Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas For Good Gardeners

Hoe, hoe, hoe, what will Santa Claus be bringing on Christmas morning for the gardeners on his "good" list?  Wonderful gifts that new or long-time gardeners with green thumbs will love.   Over the last decade, gift suggestions for plant enthusiasts are the standard garden plant stakes, labels, tools, cute statues and accoutrements, gardening books, and of course, lots of plants.  With current sustainable and urban trends encouraging people to take classes, conserve their environment, reduce their footprint and grow their own food, gardeners are becoming more sophisticated and adept at gardening. Getting your gardener to take the next step in their garden journey will be helped by these great finds from Amazon, the Spoon Sisters, and Williams-Sonoma.

1.  This gorgeous, earthy personalized garden tote.  Canvas material, with eight pockets to hold tools, seed packets, weed collection, or harvesting herbs and tomatoes. $29.95

2. Fresh Air Kitchen Composter Collector   Composting is so good for your garden. This composter is chic enough to sit on your kitchen counter and has oxygenating construction so that bad odors are eliminated. The best part of this composter is that it utilizes decomposing bags that you can put right into your outside composter.  $24.00

3. Spoon Sisters Herb Markers Not your mother's plant labels! Gorgeous metalwork for your herbs.  Sold as a set of nine, these 11" signs will add panache to your garden, containers, or raised beds. $26.95


4. Herb Savor Pods. For the gardener/cook/chef who loves to have fresh herbs in their refrigerator.  These modern herb storage containers keep the herb stems in water up to three weeks.  No more baggies or wilted herbs.  The pods will fit in your refrigerator door. Comes in a set of three pods.  $29.95.

5. Spoon Sisters Flower and Herb Dryer  Distressed metal drying ring that will bring authentic gardening look to that French or Mediteranean kitchen or parterre'. Hang your spring and summer flowers and herbs from ten hooks to scent the air, collect seeds, or pluck fresh for your latest recipe.   $22.00
6. Williams-Sonoma Make Your Own Cheese Kit.  What a great way to use herbs from your garden in your own cheese! Everything you need to make all-natural cheeses in one hour!  Different cheese kits include mozzarella, ricotta, chevre, or queso fresco. $25.95
7. Williams-Sonoma Stoneware Pickling Crock  Growing cucumbers and cabbages? With these glazed pottery from Zanesville Ohio, pottery capital of the world, you can make your own dill pickles and sauerkraut.  Beautiful even when not in use.  Comes in 3 gallon or 5 gallon pots. $54.95 - $79.95

8. Williams-Sonoma Shiitake Mushroom Log Step into the new world of growing your own mushrooms. Easy and safe as a bump on a log! Grow indoors or outdoors.  Logs are inoculated with mushroom spores, soak log for 24 hours, then harvest within a few weeks. Oyster mushroom logs also available.   $29.95

9. Williams-Sonoma Vertical Garden Classy and practical way to grow plants indoors or on your patio.  Free-standing planter holds  40 plants. New water-smart technology allows for easy watering with collection tray to prevent dripping on the floors. $499.95

10.  Williams-Sonoma Cedar Chicken Coop and Run and Planter . More and more cities are allowing chickens in residential areas. Keep your chickens safe in this delightful and compact 2-story chicken coop. Easy to reach eggs.  $1,299.00
 These lovely gifts are perfect for your special gardener!  Wishing you a wonderful holiday season from my garden to yours.  Merry Christmas everyone!


Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Transformation of A Boring Space Into A Garden "

I received this email today from a client who is pleased with her landscape design almost a year later:
"I can't say enough about Teresa Watkins and her amazing creativity. When we met to discuss my frustration with creating a beautiful space along our lakefront, Teresa has some thoughts but mostly she spent time listening to me describe gardens I enjoyed visiting.  She took several photos and spent a great deal of time studying the space I had in mind for my new garden.  When she returned with a plan, I was amazed.

Since my husband and I enjoy gardening, we chose to take Teresa's plan and gradually create Teresa's vision on our own.  We added soil, we raked and killed weeds and planted according to Teresa's plan.  The transformation from a boring space to a park-like setting has not only given us the pleasure of a beautiful space to admire; but neighbors have actually left notes at my door thanking me for the garden.  One neighbor said, 'Its the highlight of my morning walk.'  Thank you, Teresa for making me look so good." 

Violet, Mount Dora, FL
I love when I hear compliments like Violet's because I know that I've accomplished what they wanted and continue to appreciate. It's so enervating to see my clients with the landscapes of their dreams that are not only beautiful but are water conserving and not a lot of post-installation aftercare needed. That's the secret to great landscapes: Proper design and correct installation. What do you think of Violet's and her husband's hard work with their lakefront park?
Read more clients' comment's here.
Want me to design a garden or landscape for you?  Contact me here.

"Finding your garden theme is as easy as seeing what brings a smile to your face."
~ Teresa Watkins, "Gardening with Soul"

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thistle While You Work In Your Garden

Click to Mix and Solve
Thistles are an iconic Scottish symbol and great butterfly attractor. There is a also an American cousin that grows from Maine to Florida in meadows, fields, and pastures. I love to see them growing by the highway and don't think of these purple spiny flowers as weeds, although I'm sure many farmers do. Hawthorn Hill has more information on this beautiful Florida native.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Be Prepared For Isaac

Central Florida is looking at its first probable tropical storm occurance this weekend with Isaac.  Isaac is Florida's third tropical storm, with the Keys and North Florida experiencing early in the hurricane season, tropical storms Debby and Beryl.

Before Isaac comes across the state or skirts the west coast of Florida, now is the optimum time to prepare your landscape to weather the storm.  Is your house and yard ready for a hurricane? Even if Isaac doesn't directly pass over the state, tornados, gale winds, and subsequent rainbands could cause havoc and damage to your home and landscape.

Here's a preparation checklist for you:
  • Keep your eye and ears on the weather.  Check the weather stations frequently or download a weather app to your phone for alerts.  Have plenty of batteries on hand for radios, computers for news.
  • Remember your BBQ can be used to cook outside for meals or to make coffee.  Get your camping cookware out.  Have plenty of charcoal or gas on hand.
  • Fill your car's gas tank up.
  • Turn your irrigation system off now.  We've had plenty of rain over the last few weeks and will be getting frequent rainfall over the next ten days.  You don't want your lawn saturated before the heavy rainbands come through.
  • Reschedule all fertilizer, herbicide, or pesticide applications for the next ten days. Any  chemicals put on your lawn now will only be diluted to be effective or swept away with the stormwater runoff.  Don't waste your money!
  •  Walk around your home, garage, and  barns to check for secure windows and doors.  Make sure buildings have locks.
  • Store any chemical products in airtight containers in sheds or garages, not inside your home.
  • Bring in flags and awnings.
  • Stake any newly planted landscape material that could snap or bend harshly with winds.
  • Store any pool equipment, patio furniture, lawn decorations such as gazing balls, bird baths, door wreaths, real estate signs that could be flung against your house or car.
  • Check pool covers to make sure they are secure.
  • Before the storm comes through, harvest any fruits or vegetables that are ripe or almost ripe so that you don't lose them. 
  • Take your digital camera and walk around house to document "before" photos in case of damage during storm. 
  • During the storm, don't park your car underneath any trees.
  • Remember, after (if) Isaac goes through and the rain may stop, flooding will continue to occur for several days, as the runoff builds up.  Remove any items in swale areas or near docks as tide, river, and lake levels rise.  Do not drive on roads or streets that you cannot see the surface as areas may have given way.  
For more information:  Florida Disaster Preparation

Keep up with local weather on your radio with My790am.

Stay safe, stay dry, and take any days you have to stay inside to read that book you haven't had time for, play games, have family time.  Be appreciative that with Isaac, we are going to have plenty of rain to get through our dry winter and spring seasons.  Hurricanes and tropicals storms are necessary for the replenishment of our acquifers. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Vision House 2008 Three Years Later

How long does it take landscapes to mature in Florida? This slideshow shows you Vision House 2008 during construction and landscape installation and the established trees and shrubs three years later. When it was installed, there were some concerns about sparseness, but landscape plants and trees that don't need to compete for water and nutrients grow faster and healthier. Proper spacing reduces maintenance, less chemical and water use. There is no need for instant landscapes.

Vision House 2008
Previous Post: Leesburg Couple Rips Up But Is It Florida-friendly?

Irrigation Overkill

What's wrong with this picture?

For a sodded driveway this is overkill.  There is no reason to have the irrigation in the center sod strip.  They should have used either a groundcover or pavers in the center of the driveway.
What other mistakes did the irrigation installer or owner make?
  • Watering at 5pm in the early evening is a good way to get fungal disease.
  • Uneven spacing of irrigation heads on turfgrass means uneven distribution of water which is the one of the biggest water wasters.  
  • Possibly no rain shut-off device or not hooked up properly.  This location received two inches of rain the night before so irrigation was not necessary for this turf even if it was new sod.
I asked Aaron Smith, owner of  Insight Irrigation, for his professional irrigation contractor perspective. "When I see this several things come to mind that should be considered: 
  • Areas less than 4 foot wide should not use overhead irrigation. 
  • If necessary, small areas can be irrigated with drip. (many new products are out to do this I.e Hunter)
  • This is a safety hazard since people could slip .
  • This is an environmental hazard from oil from vehicles washing down into stormdrain."
When installing irrigation systems, get a certified irrigation professional like Aaron to help you or   learn what goes into having an efficient irrigation system before you do the work . 

Crape Murder Spree

Crape murder crime rate is still too high.  These landscape trees required by law, the labor to install them, and the water used to establish them  were wasted.  What a shame and does nothing to enhance the property or downtown. Commercially, these brutal cuts do nothing to promote the business or encourage customers to visit.

How should they have been pruned, if at all?  Crapemyrtle Pruning.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Landscape Boom For Independence Day!

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) 
  • Salvia (m, t)
  • Vinca (m)
  • Verbena (l,m, h)
  • Roses (see suggestions below)
  • 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!

Reprinted from permission from Suite 101, Gardening with Soul,  July 2004

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Making Your Bath More Luxurious

Creeping Rosemary, Rosemary officinalis 'Prostratus'

Studies have proven that not only is working in the landscape good for your mental health,  but you can also relieve stress and help your skin with the herbs grown in your garden. Taking a steamy, relaxing bath every night, especially after digging in the dirt all day, is part of my "getting ready for bed" ritual.  Adding different plants, herbs, and flowers can be added to your bath to help clean, soothe and revigorate your skin and bath recipes are easy to prepare. 

You can use fragrances you enjoy the most singularly or combined with other herbs. This is where a little bit of this and some of that works for anyone.  You can be as creative as you like.  Add ground oatmeal to your herbal concoctions to help defoliate dried skin cells, soothe irritation, and reduce inflammation of sunburns and insects bites.
Warning:  Check with your doctor before ingesting any herbs for medicinal purposes.

Flowers, foliage, roots, and seeds that can be used in your beauty routine:
  • Artemesia ~ Baths
  • Basil ~ Baths
  • Catnip ~ Potpourri, baths
  • Calendula ~ Astringent, highlights hair
  • Chamomille ~ Astringent, highlights hair
  • Comfrey ~ Reduces skin irritation and inflammation
  • Dill ~ Baths, facials
  • Elder ~ Baths,
  • Eucalyptus ~ Baths, facials
  • Fennel ~ Astringent, baths
  • Geraniums, Wild ~ Astringent, baths
  • Hops ~ Baths, soporific
  • Hyssop ~ Cleanses pores, used with thyme and rosemary in baths
  • Jasmine ~ Baths, muscle relaxant, relieves inflammation
  • Juniper berries ~ Baths
  • Lady's Mantle ~ Astringent, baths
  • Lavender ~ Baths, used as a vinegar helps oily skin
  • Lemon Balm ~Astringent, baths, skin
  • Lemon Verbena ~ Energizes
  • Marjoram ~ Energizes
  • Mints ~ Baths
  • Oatmeal, Baths, soap, facials, cleanses pores
  • Oregano ~ Baths, muscle relaxant
  • Nettle ~ Baths, hair conditioner, facials for oily skin,
  • Parsley ~ Facials for oily skin, hair rinse for dark hair
  • Peppermint ~ Astringent, freshner and energizer
  • Rose ~ Astringent, skin hydration
  • Rosemary ~ Baths, soaps. energizer, facials for oily skin, hair rinse for dark hair
  • Sage ~ Astringent, baths, muscle relaxant, conditioner for dark hair
  • Rose Geraniums ~ Baths
  • Thyme ~ Antiseptic, baths, energizes
  • Valerian ~ Baths, soporific
  • Violets ~ Soaps, Facial steams
  • Willow ~ Baths, relieves pain and inflammation, muscle relaxant
  • Yarrow ~ Astringent, baths, facials for oily skin
Combine your favorite herbal scents with oatmeal or powdered milk in a muslin  or cheesecloth bag, tied with rubber band or pretty ribbon.  Place in your bath water as it fills or hang from the bath faucet to allow the warm running water to release the fragrances.

To make an infusion for your bath: Mix 4 cups of boiling water with 4 tablespoons of fresh or dried herbs and flowers, soak for 20 minutes, then strain through cheesecloth or sieve.  Add to bath water. For hard organic materials such as bark, seeds, and roots, boil ingredients for 20 minutes then strain.

Mexican Sage, Salvia longistyla
Here's a great recipe for adding Kama Sutra mint potion to your bath, courtesy of our friends at Top Tropicals Nursery.
Harvest 1 cup of fresh leaves. In a large thermos, mix the leaves with 4 cups of boiling water and. Seal the cap tightly and let sit for 24 hours, then pass the decoction through a sieve, squeezing the most you can out of the leaves. Add juice of one freshly squeezed lemon to the mint concentrate - it is an essential part of the recipe that keeps active ingredients of Kama Sutra Mint at most effective level and helps making your skin smooth and velvet. Add 1-2 table spoons of your favorite bath gel, stir. Fill a bath with cool or slightly warm water. Add mint/lemon potion.


Culbertson, Molly ed.. Book of Herbs. 1st. Des Moines, Iowa: Meredith Corporation, 1994.

Tolley, Emelie, and Chris Mead. Gifts from the Herb Garden. 1st. New York, New York: Clarkson N. Potter Inc., 1991.

Top Tropical Nursery, Retail Garden Center located at 300 Center Road, Ft. Myers, Florida  http://www.toptropicals.com/

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Suggested Central Florida Plants Least Preferred By Deer

Wildlife use vegetation for a number of reasons: food, water, protection, physical and territorial behavior. A deer’s diet includes foliage, fruit (acorns), flowers and flower buds, but not necessarily all on the same plant, while young stags use the bark of small trees to “rub the velvet from their antlers and mark their area.” (Appleton, 2008) Deer like to eat plants that are young, easily accessible, over-fertilized, overwatered, pruned often, and have new growth. Deer do not like to eat plants that are odoriferous, have either grayish, leathery, or thorny foliage, or have foliage that has milky or sticky sap.

Reducing landscape damage by deer needs to be a community-wide effort. Feeding deer will only lessen their natural fear of humans and encourages them to encroach on residential areas. There are several options to keeping deer off your property. Installing seven-foot fencing will reduce chances that deer will jump onto property. Using chemical repellents are not always effective and can be expensive, foul-smelling, and need to be applied before plants are eaten and on a continuous basis.

There are no deer-proof plants. Deer eat a wide variety of flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees, but some plants are less desirable than others. Plants normally consumed by deer in the South may not be eaten by deer in northern states and inversely, with deer-damaged plant species in the North; they may not be eaten by deer in the southern states. During years with high deer population, severe weather conditions such as droughts or flooding that lessen vegetation or eradicate their usual diet, deer will eat plants not normally browsed on. Also, deer will become used to unfamiliar plant species, (like loropetalums) and graze on vegetation that for seasons were previously left uneaten.

The suggested plants are not guaranteed to be deer-proof but have been shown to be not severely affected by grazing, and should recover. Plants should be selected first by soil and sunlight conditions and then reviewed for favorability by deer.   The plant options are compiled from several older lists (1999) and updated to include newer plant species grown in Zones 8 – 11. Protect new, smaller shrubs/trees for first few years with fencing or tree shelters.

Suggested Central Florida Plants Least Preferred By Deer

References and resources:
Deer in the Urban Landscape - Texas A & M
Deer Resistant Plants - Proven Winners
Deer-Resistant Landscaping - Iowa City Government
Deer Resistant Species - Native Plant Information Network, Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Ornamental plant susceptibility to damage by deer - University of Florida
Landscape Plants Rated By Deer Resistance - Rutgers University
Deer and Rabbit Resistance - University of Arizona
Northern Gardening Web - Deer Resistant Plants
Deer Images

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hardscape Made Easy

At the Spring Fever in The Garden in Winter Garden this year, I met Irwin Grossman, a wonderful, enthusiastic retiree, who wanted me to come see his backyard. He had an impressive rock landscape with dry river bed running through it and couldn't wait to show it off.  I can understand why - it is a backyard worthy of superlatives. It is an incredible amount of stone with Japanese rock garden theme. Mr. Grossman's rockscape appeals to his need for very low water use and maintenance.  Despite all the rocks, liners, artificial turf, and the lack of plants, Mr. Grossman still needs a maintenance schedule to spray herbicides for the tough weeds that invariably emerge.

While for me personally, I would like to see more shade, a water feature like a waterfall or small creek, and more plants to soften the rocks, I can appreciate the homeowner's effort, quality of work and materials, and see the beauty in the planted rugged and smooth stones. Mr. Grossman's landscape theme is called "Safe Haven" and was designed by Mr. Paul Verlander, Landscape Architecture LLC.

Monday, June 18, 2012

God's Secret Weapon: Attack of the Christian Tomatoes

As if things couldn't get sadder and scarier in Egypt, now agriculture has been demonized.  The Popular Egyptian Islamic Association has condemned eating tomatoes because they are supposedly Christian.

The group posted a photo on its page of a tomato - which appears to reveal the shape of a cross after being cut in half – along with the message: “Eating tomatoes is forbidden because they are Christian. [The tomato] praises the cross instead of Allah and says that Allah is three (a reference to the Trinity). [God help us]. I implore you to spread this photo because there is a sister from Palestine who saw the prophet of Allah [Mohammad] in a vision and he was crying, warning his nation against eating them [tomatoes]. If you don’t spread this [message], know that it is the devil who stopped you.”
After posting their diatribe on Facebook and receiving uproar over the insane directive, the group was forced to clarify that "We didn’t say you can’t eat tomatoes. We said don’t cut it in [such a way that reveals] the cross shape.”

I hope no one tells the Salafist organization about Jerusalem artichokes.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Groveland Volunteers Produce Community Vegetable Garden


Check out Teresa's an in-depth article on Edilble Landscaping featured in Green Builder magazine on "Edible Landscaping 02" pages 31 - 37.


Growing a Community - continuation of a Community Garden in Groveland.
"This is a new experience for me. Just to see these grow from the ground  --- it touches the soul."  
David Allen is speaking. He's talking about the community garden in Groveland's historically African-American community located south of State Road 50 and east of State Road 33. Allen is the younger of the two men who have taken on the daily care of the garden. His mentor and partner-in-gardening is Willy Dykes, who lives directly across the street from the South Street vegetable garden. As Dykes says of his gardening efforts, "It just makes me feel so good that I'm helping others and myself. They see things growing, big pretty greens, and they ask 'whose greens are these' and I tell them they're yours."  
Dykes estimates that 30 families in the community partake in the harvest from the garden: sweet potatoes, okra, peppers, Georgia collards ("the best," according to Dykes), scallions, Vidalia onions, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, rosemary, and spaghetti squash...  
Support for the garden is high in the community in which it is located, as evidenced by the fact that at the February CRA meeting, at which the spring planting was approved, an estimated 40 people from the community, many of them young people, came to the meeting as a show of support. As Allen said at the time, "They volunteered to come out tonight and show you that this is a real community." Speaking in a recent interview, he added "There is so much respect for that garden, it blows my mind." As Marie Damato says, "the community garden as been a community-wide effort."

See more pictures here.

October 1, 2011

Q. What do you get when a Community Redevelopment Agency joins together with volunteers?

A. A wonderful neighborhood vegetable garden.

City Councilwoman Evelyn Wilson came up with the idea of redeveloping a grassy park area into a community vegetable garden during a Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) meeting two years ago.  Finding encouragement from fellow Trilogy residents, Marie Damato and Dr. Linda Jacobsen, Wilson went to the City of Groveland to secure a grant. Along with partners B and H Consultants, Inc,  Zion Lutheran Church,  Thrinvent Financial, Wildflowers of Trilogy Garden Club, Wilson was able to get the city's urban project financed in 2010.

Dr. Jacobsen noted how she was organized finances for the community gardens:
"... along with other members of Zion Lutheran Church, we were able to obtain funding from Lake-Sumter Chapter of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans for the 2010 planting. "
They were able to purchase plants, soil, raised beds, landscape timber, and hoses with the monies. The food, water, and other items needed were provided by Dina Sweatt and the city of Groveland.
This summer, the year-old community vegetable garden needed revitalization and a sustainable plan.

I designed the vegetable gardens to ensure successful maintenance and long-term future growth.  City staff and Smithwell, Inc. employees helped to remove the older landscape timbers, build the raised beds and prepare the overgrown gardens from the previous year.  Seeds and many of the plants were purchased through Thrivevent. Volunteers from the Thrivevent Financial for Lutherans, Zion Lutheran Church, the Wildflowers of Trilogy Garden Club, along with elected officials Mayor Mike Radzik, Vice-Mayor Jim Gearheart, District 3 Councilman Tim Loucks, CRA member Dina Sweatt, and former Councilman James Smith, helped to install the raised beds and mulched paths and then plant the vegetables that Groveland children grew from seed. HollyLou the clown, pumpkin decorating, making plant markers, and an inflatable bounce house entertained the children (and the Garden Club members). 

Vegetables and herbs planted included late summer and cool seasonal crops.  Cabbage, corn, collards, eggplant, green beans, lettuce, different kinds of peppers, okra, onions, rosemary, snow peas, spinach, and varieties of tomatoes, like Beefsteak, Cherokee Purple, and Super Sweet 100's. Cleome and salvia were used in the raised beds to fill in around the herbs. Fruit trees will be planted in the corner of the garden. A Kadota fig tree, Ficus carica, provided by Wendel Martinkovic, of Wendel's Farm & Nursery in Lake Panasoffkee, was planted. Wendel also donated the flowers and many of the vegetables from his permaculture nursery.  Assistance with mulch and garden soil were supplied by Reliable Peat of Leesburg.

Dr. Jacobsen said a huge grateful credit goes to Janet Shira of B and H Consultants, Inc for keeping all the diverse groups working cohesively together throughout the urban project.  More BIG thank-you's to all the volunteers and partners, those who helped on other days preparing the gardens, and today's planting day, including 8 year old Mollie Robinshaw, Master Gardener Barb Schroeder, Louise Willim, and Gigi Klemash from Thrivent Financial.

November events to celebrate the Community Vegetable Garden will include a Harvest Day and Picnic. The garden will be planted twice a year with spring and fall vegetables.  Future needs of the garden include arbors, fencing, irrigation system, signage, and fruit such as blackberries, apple, olive, peach, and pear trees.  If you would like to contribute assistance for this neighborhood project, please contact Janet Shira with B and H Consultants, Inc. in Clermont.

Preliminary Concept

Before and after photographs of the David Blanks Park Community Vegetable Garden.

Groveland Community Vegetable Garden

More great photos from Planting Day.

Read past Earth Shattering Gardening posts on vegetable gardens.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pineland Scrub Blossoms In Summer

Beauty in the white sands of a pine flatwoods and scrub ecosystem may be hard to imagine. Unknowing visitors will see the dead foliage, broken snags, and thick, impenetrable vegetation as weedy, unkempt, and dangerous, but native wildlife and naturalists appreciate the value of Florida's oldest ecosystem's resources to provide food, cover, and nesting during the summertime.

These dry, upland habitats were once Florida's ancient coasts but now are home for endemic species, both wildlife and vegetation that thrive in harsh environments with seasonal rainfall (both drought and flooding), nutrient deficiencies, and frequent fires.

My photographs of native plants and wildflowers were shot in a Seminole County ten-acre residential community that leaves all but the homesite undeveloped. Click on the photographs for larger viewing. The various pictures show berries for bears, birds, deer, gopher tortoises, and raccoons, and host plants for butterflies and birds.

Tarflower,Bejaria racemosa, Saw palmetto, Serenoa repens, Sparkleberry, Vacciunium arboreum. Mother Nature's Smorgasbord for Florida wildlife.

Blackroot, Pterocaulon pycnostachyum, provides food for wild hogs.

Coastalplain St. Johns-wort, Hypericum brachyphyllum, host plant for insect pollinators, like bees, butterflies, and moths. These flowers are found in bogs, lakefronts, coasts, and ephermeral ponds.

Frogfruit, Phyla nodiflora, Lippia nodiflora, can also be seen growing in urban cement sidewalk cracks, residential lawns, and near water. Host plant for the White Peacock Butterfly, Anartia jatrophae, Common Buckeye Butterfly, Junonia coenia, Phaon Crescent Butterfly, Phyciodes phaon.

Rusty Lyonia, Lyonia ferruginea, popular with deer and insects.

Saw palmetto, Serenoa repens, provides food for migrating mammals and birds, and is the host plant for the Palmetto Skipper.

Shiny blueberry, Vaccinium myrsinites, food resource for mammals, including humans, birds.

Tarflower, Bejaria racemosa, nectar plant for pollinators.

Six foot tall Tarflower, Bejaria racemosa

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Why Are My Elephant Ears Turning Yellow?

Bob from South Carolina asks:
I have several large elephant ears that have leaves that are turning yellow?

There are several reasons that elephant ears (alocasias, colocasias, or philodendrons) could be turning yellow. Chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) could be old age, disease, too much sun, not enough sun, not enough nutrients, too much fertilizer, not getting enough water, or receiving too much water. You have to determine what the cause is by eliminating the stresses one by one.

With Tropical storm Beryl, hitting the coast line recently and summer rain patterns now occuring, how much are you irrigating?


Colocasia 'Mojito'
Bob's response:
Our rainfall has been normal. My wife irrigates two to three times a week in addition to the rain.

Then she's definitely overwatering. Watering often also creates a short root system and if the area of South Carolina goes into a drought, your plants' roots will be so short, the landscape won't survive. Keep landscape drier, roots will naturally grow deeper, and when a drought occurs, your plants will survive better with less water/rain. 1 inch of rain (in sand/humus soils) will go down 12 inches of sand and rich organic soils. Your wife is also defeating the purpose of any fertilizer she's putting down. When landscapes are overirrigated, you can leach out the fertilizer or any nutrients in the upper 6" - 12" of soils. Buy your wife a beautiful inexpensive rain gauge, put it up for her, and let her know that if she receives 1.5 inches + of rain a week - no need to irrigate.

Let her know nicely...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Ms. Teresa,
I'd like to have some of the seeds you offered on last Tuesday's program 22 May, 2012.
Also, do you know a natural bug deterrent to enjoy outdoor backyard. I've read that rosemary is a good deck/patio plant.
Thanks for your show, In Your Backyard.

Please send me your home address so I can send the rain lily seeds, too.

There really is no vegetative bug deterrent for mosquitos. Rosemary has flowers that can attract bees so I don't see it as a "bug deterrent." But rosemary is a wonderful fragrant plant for a deck container. Mosquitos need water to lay eggs, so I would make sure there is no standing water anywhere in your backyard vicinity. including bird baths, mulch, gutters, pots, children's toys. DEET is an excellent, safe product to repel mosquitos.

Mosquito myths

Mosquito repellents

Thank you for writing and listening to the show!

Ireland's Planting of the Green

County Carlow

Update:  In the current environment about climate change, talk about the selfishly depletion of forest resources here in the United States and around the world is not new. I found that these genealogy archive documents show that 18th century Ireland had also depleted their forestlands for the use of fuel, construction, and industry. The local governments with assistance of English monies provided project grant funds to the Irish landowners and renters to encourage the replanting of two million trees. Despite lack of documentation that all 200,000 trees in Carlow were planted, the tree project seems to have been successful.

Update: With the assistance of Ian McDermott, (no relation) Executive Director of the International Society of Arborists UK, and Moray Simpson, we have found out the mysterious species "phillyears."  It is a misspelling or local colloquialism of the ancient species, Phillyrea latifolia, an olive-like small tree, or large shrub.  Moray found the Latin genus in her book Collins Guide to Trees for British and European trees. Many thanks to Mac and Moray, and I've put the Collins book on my must-have list for my library.

June 1, 2012. I often discuss my first and second generation Scottish and Irish roots. Not tree roots, but family tree roots. I also love researching my heritage and hearing stories of Irish immigrants coming to this country.  I receive genealogy notes from the Irish-American listserv on Rootsweb Ancestry website.  The following page is from the Pat Purcell Papers.  Pat Purcell was born in 1896 and died in 1995 at the age of 99 years old.  Purcell left a huge legacy of historical documents which are being transcribed to the listserv for all to read. They are fascinating. The legal document below is from 1828 and shows the amount and species of trees planted on the private estate of Thomas Bunbury, Esquire in County Carlow. The signed and sealed document's legal and Victorian phrasing is difficult to understand, so I'm not sure if the trees were advertised for documentation of the estate permanently, for the enhancement of the Esquire's rental properties, or for eventual sale to the public. 

I am amazed at the availability of 19th century varieties of trees, including foreign species like American, Dutch, Middle Eastern, Portuguese, and citrus trees.  Who knew we exported American trees to Ireland?  Most people I think, believe it was only potatoes and tobacco that sailed from the Americas.

I'm assuming the Aspalia apples is a phonetically spelled form of Espaliered apples and the Timber Sallow is a broad-leafed willow used for construction and woodworking.  Other misspellings are the Balm of Gilead, which is could be several types of poplar trees and Plumb, which is the spelling used when speaking of measurements.

Another newhorticultural term for me is Elm Quicks, which after researching long and hard, is a British term meaning a hedge-like row of elms.

A species I have not identified is the Phillyears. Is the spelling correct or is it earlier English spelling?  Is it a tree or a shrub? I have contacted Irish arborists and hope to have an answer soon.
I Abraham Hopkins of Ballybit,Carlow, Farmer, do swear on the Holy
Evangelists that I have planted or caused to be planted within twelve Calender months, last past, on the lands of Ballybit in the Parish of Rathvilly, Barony of Rathvilly, and County of Carlow, lands held by me from Thomas Bunbury,Esquire, the undermentioned Trees, Viz.~~
100 Elm Quicks.100 Oak.
100 Limes.
100 Poplar.
100 Larch.
50 Ash Plants.
20 Sweet Chestnut.
10 Spurge Laurels.
10 English Elms.
10 Horse Chestnut.
10 Balm of Gitead.
10 Laurestines.
10 Portugal Laurels.
10 Phillyears..12 Hollys.
10 American Black Spruce.
10 Alder.
10 Dutch Alder.
10 Aspalia Apple.
10 Timber Sallow.
10 Plumb.
10 Pear Trees.
Deponent further saith, that he hath caused a notice in writing to be served on Hugh Graves, Esquire, of the City of Dublin who is Agent or the Receiver of the Rents for the aforesaid Thomas Bunbury, Esquire under whom Deponent holds said Lands, of my intention to register said trees to be advertised in Saunders's News Letter thirty days at the least previous to the date hereof (signed) Abraham Hopkins. Sworn before me this 16th day of February 1828 at Carlow. (signed) Adam B.Feltus..
 Another resource for British tree species with their historical use.

Thank you to Carlow Mike for doing the research and passing along the interesting historical information in these papers.  Even if I'm not related to the family, I certainly love reading the thoughts and activities of the Irish immigrants and families back home in Ireland, especially the gardening and farming anecdotes.

Update - More Tree Plantings - 1825

Pat Purcell Papers.
John Walker of Ballyknocken?,Carlow, came before me, one of his Majestys Justices of the Peace, and Voluntarily made Oath on the Holy Evangelists that he has planted or caused to be planted the twelve calender months last past, on the lands of Ballyknocken? in the Parish of Fenagh,Carlow, lands held by him as asigned by Henry Bradly from David LaTouche, Esquire, and being the property of the Right Honourable William Carr, Lord Beresford, the following trees, viz ~ 1,000 Oak.
1,300 Larch.
1,000 Scoth Fir.
1,300 Birch.
500 Spruce Fir.
200 Ash.
and 50 Lime.
And that he has given notice to Charles Doyne, Esquire, accreditted agent of the said Right Honourable William Carr, Lord Beresford, of his intention to register said trees more than thirty days previous to the date hereof. Dated October 19th 1825. (signed) John Walker.
Sworn before me the 21st October 1825. (signed) Philip Newton.

Update - More Tree Plantings - 1821.
Pat Purcell Papers.
Take Notice that I have planted, or caused to be planted on the Lands of Ballanaacrea in the Parish of Myshall, Barony of Forth and County of Carlow, lands held by me from John Whelan, Esquire, the following trees:
100 Larch.
200 Ash.
390 Spruce.
130 Mountain Ash.
125 Alder.
90 Sycamore.
50 American Black Spruce.
62 Apple.
25 Platting.
50 Lime.
20 Silver Fir.
50 Birch.
20 Scotch Fir.
and that I have given notice to the said John Whelan, Esquire. Under whom I immediately derive of my Intention to register the trees and that I have given notice of my intention to register the trees by publick advertisment in the Dublin Gazette thirty days at the least previous to the date hereof. (signed) James Corragan.
Sworn before me this 25th day of October 1822 (signed) John Cornwall.
Update - Explanation of all the Tree Planting Registrations.
TREE PLANTING In 1814, Benjamin Bunbury claimed : *'that I have caused the lands of Mortarstown, Carlow **to be planted*' with 52 beech and 13 sycamores. He was acting ‘*as immediate agent*’ for his nephew Thomas Bunbury Esquire. He stated that he planned to register the trees at the next general sessions of Carlow in order to avail of the grants. Corruption was clearly to the fore in local politics back then as it was claimed some one million trees were planted in Carlow during this period, which would have made the county one big forest. "By the end of the 17th century a great deal of Ireland's natural woodland had been cut down and timber was beginning to be in short supply. Sir William Petty suggested that two million trees should be planted. It would appear that over 200,000 trees were planted in Carlow between 1770 and 1890. In 1698, the first of seventeen Acts was applied to Ireland to enforce, or at least to encourage, the planting of trees. The provisions of the 1765 Act, stated that, on the expiration of his lease, a tenant could claim for the value of the trees that he had planted, provided that he certified this planting and then lodged the certificate with the clerk of the peace for the county. This exercise resulted in the Register of Trees which have survived for various counties in Ireland. The registrations were recorded at the quarter sessions and published in *The Dublin Gazette.* Subsequently this information was entered in the ledger entitled Register of Trees into which, depending on the diligence of the Justice of the Peace, the original affidavits were copied out in full or in summary form. This information can be useful to genealogists interested in a particular family who had long-established roots in a particular townland or county. Note added 2012 by Michael Purcell : I believe that many of the trees claimed for during this period were not planted, the application was a means of availing of the grant, all one needed was a friendly Justice of the Peace or a fellow Magistrate to witness your signature on claiming the grant.' Sources: Crown and Peace Records, Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Pat Purcell Papers, Browne-Clayton Archive.]

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Florida Friendly Landscaping For HOA's

The Florida Community Associations Journal March 2012 issue has a great synopsis of the Florida Community Associations Institute panel in Orlando that I was part of in January this year. The Central Florida gated community's efforts to implement Florida-friendly covenants is presented generically so that any community can duplicate our success, You can read the article here: "The Perfect Team."