Friday, July 25, 2008

Countdown to Florida Garden

There will be no picture today; it's all happening in my imagination. Tomorrow is the day that I go back to the Florida garden for the first time since early April. I have been getting hints, tidbits of information from Karen, who drove down a week ago Thursday. I know the Bismarckia is alive though it has retreated from 5 leaves to one larger one, but Karen assures me that two more are close to opening. The Butterfly Ginger, Hedychium coronarium, is flowering; this is a problematic plant in that it would, in a perfect world, prefer a much moister environment than it has now. Like the rest of us, it has apparently adapted.

Karen tells me that the Aloes (mostly Aloe saponaria) are flowering and they are hummingbird magnets. Every winter, the Smithsonian produces a series of programs for continuing education in Horticulture. This past winter one of the programs featured Bill Hilton Jr. presenting "Operation Ruby Throat". This is, very briefly, a research program under which hummingbirds are banded at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History in South Carolina during the months when they are there. In the winter (January and February) when they have migrated, Bill (Hilton) takes groups of volunteers to Costa Rica and bands there. Apparently before this project started, there was little awareness of where hummingbirds went in the winter and no hard data. That's changing now. Bill and his volunteers have actually recaptured birds in Costa Rica that had been banded in South Carolina. When they finally located the wintering grounds they discoved that the hummingbirds were frequenting fields of Aloes. Aloe is at the top of the list of tropical plants that hummingbirds prefer. But that reminds me of the Hamelia patens, Firebush, not a pornographic reference, but a plant native to the coastal plain, including Florida, and also favored by hummers. It is supposed to be only root hardy in 9A, but I wonder.....Well, I'll find out tomorrow and let you know.

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