Tuesday, July 15, 2014

We Keep Growing!

Today's Garden Center reports that 2013 showed a bigger increase in retail gardening sales than ever before in the last 100 years. The final tally of $34.9 Billion was up 18 %.  Other details found in the National Garden Survey had households spending an additional $73 for a total of $420 on DIY gardening last year, the largest amount in 13 years.
Demographically, over-55 year olds’ dominance of the entire lawn and garden (L&G)market intensifies. In 2001, this age group had 31 percent of the total DIY sales; now it has 46 percent. Meanwhile, retail sales to 35 to 54 year olds have declined by more than $10 billion in the same time frame. The good news is that, fueled by their interest in “Food Gardening,” 18 to 34 year olds have gained market share. As they represent 30 percent of the U.S. household population, we can only hope this gardening behavior will stay with them as they progress through life. 
About 42 percent of DIY garden spending went toward just four gardening activities: lawn care, tree care, shrub care and insect control. Admittedly, these totals include items not carried by most local garden centers (LGCs) such as machinery, mowers, even lawn food, but that’s where the public is spending. This $15+ billion business is dependent on first-time consumer success through good information as well as good prices — opportunity knocks for local garden centers. 
Eleven percent of total household spending was on “Food Gardening” (now averaging $211 per household compared to “Flower Gardening’s” $64). Does your buying focus, inventory, bench space, signage, marketing and training reflect that? A stunning one in three American households now grows some type of food each year and the popularity of TV cooking shows can only help that to grow.

Looks like gardening is helping the country grow in more than one way! 

To read the Today's Garden Center article, click here.


Monday, July 14, 2014

John Barleycorn To The Rescue

Rhode Island Nurseries barley field
 There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough'd him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

Last month's trip to Massachusetts gave opportunity to drive by farms and nurseries on Rhode Island.  When I passed this field, it was striking to see the varying hues of blue, green, and gold, waving with the summer's breeze.

I couldn't identify the blue haze of the color-partitioned grasses growing so I stopped in at the farm, only to find out it was the Rhode Island Nurseries.  I talked with Jesse Rodriguez, the General Manager and found out that the fields were a mixture of last year's rye along with barley for their new project:  growing barley as a non-chemical approach to inhibit algae in ponds.


Reducing algae by throwing bales of barley into the water is a growing trend.  Not only environmentally friendly but also inexpensive way to control algae without using chemicals.  As barley straw decomposes in water with sufficient oxygen, sunlight, and heat, algae growth is restricted but not killed. It is not a algaecide but a biological alternative. It is safe for fish and wildlife.

Here's to John Barleycorn's fatality as a legacy as a biological alternative to help protect our water! I'll drink to that!

John Barleycorn Green Man

A big thanks to Jesse Rodriguez for being so helpful to a stranger in the parking lot.

Additional links:

The history and EPA's view of using barley as algae control. - Purdue University

Penn State University barley study

Chemung County Soil and Water Conservation District, New York on barley

Harvesting barley

Never heard of John Barleycorn or the cycle of his life?  Here's Robert Burns poem to the crop's legacy.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Newport Flower Show 2014

The Breakers
New England vacation tours are incomplete without a visit to America's royal mansions in Newport, Rhode Island.  The Breakers, Chateau-sur-Mer, The Elms, Marble House, Rosecliff, Green Animals Topiary Gardens, Kingscote, Hunter House, Isaac Bell House and Chepstow are all homes of the rich and famous families from the 19th and 20th centuries. 

The Elms
Fountain at the Elms
One of the Classical Revival lower level gardens at the Elms
Green Animals Topiary

The sumptous architecture was designed to recreate England and France's 18th century palaces and country estates. The Mansions' landscapes, bronze statues of gods, animals, and gardens were considered fine art.  Called the "Eden of America" in the 18th century by Jeremiah Morse, an American minister and geographer, the perfectly manicured lawns and private gardens thrive with the New England climate and the labor of many servant gardeners. The majestic trees and palatial landscapes are a sight to behold.

One of the best days to visit the Newport Mansions is during the Newport Flower Show, sponsored by the Preservation Society of Newport County.  The horticultural event is held the last week of June every year at at the Newport Mansion called Rosecliff.
Rosecliff's magnificent view of the Atlantic Ocean, ideal for garden vendors.
Despite being a Florida landscape designer and gardener, the Newport Flower Show is one of my favorite gardening events of the year and I found myself lucky to be able to attend this year at the very last moment.
The flower show's theme this year was "Journey: Grand Vistas" with the emphasis on traveling to different continents was considered the ultimate introduction to society to finish one's education and cultivate sophistication. The floral designs, garden beds, container gardens, and outdoor rooms all showcased competition titles featuring various sights and forms of travel to national and global locations, such as The Grand Tour, Mr. Rockefeller's Carriage Roads, The Cannonball Express, Ellis Island, Route 66, Vintage Travel Poster, The Overseas Highway, and Par Class.  Gardening clubs and horticultural professionals were all invited to participate.
Grand Vistas Boat Display
Edwardian Travel Lady, topiary designed by Green Lion Weddings
The 2014 Garden Club Challenge featured "A Postcard from..." vignettes using postcards representing national and exotic travel destinations, included Williamsburg, Virginia, Cape Cod, New Orleans, Yosemite National Park, Hawaii,  London, England, Capetown, South Africa, the Azores, Norway, and New Zealand.  Two first place awards went to Noanett Garden Club in Dover, MA, for their Hawaii postcard and to the Seaside Garden Club, Newport, RI, for their London postcard.



I enjoyed listening to whispers of "ooh and ah" at the creativity of the designers and overheard one show attendee describing the Hawaiian entry as flowers that can be grown in Florida. She was right. I know mailmen all over the United  States would enjoy these mailbox gardens.

My favorite heart-stopping moment of the day was being able to meet P. Allen Smith, yes,P. Allen Smith, landscape designer, gardening celebrity, who was the guest speaker at an elegant private luncheon.  As Mr. Smith discussed his landscape design education, he asked his audience about anyone visiting famous gardens at Hampton Court and Stourhead in England Charleston, SC, and Mount Vernon, I had to raise my hand.  I agree with Mr. Smith that these gardens are a must for any landscaper's inspiration and design ideas.

Agave americana variegated
My favorite garden vignette, A Painters' Garden by Crystal Brinson Horticulture
Teasing Georgia, First Place Award to Arthur Murphy, Newport, RI 
I loved finding garden accoutrements from Clearwater, Florida, like the amazing foliage waterfalls from Leaves By Jenney and the elegant and romantic Florentine planters and lifelike Great Blue Heron sculpture, from the original Frederick Church's masterpiece from Pennoyer Newman, in New York.

The Newport Flower Show 2014 was an outstanding success and a great opportunity to see incredibly creative vignettes and floral displays by professional landscapers and garden club members who should be professionals, horticultural works of art, and a view of the Atlantic that can only be described as breath-taking.

Make your plans now to come to New England and tour the Newport Mansions. If you're there in June 2015, don't miss the Newport Flower Show.  I know I have it on my calendar to be there.

If you would like to see all of the displays and photographs from this year's Newport Flower Show 2014, click here. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Landscape Boom - Red White Blue!

Showcasing red, white, and blue vivid flowers in your landscape is a great way to accent your patriotism and a wonderful way to brighten up your neighborhood!  Finding our national colors with just the right seasonal bloom is very easy if you know what to look for.  You can display your flowers in mass planting beds, and around lighting, flagpoles and mailboxes.  For smaller apartments, and Fourth of July parties, you can decorate by your front door, on the patio, and on balconies with container gardens, and window boxes.

Setting up your mass bedding plants with patriotic colors, you will want to remember different heights and width.  Having a tiered effect of red, white and blue is extremely effective if your house is neutral or you have an evergreen hedge as a backdrop.  Coordinate your color palette by looking at your plants before you plant them.  Placing them in the desired location and standing in the road or in your neighbor’s yard to judge the potential impact is a good idea; before you do all the grunt work of installing them and then not getting the look you were ultimately desiring.

Colorful and patriotic clay, plastic, and ceramic, containers with decorative accoutrements such as ribbons, gold stars or flags, are an easy way to get into the independent spirit if it’s temporary, or if you only have a small area or location to work with.  Use a good potting soil and make sure if you are using window boxes that you allow for good drainage away from house walls.

Here are my flag-waving suggestions for red, white, and blue annuals and perennials with their height designations for placement in your garden bed or container.  As always — please check online, with local nursery or extension office for sun and moisture requirements before purchasing and combine plants only if they have similar needs.

Tall (t – use in back), medium (m – use in middle), and low (l- use as groundcover) or h (hanging).

Red Flowers:
•Begonia, wax (l, m)
•Begonia, tuberous(l, m)
•Cardinal flowers (t)
•Celosia  (m)
•Dianthus (m)
•Gerbera daisies (l)
•Geranium (l, m)
•Gomphrena (m)
•Impatiens (l)
•Kalanchoe (l)
•Lantana (m, h)
•Lobelia (m)
•Pentas (m, t)
•Pentstemon (m,t)
•Phlox (l)
•Porterweed (t)
•Roses (see suggestions below)
•Salvia (m, t)
•Vinca (m)
•Verbena (l,m, h)
•Zinnias (l,m) 
White Flowers:
•Begonia, tuberous (l, m)
•Begonia, wax (l, m)
•Catwhiskers (t)
•Chrysanthemums (l, m)
•Cosmos (l, m)
•Dianthus (l)
•Geraniums (l, m)
•Impatiens (l)
•Lantana (l, h)
•Lisianthus, (m, t)
•Marigolds, French (l, m)
•Moonflowers (vine)
•Morning glories (vine)
•Nemesia (l)
•Nicotiana (m, t)
•Osteospernum (m) •Pentas (m,t)
•Phlox (l)
•Philippine violets (t)
•Roses (see suggestions below)
•Zinnias (l, m)  
Blue Flowers:
•Agapanthus (t)
•Ageratum (l)
•Ajuga (l - shade)
•Asters (m)
•Blue Daze (l, h)
•Blue flax (l, m)
•Centaura (m)
•Exacum (l)
•Lisianthus (m, t)
•Morning glories (vine) •Nemesia (l,)
•Salvia, blue (m, t)
•Scabiosa  (m)
•Stokes Asters (m)
•Torenia (l)
•Porterweed (t)
•Philipine Violets (t)
•Plumbago  (t)
•Russian Sage (t)
•Verbena (l, h)
•Veronica Speedwell (m)Additional
Summer Flowers for northern zones 4 – 7     
•Alyssum (l)
•Chrysanthemums (l, m)
•Delphiniums (t)
•Forget-me-nots (m) •Hollyhocks (t)
•Nicotiana (t)
•Pansies (l)
•Petunias (l, h)
•Poppy (m, t)
•Snapdragons (l, m, t)
•Statice (m, t)
•Stock (m, t)
Patriotic Roses:
 Over 35 cultivars named America or have American in their name, these are my favorites:
•America, large-flowered climber, orange-pink, fragrant
•American Beauty: climber, strong fragrance, deep pink, the national flower symbol of United States
•America, Climber, coral pink, strong fragrance
•Fourth of July, 1999 All American selection, climber, red flowers striped with white, apple-fragrance
•Memorial Day, 2004 All American selection, hybrid tea, dark pink, strong damask fragrance
•Americana, hybrid, strong fragrance, medium red
•Miss All-American Beauty, hybrid, pink, fragrant
•Mr. Lincoln, deep red, hybrid tea, long-stemmed rose, fragrant
•John F. Kennedy, white, hybrid tea, strong fragrance
•Veteran’s Honor, hybrid tea, dark red, raspberry fragrance
•American Pride, hybrid tea, large-flowered, dark red, strong fragrance
•Patriot, large flowered hybrid, dark red, mildly fragrant
•Peace, pink-yellow, hybrid tea, mild fragrance
•United States, pernetiana, yellow, rare
Have a great Fourth of July!  


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Create a Beautiful World - Invite Pollinators To Your Garden


Creating a butterfly garden is more than planting beautiful flowers.  It's an opportunity to create awareness of how much pollinators affect our world and how blessed we are to have them.  Pollinators such as butterflies, moths, skippers, bees, bats, beetles, lizards, hummingbirds, and many more creatures.  The Pollinator Partnership website  informs us over 100,000 animal species act as pollinators worldwide but over 1,500 vertebrates help pollinate our plants.
Some of the important facts from the Pollinator Partnership:   
  • Pollinators provide our food include over 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated.
  • Foods that need pollination include amonds, apples, blueberries, chocolate, figs, melons, peaches, peppers, pumpkins, strawberries, melons, and tomatoes.
  • In the United States, honey beees and other insects pollinate almost $20 billion worth of food a year.
The criteria to be a pollinator include being able to travel from plant to plant, having feathers, hair, or scales that will collect pollen and dispense them on other flowers as they move, and have unique mouth parts that are able to collect nectar from the flowers. 
Buckeye Butterfly
Here in Florida, we have the bats, birds, Ruby-throated hummingbird, bumble bees, leafcutter bees, honey bees, hover flies, butterflies, and various species of beetles.  We can even use the wind to pollinate our plants.
Called Pollinators Syndrome, pollinators react to different stimuli. They could look for colors - bats love white, green and purple, bees look for bright white, yellow, and blue, beetles look for white and green, birds are attracted to scarlet, orange, red, and white, butterflies see the bright red and purple, moths love pale red, pink, or white, while flies are attracted to browns and purples. 
Odors whether strong and musty, or fresh and fruity, and even rank, putrid smells are what pollinators look for in their search.  Night blooming fragrant plants attract the night creatures like moths. 
Nector and pollen can be easily reached or sometimes the pollinators have to work at it, heading straight into a tubular flower but have to back out carefully, getting the pollen all over their wings and body so that when they enter another flower it sloughs off and provides the needed pollen to help production of fruits and vegetables.
Yellow Sulfur Butterfly

To design a pollinator garden, you need to select a plant palette of colorful flowers and blooming shrubs that provide nectar and pollen.  Having host plants that act as larvae plants will allow pollinators to lay their eggs on the plants and provide a food source for the emerging caterpillars. Yes, you must allow caterpillars to eat your plants if you want butterflies.  Research the flowering season so that your garden has various larvae plant species blooming all year round.
Design with multiples plants rather than just one or two. Native plants will attract native pollinators. Provide also weather protection from rain and winds, with sturdy, evergreen shrubs and trees. Habitats that will encourage nesting and laying pollinator eggs include fallen woody debris, bare ground, flat patches of grass, and bee nesting blocks.  
Butterflies have six legs in a tripod shape so they need flat surfaces to stand on.  They love to get their nutrients from mud.  Placing a clay pot underliner with rotting fruit is a great way to attract butterfllies to your garden.

Eastern Swallowtail and Spicebush Swallowtail love pentas.
If you don't see butterflies or other pollinators in your yard, it could be a result of pesticide use. If you are spraying your yard on a regular, routine basis, such as monthly or quarterly insecticide spraying, you are wasting your money and hurting the pollinators that should be in your yard. You need some bad bugs in your yard to attract the beneficial bugs that will naturally take care of your insect pests. If you have to apply a pesticide, apply it only as needed, according to the label, and at night, when pollinators are not active.

Monarch Butterfly on Blue Salvia
Pollinators dont always have to have fresh, clean, plant sources.  They also like dead foliage, manure, rotting fruit, and sometimes dead animals like roadkill.  Try not to be too clean in your landscape and provide decomposing plant material or rotting wood.    

Dead banana leaves are favorites of the Red Admiral Butterfly
This week, June 16 - June 22, 2014 is Pollinator Week.  It's a great time to celebrate blooming flowers, summertime, and all the benefits we receive from pollinators.  My favorite garden flowers to attract pollinators include: Pentas, butterfly weed, Chaste trees, beautyberry, firebush, spice bush, bee balm, gaillardias, Crape myrtles, passion flowers, bottlebrush, and roses.  What are your favorite butterfly or pollinator plants?
More information on pollinators

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Corks and Caladiums Celebrate Nehrling Gardens

Do you love caladiums? Do you love wine? Then May 9th is the special day for a sunset stroll on the historic Nehrling Gardens for Corks and Caladiums.  This special event will feature live music, silent auction, and Mother's Day gifts.

This is just the event to attend if you've never been to the Nehrling Gardens. Henry Nehrling is known as the "patron saint of Florida gardens" having researched and introduced over 3,000 unknown and rare plant and tree species to Florida as well as Florida's native plants to the nation.
The Nehrling Gardens have had such historical celebrities as Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and famed horticulturists David Fairchild, creator of the Fairchild Botanical Gardens, and Liberty Hyde Bailey visit Dr. Nehrling to see his incredible collection of tropical plants.

Caladiums are one of my favorite plants for Florida shade. I can't wait to see all the different cultivars. Join me on May 9th, 5:30pm to 8:30pm in  Gotha. Tickets are $50 per person. You must be 21 to attend.


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Growing Organically Is Looking Up!

The Living Towers Farm
As you drive down the hill to the Living Towers Farm, turning a wooded corner, you don't know quite what to expect. Seeing the greenhouse was the logical assumption for growing vegetables and herbs organically, but what was unexpected was walking into the screened nursery and realizing it's a small world!  Looking down the towering rows, I felt like I had been transported to EPCOT, Disney's Experimental Prototype Community of Tommorrow!  At EPCOT you can take the boat tour, Living with The Land, and see hydroponic vegetables, fruit trees, herbs, and flowers growing up to the sky, symbiotic aquaponic farming, where fish and plants live harmoniously.  There's a good explanation for the similarity:  the creator of the vertical towers, Tim Blank, was head horticulturist and researcher at EPCOT's The Land for 12 years.

Hydroponic Boat tour, The Land, EPCOT 2013

At the Living Towers Farm, over 5,000 plants grow in a 2,200 square foot prototype of futuristic food production where everyone will be able to harvest enough food to feed their family, even in a small space.

The product for growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers is a tall, expandable, cylinder with a 20 gallon reservoir that pumps mineral-infused water over the plant roots on a time schedule that is set by the owner.  Starting off with seedlings, this oxygen-rich process will boost the growing time for the vegetables and herbs so that within weeks you have fully mature plants ready to harvest.  Powerful side benefits of no weeding, tilling, kneeling, or sweaty-dirty clothing, as well as knowing where your food comes from and how it's been grown are attractive to those wanting a more health-conscious diet.  Living Tower's Tower Garden TM 's motto is "the world's first plug and play vertical garden."

Living Towers Introduction.with Dr. Jan Young, ND, CBE

One complete Tower Garden TM can be purchased for $525, or in payments of $45 a month. The entire kit includes:
  • (1) Tower Garden vertical aeroponic garden tower
  • Seeds for growing gourmet lettuce, cherry tomatoes, beefsteak tomatoes, basil, and cucumber
  • Seed starter enviro-dome
  • 20 rock wool seed starter cubes and net pots
  • Pump, timer and drain tube
  • Tower Tonic Mineral Blend plant food (1 qt each)
  • pH test kit and 1 bottle each of pH+ and pH-
  • Measuring cup
You have your choice of seedlings when you visit their online store.

I think my husband would love to have two Tower Gardens for his birthday! Have a look at the harvest-ready Tower Gardens TM  vegetables and herbs that you could be eating tonight at your table.

Tuscany Kale, Nasturtiums, Cherokee Lettuce

Bibb Lettuce, Italian Parsley

Herb Towers

Bibb Lettuce Towers

Basil Tower


Eggplant and Zucchini


Kale, Swiss chard, Eggplant


Swiss Chard

Green Kale

Used all your Chives? No worries - they are already growing back!
Zucchini buds, flower, and fruit
Zucchini flower
Tuscano Kale
Strawberries Towers


Would you like a Tower Garden TM? Contact information :
Living Towers Farm
19621 Lake Lincoln Lane
Eustis, FL 32736
Open Tuesdays and Thursdays 10am - 6pm.
A big hat/tip to Dr. Young, Jason Lucas, Greenhouse Manager, and Tracy DeCarlo, distributor of Tower Gardens TM.