February 28, 2015

Lessons Learned During a Strange Winter

oak leaves

Welcome to the 16th installment of the "Garden Lessons Learned" meme. This meme celebrates lessons we've learned in our gardens and nature during the past season. Has it been a strange one for you?

snowy wood

It certainly has been a weird winter for the Midwest and Eastern states in North America. Flexibility and patience are two attributes we need in spades these days. What lessons did you learn this season?

Here are a few of my "notes to self":
  • Don't count on having a mild winter, even if it starts out that way. When December was mild, and January was "normal," I figured February would be mild or normal. Not so much. Good thing I'd planned to be away for the worst of it.
  • Spending the end of winter in a warm climate is fabulous--much more wonderful than I'd even imagined. But I'm finding myself empathizing and worrying more about friends and family back in the brutal cold. It's still enjoyable, but I wish everyone else could be here in Florida with me.

sedges and mosses

  • Think about cultivating more potted plants to bring indoors into the sunroom during the winter. I keep adding more each year. The cool sunroom seems the perfect environment for plants that prefer a sunny, cool, but not freezing winter. I think I need to add some shelves to a corner in that room.
  • Mosses and lichens are fun to photograph during the winter--if you can find them under the snow. There's something about these "mixed media," "fire and ice" scenes that captivates me. Now if I can only keep my fingertips warm enough...

lichen

What did you learn this season? If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, how was your winter? For those in the Southern Hemisphere, did you have a successful summer garden? Please share your lessons!

As always, please write a post or share one you've already written about your "Lessons Learned" during the past season. Then share your links or simple observations in the comments. I'll keep this post up for a few days, and it will be available always under the "Lessons Learned" tab at the top of this blog.

Please also join in Donna's Seasonal Celebrations at Gardens Eye View! Feel free to join in with a post that fits both memes, or separate posts for one or both of them.

mosses and rocks

holy rock

And remember, the next season is just around the corner (for those who are looking forward to it).

ice and moss

February 24, 2015

A Tropical Winter Walk-Off

spanish moss 4

When Les at A Tidewater Gardener announced he was hosting the Winter Walk-Off meme again, I paused a bit. Instead of walking, I'd decided to "fly off" this year--spending the end of winter along the Gulf Coast of Florida. But Les said it was OK to participate, even though I'm posting far from home.

path 1

So, the other day as I walked to church, I snapped some photos along the way. It was a beautiful, sunny day, with temperatures in the mid-70s (24C). The path I walked was paved most of the way--along a residential street, interspersed with some "wilder" areas.

mixed media

One of the first displays I noticed was a tree trunk, with climbing cactuses and Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) growing up the side. I don't know if this was intentional, but the "mixed media" of the pine cones and needles at the bottom--combined with the moss, the cactuses, and the interesting bark--created a pleasant effect. I believe the cactus is some species of Selenicereus.

ragweed

Most of the plants along the route were tropical--unsuited or uncommon outdoor plants in my part of the country. But I did notice Common Ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), which also blankets the Midwest during the growing season. Seems it will grow anywhere.

cactus

I was surprised to see this small cactus (some species of Opuntia?), growing in the middle of someone's lawn. I would think this would make lawn-mowing a bit challenging.

agave and cereus cactus

This agave and cactus combination was dramatic. I've included the surrounding large trees to show the scale. I'd estimate the agave was about six to seven feet tall, with the cactus nearly double its height at the top.

fan palm

Fan Palms (Sabal minor?) were everywhere. This small grouping was attractive--I imagined it growing in a pot on a patio somewhere. The light here makes it look brighter than it really was.

spanish moss 1

Even more prevalent was the Spanish Moss, hanging from huge trees,

spanish moss 3

Along the path,

spanish moss 2

Coexisting with epiphytes,

spanish moss 5

And, actually, draping just about everywhere. For those who see Spanish Moss all the time, you're probably chuckling at my fascination. I can't help it--I find it incredibly beautiful.

spanish moss 6

From a distance, as well as close-up.

jungle clearing

At several points along the mile-long path, there were large swatches of preserve or private property. I kept noticing the beautiful clearings and meadows, surrounded by tropical plants.

climber

I thought this grouping of epiphytes, ferns, trees, and mosses was enchanting.

private

Another view of the private "wild" property on one side of the route.

path 2

As I drew closer to my destination, the path wound through a beautiful forest clearing.

bench

A bench, framed by Bougainvillea (B. glabra) outside an artist's studio welcomed travelers to sit and rest a spell.

egret 1

Also welcoming was this very tame egret. He was hanging around the church grounds, and paused long enough for me to capture a few mugs.

egret 2

egret 3

I snapped many more individual plant photos, which I plan to share in a future post. This was an unusual winter walk-off for me. I'm starting to feel a little guilty for spending the end of winter in such a pleasant place.

Visit Les's A Tidewater Gardener blog for more Winter Walk-Off posts from interesting locations.

February 17, 2015

Greetings From a Warmer Place

palm

I'm following the advice of the Ithaca, N.Y., Convention and Visitors Bureau, spending the end of winter in Florida. (The fishman and the kids will join me later for a family vacation week.) Actually, this trip was planned months ago, but it certainly makes sense with all the crazy weather the northern U.S. has experienced lately.

My parents live along the Gulf Coast of the Sunshine State during the winter, and they're kind enough to host me for a few weeks. So I'm living and working here until spring. Yay. I'm just getting my bearings these first few days, but I'm planning to post a few highlights of my stay.

Mom and Dad have a nifty, comfortable little place with some fun plants of note:

spanish moss

Nothing says the South like Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) hanging from the trees.

tropical

And the views in most directions around here are lush and fertile.

lemons

Including the neighbors' Lemon (or Grapefruit?) trees. Yum!

tangerine buds

The folks recently planted their own Citrus tree--a small Tangerine (Citrus retuculata), which has several buds just about to bloom.

hibiscus

Mom also planted a lovely Hibiscus.

jasmine

And a Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum asiaticum).

lattice

She's training the Jasmine up a lattice behind the Hibiscus.

moses

Her Moses-in-the-Cradle (Rhoeo spathacea) has really filled in since the last time I was here.

umbrella1

The Umbrella plants (Schefflera arboricola) in the raised planters are lovely at this point.

umbrella2

Beautiful scarlet, orange, and yellow berries, with variegated foliage.

In addition to the plants, there are many other fun discoveries.

shell

Since we're near the coast, there are seashells scattered here and there.

lizard2

I always enjoy the lizards! I'm not sure if this is an anole or some other type of lizard.

lizard1

Another one tried to get into the house--between the window panes. No luck, but he's so cute!

So much to see here, and I'm excited for the adventures to come during the next few weeks!

February 10, 2015

Valentine Greetings for My Favorite Bloggers

favorites

Do you have favorite blogs that you visit repeatedly? What is it about them that encourages you to return repeatedly?

I have many favorites, and the reasons I visit them vary. Here are just a few:

Blogger A is a sister from a different mother. Our values are similar. We don't always agree, but we respect each other and we hit it off from the start. This is the type of blogger who, when we meet in person for the first time, feels like a long-time friend. We never tire of comparing notes about plants, gardening, life, and everything in between.

orchid

Blogger B is one of the best photographers I've ever encountered. When I visit his blog, I audibly gasp in wonder at the beauty of his craft. His photos of plants, nature, and landscapes encourage me to keep experimenting with photography, and to see the graceful beauty of simple things. He gives me a new view of the world every time I visit.

babys breath

Blogger C challenges me and educates me. She doesn't settle for mediocrity, and she inspires me to keep working to improve everything about my blog and my world. This blogger doesn't necessarily win all the awards, but perhaps she should. In many ways, I feel this exceptional blogger is underappreciated for the value of her work.

roses

Blogger X lives on the other side of the world (or the country) and opens my eyes and mind to unfamiliar plants, climates, gardening techniques, and cultures. My botanical adventures are deeply enriched by virtually visiting his space. Yes, I enjoy visiting bloggers who are similar to me, but I also find it richly rewarding to visit bloggers like this one who are worlds away. I may never experience anything like his garden firsthand, but I find it fascinating!

cosmos

Blogger Y visits my blog and always has a kind or constructive thing to say about my posts. In the same way that Blogger C challenges me, this blogger encourages me. It's not a coddling type of encouragement, but a supportive "your blog has value" message. This blogger enjoys my blog, and I enjoy hers. We have a symbiotic, joyful relationship.

wax flower

Blogger Z has an incredible plant collection. I'm always curious about what I'll find each time I visit. Some of the plants are new; others are established. But there's always a surprise or a new way of featuring or thinking about his plants. Secretly, I wish I could visit this blogger's actual garden to get a cutting of this plant, or some seeds from this other one, or ...

cyclamen

Did you recognize yourself or your own favorite blogs in these descriptions? I used "he" and "she" randomly and interchangeably here, because the truth is, it doesn't matter. Many of my favorite bloggers fit several of these categories, and many more. If I visit your blog regularly, you are a favorite!

Thank you for the reasons listed, and for your friendship. Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

* * * * * * 

Many who know me more personally are aware that my extended family has lost some dear ones in recent months. I'm trying to figure out a way to write about these losses, and I haven't decided how to do so in this venue. I'm unsure whether this is even the appropriate place. In any case, it doesn't feel like the right time. In the meantime, thank you for your kind words and support. They are much appreciated.