Showing posts from October, 2010
The Ill-Named 'Ground Orchids"- part 1- Spathoglottis

One of the more prevalent of the terrestrial orchids in local cultivation is Spathoglottis. So often this group is lumped into the ill-named "ground orchid" group. "Terrestrial orchid" is more accurate than "ground orchid". While it is true that Spathoglottis are strictly soil-dwellers, I find the generality of the 'ground orchid' misnomer to be counterproductive. We have such great information resources here and on the Internet that we can and should use the proper terms. There are some terrestrial orchids which can also grow in trees, such as Cyrtopodium, Cymbidium, and Epidendrum, amongst many others. 

Spathoglottis are wonderful landscape plants but they do require some attention. Regular irrigation to prevent drying out, strong yet filtered light, deep organic soil with good drainage, and regular liquid fertilizing are all prerequisites for growing Spathoglottis successfully. Withi…
Bamboos are not all alike.....part 3- the compact-miniature group

Completing the trilogy of bamboo information, showing that bamboos are widely diverse and adaptable, I list a few bamboo species here for those people with space challenges or for those who wish to grow plants in containers. I have the luxury at work to grow the largest bamboos in the business to substantial size, but I also rent an apartment and can empathize with those who have small garden spaces.

There are bamboos for small spaces, and a few that grow well in containers. Unfortunately for us in the subtropics, the list of "miniature" bamboos is a short one, since many of the best dwarf cultivars are temperate. One of the other problems we face in South Florida is high pH water, which many bamboos dislike, showing their unhappiness with lots of crisp brown leaf edges. Fortunately, though, there are a number of great species for large containers. Even the slightly larger-scale Golden Bali and Monastery Bam…
Bamboos are not all Alike- part 2- Mid-size Bamboo

In part 2 we'll look at mid-size bamboo types for smaller gardens such as townhomes, condominiums, apartments, and space-challenged  areas. While many people think of bamboos as hulking towering plants ( see previous blog), there are many modest species perfectly suited for smaller gardens, with mature growth under 25 feet. In the bamboo world, these classify as mid-size plants. Once again I recommend that you choose a non-running variety, unless you wish to make a large forest in a small area. The tightly clumping varieties shown here are worthy of almost any garden, but be prepared for a slightly higher price tag than the fast-growing, easy-to-propagate running types.                                                                                                                           

 There are several genera and numerous species and their cultivars within this size group. Some are tropical but many are cold-h…
Bamboos are not all alike- Part 1- The Giants

I have the advantage of having the space to grow a great diversity of plants, as well as experiment with new species. One of the plant groups I inherited with this property is giant bamboos. We have 6 distinct species here, some of which have grown to over 70 feet in protected areas. Unquestionably these are impressive and imposing plants for large properties. In certain locations, they are the perfect accent for a large structure, or to screen large stretches of property from view of another property. Many people mistakenly choose a giant bamboo for a small cottage or bungalow, with an odd disparity between the home and the towering canes. Homeowners often say the leaves rain down on the yard , carpeting everything in sight. Giant bamboos epitomize the tropics, and need everything in abundance: water, fertilizer, heat, humidity, and space. For the right place, giant bamboo can be the perfect plant. But.............. Choose the right plant …
Dendrobium retailicum- The Retail Orchid

Dendrobium orchids are one of the most popular orchids in the retail market. They have a lot of good things going for them: the flowers last a long time, the plants can re-bloom with minimal care, and there is a huge diversity of plant sizes and flower colors to choose from. Dendrobiums are marketed by the millions worldwide, and are one of the easiest of all orchids to grow. One of the sad parts of the buying experience is what happens after the flowers die off. Many orchid retailers get "the call", wherein the flustered caller says that the orchid died after only 6  months of repose on the grand piano in the  library. The truth to the scenario is thatflowers died after 6  months, not the plant. The plants will live for                                                                                      decades with proper care.

My first reaction is that if you can buy an orchid for 15 or 20 dollars and have the flowers last fo…
Growing Kalanchoes in South Florida

One of the most rewarding succulent groups is the Kalanchoe group, a diverse group of easy to grow spineless succulents. They make excellent container plants as well as good landscape plants. Some of them can grow to be small trees to 10  feet tall, while others are compact groundcovers. So many people are familiar with the modern hybrid Kalanchoes seen in florist shops and garden centers. The genus has so much more to offer than the "thoroughbred" florist types that we should experiment with them far more than we currently do. I believe that Kalanchoes can take some of the sting out of people's reactions when we talk about cactus gardens, since there is often an equation between cactus and "ouch". There are species with colorful flowers and those with elegant foliage, most of which are considered easy to grow. Look at some of the species below and see what you like. Many of these are available by mail order, and re…
The Dazzling World of Dendrobiums--the pendant deciduous types

Orchids belong to the largest group of plants on Earth, certainly the most genetically diverse. The number of species in the orchid family is just mind boggling, by some estimates over 28,000. The number of hybrids is close to 10 times that amount, by other estimates exceeding 250,000  different hybrids, and the the number grow by 1000 or more hybrids each year. Some genera have a few species in them, while giant genera 
 ( Bulbophyllum , Dendrobium ) can have over 1000 species. The genus Dendrobium is now considered to have over 2000 species. Just tackling one of the sections within the genus is a challenge, but I've chosen one of my favorite groups, the pendant deciduous group, mostly from seasonally dry forests of India, Thailand, and Burma / Myanmar.

  Some of the species are petite, such as Dendrobium unicum, measuring 8 or 10 inches in length. Others, such as the hefty Philippine species D. superbum , can have c…

Basic Orchid Care- Cattleya species
One of  the best known of all orchids is the Cattleya, the famous (or infamous) corsage orchid. Millions of these orchids are harvested annually as cut flowers. Their unique combination of color, shape, and exquisite fragrance make them perennial favorites for many occasions. There are several dozen species, yielding thousands of hybrids, stretching back in time to 1870. The modern hybrids are a far cry from the elegant yet durable species, many of which make outstanding landscape plants for the subtropics.  

As with so many plant groups, there are miniature and giants in the group, and a wide range of colors and even fragrances to choose from. The smallest of the genus, Cattleya luteola, grows comfortably in a 4 inch pot for many years. One of the largest species, Cattleya bowringiana, can grow over 4 feet tall, and weigh over 100 pounds. Yet most Cattleya species will interbreed with each other, often resulting in some unusual primary …
Basic Orchid Care- Phalaenopsis 101

One of the most popular orchids in cultivation today is the Moth Orchid, in the genus Phalaenopsis. Millions are grown worldwide each year, and have become truly a "volksorchid", the people's orchid,  in the same vein as a Volkwagon is the people's car. You can now purchase extremely high quality Moth orchids at your local supermarket for about $ 20, costing $ 50 or more at an orchid show just a decade ago. These modern plants are extremely easy to grow, but like so many plants they have a few specialized needs. Once you know what the needs are, you can determine if the plants suit your needs. One of the most important things to consider in growing any plant is whether you and the plant can get along. I can speak from experience regarding the unusual effort needed to grow plants that either should not grow here, or that I cannot grow easily.

Growing moth orchids indoors requires a bright light area, but without direct sunlight. Mo…
Autumn Turf Care

As autumn arrives, we begin to see a group of contradictory conditions. The weather is both friend and foe. At this time of year, we are still experiencing high heat and humidity levels, yet the daylength is slowly disappearing. Our turf areas are still growing, but slower than in summer. The slightly cooler nights are better for our comfort, but also foster several fungal problems. We need to remember that we should start reducing fertilizer and water levels now to slow grass growth, as well as slow down tree growth. We can reduce watering to once a week on turf and most landscaping areas unless plants show signs of wilting or drought stress. If we 'toughen up' the turf for Fall, the grass will need less water, and we'll all be better prepared for the inevitable water restrictions that the Water Management District will likely impose.

In cooler weather, we can also spray for weed control better than in summer months, but many weeds can be controlled by cul…