Showing posts from 2013

Calathea zebrina


The Gorgeous, Velvety Calathea 'Jungle Velvet'
The Maranta Family has some real jewels in it, and some of them have made great landscape plants for a subtropical landscape or conservatory. One that has caught my attention recently is Calathea zebrina and its close ally C. warscewiczii. Both are beautiful foliage plants, and even more so when in flower. A great friend in the Kendall neighborhood grows a picture-perfect version of Calathea zebrina, usually called 'Jungle Velvet', with soft, butter-cream colored flowers, set against surreal striped / mottled foliage. The tradition with growing this group of plants is that they like deep shade, and most every book calls for the plants to be strictly understory plants. The plant seen in these pictures is growing in strong morning sunlight in Miami, with direct sun until almost noon. This plant is one of the best-grown I've seen for this species, better than most commercial growers. It is remarkably cold-hardy, r…

The Fascinating Ant Plants

The Fascinating Ant Plants

The Sacred Lotus

The Sacred Lotus Flower


Lotus have been cultivated for thousands of years, but only recently have become popular again in the south. There are numerous varieties, and in a range of plant sizes, from the fabled dwarf "rice bowl" lotus to giants growing to 8 feet tall. In most cases, lotus need abundant sunlight, and a fairly large water volume to grow to their best potential. The plants will grow better and flower more freely when given abundant soil solume in which to grow their vigorously spreading rhizome. The ideal situation would be to grow lotus in a shallow pond or lake with a rich organic soil substrate.          Rhizomes of many varieties can be obtained via mail-order nurseries throughout the country. Given ample water and soil volumes with a source of controlled-release fertilizer specific to water plants, lotus can be a great addition to an aquatic garden. Given some periodic attention to removing dead flower stems, and with fresh water available…
The Rose of the Mountain Trees

The Rose of the Mountain TreeBrownea is the genus of a group of trees that I like a lot. The trees have a graceful character to them and they don't grow very large, at least not in South Florida. Of special interest are the flower clusters, which in some species can be a foot across, in a range of colors from light orange to scarlet-red.

The trees are in the Legume family, and are from the New World. They are becoming more available in South Florida, and several species are available at every Tropical Flowering Tree Society sale in Miami, as well as through mail order sources. The species are easier to grow than once thought; our trees at Pinecrest Gardens routinely set seed, and grow in more sunlight than the landscape books tell you. I have not seen any cold damage on the trees here, even at near-frost conditions. I know of several trees 50-70 miles further north and they grow well in a range of climate conditions, although the cultivated sp…
Red Amongst the Green

Red is a difficult color to find in a shade garden. There are numerous plants with red flowers, but most of them require abundant sunlight. There are many plants that have red flowers to attract birds and bees as pollinators. In partial shade or even full shade, plants with red foliage or flowers are far less common.

At Pinecrest Gardens, we have a few plants which flower with nice red colors, even in the shade. For heavy shade, plants in the Shrimp Plant Family ( Acanthaceae) rule the forest with flashy flowers and colorful bracts. One of our favorites is the Cardinals Guard plant. It grows best in bright filtered light, but can perform even in very low light. Its crimson flowers are a welcome contrast to waves of green foliage in a forest landscape.

There are numerous species in the Lily Family that can add color to your garden, including the venerable Amaryllis group. Although they grow best in very bright light, they can still flower in shade conditions under …
Root Zone Heating? in Florida ?

 Root zone heat can dramatically improve rooting and seed germination, yet few people use the technique very much these days. It is a tried-and-true technique, but I believe most growers in Florida feel it is unnecessary, given our abundant heat most of the year. It is the temperature difference from day to night which makes such a difference in rooting plants or germinating seeds. Even though we might have a 90 F day, sometimes the temperatures go down to 75F at night, even cooler in the Spring and Fall weather changeover. If we can stabilize the temperature difference from day to night to just a few degrees, seeds sprout faster and cuttings root stronger.

Victorian-era greenhouse gardeners often used paraffin oil burners underneath metal clad seed beds to boost root zone temperatures, and many temperate-zone gardeners have long used root heating mats to keep plants healthy. There are many ways to stabilize and boost root zone heating, many…
Irrigation and Sprinkler Systems- part 2: Controllers

If you have need to irrigate or water your lawn or landscape more than occasionally, it is wise to use some sort of controller to manage the watering schedule. Controllers can range from a manual type that is a simple count-down ,non-repeating timer which shuts off the water; to mini-computers which can handle dozens of variables and can keep track of seasonal changes. 

For residential landscapes, a simple battery-operated controller will handle one or two sprinklers, connected to hoses and used for small areas. For a more permanent system, an electronic plug-in controller will handle most needs. Most of these devices can be purchased at large home improvement stores, along with all the needed wiring and connectors. 

One of the primary decisions to make is what type of controller to use. If your irrigation system is run by electric irrigation valves, use an electronic controller, preferably one that is rated for outdoor use. Ma…
Irrigation or Irritation System ?
When do you need just a "sprinkler" and when does the need morph into an "irrigation system" ? Part 1- the irrigation heads. 

At some point in most gardens, you will need a sprinkler device to water an area or to water in newly planted trees or a landscape section. This begins a cycle that I call the Irrigation Ladder. This cycle is much like the Automobile Ladder or Real Estate Ladder or even the Corporate ladder, wherein you start small and work up to increasingly complex levels, along with a greater risk / reward profile. There are hundreds of choices of irrigation heads, and technology improves them every few years. One of the most recent developments has been the stream-rotor head, combining the best of rotor and spray-head technology into one, very efficient and fairly trouble-free device. Suitable for mixed-planting and turf areas including flower beds, this new type of head can be very effective, although rather expensive to …
       The Giant Gingers- Over Ten Feet, and 

 In our subtropical Miami climate, we can grow a great many species of plants, but for some reason many local gardeners have chosen their landscape designs to favor smallish plants. Perhaps this is a maintenance issue more than a design issue, but I thought I'd counter the trend of smaller plants by pointing out some of the giant ones, for those with larger properties. Few things can make such a statement as a specimen clump of a ginger or heliconia ( see previous blogs). I recall a trip I took to Hawaii in 1996 to the eastern side of Maui, a wet and moderate climate near Hana. I saw a forest of Etlingera elatior, easily 25 feet tall, growing in what seemed to be primordial and prehistoric conditions. The inflorescences were over my head, over 6 feet tall, and I expected a dinosaur to walk out from a nearby clump at any moment. It was a memory for a liftetime.  

There are quite a numb…
New Guinea Impatiens--Thoroughbreds of the Annuals Group

For many gardeners, especially in the mild parts of the year, Impatiens are a staple item of the garden color palette. With the recent gardening trend toward smaller-statured plants, modern Impatiens are being bred for compact plant size, bright colors, and even growth habit. This trend makes for an interesting conundrum: if the plants are smaller and smaller, you'll need to plant more and more of them to attain the "wow" quotient you hope for your garden's color display. 

My question is: why not use larger Impatiens ? New Guinea Impatiens grow taller and broader than their smaller cousins, and put on quite a show of color. This group of Impatiens often shows off larger flowers ( up to 3 inches across) as well as taller plants ( up to 2 feet and even more).     

One of the down-sides to this group is the plant cost; about double the price of the "regular" Impatiens. While the New Guinea group grows talle…