Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Roses are the universal flower

What gardener doesn’t like roses? I love roses, but as I have stated in this blog before, I have terrible luck growing them. Any rose bush that I buy ends up dead within months of arriving in my garden.
I suppose one of the reasons this happens is that I have a problem with spraying chemicals on any plant and spraying is part of the process that keeps roses healthy.
These pictures are from my one and only thriving rose bush; it has been with me for three years. It came as a cutting from my Dad’s garden and, thankfully, this one I have not managed to kill.
The great things about this rose are that it is not susceptible to disease, has no thorns, and it flowers year-round. This month's blooms are the most it has ever had in the three years it has been in my garden.
What I most love about this rose is that it changes color it during the life of the flower, a wonderful sight to see. The different colors on one bush--dark pink, yellow, and a combination of both, make for a gorgeous corner of my garden!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The war on the Oxalis weed continues

I spent the weekend pulling this obnoxious weed from my back garden. This is like guerilla warfare; I move from one bed to another and then I find that the beds I cleaned up two weeks ago have new weeds growing!
I am holding firm on not using chemicals as long as my knees and back hold out. I am hoping that at some point I can pull out all the tubers and the war will be won.
After removing all the weeds, I pulled out all my Rain Lily bulbs and re-planted them.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Field trip to Everglades National Park

This past weekend my daughter and I visited the Everglades National Park. This Florida treasure is located in our back yard, only 30 miles away from my home. Every year around this time I like to go into the wilds of the Everglades to witness nature at its best.
The Everglades or "The River of Grass" (as it was named by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, one of this country's first environmentalist) is a marvelous place to visit and only a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Miami. Driving into the park is like moving into another dimension. A great majority of the wild life and plants are unique to this park, very different from those found in other U.S. national parks.
The Park was created in 1947 and almost since its inception has been in danger from the errors and carelessness of man. The rapid population growth in South Florida has made we humans competitors of the Everglades ecosystem. Natural water flows into the park have been altered by the construction of canal systems to control flooding in cities. Agriculture in the central part of the state (especially the sugar industry) has greatly polluted the park and now we have politicians promoting the idea of oil and gas exploration near the boundaries of the park.
It does not take a degree in environmental science to see how fragile this place is and how important it is for all of us to care for this national treasure. Soon a bill will come before congress for Everglades restoration, an attempt at undoing the damage perpetrated by humans. The cost will be high but, can we afford to do nothing? So I ask you to help spread the word and ask your Congresscritter to support this bill--the Everglades needs all our help.
One of the main attractions in the park is the quantity of wild birds that live or migrate through. This year because of the drought we are experiencing, the water levels are low in most of the park and birds have moved to areas where water is more plentiful. Unfortunately, these areas are not very close to the viewing trails. The pictures below show a close-up of the Anhinga bird, the great white and blue heron, and a baby owl in a nest.

In the Everglades, the American Alligator is king--they are the main attraction and they know it. Everywhere you go there they are and it is amazing to see this fascinating wild animal resting on the banks of the trails watching the tourists go by. One snap of that powerful jaw and a tourist is history, but like good actors they know the role they must play.

The park has a diverse vegetation, from the miles of grass growing on shallow water (that is the reason for the nickname "The River of Grass" given by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas; it is also the title of her famous book describing in detail the magic of the Everglades), to hammocks or islands in the middle of this river of grass that resemble miniture rain forests with beautiful trees, air-plants, and flowers. Truly, this place is amazing and I hope all of you get to visit it someday!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February Bloom Day At the DragonFly Garden

February is a good month for gardens in South Florida. My multi-color bougainvillea is putting on a show. Two weeks ago it looked dead; not a leaf or flower on her and then--boom! Flowers galore!

My Dill plant (or weed) is showing the most beautiful clusters of mini-yellow flowers and the bees love them. My kind of plant--edible and also looks great in the garden.

I have a red geranium in a pot that is flowering for the second time this winter.

These miniature Petunias are called Lemon Zest. I bought the plant at my local nursery last week. I find the white and lemon color combination magnificent.

I have two surviving rose bushes. This one is the perfect rose bush--no problem with disease, blooms year-round and the roses change color after a couple of days from this white-yellow combo to a lovely soft pink.

The multi-color Lantanas are doing great this time of the year. Being drought-resistant plants, they actually like our drought conditions.

The white Angel’s Trumpet bloomed this week.

Finally, the yellow marigolds and cosmos are blooming in my wild corner (affectionately known as my "Surprise-Surprise" corner). I have thrown so many seeds in that area that I never know what will grow and am always pleasantly surprised. Nature is truly a miracle!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The new war-front in my garden “The clover leaf weed”

It seems to me that we gardeners are always at war with something in our gardens. Last summer was the invasion of the snails, this winter is the dreaded “clover leaf weed” (I am not sure if that is its real name but that is what everyone calls it around here).
This weed has taken over my garden in a couple of weeks. It is all over my back yard, in all the flower beds, in the walking paths, and in the grass. Fighting this sneaky enemy is not easy. Pulling it by hand doesn’t work since the bulbs grow deep in the ground. Using pesticides is out of the question since I don't agree with adding chemicals to the environment. The only effective tool is my hand fork. The job is tedious and long but effective. Today I spent a couple of hours on my knees and was able to do only my herb and tomato garden.

After a couple of hours of work this is what it looks like now

Saturday, February 09, 2008

A very disappointing year for tomatoes

This is my fourth year planting tomatoes in my winter garden. The first two years were a success. The last two years have been a disappointment, especially this year.
I have room for 6 to 7 plants and I always buy the cherry, grape and fat boy types. This year I added compost, peat moss, fertilized before planting and I turned the soil over. I did everything the experts tell you to do. I made sure the plants were watered plentifully during our drought conditions.
What was my reward? Only a few grape tomatoes, not worth the effort.
I have come to the conclusion that gardening is like everything else in life-- sometimes you succeed and sometimes you don’t. From now on I think I’ll stick to what works in the garden, and get my tomatoes at my super market or the local U-pick farms.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Starburst or “Shooting Star” - February flower of the month

This is my second month designating a flower of the month in my garden. This month is no contest - the “Shooting Star” or Starburst tree is in full bloom! The plant is known by both names but I prefer Shooting Star. Technically a shrub (but mine is more like a small tree), the flowers are spectacular and last about a month. The leaves are also beautiful--olive green on top and purple on the bottom. This tree is low-maintenance but needs to be cut back once a year after the flowers are done. The only negative with this tree is suckers everywhere; my next-door neighbor has a tree in his yard that came from one of my suckers!

Last week I found this piece of an iron fence in my neighbor’s trash and I took it home (I have become my father--picking up other people’s throw-aways!) When I saw it, I immediately knew the place where it would work in my garden.
I wanted to have a break on this long side of the yard. I like the idea of defined mini-gardens within the yard. I planted a vine from my dad’s garden (I don’t know the name) and some Hollyhocks.

This is my early Valentine’s present from my wife. A great set for the gardener that is always losing his tools. Now if I can only remember to bring them back to the box after I use them. Very cool gift and the tools are great quality. Thanks, Hon!!!.