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Weekly Photo Challenge: Extra, Extra!

This week’s photo challenge asks us to share an image with a unique, unexpected element, and I just snapped a few that fit the criteria perfectly.

Take a look at this “little extra something” on an Aloe saponaria that recently bloomed in the Ranchero.  Note how the healthy, original flower spike (middle right in the frame) looks nothing like the new, extra-wierd one!

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A. saponaria (aka Soap Aloe) is native to South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe and well suited to Florida’s salt air and gravelly, sandy soil.   A single plant will expand considerably by producing offsets (pups) so over the years I’ve watched many enter the flowering stage. Newly emerging spikes typically look like this:

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So what is causing the strange growth in pic 1?  Eriophyes aloinis (aka Aloe Gall Mite) an extra-tiny “extra” I’d rather live without!

E. aloinis can attack any part of an aloe plant, but seems particularly drawn to flower spikes and the tops of rosettes. As they feed, the mites secrete a growth hormone regulator that induces a solid mass (gall) to form around them. Safe within the gall they eat and reproduce, wreaking havoc with their host’s normal tissue development and disfiguring the affected leaves and flowers.

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Can you spot another “extra” in this picture? Hint: it’s alive!

Although the mites seldom kill, their aesthetic damage is irreversible. To prevent spreading, surgically remove any tumorous plant parts and dispose far, far away from your garden!

#extraannoying !

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

Until next time….

:) :) :)

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Aechmea fasciata and miscellaneous

Before my mother downsized her house, I lifted several Aechmea fasciata from her heavily shaded front lawn. Only one survived the transplant process and for 2.5yrs I wondered when (or if) it might bloom in my sunnier location.  Yesterday, the reward. :)

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Urn Plants (as they’re commonly known) are ubiquitous in Vero Beach but they aren’t native.  Originally from Brazil, this stemless epiphyte grows 1-3′ tall in a basal rosette of stiff, arching, silvery-green leaves with black spines. Like many bromeliads, it blooms only once before dying, leaving pups (offsets) to take its place.

The inflorescence above is in a very early stage: at maturity the dense pyramidal head will lengthen as small violet-to-red flowers sprout among the bracts.  Such a beautiful, showy plant!

In other news, Jack had been visiting (he left last night) so we’ve spent a lot of time beachside and dining everywhere but home. ;)  My mother took this pic after Chicken Cacciatore at her house:

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If TC were here, this would be a perfect a photo!

You may remember Jack wielding a machete on the rubber plant last January?  If not, here’s the original pic and a new one:

What a difference in 6 mos: both are so nicely dressed. ;)

For more  on A. fasciata, check out the Zemanta related links below.

Until next time…..
:) :) :)

Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

With temps in the low 80s, little humidity, and a bright cloudless sky, this first week of June has been an incredible gift!  The pictures tell the story. :)

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Until next time….

:) :) :)

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New Blooms

One of my best childhood memories is playing in the field at my Italian Grandmother’s house–”field” being a huge misnomer for this strip of grass 3 miles from Boston.  Here’s how it looks now ( thank you, Google Street View!) but back in the ’60s

cbk (1)and ’70s  wild honeysuckle obscured the bannister and chainlink fence that stood where the curb is now.  In that enclosed and narrow “field” my cousins and I were wide on imagination. Some pretty crazy wild-west scenarios happened there, compete with toy guns, and Indian war whoops.  (Political correctness hadn’t happened yet. ;) )

Nonny’s honeysuckles loomed large in my mind for years, but by the time I owned a home and garden, Lonicera japonica was banned in Massachusetts and rarely given as a pass-along due to its invasive nature.

In 2013 I found a wild patch near Maggie’s apartment and yes, I swiped it.  At first it didn’t grow well, but I think this cooler winter kicked it in gear.  I’m not sure how invasive it is here, but the joy of scent memory is well worth the effort to keep it in check:

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In the past few days, other flowers opened too, and dang if they’re not just as pretty!

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In previous years I haven’t seen Belamcanda chinensis aka Iris domestica ’til the last week of June, but this season the stalks emerged on Memorial Day with flower stems a few days behind. Each bud opens for one day, rolling into a tiny “dishrag” by sundown.

Another favorite, the bromeliad Billbergia windii has spiked a full month ahead of schedule.  Such a beautiful inflorescence!

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A few more Ruby Spider Daylilies opened, and though you’ve seen them before, they’re always worth a second look:

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This morning I noticed some lilies (planted 18mos ago) finally going into bud. :)  Photos soon to follow!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

 

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Garden Update: 5/31/14

This has been the oddest growing season in the 4.5 years I’ve gardened in Florida—for every flower that arrived late, a few popped up early, and others looked nothing like you’d expect; 6″ sunflowers, anyone?  ;)   Here’s a glimpse into what’s new and flowering in the Ranchero and back gardens, starting with the incredibly late arrival of the Ruby Spider Daylily, which we usually see in March.  This one opened for the first time, today! 20140531_081114 I’ve grown Passiflora incense for three seasons now, and it seems impervious to temperature extremes.  The vine on this free standing trellis is actually growing from a crack in the patio, yet seems VERY well anchored.  High winds have knocked it over many times, but the woody stem refuses to budge.  Once this workhorse is established, it pops up all over the yard. :) 20140531_082909 Also growing through pavers, a group of Gaillardia reseeded from Fall, ’13.  Strange that NONE of these “re-seeds” germinated in beds or containers containing the original flowers, but I guess the patio provided stasis and protection. Whatever the reason, they look pretty good! 20140531_082733 In front of the Gaillardia sit two pots worth mentioning. In the foreground, a container grown Smilax rotundifolia (aka invasive Greenbriar) surprised me by returning from full winter dieback; I didn’t realize this was such a hardy vine.  To the rear, a year old Hoya publicalyx has greened up and filled out very nicely after looking pretty grim last fall. 20140531_083903-1 Perhaps you recall last summer’s ugly  new bed along the rear fence?  What a difference a year makes!  It isn’t beautiful yet, but the Frangipani (left) and Costus barbatus (right) have softened its raggedy appearance with some dramatic new growth. The Dwarf Gladioli bulbs I planted last month are helping too, but beds take a few seasons to look more like beds than works in progress. 20140531_112213-1 Two brand new plants have joined the Ranchero. The first is Aeonium hierrense (aka Giant House Leek) but right now it looks like Little Outdoor Succulent: 20140531_111632-1 The second newbie is Lessertia montana, (also known by the horrid common name Mountain Cancer Bush!)  Both plants were ordered from Annie’s Annuals, along with 6 others that I’ll discuss in a later post.  As an aside, this was my first order from them and I was completely unimpressed with the packaging. The box arrived soggy and half smashed, and the plants themselves weren’t too healthy looking.  After two weeks of heat and full Ranchero sun, L. montana seems to be doing better. 20140522_083421-1 However, I think it may take forever to look like this. :) Lessertia montana Before I close, I need to show you some Gulf Fritillary butterflies I saw in compromising position (For Real!) while I was weeding the Ranchero!

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So now I have a question…I thought survival trumped the reproductive instinct in all living things. Is this not the case for butterflies? I easily could have picked them up, (or stepped on them, God forbid.) I lightly touched one of their wings and they didn’t even notice! Fascinating! Until next time…. :) :) :)

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Hiking at Oslo Riverfront, Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist

Happy Memorial Day!

If you visit the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area bring plenty of bug spray, and be prepared for an interesting twist! This 365 acre preserve is loaded with jungle-like trails through 3 distinct habitats–coastal hammocks, pine flatwoods, and coastal wetlands.  This morning I hiked halfway around, starting at the “P” (click to enlarge map below), and ending at the wetlands Observation Tower before heading back.

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Along the way I snapped many  photos for this week’s challenge, starting with a twist at the trailhead:

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Further along, a series of slightly elevated (barely stable!!) planks twisted over an area where water pools during rainy season:

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To the left of the planking, I saw a flowering saw palmetto in all its foamy, twisted glory!

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Woohoo! “Walking the plank” without twisting an ankle! ;)  Life is good! :)

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Entering the wetlands habitat, I was caught short by these mangroves in the early morning mist. The sun’s reflection and their twisty branches was a beautiful sight!

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Climbing the observation tower, I could see the best was yet to come:

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To the left of the ramp, an amazing glimpse of twisted roots…

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and from the very end, the lagoon’s shoreline:

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Because I was enjoying myself so much, I took a moment to twist and shout…

Happy Dance!

This sh*t right here!!!! (the origins of this family expletive TBA in a future post!)

before heading down the ramp as if nothing happened!

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For other twisted posts, click here and on the Zemanta related links below!

Until next time….

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Philodendron bipinnatifidum flowering process

In the winter of 2013, my large Tree Philodendron (aka P. bipinnatifidum) blew over in a heavy gust of wind.  I thought it was a goner but instead of dying it grew sideways and spiked a separate, upward reaching trunk (visible in the left corner of this photo directly behind the bromeliads.)

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Apparently it’s healthier than I imagined!  For the first time in 4.5yrs, a cluster of flowers is forming!!

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P. bipinnatifidum is a species within the Arum family, and like others in this group has flowers consisting of an upright hood (aka spathe) enclosing a spadix of many tiny petalless flowers. The spadix emerges and retracts over a two day period.  I took the above photo yesterday during day 1 of the cycle.

The spadix holds more than 3000 florets, with the uppermost being fertile males. I got a decent close-up today so you could see what they look like.  Now it’s Day 2 of the reproductive cycle, and the spadix is almost fully retracted into the hood.

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The female flowers are located at the base of the spadix, separated by sterile males that produce heat to aid fertilization. During the 2 day cycle, the spadix maintains a temperature of 114F, regardless of the ambient air temp. No other plant on Earth is known to utilize fat to fuel energy-intensive reactions.  All other plants burn sugar, making P. binnatifidum a true oddity!

There are two other structures worth noting, the first being cataphylls.

Philodendrons have modified leaves called cataphylls that surround and protect any newly forming true leaves. These protective shields are deciduous, meaning they curl back, turn brown and eventually detach along the leaf nodes.  Also found at the nodes are brown, ropelike aerial roots that drop like anchors and meander along the ground (and through fences, too!) until they find a suitable spot to support the plant and collect the water and nutrients it needs. The next pic shows a few aerial roots and the beginnings of a cataphyll process.

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Tree philodendrons are virtually pest free, and non invasive in zones 9-11.  Although most often grown in shade, they do equally well in locations with early morning and/or late day sun.   When fully mature (as mine seems to be) they have a spread of 8-10′, so use caution if planting more than one

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Until next time…..

:) :) :) :)

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Air Plants Around Town: Work of Art

As I traveled around town this week, I noticed many healthy, huge and gorgeous air plants. Here in Zone 10a, May = Summer, and the combo of high temps/humidity and longer days turns epiphytic (and terrestrial) bromeliads into works of art.  Various tillandsias along the mangrove trail in Lagoon Greenway are an excellent example.

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Throughout my backyard, Fingernail broms (aka Neoregelia spectabilis) are flowering with artistic symmetry.  Short, inconspicuous, flower heads within this rosette were barely visible on 5/4….

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….But after a few heavy rains and a stretch of high 80°s, they’ve opened quite nicely!

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There are literally thousands of different bromeliads, and identifying them is especially difficult when plants are young or haven’t yet bloomed.  This next group falls in the “great unknown” category, but I loved their paint splashed, “Nature’s art work” look.

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Yesterday at the Beachside Farmer’s Market, a floral vendor combined bromeliads with seashells and driftwood for some interesting objets d’art (unfortunately the plants weren’t labeled, and the kid manning the booth was clueless, but the leaves indicate tillandsia to me)

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Also unlabeled, this resplendent bromeliad selling for 35.00. Funny how they never forget the price tag though! ;)

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Please identify me?

If anyone has a positive i.d. please let me know!  I’d love to lear more about this beautiful work of art!

Being epiphytic and smallish, Tillandsia ionantha lends itself to hanging on rows of fishing line. I think of it as art for the modern day hippie or an updated version of a ’70s beaded curtain. ;)

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Although not titled as such, I’m tagging this post for the Weekly Photo Challenge. If you’ve never participated, why not start this week?  Art is so subjective, any picture you take will qualify!

Until next time….

:) :) :)

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More Spring!

When skies are blue and the earth is bursting with life, the world seems a happier place. :)  Spring is definitely where it’s at! 20140507_084652-1

A few days ago, the Brazilian Verbena above (aka V. bonnariensis) was merely sticks and foliage but the recent heatwave changed all that: little purple flower clusters surprised me today as did this waxy pink and yellow umbel on a Hoya hybrid purchased from Gardenfest 2014.

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Hoya Rebecca is a cross between Hoya lacunosa ‘Langkawi Island‘ and Hoya obscura, both native to Thailand and highly compatible with Florida’s spring humidity.  When grown outdoors, the leaves blush red and turn a deeper green than when set in a sunny window. Note: If you want your Hoya to bloom again, NEVER remove spent flowers! New blooms emerge from the same spot on the peduncle (base) as the old ones.

In case you didn’t notice my header image, let me show you the beautiful Portulaca grandiflora,Samba series, bicolor–phew what a mouthful of a name for a bedding plant! ;)

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The Samba series has wiry, succulent leaves and a trailing habit, so works well in containers and hanging baskets. I like a WOW factor, so paired them with purple petunias along my front walk:

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Although not terribly unique, the Teddy Bear sunflower variety is new to my garden. I’ve always planted Giants, and on a whim chose something different this time.  Never again! Either these are naturally waaaaayyyyy too short or something abortive and wierd happened as they sprouted. 6″ tall? That’s just stupid! ;)  (pretty color though!)

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The newest addition to the vine wall, Tecoma capensis, just entered a second bloom cycle. (The first was in November.)  It isn’t completely open yet, but the vine wall is always worthy of a photo op, especially in Spring!

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For more Spring beauty, check out this week’s challenge, and the related Zemanta links below!

Until next time…

:) :) :)

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Gulf Fritillary Caterpillar, 5/3/14

Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring!

Spring in the sub-tropics feels and looks like summer. Most local gardens have moved beyond budding into the first (of many!) flower cycles.  This gaillardia, re-seeded from last year, seems to like it hot and sunny,

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Ditto my Florida cardinal Caladium, locally bred to produce thicker leaves for better sun tolerance.

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These are the days when temps and humidity soar to the 90s, and late day downpours are an everyday given.  This next photo illustrates our humid, hot, hazy Spring so perfectly, I almost tagged it #iconic. :)  Right now it’s 4pm, and you can see the haze is settling in:

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Don’t you just love those sherbet colors? :)  I sure do!

To see what Spring is like in other parts of the world, check out the Weekly Photo Challenge and  Zemanta related links below!

Until next time….

:) :) :)

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