Orchids Against The Fence

The thing is that here in South Florida, natural beauty is all around us.

Remember the place is named after Flowers after all .

Given the right conditions, a seed dropped on the ground will grow, flourish, and eventually bloom and bare fruit.   It’s fairly easy here to grow plants that people in London need to build a whole infrastructure around.

That Greenhouse is a bit of a trial to maintain, isn’t it?

Here, my orchids grow in a mundane spot.  They please me from my window in the kitchen.  They flower against the fence or the shed in the back.  I don’t do anything more than give them water every day.  I suppose I should fertilize them but I forget.

Every day at 7:30 in the Morning, I am outside inspecting my plants.  Inspecting them, fussing over them, tweaking their irrigation, getting myself soaked when I pull a sprinkler head, and generally enjoying the experience.

I was that “weird kid” that had set up tables in his pre-teen bedroom so that I could grow plants.  From the mundane to the exotic, simply because they pleased me.  I once had a thimble sized terracotta pot once that I managed to grow a Marigold that bloomed a little flower about the size of your thumbnail.

Now that I am in Florida, I can simply put a box with a little bit of mulch tied to my fence, drip feed watered daily for fifteen minutes, and wait for beauty to occur in different spots in different times of the year.

It is now June.  We are all here waiting for Hurricane Season to get started.  Doing our Hurricane Shopping for Hurricane Food and Hurricane Water (beer).  This season means that while I can enjoy those flowers, I will be looking over my shoulder and seeing if things are quite right to survive a tropical storm force wind.

Once in place, these plants and the others, do not like to be moved.  They grow their roots between the fence boards and become happy in their place.

They bloom where they are planted.  Hopefully we all can say that of ourselves.

May you bloom where you are planted.  After all, you can grow into the sunshine as well.  Now check your place and make sure it will survive a storm.  May as well, you just might find some beauty in a forgotten corner.

Vanda Orchids On The Fence

These usually wait for the cold weather to come and then pass before they finally break open and bloom.

I’ve got two different pots of these vanda orchids, this one and a purple one that will bloom a little later.  The plant has grown into the fence, so when we have that next tropical storm in season, it will have to be left there.  I’m not brave enough to cut the roots off the wall since there are just too many.

It’s on my irrigation chain getting its half gallon of mist a day.  When I repotted the thing, I made the point to use some live Spanish Moss to hold the bark in the wooden frame.  The Spanish Moss likes the same “stuff” that the orchids do so I am either getting symbiosis or they’re fighting.  I’m not sure but since I have flowers I’m going to leave things as they go.

They’re a beautiful plant, and I like the flowers enough that the picture will end up on the wall or in the wallpapers folders for my machines.

I remember being told that these things are so finicky and have to have just the right conditions to bloom.  I must have them because the last time they were fertilized was about 4 years ago when I was able to pry them off the wall for a hurricane.  I guess that the old wood on the wall is perfect for them which is perfect for me.

Orchids Against The Shed

I would come down here every year, just like all the other snowbirds.

I actually got to enjoy what many would have seen as foolhardy, or simply difficult.  That drive.  1200 miles of it, one way.  Plus another 200 miles if I were going to Key West.

Or so.

Usually I’d stop off and get some things for people left behind Back Home.  It’s always said like that “Back Home”, in capitals.  I’m not completely sure, but if you listen to a tourist, they’re always stressing things, including themselves.  The people out in California tended to use the phrase Back East in the same way.

Gone, not forgotten, not completely sure what to do about them.

All of that and none of it.  Language, it’s a strange art.

One of my habits was to stop off at a big box store that sells plants, and pick up some Orchids to take back.  Plants that would cost at least $50 if not $100 could sometimes be found on a street corner here if you knew where to look.  Out of the back of a pickup in a scruffy part of town, 4 for $10 as the scrawl would say.

That’s crept up to $4 for 20 more recently.

The plants were never that pricey to begin with.  I also knew they wouldn’t last long once they got where they were going.  Those little seedlings rarely did.

That was because the plants were being put into a climate they didn’t belong in.  Centrally heated air held little of the humidity they needed, and the drafts falling off of a 1950s tract home’s single pane glass would freeze a dish of water if the conditions were right.

This was the same kind of plant. I picked it up in a mesh bag as a seedling.  No more than a few leaves and a stem or two.  I was promised beauty of an exotic flower, if the conditions were right.

Stuck into a wooden frame with some bits of bark, it grew well and put forth flowers.

That was a couple years ago.  I had noticed that that pot was getting sad.  The wood was now riddled with weak spots and there was practically nothing left of the Orchid Bark.

Whatever plants they get to chip up to make Orchid Bark that is

It got re-potted, and it did well.   Some of that mystery bark.  I also got creative with the Spanish Moss.  Great beards of the stuff grow in my nasty bougainvillea and need to be cut back.

The Spanish Moss now could play for ZZ Top, I tell you!

Fist fulls of the packing material like moss went into the Orchid pots as well as that sad lingering staghorn fern that we have back under the giant sea grape tree.

I think it liked it.  It stopped blooming for a while.  Simply paused.  Then it started sending out blossoms like it was going out of style.

All this from a seedling we didn’t expect to survive.  Go fig!

Lizard, Guardian of the Rescue Pot

I went a bit nutty in the yard, but I didn’t realize I was creating a habitat for lost dinosaurs.

The original use of the pots was to put what a snowbird thinks is appropriate for Florida.


Lets see… the Lemons all died, the Orange got replanted in the front yard and is moping along.

The Banana tree is still there but it’s so pot bound that the pot will split any day.  If it doesn’t I may help it to.

(Did I say that in my outside voice?)

My Mango tree is happy, although it’s a bit pot bound and in a stiff breeze it will topple over.  Since the winds come off the ocean rather steadily here, that’s at least a twice weekly occurrence.

The Hibiscus likes the pots too much and overgrows everything.

I ended up pulling out all the dead plants and ended up with three pots.  I put milkweed in one for my pet Monarch Butterflies who eat them down to a stick.

The other two are my Rescue Pots.  Lisa’s Pentas are in one, the other have a collection of cuttings.  Darwinian gardening rules states that what survives will get planted.

The pentas haven’t stopped blooming.

The ruellias that I put in there in a clump are half-and-half alive.  Who knows about them.

They both have at least a bit of Podocarpus, Japanese Yew to the rest of us.

One is thick with it.  I figure some of it may indeed root.

I didn’t count on them becoming wildlife reserves on a small scale.

Every time I go out there, my friendly lizards spot me.  They don’t tend to run off, although there is a story with that.

Last weekend, I had to repot my Orchids.  Four pots, three of which had gotten too weak to survive.  Some were encrusted with mold and lichen, others with ferns.  It was hard to know where the orchids actually were.  One had no potting bark in them, and when I reached up to grab it, the pot fell apart in my hands.

They’re basically popsicle sticks held together with wire in a square.

Two of them got a bed of Spanish Moss to hold the bark in and got rehung on the drip feed irrigation lines.

That third one.  I was walking back to the bar to repot my last one.  As I walk past the trees, I am pulling things out of them that didn’t belong.  It was a cool morning, me flicking odd pieces of bark out at the pot chain, and I grab what I thought was a stick.

It wasn’t.  It was a lizard’s tail.  I pulled on it and out came a lizard from between the slats of the pot.  It didn’t release its tail, but in shock, I did.  Since the concrete was warm, it trotted away quickly.

The things you find when you’re out working in the yard!

So do think of the Lizards when you’re out there.  They hide everywhere!

Vandas in Bloom

I have a lot of plants in the yard.  In fact the yard is “over planted”.

Most of what is there was there before we moved in.  I tend to plant things from the “Drop a seed and it will grow there” school of agriculture.  If it’s fussy, I’m not too interested.

In South Florida, it’s more that it’s too easy for things to grow than not easy enough. 

I have coleus all over the yard.  Probably 4 varieties. When I mulched the side garden around the orange tree, I used the evil synthetic stuff to keep out plants.  Landscape cloth and Rubber Mulch made out of old car tires dyed chocolate brown.  Still the plants return.  I have one maroon coleus growing there, under the carport and the orange tree.  I don’t have the heart to uproot the thing and move it on.

Orchids were always my challenge.  I had a microclimate in my house in Philadelphia for Phalaeonopsis Orchids.  Moth Orchids.  The window got about an hour of direct sunlight a day.  It was a leaky ancient pane of 1860s glass.  In the winter there was always a little frost inside.  The plants thrived there and I would have beautiful flowers for 10 or 11 months of the year.  They would drop off in August but always return shortly after.

Maybe they needed a rest.

Here, I have more variety.  Anything that would grow in a greenhouse or microclimate window in Philly grows with very little care here.  Two separate drip feed lines of Orchids here that my friends in Philly would be amazed at.  The reality is that other than a little water, they’re care free. 

We went to the KMart in Oakland Park every trip down to Florida, pick up a few, and take them back.  “Seed Orchids” I have heard them called.  Baby plants that you would tie to a tree and ignore in Florida would wither away in the drier and colder Mid-Atlantic climate.  USDA Zone 6B I believe.  The same zone as Atlanta and the South side of  Providence, RI.

The only tropical plants you can grow outside are Needle Palms and Saw Palmettos, and then only on the South side of a building for the extra heat it provides.

Some day, I’ll find a small one and send it to my sister in New Jersey.  That should completely confuse her!

The KMart is closing this month, soon they’ll put in a Walmart.  I won’t go to the Walmart.  I know I’m not alone in that, even if they do have Seed Orchids.

But for now, my Orchids are happy.  They should be.  The one that came into bloom last week is about 4 feet off the ground.  A little above waist high.  It’s also grown into the fence.  Orchids are strange plants.  They don’t need soil as much as tree bark and “waste”.  Humus they called it.

My Vanda with the purple blooms sent out a feeder root when I put it there and it found the fence behind it.  Since it is wood, the rain and irrigation will send food for the plant.  It liked that so it grew more feeders and basically glued itself to the fence.  So much for fertilizing it since I can’t remove it from the fence at all.  If some storm thing were to come this way, that Orchid will remain outside through the weather.  Rain or clear, no matter what.

But it’s happy in that spot.  Plants won’t bloom if they aren’t happy, and seeing those blooms?  Well, they make me happy.  So enjoy a happy purple flower.  They don’t last forever after all!

Gardening with Spit and Bailing Wires

When I was a kid, a wee precocious brat, in Mrs White’s Kindergarten, we used to play with modeling clay.

I remember the stuff was a brick red color, and always soft to work with. 

We used to roll the clay out into snakes and build all sorts of “constructions” with it.  It eventually progressed into a bunch of us building marble raceways with clay that would be balled up at the end of the play period.  The clay was never stiff enough to make long bridges with it, so we were constantly patching it to keep it in place.  

If we were lucky we’d get something stout enough to take a little ball of clay and roll down to the bottom with a lot of help.

Then it was time for story time, milk, and quiet time. 

That same kind of pasting things together to “just work for now” has been replaced.  There’s a lot of engineering, in the best sense of the word, done in a property to keep things going. 

When we moved into this little house, a 2/1 with generous yard and a pool, we set to making things work better for us.  One of us got the “bright idea” to set up an irrigation line with very low flow water bubblers to water the plants needed, and only those plants.  1 gallon per hour is a lot of water for a single plant but my Orchids like it.

I am an indifferent gardener, not really enjoying visiting my pets the mosquitoes in the yard.  I’m a great food source for them, and all those bubblers create wet spots.

Since it’s all on well water, there are some impurities in the water.   It has a sulfurous scent to it, and the formerly-white-now-red paint on the shed will tell you there is iron in the water.  Add a little grit that gets soaked up from time to time, and it gives me plenty of things to putter with.

I can tell it needs some putter time because one plant or another will wilt from a lack of water.  We do get 50 inches of rain, but most of that is in the six months of the wet season.  Also known as the Hurricane season, it can be a bit much.  A Sunday Afternoon can go from sun to Monsoon in an eye blink.

When I notice that the Mango tree is wilting, or I have lost a flower on an orchid, it’s time to act.  A trip to the hardware store for more bubblers because I can’t really be sure where they got to in the shed.  More black licorice sized tubing for the lines.  Every so often, just open up the end of the line and blow out the sand in the feeder pipes.

I’ll wander slowly through the yard with the pump humming.  Rack will follow around, smiling and sniffing the air, then adding his own water to my plants. 

The process is a cycle.  I’ll forget about it all now that the bubblers are mostly in place.  The fractal net of bifurcated licorice tubing along the East side of the pool feeding the many pots are now happy.  The same low flow lines are feeding my front side of the house and the Orange Tree there.  My pet palm tree that sprouted in a pot in the backyard and refused to be pulled is now almost six feet tall and moved to the island in front.  They’re all watered through a spur line from the backyard to the front.  Most of these plants are established and in the ground where they belong.  The palm tree insisted on living so I gave it a home, and all the rest of the oddball plants in the yard are cuttings. 

All of those cuttings, trees, and random weeds are fed by bubblers and no more than a gallon at a time.  All on little licorice lines that don’t last very long.  Just long enough to roll a ball of clay to the bottom and…

OK, Mrs. White!  It’s time for the stories!  My favorite red rug to sit on once I put the clay away.

I guess times don’t really change all that much.

Purple Vandas Show Again

Oscar’s close-up not withstanding, this was why I grabbed my camera this weekend.

The annual purple Vanda orchid bloom in my back yard.

The plant was one of those big box store buys.  It came in a little plastic bag with a tag that promised beauty and for most people it was promising a bit too much.  On the other hand, we have an excellent habitat for this plant.

Orchids can be painfully fussy to grow outside of the tropics or semi-tropics, but here, we put the plant in a box with some bark, connected a drip-feed irrigation line to the box and ignored it.

I fertilized it twice.  The last time was in 2012 during hurricane season.  It needed to be removed from its perch and dipped into a bucket of water with this weird blue powder mixed in and then placed back on the wall.   The problem is that the Vanda liked it so much where it was that the roots grew out of the box and onto the wall behind it.

The orchid is welded to the wall so it’s not going anywhere so it won’t be fertilized that way again.

We look forward to this blooming each year.  It’s the second of the annual blooms.  The other orchids haven’t opened yet, but who knows, they may still yet.   It’s one of the benefits of living here on the quirky little island, you can grow weird plants like orchids.   Just strap them to a tree and give them water.  They like that sort of thing.

Orchids on the Shed

It seems we have a routine here.

It’s only been two hours plus a little bit after our first walk of the day.  I’m up well before the dawn, watching the skies lighten with Rack, my dog, in tow.

After I get a couple of hours of work done, I settle in to have breakfast.  I get my black and white furry visitor at the edge of the kitchen.

There seems to be a line in the sand drawn which he cannot pass.  The kitchen being Gandalf, he stands at the edge looking in at me longingly. 

He’s not always looking for a handout, sometimes it’s entertaining to watch people fly about in the kitchen preparing giant vats of food as if some conjurer waved their hands, cast a spell, and great amounts of curried chicken appear.

As If By Magic!

Sometimes that’s true, but not always.  Usually by that time in the morning, Rack simply wants to go out to explore, yet again.   My backyard is the target. 

This time he was more insistent than usual.  He’s got a very high pitched and reedy whine that comes out when he’s frustrated that he’s not getting his message across.  I ask him what does he want and watched as he made a bee-line for the back door. 

Making up a mug of yogurt with cranberry sauce, we walked out with the tail end of my breakfast in one hand, camera in the other.   There is always a reason to take a walk around back.  Whether it is looking over the flowers and other plants, pulling weeds or vines that threaten to enrobe the world, or simply to breathe fresh air, you can spot something interesting for a view.

November is a lot of things, but it seems that it is the month that my favorite “weeds” begin to bloom.  I have grown accustomed to Coleus and Penta and Hibiscus.  So much so that they have faded into the background as expected.  The Orchids are not like that.  They bloom only when conditions are right.  When their work is done, or conditions change, or some butterfly in the Amazon flaps its wings, the blooms will drop. 

They all have their moment in the sun, and I look forward to them.

These are the same sort of plant that I used to bring up North as a gift.  They’d never do much there other than slowly fade away.  Here you can strap an orchid to a tree in semi-shade and as long as they get enough water, they will bloom.

They enjoy being under the eaves, predictably blooming and lasting into next year.  When the weather warms in Spring, the blooms have mostly dropped.  One or two will remain on the more heat tolerant plants, but it is then that they rest.

For now, dog and man will enjoy them.  Even if I don’t have yogurt to finish under the spreading sea grape tree next to the shed, there will be cause to pause.

The Purple Vanda On The Wall – Picture

The last of the orchids opened last week.

Among all my own personal drama last week, I had noticed that the plant had put out a flower spike.  It’s in a spot that can’t be perfect since it gets very hot and is watered daily on my irrigation system.

Bloom it does, and I guess it happens each year around this time.

I’m thinking that in a storm, that plant will have to be left to its own devices since it’s grown into the wood behind it.

Doesn’t matter.
Looks better that way.

In fact, it’s probably a healthier plant as a result.

Bashful Vanda – Picture

Why is this a Bashful Vanda?

Have you ever had a picture you wanted to take for a month and never had just the right shot?

This was mine.  At least this time it was mine. 

I have a bunch of Orchid plants all over the yard.  This one is one of the later ones to bloom and it opened about a month ago.

I immediately wanted a picture, but never was around at the right moment.  Either it was shaded or it was night. 

Literally this is in direct sun for about 15 minutes a day.

Finally, this weekend, I found myself in the kitchen when the sun hit it just at the right angle.  Grabbing the memory chip and the camera, I trotted out back and grabbed a number of pictures from this orchid and the other plants like the Poinsettia in the background.  There are others I’ll probably post here.  There’s one in particular that the flowers look like butter from the back.

I don’t mind the shadows in this shot, it’s more honest as to show how it lives there.

I can’t even move the thing.  It likes where it is.  So much in fact, the roots have welded it to the fence.   The plant is there and that’s that.