Gardening with Georgia

Archive - June 2012

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A mighty worm was he

Fri, Jun 29, 2012 at 09:45:42 AM

Giant Swallowtail caterpillar.

A lime prickly ash, or wild lime, (Zanthoxylum fagara) has been given a home near some native plants in my back yard, joining a large sabal palm, wild coffee, Florida gama grass, beach verbena, locustberry, firebush, Mexican alvaradoa, coonties and milkweeds. The lime still is quite small, yet a Giant Swallowtail somehow found it. Some weeks ago, there were three orange dogs (Giant Swallowtail larvae) on the little tree. One by one, they disappeared, but the third was pretty big when last seen, so maybe it pupated. Then four days ago, I found another generation, this time just a single orange dog, 3/8s of an inch long, on the lime. (I make several forays a day into the garden to check on the little fellow because anoles watch him menacingly. I flick away even the baby lizards because I know what they’re up to.) This new worm is a hearty eater, consuming the compound leaves at a good clip, leaving the slender petioles, but the tree produces new leaves rather quickly, so it doesn’t seem threatened by this strange-looking little guy.

Meanwhile, the nearby Mexican alvaradoa (Alvaradoa amorphoides) has grown to 10 or 12 feet tall. It

Alvaradoa amophoides.

seems to like its corner near a stopper, sabal palms, wild coffee and Fakahatchee grass. This week, I have seen a small yellow butterfly in the yard heading in that direction. It’s probably too much to hope that it will be a rare Dina Yellow that at last has found its equally rare host plant. But you know about the springiness of hope.

Into this mix of plants, I added a corky-stemmed passionflower, Passiflora suberosa, which Mary Collins grew for the last Spring Plant Sale. It is sending delicate tendrils up the rough bark of an old avocado. This morning, a Zebra Heliconian flew in.

Monarchs have been busy for weeks eating down the milkweeds, so I’ve stashed one potted milkweed in an orchid house to allow seed pods to develop as the last replacement plants cost mucho dinero.

Giant Swallowtail egg.

I cannot possibly imagine how these lovely animals find their specific host plants, even though I know that the females use the hairs on their feet to chemically test for the right plant. But the wonder of having them show up, quite literally out of the blue, is one of the great joys of butterfly gardening.

And now, I have to check on a worm.


Dwarf gingers dance in the shade

Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 09:23:57 AM

Globba winitii,red leaf form.

Rain, humidity and heat are just what gingers love, and one genus especially is adding a small but delightful presence in the garden. Globba is a dwarf ginger that comes from Thailand and has an unusual inflorescence. Globba winitii, usually called a dancing lady, develops a long pendant stalk of flowers that emerge from the terminus of the leaves. The stamen arches up over the rest of the small yellow flower structure. I have a maroon leaf form that produces striking mauve bracts.

Recently, I planted Globba winitii ‘Blue Hawaii’ in the garden beneath the shade of a sapodilla. ‘Blue Hawaii’ was named best flowering plant in the recent Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society’s show at the Garden.

Globba winitii 'Blue Hawaii'.

Its bracts are light blue and its leaves green.

The plants go dormant in winter, and then reappear in early summer. I have no idea where the maroon plant came from. It just appeared a few years ago in the roots of a bird’s-nest Anthurium crispamarginata, where it must have found conditions that suit it. It is not as tall as the ‘Blue Hawaii,’ and examining it closely requires getting on my hands and knees. At Fairchild, Globba species are in plot 27, which is near the huge Ceiba speciosa or floss silk tree by the Gate House.


Tale of a tail flower

Fri, Jun 15, 2012 at 09:22:22 AM

This Anthurium cultivar has the
appropriate name 'Red Hot'.

Anthurium, a genus in the Araceae (aroid) family, translates as “tail flower” because the spadix resembles a mouse’s tail. Anthurium andraeanum is the species with the brilliantly colored spathe and often-colorful spadix, sometimes called flamingo flower. It is high flowering season for this wonderful species. But then, it’s high flowering season for most anthuriums, and even those grown for their foliage often have understated but delicately beautiful inflorescences.

A French botanist, Edouard Andre, collected Anthurium andraeanum from Colombia and in 1876 sent it to a Belgian nursery owner, Jean Linden, according to an article written by Mike Madison in an early volume of Aroideana, the journal of the International Aroid Society.

By 1889, the plant was introduced into Hawaii, where growers

An elegant inflorescence.

eventually learned to propagate it from seed. It became a darling of the cut flower industry. Two-toned spathes appeared and were termed Obake types, with large spathes that lasted for several weeks. Obake is Japanese for ghost or change. By the 1950s, double spathes were developed. Today, there are miniature cultivars as well as enormous plants on the market, with two-toned, striped, marbled, orange, red, pink, purple and white spathes.

The plants love moisture, heat and humidity. Excellent drainage is a must for most aroids, so your soil or container mix might contain pine bark soil conditioner or sand, Perlite and peat moss. Protection from cold may be necessary, and for that reason, I keep prized aroids in containers so they can be moved inside during a cold snap.




Spectacular plants at this show

Sat, Jun 02, 2012 at 10:02:57 AM

The Tropical Fern and Exotic Plant Society's show, currently in the Garden House, is displaying dramatic and beautiful plants this year. Always a show that offers something for everyone, the array of ferns, bromeliads, orchids, crotons, and begonias is off-the-charts lovely. Here are the top winners:

Best of Show.

Best of show went to Dr. Jeff Block's Anthurium magnificum, which holds up three unblemished and perfectly grown velvet leaves and one inflorescence.

Best flowering plant was awarded to a small but stunning Globba 'Blue Hawaii' that Ree Gardens entered.

Best Florida native: Campyloneurum angustifolia, a beautiful fern submitted by Glenda and Larry Weeds. A strap-leaf fern, this species is found in Florida, the West Indies and northern South America.

Most unusual: Nephrolepis exaltata 'Suzi Wong', a soft green fern so delicate it reminded one judge of green cotton candy. This is a distant relative of Boston fern, but you'd never know by looking.

Best fern could only go to the stunning staghorn grown by Tom

Best Fern.

Moore, Platycerium wandae. This giant specimen will take your breath away. Native to New Guinea, this is the largest of the staghorns, and the effort to display it must have been mighty, indeed.

The Sweepstakes ribbon was claimed by Marie and Steve Nock of Ree Gardens who rounded up the most blue ribbons.

There are vendors offering myriad tropical and subtropical plants, including caladiums, aroids, begonias, flowering trees, staghorns, and much more. The show runs through Sunday, and hours are 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.