"Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. " ~Lindley Karstens

Saturday, January 30, 2010

They are all coming back!

As a new-comer to the gardening, I did not know that after a freeze I was supposed to wait a few weeks to clean up those freeze-damaged plants in case another freeze attacks again.   Right after the freeze left the area, my eyes just could not stand looking at those brown colors.  So, I did all those pruning and cleaning almost immediately.  Only after the fact, I learned the "waiting rule" from my fellow gardeners.  Well,  what is done is done, I just have to wish for the best, don't I? 

Since then, I have been eagerly examing the garden everyday and seeking any sign of new growth.  Today I finally can report happily:  "They are all coming back!".   Compare to others, I should say I am lucky enough since I don't have much cold-sensitive plants.  For those that did get the frost bites, the root systems remain intact, that is why they made such a quick recovery.

Here are some snapshots I took today for those previousely freeze damaged plants

Left column from the top: Papaya trees, Orange Marmalade Crossandra and Agave.
Right column from the top: Ornamental potato leaves 'Margarita',  Allamanda, and Diamond Frost.

Even the Braizilian Red Hots found its way back !!  After the freeze, they lost all the leaves.  I thought it would be a gonner for sure.  I think my convering them for two coldest nights might have made the trick.  I am happy!

Have a nice weekend!  Hope you all find some new signs of the life in your garden...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The garden evolvement begins

This should have been my first posting, but with so many to include and so little time, I have been put it in the draft on and off for more than two weeks now.  The recent archtic blast just prompted me to write the two initial quick postings for the taste of blogging.  Anyway, I will use this posting to introduce my garden to you all, and record it as a baseline for the furture.

I am still a newbie as a gardener. Before I moved to my current house, I only tried to grow some flowers and vegetables in containers in my small back yard of my previous house. Not much experience gained from there.

I moved to the current house last summer.  While the front yard did have a nice established landscape area filled with tropical plants, the majority of my back yard is taken by a swimming pool and the paved ground. The grass around the swimming pool and paved area is the only space left for me to do the gardening.

The house is somewhat north and south direction, but with the back yard tilted to southwest, and the front yard more towards northeast.  Here are the "before" and "after" pictures showing my progress within this half year.

Without knowing I will create a blog my own someday, I found I don't have pictures to show the "before". I have to borrow some pictures when the house was on the market, so don't mind those patio furnitures since they are previous owner's :)  For the same reason, the "before" picture quality is not the best, but it is better than nothing.

Front Yard Before and After

Front Yard East Side Before

 Front Yard East Side After

I already included this "after" picture in my previous posting.  I put it here again just for the easy reference.

Since the east side of the front yard is the only area that already had mature landscaping when I first moved in, I did not make much change here.  The only thing I changed was replacing the angle wing begonia (white flowered bushes in the front of the "before" picture) with a sago plam.  The flower was very pretty, but all the foliages were covered with black/brown spots, which made the whole plant looked ugly.  My theory back then was that this plant was not in the right location.  So I simply just ripped it out (OUCH) and put the sago palm in.  Not until much later, I realized that I made my first (won't be the last one) stupid garden mistake!  If I knew better then, instead of killing it, I should have taken more cuttings, and potted them up in a more shaded area, so that they could live happily everafter.  Well, the life is not always the fairy tale, and I just have to learn from the lessons.  I DO miss those pretty white flowers!

Front Yard West Side Before

This part only had the original builder's bush with a small oak tree in the middle

Front Yard West Side After
Six pink pentas are put in the front.  I love they add the consistent color into this bed.  The center of the front is a mounding buttercup (Turnera ulmifolia), which have been blooming the yellow flowers for me for months.  Recently most of branches just died.  Fortunately, I see lots of free-sow seedings emerge around the mother plant.  So, very soon I will have lots of free plants to use around in my garden. 

Around the curved border, I put nine varigated liriope plants.  This inspiration comes from  Meems at Hoe and Shovel.  She uses this plant as the border all over her garden.  Two African Iris (fortnight lily) are planted at the each side of the oak tree.  I don't know when they will bloom for me. It was said that the flowers are 3 inch across, and are milky white with yellow markings on the three larger tepals.  I can not wait to see them in person!  Behind the fortnight lily, there are two Brazilian Red Hots, which are now hardly seen in the picture with only bare sticks.  The once beautiful foliages (pink red veriegated) were damaged during the recent freeze.

 Back Yard Before and After

Back Yard East Side Before

The above two pictures show the east side of the back yard.  The first one is the area closer to the patio, and the second is the area closer to the lake side. The whole east side only had three palm trees (I think they are queen palm trees) and hedge bushes to provide some privacy.  Between the patio and the bushes, there are about 4 feet wide of grass stripe ( my older son was nice enough to measure for me just for this posting).

Back Yard East Side After

Two things we did to this side of the yard. 
1) Removed one hedge bush at the lake end so we can have nicer lake view from the house. Then we removed the grass at that corner and created a small flower bed.  This is the flower bed looked like when it was just created.  The plants I put there were:  Allamanda, Bulbine, Pink Vinca, Agave, Agapanthus (behind the Allamanda).

Since then, I lost the Agapanthus probably because of the intensive sun in the summer, and/or the heavy rain we got for the period of last summer.  I think I will try to raise this flower bed a little higher since it is at the lower end of the slope of the garden.  I would love to show you a picture of today, but with the frost bites everywhere, I will spare you the ugliness.  Hope very soon, I can take another snapshot of this flower bed.

2) At the end that is close to the patio, I opened a small vegetible garden.  This probably is the only corner I can find in my yard that is somehow obscured but still gets some sun.  Not the ideal location for the vegetible, but you know I have to experiment it... You can see there are not much going on there now except two different kinds of lettuce begging for thinning, and some Chinese Celery roots I saved from the store-buy, hoping it will produce more fresh vegetibles for me :) , some chives and one flowering Thai Basil.  I have to admit I really did not put much efforts on this bed because I don't see vegetibles are extremely happy here.  Maybe I should quit, and just replace with right flower plants??

Backyard south and west side before

This picture shows the south (along the lake) and the east side of the back yard.  The east side had nothing except 8 feet wide grass stripe.  Neighbor has planted hedge bushes and coconut trees on their side of the fence.  The south side also only has 2 feet wide of grass stripe, and a small palm tree with three trunks (again, I don't know the name) at the corner.

Backyard south and west side after

The first flower bed I have ever opened in my garden is located at the south side, around that three-trunk palm tree.
The initial plants put there were: Pink Vinca, One Red Fountain Grass, two Mounding Lantanas, two Blue PorterWeeds, one Agapathus, some bulbines to fill the blank and sedum as the ground cover in the front.  Since then, I have made some adjustments.  Unfortunately, I did not take the picture when they were in their glorious peak, so I will settle on this one for now.

Later when I tried to find a sunniest spot for my "had to have" roses, I opened another small flower bed on the left (east) side of the above flower bed.  Here is how they look like together as of today.  Except the roses are still flowering, the pentas in front of Roses bush (for covering the bare stems of the roses), the diamond frost,  and the chartreuse colored potato vines were all damaged by the recent freeze.

The rest of the south side still remains as grass for me to explore later. I did put a garden statue there to add some interest. These two cute frogs are holding a pot with lavendar Vinca in the middle and sedum as the trailing plant on the side. This was a gift from one of my friends, who got the hint that I love anything related to the garden before coming to my house-warming party. LOL! It surely added the instant spark to my garden. I loved it since then! My plan is changing the flowers according to the season.
Also, on the paved patio area of the south side, I put three containers there so that that part of the yard does not look too empty. Oh, by the way, I love the container gardening as well.  I learned from the internet that basic "Thrillers, Fillers and Spillers" design for an interesting container combination. I think I will write a separate blog about the container gardening when I accumulate enough of combinations.

Now it comes to the biggest garden project we have taken on so far.   The flower bed we opened covers the whole length of the grass stripe at the west side, and with curved brick border.  The reason that we chose the brick border instead of black rubber border I used on other beds is that this side has the lowest level of the yard.  It easily gets flooded with even moderate rain.  I need a wall tall enough to raise the level of this flower bed. 

Here is how it looks like today viewed from the lake side.  This is the result we achieved after my husband and I visited Home Depot dozens of times, hauling 100 bags of compost and top soils and 80 pieces of bricks!  Ha, it sounds lots of achievement by saying all those numbers now!  With my engineering background, I found myself so used to using numbers to describe things.  So if it bores you readers, bear with me please.

Here is the view from the house side.
The following shows the breakdown of the different sections of this flower bed from the house side of the corder towards to the lake side.

This flower bed gets the most of the morning and the early afternoon sun.  In the summer, it might get longer hour of the sun than in the winter.  Also, the lake side gets more sun than the house side.  The neighbor's bushes and coconut trees along the fence also provide a little shade during the afternoon.  So when I chose the plants, I consider all those factors, and try to  include some full-sun to partial-sun, and some partial-sun to partial-shade plants.  They come from different sources, store-bought, cuttings, friends' back yard ... 

Here is a running list of the plants that I have put in this flower bed so far.

  • A small fern in the house side of the corner;
  • Four Bromeliad Neos in two groups;
  • Purple Queens;
  • Two Varigated Gingers (from my friend's yard, they are in a relative shaded area);
  • Two Devil's Backbone (a bargain from Lowes after the freeze since they have slight leaf damages);
  • Three Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade' (my coworker separated these three pups from their mother plant in his own yard and gave to me. );
  • Two Gloden Shrimp plants (behind Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade', along the fence);
  • Two Yellow Africican Iris (saw this from my friend's house, and just had to have it. Purchased from HD...);
  • Two pineapples I rooted from the grocery-bought pineapples' cutting.  One of my fun experiments;
  • Two Jatropha trees in pots (free seedlings from my friend's back yard.  Still not decided where I should plant them);
  • One dipladenia pink in pot.  I might leave it in the container, and nest it into other plants;
  • Another Bromeliad (name unknown) in pot (coming from the same coworker who gave me the Aechmea blanchetiana 'Orangeade');
  • One rose bush at the lake side, where it gets most sun of this bed.
You can see I still have some space left here, which I saved for more spring flowers, or any new plants that I grab during those frequent nursery trips.

I know this will be a trial and error learning. I am not sure how it will look like after the plants mature (I might have not left enough space for them), or if they will be happy in their specific spots.  However, the unknows and surprises are always part of the gardening fun, right?

Wow, I think I need to stop here for now before I put anybody into sleep :)  If anybody is still reading this at this point, I appreciate your patience.  This is just something I know I want to do for myself, so that I can look back in the future and know how my garden looked like when all this evolvement began.  From now on, you will all see the progress I will make around my garden, both the failures and the successes will be recorded.

So please come back to check it out once a while, if this actually interests you a little.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mystery plant found during the front yard clean up

Although the freeze seemed did not damage Ixora in the frond yard, I found they were dropping the leaves like crazy in yesterday's windy weather.  When I started raking all those leaves, I decided they all need a hair cut any way.  Next thing I know I spent almost two hours cleaning up the whole frond yard.  Does that sound familiar to you gardeners?! 

After I did a good trim to those Ixora and Star Jasmine bushes, I found about eight plants like this hidden under them.  I don't know what they are, but they certainly don't look like weeds to me (at least I wish).  As much like free plants as me, I digged out four of them, and potted them, secretly hoping I just found a hidden treasure :)

Now, here is what I need my fellow gardeners' help!  What is this plant?  Does it worth my nurturing and caring?  Or it is just a weed that I am potting?!

When I moved to our current house a half year ago, I did not notice these plants at all in our front yard, maybe it has been hidden there for a quite while.  If so, whatever it is, it did not grow much since it still only about 6 to 7 inches long.  Of course that also could be caused by lacking of lights considering they are completely covered by dense Ixroa and Star Jasmine bushes, and also the plam trees. Here is my front yard looked like in August last year, so you can have an idea what this plant's environment is.

This is the view close to my front entry way. From the front to the back:  Sago Palm , Crotons, Ixora, and Star Jasmine.  Except Sago plam was another house warming gift from my friend, all other plants belong to the existing landscape.

This is the left side of the same front yard area.  From the front to the back:  Crotons, Agapanthus africanus (Meems at Hoe and Shovel listed this as one of the six plants she can not live without.  I love it very much as well!), palm tree (only the trunk can be seen in the picture), and star Jasmine.

The front yard faces north east, and only gets a couple of hours morning sun.  The rest of the day is pretty much in the shade or receives dappled sun light.  You can tell that mystery plant really does not get any sun, especially tucked under the Ixora and Star Jasmine bushes.

Now I am anxiousely waiting for somebody tells me I found a treasure!  Or not?

UPDATE: The result is in! "FloridaGirl" at "Peace in the Valley" identified this mystery plant is one kind of Orchids, by common name Lady Slipper. "The Rainforest Gardener" at "The Rainforest Garden" further confirmed Lady Slipper orchids are in the Paphiopedilum genus.

Thanks, FloridaGirl and The Rainforest Gardener! It is very nice of you to spend time to identify this plant for me!

Now the pressure is on, since I am not a very good orchid grower :)  I think I will keep the rest of plants in the original location for a while just in case I mess up the four I have dug out (does not sound very confident, huh?).   I will keep you all updated the progress of this plant.  Thanks again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

My first garden experience with the cold weather

This is my first post ever. I am supposed to talk about my garden evolvement, but I think I will put that in another posting. I would like to record some lesson learned from the impacts that recent weather had in my garden before I forgot.

The recent unusual florida near-freeze weather caused some damages to my garden although I did bring most of pots either in the garage, or under the patio cover. I also covered some in ground plants that I think can not stand the freeze. However, it turned out I either covered some of them too late, or not enough. Here are some before after pictures of my damaged plants for my own record, so that I know what to do next time if the cold front ever decides to hit south florida again.

Agave (update: Agave desmettiana 'Variegata'): This is one of the housewarming gifts from my good friend Lily who shares the same love of gardening with me. Fortunately, I think the center is still not damaged. Even if I ever lose it, I still have quite a few pups hidden under the mother plant.

One of my Bromeliads (I am still learning the names. Can somebody tell me what is this called? Neo?)

One of my container combination: Diamond Frost, ornamental potato leaves ('Blackie' with dark purple, nearly black foliage; 'Margarita' with chartreuse leaves), and Orange Marmalade Crossandra. I loved the color combination, and hope they can all bounce back once the weather warms up.

Other plants suffered damages are:

Ornamental potato leaves 'Margarita', which is totally fried regardless the various locations they are.

Allamanda Neriifolia. This has been blooming the showy yellow flowers for me for months. I do think it will come back in the spring.Papaya trees. They are located on the south side of my house, outside the fence along the lake. There are absolutely no protection for them.
Braizilian Red Hots. I found this one is extremely frost sensitive. I have them under a tree, and even covered them after I saw the first sign of damage. You still can see the once beautiful foliage all turn brown.

Okay, enough of sad pictures, let's look at the bright side. Here are some of plants in my garden still show off their beautiful flower or foliages.
Dipladenia pink
Golden shrimp plant
Lily of the Nile (Agapanthus africanus)
Gardenia is about to bloom
Newly purchased dragon wing begonia, just planted in the container before the freeze, and was brought into the garage during those cold days.

Bulbine Orange
Sedum Hybrid Florida Friendly Gold

That is all for the first post. Wow, I so envy all your garden bloggers out there whom I have been following for quite a while now. You all made the blogs so pretty and easy to follow, and the reader would think it is as easy to write as reading one. Only when I started writing, I KNOW now how much efforts you guys have put into it!

Thanks so much for taking so much time to share. I surely learned a lot from all of you!
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