Monday, June 22, 2015

A walk through the gardens

Now that summer is officially here, I decided to go for a walk around the property and check out some of the many hot-weather ornamental plants.

My first stop was at the Angel’s Trumpet, Brugmansia, which is growing next to the clay wall along our driveway.

Angel's trumpet (Brugmansia sp.)

This is my first year growing the bushy plant, and it’s already taller than I am with more than a dozen buds about to open. I planted it long enough ago to have forgotten what color the pendulous floral bells were going to be so, it was a nice surprise to see the first two peachy-pink flowers emerge.

Another plant that escaped my memory is a white crinum lily that had been transplanted to a spot beneath the Louis Philippe rose bushes. In addition to the rose, which is a sprawling, hardy, bright red bush with fragrant blooms, the white crinum is growing among numerous pink rain lilies and a solitary pineapple plant with fruit almost ready to pick.

White crinum lily

The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council considers Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonic, an exotic pest, but I've grown the vine for more than 20 years and find it quite manageable. It’s far less invasive on our property than many other vines that aren’t on the council's list.

Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

I like Japanese honeysuckle because it triggers memories of my childhood in Yardley, Pa. where the bushy vine grew wild around the railroad tracks near my parents' home. In those days, when I went for walks or bike rides, I'd always stop to pick a flower (or two or three) to suck the “honey” from the sweet-smelling flower's stem end. I know now that the stem end is called a calyx but to my younger self, the stem end was just a soft straw through which I could catch a taste of sweetness on a hot summer day.

I believe my fondness for honeysuckle is due to long-ago memories of nectar between my lips combined with the fragrance of so many flowers in one place and the buzzing whirl of bees competing with me for the nectar. One plant stimulating so many senses is pretty heady stuff.

Orange Flame Justicia, Justicia chrysostephana, is another relatively new addition to my garden. It was given to me last year and although it flowered a bit in 2014, it was still in a pot. A few months ago, I transplanted it into the ground in an area of enriched soil where it gets a fair amount of sun and regular water.

Orange Flame Justicia (Justicia chrysostephana)

It seems to like its new home. Several orbs of bright orange flower spikes protrude above large green leaves. In the morning, I sometimes see hummingbirds fly to the orange flowerheads. They’re attracted to the color, and I am too.

I like Justicia so much, I want to add more to the landscape. My daughter Amber has several other colors of Justicia growing in her beautiful yard in Winter Garden, and I'm hoping she'll pot up some cuttings for me.

Black-eyed Susan, Rudbeckia hirta, has such a happy face. A few years ago, I planted a couple seedlings alongside the barn. Over time, those original two flowers multiplied — not a lot, but enough to hint at the broad field of wildflowers I'd someday like to have.

Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

Some people call Passiflora incarnate maypop or apricot vine, but when I first arrived in Florida this fancy flower with the frilly purple fringe was introduced to me as passionflower vine. I've had a passion for it ever since.

Purple passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)

When we lived on a small lot in Kissimmee, I grew the wild purple passionflower on a trellis along the side of our house. It made a beautiful living wall that attracted butterflies and bees. When we moved to Groveland in the early 1990s, I no longer needed to cultivate the vine because it grew wild throughout our property. I see it in the woods, along the shoreline, creeping across fields and even in the bamboo groves where it does its best to cling to the canes and reach up high.

Although I absorbed the beauty of other flowers on my walk, I conclude with a mixed pot of two plants. Several years ago, I placed a large square container of white caladiums and pink rain lilies just outside my bedroom window.

Caladium and rain lilies

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, those flowers in that spot provides me with me with a special gift. In the summer, I wake up each morning and go to sleep each night looking out at the caladium's heart-shaped leaves and the rain lilies' cheery pink flowers. It’s a fine floral way to start and end a day.


  1. You have many beautiful plants blooming in your summer garden. I love the orange justice, too. My plant is small and hasn't started blooming yet. Your container with rain lilies and caladiums is a nice combination. It's funny how an unintended combination can bring a smile to your face every time you look at it.

    1. Yes, it is, Susan. I'm no pro at mixed container plantings so when one does come together in an aesthetically pleasing way, I'm always delighted.