Bloomin’ Update 64: Harvest Days, SoFlo Style

Sometimes, it’s easy to forget it’s autumn. That has become my annual thought the longer I live and garden in South Florida. I know many plants, even down here, have a season, but it’s not until I see the national weather forecast for the Dakotas, my friend’s pictures of her New England view of painted leaves, and other garden blogs filled with photos of gardens in seasonal transition that I truly realize that the times, they are a-changin’.

It’s at this moment, in a land where most feel there are only two seasons — hot and hotter — that I become more aware of the later sunrises and earlier sunsets, and of the shimmering, golden hue of the sunlight in the late, late afternoon. We were even given a small tease as a weak “cold” front made its down the Florida peninsula for a day, delivering — at the very least — a drop in humidity. Other than that, though, autumn here is pretty much summer.

On the other hand, the combination of these subtle changes and a pandemic that’s kept me firmly planted at home has given me a reason to not only harvest bananas (above), but to also collect seeds and start new plants.

Pride of Barbados

This small flowering tree or tall flowering shrub began as a gift from friends. As hard as I prune it to keep it short, it seems happiest when it’s allowed to fully grow upward. Then, at the top of its stems, clusters of orchid-like flowers bloom. In turn, these are followed by dangling seed pods, which I quickly collect before they pop open so I don’t have a forest of Pride.

One pod I let dry on my potting bench. When I cut it open, I was surprised to find the seeds in an alternating pattern. I’m not sure if this is typical or a quirk of this particular pod. Either way, I was still impressed that nature could produce something so perfect and symmetrical.

I planted some of the seeds. Within days, they sprouted and now I have a pot of seedlings that need to be potted up. I’m still not sure if I’ll plant these when they’re a little older or if I’ll give them away.

Mexican Cotton Plant

One of my favorite plants that I’ve grown is Mexican Cotton Plant. I have mine in a pot, and I’ve always been able to keep it pruned to encourage branching and stronger growth. This year, though, something happened. After flowering, it produced the buds that would eventually open to reveal cotton. That’s when I noticed the leaves dying. My hope was for the plant to live long enough for these buds to mature, but that wasn’t the case.

I harvested the buds and let them dry. In a matter of days, they popped open, revealing the cotton balls. I pulled out the cotton, each piece of fluff covering a seed. These are now planted and I’m waiting for them to sprout.

White African Iris

Last year, a friend gave me some seed pods from his White African Iris. I dried the pod, removed the seeds, and planted them. They are now flowering for the first time.

Crinum Lily

One of my favorite plants is the Crinum Lily. Large and tropical, the plant is related to amaryllis rather than lilies — and it can easily fill a bed with its sword-like leaves. The treat is when they send up a flower spike (above). Within a day, the flower cluster opens even more (below).

They also spread. One way is for the mother bulb to produce pups. These can be separated and then planted. I tend to do this on a regular basis to keep the mother plants looking clean and neat.

The other method is fascinating. When a flower is pollinated, a bulblet forms on the flower spike. As it matures, its weight will either help bend the flower stalk to the ground or it will simply fall off. Recently, while cleaning the Crinums, separating pups, and weeding, I found a bulblet that had fallen to the ground, where it had germinated. At first glance, I thought the withered bulblet was a stone.

King Palm

Normally, when  palm trees produce their inflorescence, Joe cuts them off to prevent becoming overrun with sprouting palm trees everywhere — except this time. I was interested in harvesting seeds from the King Palm, so we let the hull-like structure (peduncular bract) that contains the small flowers remain attached to the tree. The photo above is of another peduncular bract that we cut in half to see how tightly packed the inflorescence is.

After a few weeks, the bract popped open, revealing its multi-branched inflorescence.

In time, the inflorescence branches spread and bees are drawn to the hundreds of small beige flowers.

Back To The Bananas

I realize bananas may not be everyone’s idea of a fall fruit. That title usually belongs to apples and pears and pumpkins. This year, though, the banana plant happened to produce just in time for a fall harvest — and there were lots of bananas. I added them to cereal, shared them with neighbors, froze some for future use, and tried my hand at banana bread for the first time.

My neighbor’s recipe called for loaf pans, but all I had was a Bundt pan — so that’s what it had to be. Not as tasty as my neighbor’s — but all in all, a delicious way to celebrate the season in a SoFlo way.

Garden Secrets of Bunny Mellon Giveaway

I wanted to take a few moments to thank everyone who participated in the recent giveaway of Garden Secrets of Bunny Mellon, by Linda Jane Holden, and to congratulate Carol H. for being the lucky winner!

Love In The Time Of Plumeria

I’m not sure when my gardening mind turned to — for want of a better term — composted manure, but I’m pretty positive I know the exact moment I realized it. I was mowing the lawn, daydreaming while I worked, and an idea — one that was already well known to me, you, and everyone else, but seemed like a fresh discovery — popped into my head.

Trees can be grown from seeds.

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Son Of Seed Mustache From Space

A long time ago— May, actually — in a galaxy far, far away— just outside of the front door — an alien-looking seed mustache from space appeared on the tip of a desert rose branch. That was the general gist of an earlier post — but after a couple of months, my sci-fi fantasy that is South Florida gardening has become, “Captain, the pod doors have opened.”

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Once Upon A Tomato

Tomato Seeds

If seeds could talk, I wonder what tales they would tell.

I’m sure they would recite their perfect equation of soil, light, and water for their optimum germination. They wouldn’t even wait for us to ask. They would just offer that info up at the start of the conversation. Seeds are funny that way.

I wonder, though, if they would be willing to share with us their story? That perhaps their great-great-great-great grandfather hitched a ride on Paul Revere’s coat on his famous midnight ride? Or that they, in fact, escaped from a research lab looking to build a better seed?

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Whiling Away A Winter’s Day

Oak Leaf In Snow

What to do?  It’s an early January day, one of those odd ones that’s wedged between cold fronts.  On Long Island, that means it sort of feels like March, and there is an urge to bundle up and start spring cleaning — while the inner voice says, “Don’t be too quick.  This is just a winter lull, and there will be icy temperatures at any moment.”

As if to serve as a reminder, there are the remnants of last night’s flurries (above) and autumn leaves encased in ice on top of the pool cover (below).

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What Not To Tell The Kids

I’m the first to admit it.  There’s a lot about gardening that I don’t know – so much so that I can’t even pretend.  What I do know, I have been able to gather from books, conversations, television shows, and, now, from fellow garden bloggers and reader comments.

None of this, though, is enough to stop me from the seasonal shake of my head when I pass some gardens and non-gardens and wonder, “What were they thinking — or not thinking, as the case may be?”  And once that ball gets rolling, my list of garden pet peeves gets longer and I can’t help but imagine the conversations that might be happening.

“Mommy, where does mulch come from?”

“Well, dear, deep in the center of the earth there is a hot core of molten mulch.  And each spring, as the air gets warmer, the molten mulch moves toward the surface – usually around the base of trees because their roots have punctured the mulch bubble.  Then, mulch pours from the ground around the tree, piling up higher and higher as it cools.”

So that would explain it – because I can’t think of any other reason to explain the appearance of cone-shaped mulch volcanoes that pop up each spring on residential and commercial properties alike.

I have always been of the mindset that mulch is good.  It’s decorative and practical, as it helps to keep roots cool in summer and warm in winter, as well as limiting weed growth and aiding in the soil’s moisture retention – but too much of a good thing can be bad.  Mulch that is too deep can have a negative effect on a tree’s bark and root functioning, and, therefore, on its overall health. 

Grab your rakes, America.  It’s time to save countless gardens and yards from these devastating mulch flows.

“Daddy, where does seedless watermelon come from?”

“Well, honey, um. . . . .”


When did “seed” become an ugly word?  The seeds are part of the fun that comes from eating a watermelon – that’s why spitting was invented.  The rest of the fun comes from the rich color and the sweet juice that I remember dribbling down my chin and onto my t-shirt.

Seedless is even used as part of the advertisement.  It says, “See how convenient I am.  No seeds here to take up your time.”  Now we have a generation that actually thinks seedless is a good thing. 

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I just haven’t been fortunate enough to actually eat a delicious seedless watermelon – and I’m done trying.  Each time I sample some, I feel as if something is missing – more than just seeds.  When I finish eating a slice and look at my seedless plate, I start missing the way watermelon used to be – and, for that matter, how so many other things used to be.

Yes, in our quest to go seedless, we have lost something.  Color.  Flavor.  And a childhood memory.

Where, oh where, has my watermelon gone?  Oh, where, oh where can it be?

“Mommy, why are our flowers melting?”

“Not now, sweetheart.  Just eat your seedless watermelon so we can go watch daddy and his mulch volcano.”

If I remember my high school biology, plastic is not organic and so it cannot reproduce – and yet, more and more plastic flowers are appearing in gardens, window boxes, and flower pot displays.  Even the anole in the above photo looks perplexed — or at least as perplexed as an anole can look.  In fact, I have even turned it into a bit of a game – I spy. . . plastic tulips in the privet hedge.

Is there ever a good excuse for using plastic flowers in the landscape?  Maybe it has to do with conserving water – you know, using plastic for greener living.  Or, maybe it has to do with finding the perfect flower strong enough to withstand summer’s heat and/or winter’s cold – but at some point, even plastic daffodils need a rest. 

My fellow gardeners, we must put a stop to these plastic pushers.  If not, I fear we are witnessing the dawn of a new invasive species – one that cannot be composted away. 

And now that I’ve gotten all this off my chest, I’m gazing upon a fourth peeve: the naked yard.  One of my neighbors has nothing planted , and I can only imagine how they explain that to the kids.  Hmmmm.

I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts

Florida?  In summer?  Are you nuts?

If you’ve read any previous posts, you already know the answer to that question.  But in this case, there is a reason to the madness.  In a nutshell — a coconut shell, that is — South Florida will someday be our new home.  About one month before Hurricane Andrew arrived in 1992, Joe and I purchased a house.  Each year since, we have traveled to Fort Lauderdale several times a year to do the most relaxing of vacation activities: yard work.  And as we go about our palm tree trimming and bundling and bagging of debris, we do a lot of planning and dreaming.

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Bloomin’ Update 28: I Went To A Garden Party . . .

It seems that quite suddenly, summer has brought the entire world into bloom — and that means hosting a whole bunch of guests to a bloomin’ banquet.  There’s plenty to eat and drink — so, bring a chair, sit back, and relax.

First up: butterflies.  I’m not sure what type of butterfly this is, but the garden is full of them.  They really don’t socialize with the other guests, and can often be found in pairs, fluttering about in mid-air and playing among the lavender.

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Who’s Your Daddy? I Am!

It’s Father’s Day weekend here in the States, and I have daddy issues.  You see,  I do not have children of my own, so fatherhood and this holiday are like an exclusive country club from which I have been barred.  This doesn’t go to say that I don’t know what it’s like to care for and nurture something, because I do.  It’s just that my children aren’t – well, they’re not human.

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