Tecomanthe dendrophila, also known as New Guinea trumpet creeper, is in full bloom on Fairchild's vine pergola. To see it, walk to the southern end of the pergola and you will see this amazing plant.
One of the Fairchild Plants of the year in 2006, this vigorous woody twiner (liana) could simply be grown for its deep green foliage, but it is the large pendant clusters of trumpet shaped flowers that steal the show. Rosy-pink colored at the base and fading to paler rose, the flowers open to reveal creamy white throats. Blooms appear intermittently between September and May. The mature stems wind around each other creating an entanglement on which the clusters of flowers are curiously borne. Tecomanthe dendrophila requires a pergola, fence, or other strong support.
This morning I saw that two of my Elliott's love grass are beginning to bloom. Some of you may wonder about my interest in this new type of gardening. It actually began during the coldest weekend last January, when I was curled up under a warm blanket with my two dogs at my side. I had recently purchased a book titled: "The American Meadow Garden, Creating a Natural Alternative to the Traditional Lawn" by John Greenlee. After 37 years of working in horticulture in South Florida and gardening since the age of seven, a whole new way of gardening has become a new interest of mine. I quote from Greenlee's preface: "Why create meadows? For me, the reasons are many. Meadows are far more satisfying than either a lawn or traditional border, combining the best attributes of both: like a lawn, a calming place for the eye to rest, yet with the richness and complexity of a border. Unlike lawns, meadows are better for the environment, a safe habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators, a place where native ecology can thrive. Meadows, by attracting a diverstiy of "life," are animated, alive with rhythmic movement, catching both wind and light. No lawn can do that. And - properly designed - meadows require less maintenance and consume significantly less resources than lawn or border."
I've loaned this book to a couple friends and dicussed the idea of meadow gardens with knowledgeable gardeners. I've met some resistance to the idea - weeds might be a major problem, our subtropical climate is different than where most of the meadow gardens in Greenlee's book are located. So, I am in the process of trying to do it myself, in my own yard. It is a bit of an experiment and I am looking forward to the days and weeks ahead as my own plantings get established and perhaps weeds do too!
I've already seen the "movement" in my meadow garden with the breezes blowing the blue-green leaves of the love grass. I love it! A new dimension in gardening - color, smell, textures, and now movement. I planted the grasses a bit closer that normal to get maximum coverage and hopefully shade out and cover areas where weeds might try to grow. I still need to transplant some other wildflowers from other parts of my yard, including Crotalaria pumila and Ocimum campechianum (wild basil), both natives to South Florida pine rocklands. My newly planted meadow garden is still getting established and nearly every afternoon, I've been watering the plants with my irrigation system - me holding a hose! I am amazed at how fast the grasses have grown and it won't be long before they are on the own - our summer rains will begin soon and the roots of the plants in my garden will have grown into the surrounding soil enough to not need 'manmade' irrigation.
Well, I took last Thursday and Friday off and worked in my own yard. The day before, I had purchased some Elliott's lovegrass (Eragrostis elliottii), native plumbago (Plumbago scandens), Havana skullcap (Scuttelaria havanensis), gama grass (Tripsacum floridanum) and forked blue curls (Trichostema dichotomum). Wednesday night I weeded the planting beds and bright and early I started on the meadow garden area. First I arranged the plants still in their pots where I wanted to plant them.
This was the fun part. Now the work began. Fortunately nearly all the plants were small and in one gallon sized containers. My soil is mostly limestone rock, a shovel is not necessary. In fact no shovel was used during this process! I used a small mini pick ax while I sat on a stool. Some grasses were divided into clumps with a handsaw prior to planting.
As soon as the plants were planted I watered each one thoroughly and must do so every day for the next several days and gradually lessen the watering frequency once the roots of the new plants have begun growing into the surrounding "soil". My watering consists of me holding a hose! It is a fun way to relax after I get home from work. Here is my newly planted, very small meadow garden. In addition to the plants you see, I also scattered seeds of our native coreopsis (Coreopsis leavenworthii). They will have beautiful yellow flowers.
After this area was planted, I moved on to other beds in my front yard. In three days, I dug 54 holes! This is the perfect time to plant, but you must commit to watering new plants on a regular basis until they get established. This is so important! I like to use some of our native, large rocks in planting areas as well. Here is a pineland croton (Croton linearis) planted next to some rocks with three Elliott's lovegrass planted nearby.
I planted in other areas of my front yard. Here are some photos. Remember, these plants were just planted! They are small, but as I write this six days later, I know that they have grown. Below is a photo of our native plumbago (Plumbago scandens).
Both the forked blue curls and Havana skullcap add blue to the color scheme.
I really love the blue-green color of the Elliott's lovegrass!
As plants get more established, I will take more photos and update the progress. One thing I noticed immediately - motion! When breezes blow, the blades of grass move in such a graceful way.