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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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This fruitful jungle is full of rare plants

I love to visit Ed Musgrave’s garden because it’s even more of a jungle than mine, partly because he has one and a half acres, which is three times the size of my garden. He also has much more experience and knowledge about fruit and rare plants.

Ed’s been growing orchids for 60 years, but he has a new one he can’t identity. He thought I might know what it is. I hate to have to say I don’t know, but it still happens. We’re hoping someone will see the photo and have a name and perhaps some information.

In the meantime, Ed has mounted it on block of wood, all he could find at the time. He floats the wood in water and that’s enough moisture for the plant and he’ll spray it with a fertilizer solution as needed.

We’re both long-term members of the Rare Fruit Council International, which meets at the Tampa Garden Club, 2629 Bayshore Blvd., Tampa, at 2 p.m. the second Sunday of most months.

He and his late and dear wife, Althea, were members of several plant societies, but his gardening is a bit lonesome in the years since she’s been gone. He enjoys showing people around his place and tells great stories about each plant.

Like most plantaholics, he never passes up a seed – or a sad, neglected plant that he doesn’t bring home, doctor and make thrive. Then he multiplies it and gives away the new plants to others.

Within the past year he’s had 21 different kinds of fruiting plants from which to pick and eat, not counting the ones that aren’t old enough to set fruit yet. He has a lychee that’s normal size and an Emperor lychee that produces fewer fruits, but they’re much larger – big enough to fill his whole hand.

Ed has star fruits that are yellow, white, some the usual size and some that grow up to 10-inches long. One variety tastes almost like an apple.

One of his fig trees, still in a large container, had 60 some fruits last year and is starting to fruit again. They get dark and taste quite good. But he recommends Celeste as the sweetest one, even if it’s small.

Many people come to Florida and have never tasted mangoes or avocados. Most of us grow the more common fruits – bananas and plums. Pineapples have been very productive the last two years. But there are many other fruits that are delicious.

Ed is watching his few soursops and has each nearly ripe one in a bag with a wire on the stem so that when it falls, it won’t fall far enough to let any varmints eat it. It’s related to the sugar apple, cherimoya and a few other sweet treats.

And there are many other rare fruits we’re just beginning to know and enjoy.

Today’s pick is the Rangoon creeper, Quisqualis indica, a vine I planted from a nut given me by another council member years ago. I have never since seen any nuts, but the blooms are lovely. They’re white when they first open, turn pink by noon and maroon by evening. They stay on the vine for several days. Ed says they need to get at least 5 feet tall before they bloom. This may well be the reason he and my friend Nancy have plenty of flowers, and I don’t get any. I’ll quit pruning height, just width. They also need full sun most of the day. The plant does spread and has nasty thorns.

Now’s the time...to protect yourself from mosquitoes as much as possible. Dump any standing water; even a cup-full can be a breeding place for hundreds of them. Put gold fish, tadpoles or mosquito dunks in any rain barrels or bucket you use to catch rain and use the water as quickly as you can.

I will have a book and plant sale with the garden open again on July 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. at 1508 Burning Tree Lane, Brandon. All are invited. Come check out my jungle and it’ll make you feel good about your own garden.

Monica Brandies is an experienced gardener, freelance writer and author of 12 gardening books who can be reached at [email protected] Her website is www.gardensflorida.com.

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