Adventures of a Transplated Gardener- Ginny Stibolt

Ginny Stibolt with a pile of mulch.  Typical!

Ginny's Garden Log

The main purpose of this log is to expand on my gardening adventures that I write about in my Adventures of a Transplanted Gardener columns written for the Jacksonville's Florida Times Union and for www.Floridata.com.

Current postings and other posts to Ginny's Garden Log Meadow page 

This is the second postings page (7/10/05 - 12/8/05):  Topics on this page include: Fall/Winter, Mulch, Basil, Stinkhorns, Hornworms, WrensCatbriars, Scarlet Snake, Sagos, Containers.


12/8/05: Fall/Winter in Northern Florida  

Groundsel Tree produces an abundance of white flowers in the fall.  Photo by Stibolt

I wrote about missing the nice springs (and tulips) in the Mid-Atlantic, but I also miss the fall.  Here in northern Florida the leaves start falling in August and continue on through winter.  In Maryland the leaf drop would have been done by now, but then it would be much colder there.  After the hurricane season is over, it's a great time here in northern Florida to accomplish big projects without sweating so much that it drips from the tip of your nose. 

The Groundsel Trees (Baccharis halimifolia) >>
have made quite a show this year.   These hardy natives are one of the few woody plants in the Aster family.  They are  dioecious where the male & female flowers are on separate plants.

I posted an article on keeping your Christmas greens looking good longer and a short list of other winter chores.  (Winter Seasonal Notes)  You may wish to revisit my articles on the myths and traditions of holiday plants to give you some Christmas spirit.  


Ginny's Wheelbarrel piled high with pine needles from the street. Photo by Stibolt

11/1/05: Free fall mulch—manna from Mother Nature: 

Fall is the time to gather the free mulch.  As I said in my most recent article—Reducing the Lawn in Your Landscape—my neighbors probably think I'm crazy because I rake up the pine needles and other plant debris from the gutters in our streets.  While I do this on a regular basis, fall provides the most volume.

An inviting path into our front meadow.  Photo by Stibolt

I used some of this haul to line a pathway in our front meadow.  We have this meadow because we simply never mowed this area.  The previous owner had sodded much of our lot, but grass didn't grow well out here, so now we have a wonderful wild area filled with butterflies, bees, birds, and other critters.  

It's important for gardeners everywhere to increase the wild areas in their landscapes and to plant more native plants in their gardens.  This increases the diversity that we've lost in the increasing development of our regions.

For more photos and more details on the meadows, click here.


Basil roots.  Photo by Stibolt

10/11/05: A Basil-ly Surprise:

I had topped six or seven stems from my Basil (Ocimum basilicum) with the thought that I'd create some pesto*, but for some reason I didn't get to it right then, so I plopped them in a vase.  Several days went by and while the flowers dropped off, the leaves looked fresh.  Hmm...   The darn things had rooted!  So here's an idea.  Next spring, instead of (or in addition to) planting seeds or buying plants, I'll go to the produce counter and buy a couple of bunches and stick them in water.  This way, I'll get a real head start and not have to pay the big bucks for plants!

* Ginny's pseudo-pesto recipe

My pesto is different than most because I incorporate more ingredients to produce something that is more of a pesto-like sauce.  

In the blender: 6 or 7 stems of basil with most of the main stem parts removed, one half of a medium yellow onion, 3 or 4 green onion stalks with roots removed, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/4 cup mayonnaise,  1/4 cup roasted sunflower seeds, 1/4 cup non-fat plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon of garlic from a jar, 1 tablespoon horseradish, freshly ground pepper to taste, and enough olive oil to make it creamy but not slimy.  I usually add the basil last after the rest of the stuff is already creamed so the blender doesn't have to work so hard.

I use this concoction in many dishes including tuna salad, shrimp pizza, and other places where you might have used mayonnaise alone.  My pseudo-pesto is not as bitter and heavy as a standard pesto.


Ravenel's stinhorn fungi.  Photo by Stibolt

9/27/05: How do I know summer's winding down? 

Yep, the stinkhorns have arrived!  I gathered some twenty stinkhorn "eggs" in the mulch in the front bed after the first few sprouted.  I've seen both the Ravenel's stinkhorn (Phallus ravenelii) and the Octopus stinkhorn  (Clathrus columnatus) lurking under shrubs.   More on stinkhorn fungi in this article.

I received an email the other day from a woman in Minnesota who wanted to know how to get rid of the Ravenel's stinkhorn in her kids' play area.   My advice to her was to do just what I did and harvest the "eggs" and then spray the mulch with chlorine beach solution.  If that doesn't work, she'll have to clear out all the mulch.  I suggested that she might try the ground up tires as mulch—very springy and less likely to harbor fungi.

I posted an article on using Florida native plants in your landscape.  Check out the extensive list of resources on this subject.


hornworm eating the last leaf on my bushy seedbox- photo by Stibolt
red hornworm with wasp larvae - photo by Stibolt

9/12/05:  They're baaack...

Last year, I wrote about the hornworms eating my Bushy Seedbox (Ludwigia peruviana).  (Link here for that article.)   Update:  The butterfly is a Gulf Fritllary (Agraulis vanillae) and is not the adult of a hornworm.

This year, I found three different hornworms on my Bushy Seedbox (Ludwigia peruviana) along with the tomato hornworm (Manduca quinquemaculata) there were two more colorful species.  The red one was covered with braconid wasp larvae.  The next day, only the tomato worm was left.   I assume some sharp-eyed bird found the more colorful worms with the bonus protein of all those wasp larvae...

Tomato hornworm on Ludwigia peruviana - photo by Stibolt

Note:  I did find several tomato worms on my tomato plants in back of the house, earlier this summer, so maybe this hornworm has different tastes.  Or perhaps it's some other type of worm altogether.  All of these worms have eight diagonal stripes, so maybe these are all different variations of the same hornworm.  Can anyone help me out here?? (Thanks to Jim Tuttle we have an update on these worms.)

The cooter eggs did not hatch.  Photo by Stibolt

8/23/05:  The Tale of the Toiling Turtles - Part 3: 

After waiting way past the ninety days
For small Cooters to climb from their maze
To find what happened, we dug to the cache  
But found just ants and shells that were smashed
With sad faces we covered the eggs
Maybe next year there'll be turtles with legs 

Parts 1 & 2 of The Tale of the Toiling Turtles


Catbriar tubers.  Photo by Stibolt

8/21/05: Catbriar Tubers:

After I wrote about Catbriar (Smilax spp.) in my Vicious Vines article, a reader asked what a catbriar tuber looked like.  Since writing that piece, I hit a mother lode of catbriars.  This photo shows only some of them.  Now where was that recipe for Sarsaparilla?  

I don't put Catbriars or Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) in my compost because they'll grow from the smallest shoot and Urushiol, the irritant in Poison Ivy, will remain active for up to a year even if the composting kills the plant. 


Three baby wrens have very yellow beaks.  Photo by Stibolt

8/20/05: The Wrens have fledged !!

Wren's nest in with the sago pups.  Photo by Stibolt

As I mentioned in my Sago update, when I set the Sago pups in a couple of plastic nursery pots under the eaves on top of the rainbarrels to wait while I got around to potting them, a pair of wrens decided to build their nest there.  

We've avoided  the potting bench area for the last few weeks to provide those bug-eating machines some privacy.  But I did take a few pictures before the three new wrens flew away.  Could those mouths be any more obvious?  When I removed the nest, there was one unhatched egg remaining.   I was also a little surprised to see that the wrens had used a fair amount of green moss woven into the bottom of the nest. 


8/07/05: Scarlet NoHair-a
A small Scarlet Snake (Cemophora coccinea) has taken up residence in our front garden, near where we planted the Prickly Pears.  

Its presence prompted this.  >>

Scarlet Snake baskign on rocks.  Photo by Stibolt

Scarlet NoHair-a, a snake so fair,
Has cold blood, not like kids or a bear,
Lays on some rocks heated by the sun,
To warm itself up and look for fun,
Scarlet can burrow under the ground,
Eats eggs of turtles that wait to be found,
Kills mice by winding around them tight,
Does its hunting by the pale moonlight. 

Scarlet NoHair-a, a snake so fair,
They say it’s shy, maybe even rare,
When folks see Scarlet, they get a fright,
Its bold colors of red, black and white,
Make it look like a bad coral snake,
But Scarlet’s not poison, just a fake,
So when you find it under a rock,
Let it alone to eat voles on your block.


Sage pup one year later. Photo by Stibolt

7/30/05: Sago Update (All Sago growers need mucho patience!)
We inherited a number of Sagos  (Cycas revoluta) when we bought our house.  Last year I wrote about how we'd split off a pup from a large Sago at the front of our house. (See the Sago article.) It blew over in the hurricanes and I staked it down.  It hung onto its old leaves and was looking pretty bedraggled in the front bed.  When we redid the bed earlier this year (See the French drains article.), I raised it a little higher in the bed and cut off the old leaves.   My husband thought it was dead and urged me to pull it out, but I'd seen that it had some good roots, so I held him off and as you can see (to the right) that it finally sprouted four new frondsa whole year after its split from the mother plant and a couple of months after the old fronds were removed.   

Abandoned Sago.  Photo by Stibolt Abandoned Sago one year later - Photo by Stibolt

Perhaps that's what happened to the Sago I rescued from the woods.  The previous owner gave up on it after probably months waiting for it to do something.  While the leaves are still a little small, it looks pretty happy one year later.  

9 Sago pups waiting for transport.  Photo by Stibolt

This year that same Sago at the front step decided to send off not one, but eleven (!) pups.  This time they were not directly attached to the mother plant.  I waited for several weeks for the fronds on the pups to harden before I dug them out.  Most of the tear-shaped pups have three or four fronds, but a couple did not have any fronds.  

Now I'll have to decide where I want all these plants.   One obvious place is a container, so I took three of the larger pups, and put them in a clay pot with a fairly sandy soil mixture and plenty of rocks in the bottom.  It's pretty hard to kill these plants, but fungus and rot are the main enemies.   The other pups, I placed in empty black nursery pots with a large rock in the bottom and put them on top of the rain barrels  under the eaves to wait until I got around to arranging for other places for them.  A Carolina Wren decided to make her nest in one of these pots, so it'll be a while more before it's safe to take them out.   The Sagos won't mind the wait.  Patience.


Compact Gardenias before and after planting in containers. Photo by Stibolt

7/10/05: Containers and other ways to spotlight plants
When I dug out the four compact Gardenias (Gardenia jasminoides 'Radicans') from the L-shaped bed by the garage, I planted two of them in pots to place back in that bed (See Container Conversion article).  With just a little bit of judicious pruning, these little shrubs look like bonsais.  

Before we planted the Gardenia, the Mexican Heather and Mondo Grass looked terrible.

The other two were planted on either side of the back step.  My husband and I decided that we didn't like the messy Mexican Heather (Cuphea hyssopifolia) and Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus) there. 

Mexican Heather & weeds on right side of back step.  Photo by Stibolt

Here in northern Florida, The Mexican Heather dies back in the winter and even in July it still looked like hell.  Both it and the Mondo Grass spread and are hard to weed around.  We wanted something more controllable, so the Mexican Heather went out to the other side of the driveway and I couldn't think of anything I wanted the Mondo Grass for, so it went into the yard waste bin.  (We have more in case I think of something later.  Hey, maybe I'll put some in a pot!) 

Gardenia on a mound with Rosemary & Sage in front.  Photo by Stibolt
Gardenia on mound with Mothers' Day Hydrangea in front.  Photo by Stibolt

We cleared everything out and built a ten-inch high mound area on each side of the step to show off the Gardenias.  We didn't want to put them at ground level because you wouldn't be able to appreciate their nice bonsai-like shape.   

In front of the Gardenia on the left side, we planted a Rosemary (Rosmarinis officinalis) and three Sage (Salvia officinalis) bushes—an extension of the herb garden.   More on the herb garden in a later posting.   The weed barrier covered with mulch and having controllable plants here will provide a neater and easier to maintain garden. 

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