Monday, June 24, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 18

One month since my Phase 1 is planted, a neighbor calls me from the front of my house around dusk because she thinks there are hummingbirds at my Pinelands Lantana.  They are actually hummingbird moths!  Hummingbird moths are insects.  Their rapid wing movement – up to 70 beats per second - creates a buzzing sound and enables them to travel 12mph.  They dart around just like hummingbirds!  The wings of hummingbird moths are mostly transparent with dark borders.  The moths do not have feathers, where hummingbirds do, of course.  Hummingbird moths can be found in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.  Where hummingbirds favor red tubular flowers, in my yard, these hummingbird moths were at the yellow Pinelands Lantana.  The main host plants for hummingbird moths are herbs and shrubs of the teasel and honeysuckle families.  The adults are small, diurnal moths that resemble bumblebees in shape, 2-2-1/2 inches long and they are often mistaken for hummingbirds.

                                                  Internet Photo of Hummingbird Moth

Monday, June 17, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 17

Just 21 days after the Milkweed is planted, the second Monarch Caterpillar wanders away to form a chrysalis. The Milkweed that is left behind is just a bare stalk. 

Despite milkweed’s status as the Monarch butterfly’s only host plant, there are many different species of milkweeds that monarchs can use to raise their young. While some species have been found to be preferred over others, all members of the genus Asclepias can be used as a Monarch butterfly host plant.  It’s important to choose a species of milkweed that’s native to your region whenever possible –in Central Florida that is Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata).  Monarch caterpillars are voracious and one can devour a Milkweed leaf in just five minutes.  Even though I watched in amazement as the Monarch caterpillars ate that Milkweed plant down to a stalk, I was equally amazed to watch that plant sprout new leaves in time for MORE Monarch’s the use that very same season.  The Swamp Milkweed then “died-back” by December – I’ve been told this is Nature’s Way of encouraging the Monarch Butterflies to “move on”.  In Central Florida we should not see Monarch Butterflies November to April or so, as they migrate farther south to Mexico.  How this migration was discovered is quite the fascinating story.  If you get a chance I highly recommend watching the show (less than 30 minutes) – Journey with Dylan Dreyer – Flight of the Butterflies (2016).  Look for it “on demand” or other streaming methods. 

The tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is much debated. There’s evidence that it negatively impacts monarch health and migration in some parts of the country. Plus, it isn’t perennial, nor is it native to the U.S. or Canada.  I discourage you from planting this variety.  

                                               July 5 Young Swamp Milkweed just planted                       

                                 July 25 2nd Monarch Caterpillar “finishing” it

Monday, June 10, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 16

Twenty (20) days after planting, one of my Helmet Skullcap plants is in bloom!  Yea!  Helmet Skullcap (Scutellaria integrifolia) is the most widespread and common member of this mint family genus.  It is found statewide in Florida except for the most southern tier of counties, and throughout much of the eastern half of the U.S. 

Helmet skullcap is a deciduous perennial which dies back to the ground in winter and re-emerges again in early spring.  It begins as a basal rosette of arrow-shaped leaves, but soon produces its upright stalk with opposite, mostly elliptical, leaves.  Leaf shape can be somewhat variable in this species, however, and sometimes the leaves remain arrow-shaped at least halfway up the stem.  Mature stems reach a height of about 2 - 2 1/2 feet before the flowers appear in early summer.  I look forward to seeing more of these in bloom!  Below are photos of the same plant at 20 days (July) and 10 months (May).  

                 20 days after planting                                                 10 months after planting-spectacular!

Monday, June 3, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 15

It’s been barely 2 weeks since the Wildflower Garden with one Milkweed plant was planted.  The Coral Honeysuckle under the trellis came with a ‘bonus” Passion Vine.  I am ecstatic to find that a Monarch Caterpillar is eating my milkweed and a Gulf Fritillary caterpillar on the Passion Vine.  A few days later, there are TWO Monarch Caterpillars eating my milkweed! 

Less than three weeks from planting, my first hummingbird is sighted at the Tropical Sage! She moved fast I couldn’t get a photo – Below is a photo from the internet – that is how she looked!  
I am so happy – Plant it and they will come!

                                                Monarch Caterpillar on my Milkweed          

 Gulf Fritillary caterpillar on Passion Vine

                              Hummingbird at a Tropical Sage plant (photo found on internet)

Monday, May 27, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 14

Remember ‘way back’ Entry #4, when I said “I imagine I will look forward to mornings with gloves and clippers.”  Feeling a little na├»ve.  All that pine straw is supposed suppress weeds, but every morning, I see unwanted sprouts of grass!  Thistles, cheat grass, crab grass, purslane, swine cress and spurge! Kirsten from Green Isle Gardens helps me identify a few kinds of weeds.  I think the spurge is the worst.  It imitates the frog fruit and creeps out in a wide circle almost overnight!  I find a website to help me identify MORE weeds:    

If you don’t count the bending-over, the weeds are easy to pick out since the frog fruit plants are just coming in and have not spread out.  I can spend 30-60 minutes every morning pulling weeds out, just to see more appear the next day.  I tell myself that once the frog fruit fill in, and I can minimize the watering, the weeds will diminish.  Oh, hope springs eternal!  In the meantime, at least I am enjoying beautiful cool mornings, outside.  I don’t have a dog to walk, but I chat with the dog-walkers who pass by.  “Frog Fruit – it’s a native ground cover!”  “It’s coming along”  “It’s filling in”  “You can mow it like grass, but it doesn’t require the water, fertilizer, pesticides that grass does.”

                                        Spurge at the top, Purslane with the yellow flower

Monday, May 20, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 13

Day 2 of the Phase 1 planting, SO-O-O much pine straw is delivered!  Of course, it will cover the entire yard, not just Phase 1, in an effort to prevent grass and weeds from cropping up.  

The two Flatwood Plum trees and the Wild Lime tree are small, but I am excited to think about the beauty, the shade and the cover they will provide for me and the local wildlife.  Three hundred plus frog fruit plants are here, but by the end of the day, it is a sea of pine straw.  Still, I don’t think it will be long before wonderful things start happening!  

                       Plants are in the ground – pine straw ready to be spread around

                                                             A “sea” of pine straw

Monday, May 13, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 12

After a few delays, due to weather and previous commitments, Green Isle Gardens ( arrives to start the real conversion process July 2018.   I work 2AM-9AM both days, but manage to stay awake to watch in fascination. 

The dead grass is turned over to be used as organic material for the new plants.  Kirsten Sharp-Ortega lays out where the plants will go and then two other workers put them in the ground.  We are doing the front part of the yard.  Most of the work is done on Day 1.  

                                   Kirsten from Green Isle Gardens places plants in yard.

Monday, May 6, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 11

I offered shrubs to my neighbors, but there were few takers.  One neighbor takes the tree from the front yard and the holly bush from in front of the garage.  A few days later, a neighbor, Tony C, graciously digs up the shrubs for me.  Then, I get a call from an FNPS member wanting to see my yard – thinking it was already Native.  He and his daughter come over anyway – take away 6 Indian Hawthorns in a sports car – 5 in “back seat” & 1 in “boot”.   The remaining shrubs go to the land fill. 

I am painfully aware of the state of my yard, and try to look forward to what will be.  From my office window, I see cars and carts slow down and I feel the stares.  If I encounter walkers, I cheerfully tell them it will get better – “I’m replacing the grass with Frog Fruit”.  That’s usually followed by a discussion about what a funny name for a plant, what it is and where they might see it.  The Villages uses it around the postal pick-ups, median strips, residential “public areas” or islands.  I hope it’s something to think about.

                                        Shrubs dug up, drying out, on my dried out lawn

Monday, April 29, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 10

May 25 and June 7 Green Isle Gardens herbicides the entire yard.  If I had known enough and been able to have all the preparation done in the first six months of owning the house, they probably could have picked up the squares of sod.  The workers mark the property lines with orange.  The herbicide is applied professionally so that it only affects my yard.  The blue coloring marks where they’ve been – the grass never looked better!  Now, I wait.  

                                       Blue coloring marks where herbicide has been applied

Monday, April 22, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 9

Green Isle Gardens has contacted the appropriate authorities to come mark the yard, so that disaster can be averted when they come to plant!   One person comes to mark WATER and one person comes to mark everything else – electric, cable, and so on. 

I decide to take the advice from someone on the garden tour – I will email my neighbors to let them know what is happening.  While I would like to get more people to consider a Native Landscape, I am hoping at least to avoid having any complaints filed against me.  I write to my neighbors:

Dear friends and neighbors,

I’m writing to give you some news about what will be happening in my yard, so you won’t be surprised.  I am converting my landscape to 100% Florida Native Plants.  I hired a professional landscape designer and the plan was approved by The Villages a little while ago [ ] . 

I have contracted with Green Isle Gardens to remove the grass and install the plants.  [ ]

Weather permitting Green Isle Gardens will herbicide the grass one day this week.  The herbicide is dry after about 30 minutes and can be walked on in a couple of hours after application, however, I recommend that you keep your pets away.  It will take about 3 weeks for the grass to die.  So I apologize now for the way it will look, but IT WILL GET BETTER.

Week 4, Green Isle Gardens will begin installing the new trees, shrubs and flowers.  We are doing this in two parts – (1) installing trees/shrubs/flowers in the front yard and installing all the ground cover plants in entire yard and (2) probably around late October-November, installing remainder of the trees/shrubs/flowers along the sides and in the back. 

In the meantime – if anyone would like to take away the plants I currently have (provided by The Villages with the house), you are welcome to them.  Just let me know ahead of time, and you can come dig them up anytime before Green Isle Gardens takes them away in June.   
I've got the nice tree in my front yard (ever-green), a nice holly bush near my garage and around the lamp post

  • 12 - Indian Hawthorn, white flowers
  •  6 - landscaper thought it was a kind of Viburnum - can grow into nice hedge, white flowers
  •  8 - Loropetalum - pink flowers    
Thank you for understanding while my yard is in transition. 

    Water and Utilities are marked in my yard in preparation for converting my yard to native plants

Monday, April 15, 2019

In Jo's Yard - 8

A chapter member has a drone.  I asked if he would come take “before photos” of my yard.  It was fascinating to see how that worked and just a few days later, the photos were in my email.  This yard does not look interesting to me.  I am excited for what is to come!  

In Jo's Yard - 18

One month since my Phase 1 is planted, a neighbor calls me from the front of my house around dusk because she thinks there are hummingbir...