Showing posts from August, 2010

Gingers for the Subtropical Garden

Gingers are a great group of plants for a subtropical garden, and there are some which are remarkably cold-hardy. In fact there are several genera which are sub-alpine, growing well in coastal areas of Washington or Pennsylvania ! For our purposes here in Miami, there is a world of choices, more so than Heliconias, and with almost as much flash. As with many plants, there are giants and dwarfs, and mid-sized plants for any garden. Most of them are good garden plants, but some need strict dry rest periods, such as the Curcuma group and a few others. Most gingers are undemanding in their care, needing consistent moisture and a good supply of slow release or organic rose fertilizer. Gingers vary in their sunlight needs, but a bright, filtered-sun location is a good start for most types. Some, such as Monocostus uniflorus and Costus igneus, like fairly heavy shade. Gingers and Heliconias often grow well together, and usually take the same water and fertilizer regimes. Consider planting a …

Glorious Gardenias

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Choosing a Landscape Architect

Choosing a landscape architect to design a garden or a landscape for you is a daunting task. There seem to be hundreds of companies to design whatever you want. I can frame some of the questions you should ask before you  get quotes. Keep in mind that such firms are in business to make money, and their natural tendency is to make as large a project as possible. A clear definition of what you want to do and a realistic budget can help smooth the process. Your first line of refinement questions should be:
what exactly do I want from my landscape?  Be incredibly specific about the feel and result you want to get out of the finished landscape, ( shade, sun, grass, water features, stone areas, vegetable gardens, etc.)what is your budget ?  Have you priced some of the items you want ?are your expectations realistic for the money you want to spend ? have you researched the plants you want to install ?have you visited other public or private gardens to get ideas ? Photographs help define your …
Angel's Trumpets-A Wonder of the Evening Garden

Angel's Trumpet plants have been around for almost a century, and are less common now than in previous years. Brugmansia  is the botanical name for this genus of spectacular plants. These plants have one of the most magnificent evening fragrances of any plant I know of, and deserve a place in more gardens than we see today. Angel's Trumpets have a range of colors, grow even in coolish subtropical areas ( throughout the coastal Gulf states, from Orlando south to the Florida Keys), and are fairly pest-free. These plants are worthy specimens in your planting scheme, and I have marveled at plants well over 50 years old in mature landscapes.There are types to fit most gardens, from fairly small and compact such as the variety 'Cypress Gardens' to a fast and beefy type such as 'Frosty Pink'. They are good companion plants to gingers, heliconias, bananas, and some palms that like lots of water and fertilizer.

The pl…

The Dwarf and the Giant- A Tale of Confusion, One Impostor and Two Poincianas

One of the most spectacular trees in the world is a Royal Poinciana ( Delonix regia) at full bloom. It would be hard to beat the grandeur and spectacle of a 75 foot diameter tree emblazoned with a mantle of brilliant red-orange flowers. The tree is one of the most iconic summer season trademarks of Miami. Many flowering tree experts still rank this as one of the top 10 flowering trees in the world, and it grows beautifully with minimal care here. Hailing from Madagascar, the tree may well be more common here than in its home country, due to deforestation and development. There are 3 or 4 yellow varieties of a Royal Poinciana, and numerous tones of orange, red, crimson, and even a pumpkin-colored flower type. The yellow-flowered version of Delonix regia are a far cry from the smaller flowers of the "other" poinciana, the ill-named "Yellow Poinciana (Peltophorum pterocarpum, 

If you have the space to grow it, the Royal Poinciana is an anchor tree in a landscape. Ye…

Whatever Happened to all the Hibiscus ?

Decades ago I recall seeing a lot more Hibiscus than I see today. What happened ? Hibiscus were such a part of the landscape, along with Ixoras, Mussaendas, Heliconias, and other iconic plants of the area. Being an inquisitive person, I looked into the "Great Hibiscus Decline", for lack of a better term. I found several confluent factors, and some interesting results. 
Some of the factors include pest problems, and also include market forces, coupled with mass production techniques. The major reasons for the decline in Hibiscus have been introduced pests, primarily Gall Midge, Pink Hibiscus Mealybug ( REALLY hard to eradicate), whitefly, and nematodes ( parasitic root-infesting worms). In a word, Hibiscus have bug problems, but with modern pesticide chemistry,  and some older pest control tactics the pests  are manageable.      
Nematode control is a bit more difficult, but still possible with organic controls that focus on enriching the soil, especially acidifying the soil, …

Orchid mounting techniques

<>> <> <><> Growing orchids and other tree-dwelling plants adds a nice element to a landscape. In some designs, the gardens extend from below ground level ( aquatic gardens), up through the trees and even into the tree tops ( climbing plants). My interest is to educate people about the numerous options of each level of gardening, and orchids are one of my favorite groups. One thing is certain about orchids: nowhere in the world are orchids found naturally growing in pots ! Most of the flashier iconic orchids are epiphytes, growing naturally on tree or rocks in the tropics. With this in mind, we can replicate these conditions by mounting orchids onto trees or on prepared solid media like cork bark or coconut fiber logs. It is really useful to know just how your mounted orchids are supposed to grow. Some orchids need moisture and shade, such as Phalaenopsis, whereas others like very bright sunlight and occasional watering, such as Brassavolas. How do you know…

Orchids in the Landscape- Part 2- Tree Dwellers

As a kid in Milwaukee in the middle of winter in February, I remember seeing some glorious pictures of gardens in Miami, with orchids all over the trees. I thought "what a cool idea, not needing a greenhouse to grow orchids !" Now I work in a public garden in Miami where I can mount thousands of orchids at will, provided I choose the right plant for the right spot.We are lucky that we live in one of the rare areas on the continent where we can grow tree-dwellers.

If you want a good reality check, travel to a northern city in the winter to see what kind of plants are available in the big-box stores. When you return to Miami, you realize anew that we have a terrific climate in which to grow so many plants. The tree-dwelling orchids ( easier to say than epiphytic orchids) are a great group of plants which can be mounted to trees or wood posts. There are literally thousands of epiphytes available to grow here, quite possibly the largest group of plants in all of horticulture. I…