Monday, August 31, 2015

Tremendous Exotic Tropical Philodendrons

Exotic tropical philodendrons that are grown as houseplants up north are utilized as ground covers in South Florida. They provide a super tropical look to a garden and are very easy to grow.  Here is the common pothos philodendron, growing up a tree.  Philodendrons are one of a select group of plants that have juvenile leaves and adult leaves.  The juvenile leaves are the more common ones you see growing up north indoors.  The adult leaves form in Florida on established philodendrons.  The leaves get much larger and often develops swiss cheese like holes in the leaves.  Botanists are perplexed as to why the leaves change this way, some hypothesize that in the jungles it allows water to flow through the immense leaves.


This is a swiss cheese philodendron growing up a palm tree.

 However the vining philodendrons can become challenging to manage if left unchecked.  In the photo below, a vine is growing up a window screen.  It is


blocking light causing the room to be unusually dark.  If left unchecked, it will climb up over the window up the wall to the roof.  In the photo below, you will see some common philodendrons climbing up a wall of my house.




In the lower left corner, these clumping philodendrons from Brazil, are spreaders so make a wonderful ground cover.
Roberto Burle Marx discovered this philodendron in a rainforest in Brazil and named it after himself.  It flourishes in a vase filed with water indoors.

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Mystery of the Wilson avocado

Every Tuesday there is a farmers market at Whole Foods in Fort Lauderdale and there are always amazing local vendors selling fresh locally grown vegetables, homemade vegan foods and desserts, soups, spices, carribean teas, homemade soaps, chocolate, breads and so much more.

My favorite vegetable vendor is Enrique from EasyTropical who has a farm in Homestead.  He grows a lot of fruit and vegetables and also supplements with other vegetables grown in other climates.  This week I saw a gigantic avocado.  He said he grows it on his farm, and it was a Wilson.  I asked him to tell me the history of the fruit but he only knew its name.


When I returned from the market I googled Wilson Avocado and was thrilled with the back story.  I had never even heard of Wilson Popenoe before doing research. I knew Dr. Fairchild was responsible for introducing a tremendous amount of tropical palms, plants and fruit trees to South Florida, and Mr. Wilson Popenoe at the same time was instrumental in introducing avocados.



The Wilson variety was recently the first fruit in all of Florida to be inducted into the Ark of Taste.  Slow Food Miami, an organization promoting locally produced food, along with Dr. Helen Violo of the University of Florida and Mike Winterstein of the USDA are on a mission to resurrect the Wilson Avocado from obscurity.  Apparently they believe there are only a few trees left in all of Florida.  They are not aware of Enrique's prolific grove of trees.  Now it is my mission to introduce the above people to help them save the Wilson Avocado.

What is so special about this fruit?  It is all about the flavor which is unique and unlike other avocados.   It was a super flavor and amazing buttery texture.  As of this writing I have yet to taste mine.  It is sitting on a kitchen counter ripening. Perhaps tomorrow it will be ready to taste.  I can't wait!


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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Miami Beach Botanical Garden is the crown jewel of South Florida

Miami Beach Botanical Garden is a spectacular garden located within the heart of South Beach a block away from Lincoln Road and Washington Avenue.  When you want to get away from the broiling heat of the beach or have done enough shopping, the garden offers  shaded tranquility for spending time with Mother Nature.  For both tourists and locals it offers a fascinating experience to explore exotic tropical plants from all around the world.


The garden is under three acres but seems much larger.  Within this tiny space you can explore a Japanese garden, fountains, meandering paths, sculptures, a social hall, gorgeous tropical trees shrubs and ground covers. There is always something in bloom at the garden as well.   I have visited the garden often over the years and always felt rejuvenated and energized afterward.


 In 1962 the park was created on vacant land in back of the Miami Beach Convention Center. In 1996 a group of garden visionaries created a nonprofit conservatory and the garden has blossomed into an cultural and educational center for both locals and tourists. A magical transformation occurred in 2011 when well known landscape architect Raymond Jungles elevated the garden to new heights.  The new design added more plants, fountains, sculptures, paths and vistas.

The foundation created a wonderful place for educational and cultural programing all year round.  Check the Miami Beach Botanical Garden website for upcoming events.
Due to the proximity to the convention center and hotels, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden offers a wonderful venue for corporate events, weddings, receptions and special occasions.  There is an ample sized room overlooking the garden for indoor affairs, as well as a multitude of areas within the outdoor garden for events.

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Create Magical Nature Projects Improve your Blog with GraphicStock

 Don't Desert the highway for a short cut.
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The joys of spring.


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Nothing tastes as good as homegrown vegetables. Now is the time to plant your garden!

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A rose is a rose is a rose. ~ Gertrude Stein


 The above images are all from GraphicStock. They are just marvelous. Think of all the possibilities you can utilize these for your blog, business or personal use. Great news, there is a giveaway one year complimentary access to GraphiStock values at $588. All you have to do is:
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Friday, June 5, 2015

Mango Time in South Florida

Its time to celebrate when it is mango time in South Florida.  We eat them morning, noon and night.  We eat them over the sink, sliced up in oatmeal, yogurt and cottage cheese.   We chop them up for salads, salsas and baked with fish or chicken.  We bake mango bread, mango pies, mango cake and mango upside down cake.




This year there is a bumper crop of mangoes and homeowners are challenged as to what to do with such an over abundance.  Many people bring bags of mangoes to work every day.  Some people set up fruit stands in front of their house and sell them.  Other people bring them to food banks, churches and give them to neighbors who do not have trees.

Squirrels, tree rats, birds, insects love mangoes as well.  So do landscapers working nearby, mailmen, school children.  My seniors at work told me stories of how they would go to work during the day and return home at night to find their trees stripped of  fruit.  Below is a short video on how to pick fruit early from the tree.  Normally when they are ripe they fall down to the ground.



Many of us like to slice them up and freeze them for enjoyment after mango season.  The consistency is never the same as a fresh mango, but they are still great in smoothies.  Here is a short video on how to cut mangoes like a chef.


Fairchild Tropical Garden in Miami always has a spectacular mango festival in July, the height of mango season.  Mango season is from May to October.  Here are a few reviews of past festivals.  The festival is a three day event with non stop activities.  There are tastings, fruit sales, chef demonstrations,  displays, outside vendors, tree sales and so much more.  The Sunday mango brunch always sells out early to purchase your tickets in advance.  Mango Festival Information

Fairchild Tropical Garden Mango Festival a great success
Fairchild Tropical Garden Mango Brunch

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Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Taste of Peru

In the USA foodies delight eating out in Peruvian restaurants.  It is customary to start a meal with a pisco sour, a delicious alcoholic beverage.  Ceviche can be served a multitude of ways and the flavorful combinations always are intriguing. Flavorful soups abound.  Dishes of chicken, fish and steak prepared to perfection with garlic, cilantro, pepper and more are simply delightful.
Lets take a tour of Peru and check out their amazing agriculture.  The first stop is an agricultural research area created by the Incas about five hundred years ago. Each terraced area represents a different altitude.  Peru goes from sea level in Lima, the capital all the way up 14 thousand feet at Lake Titicaca.  Their research enabled farmers to learn what crops thrive at each elevation.  
They grow over four thousand kinds of potatoes and over two thousand kinds of corn!  Many colorful variations exist.  
After corn is harvested it is not preserved by canning or freezing like here.  It is more often dried and bagged.  
Bags of potatoes at a local market show the tremendous diversity of colors, shapes and sizes available. 
Amazing gigantic breads are a specialty of certain towns. 
Chef and restaurateur Gaston Acurio of Peru has over forty restaurants worldwide.  I will have to try one out, since there are two in Miami. 

 Peru is an amazing country rich in history, culture, beautiful countryside and wonderful people.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Tasty Tomatoes and recipes

Out of all the vegetables we can grow, for most of us tomatoes rank high of the top five favorites.  It is peak tomato picking now in South Florida.  With temperatures reaching the mid to high 80's and the heat index in the 90's the tomato plants are showing signs of fatigue.  Mid day wilting requires watering both morning and evening to my potted plants.  As the plants mature, their leaves are turning yellow and brown at an alarming rate.  I pick bowls of both cherry and plum tomatoes every other day.  Their red ripe color contrasts with the leaves.  There are fewer and fewer green ones left on the plants.


I grow my tomatoes in large containers in full sun.  I never spay my veggies with any pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, nematicides or any other harmful chemicals.  I do use commercial fertilizers, a gentle one you add to water.  I buy composted manure and add it to my own compost and I mulch the pots.  I buy eucalyptus mulch which keeps pests at bay.  I always grow heirloom everglades tomatoes from seed.  I also supplement with various varieties I purchase at garden centers.  Here are some quick videos on how to grow tomatoes.



Quick and easy tomato recipes

Veggie omelette 
I love to saute onions, garlic and cherry tomatoes cut in half in a pan, and then sprinkle a dash of salt and pepper, some oregano.  Add beaten eggs and either scramble or make an omelette.  You will have a feast of a meal.



Summer pasta sauce
Make a summer sauce for pasta by cutting up plum and cherry tomatoes and add to a bowl.  Add fresh garlic, a few teaspoons of olive oil, a dash of salt, pepper and a hand full of chopping fresh basil leaves.  Let marinate on the counter a few hours.  Later boil pasta of your choice and serve with your sauce.  Delicious.



Israeli Middle Eastern Salad
Chop up cherry tomatoes into fine cubes.  Chop up green peppers in fine cubes. Chop up cucumber in fine cubes.  Add all together and add a dash of salt and pepper.  Marinate  with vinegar.  Serve cold.  Delicious dish traditionally eaten for breakfast in Israel.  You may serve as a condiment for a sandwich or as a side dish instead of cole slaw.


Enjoy your veggies right out of the garden as well.  Nothing tastes as fresh or delicious.

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