Showing posts from August, 2012
The Beautiful Blue Marble Tree

I have a rare and delightful job as a horticulturist in a public garden, in which I can grow a great many species of plants. I can also experiment with new species, trialing them for planting in the local area. One such experiment has been modestly successful so far, with the Blue Marble Tree. This majestic tree has a lot of good qualities as a large  tree, but only the coming years will show if has longevity, sturdiness and the other attributes which make a good "landscape" tree versus a specimen for a garden or street tree. 

The botanical name for this tree is Elaeocarpus grandis, one of dozens of species in the genus, all of which are tropical or subtropical, all are Old World, most are from from Asia and the Indo-China area. One other species, E. decipiens, The Japanese Blueberry Tree, is a bit more common in the landscape trade in Florida where it shows a lot of promise as a street or courtyard tree. It is of modest size, has a w…
Dyckias: Not Bad.......Just Misunderstood


In some ways, bromeliads are like cactus: people only remember the spines, and overlook the benefits; even a thorny plant can have the reward of beautiful flowers. Such, I believe, is the case of the often-feared Dyckia group of bromeliads. For many people, looking closely at a well-grown Dyckia is usually cause for a wincing look or perhaps a long pause, followed by a cautious distance from the plant. Yet, in the nursery at Pinecrest Gardens, we bare-hand Dyckias without bloodshed or fear; we've learned how to stay clear of the spiny parts. The teeth of this plant group are no more dangerous than a carpenter's saw, and just as stationary; know where the teeth are, and stay away from them. My college mentor in Gainesville would have given me stern counsel: "you know about the danger, so deal with it ! Don't use it as an excuse to stay away from the plant, just work around it." 

As with cactus and succulents, yo…
Salvias for Every Landscape
or ...Sage Advice....

For decades, gardeners in almost every state in the country have planted Salvias to brighten their gardens. As a teenager in Milwaukee, I remember planting the most common red annual variety of annual Salvia, carefully pinching the tops off to make more flower heads, watching the plants grow and set seed, then die at the first hard frost of Fall. I had no idea then that so many varieties of this genus existed, much less their potential in the landscape as perennials. I had to move to Florida before I discovered different varieties of Salvia, and was amazed to find that some species can grow to the dimensions of a small garage. On the other side of the size spectrum is the Florida native Salvia coccinea ,    a petite species growing to 2 feet, with dainty pink-white or red florets.

One of my favorites is a gorgeous perennial blue-flowered variety called S. guaranitica, which can easily grow to 4 feet in height. The species attract…
A Great Alternative to Turf Grass

With an increasing trend toward water conservation throughout the country ( aided by a record-setting nationwide drought), we should take a new look at our need for turf grass in its current application. In so many landscaped areas, I see turf grass in places it should not, cannot, or  never will grow. Researchers come up with new turf varieties that are drought tolerant, new types of grass that are shade tolerant, and new products to tend to the burgeoning array of turf varieties. Yet again and again, I see turf in places where something else would do the job better. The question I have is: why do we HAVE to have grass over every bare area or open spot ?
There are egregiously expensive commercial turf cutting machines that cost as much as a small house, turf fertilizers that contain some VERY interesting ingredients with unusual names, and a truly impressive array of turf chemicals to treat insects, pathogens and soil compaction. If you look at all the…