Monday, May 28, 2012

Tropical Storm Beryl filled our barrel!

The clouds continued to roll in yesterday. And it seemed that all day we continued to say, "Looks like it is going to rain any minute... It just continued to tease me all day long! Our friend Jessica was over. About 3:00, Jessica and I were outside on the back patio playing a game of backgammon, and there it was! Just all of a sudden the skies opened up into a complete deluge!

We sat outside just to enjoy it since the patio was covered, we weren't wet. And then I jumped up and remembered that this was the first time the rain barrel would be used!!! It worked perfectly. And it literally did only take a few minutes to fill it up.

Monitoring the progress, I opened the top hole to see how full it was, and again - it was only about 5 minutes into the rain and the barrel was full. Sooo... I had to see how well the overflow was working... And it was perfect! It directed all of the extra water away from where we had an erosion problem. I couldn't be happier about the rain barrel!

Thank you Beryl for filling our barrel :-)

Additionally, the much needed rain helped the yard again. It's been a few weeks without a good amount of rain and everything sprung right back to life. In fact, another sunflower from the hill garden is in bloom and this one is a deep dark red!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Birthday Hibiscus

Woke up this morning and the varigated hibiscus is finally blooming! I saw little blooms on it last week and have been checking daily to see when it blooms.

And now this morning...

We didn't know the color of the flowers until this morning. So happy to have another beautiful hibiscus thriving in the backyard!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Agapanthus Lily

Last year the restaurant that Sam and I worked for closed. When they closed, we asked the owners for some of the plants that were around and gladly brought home plenty of agapanthus. We planted them along our front driveway and then waited. And waited... And waited... To no avail to see any blooms last year.

With all of the recent rain that we have received, it looks like the agapanthus (Lily of the Nile) is finally waking up! A few weeks ago, the first little bud shot up and just this morning, I noticed that the blossoms were starting to open up! The little blue clusters were just eating up the afternoon sun when I got home from work and I snapped up this beautiful picture!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

new flowers!

Today the first sunflower has bloomed!

And... Another hibiscus cutting has new growth and just opened it's first flower!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Hill Garden

I love gardening. And I love all of the plants in my gardens. But there is just something amazing about growing a plant from seeds. There is an exhilaration that you can only get from getting dirty, digging a small hole and then dropping the seeds in. And with your care, watering the dirt, watching the sprouts, watering and more watering and then just all of sudden it seems you have a plant and then you have flowers. It really is amazing to look at it and just know that it's totally your fault that this little "being" has grown up and graced your presence with it's beauty.

The hilltop garden has offered us just this kind of wonderment. I still remember planting the seeds for all the different sunflowers, and four o'clocks, and the corms for the about 80 gladiolas. and doing just what I described above. and now it's right at the stage where I am enjoying some of the fruits of the labor.

And even better is when you receive a complete surprise! This was the very hill where we scattered wildflower seeds last year. Sadly nothing seemed to take off, but this year a few rogue zinnias have sprung up amongst the sunflowers.

Four o'clocks



Sunday, May 20, 2012

Rain Barrel

The last two days have been all about the rain barrel. Sam and I found a beverage barrel online and picked it up for $25 about a month ago with all intentions of getting the pieces to make it functional. Rain came. More Rain came. And then, guess what, even more rain came. But still it sat by the gate to the backyard without any plumbing to be able to collect the rain and use it in the backyard to water the gardens.

Yesterday was the day! We were so excited to head to Lowe's with our list of things to get! We watched the below video a least a hundred times so that we could get everything.

This tutorial was the one that we felt best captured the look of the rain barrel that we wanted. Of course there are tons of different ways you can make a rain barrel, and none of them are wrong as long as it works, but this was the way we wanted it.

Lowe's was a bit troublesome when we got to one item that was in this tutorial that was said so matter-of-factly, that I thought it was just that simple to locate (this is when it helps to read the comments before you actually use anything on youtube). The "bung" was something that Lowe's has never heard of, did not have any clue what I was talking about and of course, had nothing in stock... I'll give them an A for the effort of trying to give me some ideas of alternative ways to make it work, but it still wasn't what we wanted. (Thank you Sam for sticking to your guns to make it the "right" way!)

So we went back and watched the YouTube video again to see what we were missing; but again, we got it... We understood and it sounded just as matter-of-fact the 101st time hearing it as the first. And then I said, "Hey... It looks like there's more comments about it down here..." Apparently finding the "bung wasn't so easy. Everyone else seemed to have the same problem.

Just in case you are ever looking for a bung, call it a bulkhead fitting. Don't go to Lowe's, Home Depot, a Pool Supply Store or Sears. You can look online and you'll find it. It will take about a week to have it shipped to you and it will cost a little more. Go to Ace Hardware. The cost was only $9.95 and was right on their shelves!

So again, we started yesterday on this "simple" project. This morning at about 10:00 we found the "bung" (errr. bulkhead fitting) and we were able to get home and quickly get the rain barrel all setup! Took about 1-2 hours after we got all the parts we needed.

I can barely wait for the first rain so that I can use the rain barrel for the first time!

(The bung is where the spigot comes out of the barrel)

The overflow diverts water to stop an erosion probelm that we have been experiencing.

A screen keeps debris out of the barrel.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

amaryllis after the rain

After several days of rain, it finally let up! On my way out the door yesterday, I snapped these beautiful pictures of the amaryllis by the front door littered with rain drops.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012


Before mom came over on Sunday, Sam and I weeded the hill garden. The sunflowers are growing faster and faster it seems! Surprisingly, we also found a couple wildflowers from last year that are coming back!

As we were weeding, Sam made a perfect comment. "Weeds are just plants that are not in the right place." The more I think about it, the more I think he's right. After all most plants are considered just that until one day someone sees the beauty and promotes it.

Last year at mom's she had some weeds that we actually liked. They were simply weeds to her, but I potted them up and brought them home. And over the weekend, we added the "weeds" into our second oak garden.

I called them wild poinsettias. They look kinda like poinsettias and if you break off a leaf, the same milky sap oozes. The have the same red leaf clusters around the little flowers, just not as big of leaves. Does anyone else know what it is??

Whatever you call this weed, I still like it :-)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Mothers' Day!

Today my mother came over and we enjoyed the afternoon catching up and enjoying the gardens.

I was pleased to hear from her that the amaryllis bulbs I gave her a few months ago started to bloom! Even more pleased since she has a black thumb (as opposed to the green thumb).

When I gave her the bulbs, I had no clue what colors they were. She specifically wanted the candy striped (red and white); however, when I planted my amaryllis gardens, I mixed all of the bulbs in my amaryllis gardens because I love the surprise of not knowing what is next. It is so exciting to see the buds emerging from the bulbs and not knowing what they are until they open up.

The exciting part of my mom's amaryllis was that indeed her first blooms were candy striped!

Since I have already shared a few pictures of some of my other amaryllis, I hope you may enjoy a candy striped and a beautiful red bud preparing to start opening tomorrow!

Candy striped
Red Bud

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Magnolia Park

Last weekend we went to Lowe's and by chance saw a faded flyer announcing an Adopt-a-Tree program from the county. Who knew?! Once a month, at one of the county parks they bring trees such as Live Oaks, Bald Cypress, Maples, Magnolias, and Crape Myrtles. Each household can pick up up to two trees at no cost for any Orange County resident.

So we showed up at 8:00 this morning as soon as the gates were opening. There was a huge line! The cars continued through the park and we followed in the car. Quite odd, but it was just like a drive through. We showed our i.d., received a care guide and were told to go ahead and pick out two that we wanted and load them up. The county actually made something free and easy. I was amazed!

Sam and I picked up two: A Southern Magnolia for me, and a Red Maple for him. Hopefully we'll get them in the ground this afternoon!

Since we drove almost an hour away to get to the park, we decided that we needed to enjoy the park as well. As we parked the car, a peacock started calling from a nearby fence. This park has several peacocks. We saw about 4 males and 2 guinea hens. They were just beautiful to watch!

There was a small herb garden that sat vacant. Then we wandered through the woods. The park has a campground, but i don't think they have the campground open right now because of fire risk. Little trails criss-crossed the wooded areas of the park. We saw crab spiders, millipedes, and a few snakes slithered off the trail ahead of us.

As we came out of the trails, we used the GPS and quickly located a Geocache in the park. It was about 5 feet off the ground in a tree. Quick easy find!

And to top it off, I just made my first video slideshow :-) Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012


I have found lately that I have fallen in love with hibiscus. They are so wild and over the top! It's so interesting how different every plant is and how many different varieties there are.

Last year we got the first one. A vibrant red hibiscus with a braided trunk. Amazingly a walmart find that didn't die! (So many times, any plant I buy from Wal-Mart always seems to have to suicide plan.) It made it through the winter and most of it has come back, but being the first one in the yard it holds a special place :-)

Love this picture. Took it in the early morning with my phone and it just looks like a painting!

I have a few cuttings that I picked up one day of hibiscus and I am very happy to say that all three have rooted. All three are different colors. Last week the first cutting bloomed!

And last week we added two more: a variegated and a maple leaf. So far the varegated does not have any blooms yet, but the maple leaf hibiscus has already started! The crimson buds look like little turbans littering the stalk. Hopefully soon they will be opened up!

Maple Leaf Hibiscus bud up close

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Here comes the rain again!!!

Here comes the rain again! And this time it seems perfectly planned! So far we have gotten rain the last three days and everything seems to be happy in the yard without having to run up the water bill finally!!!

Caterpillars ate up the tomatoes, so anything that was on the vine that they half ate, we dropped to the top of the pot, cut down all the vines, covered with compost and allowed the fruit to reseed itself. With all the rain, we finally have baby maters starting again!

We started the oak garden #2 last week by planting shrimp plants, clerodendron (starburst/shooting star), and set out all of the rest of the plants to fill in. There's a wonderful mix of spider lillies, amaryllis, hydrangeas, Hawaiian tai, bromiliads, and aloe just waiting to be planted, but placed where we want them. Although we have yet to plant the Hydrangeas in the oak garden, they have already started to bloom.

And just next to the oak garden # 2 we planted figs. Three of them: Two from mom's old place in Palataka that we have had in pots for nearly a year and one that was from our favorite- the clearance rack at Lowe's! I am so happy that we found a place to get these into the ground. We planted them on Saturday and with the three days of rain, they already have buds that are ready to shoot new growth!

Bougainvillea number 2 from the transplants is starting to fill in. I saw all kinds of green shoots last week and now it has little magenta blossoms starting to find their way out! It will only be a matter of time before the one color panel is covered in a sea of green and magenta bougainvillea!

The first Oak Garden on the south side of the back lawn is finally coming back. The lack of rain and lack of me regularly watering it made it struggle hard. This was one of our gardens from last year. Yet again filled with more amaryllis and other bulb lillies. I also have coleus surrounding the oak tree. Since the rain has come, it looks like everything is springing back!

I am so happy to have rain again!!! It really seems to be making the yard open right up! I can hardly wait to see everything in full bloom!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Captain's so vain...

Captain's just so vain sometimes... Laying in front of the mirror and staring depply into the eyes of the most beautiful cat he's ever seen!

Hilltop garden

To the north side of the pool there is a small hill. The hill is not tall, but is more of a berm about 30 feet long. Last year we threw wildflower seeds along the hill, and got two cosmos. Nothing else. We also tried gladiolas, but only one took and it didn't even bloom!

So this year there was a new plan!

It took us two weekends to finish the weeding, but we pulled everything out of the hill. Then it took us another two weeks to get all of the compost dirt to amend the sandy hill. And then we were ready. We covered the top of the hill with Mammoth sunflower seeds and then used a red variety mix and a lemonade variety mix of seeds to surround the Mammoth. Below that on the grade of the hill, we staggered about 80 gladiola corms. And then finished with four o'clock seeds and marigolds. We used our broken concrete pieces from around the yard to create a border.

We have been very diligent in watering. After only a week, the first sunflower seeds sprouted. A day or two behind them, the gladiolas sprung up and so did the four o'clocks. It's been about 4 weeks now and everything is coming along nicely! I can't wait to see the blooms across the hill!!!

Long shot of the garden.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Stick Plants

Last year we went to the garden festival in Winter Garden. We were so excited to find our first set of plans and we brought home all kinds of beautiful plants that died. Only a handful of the plants survived. The survivors include: Plumbago (which is barely holding on),  Flatwoods Plum (which is thriving), and our Plumeria (stick plants).

The Plumeria was purchased as sticks. Each stick was about 12 inches long without any leaves, flowers, or even dirt. Just sticks. We followed the directions, placed then in the sun, and last summer it was great to have sticks with leaves. Fall came, the leaves fell off. Winter came and we protected them through the frosts. I am happy to say that with Spring this year, we got more than just leaves!!!

As leaves started to spring up, we saw little branches with bobbles at the ends coming up.

Then the little bobbles turned into little buds. And then grew to about an inch long. and then "boom" all of a sudden the plumeria flowers started to open! 

Hopefully soon the whole cluster of buds will open up. The plumeria has a very strong sweet smell and is fragrant enough that if they all open, it should perfume the backyard entirely!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Orange Ground Orchids

Several weeks ago now, Sam came home with plants from Lowe's. He has developed a newfound appreciation for the clearance section of the garden center. (It brings a tear to my eye how much I inspire him sometimes!)

He came home with Figs and some orange Ground Orchids. I had never seen or heard of them before! (Not the figs, but the ground orchids...) So there they sat for almost a month in their Lowe's pots. And every weekend, we had intentions of doing great things with them, yet every weekend there they sat.

And then we came home with some beautiful pottery that we picked up in Altamonte. I thought for sure they would be in there in no time flat. But no... The pots sat empty and the ground orchids sat. Until last week...

Same took the initiative to plant his ground orchids - and how amazing do they look?!

Except for the fact that the pots are blue and the flowers are orange... I think they look great. This is a big step for a Seminole... But I am going to let them be!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sam's Avocado

Last year my friend Elisa and I had a great lunch together. As usual, she had her avocado with lunch. How on earth one person can eat so much avocado is just beyond me. She she finished and was about the toss out the pit, and I asked if I could bring it home for Sam. She looked a little perplexed, but sent it home.

Sam was on a mission to grow anything that had a pit. Peaches, Nectarines, Avocados, and then he even tried apple seed. And had no luck... Until I brought home Elisa's Avocado pit.

He was soooooo excited!!! He found a nice pot, filled it with compost, and potted the pit. He created a daily nurture ritual of watering it, and pulling the weeds. months went by and nothing. Two months, three months, and then I believe it was about 4 months later that a chartreuse sprinng emerged from the black soil.

He never left his routine and has continued to monitor the progress of his baby avocado daily. And now it has grown  a foot tall. So we decided today that it was time to find it a permanent home.

Sam dug a whole, we blended ashed from the firepit with compost and Sam placed his avocado in the hole. As we covered the roots with more compost, the evening sun engulfed the leaves of the avocado.

Crossing my fingers that she grows fast and procudes fruit one day!