Friday, March 17, 2017

Blooms and Frost

Frost on the roof and the papaya with fruit

Typical of this time of year the weather gets warmer and blooms begin to show, new growth in plants and from sprouting seeds happens then - ARGH,  a cold spell suddenly shows up and if we don't act fast the sudden freeze can wipe out a new crop, fruit setting or even kill tender and cold sensitive plants and trees!! With loads of pretty and fragrant blooms on our citrus, fruit on some of the oranges and papayas and flowers beginning to come out throughout the yard just these past few weeks, when the weather people began announcing a frost warning two days ago we took action.

Added new palms and Japanese iris to a new bed by the bamboo out front

The same palms covered by tarp against the frost

Brand new Adonidia Palms, Cast Iron plant and Giant Bird of Paradise

Covered with pop up against the frost that clearly shows on the roof

New Palms, Bird of Paradise and on the far left of this picture a small Foxtail Palm

Covered against cold

Eventually the upper story cold hardy trees will help shelter the majority of my plants, but for now we have to scramble to find sheets, burlap and other materials to cover or build shelters with to protect these from the frost.  They are definitely a pain to have to get out in the cold and set up and really ugly to look at, but considering the investment of time, money and materials we have in these plants it's worth it.

Extremely fragrant citrus flowers

We created this tee pee to cover new plants bought at the Leu Garden plant show and some of our citrus in pots

Once things are more established, or as I said the trees that will serve as upper story protection layers have grown up sufficiently to do their jobs we won't have to put up as many of these shelters, but with our landscape and garden still being relatively new being proactive is important.  Compared to last year when we had to cover entire banana circles and even use heaters, we're already seeing improvement, so we have made some progress.

Some of our Elephant Ears blooming

A small Tahitian Squash

One of the Pigeon Peas with older pods and new flowers

Chickens in the tunnel on a warmer day

Plants covered and the chicken tunnel and tractor

The younger bananas, elephant ears and star fruit covered, while the more established bananas were able to survive with the microclimate we've created with surrounding plantings

A younger banana circle that needed complete coverage
Duranta flowering

Pretty apple tree blossums

One of 4 baby pineapples


Purple Indian Mustard and Romaine Lettuce

Green onions

More Purple Mustard, some young broccoli, marigolds and longevity spinach.


More marigolds and young broccoli

Fumi, Peachy and Henny Penny in the chicken tunnel

My Garden beds covered for frost

The frost on the roof and covers, as well as the layers we had to put on ourselves to protect from the cold when venturing out this morning, definitely let me know it got cold for Central Florida.  We had heat lamps on in the chicken coop and they were all huddled together on the roosting bar under the lamp or inside the enclosed chicken house.  Once it warmed up they began to wander out to the tunnels to eat and as Cameron and I were out taking down the covers we had a couple of our local Sandhill Cranes show up to visit and feed on any feed or bugs the chickens left for them.

This pair of Sandhill Cranes visits regularly

At one point our rooster Fumi was eye to eye with one of the cranes as he was trying to encourage some of his girls who were still in the tunnel and too afraid of walking past these BIG birds to follow him back into the coop.  Despite the fact he walked back and forth several times they wouldn't follow him all the way back in.

Cameron got a piece of bread and was hand feeding the cranes for a bit, before we finished our work of taking all the covers off and hoping that tonight won't be so cold.  I'll have to check weather to be sure, but I think this front is moving on and we'll be okay for now.  I've been doing some plant shopping and have more seeds and bulbs planted to add to our food production and the aesthetics of our yard.

I only have video of the crane actually taking the bread from his hand, but here is Cameron holding it out

In time my desire is to have a highly productive food forest and at the same time a really pretty edible landscape.  I'm going for a tropical paradise in appearance, while taking care to use more appropriate plants for the zone 9 subtropical climate we live in. For now we're a work in progress, but baby steps right?  We will get there and all I have to do is look back at earlier blog posts when I get frustrated that it's not there yet to remind myself how far we've already come.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Leu Garden Visit

Giant Live Oak by the Visitor Center

Yesterday with Kevin being off for his birthday we decided to make a visit to the Harry P. Leu Gardens.  Fortunately, for us the forecasted rain held off until after evening when we were home.
The day was gorgeous and our visit was wonderful.  The grounds of this estate that are now public gardens were inspiring to me an avid gardener.

Our tour began at the visitor center where we received our maps and Hannah and Lauren got the information and scavenger hunt map for the Dinosaur Exhibit that was on display throughout the gardens.  As we headed off toward the garden entrance we passed a gorgeous old oak tree that was enormous and was set off by the lovely lake as a background.

This Oak must be ancient with the size of it.  It is an amazing tree and a beautiful setting.

The garden quickly took on a tropical feel with loads of palms, bamboo, vines, trees and plants that gave a lush feel and lots for us to look at and ooh and ahh over.

Bromeliads in place of old palm fronds

Curly leafed fern

Giant Mountain Fishtail Palm

Painted Feather Bromeliad - love the color and shape

The plantings were quite dense in this area

As we wound through the paths we made a quick turn to head over to the old Leu house for one of the tours that they have every half hour.  It was interesting to hear the history of the 3 families that owned and developed this property and home over the years. With the business man Harry Leu and his wife as the last owners and the real developers of the gardens.  It was they who donated the property with the understanding that this would be open and maintained for public enjoyment.

On leaving the house we went to the vegetable garden and saw some great ideas for planters, planting ideas, trellises and even courtyard materials.

The Vegetable Garden with it's beautiful kale, cabbage, collards and other vegetables

Bean pole and spiral structure for the nasturtium to grow up

Pallet gardening

Raised bed plantings

Blocks for planting

Arbor for Passion Vine to grow on. Love the path materials

Close up of the rocks and brick they've used together to create the courtyard and pathways around the kitchen garden. I love this look and it reminds me of the used cement, stone, brick and free pavers I combined to create my paths at my old home in California. 

We then toured the Florida naturals area, the arid garden and then on to the large assortment of Camellias that were in bloom at this time of year.  Camellias were a favorite of Mrs. Leu so the collection is quite extensive.  Tucked in throughout were the various dinosaurs the girls were on the hunt for.

Nice gazebo among the Camellias

Bananas near the Florida Naturals area

Bananas Violet Flower

Bananas Violet Flower

Lauren and Hannah lounging on the swing seat

Croton and Tabouchina

Sophora Tomentosa - necklacepod

Spanish Shawl Plant
Our group on one of the many pretty paths

After leaving this area we headed in through the bamboo and palms and then past the center area defined with its decorative concrete rails that overlooks the rose garden.  This isn't the right time for the roses to be in bloom, so that's something to look forward to on a future visit.  Apparently roses were Mr. Leu's favorite flowers.


Allausaur among the plantings

Pretty combo of bamboo and tall shrubs

Cuban Petticoat Palm

Crinium Lilly

Our group next to some Giant Yellow Striped bamboo
Cement rail and courtyard with fountain and rose garden in background

After leaving this area we headed down towards the lake and the landscaping they had around a couple of small ponds near this area. The plantings here were a mixture of ones we had seen in other areas of the gardens and then led us back towards the area we entered from.  All in all it was a great time.  I took loads of pictures and made sure to get shots of the name plates they have letting me know what the item I photographed was.  In March the garden will host a plant sale from their greenhouses and from vendors invited to participate.  I definitely plan to attend this event and am already making my list of items I hope to find for my yard.

On path heading back towards lake

Cypress and knees by the water line


Curved sago and pond plants

Small Travelers Palm

Plate Leaf Palm

If you haven't already been here to visit this garden set on their 50 acres I highly recommend it. If it's been awhile since you've been go again, they seem to be very busy recreating areas throughout the gardens.  All in all it was a great day!!