Four Fabulous Flower Faces (Part 2)

When it comes to fabulous flower faces, orchids are always the scene stealers. They’re the ones that get passersby to stop and stare. They’re the ones that get the awards and command top dollar at flower sales.

All the while, though, there are other equally fabulous flower faces — wallflowers just waiting for someone to notice them. Maybe they have an interesting color or a unique fragrance or a great backstory. That was the gist of the previous post, inspired by Hollywood’s Golden Age. In that piece, I profiled a bromeliad (pulled from my neighbor’s trash) and a bleeding heart vine (a cutting from my grandfather). Now, those two are joined by two more plants on my list of Four Fabulous Flower Faces.

Mexican Cotton Flower

My friends Rick and David, avid gardeners, gave me a small rooted cutting of a Mexican cotton flower. Although they explained to me how the plant would grow, it wasn’t until I saw it in action that I was able to appreciate its wonder and beauty. It’s a lot like an actress who continues to surprise and entertain and who doesn’t let a thing like age stand in her way.

After planting it into a larger pot, buds eventually appeared, each surrounded by bracts resembling a feathery pyramid:

A white flower soon pushed through, looking a lot like hollyhock:

Once pollinated, the white bloom faded to a dusty pink:

After the flower completely withered away, it was followed by a balloon-like bud, which seemed to swell with each passing day:

As much as I was tempted to pry it open, I restrained myself — and then, one morning, it popped open — at least I imagined it making a popping sound, because what other sound could a cotton explosion make?

Beneath all of that cotton, there are seeds that can be easily propagated. Truly, this is a plant that keeps on giving.


Some people take lists very seriously. They debate and argue if this movie deserves to be on that list, or if a particular celebrity is worthy of being named best dressed on the red carpet. That’s how it is with hibiscus. Beautiful? Yes. But in South Florida, it’s  a pretty common flowering shrub that’s often taken for granted.

Then, this one put on a show for me, its color very much reminding me of the “Jungle Red” lipstick referenced in one of my favorite films, The Women, starring Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer, Joan Fontaine, and a host of other Hollywood legends.

Here’s the backstory:

Joe and I have some friends, Jennie and Linda, from Pennsylvania, who winter in Fort Lauderdale. Whenever they come down, they often go plant shopping to pick up a few things to dress up the front door area of their condo. This year it was a red hibiscus grown in tree-form.

When we visited them for dinner, about a month before their return northward, Jennie asked if I could look at her hibiscus. The leaves were wilted, some were yellowed, and there weren’t any flowers. She had kept the plant in the same black growers pot in which she purchased it, placed that in a terra cotta pot, and then placed that near the west-facing door of their condo.

The diagnosis was pretty easy. Our friends had baked their hibiscus. It was literally dying of thirst. Jennie then asked if I could place the plant in my home nursery — and if I could restore it, I could keep it and the terra cotta pot. Challenge accepted.

Step one was to replant it into a larger pot, in a somewhat sheltered location, and water it deeply. Any distressed foliage eventually withered and fell off. Once it looked like it had survived the transplant and was bouncing back, I reintroduced it to longer stretches of full sun. Hibiscus love sun.

It’s now planted in a large terra cotta pot outside of the dining room window. The double blooms have been spectacular, although I do have to keep an eye on iguanas that view hibiscus as a delicacy. I’m hoping the plant’s closeness to the house will deter them.

What’s especially fascinating, though, is that the bloom is beautiful front and back.

This, in turn, reminds me of a Hollywood starlet who knows how to pose for the paparazzi along the red carpet — first the front, then the back, coming and going — and when that happens, she knows she’s going to be on the Four Fabulous Flower Faces list.

Greetings From The Planet Crinum

Crinum Lily

There have been times while learning to garden in zone 10 when I’ve felt less like a gardener and more like a member of a landing party from the Starship Enterprise.

With winters that feel like summers, armies of iguanas feasting their way through yard after yard, warnings of Burmese pythons in the Everglades, and giant African-snails eating the stucco off of buildings, I sometimes wonder on what planet Florida is actually located and why Scotty isn’t beaming me up.

It’s the same thing with plants. They’re different and they’re big in this subtropical world — and each time I step outside, I might as well be boldly gardening where no one has gardened before.

Continue reading

Bloomin’ Update 51: Gettin’ Schooled In A Nursery

I'm not sure of the name of this plant, but I was charmed by the play of sunlight igniting the leaf's underside.

I’m not sure of the name of this plant, but I was charmed by the play of sunlight igniting the leaf’s underside.

Much of my garden time in South Florida is not actually spending time in the garden at all. So far, it’s been about meeting other gardeners, visiting nurseries, reading books, taking notes, and asking questions. I’m a stranger in a strange land here, a zone six-ish gardener in a zone 10 world.

When I learned the local garden club had organized a Saturday field trip to a local nursery, I jumped at the chance to do all of the above — although, I do have to figure out a way to take notes while balancing a camera.

Continue reading

Bloomin’ Update 50: Slowly, Softly . . . Spring!

Ahhh.  Spring!

Ahhh. Spring!

Spring. It’s the word and the season that seems to be on everyone’s lips this year — mine included. Perhaps it’s because this past winter was less wonder and more blunder.

Even the posts of this blog have been overly devoted to thoughts of spring. First there was the lament over the loss of the season as I’ve always known it. Then came the quest to discover spring in my new surroundings.

And now, here is a return — if only for a week — to my Long Island roots, where Joe and I visited family and friends for the Easter holiday. As we spent time at Joe’s sister’s house with her horses, and then at my parents, it was clear that this spring is like no other.

The lingering winter chill seems to have spring pressing the snooze button. The season isn’t too quick to reveal all of the richness and fullness of its colors — but the hints are everywhere. Sunny breezes. Songbirds.  Peeks of green that seem to multiply with each new day. And a mid-April snow, winter’s reminder that spring best take its time waking up.

A late-season snow left a crunchy coating on the spring landscape.

A late-season snow leaves a crunchy coating on the spring landscape.

What a difference a day makes.

What a difference a spring day makes.

Rose leaves welcoming the slightest hint of warmth.

Rose leaves welcoming the slightest hint of warmth.

An iris shoot pushes its way through winter's brownness.

An iris shoot pushes its way through winter’s brownness.

Tank enjoys a day without his blanket.

Tank enjoys a day without his blanket.

Meet Goliath.

Meet Goliath.

Rowdy, the barnyard cat.

Rowdy, the barnyard cat.

Andromeda's flower clusters were alive with the sound of . . .

Andromeda’s flower clusters are alive with the sound of . . .

. . . bees, eager to get to work.

. . . bees, eager to get to work.

The tools are also ready to work.

The tools are also ready to work.

Autumn Joy in spring.

Autumn Joy in spring.

How exciting to see this bit of green sprouting from the woody stem of a hydrangea.

How exciting to see this bit of green sprouting from the woody stem of a hydrangea.

Who will get more apples this year: my father or the squirrels?

Who will get more apples this year: my father or the squirrels?

No weeping allowed -- it's spring!

No weeping allowed — it’s spring!

The lilac is green -- for now.

The lilac is green — for now.

Forsythia heralds spring's awakening.

Forsythia heralds spring’s awakening.

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter!

Bloomin’ Update 38: It’s So Easy Seeing Green


With St. Patrick’s Day around the corner and me tuning up my bagpipes, it suddenly occurred to me how appropriate it is that this most Irish of celebrations, where green is the color of the day, is held in March.  This third month, after all, is the time when green returns to the landscape.

Irish eyes may be smiling, but on a recent walk through the garden, as I brushed aside brown winter leaves, I found my gardener’s eyes smiling at the excitement and promise of once again seeing green.

Continue reading