Showing posts from March, 2011
My Potted Plants are Dying ! Now What ?
If you have ever grown more than a few potted plants at one time, you will have experienced the drama of seeing your plants fail. This is usually accompanied by dropping leaves, wilted stems, and occasionally some seriously bad odors. There are myriad reasons why plants fail, but in the vast majority of cases, the problem is your fault. There are innumerable reasons why plant failure is your fault, too many to list, but let's make sure you realize the problems had to do with you, and I'll list some of the main reasons why.
Hands down, the major reason for plant failure is improper watering. There is an old sage about killing plants with too much water, but this is a misnomer. "Improper" watering is more accurate, since a common scenario is to see a plant wilting due to drought, then water it too much, causing a root rot. The question would then be: did the plant die of too little, or too much water ? The answer would be"b…
Spring Flowers- Part 1-  Periwinkle ( Vinca)

Every year in Miami, Spring sneaks up on us. The official date is on the calendar, but we are caught by surprise every March or April. I hear the same comments about the heat every year. I hear myself saying the same thing: " it's getting hot really fast", and "wow, that afternoon sun is really intense". This increasingly intense sun also leads to some drought problems, and we seem equally surprised that we have to water our Impatiens or Pentas more often. The Impatiens in particular are looking tired, beginning to get thin, and need more fertilizer than just a month ago. Many other annuals wilt every afternoon, since the sun if getting higher in the sky, and the early Summer rain is still a month away or more. The "mean season" of late March through the first week of May results in bleached plants, sunburned gardeners, and frazzled nerves. What can we do to relieve these problems, and are there really bette…
The Tantalizing Prospects of Hydroponics
I am fascinated by technology, both in my field of horticulture and in most other venues of the modern world. I remember going to Disney World about 25 years ago and seeing "the future of gardening" at Epcot. The future looked pretty bright, with mechanized automated planting of vegetable and grain crops growing in hydroponic media, or in no media at all. The sight of mature lettuce plants sliding around on an elevated rail system with their root systems totally exposed to the air was a sight to remember, tagged with the term "aeroponics". Long before there was a Green movement, hydroponics had the potential to save huge amounts of water, produce huge amounts of  food or foliage, and save huge amounts of fertilizer runoff.

  Hydroponics has enormous potential for growing plants in controlled environments to produce high yields of product, without the conventional in-the-ground techniques of sunshine and soil. Some of the g…
The Business of "cloning" Plants
One of the hottest topics in horticulture in recent decades has been that of tissue cultured (TC) plants. I have been part of heated arguments for both sides of the equation, wherein both commercial growers and private plant collectors weigh in with heavy arguments. In short, TC provides very large quantities of very consistent, high quality plants to growers at very good prices. With great accuracy, the plants are statistically identical. This is the primary argument both for and against TC plants. Let's look at some of the pro-and-con aspects of tissue culture.

On the plus side of TC, growers can produce a very predictable crop of plants with nearly identical characteristics on a very predictable schedule. If a grower wants to produce 100,000 Spathiphyllum 'Supreme', a registered and patented plant, he can get the TC plantlets he needs to produce a uniform crop that will grow predictably, with a LOT of background data available …
Flowering Bulbs for the Subtropics

  Earlier in my life, I lived in temperate Milwaukee. I remember planting bulbs in the Fall, and if you staged  and designed them right, you could have a long running show of flowers starting as early as March, with Crocus flowers and Siberian Iris coming up through the snow. What a switch from Milwaukee to Miami ! There is a far smaller list of bulbs to work with in Miami than in temperate climates, but there are some choices available. Many of the stalwart choices, like tulips, crocus, jonquils, and gladiolus, are hard to grow in the extreme south. In California, there are lots more options due to to the more Mediterranean climate and cooler winters of the coastal areas. In South Florida, we have to cheat a little. There are some bulbs that can offer diversity to a garden collection, but they need some extra care to bring on floweringListed below  are some of my own choices, with myriad others to choose from.

There are swarms of…
Those Marvelous, Mystifying Medinillas
Medinillas are in the same family as Tibouchina,Melastoma ( for which the family is named), and a number of other popular plant genera, most of which have attractive flowers. In the case of Medinilla, many of the cultivated species and selections are of special interest, since they are attractive plants, often bearing spectacular flowers heads. These plants are frequently tree dwellers, and are easily cultivated as basket plants. In the larger species such as M. magnifica, M. myrianthina, and M. miniata , the plants can form small trees ! Here in Miami, these species can be grown  with some success as either very large containerized plants, or in 20-30" diameter wire baskets filled with a moisture-retentive epiphytic mix suitable for Phalaenopsis. There are well over 100 species in the genus, some of which are very petite species that climb around on rocks, some of which reputedly attain tree status, with some eye-popping inflorescences. Mos…
Tools of the Garden Trade-part 4- Shovels
Ah, the lowly shovel. So many people have them in their tool sheds, and probably have just one for all uses.As with so many tools, there is the perfect tool for almost any job, and rarely does one shovel do everything. There are shovels with very long handles and very narrow blades for drainage ditches, and short, stout spades for working in close quarters. Knowing a little about each type can greatly assist in digging  holes or removing plants or cultivating soil. 

There are numerous features of any shovel to consider when buying one. The handle material will greatly affect the cost and utility of a shovel. Some of the solid core or metal handled shovels can cost $ 60 or more, whereas the hickory handled tools of the local garden center may be $ 20. Extra long handled shovels and spades are used for digging very deep holes, or for root-pruning a tree. These spades are made of a steel that can be sharpened easily and often. Cultivating…