Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Garden Tour Part 2

Here's part 2 of the garden tour. As with the first tour, most of the plants you'll see here are either grown from seed, or cuttings, with the exception of the larger fruit trees, due to the nature of seed grown fruit trees, its important to buy named varieties from respectable nurseries, unless you want to wait 5-10 years for them to fruit and bear fruit of questionable quality. However, all named varieties we have today are the result of people taking the chance to grow them from seed.

For this part of the tour, we'll be starting from the left hand side of the house, working clockwise until we meet in the center island, where we ended the first part of the tour.

This is my "ugly" part of the garden, tucked to the left of the house in a pie shaped piece of land that for the most part gets "winter" shade. Here I'm growing persimmon trees - because they're deciduous, the winter shade doesn't matter. Behind the persimmon tree, is my vegetable garden. I have three semi-raised beds with wood edging and one "lasagna" border. At the moment, I'm growing cow peas, I recently pruned the eggplants to the ground as they were infested with spider mites. They'll grow back to 5 feet tall shrubs, to me they're beautiful with their purple flowers. Some bear long white fruit, others bear lavender marbled with white fruit.
Starting October, I'll plant pole and bush beans, broccoli here. I tried carrots, turnips, onions before and in our warm winters none of them amounted to anything.

Here's wider view of the same area, in the foreground is a horseradish tree (from seed) that will cast its shade over the air conditioners to help with cooling costs in summer. Behind the horseradish tree, there is a plastic sheet around my newly bought "brown turkey" fig tree which will be planted more or less where it is now. It is deciduous and will cast its shade over the air conditioning units in summer and loose its leaves in winter. Behind that is a natal plum (carissa grandiflora) (from seed), just starting to flower en-mass for the first time. Just behind and to the left of the carissa is a Capulin cherry (Prunus salicifolia - from seed) tree which is on its last "warning". If it doesn't fruit or look better next year, it will be replaced with another fruit tree, possibly a sapodilla. To the left is another mixed shrub border with orange cracker plant, Cocoplum, Seagrape, Elder berry, Mexican petunias, fakahatchee and lemon grass, duranta cuban gold and golden dew drop, Cuban buttercup, white crinum lilly, persian shield, shooting star, strelitzia, euryops, blanket flower, vinca, tibouchina ....

Behind the veggie garden is the start of a future "hidden" pathway, I envision a field stone or some other stone pathway here. To the left if a mixed shrub border with dwarf cavendish (fruiting) bananas, cocoplum, cuban oregano (variegated and plain), lemon grass, butterfly weed, ginger, variegated shell ginger. To the right is the mixed shrub border I described above, in the right front is the turmeric I planted recently.

Moving along the hidden path, to the left is more bananas, pineapples and the whole area being overtaken by railroad vine or bindweed, or some kind of ipoemea. To the right is the dropping branches of the duranta golden dewdrop.In the background there's some more volunteer papayas, volunteer sweet potato vines (I recently harvested a grocery bag full).

Coming out of the hidden pathway brings you to this "room" in the center is the rock garden, to the left you can see the sweet potato vines taking over, the litche tree, behind the lithci tree (not visible) is a loquat tree, to the right is the fig tree (loosing its leaves due to rust), the next tree is a horseradish tree (from seed), this area is covered in seminole pumpkin vines for ground cover, along the fence there is a passion fruit trellis with two yellow passion fruits (from seed) that should fruit next year.

Here's the horse radish tree on the left (a volunteer purple crepe myrtle growing in a container) with the travellers palm in the center, the Valencia Pride mango tree and behind it the Sugar Apple tree.

The Sugar apple is just visible on the left, in the fore ground center is a pitomba tree, to the right of it a jaboticaba. The arbor is visible just to the right of the jaboticaba.

Looking back toward the house, on the left is the arbor with muscadine vines, in the center an Indian Jujube tree, behind it a grumichama. To the right the mixed shrub border with the hidden path.

A look from the other side of the arbor, to the left is a meyer lemon bush, it will not grow much bigger, on both sides of the arbor I have plumbago.

Back to the center island, bordered with duranta cuban gold, in the front center is a choquette avocado tree. Behind it a volunteer Starburst shrub(tree). Also growing in this border: variegated flax lilly, lemon grass, purple cone flowers, shrimp plant, four different coloured pentas, mexican petunias, variegated shell ginger, firebush, fakahatchee grass.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Garden Tour Part 1

Grace's garden tour left such an impression on me (See Grace's blog in my Favorite Places/Links section) and sets such a high standard to achieve, but here goes my "Budget Garden". I clearly lack a lot of hardscaping, i.e. stones, pathways, borders, but it will come with time.

Starting at the right hand side of the backyard, going counter clockwise:

Looking out the dining room window, whats left of my herb garden, rosemary being strangled by bindweed, with the Persian Lime tree behind and Lemon grass on the right. To the right a pink rose - yes we can grow roses in Florida ! Here we treat them like shrubs, they never loose their leaves and flower on and off

Behind the lime tree, just of out view is a grumichama, further along the longan tree is having a growth flush, to the right I have a pink starburst penta, red hibuscus, variegated shell ginger, pineapples, some Catura Coffee shrubs

To the left of the Longan tree, there's a mixed shrub border, with sanchezia, thrysalis, allamanda bush, poinsettia, tibouchina, cordyline, dwarf banana, draceana, nerium oleander, elephants ear, large white crinum lilly, two types of ferns, strelitzia

To the right of the mixed shrub border is my Lancetilla Mango tree, its a "condo" mango and can be maintained at 10 feet tall and wide. To the right is a bunch of indigenous fakahatchee grass, feijoa, variegated shell ginger, duranta cuban gold and white penta. Behind the mango tree is the first of a row of Wonderful Pomegranates along the white aluminum fence.

Mixed shrub border from the other side

More pomegranates along the white aluminum fence, the small tree in the front left, is a seed grown sapodilla

Along the back fence, here's my grape trellis with two different types of muscadine grapes growing from each side, with seminole pumpkin for ground cover, to the right is a "strawberry guava" shrub. In the background is a Australian brush cherry, surnam cherry and volunteer papaya tree that is now about 15 feet tall. Also growing here is a date palm tree (from seed), carissa (natal plum), strawberry guava.

To the left of the papaya, I have a small marlierea in the forground, at the right another surname cherry, the large tree to the left is a starfruit, to the left of the starfruit is a french peanut (pachira glabra), the large palm tree to the right is a travellers palm (from Madagascar)

Looking back at the french peanut, starfruit, childrens play area, to the right of the french peanut is a variegated guava. To the left the center island is showing with cuban duranta gold, lemongrass

Friday, September 11, 2009

Home made succulent garden

This is my second attempt at making a hypertufa trough. It was left standing in the weather for almost a year before I finally got around to do something with it.

I had been growing aloes from seed - I bought a small packet of mixed aloe seed. It took more than a year for these to grow large enough to be transplanted. I had a couple of other small succulents as well.

I filled my hypertufa trough with a mixture of sandy soil from my garden, some compost and vermiculite for drainage. I planted the succulents and then covered it with small mixed brown pebbles. I think the result is stunning.

I placed this container near the front door, where it doesn't get direct water from the rain. I've seen some of the aloes take off and they've grown more in 3 months than they have in a year.

Two frogs have made this their nightly home too ! They have shoved some of the pebbles away and make themselves comfortable in the soil at night, most probably catching any unwary insects.

Once the aloes grow too large, I'll replant them and finally transplant them in my rock garden in my backyard - that is at the moment being invaded by nut grass. Yes, that's another project waiting for the cooler months. Right now, the heat and humidity make it an almost impossible task to do any serious work outside.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Guava airlayers are "taking"

I like my variegated guava so much that I decided to clone it. Here in South Florida, we have every kind of bug imagine-able. The guava was one of my very last fruits I planted because during my research it became clear that guavas are the hosts of more than one type of fruit fly, amongst others the dreaded Caribbean fruit fly. Once I had planted all my "big" trees and had no more space, I searched for more small exotic fruits to plant.

On one of my last trips to Excalibur Rare Fruit Trees Nursery, one of the guides recommended this variegated guava because its relatively pest free. To prove his point, he picked a ripe guava, broke it open, showed me it was worm-free and let me eat it. I was convinced, the only problem was they didn't have any small trees for sale and the big one in the huge container was $800 ! So I had to wait almost a year for their air layers to grow and when I went to buy it around Christmas 2007, the owner said I could buy one if I could find one without air layers. That meant I got the smallest one ! And it was quite pricey.

Well, its now 1 year and 8 months later, the tree has produced about 15 guavas so far and they are delicious. It normally turns into an argument whose turn it is to have the ripening fruit ! It recently started another flowering cycle and we'll have more guavas in a month or two - if the raccoons don't get them before I do !

Another reason I like this plant, besides the yummy fruit, is the beautiful peeling bark of different colors that are so typical of the Myrtaceous fruits. Not only does it bear one of the tropical fruits with the most active anti-oxidants, its highly ornamental with its variegated leaves and attractive peeling bark.

It hasn't been without any problems though, as with almost all my trees, I have an argentine ant infestation and they are "farming" and protecting white flies, mealybugs and aphids. The white fly infestation got so bad so quickly, before I realized, the whole tree was infested and the reason I noticed was due to the leaves being covered in sooty mold from the honeydew the white fly nymphs secrete. It took a few sprays of sevin to get it under control and even now, I have to constantly inspect and spot treat a new white fly outbreak. The only way that worked for me was to put on some heavy duty vinyl gloves, take a hand held sprayer, lift each branch and make sure I sprayed underneath every single leaf !

I have tried air-layering once before on some cocoplums and bouganvillea and both failed - I later learned you have to do it during the active growing season, I tried during the "winter" months. This time, I started my layers late July and about 6 weeks later, I see roots starting to grow through the plastic wrap. Soon I will be able to sever the branch just below the air-layer, plant it in its own pot and keep it in shade and keep it humid until new growth appears (perfect timing as Sept is our rainiest month). Then I have to find a spot in my already crowded garden for it, or I'll probably give it away before then .....

1 year 8 moth old variegated guava tree

Air layer covered with aluminum foil

Foil removed, root growing out at the bottom

Beautiful peeling bark

Developing fruit

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September rain spawns all kinds of mushrooms

It never ceases to amaze me how many different mushrooms I encounter in my backyard.

September is the rainiest month here in South East Florida. With the incessant rain and humidity comes the mushrooms.

There are nearly no lawns in my neighborhood that is not infested with Chlorophyllum molybdites - these incredibly large mushrooms (some are really dinner-plate sized) typically form fairy rings. Here's half of a fairy ring in my backyard the other side is on the other side of my fence.

When I see these mushrooms, I feel so frustrated, they are so beautiful, yet, they are poisonous and I wish I could "seed" my lawn with edible mushrooms that would grow in our heat and humidity - surely, if Chlorophyllum molybdites can grow here in these conditions, there must be a sub-tropical mushroom I could "plant" here that would provide copious amounts of delicious mushrooms during our rainiest months, June and September ?

Stinkhorn on cedar mulch
Stinkhorn on cedar mulch under sugar apple
Stinkhorn on cedar mulch under sugar apple
Oyster type on decaying queen palm frond
Hairy funnel shaped on cedar mulch
Fairy-like mushroom on lawn