Monday, June 08, 2009

Mississippi Garden Lucky To Get Volunteers

Have you ever had a plant pop up that you didn't know what it was or how it got to your garden?

Southern belle Betty Jurich has had the same question ever since Katrina. Betty's sweet garden spot is a tropical paradise located in Gulfport, Mississippi. Her zone 8b-9a coastal landscape survived Katrina's category 4 winds and torrential rain. Not only survived (after a in-depth clean-up, I'm sure) but the tender microclimate landscape thrived. Betty has her hands full with twins and helping her husband, Dennis, an electrical engineer, in his greenhouse. The photos below are of her bromeliads, gingers, bananas, bleeding hearts, aspagagus fern, and a beautiful unknown wood fern, a dryopteris spp. that volunteered right after the 2005 hurricane. She took it around to see if anyone could identify it with no luck. The wood ferns' fronds are wider than three inches and they are three feet tall.

Betty writes that she and her husband saved the seeds from the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and watermelon from last year to start in the greenhouse. They have been enjoying the tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. She has propagated lantana while Dennis likes to hybridize the day lilies by hand pollination. Betty promises to send photographs of her platter hibiscus when they bloom.


Bleeding hearts, Clerodendron spp.




If you can correctly identify Betty's volunteering wood fern, please let me know. She says it looks like this dryopteris, but hers is much bigger than most of the dryopteris species.

Want to read more about ferns? Here's some excellent resources.

Cameo Queen Puts On Spectacular Appearance More Than Once

As most of my gardening listeners know I'm not a tropical enthusiast except for the 'no-shoveling-snow' routine. But I do incorporate tropicals into my garden when they touch my soul. I have to find a balmy bed in the dirt somewhere in my garden so that I can visit them as I walk around my garden paths.

Out of the four Hibiscus rosa-sinensis spp. bushes I have in my yard, my favorite is my 'Cameo Queen' also known as 'Ruffled Giant.' Ruffled it is and it does become giant! Growing in a rich, organic oak litter soil in partial sun, it stretches up nine feet tall. And that's in partial sun! It blooms its heart out midway up the shrub and on up to the top, but deep dark, large green leaves from the ground. More about no blooms at the bottom further.

Unlike hibiscus spp. in sandy soils, the 'Cameo Queen' has survived nicely during the drought, not getting a lot of water without rain. I chalk that up to the composted soil, oak leaves, microbes, and earthworms around the roots. I don't fertilize it often plus I don't overwater it. I make it be as responsible for its own survival as possible. No welfare assistance here.

It helps to have the 'Cameo Queen' in partial sun as well. It also stayed green and does not lose any leaves in our subtropical zone of 9b. Again, the microclimate is helped with the assistance of a 6" fence and oak trees in between two homes.

Do you know what variety of hibiscus you have in your yard? Here's a great way to identify it without hauling your plant to Hawaii or Australia. More pictures and expert advice on how to grow hibiscus.

Now for the reason my hibiscus doesn't bloom within 3' feet of the ground. The blooms are edible. Our 11 year old brindle Scottish terrier, Maggie loves to pull the flowers off lower shrub branches (much like cows strip lower leaves off tree limbs) and devour them. She doesn't even ask me if it's okay. I think that's why she doesn't lose weight. She's obviously an omnivore (and in need of a summer haircut).

Hibiscus are easy to grow but do have some pest issues. Even up north, you can grow these tropical beauties because hibiscus do extremely well in containers. Just move the plant in and out into a sunny area as the weather changes. It will be more important in the northern climes to have at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Hibiscus flowers always have multiple appearances during the year, but this 'Cameo Queen' will be the star of your garden.

Global Warming?

Check out Watts Up With That? Anthony Watts' blog on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news.
Tip of the snow shovel to Bob!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Radio Show: "In Your Backyard"

Back after fabulous opportunity on Garden Writers Association conference trip to Mt. Vernon with a 'personal indulgence' gardening detour to Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina. I shot over 750 photographs of the stately Mt. Vernon gardens in six hours. The best photos will be up in a few days.

Safe travels for snowbird residents who are going back North. Stay in touch, you can still call with your gardening questions and listen to "In Your Backyard" on the Internet. My gardening radio show can be heard on WLBE 790AM or at Tuesdays from 11:05am to 12:00pm every week. You do need DSL high speed internet access so that the show buffers correctly.

Hurricane preparedness makes the news at the start of hurricane season June 1st through Sept 31st. Make sure your Florida landscape is ready for the gusts of wind and torrents of rain.

Gardening phone call topics included:

Time for caladiums to bloom. See great bulbs for spring and fall at Brent & Becky Heath's nursery.

Purple heart, Tradescantia pallida and Caladium spp.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hurricane Landscaping

June 1st not only heralds in warmer temperatures, afternoon showers, and humid mornings but also hurricanes. Announcements of hurricane season's opening day is a good reminder to check out your landscape to make sure your property doesn't become a hazard during the storms and will ultimately survive.

Hurricane season is June through September, with August and September being the most active period. NOAA is predicting nine to 14 named tropical storms with four to seven turning into hurricanes. We could see one to three becoming Category 3 hurricanes. Last year we had five hurricanes and a relatively mild storm year.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are one of Florida's main influences on our water supply so while they are not something to look forward to - they are necessary.

Brevard County has great advice on how to make sure your landscape is hurricane-proof:
  • Right Tree Right Place – by simply planting larger trees away from your home, power lines, and other structures, you greatly reduce the risk of branches or the tree itself falling on your home or knocking down power lines.
  • Regular Pruning and Maintenance – assess trees and shrubs for branches that are dying, too large, lopsided, etc. Regular pruning promotes healthy growth, removes dying or diseased limbs, and can reshape the tree to be more resistant to wind damage. [Teresa's note: Make sure anyone working on your trees or providing a bid to prune is a certified arborist in your area. You can go to the International Society of Arborists to verify certification.]
  • Choose Wind Resistant Plant Species – After the previous year’s hurricanes, researchers collected data from all over Florida on the number and types of trees that withstood the storms or were blown over.
  • Planting in Groups or Masses – when possible, planting groups of mixed trees together can greatly enhance wind resistance. The trees buffer each other as well as your property and other landscape plants.
Be pro-active in your yard - don't wait till a hurricane is brewing in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. Charges be more costly due to the season and the chances of finding an arborist with an open schedule then will be risky.

Find out how Father Hurricane, a Jesuit was instrumental in hurricane prediction.

I know you've heard of rain lilies, Zephyranthes spp. I bought some beautiful uniquely-colored orange and deep pink rain lilies at Plant Delights Nursery in NC last week. But have you heard of hurricane lilies? They are the Lycoris species in the Amaryllis family with Zephyranthes. Wonderfully pest-free, maintenance free (seriously) hurricane and rain lilies are a great addition to a cottage, woodland, or tropical themed garden.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Delightful Day - Filled With Plants

Despite the clouds and a brief downpour, I was able to have a soulful visit with Tony Avent, plant collector and nature benefactor extraordinaire. Tony is also the owner of Plant Delights Nursery. I am taking home inspiration and a bountiful harvest from the six acres of themed gardens, test beds, greenhouses, moss-filled shaded pathways filled with 17,000 one of a kind plants. Plants you won't find anywhere else on the planet for sale.

The garden center and Juniper Level Botanic Garden with its' picturesque pathways is outside of downtown Raleigh, NC. it is only open to the public two weekends a year so check out the times first to make sure you can tour. Groups are welcome. While you're making arrangements, go online and order the free catalog. Each catalog with plant details and Tony's experience and insight becomes a piece of well-thought out artwork and garden enthusiast collectible - much like Avent's plants. Written by Tony and his staff, the catalog is intelligent, humor-provoking, and as deep South, and politically uncorrect, as you can get these days. When you're digging in dirt, you might as well dig deep.

I'm going to float all the way back home filled with hope and conservatively, I'll be getting a little dirty myself.

Plant Delights Nursery - May 2009

Why My Gingers Aren't Doing Well...

That's Mactavish laying across my ginger pot that was full of blooming, fragrant white hedychiums. He was placing his little white belly on the cool, rain-soaked soil. And I couldn't figure out why my gingers were not coming up this year.
The other black Scottish terrier is Nipper, the good dog.
Solution: Dog Stew!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Water Gardening - Daytona Beach Style

UPDATE: Setting historic record (5/17 - 5/23)

Daytona Beach 23+ inches
Ormond Beach 30+ inches
New Smyrna Beach 20+ inches
Orlando 12 + inches (my home)

Daytona International Speedway gives flash a different meaning when it comes to flooding. Click here for more photographs of the 25" + of rain dropped in the last ten days on the most famous beach in the world.

Photo credit: Nancy501s

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Hagar the Horrible and My Husband the Wonderful

God bless husbands and/or wives of compulsive gardeners. We couldn't live without them!

Florida Yard - North Carolina View

We received over an inch of rain this morning and isn't eleven o'clock yet. We could get another inch to two inches today and the showers aren't expected to stop till after Memorial Day. I am pleased that my anti-tropical yearnings to have a North Carolina garden are coming along nicely. When you're in the Smokies during a summer rain storm, you can hear the rain ping off the branches between layers of trees. Jutting up and down the mountainsides and across the balds down to the valleys, the majestic trees allow the raindrops to land and slide down. The panoramic view of seeing dimensions through the canopies of Fraser firs, alders, maples, pines,and hickories is not a scenic visual you expect in Florida's flat landscapes. But with a little thought and patience can be achieved, or at least imagined.

These rainlilies are a week old and still popping up under my shrubs and around my bird bath. The moss is starting to become a striking mound and without the assistance of over-watering.

The mist of the sometimes gentle rain, then a torrent evokes memories of North Carolina childhood summer vacations waiting on the porch for the rain to stop so that we could go hiking in the woods. I get goosebumps now remembering the narrow clay footpaths on the steep slopes, trying to keep my balance after a rain. You could look ahead of your path for hundreds of feet and see into the forest.

I am enjoying every moment of this low pressure system moving across our country today. It's bringing much needed rain to the Southeast. Despite the Memorial Weekend holiday picnics that will be cancelled, I know that this week of thunderstorms and rainshowers will have firemen breathing a sigh of relief.

It's taken almost four years to achieve the layered look in my North Carolina backyard. It's only going to grow more with this rain. What will it look like by the end of this summer?

Gardening With Soul

My first garden writing, "Gardening with Soul" began in 1997. It started out simply:

"I am a gardener. You can ask my family, my neighbors, my friends and fellow employees, my constant companion, Sheila, a wheaten Scottie, and even my three cats, Pitter, Dribbles, and Kitten, a 17-lb Siamese. They will all tell you, "Oh, yes, Teresa is a gardener". Well, the cats will just purr.

I garden from within. My inner feelings tell me what and where to plant. My gardens show what a complicated human being I am. They are always in transition, constantly changing, and I'm spoiled. In a good way, that is. Looking for hours through gardening magazines or watching HGTV, I see gardens that set my passions afire.

Unfortunately, I have a hard time hearing the word "no" or "you can't grow that here." That is why I have a variety of garden beds. You can meander through the flowers and shrubs, walking on stone pathways and alleés that keep the gardens separated. I have some with color themes. Others have unique qualities like fragrances, specific flower types, and sun requirements like a shade garden. There are redbud trees, roses, Italian and Arizona cypresses, wisteria blooming on a arbor, bird sanctuaries, rock walls, two goldfish ponds and a gazing ball circle for the fairies to romp in during a full moon. There are esplanades to various gardens, such as a cottage garden, a rose garden, and a rickety wooden gate leading to a secret imaginary "Crape Myrtle Lane."

Read all of Gardening With Soul here.

Friday, May 22, 2009

World's Oldest Irrigation Found In Arizona

It seems that Arizona's water issues isn't a modern calamity. Recently unearthed in the Grand Canyon State is irrigation technology that is several milleniums old. Archaelogists have dated the trenches almost 600 years earlier than the primitive watering systems found in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

"These are not the earliest canals known in Southern Arizona, but they are the most extensive and sophisticated engineering [from the period] that we have identified to date," said archaeologist James Vint of Desert Archaeology Inc. in

The site, called Las Capas or "The Layers," sits at the confluence of the Cañada del Oro, Rillito Creek and Santa Cruz River. The name derives from the repeated layers of silt that buried the site until nothing was visible from the surface.


They identified two main canals bringing water from the Santa Cruz River and feeding it into eight distribution canals, all now buried 3 to 7 feet below the surface. The system could have irrigated from 60 to 100 acres, he estimated. The primary crops were maize, which was introduced into the area before 2100 B.C., and a weed known as amaranth, which can be eaten raw or cooked.

Ancient irrigation systems have been well documented. Lack of water during droughts and in global desert areas have been cited as causes of civilization decline. In the United States, Arizona has archaelogical tourist sites that showcase irrigation methods by native American Indian tribes, such as the Montezuma Castle National Monument outside of Phoenix.

Ancient irrigation ditch near Montezuma Well. [photograph National Park Service]

I wonder if the early aqueducts could be certified under the Florida Water Star Bronze Age program?

In our modern times, Arizona and every state in our union needs more water supply. Having better irrigation systems will help us save more potable water. Correctly installing and maintaining an efficient irrigation system will be encouraged this July with the first Smart Irrigation Month. A new resolution sponsored by Reps. John Linder (R-Ga.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Bart Stupak (D-Mich)has been introduced into the House. H. Con. Resolution 118 promotes the irrigation industry's goal to educate homeowners about the finite potable water supply and the importance of using it "wisely, responsibly and efficiently." Let's hope it streams through the committee process fluidly because every month should be Smart Irrigation Month.

The Best Thing One Can Do When It's Raining Is To Let It Rain.

I used Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's quote as the title because it's 'as right as rain.'

Two weeks ago, I prayed for rain. Be careful what you wish for. On Sunday, the rain began and isn't supposed to stop for another few more days. Dropping over eighteen inches of rain in surrounding counties and nearly ten inches at my house, I took the rain as a gentle reminder to start blogging again on earth-shattering gardening.

During my travels and with work, I find interesting horticulture articles, the latest environmental news, and serendipitious gardening tidbits. I love photographing gardens and just strolling through them in my mind's eye. So while I'm not able to go out and dig in my backyard, this week I can still rejuvenate my soul by talking about the earth and gardening. Hopefully you'll write me about your garden. I know it's beautiful. Even in the rain.