Weekly Photo Challenge: Abandoned (& Mystery Yucca “Bug” Identified.)

Remember the tiny, mysterious creatures from Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes?  While I was busy tracking down an identification, they were busily weaving away:

Neoscona Arabesca, Vero Beach, Fl. 3/2/14,

…and then there were 4

…but what exactly ARE they?
Google research didn’t get me far, so I reached out to George Rogers, Ph.D., co-author of Treasure Coast Natives and Chairman of Horticulture at Palm Beach State.  He relayed my photos to Bill Schall in the Palm Beach County Horticulture Extension Office, and to John Bradford, his TCN co-author and avid naturalist. On the evening of 2/26, Bill sent the following via email:
 It is a small, non poisonous spider probably of the species Neoscona arabesca, also known as the Arabesque Orbweaver. Not sure if the common name is any easier than the scientific name! Maybe just remember Orbweaver. The symmetrical suspended white structures are the insect prey enveloped by the spider webbing. These spiders are very common in southern Florida. Thanks to Dr. Bill Kern for the identification. – Bill

The next photo, taken in bright sunlight an hour ago, better illuminates the captured prey:

Neocsona arabesca, Vero Beach, FL. 3/2/14

RIP unfortunate victims!

Big “ups” to George, John, and the Bills, for solving my little mystery. At this point I’d be remiss for not mentioning the GREAT photography at The Trail to the River, John Bradford’s blog about the nature trails in Savannas Preserve State Park. Do check it out when you get a chance!

Switching gears to this week’s photo challenge

As so often happens, I have the PERFECT subject for this week’s topic, but it requires a bit of backstory.

Last fall, Maggie wanted to plant sweet potatoes in big sacks, so I bid on a seed potato during our November Plant Auction.  When I got home, I set it at the edge of the patio garden, assuming she’d grab it over Thanksgiving…but she forgot. No biggie, I figured, she’ll take it on my birthday in 2 weeks.  Nope! Forgotten again! Soon it was Christmas, and we BOTH forgot….then the New Year came and went….but the potato stayed…You see where this is going!!!!???!!!


So I’m outside in the yard a few days ago, and notice some gorgeous leaves:

ipomoea batatas foliage close-up 2/28/14

Assuming they were morning glories I planted wayyyyyyy back when, I followed the length of the vine to determine if the origin point was where i thought it should be….

ipomoea batatas foliage 2/28/14

What just caught YOUR eye (opposite the red-edged canna leaf) caught mine at the time, so I spread the leaves to investigate:

ipomoea batatas, 2/28/14

Oh NO!!!!  Our abandoned sweet potato!  It sure seems healthy, despite the cold and neglect!

I’m not a vegetable gardener because I REALLY dislike eating vegetables! Just the smell of sweet potatoes, or cabbage or carrots–any of them–boiling on a stove makes me gag (seriously!)   But seeing it got this far….what happens next?  Will it somehow grow potatoes, or did I miss the opportunity?  I tried lifting it up but it’s rooted (very strongly) to the ground beneath: is this where the potatoes grow, off that taproot?  Yes, I’m aware I’m embarrassing myself!  Of course, I posed the same slew of questions to Maggie. Her reply?  “I have NO clue..I never even bought the sacks!”

Potato AND project completely abandoned!

Ipomoea batatas, sweet potato vine,2/28/14

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

This week’s photo challenge asks us to use three distinct elements to “tell a story in three pictures.”:.

1. Use a broad shot to establish the subject; I’ve chosen a Yucca gigantea from my rear container garden:

Yucca gigantea, 2/23/142. Snap a photo showing 2 elements interacting within the broad subject. Lucky for me, I noticed three crosshatched webs loosely connected to the leaf margins and each other.

Yucca gigantea leaf with webbing and bugs, 2/23/14

3. Show a more detailed image of the elements in picture 2.  Look real closely, and you’ll see two small creatures among the webbing. (Note, clicking on the next photo will enlarge it for a better view.)

Cropped for close-up view of webbing/critters, 2/23/14

I’m not sure if these teeny critters are bugs or spiders….or if the cottony material is part of either’s entymology or something completely seperate! I queried several bug specialiists for assistance and have received emails saying they’re investigating further. (Thank you, George!) I will update with positive I.d. as soon as the info comes in!

For other interpretations of this week’s challenge, click on the zemanta related links below.

Until next time……

:) :) :) :)

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Turning an everyday coleus into a tree.

Despite an atypically cold winter, my rear patio garden emerged unscathed; I’m particularly happy with the coleus seeds I planted last October: look how big and bushy they’ve gotten! (see container between the two tall tropical plants, below)

Rear patio garden, 2/18/14

…a few even sent up flower spikes during the coldest weeks!

Rainbow Mix Coleus, 2/18/14

Coleus is the common catch-all name for more than 50 trademarked seed varieties and uncountable hybrid mixes of cross pollinated  plants known as Solenostemon scutellarioides.  But don’t grow partial to this taxonomy just yet: according to University of Florida Prof.David Clark, Ph.D. “just to make things crazy for you – the taxonomist powers that be are now calling S. scutellarioides by the new nomenclature Plectranthus scutellarioides, so heads up for that name change coming soon!”

My field grown, hybrid seeds came from a Ferry Morse packet labelled ‘Rainbow Mixed Colors’: lots of genetic variety but with a max height of 12-24″ not the best choice for turning into a potential tree.  Instead, I’m selecting from the groups I sowed directly in- ground a few weeks after the original container seedlings:

To “train” a coleus into a tree, the most important factor is this: do NOT allow flowers to develop. Any signs of spiking should be pinched away, redirecting the plants energy into stem and foliage production.

You can start with any size coleus: if the “leader” stem is straight and strong, even a 4-6″ plant will do!

Unknown hybrid coleus, 2/18/14

Step 1:
Once you’ve selected your plant, prune away any small stems or little leaves you see developing.   To have good proportion, 2/3 of your tree should be “stem” and the upper 1/3 should be round, leafy “head”.  Immediately next to your plant, place a bamboo stake cut to the approximate ideal height for your finished tree :arrow: Don’t forget to mark your stick with the correct 2/3 to 1/3 ratio!

Step 2
When the tip growth reaches the mark on your stake, snip it off.. This prompts two new branches to form in it’s place. When you start getting branches at the head, let them grow 2 to 3 nodes long before pruning again.  Remember, each time you pinch, two more side branches grow in its place, and you’ll notice the head filling in. Note: If you’re new to gardening, a node is the little bulge along a stem from which new growth emerges. For an illustrated explanation, click on this previous post.

Step 3
All of this snipping and pruning may confuse your coleus! If strange secondary growth occurs along the stalk, snip it off to maintain a proper shape.

Step 4
Depending on the variety of coleus you’re working with, you may notice your plant getting potbound as the roots keep pace with your plant’s increasing “canopy.”.  Feel free to repot as needed!

One final note: If you’re starting from scratch with this, check out the Colorblaze Coleus varieties from Provenwinners.com. All are tall growing (some reach close to 3ft!) and would look beautiful as trees!  I’m especially fond of the two in this short video:

If you’re a bit confused or uncertain, leave me a question in the comments section!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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Calathea and Cordyline

The TPIE (Tropical Plant Industry Exhibition) is an annual trade fair showcasing the latest trends in everything floral. This year’s event took place in Ft. Lauderdale on Jan.22-24 and many of the award-winning plants were on display a few weeks later at Gardenfest.

I already showed you a beautiful new introduction I DIDN’T buy, but neglected to share the one I did…try as I might, I couldn’t leave this unique foliage plant behind:

Calathea Fusion White, 2/12/14

“Two” pretty??!! :)

In fact, I liked it so much, I bought two!

Calathea ‘Fusion White’ is a product of Biostok Foliage, a Florida nursery specializing in micro-propagation. This showy plant features white/green marbled leaves with pale purple undersides.  It picked up three awards at TPIE:  Favorite New Foliage Plant, Most Unusual Single Plant Specimen, and a “Cool Product” award.

In general, Calatheas thrive in humid, moist environments with indirect lighting.  Although mine would do well outside under a shady tree, I bought them to replace indoor dracaenas that had gotten a little bit leggy. (FYI: the dracaenas have been hard pruned and planted inground, hopefully to regrow, but that’s a post for another day. :) )

Although not new for 2014, a variegated Cordyline–commonly known as Ti plant–also caught my eye and opened my wallet:

Cordyline White Baby Doll, 2/12/14

“White Baby Doll” Ti is one of the many dozens of Cordyline fruticosa varieties ideal for medium light situations. As the plant matures, its green, lance shaped leaves develop dramatic cream-colored striations.

Ti are hardy in Zones 10-12, preferring temps above 55° F and very humid air to keep the leaf tips from drying out and turning brown.  When planted inground, the canes have an upright growth habit, reaching 10 feet high with a 3- to 4-foot spread.

Cordyline White Baby Doll and Calathea Fusion White, 2/12/14

I haven’t decided if my new Ti will join the Calatheas indoors, but I know for sure I’ll be growing it in a container :arrow: even on the cusp of zone 10, winter temps can dip below freezing; White Baby Doll may need indoor “swaddling” next January!

For more info on Ti varieties check out the photo gallery at the International Cordyline Society website.

Until next time….

:) :) :)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Selfie

This week’s photo challenge calls for the oft-maligned yet incredibly popular image-type known as the selfie.   Ordinarily I’d loathe this topic (and might have skipped it) if not for this accidental self-capture in a poster I photographed last weekend :)

Selfie among the bananas!

With so much glare on the smartphone screen, I had NO idea I’d snapped a selfie until I was home swiping through my Gardenfest shots!   File under #luckycapture ;)

To give this selfie context, I’ve including two photos of the Going Bananas vendor area where the poster was located: (Note: click on the images to enlarge them!)

Until next time……

:) :) :)

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Wordless Wednesday: Sea of Color! 2/5/14

A rolling sea of color….

Busy Bee Lawn and Garden Center display, Gardenfest 2014

perfect for pelicans….

Pelican Garden Sculpture, Busy Bee Lawn and Garden Center display, Gardenfest 2014

and sea turtles, too!

Pelican and Sea Turtles Garden Sculptures, Busy Bee Lawn and Garden Center display, Gardenfest 2014

The Busy Bee Lawn and Garden Center had the BEST floral display of Gardenfest 2014!

Check out other Wordless Wednesday entries here and at the Zemanta related links below!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Object

Well, if this isn’t the perfect Weekly Photo Challenge for me, I don’t know what is!  Our local Gardenfest was just teeming with objets d’arte this weekend, and I was completely inspired by this one:

 Peacock Garden Object, Beech Annuals Display, Gardenfest 2014

A shot from the opposite direction gives you a better sense of the object’s head:  (Note: Click on the images to enlarge and see them in greater detail!)

 Peacock Garden Object, pic 2, Beech Annuals Display, Gardenfest 2014

Finally, a shout out to Beech Annuals, the local nursery behind this fabulous floral display! (FYI, Right after I snapped this next pic, a gentleman purchased the red chair/plant holder! :) I don’t know if the peacock ever sold!)

 Beech Annuals Display, Gardenfest 2014

For other bloggers’ interpretations of this week’s challenge, check out the Zemanta related links below!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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Medinilla magnifica, a Gardenfest Showstopper!

Today was the first day of Gardenfest 2014, an annual event that draws industry vendors and garden enthusiasts from miles around. The offerings are always unique and beautifully presented, but today I saw an epiphyte that stopped me in my tracks:
Gardenfest Showstopper, M. magnifica, Valkara Gardens Booth,  2/1/14

The stunning Medinillla magnifica grows in partial shade locations from the soil pockets of rainforest trees or beneath these same trees in clearings.  The leathery foliage is aroid-like and can reach 12″ long with ballerina pink fly-leaves cascading from succulent stems. At full bloom, the fly-leaves drop panicles that dangle a foot and half below the plant’s body:

Medinilla magnifica hanging basket, 2/1/14, Valkaria Gardens Vendor Booth, Gardenfest

Here’s a close-up of the panicle:

Medinilla magnifica Close-up,, 2/1/14, Valkaria Gardens Vendor Booth, Gardenfest

The next photo shows a panicle at the very end of the 4-6wk bloom period. It’s easy to see why M.magnifica is sometimes called Phillipine Rose Grape:

Medinilla magnifica, 2/1/14, Valkaria Gardens Vendor Booth, Gardenfest

M. magnifica prefers dappled shade and high humidity. It can grow outdoors in Zones 10-11 and elsewhere indoors as a conservatory or houseplant!

For more on this Gardenfest Showstopper, check out the grower’s website at http://www.medinilla.ca/.

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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Wordless Wednesday: January 29, 2014

Monday was a glorious beach day,

Jaycee Beach Boardwalk Steps, Vero Beach, 1/27/14

and the Aloe arborescens looked especially splendid:

Aloe Arborescens, Jaycee Beach, 1/27/14

To put these images in context, I pulled back a bit for the next shot. (Note :arrow: clicking the photo gives you a bigger version.)


To learn more about A. arborescens, read  my post from 11/24/13.

If you’d like to participate in Wordless Wednesday, click here for details!  :)

Until next time……

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Spineless Yucca, aka Yucca gigantea

In January 2010, I rescued two discarded Spineless Yucca cuttings from the floor of my local Target Garden Center. When I got home, I planted one directly into the newly prepared  Ranchero, and placed the other in a container. Four years later, the in-ground specimen has totally taken off!

Yucca gigantea , 4yrs old and 7' tall, 1/22/14

When planted outdoors, Spineless Yucca (aka Y. gigantea) becomes a very large 30′ tree with stiff, blade-like leaves growing from a central axis.  The trunk is thick and woody, and at maturity shows marked base swelling, similar to it’s relative, the Pony-tail palm.

Yucca gigantea trunk, 1/22/14Yucca gigantea makes an excellent atrium or houseplant when placed within 3-5′ of windows with a southern exposure.  Keep in mind :arrow: the size of the container determines the size of your plant.

Yucca gigantea, container grown, 4yrs old and 30" tall, 1/22/14

Yuccas placed in 10-17″ pots will top out between 4-8′ tall. The 4 yr old plant above–in its original 12″ container–is currently 30″ tall, less than half the size of its 7′ Ranchero counterpart!

A word about flowers :arrow: during spring/summer, a 2-3′ inflorescence of white flowers appears above the foliage but only AFTER the plant is 8′ tall…Obviously, mine have a way to go yet! The edible blooms are high in calcium and potassium and considered quite tasty if used in salads. (will let you know, if this ever happens! ;) )

Like many other plants, Spineless Yucca has recently undergone a scientific name change.   As of 3/23/12, the accepted name became Yucca gigantea with Y. guatemalensis and Y. elephantipes considered synonyms.  If you go looking for it in garden stores or nurseries, you may find it listed as all three!

Until next time….

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