Showing posts from 2010
Those Beautiful, Tempting, Devilish Flowering Vines Part 2- Modest Growers

 Part 1 of this series on flowering vines was termed "The Speedy Growers". This installment deals with more modest growing species, requiring a little less care. As with all vines, there are species for every climate, garden location, and grower ability. I have grown many species over the years, but time and space constraints are the biggest problems for every gardener, even in public gardens. Unless you have a full time gardening staff ( some gardens have their own staff just for pergolas and vines, lucky them), then I would still recommend good judgment in choosing vines. Good advice is just a few phone calls away. Most any garden center, botanical garden, and University Extension Service agent can lend a lot of advice on which vines to choose, along with problems or benefits for each one.

While there is no Vine Society that I know of, the Tropical Flowering Tree Society (
Those Beautiful, Tempting, Devilish Flowering Vines-Part 1
The Speedy Ones
At some point in every gardener's career, you will consider planting a flowering vine. It could be that you saw a vine trained on a trellis, or saw one at a public garden, or perhaps was smitten by a photo in a garden magazine. There are magnificent books written about flowering vines ( as opposed to foliage vines), and the pictures are very tempting indeed.

There are dozens of great flowering vines available at specialty nurseries.All of them have something to offer, but there are some aspects of flowering vines you should recognize before you buy them. One of the most common comments I hear about flowering vines is that the have outgrown their trellises or fences. I can't help but think ( quietly, to myself) " did you really think the vine would just stop growing where you wanted it to ?" Of course the vine grew !! Vines of almost any sort need some level of management, as…
Crinum Lilies for the South
Who says you have to give up growing bulbs when you move to the deep south ? There are many options, but the largest growing group of flowering bulb plants are unquestionably the Crinums. There are hundreds of choices, but a great many of them are collector's items, and some have some peculiarities about them. For the "garden varieties", there are a few basic groupings to choose from, based loosely on certain species. One of the most common growers here is the asiaticum group, seen by the thousands in commercial plantings. There are dark-leaved and dark-colored forms in this group. One of the most frequently seen varieties is called 'Queen Emma'. with a reddish color to the leaves, and wine-tinted flowers .  

Crinums are fairly easy care in the landscape, but as with many fast-growing plants, they appreciate regular watering and almost continuous fertilizing ( think about slow-release fertilizers like Osmocote a…
Large and Larger Dendrobiums

In past blogs I wrote about miniature Dendrobiums, pendant species, and some of the old standby types like the DendrobiumPhalaenopsis group. I received many favorable comments about the pendant and miniature groups. For all tastes, there are plants to meet the need. In our section of the country ( not tonight, since we will experience hard frost over most of the state, even in Miami), we can grow Dendrobiums as landscape plants. To that end, with some residents who have larger properties or large trees, they'll request larger orchid species. There are numerous species, notably from Australia and  New Guinea , which grow to substantial dimensions. One species in particular, D. speciosum, can weigh over 500 pounds in a large specimen !  Some of the New Guinea species such as D. veratrifolium can grow  over 10 feet tall, and I have heard of specimens reaching 18 feet tall. As with so many plants, there are tons of options regarding plant size, bloom…
An Old Friend Revisited- The Dendrobium phalaenopsis group

Over 30 years ago, I started growing orchids, and I remember growing a Dendrobium phalaenopsis hybrid called 'Hickam Deb' with its massive round burgundy-Merlot flowers. It was a slow-growing plant by today's standards, and had a fairly short flower life. It needed a rather strict dry rest in the winter, and the plants were never robust, either. The modern hybridizing is much better, and far different than the hybrids of a lifetime ago. The newer hybrids are faster growing, more diverse in size and shape than anything seen before, as well as easier to grow. There is actually a species  Dendrobiumphalenopsis, also known as D. bigibbum and is one of those curious plants with two genera names in its binomial e.g. Oncidium phalaenopsis, Miltoniaphalaenopsis, and so on. 

This group of species and its hybrids have diverged markedly from the ancestral plants of the 1960s. There are numerous cross-grou…
Cold Weather Problems

Well, it is that time of year again when we see the roller-coaster weather ride of hot muggy weather interrupted by fast-arriving cold fronts with temperatures near frost, followed by weeks of warm sunshine and dry days. This up and down style of weather wreaks havoc on some plants, especially those with tender foliage, or those plants prone to damage from drying winds. It does not require freezing temperatures to fatally damage plants; some plants can be mortally damaged at temperatures below 40 F, and there are species that show severe damage even at 45 F. There are legion stories of Breadfruit trees showing discomfort at 55 F, although I have not seen this personally.

Early this year, Florida saw some of the longest cold weather periods in recent history. The deadly combination of strong dry winds, unusually cold weather ( under 40 F for days at a time), and the length of the cold period resulted in a large amount of leaf and plant loss. While many …
Mulch: The Great Saver of Water and Fertilizer

There are a lot of misconceptions about mulch and even more that is misunderstood about it. In almost every landscape and horticultural case I can think of, mulch is better than no mulch. If you are designing a Japanese Garden, organic mulch may not be the in the scope of the design, but stone or gravel mulch may very well be in the design. Mulch has a lot of advantages, including stabilizing  soil moisture, erosion and soil temperature. Decomposing mulch adds organic acids to the soil beneath it, slows weed incursions, retards nematode development, and stabilizes fertilizer delivery to the root system. Over time, decomposing mulch can create a very workable organic soil, especially important in very poor mineral soil areas or in very rocky areas. In South Florida, we have a combination of extremely rocky areas and extremely sandy areas. In both cases, mulch can help a lot in making the plant root zones a better habitat for plants to live …
Timing is Everything 

  Oneof the most pressing questions I hear when I speak of irrigation systems is how to automate a water system without the availability of electricity. There are excellent irrigation timers for use in applications where there is no electricity, and they are highly reliable. The range of controllers and timers includes types that can be mounted on a hose tap to control anything on the end of a hose, to a multi-station controller able to control 6 commercial-grade electric valves. Many of the 6 volt AA battery powered hose-tap timers can be purchased at retail gardens stores and building stores, and cost from $ 25-$45 each. The commercial grade valve controllers are mounted to an electric valve, and take the place of a hard-wired electric controller. These higher-grade controllers are available through irrigation supply houses, and cost from $ 100-$ 200 each or more. Both groups of timers are effective in controlling water, although the smaller hose-tap c…
Controlled Release Fertilizers-Fertilizing the Economical Way

One of my biggest contentions in horticulture in this area of the US is that people underfertilize their plants. It has gotten to the point that I see malnutrition in almost every municipal landscape I see, especially in xeriscape landscapes. It seems almost a dogma that plants are installed without additional fertilizer at planting time, then allowed to dwindle away to the point of no return. This is easily manifested and seen in South Florida in the larger palm species, with a trademark yellowing of lower fronds. For 20 years I have heard landscapers say that such lower-frond yellowing is normal. It is absolutely NOT normal for the lower fronds on a palm to be yellow; this is a clear sign of malnutrition and under-fertilizing. I see Oak trees stay the same size for decades, as well with many highway and residential plantings. It is apparent that many landscape installers feel that fertilizer is an unnecessary expense, espe…
Growing Bananas in Your Backyard

Even in temperate climates, you can grow bananas in your backyard. There are numerous edible and flowering types to choose from. In the northern climates, the plants must be grown in pots and brought indoors before frost hits the foliage. In South Florida, we can grow bananas easily in the garden, but the usual result of contented bananas is that they grow to a nuisance size too quickly. This can be remedied ( as you would expect me to say by now),by choosing the right varieties !  

 I cannot say that there is a Banana Society, but the Rare Fruit Council members will gladly inform you about different varieties. As with almost every type of plant, there are numerous varieties to be had, from dwarf to giant to unbelievable. Some of the more recent introductions are plants with full-sized bunches of fruit on a small plant, sometimes as short as 7 or 8 feet. There are types with colorful leaves, some with unusual fruit types, and even som…