Cut Leaf Philodendron In Bloom

There is a certain finesse that you need to garden here in South Florida.

I’m not sure exactly what that finesse is.

After we hacked back the undergrowth in the yard, cut the 30 foot tall Sea Grape tree to 20 foot sticks, lopped the head off of the Podocarpus and bougainvilleas, we held our breaths.

After a bit things came back with a vengeance.

Now the Podocarpus have brilliant chartreuse growths on them.  The Bougainvilleas are growing new pointy bits and putting out shocks of magenta blooms.  The palm trees have been sending out more of those seed pods we have to cut off or else the seeds get stuck in the pool filter.

And then this happened.

The flower is actually about 2 feet tall.  Call it 60 CM.  A massive thing that looks like a lily came popping up in the middle of a green firework of leaves back in the back of the yard.  It has a trunk on it that is easily as thick as your forearm and as long as you are.  We keep pushing it back in place but it insists on growing out toward the pool where the light is.

I found it when I was looking for a place to do some strategic planting.  My dog, Rack the McNab SuperDog (TM) insists on privacy.  I know, a dog that demands privacy to do His Business is a bit out of the ordinary.  What he does is run around looking for a spot but if he sees anyone nearby, he will move away to where you can’t see him in order to squat.

If he can’t see you, you aren’t there.

Since he found that the gap between the fences and the hedges is Dog Friendly, I have been putting plants in there.  My pot of Ruellia and the other one of Hibiscus had matured and it was time to put them back into the ground to start over.  Ruellia takes about 2 months to go from droopy sad cuttings to a root bound mass that is looking to be planted.  The Hibiscus takes more water and more time but it was just about as root bound as you could get.

Both of those went into the ground near Rack’s Private Room.  Blocked off one of the entries with dark green leaves and little purple flowers.  The Ruellia didn’t even notice that it had been pulled up and dropped unceremoniously on the top of the ground in front of the Hibiscus.

Where the finesse comes in was that I found a little emerald jewel there.  Apparently there was a Monarch that had decided to put a chrysalis there on or near the lone Milkweed that took in that crowded pot.

I placed it somewhere safe, in the crook of some other plants where it will grow unmolested.

But that is why it takes finesse to garden here.  You never know what you will disturb.

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Peeping Ringneck Dove

In South Florida, I have often said, we live closer to wildlife than I did in Philadelphia.

That isn’t to say we didn’t have wildlife in Philadelphia, and I don’t mean the two legged variety.  I once had a deer in my backyard, roughly a solid mile from the park, but that is another story entirely.

Behind my house is an arbor.  It’s made of some large poles and holds up the bougainvillea and the Spanish Moss that grows there.  That is to say there is a massive bougainvillea that forms a privacy curtain along the back window of the Florida room, and you can’t get through it because you would be shredded by the thorns that grow on the plant.

Bougainvillea are beautiful, but nasty plants.  Every time I work with the plant I get stuck by those blasted thorns.

Every.
Single.
Time.

Wrap yourself in Kevlar Body Armor and it won’t matter.   You will get stuck.

I suppose that is the attraction of the bloody stuff.  Literally bloody, that is.  The thorns create a micro-climate safe from things that might “Getcha”.

Every so often I look out the window and I see things looking back at me.

My frog hotel is at the top of the window.  Two little boxes, an inch deep, two long, 4 wide.  Just big enough for a frog to smack against the glass and hide for the daytime until it is time to go out at night and hunt for insects.

Tasty, tasty insects.   Mmmmm.

I’ve seen a four foot long green iguana looking back at me with a mouthfull of bougainvillea leaves.  I wouldn’t mind but those nasty iguanas don’t share.  I stood up to get a better view and off it ran into the neighbor’s yard.

Evil things.

This was more benign.  A Rock Dove.  Perhaps you call them Ringneck Doves.  I go between the names.  They’re quite common, quite harmless.   I simply did not expect to see the thing looking at me and watching me as I go through my normal daily routine.

So why not… I got a couple pictures of it.  Then it got frightened due to my attention and flew off into the window.

They’re not bright.  Birdbrained might be a better description.

They’re all over the area here.  Might be the teenagers of the avian world with their call of “Meh” whenever you hear them.  Harmless creatures, whatever they eat they’re welcome to since I know they don’t destroy my plants.

One of them a while back made a friend in my parrot, Oscar.  It would fly over to the cage when I had Oscar in the Florida Room near the window.  I would hear Oscar talking to the bird, saying Hello! to it, trying to convince it to talk back, and the Dove true to form would just say “Meh” back.

I am guessing that this could be some sort of revisited curiosity, although it might be misdirected.  Oscar got moved back into the core of the house to keep him comfortable when the weather changed from warm to cold, or vice versa.  I can’t really remember which.  I don’t have that large a house, so he squats in the middle of it making rude noises at us and glowers while that peeping dove tries to get his attention.

I should move him back out there, but I’m lazy.

Dragonfly on Bougainvillea Picture

There’s something about a rainy week that brings out something new here.

First the new mosquitoes.  Hide inside for a day or two at dusk and sunrise or you’ll end up feeding your very own flock of pets.  Trust me on that one.

Then two days or three perhaps, later, they arrive.  Gliding on the breezes, hovering over land and suddenly veering off to a random direction and gone.  Other times they’ll swoop over any body of water for a drink.  The only way you know they got there is the series of small rings that show on the surface from their impact.

Dragonflies can be quite large, but this one wasn’t.  It was basking in the golden hour, about an hour or two after sunrise, collecting its insect thoughts, perhaps pondering where would it find its next meal of tasty mosquitoes.

Tasty because they’re fed by me, that is.

But breakfast hadn’t shown its head either.  The air was clear of them, or so I thought.  My own hide not having been pierced yet, nor have I been considered a landing strip of the nasties.

This particular little jewel simply perched on a denuded branch that I created by going after the long vines of the bougainvillea hedge behind the Florida room.  Dragonflies will do that.  Instead of perching somewhere that you would expect them to on a more sturdy part of a plant, they’ll edge out to the very tip and stand there looking serene and beautiful.

It also didn’t seem to care that I was looking at it.   I was able to go back inside the house, having forgotten the rule of always bring your camera, and get a series of about 10 pictures.

All the while smiling at its beauty.

I Hear You’re Having Another Snowstorm

My cousin posting a picture of bougainvilleas on Facebook got me thinking. 

No, it’s not another rant about how bad the weather is up North.  This would be the week I traditionally would take vacation.   I would haul my bulk into the Jeep, get out of Philly for a week to 10 days, and thaw out.

Literally.  By this time of year, I’d have a nagging “winter cold” that was my body telling me with a stopped up nose, that I was not designed for standing on an elevated train platform in 15F temperatures day after day waiting for the R7 to roll.

The second week of February is the coldest one of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.

Ok, so it’s plus or minus seven days either way of February 7th. 

It’s been warm this winter though.  We got our two weeks of “cold” already, and I am hoping it happens again.  It helps reset the environment here and gets rid of those ex-pets that snowbirds abandoned thinking they’ll do alright outside.

Lets just call them “Invasive Species”.

My weather applet says it will be 83 today, my pool water is at 70 and holding.

My concern is that the pool should be down into the high 50s by now.  It’s not heated and the deep end is still way too cold for my tastes.

Since we’re also three months from the great stock up month of May, and four months from Hurricane season, I’m thinking that it’s a bit warm for this time of year.

I’ll take a cool February.  It usually means that hurricane season will be weak.

We are overdue for another near miss.

I’m still getting rid of the last of the bottled water and Mac and Cheese from last year.  There’s still canned ravioli on the Kitchen table that got co-opted as a pantry.

So believe it or not, while I despise cold weather, I’d welcome some of it now.

In the meantime, go have a swim.  The water’s a little cool for us down here but you’ll think it’s fine!

Bougainvillea Blossoms

These are the flowers that sold the house.

I also have a love-hate relationship with them.

Bougainvilleas.  Beautiful to look at, painful to maintain.

They have these spikes, that can be up to two inches long.  The spikes will scratch you even if you are nowhere near them.   I swear this plant will reach out and grab you and leave scratch lines on your skin.

Just watch out.

But they are also on a trellis behind the house.  It is the entire length of the Florida room as well as its height.  Say 10 by 20 feet.  If you look in the front window through the living room, you see these red, fushcia, and pink blossoms glowing at you from a distance hovering over part of the swimming pool.

Then you get closer and they bite your arms.

They don’t bite Rack though.  My dog is able to walk under the plant and come out unscathed.  There’s a path of cement squares under the arbor that he uses as a garden path.  They’re where they are so the rain doesn’t scour a gulley under my eaves.  He’s small enough that he’s enveloped in a world of cool shade, hot pink flowers, and a general feeling of warmth.  Or so I imagine as I see he’s taken to wandering under the thing when he’s outside in the sun.

In this climate they’re also fairly fast growing so I’m usually armed with a pair of clippers when I am out back.   I have to assume I could make a red or pink dye out of the flowers that float on the breeze.  One day after stepping on a spine from that evil plant, I put my shoes back on.  I rarely go barefoot out back as a result.  Later that night I got ready for bed and noticed that my white socks now had a pink blob on the bottom of them.  On my foot where the blob was was a flattened remnant of one of those pink flowers.   The pink did eventually wash out of my sock but it wasn’t after a couple washings.

Oh well, nobody ever looks at the bottom of my socks but me.

I thought you might want a little beauty, as well as a story.   So have a bougainvillea flower but watch for the thorns.

Singing Birds and Vibrating Pockets

I stood near the pond this morning.  

Feet firmly planted on the ground, I had my morning meal.

Sharing a spoonful of oatmeal and peaches with my faithful sidekick, I watched as shadow and light painted its way across the pond.  Breezes hadn’t started yet, but there were waves on the surface.  Dragonflies hovered in for a drink and disturbed the millpond stillness of the morning creating ripples that echoed their presence on the surface of the otherwise still water.

In the distance floated a small bird, also still, also hardly moving.   It kept a still eye pointed at me watching me in my morning repast.

The birds sang over top of the distant sounds.  Their chattering accompanying the tapestry of the scene, enhancing the beauty of the morning.

On the ground there were small lizards warming themselves, recharging for their day.  Soon they would leave their station in the sun, sliding down leaves of the pineapple plant, leaping to the ground, and going on their business of creating and losing territory and dining on choice bits of insect life.

The gentle breezes were almost still at this time of day.  There was just enough wind to make the magenta and pink blossoms of the paper thin bougainvillea nod their heads in acquaintance, accepting you into their beauty and their presence.

This was framed by the thick tropical foliage around the small pond, deep greens offset by the scent of jasmine coming from their almost zinc oxide whiteness capturing the sun of the early morning.

The hustle and bustle of the semi-urban life seemingly brushed away by the chattering of the song birds came rushing in with one motion.   I shifted to lean on my right leg when I noticed that there was a vibrating in my pocket.  Reaching in I found the old phone that was sending off an alarm, this was the cause of the singing birds, and the vibration was the alarm clock on the phone that I just couldn’t bear to turn off.

Reverie broken, I readjusted my headphones to make sure that the noise canceling was turned on.  The amigos from Quintana Roo were next door with their blowers again, and I stepped away from the Kitchen window where my day dream was ended.  No longer standing by a tropical pond, I was instantly transported back to my house, in front of the kitchen sink, in the middle of 100 miles of human habitation.

But for a brief moment, all was peaceful, all was full of nature, and full of song birds and beauty.  I guess I really should cancel that alarm clock.

Anybody Want A Python?

I woke this morning to the sound of parrots flying overhead.
I nearly stepped on a curly tailed lizard when I took the dog out.
I swatted a whitefly that tried to fly up my nose.

All of those are examples of exotic or invasive species.

Welcome to Florida, Land of Weird Pets.

Weird Pets always escape.  It just takes time.  There are monkeys in the Florida Keys, and Giant Snails in Miami.  It’s the second time for the Giant Snails.  The first time a kid gave two to Grandma back in the 1960s.  Grammy didn’t like the snails so she tossed them in the back yard.  They multiplied and the state of Florida decided to try to eradicate them.  It took around 10 years and many millions of dollars.

I’m actually not the right person to argue about invasives since I have an Orange Wing Amazon Parrot.  His name is Oscar and he lives in a cage that is in the back room right now.  He likes to watch the ring necks that come for their afternoon visits in he shade of the bougainvillea.

But that’s the point.  He actually lives in the back room, right now at any rate.  I may move him to the front room later.  He likes that sort of change. 

He’s not living in the Everglades with another colony of parrots.  I’m not letting him go, I’ve had him since 1986 and got him in Pennsylvania.

Pets do escape, sometimes they’re aided by an open door and a pair or three of hands. 

I’m “not allowed” to go to the dog park here.  My dog wouldn’t like it.  You see irresponsible owners take their unwanted dogs and leave them tied to a fence so some poor fool like me would show up later and make my old dog Lettie jealous.

Can’t really do that with a 17.5 foot long, 164 pound pregnant Burmese Python with 87 eggs in her.  They don’t tie to fences too well.   Someone let this snake go at one point thinking they won’t do any harm.  They’re actually pushing native species closer to extinction.  It is this threat to biodiversity that is the problem.

This one was found with feathers in its stomach that they’re looking at to see what kind of critters they’re eating.  It’s not like you can say, “Hey Mrs Snake can you just eat the invasives?”.  They don’t really know anything other than eat and sit in the sun to warm up.

I have heard rumors that this sort of exotic pet won’t be allowed to be owned in the warmer areas of the state.  North of the I-4 line perhaps.  If that sort of law were in place we wouldn’t have dozens of iguanas living on the docks around the island here and my bougainvillea would be less threatened by hungry green mouths that don’t know how to share. 

If you want to see a picture of the monster snake from Burma, have a look at this story on the BBC here.  In the meantime, I’ll have a look around the yard to see if I have to chase an iguana out of the bushes.