Signs of Spring in Northeastern Florida, Finally!
by Ginny Stibolt
In mid March this year when Janice Lloyd, a USA Today
writer in Virginia, interviewed me, she asked if there were any
signs of spring here in northern Florida. She became excited
when I listed the early bloomers such as Carolina jasmine (Gelsemium
sempervirens), dew berry (Rubus
trivialis), a crawling blackberry, and the St John's-wart
I also told her about my winter vegetables. She sent out a
local photographer, who also took video. It was a cold drippy
day for a photo shoot on St. Patrick's Day, but the photos and the
video came out very well. Most of the time it wasn't pouring
rain, but it made for an interesting opening of this really
cool video taken by Bob Self of Jacksonville's Times Union
newspaper. The article "Spring has sprung gardeners, and 3 in 4 Americans can
dig it" takes a broad look at the effects of the hard winter
across the country and those in the arid regions of the SW US loved
all the extra rain they got this winter. Wow, what exposure and
what an ego trip!
Now, a couple of weeks later, spring really has arrived
and I thought I'd share some of what's happening in my yard.
<< Chives and toadflax decked out
in their Easter lavenders.
I love the location of our herb garden. It's right next
to the kitchen door. At this time of year, the chives (Allium
schoenoprasum) are blooming and I've left the toadflax (Lineria
canadensis), a wildflower, stay in the herb garden for a while
this year because it's pretty. The brighter green beyond the chives
is meadow garlic (A. canadense), which is locally native.
I originally found some growing in my lawn and now it's one
of our favorite herbs. I use the whole plant in stir fries
and since its leaves are solid, not hollow like chives, it holds
up much better. The slightly garlicky flavor and smell is
quite enjoyable. I wrote about it and have a photo of its
wild-haired flower head in Hidden Ginger and
other Intriguing Monocots. You can also see the rosemary (Rosmarinus
officinalis) and dill (Anethum graveolens) in the background.
I've planted two types of basil in this garden, but they have not
The toadflax has done so well this year that you can see
it as a lavender haze in fields and along roads and the Wildflower
Foundation has called 2010, the year of the toadflax because so many
folks have reported large populations of it.
rain lilies have begun their erratic sprouting >>
These native rain lilies (Zephyranthes
atamasca) usually bloom after a good rain from now through
summer, so you never know exactly when you'll see them. If
you're like me, you love to find surprises in your garden, so this
beauty fills this need. It's not in the lily family, but is
in the amaryllis family. I wrote about them in Rain
Lilies for my Rain Garden.
As part of my book
tour, I've been talking to a lot of
groups about rain gardens. I've included them as part of
sustainable gardening because any time you can slow rainwater down so it
doesn't all end up in the storm drains, you've helped to restore our
aquifers and helped to reduce water pollution. So make a point
this year to sequester more rainwater on your property.
The royal ferns have popped and their fertile leaflets atop each
frond are curled and thick. This is what supposed to happen
to royal ferns (Osmunda regalis),
so don't panic if you notice these deformities. The ferns
we know and love are the sporophyte structures--the ones that produce
spores. The fertile parts of the fronds are where the spores
will be produced. Normally once the fine dust-like spores have been
released and blow away in a breeze, the fertile parts of the fronds
will shrivel and break off. The sterile fronds will remain for us
to enjoy for the remainder of the season. If the spores land
in a moist location, they will sprout into the gametophyte stage
which produces the gametes or the male and female structures.
Moisture is necessary for the male sperm to "swim" to
the female eggs. The result of this union is the sporophyte
stage. A dual stage lifecycle may be somewhat difficult to
comprehend, but everyone can enjoy the beauty of ferns in the landscape.
More fern details are in I Covet My Neighbors'
then there are the spring critters: 90% of the bugs are beneficial
or benign, but ones that are destructive get our attention.
So this year as we planted our tomatoes (Lycopersicon
lycopersicum) and peppers (Capsicum
spp), we installed used paper or Styrofoam cups, with their
bottoms cut out, over each plant and stuck the bottom edge an inch
or so into the soil. The culprit is cutworms. They are the
larval stage of several moths which lay their eggs in weedy areas
and they over-winter as grubs in the soil or as eggs. When the warm
weather arrives the hungry worms come to the surface of the soil
and chop off vulnerable seedlings at the soil surface. You
can loose your whole crop in one night's cutworm orgy. Our
tomatoes and peppers are safe from this hazard this year with this
simple fix. Another measure to take to lessen the cutworm
threat is to keep your fallow beds weed-free with thick mulch of
straw or pine needles so the adults will not find a place to lay
eggs. I took this photo last week--these Brandy Boy tomatoes
are twice as big this week with all our warm weather. My mouth
is watering for a tomato sandwich, which I wrote about in Tomatoes
are for Summer.
Enjoy your spring and the fruits (or vegetables) of your
gardening labors. I know I will.
Ginny Stibolt would like to hear from readers who have suggestions
and questions. After all, there are more than a few transplanted
gardeners here in northeast Florida trying to figure out what works
and what doesn't in planting zone 8/9. She's written a book,
Gardening for Florida," published by University Press of Florida.
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