The Mandarin Garden Club is again cranking up their social calendar after taking the summer off. Who wants to garden in the heat and humidity of Florida? I consider myself saintly to even do maintenance during the summer.
Tuesday, September 15, the Dogwood Circle met and I went because they had Terry DeValle, the Duval County Extension Agent, speaking on “Color in the Landscape (Attracting Birds, Bees, & Hummers)”. She offered an informative slide show on flowers and small shrubs that thrive in Northeast Florida.
The Duval County Extension always assumes you buy starter plants at the nursery which has forced me into backyard science experiments in growing flowers from seed. It has been hit or miss, for sure. I wish they offered a list of annual and perennial flowers that grow here in Northeast Florida but, to my knowledge, they do not.
As a reminder, the Mandarin Garden Club is a public garden open to anyone, unless it is closed for a private event. They like to keep a count of visitors so don’t forget to sign in at the glass fronted wooden box.
A rain storm was brewing and the wind made it hard to take photographs but I got a few:
Originating in China, Rainbow Fern or Rainbow Moss, Selaginellaceae uncinata, is also known as Peacock Fern, Peacock Moss, Peacock Spikemoss, or Blue Spikemoss. Apparently, the 700 species of the genus Selaginella can have 3 or more different names for each species.
Some Selaginellas are native to Florida with great drought tolerance and ability to withstand the sun but the Selaginellas most often cultivated are those from Africa and China. Selaginellaceae uncinata is non-native and has been found growing wild in 4 different counties where wetland areas exist. See Atlas of Florida Plants. Dave’s Garden has an article and photos of other varieties under Other Species of Selaginella. Of course, the Golden Club Moss, which has a similar growth habit, caught my eye but I haven’t seen one in local stores.
It seems they aren’t really mosses or ferns but Fern-Allies and share a similar reproductive pattern of no flowers, fruits or seeds, just inconspicuous “seed cones” filled with both microspores (sperm) and megaspores (egg). I have never noticed these on my plants so they must be truly inconspicuous.
It is a perennial evergreen that forms a dense mat of tiny, almost papery iridescent blue-green leaves with touches of red and orange. Two things are imperative in growing a Rainbow Fern:
(1) Keep it in the shade. The deeper the shade, the more the fronds will turn blue-green.
(2) Keep it moist. If you allow it to dry out, immerse the plant in water and it may bounce back. A light fertilizer application once a week from spring to fall is sometimes recommended but I never got around to it.
Three foot streamers sprawl and hang nicely over containers and hanging pots, and it looks good indoors including terrariums. It is sometimes used as a ground cover that can withstand light foot traffic but caution is advised as it can be aggressive. My friend at Deb’s Garden planted hers in the ground, in her woodland garden, in 2015. Since then, it has spread to approximately 3 feet by 2 feet and only in the area where she planted it. The invasive possibility has kept me from growing it in anything but a ceramic pot because I’ve had aggressive plants that were fine for years and suddenly spread over a wide area.
Other uses for it: alpine and rock gardens, waterside gardens.
I discovered my first Rainbow Fern at a local arts festival. First identified as a Rainbow Fern, rather than any of the other common names attached to it, means it will always be a Rainbow Fern to me.
The acquisition of my second Rainbow Fern was like a scene out of a sappy romance movie. I was in Wal-Mart wheeling a buggy around the bedding plant section when I saw it hanging across the room. My eyes bugged out because Wal-Mart was the last place I ever expected to find a Rainbow Fern. I could see there was only one which prompted me to punch the gas on the buggy. I careened around corners like a cartoon character until that Rainbow Fern was safely in my buggy.
I propagate by cuttings planted in moist soil and kept moist.
I am currently without a Rainbow Fern. You absolutely, positively can not let them dry out. Even moisture is imperative.
Monday, October 20, about 25 of us from the Mandarin Garden Club descended on the home of Jacksonville’s Jim Love of Ace Hardware Nursery. His back yard is full of cacti and succulents and a few other plants that strike his fancy. Most of his backyard was in shade but he found that he had no trouble growing his plants in low light. Mr. Love admitted right away that he doesn’t landscape his succulent garden in the conventional manner but everything was laid out in interesting arrangements and a lot of it was permanently set up for winter protection – plastic that would roll down when released.
The first stunner to catch your eye as you walked into the backyard was rhapsalis. It looked like a weeping pencil cactus with long streamers and an occasional tear.
At the end of our visit, he put three trays of succulents on a table and gave each of us a ticket for a drawing. He used his cap to hold all the tickets and make the drawings. It turns out that we ALL had winning tickets — everyone went home with a succulent. Cacti and succulents are not available in any great numbers at local plant nurseries so I was in awe of Mr. Love’s collection. I keep trying to grow the simple ones and I keep killing them off.
If you know someone undergoing radiation treatment for cancer, Mr. Love, along with the Men’s Garden Club of Jacksonville, has grown 1400 aloe vera plants for patients with radiation burns. The Jacksonville Zoo has graciously donated a 100 by 100 foot plot for growing the aloe vera. The Men’s Garden Club is asking the community to donate aloe vera plants or “pups” to the project. They do not have to be in pots; bare root is fine. As I understand it, they want the soft, light green aloe vera like this:
Duval County has garden members in several different areas of town who can pick up the plants. If you are in radiation therapy and need a plant, clear it with your doctor and call (904) 635-7318 for information.
I have lived in Florida most of my life and was certain it was paradise on earth. Now, cough—choke—sputter, I’m not so sure.
Those signs proclaiming “Welcome to Florida, the Sunshine State” really don’t tell the whole story. “Sunshine State” sounds like Paradise, of course, but I’m here to tell you that it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. All that sunshine creates heat and humidity that make Florida summers the frying pan of the South. The August heat nearly wore out my skin. I was taking two showers a day even when I wasn’t working in the yard. I can’t stand sticky skin. Even my cat, Whiskey, howled at the door for admission to Blessed Air Conditioning.
“Sunshine State” also means you won’t be able to grow even half of what you see in gardening magazines. Cross the state line and you enter Zone 9. Just forget about blue spruce, astilbe, hosta, peonies, and that’s just the short list. Down in these parts, there is an encyclopedia of plants who pull up their own roots and commit suicide because there is no air-conditioning in the great outdoors. Bugs, on the other hand, love the tropical heat. We have a plethora of bugs and critters sufficient to creep out the most committed Bugologist. Thus, it would technically be more honest for the State of Florida to revise that welcome sign to “the Bug and Sunshine State.”
I just about gave up gardening the past two months. The August heat nearly finished me off then all that sunshine turned liquid in September. We had ten inches of rain. My fall veggie seeds were probably washed away to the next county. Glub, glub … water everywhere … wall to wall mushrooms…
I hope to feel better about the Sunshine State in November.
It’s a treat to be an important visitor! Saturday, I was one of three Very Important Visitors who were invited to the Mandarin Garden Club plant and garden goodies swap which is a private event for club members. Also invited were Linda Cunningham of Cunningham Herbs and Tatyano Vaynberg, formerly of Trad’s Garden Center.
I had so much fun with all the gals and, as always, one of them got away with something I really wanted – a smiling fish face with human teeth. In rounds 1 and 2, I went for two plants I really wanted – a fern and a fancy rex begonia. By round 3, the fish was gone. The gal who got my fish promised to give him a good home by hanging him in a prominent place in her yard. I also had a nice chat with the gal who got my copper sprinkler last year. She assured me it was still going strong.
I have new photos to share of one area of the Mandarin Club Gardens. This area had a lot of new plants and as Becky B. pointed out, the new border plants hide the plants in the middle so that the walkway draws your eye into the interior.
In this first photo, notice how the bright lime green/yellow shrub catches your eye. The gals tell me this is Gold Mound Duranta commonly grown as a border or low hedge shrub for Zones 9 – 12. It attracts butterflies and birds and is not freeze hardy. I am hopeful this is NOT duranta erecta which has a stunning purple bloom with white edges but the plant itself is too messy for my tastes. Apparently, both go by the common name Golden Dewdrop so it’s confusing. My research revealed that the Duranta in the photo has a non-descript pale lavender flower in comparison to the flower of duranta erecta.
This second photo shows plantings on the right side of the same walkway.
The third photo is a close-up of a flower bed I have previously shown you from my very first visit to Mandarin Garden Club, when I attended the Fall Gardening Workshop. In the center was a loropetalum shrub pruned to look like a tree. It was bordered by Variegated Flax Lily. I don’t remember what was planted inside the border but it now has caladiums and a variegated ivy ground cover. I was trying to photograph the ground cover but had the camera set on Auto Focus so I got the caladiums instead of the ivy. I never said I was perfect!
I took enough trade plants to participate in seven rounds. In addition to a few magazines, here’s my loot:
While I was chatting with Becky B., who happens to be a Master Gardener, I learned that an anonymous donor gifted me with a membership to the Club. Is that Too Kewel or what? Thank you to the kind soul who became my most wonderful benefactor! They promise I won’t be on weed duty. With two acres and only Poppie and I to weed it, I would be hard-pressed to take on more weeding.
As a reminder to residents of Jacksonville, Florida, the Mandarin Garden Club grounds at 2892 Loretto Road are open to the public for viewing unless the clubhouse has been rented out for a private event.