30.6.10

Humidity + Rain + Summer = Snails and Iguanas !

Few things bother a gardener more than having something eat his plants wantonly. In the northeast, gardeners are infuriated by deer which eat everything from ground level to almost 8 feet off the ground. In the west, rabbits and mice can devastate a garden, and in South Florida we have our own pests as well. Iguanas have taken a huge toll on plants at Pinecrest Gardens and in many parts of southern Florida, and snails are a perennial summer invader everywhere. Both pests enjoy hot wet weather which makes plants grow quickly, producing lots of new growth ready for critter-salad. Snails are especially troublesome since they do their damage at night, and in some amazingly hard-to-reach places, leading some gardeners to believe the damage is from something else. Iguanas can climb almost any surface, are expert swimmers, and breed underground. How do we repel these unwanted marauders ?



There are numerous snail bait products on the market, some of which rely on chemical baits ( Deadline granules) to kill snails, some use natural ingredients ( Escar-Go), some are physical controls ( diatomaceous earth), and some old tactics rely on underground beer traps ( use cheap beer). Any of these tactics work well, but need to be used every few weeks throughout the season. Controlling iguanas is much harder, but there is a spray product marketed as Iguana-Rid that popped up in local stores some months ago. Routine iguana live-trapping is effective using fruit as a bait. Rumors abound about using mothballs, pool filter powder, ground pepper, or Neem oil to prevent iguanas from invading a yard although no solid tests have been published. In either case, diligence and sharp eyes will prevail, but be prepared to stay the course for at least 6 months every year.


Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

Weed Management for Home Gardens

One of the largest problems in our gardens in the rainy season is the explosion of weeds. In a large garden, this can be a really serious problem, especially in potted plants. Weeds can out-compete the valuable plants for water and nutrients, and in some cases weeds can choke a valuable plant to death. Oddly, one of our native fern species is skilled at doing just this kind of dirty work. The Golden Bear-Paw fern can quickly grow so densely in hanging baskets, potted plants and mounted plants that the fern overcomes the desired plant. Some ornamental plants can be weeds as well. Many Boston Ferns varieties can grow very densely as well as many vine species.

Many of the most aggressive weeds are introduced plants, and one in particular poses a serious threat to our local ecologies. Old World Climbing Fern can kill small forests, and is one of the most durable and nearly-intelligent weeds I've ever seen. Wood-rose is also an introduced species, and can grow 3 feet a day. The best advice is to be diligent in removing weeds in your garden by way of mulching, chemical weed preventatives, or by hand-pulling to reduce the size of weed populations. Be careful when bringing a plant home from overseas, especially flowering vines and aquatic plants. We have tremendous garden resources in our collections, let's not jeopardize them with aggressive weed species. A few minutes of weeding can save your garden plants as well as our native habitats.



Craig Morell

Pinecrest Gardens

28.6.10

Keeping Your Home Garden Green and Healthy

The summer heat seems to sneak up on us every year, and this year is no exception. Plants look "tired" in the summer heat. One of many good tactics to help beat the summer-heat-stress problems on flowering plants is to pour a few gallons of Epsom Salt solution on the roots every month. Use 1 tablespoon of generic Epsom Salt per gallon of water. This is a remarkably good tactic, especially on high-demand plants like Gardenias, Palms, and Ixoras. To beat summer drought-stress, deep watering is better than frequent light watering.

Using soaker hoses or drip-irrigation lines at the base of thirsty plants is far more water-efficient than using regular sprinklers, especially if you attach the line to a battery-operated sprinkler timer. Set the timer to water at night or near dawn, for 1 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the tree or hedge. Bury the soaker hose under mulch, and you have the best possible way to efficiently, ethically and legally water plants in these water-challenged times.

These tactics have helped keep many plants in good shape at Pinecrest Gardens, and can help home gardens as well.



Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

25.6.10

Propagating for the Future

One of many duties in a historic public garden is preserving "heritage plants" i.e. original plantings. There are dozens of plant species at Pinecrest Gardens which are hard to replace or are no longer grown commercially. We are actively propagating these plants to make sure we have enough to replace weather-damaged plants, or to augment our display plantings to make even larger displays. We have a number of Croton, Ixora, ginger, palm and heliconia species which we routinely propagate to fill in parts of the Gardens. For people who have valuable "heritage" plants, I encourage propagating and distributing such plants to maintain the genetic pool. We have great plant resources in our personal gardens, and should protect and care for these plant resources for future generations.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

24.6.10

New garden section added at Pinecrest Gardens

It is always a pleasure to create new garden sections, especially for public viewing. One of the newest garden sections here is at the base of the Lakeview Terrace overlook, just west of the Splash and Play area. It has been recently renovated, finished just last month. It showcases some of my favorite groups of plants, like Alocasias, cycads, new Ficus species, crotons, Calatheas, evergreen plumerias, and some new flowering plants. This area really highlights one of our renovation methods: take out damaged plants or weed species, and replace them with newer selections of plants which capture the feel of the old garden, but without the unwanted habits.

For instance, we removed a crippled Weeping Fig ( Ficus benjamina), and replaced it with a far-slowing growing Philippine Ficus, which bears a great resemblance to a Weeping Willow. There are SO many species options available to us. I invite you to see the area, as well as the rest of the gardens !I

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

14.6.10

Heliconia Hallelujah

I'm amazed by how fast our Heliconias are recovering from the longest cold-weather event in memory. Blooming right now is H. champneiana and H. rostrata, and I have hopes for the smaller-statured ones to come along soon. I'd never have guessed 4 months ago that the plants would look so good....