Central Virginia Organic Gardener

"And 'tis my faith that every flower enjoys the air it breathes." - William Wordsworth, 1798

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Snow and Cold and a Still Frozen Pond

We had a few inches of snow here in Central VA., and still have below-zero temps.  Guess I installed my pond warmer a little too late in the season!  It in under the "doughnut" of snow in the photo below.
Stay warm!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Arctic Blast, Frozen Pond

      [Photo Credit: SR Vrana, Creative Commons License.  Use by permission
                                          of photographer only.]

     What a difference a few weeks makes, from sub-tropical Florida to frozen Virginia!  As some of you know, I had a pond installed about 4 years ago and it has brought me much joy.  I read a recommendation to buy a pond heater/ice melter, and I did, but I did not use it, until this weekend.  My pond has had a bit of ice on it from time to time, but never this much or this deep.  I have a waterfall, so there is usually some open water, to vent nasty gasses that build up from decomposition, and allow oxygen to get into the water. Last weekend, the area of open water was very small, and we are expecting more arctic cold this week. I installed my floating pond heater. 

     This heater needs to be installed near to edge (to make it easier to place and retrieve) over some open water.  I had no open water at the best point to place the heater and, indeed, the ice was about 3 inches thick!  The instructions that came with the heater said to use an ice auger to drill a hole in the ice (never try to break the ice by striking it if there is wildlife in the pond- they can die from percussive injuries...I want to protect my hibernating frogs!). I don't have an auger, so I poured very warm water onto the same spot over and over until I had a hole.  I placed the heater over it and it is working!  It will help that today will be warmer (around 50) to give the ice a better chance to melt before the next blast!

[Photo Credit: SR Vrana, Creative Commons License.  Use by permission
of photographer only.]

The solid white ice is 3 inches thick, the clearer ice about 1.5 inches thick.

Floating pond heater over a hole in the ice.

Stay warm!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

OK, OK, Garden Number 5

The Florida Natural History Museum's butterfly exhibit is not a garden per se.  But it is a great place to see tropical plants and plenty of butterflies!  We went on a rainy day, so few butterflies were fluttering by, but I have been there when I had to watch out to not bump into these beauties.  The butterfly aviary is outdoors and the plants are numerous.  Just don't expect plant labels, as, again, it is not a botanical garden.  How I wish I had a guidebook to tropical plants!  The museum is in Gainesville, Fl., near the UFC campus.
For more information on the Museum, go to: http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Ok, really...A Tale of Four Gardens: Part 4: Flamingo Gardens

 Flowers on the ground.  Looks like a painting.  Anyone know what these flowers are?

     We recently visited Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Fl., an old-timey attraction in south Florida ( http://www.flamingogardens.org/).  It is a 60-acre, not-for-profit nature reserve and botanical garden, west of Hollywood, Fl, in the once-rural town of Davie.  This garden, which has reciprocal membership with other botanical gardens (so was free for us!), was a lovely introduction to tropical and sub-tropical plants.  I must admit that I know little about tropical plants, having never lived in a tropical region.  I found I really needed an identification guidebook, as, unfortunately, labeling of the plants at Flamingo Gardens is minimal.
Top right, Crinum lily, center left, heliconia, center right sausage tree, bottom left cluster fig,
bottom right limba tree
Alocasia potara, an arum
The garden had a flock of flamingos, a non-native bird that has become the symbol of Florida, and ibis, among others.  As it was the mating season (we were there in December), the Flamingos were rather raucous!  In addition, there are other animals, some caged, some not, like the roaming peacocks.
Spiky nut plant or Coco amargoso

If you are in the area, this is pretty garden to visit to take a stroll among the plants.  If you want to learn what plants you are seeing, bring along a guidebook to tropical plants!

Stay warm!

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Friday, January 3, 2014

OK, really...A Tale of Four Gardens!

OK, on our recent trip to Florida,we went to four gardens (five, if you count the lovely garden at the butterfly aviary), not two.  So here is a "field trip" report on garden number three:
This garden, obviously located at the art museum in Ormond Beach, Fl., is a small garden amidst a commercial area of small and moderately-sized shops on a busy road.  It provides a nice respite from the noise and bustle of the street.  At the entrance is a pretty waterfall (man made waterfalls and water features seem to abound in flat Florida). 
 The garden hosts semi- tropical flowers, the ubitiquous palmetto and palms and a huge Bird-of-Paradise against the museum building:
The paths are shady and cool.  There are benches and a gazebo, both would be nice places to kick back and read.
The garden had a few seasonal decorations and my favorite was: 

I'll call him Smiley!
Happy gardening!

A Tale of Two Gardens, Part II

This is garden  two, the Tuscawilla Preserve at the (slightly odd) Museun of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach, Fl.  The preserve is not truly a garden, but is a preserved area of a hydric hammock, that is, not quite wet enough to be a wetland, but the soil is mostly saturated.  Trees growing in saturated soil must have some adaptations to live in these environments, like roots close to the surface, aerial roots, or these: 
Buttress Roots, to increase stability in high winds.

After driving around the asphalt, concrete, strip-malled area around the preserve, I found it to be a refreshing echo of what interior Florida must have been in the pre-development era (the garden is 7-8 miles inland). From the boardwalk (which makes walking possible) you get a sense of the dense nature of palmetto scrub:
You can hear the world around you (traffic noises), but once you are in the scrub, you cannot see very far at all.

At the entry to the garden is a small water garden and planted area.  It has a few small ponds and, of course:
An orange tree or three.
If you are in the area, it is a pleasant walk!
Happy garden visits!

Happy 2014!

List of Heirloom Seeds!

For a comprehensive list of heirloom seeds, go to: http://www.offgridquest.com/read-more/15-giant-list-of-heirloom-seed-companies
Thanks to Madeline for sharing this with me!
(I had some difficulty remotely posting, so "A Tale of Three Gardens" parts 2 and 3 will be coming soon!)
Happy Gardening!