Monday, May 9, 2011

Shades of Hot, Hotter & Sizzling in Paradise

The temperatures are steadily climbing into the 90F and our backyard in paradise is also beginning to look "hot" with hues of red, yellow and orange!

We will kick off with an unknown plant. It has very attractive flowers, but no scent. It is also a nuisance in that it pops up all over the place, which alas is so often the case here with our tropical weather. The leaves are furry and heart shaped. If anyone can identify it, I would be pleased to know what it is.
Mystery plant
 Below left is Spicy Jatropha (Jatropha integerrima). Jatropha is a genus of approximately 175 succulent plants, trees and shrubs. Blooms continuously and very drought tolerant. Very attractive as a small accent tree.

Spicy Jatropha
Next is Cape Honeysuckle (Tacoma capensis), a scrambling shrub native to Africa. This shrub appears to have runners that can help it "travel" elsewhere in the garden. It's a messy, spindly plant, but the hummingbirds love it - so it stays.

Close Up Cape Honeysuckle
Cape Honeysuckle

Dianthus or Pinks, are grown as annuals here in Florida. They go dormant during the hottest part of summer and I have had them re-emerge like "perennials" in the spring.

Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe blossfeldiana). A succulent; likes arid conditions and is a wonderful plant to put in front of pinwheel jasmines, or roses. Great groundcover and spreads rapidly.

Bell Pepper, absolutely delicious in a home-made salsa.

Bell Pepper
Native Firebush
Native Firebush (Hamelia patens). Attracts our state butterfly, the Zebra Longwing. Has orange/red flowers and hairy leaves. Tubular flowers give way to red/black, glossy berries that are popular with songbirds and in particular cardinals.

Native Firebush

Squash Flowers

I have various types of Nasturiums cascading over hanging baskets.

The Squash plants are coming along nicely. I put toothpicks around them (sharp end up) to prevent cutworms and other critters nibbling on these edible flowers.

Zinnias are one of my favorites in the garden, they are self seeding and, with regular deadheading, low maintenance.

Not exactly in the garden, but in a large cage on the patio is our little love bird Peaches. She is playing Peek-a-boo with me while I took this picture.
Pretty Peaches
Not in my garden but on the dining room table. Roses for mothers day.  I know elsewhere in the world, it is earlier in the year.

Happy belated mothers day for all moms in the USA, and everywhere in the world!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Critters Galore and Owl

I have to watch where I put my feet down these days. There must be hundreds of lizards in the garden rushing hither and thither, and they come in all different shapes, colors and sizes. Here is a sampling of what I took pictures of.

My favorite is the green Anole on the left and right. Only this lizard is native to the USA.

Also known as the American chameleon, it will change its color to reflect its surroundings. Here you can see it is trying to blend in with the garden ornament! These little guys eat grubs, cockroaches (yay!), spiders and crickets.

There are 36 species of non-native lizards/anoles in Florida. The lizard on the left has an interesting mark on its back. The lizard below was almost completely black - no Photoshop enhancement to color.

Because I wear the standard Florida casual footwear (flip flops), and my toe nails are painted, the lizards sometimes think my toes are the dewlaps of an mysterious intruder and will rush over to my feet, bobbing their heads and dewlapping like mad! I tease them by wriggling my toes. Since they can bite this is a rather risky business.


An interesting diamond shaped marking.

The lizard to the left is spotted. The photo to the right appears to show the lizard changing its head color to match the paint splotch, but I don't think these lizards can change color the same way as the green anole can.

The next photo shows a lizard that is successfully blending in with the stick it is sitting on.
Dino-lizzie! Note ridge on back.

Lizard to the right let me get up really close - I think it was as curious of me as I was of him.
Lubber grasshopper
Black racer

Another good reason not to wear flip-flops in the garden!
 I knew something was up when the lizards en-masse rushed out of the tall ornamental grasses. The snake is a black racer. As the name suggests they are fast moving snakes. Black racers are non venomous, but if cornered will stand their ground and strike to bite hard. This snake was pretty mad at me and rattled his tail a few times to warn me off. They eat, guess? Yep! Lizards and also birds, other snakes and insects. I wish they would hurry up and polish off the lubbers. Black racers are preyed upon by the raptors, and I have seen a hawk flying away with one danging from its talons.

One of many squirrels we feed. You can see he/she is in pretty good shape and very healthy - glossy fur and bushy tailed. I have to fill the feeders up twice a day.

I could hear this high pitched, rapid peeping and there hidden in the foliage of the croton was a young cardinal (center of photo). Daddy cardinal was close by and gathering up black sunflower seeds to feed to baby.

The screech owl returned to the box last week and hung around for a few days but then moved on. We have had baby owls in this box before now, but it doesn't seem as though we will this year. A pileated woodpecker peeked in the box while the owl was resting and I think it got scared off.
 I love this photo of the bee on Milkweed, so I thought I would give it a second post.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hope Grows Day: May 2011

I am back again after some ongoing internet problems that my cable provider cannot seem to sort out.

April 2011

May 2011
Above is the frangipani in April. Leaves beginning to flush out and healthy growth but no flowers. Then the flowers came and oh my how gorgeous they are. The scent of these flowers is somewhere between a honeysuckle, and a confederate jasmine with a tinge of lemon. This frangipani has grown another 2 feet since April and we were not able to grab the higher branches with the most flowers.

Cane Orchid - April 2011
Buds on Cane Orchid - April 2011
Here is a picture of the "cane" orchid that I took in April. I was excited because it showed signs of some buds that, in two years it had not previously displayed.

Then the buds burst open and look how pretty it is. I moved some canes to a hanging basket to see whether they fare as well in an orchid basket as they appear to do in the ground. I had noticed some ant activity around the bud, so following some advice I put a few garlic cloves around the base of the plant to deter the ants.

Cane Orchid in Bloom - May 2011
Orchid in Basket

For Hope Grows Day: June. The Armenian cucumber is coming along nicely and busily clambering up anything it can hold onto. Note the "watering" system I have been using for some 3 years now. Basically cut off soda bottle (plastic), holes punched out in bottom and some rocks for stability. So far the drip method is working out really well and causes the plant less likely a candidate for powdery mildew.

In the Beginning

Coming Along Nicely

With Flowers
 What else is new in my garden? Why the gardenias of course!

 We are in Heaven "Scent" right now in my garden!

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