Bold Bromeliads

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” Claude Monet

Bromeliads, native to Central and South American rainforests, provide an abundance of color through stiff spiny leaves as well as blossoms. Most are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants, but obtain nutrients from the air, rain, or debris accumulating around them. Two of the most common bromeliads are pineapples and Spanish moss. In the Mobile area, some do well in outdoor beds. Avoid damage in cold weather by covering or bringing plants inside. Learn more about these exotic plants by clicking on the link below.

How to Care for a Bromeliad

Tropical Treasures

“Gardening requires lots of water… most of it in the form of perspiration.”

Louise Erickson

Philodendron selloum, native to the rainforest floors of Brazil, thrive in Mobile gardens. Requiring an area receiving partial sun and having ample space for growth, these tropicals can reach heights of 8-10 feet, and attain more width than an antebellum hoop skirt. While harsh winters turn the lush, verdant split leaves into mush, new growth will appear in the spring. For more information about these tropical beauties, click on the link below.

Philodendron selloum

Made in the Shade

“All gardening is landscape painting.” William Kent

The focal point in this shade garden is the pot of heart shaped caladiums situated by the trunk of the oak tree. Caladiums, native to the banks of the Amazon river, are tropical plants that require soil temperatures of 70 degrees, and thrive in partial sun and shade.Tubers can be planted in pots, hanging baskets and in mass plantings. For more information about these beautiful plants, click on the link below.

Classic Caladiums

Southern Living

Showgirls of the Southern Garden

“The most lasting and pure gladness comes to me from my gardens.” Lillie Langtry


Impatiens in Shade Garden

Impatiens, a must have for southern gardens, thrive in hanging baskets, large containers, and beds. These shade lovers need regular watering, are easily propagated from cuttings, and provide an abundance of beauty in the landscape. Gardeners lacking in shade may opt for the sunpatien, another showgirl with longer limbs and bigger blossoms.

SunPatiens thrive in shade or sun and come in compact and vigorous sizes.

For more information about these southern showgirls, click on the following links.

Sunpatiens

Impatiens

Vibrant Vinca

“Happiness held is the seed; happiness shared is the flower.” Unknown


Gardening centers are overflowing with spring planting selections, including the sun loving vinca. Fast growing and available in a variety of colors, these annuals are pollinator magnets. For more information and planting instructions, click on the sites below.

How to Grow Vincas or Periwinkle

Annuals Buying Guide

Clearwing Moth Sipping Nectar From Vinca

Zesty Zinnias

“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul.”

Luther Burbank

Native to the American Southwest, Central America and South America, zinnias are a generational favorite. Colorful additions to American gardens, these easy to grow sun lovers attract lots, and lots, and lots of butterflies. Similar to their sunflower cousins, zinnias produce large seeds, making direct sow planting easy for little fingers. For those wanting immediate results, garden centers offer zinnia seedlings, including border perfect dwarf varieties . So, visit a local garden center with a little buddy, choose some zinnia seeds or seedlings and get busy-Spring is here! More information about zinnias can be found at the following sites.

Burpee

Harvesting History

Single Flowered, Dwarf Zinnias Attract Painted Lady

Gardening Choices

“Your first job is to prepare the soil. The best tool for this is your neighbor’s garden tiller. If your neighbor doesn’t own a garden tiller, suggest that he buy one.”

Dave Barry
Raised bed gardening is a good choice for small spaces, sloping spaces, limited time for gardening spaces, and I like order spaces. Refer to the Alabama Extension Service Lawn and Garden website for information on planning and development of your space.

Nature’s Farming

“The main characteristic of Nature’s farming can therefore be summed up in a few words. Mother earth never attempts to farm without live stock; she always raises mixed crops; great pains are taken to preserve the soil and to prevent erosion; the mixed vegetable and animal wastes are converted into humus; there is no waste; the processes of growth and the processes of decay balance one another; ample provision is made to maintain large reserves of fertility; the greatest care is taken to store the rainfall; both plants and animals are left to protect themselves against disease.” ~  Sir Albert Howard

“The health of soil, plant, animal and man is one and indivisible.”

  Sir Albert Howard

 

Picture of a compost bin
Compost bin, located at The Lost Garden, Downtown Mobile on Dauphin St. and provided by Keep Mobile Beautiful

 

Sir Albert Howard, 1873-1947, considered the father of modern organic agriculture, learned about composting through observation of farmers in India. Creating a compost pile or bin should be on the to-do list for all backyard gardeners. The three bin composter, pictured above, is an example of one way to compost kitchen scraps and green waste. Refer to the following sites to determine materials that can be composted, as well as other types of composters.  So quit hauling yard waste to the curb and throwing kitchen scraps, pet hair, and dryer lint  into the garbage can. Compost it!

Composting at Home

Earth Easy

Composting for a Vegetable Garden

How to compost.org

 

Pleasure, Challenge, Joy

“I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow. “– David Hobson

 

 

Southern checkerspot butterfly  sipping nectar from flower of basil plant

 

 

Newbies, wanting to participate in America’s favorite pastime, should remember to start small. Basil and other herbs are easy to grow from seed and attract butterflies as well as provide table fare.  A 4’x8′ garden plot is ample space to grow a variety of plants and  develop gardening experience. Refer to the  Alabama Extension Service site  for assistance.  Get growing!

Alabama Planting Guide for Home Gardeners

 

 

Rachel Carson, An American Heroine

 


“The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became. I realized that here was the material for a book. What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important. ” (1962)
— Rachel Carson

Raised on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, Rachel Carson shared her mother’s love of nature, writing, and learning. The family sacrificed to send Rachel to college. She earned an undergraduate degree in biology in 1929 and a graduate degree in zoology in 1932.

Upon the death of her father, Rachel became the breadwinner of the family. She took a job at the US Bureau of Fisheries, later known as the Fish and Wildlife Service and spent fifteen years with the service, rising to the post of editor in chief of publications. In her spare time, she wrote environmental articles for magazines, as well as books including the award winning , The Sea Around Us. In all her writings, Rachel made the point that human beings are a part of nature and not the masters of nature.

In 1944, she proposed an article to Reader’s Digest, regarding the effects of DDT on the Patuxent Wildlife Refuge. Reader’s Digest turned it down as being too unpleasant. Nevertheless, her concern for the use of pesticides continued. After World War II, the use of pesticides to control fire ants, mosquitoes, and other insects exploded. She worried and rightfully so, that the chemical industry had not done the research to determine the long term effects of synthetic chemicals. After six years of research her greatest work, Silent Spring, was published in three installments in New Yorker magazine. It was read by President John F. Kennedy. The book, Silent Spring, was published in 1962, and was an instant best seller. In May of 1962, the President’s Science Advisory Committee issued a report on the uses of pesticides, upholding Rachel’s warnings.

1963 was a busy year for Rachel. In April, CBS Reports with Eric Sevareid aired “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson”, and had 15 million viewers. In June, Senate hearings were held. Rachel testified calling for limits on the number of pesticides in use and expected criticism from the billion dollar chemical industry. However, the shy scientist didn’t expect the personal attacks from the industry as well as from those within the government. She was called a hysterical woman and a communist. Threats of lawsuits followed as well.
In November, 1963, the Mississippi River fish kill validated her concerns, with the cause traced to the pesticide, Endrin. In December, 1963, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Clean Air Act , with Rachel witnessing the signing.

More actions to protect the environment followed. In 1964, the Wilderness Act was passed, and in 1966, the Endangered Species Act which included the bald eagle, brought to the brink of extinction by DDT.  In 1970, President Richard Nixon founded The Environmental Protection Agency. The Clean Water was enacted in 1972. And finally, again in 1972, DDT was banned from use in the United States.

Sadly, Rachel wasn’t able to celebrate the sweeping changes brought about by her courageous stand for the protection of the natural environment and public health.  Rachel was  actually fighting two battles, a public one against the chemical industry and degradation of the environment, and a private one against breast cancer. She lost her private battle on April 11, 1964.

According to Rachel Carson, the heart of the problem relating to the preservation of the environment in the twentieth century was human hubris and financial self- interest. She is quoted as saying, “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway, on which we progress with great speed but at its end lies, disaster. The other fork in the road, the one less traveled by, offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

The battle to protect the environment is  still being waged. Please refer to a February, 2019, article relating to chlorpyrifos, a banned pesticide,  allowed to be used by current  EPA officials.  Hubris and financial self-interest should not determine the safety of the American consumer’s diet and  the health of the environment on which all depend.  Address concerns to  elected representatives and make organic consumer choices.  Take the other fork in the road. Be a Rachel!

Learn more about Rachel Carson, an American heroine, by clicking here.