TC’s Visit, Easter, and Garden Update!


Since my last post an entire week’s gone by…and what a mad dash of a week it was! My oldest son was in town, and he crams more activity in a single day than any other person I know.  Take April 12th for example: 10am we’re on the beach; Noon we’re in a restaurant; 2pm we’re racing home to shower/change; 3pm we’re at the Hibiscus Festival; 5pm I’m dropped back home; 6pm he and Maggie drive 2.5hrs across the state to a VIP party (hotel room included!) hosted by a co-worker.  Dance til dawn, April 13!

Carpe diem is how he rolls!


Rolling toward Easter Brunch: Carpe Diem!

The entire week was a definite BLAST, but Maggie and I were exhausted by Easter! Nevertheless, we rallied for our new family tradition: celebrating with brunch at the Disney Vero Beach Resort:

easter brunch 2014

Maggie’s fiancé took the above photo, so I returned the favor:


All the cool people wear shades…even when the sun don’t shine! ;)


While we were racing around all week, Spring snuck up on my back gardens:


Assorted Coleus and Cosmos, with a meandering sweet potato vine


2yr old Rex begonia, blooming for the first time.



Regal Darner Dragonfly (aka Coryphaeschna ingens)



Phalaenopsis (x 2) blooming VERY late!

For my beloved Amaryllis, a little slideshow!

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It’s looking decidedly like Spring, yeah?

Before I close, a head’s up on something I stumbled across at our Beachside CVS:


Seen at CVS Beachside, Rte A1A, Vero Beach, 4/19/14

I’ve NEVER seen flower bulbs sold at CVS, have you?!?  I purchased these on Saturday, and have since hit 3 other CVSs, but couldn’t find them anywhere! (and I scrounged the stores HARD!)

For all you gardeners, “keep an eye peeled” as my Irish Granny was wont to say!  You might get lucky, too!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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Wordless Wednesday: 4/09/14 (Raised Vegetable Bed)

As part of our Master Gardener training in 2012, we were required to do a group project demonstrating the impact of agriculture within the community. Hoping local residents would follow our lead, we constructed a raised vegetable bed abutting the front walk of the County Extension Office.

Here’s how it looked this past Monday:

Raised Garden Bed, Indian River County Extension Office, 4/07/14

A close-up of pineapple ( Ananas comosus) and cauliflower (Brassica oleracea.)

Pineapple (Ananas comosus,) Raised Bed, Indian River County Extension Office, 4/07/14Collards (Brassica oleracea L.) with eggplant (Solanum melongena Black Beauty) toward the left of the pineapple.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Purpureum) in the right hand corner

Raised Bed, Indian River County Extension Office, 4/07/14

A view of the bed looking toward the street; note the green pepper plant (Capsicum annuum) on the lefthand side.


For instructions and a list of materials to build your own raised bed, check out this article at Sunset Magazine.  For other Wordless Wednesday posts, click here and on the Zemanta related links, below!

Until next time…..

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The Land Pavillion, Disney Epcot, 2014

On November 16 1965, Walt Disney announced his plan to build the utopian Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (aka Epcot) on 27,443 acres of Florida swampland. In his own words, EPCOT will take its cue from the new ideas and new technologies that are emerging from the forefront of American industry. It will be a community of tomorrow that will never be completed. It will always be showcasing and testing and demonstrating new materials and new systems.” 

Unfortunately, Walt died in 1966, and when Epcot opened in 1982 the prototype city he’d imagined had morphed into a theme park, albeit one highlighting a future that promised new and exciting benefits for all. Nowhere is this more evident than in the attraction Living with the Landa 15-minute boat ride through four distinct greenhouses and an aquaculture facility. The Land, Epcot, 3/29/14Visitors glide past 60 different plants being grown via the Nutrient Film Technique in which enhanced waters are pumped from holding tanks into some VERY unusual garden beds. Some are slotted and sloped:

Hydroponic Lettuce Bed, Living with the Land, Epcot, 3/29/14

….others are spiraled

Spiral Hydroponic Beds. Living with the Land, Epcot, 3/29/14

while others are strung up like trees:

Eggplant "trees", Living with the Land, Epcot, 3/29/14

As the solution streams by, each plant takes what it needs and the rest is recirculated and reused.  The result is higher yields in smaller areas with water conservation, to boot! :)

The ride also passes through a separate greenhouse featuring tropical edibles:

Tropical Greenhouse, Living with the Land, Epcot, 3/29/14

Pineapples, pitaya and coconuts are growing in the picture above, with jackfruit and unnamed water edibles, below:

20140329_150735-1Plants in the Tropical Greenhouse are grown in sand using subsurface drip irrigation of the same nutrient water used elsewhere in the Land.  It was interesting to see some common Florida crops flourishing in these conditions:

Coffee and Bamboo, Living with the Land, Epcot, 3/29/14

Epcot’s horticulturalists are using innovative growing techniques and cross-breeding high-yield crops with the goal of sustaining our growing global population. To that end, a Biotechnology Lab operates in conjuction with the USDA, and we got a glimpse of that, too:

Epcot/USDA Tissue Culture Lab, Living with the Land, 3/29/14

The Land is definitely one of Epcot’s most interesting and educational attractions! If your travel plans take you to Orlando, I highly recommend it!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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They’re waking up! (Lilies, Amaryllis, etc., etc.!)

A week ago, I was bemoaning the late arrival of my amaryllis spikes and starting to think they might skip a season. This is my 5th spring of Florida gardening and always they’d appear during March, with a few of the early blooming varieties opened wide by now! Then suddenly yesterday, the Mead Amaryllis varieties shot up:

The Mead Amaryllis is the result of a USDA breeding program that took place in Central Florida during the early years of the 20th Century.  Drs. Theodore Mead and Henry Nehrling tested and crossed more than 3000 orchids, calladium, and amaryllis plants in what was to become Florida’s first experimental botanical garden. Of these, over 300 new and beneficial plants were introduced into Florida’s landscape. The amaryllis hybrids seen here are two such pass-alongs, and although not as showy or tall as modern Dutch hybrids, they are uniquely suited to our local conditions.  Walk down any Florida street in March (….ok….April! :) ) and you’ll see red and white beauties popping up all over!

This next amaryllis,  Hippeastrum cybister “Evergreen”, woke up FAST too!

Purchased as an indoor “force” for the 2012 holiday season, I planted H.cybister evergreen in the Ranchero when its bloom cycle ended.  All I can say is WOW!  It must prefer the outdoors, because it spiked MUCH taller than 2012!  I counted 8 separate blooms atop this first inflorescence and as I recall, it produced 2 more before going dormant last time. I’m curious what might happen this year, but Clarisse isn’t quite so enthusiastic. ;)


The first daylily of 2014 also arrived on April 1, waaayyyyy later than anticipated.

Hemorocallis hyperion, 4/1/14

Hemerocallis hyperion is a rebloomer and one of my original garden purchases.  When winters are mild, I’ve watched it flower sporadically all year, but that didn’t happen THIS season. Better late than never, yeah?  I’m happy to see it heralding spring!

Although technically not a “bloom,” I’m heartened by new shoots on this Dracena marginata.

This plant was so leggy, forlorn and cold damaged, I cut it in half so the upper portion could root near the original stem.  As you can see, both segments have adjusted and seem to be thriving!

Fortunately my orchids were in containers, so I brought them inside for the worst of our cold snaps. They’ve been back outdoors and shaded for the past month, and look just about ready to say hello.

Late winter is typically orchid time in Florida, so these phals are seriously behind schedule!

Spring is here, and it’s fantastic to be out in the yard and digging again!  Winter was tough all around, and I’m glad to see it go!

Until next time…..

:) :) :)


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Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival, 2014

One of the most welcome signs of spring is Disney Epcot’s annual International Flower & Garden Festival. Each year, Master Gardeners from Indian River County work as volunteers at the Festival Center located in the park’s Future World. (Note: more about Future World’s attraction “The Land” in a separate post!)

Thankfully, the Festival Center is enclosed, because Disney Orlando was under tornado-watch the whole time we were there! EEK!  It poured…and poured–with thunder and lightning–all afternoon:

Rainy Day at Epcot, 3/29/14

Terrible day for picture taking (esp with a smartphone,) but the displays were so intricate and beautiful, I persevered. This Tinkerbell topiary was one of 75 Disney characters made entirely of flowers. Look closely and you’ll see her pointing toward the Butterfly House, housing more than 600 native fluttering species!  Unfortunately it was closed due to weather! Drats!!!


HGTV was the major sponsor of this year’s event, and they outdid themselves with an inviting Garden Retreat.  Imagine this spectacular setting on a sunny day!?!


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More than 200,000 bedding plants were added to the park for this year’s festival. The floral design encircling Future World’s East and West Lake showcases over 60,000 of them.


….and here’s another group of thousands that caught my eye :)

20140329_153303It really was a shame the weather didn’t cooperate…I could have taken and shared sooooo many more photos!!!  Nevertheless, we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and chattered like a bunch of giddy kids on the 1.5hr ride home! :)

Until next time….

:) :) :)

P.S. I’ll be back in a few days with a post about the fascinating hydroponics behind “The Land,” my favorite Epcot attraction.


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections

This week’s photo challenge calls for images of reflections. Like the example shown here, my shots illustrate the topic in both literal and figurative ways.

Riverside Park is Vero Beach’s premiere location for festivals, picnics, and dolphin watching.  Walking under the stately live oaks it’s impossible NOT to reflect on nature’s beauty:

Live Oaks, Riverside Park, 2/2/14

Growing as they do from Virginia to southern Florida and westward to the Texas Gulf, live oaks are an ecological and cultural icon of the American Coastal South.  Four blocks from the Atlantic in Riverside Park, they are richly shrouded in epiphytic Spanish moss.

Under the oaks at Riverside Park, 2/2/14

Spanish moss (aka Tillandsia usneoides) survives on regular rainfall and high humidity, growing from trees as silvery-gray threadlike masses to 25 ft. long, densely covered by the gray scales which are a means of receiving and holding atmospheric moisture. When water laden, the gray scales glow brilliant white from the sun’s reflection:

Spanish Moss, Riverside Park, 2/2/14

The symbiosis of live oaks and Spanish moss inspired many a Southern Indian legend, some sweetly romantic and others….well….not so much!  As a final reflection , I’ve included this one from the Florida Memory Project Archives:

Legend of the Spanish Moss

For more information about this interesting epiphyte, check out The Beaufort County Library (South Carolina) Spanish Moss Website.

For other bloggers’ reflections on a variety of topics, check out the Zemanta related links below!

Until next time….

:) :) :) .

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Tillandsia duratii

The more exotic the plant, the better I like it, so it’s no surprise I’m fascinated by Tillandsias. Thus far I’ve only grown native varieties, but when I saw this alien-looking, Bolivian relative at Gardenfest, I knew it was time to branch out. ;)

Tillandsia duratii, 3/14/14T. duratii grows wild on the Chaco Plain in South America, an area of xerophytic deciduous forests for which it is well suited.  Unlike most Tillandsias, T. duratii has an obvious leafy stem, better seen in this next picture:

Tillandsia duratii stem 3/14/14T. duratii has very distinctive, recurved lower leaves that form curlicues around convenient branches, while new leaves “climb up” from the tip to maintain sun exposure. In this way, a single specimen can sometimes blanket an entire tree!

In the next photo you’ll notice the thin, wiry roots typical of all bromeliads.  Over time, they grow into the surrounding tree bark, firmly binding epiphyte and host.

Adventitious, wiry roots, Tillandsia duratii, 3/14/14

There are two forms of T. duratii, identical except for the shape of the inflorescence. The spikes of T. duratii (my plant) are erect and tight against the rachis, while the spikes of T. duratii saxatilis are curved and spreading as seen in the picture below:

T. duratii saxitalis in bloom, 12/23/13While other Tillandsias have a tubular arrangement of petals, the flowers of both duratiis are more reminiscent of neoregelias: three open lilac flowers with white throats. It’s been said the scent of a single duratii in bloom is SO fragrant it overpowers everything else in the greenhouse!

Predicting when T. duratii will spike is akin to betting on the lottery–the odds aren’t good! I’ve read accounts of spiking anywhere between 5 and 30 years, with sometime between 12-18 being most likely!  Hopefully mine is on the lower end of the scale!  I’d like to experience it before I’m too old to care—or recognize it!! :) 

Until next time….

:) :) :)


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Wordless Wednesday: Succulents at Sugar Mill Gardens, 3/12/14

The Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens are located among the ruins of the Dunlawton Sugar Plantation in Volusia County.

Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens Entrance, 3/8/14

Various nature trails wind beneath ancient oaks, passing collections of ferns, orchids and succulents along the way :)    Note: Click the next 2 images for a bigger, better look!

Succulent Collection, Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens, 3/8/14

Succulent Collection at Sugar Mill Botanical Gardens, 3/8/14

For other Wordless Wednesday submissions, click on the Zemanta related links below. Curious about this meme in general?  Read about its founder at The Jenny Evolution.

Until next time….

:) :) :)

(all photos, Maggie Mulhern, 3/8/14)

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Just after sunrise: a peek over the fence.

Long time readers may recall I spent last March indoors (and highly agitated!!) due to a bad back;  this spring I feel a need to take everything in and spend as much time outside as possible!  Since moving the clocks forward, the sun peeks over my fence a little after 8am. This morning I was out to watch it happen not because it’s anything extraordinary, but just because I CAN….and for that I’m very grateful. :)

I’d forgotten how robust muscadine looks this time of year:

Vitis rotundifolia aka wild muscadine vine, 3/10/14

and how it holds its own against invasives in a springtime tug-of-war:

Muscadine vs Ipomaea cairica, 3/10/14During March, cosmos germinate and grow the way they do up north :arrow: utterly normal and “non-supersized.” ;)

Cosmos grown from seed, 3/10/14

…forming a lacy counterpoint to the Nopalea cochenillifera in the next picture:

Cosmos and Nopalea cochinefillera, 3/10/14

So nice to see Passiflora incense’s first handshake of the season:

Passiflora incense, 3/10/14

and the one time of year when flower and fruit overlap on my orange tree!

Orange blossom and fruit, 3/10/14March is a beautiful month here in Florida…

Passiflora lady margaret, 3/10/14

Until next time…..

:) :) :)

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A new growing season begins!

Today dawned foggy and grey, but also nice and cool–perfect for a long morning in the yard, checking new growth, raking dead clippings, and assessing what should go where in the new growing season.

Rear patio containers and backyard, 3/5/14Just before the holidays, Maggie connected the narrow plot (where I grow lilies) to a corner of the yard that opened up when a large philodendron fell over (fyi: It didn’t die; it spiked a separate, upward reaching trunk and the original plant continued growing sideways!) Anyway….last month I moved my favorite succulent to this  “new garden.” Within a week it sent up a stalk and is now flaunting a beautiful full bloom:
Agave (possible guiengola) 3/5/14

I’ve been calling this plant an Agave guiengola, but it may actually be an aloe: :arrow: many succulents are “look-a-likes,” with flowers the only true means of identification. So far, I haven’t found a trusted source with an accurate photo of A. guiengola in bloom, but I have inquires out, so stay tuned! :)  In the meantime, here’s a close-up of the beautiful orange flowers: ( Note: ID editted on 3/11/14. Scroll to addendum at the bottom)

Agave in full bloom, 3/5/14

I’ve never had great luck with Hollyhocks, which is wierd considering they’re classified as “beginner” plants.  This year I bypassed the seed route completely and bought a sack of bareroot mixed Alcea at Sam’s Club.  When I planted them 2wks ago, I didn’t think they’d “take”–they looked REALLY dried up and stickish, but lo and behold, today we have this:

Sam’s sells Hollyhocks in sacks of 10, so I divided the bag between two locations. The picture on the left shows plants growing to the right rear of A. guiengola; the plants in the other pic are coming up along the vinewall, on the opposite side of the yard. Both areas get 6hrs of sunlight, albeit at different times of day. It will be interesting to see which side does better.

Years before I created the vinewall, I hung several containersful of wild Emerald Fern (aka Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri) from the fence posts. Sheer laziness left them in the original spots and gradually passiflora and mandevilla  grew all around them::

Hanging Asparagus densiflora sprengeri, 3/5/14

This “fern” produces mounds of leaflike flattened branchlets that resemble (and function as) leaves but are actually called cladophylls. What looks like finely textured foliage is actually woody, spiny and not as fragile as appearance might indicate. Cladophyls typically grow in downward arcs, but that all changes when push comes to shove!

Asparagus densiflora sprengeri, 3/5/14

This branchlet travelled 1.5ft up the fence, then continued another 3ft beneath the mandevilla just to find a small open spot!

Reaching for the light: I love this metaphor and what a tiny branch reminds us about the nature of all living things :arrow: Resillience and adaptability are two of life’s most helpful attributes! :)

Addendum, 3/11/14: Cistus Nursery identified my “agave” as a Coral Aloe, aka Aloe striata.  I’ve included the email:
It looks like you have Aloe striata or Coral Aloe on your hands.  Here’s the description from our catalog: A stemless aloe from South Africa with orange-red flowers on 3 ft stalks and soft, pink striped blue green leaves that beg to be petted. Grows to about 1 foot high and 2 feet wide. Full sun to part shade. With excellent drainage can withstand temperatures down to 20F or lower.
Cistus Nursery
22711 NW Gillihan Rd
Portland, OR 97231
503 621 2233

Until next time…


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