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Garden Critters

Some Things Just Go Hand-In-Hand.
I’ve been providing horticultural services for over 30 years, and I can say with confidence that there are certain types of people who have a true love of plants. From the simple exotic Orchid to the complex landscape design, there are people out there who have made plants an important part of their life. Obviously, I am one of them.
New plantings in beds or containers are planned with meticulous attention to detail, parties and special events use plants and flowers as an intricate part of the decorating, often using plants from our gardens. New plants or flowers added to the interior bring a feeling of joy. There is a special feeling of contentment felt when we can spend a day working in the garden.

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Yet, there is something else I’ve noticed about plant lovers; most are also ANIMAL lovers!

There are days that I go from account to account, and I am tripping over dogs. Puppies looking for attention, adolescent dogs looking to play and mature dogs content to just say hello and then continue their nap. It’s hard to concentrate on the job instead of spending time with all these loving dogs! The only downfall to this part of my job is that when I got home, my dog was jealous of all those doggy smells on me. So it’s a quick shower before I could give him the love he deserves from me.

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And then there are those wonderful cats. They act indifferent to your presence, but they are right there to inspect your water bucket and tools. There are a few who will follow me from plant to plant, just to make sure I’m doing my job right. And there are a few that will try to steal the tie tape out of my tools, or play hide-&-seek in the plants. There is even one that jumps up to play in the water as I fill my bucket or water the plants. Funny, my cats do that too.

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Of course, other animals are also pets for us plant lovers. Birds, Guinea Pigs, Reptiles of many kinds, and even Pot-Bellied Pigs. I’ve seen all of these on my accounts, and each homeowner has a place in their heart for their special pet. And many include their pets in their gardening enjoyment.

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But I have to say that dogs and cats will always be my favorite!

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Testing the Winds

The wind and your landscape go hand in hand.

Without the wind, landscaping will not grow to its highest potential. The flowers need the wind for pollination. Cooling from the heat from sun’s rays beating down on the foliage of the plants happens as the wind passes over your plants. Blowing away the dust and pollutants that settle on the plants all the pores on the plants surface to be unobstructed. These are benefits of a strong wind you may not notice.
But the wind can also be a double-edged sword. As cooling as it can be in the summer, in the winter that same wind can be brutal. Personally, I think the wind can do more damage than anything else to the landscape.

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That’s why it’s so important the plants you pick are right for their location. For instance, the wind coming off the sea contains amounts of salt crystals in it. Even though you may not think your plants are in direct line of being hit by the salt from the waves, the wind can carry that salt just a few feet farther, dropping the salt on the plants. It goes without saying; the plants living in these conditions will need to be tough.
The wind can do more damage during cold weather than the drop in temperature. The air temperatures might not get down to freezing, but the constant wind and chill factor can quickly burn the leaves and damage plant cells. You might not see all the damage right away. The first sign of damage might be turning the foliage a reddish brown or distorted. Other damage may not show up until the air temperatures warm back up. Then you will see the leaves yellow and drop. One of the most tender plants in our area are the many varieties of Hibiscus.

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The wind can do heavy damage by drying the foliage out of the plant as well. Even though the soil may feel slightly damp, the constant blowing of a strong or warm wind blowing against the leaves will pull moisture out of the plant faster than the roots can pull it out of the ground. This why it is important to know what part of your landscape faces the strongest, potentially damaging winds. These are the areas where you’re going to want to plant sturdy plants. You might even want to plant hardy plants to buffer more delicate flowers or lacy ferns.
We can’t control the way the winds blow, nor the temperature of the wind. But we can plant smartly, using native plants where possible, and provide protection to the more delicate plants.

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The point is to enjoy our gardens.

Knowing the environmental factors of your space and using the proper plants will help you achieve this.

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Plant or Pot?

What comes first? This question is as old as the chicken and egg.

It should be a serious question when you’re doing container gardening. What do you believe is more important; the plant or the container?

The answer is different for everybody but for me it’s an easy answer.

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Let me explain…

The container you’re planting the plants into can often be the most expensive part of your gardening budget. You put a lot of time and thought into picking out the right container. From selecting the right location, to finding the exact color or style you want to use. You may also need to consider finding a container in your price bracket. Finally, you need to place the container in its permanent position, and if it’s a large container, that may take extra manpower.

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It could easily be a container you’ve had around the house. Perhaps one you’ve enjoyed for years and now want to highlight. Perhaps it was a gift and you want to give it a place of honor. Or maybe when you were at the local garden center you saw it in your heart cried out “I’ve got to have it”. In all those instances you selected the container before you had the plant. Once the container has been placed in the location that you want, you can begin your selection of plants.

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It’s hard to select the plants until you know where they will go and how much room you have for planting again. This supports my reasoning of the container being the more important piece of the equation. If your plant choice requires a lot of drainage, you need to know your container has substantial drainage holes.

And another reason the container is so important is because the container is the one piece it can be reused year after year. Once this becomes a stable foundation for your planting, you can enjoy your plants; changing the selection in the container every year or even every season. Changing the container every year could get to be a very expensive habit.

So, the next time you go to the garden center, head over to the container section first. Once you find the right container, then go have fun in the flower and plant area. Take your time picking out the plants that will be perfect for that container so you can enjoy them for as long as possible.

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It’s a cold start!

The start of 2018’s weather hasn’t been easy! Frigid temps, icy roads and record setting snowfall have made the celebrating the holiday season challenging for our northern friends and family.

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Even down here in the south, we are bracing for frosty weather. Heavy rains are beating against the windows as I write, to be followed by a cold front that threatens not only our comfort, but could also cause damage to our plants.

Many have gone to great lengths to get their gardens in tip-top condition for the holidays. We want our guest to enjoy the beautiful flowers of the south, and maybe even smirk a little because we can enjoy the tropics year-round.

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We can’t control the weather, but we can take steps to protect our gardens against the elements.

First off, don’t begrudge the rain. It’s helpful to keep the plants well-watered and strong against the beating winds. Be sure the pots are not sitting in water-you don’t want to create a situation where rotting can start.

Next, be thankful for a little wind. That will help keep the frost from settling on the leaves, flowers and fruit. But too strong of a frigid wind can burn the leaves, leaving behind brown tips and falling leaves. If you can move smaller pots out of the wind, do so. If not, try to cover them with a lightweight blanket or sheet. Try not to use plastic, it can often cause more damage than it protects by burning the plants as the sunlight magnifies through it.

Keeping the plants strong and in good health all year long will also help them recover quickly if they suffer from the cold. Remember, you may not see the damage until several days or even a week later.

After the cold has passed, don’t be in a big hurry to get out there and cut back the plants. Remember it’s only January, and there could be colder weather on the way. Instead, keep the falling debris cleared to make sure that bugs and disease do not have a place to hide, keep the plants watered and be patient. Often, you’ll notice new growth starting on within a week after a freeze. What you may think is dead can rejuvenate and become a beautiful plant again.

So, relax and view your garden from the windows until the cold passes. And be thankful we don’t have to deal with all that snow!!

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Merry Christmas!

If you’re like any other proud gardener, then you have included sprucing up your planting beds for the holidays. Flowers have been added to welcome those holiday guests as they arrive, fresh mulch has been laid and there isn’t a weed to be found!

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Now it’s time to sit back and relax. Enjoy the holiday festivities and glow in the praises of your hard work. Don’t hesitate to point out a creative design in you containers, or an unusual plant you found hidden away in the garden center. Go ahead and show off your hard work. Bring your holiday parties outside, gather around the pool or fire pit and toast in the New Year.

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This is a time to be with family and friends, and chances are they also harbor a love of plants. Let the conversation wind around the newest tool, plant or gardening method you’ve discovered. Compare notes on who has the best gardens, and make plans to visit in the new year.

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But don’t get too comfortable. This is the south, and nothing goes dormant for long down here. Soon you’ll be out there dead heading flowers, mowing the grass and plucking the weeds.

From our Garden to yours…

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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So much to be thankful for!

So much happened over the last few months of this summer. We had unusually hot weather, a hurricane and then 12 day in a row of heavy rain. Yes, I was looking for the Ark, wondering if I needed to pre-book my spot!20160810_125251

But through it all, we keep moving forward. Now we are in the thick of fall planting. Drop-dead container gardens, colorful and interesting flower gardens and small spaces needing our special touch, are keeping us busy, busy!

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Thanksgiving is this week, and before you know it, Christmas will be here too. So, I think it is important to stop for a moment, take a calming breath and say “Thank you.”

In our small town, we know our neighbors, run into our clients often in our daily running’s, and often support the same causes. It’s easy to take for granted the friendships and blessings that we have. The day-to-day business of work and life tend to take over. But I wanted to personally wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

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No matter what you’re doing, who you’re sharing it with, I pray that the day will be full of blessings.

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The Storm is Coming!

When the weather Channel tells you there’s a hurricane coming the adrenaline pumps. For those of us who live down south we have automatic steps laid out in our hurricane plan and we begin to prepare. We work, keeping an eye on the news, watching the hurricane’s path to see where spaghetti models will show the path. Will we fall in the cone of error?

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As you prepare your family at home for safety, many wonder what to do about their potted plants. Here are a few tips we take every year to protect our potted plants when there’s a hurricane threat.
We watched the weather will determine the timing of our actions. The hurricane five days out may take a completely different path by the third day and it’s important to know where you stand.

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Once we make the decision that action must be taken, the first thing we do is decide what pots are too big to move. Those pots that are too big to move to a safe location, we lay on their side, if it’s at all possible, braced with bags of sand. If they cannot be moved because of weight or size, we make sure the plants are thoroughly watered to help keep them in place.

For those containers you can move, we move them inside a garage or safe location. But what if you have no room in your garage or no safe location? Then we determined, based on knowing your site, where the most protected areas are on your property. Often this is in the corner of the building protected from the direct wind. We then move the smallest pots first putting them up against the house tightly. Next, around the small pots, we put the next size containers until we’ve established all the containers are where they belong. Then, just like with the large plants we water them thoroughly. This is also important in case you can’t get to them at once after the storm to water— because regardless of what the storm weather- it will be hot afterwards and those plants will need water.
Make sure all plant debris is removed from the site. If you can’t get it off your site put it in one location and stack it tightly. All lawn decorations, wind chimes, etcetera need to be taken down and put in a secure location.
There’s not much more you can do for the outside plants at this point.
After the storm has passed, you need to assess the damage and make the proper pruning decisions that will encourage new growth and a healthy plant.
But the most important thing to remember when preparing your plants for a hurricane is safety first. Plants are things and can be replaced. The safety of you and your loved ones should be the most important think you think about.
Stay safe & God’s blessings.

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We’re in the hot days of summer; you can feel it as the sweat trickles down your neck to the waistline of your pants. When you watch the news and you see highs in the 90s and heat indexes above 100. You know you’re just beginning to deal with the summertime heat.

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So you take precautions. You use sunblock.  drink plenty of fluids, stay in the shade (or if you’re lucky in the air-conditioning), and move a little slower. But you know what? You are not the only one that feels the heat. Your plants do too.

Did you know the plants will naturally take precautions to help them make it through the heat? They slow down their growth rate, using less water and food in the process, by simply maintaining the existing plant surface. They may even reduce the size of their leaves, by curling up during the heat of the day, to reduce the amount of surface for the evaporation. It can look like the plant is starting to wilt, but if you feel the soil you may find plant is still wet. What the plant is doing, is trying to protect itself from the heat. Beneath the surface of the soil, the plant is trying to conserve water as well. It will be searching for deeper water rather than surface water, which will evaporate quickly.

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There are a few things that you can do to protect your plants, just as you protect yourself. If they’re in pots, try moving them to the shade, where they can avoid the hot afternoon sunlight. When you’re watering–water less frequently, but more thoroughly, causing the roots to go deeper and not be as prone to surface trying. Hold back on the fertilization during the heat; there’s no reason to encourage plants to put out new growth when they’re trying to conserve what they already have. New growth is tender, and more prone to be sunburnt, as well. And above all else, be consistent with your watering. Water in the morning or early evening, not during the heat of the day when the water drops can actually magnify the sunlight and burn the plant. Be sure to water thoroughly, until the water comes up bottom of the pot if that is possible.

When he heat lets up, it will be time to fertilize the plants. Go ahead and trim to shape at this time, and watch them take off and grow. The first signs will show when the evening started to cool down. It won’t be long before you will noticed an increase creased in new growth and flower production.

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Until then, grab a glass of ice-tea and head for that shady spot by the pool. Summer isn’t over yet.

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Life Span

There is a lifespan for everything, and you can see signs of when things are reaching the end of their lifespan.

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From the grocery supplies we buy, to the clothes we wear, things will only last so long. Food and drink clearly label what their lifespan is by an expiration date. Our clothing fades, a clear sign it is near the end of its life span. Even people have a lifespan, and although we don’t see an expiration date stamped on our forehead, there are clear signs as we age and near the end of our time.

 

So why should your landscaping be any different? I’ve worked in the industry of landscaping in Florida for many years (decades if I’m honest!) and my experiences show me the average lifespan of a properly maintained landscape is 15 maybe 20 years. Of course, this can fluctuate based on the plant material used. Just like our human bodies if they’re not taking care of the plants will show deterioration faster and not live their long full expected lifespan.

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Does this mean if your landscape is getting ready to reach maturity and starting to decline you should start with a clean slate? NO! There are features in your landscape which will last for years 40, 50, even 100 years. What was once a small 2-foot little Oak tree, is now a 20 foot tree with beautiful spanning branches providing shade to your property. Your palm trees are mature and graceful, with slight bends from the wind and long lustful fronds.

Some plants are best when they reach maturity. Have you ever seen a bougainvillea grown over the arch of a house’s entry and is now rich with flowers with the thick stump proclaiming its age? Some plants aren’t even attractive until they start to mature, instead they seem weak, but as they grow their shape becomes clear and their value to your landscape is immeasurable.

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So, what do you do with the remaining landscape material showing decline because of age? These are the plants you remove- it might be a struggle because of 20 years’ worth of roots and debris to get around, but once removed, you’re left with a clean palette and key pieces anchoring your landscape together. Now you can create the landscape you want. You can change the whole appearance of your landscape, or you can simply re-landscape with the same type material and enjoy them for another 15 to 20 years.

The choice is up to you, but remember any mistakes which were made the first time around, and be sure not to repeat them for the second time.

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Create a new landscape design for yourself and then sit back and enjoy for the next lifespan of your plants.

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The Joy of a Tree

The wisest people tell you to save and invest in your future, and this is great advise. But, there is another way to invest in your future as well.

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Plant a tree!

And, if you live in a hot climate, I would suggest you plant one that is going to give you plenty of shade in the years to come. That  tree may look small in your yard or landscape now, but with proper care and food, it will grow into a substantial part of your landscape, that will give you years of benefits.

There’s nothing more rewarding on a hot summer’s day than to sit under a shade tree and feel the difference in temperature compared to standing under the sun’s hot rays. And the relieve from the glare of the sunlight on your eyes makes you sigh. Children seem to instinctively know to play in the shade. They build tree houses to serve as a clubhouse, swing on tires hanging from the largest low branch, or just lay on a blanket to play with their toys or read a book. Some trees, like a Weeping Willow can become anything from an old fort to an enchanted kingdom. All it takes is an imaginative child and there will be hours of entertainment for a summer’s day.

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As an adult, I love to pull around a lounge chair and sit to read under an old shade tree. And, without a doubt, there is something romantic and old-fashioned about having a picnic on a blanket spread out under the tree’s shade. Can you picture it? A checkered blanket, a wicker basket overflowing with food and an open bottle of wine.

But the properly chosen shade tree can also be a practical choice. It can improve your property value and appearance of the other items on the land. Placed in the right location, pruned and fertilized to encourage optimum growth, your investment is sure to pay off. As the tree matures, it can even have an positive effect on your air conditioning bills.

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45604279 – female red squirrel standing on tree branch with flowers

There is one other benefit that I personally enjoy: the tree can become a home for many birds and other wildlife. It provides food and shelter for these animals. There is nothing more enjoyable than sitting out in your backyard under the shade tree, listening to the birds song or watching the squirrels chase each other. You can’t help but to feel a sense of peace.

So make your investment: pick a tree for shade, flower  & fragrance or even for privacy.

Now, sit back & watch it your investment grow a little more each year.