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

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.