Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In Your Backyard: Walking In The Woods

Great weekend leading twenty adventurous hikers on the 4.5 mile Land Bridge trek for Walk Across Marion County. We had perfect weather to enjoy the vista of long-leaf pines, rusty lyonia, and scrub oaks. Evident also were prescribed winter burns in the preserved Greenway Trails region and the Ocala Forest.

Recent burn on one side of Hwy 19 and the thick underbrush of saw palmettos and wire grasses directly across on the other side.

These burns are necessary maintenance to keep the undergrowth vegetation healthy, reduce the intensity of naturally-occuring fires (from lightning), and encourage new pine tree seedlings. Driving through the Forest, chickasaw plums were in full bloom, along with redbuds.

Blooming cherry laurels will be an integral food source for Florida wildlife in the summer.

On the outskirts of the Ocala National Forest, just outside Umatilla, I had to turn the car around and snap some photographs and video a bald eagle having a fresh meal of rabbit. He didn't mind the heavy passing traffic.

Citrus was the hot topic last week on "In Your Backyard." Issues such as dried out oranges, the sweetness of oranges, suckering, and huanglongbing, or more easily referred to as citrus greening, a devastating disease for the citrus industry.

Here's a great IFAS publication on citrus problems in home landscapes.

Looking forward to your gardening calls today! What's going on in your backyard?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

In Your Backyard: "Spring Flings"

My favorite blooming season is spring. With the record-breaking cold temperatures, we should see wonderful flowering trees this year. This weekend on Valentine's Day, our spend-the-night guests included our grandchildren and more migrating robins flocking with Bohemian and cedar waxwings.

It was the first time I had seen waxwings in our yard. For the whole day our front yard was full of birds sipping and dunking in the birdbath. They were happy to sit on the thin but sturdy, native May haw trees surrounding their cement pond. My granddaughter identified the Bohemian waxwings with their rufous (red) faces and undertail area that differentiate them from cedar waxwings. They almost looked like baby cardinals at first. The holly and cherry laurel trees on our street must have attracted them. I know that if I had opened the door to take photographs they would have swooped up to the trees. It's the first time I've actually thought about putting a camoflauged hunter's deer blind on my porch or in my front window so that I would be able to take photos.

©2008 Teresa Watkins

Azaleas are starting to bloom now and flushed out by the middle of March. It's a great time to stop by your favorite nursery to find just the right color azalea for your yard.

I have seen a few tabebuias and redbuds in the full sun already blooming but my yard is still in partial shade with the sun's pattern, so mine will probably take a few more weeks to open. Dogwoods should be following soon along with the tabebuias. Tabebuias, also called trumpet trees, come in gorgeous Peter Max colors of hot pink and hot yellows.

©2008 Teresa Watkins

The shocking pink Tabebuia impetiginosa grows between 25 and 40 feet tall, should be planted in full sun, no pest problems, and is very drought tolerant when established.

The brilliant sunny yellow Tabebuia chrysotricha, usually smaller than its pink cousin, but just as striking in front of your house.

This weekend temperatures will be in the low 70's and should be an excellent time to plant trees and shrubs in your yard.

In your lawns, look out for the invasive and aggravating oxalis, Bayer Weed B-Gone Chickweed, Clover, and Oxalis herbicide will do the trick. I'll be working on my mine but saving a few for St. Patrick's Day next month. Always follow the label instructions on any chemical product you apply in your landscape.

©2008 Teresa Watkins

Listen into "In Your Backyard" at 11:05 today and call with your landscape dilemmas.


Great calls today! Lots of citrus questions! Stay tuned to In Your Backyard next week for more citrus information.

With the help of John in Wildwood, we identified Edward's "marijuana-like" leaf shrub. It is a Vitex Chaste shrub. At this time, my vitex chaste is still dormant, but here's a great photograph of one I saw in College Park last year. Give this fragrant, lavender flowering shrub or tree lots of room to grow.

©2009 Teresa Watkins

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TruGreen's Search For Liveliest Green in UK

Green space is becoming more valuable as the Earth grows in population. Here in the United States and around the world, village greens have been meeting places, markets, festivals, revolutions, celebrations, and recreation for townspeople for centuries. With less emphasis on the environment in urban planning during the mid-20th century, more cities and towns are encouraging and seeing resurgence in open expanses of lawn space for city dwellers.

To celebrate the environmental and emotional value of green spaces, TruGreen Professionals, a British division of TruGreen, the world's largest lawn care company, is looking for the 'liveliest village green' in the United Kingdom.

To qualify for entry the land must be registered as a town or village green, under the Commons Registration Act 1965 or the Commons Act 2006...

To be eligible for registration now, local people need to prove that they have used the land for ‘lawful sports and pastimes’ for at least 20 years, without being stopped and without asking or being given permission by the landowner. The registration process is set out in our book Getting Greens Registered, and it involves gathering evidence from witnesses and other material, such as ancient and modern photographs of the land, and submitting them to the commons registration authority. Once the land is registered it cannot be encroached upon or developed, other than to provide for its better enjoyment by the public for recreation.

What a great idea! I would love to see this contest in the United States. There are some remarkable centuries old village greens here, too. Do you know where this village green is located?

©2008 Teresa Watkins Photographer

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

In Your Backyard: "Valentine's Day Means A Lot"

When it comes to florists, one of the biggest holidays of the year is Valentine's Day. It's a day when husbands, boyfriends, children, and special friends give gifts to show their love. For gardeners, it's a great day to give plants or use your own garden blooms to show that you care. Receiving growing plants vs cut flowers depends on the occasion and the person receiving the flowers. I personally would rather have a 3-gallon rose bush than a dozen red roses, and my husband knows exactly what roses I have so he can add something new.

Flowers have great symbology and without speaking, handing someone a bouquet of a specific flower would tell the recipient exactly what you were thinking. The colors of flowers also mean different things.

  • Blue: Epitomizes purity, peacefulness, security,

  • Dark Red: Symbolizes constancy, continuity and immortality.

  • Green: Expresses growth, joy, and optimism

  • Lilac: Represents a sincere love, without the need for anything in return.

  • Orange: A colour that symbolizes the joy and satisfaction for a success already obtained. On a more sentimental note it may also represent a love that has already been consolidated and gratified.

  • Red: Too hot to handle, red is the expression of burning, passionate love, great courage and desire. But beware because it's also the symbol of anger.

  • Rose: The color Rose (or pink) is a symbol of youth and expresses a new love or admiration.

  • Violet: Expresses feelings of modesty, generosity and humility. The ‘shrinking violet' refers to its symbol of insurmountable shyness.

  • White: Is the symbol of purity, innocence and modesty and expresses a sincere feeling.

  • Yellow: Though commonly associated with unfaithfulness and treason, don't depair if you come home with yellow petals because it can also be the symbol of luxury, pride and success.
Roses are the most popular flower on Valentine's Day.

Great rose websites:

Call in to In Your Backyard with your gardening questions!

GMO Eucalyptus Withstands Cold

Scientists have been successful at genetically modifying eucalyptus trees to withstand colder temperatures.

"Green biotechnology" may facilitate eucalyptus as an efficient and renewable raw material even in regions with cool winters. Scientists at the ArborGen firm have transferred a gene from a cold-tolerant plant that makes eucalyptus less sensitive to frost. In field trials, the trees withstood temperatures as low as –6°C without collapse. This would allow, for example, cultivation in the USA to expand from the southernmost tip of Florida to the entire south coast.
Research is being conducted at 29 locations in the United States for more sustainable agriculture for producing more wood in smaller areas.

What Are Lichens?

© 2008 Teresa Watkins

Lichens on young oak tree in Sawgrass Island Preserve.

Lichens are symbiotic organisms consisting of fungus, algae, and sometimes bacteria. They make their own food and can be indicators of good air quality and high water levels in a flood zone. They can grow on trees, shrubs, rocks, and in hot or cold climates. Lichens were used to create purple dyes for the robes of the wealthy and rulers in Roman times.

More about lichens here, here, and here. You can see a multitude of lichen photography here.

I love to hike through forests and photograph lichens, mushrooms, and moss but you can also see lichens on tombstones and on buildings. Churchyard Lichens

There are societies and groups of scientists and biologists that study lichens all over the world. The Lichens of North America have lichens you will see in the United States and Canada.

Lichen puzzles? Have some fun-gi!

Click to Mix and Solve

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

"In Your Backyard" - Six More Weeks of Winter

Pennsylvania's favorite groundhog 'Puxatawny Phil' saw his shadow this morning. The old wives tale follows that there will be six more weeks of winter! But we knew that already experiencing La Nina's cold, wet rain this season. This has been the coldest, wettest Florida winter in years damaging thousands of Florida landscapes.

Puxatawny Phil has a distant cousin here in Florida that also causes landscape damage. Called the Southeastern pocket gopher, this little 10-inch rodent is the culprit behind all those 'sandy mounds' in your bahia lawns and on the side of the highways. They can be beneficial in aerating the soil but usually they are not appreciated when they eat your plant roots, bulbs, and tubers.

You can get rid of pocket gophers by trapping and killing them, but poisoning is against the law unless you have a Florida state permit. All the old wives tales of Wrigleys chewing gum and moth balls are ineffective.

Moles in your landscape can be seen as a problem, too but they are insectivores and rarely affect your plants. Seeing mounds in their St. Augustinegrass or bahiagrass lawns, homeowners are quick to blame the little creatures who just eat the grubs and insects attacking the turf.
Getting rid of moles in your landscape involves getting rid of their food souces. Check to make sure that you do not have active grubs or other insects. If you have them, spot treat the areas with a recommended pesticide. Once their food source is gone, the moles will move on to other not-so-green pastures.

More creatures that you might see meandering through your yard during dusk and early morning are racoons, rabbits, and oppossums. Our brave warrior Scotties treed this poor oppossum Sunday night. They were so proud of themselves. Thankfully, the oppossum didnt play dead and fall out of the tree.

Puxatawny Phil isn't so prescient. Here in Florida, we can always expect our last winter freezes before the middle of March - six weeks away. You can prune back your brown, freeze-dried foliage now. Some of my plants looked like they were okay for two days after the freeze, but as you can see this tropical Mamay Croton was affected severely.

Maybe spring is closer than we think? Did you see the thousands of orange-red breasted American robins come through Central Florida yesterday? Chirping and enjoying the warm drizzle, the spring-harbingers were as happy as larks. We will be talking about how to attact robins and other birds to your yard today on the show!

Call in with your garden questions! Listen live at 11:00am here.

Redbay Ambrosia Beetle threatens Florida's avocados.

Read an archived Jan-Feb-Mar Newsletter.

Juvenile Robin

Cardinal enjoying the raindrops in the pine tree!