Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Sky Vine is the Limit...

It's that time of year when it's difficult to blog about my garden. I am plenty busy, but don't yet have much to show for it. Well, that's not quite the truth. I have sore muscles, poison ivy rash on my forearms, and huge bags of garden refuse my husband has to deal with.

One thing I've been doing is moving vines. Crazy big vines. I'd planted a sky vine four years ago to a side of our house that was too close to the neighbors' house. At the time we hadn't closed in that part of the porch and I needed a rampant vine to give us some privacy. It did the job beautifully. We decided two years later to close in that part of our porch and turn it into a laundry room. I thought the vine would be happy on the existing lattice support, but within a year, parts of it were creeping inside the laundry room. We live on ten foot pilings, so it was working its way inside the house through the floors, and creeping around beneath the house. It also kept itself busy warping the lattice, and eventually popped it out of its support. This wandering vine was getting aggressive, and downright creepy.

It's a tropical vine, so it was completely flattened by the harsh winter. It's still dormant right now, so while the beast slept, we dug it out of the ground--a tuber the size of a man's leg. It's buried on the north end of our property where it can harass the chain link fence, and eventually, probably small dogs and neighbors too.

Meanwhile, it took a bag of dirt to fill the hole it left, and I've replaced it with Mexican petunias. They will fill in the empty spot in no time.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Tough Little Plants and Evil Twins

One tough little plant that I may have underestimated in my garden is the strawberry begonia. It's also known as a strawberry geranium, but is neither a begonia nor a geranium. This little guy loves to creep around my garden and sends out little babies in every direction.  It puts out delicate little flowers in the springtime.

I'm amazed that it's mostly sold as a houseplant. I left a few pots of them out in my garden during the winter, and was surprised to find them living and thriving after all those freezes we had. I wouldn't have thought the ones planted in the ground would have survived the prolonged cold. It seems, though, as long as they receive plenty of shade and rich moist soil, they are happy.

Don't you hate weeds that look just like the plants you are trying to grow? Have you ever saved and nurtured a plant only to find some sort of ugly green flower instead of what you thought you were growing? Have you been tricked into pulling out something you intended to save because it looked just like the weeds you were attempting to eradicate?

Yeah, so have I. Look at the similarities between nasturtium and dollar weed. When I am in a frenzy of weed-pulling, I could easily grab a handful of nasturtium before I realize what I'm doing. I have lost so many gerber daisies, because they look just like a nasty weed that grows here. I'm sure every cherished plant has an evil weed twin bent on its destruction.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Shady Dealings

The weather has warmed up and everything is waking up, including the weeds. I've been working on the back garden. The back garden is mostly shady, but this time of year the sun shines in from the south and the trees haven't filled in. The oak that is meant to give shade to the area below is still bare from its spring shedding.

Gardeners are always coming up with clever ways to protect plants. I just moved this shrimp plant from a shadier area, but I don't think it wants too much sun. Later in the season it will receive more shade, but for now I need to protect it. So, I made a mini-fence from bamboo and window screen fabric. I have lots of bamboo on my property. 

The screen diffuses the sunlight a bit, but allows rain and sprinkler water to reach the plant. Below I bent some longer pieces of bamboo over and laid the material over the top of some ferns. 

The banks of my creek used to be thick with ferns, but they were wiped out in a hurricane. Netted chain ferns are native to this area, but impossible to find in nurseries, so I've been digging them up from other places. Southern shield ferns are also native to this area, but easier to find in stores. Eventually, the trees above will provide more shade and the ferns will fill in  this area (by the creek).

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rain--I Don't Mind...

Beach-goers may have a problem with rainy days, but to me a good rain can perk up a garden like no irrigation system ever can.

I love rainy days, despite not being able to work in my garden. Anyhow, it's a good excuse to curl up with a cup of cocoa.

I'm working on a web page with more about my garden, because while a blog is perfect for a garden, which is ever-changing, it will save me the need to repeat myself on some things. It's here: Deborah's Garden  I'm still working with the quirks of Google Sites and trying to decide what to put in it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Ah, those things we don't invite into our gardens. I deal with the weeds in a meditative way. I just park myself in an area and work my way through. It's soothing when I'm not in a hurry.

Vines are another story all together. They're tough, they're stubborn, they take a lot of energy to remove them, and they attack with their vicious thorns. Vines grow rampant around here.

I have a weird relationship with the poison ivy. It's everywhere, and it's not going away any time soon. I tried to get rid of it, and it won the battle. I'm not sensitive to the leaves, but I am to the roots. I learned this the hard way. We have an understanding now. It can have a few pine trees, but may not be in my flower beds. The birds eat its berries, and the squirrels build their nests in its branches. 

The poison ivy doesn't bother the trees, but there are other vines that do. Below is an example of what these vines do to my trees.

Smilax tries to destroy the trees by smothering them. It shoots to the tops of them and then covers them with masses of leaves. During a mild winter it will keep growing. It has nasty thorns on it so thick gloves are essential.

The wild grapevine is just coming out of its dormancy. It develops a thick woody trunk and actually pulls entire trees to the ground and gradually destroys them.

Its tendrils become hard, so attempting to pull the vine out of a tree can break the tree branches.

On a cheerful note, the daffodils are doing well.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Don't Worry Bee Happy!

I saw a honey bee today. It's the first one I've seen in almost a decade. I don't know where she came from, but I hope she'll bring friends next time.

Mostly for the past several years we've had plenty of carpenter bees and bumblebees.

The honeybee was collecting nectar in the false rosemary shrubs. False rosemary grows wild here. It looks very similar to real rosemary, and smells similar. They are blooming like crazy right now.

I planted a real rosemary bush among them. It's hard to find right now, as it blends well with the false rosemary. (It's the one on the left in the picture below.) Eventually, it will be easier to locate when it towers over the others. 

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I've Got the Blues

I can't stop myself from buying blue flowering plants for my garden. I also can't resist purple and lavender colors. I found this little plant with its vivid cobalt blue flowers today. It's called Lithodora, but I don't know much else about it. Described as a trailing perennial, it's supposed to be fairly drought-tolerant and tough. I don't yet know how it endures the Florida sunshine and endless hot summers, but I'll soon find out.

I found a "chocolate" ajuga recently that also has vivid blue flowers.

 I love salvias. My favorite is Indigo Spires. My salvias all went dormant for the winter, and are just starting to green up again, but I couldn't resist the one below at the garden store. Anything for a bit of color this time of year.

I also couldn't resist a purple calibrachoa. I'm not really sure how to pronounce the name, but it's also known as trailing petunia or million bells.

My violets are doing well this year. They are popping up everywhere.

Later in the season I look forward to blue daze, cornflowers, and heavenly blue morning glories.

Of course I do get a year-round view of blue just by looking out my kitchen window.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Shoots, Buds and Bright Yellows

We've passed our frost date, and more plants are waking up in my garden. This is my oakleaf hydrangea.

My moso bamboo has put out shoots. We planted it three years ago. It has had its time to sleep and creep, so now it's time to leap. I'm not worried about the weeds. My golden bamboo is good at keeping weeds out of its area. We have both clumping and running bamboos on our property.

We don't have forsythias here, but we do have Carolina jasmine. They put out bright yellow flowers on long vines this time of year. They don't have any fragrance--I'm not even sure if they are related to the fragrant jasmine--but the color makes up for it.

Meanwhile, I am out there in the garden trimming, planting, and pulling weeds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Moss Under Wraps

This is the time of year when the sun streams in at cruel angles. What will be deep shade by mid-summer gets the full force of the sun in March. The sun is not gentle down here.

My new moss garden is getting a lot of sun right now. The trees that will block the afternoon sun in a few weeks are still bare. The live oak my moss is planted under is going through its annual leaf-drop. The sun is still leaning towards the south.

Window screening is very handy this time of year (the plastic type). It allows water to enter, but it turns direct sunlight into dappled sunlight. It's lightweight, and when the leaves come in and the sun moves higher into the sky, I can fold it up and put it away.

It's also handy for dealing with all the leaves that are falling, as I can lift the material and remove all the leaves at once.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mystery Flowers and Daffodils

There are some flowers popping up by the roadside that I can't identify. They are small, no higher than five inches or so, and the flowers are small and delicate. I transplanted a few into my wildflower meadow.

I can identify the daffodils. I planted these among my wildflowers, and they are finally starting to bloom. They are meant to give a bit of color until the wildflowers bloom.

Tikka likes coming outside with me. She understands the rule that she must wear a harness. We had three cats run over in a two year time period. My four cats have a cat run that we built for them. 

Tikka is sampling the wild grasses that are growing on our property. This is the feline version of a salad bar.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Cleaning and Bird Songs

There is much to be done in my garden. I suppose it's greener right now than gardens farther north, but there is so much brown stuff that has to be pruned so that the new growth can come through. Well, the new growth will come anyhow, but this will just make it all look better.

Above are some blossoms on a deciduous holly bush.

This bird was singing a nice song for me. 

I heard somewhere that when birds are making noises that we interpret as happy singing, they are actually flinging obscenities at each other to keep away. (When they're not singing love songs to attract mates) Either way, it sounds good to me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Unfurling Ferns

I love the way ferns unfurl their fronds in the springtime.

Above is a royal fern fiddlehead. They have naturalized around the creek.

This one is a netted chain fern. We used to have hundreds growing on the banks of the creek. They were all wiped out by a hurricane, and I couldn't find any in the garden centers to replace them. I finally found some growing wild down the road and tried my luck with transplanting them.

There are other ferns coming up. I have bracken ferns, and other natives. There are lots of "Boston" ferns, which tend to get aggressive, but are great for filling in large shady areas. I also have big tropical ferns, and florists ferns, and autumn ferns.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Blooming Pear

I didn't know we had a pear tree on our property. I spotted it last fall when I looked up and realized that there were big fat pears in one of the trees where we had cleared the vines in the spring. The pears were at least fifteen feet above the ground, so I left them to the birds.

With no more vines to harass it, the strange pear tree has put out hundreds of blossoms this spring. I hope the pears are good to eat.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Live Oaks and Lizards

Live Oaks are strange trees (to someone who grew up in northern climates). They are evergreen trees, but they completely shed their leaves over a two week period and then grow new ones. This happens during the spring. The two trees in my front garden do this alternatively. This year the one on the right is shedding.

When the new leaves grow in, they will be a beautiful fresh green color. I thought live oaks were the ugliest trees when I first moved here, but now I love their gnarly cragginess.

The lizards are moving slowly right now. Normally, they are not so easy to photograph, but these guys let me get up close. Either they are sluggish from the recent cool weather, or they are getting ready to molt. I'm not an expert on lizards.

Geckos are usually out at night and tend to hide in dark places, so I couldn't miss this photo-opportunity.

This is an anole. They are prettier when they are green. They're often mistaken for chameleons, but they are but distant cousins.

This guy didn't look well at all. Maybe he is molting.

Monday, March 08, 2010

It's A Daff World

There I was, waiting for my new crop of daffodils to bloom, and completely overlooked a group that I'd planted out by the street five years ago.

There I was pulling up to my driveway and wondering who had thrown something yellow into my dead lantanas. That was a nice surprise on a cloudy day.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

It's A Small World After All

There's an entire world of color just beneath your feet if you stop and have a look. These are ordinary weeds on my property taken with a macro lens.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Harbingers of Spring

It seems like suddenly there is a lot of bird activity on my property. 

I'll take that as another sign of spring.

I've especially noticed that robins are everywhere. They seem to be the predominant ones right now.

Sometimes there are just two or three, and then eventually they seem to congregate more and more.

Then there are scores of them. If robins are a sign of spring, then it's being shouted out loud and clear around here.

It's almost hitchcockian, though, seeing them gathering up on the bare trees in larger and larger numbers. I took a picture of the tree below with three times as many robins in it.

I had some great shots--I think I took almost a hundred pictures today. Then when I went inside to download my images, I realized I had never put the card into my camera. Duh!