Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Adventures at Firefly Farm

I got directions to get to the mall, Trader Joe’s, and some fast food places, all in the same area. I only had to stop once to get redirected, but had to turn around several times on the way and the way back as the street signs here are seldom visible. Maybe there aren’t any. Or not many.
Trader Joe’s, I suppose is someone's idea of a grocery store, but is  pretty much a loss on me. They had almost nothing that I recognised. No brand names, and odd flavors and combinations, like avocado flavored popcorn, stir fried artichoke and tofu, and  pink Himalayan salt  (who needs that anyway). The front windows were painted up with a sign that said, “We have pumpkin fever,” and Boy! did they ever. Fully a third of all products in the store were pumpkin or pumpkin flavored. And just to be clear: I hate pumpkin. I did however recognize apples and bananas and procured some of those. I removed myself from their premises fairly quickly and tried to head back to Firefly Farm.
Heading up a ramp to get on I40, I spotted a Walmart and quickly turned into a car dealership only to discover that because it was an interstate ramp, there was no going back in the other direction.  They had thought of a solution to this problem of being located on an interstate ramp though and I was able to wind about through several business parking lots and eventually wound up in the Walmart lot. There I was able to discover actual pepperoni pizza, French bread made from actual flour, and lots of sweets and other junk food. I hate to call it junk food because in my heart, I believe pumpkin flavored instant irish potatoes is the real junk food.
I found a Ross, a TJ Max, and a store called Bargain Hunter. Guess what I found in Bargain Hunter???  Something for my obsession? You betcha. I found a 4.5 pound container of Miracle-Gro continuous release fertilizer for only $6. I felt doubly lucky to get it as it was not only cheap, but was the only one left. This proves my suspicion that there are millions of people out there, just like me, who think of little else except plants.
After navigating thru an endless tangle of roads, I returned after about 5 hours to Firefly Farms. Needing to unwind after my leisure drive, I opted for a walk. I was advised by a local not to go farther than the railroad track as there were homeless people around there. I figured it was alright as I was not carrying any foodstuffs that they might try to wrestle away from me, so I thanked the man and continued on my way. I went to the end of the road where there was a power substation, or something of that sort behind a chain link fence that had warning signs about construction. I can only imagine they could not find any signs that said High Voltage and had to settle for something else.
The vegetation on the walk was pretty boring. Most were tall wildflowers (giving the appearance of weeds) that had gone to seed. The leaves were tattered and moth eaten and the trees were not far enough along in their color development to be pretty. I did see a lone blue chicory flower in a ditch that cheered me up considerably.
Past the railroad track the road led beside a lake (of sorts) but there were giant piles of gravel out in the lake a few yards off shore. Big piles, I mean. Big enough so they had made a road around the perimeter of the gravel pile. Another odd thing was that there were a number of small solar panels set up on the rocks, as well as one on the substation. Well, I can’t figure this out. It is Tennessee, after all. Not a sensible place like Alabama. But maybe I don’t need to go there…
I cooked a pizza and had some wine for supper and fell asleep as per usual pretending to watch TV.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Night Blooming Cereus

 I had 9 night blooming cereus to open. The picture above and the one below were both taken about 9PM. They are exquisite in every detail. But they only get better as the night passes.
The last two pictures were taken about 1AM. By that time the blooms were fully open and the sepals were fully re-flexed as can be seen in the last picture.

I saw a sphinx moth checking them out.
This is the third flush of blooms I have had from these plants this summer. The plants are very old. I have had them myself about 45 years and I continue to root pieces . The original came from my grandmother who spent several years in Florida and brought the original back to Alabama when she returned. I seldom fertilize. I go not repot often. In fact, I leave them in the same pots until the roots eventually crack open the pots. I use plastic pots to decrease the weight of the plants as they get heavier and bigger as they grow. My plants have limbs that are 5/6 feet long and are certainly not graceful. But when they flower, they can be forgiven. In their natural element growing in trees, water drains away quickly and there is not a lot of soil, so keeping them pot bound simulates that environment. It seems to me that letting them get dry and then watering again brings on a new flush of flowers. They are a joy to watch bloom and almost the only care they require in my zone 8 garden is to keep them from freezing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Wild Poinsettia

 Two or three years ago I found a wild poinsettia growing beside the road. I pulled it up, took it home, and planted it in my flower bed. Maybe I should not have done that. In the beginning the poor plant seemed to struggle and I tried to help it along by giving it extra water when it was dry. The next year there was one more measly tiny plant a few inches from the original. I wished the 8 inch tall plants would grow a little better.
 This year, after a rainy spring these flowers are popping up all over my flower bed. The tallest is about 2 feet tall. They are very pretty, providing dots of color and clear green foliage, but their numbers have started to worry me.
 I found out that my lovely little wild poinsettia's name is Euphorbia cyathophora, a member of the spurge family, a family well known for at least one invasive member (leafy spurge). Spurges have milky sap that irritates some people, but overall, we know there is little to fear from poinsettia. There are several other species that are used and enjoyed for their exotic looks by the horticultural trade.
 I guess I will let these grow and try to dispose of some of them before they go to seed and take over the whole bed. They are pretty.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Another Dish Garden

This dish garden has grown out beautifully. The Streptocarpus with purple blooms takes the show but the strawberry begonia (Saxifraga stolonifera) adds variety with it's variegated foliage . In the right back the red undersides of a Rex begonia leaf stand out.
Ever since I started thinking about dish gardens, everything I see seems like a good container to make one in! At a local nursery I saw a gorgeous one in a square box made from 2x4's. I have a colorful enamel pot that I can hardly wait to plant. I think I'll leave the color to the pot in this case and use shades of green leaves or different leaf shapes to provide interest.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Two Evening Beauties

 The evening primroses I have shown before, but their sudden unfolding is a marvel that I don't tire of.  About 8 PM, they stick a little tongue of  a petal out and soon thereafter swiftly  unfold. At the last the sepals snap back and downward to fully release the blossom.
Last night I had 8 night cereus blooms. Tonight I have 15. They are another night blooming marvel worth celebrating. Their heady fragrance and feathered stigma give them an exotic air that is always worth a second look.

Now if the humidity was not so awful....

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dish Gardens With Succulents

I made several dish garden back in the early spring. Succulents do not need much care and so are excellent candidates for dish gardens. The difference in terrariums and dish gardens is terrariums are enclosed, or mostly so Both require careful watering . Too much water will be the death of almost any plant, especially in a container that doesn't drain.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


 I had lots of beautiful Iris during April. Here is one whose color combination is uniquely beautiful with bright yellow standards and lavender falls.. I have no idea what the cultivar is. Can you guess and let me know?

Friday, June 19, 2015

Two Species of Oenothera (Evening Primrose)

Oenothera speciosa has taken over my gerbera daisy bed. A few years ago I threw some evening primrose seed  in  a bed which up till then had been occupied largely by gerbera daisies and roses. It took about 2 years for them to take hold, and now I have just left the battlefield, They are such simple beautiful flowers that I let them bloom and enjoy them. After most of the blooms are gone I hoe them out, but they continue to re-sprout, so it's a task I do several times a season
My mother used to refer to these as cornbread flowers, I assume it was because they are so plain, yet beautiful, These pink wildflowers are virtually indestructible and you can often see them blooming along the roadside.They bloom most of the month of May

The month of June brings in another evening primrose. It is Oenothera biennis. Their bright yellow flowers open around 8 PM and are worth the a nightly celebration. I like to sit outside close to the bed and watch them open. The sudden unfolding is worth seeing, and more than once. They are pollinated by sphinx moths. Japanese beetles consider them delicious.
Sundrops and several other evening primroses can often be seen along roadsides, but this one  is a biennial, only making a foliage rosette the first year, and dying after it makes seed. It's flowers are large (3/4 inches across). It opens in the evening and closes as the sun begins to warm the next day. the sad drooped blossoms are not likely to attract any attention during the day. But just wait til evening!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Seedling Clematis

                                                            Above is Clematis 'Ramona'

Below is what I believe are 2 seedlings of 'Ramona'. I found them nearby in an area overgrown with day lilies and spirea. I dug them out and replanted one in a pot and one in the ground.  The next year they bloomed. Of course Sweet Autumn Clematis reseeds like crazy, which is why you see it growing wildly along roadsides, but I have never had a hybrid Clematis reseed as far as I know. They are not that easy to get to germinate, as I have found by planting seed in a pot. They require freezing, maybe several cool/warm periods and  some voodoo. But apparently Mother Nature knows how to say the right words.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

 Rudbeckia or cone flowers come in all variations of, as well as annuals, biennials, and perennials. They are a joy to grow and easy as pie. They look best in a mass planting, but I have a few spread hither and yon about my entire yard and flower beds. I even scattered some seed along the roadside and they bloomed this year also.
 The larger yellow flower near the top is an evening primrose.
I had a glorious crop of these around this stump last year and they reseeded and are back this year.
Rudbeckia are commonly called cone flowers or black-eyed-susans.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Gloriosa Lily

 This is Gloriosa Lily, a beautiful colorful flower That has climbing tendrils at the end of the leaves. It can grow to 9/10 feet tall, although mine usually top out at about 5/6 feet. They can stand alone at first, but as they get taller and the buds begin to develop, they lean or flop and without support will scramble along the ground. They willingly reach out and take hold of any available support, plant or trellis.
 Gloriosa is a member of the Cholchicaceae, and as you might guess is poisonous, so don't eat any.
I have been growing mine for many years and originally purchased one from a home gardener in south Alabama. Through the years it has spread to the point that I have quite a nice group now.
 The bulbs are flat and do not clump as most lilies. They form new plants at a distance of a couple of feet from the last plant. I have successfully moved one to another bed, but always feel anxious about how to do it. I think the best way is to wait til they begin to die back and then move them. Once they have died back, they are hard to find underground and you run the risk of damaging the bulbs.
The sources say they are only hardy in zones 10 and 11 and zone 9 with mulch. I did not know that and mine have always thrived in my zone 8 garden. Full sun is best, but they can be perfectly beautiful in some shade.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Chirita longgangensis, An African Violet Relative

This Chirita(C. longgangensis), an African Violet relative native to the Far East, has been blooming for me for several months. They can thrive with less care (cooler temps, less light) than AV. They bloom best when the roots are crowded and  should be grown on the dry side, letting them get dry before watering.  Leaves are woolly like AV. I have never seen these for sale in stores, but they are readily available online. I got mine through trades.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ramona Clematis

The above picture is a bit washed but it shows how prolific the blooms are. It blooms on both old and new wood, so pruning to keep in shape or size is not a problem as it will continue to bloom. And it does bloom off and on throughout the summer. I cut off the seed heads when the bloom has finished to help it along toward more blooms. I have been growing this Clematis for 30 years. It was originally ordered from Park's Seed.

This is a closer look at Ramona and shows better color, which is a bluish purple, a deep vibrant color.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Beautiful, but...

 While resting in the hammock and thinking how fortunate I am , every once in a while I would catch a whiff of something that was not altogether pleasant. In fact, it smelled pretty much like urine. Turned out it was this orchid. A pretty thing, but don't get too close!!!

The name tag on this one says Epicattleya El Hatillo 'Pinta, and the name indicates an intergeneric cross between a Cattelya (corsage type orchid) and an Epidendrum, and the description described it's fragrance as pleasant and sweet. NOT! I bought it for $5 from the clearance table at Lowe's.

See some examples of  Epidendrum here.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Terrariums Made From Coffee Pots

These terrariums have been growing about 2 months. It can be difficult to find the right size plants that will grow slowly enough to stay a nice size in their container for a period of a few months. I never fertilize dish gardens or terrariums as I want them to stay small, so as to not outgrow their container. I water in very small amounts about once a week in hot weather,but always keep an eye on them to make sure they collect only a minimum of water on the sides of the glass. Since these are succulents, less water is definitely better than more. When watering put only a few drops in at once to avoid splashing and keep to a minimum the water I add. I covered the soil in the top two containers with sand to make a neater appearance. The bottom two I covered with aquarium gravel.

The tall prickly looking plant in the above terrarium has grown an inch or more in the 2 months since I made this. It may soon have to be removed as it is almost touching the top of the container now. The jade plant is also likely to get too big fairly quickly.
The tiny plant in this one is a stone crop. It is also growing too long. I can cut it back to size using scissors.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Japanese Beetles Arrived

A few days ago the Japanese beetles started arriving, or perhaps I should say hatching, as they were already here,  just not in a form that wanted to eat my evening primroses (Oenothera). You can see on this early picture how they have already gnawed away at the leaves. Not to be deterred though, the evening primroses are still putting on a show, even if their leaves are ragged. When I saw the first one, I got my little pail, put about an inch of water and a squirt of dish liquid in it, and started knocking them in for a bath. They are unable to escape once they hit the water, and I get a great deal of pleasure out of this method of extermination. I do the bath technique several times/day. as time permits.I use the same water 2 or 3 days til it starts to smell, and just keep the bucket ready as I have time to kill a few. No poison is involved, and I honestly think it works as well as poison, maybe better. There is no hope of getting rid of them all anyway.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Bread Poppies

Most of my poppies have passed now, leaving these lovely pods which I like to use in dried arrangements and wreaths. The pink in the middle of the picture is a gladiolus.
One poppy flower is seen in the lower left of the above picture.

Here is an interesting article on poppies and the legal ramifications possible from growing them.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Poppies Blooming Today

 These are annual poppies and should be planted in the late fall for spring bloom. I mix mine with a little sand as the seed are too small to handle alone. Then broadcast in a prepared area. Do not cover the seed. Or alternatively, just let the seed fall in the garden when they are mature and come up wherever they will.
They mature and pass before the early summer flowers come on so they do not take space from later flowers.
These poppies are a bright red and the stamens are dark, almost black. The blue in these pictues is an anomaly of the photograph.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Gold Hill Plant Farm Today (March 28, 2015)

                Most of the daffodils have passed now but the Narcissus are really glorious this year.

                                        More Narcissus under the Dogwood that is trying to unfold.

                                                               The oaks are blooming.

You never know what surprise you may find! The rooster violets are blooming. They seem to prefer the worst soil and the very place you'd never figure anything could grow. I remember how they used to grow and bloom on a red bank at my Grandmother's house. I have tried them is more hospitable locations but they die out in a year or so.

This shrub is Exochorda or more familiarly, Pearlbush. It blooms earlier than the white spireas but is also a member of the rose family. It roots and grows easily, without special treatment. It hails from China and Central Asia. Occasionally you will see one blooming in abandoned places or the edge of woods. It may be that it reseeds, but not readily enough to be a pest.

Spring Beauty: a diminutive wild bulb plant that greets the first of spring with white faces smeared with a bit of pink rouge.

Every year the thrift around this rock takes a bigger place. I love its cheery fuchsia color, and talk about a plant that takes care of itself and does not mind living in poor soil! It's main requirement seems to be sun.

I can't count on a big beautiful display of tulips , but every year I have a few show up , even with smallish blooms. The main thing that seems to help them rebloom is fertilizer. It would be better if I could remember to fertilize in the fall, but by then they have disappeared underground and I can't find them.

Saturday, March 21, 2015


                                         The persistence of daffodils without care is well known.

Click here to read or hear a cheerful poem about spring!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

It May Be Chilly Today...

These are from my yard yesterday. Spring will soon be spronging out everywhere!
                                  Sweet smelling Edgeworthia  chrysantha (Oriental Paper Bush)

                                                                The first open Daffodil

                                                                 Pink Hellebore

White Hellebore

                          James Applewhite in his poem Jonquils called them sunlight broken in pieces
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