Gardenfest, 2013

Gardenfest 2013 was THE place to be last weekend!  More than 20,000 people enjoyed a marketplace of native plants, orchids, herbs and palms….not to mention pottery, fountains, furniture, and statuary.  Every possible outdoor accessory was on display under the oaks at Riverside Park, and as you can see, the place was packed!!


All festival vendors/craftspeople are chosen months in advance: the Garden Club of Indian River Country conducts a juried invitation process assuring only the cream of the crop gets through. 🙂  The oleanders and ornamentals below hailed from Tradewinds Signature Botanicals, a shop in Ft. Myers on Florida’s other coast.


Vero Beach’s Busy Bee Lawn and Garden Center has the finest plants in town (imo.)  The sun was hitting their booth just right when I snapped this one, eh?


Nothing makes me happier than using terracotta containers in my garden, and these beauties came all the way from High Springs, north central Florida. The Draper Underwood Clay Company doesn’t do fake, plastic look-a-likes! 😉  Look at the fine, hand-turned pots they laid out:


Gardenfest isn’t only about consumerism;  there’s lots of horticultural info disseminated, too. An Ask the Experts area offered guest lectures on topics from Succulent and Orchid care to Beneficial Bats and Sustainable Landscapes.   The Master Gardener booth fielded questions from local residents regarding soil amendments, citrus diseases and everything in between.  My favorite query was from a gent who brought us a 6’5″ leaf (from his garden across town), hoping we might identify it  Answer? Mature Crinum Lily leaf!  Silly me, I didn’t get a picture of it, but I did take one of our booth:


The Tillandsias and Bromeliads in the next picture came from Sarasota‘s Tropiflora Company. This is my 4th Gardenfest  and again their table drew me like a magnet. I loved their set-up under dripping spanish moss…so atmospheric!


People were going bananas for the super-cheap plants at–you guessed it–Going Bananas from Homestead Fl. If you’re at all interested in ordering banana or lychee trees, check out their online catalog/website. 🙂


Walking past Peter’s Crotons Nursery was like a sidetrip to Hawaii with Good Luck and TI Plants everywhere you looked! (Note the left side of the picture and you’ll spot the back of the terracotta booth)


And how spectacular were these bougainvilleas!!??!!!  This display, located across the path from our Master Gardener table, drew many admiring looks!  Wise people approached VERY gingerly…beneath those delicate petals lay some nasty thorns!


This Staghorn Fern could be yours! IF you had a spare 200.00 on hand! I don’t know what made me gasp louder; the price or the size?!  Definitely picture worthy!

20130202_122934This next plant (at the Gardino Nursery booth) stopped me in my tracks.  It appeared positively pre-historic, with rough, spiny leaves measuring over a foot across! The botanical name was listed as Wercklea Ferox, a Costa Rican native that grows 8′ tall.


Although not so rare, I was unfamiliar with this next flowering plant, Leonitis Leonurus, more commonly known as Lion’s Tail.  This South African native provides structural interest and is an excellent selection for waterwise gardening.


Although this post is longer than I anticipated, it only scratches the surface of the incredible offerings at Gardenfest!  I hope you enjoyed it.  In the near future, I’ll show you the purchases I made at this wonderful celebration of nature’s beauty! 🙂

Until next time….

🙂 🙂


A Scratch on the Wall, Part 2

……When last I wrote, we had reconvened by the Minton Science Building courtyard:

Minton Courtyard, IRREC

After a lecture on citrus diseases, we went back outside for our second tour of the day at the Discovery Garden, built and maintained by the master gardeners of neighboring St. Lucie County.  In 2008, they received the state’s Award of Excellence out of more than 70 demonstration garden entries. The St. Lucie Garden is a beautiful visual display of horticultural information, maintained and refreshed by volunteers who mean business:

St. Lucie Discovery Garden signs

Don't mess with our plants! 😉

Behind this sign, we found the master gardener nursery, where 154 varieties of plants are being grown for the Spring Sale, held annually in May:

St. Lucie County Nursery

From there we entered the actual demo area:

Discovery Garden, St. Lucie County

On the other side of the arbor/trellis, passionflower vines were starting to bloom:

Red Passionflower

The garden is circular, with walkways fanning out from the center to its endpoints. No matter where you stand, you have a 360degree view of everything inside the fence:

Garden overview

and outside, too:

Live Oak, St Lucie Extension Office

Along one of the walkways were several groupings of Torch Red Ember Gaillardias, free-flowering plants with large, interestingly formed blooms:

Gaillardia Torch Red Ember

In this part of Florida, Gaillardias bloom throughout the year as do the Peach Allamandas we saw growing next to them:

Peach Allamanda Down another walkway, I was thrilled to see these growing:

Yellow Tropical Canna

“Yellow Tropical” is my absolute favorite Canna because it’s shorter than the typical red cultivars I’ve shown you before. I love the little salmon colored speckles on them, too!   Definitely something I’ll be adding to the Ranchero soon, along with this next bromeliad:

Aechmea Little Harv

I was so glad to see many of these Aechmea Little Harvs being cultivated for the plant sale!  This great tropical epiphyte was first hybridized in 1978 and is hardier than you’d imagine–they do well in shade but unlike many bromeliads whose leaves “burn” in full sun,  these merely blush pretty red like you see in the picture. They’ll also tolerate temps into the 40s and are slightly fragrant!   Lots of positive attributes!

That pretty much ends the tour!  We left with a ton of information, and a lot to study before we’re tested on Tuesday!   Wish me luck!

Until next time……

A Scratch on the Wall, Part 1

Happy Leap Year Day!

How rapid the advancement of time!  Weren’t we celebrating Christmas two minutes ago?!

Realizing how FAST time passes, lends a certain legitimacy to the incessant documenting we bloggers do.  Reliving the day, focusing on what we did/saw/thought, then placing our best and brightest ideas where others may one day find them: this has been humanity’s best defense against time since cave dwellers scratched the first pictures on a wall. Not always terribly earth shattering these tableaus, but frozen in time nevertheless. See this day? This scene?  It mattered to us!  Stop! Look!

Yesterday my master gardener class had a day worth scratching on the wall.  We took a field trip to a most amazing place:

U of FL Indian River Research and Education Center

The UF Indian River Research and Education Center opened in 1947 with only one scientist and a small laboratory. Today it is an internationally known education facility doing cutting edge research on citrus and other plant diseases.  We were there for citrus and palm lectures as well as hands-on learning in the teaching and demonstration gardens. Of the 225 species planted there, approximately 62% are native to Florida, with the remaining 38% being non-invasive yet highly adaptable to native conditions.  Here is the first plant we saw, at the building’s entrance:

Petrea volubilis

This late winter bloomer is a woody vine called Petrea volubilis, aka Queen’s Wreath.  Talk about a royal welcome!    Then we walked through the building to a butterfly garden accessed via a spectacular arborway of Cracker Roses:

Cracker Roses

Here is the sign describing the purpose of the waystation:

Monarch Waystation

We soon learned not only  migrating monarchs stop here!

Zebra Longwing Butterfly

The state butterfly of Florida, the Zebra Longwing, swirled everywhere around us!

The next garden was more open:

Teaching Garden

I particularly liked the way this bed was outlined:

Inverted Glass Jars as Garden Surround

Such a creative touch! Colorful glass jars, inverted side-by-side, made prisms of the afternoon sun.

This area was packed with so many specimens yet didn’t feel crowded:


A beautiful bamboo walking trail led to a euphorbia I’d never seen before:

Copperleaf Firedragon

and to another connecting arbor, soon to be covered with these:

Blue Glory Thunbergia

We passed through to a large open field area,

Arborway, IRRECWalking past a grove of flowering mangos

Mango Grove in Bloom

and a rose cultivation area near the science buildings

Rose Garden then back to the research center for a break near huge spiking bromeliads!

Aechmea blanchetiana -Perhaps I should’ve titled this “Scratching the Surface;”  😉  😉  there’s still another garden to show you.. 🙂

Scratch on the Wall Part 2, coming soon!

Untll next time…..

Nick the Node and Tiny Toad!

As I mentioned already,  Master Gardener classes began yesterday!  After a brief orientation and student introductions, we received a Botany syllabus, along with related handouts: Latin binomials, the international code of nomenclature, common Latin and Greek roots for the nomenclature, botanical families of importance, etc. etc… Sounds alot more complicated than it really is. We also got books and printed materials.

Class materialsMain textbook.

(Does that newspaper say Farmer and Ranchero?  It didn’t…until I added the “O”  😉 😉 )

After lunch we had a lecture on Plant Identification, during which many native plants were passed around and discussed. The branch in the photo (above right) is from a wild coffee plant, which I took home to try propagating. Let me show you my typical process.

Although I’ve tried many specialty mediums over the years, I’ve found mixing equal parts of these three gives me the best success NO MATTER what I’m rooting!

Rooting Mixture

Miracle Gro Garden Soil, Miracle Gro Cactus Soil and American Seed Starter Mix.  I also use a clay pot when rooting cuttings, on the assumption that breathable, porous containers are more nurturing of tiny emerging root hairs.

After filling the clay pot, thoroughly mix the soils together;  give it a really good soak and mix again.

Mixing the soils well!

Set the pot aside to finish residual draining while you work on your cuttings.  The books say to snip just below the node, but I’ve had better luck EVERY time I nick into the node a bit:

Nick the node!

Count up your cuttings. Using a pencil, poke the same number of “holes” in your previously mixed soil.  Sprinkle some rooting hormone into the cap and lightly tap each cutting in the powder, until the end is well covered, like so:

Cuttings with Rooting Hormone

Place the powder-covered ends in their corresponding holes: be careful…you don’t want rooting hormone sloughing off along the inside walls!  When you feel some resistance, use your fingers to push dirt against the stems, working from the bottom up, ’til they stand straight and secure:

Coffee Plant Stem Cuttings

Because the coffee plant is tropical, I’ve shown a plastic bag behind it–use it as a greenhouse “tent” to ensure adequate temperatures/humidity around the cuttings if your zone requires it.

Have you noticed a continuity issue in the last few pictures?  I broke the God-damned clay pot in the middle of this little exercise!!!  Knocked it right off the stacked pavers I  use as a work space and cracked it in a bunch of pieces…dirt and all!!!  Look closely at the last photo—-I repurposed the largest piece as a prop for the plastic bag!!!!  🙂

Moving along…..Remember how I told you about my love of fringe-science and all things Coast to Coast AM?  Today the Coast website has a news story about the discovery of the tiniest frog in the world, Paedophryne amaunensis

The Paedophryne genus consists of a number of  species found in the eastern sections of Papua New Guinea, an area largely unexplored due to the thickness of its rainforests. You can read more about it here or here but I’d surely be remiss if I didn’t share a picture of such a cute little friend:


Why am I on a dime?


Until next time…..

A Thorny Issue!

Today was a day for real yard work…not the roam around, isn’t-it-a-nice-afternoon, snip-here-clip-there primp fest; no, no….I’m talking SERIOUS diggin’!!!  Moving this guy has been long overdue!

madagascar palm

Meet Pachypodium Lamerei, aka the Madagascar Palm I bought two years ago, when it was half this height and not very thick.  I’ve always loved this genus, so positioned it where I could see it from the backporch when we sip our morning coffees.  Over the past year, it grew completely obscured by a Groundsel tree that “volunteered” directly in our sightline!  For months now, I’ve been debating which plant to move and where–a thorny issue if ever there was one!   😉

Today I noticed available real estate (open floor plan!! “full-sun!!”) in the Ranchero:

Ranchero open real estate

So I decided it was “moving day,” and prepared a new hole:

new holeLook at all those orange streaks: when you dig 3″ below the surface, you reach an icky layer of orange, crumbly, Florida sand!  Naturally, the soil needs to be amended before planting takes place, so I added a few inches of cactus soil.

6" hole with 3" amended soil

Next, I dug up Mr. Pachy P, as he’s affectionately known in the blogosphere  😉 , but I can’t show you that part… my helpers have gone home, and I can’t dig and hold a camera at the same time!  This is what it looked like “bareroot” before transplanting:

barerootI positioned it carefully in the prepared hole, propping it against a shovel for support.

Madagascar Palm propped against shovel

Then, using both hands, I spread the roots out (like the spokes of a wheel) to allow for growing space as they settle   Next comes several more inches of cactus soil to secure the roots before watering them in:

watering after transplanting

After the water drains, it’s time to fill in the rest of the hole, tamping the dirt THOROUGHLY with each addition. An air pocket is a root’s worst enemy, so bear down hard!

After one last good soak, the transplant is done!

Madagascar Palm in Ranchero

I like my new home!

Before I close this entry, I have to say this: I’m looking forward to tomorrow!  Its the first day of Master Gardener’s Classes!  I’ve got my notebook and pencils ready to go…now it’s time to lay out my “first day of school” outfit!   😉 (Remember how FUN that was?!) Wish me luck!!

Until next time…..

Yaaaaayyy Me!!! Yaaaaayyy Family!!!

Last winter, while researching Florida Friendly Landscaping, I ran across information on our state’s Master Gardener Program: participants complete a 12 week course sponsored by the University of Florida, after which they are certified to participate in community garden projects.  I was immediately interested……so……I applied.

Today, I was accepted!!!  Yaaaayyyyyy me!!!!!

Class starts on Jan 10, and meets 8 hours every Tuesday for 3 months. I’m very excited to learn more about horticulture…especially soil science and organic pest control. To read more about the history and structure of Master Gardener Certification, click here!

Yesterday,  I told you about Jack and the Rubber plant.  Today, he continued his yardwork, attacking the invasive Brazilian Pepper Trees overtaking the fence.

Jack and Brazilian Pepper Tree

There he is again, behind yesterday’s “hatchet job!”:  Snip Snip!!

Jack cutting through vines

When he was done, it was time for the annual Sibling Christmas Picture:

TC, Maggie, Jack, 2011

Yaaaaayyy Family!!!

Such fine young adults are these three, I am honored to be their mother!

Until next time….