Monday, June 28, 2010

A Native Florida Flower Garden - A Great Way to Celebrate My 100th Post!

Many of us in Florida struggle with our gardens trying to force grass, plants and flowers, that are intended for other climates and regions, to thrive here.  The easiest way to avoid this battle is to landscape with plants that are native to our region and that easily adapt to the weather patterns and soil conditions we experience in the Sunshine State. 

My friend CG, has taken on such a project.  She was particularly motivated when she lost about 12 trees during our trio of hurricanes in 2004.  Her once shaded yard became a harsh sun-exposed plain.  Where once plants thrived in gentle shade, they shrivelled up in the relentless Florida sun. It's been no small task to get started, but she has persevered and her vision is now becoming a reality.

CG has educated herself extensively on the subject through books, talking to native Florida plant nursery owners, attending garden shows, and picking the brains of people who have successfully transformed their yards into native plant havens.

I went along on a trip to one of the nurseries and watched CG carefully select plants and flowers that to me all practically looked the same and in dire need of water.  She knew exactly what she was looking for and had a vision of how her garden would look when these scraggly potted plants took root.  Do I sound skeptical?  You bet I was.

After that trip I stopped by her house after a couple of weeks and took pictures of the beginning stage of her garden.

This picture was taken May 20th.

I also got some closeups of some of the plants,


You may understand my skepticism based on the picture above.  But look!  Further exploration around the space showed some hardy survivors and beauty:

Tropical Sage or Florida Native Salvia

Native Lantana

One of the things I like best about her garden is the way CG outlined it with a free-form mulch border with two small oak trees anchoring the area.

We are over a month away from the first pictures and a lot has happened with the garden.  Lots of rain and sunshine have worked their magic and we are seeing the beauty emerge from those rough beginnings:

Beardtongue or Pentstammen

Florida Native Pineland Lantana.  You can see how CG uses pine straw for bedding.

Florida Native Petunia

The Native Petunia bank against a bank of Blue Spiderwort

FL Native Black-eyed Susans

Sensitive Mimosa (I love the greenery on this plant!)

Skull Cap Flower

St. John's Wort

Stoke's Astor

Liatris or Blazing Star

Spiderwort. Blooms in the morning. This is an afternoon shot. Below is a shot of a White Spiderwort in bloom.

Showy Primrose

Purple Coneflower or Echinacea

Blanketflower (with a friend)

And finally an overview of CG's Native Florida Flower Garden as it appears today, about six weeks after she initially planted.  From time to time I plan to take pictures to see how this garden progresses, especially during the different Florida seasons.  Kudos to my friend, who after having a devastating tree loss, researched, adapted and then celebrated her new environment.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Chez Lunatique

Today I had fun with my good friend and fellow blogger, Suebee.  She, over the last few years, has introduced me to the world of thrifting and blogging.  Today I introduced her to HomeGoods and World Market.  She had never been to either one before!  I have expanded her world.

In the course of our little jaunt today, she presented me with a treasure I had spied on one of her blog entries.  I had jokingly commented on it that I should be the one to have it, since I had the craziest dogs, lived close to her and could speak some French! 

SueBee's hubby looked up the words up to see what they meant, as she had hazarded a guess. Being the French Canadian I am (yes, I know I left when I was 3, but I did take French in school) I knew what the sign said.  The second word is pretty much an easy guess.  First word a little trickier - Mr. Tennis just assumed it was "cat", since he thinks they are a little nutty.  Hmmmmph, Mr. Dog/Spanish Speaking Person. Translation:  "Crazy Dog".

"Find a really good place to put it", she warned me after I half-heartedly tried to give it back to her.  I thought about the front door, but when I walked in the house and was greeted by said Chien(s) Lunatique(s), I knew where it should go.

On the door to "their" room.  This is a room between our kitchen and Mr. T's office/The laundry room, that has been a good place for all our dogs to stay when we are not at home.  (You can see Mr. T through the windows - this also allows me to keep an eye on him too)

 When the Bostons entered our lives we upgraded the room and door a little bit to suit their "delicate" constitutions.  I had a handy neighbor cut my door in half to make a sort of Dutch Door.  Tricky because of the glass, but he did a great job. Now we can open that top door and air conditioning or heat can fill that room and provide comfort for our spoiled canines. We used to open the door to the office and let the a/c from the unit in there fill the room, but then the two black and whites would raid the office space and get in trouble.

Then we upgraded the doors that led to the backyard from a sliding door to french doors. With blinds between the glass, so their royal highnesses could be shaded from the harsh Florida sun. 
 You can see Princess Sadie out there in her thundershirt , in preparation for the afternoon storms. There will be new post soon on the progress/success of this special dog garment.

 Everybody is happy with the room.  The humans like the fact that the dogs (and the cats who like to hang out there with the dogs) are in a safe, comfortable, climate controlled space when they are not home. And the dogs like to have their own room to lounge about.  And, no they do not have their own thermostat to control the environment to their liking - we aren't that far gone. Yet.

But I ask you, who are the crazy ones in this house?

Thanks SueBee from The Crazy Boston Lady!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Mother,

June 21st, the summer solstice, is my mother's birthday. 

When she passed away in 2002, it was as if a piece of me was gone.  I took her presence for granted for so many years of my life especially when I was young.  As I got older and married, I realized how much she had done for our family and continued to do for us even when we were adults.

My mother was a quiet, gentle person.  There wasn't a selfish bone in her body.  She gave until there was nothing left to give us but memories of her.

I have dreaded this post.  I always try to keep my posts upbeat and I didn't think I could do that for my mother's birthday.  I don't have the words to properly express what she meant and still means to me. 

I believe she's been watching us all here and I hope we've made her as happy as she made all of her family.

A fellow blogger, Sue, did a wonderful virtual album in her mother's memory (click on her name to see her wonderful tribute to her mom and thanks Sue for the idea!) and I wanted to try to do one as well.  Mine captures only a brief glimpse and essence of the woman my mother was, but I know she would be the first one to be delighted at my first attempt at such a thing.

Click to play this Smilebox photo album: My Mother's Birthday
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Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day

To all the great dads, grandpas, stepdads and surrogate dads I know.  And a special shout out to the dad in our house, Mr. Tennis.  He not only provided a great life for our kids growing up, but he continues to support and advise them as they adventure into the unknown of adulthood.

Mr. Tennis and his first fur-son, Ziggy, 1980, Gainesville, FL.

Mr. Tennis giving his newborn son a bath, 1985.

Teaching a one-year-old Maven to swim in Orlando Grandma's pool, 1990.

Smoky Mountains National Park, 1996

BHS graduation for Maven 2007.

Mr. T, The Writer and Three Hole Punch, the dog (friend of the family) .
 LA 2008

With The Maven, Venice Beach, CA 2008

Santa Barbara, August 2009

Not to mention he's a great husband too!  But you all knew that...

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

More Friends Fall to the Chainsaw.

There's been a lot of activity on our street today.  First of all I was out there early to beat the record high temps and humidity Orlando has been experiencing this week. Got my lawn cut and hacked away at some of the jungle in the back.

Panda, of course supervised, she is one bossy Boston.

And some good news, our banana trees are making a comeback.  I thought they were done for after our
"harsh" winter.

After I shut the mower off, I heard lots of machinery and chains saws. That ususally means a downed limb or tree and we had a heck of a storm yesterday.  I went around front and saw this:

This was obviously more than a downed limb. At the risk of being labeled the street busybody I took some more pictures. Because two huge Live Oaks were being taken down by one of my neighbors. 

This is the time of year we Floridians begin to get nervous about hurricanes and people on our street have been nervous since we got whacked by three hurricans in a row in 2003. 

I just hate to see them go, especially if they are healthy.  I worry about the ones over our house whenever it gets windy and I guess I will feel differently about them if one ever comes down. Live Oaks are known for their strength and longevity, but a lot of people confuse them with Water Oak or Laurel Oak which are notorious for fast growth, shallow root systems and toppling in storms or high wind. 

I've complained on here about raking leaves and picking up acorns, but I also realize the tremendous payoff in the warm months with the shade they provide.  About 15 years ago my across the street neighbor had one of these beauties taken down because she was tired of raking the leaves and picking up debris. It was a healthy Live Oak that was over 50 years old.

Our street used to be full of trees like these that are over our house, but they seem to be disappearing each year.  I understand the fear of a limb or tree falling on a house and I hope the trees taken out today were taken down for good reasons, not for convenience.

On a more positive note, I'm loving my Crepe Myrtle trees.  You can see the pink one to the left in the above picture, but here's a closer look at the blossoms.  They were hanging heavy today because of the rain we had last night.

And I don't feel like putting out the welcome mat for our latest nest builder that I discovered as I was walking into the house after taking these pictures:

Monday, June 14, 2010

Well, He's always been a little messy....

Happy 50th Birthday Tony!
Born on Flag Day, June 14, 1960

I didn't know you when these first two pictures were taken, but I sure am glad you were around to get Mr. Tennis cleaned up and to the altar on our wedding day! But the wrong one of you has the gun!

And we won't blame either of you for the 1980s hair, we are just glad you got your clothes on, polyester and all.

Hope you have a great year, Tony!!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Empty Nests

It's been about three weeks since Rita the Wren's babies flew off, look here if you'd like a refresher. Today I decided we needed to reclaim our recycling bin and I got a great look at the instinctual ingenuity Rita must have possessed to build such a structure.

From the top, to the average predator, or passing human, this just looks like a tumbled bunch of garden debris.  Most would simply pass by without even looking.

Aahh, but if you bend over, you find that there is a carefully constructed rounded opening,

with an equal perfectly rounded "den" where Rita tended to her eggs, then hatchlings and finally her fledglings.

How incredible that it all took place in such a small area right under our (and many neighborhood cats') noses.

For now, I've put Rita's masterpiece on the bench on my front porch, but I wonder what I can do with it long term. 

In the meantime, I have my own empty nest while The Maven is gone adventuring for the summer.  Her room needs a redo very badly.  Even though she lives in an apartment while going to school here, she still needs an updated room to crash in when she's home.  The last time we did anything major to it, she was about 8 or 9.

We painted the walls lilac and stamped flowers around the windows and doors.

It's dated, small and very "used".

And doesn't have the personality it did, when The Maven lived in it permanently.  Those dressers were my parents.  They got them as part of a bedroom suite when they got married in 1943.  They've been all over since then and ended up in our house after their last time with my parents in a nursing home.  Needless to say they were well used and loved for so many years, but now need a little TLC.

They are made of pecan and are structurally in excellent shape.  I feel that stripping them, sanding, and restaining is what I will do.  I've been looking at some very talented bloggers who are so good at painting and revitalizing furniture, so I haven't quite made up my mind.

Anyway, this room and it's contents will be one of my summer projects.  I knew that if I posted about it here, it would keep me motivated to tackle this project. 

Why is it Rita could do everything she needed to do with very little space and no frills and we feel the need to fill our "nests" with stuff?  But wait, if you look very carefully, you can see that Rita did all her decorating and collecting on the outside of her house.

She was quite the collector, wasn't she?