Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Hot Rain and Tropical Plants

It's pouring rain outside. The temperature is 80º and it feels as if you're walking into a steam bath if you go outside.


The steam bath brings forth crinum lilies. String Lilies are in bud but not blooming. Also blooming are Hymenocallis.


Yesterday morning there was thick fog when I got up. By 8 am it was thicker, settling in the yard like smoke. When the dog came inside her fur held tiny droplets of water from the fog.

Somewhere between rain showers out came the sun and dried up the rain and the itsy bitsy spider -- wait, wrong story -- He Who Mows managed to mow in the most important places so the gardens look like a park.

Earlier before the rain started for the second time today, the temperature was 82 and the humidity was 84%.

Despite rumbling thunder across the creek, I went out to make pics of some Tropicalismo plants. It's the time of year when I make lists of potential additions. Mostly I just grow the same plants every year, sometimes in different numbers.

I get out my tropical books Tropicalismo by Pam Baggett and Tropical Garden by Richard Iversen. Saved articles about tropical gardens abound in my files.

Crinum Jagus, smells like vanilla.
Tends to fall over in the dirt if not supported.

 Reviewed my post from last year: Tropicals in the Coastal South Garden to see what I failed to cover. Defninitely the Crinums need reviewing.

Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima

Esperana, or Tecoma stans

I never tire of the combo of Pride of Barbados and Esperanza, both root hardy here and much easier from seed that you might believe.

I often mention that every year is different. We might have a literal monsoon or we may have a drought. This year we are blessed with ample rain after an unusually cold winter. Some of our flowering plants seem later than usual. Duranta has no buds, Tithonia came up late and is just now starting bloom.



Tithonia and Bengal Tiger Cannas, Duranta in background.

Usually by this time Porterweeds are blooming along with Pentas. They  have buds, but no blooms, the Porterweeds. Pentas are just getting started.



  Pentas in three colors: Miss Julie's Favorite, a dark pink and my fav, white.

There's also pale pink Pentas just starting to open and that luscious red that's in a pot this year. Some plants that survived the winter have not bloomed. I hope that  some of them are red.


Royal Standard Hosta with wire Flamingos.

Hostas do not thrive here as they do in slightly cooler climates. I mostly plant gingers where hostas would be the choice in a different garden. Royal Standard has been here for about 20 years, sturdy, but it never grows big and lush.



 Soon Black-eyed Susans will die off and Madagascar Periwinkles which are just now starting bloom will take their place next to Purple Heart which has Lantana weaving through it.

More Purple: Strobilanthes, Persian Shield. 
My other purple fav is Alternanthera denata

 Lantana is also weaving through Gulf Muhly grass which will pick up the show nearer fall. I have three newer clumps this year and a bit more growing in a pot to put somewhere. It always has to be backlit by the sun to really how off well.

This is another of my favorite grasses: Cymbopogon, or Lemon Grass. Last year it was great in a row of 4 with Madagascar Periwinkle. All but one failed to return in that row. This one came back with some volunteer Marigolds in another bed. Sometimes root-hardy plants just fail in a cold winter. Fortunately Lemon Grass is easily propagated.


Critters add to the tropical feel. We liberated 2 of these little frogs from inside the house this week. They weren't finding much to eat. I saw a bright blue lizard outside but he rushed away before I could get him to pose.

Crinum -- I think this one might go well with the old striped 
one that we call 'Milk and Wine' also blooming now.

Many of the best tropical plants start with C: Cannas, Crinums, Colocasia, Castor Beans. Some butterfly favorites start with P: Pentas and Porterweed, Passion Flower.

Brugmansias and Bromeliads are as tropical as plants come. 

Many common annuals are from tropical countries: Zinnias, Madagascar Periwinkles, Tithonia and Melampodium all wait for hot weather to reseed.  

Last summer I made a note of 3 new things I meant to plant this summer. I need to find that list. 

Spider plant in the Agapanthus bed.

One of the things I did not put on the list that I intend to plant in beds is more Chlorophytum comosum, Spider plants. This one came back from roots, they're hardier than I thought. I have lots of little spiders that need to grow here, not crowd the greenhouse this winter.

What are your summer favorites? Maybe I'm missing something really tropical, easy and stunning?

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tropical Gasp and my recipe for Fried Okra


We're in the midst of a heat wave while we wait for July, when we can hope for that rare 'Cold Day in July' that comes along every few years.

Pride of Barbados and Esperanza are blooming.

Older blooms quickly fry to a crisp in the sun.


Not a tropical, just a Rudbeckia that 
something chewed the petals.

Gingers: Variegated Alpinia and Curcuma.
I trimmed low hanging branches this morning to reveal them.

Every year I intend to buy another Bird of Paradise.
There's never time for my Bird to bloom when it finally sprouts from roots.
 I love the leaves and will crowd one into the greenhouse if I find a suitable one.

Hymenocallis

Up close to see the odd arrangement of stamens and pistil.

Aucuba with ferns and sassafras

Hedychium coronarium with Shrimp Plant and Salvia leucantha.
Everything except the Shrimp blooms at summer's end.

A different Shrimp Plant: Justicia betonica

This shrimp plant doesn't seem to mind the heat.

Crocosmia is taking over in the upper garden. It flops over 
its neighbors like Persian Shield which droops in heat.
Crocomsia is just beginning to put on buds. 

You can't get more tropical than Okra.
Mine was wilted so I watered it this morning.
If I turn these dribblers over, they become sprinklers.

Right here I am going to answer Peter's question about how I prepare Okra. I like boiled okra, which is not the way to introduce someone to okra. I place the smallest pods on top of steamed or boiled peas or lima beans just before the peas are done. If okra is boiled for a long time it will be slimy. Steamed just tender, there is no slime.  I fry the larger pods and throw away the toughest. 

Most of the time we fry our Okra and I've found a fool-proof way to cook it unless you forget about it. I use a timer.

Fried Okra
Wash and cut okra into little rounds across the grain. Add 1/4 cup of cornmeal or cornmeal mix, whichever you have and stir to coat the okra. I use cornmeal mix, so add no salt. I like black pepper added to the meal.

Put the breaded okra into an oven proof skillet to which 2 tablespoons of cooking oil placed before the okra is added. I use a well seasoned black iron skillet. Drizzle a little oil over the top, not to coat, just a dribble or two.

Place in a 400º oven and bake for 25 minutes. Stir at least once during cooking. The okra will be done but may not be well browned at the end of 25 minutes. Ovens vary. I add to the cooking time until it is as brown as desired. It's good barely browned. It's good baked really brown. Okra is just plain good. 

Fried Okra goes well with mashed potatoes. 

Just so you know I'm not just a kook, there are other people in the world who fry okra in the oven. Fried Okra Recipe This lady's recipe would feed a family. I use about a pound or less and it's fine for two people.

Back to the garden, Cannas are starting to bloom. They're on of the most tropical looks for the least care in my climate, you can leave them in the ground. 

\\
Pretoria, or Bengal Tiger. Orange blooms are an extra with 
the beautiful striped leaves. 


Tithonia is just starting to bloom with Cannas.

We've  had this old Canna for decades. I am starting to 
use it more in the garden. The blooms are not attractive.
I just nip them off when one does decide to bloom.

I know that summer is just now here, calendar wise, but some of our tropicals seem late. Porterweed isn't blooming, periwinkles are just coming up in places, Agapanthus hasn't shown a bud yet.  Brugmansias in the Upper Garden are not blooming yet, hardly even a bud.

Angel Trumpets in a more protected area, my oldest plants,
are napping in the daytime heat, incredibly fragrant at night.



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