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.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

You Can't Keep a Good Vine Down

Today I saw a sign of life in the lifeless sticks left by my coral vine. I wasn't the least bit surprised, though. This is one tough vine.

Every plant in a garden has its own story. My coral vine has a long one. It started over ten years ago when I bought a little vine at my local nursery. I didn't know anything about it, but I planted it in front of the porch of my old house. Over the next few years it covered the front porch, and the bees just loved it.

Hurricane Ivan blew through, and while the house still stood (although thoroughly flooded), my garden was destroyed. The next year the coral vine came back and flowered again.

Because our house had been ruined, we chose to have it demolished and to build a house ten feet higher. I was attached to what little remained of my former garden, and kept the survivors in pots near the FEMA camper we lived in (for almost two years). The coral vine had dug itself in pretty deep and I couldn't remove it myself, so when they were scheduled to demolish our house, the last thing I asked my husband to do when I left for work was to dig up that vine for me.

I came home from work, and the house was gone. My husband apologized about my vine, and told me that he tried to dig it up, but it was too close to the foundation of the house, and he just couldn't manage it. I walked up to where the front porch had been, and all that was left of my poor vine was a ragged stump. He told me it was useless to try to save it now, but I dug up what was left of it, and dumped it into a container.

The next summer it not only started growing, but grew so big we had to create a makeshift trellis for it to climb on while we waited for our new house to be built. After I was sure that the workmen were gone for good, and no one would trample my plants, I started my new garden and planted my coral vine. By the next year, it had already climbed up the pilings and covered our new porch. You just have to love a vine that works that hard to keep going.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Getting Organized--A Little...

I admire those super-organized gardeners--really, I do. I'm amazed by people who map out their gardens, make lists of plants, and follow those plans.

I purchase plants and then stagger around my garden with them until I decide where I want to plant them.

The thing is that from one year to the next, I don't remember what I planted the previous years. The garden looks so different when half my plants are dormant.

I keep the tabs that come with the plants when I buy them. I throw them into my bucket and wind up with hundreds of the little rascals. They were really starting to pile up, not only in my bucket, but upstairs by my computer when I needed to look them up on the web, and as bookmarks in my gardening books.

So, I decided to tackle it in a spreadsheet. I'm sure I could have done more, but for me (for now) it's the information I need. I like to take the simple approach to things, so I made a spreadsheet to track my plants. If it needs to be fancier, I can always add a column or two.

The great part is that I can keep adding to it, and with a few clicks of the mouse, sort it alphabetically. Let's see how this works.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

The Birds and the Bees

I took a leisurely walk with my camera today to see what inspired me. We have lots of blackbirds around our property. I am no bird expert. It's a bird and it's black.

I think this one is a mockingbird. I could be wrong, but it looks like a mockingbird to me.

I wandered over to the false rosemary area to see what the bees were up to. These bees are farther from our house, and don't know me, so they shy away from me. I'll have to hang around the rosemary so they'll get used to me.

This gorgeous little thing was hard to photograph. It's a tiny green bee with a metallic sheen.

A turtle was enjoying the creek at high tide. It doesn't go with the bird and bee theme, but I just wanted to add this picture.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Blooms, Reptiles and Bees

My wisteria is finally starting to bloom. It's the later-blooming type, which is meant to be less invasive--and thank goodness for that because it is almost to the top of a seventy foot pine tree.

I can't decide what the plant below is. I thought it was an oakleaf hydrangea I'd planted early last year. It was one of those plants that the big box stores sell in a bag, and it never came up. Now I'm thinking that I may have taken a cutting from my Turk's cap hibiscus and rooted it there. I suppose I'll know more in a few weeks.

This anole posed for me on the railing of my porch. Every now and again he would stop and catch an insect. Anyone who catches insects is welcome on my porch.

These lizards have a look of ancient intelligence. 

The carpenter bees are busy looking for places to nest.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

My Big Fat Greek Salad Garden

I don't normally grow veggies--mostly flowers and herbs, but I got this idea in my head that I should get a big container and grow myself some vegetables so I can make myself Greek salads. So, I've just filled it with a tomato plant, a green pepper, cucumbers, red onions, and (of course) some Greek oregano. Opa!

Hmm. I wonder what other meal-in-a-pot I could grow?

I just love the way some colors go together. The lavender-colored bacopa, the violet allysums, and the brilliant cobalt blue of the lithodora topped off with a crimson red calibrachoas make a delicious combination. This will look good when it all fills in. 

Friday, April 02, 2010

The Ugly Rash

Here is my reward for playing in the poison ivy:

Actually, it's much worse than this picture can show. It's an oozing mess, and is so swollen it looks like I grew a weird muscle in my forearm. The green stuff is some green clay I applied, which now refuses to wash off. Ah, the perils of gardening.

The daffodils may be starting to fade now, but the bracken ferns are filling in nicely while the wildflowers continue to develop. We have these ferns all over our property, especially this time of year.

My mason bees are drilling holes throughout my greenhouse. I don't mind them--they're good pollinators, and are pretty docile bees. There are also wasps building nests there too. I'm not so enthusiastic about them, as they tend to be a little more ill-tempered. I suppose we'll just all have to learn to get along. 

I spotted a lone bee again in my false rosemary. I just love that false rosemary. It's filled in so nicely and the only thing I did was ask my husband to stop mowing that area when I noticed the baby plants starting to naturalize. It thrives on neglect.