Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In Your Backyard: "April's Colorful Annuals"

Usually in April, Florida gardeners have a short spring before jumping directly into summertime temperatures. This year spring's cooler mornings have lingered and our dry season has been non-existant. I love this time of year and that it is lasting longer is nice.

All your shrubs should have leaves emerging, making it a little easier to see if which plants really didn't recover from the freezes. My variegated hibiscus and vitex agnus-castus survived nicely.

If you haven't pruned your plants back, you still have a few more weeks to cut them back before the stems start to bulk out and become woody. Cut out all the dead branches and if needed a third of the growth to shape.

Annuals to plant this time of year for three to six months of color include:

Ageratum, Cosmos,gazania, gaillardia, gerbera, globe amaranth, hollyhocks, impatiens, marigold, Mexican sunflower, moonflower, morning glories, nierembergia, portulaca, purslane, salvia, sunflower, torenia, verbena, and zinnias.

For less work in the garden but great oomph, place containers and hanging baskets filled with annuals and tropicals in strategic locations along pathways to create points of interest, and to add height and depth.

Place tall tropicals in the center of your container, with another fuller annual along the front and sideviews, adding a different annual, ivy, or groundcover to spill over the sides. Make the taller plant at least two-thirds of your container height for good balance. Make sure that you water container gardens on a regular basis as the temperatures rise. Watering your containers every day in summer is not unusual, which is the reason you should have just a few containers - not an entire yard of annuals.

Here are some great examples of container gardens for your yard. These photographs were taken in 2007 at EPCOT, the ultimate gardening experience during their International Flower and Garden Festival. Notice the color combinations! Don't be afraid to experiment before you buy your annuals. Place them in pots or on the floor together to get an idea of what they will look like in your own container. Don't be afraid to move them around.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

In Your Backyard: "Gray Skies Are Going To Clear Up"

Last week's "In Your Backyard" radio show was a "Best Of" so that I could stay in bed and recover from a very bad cold. I still have a cough and a frog in my throat so listening this morning, you'll probably hear it.

Last weekend was the 2010 UF/Natural Resources Leadership Institute (NRLI) graduation for Class IX. The graduating fellows are an exciting and diverse group of environmentalists, municipality, federal, and state agency representatives. The class's final tour event and NRLI board meeting was held at Rosie Koenig's Organic Farm in Gainesville. There is so much to learn about the intricacies of growing and marketing organic vegetables.

On today's show - organic gardening - what does it mean?

USDA - Organic Gardening

On Sunday, we went to Leu Garden's Plant Sale in Orlando. What a great event! Great plants, unusual gardening items! I was able to bring home nun's orchids, vanilla orchid, smoke bush, and herbs.

Will update with your phone calls this afternoon!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

In Your Backyard: "Flower Shows"

This week will see springtime temperatures return to normal hitting the 80's for the first time since fall but only for one day and with good chance of rain on Wednesday - there's still no need to irrigate. Fertilizing, weeding, and pruning, will become weekly and monthly gardening chores.

Leu Gardens Annual Plant Sale is coming up on Saturday, March 20 and Sunday, March 21st. Leu Gardens will be open 9am to 5pm both days with no admission charge. Bring a wagon or plant cart for your purchases!

Leu Estate

Leu Garden's Rose Garden, a popular outdoor wedding venue.

EPCOT's International Flower and Garden Festival is on now through May 16th. This is a wonderful opportunity for Floridians to see great and innovative ways to showcase flowers, shrubs, and beautiful containers and themed gardens.

See all of my photographs of the EPCOT's 2008 International Flower and Garden Festival:

EPCOT 2008 International Flower & Garden Festival Listen to In Your Backyard on Tuesdays at 11:00am on WLBE 790AM or on the Internet at http://www.wlbe.org/ Click on "Listen Here" or click on Archives to hear the last four programs.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

In Your Backyard: March On!

I suspect most Central Florida gardeners have put off spring planting waiting for warmer temperatures. Normally Orlando's February's temperatures average highs are in the low 70's and low 50's for night time sleeping, but February 2010 brought us 5 days of temperatures above average and 23 days of temperatures 10 degrees or lower than average. Well, I don't know about you but I'm over winter. Remind me of this when I reminisce about being hot in August.

Renovations in our home has blossomed opportunity for a windowbox garden inside! Finishing off a kitchen nook with a faux window inspired a trip to Orlando's Apenberry's garden center. Eric and Lisa Apen's wonderful nursery is a treasure to meander around with the beautiful and hard to find flowers, shrubs, trees, and magical garden accoutrements. I can always find a flower or shrub that will make my own backyard special.

After a few minutes of searching, I found an ideal rectangular copper container that would make a perfect windowbox. I knew I wanted African violets because of the great eastern exposure of my kitchen windows. For a filler plant and to add depth, I found an ivy with four long vines. Because African violets need good drainage, I placed two layers of the large bubble wrap in the bottom of deep metal container to ensure the proper height of the flowers. I then lined it with Glad's Press and Seal's multipurpose sealing wrap. I used an inch of small pebbles for the second layer and added my potting soil. The 6" pots of African violets and one 4" pot of ivy fit perfectly. I tucked the soft yellow-green moss underneath the leaves carefully and voilĂ , a beautiful interior window box garden! The African violets and ivy will love the filtered morning and noon sun and I will enjoy drinking my tea in my new spring kitchen nook.

African violets are one of the easiest plants to care for and most popular indoor plant choices. They love daytime temperatures in the 70's and nightime temperatures in the 60's - open windows in the spring and air-conditioning in the summer.

Watering African violets can be tricky. You will want to use room temperature water and make sure you pour it under the leaves not over them. Plant them high in the pot and keep leaves from touching any surface. Fertilize twice a month with a diluted liquid fertilizer - never use full strength.


African Violet Society of America
UF/IFAS - African Violets
Central Florida African Violet Clubs

Deadhead any chrysanthemums that you've planted in the yard after Christmas. They are starting to sprout large new leaves now. Growing Chrysanthemums in Florida is easy and they are repeat bloomers in your garden. Full sun locations and well drained sandy soils make it easy to find a place for them in your yard.

I will be leading a 2.5 mile interpretative hike on the last leg of the Walk Across Marion County for the Florida Trail organization. We will be meeting at the Santos Trailhead at 8:30am. You're welcome to join us - the weather will be beautiful!

Today on the radio show, we'll be talking about what to do in the month of March in your backyard and answering your garden questions!