Friday, May 30, 2014

Weekend Walkabout: Tuberose, Sunflower, Ceramics!

My single flower, Mexican Tuberoses are blooming, so exciting! And very, very fragrant....
There are more green facets to fresh tuberose than  you can ever smell in tuberose absolutes or attars. I will have to try an enfleurage someday, because I cannot hope to waft actual tuberose blossom in any commercial perfume I can think of. So I say, just grow some tuberoses if you can.

This year, the aphids are not so bad but the spider mites are taking over my world. Despite that, I have some lovely sunflowers....
Though technically, we are getting normal rains, and are not in drought, we are having problems. Our rains come down in "walls of water". We had about 2 inches in an hour, then nothing for weeks. This is not easy for plants to deal with. So our inches per month are pretty normal, but our rains are freakin' weird.... I water everything in my vicinity every morning, but I have to wake up pretty early to get it done.

My herbalism class is going well. I've been making a few smudge pots and drying trays....
And strange things keep washing up on our's a ball.

Volleyball? Hard to say where it came from, but I'll bet the Bahamas, where they are severely trash-challenged. Note the barnacles? All in all, though, our beaches were pretty clean and lovely this week.
Have a wonderful weekend walkabout!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Tillandsia of the Month: Tillandsia crocata

I might as well start with the photo....
What a mass of curls! But Tillandsia crocata has even more charms. The small, yellow blooms are intensely fragrant. Not many Tillies have scented blooms, and very few have yellow ones, so this makes T. crocata a special part of a collection.

"Crocatus" means "with saffron yellow", and this Tillandsia hails from Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay. Crocatas live at fairly high elevations of 900-2700m. The trichomes are large and winged, and this is to maximize water collection during the few times of the year when it rains frequently.

T. crocata is easy to grow and very drought-tolerant, though it needs more light than the average Tillie. The clumps can grow very dense, and if you have such a clump, it's important to give it good air circulation after watering so that rot doesn't begin at the center.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mesemb of the Month: Argyroderma

Ah, those lovely "silver skins"--not so easy to grow, but so unique and beautiful. One of their colloquial names is "bababoudjies", or "baby bottoms"!
I have a solitary "Argy", and also this pot of Argies, which are growing in a clump. They weren't identified when I bought them (just a tag that said, "succulent", duh!). I'm thinking they are actually A. congregatum, which do grow in clumps. Could be A. delaetii, framesii or pearsonii, though, because I've seen them clump also, and frankly, they all look pretty darn similar. They are definitely not A. fissum, as those have long, finger-like leaves.

Argies come from the northwestern part of the Western Cape Province in South Africa. They like quartz gravel flats and sunny hillsides. They must be kept very dry in summer, and a little shaded. They'll wrinkle up a bit, but fear not, when they come out of dormancy, they plump up like these.

I can't stress enough how Argies don't like much water. If you take a closer look at the central clump, you'll see what happens if they have too much.
The two Argies on the bottom handled a normal watering just fine. But the smaller one on top had too much, and it split. Chances are, it will survive, but even with a clump of Argies, some may want more water than others. And none of them want much! I only water mine once very two weeks or so, and then, sparingly. During dormancy, they only get a few drops now and then. If you think that's tricky, it is. These are not the easiest mesembs to grow, but they are utterly unique.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Plant Walk: The Incredible World of Your Local Plants

This weekend I was very blessed to learn about (and taste) many of our native plants. Wanna eat a spiderwort bud? No problem, it's good for your stomach....

Spiderwort, MR, 2014
My Herbology teacher and a local guide led a daylong hike through our forests, and the dozen students (including me) had their minds blown by the abundance of edible and medicinal native plants, some of which grow in our own backyards. I learned a great deal about 31 native plants. All are amazing, and it would take a decade to really learn about just this group. We walk by our native plants every day and often call them weeds. Not so! If you have a chance to take herb or plant walks in your area with people who really know and care about the flora of your area, I urge you to do so. You will be humbled and amazed. And for those of you who, like me, never really liked enclosed classrooms, open spaces and wilderness are awesome places to learn new things....
Class is in session!
A few of my new favorites:
Wild Muscadine Grapes
Saw Palmetto, MR, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

A Postscript on Reiki For Plants

"Reiki For Plants" is one of my all-time most popular posts. Are there any Reiki practitioners out there who would like to try Round 2 and grow some plants from seed with and without Reiki? I am planning to start a number of seedlings, with and without Reiki, following a simple protocol. I'd love to have others participate to see what we can find out. My first trial was intriguing. The Reiki-free pot of nasturtiums germinated incompletely, and had one plant dominate the others...the Reiki pot had 100% germination and all plants grew at an equal rate. They bloomed a little later, but all together. Fascinating, but needs to be tried with lots of different species in lots of places. Who wants a go??
"Black Bamboo" Morikami Gardens, MR, 2013
"Sarasota Mermaid" MR 2014

Weekend Walkabout: Fresh Dahlia, First Sunflowers, New Lithops!

The dahlias have regenerated and are blooming again; there are still mites, but they are now part of the system, not bullies:
And my first sunflowers are blooming! This year, I planted florist varieties, not edible varieties. They are growing at exactly the same rate, and achieving the same size, as the Russian Mammoths. Seems plants are quite intelligent and know that on a sand dune, they have an optimum size to achieve....
And more than half of my Lithops are regenerating. Here are two representatives:
Tomorrow I will be out and about, learning about the medicinal properties of our native plants. I will post about it for certain, perhaps on Monday. Have a wonderful weekend and enjoy your gardens.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

More On The Expanding Tropics....

Here's a brief article about how the tropics are expanding as we add more energy to our atmosphere and oceans in the form of heat:

If you used to be subtropical, you're probably tropical today!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Climate Disruption for Gardeners: Another Voice

Extreme Gardening? That sounds like what's going on here, and I'm not the only one noticing that "gardening as usual" isn't working anymore:
Cloud Study, MR, 2013
What do you think of this interview?

What do you think of the idea of growing species for many different climates in your garden, in the hopes that some of them thrive?

I'm thinking he's onto something....

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Move It Up a Notch, It's Gettin' Hot Here!

I have been thinking, the way my garden shrivels up starting in May now instead of June, that I'm really not gardening in Zone 9 anymore. So I checked the latest USDA hardiness zone map, and sure enough, I'm in Zone 10! If you're in the US, you can check your zone here:

Banana River Windsurfers, MR, 2014
Many hardiness zones all over the world are changing. It's getting hot in here! I'd recommend that any gardeners who haven't checked their zone in a while should do so. Most seed packets use old zoning maps, so their directions can be just plain wrong. Find your 2014 zone, then look on the internet to find the best planting times for your actual zone. I've gone officially Tropical, and will be planting my zinnias in September. Or maybe I'll skip the zinnias and just on to bananas and coconuts....
Dragonfly, MR, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

I Hate Mondays: Attack of the Spider Mites!

Out of all the garden pests on my sand dune, and there are oh so many, the one I loathe the most is the Spider Mite.  The tiny little arachnid bastards lurk under leaves, biding their time, weaving their wee little webs, and reproducing like...well, by the million kazillions.  They get the energy for all this by sucking the leaves dry.
Red Spider Mite courtesy of Wikimedia
Everything will seem just fine in your flower bed, or your citrus or veggie patch, except for a smidge here and there of yellow leaf stippling. Here you can see a healthy sunflower leaf, and some yellow stippling, caused by the #!%* mites, on the other:
Mites get overexcited when the weather suddenly turns hot and dry and your watering schedule hasn't caught up to the change. So the plant will send, "Help, too hot and dry!" messages and the mites take this as their signal to go crazy. Within 48 hours, their enthusiasm has created a shriveled mess in your garden:
At this point, the worst affected leaves will have very visible mites on the undersides:
The last thing you'll see is the webbing; usually at this point, it's too late, game over:
Lemon tree affected by spider mites, courtesy of Wikimedia
My dahlias got hit, literally, in just 48 hours when our weather turned hot and dry. I wasn't watering them enough, and they needed some shade, which they didn't get, because I wasn't there. Mites also attack mesembs and cacti. Yikes! What to do?

Miticide, either topical or systemic, is a good idea. But I live on an ecologically sensitive dune, and I don't have too many dahlias. So I simply washed them with water mixed with a smidge of laundry detergent. I made sure to get all the mites off the undersides of the leaves. Even cleaned the buds. Then I rinsed them off. Now fresh leaves are bursting forth, and no mites. The eggs I missed will hatch soon, so I'm going to wash them once a week, a few more times, just to be safe. And I doubled the watering and gave the plants a little shade. The sunflowers were only slightly affected; they got a bath, too, but they're looking fine. The dahlias are still pretty scraggly!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Ethereal Garden Photography: Cyanotype and Infrared

If you spend a lot of time and effort creating a beautiful garden, it's important to photograph, draw, or paint it, too! Digital photography is a wonderful hobby and less intensive/expensive than painting. I like to do both. Two processes I used back in the last epoch with real film and manual cameras were infrared and cyanotype. It's almost impossible to do either anymore outside of maybe NYC or LA; there is little film left, and only a handful of labs do the processing. If you can't set up your own lab, you can learn how to make these types of photographs digitally. Here are some of mine:
Ringling Gardens, cyanotype, MR, 2014
Cyanotypes were developed in the mid-1800s. It's a cheap and simple monochrome process that nevertheless gives an ethereal, days-gone-by look to garden photographs.

Infrared gives a hypercharged, yet delicate look to black and white photographs. I love its effect in garden photography:
Ringling Gardens, MR, 2014
This is the grave of Mable Ringling in Sarasota, Florida. The infrared really lends an otherworldy beauty to the images.
If you enjoy garden photography, which processes do you favor?