Category Archives: Flowers not hydrangeas

colorful croton leaves

Pictures of Croton Leaves

The leaves of the croton are really stunning.  They are as pretty as any flower, and come in such an array of colors, that they can brighten any landscape, as long as it’s subtropical.

Crotons don’t handle cold well, with established, older plants handling it best.  I live in climate zone 9 and have this big croton plant in my yard.  I have no idea how long it’s been there, but I did not cover it at all last winter.

Then again, last winter in Florida was not all that cold.

colorful croton leaves
My croton is in a big pot with ferns and a red hibiscus bush… also a birdhouse is stuck within the branches.

Recently I went out in my yard and took some photos of the croton leaves and wanted to share them with you.

The croton is also easy to propagate.

colorful croton leaves
The color combinations are so beautiful
colorful croton leaves
Pink leaves… where else can you see this?
colorful croton leaves
The bright reds can become dark purple as the leaves age
colorful croton leaves
This croton has been growing for years, I imagine
colorful croton leaves
Even the yellow and green leaves are outstanding

For those of you who do not live in a warm climate, the croton can grow indoors. I’ve never done that, but you can search the internet for helpful advice on doing so.

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white peony flowers

Peonies in July, But Not in My Yard

When I first moved to Florida back in 1979, one flowering shrub I missed was my favorite – the Peony. My grandmother had them in her Massachusetts garden around her old white farmhouse, and the huge blooms impressed me as a child. The fluffiness of the blooms were like none I’d seen, and the peony instantly became my favorite flower.

This page contains my photos of the peonies I planted and tended for the five years I lived in my New Hampshire house.  They bloomed in July, so I thought I’d treat myself to a trip back in time, when I could walk into my yard and see these beautiful blooms.  I wonder if the new homeowners are enjoying them today.


I live in Florida for 27 years, without growing any peonies in my landscape. I had everything else a southern gardener could grow. I had white and yellow jasmine along my fence. Camellias of all colors grew under the shade of the big live oaks in my 2.5 acre yard. I had a magnolia tree, orange tree, gardenias, hibiscus, crotons, and bougainvillea, lots of crepe myrtle, a stag horn fern, and more that I can’t remember now.  But peonies don’t grow in the deep south.

I really missed seeing peony flowers, and when I moved back to New England in 2005, I couldn’t wait to have some growing in my yard. Unfortunately, I ended up not having a yard of my own to plant them in until years later. But once I had my own home, I went out and bought a peony bush. I believe the Sarah Bernhardt (light pink flowering peony) was the first, and I can’t find a picture of that flower in my photos… but that one is my favorite.  (I’ll keep looking for a picture!)

I don’t recall the name of this white flowering Peony. I always kept the name of the plant in the soil beneath the shrub so I could recall the name. I no longer live there, and I’ve forgotten.

I know that the bright pink flower, with the yellow center is the Karl Rosenfeld. It’s not as fluffy as the other types I grew, but it was unique.

Peony flowers don’t last long.  I loved to photograph the buds too.  If I missed a day or two, and didn’t go outside (due to weather) I could miss the prime blooming time!

Most of my peonies – 3 plants – grew along an old wooden fence near the driveway.  The Karl Rosenfeld was planted out back.  The front gardens, near the house got too much sun for growing peonies, so I reserved that area for sun-loving shrubs.

Peonies are easy to grow, but some years they don’t get many flowers.  When they do bloom, ants can be found crawling all over the flowers.  Usually a cage or holder of some kind is needed to keep the stems upright once they flower.  It’s best to put the cage up and let the stems grow up through.

Viewing a sprouting peony in Spring, was just what I needed after a long cold winter!  Here they come….

peony in early spring
The Peony in Spring
pink desert rose flower

How to Care For a Desert Rose Plant

desert rose pink flowers
Desert Rose in Garden

When I was given this flowering plant as a gift I was told it was a Plumeria. After seeing this same plant at the local Home Depot store, I discovered it was a Desert Rose. But before I knew what it was, I had taken it out of the original pot and put it into a sunny location in the backyard.

Sun is exactly what this flowering plant craves. The only problem was that it doesn’t need a lot of water. In fact, the less water the better – like a succulent, because that is really what it is.

At the time I planted it, we were have a long dry spell here in Florida. The Desert Rose did well. I avoided watering it when I watered the hibiscus next to it, and the plant even sent out new buds, which you can see blooming at the bottom of the stalk.

But, Florida is a tropical place, and I knew the rains would be coming. The Desert Rose also can’t handle cold temperatures (below 40 degrees F), and it does get cold in central Florida in winter.

pink desert rose in orange pot
Dug up and potted

I finally decided the Desert Rose needed to be in a pot. That way I could leave it outside for the sun, but bring it in during rainstorms and for the cold winter nights.  When I potted it, I had to give it water, but I haven’t watered it since.

It seems to be a very hardy plant, as I’ve dug it up and put it back into a pot. I think the key here is to NOT GIVE IT WATER. And I haven’t.

I’ve killed some really nice succulents by over-watering.  It can be tough to not water something when in general plants need plenty of water.  And, it seems to me that the Desert Rose (adenium) is not native to Florida.  Florida has no deserts.   This one will have to stay a houseplant if I hope for it to survive.

These plants develop a very thick “stem” or caudex (see them in the photo below).  This is the part that holds in the water to keep the plant thriving in drought conditions.  It is a succulent shrub and can grow quite large outdoors.

thick caudex stem of desert rose
The thick “stems” of the Desert Rose plant (photo credit: Pixabay)

The Desert Rose can be called by other names.   It is similar in appearance to the plumeria / frangipani tree and Oleander.  The plant is often easy to recognize because of it’s extremely thick stem.

Be aware that this plant contains poisonous sap.   It may not be a good choice as a houseplant for families with young kids for this reason.

I found a lot of articles about this plant at the TipsPlants.com site.  I will reference these articles if I ever get seed pods and maybe I will try to propagate it.

orange flowering hibiscus

Florida Yardscape Must Include At Least One Hibiscus

screen-shot-2017-03-02-at-9-27-26-amNow that I live in Florida, my yard must contain the normal Florida perennials. Hibiscus is at the top of that list, and therefore I recently purchased a shrub and recently planted it along the side of the house.

I know that hibiscus will tolerate lots of sun and heat.  Although the tag on this one said it was protected from mites and aphids, I notice there are some on the buds.  I mixed up a solution of dish detergent and water to spray on the plant, and picked off the buds that were full of bugs.  I’ve had to do this for a few days not.  It’s irritating that I bought it with the bugs on it.  Should have checked closer.

Next to it, I added a rose bush and on the other side a small Desert Rose.  In my photo below the plumeria hasn’t been planted yet, but you can see the red poinsettia I bought this past Christmas …  the flowers are still red!  That one also needs to go in the ground.

rose bush and hibiscus
New Little Florida Garden

I need to get these gardens planted before the weather becomes too hot. I can’t work outside like I used to, and I dislike working in the heat. Digging up this St. Augustine grass is a real chore, and then I must lug the dirt to mix into the dug hole.  The Florida “dirt” is mostly sand, so it must be amended with quality dirt and fertilizer.  After it was planted I added black mulch.

double orange hibiscus
This Hibiscus Has Ruffled Flowers