazy and created a little butterfly bath (above). It has a little perch on the side and two little islands for them to perch on. It's filled with sand, which is kept wet. 
If you don't have a custom-designed butterfly bowl, you can always improvise with any bowl filled with sand. A couple of pebbles gives the butterflies something to perch on, but shells are more common down here. I had to use dirty sand from my garden to fill it, as I haven't been to the beach yet this season to collect some beautiful white sand.
I was going to join the bouquet theme mentioned here: April's MGB --Monthly Garden Bouquet  The day I decided to gather my flowers, however, nothing was cooperating. The flowers I picked wouldn't behave themselves in the bottle, and we had big storms moving in that made it so dark, I could only take a flash picture. (It looked terrible) I left the arrangement on the windowsill of my greenhouse with some blue bottles and forgot about it. Two days later, they were still looking perky and deserved to have their picture taken. The wine bottles were intended for a bottle tree, but for now they look so nice where they are.

What do you do when you have lots of bamboo and a rampant coral vine? You lash the bamboo together and build scaffolding around it. 
It's a little ugly now, but the vine will grow through it and over it in no time. In previous seasons, it grew too close to the house and would creep under the porch. This will give it more sun and give it more room to spread. I can make it as high as I like. I have a lot of bamboo on my property. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

How Does My Moss Garden Grow?

More and more people are becoming interested in growing moss gardens. I've been asked how I grew mine, so I will share.

I started my moss garden just last winter when I came to terms with the fact that there was one spot in my garden where no plants were ever happy. It's an area that drains poorly, and has rich silty soil that is packed down. Water pools in the area when it rains a lot. It's on the north side of my house and is shaded by a small live oak tree.

I prepared the area by adding some soil acidifier for good measure, and packing the soil back down. I collected the first pieces of moss from my parents' property, which has a large area of beautiful ferny looking moss. Their soil has lots of clay, whereas ours beneath the amended topsoil is pure sand. I collected large pieces in zip-lock bags, brought them home, and planted them immediately.
The picture above shows the fairly-new planted mosses, still looking a bit choppy. Below is a recent picture showing it having anchored itself down and filling in nicely. Note that the moss on the pots has receded somewhat. It's not that easy getting moss to survive on pots, but the surviving moss has attached itself to its surface.
The rule-of-thumb is that you should plant moss on a similar surface to where you find it growing naturally. So, moss found growing on wood, I planted on wood. Moss growing in dirt, I planted in dirt. I even found moss growing in sunny areas on sand, which I planted on the side of my little plot that gets afternoon sun.
Where did I find my mosses? Everywhere! I started taking walks around the neighborhood and found the most amazing mosses. I found mosses growing along drainage ditches, on the side of the road, I went into some woods and found some hiding under pine needles, and I found them growing on the banks of my own little creek. I strolled onto a piece of property that had been abandoned since our big hurricane, and found the most beautiful mosses--some a lush velvety green and some with star shapes that grew a few inches tall. I found mosses whose spores made them look so beautiful and delicate. Eventually, I ran out of room for them.
While the dominant moss is the ferny-looking moss, if you look closely, you can see the other types in between. I planted the pieces together like a living patchwork quilt.
On my daily walks, I carried a small spoon and a plastic bag. I don't know what people thought I was doing. Most people who walk with plastic bags pick up dog poop, but I don't have a dog. They'd see me bent over in abandoned lots, and straddling drainage ditches digging, things up and putting them into a plastic bag.
I kept my moss garden moist by making sure it was watered every day. We have a well for irrigation, so there was no worry of killing it with nasty chemical-laced city water. When the oak tree dropped its leaves, and the sun was beating down on my poor little mosses, I cut strips of window screening and laid them over the area. This allowed diffused light and water in, and also seemed to hold the moisture in a bit. I knew that once my tree filled in again, and the sun moved farther north that I could uncover them again. (See Moss Under Wraps)

I do sometimes have a problem of critters flipping over my mosses, so I have to check them often. Check out how Isadora has solved that dilemma in her moss garden:  Outwitting a Robin, Hawk Wars and Birds in Concert

Saturday, April 17, 2010

She-Bee, Moss Garden, and Strawberry Begonias

My she-bee is still hanging around the garden. She staggered out of a flower bed that I was watering. I'm guessing she didnt' like that. She wandered around my garden a bit and rested on a live oak leaf in my "lawn". (There's some sparse St. Augustine grass growing where we walk.) I don't really understand her behavior. I still haven't seen her fly. She was kind enough to pose for me for a while. Actually, I think she was taking a nap. I was worried someone might step on her.
I'm able to uncover my moss garden now that the live oak above it has re-grown its leaves again. It has filled in quite well. All my moss patches have anchored themselves down and spread. It's now this beautiful green carpet. Weeding it is interesting--definitely not for the impatient. It requires a zen-like attitude to pluck out tiny seedlings one at a time. Moss is so nice to touch, though, that it gives me an excuse to linger for a while.
All my strawberry begonias (Saxifraga) are blooming. I once read in a gardening book that strawberry begonias produce small insignificant flowers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Bee's Story

I will admit it. I'm a nature nerd. I involve myself in the lives of other beings. I move earthworms aside when I'm digging so I don't chop them up, and rescue insects that are drowning in containers of water. I apologize to things I inadvertently hurt. So, when I saw this struggling bumble bee, I had to intervene.

I noticed that she (I'm not sure why I knew she was a she-bee) was staggering around my flower bed, seemed disoriented, and couldn't fly. It was hot out in the sun, and that probably wasn't helping her.

Eventually, she climbed up on my marguerite daisies and poked around the centers, but she didn't seem to get any satisfaction--she also seemed a bit frantic.
So, I developed the idea that perhaps these were the wrong flowers for her. I picked an azalea and laid it in front of her. She climbed inside and drank the nectar greedily.
I didn't know how to tell her that the azaleas were elsewhere, so I used the plucked azalea flower to lure her into a flowerpot and transported her over to an azalea shrub.
It worked. She climbed deeply into each flower and sipped nectar. Some of the flowers must have already been emptied, so some she spent a few seconds in, and others a few minutes.
In return, she gave me some beautiful photo-opportunities, and I greedily snapped away while she nourished herself.

I'm just now getting around to replacing my previous azaleas, so the shrub is tiny. She'd soon visited each and every flower.
Again, I trapped her into the flower pot and tried to find more suitable flowers for her. At this point, though, she'd had about enough of me. She climbed up a tall pine tree and disappeared. I'm sure she'll be fine now.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Debbie's Dilemma

Okay, Dear Readers--I have a challenge for you. Who can tell me what is wrong with my morning glories?
They are a pale sickly green with those marks on some of the leaves. To me they looked sun-bleached. I mulched around them to protect the roots and have even tried screening them from the sun (with a window screen). The get plenty of water, and the soil is rich. We do have sandy soil, but the area they are in stays pretty moist.

I've seen pictures of morning glories with lush deep green foliage, but for years all I've been seeing are sickly leaves. Is it the harsh Florida sun, something I need to feed them, or what?

This was suggested to me by Jenn at Gamine's Garden

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Everything's Coming Up Daisies

Daisies are such simple and cheerful flowers. They are the first flowers we drew as children. I have lots of different versions of daisies in my garden.

This gerber daisy was fortunate not to have been mistaken for a weed and pulled out before it could flower. It's hard to tell this guy from a weed that looks very similar before they flower.
I love the color of this osteospermum daisy. This is a new plant in my garden, so I don't know how it will cope with our long hot summers.
You just have to love a daisy that grows on a bush. The marguerite daisy has that classic daisy look. I also have the version with the yellow petals, but it hasn't bloomed yet.
Tiny dahlberg daisies are always cheerful. I love the smell of the plant.
My all-time favorite is still the classic oxeye daisy--the good old-fashioned he-loves-me-he-loves-me-not daisy-chain daisy. They are all in bud, just getting ready to bloom.
Stay tuned for the blooming of my daisies.