Dec 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's the last day of 2011.....To be honest, my garden has spent most of this year in a mess! I started the pond  last February, so I have mounds of dirt just about everywhere you look :(  Policy is:   I can not start a new project until the last one is finished.....which leaves me tormented with dreams of my butterfly balcony, the bunny trail, and new raised veggies plots...but alas...I must finish the pond first! The good news..I'm almost there! So I have great expectations for the garden in 2012...As I walked through the garden this last day of 2011....I must admit even amongst the mess and neglect..the flowers just keep giving...

         Even the birdseed is blooming!

     My Mystery Rose (OGR shrub)

       Bermuda Mystery Rose: Kathleen         
New Dawn

It's been a good year...with the larger pond finally getting started, my oldest graduated from High School, the pool we've been waiting for 9 yrs...was put in....and even with the economy being tough....this family has weathered the storm very well.....modification in life is easy for me.....I always said you can plop me down anywhere and I will make it a needs are small and my desires are pretty simple..Just like this Queen:
          A tranquil place to raise my kids.......                                             
        A little food on the table........                                        

          And I emerge one happy bee...uhhh. butterfly :)                                       

So as the year ends...I must Thank my Jesus for every little thing I have, and the Beautiful World he has placed me in to enjoy!

       First year with Flowers on the DH's Camellia,
     Firecracker Bush
      The towering Butterfly weed with butterfly!
    My favorite Lavender Pentas

 And my faithful morning hello from the spiderwort

I find no greater peace than when I step into the garden alone with God and just converse! May your New Year be happy, full of contentment and prosperity! and Don't forget to spread some seed.......... janine

Dec 21, 2011

For the love of a Butterfly

Can you believe that at 12:30 AM tomorrow it will be officially Winter....CRAZY....I mean it reached 80 degrees today...Well here's hoping for a mild winter for 2012! I've been working on my butterfly garden recently....and I got a huge surprise over the weekend! As I tried to identify tiny lil sulfers darting everywhere..I caught from the corner of my eye...a new butterfly, flying erradically around the coral Porterweed .(stachytarpheta mutabilis)..I knew instanty what it was... A Zebra Longwing! 

Wow...the first one to visit this garden in the entire 10 years I've been here....It's not that I don't give them a host plant..I do, but I just haven't had one until this day!!!  Passion vine is the host plant of the Florida state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing. That surprise reminded me of one of my favorite Garden/Christmas memories.....Years ago, in my first garden about this same time of the year...there was going to be a freeze and I noticed some eggs on the new growth of the vine. I broke it off and brought it inside, That's when the genius in me came out....I had a baby at home at that time, so I stuck the sprig in a very well watered Diaper....yep that's right a disposable diaper, cut some small slits water it up....and slipped those sprigs right in...worked like a charm...told ya...genius!!!!! Never even had to water it again!  We moved them into a hamster habitrail and kept them well suplied with food. It was our first experience in watching all stages close up and personal in the comfort of our home. My five year old son, Nick, loved it, we watched everyday as they first hatched, then grew, then each, one by one turned into a Chrysalis and then finally, they all reapeared as beautiful black and yellow butterflies. 

We released them on a moderately chilly night that December, amongst the Christmas lights in the shrubs in front of our kitchen window. My son took each out so carefully and let them go. They stayed around for a little while over the next couple days or so, we would keep count each time we saw “one of our brew”. It was a great experience and a wonderful memory! 
    Speaking of Butterflies..this is my advise..... If you want butterflies in your garden, first you must determine the butterflies native to your area and then you must plant their host plants. So many people try to lure them in with flowers, which works temperarily, but to keep them, give them what their babies need...FOOD. 

And never ever use pesticides. If you have a plant or flower that is a bug magnet, get rid of it or move it to another part of the garden where the butterflies do not visit. I find that if I give nature time, it takes care of itself. Just when I think the thrips or aphids are going to get the best of the roses in the garden, the first rains appear or the ladybugs come and keep them in check. My garden is full of pests actually, that is part of the great allure for the kids...they just love the creepy crawlies.  As it turns out, it is very seldom that I have to resort to any sort of pesticide. We do rid ourselves of the ant mounds though, and when the occasional VERY large bannana spider shows up,  I ask my husband kindly to remove it from the garden. How he does it is up to him, as long as it goes. I hand pick the hornworm catpillars that devour my Pentas. Even though they turn into Sphinx moths, they will strip a plant in a single night. The Pentas (pentas lanceolata) are the cream of the crop for my Butterfly gardening, they must be protected though if there is a freeze. I believe if  I was limited to one host plant and one flowering nectar source for butterfly gardening, I could be succesful in Central Florida with just Passion Vine, and lavender Pentas.  

    As I get refocused on my butterfly gardening..I will be researching some new host plants and nectar sources for my area of central Florida...But I will surely include my Pentas...Three of which I have already picked up, along with a new butterfly weed, and some tri-color lantana! (lantata camera).... Yea!'s already getting exciting and I haven't planted a thing yet! Please stay tuned in...My goal is to lure some more Zebra Longwings in too, now that I know they will come here! ......heck, maybe she laid eggs over the weekend....hmmmm, I may have to dig out a flashlight right now and go check for some cute lil black and white cats out there! Please leave me a comment and share with me what flowers you plant to bring butterflies into your garden...or what suggestions you may have for my Fl zone 9 garden...

   Well in a few hours winter will have arrived....and we are still expecting 80 again tomorrow...but it's okay! This is a great time of the year.....! I wish each and every one of you a most joyous holiday season! God Bless and spread some seed ;).....  Janine

Dec 14, 2011

You never know where you may find a friend :)

I got to share my garden with a new friend today! I listed a very nicely priced Child's toy that was gathering dust in my daughter's room on Craigslist in hopes that a little girl may get a really "big" surprise on Christmas morning.  Just after posting it....for a very nice price...ummm..did I mention that? Well I rechecked to see what others may be listing this item for, and needless to say I was underpriced....but that's not the point :) I came across a posting from a Mother looking for this item for her girls for Christmas....I quickly threw her an email and hoped she would contact me before anyone else, since it had already posted...To be honest..I would have just called her, had I reviewed the site to begin with...None the less, she called this morning and her and the family came out this afternoon! I had one text just a few minutes before her, and a bunch after.... but I just knew I needed to call this one back first...As it turned out...I met a lovely family, relocated to our county from Fort Lauderdale... The Mom was from Columbia and the Dad from Chile, they had 4 beautiful children, so polite and sweet....I couldn't have asked for a better home for the item :)

 As we talked, and talked, and the husbands talked and talked...we ended up out back, introducing the Chickens, the Koi and the birds to the kids....I would apologize for the mess, and she would just keep saying how it was perfect just the way it being at home where she was raised....It's funny how we see all our own flaws, but others see things about us so differently!
 She seemed like just a beautiful person inside and out...and from such different parts of the world...we had so much in common.....the love of nature, the animals, the kids....They will be looking for a house out this way....I hope God leads them over here closer...would love to have them in the neighborhood... My daughter took their little girl on a tour of the yard as we talked..she picked flowers the whole way...and then Thanked my daughter, Elly, for letting her pick the pretty flowers in her yard..

All the time spent, is rewarded in moments just like that! There is nothing more beautiful than children feeding the fish for the first time, or a little girl clutching a fist full of flowers......... Enjoy whatever garden space you's like a universal language that everyone finds some peace and comfort in....  janine

Dec 5, 2011

December Bloomers!

Wow! What fabulous weather Florida is bringing us this month! I have spent every free moment I have had out in the yard! Working and daydreaming. So much so, I forced myself to take out the Christmas decorations. But I did, and they are up! Shew...back to the garden! It's such a good time of the year for clean up...I removed a portion of the old pond, to get things simplified for transition...  We spent the weekend digging the barrels in for the filters on the new pond...that's a load off my mind. Now it's just a matter of putting it all together! 

The garden has been loaded with butterflies and skippers this month. They apparently rest underneath the mass thicket of Wedelia that grows crazy along the fence line.... I believe it will become my new area for a Butterfly Garden too. I was looking for an ideal spot...and I guess they know better than me!! 

 I've decided to keep them in containers and place them amongst the Wedelia, so I can pull them during flooding or freezing! Hope I am faithful in keeping them watered! I'll post pictures as soon as I have them placed! It is a wild area just off the barn balcony...I'll call it my Butterfly Balcony..The view here is from the balcony!

The Powder Puff bush (Calliandra haematocephala)  has finally bloomed. It has been a few years since I've seen it:( 
It dies back so early with the frost that some years it never gets a chance to flower at all...One of my daily rituals is to take a stroll through the garden each morning, to find the surprise the garden has left for me each night! That was mine today! Each day you can usually find one...if you look hard enough! 

One of my most favorite of December bloomers is Louis Philippe Rose, Or "Cracker Rose" as it's known in the South! It is very disease resistant and smells sweet and fruity...reminds me of apples! It grows huge....and I keep it pruned twice a year and it still reaches 7' easily! What a great Old garden rose this is for Florida! Everyone should have one!

Some of the other December Bloomers include........

Knock Out Rose/ and an old garden variety in the back

Princess Flower (Tibouchina) 

Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica

Blue Daze(Evolvulus glomeratus) 

And a few of the other Old garden Roses has been a great month in the garden! I've already made my plant list for Santa! So many little time! Please leave a comment and let me know what surprises you find in your garden in December!  I hope you have a very blessed Christmas.....Janine

Nov 19, 2011

A tale of a Passion Vine......

I wrote this many years ago....before blogging was even a thought :) But my sister's first comment on my blog brought the memories flooding back so I thought I'd share! The time period is my first home and garden....I was new at gardening....All I had was a small side yard I gardened in...and it was the love of my life...some of my greatest moments in a garden were there!  So here ya go!

  I’m not sure where my love of gardening began. Possibly from the need to grow something from my childhood that kept me still attached to those memories. Or maybe the desire was always there and that just got me started as an adult. As a child, the only gardening that happened at our home was my father rooting and rerooting different houseplants on the back porch. He must have been way more toleranat than I remember, because I once took cuttings from all his plants and set up my own makeshift nursery in my bedroom. Making a total mess of the carpet. When I was discovered, I thought for sure he’d be furious, but instead he was very supportive, I don’t know but maybe he liked that I was interested in a hobby that he seemed to love so much himself. Than there was the time he planted Sweet potatoes bordering the pool decking, he of course grew them for the attractive vine that flourished here in Central Florida, I on the other hand was totally into the harvest. I dug up each and every tuber I could could get my 9 year old hands on. That led to my first vegatable patch and a small Strawberry plot behind the house. I was all that! Little miss farmer, or at least I thought I was.  I watched those strawberries everyday, so when I saw one half eaten one day, my heart broke. I immediately went into action. That hand painted “Poisinous Berries” sign went up that same day! Little did I know at the time that, a bug had been the perpetrader, and not some little kid from down the street, like I had imagined.  But the real passion that brought all those childhood feelings back, was the desire to grow Butterflies. 

You see my parents had gotten a Purple Passion Vine plant from my Aunt one year. They planted it on the ouside of the screen enclosure to the pool. In one season the entire enclosure would be covered with this incredible vine. I used to pick the purple flowers and float them in the pool. Dozens of them at a time, it was beautiful. The Gulf fritilary butterlies and catepillars were a part of the landscape, and as a child I just took for granted they were always there. Every year as the frost would top kill the vine, we’d pull it down off the screen and then in Spring the magic started all over again. It was about the third year into that my parents realized how invasive this vine could be and soon began the useless effort of erradicating the vine from the premises. I believe that continued for many years. My sister  bought the family home when my parents retired and moved into something smaller. She was determined to remove it once and for all. Thankfully by this time I had a home of my own and was just beginning my first garden on the side yard. I slipped over and dug up a couple of small sproutings, brought them home and placed them on my own fence, knowing very well that one day I may regret this decision, but that desire to have those butterflies back was strong enough to persuade me to go ahead. Though the vine still sprouted at the family home they had managed to keep it enough in check that the butterflies were no longer around.
I was so excited to be planting it, I had visions of masses of vine clambering along the fence. Of course I failed to tell my husband that this perticular vine ran, you know, about every three or four feet a new vine would sprout up all over the yard. You see Dave, likes a manicured yard, nice and neat. Boxwood type of gardening. Formal, you would call it. I on the other hand could see flowers and more flowers everywhere. Because he liked the idea of a vine growing on the fence he didn’t object, I mean how threatening are two little six inch sprigs freshly dug out of the ground. But, that first year my little 

passion vines never became lush and beautiful as I had anticipated. Just weeks into growth, I saw my first Gulf frittilary butterfly zooming around my yard. Now understand that our home is surrounded by undeveloped lots consisting of pines, oaks and a billion palmettos. Yet this lone butterfly was able to find my flowerless sprig of passion vine. She then laid her little eggs and was off. The catepillars kept those sprigs from getting no higher than about a foot tall that hot summer, and not one flower the whole year. By the next spring my own garden had some bones of it’s own, and the season was beautiful. My vines started popping up here and there, from the runners the first years sprigs had sent out. I got my first flower that year, and I’m sure we had several dozens of  frittilary concieved , hatched, and metamorphized right there in that small garden. I had learned the secret to butterfly gardening in Florida. Plant the right host plant and they will come. God made nature a wonder that way. He just sends them where they need to be and gives them all they need.  Now five years later, on any given day, even in the middle of winter (isn’t Florida great that way) there is a fritillary butterfly darting this way and that way in search of flowers, or a place to lay her eggs.

Nov 18, 2011

Time to finish the Pond!

Well I have procrastinated long that hurricane/rainy season is done I really need to tackle the finish of the pond! Fall is a great time of the year to work in the yard here....and before we can jump into our rabbit would be a good idea to finish the project I started last February :) Here is where I began and left off:
This is the site we chose.....where the fire pit was.....We moved it all out and got started on digging Feb 2011. I decided I would dig down 18-24 inches and raise it also 18 inches, as we are prone to some flooding during extreme rainy summers and I don't want to have to worry about the Koi swimming over to the neighbors yard :)
The design....15' diameter, but ended up going with a hexagon as we are using railroad ties for the wall structures! After much research and some penny pinching, modifications have taken place....we will have a four barrel filter system. One 4" BD that will flow into two 55 gallon drum Settling chamber/ Static baskets, then into two 55 gallon strapping bio barrels. This will go out  a 3" that will feed the pump which will split the water, 1/2 of which will continue through a bead filter and then all returns through two main returns and a spray bar...It will also have a skimmer for floating debris.

Digging was by hand......nice exercise! But oh so exhausting!!! The DH did chip in and help though, so I was Thankful for that! So then it was time to place RR ties..and I have to admit....they were waaaay heavy, but I did manage to help him lay the base 12....then I was spent...I did the plumbing work and made the filters while he layed most the rest, that took us through June, then came the big Halt as the rain began to fall LOL....that is where we are today, so now that the hole is nice and dry,  we can get back into the swing of things...I can't wait to release my babies from their smaller pond into this one! I love the one they are in now...but it's just not enough room for them. They will be going from about 900 gallons to a little over 4000......The last picture is the Original pond where the Koi live today...I hope to finish her off in the next few months...wish me luck! And stay tuned!

Nov 16, 2011

It all started with a drive......

and some Wildflowers

    I once expressed to my future husband years ago while driving down a country road that I desired to live where the wild flowers grow. Then I asked...where is that? He motioned to the ditches near the roadway we were on. "There is where the wild flowers grow.".... I looked in amazement. Hmmm Maybe he had misunderstood my question because he was pointing out the most common of weeds that grew in this very hot and humid state. The Spanish needles and the lavender skullcaps lined the road on that spring day. "Not those!" I replied. But as we finished that drive home, I have to confess I saw every speck of yellow, pink, white and lavender that was growing among the green grass. Where had they all been before? I never looked at weeds the same again. That Easter I picked hundreds of skullcap's from an unmowed field and placed them in a large vase. I carefully placed a large lavender ribbon around it, and wa—la, It was beautiful. At least to this beholder it was. What I never knew, is when you get that many skullcap together, they smell very good. A nice light sweet fragrance filled the house. I often add our Florida wild flowers to my garden picks now, and when my garden is not in abundance in the fall, yellow Golden Rod and purple Beauty berry look fabulous together in a big mason jar. We have wonderful wild flowers here in Florida. From the Purple Passion vine to  our beautiful Orchids. But the most beauty I see is along the roadsides, in the margins of the drainage ditches, where simple things like Blue eyed grass or pickerel weed is blooming. Alot of the easiest wild flowers to grow here are propagated naturally on disturbed sites. If you happen to live in a area where there are residential lots cleared but not yet built upon. Watch for a single season, the native grasses and wildflowers will surely take hold. It amazes me how quickly Nature changes a landscape by just seed, quicker then if we planted 3 foot trees there ourselves...there is just something...well....natural about letting Nature take root at it's own discretion rather than our own...It is best not to take wild flower plants indiscriminately, some are protected by law, some are on private or state property. But most will germinate if you collect seeds at the end of the season, with permission. Contact your local extension office, they can help you in this matter. They can usually guide you to a nursery that specializes in natives. So this November as you drive along the highways and the country roads...take a look...the wildflowers are blooming!