Southern Flower Time

Down here in Florida, this the time of year when flower beds are getting a punch of color, container gardens are getting spruced up and folks are enjoying time outside.

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The heat of the summer is gone and the humidity is at a manageable level. Evenings are cool and the flowers love it. While our family and friends up north are pulling out their flowers, raking leaves/shoveling snow (poor souls!), we are basking in 70-80 degree weather.46795772_s

Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_famveldman’>famveldman / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

Mums and Pansy’s can be used in the flower mixtures down here now, but remember Mums have a short life span and the Pansy flowers will not enjoy the weather when it works it’s way up to 80.

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Enjoy those traditional flower selections such as Geraniums, Impatiens, Salvia, Marigolds;  all our favorites from up north. But don’t be afraid to mix in a taste of the south. Hibiscus, Bromeliads, Bird of Paradise , Orchids. These are all excellent flowering plants that will add a exotic feel to your plantings. Using them in the proper location and mixtures will help ensure their proper growth.

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Don’t be afraid to experiment with your plant mixtures. After all, having fun in the garden is what it’s all about.

 

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Thankful…

Everyone goes through the threats of dangerous weather, but until you face it yourself, it’s hard to image all that you can go through.

Over the last week, we have prepared, endured and are now cleaning up after Hurricane Mathew. All I can say is God was graceful to us.

Plants can be trimmed, replanted or replaced. Buildings can be repaired. But my friends and family were blessed to escape with minimal damage and no injuries.

So I wanted to express my thankfulness and extend my prayers to those in other parts of the eastern seaboard that were not so lucky.

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Photo Info: Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_mnsanthoshkumar’>mnsanthoshkumar / 123RF Stock Photo

 

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Garden Envy

Every Gardener goes through Garden Envy.

That’s where you want other gardeners are growing. I think this is particularly noticeable between the North and the South. Even within the State of Florida we experience this. Why? Because we have a North and South and Central and the plants that are available in each of these three areas varies greatly.

I live in the northern part of South section of Florida (don’t laugh; we are very regional here!). This means I get to enjoy a little bit of the plantings that would traditionally grow in the center of the state and a bit of tropically plantings from the south.

 

 

When it comes to the South and the Tropics who can beat all the palms that are available. The coconuts swing over the beaches, and tropical orchids hanging from the trees naturally. Exotic Foliage that you can only dream of growing indoors in the North grow wild in the landscape.

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Then there’s the other extreme; Northern Florida.  Up there you even get a change of seasons. The Maple leaves will turn the bright red and drop. Some of the fruit you find in the Northern states will grow here, especially peaches. In the fall, the riot of fall mums is something we can’t get in southern Florida.

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When I think of Central Florida and I think what sticks out in my mind most are the azaleas. They will bloom prolifically, maybe because they don’t get the extreme cold will kill off the flower buds in a frost. One particular place that I love to visit is called Bok Towers. You walk the pathways up to the tower and it’s  a riot of different azaleas. There’s nothing more beautiful to enjoy on a March morning.

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Each of these three areas has specific plants that will grow there and, as a gardener, it’s up to you to know what region/zone you live in and what plants will grow best in your zone. There are many ways to find this information out the easiest of course is on the internet. Yet with some good old-fashioned trial and error you can create a garden to reflect the best of your regional plants. I know some plants that are tropical and will still grow  well in Central Florida. These plant need the right location; meaning a warm secluded area that is protected from the elements. Like every other gardener, you’re going to need to experiment and figure out what works best for your garden. Take into consideration not only the zone you live in, but the elements your garden is exposed to. Are you close to the ocean? You will need to consider the impact of salt. Are you in a high wind area? Then you need to worry about more tender plants that are fragile. Things like this will become second nature as you get more experience in your gardening.

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 Remember. you don’t have to suffer from garden envy! You can simply get in your car and drive to another section of the state and enjoy their Gardens.

About the photos:
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_zocchi2′>zocchi2 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>   Azalea
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_inyrdreams’>inyrdreams / 123RF Stock Photo</a>  Mum
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_paulgrecaud’>paulgrecaud / 123RF Stock Photo</a>  Bird 
Copyright: <a href=’http://www.123rf.com/profile_nadil’>nadil / 123RF Stock Photo</a>   map

 

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Sharing Your Garden

After a day of gardening…

There is something very satisfying about working hard in your garden, and then sitting back to reflect on your hard work. You might be sore, sweaty and tired, but that garden looks good!

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123 RF Stock photo #41765534

And that earns you bragging rights. It seems most of us gardeners love to talk about how well our garden is doing. Or what problems are plaguing us, what obstacles we have tackled and over come.

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123RF stock photo #59004202

It isn’t at all unusual to strike up a conversation with a perfect stranger while browsing the garden center. Advice is freely given about plant selections, and recommendations are shared about the news gardening tool or trend.

There is almost a badge of honor to lean against your shovel, wipe the sweat from your brow, and talk to your neighbor about the newest plan for your garden. We excuse our looks, because we’ve earned every dirty smudge or drip of sweat rolling down the center of our backs.

But there is another way that is enjoyed for sharing your garden. A celebration of sorts. Entertaining that same neighbor or visiting family member in your garden. A small table and chairs, under the umbrella or canopy of overhead trees with a ready pitcher of ice tea and frosty glasses are perfect for spending time together.

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123 RF stock photo #14013556

Now is the time to relax and enjoy your hard work. Listen to the birds, watch the butterflies and breath in the scents on the afternoon breeze.

Now compare your gardening tales in comfort and style as you share your garden.

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One word makes a difference!

The word tropical brings many images to mind.

Swaying palm trees, fruity little drinks with umbrellas in them, romantic evenings on the beach. Fishing, swimming, snorkeling all of those wonderful things go with the word tropical.

palm trees in wind after sunset

But if you add three simple words after the word tropical and you’ll find Southern Gardner goes into just a bit of a panic. Our heart beats a little faster and get out comes our checklist. Because add the words wave, depression, and storm and our work is cut out for us.

There comes an urgency for gardeners as we secure all the pretty little accent that we’ve added to our garden to make it look nice. The wind chimes, flags and spinners that we love to see in the gentle breeze are now a danger.

Bird feeders and plant containers are pushed into protected areas or even laid on their side; flat against something that will protect them. Debris is removed quickly and placed where it cannot blow, the garbage cans are secured. If it becomes more than a tropical storm, hurricane shutters are lowered and other emergency measures are taken.

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Anyone who lives down here along the Coast knows during the months of July through November  you keep your eye on the weather. Late August and September are the peak months for tropical weather.

Heavy pruning is done prior to August to ensure that no loose limbs are left. Larger trees like the Oaks are trimmed, not just to shape, but to allow air to flow through them. This is so when that wind hits its large masses of leaves and branches, it doesn’t uproot the tree, it simply blows through.

A gardener with more delicate flowers, like orchids and bromeliads or some of the more exotic  flowers, will hurry to find places that are secure to put them. I know personally, my garage looks like a greenhouse just before storm hits; tools and plants and garden accessories are now being stored there for the duration of the storm threat. Like many a Gardner, I’ll protect my plants but leave my car sitting in the driveway.

Now is the last week of August and there are four systems out in the Atlantic Ocean, being watched carefully by all. Not every tropical wave will become a depression and not every depression will become a storm. But if you watch them come off the coast of Africa and follow their path your heart races a little faster as it approached the outer Islands. You know at this point they can go in any direction.

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Once the storm clears we’re right back putting all of our things in the garden ready to wait for the next storm warning.

After all, this is our way of life!

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Your night time garden.

There’s something different about the garden at night.

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It all starts at dusk as the sun slips its way below the horizon and twilight settles into your garden. Suddenly it has a whole new personality, exciting and mysterious.

As the shadows deepen your garden becomes a mixture of dark hidden spots and places. Secrets–only the night holds.

 The phase of the moon will also determine how much light your garden gets during those twilight hours. Moonbeams may glitter off of the foliage from a midnight rain or sprinklers. Or possibly from a water feature you might have in your garden– if your water feature is large enough, you might catch the reflection of the stars in the sky. But the light of the moon has a different  feel to it than the light from the sun; more mystic and peaceful.

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Night time is for the nocturnal animals to come out and play. Depending upon where you live will depend upon the type of animal to come out. You may hear the sound of the hoot owl or the cry of a bobcat. We’ve even heard the howl of the coyote and the hissing   of the alligator

If you’re like me, you love those sounds but safely from within the screen porch–there’s no way  you want to confront any of these animals up close and personal.

At some point it’s time to head inside, and I make my way to my office were there are windows on all sides showing me my garden from a different view. From this side of the window I can see the little fairy lights  in the trees and the landscape lighting shinning softly throughout the foliage it gives it a warm friendly glow. I’m so glad I put them in, especially when I look at the tree directly opposite my office window.

Because you see the nighttime has one more surprise for me…

 I watch as a fat possum works his way up the trunk of a tree.  It’s not even two feet away from me, with only a pane of glass between us. I leave the light on my desk and a possum notices me he stretches as far as he can from the trunk of the tree. He’s as curious who I am, just as I am curious about him. He quickly grows bored with me and continues on his way up the tree. I sit and count as he comes and goes at least three times up that trunk, each time disturbing the tree frogs, making them start their nightly songs.

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Yes, the garden at night is full of activity and it’s up to you to determine if you want to sleep through it or stay awake and watch.

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A Southern Rain

 Rain in the south is different from up north.
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Songs are written about the rain– there’s a country one out about rain, corn, and whiskey. Conversations are made about the rain; perfect strangers will think nothing of commenting to you in an elevator or on a sidewalk about the lack of rain or the overabundance of rain. Because down here that seems to be how it is. We get it either too much or not at all…
It’s sweltering hot and humid and we’re dying for the rain,  the lawns are turning crispy and folks are looking for cloud cover to just cool the temperature couple of degrees.
Or it’s raining so hard the parking lots are flooding. Backyard suddenly look like they are hosting a small lake, and roads look like they have rivers running down them.
If you pay attention, you can tell when the storm is going to hit.Yes, the sky gets dark and the wind picks up, but there’s other signs too. The birds and the squirrels are suddenly eating like crazy out of the bird feeders.  There’s a stillness just before the storm hits, not only with the movement of the wind, but with the sound of the animals. And then the first crack  of thunder breaks the silence. You run for cover.
It’s not uncommon to see rain coming down heavy across the street, and your yard is getting nothing-not a drop. And then, just like that, it’s over. Their lawns are wet and yours is still crispy.
But there’s a saying down here about the weather:
Wait 5 minutes and it will change.
Roads that were flooded are clear in a matter of hours. You can almost see the grass getting greener as it sucks up the water and overnight the difference is amazing.
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There’s a fern that grows on the Live Oaks called Resurrection Fern. When the rain comes the foliage turns into beautiful green within hours, but when it’s dry the fern is brown and dead-looking. The rain resurrects it once more to beautiful plant.  The trees are covered in green lush foliage from the fern growing up the branches and trunks. Everything has a new fresh look to it. The dust is going from the leaves,  the plants shimmer in the sunlight, the grass is green once again. For a few minutes the humidity is gone and you can almost feel a hint of coolness in the breeze. The birds come back out in full force, singing happily, the cricket start chirping and the squirrels are running from tree to tree to make sure that their nest are still intact.
So a Southerner may lament the lack of rain and then moan about a couple of days of steady rain. But to me there’s no better place to live than down here in South Florida. Because after all; just wait 5 minutes and the weather will change.
Marine landscape at sunset
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