Traveling Thursdays: Discovering Gardening in London

Over 4,000 miles separates my home in Florida from London, yet the growing zones are quite similar. I was surprised to discover the unique plant environment in London. Umbrellas, rain coats and rain boots are a fashion statement in the United Kingdom (UK) for good reason. It rains nearly every days, which is lovely for plants. Then being surrounded by water, puts the growing zones between a 7 and 10.  (Florida ranges from an 8 to an 11.) You can find palm trees in the UK, though they have a distinctly different trunk. Tropical plants can survive outdoors even though the temperatures are vastly different. I traded 96 degrees Fahrenheit in Florida for 15 degrees Celsius (59 degrees Fahrenheit) in London. I felt as if gardening in the UK was a mix of plants in Florida and the plants I miss from the Midwest. It was a perfect garden for me.

I had the great pleasure to visit Kew Gardens in London. Some people travel to London to see the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace or Big Bend. And my family did get to these tourist attractions, but first we had to see all those beautiful plants. My children truly think vacation is all about photographing plants. Enjoy some of the photos from my trip to the UK!

Florida Gardening in September

Autumn paints in colors that summer never sees.

September Gardening:

Unfortunately, I wasn’t here for a large chunk of September due to a fantastic family vacation. When I left everything in my garden was growing and green. We were still getting consistent rains, and I had started seeds in my vegetable garden. Then I abandoned my plants for 14 days.  I did hire a surrogate garden care taker to water my plants, but while I was away Hurricane Irma overshadowed any concern with watering. Plus, it was probably raining a little too much for the plants anyway. I returned home to dry soil in all my potted plants and even a few dead trees. The hurricane winds had shredded some of my elephant ears (Tarul) and canna lilies. My beautiful green beans were shrivelled and dry. Needless to say, I’ve just been cleaning up my yard and trying to get back to square one.

But, lucky for you (and me) I have this amazing book, Month-by-Month Gardening: Florida written by Tom Maccubbin, and this will help navigate what may be happening in your garden.

What to plant:

  • Corn
  • Beans
  • Squash
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Corn (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

These plants were planted together during the time of the Native Americans and are referred to as the three sisters. They will produce a harvest around the same time. This is also the last month to plant tomatoes and cucumbers. You can start thinking about what herbs to plant with the cooler temperatures nearer.

What you may be harvesting:

  • Avocados
  • Grapes
  • Persimmons
  • Carambolas
  • Bananas
  • Early citrus
  • Papaya
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Papaya (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

Annuals to consider:

Some of the flowers in your garden may start to fade, so you can consider filling in empty spaces with colorful annuals, such as:

  • Celosias
  • Cleomes
  • Nicotianas
  • Gazanias
  • Marigolds
  • Scarlet sages
  • Begonias

Trees:

If you moved to Florida from the North and are missing those fall colors, plant:

  • Bald cypress
  • Chicksaw plum
  • Crepe myrtle
  • Redbud
  • Red maple
  • River birch
  • Sugarberry
  • Sweet gum
  • Winged elm
autumn, autumn colours, autumn leaves
Red maple (Photo courtesy of Pexels)

You can also plant trees with fall flowers, such as:

  • Golden rain tree
  • Loquat
  • Sweet acacia

September marks the end of summer, which can mean busy school schedules, but it’s a time when gardening can be happier with cooler temperatures and the promise of less humidity. The entire garden can transform as we turn toward a drier season. Embrace these changes and move with the season.

References:

Maccubbin, Tom. Month-By-Month Gardening Florida: What to Do Each Month to Have a Beautiful Garden All Year. Minneapolis, MN: Cool Springs Press, 2014.

The water calls me, challenges me

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Inch Beach, Kerry Co., Ireland

Enlightenment is when a wave realizes it’s the ocean. -Thich Nhat Hanh

I was never more ill prepared for an experience in my life. I had always imagined my first surfing lesson taking place in the warm waters of Florida after I had thoroughly prepared myself. I had at least wanted to watch a few more YouTube videos and finish reading Surf’s Up: The Girl’s Guide to Surfing. (I had only reached page 18 – far from being educated in the art of surfing.)

I never imagined I’d be shivering at 9 degrees Celsius (48 degrees Fahrenheit) in a winter wet suit half blind. You see, I had thought contact lens would be a burden travelling to Europe, so they were comfortable back in the States. But now I was about to enter the ocean with at least 30 other surfers and wearing glasses was not an option. My instructor, Tim, had assured me that the water was warm; the waves were perfect; and he’d be in a bright red shirt never far. We were going to have a chill lesson according to Tim. But as I sat waiting for my 2 o’clock lesson, I was uncertain any of this was going to work out. I had come to Inch Beach, Ireland with no surf board and no swimsuit, and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had hoped the curiosity to learn would be enough.

When I had arrived at the beach, no one was in the water. I had thought, How perfect? Less people to possibly crash into and see me fall and fall and fall. I slowly ate lunch and watched vehicle after vehicle drive down to the beach with surf boards secured to the roof. The minutes passed slowly and with each minute, I became more nervous. The surfers laughed with one another, pulled on their wet suits and headed out to the waves. By this time, I wasn’t sure if it was the Irish stew from the night before or butterflies, but my stomach was churning. I studied the surfers as they paddled out to ride the rolling waters. I sat watching those surfers and waves for almost 3 hours before my lesson. I was beyond terrified.

Finally, 2 o’clock arrived. I popped a mint in my mouth to calm my nerves and joined the other students. Luckily, it was a small class of 5 new surfers. We all looked like we could lose our lunch. I was in good company. Tim gathered us on our surf boards and went over a few basics on how to rise up on the board and ride a wave. And then that was it. He ended, “Any questions?” I wanted to say, Um, can you repeat, like, all that? Instead I shook my head and started for the water with the rest of the students.

I positioned my board and got ready for the first wave. Tim had said to get on the board when the wave was 8 meters away. I didn’t have time to convert meters to feet and the wave ploughed right over me. When I finally found air, I heard Tim shouting, “Do you work in meters or feet? 20 feet! Go when the wave is 20 feet away! That wave was too close.” Honestly, I couldn’t see where the wave was, but I started again and this time I hopped on the board with plenty of time. Instead of watching the wave, which was all a blue-grey blur, I listened to the tossing waves. The waves grew louder, and I started paddling. This time I nailed it. I hit wave after wave. With each wave, my nerves dissolved and was replaced with pure joy.

Then Tim pulled us back to beach. We were going to learn how to stand. Wait, what? We’re ready for that? You do what you just did, pop up and stand. Easy. Right? I looked at my new Irish friends, Shona and Shane. “You ready to stand?” Shona shook her head. I was with her. Shane replied, “Hell, yes. Let’s do this.” I thought, You know what? He’s right. It’s now or never. Let’s do this. So, even though I wanted to hesitate, I went for it. And with Tim’s “Whoo hoo!” I knew I had it. From then on it was magic.

Surfing takes focus, agility, strength and a great appreciation for the waves. I may need to learn to breath, relax, move my feet up on the board, turn my front foot, but none of that matters. I’ve been inducted into a powerful world. A world of strong spirits that don’t give in even after a wave hits them hard. Because the waves will help you rise and succeed. I just had listen and let them in. Ride the waves with me and let the magic transform you. Thank you Kingdom Waves Surf School for an unforgettable experience!

Wednesday Wanderings: Inch Beach, Kerry Co., Ireland

Spoiler alert: This blog has absolutely nothing to do with gardening. Instead, this blog is about growing in an uniquely spiritual way with the waves.

In the past two weeks I’ve been doing some spectacular wandering in the UK and Ireland. I did take many plant photos and plan to share those photos in the near future, but it wasn’t the English roses or the European fan palm that made my trip. It was without a doubt surfing in the crashing waves surrounded by Ireland’s green mountains.

Being from Florida, I know it may seem crazy that I travelled to Inch Beach, Kerry Co., Ireland to take on my first surfing lesson, but that’s how my journey transpired. Enjoy some photos! I promise I ate my fair share of saltwater and looked less than graceful more than once. I also came away a changed woman. Even surrounded by many other surfers, there were moments when it was just me and the waves. It’s an experience like no other.

Thank you Kingdom Waves Surf School!

The full tale is soon to follow.

Wednesday’s Where the Wild Things Grow

My garden is transforming! It’s been raining, raining and raining and the plants are loving every drop. Here are some photos of how things are growing. My bush beans sprouted! My rogue watermelons have taken over the yard! You can’t even see my raised bed. I seriously don’t know where these came from. I didn’t plant them! Everything is so green! The garden is happy this Wednesday!

Control Mosquitoes Naturally – Plant a Repelling Garden

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Courtesy of Pexels

Bzzzzzzz. Bzzzzz. Bzzzzzzz. There are two seasons in Florida: winter and mosquito season. Summer rains mean lots and lots of mosquitoes. These insects are more than just annoying. Mosquitoes can spread some very nasty diseases, including Zika. Right now in Florida, Zika is very real and very near. Protecting yourself is important.

If you want to spend any time outside in the summer you will come face to face with the nuisance of mosquitoes. You can wear pants and long-sleeved shirts, spray bug sprays, light citronella torches, burn citronella candles, but there are more natural ways to conquer these pesky insects.

First, inspect your property for standing water. This is one of the most effective ways to minimize breeding zones for mosquitoes. Change the water in birdbaths or fountains every two or three days, and refresh your pet’s outdoor water bowl daily. If you have a rain barrel, cover your rain barrel or install a screen on top to prevent mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water. Some species of mosquitoes breed specifically in bromeliads. Flush these plants regularly or sprinkle Bti granules in the bromeliad cups.

Second, consider using plants to ward off those mosquitoes. This is a green approach that will not only deter mosquitoes, but also add great fragrances to your garden.


What to plant:
Marigolds
Marigolds are colorful and easy to grow. Their smell discourages mosquitoes and bugs that prey on tomatoes. They can be potted and placed near entry ways. You can also take the dried marigold heads, which hold the marigold seeds, and easily plant more marigolds!
Citronella
Citronella is found in insect repellants for it’s strong scent. Be sure to buy the grass and not the geranium variety for the best results.
Catnip
Catnip is an easy-to-grow perennial. Your cat will also love this plant! It can become invasive, so plant in pots to control. It has been found to be ten times more effective at repelling than DEET.
Lavender
Lavender repels mosquitoes and gnats. The fragrance also promotes relaxation and sleep. The dried flowers repel moths in closets. This plant is drought tolerant and needs full sun.
Basil
Lemon and cinnamon basil are the pest varieties to repel insects. This herb repels flies and mosquitoes. Keep damp and be sure there is good drainage. You can also make great Italian dishes with this herb.
Lemon Balm
Lemon balm encourages pollinators to your garden while repelling mosquitoes.
Rosemary
Rosemary repels mosquitoes and is a cooking herb that does well in hot and dry climates. You can plant in a pot or use as an ornamental.

Planting particular plants to deter mosquitoes may be up for argument against the commercial insect repellants. Still, I love the scents of all these plants and most of these plants have more than one use making them a great addition to any garden. Stop swatting mosquitoes and start planting!

Mosquito, Mosquito,
I feel you upon me,
You’re biting me everywhere;
Each time that you sting me
Sensations you bring me,
You bite, but you don’t seem to care;

~Marcheta: A Parody

Wednesday’s Where the Wild Things Grow

Happy Wednesday! Recently, I have been asked to work on a Florida palm identification book and have access to some amazing photos. While none of these photos are palms, below are some beautiful trees and shrubs in bloom! Enjoy!