I want to take a moment to be thankful for peanuts. They are my breakfast sometimes. They are the perfect way to stave off sugar lows and hunger pains. They are vitamin rich and high in protein and have been shown to help protect against heart disease, alleviate the effects of diabetes, reduce inflammation and protect against colon cancer. And they are in our lives today because of the work of just one man: George Washington Carver. He changed agriculture in the south by encouraging the cultivation of alternate crops like peanuts and sweet potatoes instead of cotton.
We brought the pineapple in this weekend based on recommendations I had read to harvest it when it was 1/3 yellow and then allow it to ripen the rest of the way inside. I think this is primarily to make sure that we get to eat it, not the raccoons in the area. It’s more baby plant than fruit, but hopefully it will be good.
The more hours I spend in my yards the more I am becoming very aware and sensitive to how the native flora and fauna interplay. I’ve tried to be careful to avoid plants termed invasive (even if they are sold by home stores to the home-owner gardener).
Beyond being alarmed by a newly spotted, highly invasive, transplant, this thing just ticks all my squeamish boxes (and I am a lot less squeamish after playing in the dirt every weekend). This thing can climb trees!
It is Summer in full blast here, but before Spring let go – not long ago- I was running out in advance of the lawn-mower every weekend to collect the wildflowers that kept popping up in the middle of the back yard. This is one day’s harvest; and they lasted longer than I expected them to.
I’m all about identification, so I looked them all up. I had been calling the blue ones irises, but really they are Common Spiderwort. The pink, trumpet shaped flowers would spring up within a day or two of a fresh mow and wave about a foot above the grass. They are Rain Lily, and are, apparently, attached to bulbs that will sprout new flowers every year. They also spread by seed. Next year I think I am going to grow our rain lily patch. The tiny pink flowers, Meadow Beauty, are still going strong on the water’s edge along with some other crazy grasses that grow in ground too wet to mow over.
My very excellent aunt gifted me with an angelface rose when we moved into our first house. Angelface was my mother’s favorite rose, and thankfully it is also pretty hardy (though I have killed one in the past). I planted it outside the front door next to the wild rose I found growing underneath the weeds. It has since tripled in size and seems really happy.
My garden nemesis: Spanish needle, AKA Bidens alba, Shepherd’s needles, beggarticks, or butterfly needles. It can grow 5 feet tall, and spreads wide along the ground where it can. This makes it especially hard to get to the root of the things when you are pulling weeds from around and under other plants.
Why do I wage war against this plant when I have given a flower bed over to the wild vinca? When I have nodded my head at the, now huge, milkweed in my side yard? Spanish needle is supposedly edible, feeds bees and butterflies and has medicinal values. Surely that would compare to the simple, pretty, and easy to control nature of the vinca, or the fact that the milkweed is the only food of the monarch butterfly caterpillar. Yet I cannot make peace with the Spanish needle.
Mostly it’s because of the seeds: 1/2 inch little black needles that thread themselves through my clothes and scratch my skin. Each plant can produce 1200 seeds. After that, it’s the virulent way it spreads, sucking nutrients and choking every other plant in the yard.
But I must admit, it’s defense mechanisms and sneakiness are impressive. I often find it growing as close to the base of another plant as possible – long established plants, so I know it is not simply my hapless sowing of weed seeds as I am planting. It also sacrifices limbs like a lizard will sacrifice it’s tail. Though relatively sturdy and thick, the stems of Spanish needle will break away easily, leaving the tap root and other spreading roots to recover and re-sprout.
And, I swear that the new leaves of a Spanish needle can often look like those of the plants next to it. I’m getting better at spotting them, so maybe this was a learning curve for me. Maybe it’s all in my head, but it still throws me for a loop some times.
Part of taking possession of a house, for me, is figuring out where and what everything is. That includes identifying all the plants and trees, and learning how to best care for them.
I was channeling middle school biology class looking at pictures of leaves and determining whether they were ovate or pinnate. Everything is so much easier when you have a flower to look at, but it wasn’t going to be that easy for me.
The first challenge were the two thin, vase-like ornamental trees in front. I thought, “they’re like crepe myrtle but there are no flowers; all the other crepe myrtle in town are blooming.” Two or three weeks later, they bloomed, and my suspicions were confirmed. Though, why they took their time is still a mystery.
The next was the flowerless, leather-leafed bush in back. It was especially difficult to track down but eventually I figured it might be a camellia. I would have to wait until it bloomed to tell for sure, and last week, it did just that.
Camellia, also known as the rose of winter, is an evergreen shrub native to China, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea. It flowers in late fall, when so many other shrubs and perennials have gone dormant, even in Florida.
I found a small statue of St. Joseph in my front garden. Other than a disem-housed toy chimney, it is the only garden discovery I have made that is not building materials. Not immediately recognizing it, and being raised with more of the mezuzah tradition than that of the catholic saints, I had a strong inclination to put it back. I decided to clean it up and research first.
What I found is that St. Joseph, in addition to being a patron saint for families, parents and working people, is also the patron saint for home buyers and sellers. Burying a small figurine of St. Joseph upside down and facing the house will help your house to sell. You should remember where you put him, so you can retrieve him once the selling is over and give him a good place in your new house (oops to the previous owners). Since we are so happy to have found our house, we’ve given him a good place in ours.
The Catholic Supply Company has a few variations on the St. Joseph home selling kit, the one pictured is the figurine found in our garden.
We’ve moved the pineapple. Initially I was worried about moving the plants when they were so large, but they needed sun that they weren’t getting in their original location: against the North side of the house. Without sun, they will never bloom; I found this out while trying to figure out what the plants were. I also found out that though it is really easy to grow pineapple from the top of any pineapple you buy in the store, it takes the plants two to three years before they flower and fruit. That’s a crazy investment for one primary and two secondary fruit crops before the plant is kaput.
It feels really great to look out on those derelict veggie beds and see something growing that I meant to put there, even if the pineapple plants came with the house.
I imagine that landscape overhauls are becoming more popular for people that can afford them, but most people inherit their landscaping from the previous owners of their homes. Older homes have years and years of decaying walkways and hidden bush and tree stumps that never get dug up or ground down when they are deemed expendable. This is what our yards are like.
I started with dreams of hauling off debris and carving out perfect pathways with brand new pavers and fencing. Then I sobered up. Inherited yards are not blank canvases, and mine came with loads of history that would be too expensive to ignore. For example, the fence surrounding the wide gate into the back yard was dry-stacked logs from trees felled by the previous owner. It was cool and we kind of liked it, until it fell down. Now it is a pile of work that laughs at us whenever we try to clean it up a little. As much as I wish all the logs would just disappear, they are raw material, and free raw material at that.
Another obstacle is that old landscaping starts to fall in on itself, grass reaches across walkways, pavers settle inches higher or lower than their fellows, flowers compete with weeds in their beds. The logs ended up being the perfect solution to put some designated areas back in my backyard.
Madagascar Periwinkle or Vinca Rosea grows like a weed in my yard and reminds me of my grandmother. I noticed that the vinca in one corner of the yard weren’t suffering the sudden death of their fellows in the front or anywhere else. Now, anytime I find a straggling vinca I move it here. I planted my Mexican Petunia in the back and it is liking the location, too. Incidentally, Mexican petunia is also a pest plant. All non hybrid forms spread rampantly through prolific seed pods. So you might say, I gave a corner of my yard to the weeds.
Here is where I laugh at myself and this is the story. I am dreaming of gardening lately and, of course, I had to do some research into native and hardy plants. While snipping a plant description my Evernote told me I had a similar note, namely one snipped from the Wikipedia page for Bryophyllum pinnatum.
So, way back when my mysterious alien plant could’ve been a Lychee tree seedling (in my mind anyway), I did some research on the leaves and found Kalanchoe pinnatum, related to the Mother of a Thousand Children, called cathedral bells by the USDA and Sweetheart plant by the University of Florida’s Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Are you laughing at me with me yet? Because, apparently, I figured out what my mystery alien plant was a while ago only I didn’t know I did, or I just promptly forgot about it. I wonder what else is tucked away in my Evernote. All of my years of OneNote use are merged in there too.
The Wikipedia page has a few other names for my plant:
Bryophyllum pinnatum, also known as the Air Plant, Life Plant, Miracle Leaf, and Goethe Plant is a succulent plant native to Madagascar.
Now I just need to figure out what I’m going to call it. I think I like Goethe Plant the best.
A little over a year ago I found this plant on my porch. I thought my Mom had put it there, and I thought the little seedling was sprouting from the lychee nuts that we saved from a snack. As it grew, I figured better.
Lychee trees don’t sprout tendrils of roots from their dropped leaves; my plant does.
It got taller and taller, though is so spindly, that I have to tie it to keep it upright. And then it sprouted bunches after bunches of these pod thingys. When the sun hits them you can see shadowy figures inside.Continue reading Alien plant