Sunday, December 30, 2007

My first attempt at creating a Bonsai

This week I started reading “The Bonsai Handbook” by David Prescott. The book gives a

historical background of the origin of bonsais and a how to create, collect, and maintain your bonsai.
One thing the writer stresses is not being afraid of having a tree die since it eventually happens to everyone attempting this art (and growing bonsais is an ancient art in the Orient). With this in mind, I decided to work on my first bonsai.
We were given a beautiful ceramic pot as a Christmas present that looks perfect for a bonsai tree. I then purchased a Dwarf Juniper at Home Depot and floral wire from Michaels to guide the branches.

Dwarf Juniper before pruning

Any tree can be turned into a bonsai; this is the best part of this art, that every tree is different and the finished product is all up to person who is doing it. There is no right or wrong way to bonsai and this is what makes this gardening art so interesting.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Field Trip to our rural community of the Redlands

My family and I had a fabulous day today in an area of Miami called the Redlands, known in the past as the "Winter Breadbasket of the U.S." Before NAFTA, this was where most of America's winter vegetables were grown. Today it continues to be a rural area and has transformed itself into the nursery capital of North America.

We started the morning visiting Knauss Berry Farm, a U-pic-em vegetable and fruit farm run by a Mennonite Community. Knauss also has a bakery that sells the best and gooeist cinnamon rolls in the South, as well as wonderful breads and pies.

The second stop was The Bonsai Garden, the place where my daughters purchased my Christmas bonsai tree. This was my first visit to this place and I was amazed at the number bonsais they have for sale. I am thinking of taking classes from their Bonsai experts.

Our third and last stop was The Schnebly Winery (Did you know that Miami had a winery?). We did some wine tasting and purchased some bottles of wines. The wine this winery produces is made from tropical fruits like Mango, Lychee, Guava, Passion Fruit, and Star Fruit. The wines are delicious, more along the lines of dessert wines--a little sweet and not too dry.

The day was very enjoyable with the family; the weather was perfect and we had a great time.
I hope you all have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

PS – I could not take many pictures the camera battery ran out on me

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Was Santa good to you this year?

Santa was very good to me this year! Besides the usual gifts of ties and shirts, I received a bonsai tree from my daughters along with a how-to book. I have talked about learning the art of bonsai for a long time and now I have no excuse. The place where the girls bought the tree is also where I can take the classes. I’ll keep you posted.

This tree is a Fukien Tea.

I also received this plant, the Tacca Integrifolia (White Bat ), which is the plant that I tried to buy last month at the Tropical Garden Festival but was sold out. The wife remembered and got it for me from a local nursery.

This week I am off from work; I have no plans other then to puddle around the garden and watch some college football games. LG!!!!
Happy New Year to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Guest Blogger at the Dragonfly Garden

Hi, everyone!
I’ve been married to Rusty for 27 wonderful years, during which we have built a life together, buying two houses, raising two kids and caring for two dogs. To say our life has been “busy” is an understatement but within the whirlwind of activity and daily coping, we have always had the oasis of each other to come home to.

Rusty’s love of plants and gardening started while we lived in our first small townhouse, which he managed to transform into a lovely garden working around our daughters’ ugly metal swing set. Two years after moving into our current home, our garden was lush and flourishing when Hurricane Andrew annihilated it and he had to start all over again. Now, as you can see by the photos he posts, his talent as a gardener is amazing. Everything he sets to grow eventually obeys his commands; his garden is like a symphony—full of discordant notes while the orchestra tunes but bursting into perfect melody once the piece begins. He battles weeds, snails, pests, oppressive heat, and feral cats and his plants reward him with their tenacious growth and stunning beauty. And our home is all the more lovely for it.

In a perfect world, my husband would work in his garden all day every day. But we need health insurance and must pay bills so he packs himself off everyday to a job that is not fun anymore. When he comes home, his garden is his psychologist, his confessor, and his best friend. It is his trophy and a source of immense pride and satisfaction.

Gardens are wonderful teachers. Whenever Rusty brings home a new plant and it adapts to its new environment and beautifies its surroundings we are once again reminded that living requires acceptance and cooperation and we are all dependant on each other in this confusing, crazy, and interesting journey we call “life.”

Writing this blog has been immensely rewarding for Rusty and a lot of fun. So I'd like to wish all his good friends in the Blogosphere a joyous, peaceful holiday season and a blessed New Year. May all your gardens bloom in 2008!

PS Merry Christmas to all my friends in the Blogosphere. Wishing you a wonderful day with family and friends. I hope Santa brings you plenty of gardening presents!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

December Bloom day at the DragonFly Garden

This morning I was out in the garden early with my camera to capture the blooms of the day, we are expecting a cold front later today that is bringing some needed rain and cooler temperatures (The forecast for tomorrow low sixties and high mid seventies, sorry northern bloogers but that is a cold front for us)
This is the beginning of my favorite time of the year in the garden. The plants and flowers are not stress as they usually are in the heat of summer. As long as we keep the water coming the garden looks great. This is going to be a problem this year with the severe drought we are experiencing.

My Aloe Vera plant flowered for the first time ever.

The Eggplant flower is beautiful but I had a hard time getting this pictures because the flower points down.

My Yesterday Today and Tomorrow (Brunfelsia) tree is beginning to bloom, should be at its peak by Christmas.

King Mantle, one of my favorites in the winter garden.

Pink Dragon Wind Begonia.

The White Plumeria last bloom of the year.

The giant White Bird of Paradise, is magnificent!!!!

This month my Canna Lily flower is different from the picture of my post last month. Is the same plant, but the flower has a touch of red.

This is the first flower from my Devil’s Trumpet plant I purchased last month at the Fairchild Gardens festival.

Impatiens, are always a sure thing for our winter garden

Senior moment??? I totally forgot the name of this flower

The Zinnias are doing well. The snails have not discovered them.

That is it for this month, now I am going to the garden to put in some time before the rain comes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visit Disney World with a gardener’s eye

My family and I visited Disney World this past weekend to celebrate our grandnephew, Alexander’s first birthday. Alex is the first member of the newest generation of kids in our family that will grow up going to WDW regularly.
Visiting Disney World for my family is a yearly habit and, when my girls were little, a twice or three time a year event. We love Mouse Land but also, when you live at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, there aren’t many places close enough to drive just for the weekend other than Disney.
The older I get, the less trips I take to Disney. My last visit was three years ago when my daughter graduated from a college in the Orlando area (Rollins College in Winter Park) and the entire family celebrated at EPCOT. Lately my trips are less about the rides (seen that, done that) and more about the landscaping and the beauty of the grounds, especially at Epcot Center. This park is great for gardeners, especially World Showcase, where you can visit re-created gardens from around the world, all in one day. How cool is that!!!!!

At the Canada pavilion you can visit a replica of Butchart Gardens, not exactly as magnificent as the real one but quite close.

In Britain you can walk in an English garden, complete with beautiful rose bushes, making you feel as if you are in merry old England.

My favorite place in Epcot is The Land pavilion, located in Future World. One of the attractions is “Living With the Land”, a journey through the different topographies of our earth, focusing on mankind relationship to the land. The ride finishes in an experimental green house, where Disney agro-scientist are growing fruits and vegetable, experimenting with eco-sensitive growing mechanisms and maximizing the potential of farming techniques that care for the environment.

If you are considering a vacation with your family, come to Disney World and let the kids go to the Magic Kingdom while the adults head for Epcot. I guarantee you’ll have a great time. You’ll be able to visit most of the world in one day, your dollar is actually worth a dollar, the tax payers of Florida will be very appreciative for you contribution to our economy (I know, I know – a shameless plug!) and you can experience a sunset like this one while eating a taco in Mexico.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Lantanas are perfect for the drought stricken south.

I am adding more Lantana’s in my garden, now that our region is going back to severe water restrictions. Lantanas are the perfect plants for the garden, they do great in full sun, dry conditions, required very little water, and bloom most of the year. They look great as ground cover, and are a favorite of bees and butterflies.

I find that the yellow Lantana do much better than all the other varieties. Currently I have the red kind planted around my black olive tree and a purple one that is not in bloom in the back yard.

These plants are tropical and do very well in zone 8 and up, any other zones I am sure they can be used a summer annuals.

I will be heading this weekend for mouse land in central Florida for some RR and a family event. I' ll take lots of pictures of the gardens in Rat World and blog about it next week.
Have a nice weekend

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Coleus deserve their own garden corner

This weekend I worked on my Coleus, every year I set side a portion of the garden for my collection of Coleuses. In this part of the country Coleuses are year around plants, but I find the heat of the summer is a bit much for these delicate plants.
Every year in the fall I get new plants from my local nursery and replant my surviving plants from last year. This year I got a Black Beauty, Limelight and Compact Red there was not much selection but I will continue to look.
My coleus bed gets shade most of day and the ground is well-drained, perfect growing conditions. Some coleus prefers full sun for best foliage but in Florida a little sun is enough.

I have some coleus in containers, in other areas of the garden for color.

Did you know that Coleuses do well as cut flowers? The trick is to cut it and immediately put it in water. They do well for two to three days.

Monday, November 26, 2007

What is growing in the garden this December?

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Here in the DragonFly we took it easy over the holiday, I spent the time with family, decorating, eating, and relaxing.
The Tricolor Ti is flowering this month, many gardeners believe the flowers are insignificant but I differ.

My Papaya tree is full of Papayas; I can’t wait for the fruits to ripen

This lone rose opened this week, I have two rose bushes but for some unexplained reason I don’t get many flowers, maybe is the soil, may be is the location, or maybe is the gardener.

The Orchid Cactus (Epihyllum) has a couple of fruits; I am told they are eatable.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A gardener making a difference

I would like to share a story I heard on NPR this week, about the Gardeners' Foundation in the bay area of San Francisco.
The foundation awards underprivileged, college-bound kids with financial aid, never questioning the applicant about his/her citizenship status. What is amazing about this foundation is the man who started it all, Catalino Tapia. Mr. Tapia came to this country over forty years ago as an undocumented immigrant and made his living as a gardener, working and beautifying other people’s gardens. Over the years, he was able to become a documented resident of his adopted country.
After putting his son through college, he realized that there was an urgent need in the community to help those kids that wanted to go to college but could not afford it. Mr. Tapia began the Gardeners’ Foundation, appealing to many of his customers for donations to fund scholarships for deserving young people who yearned for a college education. The foundation has grown and prospered and has helped many grateful students realize his or her dreams.
Today, the issue of undocumented immigrants is a front-page story in our country. This is something that is very important to me since my own family migrated to the United States in the 1960’s. My parents made the difficult decision of leaving country and family behind so their son could grow up and raise his own family in this wonderful nation, enjoying the benefits of freedom and democracy. It was not easy moving to a country where they could not speak the native language, where the only jobs they could find were those other people did not want. After many hard, lean years and much struggle, my parents were able to live the American dream of owning their own home, seeing their only son graduate from college, and becoming full American citizens.
Our country has taken in immigrants from all over the world from the very beginning of its history. This, I believe, has contributed to its greatness and I so admire immigrants such as Catalino Tapia and my parents; they make us all proud to be Americans.
I’d like to leave you with one last thought: the issue of undocumented immigrants is a complex one but no matter what side of the issue you are on, I’d like you to consider that God has never created any “illegal” human beings. We can call these hard-working people undocumented, but no fellow human should ever be called “illegal”.
I hope you and your families have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving together.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

NIX the White Picket Fence

After comments from many of my gardening blogging friends about my post last Sunday, I have come to the conclusion that you are correct--a white picket fence is not a good idea for a stucco home like mine. An iron fence might look good but is going to be expensive and the wife is not too crazy about it. Maybe a hedge, we'll see.
This weekend I took a break from heavy gardening. On Saturday morning the weather was excellent so I did some pruning and weeding and cleaned the pond. I don’t know about you, but I love pruning and weeding because I can be out in the garden, close and personal with my plants; no worries, no hassles.

Saturday afternoon I attended the homecoming football game of my college alma matter. Unfortunately and amazingly, it's been two years and no wins! I was hopping this was the game that we would pull out a win but my team did not fail to disappoint us. Guess they're taking after our Miami pro team, the Dolphins, which are so far winless this year as well.

Today, my wife and I attended the “ The Ramble Garden Festival” at Fairchild Tropical Garden. This is an annual event to benefit the Gardens and known as the largest plant sale in South Florida. There is also an antique and collectible show/flea market and lots of other activities in one of the most beautiful setting in all of Florida.
The weather was great and so was the turn out. Fairchild Gardens is considered one of the largest tropical botanical gardens in the world, totally dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical plants. This is a must-see if you ever visit our fair city.

Plants are the main reason I go and I always find something to bring home.

Here I am with my finds this year--a tri-orange color angel’s trumpet and a yellow devil’s trumpet (called "devil" because the flower points upwards)

This is a “White Bat”. Dying to buy one for the house but, unfortunately, I was too late and they sold out early. This one was the display. I got the phone number and address of the nursery and I am planning to go and get one. Striking and unusual flower and gorgeous giant leaves.