About Central Florida Gardener

Welcome and thank you for visiting Central Florida Gardener. Florida is a unique state in which to garden. It can be frustrating but also rewarding for gardeners who persevere. This blog was created as a resource for Florida gardeners, both new and experienced, in search of information specifically for Florida gardens.

You are invited to participate by leaving your comments, suggestions, tips and recommendations relevant to Florida gardening - don't be shy! Thank you for dropping by to learn more about gardening in the Sunshine state. I look forward to hearing from you! Susan

Monday, October 13, 2008

Fall Plant Sales

Along with fall comes an array of local plant and garden shows. You can pick up plants at a great price from master gardener's and garden club sales. Garden shows are an enjoyable event where you can browse and shop for some unusual varieties. One of the best in Central Florida is the Mount Dora Plant & Garden Fair scheduled for November 1st and 2nd. Lots of plants and garden art to choose from, plus you can spend the day and enjoy the local shops and restaurants. Both give you an opportunity to mingle with other gardeners.

You can find garden shows and sales near you by checking your county extension agent's calendar of events, the weekend edition of your local newspapers, or by checking out Florida Gardening magazine's calendar of events.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Conserve Energy with Trees

According to the University of Florida, "Residential energy use comprises about 26% of all the energy used in the state of Florida. In Central Florida, about 28% of this annual residential energy expenditure is for cooling the home during Florida's 5 to 7 month summer."

Windows and glass doors, as well as north-east and west walls account for the most heat entering a home in summer. The easiest way to reduce heat gain (and save on your electric bill) is to plant trees and shrubs in these locations.
I dropped by my local extension office for some suggestions on the best type of tree to plant on the northeast side of our home which is very warm during the morning hours. They gave me a great hand-out called, Enviroscaping to Conserve Energy: Trees for Central Florida.
Their list contained 70 varieties suitable for north, central & south Florida. I started by eliminating the "north" and "south" only trees. Then narrowed the list down according to growth rate, form, shade density, size, leaf persistance and drought tolerance. I found it very easy to use, and ended up with a selection of 5 trees that would be suitable for our particular soil.
If you're looking to plant a tree and reap the savings on your electric bill, I highly suggest using the University of Florida's Enviroscaping to Conserve Energy: Trees for Central Florida handout. It will make your decision a lot easier.
For more tips on gardening to conserve energy, click here to read their entire enviroscaping series.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

New Florida Garden Blogs

I've discovered many new Florida garden blogs from Gulfport to Jacksonville to West Palm Beach. I hope I placed everyone in the right location. Read on, and enjoy discovering new garden pals.

Gardening in Northeast Florida - Marina blogs about her efforts in converting her northeast Florida garden into a sustainable oasis for wildlife and human enjoyment.

Musable - "Ramblings on cooking, gardening and life..."

Bloom - "Journaling the growth of my gardens as well as my own personal growth"

Zen of Watering Your Garden - "Wrote it to encourage people to hand-water their gardens."

Bright Haven Times - "I love growing just about anything, but my favorite plants come from one certain spot. Nothing gives me greater gardening joy than to enter the well-loved garden of an..."

Roamin' and Bloomin' Idiot - "I started this blog to help me remember the progress of my journey through a new season of my life."

Our Square Foot Garden - "Gardenings, crafts, cooking, songs, and whatever grabs my imagination on a particular day."

Florida Ecomania - "...where all things Florida-friendly are discussed: local food, homegrown veggies, conservation, native plants and smaller-footprint living."

Garden Living - "Follow Emily on her gardening adventures as she tries to make her garden livable for herself and her family."

Cannas and Bananas - "I'm in love with gardens with an exotic , tropical feel and am working to convert my own basic backyard from blah to bold."

Our Garden Dirt - "My husband and I love gardening. It is our hobby as well as my husband's profession."

Gardening Fool - "A blog for impatient, somehow lazy, Central Florida gardener."

pencil and leaf - "A blog about plants, leaves and drawing based around an artist's new experience in the USA working from a botanical garden in Orlando."

Vero Beach:
Gardening Tips 123 - "A blog where people can get gardening ideas concerning organic gardening, composting, worm farms, container gardening and more."

West Palm Beach:
Green Side Up! - "Great gardens simplified!! and other advice for those with dirt under their nails."

If you know of any others, please let me know. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Featured Blog: Central Florida Garden

Visiting Dr. Michael Denner’s blog, Central Florida Garden, is like immersing yourself in an all encompassing lecture on the benefits and pitfalls of fruit and vegetable gardening in Florida. This college professor generously shares his 5 years of experience in growing plants, fruits and vegetables in his Deland garden. You will find information on sustainable gardening practices (recycling greywater, drip irrigations systems, composting, environment and more), best seed varieties for this area (including the online nurseries sources he purchases them from), pest control and even some recipes.

Blogging since 2005, he has accumulated an impressive amount of information for successful vegetable gardening in Central Florida. And, if you’re not growing vegetables in your garden, you may want to reconsider and begin planning your fall garden. You’ll save lots of $$$’s, plus you’ll enjoy a bounty of fresh veggies right outside your backdoor.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Stop & Smell the Roses

I've heard many times that growing roses in Florida is impossible. Our sandy soil as well as the oppressive heat and humidity of summer does create a challenge unless you know about roses grown on "Fortuniana" rootstock (Rosa fortuniana, 'Double White Cherokee'). This rootstock which was discovered in China by Robert Fortune around 1848 has made growing roses in Florida possible. Hybrid roses grafted onto "Fortuniana" rootstock can thrive in sandy soil, are more resistant to nematodes and can live for decades, while those not grafted may only survive a season or two. They have vigorous root growth and produce larger flowers.

Companies that grow roses on Fortuniana rootstock are Jackson & Perkins, Nelson's Roses and Weeks Roses. Instead of ordering hybrid roses online...purchase them from a local garden center. You'll pay more for them compared to those for sale at your local box-store. But the additional cost is well worth it and with proper care, you'll be enjoying your roses for a much longer period of time.
Antique roses or the modern day Knock-Out(R) shrub roses are for gardeners looking for a more carefree rose that doesn't require a lot of spraying or fertilizing. Many antique varieties can be found at local nurseries. If you're unable to find them in your area, Seminole Springs Antique Rose & Herb Farm in Eustis carries a large variety and is well worth the day trip to visit this unique nursery which also specializes in herbs, butterfly plants and perennials.

The University of Florida provides sound information on Growing Roses in Florida which includes site selection, soil preparation, maintenance, irrigation, fertilization, mulching, pruning and pest management. The Central Florida Rose Society which meets every first Wednesday of the month at Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando is another great resource. Their web site provides information, as well as lists of easy care roses, their favorites for Florida and how to achieve curb appeal with roses.

If you're interested in a book, my two recommendations are For the Love of Roses in Florida and Elsewhere by Barbara Oehibeck. You can purchase a used (which in many cases is new or in very good condition) copy starting at $9.95 plus taxes and shipping. Another book is from the experts themselves, Nelson's Guide to Florida Roses which can be purchased directly from them for a cost of $12 plus tax, shipping and handling charges.

Before you give up on growing roses in Florida, try growing one grafted onto "Fortuniana" rootstock. You'll be delighted you did!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Garden for the Birds

Many gardeners find that they love the birds that are attracted to their garden. They're fun to watch and and who doesn't enjoy a good bird song from time to time. You can create your own backyard bird sanctuary with tips from the following Web sites.

Bird Gardens at Bird Watcher's Digest provides all the essentials. You'll find information on the four basic all birds need, a list of their top 10 plants, plus a backyard bird food chart and do-it-yourself projects. An added bonus is information on attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden as well. Not only does this Web site have relevant information for Florida gardeners but it is easy to browse and find the information you are searching for.

A Web site with information geared specifically for Florida can be found at Your Florida Backyard on their Gardening for Birds page. You'll find lists of flowers, shrubs and trees that provide fruits, berries, nectar, nuts or seeds for some of Florida's most common birds.

If, like me, you enjoy flipping through books at your leisure here are two specifically for Florida. For beautiful photos you'll love Florida's Fabulous Birds by Winston Williams. I love their entire series of Florida nature books. A more practical book to take in the garden with you is the Birds of Florida Field Guide by Stan Tekiela. A must have for those who like to identify the birds in their backyard.

And last, but not least, you can learn to identify the birds by their songs by listening to a short clip of Florida Bird Sounds at the Florida Museum of Natural History Web site. My daughter loves to listen to the bird songs, and has become quite good at copying them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Choose Your Mulch Carefully

Mulch is a necessity in Florida, and cypress seems to be the favorite choice for most gardeners. While cypress may be the least expensive mulch on the market, it is the least sustainable. Cypress trees are slow growers and some of the oldest stands in Louisiana are being harvested to keep up with demand. The depletion of these forests is having a negative environmental effect on the state. You can read more about the problem at SaveOurCypress.org, where you can also find a list of "green" alternatives that work just as well.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Kudos to Stetson University

This old and beautiful 174-acre university in Deland is going "native!" The Stetson University's Native Plant Initiative is slowly, but surely transforming the flora on campus into native species. Their Web site includes lists (with plant requirements) of the native palms, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, vines and groundcovers they are planting. Also, is a list of references and links, plus a slide show of 10 landscape photos. Check it out, and see for yourself what a beautiful job they are doing. Hopefully, more universities, homes, shopping centers and office complexes will follow their example. Great Job!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Get to Know the Good Guys

One of the wonders of nature is its ability to create balance. And a prime example of this can be found in the insect world. Beneficial insects are a welcome addition to any garden. The only problem is in knowing who is good and who is bad. The University of Florida Extension Service provides descriptions and photos of 11 common "good guys" online in their Beneficial Insects Sheet 1 and Beneficial Insects Sheet 2.

You can attract more beneficial insects to your yard by providing a wide variety of food (both nectar and pollen) sources. Planting a variety of perennials and native wildflowers is effective. Weeds are also a good source for beneficial insects, so don't be so quick to remove them all. Good plant choices include: goldenrod, yarrow, daisy, milkweed, scented geraniums, cosmos, fennel, dill, parsley, thyme, marigold, nasturtians and sunflowers.

Many beneficial insects can be purchased from mail order sources such as Gardens Alive and Gardener's Supply Co. When releasing purchased insects follow the enclosed instructions for best results.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Green Prints for the Gardener's Soul

Green Prints, which is so aptly described by Pat Stone the editor as, "a magazine that shares the human side of gardening: the joy, humor, frustrations, and heart in fine prose and fine art." This quarterly magazine is one of the most delightful and entertaining gardening magazines out there. The stories range from heart-warming to laugh-out-loud renderings of people's experiences in the garden. Pat has been successful in creating a very unique type of garden magazine - one of its kind. It's not designed to provide advice from the "experts," but the pages are loaded with the successes and failures of real everyday gardeners. If you love to garden and read well written short stories, you are guaranteed to love this magazine. And if you like to write, you can try your hand at submitting your own stories. Who knows, you just may find yourself in Green Prints!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Protecting Plants from Freezing Temperatures

One or two nights of freezing temperatures can devastate the look of your yard. The University of Florida Extension Solutions for Your Life provides some excellent and timely tips on what to do before, during and after the freeze to minimize damage.

Click here to read this timely and helpful article.