Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A stunning cassia

This eye candy is Cassia bakeriana, and it's causing quite a stir in the neighborhood. The individual blooms are large and they have the same coloring as apple blossom -- as two neighbors have already noted.

She's a fast grower; I only planted her three years ago, and it's getting on for 20'. I suspect it won't do well in a hurricane.

Still, we can enjoy her while she lasts.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


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The tabebuias flower in the spring.

D.C. has its cherry blossoms; the tabs are South Florida's response.

I grew three yellow tabs (Tabebuia caraiba) from seed. They did well, putting on a respectable show, but now, thanks to one tropical storm or another, only one remains. You can see it in front of the pink tab (T. heptaphylla).

The pink tabs are glorious this year, which may be because it was a cold (relatively) and very dry winter.

This one only put on her best display once since we've lived here - 14 years, I think. She was stunning. A few months later, she was also felled by a hurricane. A live oak now grows in her place, nourished by Maggie, our much loved chocolate lab, who is buried beneath it.

Nothing in a garden is static, which is its joy and its sadness.

Growing veggies

Dan told me he caught some nitwit on one of the cable news programs talking about the benefits of locally grown produce. Apparently she said that, "some people are even growing their own. But you don't have to be that extreme." And this is several weeks after Michelle Obama started her organic veggie garden at the White House.

I have three collards, bought as small plants from Home Depot, growing in a big clay pot. Dan cooked a bunch last night, with a ham bone, for the first time. They were really good. I was a bit dubious because they are a cold season plant, but I'm glad to say I was wrong. We'll have to see how long they last into the summer. (He also made cornbread and deep fried some catfish; it was a feast!)

In late October, I started lots of tomato seeds (a mix of hybrids and heirlooms) and was surprised that almost all germinated, resulting in an excess. I gave half away to friends. I've had mixed results, and I really don't understand why some varieties do well one year and fail the next.

I also bought a young lemon pear from Home Depot when I bought the collards, and it seems to be the only heirloom that has done well this year. My black Russian has flowers that are dying and has produce four toms so far, three of which were eaten by something else. My green grapes have been a disaster, and my Brandywine is going gangbusters, but has produced very few flowers, despite lots of tomato food.

The only ones that have done well, other than the lemon pear, are sugary and black cherry. All three are cherry sized.

I mostly grow them in sterilized seven gallon pots, but I planted a few in the ground at the side of the house. They are pathetic, but I'm wondering if a neighbor's dog is using them as a place to pee.

Anyway, it's going to be too hot for the fruit to set soon. I'd like to get one Brandywine and one black Russian out of the effort before that happens.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Mysterious coconut palm

This ragged-fronded palm has always looked like this. I have no idea whether it's subspecies, a variety, or what. It's a few blocks from my house and I cycle past it most mornings en route to work.

If anyone can tell me anything, please do.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Twitterpating (All's fair in love and war)

I was never overly fond of Bambi, but I love that word.

Twitterpating is in full swing, which any gardener will know. I have four bird feeders of varying sizes around the garden and right now it doesn't take long for them to empty. My favorite is attached to the kitchen window and you can hear a bird landing on it from another room. If you stand still in the kitchen, you get a lovely close up of blue jays, cardinals, redwing blackbirds (mostly the females, which are very dull), and doves.

A few years ago, Dan and I watched a pair of male redwings, in full breeding plumage, get into a fight to the death. Eventually, they locked wings above the canal and plunged straight down. The poet spoke the truth about Nature Red in Tooth and Claw because one bird held the other under water until it drowned. He flew off, triumphant, while the body of the other surfaced and floated away.


At the weekend, I get on my bike and take the dogs (one at a time) for a run. Most weeks, some yard crew has thrown out good plant material that I'll come back for in the car if I can't get it into the basket. Sundays are good for finding plants that zealous homeowners have discarded.

This weekend I found:
  • Several large clumps of heliconia rhizomes. I have no idea what species, but that's part of the fun. (Gardens are never static, and moving things around is just what you have to do.)
  • The rhizome for a burgundy-leaved calocasia. Or maybe it's an alocasia; I get them mixed up. Anyway, it's an elephant ear.
  • Canes from a pink-flowered (cane) begonia.
  • Cuttings from a pretty coleus.
  • A large bromeliad, just finishing flowering but with pups already appearing. (I find lots of bromeliads.) I don't know what this one is, but I'll post a photo soon.
All in all, it was a good weekend's haul.

Struggling in the tropics

I spend a huge amount of time in the garden. It's a strange climate because you can grow things familiar to those who have temperate gardens, but at the same time I have coconuts and mangos. The most difficult thing to deal with is the soil; it's highly alkaline and there's only a couple of inches before you hit limestone. It can take a long time to dig a small hole, even with a pick axe.

Trees, too, struggle to gain a foothold.