Showing posts from November, 2010
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…
Terrariums- Building The Ultimate Water-Conservation Garden

When I was researching this blog, I found a great deal on-line about growing plants in terrariums ( or terraria ), how to build them, and what to grow in them. Even more information is available about building vivariums, which are terrariums with animals inside, as we see so often with pet frogs or small lizards or other reptiles. The basics of building a terrarium have remained constants for decades. I remember building a terrarium almost 40 years using the classic tradition of multi-level construction, and the plants survived for almost 5 years before I had to disassemble it and replant it to accommodate the plants' growth. Some of the biggest mistakes I see in building long-duration terrariums is that people don't account for plant growth, give the terrarium enough light, or put in enough root drainage.       

The old style of building a terrarium calls for layering the bottom of…
Gesneriads-  Not Just African Violets Anymore


When I talk about gesneriads, most people think of their grandmother's African Violets. In all honesty, I used to think that way too. Then I moved to Florida, and was introduced to some outstanding gesneriads for landscaping and container culture. Naturally there is a gesneriad society, and like many plant societies they are ready and willing to help with your questions about gesneriads. As with so many plant groups, there are sizes and colors to match any growing need. 

One of the many surprises in this group was Gloxinia perennis , which grows just beautifully as a landscape plant here, even in fairly hostile conditions. There are many gesneriads which grow well as hanging baskets, some are suited to terrarium culture, and some are great for wet-wall usage. I skipped African Violets in this column, since there is a huge amount of information available about growing African Violets, and not so much on the other gesneriads. O…

The Dazzling World of Dendrobiums- the Miniatures
In so many plant groups, there are numerous variations on a theme, primarily in the realms of plant color and plant size. I've talked with gardeners and growers who have complained for decades that they couldn't grow what they wanted because the plants got too big, or they didn't have a "real" garden. In this blog I will address miniature Dendrobiums ( under 12 inches tall) that can answer the call of space-challenged gardeners. These are plants with a big return of flowers on a small plant.
In most cases, there are plants to suit any size gardening endeavor. There are variations in size in orchids, bromeliads, gesneriads, palms, ferns, cacti, and almost every other plant group. I have blogged about many of these groups, so my advice is to do some research about what options are available to you so that you can have the garden you want. The most important aspect of planning a garden is choosing the right p…
The Chinese Evergreen Group- Aglaonema and Company.
Every year there are several big horticulture trade shows. Each year there will be a "new " plant on display,  often a plant that has been grown a long time ago, now enjoying a resurgence in popularity. It is getting increasingly difficult to really "wow" someone in the retail plant market, although in my opinion plant breeders have done a pretty decent job in the last 2 decades. In these trade shows, we'll see something like Zamioculcas zamiifolia as a "new" plant, (although it has been in cultivation for at least 50 years.) Dieffenbachias have made a comeback, and in the last 5 years or so, Aglaonemas have also made a comeback. Sometimes there are new cultivars of something long in cultivation. One witty nurseryman called this type of plant a " heritage" plant, meaning that if you wait for 2 or 3 generations of people to pass through the plant world, lots of old plants are "new"…
Selaginella Ferns- Easy to Grow, Hard to Find

Here in the humid subtropics in Miami, we can grow a lot of plants as landscape plants that people in many other areas of the country grow as houseplants or landscape plants. One of the most attractive but little known plants is the Selaginella Fern group. The plants often crop up in plant collections and conservatories, but only in this part of the country are they seen in retail garden stores. Botanic gardens often have them at their sales, but not very much has been written about growing them in the home garden. Most of the species are easy enough to grow, and there are several native US species, most of which are temperate. The really flashy ones are Asian, and one in particular, S. uncinata , is the gorgeous Rainbow Fern often seen in terraria. As a landscape plant here, it is fairly easy to grow provided you give it continuous moisture, preferably allowing it to climb all over the ground. When the sun shines on the plant, the fronds l…
Whatever Happened to All the Poinsettias in Florida Gardens ?

 These Mexican natives thrived in our climate of hot,rainy summers, and cool, dry winters. I remember seeing pictures of people proudly showing off their Poinsettias, usually on the south side of their homes, ablaze with color in winter. For many homeowners, they were just ordinary landscape plants with sticky sap, needing pruning every late Summer and little care after that. Gardeners would propagate them easily by cuttings in the spring, and the plants grew to magnificent dimensions. In dry winters I saw thousands of homes with great splashes of red in the landscape.

I noticed that a lot of people looked at my blog about what happened to Hibiscus in Florida. The comments about the disappearance of old Hibiscus reminded me of the nearly total loss of Poinsettias. I've been asking University of Florida Extension agents  for a long time about the mass disappearance of these gaudy yet iconic plants. The ans…
Miniature Bromeliads for Landscaping
Bromeliads are one of the most diverse and easily grown plant groups available to South Florida gardeners. There are nearly 2000 species and thousands of hybrids available, but the selection of miniature bromeliads is a smaller list indeed. Several mail-order nurseries sell a variety of such plants amongst others. Tropiflora in Sarasota, Michael's Bromeliads in Venice, Tradewinds Tropicals in Homestead sell these wonderful plants, as do many plant collectors. Bromeliad Society plant sales are goldmines for these neat little plants, most of which will do well in hanging slotted baskets or mounted on pieces of rough wood. Given the vast array of plants available, I am classif ying 'miniature' bromeliads as plants under 6 inches tall and less than 8 inches wide. In the last 2 decades there have been many hybrids using a miniature parent and a full-size parent, resultiung in the best characters of both. Neoregelia 'Fireball' is an ex…
The Rennaissance of Crotons

In the last 5 years, I've seen a real resurgence in the popularity of crotons. In some areas on the west coast of Florida, crotons have been a major anchor plant choice of landscapes for decades. Perhaps the croton nurseries were there 50 years ago, and the plants became available to homeowners. Perhaps the rocky soil in Miami prevented a wider variety becoming available, or it may be a simple demand-supply curve problem that prevented a wider array of plants becoming available earlier. Nonetheless, there are dozens of varieties of crotons available in good supply these days. There is a nursery in Miami which specializes in crotons, producing several dozen varieties from cuttings. New seedling-grown varieties crop up all the time in large collections. Here at Pinecrest Gardens we have over 100 varieties of crotons, most of which are named, some of which are wild seedlings.

There are varieties for sunny locations, contain…