He later amended the report after a second freeze struck several days later by noting that most of the tropical species were killed back to the roots. I was impressed that he was able to keep them going until the end of February - mine were zapped two months ago by the freeze we had the first of the year! You know, this is probably the first time I broke this particular commandment but I think I covet his irrigation system...
In Bloom at Floridune
Most of the camellias and many of the azalea varieties were in full bloom when the freeze struck. Flower blossoms were demolished but unopened buds were spared so we're due another burst of color in a week or two. Likewise the tea olive (Osmanthus fragrans), Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) and Caroline cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) all resumed blooming immediately upon return of warm temperatures and look none the worse for wear.
Just before the freeze I noticed that both my white and red loropetalum shrubs (Loropetalum chinense) were beginning to bloom. After a short delay due to cold, they have resumed blooming and looking cool - especially the red. If you are searching for an easy to grow shrub that is perfect for foundation plantings, groundcover and providing contrast in mixed hedge plantings you should check out this guy. You'll see lots of loropetalum of several varieties used to good effect in plantings all over the Disney World properties. Actually you'll see lots of loropetalum used in commercial landscapes in Zones 7 - 9 as it has become a very popular landscape item in recent years. It is a close relative of witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) which has similar shaped flowers and also blooms in winter.
My favorite winter blooming vine, pink jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum), got totally clobbered because where I have it planted is too exposed to the elements. Smarter gardeners in North Florida and elsewhere grow this rather tender plant in entryways and other protected areas. Unlike me they are currently enjoying gobs of tiny pink flowers and clouds of delicate fragrance. My pink jasmine has gotten frosted every winter for the past ten years despite being relocated three times. I guess I should wise up to the fact that it is probably just too cold here for this jasmine but I'll keep trying to find a cozy place somewhere on the property where my little frost-frazzled favorite can survive!
In February we have ripe fruit and seed suitable only for birds and wildlife. There's nothing at all for me to snack on. It would be a different story if I had planted some last fall. I would then be on the verge of savoring succulent red berries right about now. Poor me, strawberries are my favorite fruit and I don't even know anyone who grows them from whom I could mooch. I intend to motivate myself and plant at least a couple of dozen plants this spring - fer sure...
While strawberries are my favorite, these species seem to be on the "A list" of bird treats! Very early in the winter the fruits of the wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) and Grancy Greybeard (Chionanthus virginicus) were quickly gobbled up by our resident birds. Soon after I noticed that the Carolina cherry laurel, yaupon and dahoon holly were stripped bare of berries too by flocks of visitors.
I suppose much less tasty are some of the hybrid hollies (like Savannah) and the wild olive (Osmanthus americanus) as these remain loaded with fruit. I squeezed open a wild olive and found it contained a green jelly - like a grape. It looks like something a bird would savor. I saw a mockingbird sitting in the tree last week but I couldn't tell if he was eating the wild olives or just tracking my activities from that vantage point. This mocker is a little badass, he chases other birds away from his wild olive tree which might explain the abundance of fruit this late in the season. I think he has a nest nearby because he is very aggressive and often dive bombs me when I come near. He's even tried to poop on me on a couple of occasions! Bad bird!
Last month I was startled at the sight of several white spheres at the base of the plant I was digging and freaked that they might be snake eggs. But my concern was unfounded, the jawbreaker-size spheres were actually the seed pods of the cast-iron plant (Aspidistra elatior). Upon closer inspection I discovered a flower as well. Aspidistra flowers are rather uninspired looking things that I've never noticed before since they grow just at the soil line among the dense cluster of leaf stems. The cast-iron plant more than makes up for its homely flowers with lush, shade loving evergreen foliage that is one of the Deep South's favorite ground covers.
Bad weather and fun travel took up two of my weekends in February so I didn't get much done in the garden. I did manage to put in fifty feet of monkey grass (Liriope muscari) border and got another half dozen crape myrtles pruned (gotta hurry and do the rest before they leaf out). My big project for the month was the division of a clump of needle palms (Rhapidophyllum hystrix). I separated five nice size plants that I relocated to the edge of the Catfish Pond. Shortly thereafter we had the big rainstorm and my transplants are already sending out new leaves. This was major work but it was well worth the effort! To celebrate this major accomplishment I performed no additional useful work for the remainder of the month...
... except for one other pleasurable task which was the planting of a memorial tree for Dixie, my old Great Dane who died in early February. I buried her in Floridune's Dog Cemetery beneath the high canopy of a live oak. I decided to commemorate Dixie with a star magnolia as these were in bloom when she died. I made a trip to the nursery and found a pretty little tree that still had a few buds left. It is a variety call 'Waterlily' that has larger flowers than the species and that has a pink blush at the center - a beautiful tree for a beautiful old dog.
Dixie has been gone for a month now and we all still miss her - especially her kennel mate. Mathilde is the largest of the females and rules the household. When Dixie's health began to fail Mathilde became very protective of the smaller dog and began allowing her to eat and drink first. Mathilde was obviously worried about her old girlfriend. It was heart wrenching to see Dixie napping in the sunshine with Mathilde standing astride her shielding her from the wind and warming her friend with the heat of her body. Now a month later Mathilde still searches for Dixie, but somehow I can tell that she doesn't expect to find her. When Mathilde walks to her kennel, she glances at Dixie's old bed, then at me, sighs and slowly shuffles into her crate and thumps into bed. Regardless of species, we all miss having Dixie around and life is a little less fun. The Lawn Chair
A couple of days ago I saw a teenage pig run past my window at midday which I thought was pretty brazen considering what happened to Melvin. I hope the hog family moves on soon before they do major damage. Until then at least the Danes are getting back to their roots scanning the alluring pig pee scents that adorn Floridune at the moment. Party on guys!
That's about all that happened around here in February - I sure am looking forward to March and springtime! Thanks to everyone who supported Floridata last month with voluntary subscriptions and by purchasing our t-shirts. Your generosity is hugely appreciated. Please visit often and tell your friends about us. No matter where you live I hope spring finds it way to your garden - soon! Be good and grow!
John S. "Jack" Scheper 2/28/02