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

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Don't Miss the 12 Days of Christmas in a Florida Garden

Meems over at Hoe & Shovel has challenged herself to post something from her garden for the first 12 days in December. And, she has invited anyone who's crazy enough, to add another item to their "to-do" list, to join her.

Don't miss checking in on her blog, as some of her posts may involve a "giveaway" item. It's not too late to join in on the holiday fun, and post for the remaining 9 days left. Just make sure you leave her a comment to let her know you're participating.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Who said you can’t Grow Roses in Florida?

Now that the weather is cooler you'll notice the rose blossoms are larger and more beautiful. In the summer heat they look dwarfish and stressed, but then again, so do I :-).

You’ve probably heard many newcomers adamantly state that, “You can’t grow roses in Florida!” Roses may be a little more challenging in our zone 9 climate but it is possible to grow them if you know the TWO BIG SECRETS to success.

The FIRST BIG SECRET is rootstock. It seems boring and unnecessary but it’s of the utmost importance when it comes to growing roses in Florida. There are two kinds - fortuniana and Dr. Hughey. If you buy a rose that isn’t grafted onto one of these rootstocks, you might as well bury your money because it won’t last long in our heat.

The SECOND BIG SECRET is the variety. Choose roses that tolerate our hot and humid climate. You’ll enjoy more success and your roses will be happy, too. And, after all, a happy rose leads to a happy rose grower. :-)

Fortunately, there are plenty of rosarians in our area who have already done the hard work for you. So whether you prefer to grow hybrids or antique (a/k/a vintage or old-fashioned) varieties, start with their list of favorites, and then take their well-seasoned and hard-earned advice. You’ll save a lot of time and money!

Central Florida Rose Society
Central Florida Heritage Rose Society
Gainesville Rose Society
Orlando Area Historical Rose Society
Sarasota Rose Society
Tampa Rose Society
Volusia Rose Society
- Jeanne Savoie, President Deland FL jeanne617@yahoo.com (386) 734-9371

These TWO BIG SECRETS are 90% of what you need to know to grow roses in the Sunshine State. The other 10% is - soil preparation, location, fertilizer, pesticide, water and mulch.

So why not give it a try!

Favorite roses growing in my yard are knock-out (picture shown above - great color & great performers), 4th of July (a climber) and a handful of antiques - Louis Phillippe‘, Sombreuill and sea foam. My best tip is adding coffee grounds and Epsom salts to the soil. If you are an experienced rosarian or a newbie, we welcome your best “tried & true” tip and a list of “favorite” roses growing in your garden.

Monday, November 02, 2009

A Walk in Monica Brandies Garden

Florida garden writer Monica Brandies is hosting an open house (or should I say "garden") on November 7 and 14 from 10 am to 1 pm. Free cuttings, autographed books, and plants for sale. Enjoy some herbal tea and pommelo tasting. 1508 Burning Tree Lane, Brandon.

Monica has written a number of helpful books for Florida gardeners. Landscaping with Tropical Plants and Shade Gardening for Florida are two of my favorites that I refer to often when selecting plants for my shady garden. The next book on my list to buy is A Cutting Garden for Florida.

She is a wealth of information, and when we chatted online recently she agreed to share some information we may not know about her.

Q - What person or event brought you to gardening?
A - Probably my Aunt Joan who always grew flowers and made bouquets for every room in the house, but other people, too.

Q - What was the first plant you grew?
A - Zinnias and peanuts in a victory garden. I don't remember how they did, but I had measles and Mama had blankets at all the windows, but I kept peeking out to see my seeds sprouting and drove her crazy.

Q - What 3 landscape plants are proven winners in your central Florida garden?
A - Many, many, many: citrus, herbs, aloe, cassia, croton, pentas, firespike, tunnera alata and T. Ulmifolia (yellow alder), shrimp plants, all gingers, especially pinecone, butterfly and false blue ginger, cordylines, especially Dr. Brown, silver dollar eucalyptus, nasturtians, salvias, bromeliads, queenswreath vine, plumbago...I could go on forever.

Q - What's your favorite blooming plant?A - I love them all, but pentas is one of my favorites because it blooms 365 days a year and brings butterflies.

Q - What fruit plant/tree is a must-have in your garden?
A - Citrus. I have about 15 different kinds and keep looking for space to plant more. We make juice from November to June and eat many, especially the Poncans out of hand.

Q - What garden tool can you not live without? And why?A - The snippers in my pocket. I never go out without them. I have overplanted so much that I have to keep trimming constantly, but I don't mind. One of my friends says, "If you have weeds, you don't have enough plants." Of course, I also have to have a hoe, shovel, small hand cultivator, and larger pruners.

Q - What's your best frugal gardening tip?
A - Recycle everything. I do that mostly as mulch and compost, but I also reuse pots, and anything else I can. I think mulching is the best thing anyone can do for any garden, but especially in Florida's sandy soil.

Q - Describe your gardening style.A - Casual and Natural. Sometimes people are shocked at my jungle, but it suits me. And it takes less time to care for than if it was grass to cut and is much more fun and productive. Much of it is edible.

Other great books by Monica include: The Newcomer's Survival Guide (a must-have for those new to Florida gardening), Xeriscaping for Florida Gardens and Herbs & Spices for Florida Gardens.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Florida Garden Blogs

Fortunately, I just keep coming across more and more Florida gardening blogs. It seems we Florida gardeners were a little slow to start blogging but we’re picking up steam now. Here’s a mixture of 10 very different blogs.

Gardening Under the Florida Sun - The title grabbed my eye immediately. It does make it sound so romantic doesn’t it? Although there’s nothing romantic about gardening in Florida in mid-August :-). Dani, the owner of this blog, grows some great looking vegetables in her central Florida garden.

John’s Bromeliads - If you love bromeliads this is the blog for you. John’s got a wide variety in his Gulf Coast garden and tons of photos on his blog.

Northeast Florida Paradise - This Jacksonville gardener is stretching the limits - but very successfully, I might add - of growing tropical plants in northeast Florida.

I Like Rare Plants - Eric in south Florida has a hankering for the rare and exotic tropical beauties. You can even purchase seeds from his stock.

Liz and the Professor - Her subtitle “ Life is a Breeze in the Florida Keys” says it all. Gorgeous and colorful photos.

Faithie P - Faith who lives in Clearwater is taking a different approach to her garden blog. She’s documenting all the new stuff she learns about gardening in central Florida.

My Edible Yard - Ara is growing and sharing information on her south Florida organic urban kitchen garden.

The Dirt - Co-writers Penny Carnathan and Kim Franke-Folstad of the Tampa Tribune keeps readers posted on the latest “garden” happenings in the Tampa area with their humorous posts.

Florida Friendly Plants - Riverview Flower Farms keeps gardeners updated on the latest and best producing plants for Florida.

Tom’s Digs - Tom MacCubbin, retired Orange county extension agent, continues to mentor central Florida gardeners with some of the best plant information around.

If you’ve got a Florida garden blog that’s not included on our list, please leave a comment with a link, so we can include yours as well.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Is anyone up for a field trip?

It involves plants and lots of them, at that. Penny Carnathan at the Tampa Tribune has arranged for a behind-the-scenes tour of Riverview Flower Farms on Saturday, October 31st.

I’m sure you're all familiar with Riverview Flower Farms. Their plants sit in the prettiest pots at your local H.D., and they have lots of beautiful flowers or colorful foliage. They grow a large variety of Florida-Friendly plants, many of which are my favorites - Purple shower Mexican petunia, bulbine and St. Bernard's lily just to name a few. And they’re always experimenting with new varieties to see what performs best in our sometimes temperamental climate.

See Penny’s blog post for more information and be sure to let her know if you plan on attending.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Upside Down Tomatoes! Yes or No?

Those snazzy upside tomato planters, such as the Topsy Turvy, seem to be all the rage these days when it comes to growing tomatoes. But do they really work?
I purchased a homemade planter for $10 from my local tomato guy , who grows and sells seedlings of 100 different varieties several times each year. He’s a great guy to have in town because I can try different varieties every season. I dropped by his nursery to pick up a Black Cherry tomato but the only ones left were in these upside down baskets, so I decided to give it a try.

His baskets look great and seem to be producing a nice supply of tomatoes. Mine (see photo), however, looks limp most of the time and is a little beaten up by the wind. It also hasn’t set much fruit. One difference is that he had all his baskets in rows together and they were surrounded by a jungle of a garden. My planter is out in the open and doesn’t get much protection from the wind. On a positive note, It will be nice to be able to pick up my basket and bring it indoors once colder weather arrives. That’s assuming it’s still alive by then.

The verdict is still out for me, but I’m strongly leaning toward the traditional method of growing my tomatoes in the ground as my favorite. What about you? If you’ve grown your tomatoes upside down, in a container you purchased or made, leave a comment and, let us know your results.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Preparing for Holiday Blooms

With Christmas only 12 weeks away (Yes, I know no one wants to be reminded of this) it's time to make sure your Christmas cactus' get the care they need in order to bloom for the holidays.
As the days become shorter, it's important for Christmas cactus to get at least 12 hours of uninterrupted darkness. So, if necessary move your cactus to a spot where outside lights will not disturb their internal clock.
Give them one last feeding of fertilizer for the year and water only when absolutely necessary, and you'll be able to enjoy their beautiful blooms during the holidays.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Fun Garden Project
Nancy Swanson, winter resident in Zephyrhills, sent me this photo of her homemade "rock art." She created this particular piece in her Pennsylvania garden where she lives for part of the year. The official name for this piece of art is a Cairn.

According to Wikipedia.org - "A cairn (carn in Irish, carnedd in Welsh, càrn in Scots Gaelic) is a manmade pile of stones, often in a conical form. They are usually found in uplands, on moorland, on mountaintops or near waterways."

She created this second piece which is an Inukshuk (created in the likeness of a person). She did a good job, as it really does look like a person.

It's a great idea for a really different piece of natural art for the garden that is easy to create. For Nancy, it was inexpensive because there are plenty of rocks in Pennsylvania, but it shouldn't be too expensive to create one here in Florida. Thanks for sharing it with us, Nancy.
If you have an unusual piece of "garden art" you've created, please email a photo to me and I'll be glad to post it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Patsy's Garden Transformation

In mid-2008, Patsy Murray relocated to Gainesville from Boston. Her goal was to transform her yard into a sustainable landscape that would conserve water and energy, as well as produce food for her family. One year later, Patsy is happy with the huge changes in her yard.

This is her original front yard with a wide expanse of turf and some shrubbery around the home.

The first task was to remove the grass and existing shrubs so the transformation could begin.

In March 2009 the planting was complete. She told me, "Some neighbors "get it" and some don't. The ones who get it probably have a philosophy similar to ours of preserving as much water and labor as possible by planting low maintenance, Florida-friendly plants and minimizing the grass." Her house quickly became known as "the mulch house" in the neighborhood.
Two months later (May) the plantings were growing nicely and beginning to cover the mulch. One of Patsy's favorite plants is the Beach Dune Sunflowers located to the right of the front walkway. She said, "They are a wonderful, colorful and fast-growing groundcover which provides me with cheerful flowers for cutting." Other flowering perennials include purple and red salvias, Indian hawthorne, butterfly bushes, Texas sage, passion flower vine, honeysuckle vine and plumbagos.
Now, for the backyard. A clean slate and a manageable size. A view to the left.
And a view to the right.
The plantings are in, and I'll bet her husband isn't missing mowing the lawn in the heat and humidity of summer.

A view from the back corner.
And, in May they were enjoying Okinawa spinach, cranberry hibiscus (for salads), rosemary, as well as other vegetables and herbs that she grows in raised beds. Other edible plants include blueberries, figs, peaches, avocado and pineapple guava.
And, sweet potatoes spread in this section of the yard between the fence and the curb. This is just the beginning as Patsy experiments with more drought-tolerant flowering plants and edible herbs, vegetables and fruit.

Being new to Florida, Patsy solicited the help of two local landscapers in the selection of plants. Denise Weber of Green Harmony Landscape Design suggested the plants and perennials that add color to her yard while conserving water. And, she worked with Joe Floyd of Abundant Edible Landscapes in choosing the best varieties of herbs, vegetables and fruit trees.

As Patsy continues to learn more about sustainable gardening, through trial and error she has started a blog to share what she learns with other Floridians. You can keep up with Patsy's garden by visiting her Grow Food Not Grass blog.

As water restrictions continue it will be necessary for Floridians to find new and innovative ways to garden. Patsy you've done a great job with your transformation, and I'll be dropping by your blog, on a regular basis, to learn more about what works in your Florida yard.
Note to readers: If you have made changes to your Florida yard to eliminate grass and grow more fruit, vegetables and/or drought-tolerant plants, and would like to share your experiences with us, please send me an email (smyers25@tampabay.rr.com). Thanks.

See other "sustainable gardens" in Florida.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

University of Florida Trial Garden

No need to recreate the wheel when you can take advantage of all the plant information gleaned by the University of Florida in their trial garden.

They tested the metal of over 850 cultivars, including 284 new introductions during the hottest part of the year - April through August.

You can find a specific plant by searching "trial results" or for the best results in your yard, skip to the "awards" section for the top-rated plants. A "plant suppliers" list is provided in the event you can't find a specific plant at your local nursery.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Meet Florida gardener Michael - Another Yard in Ft. Pierce

Native Floridian, Michael shares his love for palms on his blog - Another Yard in Ft. Pierce. Although, I think you will agree that his yard is not "just another yard." Most suburban lots sport a few common palms but Michael's taste runs to the exotic.

He writes about his trials and errors in growing palms from seeds. Since palm trees are slow growers we know that he must be a very patient gardener.

He even grows them from coconuts with very good results. But his love for plants doesn't just stop with palm trees. He also grows a variety of banana plants and beautiful orchids (see photo in right column).

If you love to grow palms like Michael be sure to check out his seed trading list located in the left column of his blog. And don't miss his series of posts (8 all together) on The Secret Palm Tree Garden - A truly delightful discovery for him and other palmaholics.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Time to Plant the Spring Vegetable Garden

The uncertaintly of the economy these days is prompting many people to consider planting a vegetable garden for the first time. In the last few weeks several people have told me about their plans and their hope of becoming a little more self-sufficient. They did express some trepidation in their new adventure due to a lack of experience.

For these folks and for anyone who wants to grow their own vegetables, I highly recommend James M. Stephens' (professor of horticulture sciences at the University of Florida) book entitled Vegetable Gardening in Florida. His vast years of experience and knowledge are packed into the 125 pages of this well written book.

He covers everything from site selection, planning, weather effects, soil preparation, fertilizers, organic and alternative methods, seeds and transplants to insects, diseases, harvesting and storing. There's even a section of growing herbs. And since gardening in Florida is different than anywhere else in the country I guarantee you this book will become your vegetable gardening bible. It's well worth the $11.53 that it costs.

Two other resources for the newbie vegetable gardener is Spring Vegetable Gardening and Herbs for Spring. Both can be found at Solutions for Your Life by the University of Florida Extension Services.

Warm season vegetables to be planted now are: beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrots, celery, corn, cucumber, eggplant, green onions, lettuce, English peas, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin, radish, squash, watermelon.

So, if you're getting back to the basics these days why not give it a try. You can't beat the taste of vegetables fresh from the garden, and the satisfaction of having grown them yourself!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

More Freezing Temps in the Forecast

The weather forecasters are predicting more freezing temperatures for central Florida in the upcoming nights. To keep abreast of the forecasted temperature for your area visit the Weather Channel and type in your zip code. Scroll down the page for the 36-Hour Forecast.

Most tropical plants have already suffered damage from the previous freeze a couple of weeks ago. There are steps you can take to minimize the damage. Read Cold Protection of Ornamental Plants by the University of Florida for advice on what to do before, during and after a freeze.

If you have a tip you'd like to pass on to others, please click the "comment" button below and share it with us. Comments are always welcome!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grow Your Own Tomatoes this Spring

Did you know that the number one vegetable (in this case fruit) that people grow is tomatoes? Well it is, and it's not really a surprise. Who doesn't enjoy the hearty taste of a homegrown tomato. And, now is the time to get those tomato seeds started.

Tomato Growers Supply Company, located in Fort Myers, is a great source for a variety of tomato seeds. In fact, they carry over 500 varieties of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes, peppers, hot chiles, sweet peppers, tomatillos and eggplant.
I've ordered seeds from them numerous times and have been very pleased with the outcome. They have an excellent rating on GardenWatchDog.com and are celebrating their 25th year in business. This year they are offering many new varieties - 9 tomato, 4 peppers and a lovely white eggplant.
For help in making your selections or advice on how to grow tomatoes, read the University of Florida's article entitled Tomatoes in the Florida garden.
You can visit their online catalog or request a free catalog which comes along with a FREE bonus offer.
If you have purchased from Tomato Growers Supply Company, please leave a "comment" letting us know your experience and if you recommend them or not. Thanks!
Note: I did not receive any compensation for recommending this nursery from any source.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Controlling Lace Bugs on Azaleas

Lace bugs can have a devastating effect on the leaves of azalea plants and many other ornamentals that grow in Florida. These insects suck the juice out of the leaves. The result is the leaves turn a pale greenish-gray with dry brown spots covering the surface.
Fortunately, they are easily controlled with applications of insecticidal soap, horticulture oil or neem oil. When spraying the plant it is important to spray the underside of the leaf where the lace bug resides. If you don't like sprays, you can apply a systemic such as Bayer Advanced Rose & Flower Insect Granules around the base of the plant for good results. For more information on the control of lace bugs see Lace Bugs on Ornamental Plants by the University of Florida.