Papaya harvest... finally!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Homegrown papaya
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Finally! The little papaya that I've been nurturing since April is ripe enough to eat! Well, almost. I wanted to let it ripen a little while longer, but it developed a soft spot and I was afraid the whole thing might rot.

I brought it into the office and shared it with everyone here. The blossom end tasted like a papaya ought to taste (which in some people's estimation, isn't tasty at all). Georgia really liked it, but I was kind of on the fence. I'm one of those people who don't always like papaya, but I have to say that it was pretty darn cool to eat something I grew myself -- especially since it was seven months in the making.

Here's a shot of the plant back when it was in bloom.

New papaya flowers

You'll notice that there were two flowers. The second fruit is still ripening on the tree. And man, has the tree gotten big. It's nearly as tall as me! Okay, so maybe that's not saying much since I'm just 5'2", but it's pretty amazing to see how it's changed.

A papaya from my very own plant!

Headed home, plants in tow

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
We're headed home from GWA with a van full of plants. Counting all of the larger plants and small 4-inch pots, we must have close to 75 plants in the van with us. And miraculously, we still had room for our luggage. We're hoping to get home by mid-afternoon so that we can start getting them in the ground. Right now our ETA is 3pm, but the rain could slow us down.

Plant Delights Nursery

Friday, September 25, 2009

Plant Delights Nursery
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Today we visited Plant Delights Nursery as part of the Garden Writers Association symposium. Holy cow--it was amazing.

I tried to exercise some restraint and ended up buying five plants: two cannas (of course), an agave, a river oats, and a funky goldenrod.

I took a bunch more photos on the regular camera and will post them later.

It's that time of year...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Admittedly, I've been a lackadaisical blogger for most of 2009. Sorry. I've just been busy. And speaking of busy, it's time for me to hit the road to the annual Garden Writers Association symposium which is taking place in Raleigh, NC. You may recall that I went to last year’s symposium in Portland and took a lot of photos and also blogged about it.

Metal (steel?) Cistus Nursery sign

Last year we visited some amazing nurseries likeCistus Nursery and Joy Creek Nursery. As you may recall, I fell head over heels in love with Cistus. This year it could be even more dangerous for me – we’re going to Plant Delights Nursery!

For those of you who don’t already know, Plant Delights is the gardening catalog that true plant geeks salivate over because it has such an amazing array of hard to find plants. Some might even go so far as to call it “hort porn.” And the catalog itself makes for an amazing read. The narratives are witty and remind me of the J. Peterman catalogs in that they’re just as fabulous as the items themselves.

The special treat is that we get to see their on-site garden, which I’ve heard is absolutely amazing. And did I mention that we’re driving a van up there? I would loooooove to pack it full of plants to bring back, but sadly, my budget is super tight right now. I’m telling myself that I can bring back one plant. I’m leaning toward an agave or a yucca, since they’re probably the twp plants that I have the least chance of killing. I’m especially fond of Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard.’** But holy moly—if I wasn’t afraid of killing it, I’d buy a Colocasia gigantea!

Tom wins the GWA Gold Award for On-Air Talent

We’re also up for three GWA Media Awards. Last year we won a gold award for the “Gardening in a Minute” radio show in the category of “On-Air Talent: Radio.” Fingers crossed that we’ll win gold again this year!

I’ll be sure to take plenty of photos again this year and will try to blog a little bit from the road. Emily’s bringing her laptop and said she’d let me use it.

Emily in the plant center

And just for fun, here’s a shot of a gnome I spotted during one of the garden tours last year. Think we’ll see gnomes in North Carolina? I’m hoping so.

Vintage garden gnome

** The funny thing is that I bought three plants at the Kanapaha Garden Festival this spring that I thought were a cultivar of Y. filamentosa, but it looks like they might be Y. aloifolia ‘Variegata’. I wanted to put them in the new front bed, but the trouble is that they can get up to seven feet tall. Yikes! Sadly, they've been sitting in pots waiting for me to figure out what to do with them. I think I'll put them in the backyard since it's the only place I can think of that gets enough sun and would have enough space.

What's old is new again

Monday, August 31, 2009

Okay, so it's no secret that I've been a blogging slacker. The bottom line is that I've had a lot going on at the office (translation: other stuff that's more pressing than blogging) and I really haven't been doing much in the yard other than trying to keep the grass/weeds from growing into a jungle. It IS summer in Florida, after all!

Those things being said, I figured it was about time that I posted something on this blog, so here goes.

When I was at the Garden Writers Association conference last year in Portland I spotted this clever container. It's actually not a true container -- it's just a section of reed fence wrapped around a basic black pot. How easy is that? I always love it when something can be both good looking and affordable.

Fast forward a few months to the Friends of the Alachua County Library book sale. I was browsing the gardening section (naturally) and found this great book.

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

Once I got it home and started flipping through it I was amazed to see this project, which was essentially the same pot treatment that I had spotted in Portland. How funny is that?

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

In case you're interested, I'm posting a few other shots of the book. I think the mid-century interior shots are too cool not to share. As always, you can click on the photos to see them larger (via Flickr).

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

Vintage garden book -- "Better Homes and Gardens House Plants"

More office shenanigans

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The cycads in front of our office recently produced cones, which meant that it was time for more office pranks.

Last year Georgia discovered one of the cones during an after-work weeding party and was pretty grossed out by it. Naturally, I absconded with it and then put it on her office chair for her to find the next day. She wasn't exactly pleased.

I figured that I needed to step things up a little for this year's cone prank. Given our collective fascination with googly eyes (see my post about another related prank), I figured I couldn't go wrong with adding googly eyes.

Plus, I thought that it would be great to plant the cones in Georgia's car, where she would least expect them. She's been trying to beat the Florida heat by leaving her windows cracked, so it was pretty easy to finagle my way into the vehicle.

Needless to say, she was surprised. In fact, I think she actually kind of liked it.

Now the only question that remains is what prank can I dream up next?

Papaya goes home

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
My papaya plant recently made the journey from my office to my house. My co-workers had been very tolerant but it was getting waaaay too big to sit on my desk any longer. Poor Jen could hardly see out the window any more.

So far it's adjusting well. I think it might be getting a little sunburned (see photo), so I moved it into a spot where it only gets direct sun in the morning.


The good news is that it hasn't dropped the fruit that was already forming, and there's now another fruit on the way. In fact, the first fruit is getting pretty big -- about the size of a small lemon. Maybe I'll eventually have a ripe papaya that's big enough to eat!


And speaking of big, the plant itself is now about three and a half feet tall and three feet wide. Wow! It's so much bigger than it was here and even here. It's amazing that it fit in the back of the SUV. One month more and I might've had to resort to renting a flatbed trailer.

Slowly but surely...

Monday, June 1, 2009

Slowly but surely...
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
The mulch is finally spread! I couldn't have moved that giant pile alone and am incredibly grateful for the help I received. (Thanks!) Doesn't the bed just look great? I couldn't resist plopping a few plants on top of the mulch just to see what the final result might end up looking like. I can't wait to get the plants in the ground!

Of course, now I'm realizing that I should redo the bed that runs along the front of the house. It looks pretty scrappy in comparison to the new bed. One step at a time though, right?

Peach picking

Thursday, May 28, 2009

It's peach picking season here in North Florida. Last weekend I went down to Florida Peach Farms & Nurseries in Citra and picked about ten pounds of juicy peaches. I've enjoyed some of them fresh and also made a peach crisp using the fruit crisp recipe in the trusty "Joy of Cooking" cookbook that I got from my grandmother, adding a dash of good rum for a little extra interest. Okay, so maybe it was more than a dash, but the crisp sure turned out tasty.

The orchard should be open again this weekend for picking and it's definitely worth making the trip if you're looking for something fun to do. Be sure to also stop at The Orange Shop on Highway 301 in Citra for the tastiest fresh squeezed orange juice you'll find for miles.


Best. Prank. Ever.

Friday, May 8, 2009

One of my co-workers loves the sketch that Christopher Walken did on Saturday Night Live titled "Indoor Gardening Tips from a Man Who's Very Scared of Plants." If you haven't seen it ,watch it here before reading any further.

I decided that it would be the perfect prank to fill her office with googly eyed plants. Conveniently, she went out of town for a work conference so I had ample time to move all of our office plants into her office, affix 204 googly eyes to them, and avoid getting caught.

After she got over the initial shock (see first photo), she loved it.

Here are a few more shots of the googly-eyed entourage.

Georgia, pretending to be Christopher Walken
"I do not feel comfortable around this plant whatsoever"

The googly-eyed gang
Googly eyed plants

My favorite cross-eyed cutie
A face only a mother could love

Even my beloved papaya got into the act
Would you trust this plant?

King of the Mountain

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Free mulch
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Apparently, mulch piles are exciting places. When I left the house this morning I spotted a young girl climbing on my mulch pile. It's funny because as I was spreading the mulch last night,* I started thinking about how much I loved climbing on dirt piles when I was a kid. One of the neighborhoods we lived in was still under development, so it seemed like there was always a half-built house that was getting a pile of sand delivered.

This girl wasn't just climbing on the pile -- she was clearly hunting something. I greeted the girl and her companion, who I took to be her grandmother, and asked what she was after.

"Lizards," she replied. "They like the mulch."

Cool, I thought -- a gal after my own heart. As a kid, I spent countless hours hunting for crayfish in the creek and catching insects.

But then I started thinking about why lizards would want to climb all the way to the top of such a huge mulch pile. My first thought was that the lizards had liked eating the insects swarming over the pile. Or maybe, just maybe, the lizards liked climbing the pile just because it was there, like Everest. Heck, it IS like Everest to a tiny little lizard! When I get home tonight, I'll check to see which lizard is defending his title as king of the mountain.

*(And yes, this means that I'm actually making progress on the front bed. I'll try to get the rest of the mulch spread out tonight, and will definitely post pictures if I do.)

Free mulch

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Free mulch
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
My utility company was trimming trees in my area and was kind enough to dump a load of mulch in my yard, all for free! While it isn't as pretty as the mulch from the store, you can't beat the price. You can call your local utility company to see if they have a similar program.

However, this mulch is from green wood so it needs to age a bit before I put it near plants, lest it burn them. For me it's not a big deal. I'll spread out the mulch and let it sit for a little while, and then I'll put in my plants. I like this plan because I can now officially say that I'm not procrastinating about getting the planting done. I'm just waiting for my mulch to mellow. ;-)

Once the plants are in, the mulch will help retain moisture and keep the weeds in control. You can read more about mulch on Gardening in a Minute.

Blank canvas

Monday, April 20, 2009

Front yard panorama
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
So the blank canvas in my front yard continues to stare at me. It's because I decided to hold off on installing the plants I bought, at least for a little while. I had some major plumbing work that needed to be done first. 

See the line of fresh dirt in the photo that stretches back toward the house? There's a brand new water supply line underneath there. For years the water pressure in the house has been low, and I decided that now was the time to finally deal with it. Replacing the line helped some, but it was the new meter that the utility company installed that really made the difference. Finally, I can water the yard and flush toilets at the same time!

So I guess now I have no excuse for not planting that front bed. I'm still waiting for the seedlings to be big enough to transplant, but they're coming along nicely. Here's a shot taken on April 6. Since then, the okra seedlings have also popped up. As always, you can click on the photos to have a closer look.

Seedlings popping up

Certain seedlings have suffered an untimely death. I'm not sure what killed them. Cutworms perhaps? Some of them seemed to be severed off at the soil line. Though a few were uprooted entirely, which is often the work of nefarious squirrels.

Seedling damage

Two of the six castor bean seeds that I sowed have come up. I'm not sure why the others haven't. I also wish that the ones that came up were the bronze-leafed variety. I wasn't sure what I'd end up with since I bought a mixed pack of seeds, but I really wanted the kind with the purplish leaves.

Castor bean

I'm going to try to get the yucca and bromeliads in the ground this week. I'm also probably going to buy some yellow bulbine to add. I can't wait!

Papaya sabotage

Friday, April 10, 2009

Papaya sabotage
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Last Friday one of my co-workers was in my office. He looked at my papaya plant and asked, "Where's the fruit?"

"What do you mean," I said. "Isn't it still there?"

Nope. It turns out it had fallen off. I was crushed. I don't think it's any secret that I had high hopes for that little papaya.

I blame the papaya's death on the nefarious gnome that has been lurking in the planter as of late. Many people think that garden gnomes are innocent creatures, but I'm not so sure.

This little gnome has been making the rounds in our office as of late. More often than not, I'm the one who deposits him in my co-worker's tea cup or hides him in her heart-leafed philodendron. She recently planted him in my papaya pot, and I thought nothing of it. Now I wish I moved him along before he had a chance to sabotage my papaya.

Of course, the fact that the papaya fell off could be related to the fact that I repotted the plant, but I'm going to stick with my story of blaming the gnome.

New papaya flowers

The good news is that the papaya is getting ready to open one, if not two, new flowers. Fingers crossed that they'll bear fruit before the gnome comes for another visit!

Papaya progress

Monday, March 30, 2009

Papaya dwarfs my desk
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
The papaya that I keep on my desk has been growing like crazy. It flowered a few weeks ago, as you may recall from my earlier blog post, and the resulting fruit just keeps getting bigger and bigger. 

Jen insisted that I blog again about the papaya's progress, so here goes.

Here's a photo of the fruit on March 11, about a week and a half after the flower first opened.

Papaya fruit?

And here it is on March 30, the day it got transplanted.

Papaya fruit keeps getting bigger

I wanted to hold off on transplanting until the fruit had matured, but the plant just seemed like it couldn't wait any longer. I had a bit of trouble finding the right sized container. While the new pot may look huge, it really is the next size up. As you may recall, the previous container was tall and narrow. This was the only pot I found that was not only wider than the original pot but also deeper.

Here's a picture of Bart (who generously offered to help me) coaxing the papaya out of the old pot.

Coaxing the papaya out of the old pot

And here we are checking the height of the plant in the new container, before backfilling with potting media.

Checking the soil height in the new pot

Finally, here is the plant after it was tucked into its new pot and given a thorough soaking.

Ta-da! The transplanted papaya in its new pot

Thanks again to Bart for his help!

Gardening at night

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Gardening at night
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Last night was a busy gardening night. I stopped by Home Depot on my way home and picked up new pots for my papaya and bird of paradise, both of which desperately need to be transplanted. I was expecting to settle for pots that were boring or so-so, but their selection of colorful resin planters blew me away. And, they were even affordable.

Then I went home and started the new seeds I ordered, since they came in last week. Here's a picture of me misting them under the glow of the porch light. It made me think of that R.E.M. song that I used to like so much.

I do still like the song, but unfortunately it has been stuck in my head since last night. Don't you hate when that happens? My old trick for getting a song out of my head was to sing it to my sister, and then magically it would get stuck in her head. Hmm... maybe I'll have to give her a call today.

Weekend surprises

Monday, March 23, 2009

New plants
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
I bought these plants this weekend at the Kanapaha Garden Festival. Both should be evergreen here in North Florida and will provide the bones that keep the front bed interesting through all four seasons.

I was told that the purplish-grey ones are Dyckia 'Silver Dragon' and the yellowish-green ones are Yucca aloifolia 'Variegata'.

I thought that the yuccas would only get 3-4' tall, or at least that's what the gal who sold them to me said. I looked them up once I got home and realized that I'm in for more than I bargained for. These are supposed to reach up to 7' tall! Gulp.

Looks like I should reevaluate where I was planning to put them. Maybe I'll put just one in front and save the other two for the back yard. Of course, I could put all three in the front bed and just create a fortress look!

I also need to double-check the identification on the bromeliad. I looked in the Bromeliad Society International online cultivar database and couldn't find mention of 'Silver Dragon'.

Either way, I do love this brom. It has fabulous purple foliage covered with silvery scales, which makes it so interesting to look at. And isn't that orange flower spike luscious, especially in contrast with the purple? Oh yes, mine will be a colorful garden.

And funky, too. Check out the bench I also bought at the show. I'm calling it a funkified Adirondack chair.

New garden bench

I wasn't planning on buying a bench until later in the design process. In fact, I had dedicated all of my current budget to getting unique plants. But hey, sometimes life throws you unexpected surprises that are too perfect to pass up.

Heck, it even has built-in ledges for me to rest a beer on as I sit in the garden on warm summer evenings. The only thing missing is a built-in fan to keep me cool and push the mosquitoes away.

I may add a coat of colorful paint down the road, but that depends on how much color I get from the plant palette. A plain white bench might allow the plants to shine even brighter.

Picking plants

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Yesterday I ordered a bunch of seeds from  Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in preparation for planting the new bed in my front yard. Here is the list of the seeds I ordered, many of which are both edible and ornamental. Don't you love multi-tasking plants?
  • Gobbo di Nizzia Cardoon (AR103)
  • Garden Mix Castor Bean (FL280)
  • Double Purple Queen Datura (FL313)
  • Lime Green Nicotiana (FL521)
  • Mexican Sunflower (FL729)
  • Royal Purple Zinnia (FL806)
  • Lime Basil (HB103)
  • Cilantro (HB125)
  • Lemongrass (HB162)
  • Leonitis (HB167)
  • Hill Country Heirloom Red Okra (OK112)
  • Thai Red Roselle (RS101)
  • Green Zebra Tomato (TG103)
  • Cherokee Purple Tomato (TP101)
  • Japanese Black Trifele Tomato (TP107)
  • Striped Roman Tomato (T105)
I figured it would be cheaper to start some of my own plants from seed rather than buy established plants at a nursery. We'll see -- I guess it depends on how successful I am at growing plants from seed!

The tomatoes and cooking herbs will go in the backyard, and I may not end up using all of the others in the front bed. I just couldn't decide.

I do still plan to buy a few plants from the nursery to help give the front bed some good bones. I don't want it to look too empty in the winter. The options include:
Banana in Terra Nova Nurseries garden
The next things to do are to make a sketch of the bed so that I know how the plants should be arranged and look into buying limerock that I can use to edge the bed.