Sunday, May 20, 2018

There's nothing Spanish or mossy about Spanish moss

Spanish moss adds to the South's character and elegance. 
Listen to my
  Podcast about Spanish Moss

Not Moss


Spanish moss (Tillandsia usneoides) is a flowering plant in the pineapple family (Bromeliaceae), so it's not a moss at all. (Mosses are non-vascular, non-flowering, spore-producing plants.) It's an epiphyte or air plant found in damp areas near waterways or swamps because it absorbs its moisture and nutrients from the air, so while it hangs from trees, it's not a parasite like mistletoe and does not rob the host tree of water or nutrients.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Our Blue Marble

The first Earth Day was April 22, 1970. There were many environmental problems in those days, but these problems had been building up for decades. (See this NY Times summary of our status at that time: America Before Earth Day.) Those were NOT, for many reasons, the “good old days.”

View of the whole planet changed our perspective and we started Earth Day. It was MUCH needed at that time.
What had happened the previous year, was that we had seen pictures of our beautiful planet from the moon. The Apollo Astronauts called it a "Blue Marble." That name and that vantage point from afar provided a perspective of how beautiful and fragile our only planet was. Politicians of every stripe worked at every level to put regulations in place to reverse the rampant pollution of our air, water, and land. The regulations have been amazingly effective and air, water and soil pollution has been drastically reduced. Those regulations are still needed today—maybe  more than ever because there are billions more humans all competing our planet’s resources. It is unconscionable that our present administration is working in many ways to undo all the good that has been accomplished in the last two decades.

Monday, March 5, 2018

Build a pine-straw baler

A pine-straw baler made from scrap lumber 
Our neighbor Tim had this apparatus in his front yard. We wondered what the heck it was. Tim has a lot of big pine trees on his property, which, of course, generate a lot of pine needles. So he'd built this pine-straw baling machine out of scrap lumber he had on hand.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

An Appreciation of Muhly Grass

Muhly grass makes a nice border planting.
It's attractive even when it's not in full bloom.
Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia spp.) is one of the most popular native grasses in Florida and other places in the Southeastern US and you can see why. Its gorgeous pink flowers in late fall certainly stand out in the landscape. It's also known as sweetgrass, which has been used for coiled basketry, particularly in the "low country" of South Carolina, Georgia, and northeast Florida, by people of the Gullah Culture.

It likes dry soil in full sun or partial sun. It can be trimmed back in the late winter if there is a real need for neatness, but it's not necessary, because it tends to itself with new growth totally covering the old stalks.

Monday, January 1, 2018

When you plant a tree, you believe in tomorrow

This long garden used to be next to the fence,
but since the fence is gone, it now sticks
out like a peninsula into the lawn area. 

I'd pulled a small red maple tree (Acer rubrum) from the edge of our front pond. It was in a place where another tree would not work well, but when I pulled it, all its roots were still attached in a blob of mud. I stuck the tree in an empty pot near the rain barrels. Over the next couple of weeks, it seemed to be happy in the bottom of the pot with just occasional splashes of rain barrel water. I didn't know what I was going to do with it, but its presence there reminded me to do something every time I came to that side of the garage with the rain barrels and compost piles.

I had a thought when I was cleaning out the long garden that used to back up to a fence, but when we gave away the fence, this bed jutted  out into the yard like a peninsula. Placing a tree at the end of this bed would eventually provide an anchor. It will also eventually shade out the nice muhly grass, but it will be years before that happens.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Holiday Legends of Rosemary

A 9-year old rosemary shrub is 3 feet tall & wide

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officianalis) is a winter-blooming shrub that grows well throughout Florida. That alone makes it a great choice for your garden. But like a talented actor, rosemary plays multiple roles. It brightens your drought-tolerant landscape, adds flavor to your cooking and aroma to your potpourri. Rosemary has been immortalized in song and classic literature, plus it plays a part in a charming legend of Christmas.

Its waxy needle-like leaves grow from the newer sections of the stems, while the older sections of the stem are covered with a rough gray bark. Rosemary is one of many culinary herbs in the mint family. Others include mints, thyme, marjoram, oregano, sages, monarda, and many others. Plants in our herb gardens produce aromatic chemicals to help to fight off leaf-eating predators, but these properties also add flavor to our cooking and aroma to potpourri mixtures.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Blueberry Hill

Here's how it started, but over the years I converted to a
more nave plant pallet with a big yucca replacing those
hidden ginger lilies. And tropical sage and blue curls
replacing the zinnias.
We lost a sweet gum tree in one of the 2004 hurricanes. There were 4 big storms that year--it was our welcome to Florida because we'd moved here in June of that year.  But instead of grinding out the stump as recommended by the tree guy so we could convert that area to lawn, we covered it with pond muck and compost and build a butterfly garden there in the middle of our back yard.

Read my post from back then, From Stump to Butterfly Haven.

Moving the blueberries

Back in 2009, I planted 3 blueberry bushes that were bred for Florida. I wrote about this adventure in Florida's Blueberries. The bushes were small when I planted them 3 feet from the back of the detached garage.

Monday, September 25, 2017

End of the Seminole pumpkin season

What a bountiful crop! 

The 3 Seminole pumpkin vines took over the whole 18' x 5' bed. Wow. I'm holding a ripe and a green pumpkin--these babies weigh almost 5 pounds each. I got the feeling that if I stood for too long near one of its many growth points, that it would start to twine around my ankle. :-) 

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Reworking the elevated rain barrels

I'd been using these elevated barrels since Feb. 2009.

These 3 elevated rain barrels have been well used over the years, because their placement near the edible gardens means that I have been able to use a hose to water thirsty crops rather than hauling watering cans. My back has been grateful.

Our best growing season here in north Florida is Fall, Winter, and early Spring--these are our dry months, but rarely have the barrels run dry during those times. I also have 3 other rain barrels not too far away, but they have not been set up with a single drain like these. See my post Three More Barrels for details on how my husband installed them.

After 8 years, it was time to rework the barrels...

Saturday, July 1, 2017

All-American landscape filled with natives

What could be more patriotic than a native landscape that supports Mother Nature??

Belfast castle garden is an example of a non-native and
unsustainable landscape. This is NOT authentic to America.
For far too long, the standard landscaping in our country has ignored the plants that belong here. Maybe it's a throwback to the European upper class castles where impossibly maintained formal gardens and the most exotic plants showed how much wealth they had. This landscape style is not only difficult to maintain, it's also not authentic to America.

It's time for a more patriotic approach...

The All-American Landscape
filled with regionally authentic plants