Monday, July 27, 2015

Red Mulberry, Sweet Gum, Red Maple and Purple Sage

We made it to the native plant sale and I scored a red mulberry tree!  It's about 8 feet tall.  It looks a bit scraggly, but I'm tickled to have found it.

I'll spare you the bad pictures today.  It's raining.

I also bought a  purple sage for the tree garden.

My husband found a red maple and a sweet gum he wants to train as Bonsai.

They had the native Bird Pepper bushes I was intrigue by at the Florida Native Plant Society's search tool, which was a total surprise.  But I didn't buy one for two reasons; its leaves were all curled up and it wasn't very attractive, and I had already found the Mulberry.  In hindsight, they may have been newly potted and not happy.  But either way, that plant will have to wait til next time we are plant shopping. I know where to find this plant when the budget is ready.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Tree Garden

My gardening effort for the past few months has been focused on growing edible trees.  In my newest planting area I have Pigeon pea, Papaya, Sabdariffa hibiscus (Roselle) and Moringa trees.  They're all well established now (made it to at least a foot tall) so I've been wanting to fill in the gaps.

I finally planted the new elderberry.

I had to crop the picture in order to actually see the elderberry.  It blends right in with the background of green.  Well, that and I take terrible pictures.  Sorry. That's a new porter weed in front of it.

I want to add some color to the tree garden so I've been searching for Zone 10 flowering plants that work well in partial shade.  I've always had porter weed and it does great, so I figured I'd put one in this shady area.

I found an unusual plant (to me) at Lowe's and since it wasn't crazy expensive, I brought one home.  It's a Mussaenda incana.

I finally planted some southern peas and added a few more okra for good measure.  I have sweet potato scattered around the yard already.  They don't yield much, they're usually pretty small.  But they're very tasty.  They grow, well, like weeds.

I managed to break the hose, or, how to sift out shells from the dirt/shell drive:

There are two additional Elderberry shoots which I've potted and will plant in a few weeks once they're a bit more stable (no longer wilting).

I also planted some passion flower vine seeds.  Not sure if these will grow, I've had the seeds for about a year.

I'm still undecided as to what to plant along my deck.  Since tomatoes were the most recent plants growing there, southern peas are probably the best thing in order to recharge the soil.  So for now that's what I've planted.

If there was a low growing, attractive edible bush of some sort that I could plant in this narrow garden in front of the deck, I'd be a happy gardener.  But I just haven't hit on that perfect set it and forget it "attractive" edible.  Most Native plants look like weeds, if you haven't noticed.  So they don't appeal to me for "decorative" purposes.

We're going to a Native Plant sale this weekend so I poked around the Florida Native Plant Society website.  Here's what I entered into the search tool:

Shade, Highly Compacted Soil, Low Water.  Results: Virginia Creeper.

That was it.  Period.  And funnily enough, I just this past weekend discovered Virginia Creeper in the shady part of the yard near the stick pile.  I said to myself, hunh.  That's not a good thing to have, but it sure is colorful!  Then left it there. My bad.

Next up:

Shade, Highly Compacted Soil (no water requirements requested).  Results: Virginia Willow, Lizard's Tail, White Crownbeard/Frostweed and Violet.  There were a few trees but I was looking for shrubby plants so I didn't write those down.

I'd be interested in the Frostweed.  Sounds right up my alley!  Like Porterweed. Love Porterweed.

Next up:

Part Sun, Highly Compacted Soil (no water requirements required).  Results: Virginia Willow, Elderberry, Lizard's Tail, Frostweed, Goldenrod and Passion Flower vine.

It seems like I'm destined to have Lizard's Tail, Frostweed and Virginia Willow!  I already have the Passion Flower vine and Elderberry.  My red passion flower vine has gone bonkers.  It's made its way into the woods!  Growing like a weed. Cause it is.

Then I did another search with Low Water, Any (sun or shade), Highly Compacted Soil.  Results: Persimmon, Capsicum annuum (glabriusculum/hot pepper tree), Goldenrod and Gaillardia.  Again, there were other trees but not what I was looking for.

The hot pepper tree (which looked more like a bush when I googled it) was intriguing.  I've never tried Persimmon, so I'd have to give it a try first.  I'll buy a fruit next time I come across one.

I made up my mind a few months ago, after leaving grapefruit and oranges on the tree again last season, that since it's obvious we don't enjoy citrus that much (with the exception of lemons and limes of course), what's the point in growing them if we don't eat them?

I LOVE the Pigeon Peas, green or dried, I use the Moringa and Papaya in smoothies, (although I'm running out of frozen Papaya and need to pick some mangoes at a friends this weekend to replenish my frozen fruit supply for smoothies), and I'm hoping to get Roselle calyxes this year to dry for tea.  Roselle leaves are also tasty.  So they are worth growing.  I won't get rid of the grapefruit or orange trees, mother nature will probably kill them within the next few years anyway, but I do need to find some better fruit to grow.

So that's my mission.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Road Hazards and Turtles

This Florida Softshell came up from the pond behind our office, looking like it wanted to lay eggs. 

I'm a fan of all turtles, but this one isn't particularly attractive.  Sorry I didn't get a picture of its face before some of the guys who work next door moved it back along the bank of the pond.  Maybe I'll see it again some day.

And now for something in the lazy department:

Yep!  City workers at their finest!

Good grief!

Kindness is a Beautiful Thing

Sometimes, it pays to be kind!

These beautiful flowers were delivered to me today from a kind elderly gentleman who lives in Switzerland:

He called and spoke with me a few months ago, said he used to work for my company and was trying to get in touch with someone he used to work with - this would have been in the '70's.  I've been with this company since 1991 so I knew who he was trying to locate - he happens to be close friends with my boss. So I told him I'd get his contact info and could he call me back in a few days, which he did. 

Yesterday, he called back to say he was very grateful for my help in putting him in touch with his old friend.  And today, these arrived.  What a very thoughtful thing to do! 

Coco Plum Fruit and Air Potatoes (Yams)

David over at Florida Survival Garden wrote a post about wierd and wild tropical fruit in South Florida and it reminded me I hadn't checked my Coco Plum bush tree for a few months.

It's a bit out of control, eh?  There's some Dward Snowbush mixed in on either side of the AC unit, but that crazy Coco plum is over the roof, again!

And see that grass?  That's what grass in Florida should look like, just barely hanging on, weedy, clearly never watered...or not.  But that's what our grass looks like cause it's a useless water eater.  So we let the rains water it, or it DIES!  So there.

But I digress...I chopped this Coco plum back quite a bit last fall since the AC guy couldn't get to the AC.  It was twice as large last year, if you can believe it. 

Here's what the fruit looks like, ripe when purple:

They're edible, but don't have any flavor.  A white flesh with a seed in the center.

I suspect there's only a handful of people in Florida who are aware these fruits are edible! They are in abundance, that's for sure.  Sort of like Chia for Aztecs.  Coco Plums for Calusa Indians!

I found a recipe for Coco plum jam the first year we discovered the fruits.  It was a vague recipe - the instructions said to add a quantity of washed fruits to a pot, add water covering the fruits a few inches over the top, add 1 lb. brown sugar and boil all afternoon.  Which is what I did.  It was perfectly edible, but not much flavor other than "sweet".  If I were to do it again, I'd probably had a cinnamon stick.

David also has done some blog posts on the Air Yam.  I've got Air Yam up the wazoo trees out back behind the fence.  I've also felt it was such a shame we couldn't eat them...or could we?  Check this out!

The book was written in 1982.  Front cover:
Author info:

Very intriguing.  But I've yet to see any account of people actually eating the air potatoes, so until I do, I'll save them for desperate times! 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Elderberry, Dragon Fruit and Goji Berry

Check this out!

Goji Berries!  In the saltmarsh behind our house!  Who knew?

Hubby has been talking about tree hunting out in the "outback", as we call it, and today he finally went on a trek!  He was looking for buttonwood or other interesting looking shrubs for bonsai.  He found this goji berry (aka wolfberry). Didn't know what it was but thought it was interesting.

If there hadn't been a berry left on the bush, I doubt he would have noticed it, nor would I would have been able to identify it from this picture.

Now I have to go for a long overdue trek out in the outback to see what other edibles are at hand.

Another berry I've been interested in growing is the Elderberry.  I finally found some at a local Nursery.  I was looking for a Kaffir Lime tree but they no longer sell any citrus trees.  Not that I blame them.  It's a lost cause these days.  The Kaffir Lime is grown mainly for its aromatic leaves and I buy them occasionally at the Asian Market in the freezer section.  I love to add to iced water.  But it's still an undesirable citrus tree so a lot of Nurseries are no longer selling them.  I guess I'll forget about adding a Kaffir Lime tree to the yard!

Finding the Elderberry was exciting though.  It's not a very big tree, but for $10.99 I couldn't pass it up.  Elderberry bushes are pretty "weedy" so I'm hopeful it will fit right in with my "set it and forget it" yard!  As a bonus there are two smaller trees in the pot which I hadn't noticed until I got it home.

The nursery we went to has a display garden and the Elderberry tree had ripe fruit.  So I got to see what they look like.  I wanted to take some "samples" home, but controlled myself...

After we left the Nursery we stopped at the Asian Market and bought a dragon fruit.  I've planted some seeds in a large pot with a tree that didn't make it.  We've cut off the top of the dead tree, leaving about a 4' section of the trunk which I can train the dragons to climb.