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John  Gardener's Journal title graphic

April 14, 2008
dogwoods
At the beginning of the month , the dogwoods (Cornus florida) were snowing white bracts all over the place - click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
The 'Natchez' cape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees growing on The Hill were still bare of leaves at the beginning of April. And the beds are bare of mulch and are ready for me to plant some new things.
amaryllis
Ten days later the 'Natchez' cape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) trees have leafed out but the beds are still bare of mulch and new plants except for a couple of 'Indigo Spires' salvia and three red shrimp plants on the left side of the path and a young dragon tree dracaena is on the right. They're too small to see now but in a couple months they'll be visibly pretty!

This is my third attempt at completing and posting this Journal entry. First I got sick (pneumonia), then Bubba the Great Dane got sick. His front leg swelled up and he was trembling and lethargic. I was really upset and at first thought he had a stroke or something. I didn't take him to the veterinarian right away because it was Sunday but also because I didn't have a safe way get 176 pounds of big dog into the car. So I watched him closely and though the swelling was worse on Monday he seemed to be feeling better and was eating and drinking. Days later the swelling is almost gone and he's feeling much better. I have no idea what happened to him - perhaps he was bitten by a venomous spider or snake. He runs in his sleep so maybe he caught it under the bed but whatever it was I'm so relieved that he is OK I'm euphoric.

Even without being sick, the last couple of weeks were ugly. Another late season freeze came through North Florida and zapped some of my angel trumpets (Brugmansia suaveolens), tomatoes and peppers. The tender young leaf buds of fig trees were killed as were those of crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) and some of the saucer magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora). The saucers had finished blooming weeks ago and trees were in full leaf - only to have them disfigured and discolored by the frosty temperatures. It was discouraging - the chaste trees had their leaves killed and I haven't bothered to look, but I'm sure that the pomegranate flower buds were also damaged - for the third year in a row.

We've been having a lot of overcast, humid and mosquitoey weather in addition the cold snaps. I probably would have been more upset about the crappy weather but I felt too lousy to care. Since February I've been tired and running on half-power and figured it was seasonal laziness and "spring fever". But when my post-nasal drip became a post-nasal torrent and I couldn't walk across the room without running out of breath I realized that I might need medicine for something bad that I had and I was right.

A week's worth of antibiotics got rid of the pneumonia and I felt much better. Apparently the punishment for not taking care of your allergies is that you get pneumonia and asthma attacks. Now I'm trying to take care of myself but even with two different allergy medicines I'm still sneezing, spewing mucus and wheezing.

The reason is that the pollen count is very high this year across the southeastern United States and allergy sufferers are in supreme misery. I live out in the middle of the woods where it can become really unpleasant when the oaks start pumping out pounds of pollen all at once and then are joined by a chorus of other pollen-producing species.

Suesie the Great Dane relaxes
The tall red top (Photinea x fraseri) hedge that grows over by the dog kennels is in bloom. Red Top pollen is very irritating and at times even the dogs sneeze and have watery eyes.

All pollen is not created equal. That produced by certain species can be more irritating to sensitive mucosas than others. One that is really bothering me this year is red top (Photinea x fraseri) shrub. I have a 50 ft long, 15 ft high hedge of this handsome shrub but when it blooms, like it is now, I promise myself that I'll remove it. I hope that this is the year that I finally actually do it!.

I was planning on doing a mini-tour of Tallahassee in this Journal entry but I'm going to save that for early summer because I have some more interesting things to work on now. A really wonderful thing happened last week - DSL broadband service finally became available out here into the piney wood! It has been really difficult developing Floridata's new applications on the slow dial up but now with the fast connection I can get back to working on FloriDazl Floridata's other new applications that are now in beta test on the site.

Suesie the Great Dane relaxes
This is the majestic 'Red Lion' amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrids), one of the most popular varieties. Forced into bloom indoors during the Holidays 'Red Lion' serves as a strikingly beautiful Christmas decoration. Click to download a large version of this image.
In warmer USDA Zones 8-11, amaryllis bulbs are easily propagated by division. It's easy to turn a single bulb into a big bed of beautiful blossom in the space of only a few years.

Projects
This winter I grew several varieties of amaryllis (Hippeastrum hybrids) in containers. They are a favorite for forcing into bloom indoors during the winter and because they put on such a spectacular show. The big fat bulbs are planted in pots and within a couple of weeks two or more flower stalks appear. Each holds up to six huge blossoms that are 5 or 6 inches in diameter and breathtakingly beautiful. Theirs is the type of beauty that demands attention and are a blast to photograph - amaryllis are the Naomi Campbell super-models of the plant world only they don't hit or spit on you.



Suesie the Great Dane relaxes
That is a lovely 'Minerva' amaryllis to the left in the background and the magnificent 'Lady Jane' at right. Click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
See photos of more varieties in the Amaryllis Wallpaper Gallery.

Last Saturday while I was still sick, but motivated by coffee and spectacular Spring weather, I managed to plant two China firs (Cunninghamia lanceolata) out in the front field. They're framing a little grove of crape myrtle Lagerstroemia indica tree and are surrounded by mayberry (Vaccinium elliottii), wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera), pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana) and Texas sabal palms (Sabal mexicana). The two new firs join a third that has been growing out there for almost 6 years and is 8 feet tall - it would now be twice that height were it not for some apparent drunken jerk driving (way) off the road and running it over, snapping it off near the ground. Fortunately, China firs produce multiple stems and it has recovered nicely.

Last spring I rooted a couple of red shrimp plant (Justicia brandegeana) cuttings with the vision of growing a 10 ft long hedge of it that would serve as a snack shop for hummingbirds and butterflies. They quickly rooted and in August I planted one of the red shrimps up on The Hill and determine that they will grow successfully there and that deer love to eat them.

It is easy to propagate shrimp plants simply by bending the stems and weighing them down against the soil in a separate pot (or directly to the ground). Within a few weeks the stem will root, wait a few more weeks to cut the stem to separate from the mother plant. Incredibly enough I managed to keep 5 of these tender tropicals alive through the winter freezes. Four of these are now planted on The Hill and with some effort on my part, may become our local hummingbird's favorite hangout.

I thought he was a goner but now he is doing fine. Now every day I have with Bubba 2.0 is a big bonus blessing! That's Susie on the left laying down and Bub on the right surveying his domain while I relax - sweet...

Lawnchair
When I began writing this page at the beginning of the month all of the spring bloomers were going strong and the trees were still bare of leaves..

Since then the hummingbirds have returned, the saucer magnolias are growing their second set of new leaves after the late freeze and the early spring flower display is over. Azaleas, dogwoods, redbud, camellia are all over. Incredibly and frustratingly enough there is yet ANOTHER cold front blasting across the eastern United States and it's going to make it to Florida's Big Bend. I better wrap this thing up so I can go cover and frost proof the garden yet again. I'll see you next time - protect your plants! . - Jack

Recent Journals: March 25, 2008, March 18, 2008

Click here for the archive of links to Jack's old Journals from 2001 - 2005

April 14, 2008



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