THE HEAT IS ON!

It has been a busy couple of weeks here in Pensacola, Florida with all the cleaning up after our major rain event where we received 26 inches of rain in one day! All of my garden areas survived and are thriving now! The temperatures are starting to climb, and soon we will be enveloped in the humidity of summer.

May shed garden
May shed garden

The grandkids’ spaghetti squash are climbing up the weather vane in the center of the garden now. Every morning I am greeted with bright yellow squash blossoms. The cucumbers are growing quickly, and I am using a red tomato cage for them to climb up. This is an experiment to see if it will help keep the fruit from sitting on the ground too long. The pepper forest at the front of the garden is already starting to produce tiny green peppers. Even my centipede grass is finally recovering from the winter.
I added a trellis with Confederate Jasmine to break up the large expanse of brown shed in the far back. The blossoms smell heavenly. Confederate jasmine or star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) is one of the most fragrant jasmines. It has tightly clustered flowers on twining vines that bloom in the spring and summer. I chose this jasmine because you can control it growth with tip pinching. As this shrub grows it will spread and cover the shed with the support of trellises. Clemson Cooperative Extension at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/groundcovers/hgic1106.html gives excellent information about all the different types of jasmine and is worth checking out.
Behind the bird bath are some Gloriosa Lilies that have come up under the fence from my neighbor’s yard. These lilies grow vertically upwards and are quite showy in appearance. They are a lightweight vine with a brilliant red flower that is unusual to what I have seen before.

Gloriosa Lily
Gloriosa Lily

I like the color and contrast against my fence. The bright blooms with attract hummingbirds who are frequent visitors to our backyard oasis. Check out this site for easy growing bulbs at http://www.easytogrowbulbs.com/g-41-gloriosa-lily-planting-guide.aspx to see if this lily will work in your garden.

Escambia County Florida Extension Office Plant Sale May 2014
Escambia County Florida Extension Office Plant Sale May 2014

The Escambia County Extension Office in Pensacola, Florida (see website at http://escambia.ifas.ufl.edu/hort/demo-garden.shtml ) has an incredible garden sale each year the beginning of May. I encourage everyone to explore what their extension offices can teach them. Our office has gardens showing how the different plants grow in our area of Northwest Florida and you can tour them at the above website by clicking on the “Tour the Gardens” link. It is worth the visit.

I purchased four different plants this year and have already incorporated them into my garden areas.  The first was a Hidden Lily Ginger (Curcuma Petiolata). It is a medium growing ornamental. It has large upright leaves with rose purple blooms in mid-summer that “hide” in the leaves. It likes part to full shade. I was able to plant it in my patio garden which gets only a few hours of morning sun. I already have a leaf sprouted!

Hidden Lily Ginger
Hidden Lily Ginger

Hidden Lilly Ginger grows from rhizomes and I found an excellent PDF to share about this exotic plant at http://www.growingguides.com/PlantGuides/HiddenGinger.pdf.
I also selected a Brazilian Plume in pink that will help to break up the greens of the tree line that rim our property. The Brazilian Plume is a medium growing evergreen broadleaf shrub that can grow up to 4 feet tall. I was attracted to the tubular pink blooms that will repeat through the summer. Anything to attract hummingbirds and bees is a boon to a gardener. This shrub likes part shade and sun so the tree line was the perfect solution as it gets afternoon sun and morning shade. The Houston Chronicle at http://www.chron.com/life/gardening/article/Brazilian-plume-flower-magnificent-in-the-shade-4525721.php touts the glory of this beautiful shrub and will show pictures of the fully grown shrub.

Brazilian Plume, Pink
Brazilian Plume, Pink

I was fascinated by the Parlor Maple “Thompsonii” (Abutilon Pictum ‘Thompsonii’) which is a tender evergreen shrub. It will grow as tall as 8 feet in sun to part shade. It will have light orange blooms striped with orange all year long. I had the perfect place for it too, right in the middle of my kale and chives!

Parlor Maple "Thompsonii"
Parlor Maple “Thompsonii”

About.com gardening at http://gardening.about.com/od/floweringshrubs/p/Abutilon.htm says the Parlor Maple will bloom almost nonstop in the right conditions. I am looking forward to the tropical looking blooms.
My last purchase was of a Sweet Bay Tree or Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis). The leaves of the tree are the actual leaves that you use in cooking. My Extension office told me that the trees are rare and hard to find. I was excited by the possibility of having something so different. I actually bought a young tree and planted it in a pot. They are slow growers so you can cultivate them nicely in a pot for many years. Jacqueline A. Soule, PhD from organicgardening.com at http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/flower-power-bay-laurel agrees that this tree can be safely grown in a container.

Sweet Bay Tree
Sweet Bay Tree

Soon, I will have to find some other things to occupy my time as my gardens will need to do what they do best… GROW!

4/29 -30/14 NORTHWEST FLORIDA MAJOR RAIN EVENT: The Hundred Year Flood

Hi everyone. I have had a rough start to my blog this week because of the major rain event that we experienced in Pensacola, Florida and the surrounding areas in Alabama and Florida. We had a whopping 20-26 inches of rain in one day! The other storms that I have written about in my blog were nothing compared to this storm. It has been called the hundred year flood. The rain, thunder, and lightening, started about 4:00 p.m. on April 29th, 2014 and did not quit until 6:00 a.m. April 30th, 2014. 4.29.14 rain totals This is a map (courtesy of the WEAR TV Facebook page at, https://www.facebook.com/photo.phpfbid=618347331584041&set=a.449407505144692.1073741825.242242135861231&type=1&theater ) of the Mobile, Alabama/Pensacola, Florida area during the storm.

That white area is where the concentration of the worst rain storm totals resulted. You can only imagine what my gardens looked like. When I started this blog, it was to share my love of gardening in a new location, Pensacola, Florida. Previously I had lived in Florida, and was familiar with the intensity of storms and the rainfall. Little did I know that we would receive a rain event that dumped 26 inches of rain upon we unsuspecting gardeners.

 4.29.14 storm garden

My main garden fared well enough. The gutters held, and my collection bin was full to the brim! The heavy rains forced all the sand to come to the top of the soil. What I found from last year’s torrential rainfall was that you must get out there and trowel under the sand and mix it with the soil amendments that you added to your garden. If you don’t do this, the sand acts like concrete and the plants cannot breathe. The end result is that they become weak and die.

4.29.14 rain fall

Just to show you the amount of rain and how hard it was coming down, here is a picture of my backyard about 6:00 p.m. on April 29th, 2014 (above). This is only 2 hours into the storm and we were starting to flood. The main issue was that we had just had about 10 inches of rain in the month of April already, so the addition rainfall was horrendous. Final rain totals for the month of April in Pensacola, Florida is 36 inches! The rains were so heavy that at one point at 9 p.m. our local news station announced that we had gotten 5 inches of rain in a 45 minute period!

 5.29.14 storm damage road

The photos above, and to follow, show only a small portion of the damage that we received in Pensacola, Florida and the  surrounding areas.

4.30.14 storm damage

Storm damage, 9 Mile Road, May 1st, 2014

 4.30.14 9 Mile Rd storm damage

Roadway washed away – 9 Mile Road at Beulah Road, Pensacola, Florida May 30th, 2014.

This rain event was worse than what Hurricane Ivan did to the area a few years back. This kind of rainfall is unprecedented without a hurricane. Interestingly, these same storms originated in the Midwest and swept through Arkansas producing tornadoes. By the time the storms reached us in Pensacola, Florida we were inundated with torrential rainfall. The storms then left our area and tore through the East Coast leaving a path of destruction there also. For more photos and information about this major rain event go to WEAR ABC 3 News, Pensacola’s Facebook page to see the damage totals, or visit WEAR ABC 3 News at http://www.weartv.com/.