Update on Garden Hydrangea, Surviving Summer

Now my little hydrangea is in the ground and here is what I’ve learned. Deadheading Florida hydrangeas is a good idea. I found new growth and new flowers hidden beneath those huge, dying blooms.

blue flowers turning green
Blooms turning green and dying

Until a few weeks ago I had not tried to grow a hydrangea in my Florida yard. I kept thinking there was no way it would do well in all this heat. So the fact that my little hydrangea plant is doing so well is a nice surprise. If it has been growing in a greenhouse it would adapt well to warmth, and it does seem to be thriving this summer.

Continue reading “Update on Garden Hydrangea, Surviving Summer”

Clusters of Purple Berries on The Beautyberry Bush

I’m all for learning something new each day, and today I learned that the clusters of purple berries on the stem in my backyard is part of the Beautyberry bush.  This odd stem of berries in clumps caught my eye as I walked through my small backyard.  I had to get photos, but the trouble I had was capturing the true purple color of these berries.

purple beauty berry
Beautyberry stem of purple berries

Using my iPhone, I took numerous photos of these striking purple clumps and none of the photos showed the actual dark purple color correctly. Below is the color my phone produced, but the other photos more closely match the actual darker purple. I had to replicate that in Pixelmator.

purple berries
iPhone photo is brighter purple color than reality

This stem is sticking out of my backyard hedge. The hedge is made up of a variety of plants which have grown very tall and create a border between the back of my house and the house next door. I did not plant the Beautyberry, but someone may have done so years ago. Or maybe it grew wild.

The Beautyberry is a southern bush with berry stems that show up in September. It’s berries feed birds and wildlife and the leaves and berries are good as mosquito repellent. Read more interesting info at the Garden.org site.

purple berries
A striking stem of purple berries

I found some other interesting flora to photograph that same day. The Elephant Ear was blooming and the banana trees had sent off a new shoot which would grow a long stem of bananas. A dead tree is full of clusters of dark purple berries and I don’t know yet what those are. There is always something new to learn when I step outside.

Building a Garden is Slow and Steady Work

Building a garden is slow and steady work, but once the ground is prepared, the fun begins. This may take days, weeks, months or years depending on the size of the garden and how much help you have in doing it.  Cats not included.

As a new gardener you may think that growing things is pretty straightforward. Buy the plants, dig a hole and put them in the ground. A little water here and there and soon you’ll see flowers or vegetables emerge.

Experienced gardeners know it is far from being that simple.

A Little Back Story

The first house I bought in New Hampshire had ready-made, lovely garden areas. I enjoyed picking asparagus from the perennial asparagus bed. Stunning tulips popped up in Springtime all over the yard, and the large perennials included wisteria, dogwood, and hydrangea trees! I enjoyed that yard for only two years, then moved on, through no fault of my own.

tulips and daffodils
My old New Hampshire Garden in Spring

The nice thing was the fact that the gardens were ready for planting. I could go buy pretty plants, or vegetables and put them into the ground and they grew nicely alongside already established additions. Prepared beds and established perennials are a wonderful treat for a homeowner.

After that, I have never lived in a ready-made gardening landscape. This means planning the site, tilling the soil, adding amendments, and finally buying the plants which will hopefully grow happily in their designated spots.

Without the extra finances (or help in the yard) to put toward all this, it can take years to accomplish a garden plan. Really.

In New Hampshire I had loam delivered each year. I moved wheelbarrows full of the dirt to various areas in my yard over the course of weeks. I’m an older lady and can’t do a lot in any one day, so I had to pace myself. Within five years time I had some pretty nice gardens in my yard – then I moved away.

The Here and Now

I moved into my Florida home in Fall 2016. My son built me a raised bed and I’ve been working on filling it since then. At the time this writing it is April 2018 and finally the bed is full of good soil which is ready for planting.

raised bed garden dirt
The raised bed is ready for planting

I’ve been using the raised bed as a mixing station. One end is free of plantings so I can dump bags of dirt and compost in and mix it up. After adding blood meal, bone meal, and fertilizer, I mix it up like a big stew and fill black pots to grow individual plants.  (By the way, as I was writing this, I discovered that not all “organic” labeled fertilizer is really organic.  Read my post about identifying real organic fertilizer and even bags of dirt.)

I also had to re-plant a big bucket in the yard where everything froze over the winter.  This pot used to hold a huge croton.  Now you can see what’s left in the background.

bucket of flowering plants
Big pot re-planted with crotons and flowering plants

Now that I’ve used that good dirt mix everywhere it was needed, I will plant more vegetables in the raised bed. From here on out, all that is needed is to amend the dirt with compost every so often and re-plant when needed. The hard work is complete.

Yahoo! Yippee! Hallelujah!

Brazilian Pepper Invasive Florida Plant

At the edge of my property a stand of trees, with winding branches and dark green leaves makes the perfect hideout for wildlife. I did think they were Dahoon Holly trees, but I was mistaken. They are invasive Brazilian pepper trees and have become a problem for Floridians.

Trees with red berries

This thick area of trees and shrubs is where the raccoons come from each night. It’s also where the zillions of stray cats walk as they pass through the yard.
I don’t know if the birds knew I wanted photos today, but they showed up in droves.  Unfortunately I am not such a good wildlife photographer!  I saw a bunch of grosbeaks gathered on a berry laden branch, and got this photo of a robin (center of picture) – not a good photo, I know.  In fact, the many birds have nearly eaten all the berries!

Even as the berries give the birds food, it is also what helps to spread the growth of these trees.  The birds spread the seeds.

So how to tell the difference between trees that have clumps of red berries?  The Brazilian Pepper has 9 leaves and the leaves are dark green.  The Dahoon Holly’s leaves are more true green and are fewer.  At least, from photos I’ve seen, that looks like the difference.  Also the pepper has that tangled mass of trunks, whereas the holly grows more like a regular tree.


The trunk can actually be split into many trunks, like in my photo below.

tree trunk
Mass of tree trunks

tree with red berries
Red berries

red berries of Brazilian pepper
Brazilian Pepper

branches, thicket underbrush
The thick growth prevents other plants from growing.

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 6.22.02 PM
Indian River at Edgewater, Florida

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