A foggy day and a funny friend

Gorgeous foggy morning.

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And I got an unusual care package yesterday.  Turns out if you post stuff on the internet, the universe may hear you and respond.  Thanks, Binky. (In case you can’t tell from the picture, your coonties are bigger than my coonties.)   x o x o

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Eight lives left

Our cat Pete is 18+ years, and has become unsteady on his legs at times.  This week he stumbled into the pool, so now we have a man made cat barrier that keeps him away from the edge.  (If only we could make the border wall out of poinsettias and Christmas cactus. 🙂 )

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Pete is fine, by the way.  I was more freaked out by his midday swim than he was.

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Coontie babies

I found this gorgeous prehistoric looking egg under a holly tree in the yard this afternoon.  Looks like I’m having coontie babies!   Seeds, anyone?

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This afternoon the weather was so beautiful I feel a little bit sorry for everyone not living in Florida.

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And I’ve finally given up on growing my cherry tree out in the yard.   After three years of the deer nibbling the tender leaves, I have moved the poor thing onto the porch to recuperate.

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Yellow cardinal?

This beauty was in my yard, Dec. 17, having breakfast.  Is he a yellow cardinal?  Cross breed?  ( The blue tape and white seed bag is my very high tech anti-squirrel defense.  Only thing I’ve ever done that actually keeps them off the feeder.  Not pretty, but the birdseed cost dropped significantly. )

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My other bird watcher, Gracie.

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And of course we have lots of what I call LBBs.  Little brown birds, chickadees, etc.

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Lots of berries

The trees are loaded with berries.

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The weeping yaupon holly looks good, too.

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On another note – does anyone know what this is?  The leaves looks sort of like a papaya, but I can’t tell exactly what kind.  They sprouted beside one of the bird baths, so who knows what little seedling presents the birds have left me.

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Morning dew and sunshine gives the grasses a nice glow.

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Post Irma

All said and done, we went 8 days with no power, but got off lucky in the damage department.  A bit of trim from the eaves on the north side of the house came down, and a bit of fascia from above the garage dropped off.  Amazingly, all the screens on the porch remained intact, and 90% of the plants came through.  That’s one advantage of planting natives, I guess.  They’re used to hurricanes.

 

There are huge stacks of tree limbs on every street.  Our neighbor lost an extremely large oak.  Luckily it was in an empty lot, so only the squirrels lost a home.  My trees are all still small enough that they were severely leaning but not uprooted by the storm.

 

I’ve gone around and pushed the little trees back upright, and given some of them a support to hold onto until they get their feet back under them.  All of the plants at the far eastern end of the yard were leaning hard toward the south west.

 

Some of the salvia got snapped off, but there is new growth already coming in, so I’m hoping they’ll be fine.

The pentas took a licking as well, but they’re tough, so I’m not worried about them. The porterweed got snapped off hard but will come back, too.  The fire spike seemed to come through with no damage.

 

Right after the storm there were no blooms to be found, but this morning I saw a few more dots of color have come back.

 

And thank god the chickens were ok.

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I can see some teeny tiny pink blooms starting to come out on the vitex.  If I like these beside the driveway I may add some more in the spring.  Funny how I like to try on plants in different locations.  I hate to try on clothing, but I’ll move a plant several times if I think it’s not working, or unhappy in that spot.  My goal is to to have a ‘see-through’ hedge effect, as well as add some more color to the acres of green lawn.

 

Now that I’m sitting in air-conditioning, and have hot showers available, and didn’t have to make my coffee on the grill, (I’ve discovered I’m capable of camping out, but not in favor of it), I can say that it was bearable.  I won’t complain because I know so many people are in dire conditions.  I’m grateful my little family and house came through just fine.

Taking shelter

Stay safe all my Florida and Georgia friends.  We’re battening down the hatches, fully supplied with batteries, water, propane and coffee. I can get through anything as long as I have caffeine.  While taking pictures around the house and yard this morning I found someone else looking for a safe place to hide.

Here’s hoping Irma doesn’t get too rowdy with any of us.

Flea market flowers

We got up extra early this morning (to beat the heat) and headed over to Webster for the Monday morning flea market. In the summer there are fewer booths, but much better parking. I found a few treasures that were too good a deal to pass up. A lovely plumeria, Velo de novia, and a white angel trumpet are the start to my white garden bed.  I have no idea where the plant stands will go yet, but that’s the fun of flea market finds.

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I also found a great deal on a fire bush.  I’d started growing some from seed, but got this full of blooms plant for only $5.

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Somehow these orchid beauties made it into the car, too.

They don’t have any labels, unfortunately, but the red one has a heavenly aroma as well, which surprised me. All in all it was a great way to start the week. I love me some flea markets.

Raising butterflies

I went out with the hose to wash off the aphids from the milkweed plants this morning, but couldn’t do it because the Monarch nursery has taken over.  Some of these shots I took through the screen – sorry if they’re blurry – but I couldn’t resist taking a pic of how roly-poly some of these guys are getting.  Is it weird to get excited over bugs in the garden? We’re expecting some heavy storms this afternoon, so I told them all to be careful.  I’m not sure if they listened.  Like most teenagers it’s hard to tell if they’re paying attention.

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Zebra swallowtail

On the plumbago and salvia this morning:

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And also this guy, which I think is a potter or mason wasp, but I’m not really sure:

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And finally, the usual breakfast crowd:

It is so hot by 9 am the dog and I make one circuit of the yard looking for something interesting and then we both head for the house with our tongues hanging out.  Luckily we find different things interesting.  The thermometer says 87 but the heat index is 102.  And that’s at 9 am.  I’m not complaining.  I like living in Florida.  And these dog days make me appreciate the basics in life, like air conditioning and ceiling fans.  And ice makers.  When I first moved to the sunshine state I remember being surprised at how Florida residents wore much less clothing than they do in Virginia.  It’s not just the casual atmosphere, but rather the literal atmosphere that causes it.  I know now that if you put on full length pants in August in Florida you may actually suffocate.  I find it keeps the neighbors away if I walk around scantily clad as well.  So I’ve got that going for me.  Come December and January I’ll pull out the long pants, but still be able to wear sandals.  And that’s why I like living in Florida.

Really big chickens

I took myself out to the patio to see if the newly potted nasturtium seedlings needed watering, when this popped up from behind the azaleas:

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I love to watch this little crane family stop by for a drink in the mornings.  I’m feeling a little guilty because I haven’t topped the bird baths off lately.

And here’s the whole family out for a stroll:

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And since this is what I went out to check on, the newly transplanted nasturtium seedlings:

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The cranes aren’t the only thirsty ones this morning.  Does anyone else have to keep a spare glass of water just for the cat on their desk, or is it just me?

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I’ve got chickens

I have to be careful what I say out loud to the universe.  In a conversation I thought was private between me and the dog, where I was asking her opinion if she’d like to have some chickens to play with, I must have been overheard.  Yesterday I got a package from Toronto, because apparently the universe heard me and got me these beauties:

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I suspect the universe would prefer I stick to chickens that don’t require housing, mucking or feeding.  I’m just guessing. Now to find a spot for them.  My first yard art at the new house.  Canadian chickens. Why does getting a surprise package of metal chickens make me so happy?

The mulch finally got itself out of bags and onto the flower beds in front.  Such an improvement.  Coonties and plumeria.  I put down a layer of wet cardboard underneath the edge of each bed because the grass here is super aggressive.  Of course it is – it’s had its way for the last 20 years.  But now there’s a new gardener in town, and she’s not afraid to hoe.

 

And lastly I’m experimenting with just how I want to hedge the southern end of the lot, which is about the only place that gets any shade.  What I’m aiming for is shoulder height and filtered light for the hedge, rather than total privacy.  I like the alternating fountain grass and plumbago.  The grasses will have nice movement, and the baby blue flowers and the pink grass stems are sweet together. I’ll live with it a while before I actually dig the holes.  That’s a little one year old redbud tree alongside it.  Eventually there will be a lovely, layered long border bed.  Eventually. The gorgeous 100 year old oaks belongs to the neighboring lot.  I have the pleasure of looking at them every day.

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Time to go make the coffee and do the crossword.  I’m feeling very brave this morning.  I may even do it in pen.

What to plant?

I have a question for you.  It’s at the end of this blog.  Jump to there if you don’t want to read my rambling path to get to the question.

Tropical storm Emily has been cruising by and giving a nice soaking rain for the past several days.  I do appreciate it when someone else waters the yard for me.  I have been reading my favorite gardening blogs and watching my favorite gardening videos.  I like to use the rainy days to do my research.  My focus has been transforming this yard (which is an acre of lawn at the moment) into a Florida friendly, pollinator friendly, chemical-free joyous cacophony of color.  During this first year I planted almost 40 trees and shrubs, including red bud, weeping yaupon holly, senna, red maple, crab apple, mayhaw, persimmon, dogwood, cherry, ornamental pear, oak, cedar, and some leyland cypress to make a rough hedge across the back of the property.  I’ve also got ornamental grasses, plumbago, lupine and muhly grass.  The previous owner put in a ton (a TON) of azaleas, so I’m pretty set on those.  I also have 7 large crepe myrtles, so I don’t need any more of those for now.  Now I’m working on laying out beds for perennials, and this is where I need the most help.

In Florida, our growing season is so much longer, and so much hotter than elsewhere, I am both lucky and cursed.  I can’t grow anything that requires a really hard cold to bloom, like tulips and daffodils.  Where I live we get maybe 3 or 4 hard frosts a year, with about 6-8 weeks of weather that we call winter down here, but anywhere else would be a late fall or really early spring.  But that also means I have a super long growing season, and can plant stuff in the summer that can establish and bloom for another 6 months.

I have been making lists of larval plants for the butterflies in my region, including Florida friendly perennials and shrubs. Native is a mis-leading term, in my opinion. But that’s a discussion for another time. What I really focus on is making sure I don’t plant any invasive plants that crowd out other things. People love to plant schefelara down here.  Anywhere else it’s a houseplant, which is fine, but in Florida it thrives, and spreads like crazy.  I hate it.  It doesn’t give back. The plant isn’t substantial enough to provide housing for the birds, it has almost no bloom, and it chokes out any other ground cover around it.  Did I say I hate it?  Moving on.

What I’m looking for is this:

  1. Perennials:  Ones that require minimum maintenance.  I don’t mind doing the work to get them established, but I don’t want to have to cut them back, or fuss over them.
  2. Colors:  I’d like to have the full rainbow of colors eventually, so anything is possible.
  3. Pollinators:  I’d really like to focus on plants that provide food / shelter for bees and hummingbirds.
  4. Full-sun plants.  Because I have almost zero shade, I need plants that can take the Florida sun and humidity.

So my question(s) is this:  What are your favorite perennials?  What plant does really well in full sun in your yard that makes you happy every time you look at it?

I’d love to hear your ideas.  Back to research for now on my rainy Wednesday.

Flame hibiscus

Finally, after two years of waiting, my native flame hibiscus has woken up.  She really pops in all the green around her.  That’s an orange tree behind her on the right with the bird house, and on the left is an oak branch from a gigantic 100 year old oak on the neighboring property.

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Cranes

The cranes came by for a visit this morning.  They drank from the bird baths, cleaned up under the bird feeders, and aerated the lawn for me.  The light changes in the photos because they were here for over 2 hours.  From what I’ve read the more rare, endangered sandhill crane is found in central Florida in the summers, but during the winter there are two types here.  Apparently even a trained biologist has to get pretty close to tell the difference.  Glad to see that mom, dad and baby crane all seem healthy and happy.

Dirt is my blank canvas

I was refilling the bird baths this morning and had a lovely butterfly keeping me company.  She landed on every single milkweed that’s growing around my back porch. Is there such a thing as a fat butterfly? And she was not at all modest about showing her underside as well.

 

Last week I found some packets of seeds that have been buried in a filing cabinet.  I decided that they probably wouldn’t bloom in there, so went ahead and tossed them into some potting soil. Nice thing about Florida is the year-long growing season.  I may get nothing.  I may be repotting a hundred nasturtiums in a month or two.  We shall see. I have a back corner of the lot that I’m letting go wild. Maybe I’ll make a field of nasturtium, delphinium, lupine and let the salvia reseed. Maybe nothing will grow from the seeds.  Gardening is an interesting combination of hope and resignation, isn’t it? What is it that makes digging in the dirt so satisfying?  In this heat, a lot of my gardening is happening inside my head, making plans for what to put in next.

 

And finally, a little happy bloom that surprised me recently.  She sprung from a piece of stem that’s been in hibernation for at least a year, maybe two.  It came from a piece of an orchid that fell off my neighbor’s plant when I lived in Bradenton.  I have no idea what her name is.  She and my goodwill cat pot seem to be very happy on the corner table.

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