The other day, I received a book in the mail that my husband had ordered along with my new dSLR, a Nikon d7000. The book was specifically published to go along with this camera, but it turns out it is more of a photography-class-in-a-book than a how-to-use-this-camera-book. As a result, I am now trying to challenge myself on a creative level and attempting to figure out all of this photo terminology.
You know the old saying, "Hindsight is 20/20"? Well, I'm seeing things pretty clearly these days. As I walked through my garden today carefully peeling off sheets and blankets from my tenderest of tropicals, I was seeing everything I had done wrong and everything that should've been different. If only I could hit rewind and plant this garden again from scratch!
Oh, how wonderful it feels to get back out on morning and evening walks in the garden! I've been out there very little throughout December, due to the cold. Actually, the only time I've spent out there this week has been for the laying on of blankets and sheets.
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?
It was a hot, hot October here in the valley. We had many a day this past month that peaked over 90 degrees (that's Fahrenheit to the rest of the world). The average high in October was only 85 though, with the average low at just 64, not such bad numbers when compared with summer. In fact, I've heard some locals refer to it as downright cool. There was a catch, though. Here in the valley, we received all of 0.01 inches of rain this whole month! Virtually nothing. There was one day I remember actually getting rain...more like a steady sprinkling for a short bit one morning. It was exciting, though! The whole family went out on the porch to watch it. (One month of drought and you'd think we were desert-dwellers.) Anyway, in hot, droughty weather like this, I am grateful that I have so many tough plants. Indeed, some of them are just gettin' goin' right now.
No, I am not blind. I peruse the Garden Blogworld daily, and I have not missed those brazen displays of autumn glory out there...the pumpkins, the scarecrows, and worst of all, the changing leaves. There is something about growing up in the Deep South that makes one feel as though they are missing out on something in the fall. I know some folk who get downright depressed over it. Those Floridians who have time and money to burn will be found journeying northward these next few weeks to witness the splendor of this changing of the seasons. Those who don't...well...they will feel a little empty, even if they can't quite put their finger on the reason. Perhaps we would have never noticed if shops and schools and restaurants in town were not festooned in leafy garlands and pumpkin displays. This decoration is surely the inspiration of northern transplants missing their homeland: a Florida native would scarcely even know of such things as changing seasons were we not under such influences.
Who can explain the secret pathos of Nature's loveliness? It is a touch of melancholy inherited from our Mother Eve. It is an unconscious memory of the lost Paradise. It is the sense that even if we should find another Eden, we would not be fit to enjoy it perfectly nor stay in it forever.
I am in love with August! Our peaceful garden has enjoyed weeks now of heavy rains, luscious growth, and bounteous bloom. The tropicals in particular are flourishing in the torrid heat and humidity. I have to say it works for me too, as cold weather does a number on these old bones and dry air wreaks havoc on my skin. I hear many people wishing summer away, but I wish it would stay. At least in Florida, we have a couple more months left. : )
For July's "Hot, Loud, and Proud" meme, I've searched my garden for the hottest, loudest, and proudest tropicals I could find. No, I don't live in the tropics. But I am one to push the limits. Here are some of the tropicals that help give my "SUB"tropical garden some exotic flair.
My all-time favorite color in the garden is PINK! Sometimes I feel like apologizing for such a deficiency in taste and for overusing this brilliant hue...but not right now. For although my garden is swimming in pink this summer, it is perfectly balanced by an array of whites, purples, blues, and yellows. So no apologies today. Just a perfectly palatable palette of pinks:
I am very new to Blogger and this internet world of gardening. As such, I wasn't aware of "Floral Friday" or "Foliage Follow-Up," though I read many a blog over the last two days with those themes. So, even though it is Sunday, today I am playing catch-up. It'll be a good snapshot anyway to see what is surviving and thriving here in the middle of January. Here is my Sunday version of what's happening in my garden today:
The Florida cracker roses (Rosa 'Louis Philippe') in my front garden survived our Arctic Blast without blinking an eye. Here is a beautiful flower just beginning to unfurl.
Lorapetalum, aka "Chinese Fringe," has its major bloom flush in December and January here in Central Florida.
I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Camellias are the stars of my winter garden. They have been in full bloom since early December and, fortunately, the flowers were unfazed by the "Arctic Blast."
This is Gaillardia, aka "Indian Blanketflower." I have a clump of these, and although they are still green and lush, the successive freezes have caused the petals to become stunted. Still pretty, though.
My neos have all survived the freeze. Yay!
Only a few of my ti plants survived the freezes without damage. This 'Black Magic' came through with flying colors! (It was surrounded by heat lamps, though.)
This Florida-hardy Bird's Nest Fern has never suffered cold damage in my garden. I've had it about three years, and it grows larger each year. Started out as a tiny little plant I found in the houseplant section.
Wow! I've noticed some "fall" color all around our county this weekend. This is something we don't see much of here in Central Florida. I was pleasantly surprised to see my Red Maples (Acer rubrum) in color when I walked out this morning. Yeah, it's winter, not fall, but we'll take that.
One of the stromanthes that was relatively unharmed by the freeze. Some were hit pretty badly. (I have many of these scattered around the garden, all propagated from the first plant I bought.)
The Philodendron selloum hedge got some damage, but this section is still green, thanks to a low-hanging oak branch.
The colder it gets, the brighter these Nandina berries become. So pretty!
I can't wait for this bromeliad bud to rise up and burst open! This is an aechmea that I covered with a thick blanket and a beach towel throughout the "Arctic Blast." It looked good for days and days. (I uncovered it daily to check on it.) But that one last night got it. The leaves are more than 50% burned. Fortunately, the center cup and the bloom bud seem to be unharmed.
I am also enjoying this bromeliad bloom spike, though the background in this photo showing the extensive lawn and garden damage is horrid. At least the sago in the background is hardy.
Yes, I have planted far too many tropical plants in my yard. The brown wasteland in wake of the recent "Arctic Blast" is testament to myZone 9 gardening blunders. But, once again, I have searched my garden today for plants that didn't just survive, but are shining in this wintry garden.
The classic conifer is given a subtropical twist in the Bunya-Bunya Tree (Araucaria bidwillii). A native of Australia, the Bunya-Bunya thrives in my Zone 9 Central Florida garden. It is a tree that grows to massive proportions in its native environ. This tree was honored by aboriginal Australians in annual festivals to celebrate the ripening of the nuts that come from its enormous coconut-shaped cone.
This evergreen Autumn Fern is a bright splash of green in a bed where caladiums and gingers have gone to sleep for the winter.
The knockout roses were unfazed by our "Arctic Blast" and are loaded with buds. This is Rosa 'Radtko.'
Not real sure if this Aechmea bromeliad is cold-tolerant, since it hid under a blanket and a beach towel for the past week and a half. It has a scape rising up, so I had to protect it just in case!
The Neoregelia bromeliads all survived these frigid temperatures. Those under tree cover were not protected.
'Red Ruffles' Azalea is Florida-friendly and offers splashes of color in a winter garden. Just really slow growing, though. This is growing in the shade of an old oak tree.
This was my first year growing Indian Blanketflowers. I wasn't sure if they would go dormant at the first sign of cold or what, but they are still green and lush after our worst winter in years.
Camellias are clearly the stars of my winter garden. I look forward to their bloom every year, with their 4- to 6-inch layered blooms and sweet-tea-like scent. Above is Camellia japonica 'Kramer's Supreme'; below is Camellia x williamsii 'Blue Danube.'
The African Iris buds dropped and flopped all week, but the plants are still all intact and green.
The Florida Cracker Rose ('Louis Philippe') is one of my favorite garden plants. The ones in my garden have been evergreen and everblooming (in flushes) since I planted them years ago. Definitely a winter winner!
Another Australian native, Bottlebrush thrives in our Zone 9 environment, throwing off its giant red blooms year-round. Above is stiff bottlebrush. I also have a weeping bottlebrush tree.