Monthly Archives: September 2015


White Caladiums - mlm c@

Florida Sunrise

Some of my  caladiums (Caladium X hortulanum) have been getting far too much sun, and need to be moved. I began relocating them this spring, and will finish that job as soon as the weather turns cooler. Some of those not yet moved  drooped for a while in the heat of summer, but now that temperatures have relaxed a bit, they are perking up again, and sprouting new growth.

Here in central Florida (Zone 9-A), caladiums usually awaken from their winter’s sleep in mid-to-late May. This year due to earlier than usual hot weather, their little spear-like sprouts were peeping up at me in late April. I was thrilled, because they are one of my favorite foliage plants. In less than a week, those gorgeous multi-colored gems were unfurled and showing off their faces for me and anyone else who cared to take a look.

Red Flash - mlm c@

This one is called Red Flash. I have really enjoyed its brilliant colors. I have a lot of these — plenty to share. If anyone around here would like some, just let me know.

Farther North Than Zone 9, Caladiums Must Be Dug in the Fall, Replanted in Spring

Living here, I have delighted in being able to plant caladiums and leave them in the ground forever. When living in Zone 7 (Birmingham, Alabama, and Charlotte, North Carolina) I had to plant them in the spring after the danger of frost had past. Then, in autumn, before the first chance of frost, I had to dig them up, and store them for the winter. We could leave dahalia, gladiolia, and elephant ear bulbs in the ground over the winter, but not caladiums or begonias.

As I grew older, and arthritis attacked my knees and, eventually, I stopped planting caladiums and begonias. They were simply too high-maintenance for me. For several years, I really missed that dazzling colorful foliage that I had loved since childhood. Now, I can have them again because, once they are in the ground, I don’t have to worry about them ever again. I can just sit back and watch them multiply each year.

White Dynasty

White Dynasty - mlm c @

White Dynasty

So, you’d prefer to buy bulbs instead of potted caladiums?

When to Plant:  Caladium plants or their bulbs can be planted anytime after nighttime temperatures remain above 65 degrees Farenheit.

How Deep to Plant:  The bulbs should be no more than 2 inches below the surface of the soil.

I have actually seen them lying on the ground and doing just fine. This was one time when I planted some bulbs and overlooked one. Later, when it had put out some leaves, I noticed it just sitting there on the ground! It had sent roots down into the soil. I was amazed it survived. Of course, I planted it immediately. I doubt it would have survived the summer heat even in North Carolina, where we lived at the time.

Which Side is Up?

There are usually little “eyes” similar to those seen on a begonia bulb or a potato. That is the side that goes up. If you don’t see any eyes, just put it in the ground. Unlike some bulbs, it will take care of itself and perform very well for you.

Pink Gem - mlm c@

This is Pink Gem. It hasn’t completely unfurled yet.

I don’t have any of White Dynasty or Pink Gem. I saw them at a garden center, and later went back to buy some. Of course, they were gone. You know what they say, “You snooze, you lose”.

Did You Know Caladiums Have Flowers?

Flower Bud - mlm c@The flower buds are not there one day, and appear like this the next day. It’s interesting to me that the flower buds have a shape similar to the unfurled leaves, but with the little “lump” at the base.



Flower - mlm c@This is one of the open flowers. It reminds me a lot of a peace lily flower, in some ways of a calla lily, and in many ways of the flower of elephant ears. They are in the same family, you know.



Here’s an enlargement of an open caladium flower.

Flower Enlarged - mlm c@


Gingerland - mlm c@


This is an interesting caladium. It has an elongated heart shape. It seems to prefer filtered light and afternoon shade, but can take some morning sun. I began with only one of these. It was mixed in with a group of Florida Sunrise.  It has multiplied very slowly. Now I have two. Hmm, this may take a while.

I have to leave you now, and get busy transplanting those caladiums.

I Cut Down My Beloved Bougainvillea

Hot Pink - full bloom - mlm c@

I have always loved bougainvillea (pronounced “boo gan vee ah”) from afar. The first one I ever saw in person was in San Francisco. It had climbed two stories, and was rambling all over a 2nd floor terrace. I was enchanted with that beautiful vine. So, when we moved to central Florida, I knew that was the first tropical plant I would buy, and it was. Sadly, our tiny yard does not have a great place for this flowering vine to climb and roam. It needs a fence or garden wall to tumble over and sprawl to its heart’s content. We don’t have that place.

With a heavy heart, I cut down my bougainvillea this week. I have loved it and fretted over it for 2-1/2 years. When in full bloom, people walking their dogs would stop by and ask about it, or comment on it. It was absolutely gorgeous each spring, and very pretty in the fall. The rest of the year, it was very high maintenance with frequent pruning required to prevent it from hanging out over our front walk, and constant spraying with insecticidal soap in a failing effort to rid it of those pesky caterpillars.

On House - mlm c@

This photo was taken shortly after a severe pruning to remove it from the gutters, sofit, and roof. It had even wrapped around the downspout.

Bougainvillea grows rapidly here. Who am I kidding? Everything grows rapidly here. That can be a wonderful thing. It can also be a not so good thing. My bougainvillea was against the wall of our garage, which is parallel to the walk that leads to the front door of our home. Frequent pruning was required to keep the upper limbs from hanging out over that walk. I could walk under a lot of them, but most folks had to dodge the thorny branches of this prolific vine.

More Caterpillar Damage - mlm c@

It was once taller than the house, and soon would have been lying on the roof. Not good.

This fall, it has had only a few flowers because the caterpillars were eating the newest growth before it could mature. We’ve had a  hotter than normal summer, so insecticidal oils that don’t wash off when it rains, melted off in the heat. We’ve also had a very rainy summer, so after each rain I had to spray insecticidal soap again, and again, and again.


And then, there were those thorns. Those huge thorns.

Thorns mlm c@

 It all got to be too much trouble for this gardener.

Caterpillar Feces - mlm c@

The droppings of those caterpillars were all over our front walk, and had to be swept away daily, sometimes twice daily.

Here you see the tiny droppings on my day lilies. They are so small, they could have gotten in between our dog’s pads, or the soles of our shoes, and been tracked into the house. That presents a potential health threat. Those caterpillars had to go. Unfortunately, that meant the bougainvillea had to go, too.

Do You Know Which Part Is the Actual Flower?

Hot Pink - zoomed mlm c@

Although the showy colorful bracts everyone loves are the most dramatic part, the tiny white blossom in the center is the actual flower. They’re like poinsettias in that way.

Each bract has 3 sections with a tiny flower emerging at its base.

Hot Pink - zoomed 2 mlm c@

Will I miss the show bougainvillea puts on each spring?

Purple - mlm c@

No, I can still enjoy them in other peoples’ gardens, such as this one a couple of miles from my home.

It’s kind of like being a grandparent. You get to enjoy the kids without having to be the primary caretaker.






Blank Slate Yard – Part 1: the Front Yard

Front Yard Cropped - shrubs named

The photo above is of our yard before we did anything to it. A couple of months ago, I received an e-mail from a local realtor telling me how beautiful our front yard is. Of course, I was appreciative, but I was also surprised because I still see it as not so nice. The pine straw mulch has faded to a dull gray/brown, and needs to be fluffed or replinished. The day lilies bloomed very little this year. The marigolds went to seed and died when I fell behind on deadheading them. The tulip ginger is blooming, but the leaves are covered with brown spots. The bougainvillea by our front door was beautiful all spring, then was attacked by caterpillars – again. Only one of my SunPatiens survived the heat last summer AND the freeze last February. Need I go on?

The One Lonely Impatien


This is that one huge, beautiful, but very lonely impatien in our front flower bed.

When we moved into this new home, it had the typical high-maintenance builder’s landscape “package” in the front yard, as shown above, and absolutely nothing but grass in the back and side yards. My job was to take the front from builder’s landscape to a more interesting, yet low-maintenance front yard; and to take the back yard from a blank slate to a lush garden, and fast. The photo above shows most of our front yard.

The only option we had regarding landscaping when we bought this house was to say we did not want a particular type of tree out front. We said no magnolia and no Bradford Pear. Although magnolia trees are beautiful, and smell heavenly, they are extremely messy, dropping their large leathery leaves year-round. They also grow quite large, creating a dense shade which prohibits grass and many other things from growing underneath. One mature magnolia would fill our entire front yard. Here’s a photo of a sweet magnolia blossom from our former neighborhood.

Magnolia Blossom - mlm c@

Here’s a painting I did of a magnolia with more open blossoms. In this photo, it’s still on the easel, awaiting the finishing touches. It’s now framed and hanging in our home.

Magnolia Painting unsigned - mlm c@

Back to Those Trees We Didn’t Want

The Bradford Pears I mentioned — the ornamental, non-fruit-producing pear trees — are beautiful when they bloom, but they stink terribly while blooming. The larger they are, the stronger the scent, and the farther it carries. Because of their limb structure (very acute angles) they are prone to losing limbs in high winds, which we have quite often here.

So, what we got was a baby live oak that had been pruned to the shape of a Christmas tree, and a crepe myrtle that had been pruned down to the size of a shrub. Because the live oak’s branches began about 4-5 feet above the ground, it looked like a Christmas tree on a stick. We began calling it our Christmas Tree Popsicle.

Mature Live Oak

Live Oak - mlm c @

Live oak trees also drop their leaves year-round, and grow far, larger than any magnolia ever thought about growing. Granted, they grow slowly, but the lots in this retirement community are quite small. A mature live oak would someday fill our entire lot, and hang out over the roof of our home plus that of our neighbors. It would eventually need to be removed, so we gave it away while it was still small enough to be dug up and transplanted easily. It was replaced with a Sylvester Palm that my husband chose. It was a good choice, as its size is much more appropriate to the size of the yard. It already provides some shade from the afternoon sun to part of our front yard.

Crepe Myrtle in Full Bloom

My Pink Myrtles - mlm c @

Knowing the crepe myrtle would grow quite large, and would someday partly block the garage entrance, and scrape the car going in and out of the garage, I had it moved out near the street. In its new location, we can see and enjoy its flowers from our front windows. As you can see in this photo, it is in full bloom now. When this bloom cycle has finished, I will cut off the spent blooms in order to get a 2nd bloom cycle  on it.

Our Front Entrance

Front Entrance - mlm c@

This is the front walk that was lined with holly bushes. After moving the hollies, I added more interesting and colorful foliage for a more welcoming front entrance to our home. In the left foreground, just out of the picture are some calla lilies, one of my favorite flowers. The asparagus fern laying on the walk has been removed because it is so very invasive. As soon as it is cool enough to work in the yard again, I will replace it with a variegated ginger that I have in a pot. That should be some time in the next 4 – 6 weeks.  The next task is having more pine straw mulch delivered.

For a Small Yard, the Shrubs installed by the builder Weren’t Much Better than the trees


Loropetalum - mlm c

The shrubs were a mix of loropetalum, holly, virbinum, and junipers. All but the hollies would require constant pruning, and eventually they would, too.

I do love the loropetalum for its unique year-round color:  Dark green and purple leaves that turn a to autumn colors in the fall. In the spring, when viewed from a distance, a loropetalum in full bloom can easily be mistaken for an azalea. Unfortunately, it will grow to be about 12 x 12, far too large for this yard.

I moved some of the loropetalum and hollies to the side of the house and backyard, and gave away all the others. Unfortunately, the loropetalum outgrew the area on the side, too, and need to be removed. I had junipers in North Carolina and Colorado, so I did not want them in Florida among my tropical plants, so I gave away all the junipers. I couldn’t find anyone who wanted the virbinum, because they grow so very large.

I staked one of the two loropetalum left in the front yard, and braided the slender main branches in an attempt to train it to become a small ornamental tree. For a while, it looked really nice. Then came strong winds. Those winds whipped that tree/shrub in all directions so badly that the vinyl-coated metal support rod snapped, and my little tree fell. Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea, after all.


Flower Buds on Vibirnum - mlm c

These are the tiny spring flower buds of virbinum. This is one of only two I kept. It is on the rear property line, and is now about 15 feet tall. The problem is not the height so much as it is the width. Virbinum grows to be almost as wide as it is tall. In these very small yards, that doesn’t work very well. I already need to trim the side that hangs over the property line into my good friends’ back yard.

We want to play golf, swim, develop new recipes, and enjoy new friendships, not manage high-maintenance landscapes. Some of our neighbors kept all the high-maintenance shrubs installed by the builders. They simply have the shrubs sheared off into unnatural shapes:  flat on top, little boxes, or little balls. That’s just not for me.

I have replaced all the shrubs that, eventually, would have completely hidden our home from view with Encore azaleas, caladiums, daylilies, coleus, waxed begonias, elephant ears, bougainvillea, tulip ginger, variegated agave, and lantana. Among them we installed three Queen Palms. The Sylvester mentioned above, and the Queens were our anniversary presents to each other in 2013.

Just writing this post shows me how very much work I still have to do. You think I can convince my hubby to help? Nah, probably not. He hates yard work. Says I must be sick because I love it so much. Stay tuned for more of Part I as I continue this work in progress and, have more photos of the yard itself. Part II will be the back yard, and Part III both side yards.

Mountain Flowers

A Little Color - mlm c@We just returned last week from a wonderfully relaxing trip to the North Carolina mountains, more specifically Blowing Rock, NC. We hoped, but didn’t expect to see much fall color. To our delight, while there was only a little, there was far more than expected.

Orange-Green Branch - mlm c@

We usually stay in local bed and breakfasts or the Chetola Lodge. This year, we rented a cabin near Boone, NC. The weather was lovely:  70’s in the day and high 60’s at night. For the first time since childhood, we slept with the windows open.

Front Porch - mlm c@

Of course, I Snapped Photos of Flowers Everywhere We Went

Geraniums - wht w pink ctr - mlm c@Dahalia - white - mlm c@Blowing Rock has plants and flowers everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. Nowhere is there any ugly gravel or bare dirt. The town has a very active garden club that keeps the area beautified year ’round. Hostas and ferns abounded, but petunias, geraniums, poppies, candytuft, purple and white coneflowers, impatiens, and nasturtiums, to name a few. The beds looked slightly like small English gardens because of the way the flowers of complementary colors tumbled over each other.

Brown-Eyed Susan

Brown-Eyed Susans - mlm c@

Balloon Flower
Balloon Flower - mlm c@

See how the bud is puffed up like a tiny balloon? It gets larger and larger until it pops open. I had these in my garden in the Charlotte, NC, area. I’ll have to find out whether or not I can grow them here in central Florida.

Autumn Joy Sedum
Autumn Joy Sedum - mlm c@

This is another flower I grew when we lived in NC. There are many types of sedum, and this one is my favorite. Sometime in late July or early August the flowers open to a pale pink. They gradually become darker pink, and finally almost a maroon color that is perfect for fall gardens. I haven’t seen it in gardens around here, or in garden centers, so I suspect it may not do well here. Darn it!

We Explored the Mountains Again, Too.

Did you know that, a few million years ago, the Appalachians were taller than the Rockies were at their highest point? The Rockies, too, have begun to lose height at a rate of about 1/2 inch every 10 years or so. I learned that little tidbit when we lived in Colorado.

The tallest point we reached was at Rough Ridge Overlook where the elevation is 4,293 feet above sea level. Entering Blowing Rock from the south on US Hwy. 321, the Eastern Continental Divide elevation is much lower.

Blue Ridge - mlm c@

Eastern Continental Divide - mlm

Entering Blowing Rock from the south, we were just barely into the mountains.

We drove up onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and looked out over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and walked a short trail where we saw many beautiful, but unfamiliar wild flowers.

Appalachian Wild Flowers

Here are some of the mountain wild flowers we saw. All were growing in dense shade. I still need to learn their names. Because they are native to a colder climate, and higher elevations, they will likely grow well in a lot of places, but not here in central Florida where we are less than 100 feet above sea level.

Wild Flowers at Viaduct - orange mlm c@

This one looks to me like a tiny orchid. Unfortunately, this was the best shot I could get. I had left my micro lens in the car, and had to lean out over a lot of snaky-looking weeds to shoot this one.


Viaduct Wildflowers Budded - mlm c@

I would have loved to have stayed long enough to see what this one looks like when the the buds open.

Wild Flowers at Viaduct - yellow mlm c@

We’re back home now, trying to catch up on work that was left behind. I love it here, but I miss the mountains sometimes, too. We’ve decided to go back every year, but a bit later in the season for more color. Also, so we can use the fireplace in the cabin. It just wasn’t cool enough this time. We also can’t wait to go back to some of the restaurants we discovered while there. I will write about those, but in a food-related blog/website that I am building.  It’s not yet ready for prime time.

I cut more basil today, so I need to go now and dry it. Gotta have plenty to last through the winter, you know.