Monday, December 26, 2011

Focus on foliage

In my last post, I shared some photos of camellias and other flowers blooming in our late December garden. The flowers are fantastic this time of year but they are by no means the only areas of interest. Evergreen foliage is most welcome in the winter garden. The temperatures have been rather mild thus far and there are still colorful fall leaves hanging on as well.

Chinese Holly "O'Spring" (Ilex cornuta) -  This variegated holly is beautiful at all times of the year. I've seen very large specimens in books and on television but this ones seems to be happy at a diminutive size of less than 4 feet.

Italian Arum (Arum Italicum) is a member of the philodendron family. It does look like a houseplant during the winter months but it is quite hardy. Greenish white spathes (flowers) will appear in May and are pollinated by insects. The foliage then dies and bright orange berries appear in autumn, followed by new leaves and the process starts again. This plant can be invasive in some areas of the country.

The vibrant russet leaves of Mohawk Viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii  'Mohawk') are
still clinging to the shrub.

The dramatic blades of a Yucca are contrasted with the branches
from Canadian Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis).

The bright yellow leaves in the lower left are those of Spirea (Spirea japonica 'Goldmound'). Rosemary "Arp", right behind it, stays green all winter. We use it frequently in cooking.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter beauties

Greetings on this first day of winter! Today is stormy and wet after a rather mild day yesterday. I took a few photos in the garden. There is great beauty to behold in the winter garden if you just look for it. And even some flowers! 

Camellia "Mine No Yuki" (Snow on the Mountain) - Do you see the ladybug?
Camellia 'Debutante'

The camellias are expected but I was surprised to see this Creeping Bellflower
(Campanula rapunculoides) blooming. Very odd!
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, December 2, 2011

Fall is not over yet!

Despite the recent band of cold temperatures and even a snow threat (rare for November), there is still some beautiful foliage in the garden and the sasanqua camellias have been blooming nicely. This is Alabama Snow Wreath  (Neviusia alabamensis), a native shrub along the north fence next to the street. The leaves have been spectacular this autumn. 


Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Bringing in the Angel Trumpets

To help work off those extra Thanksgiving pounds, Michael and I spent most of the day yesterday in the garden. He blew the leaves and I worked on getting the Angel Trumpets, Lantana Tree and Dragonwing Begonias into the basement. Actually, we have already had two slight frosts but I don't think they were harsh enough to kill the plants.

In the past, I've left the ones in the ground and mulched them heavily and they were fine the next year. Last year, however, was a hard winter and they all died. I decided not to take a chance this year. We only have two in the ground, one in the corner of the vegetable garden in a raised planter and the other by the garden wall.

Only one Angels Trumpet in a container on the patio. Next spring, this one is getting a heavier pot because I've spent most of the year picking this one up off the ground.

After digging the one in the vegetable garden out, I pruned it back to the "Ys", then placed it in a large plastic container and added soil to cover the roots.

The patio plant only required minimal pruning. I removed all the leaves by hand. This helps prevent disease from spreading during the dormant phase.

The Dragon Wing begonias were still quite nice. In the past, I've let them succumb but several readers told me earlier that they be overwintered. I cut them back and moved them to the basement as well.

I transported them to the basement and watered them well. I'll only water a few times during the winter. Now the long rest until next spring.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A good day to be inside

Today was rainy and stormy, a good day to be indoors. I kept glancing outside the windows. There are still a lot of leaves left to fall and the overcast day really brightened the colors.

This is the view from one of the living room windows. The "Bloodgood" Japanese maple has almost dropped all of its leaves. They are so vibrant and red this year.
The view in the back looking out the big window in the little breakfast nook. The hydrangeas in the circle were pretty and green this fall and most of the leaves are still hanging on. The tree is a Sawtooth Oak.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The last roses

 We've had our first frost but a few roses are hanging on.

Nearly Wild  

La Marne
Buff Beauty

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

A new blog

I've long pondered starting a blog on baking but was afraid I would not have the time to do it or worse, not have the expertise to do so. Actually, I probably don't have either but I'm taking the plunge nevertheless. I decided to focus on Maida Heatter, a cookbook author that I love and the one author who I think does the best job at teaching. Hopefully I will learn something and share some great dessert recipes as well. So, if you are interesting in baking, check out Mad About Maida.

Don't worry - Dirt Therapy isn't going anywhere!

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Friday, November 11, 2011

Henderson State Park

Henderson State Park is located right along Hwy 98 in Destin and runs along the coastline. You will notice an obvious difference in this state park when comparing to Eden State Park in my last post. Henderson is what I call a "sand dune park" while Eden, which is located about seven miles inland has more trees and traditional plants. We've usually just passed the sand dune parks by because, frankly, they didn't seem that interesting. I was wrong about that.

I stumbled across Henderson State park on the Internet and the descriptions of a nature trail and labeled plants perked my interest. When we arrived, on a blustery overcast morning, I was disappointed when we walked up to the nature trail and I saw this view:

You can see the condos in the distance and to the right is Hwy 98 and you can see traffic moving along it. However, once you top the hill in the above photo, the path leads downward and you find yourself in a huge bowl full of winding trails and very interesting plants and striking combinations.

There are many dead trees and at first I could not help but wonder why they don't remove them. However, after looking at them for a while, I began to like them and they certainly created great scenes for interesting photographs.
Saw Palmetto

The beach was quite beautiful - clean white sand and immaculate upkeep. There are signs everywhere about state laws that protect the sand dunes. You are not to step on them or disturb the plants. In other words, stay off the dunes!

There were some plant signs but not many and I was disappointed that
many of the plants were not identified.

The visit to Henderson State Park turned out to be a very pleasant one and it changed my opinions about the coastline parks. I spent an hour or more taking photos and by the time we left, the sun had returned.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Eden State Park

Eden State Park is always a stop we have to make. We feel in love with it the first time we visited. The property used to belong to a timber family and they donated it to the state of Florida. (For more history, see last year's post). The huge live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss, a magnificent collection of camellias and ferns are just a few features on this spectacular property. It is a sure-fire way to lower the blood pressure.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our Florida trip

We just got home from our annual trip to Florida this past Saturday. On the way down, we were trying to remember how many times we've been. Michael thinks this is the 9th year. I would have to check my gardening journal to be sure. With the exception of one year in Gulf Shores, we've always stayed in Destin or Panama City. Our favorite area is along scenic Hwy 30A (off of Hwy. 98), located right between Destin and Panama City Beach. It is less congested and very quiet this time of year and that is what we like.

This year we splurged a bit on the house but it was fantastic! Three floors with fantastic views and great windows. Way too much room for just us but we loved it. We were hoping that Michael's cousin and a friend could accompany us like they did last year but they could not get away. So, we decided to keep the house. Here is a view of it from the beach -

This is the view from the main floor -

I almost had a conniption when I saw the kitchen - it has a GE Monogram oven and the refrigerator (which you cannot see in the photo) was enormous. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to do any baking.

The balcony was great and we had terrific views of both sunrises and sunsets.

We did our usual - sunbathing, shopping, walking the beach, reading and of course, eating. I enjoy the great seafood which Michael will not touch. He loves Angelina's, a great little Italian restaurant that has the best pizza and salad we've ever had.

Overall, the weather was exceptional. There were some cold mornings but it really warmed up later. There was only one brief rain shower and that came on Thursday night. The weathermen were constantly wrong (and I thought ours were bad!) and we learned by mid-week we could not take them seriously. The beaches and the water were beautiful this year.

I have more photos that I took on our regular jaunt to Eden State Park, one of our favorite places. I also read about Henderson State Park which had a fascinating nature trail and we visited it for the first time. I will post those photos in my next post.

Text and photos by Phillip Oliver, Dirt Therapy