Conch and other unique shells

Share Your World: Week 42 (plus need some help with a plant i.d.)

It’s been months since I’ve written a Share Your World post…my apologies to Cee, who created this fun challenge!!  After reading the questions last Sunday, I promised to give them a whirl. Here goes 🙂 :

It’s a very hot and muggy day. You desperately want something very cool and refreshing to quench your thirst and revitalize your body. What would you drink?

Definitely seltzer water!  If it’s a week I’m flush with cash I buy White Rock or Perrier. This is not a week I’m flush with cash, (and Publix was selling BOGO 12packs last week,) so it’s La Croix all-day-every-day for the foreseeable future: 😉  Nothing hits the spot better than the sizzle dizzle of an ice cold La Croix; crystal clear, unflavored is my seltzer of choice regardless of brand.  As you can see, I took a can outside today while potting up a false globe amaranth ordered from (more about that website, later.)

La Croix Seltzer is the BEST sizzle DIZZLE water ever!

Next question: 🙂

What do you keep in the trunk of your car?

At this time, I have neither a license nor vehicle, but I’ll share what I keep in the trunk of Maggie’s car.  None of these items needs explanation, beyond saying they’re VERY important to my mental health, as is the setting 😎

Don't leave home with them! :)

pssssst…..wanna know a secret?…the cooler is packed with Sizzle Dizzle!

Question 3

What is your favorite TV show that is currently on TV?

Without question, Good Cop!  The most amazing, well acted, best written drama to air on BBC in ages (trust me I know my Brit TV better than most Brits…for real!)  I’ve figured out a million different ways to access their past and present shows (for free via my laptop,) so why do I still pay for Cable!??!!  Oh right ➡ Tremé and Homeland are why I keep  ATT U-Verse, but both pale in comparison to my beloved lineup on the BBC!  Watch the Good Cop trailer to see what I mean:

On to the final question:

Is it more important to love or be loved?

If you define love as popularity or ego-stroking accolades, you might say it’s more important to be loved. I’m of the opinion, you can’t truly be loved without loving others. I’m not sure I even answered the question! Maybe I should go into politics?  🙂

Now to the plant identification portion of the post…

Last week I ordered 5 conservatory plants (their choice) from winter bloomer collection.  I was thrilled with the selection, vitality and size of everything sent. This one, labeled Coleus Thyrsoideus, was a plant I’d never seen before:

Coleus (Plectranthus) Thyrsoideus?

Being unfamiliar with this specimen, I immediately did some research: the flower and foliage above look nothing like any pictures or artist’s renderings I found online so I re-read the catalog description at Glasshouseworks:

“Flowering Coleus” This is a clone we received from Longwood Gardens some 15

years ago. We have been told that the flower is not at large as it should be to
be the true form; we are researching this now. Order with this in mind. The
picture is of our clone. We have included pictures from one of our customers
here also. If you can give us any further information, please do. Attractive
much-branched compact shrub covered with spikes of indigo-blue flowers
mid-winter. Easy hobby greenhouse plant as popular with growers today as with
Victorian gardeners for the impressive display of mid winter blossoms. Sometimes
this is classified as a Plectranthus…

So evidently they’re aware of a discrepancy. 🙂

I love a good garden mystery!  Do any of you have the same plant I do?  Here is a close-up of the flower and leaves:Close up of flower and foliage of mystery plant

Let me know if you recognize it or know the common or botanical names!

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!

🙂 🙂

Weekly Photo Challenge: Merge

Florida is home to an abundance of tropical Epiphytes (non-parasitic “air-plants”) that live and grow on larger “host” trees.  You’ve already seen my garden’s tillandsias, bromeliads, orchids and ferns–but I’ve neglected to share our lone hemiepiphyte:arrow:an Epipremnum aureum that’s beginning to merge with its Queen Palm host:

Golden Pothos

Epipremnum aureum aka Golden Pothos  🙂

I started this plant two winters ago from stem tip cuttings received at a yard sale. Because Palms have rope-like roots extending through the ground at shallow depths, I couldn’t dig deep holes for my new cuttings; instead, I propped them along the base of the trunk, anchored them with  3″ of  moistened Miracle Gro Cactus/Palm Potting Soil, and pressed the concoction HARD! against the tree-trunk 😛

Let the merge begin!

Golden Pothos with Adventitious and Aerial Roots

Is this what they mean by stuck in rut?

The picture above illustrates Pothos different types of roots. On the right-hand side of the dark green stem are 4 adventitious roots through which the plant obtains nutrition and water.  Cylindrical aerial roots grow from nodes on the main stem and merge with the host tree, allowing the plant to trail or climb. If an aerial root reaches the ground during rainy season, it will oftentimes root, form another stem and repeat the life cycle! 🙂

Golden Pothos Stem between Aerial Roots

From root to stem and back again!

If allowed to climb, Epipremnum Aureum changes shape as it gains height. Upper leaves are more feathered than their heart-shaped, lower counterparts; they also measure wider and longer than ones near the ground.

Uppermost Leaves, Golden Pothos

These leaves are 7″L x 6″W : twice as big as those on the bottom.

Golden Pothos is part of the Aroid family, a group of plants well suited to indoor/container gardens…. but……buyer beware! 😮  Big box stores and corporate nurseries commonly mislabel Epipremnums as  “Philodendrons” which DO look rather similar.  Learn how to spot the difference by reading this excellent article:

I hope you enjoyed this “Weedly” Challenge! 🙂

Until next time…..

Related articles

Garden Exotica

Pantala Flavescens is the most widely distributed dragonfly on the planet; they live and breed everywhere except Europe where winds out of Africa create a barrier to their travels. Commonly known as Globe Skimmers or Wandering Gliders, they fly almost continuously, only stopping briefly to lay eggs or grab a quick meal….except for this one who slept away the ENTIRE afternoon in the Penthouse Suite at the Canna Hotel:

Pantala flavescens

The Himalayas will still be there…….after my nap! 😉

I let the little bugger be, but kept an eye on him while I went about my business. I wasn’t particularly quiet, either: the door banged shut a few times from the wind and I was repotting  peace lilies, dropping tools etc…not a hint of movement from 1:45pm when I took the picture until just after 430pm when I watched him lift off and zigzag away!

Bye-Bye!!!  Have a nice flight!  🙂

After dinner, I got another unexpected surprise:

Brassia Maculata

First open Brassia of the season, Aug 17, 2012

There are four other blooms on this spike that should open over the next week or so. 🙂  It’s easy to see why these are called Spider Orchids, yeah?

The Bird of Paradise flower (mentioned a few days ago) opened last night. I’ve uploaded it as Flower of the Month for August, so check out the sidebar on the homepage.  And if you STILL haven’t seen enough, click on the recently finished May photo gallery for a retrospective on some of my prettiest tropical plants!

Have a great weekend!

Until next time:


Green Thumbs and 55 Gallon Drums: Mid-July Update

This past weekend, our Master Gardener group participated in the Green Thumb Clinic at the Indian River Mall.  Coordinated by Brenda Davis, we dispensed  brochures, fact sheets and knowledge re: native plants, xeriscaping and integrated pest management.

Indian River Master Gardeners at Green Thumb Clinic, July 14, 2012

I’m the empty chair next to Brenda! 😉

Sponsored by KIRB, (acronym = Keep Indian River Beautiful) the event highlighted the importance of water conservation.  One of the biggest draws of the afternoon was the agency’s demonstration (and sale) of rain barrels:

Rain barrels at the KIRB booth

Painted Rain Barrel

An artist was available to help with the painting!

I really enjoyed this day of community outreach geared specifically to year round residents!  Vero Beach is such a seasonal/resort locale, with most events scheduled from Fall to early Spring when the population increases. Kudos to KIRB for bucking this trend. 🙂

When I got back from the mall, I spent a significant amount of time in “gardening housekeeping”: weeding, repotting, moving a few plants from “wrong” spots to (hopefully) right ones! 😉  Oddly, I enjoy busy work in any setting because it allows my mind to wander, and wandering is what makes my mind happiest!

While puttering, I realized how different mid-July feels here compared to New England, and not just in terms of temperature/humidity!  Come mid summer there, a horrible trepidation would grab me…the days grew perceptibly shorter, the nights cooled quicker, fall back-to school clothes appeared when we still wanted shorts! Even Dick Albert‘s forecast for Dog Days of August was mockery ➡ “You like this hot weather? HA!  40degrees comin’ at you fast!!”  Then, a few months later, the ULTIMATE taunt: 3-4 days of Indian Summer with temps so nice and  trees so beautiful it could move you to weep…but really the tears were for an impending heating season colliding with the Christmas spending season and THIS most horrible of realizations ➡  It doesn’t get better til… next…. MAY????


So glad that cycle’s behind me! 🙂

Mid-July feels SO different here–there’s much to anticipate that’s pleasant, like orchids going into spike:

Brassia Maculata spike July 16, 2012

A spike in July means this Brassia Maculata will flower by early autumn.

And see the yellow Wedelia Trilobata behind the orchid? Known as Creeping Oxeye, this low perennial ground cover also makes pretty hanging basket arrangements:

Creeping Oxeye

By Halloween, these Wedelia Trilobata will be densely trailing from baskets on my porch!

My perimeter garden has evolved into a vine wall, half by design, half by nature, but everything there has one trait in common:

Vine Garden along the Perimeter

Everything blooms from fall through winter, and some go year round. 🙂

I love this next fact! Even when you start seeds behind schedule, they STILL have time here to germinate and bloom:

Snapdragon, seeded late, but blooming!

This snapdragon, started late, blooms despite the heat. When temps cool, it will rejuvenate and flower again!

In closing, there are only 3 things I miss about New England—my boys and tulips!  (oh, all right, 🙄 one more: occasionally I’m nostalgic for lilacs, too!)

Until next time….

🙂 🙂

Related articles

Weekly Photo Challenge: Movement

I love how these weekly challenges are falling into my lap lately!

Just after sunset on June 28, I heard a few rolls of thunder and noticed the wind picking up.  Because I’m famous for dropping watering cans all over the place, I went outside to secure my stray missiles!  What happened next is something I HATE: I heard a buzzing sound and got bopped on the head!!!!!


Fortunately, the movement I’d felt was merely the beating wings of a moth… I’d never seen before, so I ran for the camera:

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth on Zinnia Elegans, Ranchero

Clearwing Hummingbird Moths (aka Hemaris Thysbe) are 1.5 to 2″ long, greenish and burgundy in color, with pale-colored legs. This is very defintely a moth of North America, with a range that extends from Alaska/Southern Canada across to the Maritimes, downward to Florida and everywhere in between!  It can easily be mistaken for a hummingbird, especially in sideview:

Clearwing Hummingbird Moth

Drinking nectar via proboscis

Note the movement of it’s wings!  The moth hovered briefly, sipping for only a few seconds before flitting off!

I was so thrilled to photograph this unexpected visitor….and since I hate posts with loose ends almost as much as bops to the head 😉 I’ll leave you with an FYI ➡ it never did rain that night! 🙂

Until next time….

🙂 🙂

Red White and Blue: Patriotic in the Garden!

To honor our 4th of July national holiday, I thought I’d show you my red, white and blue blooming plants! But first, a tropical salute from a Bromeliad that incorporates all three colors:

Neoregelia Spectabilis with tiny flower blooms

Neoregelia Spectabilis  proudly wears the red, white and blue!

Next is Salvia Nemorosa, a volunteer in my rear cutting garden. If you see the birdie who “dropped” it off, please thank her for me! 🙂

Salvia Nemorosa

These pretty blue flowers have such a lovely scent!

On the garage side of the house, a plumbago hedge is fully decked out:

Plumbago hedge

Trusses of pale blue flowers wave like flags on a breezy day! Pretty!

Right behind the fence, a recently pruned Aloysia Virgata, still sports a few white blooms:

Almond Bush with spiky white flower clusters

Doesn’t it look like a firecracker?!

I know you’ll never guess this next plant ❗ Well, maybe someone will…….

Who am I?

One more chance?  Perhaps a zoom-out to the whole plant will help?

Dog Fennel

Did anyone guess Dog Fennel?

Call me crazy 🙄 but this particular dog fennel grew so big (and was so covered with tiny flowers!) I HAD to keep it around…at least until the tiny buds morph into fluff!  When that happens?  Sayonara city!

–Tip for removing plants with dandelion-type “fluff” ➡ Cover the “offender” with an appropriately sized trash bag; clench the bag tightly around the base, then yank until the roots break free.  Using a bag helps eliminate reseeding…..and sneezing! 🙂

That’s it for  blue and white, so now we’re at the Ranchero for a little red:

Canna with bent stem

If you’re thinking that Canna is too close to the ground, you’re right!  By this time of summer,  the more mature cannas have sent up several blooming stalks. Each stalk adds a foot or more to the stem, making it prone to “wind bend.”  As soon as the flowers fall off, I’ll cut this one back to its uppermost foliage–no sneeze bag required! 😉

And now, I’m off to an evening holiday barbecue and backyard fireworks!

Until next time…..

Happy Independence Day from Small House!

Happy Independence Day 2012 from Small House!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Create

Since last weekend, we’ve been stuck under the outer bands of Tropical Storm Debby.  This excessive precip worked wonders on seeds I’ve been growing in pots, and softened the ground SO MUCH: ➡ ideal conditions to create a new flower bed, and move some other plants around!

New Canna Bed (foreground)

Rear Flower Beds (New Canna area in foreground)

Canna Bed, Close-up

Three years ago, I received 4 canna lilies as a housewarming gift. They naturalize SO fast I can’t keep up with them: even after giving away 30 (yes 30!!!) I still have as many growing in various spots around my front and back yards!  Although only one has visible leaves now (behind the white paver in the above photo,) I dug up and divided 7 rhizomes to begin this new bed. In a few weeks I’ll post an updated pic to illustrate their growth rate!

Admittedly, these beds don’t look like much…the cement pavers don’t even match, 🙄 🙂  but by summer’s end they’ll be all but invisible. The ground here is sandy and pavers tend to sink as the plants behind them rise!  Why spend money on things no one sees!?  When I create, I like using whatever I have around (or can get for free!)

Something else to show you 🙂

Remember the day I planted bald cyprus trees? I was all excited by a wild morning glory vine I’d found, and took a cutting?   Here it is, transplanted in the other bed along the back fence:

Ipomaea Cairica

Ipomaea Cairica aka Mile a Minute Vine 😉

The tiny cutting I planted really DID grow fast! It’s just about ready to climb the trellis I created by unhinging a “screen” we got (for free!) when a local clothing shop closed last summer.  Here’s a better look:

A repurposed retail screen becomes a trellis

If the “trellis” looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen my passiflora scrambling over it’s disassembled other half!  What once held scarves and purses, now holds flora…gives real meaning to “going green” now, doesn’t it!? 😉  If anyone is curious about the other flowers pictured… from foreground to rear, they are:  Amaryllis , Snapdragon, Kniphofia Tritoma, Mexican Petunia, Snapdragon, Amaryllis. With the exception of the Amaryllis, all were started from seed in containers and transplanted to the garden over these last rainy days.

So there you have my “creations“….to see how others interpreted the challenge, click on the Zemanta provided links below.

Until next time…..


Blackberry Lilies, aka Belamcanda Chinensis aka Iris Domestica

In February I purchased a container of blackberry lilies at Gardenfest.  Removing them from the pot, I counted 3 huge rhizomes; each had at least 2 “eyes”  (one had 4) with strappy foliage already growing from most of them. Knowing they’d soon strangle if repotted in the container, I quickly planted them in my lily garden, hoping I’d see a few flowers by mid-summer……

Iris Domestica

I may see more than a few!! 😉

I was so surprised last week when stems shot up in every direction with buds forming, one after the other.  As you can see in a photo taken a few hours ago, each main stalk has multiple shoots with A LOT of flowers forming on each!

Iris Domestica, June 23, 2012

Each flower is open for a full day, from dawn to dusk.  As the sun gets lower in the sky, they begin slowly rolling closed in a way that’s reminiscent of a wrung dishrag! Take a look!

Iris Domestica with spent blooms

By late summer, these tiny “dishrags” will be replaced by large greenish pods that split apart in the same way an amaryllis pod does, revealing seeds that look enough like blackberries to give the plant its common name.

As you may have deduced from the title, the moniker is not only inaccurate, but changed ➡ In 2005,  DNA analysis revealed it chromosomally to be fully “iris” not belamcanda as once thought.  Although this taxonomic revision resulted in the new official title of Iris domestica, nearly all commercial nurseries still reference it as Belamcanda chinensis—good to bear in mind should you decide to buy one!

Iris Domestica aka Beautiful!!!

Iris Domestica aka Beautiful!!!

🙂 Until next time…..

Germinating Amaryllis Seeds in Water

Because Vero Beach is located in zone 10 (9 if you disagree with the latest USDA Plant Hardiness Map ;)) amaryllis are planted here as outdoor perennials with a March through May bloom cycle.

Last Amaryllis of the Season, 5/14/12

Last Amaryllis of the Season, 5/14/12

Amaryllis in the Ranchero

First Amaryllis to Bloom, Ranchero, 3/21/12

Right around the time the final, pretty pink one opened, the seed pod from the original bloomer (directly above) was on the verge of breaking apart:

Amaryllis Seed Pod, 5/10/12

In the past, I’ve grown amaryllis ONLY from fall-planted bulbs, but living in a year round gardening climate has piqued my interest in starting everything from seed. :).  As you can see, this particular pod was PACKED with myriad flowers-to-be!

Amaryllis seed pod and seeds

Each Amaryllis seedpod holds dozens of papery seeds!

Zeroing in on the bottom-most seed to the right, you’ll notice a small circular bump. That bump is the seed’s embryo, but be advised ➡ not every seed has one!  To separate viable seeds from chaff, hold each little disc between your thumb and index finger; if you can’t feel a tiny bump of embryo, the seed is chaff to be discarded.

There are three basic methods for germinating the remaining viable seeds: potting medium, paper towel/baggie method, and the one that is less messy! 🙄 Guess which one I’m showing you? (The first two don’t count!!! 🙂 )

Select a clear glass container with a wide opening and fill it 2/3 of the way to the top with warm water. Float each amaryllis seed on the water’s surface, like so:

Amaryllis seed germination via water flotation

Finding a Flamingo to guard the seeds is a huge help! 😉

For purposes of this little experiment, I chose to work with only 6 seeds which I floated (and photographed) on 5/22/12.  I placed the glass on a pass-through shelf between my kitchen and dining area because it receives bright, indirect light from sun-up to noon.

After 6 days, 3 seeds began showing white roots that continued to grow at individual rates. On the 9th day, another seed sprouted a bit of root that has grown very slowly. As of today, two are still dormant, so I removed the 4 germinating seeds to show you their progress thus far:

Amaryllis seeds germinated by flotation method

Amaryllis seeds germinated by flotation method, 6/8/12

Technically two of these seeds are “ready” for potting because the white roots are longer than a .05″, but I’ve chosen to wait awhile longer.  The hint of green you see is evidence of the first set of leaves.  When these are fully visible, (and the roots a bit stronger)  I’ll share the careful process of repotting and what to expect as they grow into bulblets!

Right now, all 6 are back in the water glass, but the flamingo has the night off so there was little sense in taking a picture! 😉  I’m hoping the last two seeds will sprout! It can take up to a month, so there’s still a way to go.

Until next time……

🙂 🙂