Monday, June 08, 2009

Mississippi Garden Lucky To Get Volunteers

Have you ever had a plant pop up that you didn't know what it was or how it got to your garden?

Southern belle Betty Jurich has had the same question ever since Katrina. Betty's sweet garden spot is a tropical paradise located in Gulfport, Mississippi. Her zone 8b-9a coastal landscape survived Katrina's category 4 winds and torrential rain. Not only survived (after a in-depth clean-up, I'm sure) but the tender microclimate landscape thrived. Betty has her hands full with twins and helping her husband, Dennis, an electrical engineer, in his greenhouse. The photos below are of her bromeliads, gingers, bananas, bleeding hearts, aspagagus fern, and a beautiful unknown wood fern, a dryopteris spp. that volunteered right after the 2005 hurricane. She took it around to see if anyone could identify it with no luck. The wood ferns' fronds are wider than three inches and they are three feet tall.

Betty writes that she and her husband saved the seeds from the tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and watermelon from last year to start in the greenhouse. They have been enjoying the tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash. She has propagated lantana while Dennis likes to hybridize the day lilies by hand pollination. Betty promises to send photographs of her platter hibiscus when they bloom.


Bleeding hearts, Clerodendron spp.




If you can correctly identify Betty's volunteering wood fern, please let me know. She says it looks like this dryopteris, but hers is much bigger than most of the dryopteris species.

Want to read more about ferns? Here's some excellent resources.

Cameo Queen Puts On Spectacular Appearance More Than Once

As most of my gardening listeners know I'm not a tropical enthusiast except for the 'no-shoveling-snow' routine. But I do incorporate tropicals into my garden when they touch my soul. I have to find a balmy bed in the dirt somewhere in my garden so that I can visit them as I walk around my garden paths.

Out of the four Hibiscus rosa-sinensis spp. bushes I have in my yard, my favorite is my 'Cameo Queen' also known as 'Ruffled Giant.' Ruffled it is and it does become giant! Growing in a rich, organic oak litter soil in partial sun, it stretches up nine feet tall. And that's in partial sun! It blooms its heart out midway up the shrub and on up to the top, but deep dark, large green leaves from the ground. More about no blooms at the bottom further.

Unlike hibiscus spp. in sandy soils, the 'Cameo Queen' has survived nicely during the drought, not getting a lot of water without rain. I chalk that up to the composted soil, oak leaves, microbes, and earthworms around the roots. I don't fertilize it often plus I don't overwater it. I make it be as responsible for its own survival as possible. No welfare assistance here.

It helps to have the 'Cameo Queen' in partial sun as well. It also stayed green and does not lose any leaves in our subtropical zone of 9b. Again, the microclimate is helped with the assistance of a 6" fence and oak trees in between two homes.

Do you know what variety of hibiscus you have in your yard? Here's a great way to identify it without hauling your plant to Hawaii or Australia. More pictures and expert advice on how to grow hibiscus.

Now for the reason my hibiscus doesn't bloom within 3' feet of the ground. The blooms are edible. Our 11 year old brindle Scottish terrier, Maggie loves to pull the flowers off lower shrub branches (much like cows strip lower leaves off tree limbs) and devour them. She doesn't even ask me if it's okay. I think that's why she doesn't lose weight. She's obviously an omnivore (and in need of a summer haircut).

Hibiscus are easy to grow but do have some pest issues. Even up north, you can grow these tropical beauties because hibiscus do extremely well in containers. Just move the plant in and out into a sunny area as the weather changes. It will be more important in the northern climes to have at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.

Hibiscus flowers always have multiple appearances during the year, but this 'Cameo Queen' will be the star of your garden.

Global Warming?

Check out Watts Up With That? Anthony Watts' blog on puzzling things in life, nature, science, weather, climate change, technology, and recent news.
Tip of the snow shovel to Bob!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Radio Show: "In Your Backyard"

Back after fabulous opportunity on Garden Writers Association conference trip to Mt. Vernon with a 'personal indulgence' gardening detour to Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina. I shot over 750 photographs of the stately Mt. Vernon gardens in six hours. The best photos will be up in a few days.

Safe travels for snowbird residents who are going back North. Stay in touch, you can still call with your gardening questions and listen to "In Your Backyard" on the Internet. My gardening radio show can be heard on WLBE 790AM or at Tuesdays from 11:05am to 12:00pm every week. You do need DSL high speed internet access so that the show buffers correctly.

Hurricane preparedness makes the news at the start of hurricane season June 1st through Sept 31st. Make sure your Florida landscape is ready for the gusts of wind and torrents of rain.

Gardening phone call topics included:

Time for caladiums to bloom. See great bulbs for spring and fall at Brent & Becky Heath's nursery.

Purple heart, Tradescantia pallida and Caladium spp.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Hurricane Landscaping

June 1st not only heralds in warmer temperatures, afternoon showers, and humid mornings but also hurricanes. Announcements of hurricane season's opening day is a good reminder to check out your landscape to make sure your property doesn't become a hazard during the storms and will ultimately survive.

Hurricane season is June through September, with August and September being the most active period. NOAA is predicting nine to 14 named tropical storms with four to seven turning into hurricanes. We could see one to three becoming Category 3 hurricanes. Last year we had five hurricanes and a relatively mild storm year.

Tropical storms and hurricanes are one of Florida's main influences on our water supply so while they are not something to look forward to - they are necessary.

Brevard County has great advice on how to make sure your landscape is hurricane-proof:
  • Right Tree Right Place – by simply planting larger trees away from your home, power lines, and other structures, you greatly reduce the risk of branches or the tree itself falling on your home or knocking down power lines.
  • Regular Pruning and Maintenance – assess trees and shrubs for branches that are dying, too large, lopsided, etc. Regular pruning promotes healthy growth, removes dying or diseased limbs, and can reshape the tree to be more resistant to wind damage. [Teresa's note: Make sure anyone working on your trees or providing a bid to prune is a certified arborist in your area. You can go to the International Society of Arborists to verify certification.]
  • Choose Wind Resistant Plant Species – After the previous year’s hurricanes, researchers collected data from all over Florida on the number and types of trees that withstood the storms or were blown over.
  • Planting in Groups or Masses – when possible, planting groups of mixed trees together can greatly enhance wind resistance. The trees buffer each other as well as your property and other landscape plants.
Be pro-active in your yard - don't wait till a hurricane is brewing in the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico. Charges be more costly due to the season and the chances of finding an arborist with an open schedule then will be risky.

Find out how Father Hurricane, a Jesuit was instrumental in hurricane prediction.

I know you've heard of rain lilies, Zephyranthes spp. I bought some beautiful uniquely-colored orange and deep pink rain lilies at Plant Delights Nursery in NC last week. But have you heard of hurricane lilies? They are the Lycoris species in the Amaryllis family with Zephyranthes. Wonderfully pest-free, maintenance free (seriously) hurricane and rain lilies are a great addition to a cottage, woodland, or tropical themed garden.