Florida-style winter wonderland

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Last night it was supposed to drop into the 20s for anywhere between eight and twelve hours. Needless to say, I didn't bother to cover my plants. If you've been reading this blog you know I ascribe to the "tough love" gardening philosophy. Plus I'd gotten a bit complacent -- the previous freezes that were forecast hadn't hurt anything in the yard. Not so this time. Here's the body count:

Crinum in front yard

Freeze-damaged crinum

Backyard bed

Freeze-damaged plants

This hibiscus doesn't look too bad in the photo, but it has that distinct droopy look in person. It was definitely zapped.

Freeze-damaged hibiscus

I meant to pull in my white bird of paradise but forgot. Thankfully it looks unharmed.

Unharmed bird

And finally, here are some shots of the orchard that I drive by every day on my way to the office. Isn't it magical? This is the first time I've seen them ice it down. I guess they were worried about the blooms and new growth that had started to appear on the peach and plum trees. The icicles remind me of a winter wonderland! (Click on the photos to see them bigger.)

Icy orchard on UF campus

Icy orchard on UF campus

Icy orchard on UF campus

Morning jewels

Monday, January 19, 2009

The last several days have been cold, at least by Florida standards. But a warm front pushed in last night and triggered some rain showers. When I woke up my yard was shrouded in fog and the plants looked like they were covered in diamond dust as the morning sunlight danced through the residual water droplets. I had to snap a few photos before heading in to work. As much as I'm a night person, I really do love morning moments like this.

Morning dew on Japanese magnolia

Morning dew on Japanese magnolia

Morning dew on crinum and spider web

Morning dew on crinum

January -- Garden Bloggers Bloom Day

Thursday, January 15, 2009

As I said in my last post, it's the quiet season in my garden. That being said, there are a surprising number of things blooming. We had some cold snaps back in October and November (kind of early for us), so I didn't really expect much to be blooming until spring hit. However, we did have some warmer temperatures in recent weeks so perhaps the plants all think that spring is here. At any rate, here's what's blooming.

Fragrant olive
Fragrant olive
Ah, this has got to be one of my favorite plants in the garden. Sure, it's not the most attractive -- it's tall, and spindly, reminding me of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. But boy, does it smell wonderful. It's amazing that such tiny flowers can pump out so much sweet, intoxicating aroma. If you live in Zones 7B-9B and don't have one in your yard, I highly recommend putting one in--especially by a front door or walkway where you'll catch a whiff of it when you pass by. 

Beach sunflower
Beach sunflower
I transplanted a few scrawny plants from the office into this bed back in March. They've really filled in and have been blooming non-stop ever since. In fact, I might have to thin them out if the predicted freezes don't take care of this for me.

'Louis Phillippe' Rose
'Louis Phillippe' rose
Sigh. What can I say about this rose? I do nothing to it and it rewards me by blooming yearround with its spicy blooms. Amazing.

Saucer magnolia
Saucer magnolia
This pretty magnolia is tucked into the back corner of my yard, so some years I hardly notice its blooms. Thankfully, I spotted it this year. It bloomed last year around the same time. It's also sometimes called a Japanese magnolia.

Glory bower
This vine is still going strong. It usually gets fried by cold temperatures, but I guess my yard has somehow been spared from the colder temperatures that Tom has had at his house.

Sandanqua Viburnum
Sandanqua viburnum
I'm not particularly fond of this bush, but it's a respectable foundation plant in my front yard so I'll leave it there for now. Interestingly, it emits a skunky smell when pruned.

These poor little blooms will likely get zapped later this week if the temperature drops into the upper 20s for two consecutive nights, as predicted. 

Sandhill cranes

Friday, January 9, 2009

Sandhill cranes
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
I couldn't resist posting this. Sandhill cranes are absolutely one of my favorite things about North Florida winters. Groups of sandhill cranes migrate to our area to overwinter, camping out on the various fields and prairies (though there are populations of sandhill cranes that are permanent residents).

All this week, we've been seeing a group of about eight cranes on the field in front of our office. What a treat to be greeted by them each morning as I drive in! Today I snapped a few photos of them. They mostly spend their time scratching around looking for something to eat. Then when I left at lunch, they had moved to other side of the road where several had laid down and appeared to be napping. Sorry--no photos of that.

At any rate, our whole office group is pretty much in love with these beautiful birds. Sarah also blogged about sandhill cranes. Scroll down to the bottom of this post for a link to audio clips of their unique and beautiful calls.

Sandhill crane disagreement?

Northern looks for Southern climates

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Holy moly it's been a long time since I posted! Please forgive me! I know many people get busy around the holidays, and I feel like I got wrapped up in the whirlwind earlier than most. Plus there hasn't been much going on in my own garden worth blogging about. But I'm back and I have some cool new plants to share with you.

Y'all may remember that I was in love with the phormiums that I saw in Portland. However, my friend and garden coach Erin told me that they won't grow here since our humid weather falls in the summer rather than the winter. Boo.

But Athens Select has introduced great phormium alternatives that they say are guaranteed to take the heat, humidity, and general punishment that the South serves up. Meet Pennisetum purpureum 'Prince' and P. purpureum 'Princess.' They're a cute couple, don't you think? (Zones 8-11, full sun, 2-6' tall)

Athens Select also has some great hibiscus varieties that look like Japanese maple--another plant that Northerners whine about not being able to grow once they relocate to Florida. Check out Hibiscus acetosella 'Panama Bronze' and H. acetosella 'Panama Red'. (Zones 8-11, full sun, 3-4' tall)

You can read more about these plants here (click on the links in the left sidebar once the page loads).