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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B. houghtonii update, Wordless Wednesday: 1/15/14

Remember the Bryophyllum houghtonii succulents I blogged about on 1/5/14?  This morning I noticed a few little buds opening, just in time for Wordless Wednesday.😉

B. houghtonii flower buds, 1/15/14B. houghtonii flower heads are known as corymbs, meaning flower stalks of different lengths appear as flat-topped clusters when viewed from above. The next pics provide a better illustration of a corymb’s shape:


B. houghtonii corymb, 1/15/14

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Until next time…..

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Wordless Wednesday: Sept 19, 2012

Today’s Wordless Wednesday shows how FAST my Hylocereus Undatus has grown over the past 6 months.  In the intense heat of a Florida summer, the stem segments can put on 16″ in a fortnight!  With growth this rapid, how do we not see it as it happens!?!😉

Let’s start with a picture taken on Monday, September 17 and work backwards:

Hylocereus Undatus, September 2012

On May 16, it looked VERY different:

Red Pitaya

:And this is how it looked on March 12, when I removed it from the original container and dug it in-ground:

Hylocereus Undatus, March 12, 2012

WOW!!  That looks downright small in comparison!!!

As an FYI,  I purchased this specimen in the Fall of 2011 and kept it as a container plant for 6mos before planting. Hylocereus usually flower/fruit after reaching age 2, so I suspect it will bud sometime next summer.:)

If you’d like to know more about this remarkable vining cactus, check out the University of Florida Miami/Dade Pitaya page.

To see other bloggers’ interpretations of Wordless Wednesday, click on any of the Zemanta provided links below!

Until next time…..



Orchids and Succulents in the September Garden.

September is an odd month in So. Florida gardens. By late summer, most hardy perennials are calling “Time-Out” from brutal sun and tropical downpours, yet the jungle species are gearing up and raring to go➡ Intense heat and convective rains make VERY happy orchids:)

Brassia Maculata, Sept. 6, 2012

Brassia Maculata, Fully Opened on Sept. 6, 2012

Remember Lila Mystique, the Winn-Dixie orchid with the strange blue dye-job?  Her second spike has produced pure white flowers:

White Phalaenopsis flower buds, Sept 2012

Lila lost her “mystique” and turned ghostly pale!😉

Like the orchids, my garden succulents are in peak form now, too!

The Portulacaria Afra (aka Elephant Bush/Dwarf Jade) seen on the diagonal in the above picture, has totally taken off!!  In July, I removed it from its original 3″ pot and planted it in the Ranchero: what began as a slightly wizened, T-shaped, 4 inch branch is now plump, multi-stalked and spreading. If this South African native reaches full height, perhaps I’ll try my hand at Bonsai sculpting.🙄 or maybe I’ll just make zillions of cuttings!

Aloe Juvenna is another African plant that’s doubled in size and spread via offsets since mid summer:

Aloe Juvenna with offsets

This profusely “pupping” aloe is used as groundcover in Kenya

I was really impressed with A. juvenna’s bright green leaves, and the lighter green spots that appear both inside and out.  Lowes sold these two-per-6″pot, which i split immediately and planted at seperate ends of the Ranchero. The one in the picture receives better sun exposure and has produced 7 pups.  When mature, it should send up a tall spike bearing bright coral-to-red flowers.

Aloe Ciliaris was one of the first plants I purchased when starting my gardens in 2010. Like the Cannas, they’ve done TOO well!😉. I’ve been digging them up and giving them away, like so:

Aloe Ciliaris. Sept 2012

Can I come live at your house?:)

I didn’t realize I’d bought the fastest climbing aloe in the world….or that it might reach a height of 32ft. (though I doubt it will get that tall here!) The mistakes you make when you’re new, yeah?

Aloe Ciliaris, Sept 2012

Little white teeth are arranged like eyelashes (cilia) on leaf bases sheathing the stems.

In its South African habitat, the serrated leaf edges and slender, pliable stalks help anchor A. Ciliaris on its climb toward the forest canopy and sunshine.  Don’t have a rainforest in your yard? ;)  No problem….propping against trellises (or a fenceline) works just fine!

I have one more succulent to share today: Brasiliopuntia Brasiliensis, the strangest “volunteer” plant in my garden, thus far:

Brazilian Prickly Pear

This cactus has a most unusual growth pattern!

Brasiliopuntias begin life as thin cylindrical “stems” resembling pencil cacti. I discovered this plant’s original “cylinder” in Dec. 2009, growing from leaf matter within the boot of a felled palm tree in our new backyard.  With zero knowledge of tropical plants, I carefully removed it and saw tiny roots…yaaaaayyyyyy!  I potted it up and was very excited by my first Florida whatever-it-was! :)

By spring, the stem appeared to be flattening out, and a few delicate, thin, bright green pads emerged.  It was beginning to look like a cactus!

Brasiliopuntia brasiliensis stem with pads, Sept 2012

Current Cylindrical Stem and Pad Growth, Sept, 2012

In the middle of summer, little yellow dots cover the oldest pads: some fall away but others morph into little leaves that drop just shy of flowering….maybe this will change as the plant matures.

The spines are sharp, and appear almost overnight, typically on stems, but randomly along the pad edges, too. As seen in the next picture, the original stem gains mass as pads are added and the plant’s overall height increases:

Stems flatten and turn woody as Brasilopuntia matures.

The obovate segment on the bottom is this plant’s original stem.

While waiting for the bottom stem to grow strong and woody, it’s a good idea to stake this most unusual conversation piece!

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. 😛 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. 😥  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😉

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……..

Ready for Liftoff

Weekly Photo Challenge: Ready

As gardeners, we spend considerable time planning the best use of our available land.. Where should I place the vegetables? What spot is best for sun exposure?  Is that the best sight line for a small tree?  As you tick off the answers, patterns of land use emerge. Soon you have your garden’s perimeter and ask, “should I edge it with pavers or river rock? Does it matter either way?”

Yes, it does, and this little creature is why:

Ready for Liftoff

Ready for Liftoff!!

Who knew dragonflies are attracted to light colored river rocks?   I had no idea!

In its previous incarnation, the Ranchero was a Koi pond surrounded by river rocks.   When I moved to small house, I threw out the plastic pond insert and enlarged the area by half, meaning I was short on river rocks to edge my new garden space.  Rather than buy additional ones (waaayyyyy expensive) I intended to use cement curbing I’d gotten for free but, you guessed it….not enough of that either…

….so I finished the project with a few feet of river rocks and set about “hiding” the evidence with Kalanchoe diagremontiana like you see in the picture.

Who knew dragonflies are attracted to “mother of thousands” kalanchoe?  Again, I had no idea!

Unexpectedly the stars had aligned, bringing  life to my yard and adding quite nicely to my land use plan!  :)

Until next time….

How the Ranchero got its name

Tucked among the mexican donkey ears, i found the most wonderful late season garden surprise—some very unexpected pale pink dahlias, that I definitely hadn’t planted.  “Volunteers” happen often in my backyard cutting garden, but rarely in my main cactus garden, The Ranchero.

This might be a good time to tell you how The Ranchero was conceived, and subsequently named.

We moved to “small house” in December 2009; to the side of the screened porch was a thoroughly overgrown, empty koi pond with tons of weeds and a two paddled Opuntia. (I wish i’d taken “before” pictures, but alas…)  What an eyesore!  Nevertheless the basic outline had potential and the sun exposure was perfect for a succulent/cactus bed.  After two weeks of cleanup, the first specimens were planted

Fast forward to just before Mother’s Day, 2010. My daughter Maggie, who also lives at small house, had a friend visiting from up north.  Upon seeing our now very full cactus patch, she remarked,  “its soooooo ranchero!!!”   Three days later, they gave me this handpainted staked sign.

The original Vero Ranchero sign

and that is the story of how the Ranchero got its name…maybe you had to be there:):)

The sign has since washed away in a flood,  but Maggie and I and the name remain….

Until the next time…..