One of my favorite flowers is the Stoke’s aster or Stokesia. It comes in three varieties: dark lilac, light lilac and white. The white is really uncommon; I’ve only seen it at the garden center once. I prefer the purple versions and I have found that the asters can be propagated. Last year I did a quick and cheater version of reseeding but simply sweeping the spend blooms under the pine straw mulch. Low and behold, those seed pods have managed to grow into small plants. I think that if I did a better (more intentional) job of planting seeds that have been removed from their dried flower pods, I’d have better results.

Stoke's asters

These are the dead flower pods I cut from the blooms above.

Drying flower pods

Each flower pod has a beautiful Fibonacci example of seeds. Each seed COULD become a plant.

Aster seed podAster seeds

Maybe this will be a Christmas gift idea? I’ve also got purple cone flowers drying. Their seeds are different and their drying time may be longer.




Late Wednesday afternoon, I added a second box to the beehive. The boys and girls are active and the hive seems to be thriving. I encountered bees in the garden on the tomatoes and cucumber blossoms. The are all over the asters and wild daisies. But more than anything they are all over the blackberries.



The Beard Wall

I had to restring the beard wall. The twine between the eye bolts had degraded. A little attention makes a huge difference.

Beard wall Confederate jasmineSince February, the jasmine has climbed and twined and twisted itself. It’s fragrance is dense and floral like expected. And….the roses are in bloom.

Unknown rose


I am slowly planting monkey grass to define the flower beds around the house. Now that it’s spring, it’s time to re-mulch the beds, too. I prefer pine straw mulch. It breaks down fast but is inexpensive and gives the yard a fresh look so quickly. I have used peanut hull mulch, too but spreading 10-15 cubic yards of peanut hull mulch is very, very labor intensive. It lasts longer but is costs more and I pay a hefty personal price. I am still working on the exact calculation of pine straw bails needed to mulch all the beds. This time I ordered 50 bales but I think I will need 10 more. I mulched all the trees on the swale around the lot, the pecan trees, the rose bed and the birch tree bed. What is left is the chickasaw plum/camellia bed and the Confederate jasmine wall. Oh, and the hydrangea bed. Yes, 10 more bales. Next weekend. Cuz I am tired. Daylily bed Monkey grass borderRear Entrance Swale Rise bed Bearded iris



The irises have started blooming. They are lovely, brilliant and delicate. They close up at night and once they are done blooming their petals curl up like the Wicked Witch of the East’s feet in the Wizard of Oz after the house falls on her.



Iris Iris Iris Iris Iris Iris


Moving the hive

The 5 frame Nuk box got upgraded to a regular 10 frame brood box. The bees were fairly docile which I attribute to a cooler night. Once I noticed that all the sugar water was gone, I knew it was time to move them. I didn’t find the queen but considering how much the brood has grown in the last five days, I would say she is young and hearty.

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Spring has sprung

Well, as the lore says, winter is over when the pecan trees bud out. My pecans have budded, the pears have set flowers along with the peach, chickasaw plum and the ornamental Japanese purple leaf maple. The figs have started to show new buds and the newly planted raspberry canes have begun to put out new shoots.

Raspberry caneI went to the Kanapaha Garden Festival Saturday and came home with a new native azalea.

Native AzaleaI also got a camellia japonica, the pink perfection variety.

Camellia, pink perfectionI bought four new agapanthus and two new repeating day lilies: the Off to See the Wizard and the Sparks Blue Bayou. Both of these daylilies have purple and blue in them, which will be a nice addition to a day lily bed heavy in apricots, oranges, lemon yellows and ruffled creams. Then as I walked around the yard, I started spying new spring flowers on current residents, like th flattened ajuga being crowded out by the sedum at the front door and the clover, tenaciously growing up in the cracks between the pavers.

Ajuga, floweringClover


Taking Stock

It is finally sunny with a perfect spring temperature of 82F. After 5 straight days of sunlessness, raining and cold with temps rarely above 55F and in the 30F at night – which for Florida is exceptionally rare and annoying – the weather is a greatly welcomed respite. I walked the property taking stock. We’d had a warming spell about a month ago and I was (too) bold and planted my seed starts that I had been nurturing since late December. I transplanted four varieties of cucumbers in my search for the perfect pickle. I planted my pasting tomatoes with the goal of my own canned tomato paste and sauce. I planted peppers and cabbage and basil. I even planted my bush beans.

All of it is dead. A harsh eight hour frost last Wednesday night/Thursday morning killed everything. Tomorrow, I will simply sow seeds right into the ground and start anew. Given that this is my second gardening season, I must accept the learning curve.

The olives fared this winter much better and there are only a few browned leaves as opposed to extensive browned branches last year. One of the six pecan trees planted last February has officially died or rather, I am declaring the death official. I’ve long suspected it had died when it stopped leaving. I will need to get a replacement tree. All three pears, which are all different varieties are leafing and the sand pear has flowers. I am excited since that is the only pear I have designs for use in my conserve. The peach is also flowering but it is a lopsided tree after having lost its main left side of branches last year to frost damage. The chickasaw plum has leaf buds but no flowers yet. That tree is going to be fun to watch and if I get fruit, to make plum jam. The blueberries are on the verge of exploding into green and much to my surprise and pleasure, the raspberry canes appear to have taken root and are growing. Yippee. I won’t expect any fruit from them until next fall. Also, thebirds have discovered the trellis and the bird feeders and they are quite content.



When I stumbled across raspberry canes for sale at my local Lowe’s store, I was intrigued because everyone kept telling me that raspberries don’t grow here. So, I defiantly bought three canes. I then did a bunch of reading and research and discovered that there are raspberries that will grow here. Now, these three canes I purchased might not be the right variety for my zone, but it set into motion the need to build a trellis for the raspberry canes to grow. This was my prototype, discovered on Pinterest.

Prototype and model I made my supply list and my sons helped me get all the lumber and concrete home from Lowe’s. Yesterday, in about four hours I built my own raspberry trellis. You first need to select an area that stays shaded. Raspberries aren’t great fans of intense full day sunshine, especially this far south. I selected the flatest area of my lot so as to not have to make that much adjustment for slope. I had bought 8ft pressure treated 4×4 beams. I dug 24 in, 22 in and 18in deep holes, respectively.

Posts in holesI needed only two bags of concrete mix to anchor each hole. I took care to level the posts.

Check for levelVerify level





I learned that anchoring the 5/8 x 6in x 8ft planks was difficult as a single person job. I had to improvise a second set of “hands”.

Improvise for 1 personDrilling pilot holes made an easier job of getting the 1st screw anchored.

Pilot holesI then used heavy gauge wire cutters to cut out sections of the coated wire fencing to set down over the 4×4 beams and onto the cross planks. I anchored that with U nails.

U nails I then added wrought iron hooks and two bird feeders to better mark the corners of the unit so that when the yard man is mowing he doesn’t run into the green coated wire that protrudes from the sides.

100_0229I amended the soil with compost from my own bin and plants the raspberry canes. I MIGHT get berries in the fall. If not, I will order new canes next fall for planting.




Front manicure

Front lorapetalum hedge Front lorapetalum hedge

The front porch is planted with pink lorapetalum. They are 15 months in the ground and in need of a trimming. I trim by hand with hand nippers. I do this mostly because I lack the mechanized shrubbery trimmer or shearing equipment that runs on electricity or gasoline. I also now attest that I do this by hand because it requires no additional time than if I did it with a piece of motorized equipment. From start to finish, including the as-I-go collection of the trimmings and their removal to the waste pile in the back yard, this task took 45 minutes. Because it was a manual task, I could hear the birds fussing at my nearby lounging cats and I didn’t need hearing protection or safety glasses. I don’t have to store a canister of gasoline in my garage nor do I have to be concerned with repair or maintenance or the motorized equipment. I sat for about 3 minutes before I started and hand sharpened my nippers. I like doing tasks under my own “power”.

After trimming Lorapetalums trimmed

I then knelt and hand planted two flats of monkey grass along the landscaped bed’s edge. This grass will fill out over the years and form a thick, lush, dark evergreen circumference around all the flower beds adjacent to the house and porches.
Monkey grass planted