Floridata Article

Gardener's Journal September 2001

muscadine grapes
These are my neighbor JM's gorgeous muscadine grapes (Vitis rotundifolia). He meticulously tends his extensive arbors with year round rituals of pruning, fertilizing and trapping the pesky raccoons and squirrels that sneak significant snacks of grape goodies from his vines when he's not looking.

I planned to publish September's Gardener's Journal at mid-month. When the terror struck I threw away what I had written. Now I'm not sure what to write and not even so sure what to think. When I try to comprehend this tragedy thoughts spin like car tires on a patch of ice. But my brain, like the car, just stays stuck.

But we gotta keep moving. So this month's journal is my way of "carrying on" even though it is kinda lame.

Mexican petunia
Ruellia brittoniana)The Mexican petunia is a beautiful and versatile plant beloved by butterflies and humans alike. The standard blue variety is shown in the upper left corner. Next to it (in clockwise order) is a pink standard, then a blue dwarf and then a white dwarf. [Update 2006: note that the Mexican petunia is highly invasive in frostfree climates on moist soils - check local invasive species lists before planting. ]

In Bloom at Floridune

Here in North Florida, like most areas, September is a great month for observing butterflies in the garden. Early in the month, the garlic chive blossoms hosted scores of tiger swallowtails and mourning cloaks. The lantana species I grow here (Lantana camara and L. montevidensis continue to supply a dependable butterfly bounty to the delight of hordes of hungry gulf fritillaries. The Texas sage and cigar plant have also been blooming for most of the summer and are constantly a-flutter in clouds of orange sulfur butterflies.

Plumbago creates a cool blue throughout the summer.
princess flower
Another tropical beauty is the princess flower shrub (Tibouchina urvilleana)
sasanqua camellia
This is the first sasanqua camellia of the season. It appeared in early September and since then many more varieties have joined the flower show.

One of my September favorites is the golden dewberry (Duranta erecta). But there'll be no actual dewberries for me - I grow this shrub only for the pretty blue flowers that it is putting forth right this month. This is a very useful and easy to grow tropical shrub. Here in Zone 8 it is invariably killed back by frost but it always rises again in the spring. In warmer zones the clear blue blossoms transform into the shrub's signature golden berries creating a precious picture that persists through the winter.

September is also the month when many ornamental grasses look their coolest. A recent planting of switchgrass 'Heavy Metal' has rewarded me with a densely wispy haze of reddish seed heads that complement the fuzzy pink muhlygrass flowers that have just started appearing. Completing the scene are soaring twelve foot tall flower stalks of pampas grass that provide the background for this dry area garden. Back in a wetter area near the catfish pond, our native Fakahatchee grass is hanging on to the last of it fat tubular seed heads. Unfortunately I won't get to enjoy voluptuous drooping seed heads of my new wood oats planting as they had an unfortunate encounter with an errant lawn - no big deal, the plant has recovered already and will be bigger and better next year.

Me and Susie the Great Dane sitting in our chair
Susie and I spend a golden-green September Sunday afternoon sitting by the catfish pond just resting and wondering what will happen next...

In The Lawn Chair

This month I turned 51 on the seventeenth of September but it was on the eleventh that I became old. I've heard that age brings patience, serenity and wisdom. So far I'm just tired, crabby and befuddled. So I intend to spend as much time as possible working in the garden where I feel just a little wiser and a bit more serene. I, for one, need much garden time as I can get these days!

Lastly, my gratitude and prayers go out to the members of our military and to their families for the sacrifices they will be called upon to make. September was a nightmare, October will be better. I'll see you next month. Be good and grow stronger.

John "Jack" Scheper 09/30/01

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