Sunday, March 29, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 55 Online Events

This past Friday, March 27, 2020, our Villages Chapter of The Florida Native Plant Society held its first online event  [The Villages Chapter-FNPS website]- Great Pollinators: Florida Native Bees and Honey Bees with Nini Connor and Jean the Beekeeper. 

My neighborhood, my county, my state – we are all doing our best to “flatten the curve” and slow or halt the spread of the corona virus.  The Villages, Florida is known for its active social life and abundance of activities from golf, pickle ball, swimming and over 3,000 clubs that cover crafts, physical and mental exercise and so on.  Everything has been shut down. 

I have a part-time job as an online classroom facilitator.  If you’ve ever attended a webinar, maybe for work, then you may understand – I keep the online platform running smoothly, and help the attendees set up their audio, tell them how to ask questions or get the handouts.  So the thought of having a group meet in a virtual classroom and hear a speaker by clicking a link on their individual computers is not new to me.  I set out to see if I could help TV-FNPS keep in touch this way.  Virtual platform software / subscriptions can be expensive, depending on how you want to use them though. 

Another of my clubs – The Villages Genealogy – holds monthly webinars for members.  So I got in touch with them to see if they could help us.  They graciously stepped up in a big way to share their paid subscription and expertise!  TV-FNPS had a wonderful attendance and participation.  Even members who were not in Florida joined and let us know they were happy to do so.  The presentation was recorded, and we hope to make the recording available on our website soon. 

So if we are still in this “self-quarantine” situation on April 24, 2020, or something similar another time in the future, we have alternative – a way to create a “new normal” and come together while staying apart!

Sunday, March 22, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 54 Anoles

March 12, 2020 – I am in the Florida room on the phone with a friend.  The sunshade at the patio sliding door is up and I am looking out over the little patio.  My eye is caught by a bright green little anole on the white railing – it is a Florida Native Anole!  The first one I’ve ever seen, but I have no doubt.  I’ve seen hundreds of the brown Cuban anoles, all over the place and once even in my office wastebasket!  The green Florida native anoles are apparently a rare sight.  I SO -O-O hope that I see more of them in the future!  

The following article contains photos of both species.
UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions / Anoles

Sunday, March 15, 2020

In Jo's Garden - 53 Gardening as Therapy

Today is March 15, 2020, and almost everywhere one turns, there is news of the Corona Virus as a world pandemic.  We are advised to help flatten the curve of the spread of the virus by self-isolating.  Mass gathering types of events are cancelled – movie theaters closed, show and concerts cancelled, club meetings cancelled. 

Everyone is encouraged to:  (1) Wash hands frequently  (2) Cough into your elbow  (3) Stop touching your face  (4) Practice Social Distancing (stay more than 3 feet from other people)  (5) If you feel sick, stay home. 

So my garden is even more therapy now than before.  It is fresh air and sunshine and beautiful colors and things coming to life.  And weeds …. But still, being out there in the mornings and listening to the birds singing is quite therapeutic.  It is mentally restful and spiritually renewing.  No matter what is happening in my life, time in the garden is well spent!  

Articles on the benefits of gardening:

Psychology Today, May 15 2015 Petal Power
Garden Tech, Therapeutic Benefits of Gardening
Mother Earth Living, May/June 2016, Figh Depression and Anxiety with a Therapy Garden

Monday, March 9, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 52 Mockingbirds

There are about a half dozen mockingbirds in the trees in the front yard.  I can always recognize Mockingbirds by the flash of white feathers on their wings. 

A group of Mockingbirds has many collective nouns, including an echo, exactness, plagiary, and a ridicule.  They are taking turns eating berries on the Simpson Stopper, waiting in the Flatwood Plum trees or the Wildflower garden for their turn.  Apparently only one bird in the Simpson Stopper tree at a time.  They are very territorial and will “defend” a food source from other birds.  On this day, they are vying or taking turns (depending on your point of view) eating ripe berries in the Simpson Stopper tree.  I’m very happy to provide brunch for them. 

The Northern Mockingbird was named the state bird of Florida in 1927.  I never really know if I’m hearing a Mockingbird since they are known for being able to mimic the songs of other birds, as well as insect and amphibian sounds, and sometimes even mechanical sounds.  Their own songs are quite beautiful, repeating a wide variety of notes. 

They are intelligent birds, able to recognize individual humans, particularly intruders or threats.  They will return to breeding spots or feeding areas where they’ve been successful in the past.  They are very territorial and do not like other birds or small animals invading their territory or creating disturbances in their territory.  

YouTube video of Mockingbird Singing

                                                 Northern Mockingbird
Magenta Berries on my BeautyBerry

                                                        Berries on my Simpson Stopper

Monday, March 2, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 51 Get Ready for Lovebugs!

Get ready for Lovebugs Part 1 – April-May, followed by Part 2 in August-September.  Lovebugs are not native to Florida.  Researchers suspect they emigrated from Central America in the 1920s, and have since been helped by prevailing winds, vehicle traffic, sod transport and increased habitat along highways.  

Adult lovebugs die after their late summer breeding season, but their young live on. New small larvae will emerge as adults after the spring equinox on March 20, 2020.  Lovebugs are pollinators that do not bite or sting animals or humans.  Flung against moving cars, or squashed on fabrics, their bodies can corrode the finish on vehicles and stain fabrics.  It's recommended to clean them off regularly with dish soap on a soft scrubber, rinsed with water.  Vacuum bodes from interior spaces to avoid stains.  

Spraying with insecticides is not recommended, because lovebugs are widespread and insecticides would kill beneficial insects and work its way up the food chain. 

Florida Today - May 2019
Citrus County Chronicle - Sept 2019

                                                          Photo from Wikipedia

Monday, February 24, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 50 Blanket Flowers

As I write this (Feb 2020) a cold snap is expected later this week, including lows in the mid-30s.  I prefer the hot weather, but really, as long as there is some Florida sunshine, I can be happy.  But this post is about May 2019.

I think I will take a break from weeding the yard – wait till tomorrow when I take photos, and the irrigation has watered.  There is a heat wave – already several days over 90, now the mercury is moving up and Tuesday it might be over 100.  It’s never been over 100 in the 3 years I’ve been in Central Florida.  I go to pick up the paper from the driveway.  Of course, I have to check on the little milkweeds that were planted yesterday & water them.  I have to check on the birdbath.  While I walk around my garden path, I see the Blanket Flowers (Gaillardia pulchella) need some dead-heading.  So for 30 minutes I dead-head Blanket Flowers.  [Blanket Flowers - FL Wildflower website]   
Blanket Flowers are native to Florida, but grow all the way up to Canada.  In Florida, their peak blooming season is mid-spring to late summer, but I have flowers all year round.  The spread quite easily, and in fact, I’ve decided just this year (2020) to expand the Blanket flower bed and “just go with it”.  They are very hardy, happy plants, drought-tolerant.

The air is very still, not a whisper of a breeze.  It will definitely be a hot one today!  

                                 So many Blanket Flowers to deadhead!

Monday, February 17, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 49 Garden Tour

May 19, 2019 is The Villages FNPS Garden Tour, and my yard is included!  People started arriving right at 7:30AM.  There was a pretty steady of visitors for about an hour.  Then, it was off and on, so that I could go into the house and have some water before another couple of people would arrive.  I learned that the Corky Stemmed Passionvine  [Corky Stem Passionvine Info] is Larval host for the Gulf Fritillary (Agraulis vanillae), the Julia Heliconian (Dryas iulia) and the Zebra Heliconian (Heliconius charitonius) butterflies.  But some of the butterflies prefer shade and some sun.  So if I got a second Corky Stemmed Passionvine, I should put one in the sunniest spot and one in the shadiest spot. Then the butterflies won’t compete for the same plant.  Also one lays its eggs in the teeny tiny corkscrew part of the plant and one lays its eggs on the leaf.  Everyone who came by was interested in Florida Native Plants – some already had a native yard, some were considering converting all or part of their yards to native plants and were gathering ideas!  It was a wonderful day of exchanging ideas and learning for me – plus there was a little”‘showing off” on my part.  

Corky Stemmed Passion Vine 

Monday, February 10, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 48 Weeding

May 2019 – spend the entire morning form 7:30AM-11:30AM, with one break, weeding, deadheading the blanket flower, trimming the tropical sage.  I find many “colonies” of spotted spurge [Spotted Spurge] and wood sorrel [Wood Sorrel].  The wood sorrel looks like little tiny clover leaves, but tiny and just spreads outward!  There’s also all the grasses – crab grass, signal grass, cheat grass.  No matter what the weather, the weeds seem to flourish!  Now I’ve got chickweed! 

In addition, I have to worry about the flowers that have re-seeded themselves outside the beds – the beebalm, the blanket flower, the tropical sage!  Oh a gardener’s work is never done!

After I went inside and showered, at my office window, who is walking through my wildflower garden, but the little cattle egret!  Love to watch him walk - the rewards of having providing native plants for native wildlife!  

Monday, February 3, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 47 Aphids and Ladybugs

The milkweed in the wild flower garden is getting covered with aphids.  But, ladybugs are there feasting!  A natural way to get rid of aphids is to just use a wet paper towel and gently pull them off.  One might also use the hose if you have a gentle spray option.  Of course, perhaps nature will take its course, and he aphids will provide some nourishment for the ladybugs!  

I went to these to articles for information: 
Ladybugs and Aphids by E. Vinje
New York Times June 1 2018

                          In my yard, May 2019, yellow aphids on the Milkweed 
                                      and the Ladybug preparing for dinner!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 46 Sandhill Cranes

One day at the end of April 2019, I was in garden, at the edge of the driveway, dead-heading the Blanketflower.  I got up to stretch, and when I turned around, I am stunned to see 3 Sandhill cranes walking from the backyard, across the driveway.  I stand stock-still and watch them “slowly turn and inch by inch, step by step….” cross the street and walk down to a neighbor’s yard. 

The Florida Sandhill Crane is listed as State Designated – Threatened due to degradation or loss of habitat due to development.   [].  

They are as tall as I am, well, adults are 2-1/2-4 feet tall and their wingspan can reach 6 feet-6 inches!  Adults might only weigh 9-10 pounds, but they are quite formidable and regal looking.  They have a red patch on their heads, white cheeks and long dark pointed bills.  They frequently give a loud trumpeting call – I notice when the dog walkers pass by.  [Listen to Sandhill Cranes]  

Cranes are monogamous (breeding with one mate).  Females lay two eggs and both male and female will incubate it (one brood a year).  Once the egg hatches, the offspring will be ready to travel with its parents in 24 hours.  About 10 months old, the juveniles will be ready to leave their parents.   Sandhill cranes will eat a variety of food depending on availability, including berries, small mammals, insects, snails, reptiles and amphibians.  You often see them with their bills to the ground, rooting around for seeds and other foods.  

Predators include foxes, raccoons, coyotes, wolves and bobcats. Ravens, hawks owls and crows will feed on young cranes and eggs – not to mention American crocodiles and alligators.  

                                                    Photo from Wikipedia

Monday, January 20, 2020

In Jo's Yard - 45 Preparing for Garden Tour

I have met one goal – my yard will be included in the May 2019 Villages FNPS Garden Tour!  So I arrange for Green Isle Gardens [Green Isle Gardens] to do some yard maintenance at the end of April.  The frog fruit in the back is gorgeous and lush and probably 6” tall – it has never been cut.  The frog fruit in the front, which was cut in November, 2018, seems to be struggling to turn green.  You can see green “underneath”, but its overall appearance is brown.  

I work 50+ hours this week and was working while GIG was here.  I added 2 MilkWeed plants, 3 Stokes Aster, 3 Rosinflower and 4 Wild Petunia.  When the Green Isle Gardens crew took lunch break, the Monarch butterflies headed straight to the MilkWeed!   My yard is shaping up beautifully.  

                                  Wildflower Garden, Front Yard April 2019

In Jo's Yard - 55 Online Events

This past Friday, March 27, 2020, our Villages Chapter of The Florida Native Plant Society held its first online event   [ The Villages C...