Gardening with Georgia

Archive - February 2013

« Back to front

Step back into another time

Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 06:36:34 AM

Historic Adderley house in Marathon.

At Crane Point Museum and Nature Center in Marathon, the historic Adderley house is made of crushed and fired seashells. George Adderley’s home was built in 1906. It is the oldest house in the Keys outside Key West, and it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992. It is surrounded by 63 acres of palm and tropical hardwood hammock, saved from development by the Florida Keys Land and Sea Trust. Sundays, the museum and nature center opens at noon – and last Sunday, that was just as the temperature was heading into the upper 50s. The thatch palm hammock, with hundreds of palms, is a splendid hike. Adderley’s tabby house, a sturdy and charming example of Bahamian architecture, is open to walk through.

Dicliptera sexangularis.

 A little farther on is the Crane house, a 1950s pink house that looks into Florida Bay. Francis and Mary Crane bought the land in 1949 and decided not to disturb the native mangroves and hammocks around them, although they knew David Fairchild, and grew plants for him at this site. Growing around one of the palms at the Crane house is Dicliptera sexangularis, a delicate red wildflower with thin stems and leaves. The tubular flower attracts large orange sulphur butterflies and is a larval host plant for Cuban crescent butterflies. I’ve only seen this plant once before, and was delighted to find it here and even more delighted to remember its name – okay, at least the Dicliptera part. A visit to Crane Point is a walk back in time, native wildflowers and all.



The chill is gone

Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 01:11:07 PM


After a rainy cold front, the colors of Earth always brighter in the chill sunlight that follows. The Garden is no exception on this President's Day. Martin Feather, manager of the butterfly exhibit at the Clinton Family Conservatory, was in shirt sleeves Monday morning, relishing the 50-degree weather and grateful that so many of his charges were still alive. Volunteers brought cold-stunned butterflies into the metamorphosis lab to gradually warm up again. Some of the newly hatched butterflies were kept inside for an extra day to make sure the weather would gradually warm.

Hitch, the cattle egret who follows people and the tram, and his wood ibis friends were happily eating bugs, and a great egret stalked lizards near the Garden House loggia. Plenty of visitors enjoyed the glory of the day, including a group of red-robed monks from India who photographed themselves with cell phones.

Here's a look at the great lawn from the loggia.

A winter's day at Fairchild.





Visit to a morning glory

Tue, Feb 12, 2013 at 12:27:19 PM

 Euglossa viridissima, an exotic bee.

Poking around Cape Florida last Friday, I came across a

These bees visit 'gullet' flowers, such as
this morning glory.

beautiful metallic green bee hovering around a morning glory. Turns out it is the euglossine orchid bee, Euglossa viridissima, that Bob Pemberton, retired entomologist, first described after finding it at his Fort Lauderdale garden about seven years ago. This species of bee has naturalized in South Florida. Primarily an orchid pollinator in Central America, the South Florida bees have been known to visit about 100 plant species here. The males collect volatile and aromatic compounds in special hind leg pockets with which to attract females, while the females collect resin for brood chambers from such flowers as Delchampia aristolochiifolia. I sent photos to Dr. Pemberton and Dr. Suzanne Koptur, ecologist at FIU, for positive identification, to make sure I didn’t confuse it with a metallic green sweat bee. As long ago as 1971, evolutionary ecologist Dan Janzen of the University of Pennsylvania worked in Costa Rica and wrote about euglossine bees flying as far as 23 kilometers or 14 miles from flower source to nest


Good for dry times

Fri, Feb 08, 2013 at 08:44:43 AM

Pretty yellow flowers on thryallis hold up in dry times.

When there is little rain, as there has been for the last two months, many plants begin to show their unhappiness by shedding leaves, allowing their leaves to sag, or putting on an unhappy demeanor. A few plants are able to soldier on, and one of them is thryallis, Galphimina gracilis. Its sun-yellow flowers are an indication of its disposition in dry times. Native to Mexico and Central America, this drought-resistant shrub once was a star in the Xeriscaping lineup, and then quietly slipped into a supporting cast. Well. Walking through the Garden this week, I happened on thryallis looking like a plant in its prime. The yellow flowers usually are present in the normal warm season but this year the season has extended into our “winter” and so she thrives. Five petals that are slightly clawed put it in the Malpighiaceae family, related to our native locustberry. Like locustberry, it is a sprawly shrub, about 3 to 5 feet tall, and leaner and longer in shade. Plant it in full sun for the best shape and most flowers.