Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Take a Picture

I strolled outside this afternoon to water a few plants, and found some Polydamas Swallowtail caterpillars on the pipevine, apparently just waiting for a photo shoot. I was only too happy to oblige.

I call this one "Walkin' on Air"...

"Along Came a Spider"

And my personal favorite, "Polydamas in Paradise"

Incidentally, this is by far the earliest we've had Polydamas ST larva in My Florida Backyard. Last year, we were almost into summer before they appeared. 2012 has been an unusual year, to say the least.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Strange Things

Happy Spring! Although it's been feeling like spring since about mid-January here in My Florida Backyard, we're definitely enjoying the longer days and the recent time change allowing us more time outside in the evenings. A few extra minutes to take an evening stroll keeps us from missing the little things that are happening, like the strange and fascinating rue flowers that are blooming now.

As we've noted before, rue as an herb doesn't play much of a role in most cooking these days due to its sharp, fairly unpleasant scent and flavor (Ruta graveolens literally means "Bitter herb with a strong, unpleasant smell"), but we love having it in the butterfly garden, where both Black Swallowtails and Giant Swallowtails use it as a host plant. Interestingly, this herb is apparently quite admired in its native Southeastern Europe, where it's the national flower of Lithuania and is frequently carried in bridal bouquets. To each their own, I guess.

Strange flowers and a stranger smell... rue certainly doesn't work in everyone's garden. But My Florida Backyard is a wildlife garden, and rue is a wildlife plant, so we like it. What's the strangest thing growing in your garden, and why do you grow it?

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Ides of March

The 15th of the month is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! If you haven't already seen my post over at, here's what's blooming in My Florida Backyard right now. Highlights include our African Iris, snapdragons, and a new red-centered yellow hibiscus we planted last fall. What's in your garden today?

Monday, March 12, 2012


My Facebook feed informs me that today, March 12, is "Plant a Flower Day". There's no indication who might have invented or declared such a day, or why they would have picked a day in early March when at least half the country couldn't possibly plant anything in their cold cold soil, but we celebrated it anyway. We happened to have a plant sitting around waiting to be planted, so that worked out nicely, and our new Salvia greggii 'Ultraviolet' now has a home.

Not very exciting, right? Ah, but the picture from the Park Seed catalog will change your mind for sure. Take a look...

How amazing is that? The plant that arrived from Park Seed was well-packed and very healthy, so within a few weeks we expect to see our first blooms (and we'll share them with you, of course). When you're obsessed with salvia (and we confess that we are) finding a new one to add to the garden makes 'Plant a Flower Day' worth celebrating indeed!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Rose Tint My World

It's no secret that we love salvia in the My Florida Backyard butterfly garden, and native Salvia coccinea is our favorite. It reseeds freely, grows in pretty much all conditions, and draws butterflies like a magnet. In recent years, new cultivars of this species have become available, as growers work to provide us with a wider range of colors than the original (and still beloved) red. 'Snow Nymph' offers white flowers, while cultivars like 'Coral Nymph' and 'Summer Jewel Pink' come in different shades of pink.

All this mixing and hybridizing means that some interesting in-between shades sometimes pop up, like this pretty deep rose color we found a few weeks ago at Wilcox Nursery in Largo.

This shade is different than the other S. coccinea varieties that we've found, and it's hard to know if it will set seed or continue to flower in this deep pink hue. But another salvia never goes unappreciated in the butterfly garden, no matter what the color, and we're always glad to have more in My Florida Backyard!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Bet Your Bottom Dollar

And suddenly, it's March. How the heck did that happen? It eases in so quietly down here in Florida, especially this year when everything is blooming weeks early and the temperatures have been far above average all winter. At any rate, all of a sudden March is here, and nothing really has an excuse for laying low anymore. Our front yard is full of the in-your-face color of hippeastrum, trees are showing off spring green leaves (and plenty of pollen), and the butterflies are out in force, with Giant Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Tiger Swallowtails all flashing their wings against the blue sky.

Amidst all of this is when I sometimes really like to just look down for a minute and admire the smallest things, like the flowers of the Dollarweed (Dichondra micrantha) growing in the backyard. Some call Dollarweed a noxious weed and try to eliminate it; others choose to use it as groundcover. We're not fond of turf grass in My Florida Backyard, of course, so we can just enjoy the adorable little flowers of dollarweed without worry.

In spring, we really have to agree with Ferris Bueller of movie fame, who famously stated, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." That's what we try to do in My Florida Backyard!