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John   Gardener's Journal title graphic

November 2003

Virginia creeper
I spend half my life pulling, chopping and cussing the Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) that entangles my property. Despite the fact I hate it, I admit it looks pretty here backlit with sunshine as it twirls up the fruited stems of an American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana). Download a large version (800x600) of this image.
November was a real yin-yang month here: hot and cold, up and down, on and off, good and bad, but always hectic so I'm going to just bang out a quickie Journal this month. Early in November it was unseasonably hot with daytime temps up in the eighties but the last day of the month found us cold-clobbered with the thermometer dipping into the mid-twenties. For people here in North Florida who have electric heating systems this would have been a really bad time for the power to go off which it did at 3:00 AM. Ten frosty hours later the power came back on and I was so happy and glad that I didn't even bum out and obsess over my freeze killed plants like I do most years.

Turkey Frank
As a duck he was a failure, as a turkey he's a freak
but on the dinner table, he's deliciously unique.
Read the Thanksgiving Tale of Turkey Frank.
I had a good Thanksgiving and I hope that you did too. I celebrated by rolling out an updated version of my Thanksgiving Tale of Turkey Frank. It's a cautionary holiday tale of a species-confused turkey. I wrote it to be inspiring and uplifting but if you give it too much thought it's drearier than I intended (my bad).

Just after Thanksgiving we had a real bad time when Floridata's web server suffered hardware problems that knocked us offline a couple of times over the holiday weekend. Things got even creepier when we were hit by "denial of service" hacker attack that also brought the site down for a few hours. If you tried to visit Floridata in November and you couldn't find us this is why and I apologize for the inconvenience. The good news is that we have a talented and dedicated engineer who has repaired and replaced the bad hardware and upgraded the software so we should be good heading into the New Year.

Projects
In last month's Journal I complained about deer damage to my plants (which I guess I do every month). Well this time I've had it! I'm retaliating by giving up! Yes, I'm going on a gardening strike and am not planting anything this winter. Deer have eaten everything within chewing distance and are now nibbling on the last and toughest of my garden plants like agave (Agave americana) and spiny aloes (Aloe saponaria). A survey of the neighborhood indicates there's no gardens this year - not one - on my street . There's no collards, cabbages, turnips or beets; no lettuce, no carrots so there's nothing to eat. We will no longer grow dinner for these four-legged creeps!

Even the neighbor's car tire planters are devoid of petunias. There are absolutely no cultivated goodies in our neighborhood so the marauding deer will be forced to depend on the adjacent several million acres of wildlife refuge for sustenance. It's hunting season now and I don't want to wish harm on any particular creature. However if a few unfortunate accidents (bambies bumped by bubbas' bullets) should occur I probably won't be too distraught. Lot's of mixed feelings but the thought of unmolested, unchewed plants next season is terribly appealing.

In Bloom
Despite the deer destruction and my gardening work stoppage I still managed to find a few things to photograph. Here's some deer-defying plants that were in bloom here in November.

forsythia sage Download a large version (800x600) of forsythia sage. Salvia madrensis
If it weren't for the salvias my place would be less colorful and way less attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. Best of all it appears that deer do not eat most of the Salvia species. Here in North Florida the yellow forsythia sage begins blooming in October and continues for weeks - except for this year when it was struck down in its prime by the end of month freeze.
tea olive Download a large version (800x600) of this tea olive. Osmanthus fragrans
Based on number of page views, the tea olive is one of Floridata's most popular plants. The tiny flowers of this evergreen shrub have a delicious fruity scent and are produced all winter long (Zones 8-10) when few other things are blooming. As the common name suggests, the fragrant flowers are used to flavor tea (Camellia sinensis), a relative of this next plant:
Bonanza sasanqua Download a large version (800x600) of the 'Bonanza' sasanqua. Camellia sasanqua
'Bonanza' is a sasanqua selection that blooms early to mid season. It is compact growing only to 4-5 ft (1.2-1.5 m) high. It can be maintained at about 2 ft (0.6 m) and makes an effective ground cover for large scale landscapes. This year my 'Bonanza' produced flowers from September to November.
downy jasmine Download a large version (800x600) of downy jasmine. Jasminum multiflorum
The downy jasmine is a popular landscape plant in Florida and other warm winter areas. It is a tender evergreen vine that can be pruned into a shrub. It's cousin, the Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) is another of the "true" jasmines that is also used to flavor tea as well as rice and other foods.
umbrella plant
Download
a large version (800x600) of the umbrella plant.
Cyperus involucratus
This relative of the Egyptian papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) is also a water plant. But you can grow it in the garden too where it forms great graceful clumps of green that add interest and make beautiful backgrounds for smaller plants. Umbrella plant is often used to lend tropical ambiance to fishponds and water gardens.
amaryllis
Download
a large version (800x600) of this amaryllis.
Hippeastrum spp
They're not blooming outdoors, but these spectacular flowers can be forced into bloom indoors at this time of year. Amaryllis bulbs make great holiday gifts and nothing spiffs up seasonal decorations like these fabulous fresh flowers. In Zones 8-11 they can be planted outdoors where they'll bloom in the spring year after year.

Lawnchair

frozen garden
November 30 brought a frigid end to the month and to my banana (right) and cassava (y-shaped stick at center) plants up on The Hill. Notice the Vine Fence is bare - I dug up the deer ravaged vines including skyflower (Thunbergia grandiflora), violet trumpet vine (Clytostoma callistegioides) and Arabian jasmine (Jasminum sambac) and potted them. They're spending the winter in my office away from the cold and the hungry varmints.
Sadly this month I lost three loved ones and I so I send my thoughts and prayers to the families. Soon after, my first grand nephew, Quinn, was born so 'm sending big congratulations to Sarah and Pete, Grandma MaryJo and Grandpa (brother) Dave and oh yeah, great-grandmother Ginny (Mom)! The wheel goes 'round and the seasons change...

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season. Visit us often and be good and grow! - Jack

12/7/03



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