Does Aloe Vera Bloom? Yes.

My aloe vera usually blooms in February down here in zone 10. This winter had been unusually mild, so the aloe and peach tree are just finishing up their bloom.

Aloe vera blooms. The plant is potted on the hot patio and gets only infrequent rain. Despite those conditions, it still blooms.

Aloe (above)

The white bird of paradise is just huge these days. Too bad the blooms are always so sappy. I would love to bring them into the house.

These photos were taken with my new Cannon 60D camera fitted with a 18-135 cannon lens. I'm so happy about the new camera. Lemme know if you want a good deal on my lightly used Canon Rebel XTI. Better yet, bid on it on eBay here.


Here's the new camera I just got...


Gooey Butter Cake

It's been a year since I saw Paula Deen at the South Beach Wine and Food Festival. In her honor, I just had to make a Gooey Butter Cake.

I recommend her recipe. I add some powdered sugar on top, and I'm tempted to add peach preserves next time.

Gooey Butter Cake


1 18 1/4-ounce package yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 tablespoons butter, melted

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 tablespoons butter, melted
1 16-ounce box powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the cake mix, egg, and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13 by 9-inch baking pan. In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla, and butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar and mix well. Spread over cake batter and bake for 40 to 50 minutes. Make sure not to over bake as the center should be a little gooey.

Here's an alternate recipe that my friend Lauren uses. Her gooey butter cake is amazing too!

Lauren's Gooey Butter Cake Recipe

1 package butter recipe yellow cake mix
1 stick softened butter
1 egg
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
16 oz. confectioner's sugar
chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350. In electric mixer (it's easiest), mix cake mix, butter and 1 egg very well. Grease foil pans and divide batter in half into each round. Press down with spatula. Then whip cream cheese, and add 2 eggs and sugar. Pour on top of batter in both pans. Bake 35-40 minutes until slightly golden brown. The middle will still be a bit gooey. Sprinkle with chopped pecans and powdered sugar. Enjoy!!
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White bird of paradise fresh after 2 weeks

White Bird of Paradise in the house

The white bird of paradise fronds still look great after two weeks.

UPDATE: they still look great after 4 weeks too!

UF Sun Peach Tree Bugs

For the past three years, I've had bugs in our UF Sun Peaches.
This year, I've been treating aggressively with horrible pesticides, as a last resort. I am going to have to cut down the tree next year if this problem persists. The tree has the last remaining blooms right now. At my recent trip to the Martin county Extension office, Bob urged me not to use malathion unless I have extensive experience in applying pesticides.

Bob recommends a relatively new Baer product called Baer Fruit, Citrus and Vegetable Inset Control.
Bob said he likes this product a lot and because a systemic and not topic, I can't damage surrounding plants with overspray.

I'm headed to the store to get this product. The label says that I cannot apply the product until after the plant flowers and I am to apply it only once per year. Based upon the size of my tree, I'm supposed to add 2.5 ounces of product to a gallon of water then apply to the base of the trunk. Then, I add another gallon of regular water to the base of the trunk.

Yellow Spots on Avocado Leaf

My second question to the local extension office was about this avocado plant. I wanted to know if the yellow spots on the leaves were pests or a disease. He didn't really commit to a diagnosis. He just said I had to get this avocado on a fertilization regimen and take another look in several months. He wants me to fertilize it from Feb to Sept and then reevaluate.

I am supposed to fertilize 3 pounds around the drip line in mid Feb, end of April, and early Sept.
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Eureka Lemon Fertilization Schedule

I recently went to the local extension office because I'm having some problems with my garden. First on my list of issues is this eureka lemon. The leaves are yellowing in a non-symmetric fashion and some of the leaves are curling up. The back of the leaves have brown spots.

I actually cut off a whole section of the plant and dropped it off at the office. I was happy to hear back in a few days from Bob. He didn't mention anything about citrus canker, so I was thrilled. Everyone down her in S Florida seems to have citrus canker.

He said it might have Citrus Greening (Huanglongbing or yellow dragon disease).

He recommended that I get the tree on a good fertilization regimen and then after a few months, I'll be able to tell what's wrong. If it has greening, it will look the same in September. If it was underfertilized, it will look great by September.

Here's his recommended fertilization for citrus in my region:

  • 3 lbs of citrus fertilizer around drip line in mid Feb
  • 3 lbs of citrus fertilizer around drip line at end of April
  • 3 lbs of citrus fertilizer around drip line in early Sept

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ArtiGras 2012 EcoArt

We had so much fun yesterday at ArtiGras 2012 in Abacoa (Jupiter, Fl). Here's Matthew helping to create a small animal habitat that local artist Jesse Etelson told us about. Apparently, our ancestors used to create structures like away from their homes so that small animals would flock to the habitat instead of the homesite. Etelson also created a bird and bee habitat.

"Green" or "living" walls are increasingly being used to shield buildings from sun exposure, reducing interior temperatures and cooling needs. Here's me and Matthew in front of a green wall created by McCann.
ArtiGras served up a deliciuos signature cocktail called the pArti Punch...it had Sobieski Vodka, cranberry, orange, and  pinapple juice...it was so good.

I saw a colleague shooting the festivities for a local magazine. Cool.

My Mom and I got a handmade artisan bread knife. I can't wait to use it. We sampled it onsite and I swear it's the best knife I've ever used. (and I'm a Henkles snob)


Frigid Weather in Orlando

We drove up to Orlando yesterday to celebrate our 6th anniversary! Of course we had the coldest weather of the season...check out the icicles on the podocarpus hedges here in Florida! We stayed at the Omni at Champions Gate which is a few miles west of Disney World.
We had all kinds of freeze watches and warnings. Not quite sure the difference between a hard and soft freeze and warning...
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South Florida Toad, Snake, Lizard

I 've just had too much nature for one day...the frog and snake skin scared me, so I came in for some water, and found this lizard on the counter looking at my dirty dishes. I hate it when the weather is so nice that we keep the house open. (?)
IMG_2063 We have two kinds of toads here in South Florida. One is very poisonous to dogs and one is not. Over the years, I've seen 3-4 friend's dogs fall victim to these toads. As if the sight of this toad wasn't bad enough, he was hiding under a snake skin...gross!

IMG_2064 Back to the toad. Here's a great article about how to tell the difference between the bad toad and the good toad.

The Giant Toad (a.k.a. Marine Toad or Cane Toad) is the largest of the frogs and toads found in Florida. The giant toad is not native to the United States. It was originally released in the U.S. in sugar cane fields to help control “white grubs,” larvae of pest Scarabaeidae. B. marinusbecame established in southern Florida as result of accidental release of about 100 specimens from the stock of a pet dealer at Miami airport in 1955, and by subsequent releases by pet dealers in the 1960s (Krakauer, 1968). Giant Toads are a highly predacious exotic species that will eat all types of native frogs and toads. This species is skilled at locating all types of food, they have even been known to eat pet food.

CAUTION: When this non-native species is threatened or handled, it secretes a highly toxic milky substance from its large parotoid glands at the back of its head, behind the ears. This secretion can burn your eyes, may irritate your skin, and can kill cats and dogs if they ingest the secretion.
Below, I posted photos of the two toads side by side (courtesy UF Wildlife Extension). Even with this directions, I still don't know which frig I've just encountered. If I had to guess, I'd say it's the good toad. The dog is staying in the house with me until Dad can fling him over the fence with a shovel.


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