Wednesday, April 28, 2021

My Pandemic Garden 2. Summer and Fall

 With summer heat and humidity, only the most rugged flowers, fruits, and vegetables will thrive.

June. Summer officially arrives and the more feint at heart blossoms of spring give way to the tropicals.

Summer brings tropical members of the Lily
Family, like these Gloriosa rothschildiana from 

The yellow blooms of Gloriosa greenei are not as common
as their red cousins.

The flower spikes of Curcuma zeodaria, a relative of the turmeric plant, emerge
before the leaves in early summer.

Okra blossoms will be followed quickly by their
goo-filled fruits.

Blue flowers are uncommon in the Amaryllis
Family, but are standard in the Lily-of-the-Nile

July: Tropical blossoms and fruits continue.

The flowers of the passion fruit, Passiflora edulis, appear in succession during
the warm weather, each resulting in a fruit about a month later.

The nodding flowers of Agapanthus inapertus major.
a relative of the Lily of the Nile, appear in  July.

Heydichium gardnerianum, a member of the
Ginger Family, produces its cylindrical masses
of golden-yellow flowers in July.

August: The heat and rain continue, ripening guavas, passion fruits, and okra, with some Hibiscus and Cannas for color. 

This pendant, red, double variety of Hibiscus is one of the few that continues
to bloom in hot weather.

September: Shortening days bring out some new blossoms.

Billbergia pyramidalis, a member of the Pineapple Family,
produces small blue flowers nestled inconspicuously amidst
bright red bracts.

My favorite cattleya, which has endured heat, 
near-freezing temperatures and neglect for 40
years, produces its flowers also with the 
decreasing daylength of September.


Banana flowers appeared in October this past 
year, and the fruit ripened in April.

November: Some flowers oblivious to seasonality continue, along with ripening fruits.

Sweet potato vines, with their edible young
shoots, have grown rampantly all summer. 
Occasionally a flower will appear, reminding
us that the sweet potato is a member of the
Morning Glory Family.

Cannas have been with us all year, and will 
continue to bloom if the weather remains mild.

Fresh Goji berries, Lycium barbarum,  appear in the Fall or sometimes in the Spring, avoiding both cold and hot weather. They are a member of the Tomato Family.

December: Of course, what would December be without Poinsettias?

A commercial Poinsettia farm in Florida readies its products for market in late November and early

Planted out at home, Poinsettia can become a permanent shrub or small tree, until it freezes anyway~
The microscopic flowers are embedded in green-yellow cups amidst brightly colored leaves, or bracts,
creating the illusion of a giant flower.

My Pandemic Garden 1. Winter and Spring

Red Anthuriums are tolerant of cool weather,
and if the temperatures stay above 32 F, they
add a welcome bit of color in January. 
I usually write about wild flowers and wild places here, but for the past year I have been on an extended expedition to my backyard! So what you will see in this post are descendants of wildflowers that are well adapted for central Florida gardens. The first installment covers winter through spring, the only part that most of our visitors from up north ever see. As long as it doesn't actually freeze during the this time,  the display of colorful flowers never ends.  

Pelargoniums are native to South Africa, where
rain falls and flowers bloom during the cool
winter and spring,  so they are
quite at home here in central Florida.
January: In a mild year, many tropical plants continue to bloom this month, including Anthuriums and Hibiscus, along with plants that prefer cooler climates anyway. It is the season for leafy green vegetables like mustard greens, bok choi, green onions, and lettuce.

This yellow Hibiscus is one of my favorites, and kept blooming through the month.

Winter continues, but it is springtime for Azaleas and Camellias

The Himalayan Azalea is the most spectacular blooming shrub
of central Florida's winter.

Camellias are popular winter bloomers 
throughout the milder parts of the southeast.

March: Florida's spring is in full swing, and for us, amaryllis blooms replaces the tulips and daffodils of the north.

Amaryllis (genus Hippeastrum) come in many shades of red, pink, orange and white.

This yellow Laelia can bloom just about anytime, but had
a spectacular display this year during March.

For the second year in a row, my blue bearded
iris has bloomed. Only the "reblooming"
varieties do well in Florida. Others require more
winter cold to set flower buds.

Mulberries begin as catkin-like clusters of tiny flowers. The ovaries then swell, first turning red,
then black,  superficially resemble blackberries.

April: Amaryllis continues to bloom, and the harvest of mulberries lasts until the middle of the month, and we have some new additions:

Alstroemeria bloom in April and May.

Blossoms of the guava tree begin appearing in April, harbingers
of fruit to come in the summer.

Gardenias make their presence know by
their fragrant scent as much as by their dazzling
 white flowers.

Daylilies start in April with one bloom per stalk, and run into May.

May:  Though summer weather is here, spring continues with more slowly emerging flowers.

Easter lilies cast aside after the holy week in years past, continue to multiply and bloom year after
year, but typically about a month after Easter.

I got seeds of this mystery variety of hollyhock from a friend. Most
traditional varieties won't do well down here. Have to start these in the
fall to get blooms in the spring, for they will wither away in hot weather.

Most standard varieties of morning glory, like this "Heavenly Blue,"
have to be planted from seed early in the spring for blooms in May. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Glacier National Park

At a certain point in the summer,
meadows are filled with the blossoms of
Bear Grass, Xerophyllum tenax. Photo by
my father, Fred C. Essig, on our 1964
family vacations.
Stuck at home during the Covid-19 pandemic, it seems that new field trips and
new wildflower blogs are far on the horizon.  I occasionally post a flower or two on Instagram.  You can find me there under the tag botanyprofessor.

Fortunately, as I go through my old pictures, I sometimes discover trips from long ago that I have not yet shared with you. Happily then, I am able to now take you to one of my favorite places: Glacier National Park in the Rocky Mountains of Montana. I first visited with my parents and siblings in 1964, and returned with my own family in 2004, exactly 40 years later. The marvelous thing about our national parks is that they remain beautiful and wild over time. Let's encourage our leaders to keep them so.

What we don't see much of in Glacier National Park is glaciers. Of the 150 glaciers larger than 25 acres, only 26 are  left, and they are likely to disappear before the end of the century as overall temperatures continues to rise.

In 2004, the scenery was as green and
pristine as I remembered from before.
The rugged, alpine terrain of this Park is home to many wildflowers, with much in common with the American west in general.  There are more animals here than I have seen in most western national parks, with mountain goats and sheep everywhere, as well as grizzly bears that sometimes became dangerous to the human visitors.  As usual, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

We crossed paths frequently with mountain goats

Penstemon montanus is found throughout the mountains on sunny, rocky alpine slopes.

Glaciers carved these valleys, but most are gone now or will be soon.
The cow parsnip, Heracleum maximum. The yellow flowers are
probably a Groundsel, Senecio sp.

We missed the Bear Grass season in 2004, so here is another shot from 1964.
Harebell, Campanula rotundifolia is found
throughout the mountains of the west.

Bighorn sheep were not shy either.

The common Mullein, Verbascum thapsus,
is actually a weed imported from Europe.

Horsemint, Monarda fistulosa, is common in open meadows.
I always love columbines, and this
yellow species, Aquilegia flavescens, is
common in the Rocky Mountains.
Aspens, Populus tremuloides, form groves along the mountainside.
They actually expand through adventitious buds, or suckers, that
develop on the spreading roots.

The pink Monkey Flower, Mimulus lewisii.
Potentilla fruticosa, the shrubby Cinquefoil of the Rose family.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Autumn in Greece

The large palms commonly planted along the Mediterranean
coast are Phoenix canariensis, a relative of the date palm.
Traveling to Greece in November, I didn't expect to see a lot of wildflowers.  Summers are dry and hot in this Mediterranean country, but rains throughout the winter bringing green hillsides filled with wildflowers in the spring.

There had already been some rain a few weeks before we arrived, however, and that brought some interesting surprises.  Some plants bloom early after those first rains, and others begin to put out their new leafy  growth.
Bougainvillea is popular in Greece, often grown
in balcony tubs, as here in Mykonos.

Dandelions survive between rocks on the Acropolis
archeological site.
The Parthenon, on the Acropolis in
Athens, Greece, is being restored.
In Athens we visited the famous Acropolis, where dandelions were blooming.  I thought that was all I was going to see, but when we moved to Olympia, and then to Delphi, I had my surprises.  Fall crocus and cyclamens were in full bloom.
A wild Crocus, probably C. boryi, blooms in early November, at the
site of the original Olympic games in Olympia.

A wild Cyclamen graecum blooms at the Olympia archaeological site/ 

A giant wild fennel stalk, Ferula communis, from last year
 remains among the ruins of the ancient city of Delphi.  A
 fresh leaf is sprouting at its base. 

Wild "English" ivy straggles over rocks at

A wild cucumber is blooming and setting fruit at the Delphi
archaeological site.

The fabulous landscape of Meteora, home of half a dozen medieval monasteries, features smooth, deeply cut rocks covered with mosses and other herbs.
At St. Stephans Monastery, now occupied by Greek Orthodox nuns,
begonias and chrysanthemums decorate a walkway.