So here it is.... It's official. My little spot o' Florida is under a freeze watch for Monday and Tuesday nights. I am truly almost speechless. With five full winters under our belt, I can honestly say this garden has ne'er seen a December freeze. What does this mean for the rest of winter?
As I headed out to cut my Monthly Garden Bouquet, I have to admit I was feeling a little green-eyed over all the giant roses and peonies I see gracing the Northern gardens in spring and summer. Those splendid, full-petaled beauties make wonderful bouquets, but I don't seem to have any gorgeous blooms of that sort, though in winter, my camelllias do put on a nice show. But this is not winter. Far from it, actually. The days have been blistering, brutally stretching out for hours in the mid- to upper-90's. At least at night, we know it will dip down to 78. Whoopee.
Old Man Winter just can't keep a good garden down! For those who haven't read my blog from the beginning, you are probably fortunate to have missed out on the whining and belly-aching that flowed from my fingers for the first three months of this year. Central Florida was hit by a frigid, long-and-drawn-out winter, the kind that comes maybe once every twenty years here in my neck of the woods. Just in time for me to start a garden blog. Exactly the kind of winter that those pushing the boundaries with tropical plants dread the most. But no more belly-achin' here! I am thrilled to find that each week of May brings more growth and more flowers to this pseudo-tropical garden. I'm so glad I didn't rip the whole lot of it out and start over. From here on out, my only complaining will probably have to do with the incessant weeds.
Ya gotta love a plant that freely seeds itself around your garden. Blue Porterweed (Stachytarpheta urticifolia) does just that. Though its common name infers that it is a weed, and justly so, I prefer to call it a "happy volunteer." It certainly is not the worst weed in my garden. Blue porterweed comes up every spring around the garden, but it is very easy to pull when young. I pull most of them, but if one happens to come up in a spot where there's room, I leave it to grow. And grow it does! These plants quickly evolve from a tiny seedling to a 5' x 5' shrub by late summer. They are in constant bloom from spring until the first frost (usually January or February). The cold permanently kills the plant, and I have to dig it out. But by then, it has already spread its seed. Fortunately, we do have some cold weather here to control its spread. Otherwise, I might hate this weed instead of loving it. And why do I love this weed so much? It is one more plant in my garden that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and the more variety of nectar, the more of these beautiful creatures we will have.
A Long-Tailed Skipper Butterfly nectaring from a porterweed bloom.
It is easy to see from these photos how this plant's scientific name was derived. In the Greek, staphys means "spiked like wheat," and tarphys means "thick." I love the way the spiky texture of this plant contrasts with large, mounded shrubs like jatropha or arboricola.