Weekly Photo Challenge: Through

Established in 1932, McKee Botanical Garden is one of the prettiest spots in Vero Beach. Although it flourished during the family car trip years (after WWII through the 1960s,) the park closed in 1975 due to financial problems. Over the next 2 decades, all but 18 of the original 88 acres were sold off, as contractors and businesses cashed in on Florida’s booming construction industry.

Enter the Indian River Land Trust, whose mission is “to promote the preservation, conservation and improvement of Indian River County’s natural resources and special places for the benefit of the general public and future generations.”   They bought and restoried the remaining acreage, saving McKee from all further commercial development.  Since then, this beautiful oasis has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and endorsed by the Garden Conservancy as a project of national significance.

On Wednesday my friend Ivana and I strolled the reborn garden paths, taking lots of pictures.   I’m working on an in-depth McKee Gardens pictorial that I’ll share soon, but one of the shots works well for this week’s photo challenge:

through the palm trees

Looking through the palm trees

 As I was taking the picture, I thought the trees looked like bars on a window or a barricade to an entrance; .I envisioned land developers looking through in dismay, angry at being kept out! :shock:

Until next time.. :)

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Certified and Mildly Infectious!

On Tuesday,  after completing a Plant Identification Test and Overall Practicum, our class joined the ranks of  Florida’s Certified Master Gardeners!  Yaaayyyyy!

Studying for the final, in the midst of all the notes, books, charts, websites, labwork, handouts, etc., I realized they’d crammed 2 semesters of material into 12 short weeks! I’m glad this part is over :razz:  VERY intense training!

So that was Tuesday’s main event and on Wednesday, I got a HUGE surprise when I went online!   Hometalk.com had uploaded my papilio picture as their 3/28 “Good Morning”  Facebook “status” update!!  I’m still so excited by this!  Take a look :arrow: click right here!  As of right now, 625 people “Liked” it with 147 “Shares”; but what thrills me most is Hometalk putting my blog’s url in one of their comments!!!  Whoa!!

I feel so…so….mildly infectious!!!  ;)    If anyone from the Hometalk staff is reading this: {{{{{{{!Thank you!}}}}}}}

BTW, If you’ve never accessed Hometalk.com, I recommend giving it a go: I can’t think of any other site where consumers get immediate, detailed advice from licensed tradespeople.  I’ve been part of their social media based community just shy of a year and enjoy it immensely.

In other news around the Ranchero, yesterday I re-potted a few succulents.

Yucca,  Agave, Ponytail Palm

Joining a previously transplanted soft leaf yucca (left) are an agave guiengula (middle) and a ponytail palm (right rear.)  After flowering for the past 2 months, the agave’s spike is now spent. Although some agaves die after flowering, this one is showing new growth in the rosette center, and no offsets emerging from the base, making it a perfect time to re-pot. If it starts to die/produce pups, the new offsets will have fresh, new soil.  If it remains status quo, there’s plenty of room for the roots to expand.   Win-win!

The ponytail palm’s story involves a snapdragon “volunteer” in the same container. After several gentle tugs, it was clear the interloper wasn’t coming out alive :roll: so the original pot was upended and both plants got new homes!  I can never let a dang “underdog” die!

Before I close, I’d like to share my newest flower blooms:

Amaryllis in the Ranchero

I just adore Amaryllis!  The picture above was taken last night within 30 minutes of sundown.  To give you a better view of the amaryllis at the top of the shot, I zeroed in on it this morning.  Gardens can look completely different from one time of day to the next!


Welcome to the garish Florida midday sun!  I’m sure I didn’t need to tell you this photo was taken at noon?   :)    The next one is far easier on the eyes:

I'm sure I don't need to tell you this was a noontime photo?

The golden light of sunset is by far my favorite time in the yard.  There’s something magical about the glint of sun through the trees and the outline of clouds as the sky moves toward twilight.

Until next time….

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Share Your World, Week 16

Another week gone by!

Ready for this week’s installment of the Share Your World Project?  Here goes!

If you had a choice, which would be your preference: salt water beaches, fresh water lakes, hot tub, or desert?

As evidenced by where I currently live, I’d have to say “salt water beaches!”  In fact, I was at one yesterday :lol:

Jaycee Beach in Vero Beach

It was a truly spectacular day, with a water temperature of 77 degrees!  Perfection!

What book do you think everyone should read and why?

The Passage, written by Justin Cronin and published in 2010.

I read it last spring and have NOT stopped thinking about it!  Imagine a post-apocalyptic world in which EVERY piece of technology and every modern device is made irrelevant as you fight for survival against a virus engineered by the military. Complicated characters and elegant sentences make each page a delight to read, even as you wince at the horror of it all.  766 pages, yet I felt it was too short!  The second book of this three part trilogy is due out in October and I can’t wait!

What’s your favorite way to wake up and what’s the first thing you do?

My favorite way to wake up?  Sans alarm clock! ;) Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen often enough!  I REALLY dislike that jarring noise…. and the jolt it brings!   Once I’m awake, the very first thing I do is check my cell for messages from my sons. They live up north and sometimes text me after I’ve gone to bed;  seeing their little notes always kicks my day into high-gear!

What do you do to relax?

I spend time in my garden!

I took this picture on Saturday while pruning dead wood from a yellow alamanda.  I was surprised to see it’s first new bloom peeking through a nearby oriental arborvitae:

Yellow Alamanda peeking through Oriental Arborvitae

Today I repotted two orchids—a purple speckled phalaenopsis that looked tired after a cycle of blooming, and an older brassia severely cramped in its original pot. I also transplanted a plethora of mirabilis to an area with partial shade along the back fence. Basically I “puttered away” a good deal of the afternoon, and found it VERY relaxing!  :eek:

So there you have it :arrow: a little glimpse into my (very) little world. :) Now it’s your turn to participate by clicking right here!

Until next time!

Seeds? Weeds? Where’d the Belles of Ireland go?

Let me go on record: I ABHOR list-making.  I don’t write down what I need at the store….I’ve never kept appointments in day-planners (even when I had 3 kids going in 3 different directions, 6 days a week for a total of 10 activities!!!)  Years ago, I had a neighbor who made daily lists; things like “make coffee” or “do laundry”   Huh???? Why would you need a list for things you do all the time?!   Why “lists” period!?!    Take a look again at the title of this post…. :roll:

If only I’d bought a p-touch!

Since mid-January I’ve been sowing flower seeds with great abandon and somewhat haphazardly. Although each seed “type” always starts in it’s own pot, it could end up elsewhere depending on individual growth patterns…sometimes I move half the contents of one container to something bigger (and pre-populated) with fast germinators of still different varieties.  I’ll show you an example:

Clarkia and Mirabilis share a pot

This container started as a huge pot of pink clarkia seeds (garland flower) half of which were removed to make room for calladium bulbs and pink mirabilis (4 o’clocks) from a different germination pot.  I know exactly what’s what!  A nice success story and no-list-required :razz:

Other times, I’ll remove a pot’s entire contents, randomly using seedlings to fill in empty spots around the yard. As I dig them in, I make mental notes of what’s going where :arrow: again no list required.  I guess you could say I garden the way I live, not by plan but by instinct.  It all works out so well…until it doesn’t!

One day you have a spot open and worthy of seedlings….a few days later you have this:

What weeds and seeds are these?

While I may not need a list to know what I planted,  I definitely need one for the plants sprouting up!  This is where it all falls apart: I keep forgetting that previous plants and weeds reseed waayyyyyy too easily here!  And while there’s no great mystery what these are:


there’s a definite question re: this one’s identity, in a pot where I sowed 3 Belles of Ireland seeds:

Weed or Seed?

I'm having an identity crisis!

My best guess is some kind of weed, although to be certain I’ll be checking two good online resources: The Seed Site in Great Britain and/or The Urban Detective here in the States.  (There’s a third one too, The Seedling Recognition Project, but I find the navigation there cumbersome and don’t use it often)

Although I don’t envision list-making for initial germinations, never let it be said I don’t learn from my mistakes!  An easy compromise could entail labelling a popsicle stick for each seedling as I place it in the ground, yeah?  (Bring on the  P-touch!) :cool:   And If I spot those dang Belles of Ireland again, I’ll be sure to post a picture!

until next time  ;)

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual

Our plant identification final is looming, so today I spent a fair amount of time organizing classnotes and making a study outline.  While reviewing Palm Trees–specifically the Syagrus romanzoffianum–I noticed something unusual (besides the name! :wink:  )  Before I show you,  let me share a little more info.

Syagrus romanzoffianum, aka Queen Palm, isn’t native to Florida, but it IS ubiquitous!  They grow fast and easy, reaching heights of up to 50′ with glossy feathery fronds creating canopies half as wide as the trees are tall. They are durable and cold tolerant but better still, they tolerate drought.  The one in my yard was too tall for a good “close-up” but two younger (and shorter!) specimens thrive in the vacant lot next door, one of which “posed” so I could show you this:

Syagrus Romanzoffiana Drupe

Unusual looking fruit/drupe

Isn’t that an unusual looking spike?!? Last fall it was covered with creamy white flowers! After pollination, green berry-like fruits formed, and matured over the next few months into the fleshy orange 2″ drupes you see in the picture above.

I must confess, before gardeners’ training, my awareness of the word “drupe” ended at it being a homophone  :roll:  If you need a definition, click this!

Nature is full of the unusual,  I hope you enjoyed this one example!

Until next time……


Share Your World, Week 15

Greetings from the Vero Ranchero!

Hard to believe it’s Sunday….again! The days sure do fly by!  For those who are new, last week I joined the Share Your World Project, in which participants answer 4 laid-back/non political questions posed by Cee, of Cee’s Life Photography. This week she asks:

1. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, which would you choose, and why?

A few months ago, I might have said, “Metro Phoenix, Arizona,” but that was before I ran across this visually stunning blog from Los Osos, California…Take a look at the pictures there and you’ll ask, “Hey! Can we move tomorrow!?!” :lol: Such a gorgeous location!!!

2. If you were a car or truck, what make, model, year and color would you be?

Ixnay to both choices!  Can i select a bike, instead?  If yes, I would be this retro inspired roadster from the Velorbis company.  Take a look:

Velorbis Victoria  Classic 4

Traditionally elegant with a straw basket “de baguette!”  (I secretly long to be European!)

3. What one thing have you not done that you would really like to do:

In the same European vein :arrow: travel to England!  Prior to Christmas this year, I started saving toward that goal. My plan is to blog from Kew Gardens sometime in 2013. :)  ….And tour the beautiful countryside where Midsomer Murders is filmed. Ahh, yes! I fancy that….Cheerio, old chap!…

Which segues nicely to the last query:

4. Where do you eat breakfast? :cool:

I eat breakfast at home every day.  :roll:  (Is that as trite as it sounds?)  Except for St. Patrick’s day when Maggie and I had pain au chocolat beachside:

Sexton Plaza Beach

followed by coffee at Kilwin’s, across the street:

Kilwin's Vero Beach

If you made it to the end, thank you for sharing my world!  I’m off now to read the other entries…why not join me?  :)

Until next time…….

Weekly Photo Challenge: Contrast

I was stumped by this week’s photo challenge until a rainbow appeared around suppertime, just ahead of our typical late-day rain. It jogged my memory of a VERY dramatic one I saw in Ft Pierce last November as a heavy storm ended at dawn:

Ft Pierce Rainbow, Nov 7, 2011

The sky was a study in contrasts!

Because rainbows are created by the internal reflection of sunlight in droplets of water, the bigger the droplet, the better the color; on the day I took this photo, the rain was the size of hailstones!

In Florida, rainbows appear all the time between April and September.  If you’d like to see others I’ve photographed (including today’s) check out my Facebook Album. For info on the physics of rainbows, the USA Today news site has a well written Sky Phenomena FAQ.

Until next time!

Mid March Garden Update…..with Lilies!

Good Morning, Mr. Sun!

Because of the time change, I was outside to greet the sun this morning and wait for the sprinkler cycle to finish.

Rear Cutting Garden, March 12, 2012

I’d hoped to get so much done in the gardens last weekend, but with intermittent rain and consistent high winds, I concentrated mainly on re-potting plants in need of better digs.  :razz: See the soft leaf yucca on the patio (left foreground) above? It measured a scant 4 inches when I rescued it from the floor of a Target Garden Center in December, 2009.  Since then, it steadily outgrew its original spot, and sprouted SHARP tips to remind me whenever I veered too close.  After it acclimates to its new pot (and full sun,) it will join the other large container succulents lining our front walkway.

Remember the super cosmos in late January?  They’re back with a vengenance, overgrowing EVERYTHING!   Although I really dislike “thinning out” living, breathing plants, I really had no choice.  :cry:  I filled 3 big pots like this one:

Cosmo Relocation Project

But let the largest one stay in the ground where nature reseeded it last fall:

Super Cosmos, Cutting Garden, March, 2012

along with some tough “volunteers” who refused to slip through the cracks :wink:

Cosmos growing through the patio

Leave us alone!

Will they survive? :shock: In a few weeks I’ll post a photo update.

I don’t think I’ve ever shown you Treasure Coast soil, sans amendments…Oooh la la :roll: Not exactly pretty (or loamy!), but it’s where I transplanted a Hylocereus Undatus that’s been languishing since September in a too-tight 8″ x 8″ pot:

Red Pitaya

Hylocereus produce HUGE, nocturnal, amazingly fragrant, white flowers followed by dragon fruit that is either red or yellow (mine is red.)  In addition to sandy soil, this viney cactus requires staking (or a trellis arrangement) so a spot near fencing should be ideal.  Before placing it in the ground, I dug a hole 2x deeper than necessary, adding several inches of fresh cactus soil to the bottom. Next, I situated the plant and while backfilling the original sand, snapped off one of the segments :oops:  See it there on the left, poking out of the ground, alone?  Allegedly, these are fast growing cacti, although that wasn’t my observation of this particular plant…maybe it was just pot-bound.  Hopefully, next summer it will look like this:

Oh, but I have saved the best  for last!

It seems as if Daylight Savings time ushered in lily season, and nothing makes my smile more!  As I’ve said in the past, I am first and foremost a lily gardenerWhite Asiatic Lily

It appears the mystery bulb is some type of white Asiatic lily: in the next picture you’ll see it in sideview , near a Ruby Spider lily just beginning to unfurl:

Ruby Spider lily with White Asiatic lily

Stepping back a bit, reveals a clump of yellow Bok Garden lilies;  they’ve bloomed continuously since last April, due to a strange lack of winter this year.

View from the Lily Garden

Oh!! look in the background….there’s the Ranchero with a glimpse of the watermelon area off to the right, near the crazy-looking rubber tree roots! :smile:  Peering into the middle of the Ranchero you’d find lots of amaryllis whose scapes have appeared in the past 3 days:

Amarylis Scapes are appearing

And one in the rear cutting garden that just might open tomorrow:

Amaryllis, ready to open

I must confess, this bulb has me stumped!!!!  Last spring it opened a clear bright pink!?!!?


Until next time……..

Share Your World, Week 14

A few Sundays ago, I followed a link to Cee’s Life Photography where I found the Share Your World project.  Once a week, Cee posts four upbeat, non-political questions for participants to answer about themselves and the area in which they live. What a great way to leave a bit of family history behind….plus, it sounds like fun!!. The project is in its 14th week, but it’s just beginning for me…better late than never, yeah? :grin:   Now, the questions:

1. Who was your favorite teacher? Which grade? Why?

Easy!!    Miss Borelli, Grade 5, in the days before Miss became Ms., the unmarried Nancy Borelli was my hero(ine)!  She was sharp, smart, and stylish.  She was a hip, intelligent feminist at a time when the term was just being coined.  I loved her teaching style! .She was vibrant and stalked the room, especially when teaching history, a subject she obviously loved.   When we’d be diagramming sentences “at our places”, she’d walk the aisles, pausing at various desks to offer individual help when catching an error. I was 10 and thought her so mature!!  (i later learned she was 28yo at the time!!)  ahhhh youth!

2. What do you like most about your house?

The garden! It’s the reason I’m on wordpress, after all!  If you want to see more, take a look at any page you see here

3. If you were forced to change the name of your blog, what would the new name be?

In the garden with Esther!    I would choose it out of sheer silliness! (In the way of crazy family inside jokes, my daughter and I call each other “Esther”)  However, to say it correctly you need to pronounce it as we would, with our Boston accents: “In the Gahhdin with Estah”

4. If a movie was based on your life, what actress would play you?

Sandra Bullock…I think she would do a fine job of all things “Esta!”  :wink:

As part of the “share” I’ll be adding a  “Picture of the Week” to illustrate something from the questions.  Here’s this week’s photo:

Esta and Esta

Esta and Esta attend a Graduation, May 14, 2011

Well that’s it for week 1 (or 14 )…  :shock:   A huge shout out to Cee for devising something so interesting and fun!  Don’t forget to read other participants’ answers by clicking here!

Until next Sunday, I’ll see you around the Ranchero!