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!