Sunday, April 25, 2010


Oh what a mess I've made!  I cut down hedges, moved plants, and dug lots of holes.  Things look much worse before the beautiful results happen.

Our flower beds were overtaken by healthy, fast growing everything!  The viburnum hedge, closest to our house, became so tall and wide, there was no choice but to hack it all down to fifteen pitiful stumps.  You can't kill it, and they'll grow back quickly, but this time Mark will be sure to keep it at a controllable height.  The garden walkway is such a mess.  I need to break up and transplant the blue flowering plumbago that have just gone crazy, and also I want to transplant the many amaryllis bulbs.  I have dozens of pink blooms, and my mother just gave me several deep red bloomers.  Because they wait until spring to bloom, and grow so tall with the amazing two-to-four flowers per stem, I plan to sink the bulbs against the front of the (future) hedge, placing lower flowering plants in front.

Yesterday Mark helped me finish up planting the azeleas.  Although I bought six one-gallon plants, several had two azeleas in them, and so I split them up.  I think we planted eight under the many oaks beside our driveway.  Next year they will be big and flowering, oh how wonderful they'll look!  Currently they look happy and healthy with a drip hose spraying the entire area.

I still have a lot of small flowering plants to put in the ground; sweet williams, petunias, daiseys, and much more.  It will be so nice.

Oh my back aches up high, between my shoulder blades and up, and including my neck.  It's all worth it!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's a Great Day to be Born

Yep, today's my birthday. 53 years have flown by, because we all know time flies when you're having fun! Speaking of flying, in honor of my birthday, NASA brought the space shuttle back today, complete with a sonic boom that rattled my eardrums!  I was outside, hoping to see the contrails, but the skies were clouded closer to the horizon looking east.

I couldn't think of anything I wanted or needed, and I have a promise of "anything" once I see it in a store, but resourceful Mark did find a great present, which I'm totally satisfied with: the latest copy of Mother Earth News, Guide to Growing Your Own Food (food and garden magazine) and a five-pack of the nicest Wells-Lamont gardening gloves I've ever seen, a different pair of gloves for different tasks.  They fit so nice too!

Today will be filled with lots of opportunity to wear my new gloves.  I have big yard plans!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I got a water barrel!

I've always wanted a rain barrel, and finally I have one!  My cousin makes them from barrels that were used to ship food to the United States.  Although they were washed out, driving home with the barrel in the back of my car, enclosed and warm from the sunshine, it smelled so good, it made our mouths water!  I think this one may have had pickled banana peppers!

Here's Chuck's site: Barrels For All Your Needs

We got a rain collecting barrel, complete with small screened hole on top and a spigot on the bottom.  It fits conveniently and hidden in the bushes near our front porch, right under the roof where the water pours into the bushes.  I'm excited about this barrel because we don't have a water spigot close enough to water the front porch plants; I always end up running in and out and dripping water between kitchen and front door.  The photos are from Chuck's website.  Ours is the brown color. The hole is small to control algae growth from sunlight, yet it is big enough to catch the fast and large stream of water that pours from the corner of our roofline. 
(photos are taken from Chuck's site)

Exciting Spring Planting

This winter was a hard one on Florida.  Normally 2-3 freezes (lasting only a few hours each) is the worst of our winters, but this year Central Florida had 13 hard freezes.  So many of our beautiful tropical plants have perished.  It's been a busy spring, cleaning up the dead plants and upgrading and replacing.  We have purchased a lot of plants, but haven't really come together on a planting plan.  First and foremost, we lost our gorgeous hibiscus, with its huge amazing flowers, so Mark bought three to replace it with.  The area we had the last hibiscus has grown two small oak trees, which Mark has kept small by trimming like boxwoods.  OUT THEY MUST GO!  I'll transplant the oaks into the back yard before we plant the new hibiscussesesesss.  Hibisci?  Hibiscue?  Hibiscus plants - yellow, peach and a red flowering beauties.

I started a large lot of bell pepper plants, which were growing wonderfully until I transplanted them in what has become clear to me - inferior soil!  Never again will I buy store brand!  MiracleGro is the best, no exceptions!  Today I plan on transplanting the healthiest  of what's left of my bell peppers.  I have six tomato plants, ready for a  bigger pot too.  I got one of those "upside down" tomato planters and will put one in that to compare how well this works.  Should I hang this from an oak tree's limb? Or should I hang it from the porch hook?  I'm thinking, porch, as I want to keep a potted tomato nearby for my control group to compare.

While collecting donated plants for this past weekend's family reunion in St. Augustine, FL, I was able to purchase a fig tree and two large trays full of sweet williams and petunias (maybe totalling 40 plants!) at a very low price, direct from the green house.  They usually won't sell to locals, but because I was there anyway...(I think the employee may have pocketed the $10 she charged me.)  A fern farm donated a bunch of small potted ferns, plus two huge hanging ferns.  Unfortunately for the reunion sale, the big hanging ferns wouldn't fit in the car with the dozens of other ferns, ivy, draceannae, gardenias, and orchids.  The two big ferns would have fit, but there wouldn't be room for the box holding the hot food.  Gotta bring a covered dish to the reunion!  This year I brought a large pot roast, cooked down to shreds with onion, garlic, and a larger amount of big mushrooms, all swimming in gravy.  If you don't like mushrooms, you wouldn't like this!  A second large pot was filled with Jasmine rice. 

After bringing so many plants to the reunion, I bought a datil pepper plant for myself, and I also bought one of the ivy's I donated.  The datil pepper will go into a big pot and hopefully grown into a small tree on my front porch, getting the morning sunshine.  All the proceeds go to the reunion fund for mailing and rental of the St. Johns County Fairgrounds.

Before I can plant the sweet williams and petunias, I want to transplant my many flowering lillies.  It's time to dig them up, split the lillies up, and make more.  After they're all dug up I plan on having Mark cut back the hedge.  I learned that this is the perfect time of year to prune my oversized viburnum hedges down to the small size they are supposed to be (to me), so our pretty house won't look like like a girl, hiding behind bangs that are way too long.  According to the plant guy, we should cut the bushes down a foot shorter than I want it to grow, then it will fill out and behave once again.  If only Mark can keep the hedge size under control in the future!

I haven't decided where to put the fig tree yet.  It's only a foot tall, so maybe in a pot this year to let it grow a little bigger.  I'm hesitant to plant it in the back yard, as the wild animals from the woods behind our house would eat all the fruits before they even ripen.  Mom says to plant the fig near a pine tree, which would limit me to back yard planting.  I'm just not sure I want it there.

I have a bunch of wild flower seeds and plan on having someone (David? Mark? A hired person?) clear the small tree saplings that have appeared at my fence line out back, and loading that area up with seeds and mulch.  It would be a good idea to mulch heavily so we won't have a repeat of weeds and saplings next year at the fence.  I want to be able to see the deer walk past!  I'd also like to mulch under the batch of oaks next to our driveway and load that up with wild flower seeds.  I used to plant them every year there and always got so many compliments.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Busy Weekend

On Saturday we webt to Lowe's Hardware store, where we bought 3 hibiscus, lawn fertilizer, and lawn bug killer.  We've been troubled by sand gnats, plus we saw a couple of tiny ticks on our dog, and so the bugs had to go!  David spread it, but he's so fast, I'm afraid he may have run the spreader in record speed, thus not covering enough ground with the poison.  Time will tell.  The weather station said rain, but none has come yet.  Hoping the stuff we spread doens't burn the grass.  I don't look forward to standing outside with a hose.

Mark and I had the nicest Sunday.  We started out with breakfast at the Woodshed, which wasn't anything to write home about.  Next, we took a pleasant drive, windows open, to Mount Dora.  We ended up at a waterside park and enjoyed watching the ending of a sailboat race.  Kids were having a ball in the park and I wondered out loud if I could still hang upside down from my knees.  Mark was quick to warn me not to, or I might get hurt.  He probably had an image of my head hitting the ground.  I still feel like I can do anything, but Mark's got a point! 

A typical stop for us is at the RV store, where we looked for the millionth time at campers and RVs.  We finally decided that a fifth wheel would be the wisest choice, as it has plenty of head room for Mark's 6'6" crown.  Now that we have that decision made, we will spend many enjoyable visits figuring out what is important to both of us in a camper.  We probably won't buy one until we sell our Florida house and move to our North Carolina home.  Having a nice-sized trailer is a good idea so we can bail out when we tire of snowy winters and also so we can be in Central Florida during Spring, so I can coninue with my tour escort job, accompanying high school marching bands.  I love it.  The camper store was having hot dogs and hamburgers, so we ate lunch there.

On our way home we drove through Winter Garden, where the main street was closed for a Spring festival.  Oh fun!  We walked up and down the street looking at all sorts of plants and displays of ecologically sound strategies for better gardening.  We bought six nice-sized azeleass in dark pink with freckles, 3 cast iron plants, and a plumeria stick.  I planted my plumeria today, and look forward to the day when it is as big as the huge one I lost this winter to frost.  We have lots to plant; replacing plants that we lost in frost this winter.  We normally get 2-3 freezes, but this winter we had 13.  Hoping Florida won't have such severe weather next winter.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Class Reunion

WHY would I stand next to skinny Bonnie in a picture?
Most of you know that I work for my friend Bonnie at her travel agency, VIP Vacations.  Bonnie and I have been friends since we were 15, and I'll soon be 53!  My, how time flies!  We attended a small class reunion for old classmates that graduated between 1971 and 1975, that gather in facebook.  Bonnie and I went and saw a handful of old friends there, and had such a nice time.  More people would have attended if it weren't the last day of Passover, and also if it weren't the day before Easter.  It was so nice to reconnect with old friends.  "Best Alive In '75".