Monday, December 27, 2010

Surviving Florida Frosts with a smile!

The plants are covered the third time this winter.
We have used every blanket, throw rug, painters tarp, cardboard box, plastic bin and 5 gallon bucket to cover delicate outdoor plants.
An entire tent was made to cover my tomato plants just starting to get ping pong sized fruit. The Asian Hollyhock, now about 20 inches high is hiding safely under a 5 gallon bucket. I am trying to save some Pentas so the butterflies have something when the freeze is over. A volunteer tomato is covered by an empty paint can. Christmas Palms( Adonidia merrillii ) resemble the shepherds in the Christmas story with their blue sheets billowing in the wind,
A trip to the office store yielded a great big box of office clips, much stronger we learned than clothes pins from the dollar store!
We had decided to cover the plants after our movie date to see the Little Fockers, (not enough Dustin Hoffman if you ask me and way to much sex and punching) anyway as we drove behind the K-Mart store we noticed the Dumpster FULL of poinsettias. Someone probably decided since it was AFTER Christmas they would just toss them . Hubby graciously turned the car around and we filled our trunk with the beauties. I promised Hubby I would keep them inside awhile so we wouldn't have to cover the new dumpster dividends we acquired.
Once at home I watered them and set them out as a decorative touch. Being of Russian decent I still have Russian Christmas in January to stay decorated for!
As for my outdoor plants I am thrilled to see the old garden roses and double knockouts blooming their heads off and laughing at the cold. I am sure my native plant lovers won't be happy but I am thinking of planting more. After all my poor native firebush is a frazzled mess!
Don't worry though I continue to add natives to my habitat with more native plants then you can imagine but it is still nice to have a rose or throw away poinsettia to smile at!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Fence that made good neighbors,,,sort of.

We had planned from the beginning to fence our property so we discovered not only do we need a permit but that they would be inspecting the fence also. I am sure every county has rules as did ours. After discussing it with a plant and wildlife enthusiast friend of mine she convinced us to make sure it was wildlife friendly. That meaning bugs bunny and turtles would be able to pass through. At the time I thought that was the way to go so I convinced hubby and we went with Hog wire fence with about 4"X4" squares.
The neighbor behind us had been warned that we would be putting up a fence when I noticed after the survey that he had been planting things on our property. He actually got angry saying that he had used that property for years! Well, the folks we bought it from had not spent any time in the back of the property and there were alot of trees sheilding their view. I tried to be nice saying, just come over and dig your plants up before the fence goes up.
Time went by and he did not do a thing. We would have started the fence sooner if the first pond guy had gotten the work done but we had to wait for the area to be cleared of invasive Australian Pine trees.
Finally the day for clearing the soon to be fence line was approaching and he spotted our workers on his hour home from lunch. He became irate screaming at me again that he had used this property all these years. I mentioned that the purpose of a survey was to see where your land was and that I had warned him we would be putting up a fence. I mentioned that we paid dearly for this property and we intended on using every inchAt that he began ordering
my landscape man around telling him to dig up his trees and plants and put them on HIS property." WHOA," I said. " I am NOT paying him to do your work nor will I let him go on your property because if anything goes wrong you will sue us!"
At that we began to make plans to rush the fence and start it in the morning with one son and our daughter to help us.
The next morning we had all the fencing and tools and headed to the back of the property to at least get the dividing line between our property and his in. But as we began work we discovered he had rented a big tractor of his own and was digging the plants and scooping out soil from the yard. My husband asked him several times to stop. He asked him to please quit taking our soil.The neighbor with his powerful tractor smiled and said,"Make me!'
That is all it took for me and the NON emergency Police number was called.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Phase two of the pond building

Now that we hired the new pond man we could only hope for the best. I'll never forget as he looked over our property piled high with mangled trees and mounds of sand and other debris. "I am ONLY doing this because you are such nice Christian people" he said. "Normally I do not clean up after another guys mess and try to make something of it!" He also warned us it would not be cheap. But we could live with the mess no longer so it was time to get it complete.
He got right to work hiring other men and bringing in his equipment. He even gave the grandkids a ride on some of the big stuff. I insisted the ponds be natural looking and the creek meandering. It seemed foreign to them that someone would not want a round pond and a straight creek. I actually had to walk the outline so they understood. But he and his crew got busy cleaning up and digging. It was done in a week we could not have been happier. Well yes we would have been MUCH happier if he had been there to do the pond build originally.
We also were getting some heat from our neighbor in back of us. He had been roaming the streets getting neighbors in an uproar over our water possibly flooding the. What really had happened was the neighbor had filled in the drainage easement with 22 dump truckloads of soil and sodded it. Trying to get the county to hand it to him. In actuality filling in that easement caused our property and the next door neighbor's to flood. Another neighbor in back called saying they were heading to the courthouse to see if we had a permit for that pond. I asked them to please come look at my fridge where they would find the permit to the pond , a new well AND the fence. She had been told by the back door neighbor that the pond would cause everyone problems but when I mentioned the 22 truckloads of soil that had been illegally dumped into the
drainage easement she sang a different tune, thanking us for putting up a fence.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Phase one of our ponding Experience(disaster)

The water and wind that a hurricane can inflict on a piece of property can only be described as a nightmare. But in this case it gave me a look into the possibilities ahead. Water surrounded the low lying areas making it look as though we owned water front property. So the thought occurred to me , why not? Instead of bringing in fill to replace giant holes where the root systems of large trees had once been we decide to find someone who could dig ponds, using that soil to make our existing land higher and give us great water features. I had drawn out a plans for the ponds connected by a winding creek and of course, gardens.
Two of my children thought it would be perfect place for both of their upcoming weddings the following year.
The first problem would be finding someone up to the task. The man we wanted and trusted had been injured in a roofing accident thanks to Hurricane Francis and Jeanne. We spotted a sign advertising ponds in a pasture with a nice pond and called thenumber. We got an immediiate response and met with the man. He was a young BUCK who sold us on how GREAT he was at moving dirt and making ponds. Buck (not his real name) drove us around in his FANCY pick up to see other lovely ponds that he insisted he had built. We had no reason not to believe him, but we should have .
He began by bringing heavy equipment on the property and piling GIANT mounds of debris up. The piles and the equipment seemed to just sit there. That Christmas I teased my husband that I was going to add lights and decorations to the BIG yellow Caterpillar dirt movers in the front yard. He assured me that the wait and all the mess would be worth it. If I questioned the man
as to when I might see progress his answer was always that it was ALMOST finished. I had been anxious to start adding flower beds but he kept tearing up areas and never finishing them. I asked for at least one corner of my two and a half acre property to be finished but he never could accomplish even that. Time wore on and when I prodded my husband to force Buck to get moving he insisted we give him more money for another piece of equipment. It was coming on a year that my two and a half acres had been turned into a messy, muddy junkpile. I had no grassy areas for my dogs to run in so all that mud eneded up in the carpet.
I noticed that Buck would he would disappear for months.
Becoming totally aggravated and with the realization that NO weddings would be possible and we would now be footing the bill for Country Clubs I asked my husband to fire him. He talked to the guy and lo and behold he delivered an EMPTY flatbed trailer to sit in my front yard. Then.
as usual he disappeared.
I do not anger easily but I was IRATE, "How stupid does he think I am?"I told my husband." He obviously only knows about tearing things up!He has GOT to go!"
My husband decided to try to get some of our money back and that is when the real fun began. People we knew began to tell us how much he owed THEM or their friends. The cashier at the bank could only shake her head in disbelief when my husband tried to cash the worthless check Buck had written. My husband who tends to be overly naive FINALLY caught on and headed to the sheriff. The man would be arrested if he didn't make good on the check.
Buck, being the shmoozer that he was convinced someone who took pity on him to pay us some of our money so he would not have to go to jail. The good thing is that eventually, he did end up in jail. Not because of what he did to us but because of stealing cattle. Luckily the county he did that in still had some tough cattle rustling laws! By this time our first choice dirt mover we wanted to build the ponds had recovered from his injury and now we needed to if see if he could help us deal with the mess we had.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

AND the creek don't rise

The ponds look so lush and inviting when they are full and the water and grass meet.
I use to get so nervous when it got extremely low fearful they would dry up and kill the fish so dependent on it. Then it seemed just when I think it cannot get any lower the rains come and the creek and ponds rise to their glory.
One thing that digital garden photos & journaling has helped with is that looking back at the months I can see what was blooming, what looked dead and, how high the ponds and creek were. Checking photos on my computer from last November I see that just like THIS November the pond and creek were extremely low.
I also note that the dombeya plant is covered with pink blooms, asters are coming on, the zinnias are happy, and all the roses are excelling beyond belief. The garden chores are a bit overlooked as the holidays approach and my tasks are turned to getting things ready for an onslaught of visitors. But I know from past pictures of spring that it will be gorgeous again for MOTHERS DAY!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grandkids in the garden!

A day with grandchildren in the garden makes the work worthwhile. I love to decorate with hidden whimsical finds that they can discover. A giant Lion once a water fountain in a park, lurks in the bushes. Sunlight dances through through the bottle trees and there is plenty of water to splash in with our many water features. Gnomes and mushrooms enjoy the children's company but I'm not so sure they appreciate the children redecorating their little homes.
Each child is helped to decorate and mosaic a stepping stone to be added to the grandkid path!
The children run through the flower beds chasing duckling and butterflies and tasting mints and smelling Sweet Marjorum

Friday, October 15, 2010

No Bald Cypress Trees !!!

It seems when ever someone visits my gardens and ponds they kindly suggest I plant BALD Cypress trees. After losing many Laurel Oak Trees to Hypoxylon Oak Canker a Forestry friend suggested the best word ever. DIVERSIFY! All the pines had been lost to borers, palm diseases are beginning to show up in the county so I agreed to take his suggestion. Fiddlewood, Willows, Mahoe, Holly, Green Buttonwood, Ssilver Buttonwood, Wax Myrtle, Gumbo Limbo, Maples, well you get the drift. But I really disliked the looks of the bald cypress in winter . They seemed to my eyes to resemble a long forgotten Christmas tree tossed by the side of the road. The only thing missing is some stray tinsel. Still, I was somehow made to feel guilty by well meaning gardening friends.
I promised my husband he would ruin the mower on the cypress knees and that was good enough for him but NOT my native plant buddies.
One day my wire hair fox terrier Daisy escaped. Oh how she loved a good run totally ignoring our pleas and always rolling in whatever dead carcass or rotting manure she could find, then happily returning home encompassed in her fragrant new perfume. This day though, she was in the back yard of a neighbor across the way. For some reason Daisy dog found joy in rolling in all the dropped cypress needles and was not about to stop. I scooped her needle encrusted body up and headed home
Wire hair is no picnic on a good day and I must say I gave up picking them out and finally got out the clippers. It was a difficult job with a nip every so often and it made me ever so glad I did not plant a bald cypress in my yard . Sadly my Daisy is no longer on this earth but she will always be to me,,,the best BAD dog I ever had.
RIP my dear Daisy Dog.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Butterfly in my BEDROOM!

Last night while reading in bed what I thought was a moth kept fluttering at my book. Calling to my husband to please help me catch the harassing moth we both scrambled about the bedroom in our jammies only to discover the culprit. A Gulf Fritillary butterfly! I have a wonderful amount of butterflies due to my gardens full of caterpillar and butterfly friendly plants.But,,,how did one end up in the bedroom?
My wonderful husband carefully cupped his hand around the fluttering winged friend and let him out the door.
It wasn't until I was hanging my husband's freshly pressed shirts in his dimly lit closet that the answer came. Or the closest I would get to an answer. There was what looked to be a twisted wire hanging from the ceiling. I had noticed it a few days ago but figured it to be some shoddy workmanship. I grabbed the camera for the flash and enlargement and lo and behold it was the empty chrysalis. So, my imagination has the fat caterpillar hitching a ride on my husband's hat and making himself at home, literally in the closet.