Tag Archives: Staghorn fern

Trip Report: The Audubon House

While in Key West last month, we visited “The Audubon House.”  You would think with a name like this that the house would have once been under the ownership of someone with the name of Audubon.  It turns out the connection is a little less direct.  John James Audubon, the well known historical figure for his art depicting American birds, traveled to the Florida Keys in 1831 in order to paint the native birds of Florida.  While he was in the Keys, he stayed at the house next door to this house.

The Audubon House
The Audubon House
John James Audubon's travels through Florida
John James Audubon's trip to the Florida Keys

The house has been preserved and connected with Audubon because he admired the gardens while he was in the area and supposedly painted some of the trees and plants into his portraits of various Florida birds.  The gardens have been kept in great condition as a tribute.

Roseate Spoonbill portrait by John James Audubon
Roseate Spoonbill portrait by John James Audubon - my favorite from the Florida collection.
Tree loaded with blooming orchids in front of Audubon House
Tree loaded with blooming orchids in front of Audubon House

The house is now a shrine to his work and has a very nice garden outside.  We toured the house and gardens outside, enjoying the beautiful setting.  I think Christie and I could settle into this house just fine.  The trees outside are covered in orchids, and many of them were in bloom for our visit.

Brassavola orchid
Brassavola orchid
Crinum lily bloom
Crinum lily bloom

Other interesting plants filled the flowerbeds, including a couple of large Crinum lilies, some yellow Walking Iris (Neomarica longifolia), and a nice Chenille plant (Acalypha hispida).

The yellow walking iris - Neomarica longifolia
The yellow walking iris - Neomarica longifolia
Chenille plant - Acalypha hispida
Chenille plant - Acalypha hispida

There were lots of Calatheas scattered throughout the gardens, and concentrated here and there.  I have seen these growing in many botanic gardens, but not very often in an outdoor setting.

Calathea Peacock (so the sign reads)
Calathea Peacock (so the sign reads)

The gardens also contain some Florida native plants, which would have been important to Audubon, as he preferred to paint his birds sitting on authentic trees and plants to the area where he would find them in nature.  One of the natives I really liked was this cycad, Zamia floridana.

Florida native cycad "Coontie" - Zamia floridana
Florida native cycad "Coontie" - Zamia floridana
Christie under a nice Staghorn fern
Christie under a nice Staghorn fern
Philodendron stenolobum
Philodendron stenolobum

There were also some nice aroids, including this large Philodendron stenolobum (above) and Alocasia portei (below). I loved the pendant Anthurium vittariifolium, with its pink berries showing (two below) and now have a small seedling plant from a recent plant trade. I hope my plant is this attractive some day.

A large Alocasia portei
A large Alocasia portei (in the center of the image)
Anthurium vittariifolium with berries on spadix
Anthurium vittariifolium with berries on spadix
Chamaedorea metallica
Chamaedorea metallica

My second favorite palm in the entire family is Chamaedorea metallica, which is called the Miniature Fishtail Palm, or Metallic Palm.  It has silver-blue leaves and striking orange flowers and berries.  It is small for a palm, with a maximum size of only 5 or 6 feet tall, and it is therefore usually growing as an understory tree.

Bed of Sansevierias
Bed of Sansevierias - probably Sansevieria metallica.

You probably already know that I like Stapelias. Am I crazy or do the buds of the Stapelia below look just as cool as the open bloom? Yes, I did bend down and stick my nose into the flower to smell the pungency. And yes, I did request Christie do the same. She grudgingly did so – after a third or fourth request.

Stapelia leendertziae
Stapelia leendertziae in bloom.

The Audubon House sits on a lot large enough to have several wandering paths through the gardens and 2 separate set-aside gardens: a water garden and an herb garden. The water garden was very tastefully designed, with some heron statues in the pond. I’m sure JJ Audubon would have liked to sit and stare at these nice statues.  The setting of this garden is similar to what I have talked about doing with a portion of our backyard, with the ground paved in either bricks or rock and a shallow pond or other small water feature.  Just a relaxing place to sit and enjoy the outdoors.

The appropriately decorated Audubon water garden
The appropriately decorated Audubon water garden.

Staghorn bark basket

A couple of months ago I revealed my affinity for nice looking pieces of bark.  Recently I noticed that a piece of bark had fallen off of a stump in my backyard.  The stump was one of 8 sitting around our firepit.  During the winter of 2007 we had a really bad ice storm in central Oklahoma.  My wife and I went around town collecting nice stumps from our neighbor’s curbs after everyone had done their chainsaw work.

The bark on one of the logs just didn’t want to hang on.  This piece was much smaller than the subject of my previous post, though.  The piece measures about 12 inches long and about 6 inches across.  When I picked it up off the ground I thought it was kind of cool how it had held it’s shape, curved around the trunk of the tree.  Even though it had fallen away, it was still firm and didn’t feel like it was about to crumble.  So I figured I should save it for a project of some sorts.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran across a broken plastic hanging pot with a metal hanger.  I pulled off the metal hanger, tossed the broken pot and went to look for my piece of bark.  About 5 minutes later I had punched three holes in the piece of bark and threaded the hanger through it.

Staghorn fern in plastic pot (boring) and bark with hanger threaded through punched holes
Staghorn fern in plastic pot (boring) and bark with hanger threaded through punched holes

I decided my Staghorn fern (Platycerium sp.) would be an excellent specimen for this hanging bark basket.  I plucked it out of its boring white plastic pot and stuck it in my new creation.  Then I added some good potting soil around the firm root ball and wrapped the top in Sphagnum moss.  I secured the plant and moss with string.  Maybe over time the Staghorn roots will cling to the bark and the string will be unnecessary.

Staghorn fern (Platycerium sp.) hanging in a bark basket I created
Staghorn fern (Platycerium sp.) hanging in a bark basket I created

What do you think of my creation?