Showing posts from June, 2011
Water Quality DOES Make a Difference....

For years I grew plants that were "fussy" and otherwise described by a range of colorful adjectives. Some of them included Cochliostema, Medinilla, certain Licuala species, Gardenias, Vireya Rhododendrons, and a long list of orchids. When I moved from West Palm Beach back to Miami, I found that the plants fared even worse in many cases, even thought he climate was proclaimed to be better. I thought the problems with the plants were due to the wetter weather of Miami . Perhaps the problem was the wrong potting mix, so I tried dozens of combinations, looking for yet another miracle of soilless medium technology, or a fix-all fertilizer. None of the "cure-all" methods worked. Over many years, I marveled at some of the Miami growers who could grow these temperamental plants so well. I was puzzled  about the reasons for their success until I ran into a few growers in the area where I now live, who explained that it was the g…
Blazing Sun Bromeliads

One of the more popular questions I get is what kinds of bromeliads can take full sunlight. It is an interesting question and a hard one to answer, since "full sun" can mean either direct sunlight for a short period, or all-day sun without shade. The two conditions are quite different ! Many of the hard-leaved bromeliads can take a few hours of direct morning sunlight and will benefit from it. The same plants placed into all-day sunlight will likely sun-burn to crisp, literally.  I believe it would be safe to say that most bromeliads enjoy bright filtered light, as seen under an oak or poinciana or a cluster of pine trees. This "shifting shade" is excellent; it has all the sun energy the plants need without all the scorching heat. Some of the hardest-leaved species actually need direct sunlight for several hours to get the best leaf color.

The same tolerance for sunlight can be said of most gardeners, too. We enjoy a bright spot in…
The Gorgeous Licuala Group

I admit that I am a plantaholic, with no reservations or excuses. I have devoted most of my life to the art and craft and occasional science of growing plants. Every plantsman I know has favorite genera or plants. In my case, I have favorite plant families . Fortunately I get to work in a botanical garden where I can grow a wide range of plants within families, and sometimes show off the differences in a genus. One of my favorite genera is Licuala, with which I've had an affinity for decades. There is something elegantly simple about the leaves in the genus. Perhaps my fascination is due to my early reading of the massive Exotica plant book when I was a teenager, seeing the pictures of the plant from far-off Thailand or Java. I always thought of them as tender, fussy plants for collector's conditions, but this is not always the case.  At Pinecrest Gardens, we have several species of Licuala, mostly the larger species such as lauterbachii,grandis…
Mango Mania- Coming Soon to a Neighborhood Near You

Over the last few weeks, several counties in South Florida have seen record fruit-set on their mango trees. This happens when we've had the weather we experienced last year and the year before: periods of cold weather followed by months of dry sunny weather from January to April, perfect for the abundant production of  flowers. This weather combination allows for good insect pollination and the lack of rain allows the flowers to turn into fruit without rotting off in rainstorms. 

  The dilemma is that when mango trees set a lot of fruit, they often set a LOT of fruit, sometimes more than can be eaten or sold. ( What a dilemma, I say). I sometimes get a question from newcomers to the area about how many mango trees can be put on a half-acre lot. My answer is "3". They respond that they REALLY love mangoes, and would like to buy 10 or 12 trees for their lot. My return question is "can you really eat 1000 pounds of…
The Calendar Says It Is Spring, But It Is 93 Degrees.....and Climbing

Every year, we experience a phenomenon I call "The Transition"; the period between the pleasant weather of Spring, and the brutal sun and heat of Summer. Unfortunately, this transition period involves long days of brilliant, cloudless skies, little or no rain, and fairly strong dry winds. These forces combine to make plants ( and gardeners) really unhappy. The results are painfully evident, with great patches of dry grass, wilting and defoliating trees, wilted everything else, and a renewed questioning in the wisdom of having tropical gardens. 
Take heart, fellow gardeners, the rains are coming. This happens every year, but the length of these dry spells seems to get longer and longer each year. I can't speak to the idea of global climate change, but I could certainly speak to the ideas of local climate change, and a disappearing water table. What can we do as a residence, business, and com…