Tuesday, December 21, 2010

'tis the season

As I wind down the gardening year, I am very thankful for the opportunity to share my garden with everyone. I am grateful for other garden bloggers, teachers and friends from whom I have learned so much.

To me gardening means hope in the future with the anticipation of creating something beautiful or colorful. It means a rest from the stress of daily life. It means working in the sunshine and getting my socks dirty. It is a joy and a frustration. It is more than its parts.

I wish you all a joyous holiday season. May the New Year hold many happy gardens for you.

“And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Dr. Seuss


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Coco Cay

I’m really off my schedule lately and I can’t see it getting any better any time soon. Outdoor gardening is done for the year. I have house plants and cuttings to take care of indoors. I watered the Amaryllis for a March bloom. I’m reading a great gardening book.

I’ll get back to all that after the holidays.

So, here’s the final installment of my vacation. Oh. how I long for warm weather and swaying palms.

When you get off the tender on Coco Cay, you are greeted with a straw market and bright multi-colored buildings. The colored buildings pay homage to the natives brightly colored buildings. Historically, members of the same family painted their homes the same color. It was a sign of family pride. The rest rooms (above) are a whimsical example.

Rocky limestone paths crisscross the center of the islet. Some of the paths are steep with a thick rope strung from tree to tree for a handrail.
About 60 permanent residents maintain the island including a cook, a nurse and an engineer. The tidy compound is behind this sign.

The remains of an old building purportedly built by slaves in the 1700’s lies next to Blackbeard’s grave.

Edward Teach, also known as the villainous Blackbeard, is said to be buried on Coco Cay. There are Blackbeard stories everywhere from Florida to the Carolinas.

–A rather gruesome tale states that Blackbeard was killed in Beaufort Inlet in North Carolina. He was beheaded and his body was thrown in the water. His head was taken to Portsmouth and hung from the top of a large pole as a warning to others. Rumor is that his skull became a ceremonial goblet for a college of William and Mary fraternity.

Any animals on the island were imported.

I only saw two - a 4’ long iguana
and a chicken.
Royal Caribbean’s signature drink, Coco Loco, is served on the beach. It is delicious – a mixture of coconut, pineapple, papaya and banana flavors in an icy slush. “Coco Loco – makes you feel good.”

With temperatures in the teens here, I wish I was sitting on a warm beach with a Coco Loco right now.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

Confession of a Plant Geek

Which would you choose? Lounging on soft a sand beach or a guided hike to look at plants? I chose the hike. I guess that makes me a plant geek.

Coco Cay in the Berry Islands lies 150 miles east of Miami and 35 miles northwest of New Providence (Nassau). Also known as Little Stirrup Cay, this little chunk of paradise oozes with the rich folklore of the Bahamas.

Bush medicine is a large part of the Bahamian culture. African slaves in the 1700’s used indigenous plants to cure everything from menstrual trouble to measles. Our guide’s grandmother set up shop every Sunday after church to treat the villagers. Grandma wasn’t above pinching children’s noses until they swallowed the unpleasant potion.

Walking and writing was difficult over the uneven limestone paths. Reading my notes is even more difficult. Most of the information below was gleaned from the internet.

Buttonwood tree (Conocarpus erectus) - bark tea used to externally treat prickly heat and inflamed eyes. Used internally for syphilis and diabetes. The gray shimmer makes this tree stand out. from Ardastra, Gardens and Zoo Conservation Center

Cactus Prickly Pear (Opuntia dillenii) - gel used for healing wounds. The ripe, red fruit can be eaten raw or baked, and can also be made into jellies and wine. All parts of this thorny plant are useful for food or medicines. from Bush Medicine booklet Raven's Voyage

Gum elemi (Turnera ulmifolia) also known as gumbo-limbo in the Bahamas - boiled bark used topically for skin sores, measles, sunburn, insect bites, and rashes or drunk as tea to treat backaches, urinary tract infections, colds, flu, and fevers. It is very important ingredient in the aphrodisiac Bush Tea called “21 Gun Salute”. from Bahamas Folk Medicines
Lignum Vitae (Guiacum officinale) is The National Tree of The Bahamas. It is called the Tree of Life, or as many old folk call it "Nigly Whitey". Extremely hard and heavy self-lubricating wood. Steeped bark is drunk as a tonic for creating energy or as an aphrodisiac. from Bahamas dot gov

Sea Grape (Coccoloba uvifera) is used for upset stomach. The roots have been used to treat diarrhea. from Ardastra, Gardens and Zoo Conservation Center

Tamarind (Tamarindus indica) Medicinal uses of the tamarind are uncountable. Here are a few:

leaves and flowers - dried or boiled, poultices for swollen joints, sprains and boils. Lotions and extracts used to treat conjunctivitis, as antiseptics, as vermifuge, treatments for dysentery, jaundice, erysipelas and hemorrhoids and various other ailments
bark - astringent, tonic and febrifuge; fried with salt and pulverized to an ash, given as a remedy for indigestion and colic; decoction is used for gingivitis and asthma and eye inflammations; lotions and poultices applied on open sores and caterpillar rashes.
powdered seeds - made into a paste for drawing boils, with or without cumin seeds and palm sugar prescribed for chronic diarrhea and dysentery.
root infusion - curative value in chest complaints and is an ingredient in prescriptions for leprosy. from Purdue Horticulture Education

Bush medicine is woven tightly in the culture of the Bahamas. It is part of the heritage of the islands. Researchers have been studying the properties of these plants for years. Who knows, maybe we are already taking something that had its beginning in the Bahamas.

Even though I missed some beach time, I'm glad I took the hike.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Key West

An island off Key West.

Donna (of Mama Mia Days) got it right.

The pictures are indeed from Key West. This bright and colorful town has many attractions. I enjoyed my short time there topped off with a House Margarita at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville with the other Parrot Heads.

I’ve listed the names of the places below the pictures in the last post. You can check Wikipedia for more about Key West.

Thank you Donna!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Where Am I?

Can you guess where I am? For some of you, this may be too easy.

It’s a place with beautiful and lush small gardens. Its history is rich in the pirates and patricians, houses and hovels, palm trees and pubs. If you like to party, this is a good place for you. The following pictures should give you some hints.

Please leave a comment with your guess. I hope you enjoy the view. (See comments below the pictures for the answers. Added 12/8/10.)
Bougainvillea drapes over the fence of a private residence in Key West.
Key West Lighthouse (1847). Originally much closer to the shore but instead of the waterfront eroding away, landfill was brought in leaving the lighthouse further inland. Maintained by Key West Art and Historical Society.We passed many gardens like this in old town.
Part of the lush gardens at Hemmingway House.
Truman’s Little White House. Part of the US Naval Station Key West. President Truman spent 175 days there during 11 visits.
Hemmingway House. A wedding gift from his second wife Pauline’s uncle where he wrote “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Snows of Kilimanjaro” . The purportedly manic depressive Hemmingway and a few friends built a privacy wall around the house with bricks “borrowed” from the city’s paving of Duvall Street. The brick construction is a little untidy due to the consumption of large amounts of alcohol during construction. (So I’m told.)
Famous six toed cats were very friendly and everywhere at Hemmingway House.
A sign at the entrance to Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville. Great burgers and the best (house) margarita ever!
Key West harbor. The red building in the center is Key West Museum of Art & History, formerly the Old Post Office and Customshouse

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

A Different Kind of Garden

I love tropical gardens. The hot colors and lush foliage make me dream of lying in a hammock under a breezy palm tree sipping a cool drink.

But this was a different kind of tropical garden.

The gigantic rockets and spacecrafts stand as a testament to NASA's awesome program in the Rocket Garden.

Touring the Kennedy Space Center near Port Canaveral, Florida is a humbling experience. Everything is huge – from the rockets to the 8 foot wide strips of the American Flag painted on the side of the Vehicle Assembly Building. I was awed at the ingenuity and courage of the multitude of men and women in the program as I watched the 3D movie of the Space Shuttle mission.

The shuttle Discovery waits on the launch pad for its next scheduled trip to the International Space Station on December 17, 2010. See more information about this mission here.

I wish them safe trip and good flying!

(Great educational material and other fun stuff at NASA Connect. )
Ongoing research: Osteoporosis – Astronauts lose bone mass at the rate of 1% to 2% per month. NASA research has already come up with a fast and inexpensive tool to measure the extent of bone loss without exposing the patient to radiation by analyzing the stiffness of bones. Continued NASA research may uncover ways to prevent or end this debilitating disease.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spotted Dead Nettle

Lamium maculatum

Since I’m still having computer problems and can’t access many files or pictures, I’ve been trying to answer my own question about new plants for next year from memory.
I think my brain hurts.

One plant I’m sure to add is spotted dead nettle.

I plan to buy some “White Nancy’. I’ve seen this pretty white bloomer in other gardens. It should brighten the dry shade of the large French Lilac. (See Spring Pruning post from May 12, 2010.)

I’ll move some ‘Purple Dragon’ that has done well under a locust tree. It blooms most of the summer.

I hope to get more color around the lilac. It’s a tough place to grow plants - dry and full of roots. Time will tell.

More information on Lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’ and ‘Purple Dragon’ from Dave’s Garden.

I’ll be on vacation starting next week. Hopefully, when I get back at the end of the month the computer problems will be fixed. I’ll have lots to share of my travels and I will be able to plan for next year’s garden in earnest.

I wish you all a joyful Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Next Year

Computer problems are giving me fits. I hope to have it fixed in a few days.

In the meantime, what new plants are you planning for your garden next year?

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

October Daphne Stonecrop

Hardly noticeable along the path, this October Daphne Stonecrop (Sedum sieboldii) survives but doesn’t thrive. I walk by all the time without giving it a second glance.

It has been in the same spot for 8 years – full sun, a good place for sedum, right? But It has never been a robust grower.

Of the original 3 Daphnes planted in 2002, one is completely gone. The pictures here are the best looking plant of the two that remain. The Autumn Joy Sedum and Golden Teardrop (Sedum lineare) grow well in this area

The pictures at Perennial Resource dot com show what it should look like.

If you have any suggestions (or want to commiserate), please leave a comment. It’s a pretty little plant and I’d like to make it happy.

If it survives the winter, I’ll try to pay more attention next year.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Don’t you just love compost?

Start with a mess -

One of the easiest jobs in the garden – making compost.

I received a compost bin several years ago when I attended a class by Lehigh/Northampton County Master Gardner’s. It was free with the class.

Penn State University Fact Sheet “Home Composting” provides all the details for making compost.

I don’t obsess about the process. I add plant clippings, weeds, vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. I’m not sure the bin ever gets hot enough to kill seeds so I try not to get weed seeds in there. I cut large stems into one or two inch pieces. It would take too long to decompose thick stems.

In fall we run over the fallen leaves with the mower. I fill the bin with the chopped leaves and save a pile to add all year. Every once in a while, I turn the top one third of the debris in the bin. I add water periodically.
Before I had the bin, I made a pile in an out-of-the-way part of the garden. That worked just as well.

I spread the finished compost around plants. I don’t use much fertilizer - only a bit for the acid loving plants – azalea, hydrangea, rhododendron, etc - and sometimes some for the roses. Since I can’t make enough for the entire garden, I also get compost from the city recycling center. I get free mulch there too.

Over the years the garden soil has become rich and loamy – good for the garden, good for the environment, good for the gardener. It doesn’t get much easier than that.

- end with black gold.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Canna Again

I’ve been going on and on about Cannas for a long time in this blog. The oldest post is August 6, 2006. I’ve been planting in spring and digging out in fall for more years than that.
Every time I dig them out I think I should seek psychological help. Maybe I can get an appointment with Carol’s Dr. Hortfreud at May Dreams Garden.

Anyway, even though we haven’t had frost, I had to dig out the tropical canna rhizomes to store them for the winter. We have had beautiful gardening weather and I had time this weekend. Make hay while the sun shines as they say.

I loosened and dug them out with a garden fork. They were huge once again – reminding me of large yams and making me hungry for roast turkey.
I set them on the patio to dry. Then cleaned off most of the soil. I Put them in a plastic tub and covered them with peat moss. I’ll store them in the garage where they will stay cool but not freeze. In spring, I’ll cut apart the tubers with a sharp knife. I’ll replant pieces with at least 2 eyes.

They seem to multiply exponentially. I made a pact with myself not to keep more rhizomes than fit in one container. I filled my container and one box to give away. I did the same last fall.
This pile remains.

I will most likely throw the rest away if I can’t find anyone interested in planting them. If I find several people willing to plant and unplant, maybe we can get a group rate with Dr. Hortfreud.

More information about Canna from Washington State University here.