Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Rejuvenate or Re-do?

In the next series of blogs, I am going to address a problem many homeowners eventually face. How do you deal with an older landscape?

26278876 – flowering azaleas

Down here in the south, things grow fast. There is no dormant, or cold period, to moderate the growth. Yes, there are changes to the pace of growth during different seasons, but few plants will actually drop their leaves and go dormant for 3-4 months of the year. Because of this, the average life span of the landscape is accelerated. In south Florida, it is safe to say this life span is 12-15 years for most foundation plantings, hedging, and mass planting. Trees grow larger at a much faster rate, often leaving only trunks to look at from the eaves of the home to the ground. Those graceful palm fronds are now above the roof line. This dramatically changes the look of the landscape from what it was when first planted.

This also puts the homeowner in the position of needing to relandscape. But do you rip everything out and start from scratch, or do you rejuvenate your existing landscape?

Before you make this decision, there are a few things you need to consider.

1. What are your landscape goals? Are you looking for a new look, or merely to improve on your existing landscape? Do you need to change a viewpoint, traffic pattern or maybe add a piece of hardscape?

2. Do you have a budget for the work to be done? Bear in mind that removal of some larger established plants will eat into that budget.

3. Does your existing landscape serve a purpose other than beautifying your home? Are you screening something from view, defining your property lines or trying to cut down on the noise from nearby traffic?

4. Does your landscape create “good neighbor vibes”?Do you and your neighbor both benefit from the existing plants? Take into consideration if relandscaping will cause a strain on your relationship with your neighbor.

5. How accessible is the area in question? This may be an essential factor if any equipment is necessary to do the job.

6. Is your current landscape achieving goals a new landscape may not be able to do until it is established? For instance; is a large tree providing shade that a new tree would take years to offer.

7. Are you looking to hire a professional landscaper or do the work yourself?

You should be able to answer these questions before you proceed with any further with your landscape plans. In the next post, I will discuss the pros and cons of rejuvenating your landscape ~vs. ~ completely re-landscaping your area.


Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Nature has the final say!

Gardners.
They’re is different as night and day.

shutterstock_634527005

But there is one unifying factor that bonds us all together and that is the plants.
It always amazes me how gardeners seemed to be drawn to one another. It’s like some inner string is pulling us together to compare notes and admire each other’s work.
Above and beyond all of us enjoying time in the garden, each of us has their own flair of how we want our garden to be and how we go about achieving the look we want.

Some want to get right in there and work, placing each plant where it should go standing back and looking at it. Maybe moving a plant a couple inches, standing back to look again, until finally its time to plant. Then there are others that just randomly placed plants, letting them grow as nature would not so particular but still getting fantastic results.
And that’s the beauty of working with live plants. In all honesty the plants will, to a certain extant, do what they want to do. Regardless of how much time we take for placement and care we give them before planting. Nature has the final say.

ctsg11
Yes it’s important to plant where they will have plenty of room and where they can grow to their full potential. But each plant will grow differently. They have their structure they will follow, giving them they growth patterns we recognize for each species of plant. But there will always be a stray branch that will come off to the right of the left. One side might flower heavier than the other. They might have a bare spot or a twisted stem.
Each plant is just like you and me; it has its own individual personality. The more you spend time in the garden, the more you will come to understand your plants. I know that sounds crazy, but they do have their own way of adapting to where there planted.
There are plants that have a unusually fast growing season and may have a smaller lifespan because it has but so much into that season. Other plants may grow differently if placed in a stressful environment.  A great example of that is the geranium planted in a heavier shade: most often their the flowers will be fewer but when they do flower, it will be huge. Some plants such as Croton, that naturally have lots of bright colors, when planted in heavy shade will revert to be a green plant and have no added color to their foliage. This is nature’s way of adapting to their environment.

Flowering plants under stress from heat will slow down their production. The  same happens with fruit and vegetables. They will concentrate their growth on foliage which will feed the flowers, roots, and fruit. When a plant is under stress, it will produce what it needs for survival.
Some plants, when under extreme stress, or at the point of failure will suddenly burst out into flowers. This is a way of pro-creation. They strive to produce seeds for the next generation of the plant to grow.
So you can see that no matter how hard and how particular you are about placing your plants, it comes down to nature. The plant will grow the best way it can to thrive and flourish in the environment you’ve planted it in.

shutterstock_455083321

It’s your job to keep it growing, keep it healthy, and keep enjoying it. 

Victoria LK Williams

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.

con 18
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.
ctsg36
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.
ctsg11
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.

tsullivan2018sg
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

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Plant’s Purpose

Plants do more than just look pretty. They serve a purpose.
The primary purpose of plant life is to clean the air, taking carbon dioxide and other gases and in and, through photosynthesis, releasing oxygen. Without the plants, our earth would most certainly perish.Not only do they provide the air we breathe but also our food. Either as a direct food source ( remember-eat your fruit and veggies!) or through the meat we eat. They can provide food and habitat for many animals, including endangered animals.

But there’s other ways that plants help us.
seadune

If you live along the shore, you know how sandy it is and how easily the dunes can wash away during storms and high surf. The sea-grass and beach daisy planted on top of the dunes will help hold that sand in place, keeping it from eroding. As do the mangroves holding the riverbanks along the river. Plants will also filter and clean that same river water.
Plants can also protect property by being a wind block. When they’re properly pruned, they stand up to some tough winds. Trees provide shade and cooling for us. Some plants are deliberately planted by farmers to attract the insects to the weaker, less expensive plants. This is done so their primary crop can grow without being attacked by the insects. These host plants serve an unusual purpose of being planted deliberately to be infested.
We decide on the types of plants and placement when we plan our landscapes. Do you plant to provide screening or privacy? Or maybe to cut down the noise pollution? Or maybe you plan to create the calmness of a serenity garden.

mar2018sg
Our municipalities realize the value of plants and how important of a role they play in our life. County ordinance will demand that certain plant species and a  certain number of plants are planted. This is usually based on the space you are building. In our area there’s a big push for native plants to be use, cutting down on the need for specialized care that more tropical plants demand.
Even in the water plants serve a purpose to provide oxygen for the marine life and coral. Without these filtering plants, fish will die and the coral will fade and die. Pollution will take over, and our waters will be unsafe for drinking and recreation.

kemper palm
So, I guess what I need to say is this; before you cut down that tree or remove that hedge think about the purpose of the plant. If the plants are being removed because of age or decline, can you replace it with something else? (An interesting fact; most Christmas tree farms will plant a new tree for every one cut down. It’s smart planning for the future, insuring future crops of trees and income.)

Can you plant something that will benefit not only yourself, but our precious planet?

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams.com

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

Flower Care in the Hot, Hot Summer

Down here in the South we have two summer seasons; hot and hotter.

Once May slips through we’re into summer. And there won’t be much of a break from the heat until October/November. As the summer months crawl along, the heat builds up, day after day. Sometimes we get an afternoon rain to give us relief, but the humidity just builds until there’s a good old-fashioned thunderstorm. Or even worse, a hurricane!
perwinkle, angelonia,calla,signed

It goes without saying the plants we planted for color and beauty during the winter months will not survive in this hot heat. Even in the shade, the sturdiest of plants will suffer.
That’s why it is important to pick summer annuals to replace your winter annuals. You can still achieve a beautiful garden by using the right plants.

Listed below are summer annuals I like to use.
Caladiums, Cassandra, Periwinkle, Purslane, Sedum, Pentas, Portulaca, Lantana, Bush Daisy, Blue Daze, Angelina, Coleus, Phlox, Dipladenia, Scaevola, Gomphrena, Zinnia, Sunpatiens, Mexican Heather, Gaura, Society Garlic, and some varieties of Begonias.

caladiumfiresigned

Along with selecting the right plants, proper care is essential. You need to make sure that the plants are watered consistently and thoroughly, fertilized when needed and check for insects weekly. This also means removing debris from around the base of the plant, looking at the underside of the leaves for the critters and snapping off any problem areas. Because the plants grow so fast during the summer months, the insects thinks it’s a feeding frenzy for them. A healthy plant will tolerate an insect infestation much better than a week plant, and that’s why it’s important to make sure they’re watered and fertilized properly.
With all this heat and humidity it is also important to keep an eye out for disease, mold and fungus problems.

This is also when most landscapers do their hard cut-backs on the landscape plants. Often this looks severe, but the plants will flush back out over the summer months to their full lush beauty. In the meantime, the area where you had your winter annuals may now be exposed to the full brunt of the summer sun, with no shade from the surrounding shrubbery. You need to be aware of these changes when you decide what plants to plant.
dipladenia,scavola, periwinkle signed

But don’t be afraid to continue to garden in the summer months. Switch out those old tired annuals and put in fresh flowers that will last the summer.

Then hop in the pool and enjoy your garden.
Go ahead, you earned it!

 

If you enjoyed this blog, please click the follow button for more gardening tips. Have a question or a suggestion for a blog post? Let me know, if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find it for you.

http://www.VictoriaLKWilliams

Posted in gardening, The Southern Garden

A Garden’s Charm

Fountains In The Garden 

20180417_142834
Close your eyes as you walk through a garden.  Every little sound you hear seems more pronounced.  Now imagine the sound of water.  Is it the gentle trickle from a small ornate fountain tucked in a corner, or the splashing of a waterfall that is the focal point of the garden?
Water has been one of the major elements of the garden since the beginning of gardens. I would bet that the Garden of Eden had water features in it: streams, falls, pools. I’m sure Adam and Eve enjoyed these eliminates as much as we do today.
IMG_1390
But today our gardens are usually small compact areas. Here, we strive to create an oasis to enjoy and relax in.  As a result, the water features we use have had to become smaller.  Thankfully, there is a wide variety of fountains in sizes and styles that will meet almost every need.  Great works of art have inspired makers of fountains into combining statues with water.  Beautiful containers have become fountains with a simple addition of a bubbler added to it after the drainage hole is plugged.
20180526_080635 (2)
Nature provides great inspiration for the style of a fountain.  It is not uncommon to see a fountain with birds, forest animals or fish as the main focal point. Fountains can also create a meditative area, the style of the fountain reflecting a simplistic viewpoint.
Yes, I think I can speak for most of us; we enjoy the addition of water to our gardens.  But for every pro there can be a con, and this is no exception.  Smaller fountains tend to have a water evaporation problem and if the water gets too low, then the pump can burn itself out.  Even larger fountains and waterfalls can have problems; too shady of an area and you can find your water feature is more of a spot for algae to grow and leaves to collect in.

fountplanter
But do not give up on your fountain, they are worth the effort you put into them.  And if you find they are just too much work–well they make terrific planters too!

nokfount

 

This blog is a response from a one word challenge I sent out to my readers.  Send me one word and see if I can create a gardening blog from it.  This Blog’s word was Fountain, from Marie.  Thanks Marie!  Join in the fun and send me your word, too.

 

www.VictoriaLKWilliams