Thursday, May 28, 2009

Mangoes galore!

Back in November, I could smell the mango blossom from the platform of the South Miami Metrorail station. I find it a disagreeable scent, but I'm happy to put up with it because of the end product.

To notice the fragrance from the platform was one indication that the trees had gone into overdrive, and sure enough, everywhere you went they were covered in the rather dull Christmas tree-like flower spikes.

Then we had a very cold spell, and it threatened the harvest. Maybe we didn't get all that the fall promised, but I'm not complaining. I've even been picking ripe mangoes from the swale, where owners can't be bothered to reclaim them.

This is just a small backyard tree, and you can reach the top with a step stool, but it's laden. The fruit are ridiculously large. Lucky homeowner!

Scarlet and gray

The rainy weather affords some dramatic contrast. In this case, the brilliant red against a dark stormy sky was stunning.

I need to learn how to use my camera properly, because the automatic setting didn't really do it justice. You'll just have to take my word for it, but keep your eyes open for your own examples.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Gardening reduces crime?

"Compared with what I used to be like - getting into trouble with the police, drinking and drugs - gardening helps me relax and chill out, this has given me something to be proud of." A comment from Luke Farley, a homeless volunteer working with the Eden Project's exhibit at the Chelsea Flower Show. Courtesy of the BBC.

I understand the sentiment.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Flower fragrances

I've often wondered why similar flower fragrances crop up in entirely unrelated species. Confederate jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is in bloom now and its perfume is the same as sweet William (Dianthus barbatus) and some petunias.

Unintentionally, I seem to have wound up with a lot of fragrant plants; perhaps that's because the tropics offer such an enormous variety. Of course, I have a gardenia. I also have lady of the night (Brunfelsia nitida), Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana,' four o'clock (Mirabilis jalapa), frangipani (Plumeria sp.), various true jasmines, confederate jasmine and more.

Anyway, I asked my friend Scott, a neighborhood botanist and gardener, about the similarity of fragrances and he said that it's determined by the type of pollinator. Scented white flowers, for instance, are usually pollinated at night by moths. I had been wondering if there was a limited number of scents available to the plant world, but he said that there were thousands of compounds that plants use. (Ranging from the divine to the disgusting.)

I reckon nothing beats a damask rose, an Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) or orange blossom for fragrance. Sadly, their essential oils are too expensive to use with abandon.

And some fragrances are simply overpowering. The night scented/blooming jasmine (Cestrum nocturnum) is an example and I can't tolerate being close to it; I like it about two blocks away. Even the good old gardenia doesn't seem to know when enough is enough.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Click beetles

Yay! I saw the first ones of the year, this evening; they were flashing away in the back garden. That's my top reason for liking May, which otherwise reminds me that the summer's intense heat and high humidity is getting nearer.

There were a couple of screech owls on the wires when I took the dogs for a walk and I wonder if owls hunt them.

Wikipedia has a good image of a click beetle.


Here's another flowering tree that's doing well this season. The usual kind, Jacaranda mimosifolia, doesn't really like this climate; it's too humid and not cool enough in the winters. In 1982, when we lived on Maui, up in Kula on Haleakala, the drive up the mountain took us past a row of glorious jacarandas, but I've heard that the best place to see them is Cape Town.

Still, this winter's cold weather seems to have been sufficient to kick South Florida's jacarandas into high gear; my neighbor's is fabulous.

A better species for our climate is Jacaranda cuspidifolia, which produces bigger flower spikes. I had one, but Hurricane Katrina took it out. These pictures, taken a couple of weeks ago, are of the one at Fairchild.