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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A Pot To Call My Own

It seems like only yesterday that I planted these Geraniums, the first of this year’s seeds to be started early — and here they are, all grown up and ready to be moved into individual pots.  The truth is I am always caught off guard each year.  I know this day has to come – and then all at once, all of the sprouts have their first set of true leaves, an indication that I’ve got a lot of transplanting to do. 

Step 1:  I moisten a batch of seed starting mix, which is a little lighter and airier than potting soil and so roots do not have to work as hard to develop and grow.  Keeping the mixture moist not only creates a damp environment for the transplant, but it also keeps down the dust factor for your lungs.  I then fill the cell packs with the mixture.  Using a pencil or the tongue depressor plant label, I make some room for the transplant, deep enough so the roots can grow downward.

Step 2: I then ease the seedling from it’s starting pot.  This can be a little tricky.  I use the plant label as a shovel to help bring out the seedling.  In a starting pot that is more densely packed, I usually unpot the whole thing, resting the potless soil and seedlings on the potting bench.  I am then able to pry out each individual seedling, working from the perimeter to the middle, without disurbing the roots of the neighboring plants.

Step 3: At this stage, be very careful in how you handle the seedling.  I do not hold the plant by its stem or by the first set of true leaves.  Everything is still a little delicate — kind of like the soft spot on a baby’s head — and I wouldn’t want to crush any of  the developing plant cells.  Instead, the only thing I handle are the cotyledon leaves, the “baby leaves,” since these will eventually die as the plant continues to grow.

Step 4: With my plant label “tool,” I place the seedling into it’s new pot.  My goal is to help the roots into the hole’s depth, rather than bunching up near the surface.  I think this helps the overall health of the plant, especially as it continues to mature and is ultimately planted in the garden.  Deeper root development helps to prevent the plant from drying out in arid conditions.

Step 5:  Finally, I place the pot in a tray of water for bottom watering.  At this stage, I do not want to compact the soil mixture too much with watering from above, since that would hinder healthy root development.


Now that the Geraniums are transplanted, all I have left are Amaranth, Impatiens, Salvia, Candytuft . . . Hmmmm . . . Do you suppose this is why Joe scratches his head in disbelief each year?