Weekly Photo Challenge: Inside

Before last weekend, I’d NEVER been to a county fair, but there are good reasons for this.
1. I’m a city person who never lived–even remotely–near a farm.
2. I’m from Massachusetts where counties were all but abolished twenty years ago.
So when the call went out for Master Gardeners to sell entrance tickets at the Indian River County Agricultural Fair, I quickly agreed.  As the young ‘uns say, I’m always “down with” a new experience.

At the end of my shift, I followed the hordes inside to have a gander….but found this Wyandotte instead: 😉

Silver Laced Wyandotte, 3/15/14  Firemans' Fair, Indian River County

Actually there were hundreds, 2-3 inside each cage, all  part of a  Silent Poultry Auction to benefit IRC’s 4-H Club.

Silver Laced Wyandottes, 3/15/14  Firemans' Fair, Indian River CountyInside a nearby pen, a new lamb (born 3/10) struggled on wobbly leggies toward its mother; baby animals are too sweet! 🙂

Ewe and baby, 3/15/14  Firemans' Fair, Indian River CountyThere were also many pigpens inside the barn. Too bad the sun was at my 12o’clock for this one.  I like how it illustrates this week’s theme!

Inside the stys, 3/15/14  Firemans' Fair, Indian River County

A short walk from the livestock area brought me inside the midway which was exactly like every urban parking-lot carnival I’ve seen since the ’70s. Much more familiar territory, this

Inside the Midway, 3/15/14  Firemans' Fair, Indian River County

If it’s fried food you want, you can get it here ➡ food trucks of every ethnic persuasion offered the BEST selection of decadent desserts from fried twinkies to soft-serve ice cream. Shhhhh! Don’t tell the piggies a few photos back, but I REALLY enjoyed the pulled pork sandwich and ordered a soft serve even though dairy gives me a stomach ache. Inside the midway, caution gets thrown to the winds! 🙂

After all that food, a long stroll through the vending area is required exercise. Inside this booth, I saw some very tacky T-shirts!

Inside a T-shirt booth, 3/15/14  Firemans' Fair, Indian River County

and look…there’s shadow-me and my shadow-friend Ralph inside the shot.

A good time was had by all!

See other entries for this week’s challenge by clicking the Zemanta related links below!

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂

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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????

Ugh!

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….

🙂 🙂

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So this is what May looks like!

Although moderate drought conditions still exist in Indian River County, the Vero Beach area set a few records last month for daily rainfall amounts.  As the old adage goes, April showers bring May flowers; nowhere is this more evident than in the gardens of Small house!

Backyard Overview,  May, 2012

View from the Screened Porch

 Lily Area, May 2012

Of all the plants I’ve grown or bought, lilies are my favorites. When we lived up north, our front yard was covered with any pink variety I could find, like this asiatic/trumpet hybrid:

Lily Scarlet Delight

Lily “Scarlet Delight”

Of three Scarlet Delight bulbs I planted last November, this one matured much quicker than the others; both are still in the foliage stage, and will (hopefully!) show buds by the end of the month. 🙂

Also in November, I planted 3 Blackberry Lily bulbs, whose tall, sword-shaped foliage you see in the lily area picture, next to Scarlet Delight.  Although they don’t look the part, blackberry lilies are members of the Iris family.  With foliage so strong and healthy, I’m expecting great things from these bulbs!  Pictures to follow, of course! 😉

The nicest garden surprise this month arrived two days ago when a Dietes Bicolor bud began to open:

Dietes BicolorDietes Bicolor fully open

Dietes Bicolor,  colloquially known as  “Butterfly Flags”  are also a form of Iris. The classmate who gave me this Apostle Plant  gave me two huge D. Bicolor clumps on Graduation Day. I had no idea how delicate and pretty they’d become! 🙂  Wow!

Another huge shock was a Caladium flower scape appearing overnight among the leaves:Caladium Carolyn Wharton with Flower Scape!

Some growers feel the emergence of caladium flowers impedes the plant’s leaf growth, and suggest snipping them the second you see one forming. 😮 I haven’t found diminished leaf development to be a problem but that may be a function of my tropical zone; your experience may differ! Nevertheless, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a caladium flower in my lifetime—NO WAY would I nip one in the bud (so to speak!)

If you haven’t noticed my recent “Flower of the Month” (Opuntia Humifusa,) here’s another glimpse: a different prickly pear bloom is just about to open:

Prickly Pear and Amaryllis

Remember how terrible my orange tree looked a few months back?  Big changes there, and I’m so happy about it!  Take a look:

Honeybell Orange Tree

Lookin’ good…..

Honeybell Orange 2

….and feelin’ fine!

Jobe's Spikes!

You can easily tell where I pounded each spike! 🙂   And because there’s a section where the drip line of the orange tree intersects  that of the Hong Kong Orchid look what happened there:

Bauhinia Bloom out of season!

“What have you done to me, crazy lady!?!?”

🙂  Creepy!!!  Blooming 6 months out of season, and ONLY in the “spiked” section! Creepy again! 😉

So there you have it…One week into May and it’s a veritable Garden of Eden!  I’m definitely enjoying every minute of it!!  🙂

Until next time….

Share Your World, Week 17

If you’ve been following along, this is my 4th week of participation in the Share Your World Project, and I like it immensely!  It allows me to tell you something about myself without self consciously saying  “hey! look at me!”—I’m not a big fan of being on stage!

This week’s topics:

At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?

Would you believe, just yesterday?!  It’s absolutely true!  Maggie and I have been ruminating about buying a two person kayak. Yesterday we went to the 29th Annual Vero Beach Boat Show and decided this is the one for us:

Tribe 2 person  Kayak

Learning something new is exciting!

As the caption says, I’m thrilled to attempt something new!  We live between the Indian River and the Atlantic and this sleek number can travel both!  Primarily we’ll take it on the river to explore  little islands and look for dolphins and manatees!  Fun for us to do as mother and daughter and wicked good  for when the boys visit. 🙂

What individual item of food would you not eat, even if it was served to you at the Queen/President’s dinner table? (Something ordinary.)

Not sure if this is ordinary, but the first thing that came to mind is caviar!  I’ve been to several functions/cocktail parties where people rave about it, but the sheer thought of swallowing slimy round fish eggs gives me agita! ➡ Italian indigestion, for those unfamiliar with the term!  I grew up in a predominantly Italian area where “don’t give me agita!” was a common refrain!

If you could choose between Wisdom and Luck, which one would you pick?

I already feel I’ve been unbelievably lucky throughout my life…I win contests quite often, and I somehow land on my feet when I absolutely shouldn’t.  So I guess I  chose “Wisdom” so I don’t always have to rely on good luck?  😛 🙂

What was the last time you went to a new place?

Last Tuesday, we had our certification ceremony at The Indian River Garden Club. After the little graduation we were treated to a lovely lunch there, too!  Given my interest in plants and horticulture, it’s funny to think I’d never laid eyes on the place before snapping this shot on the way in:

Garden Club of Indian River CountySo now that you know a bit more about me, why not discover the other 30+ participants?   You can get started by clicking this link!

Until next time…..

From Sour to Sweet?

Indian River County is well known as one of Florida’s top 10 citrus producing areas. From November to June, it’s quite common to see huge open-air citrus haulers roll by with ripe fruit, bound for local packinghouses and processing plants.

I, too, have a citrus tree, a Honeybell that SHOULD produce a tasty, sweet grapefruit/tangerine hybrid, but right now it functions strictly as a “squat” for wayward  guests:

mockingbird nest

The mockingbirds built this nest last year; I saw them fly in earlier today and eyeball the new, Spanish arrival,

Spanish Moss

"The name is Moss...Spanish Moss" 😉

who seems none-too-pleased to be sharing his host with THIS resource drain:

Tillandsia Fasciculata

Hey! I was here first!!

Poor tree…I think I heard it cry for help:

HoneyBell Citrus Tree

"Save me!!!!! Please!!!"

In truth, this Honeybell’s problems preceded my arrival at small house, but as I’ve ignored it over the past two years, the situation worsened.  In addition to the greasy spot fungus, it developed black spot, a disease that appeared for the first time in Florida during 2010. Thankfully, both can be managed by applying copper fungicide and horticultural sprays, but not just yet.  Currently, the tree is setting new blooms that will open continuously over the next few weeks, and research suggests treating fungi 4 weeks after petal-drop.

Right now though, I CAN start fertilizing with 8-8-8 and then repeat the application in May/June.  I’ve also ordered a product called Keyplex, to add some much needed micronutrients to the tree’s diet; as with humans, nutritionally sound trees are more resistant to infection.

I can’t say for certain if all (or even any) of these measures will turn such a sad and sour story into something sweet, but I’m hopeful.  🙂     Last fall, I thought this Home Depot half dead orchid would never make it, and look at it today:

Purple Speckled Phalaenopsis

Until next time……….

Sunday Fun-day!! Gardenfest 2012

Here in Vero Beach, the first weekend in February is devoted to Gardenfest, and what an amazing event it is!  Hosted by the Garden Club of Indian River County, over 75 vendors are chosen by invitation to display native plants, orchids, herbs, succulents, roses, ferns, shrubs, bamboo, palms, fruit trees, you name it!!! .If it grows in Florida, you can buy it at Gardenfest along with accessories like pottery, fountains, furniture and lighting; this truly is nature’s marketplace!

But here’s the part I liked best about this year’s event:

Master Gardener Booth

I got to sit in the booth!

I’m sure I’ve told you ad nauseum about my classes for Master Gardener Certification?  Today was the first day I got to utilize some of the info I’ve learned thus far.  To quote the sage Dr. Spock (not Nimoy…the other one!) “you know more than you think you do!”   I was so surprised at how many questions I  felt confident to answer!  In addition to supplying festival goers with printed horticultural matter, our booth also functioned as a plant clinic: diseased looking copper plant leaf? sooty mold;   unknown leaves/branches from a new homeowner’s yard? Codiaeum Varieata aka Picasso’s Paintbrush.  Granted this isn’t rocket science, and there were some complicated soil issues I wasn’t comfortable answering sans backup, but overall I felt good about my “advice.”

Lest you think the day was all work and no play,I strolled and shopped for quite awhile before (and after) my shift. Here’s a shot of one of the prettiest vendor areas I saw:

Gardenfest Vendor Area

My goal today was to purchase plants I didn’t already have, but I definitely wanted something “lily-like;” so I chose this Blackberry Lily

Belamcanda chinensis

Stop calling me Lily! My name is Iris!

Although it looks and acts like a lily, this plant is really an Iris, and a very beautiful one at that. If you haven’t seen one in bloom before, click here for a treat!  I’ve also been wanting a few new ferns because my shade garden is sorely lacking!   So at the fern vendor I got this beauty of a staghorn;

Staghorn Fern

and to befriend a larger one already on my screened porch, this cute bird’s nest variety:

Bird's nest fern

Overall, Gardenfest 2012 was a great success despite somewhat unco-operative weather.  Even though it rained 50% of the time, it was Sunday fun-day under the oaks in Riverside Park!

Until next time…

“Ringing” in the New Year!

A few days ago, we hard-pruned a rubber tree.  While taking snapshots of the aftermath, I saw something unexpected:

Rubber Plant Tree RingTree rings, like the one above, were visible (and nearly identical) on each of the 7 woody stems we removed at trunk level.  Although dendrochronology is far more complicated than counting one year for each ring observed, note there are two circles in the picture!!!  Interestingly, the last time we seriously attacked this tree was exactly two years ago. What we removed the other day had grown-in during that time, so…you be the judge!!!  😉

We have two other trees growing in the backyard at small house: Let me introduce you:

Solanum DiphyllumBaccharis halimifolia

On the left is Solanum Diphyllum, aka Two Leaved Nightshade; originally from Central America and Mexico, it is considered an invasive species.  Although technically a shrub, it forms an upright woody stem that tops out in a graceful 6 foot  canopy. Ours is positioned in the corner of the Ranchero and throws just enough shade to protect the flowering annuals planted beneath it.  I love the delicate flowers that appear randomly throughout the year, and the yellow berries that follow.  Thankfully, its invasive potential has not yet been a problem.

The tree on the right is a Florida Groundsel Bush, with the scientific name “Baccharis Halimifolia.”    It started growing last summer at the edge of our back patio in a newly prepped and seeded cutting garden.  Currently it stands about 6 feet tall, or half of its mature height.  I expect it will bloom in Fall, 2012 for the first time.

All of this talk about trees brings me to Arbor Day!

As you probably know, Arbor Day is all about starting new trees and helping older ones thrive. Over a million trees were planted on the first national Arbor Day, in April, 1872, with millions more added since!!  Although the national holiday occurs on the last Friday in April, each state has its own special observance day.  In Florida we celebrate it in January–this year on the 20th–when the climate is best for planting. Residents who join the Arbor Day Foundation anytime this month will receive five free crape myrtle trees. In addition many cities and counties are sponsoring tree-related festivals and events  through collaborations with Garden Clubs and Agricultural Extension Offices.

Remember…One generation plants a tree…another gets the shade.

Until next time…..