Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A 6-pack of Flowers

Every gardener has their favorite flowers and shrubs. These are the ones we fall back on and use often. I have so many, but I thought I would pick six to share with you. These are not the typical geranium or petunias you often see in garden planters. Not there is anything wrong with either of those plants. The opposite is true, and I use them both and often.
But the following six flowers I like to use for special spots or containers. They may not be available all year long down here in the south, but when they are, you will find them on my plant pick list.
walsh kangaroo
Kangaroo Paw. This is a newish plant for me, and I am still becoming acquainted with it. It likes full sun, loose soil, and room to get some height. The foliage is a dark spikey green and the flower shafts rise from the center. The flower lasts for several weeks, paling as it matures. Multiple spikes will bloom at the same time. I have noticed that it does not like to be kept wet. Water thoroughly and let slightly dry between watering. A fertilizer for blooming flowers is necessary for continued spikes of flowers to be set. This plant can be mixed with other flowers or in a pot by itself.

cassandra
Cassandra. I love the deep salmon/peach color of these flowers. A plant that prefers light shade, it is a summer blooming plant. The flowers last, losing the lowest petals on the spike first. An interesting fact: if the flower spike is finished and water is applied to the spike, you can hear the popping of the seeds as they burst from the spike. Given the room, this plant can get 1-2 feet tall. Sniping off the dead spikes will promote fresh flowers. Because this plant is grown in lower light, do not over water.

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Mona Lavender. One of my favorites! The spikes of delicate purple flowers are long lasting and the plant, when properly pinched back, will become a full mound of color. Although, not a true Lavender, the foliage has a slight scent when crushed. This plant will grow in winter sun or partial shade. Unless in a shady area for the summer, it will not survive the intense summer sun and the plant will decline. Also, during the summer, it attracts soft scale and mealy bugs. A pretty plant  by itself or mixed with other annuals. This also makes a great bedding plant.

dragon wing
Dragon Wing Begonia. The delicate drape to the foliage and the lacy appearance of the blossoms makes this plant a great hanging basket or a trailing flower in a container of mixed annuals. It is also good for under-planting a taller palm or flowering tree in a container. The flowers are available in red or a coral color. This begonia will limp along through the summer months but only in a shady location. It is best to cut the plant back as the heat begins, since the leaves will often turn thin and drop.

madavilla
Mandavillea Vine. The large trumpet flowers on this vine are a big attraction for butterflies, and if you’re lucky, humming birds. Available in white, several shades of pink and red, the flowers are slow to appear in cool weather. But the lush foliage makes up for the lack of flowers. I mix lower growing annals at the base to give extra color. Once the weather warms up, the flowers will show, and is best grown in full sun. The plant is a rapid grower and fertilizing with a blooming plant mix is important. Don’t be afraid to cut the climbing tendrils when they get out of hand. This will help the plant stay lush and produce flowers.

dipladenia
Dipladenia. Similar to the Mandavillea flowers. But this plant is a great producer of consistent flowers. Blooms will slow if the weather is too cold. The plant does best to keep a bit dry. Tendrils should be cut back to keep the plant full. Because the plant spreads with in a container, it is best used by itself. This plant will last through the summer months, but the sun will scorch the leaves. Pink is the most common color, but can be found in white and a deep pink/read.

So, there’s my six-pack.
I hope you can find a place for them in your garden. I’m sure you will enjoy these plants as much as I do.
Maybe they will become your favorites as well.

Victoria LK Williams

Botanical Concepts

 

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

The Summer Cut

Around the beginning of June/July you should see a difference in your landscape. That’s because it’s time for the summer cut back. Often this includes cutting plants back so hard, they look like there’s nothing left of them.
This is a common practice with landscape companies in our area. Although it doesn’t look great right after it happens, most plants will flourish under this type of pruning and come back looking strong by the end of the summer months.
That’s fine and dandy, but if you live here year-round it can sometimes be frustrating to look at sticks instead of lush bushes. From a business standpoint this is how the landscapers have to do it; they are rarely contracted to provide  selective pruning your plants. But there’s no reason why you can’t.
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Some plants will survive without the summer cutback if you simply cut year-round. By selectively pruning branches as the plant grows, you can keep the plant at a nice year-round focus and shape. Plants like Dracaena Marginata, Ti Plants, Croton, and most trees  are perfect for this type. Even some of your hedging material such as Jasmine,   Hawthorns and Dwarf Ixora will maintain a good look if they are hedged periodically rather than a drastic cut back.
There are some plants such as Ornamental Grasses and Oleanders that thrive on the hard cut back and come back even stronger as a regrow.
It’s all a matter of knowing the plant structure and how it wants to grow naturally. If you have a plant that’s fast-growing and likes to spread, you may need to do more cutting or the drastic hard cutback to keep it looking full and thick.
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But slower growing plants tend to do better with selective pruning. It’s easier to stay on top of them keeping their shape manageable.
So whether you’re doing a hard summer cutback, or selective pruning, there are a few things you need to do before you start…
First and most importantly, make sure your tools are clean and sharp. If you’re pruning large plants make sure the area around is clear so  when the branches drop they don’t damage any lower plants. When you’re done pruning, make sure you clean up the debris, don’t leave it there to die off on the fresh growth. The debris is a primary place for insects and fungus to develop,  you want to be sure to get all cuttings picked up and disposed of, because along with the heat in the summer comes the rainy season. And a combination of the two was perfect for the spread of insects and disease.
After you cut back is the perfect time to fertilize, providing you are not breaking any county ordinances. Some counties will not allow fertilizing during the summer because of fertilizer runoff into lagoons. If this is the case, then try to time your cutbacks so your pruning just before the ordinance timing starts. If you’ve missed that date then as soon as the ordinance timing ends, apply fertilizer on the plants.
It’s pretty hard to cut back too much down here in Florida, between the heat, the rain, and the type of plants, things flourish quickly. By the end of summer you’ll forget how the plants looked after a hard cutback.

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So get out there and get your work done now before it gets too hot and then sit back, relax and enjoy your summer. 

Victoria LK Williams