Bloomin’ Update 58: My Garden Doesn’t Need Me

My garden doesn’t need me.

Oh, it uses me — for watering and weeding and such — but it really doesn’t need me.

I came to this conclusion after having two days off in a row. I haven’t had that in some time. This is the busy season in South Florida garden centers, and when I’m not there, I’m writing blog posts for about 30 companies via an Internet marketing agency.

As a result, things have been neglected.

This blog. My garden. And when one’s blog is a gardening blog, it’s an issue.

So when two free consecutive days happened, I focused all of my attention on gardening tasks. I mowed and edged. I weeded and divided. I rooted and planted.

As I crawled through the beds and examined the pots, I marveled at what I found. While the plants can always benefit from a human hand, there’s something satisfying in knowing they are perfectly capable of doing what they do and letting me experience the wonder of it all.


Last summer, friends gave us an orchid as a house-warming gift. When I asked her what do I do with it, she advised that I should just ignore it.

After the blooms faded, I brought the plant outside to a shaded area near my potting bench, where I did as I was told. I did, though, mist it with water when I thought of it. Now, two flower spike are clearly visible.


There is a small terra-cotta dish of succulents on a table on the patio. I never know which succulents will flower, so I’m always surprised when they do.

Hawaiian Ti

I love Hawaiian ti for its bright colors. I hate Hawaiian ti because as it grows, it gets a long woody stem and the bright leaves are clustered at the top.

A gardener told me all I had to do was cut them and new growth would appear — and the cut pieces could be stuck in the ground to make more plants.

A few weeks ago, I went on a cutting rampage — and on my recent walk, I spotted new growth emerging.


Tillandsia, which sounds like an exotic island, is a whole new world of plants for me — air plants, to be specific.  A member of the bromeliad family, nutrients and water are gathered through its leaves while the roots keep it anchored to a host plant. Somehow, this one arrived in a podocarpus shrub in the front of the house. I’m not sure if it will flower, but I’m keeping my eyes on it.


About a year ago, I planted a clerodendrum, a colorful shrub with green and purple leaves, and blooms that look more like fireworks than flowers. It never occurred to me that the shrub would self-sow — until I spotted this and two others growing in the area around what is now the mother plant.

In time, these will be the flowers.


A funny thing happened to my frangipani tree, the one I posted about after winning it during a raffle at the local garden club meeting. The crown of the tree split into three — and as I followed the taller piece upward, it was capped with what I will describe as a candelabra of blossoms.

Just before putting this post together, I walked past the tree again to check on its first flowers.

At the end of my two garden-filled days, I was exhausted in a good way — much different than the exhaustion from working in the garden center and writing for others.

Yes, I miss being in the garden. I miss being in my garden — and while my garden may not need me, one thing is certain: I need my garden.

Bloomin’ Update 56: Going Bananas!


Ever since Joe first noticed the flower stem emerging from the crown of our banana tree, I’ve been singing the song “Going Bananas.” Madonna sang it during her Dick Tracey years and it pops into my head whenever I walk by the tree and observe the changes in the inflorescence.

Actually, I don’t even know the words — just the chorus, and even that’s a bit shaky. So all I really ever sing is “I’m going bananas” and then I add a few la-la-las and a couple of boom-chick-a-booms.

Simply put, I’m going bananas because I’m growing bananas.


Within a few days, the flower stem is pulled downward by the weight of the inflorescence, so that it’s peeking below the dark green foliage and looking a lot like the Audrey II from Little Shop of Horrors.

Banana Fact: This flower stem is actually the plant’s true stem, growing from the rhizome below the ground and pushing its way upward through the false stem or pseudostem, a very fibrous, water-filled stem of tightly packed leaf sheaths.

As it grows, modified leaves or bracts curl back to reveal rows of young fruit.


Each of these are tipped with a pale yellow female flower. The male flowers are contained in the reddish-brown bud at the end of the flower stem.


Soon, more and more bananas are revealed. Each bunch is called a hand, and each single banana is called a finger.

Banana Fact: Each hand can have between 10 and 20 fingers.


I’m so enamored of the plant’s structure, I find myself wanting to photograph it each day.

Banana Fact: because they are derived from a single flower with more than one ovary, bananas — like tomatoes, kiwi, and pomegranates — are berries.



The pale yellow flowers begin to fade.

Banana Fact: A banana plant is actually classified as a perennial herb.



And all that’s left for me to do is wait for the harvest.  (Notice the smaller male flowers at the bottom of the photo below.)



I’m not exactly sure when that harvest will be. All I know is the flower stem will continue to elongate, creating more space between the hands. At some point after that, it will be time to not only remove the fruit, but also the plant itself to make room for the pup that’s already sprouting next to the mother plant.

Banana Fact: Until then, rest assured, I’ll be going bananas.

Bloomin’ Update 55: Flapjacks For A Sunday Morning

Kalanchoe Flapjacks

There’s something special about Sunday mornings. It’s a time that’s built for reading each section of the newspaper, undertaking the crossword puzzle, and lingering over a breakfast that’s a bit more intricate than an eat-and-run weekday meal.  It’s a moment to pause and breathe.

For today’s Sunday breakfast, I’m serving up some flapjacks.

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Bloomin’ Update 54: My Mo-Bro In Slo-Mo


I’m always stunned when something sneaks up on me in the garden. Not a snake or a bear, but a plant.  I mean, I walk around the garden daily — as I’m sure all of you do — and I like to think that I notice most of what’s happening among the plants.

And then this happens — a bloom that wasn’t there yesterday is here today.

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Bloomin’ Update 53: New Year, New Look, New Plants



It’s been some time since I posted a “Bloomin’ Update,” because — well — I had nothing bloomin’ in my garden because I didn’t have a garden in zone 10.

But as 2014 changed into 2015, so too did the garden change. Where there was once only lawn, there are now beds. Where there are beds, there are now plants and pots and paths. (Speaking of paths, I’ll describe the path I took to create this garden in a future post.)

With all of the changes happening around me, I decided to make some changes to this blog. For a while, I’ve considered purchasing my own domain — which I have now done. It’s official, I am now Nitty Gritty Dirt Man dot com.

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Bloomin’ Update 52: Cactus Up Close & Personal


As a general garden rule, I do not like — and so steer away from — plants that can hurt me.  Roses are about as close as I get to this thorny issue, which has less to do with the plant and more to do with me.  I know me.  I know that I can be careless and klutzy — and that combination, along with some blood thinners, means I can easily become a human pin cushion.

A few years ago, Joe and I asked a neighbor if he would like our cactus.  It was tall, only one stalk, and never really did anything.  It was just there, slightly askew — a leaning tower of needles, so to speak.

The neighbor gladly accepted the offer, digging up the cactus and replanting it along the property line between him and us — far enough and close enough at the same time.   Since then, that single stalk has expanded to about seven towering stems — and it’s now in bloom, giving a whole new definition to vertical gardening.

Look quickly, though, the flowers — which bees love — only last a day.

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