Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Mystery solved! Plant ID revealed

It's Vicia acutifolia, a native vetch. I learned this from Suzanne Koptur, a biology professor at Florida International University. According to Dr. Koptur, it can be found in "many Florida counties."

The vetch continues to grow but it's being attacked by blackflies, which I'll need to deal with. It's got lots of tiny pods (click on the photo), so I'm sure it will seed itself again.

If anyone wants seeds, let me know.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Is your veggie garden ugly?

Well, my veggie patch wouldn't win any beauty pageant; the tomatoes have all fallen over in their useless tripod cages and weeds abound, but hey, it's still a lot of fun.

GardenRant.com had a guest post about ugly -- or neglected -- vegetable gardens that has set off quite a buzz in the garden-blogging world. Add your thoughts at the above link.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Plant ID, anyone?

This tiny -- and very pretty -- little vetch appeared in a pot. Can anyone tell me what it is? Is it a wildflower? Is it a cultivar of some sort?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The divine scent of lemon blossom

A friend's lemon tree is in bloom and I could have spent my day sitting close to it.

Do you remember the calypso? "Lemon tree very pretty/ And the lemon flower is sweet/ But the fruit of the poor lemon/ Is impossible to eat."

For your list of things to do before you die: Walk, cycle or drive (with open windows) on a drowsy, sunny day through citrus groves when the trees are in bloom. You'll neither regret nor forget the experience.

The accidental tourist: A rufous hummingbird

Well, this was an exciting visitor. He was about 15' up in one of my oaks and is actually the first hummer I've seen in the garden all season. After watching him (he was a juvenile male), through my binoculars, flick out his long, thin tongue at (presumably) passing insects, and swaying and bobbing on the branch, it occurred to me that he was not like the regular ruby-throated visitors.

When my neck was aching too much to continue watching, I did some research, went back to confirm, and of course, he'd gone.

Since rufous hummers are native to the left coast, I submitted a report to eBird.org.

Sorry, no pictures for this post, but do check the links for images and info.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Growing nasturtiums with the GROW project, first report

I'm one of 40+ garden bloggers around the country participating in GardenBloggers.com's GROW project, which seeks to promote "a sense of community among garden bloggers who may only know each other online by simultaneously growing the same plants."

We have all been sent a packet of nasturtium 'Spitfire' by Renee's Garden, the project's sponsors. If you're not familiar with the company, check the website and do note the artwork for each seed description and packet.

I love nasturtiums and have lots already, but this winter's exceptionally cold weather has resulted in very slow growth. I planted most of the Spitfires on March 1, saving some for later in the year to see how they cope with Miami's heat. The majority are in assorted containers, with seven sown in the ground. (I should also have posted the day I sowed them -- my bad -- but ...) Anyway, the first seedlings appeared last Friday, March 12, and the remainder have also poked their heads up into sunlight. My next post for the project will be April 1. Stay tuned.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bob, the baby Eastern screech owl

If you're on Facebook, I urge you to find, and become a fan of, "Bob." He, and possibly some siblings, lives in a cavity nest in a mango tree in friends' backyard. Since the homeowners are Miami Herald photographers, the photos are spectacular. And Bob was born to be a star!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Essential gear for the tropical gardener

Not exactly for the best-dressed girl about town, but I couldn't do without these.

There seems to be no shortage of "sharp" things growing in a hot climate and these long sleeved, leather welder's gloves are just the ticket for tackling an unruly bougainvillea or thinning out vicious bromeliads. I found these at a yard sale ($1!), and they've proven invaluable.

The pantyhose/tights were given to me by the woman who runs my favorite thrift store. I cut them into smaller lengths and use them to tie orchids, ferns and small (friendly) bromeliads to palm and tree trunks. They stretch as the trunk expands and can be cut off when the plant has firmly attached itself.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Orchid shopping

Someone once told me that if you're hard up (and who isn't?), always go to sales at closing time. There are two good reasons for this: First, you never know what you missed, and second, prices plummet.

I went to an annual flea market last Saturday as the stall holders were packing up and got this Burr. Stefan Isler 'Lava Flow' for $20 reduced from $35. The main flower spike is a whopping 2' long!

The only downside was that it was potted in a horrible, compacted and moldy muck, but it's now attached to a tree, where I hope it will thrive.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The neighborhood clowns

We have a flock of six turquoise and yellow macaws around here. They make a horrendous call that can be heard from a long way away and is particularly harsh when they are overhead. This was taken from the garden last week.


A lovesick cardinal is singing its heart out in the yard. If you're not familiar with the song, I recorded this the other day at Fairchild, where they could be heard all around the garden.

I took these photos last June of a pair that visited one of my feeders. Curiously, they alternated visits, never coming to the feeder together. Perhaps that was to ensure that one parent survived an unforseen attack.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


One day in November 2008, standing on the platform waiting for a train to go to work, I noticed the (unpleasant, in my view) scent of mango blossom. It was a first since there are no trees near the station and suggested we were in for a bumper crop. Sure enough, last summer produced the biggest harvest for a very long time. People couldn't give them away (I still have some frozen puree), and I almost got to the point of being sick of them.

Nobody was expecting much for this coming summer, especially given the freeze, but to our amazement, the blossoms are almost as prolific as last season's. It seems that mangoes like a cold snap to get them going.

Some people are allergic to mango, but it turns out it's the sap, also found in the skin, that's the problem. The flesh itself is safe. If you've never tried a fresh, ripe mango of a good cultivar, you don't know what you're missing.


How can one garden and not use a laundry line?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The view from my desk

Working at my computer earlier today, I looked up to see white ibis balancing on the utility lines. They really don't look stable up there, but they made me smile.

The Australian pines behind offer a perching place to an osprey. I hear it calling to its mate frequently, but there's no nest.

Despite looking onto the street, I get a nice view from here.

Sometimes I hate my dogs . . .

Until yesterday morning, this was a lovely patch of lush liriope. I'm not sure which dog is responsible, but they've already made themselves plenty of sleeping hollows around the garden. I know it will recover, but enough already!