Sunday, August 16, 2020

In Jo's Yard - last post - Join Facebook group

 It has been a pleasure writing this blog, but it is time to move on.  My Villages Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society has started a Facebook page.  I hope you will join us there.  It should be more interactive:   a place to share photos of Florida Native plants and yards, ask questions and share your knowledge, to hear about meetings, seminars, plant sales and more.  See you there:  

FNPS The Villages Chapter FaceBook

Sunday, August 9, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 73 Walter's Viburnum (compact)


Let me preface today’s entry with a note that this blog will be coming to an end shortly.  My Villages Chapter of The Florida Native Plant Society is starting a Facebook page.  Facebook will be more interactive, allowing members of the group to post photos, ask questions of the group, share knowledge. 

In my small yard, I have Dwarf Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obvatum ‘densa’) along the north side of the house. This compact variety may grow to 4’-5’ high and can be pruned to stay neat and tidy.  Walter’s Viburnum (Viburnum obvatum) may grow as big as 27’.  It is evergreen.  In the spring it is covered in beautiful, fragrant white flowers.  After flowering, it will get red berries that ripen to black and provide nourishment for lots of birds.  It provides cover for birds and small mammals, and is hurricane wind resistant. 

It is low maintenance, and once established, needs very little water. 



Feb 10 – Walter’s Viburnum getting ready to bloom

Feb 24 - Walter's Viburnum in full bloom

Sunday, August 2, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 72 Chapman's Goldenrod

Let me preface today’s entry with a note that this blog will be coming to an end shortly.  My Villages Chapter of The Florida Native Plant Society is starting a Facebook page.  Facebook will be more interactive, allowing members of the group to post photos, ask questions of the group, share knowledge. 

Chapman’s Goldenrod (Solidago odora) is planted in the bed with my Pinelands Lantana, Bee Balm, Flatwood Plum trees and now Dune Sunflowers.  It flowers around August – October in my yard. Some neighbors were alarmed telling me about allergies, but actually people rarely have a reaction to Goldenrod plants because they pollen is not air born – the pollen is heavy, does not float, and this plant relies on the bees and butterflies to pollinate it.  I’ve been told that “in the wild” Goldenrod and Ragweed often grow together in the same places. Ragweed is not as showy a plant as goldenrod, but ragweed is the pollen that causes itchy eyes and nose! 

Goldenrod likes full sun.  Once the yellow blooms go, many people cut it back, but I found that it continues to make an interesting plant through Fall, so I’ve only cut it back around late November or December. 


                                       AUGUST - Chapman's Goldenrod with Beebalm

                              OCTOBER - Chapman's Goldenrod yellow flowers fading

                         NOVEMBER - Chapman's Goldenrod, yellow flowers are gone

Sunday, July 26, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 71 Twinflower (swamp, not swamp)

Let me preface today’s entry with a note that this blog will be coming to an end shortly.  My Villages Chapter of The Florida Native Plant Society is starting a Facebook page.  Facebook will be more interactive, allowing members of the group to post photos, ask questions of the group, share knowledge. 

Twinflower  (Dyschoriste oblongifolia) and Swamp Twinflower (Dyschoriste humistrata)   are used as groundcovers.  Both varieties attract many pollinators, especially bees. It is the larval host for the common buckeye (Junonia coenia) butterfly. In my sunny front yard, Twinflower lines the approach to my front door, as a border to my wildflower garden. 

Swamp Twinflower is a deciduous perennial and flowers from late spring to early summer.  It prefers part shade and as its name suggests, requires some moisture.  I have some Swamp Twinflower next to Twinflower.  The Swamp Twinflower is taller, and dies back to little twigs in the Florida winter.



      June 2019 – common buckeye butterfly caterpillar in my Twinflower

                          2020 July Twinflower along my garden path in the backyard

                            SWAMP Twinflower – taller than “plain” Twinflower

                                                                2020 Twinflower

Swamp Twinflower – Flower – note the leaves              Twinflower - Flower
are more oblong than “plain” twinflower

Sunday, July 19, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 70 Compact Firebush

I think the most stunning plant in my yard is the Compact Firebush (Hamelia patens).  I just love to walk out back in the morning to be greeted by the red and green of my compact firebush plants.  The leaves are a gorgeous emerald green and it has fiery deep red tubular flowers from late spring til first frost.  Hummingbirds and the gulf fritillary and zebra wing butterflies love this plant!  It is the larval host for the Pluto sphinx moth.  It is drought and heat tolerant, and best of all it has not serious insect or disease problems.  My four plants have been remarkably easy-care.  In the fall, it gets red berries – the mockingbirds love them in my yard, but they are eaten by lots of birds and small mammals.   

It may grow as tall as 15 feet.  It can be pruned to keep it in the 5’-8’ height. But this is NOT a plant to be pruned back “hard” or frequently.  This will limit the production of flowers. You can propagate firebush by seed or by cuttings.                   


                            September 2019 – I have three compact firebush 
                                              in the center of my backyard

                                                           June 2019

2018 October  Compact Firebush flowers with berries 

Sunday, July 12, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 69 Flatwood Plum Tree

One of the most beautiful sights in spring in Maryland is coming upon the flowering trees – the redbuds, the dogwoods, those cherry blossoms.  Florida has a native species that reminds me of dogwood trees – the Flatwood Plum (Prunus umbellata).  It’s a small tree that will grow to about 20-feet (height) and spread about 12-20 feet (width).  It is deciduous, and so loses its leaves in the Fall.  In that sense, I find it reminiscent of northern trees.  Around February, little flowers start to appear.   These half-inch blooms may be followed by one-inch-long, edible, purple fruits which vary in flavor from very tart to sweet. These plums are very attractive to various forms of wildlife.  

I find it restful to look at the leaf-less tree in fall and winter, and look forward to seeing the flowers begin to appear.  From my office window, I watch the mockingbirds, cardinals, finches, sparrows perch on the branches to scope out the neighborhood, before landing on the bird bath.  


                                         Flatwood Plum’s Spring blossoms 
                               (photo by Shirley Denton, from 

September 2018, two Flatwood Plum trees, planted in July 2018, in a bed with Florida Privet, Pinelands Lantana, Chapmans Goldenrod, Bee Balm

                             2019 March – one of my Flatwood Plum trees, flowering

Sunday, July 5, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 68 Simpson Stopper

I have three Simpson Stoppers (Myrcianthes fragrans) in my yard. This past winter, two of them gave me some cause for concern, but now all three are doing well, and it’s wonderful to have them.  These are evergreen trees or shrubs, depending on how you prune them.  In the Spring they get tiny little flowers and in the Fall they get bright red berries. They are known for their hurricane wind resistance. 

In my yard, two are planted on the South side of the house, which is on the downside of a slight incline.  I noticed that the leaves were not looking good – some seemed to have a fungus that could be scraped off with a fingernail, but some leaves were spotted.  Both problems were on both  trees.  I got some Neem Oil and sprayed the two trees.  In January, Jared Evans of Evans Native Landscaping (Evans Native Landscapes e-mail) trimmed some of the small dead branches.  By April, both trees were much improved. The leaves are green and there will be berries soon.  The branches on these two trees are more thinned out, but I am hopeful they are coming back.  The birds perch in these trees for a rest, or to survey their surroundings.   

                           The Simpson Stopper on the north side of my home

  One of the Simpson Stoppers on the south side of my home, recovering from a winter fungus

                            Evergreen leaves and interesting bark of the Simpson Stopper

                                                            Simpson Stopper blooms

                    Fall 2019, red berries on my Simpson Stopper, behind the magenta Beautyberries



Sunday, June 28, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 67 Wild Lime Tree

Northerners come to Florida and “think palm trees”, but there are many other beautiful native trees.  My Wild Lime (Zanthoxylum fagara) is an example. It is known for its unusual foliage and fragrance.  You won’t get limes suitable for margaritas, but it can put out a tiny fruit that looks like a lime.  When it ripens the green skin opens to show two tiny black seeds that the birds like.  Its thorns make it a useful plant in buffer or screen area.  It will grow to 5-20 feet (height) and 2-12 feet (width).  It is evergreen, so it may provide some shade when it gets bigger.  On my Wild Lime tree, at least, the leaves are a yellow-green.  

This tree is host to for Giant Swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) and Schaus' Swallowtail (Heraclides aristodemus) in southern Florida. 


                                              October 2018 - Three months after planting
                                   Wild Lime Tree with Pinelands lantana and Muhly grass

                                                          July 2018 - tiny lime fruits

                     September 2018 - the two fruits ripened, opened to offer shiny black seeds

                                June 2020 - a close-up of the foliage of my Wild Lime tree

Sunday, June 21, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 66 Pineland lantana

Two of my front yard flower beds have Pineland Lantana (Lantana depressa) shrubs bordering them.  There are three other species: Lantana camara (an aggressive and invasive plant), Lantana involucrata and Lantana depressa var. sanibelensis.  This species – Lantana depressa – is the one most often planted in residential areas.  My plants have beautiful yellow flowers almost all year round.  They also have some shiny black berry like fruit, which at first I found alarming – thinking there was something attacking the flowers.  The birds enjoyed this fruit.     

Pineland Lantana is fairly slow growing, but can be trimmed to keep a tidy appearance in the Fall or Winter when there are fewer flowers.  The butterflies love visiting these flowers – I see them flitting around there frequently, when looking out my office window.  I’ve also watched as a crow, being chased by six mockingbirds, finally released the baby mockingbird it had kidnapped.  The baby bird hopped to the Pineland Lantana for cover. 
This native shrub is one of the lower maintenance, flowering plants in my yard. 


                         August 2018 Pineland Lantana blooms just 1 month after planting, 

                        October 2018 Pineland Lantana border with Wild Lime Tree & Muhly Grass

Sunday, June 14, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 65 Bee Balm

Bee Balm (Monards punctada),  also known as dotted horse mint, is a late summer bloomer. It is described as having “showy flowers” – and the blooms are quite unusual – to me the shape is reminiscent of an elaborate crown or tiara. I don’t think of them as “showy” though, because of the pale pink / blush color.  The Bee Balm plant is quite lovely though.  

The plant can grow to 3 feet tall by 4 feet wide, but it is tolerant of being trimmed and shaped if you want to keep it tidy in a bed.  Bee Balm attracts a wide variety of pollinators – bees, butterflies, wasps.  The plant had many homeopathic uses – to treat ringworm and hookworm infections, has been used as an antiseptic in mouthwash and toothpaste – because of it is a natural source of the antiseptic compound, thymol. 

Bee Balm is an aggressive re-seeder, so you may want to cut the spent flower stalks as soon as possible. I read that it does not mix well with other wildflowers, so that explains why Green Isle Habitat Designer Kirsten Sharp-Ortega [Green Isle Gardens], planted it inside a bed, between my Flatwood Plum trees and behind the Pinelands Lantana.  The plant dies back down to the ground in the fall.


                    August 2018 – Bee Balm planted in July, starting to bloom

                             September 2018 Beautiful Bee Balm plant

                            September 2019 Bee Balm blooms in morning sun

Sunday, June 7, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 64 Tropical Sage

Next to the Blanket Flower, I think the Tropical Sage (Salvia coccinea) is the most prolific flower in my garden.  My plants have flowers that are scarlet red, a rosy pink or white.  It is native all along the Southeast of the US from South Carolina to Florida to Texas.  It likes full sun to partial shade.  In my yard it grows best in the Wildflower garden that gets morning & afternoon sun, and grows also in the backyard which gets the afternoon sun.  It flowers nearly year-round depending on the weather, but typically from spring to first frost.  Tropical Sage pops up everywhere in my yard.  It is easily plucked from the ground and re-planted, or stuck in a pot to give as a gift.  I have found it growing up though the Scorpion-tail, in amongst the twinflower, all over the yard in the frog-fruit.  I love to look at its glowing red tubular flowers in the morning sun from my office window. 

The tubular flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees.  The sparrows and finches alight on it and pluck the seeds.  If not thinned out, it will easily take over the space.  You can pinch the spent flower stems at the bottom to encourage more flowers. 

I can highly recommend this flower if you just want to add a native plant to your bed, because it is so easy to grow. 


                                        July 2019, bee (left) enjoys my red Tropical Sage

                        September 2019, white Tropical Sage in my Wildflower Garden

In Jo's Yard - last post - Join Facebook group

 It has been a pleasure writing this blog, but it is time to move on.  My Villages Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society has started a...