Saturday, September 24, 2005

In the Butterfly Garden: Lantanas and Tiger Swallowtails

I love finding Tiger Swallowtails on the lantana. What spectacularly large and beautiful butterflies. I first got interested in butterfly gardening after seeing these swallowtails making frequent trips to a roadside lantana that had popped up in the corner of my property long ago. A lot of gardeners don’t like planting lantana in their yards because it reminds them of those roadside lantanas that grow like weeds by, well, by the roadside. But they’re missing out on what is probably the best butterfly nectar plant in Florida and many named cultivars are now available in colors other than the deep orange and school-bus-yellow common lantana. Several sizes are available, too, from low growing trailing lantana to ones that grow 5 feet. Frequently we carry lantanas grown into lollipop topiaries and have one planted in our own butterfly garden (replacing the one we lost last year to hurricane Jeanne). Lantanas are reported to be somewhat toxic, especially the berries, but my border collie, Maggie, finds the slightly funky smell of lantana to be irresistable and has eaten many leaves with seemingly no ill effect.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

In the Butterfly Garden: Blue Plumbago

Giant swallowtail on plumbago Black swallowtail on plumbagoI have lots of Blue Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) in my butterfly garden. It's one of the best flowering landscape plants in Florida: cold hardy and blooming all year round with beautiful periwinkle blue flowers. It's considered a major butterfly plant because it's a host plant for the tiny blue cassius butterfly. But lately I've been seeing many species of butterflies using it as a nectar plant as well in spite of the fact that there are many of the best nectar plants for butterflies to choose from in the garden.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Propagating Herbs

I've been spending a lot of time in my little “shade house” doing some propagating. I am happy spending hours taking cuttings as long as I have my little Fiskars scissors. These scissors are totally useless for such tasks as cutting paper or fabric but are perfect for cutting softwood and neatly and precisely trimming off leaves. Which is why it is a puzzle to me that these scissors are frequently found in office supply stores/departments or fabric stores/departments but almost never in garden stores/departments.

If you want to learn more about plant propagation and be inspired by gorgeous photos as well, pick up a copy of "Making More Plants" by Ken Druse. I have to say I learned more from this book than the Plant Propagation course I took in college. Plus the enthusiastic writing and photos offer so much more than our dry textbook ever did.

Monday, April 18, 2005

New Herb Magazine

New on the magazine racks: the premier issue of Flowers and Herbs. Rosalind Creasy is Editor as well as photographer. Rosalind is the author of The Edible Flower Garden, The Edible Herb Garden, and Herbs: Country Garden Cookbook and was the photographer for Exotic Herbs: A Compendium of Exceptional Culinary Herbs. Lots of good herb articles with super-saturated colorful pictures in this first issue:

Combining Herbs and Flowers with Flair
Lovely Luscious Lavender (with recipes)
Scented Geraniums (more recipes)
Magical Fairy Garden (makes me want one)
Plant Your First Herb Garden
Create a Magic Herb Circle
Mini Italian Herb Garden (with plants in colorful Italian tins – I love those funky planters)
Basil – Queen of the Herbs
Landscaping with herbs Made Easy
Sage Advice

All in all, as an herb lover, I liked it and it’s heavier on the herbs and lighter on the flowers than I expected when I first picked it up.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Garden Report

The aristolochia is looking good

as is the porterweed.

The Don Juan roses have never looked better, filling the arbor with the first big flush of flowers since I severely pruned them in February.

The spirea is still beautiful but starting to decline

and the purple tabebuia has only a few flowers still refusing to let go and litter the sidewalk.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Garden Critter Blogging

I was showing visitors around the butterfly garden when we spotted this snake winding its way in and out of the holes in the gothic top of the fence. Luckily my camera was nearby. That's the snake's head toward the lower right smiling for the camera. As best as I can tell from my Audubon Field Guide to Florida, it's an indigo which is a threatened species. Well, he's not threatened in my garden; we love him! By the way, that's an aristolochia vine sharing the fence. A great host plant for the pipevine swallowtail which I rarely see and the gold rim swallowtail which is the most abundant butterfly in my garden.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

A Rainy Saturday

It rained most of the day with occasional bouts of thunder and lightening, keeping most of my usual Saturday customers away and Maggie hiding behind the computer table where she managed to unplug the mouse and keyboard wires. But rainy days are not without their upsides. No need to water today and I managed to catch these rose leaves where all the rain had run off the leaf top and had gathered in little glistening balls on the edges.

Chocolate + Herbs = Heaven

If you can still find one on the newsstand, grab a February/March issue of Chocolatier magazine for a nice long article on the pairing of chocolate with herbs. Commonly paired with mint, chocolate is also combined with rose geranium, lemon-thyme, lavender, rosemary, and basil for ice cream, shortbread, panna cotta, mousse, cookies and a torte rated in difficulty from easy to advanced.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Natural Eggs for Easter

Now is the time to make Easter eggs using herbs and other natural materials. A fun project for the whole family. Try especially the red cabbage dye.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Cat Blogging

This is Groucho and where he got his name is pretty obvious. I've touched up the background and added a few graphic elements, but people think I've added the mustache, too. Not so. This is exactly the way he looks. He came from the county animal shelter where I went looking for him after seeing his picture in the newspaper in the section where they profile animals that need adopting. I was sure he'd be gone by the time I got there, but there he was, waiting to be taken to the paradise of a catnip-filled herb farm. His favorite pastime is chasing the light from a flashlight around the floor and up the walls. My other cats just don't get it. What the heck is he chasing? You can tell they think he's nuts.