The winter brought a few surprises. I know that young trees often are more cold sensitive than older specimens. However, I wonder if different pommelo clones have different tolerances to cold. I planted a 3-gallon plant early in spring of 2014 and lost it to the three freezes over the winter. Each freeze killed stem tips back further and the last one finished it off. Oh well, now I have a place for a new plant. My cold hardy avocado lost the top-most stem tips but it was growing vigorously again by the first of April. Several New Guinea impatiens survived the winter at the University of North Florida in a protected courtyard. They were flowering and growing again by the end of March. Dwarf ixora, Ixora taiwanensis, survived the winter at the University of North Florida where the coldest night was around 25 degrees. The plant at my house died to the ground with the first freeze and I am waiting now to see if it sprouts from the base.
I mentioned in my December 2014 blog that I am growing Bellis perennis and Viola tricolor in containers. They have flowered throughout the winter and are still going strong in April. My Russell’s hybrid lupines are growing well as spring temperatures rise. The foliage is attractive but the plants show no sign of developing a flower spike yet. I like the Osteospermum cultivars that produce white daisies with blue centers. They are flowering beautifully in containers now. Nemophila maculata seedlings are appearing around last year’s pots. I like these little spring annuals. Each flower has five white petals with a blue spot at its tip.
I like the taste of yerba maté tea, a popular tea in South America. It seems to have a little more caffeine than green tea. This tea is made from the leaves of a holly, Ilex paraguariensis. I purchased a small tree recently. A couple of mail order catalogs list it. The leaves of this holly resemble the leaves of our native Ilex cassine. I find little information about the cultivation of Ilex paraguariensis. One report states that it will not tolerate temperatures below 22 degrees F. The only way to learn whether it will grow in my yard is to try it.
Previously, I stated in my website that horticulture needed a dwarf selection of our native buttonbush, Cephalanthus occidentalis. This year, I found ‘Sugar Shack’ buttonbush in a catalog. It is reported to grow to only four feet tall. Obviously, I had to buy one. I will be surprised if it stops growing at four feet but a compact buttonbush will be a big improvement over the typical wild plant.
Finally, I have been thinking about ordering a chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus, for years. This is a perennial species with stout roots and burgundy-colored daisies. I have read several times that the daisies smell like chocolate. One reference says that it smells like vanilla. Of course, chocolate candy contains vanilla. Recently, I discovered that this interesting plant is listed as extinct in its native home of Mexico. It is known only in cultivation and these plants produce no seeds. When I read this, I decided that it is time to try growing one. This is a plant that is really in trouble if it loses its popularity.
I noticed recently that the bird feeder is not as active with the winter sparrows and goldfinches. In the past couple of days, I have seen a swallow-tail kite, heard the great crested flycatchers and swatted a few mosquitoes. Summer is not far away.