Saturday, July 31, 2010

pretty dead things

Butterflies don't live long.  Adults average a week or two.  It takes patience to take a good picture of a live one.  Dead ones are easier.  No butterflies were harmed here.  These are found expired butterflies (and one moth).
From pretty dead things
Gulf Fritillary butterfly caterpillars love passionflower vines.
From Garden
Early in the morning, we can look out the back doors and see dozens of orange butterflies looping around the yard.

From pretty dead things
Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly found dead on a fading red hibiscus. We have a cassia tree in our front yard, which is a host plant for Cloudless Sulfur Butterfly caterpillars. In the winter, around the middle of December, the tree blooms yellow. The butterflies flock to it to lay their eggs and it sometimes looks like the yellow flowers are taking off and flying around the tree.

From pretty dead things
Imperial Moth with spent orchid bloom on a piece of driftwood.

From pretty dead things
25 years of service award...they give me a made in china wood box. In it, I keep dead butterflies (a Giant Swallowtail and a Spicebush Swallowtail) and a pretty little beaded bee that my friend, Annamae, gave me. Curious metaphor.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

bizarre plants - aristolochia

Two years ago, we bought a Dutchman's Pipe Vine, or Aristolochia at the USF Botanical Gardens.  I'd admired the large vine they had climbing the trellis at the entrance to the plant sale area.  I'd seen another one at Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg, as part of the butterfly garden.  The flowers were so elegantly strange that I wanted one.  Often, when I visit these gardens, I think about just pinching a bit of this or that, and rooting it when I get home.  I was a good garden visitor, and bought a plant instead.  


Ours struggled the first year.  Then we had our killer freeze this last winter and I thought it was a goner.  It came back and has rewarded us with its first flowers.  I expected them to stink, like the carrion flower we have, but they smell very much like lemons.  But, if you crush the leaves...stink-o-rama.  The plant is larval food for the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.  Chemicals from the pipevine plants become concentrated in the bodies of caterpillars and butterflies and make them distasteful to birds and other predators, which is why some other butterfly species like the the all-black female Tiger Swallowtail mimic the Pipevine Swallowtail.  A great pictorial reference book for butterflies of Florida is Florida's Fabulous Butterflies.  Jimi & Leon gave me a copy for my birthday.  It includes information about their larval food and host plants (butterflies, not Jimi & Leon).


The flowers of the Pipevine last only a couple of days, and develop rapidly from tiny buds.  A healthy vine can cover a trellis or fence very quickly with sufficient rain.  They don't like to be kept too wet.  They are said to root easily from cuttings, so I'm taking a few and rooting them for my coworker, Tom, who said he'd trade an Amazon Lily for one.  



From Garden
From Garden
From Garden

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

tuesday blooms

We treated ourselves to three orchids when last visiting Louis Del Favero's Orchids on July 18th (and I'd link to their web page, but they don't have one, they're at 6601 Gant Road Tampa, FL 33625).  Two are in bloom.  This is a beautiful Dgmra. Memoria Jay Yamada, 'Kauai'
From orchids
These are easy outdoor growers here in central Florida.  Just be careful not to overwater and protect them from our infrequent freezes.  The next one is  a little one, but not the littlest of the collection.  I love these tiny bloomers!  It is a Phal. cornu cervi.
From orchids
We also purchased a "surprise" orchid, by which I mean they didn't have a blooming specimen, but I knew from the name (It's a brassia hybrid) that it would be beautiful.  I'll post a picture and the name when it blooms.  We just went for orchid potting mix...really, we did.  I justified buying the orchids by saying it's my birthday (and it was, almost).  

On the 11th of July we went to the the Tropical Plant Show and Sale at the USF Botanical Gardens and bought this Z. (zygopetalum) Arthur Elie 'Tombstone' New fireball x royal burgundy from Gross Orchids.  He always has a wonderful display and is happy to give advice, as are all of the orchid people we've met there. 
From orchids
Unfortunately, during a thunderstorm, a branch broke from the oak tree that shelters our orchids, falling on this new plant and breaking off the blooms.  At least, I took pictures first.  
The most exciting bloom for me is the tiniest one.  We've had this cleisostoma crochettii for a couple of years now, and this is the first bloom spike since we brought it home.
From orchids
That's a pencil eraser, in order to give the size some perspective.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

Happy Birthday, Carolyn!

I was sifting through a tin full of Polaroid pictures and found this one of you and me in your backyard in March of 2003.  It's the last time I saw snow, and didn't we have a little snowball fight after?   That was a rough year.  Thanks for being there and helping me through it.  You are one of the strongest women I know.  You have more courage in a 5 foot frame than 6' 5" linebacker.  While I waffle and procrastinate daily, you have absolute courage of your convictions and even managed to quit smoking.  It's funny that we were born a day apart, grew up 15 miles away from each other, and didn't meet until we both moved to the same town in Florida.  You're too far away now.  I miss you.  Have a wonderful birthday, my friend.  Here are a couple of pictures of the yard.  Wish you were here to help me weed and prune and play in the dirt.  This is the philodendron you left with me when you moved back north.  It's outgrown the little clay pot it was in by quite a bit.  The back patio at dusk.  Citronella candles lit, got my deet on.  I raise a frosty beverage in a toast to your good health!  Say hi to Ruth for me.  Wayne says "gotothestoreforsgin".  Love, Leigh

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

water world

It's been raining for what feels like 2 weeks, but is probably more like 5 days.  I love a rainy day, but really,  we're in sunny Florida, and it's rare that we don't see the sun AT ALL for this many days in a row.  And it's Independence Day weekend, which means two whole days off.  What to do?  Make avocado cupcakes, of course.  What could be more American than that?  The recipe is from United Cakes of America by Warren Brown.  I borrowed it from the library, but really want to add this wonderful cookbook to my collection.  The cakes have a lot of nutmeg with fresh ground cornmeal, buttermilk, raisins and pecans (walnuts were called for, but I had a lot of pecans that mom gave me). They are wonderful with cream cheese frosting and a cup of coffee.

Then I planted the seeds, saving a few for you, Kim.  We've had at least 6 inches of rain in the past few days and the plants are loving it.  Several orchids decided to bloom.

From orchids
From orchids
I also messed around with video clips and made this watery little movie: