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, August 31, 2011

Garden Pest - Chilli Thrips

A relatively new species of thrips ~ ~ Chilli Thrips Scirtothrips dorsalis Hood ~ ~ that attack a wide variety of plants in Florida are becoming more prevalent. Some of their favorite plants are: Begonia, Citrus, Hydrangeas, Ornamental Sweet Potato Vine, Indian hawthorne, Snow Bush, Azaleas, Camellias, Golden Dew Drop, Verbena, Crape Myrtle, Geranium, Coleus, Variegated Pittosporum, Plumbago, Marigold, Victoria Blue Sage, Viburnum, Roses and many varieties of vegetables to name a few.

Unlike the common thrip, Chilli thrips can be found on the axils of leaves or curled leaves and leaf litter. Affected plants will have brown and/or rolled leaves and distorted flowers. This is a tough insect that can do a lot of damage very quickly.

Infestations are easier to control if you discover them early and treat immediately.  Fortunately, there is a  product called Conserve Naturalyte which contains Spinosad ~ a  naturally occurring soil dwelling bacterium ~ that can be used to control the thrips. Remove all damaged flowers and apply the product only as needed as it can be toxic to bees until it has dried. Otherwise, the product has shown very low toxicity levels to other critters. Natural enemies include lacewings and ladybug beetles.

Good luck in treating infestations should you discover any on your plants or vegetables.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Some New Florida Garden Bloggers

It's always a pleasure to discover some more Florida garden bloggers. Our list on the sidebar has now reached 100! That makes me happy to see so many Florida gardeners blogging. But I must say I'm sorry to see that a lot of gardeners don't post on a regular basis. I know, I know...everyone's life is busy these days and it's easy to get sidetracked with more important things.

But, I must confess that I thoroughly enjoy communicating with other Florida garden bloggers, seeing photos of their gardens, sharing ideas and learning a thing or two, as well. So, I'd like to encourage MIA Florida garden bloggers to resurrect their blogs so we can all see what's going on in their garden...maybe, at least one post a month...pretty please. :-)

Now, here's some more Florida garden blogs:

The Budget Gardener lives in Boynton Beach and you can watch his progress as he "transforms his huge water hogging St. Augustine lawn into a sub-tropical edible paradise" while trying to stay within a budget.

The Shabby Gardener (love that name) gardens on 1 acre in the city of Zephyrhills.

Ask the Plant Guy Craig Morell who is the horticulturist at Pinecrest Gardens, former site of Parrot Jungle.

Julie in Palm Beach county blogs about succulents and other hobbies in A Succulent Life.

Jeanni gardens in the pretty little town of Lake Helen and shares her love for roses on her blog Roses and Gargoyles.

Clermont gardener Fred Sommer chronicles his garden experiences on his blog Sommer Gardens.

Jim and Stephanie Carcano owner of Ridge Plants ~ ~ a native and Florida-friendly perennial nursery ~ ~ in Lake Wales shares lots of information on their Ridge Plants Blog.

Here's three more blogs that looks very interesting ~ ~ An Old Soul! Thank Eli for letting me know about your blog and also, Mr. Florida from the U.K. blogs about his Florida Garden and Bill (a native Floridian) who blogs about growing vegetables on his Fresh from the Garden blog..

If you're Florida garden blog isn't listed on the sidebar, please leave a comment and I'll gladly add it!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Caladium Happiness

Back in March of this year, we hosted a caladium bulb giveaway from Happiness Farms, Inc. Two lucky Florida gardeners each won a $55 gift certificate to buy caladium bulbs of their choice.

As promised we're checking in with them to see their pretty caladium displays.

SiestaSister ordered John Peed...a pretty red variety outlined in green, and she maximized their use by planting them in various locations around her garden. I think you'll agree with me that she's created some beautiful and colorful tropical vignettes with her caladiums.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

NanaK at My Garden Path gave me permission to download these photos of the caladiums she ordered from Happiness Farms. She ordered a box of mixed colors and planted the care-free bulbs at her church for some much needed color.

The combination of colors and patterns blend beautifully together and add a nice punch of summer color to an otherwise green landscape. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ 

For hosting the giveaway, Happiness Farms, Inc, offered to send me a box of caladiums of my choice. Here's a photo from my garden of Miss Muffet. I spread mine around in various pockets throughout the shady areas. They definitely brighten up a dark area with their beauty.

Thank you to Happiness Farms, Inc. for spreading so much happiness around!

Coming up on August 26th and 27th is the 21st Annual Caladium Festival in Lake Placid. Click here for more information.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

And the Winner is....

I'm delighted to announce that the winner of the Rosalind Creasy's "Edible Landscaping" Book Giveaway is Nell Jean at  Secrets of a Seed Scatterer. While she's not a Florida gardener, she's pretty darn close in rural southwest Georgia.

Thanks to everyone who left a comment entering the book giveaway. It was nice to discover some more Florida gardeners who visit the Central Florida Gardener. I do hope you'll leave comments on future posts as it's nice to chat back and forth with others who garden in the sunshine state.

Congratulations Nell Jean! If you'll email me your mailing address, I'll get the book in the mail to you a.s.a.p. :-)

Monday, June 06, 2011

Rosalind Creasy's "Edible Landscaping" Book Giveaway

Edible Landscaping Book Giveaway

It's time for another exciting "giveaway!"

This time it's Rosalind Creasy's wonderful Edible Landscaping book from Sierra Club Books.

If you grow your own vegetables (and I know many of you do) you're going to love this 380 page book chock-full of ideas for incorporating vegetables into your existing flowerbeds. Just take a look at these sumptuous garden beds overflowing with beautiful blooming perennials and healthy vegetables.
Click photos to enlarge for better viewing

This updated version of the Edible Landscaping is loaded with practical information, detailed steps for creating a landscape plan, landscape designs, guidelines for plant selections, chapters on designing with herbs, vegetables and fruits, berries and nuts. It also includes a gallery of design ideas and tons of gorgeous photos.

This book is a great summer read in preparation for the autumn garden. Click here to read more about the book.

All you need to do to have a chance at winning the Edible Landscaping book is leave a comment.

The winner will be announced on Thursday - June 16th
so be sure to leave a comment by Wednesday, June 15th at midnight to enter.

Best of luck to everyone!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Wildlife Habitat Restoration Project

I'd like to share a project with you I've been working on. Earlier this year a wooded area that borders my daughter's school was bulldozed to make room for a large retention pond for a highway expansion project.

What once was a wooded area that attracted a variety of birds and butterflies to the school garden...

is now a 200 foot span of wide open area.

The loss of this vital habitat has become evident to Mrs.Wagner, the 4th grade science teacher at the school. After contacting the city and the construction company to see what their plans were for recreating the habitat area, it became clear that she would have to find a way for the school to restore this area. This led to a wonderful teaching moment for the 4th graders on the importance of habitat for wildlife, and the restoration efforts that can be done to recreate the habitat.

She was successful in acquiring a grant from The Mosaic Company and an invitation to the 4th graders to visit a couple of old phosphate mines that have been restored to their original status through their reclamation process. Lucky for me, I was able to take the field trip with them and was amazed at the enthusiasm of their two biologists and the job they had done restoring the old pits. The pits had been completely restored, along with native flora and more than 1,000 gopher tortoises (and the other animals that live in their holes, too) that needed to be relocated for a future phosphate pit. The children had a great time and learned a lot about the necessity of restoring damaged habitats.

The next step for the 4th graders was to begin the process of rebuilding the school's wildlife border. Soon they would be planting native plants, grasses and trees to the small amount of existing plants that survived the demolition which included some native grasses, morning glories, a few wildflowers, Carolina jasmine and wax mrytle (pictured below).

Mrs. Wagner solicited my help in determining what to plant. Armed with the school credit card and a $600 budget...I gleefully ;-) headed off to Cee Jay Nursery to place the order. Carolyn Wilson, owner of the nursery, has the most extensive variety of natives I could find in our area. She was also helpful in suggesting a few additional items, and she even hung around to help the kids plant and provided the class with a Fringe tree Chionanthus virginicus as a gift. 

It was a beautiful spring day when 42 eager kids showed up with shovels-in-hand and quickly got to work planting 70 plus native plants, grasses and trees. 

Scarlet Milkweed Asclepias curassavica, Scarlet sage Salvia coccinea, Firebush Hamelia patens, Muhly grass Muhlenbergia capillaris, Trumpet creeper Campsis radicans, Coral Honeysuckle Lonicera sempervirens, Coontie Zamia pumila, Elderberry Sambucus canadensis, Simpson Stopper Myrcianthes fragrans, Needle palm  Rhapidophyllum hystrix and American Beautyberry Callicarpa americana  were scattered along the 200 foot border. 

A variety of mid-level and canopy trees...some species for wet ground and some for dry: Live oak Quercus virginiana, Chapman oak Quercus chapmanii, Dahoon holly Ilex cassine, Southern red cedar Juniperus virginiana, Red bay Persea borbonia, Slash pine Pinus elliottii, Red mulberry Morus alba, Red maple Acer rubrum, Yellow haw Crataegus Flava, Yaupon holly Ilex vomitoria and Chickasaw plum Prunus angustifolia  were spaced from end to end...either closer to the retention pond or higher on dry ground according to their needs.

As we were planting the final few bushes a black swallowtail butterfly landed on the Scarlet milkweed much to the excitement of the children. Confirmation that "if you plant it, they will come." Here's a look at the final result. We didn't get everything on our wish list...limited only by our budget and the species available to us...but the wildlife habitat restoration project is well on its way, and with the addition of future grants...more will be added.

The children were pleased with their hard work and have been making sure that the new plantings are watered until they become established.

On a positive note...even though the existing wildlife area was partially destroyed...the new retention pond will provide an additional source of food to the Osprey that nest on the school property. And, in due time the newly established plants, grasses and trees will slowly reclaim this area and more and more wildlife will return.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fragrance in the Garden - Part 2: Roses

You can't have a discussion about fragrant plants without including roses. We might assume that all roses are fragrant but many of the hybridized varieties no longer have the wonderful scents associated with roses.

Two avid rose-growing Florida garden bloggers...Flowerlady at  Flowerlady's Musings and Sherry at If only sweat were irrigation...grow many varieties of roses (both modern and vintage) in their gardens. Both of their blogs are a wealth of information to anyone who's interested in growing roses successfully in our heat and humidity. Thankfully, both of them have generously contributed their thoughts, as well as a list of the most fragrant roses growing in their gardens.

While roses may not heavily perfume the air like Confederate jasmine or orange blossoms do, it's hard to see a rose and not automatically press your nose up to the ruffly mass of petals to inhale the sweet smell associated with these flowers.

Belinda's Dream
Scent is one of the things Flowerlady looks for when buying a rose. She said "To me if a rose doesn't have a scent, it's almost not worth having." Her favorite fragrant rose is Chrysler Imperial which she describes as having a deep rose scent.

Three other nicely scented roses in her garden are: Don Juan (climber), Maman Crochet and Maggie.

Her list of roses that emit a delicate, lighter scent are:
La Marne Mm.
Laurette Messimy
Bon Silene
Old Blush
Dainty Bess
Louis Philippe
Pink Pet


Sherry is a very passionate rose grower as evidenced by her response to my request for a list of fragrant roses growing in her garden. She wrote "Susan, I had a new flower on my baby Marchesa Boccella this morning. Wow! So strong and delicious! Damask like Chrysler Imperial but a beautiful pink flower with a bottom eye." You can just feel Sherry's passion...can't you?

Her list and description of scents include:
Mrs. B.R. Cant - "a strong sweet raspberry scent that is to die for"
Duchesse de Brabant - "smells like Southern sweet iced tea to me, but others say raspberry"
Duquesa - has a strong tea scent plus an additional fragrance that she can't quite put her finger on. She describes it as "yummy" and as strong as Mrs.B.R.Cant.
LaSylphide - "astonishingly smells like Lily of the Valley"
Clotilde Soupert - "is a polyantha and has a fairly strong fragrance"
Cotillion - "a modern floribunda that has a strong and luscious scent"
Gruss an Aachen - "An early floribunda (1909), is simply wonderful. Great fragrance."
Leonie Lamesch - "a very nice, light scent"
Louis Philippe - "smells like cherry candy"
Napoleon and Archduke Charles - "have light scents similar to Louis Philippe but not as strong"
Souv. de la Malmaison - "has a light to medium scent...which some have described as similar to women's face powder"
Capitaine Dyel de Graville - "is a sport of Souv de la Malmaison, but its scent is stronger and more distinct, slightly sweet"
Baronne Prevost (1841) and Mme Scipion Cochet (1872) - "have quite a strong fragrance"
Chrysler Imperial - "strong damask fragrance"
Marchesa Boccella (1842) and Rose de Rescht (pre-1900) - "very nice strong fragrance"


Mark Nelson who's family (Nelson Roses) has been growing roses in Florida for several generations has listed his favorite scented roses in his book entitled "Nelson's Guide to Florida Roses."

His 11 favorties are:
Belinda's Dream
Chrysler Imperial
Double Delight
Flo Nelson
Mr. Lincoln
Perfume Delight
Saint Patrick

Click here to find a retailer for Nelson Roses in Florida


The All-America Rose Selections (AARS)  list their top 10 scented favorites as:
Double Delight (1997) - a sweet, spicy scent
Elle (2005) - spicy, citrusy scent
4th of July (1999) - scent is exceptional
Honey Perfume ( 2004) - wonderful, spicy scent
Memorial Day (2004) - highly fragrant
Midas Touch (1994) - warm, musky scent
Mr. Lincoln (1965) - strong scent
Scentimental (1997) - spicy scent
Sheer Bliss (1985) -  mild but sweet fragrance
Sun Sprinkles (2001) - miniature rose

So there you have it from the "expert" rose growers. A nice list of their favorite fragrant roses from which to choose from if you're looking to add some scented beauties to your garden.

My favorite...a heavenly scented rose growing in my garden is Sombreuil (a hybrid tea - 1850) . Her scent is a STRONG, sweet perfume fragrance that is intoxicatingly wonderful.

Thank you Flowerlady and Sherry for taking the time and generously sharing your knowledge on fragrant roses. Be sure to visit their blogs for more information on growing roses: Flowerlady's Musings and If only sweat were irrigation.

Some additional Florida gardeners who lovingly and successfully grow roses are: Janis at Graceful Cottage Gardening and Kenneth at Musings of a Would Be Renaissance Man.

If you're new to growing roses in Florida you can learn a lot from Flowerlady, Sherry, Janis and Kenneth.

What fragrant roses are growing in your garden?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Florida Garden Blogs - A Growing List...

More Florida gardeners are blogging about...what else...their gardens! Drop by and welcome these new found Florida garden bloggers.

Ken in Tampa shares his thoughts about the Musings of a Would be Renaissance Man.

Follow Sandy in Clearwater as she posts about The Wonders of Doing.

Gardening in Miami is a blog authored by 4 gardeners who live in the Miami area.

 Julia in Brevard county blogs about gardening and wildlife on her M.O.M. blog.

Georgia Tasker (garden writer for the Miami Herald) explores the world of tropical plants in her  Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden blog.

If Only Sweat were Irrigation is where Sherry in Ocala writes about her love for roses.

Belle Aquarium & Garden Design - Located in South Florida...Belle specializes in water gardens & aquariums.

Teresa Watkins has a radio show in Florida on gardening and she also shares her environmentally-friendly tips on her Earth Shattering Gardening blog.

A central Florida gardener blogs about life and her vegetable gardens in a  Bloom in Thyme.              

Gardening on a Dime is where  Dave & Trish...two west central Florida gardeners shares tips on gardening economically.

Gardening on an acre in rural south Florida,  Dawn's Garden Life is a fun read.

Amber in Largo shares her love for gardening in Sand Gardening.

If you live in or around Hillsborough county you may be interested in The Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog.

Any other Florida garden bloggers out there?

Leave a comment with your blog address, and I'll gladly list you on our blogroll, too!

Additional Note:
Nancy P. in Vero Beach sent me an email with a couple of plants to add to our cold-hardy plant list.  Mona Lavender (Plectranthus) and Blue Butterfly Bush (clerodendrum ugandense) both survived this past winter.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fragrance in the Garden

There's a sense of calmness that overcomes me when I walk through a lush green garden, and I always get a happy feeling deep down inside when I see a bed of beautiful flowers...but it's the sweet scent of  fragrance wafting through the breeze that  makes the garden a memorable place for me.

 I'm sure all of you know what I'm talking about...strolling through the garden and inhaling the heavenly fragrance of citrus trees or confederate jasmine hanging heavy in the air. Or, brushing up against a rosemary shrub, and catching the unusual scent released from the leaves. The scent of fragrance in the air causes me to stop and take a deep breath...while letting my whole being soak up the scent.

Recently, as I got out of a car inside a parking garage I immediately noticed that the air was saturated with fragrance. Generally, a parking garage does not smell that great, so I kept inhaling the scent trying to figure out what it was, and as I walked outside my eyes immediately began to search out the source. It ended up coming from 8 large ligustrum trees covered in flowers. I couldn't believe those 8 trees created such a powerful scent.

In my humble gardening opinion, I think adding touches of fragrance all around your garden...in all four seasons...adds to the whole experience of the garden. Imagine dining on your patio surrounded by the musky scent of gardenias. Even your non-gardening family or friends will stop and take notice of your garden.

Placing fragrant plants close to a patio or porch will allow you to enjoy them even when you're not in the garden. Plants with fragrant foliage such as rosemary and basil or low-scent flowers like nasturtians are best placed along a pathway so their scent can be released when someone brushes up against them or reaches out to touch their foliage.

If you'd like to add a touch of fragrance to your garden, here's a short-list of some deliciously scented plants and trees to choose from:

Nasturtiums Tropaeolum majus
Spider flower Cleome hassleriana
Sweet alyssum Lobularia maritima

Lemon Grass Cymbopogon citratus

Butterfly ginger Hedychium coronarium
Flowering Tobacco Nicotiana tabacum
Four o’clock Mirabilis jalapa
Garden phlox Phlox paniculata
Garlic chives Allium tuberosum
Ginger lily Hedychium coronarium
Oregano Origanum vulgare
Peppermint Mentha X piperita
Pineapple Sage Salvia elegans
Spider lily Crinum
Sweet marjoram Origanum majorana

Angel trumpet Datura species
Angel trumpet Brugmansia species
Banana shrub Michelia figo
Florida Anise Illicium Floridanum
Gardenia Gardenia augusta
Night-blooming Jessamine Cestrum nocturnum
Rosemary Rosemarinus officinalis
Sweet shrub, Carolina allspice Calycanthus floridus
Sweet Viburnum odoratissimum or suspensum
Tea olive Osmanthus fragrans
Virginia sweetspire Itea virginica
Yesterday-today-and-tomorrow Brunfelsia australis

Carolina cherry laurel Prunus caroliniana
Citrus species: Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, etc.
Frangipani Plumeria
Fringetree Chionanthus vagrancies
Ligustrum Ligustrum japonicumLoblolly bay Gordonia lasianthus
Magnolia - Southern Magnolia Magnolia grand flora, Sweet bay Magnolia virginiana,
    Saucer magnolia Magnolia x soulangeana, Lily magnolia Magnolia liliiflora
Orchid tree Bauhinia variegata
Silk tree Albizia julibrissin

American Wisteria Wisteria frutescens (this is a non-aggressive variety unlike the Chinese wisteria)
Chalice Solandra maxima
Confederate Jasmine Trachelospermum species
Moonflower  Ipomoea alba

Click here for Printable List

We can't end the discussion on fragrant plants without including roses. Two garden blogger friends kindly agreed..without too much arm twisting from me...to contribute to this post with a list of the most fragrant roses in their gardens.

You know them from reading their blogs - Flowerlady at Flowerlady's Musings  and Sherry at If only Sweat were Irrigation... are partial to roses, and both are very successful in growing them here in Florida.

They were so generous with their contributions on roses that I'm going to create a second post on fragrant plants solely for roses so that I can share all the wonderful information they provided to me. So stay tuned...

What wonderfully scented plants are growing in your garden?

Monday, April 04, 2011

Changing Over to Summer Annuals

Wishbone Flower - Torenia fournieri
 As the weather continues to warm-up you'll notice the pansies, petunias, snapdragons and other winter annuals in your garden steadily declining. Now's a great time to replace them so they'll have a chance to become established before the really hot weather arrives.

When you visit the garden center you will find a large selection to choose from...but beware. On my last trip there I noticed lots of petunias and pansies...which are winter annuals in Florida...still for sale. In addition, there were very pretty dahlias, fuschia, tuberous begonias and Asiatic lilies not suited to this area. 

I'm always amazed to see these plants in the garden center at this time of year, and when I see people scooping them up I fear they will become frustrated Florida gardeners and give up. Don't get me wrong...if you love the dahlias, fuschia, tuberous begonias and Asiatic lilies you CAN buy them and enjoy them while they last but don't expect them to thrive in your Florida garden.

Every winter I buy a container of tulips to enjoy just because I like them, and a friend of mine bought 2 beautiful tuberose begonias that she enjoyed in a container all through the winter months. They're an enjoyable splurge, but I wouldn't invest a lot of money in them.

What annuals will take the Florida summer heat? 

Wax begonia - Begonia semperflorens

Fortunately, we have a large selection to choose from: ageratrum,  begonias, celosia, cleome, cosmos, dalburg daisy, impatiens, lisianthus, lobelia, marigold, melampodium, nicotiana, periwinkle, portulaca, purslane, rudbeckia (black-eyed Susan), salvia, sunflowers, torenia (wishbone flower) instead of pansies or violas, verbena and zinnias.

Some of my favorite hard-working summer annuals are: impatiens and the green-leaf wax begonias for the shade. The burgundy-leaf wax begonias, periwinkle, portulaca, purslane, salvia, torenia and zinnias for the sun.
Impatiens - Impatiens wallerana
What favorite summer annuals have done well in your Florida garden?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

And the Winners Are....

Thanks to everyone who left a comment entering Happiness Farm's fabulous giveaway of two $55 gift certificates. I wish all 30 who entered could win!

The two lucky gardeners chosen...by the old-fashioned method of reaching into a hat and pulling out two slips of paper...are:

Siesta Sister who said:
 "My favorite at the moment is Rosebud. I have an area around 3 cordyline sherbets that I recently planted. The colors of Rosebud co-ordinate perfectly with them."


Mystic who said 
"I chose the Florida Blizzard. It is hard to find white plants for the shade. I am in the process of planning a Moon Garden in memory of my god daughters baby girl who died at the age of three. Cailee loved looking at the moon and I think these will really stand out in the shade."

Note: The winners must claim their prize within 60 days of this date in order to be eligible to receive the gift certificate.

Congratulations to the two of you! If you'll both email me your mailing address, I'll get those gift certificates in the mail.

Also, it would be great if you both would email a photo of your new caladiums in their full glory to me this summer, and I'll post them for all to see. It would be fun to see your results.

And, once again a BIG thank you to Happiness Farms, Inc. for their generous giveaway, and to Ashley for all your help.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happiness Farm's Spring Caladium Giveaway

I'm soooo excited to announce a fabulous
Caladium Giveaway from Happiness Farms.

Have you ordered caladiums directly from a grower before? Limited varieties are available in the big box stores, but ordering directly from a grower provides you with so many more beautiful options...

like these...

and these...

and these...

And many more!

Caladiums are one of the prettiest and easiest summer bulbs to grow in Florida. With varieties available for both sun and shade, they provide lots of beautiful color in the garden.

Happiness Farms is generously giving away TWO, yes TWO $55 gift certificates. Two lucky gardeners will be able to use the certificate toward the purchase of any variety or varieties of caladium bulbs of their choice. Entering this giveaway is super easy...here's how:

1. Visit their website (click here: Happiness Farms, Inc) and choose your favorite variety (yes, I know it will be hard to choose just one).

2. Leave a comment sharing your favorite caladium variety and how you plan to use it in your garden.

It's that simple! 

The winner will be announced Thursday - March 31st,
so be sure to leave a comment by Wednesday the 30th at Midnight to enter.

A big THANK YOU to Happiness Farms for their generous giveaway...best of luck to everyone!

Monday, February 28, 2011

The Spring Vegetable Garden

In early to mid-March, once the threat of freezing temperatures is greatly reduced, warm-season crops can be planted in the garden. But, remember if you plant early...you may need to protect young seedlings if the temperatures drop.

Warm-season vegetables...those that will produce through mid-June (some longer) are:

Beans (bush and pole), corn, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, potatoes, yellow squash, tomatoes and zucchini.


Basil, dill, fennel, marjoram, Mexican tarragon, oregano and parsley.

Garden Tip: Rosemary is a great year round herb to plant in the garden...even if you don't cook with it. It doesn't freeze, it's fragrant and it makes a great looking landscape plant.

Planting seeds is most economical, but to harvest tomatoes before summer's heat and humidity arrive, you'll  need to start your seeds in pots the first two weeks in January, and bring them indoors to protect them from cold weather. If you're just getting started now, buy already established plants from a local nursery and plant directly into the garden.

Garden Note: You can still plant cool-season varieties such as: broccoli, carrots, lettuce and radishes that should produce into May (better to get them planted by February 15th). But, if you have limited garden space, you may want to stick with warm-season varieties for a longer harvest time.

To extend the tomato season into summer, try the new heat-resistant varieties available such as: Solar Set and Sunmaster, or plant some cherry tomato varieties which will do better during the hot months. My favorites are chocolate cherry, black cherry and sun gold.

For the total scoop on growing tomatoes in Florida see the University of Florida Extension's article: Tomatoes in the Florida Garden.

To the seasoned Florida vegetable gardeners...

What advice would you give to someone planting vegetables for the first time?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Bee-Friendly Garden

Indian Blanket Flower (Gaillardia)
 Many people may not think about the necessity of creating a bee-friendly garden, but bees are essential to the pollination of vegetable and flower gardens. And with their declining populations, it's worth the effort to make the garden more bee-friendly in an effort to attract a few more of these beneficial species into our own gardens.

There are 6 families of bees...each with numerous species...in Florida that work as pollinators for native plants, food production and in our gardens.

I wanted to find out more about making my own garden a little more bee-friendly, so I did a little research. If you're interested in having a more diversified, wildlife-friendly garden here are some tips that will make your garden an inviting bit of paradise to our Florida pollinators:

#1 - Don't use pesticides. Avoid pesticide use whenever possible as they kill off beneficial insects, as well. In circumstances when you need to use one, choose the least toxic product available.

#2 - Grow local native plants. Add a variety of native plants to all areas of your garden. Studies have shown that native plants are four times more likely to attractive native bees.

#3 - Plant blue, purple, white and yellow flowers. These colors are most appealing to bees and will attract a larger number of pollinators to the garden. Choose a variety of plants for blooms in all four seasons.

#4 - Choose flowers with different shapes - Generally, single flowers attract more bees than double petals which don't produce as much pollen and nectar. But long-tongued bees and bumblebees love to dine on tubular shaped flowers...to ensure that you provide food for a variety of bees, plant flowers with a variety of shapes.

#5 - Place bee-loving plants in clumps. Planting clumps of one species together will attract more bees than placing a single plant in different places around the garden.

#6 - Provide year-round blooms. Make sure you have flowers in your garden year round, especially in winter.

#7 - Be a little less tidy in the garden - Bees need natural materials to construct nests. Leave dried grasses through the winter and small brush piles hidden in the garden for this purpose. Also, leave some unmulched ground so that ground-nesting bees can construct their nests.

I noticed this past summer that two particular plants in my garden...liriope (both Big Blue and Evergreen Giant), and Moss Rose were attracting large number of bees on a regular basis. Also, the native mallow (most people would call it a weed) that I let grow in parts of my backyard while it's blooming (photo on right) is another favorite.

What plants in your garden are the bees most attracted to?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Cold-Hardy Plants

Here we go again...another unseasonally cold winter with one cold front after another. Two new plants added to my garden this year were surprisingly cold-hardy in our recent low temps in the upper 20's: Abutilon (Flowering Maple) and leopard plant.

Joe Parr, Director of Horticulture at Busch Gardens discovered our cold-hardy plant list, and added a few more plants to the list we all created last winter:  Blue Victoria salvia and citrona. He also mentioned that his established gingers fared much better than newly planted ones. This may be a clue for us to get sub-tropical plants in the ground early enough for them to become well established before winter arrives.

If you've got new plants in your garden that fared well this winter, please add them to our cold-hardy plant list. And again, many thanks to all of YOU who created this list. I have referred to it many times this past year when adding plants to my garden.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

FNGLA 2011 Plant Selections

Snow Princess
Photo credit:
Every year the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) chooses a selection of Florida's best plants. These plants are chosen for several reasons...one being their success in growing in our diverse Florida climate.

For 2011 the six "Florida Garden Select Plants" chosen were:

* Gold Medallion Tree (Cassia leptophylla) - This cassia has yellow blooms in early summer and can survive temperatures into the mid to low 20's. That definitely sounds promising considering our winters lately.
* Prostrate Yew or Japanese Plum Yew (Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'Prostrata') - This low growing shrub  has dark green leaves similar to a conifer.
* Caranday Palm (Copernicia alba) - This palm tree for zones 9b - 11 has silver-green fronds and can grow up to 50 feet tall.
* Snow Princess (Labularia hybrid 'Snow Princess') pictured above - An annual in other parts of the country, white blooms cover this mounding plant, and is perfect for hanging baskets.
* Yellow Butterfly Pea Vine (Cailaeum macropterum (formerly Mascagnia macroptera)) - This Mexican native sports 1" yellow cascading flowers. It grows up to 15 feet tall and is heat-loving.
* Wire Vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris) - a small, glossy green-leaved groundcover.

These plants are available for purchase at your local garden center. Now you can also keep up with the FNGLA by becoming a fan at Facebook.

Click here for photos and more information on these plants.