29.9.10

Trees for Small Gardens

Portlandia grandiflora

Hamelia cuprea- Bahama Firebush
             
Sabinea carinalis- Caribwood

Caesalpinia pulcherrima- Dwarf Poinciana

Cordia boissieri- White geiger


Cassia bahamensis-Bahama Cassia

Cassia afrofistula- Dwarf Cassia

Senna polyphylla- Twin Senna or Desert Cassia

Guiacum sanctum- Lignum Vitae Tree
 In previous blogs, I raved about large-statured trees like Royal Poincianas and Silk Floss Trees. There is such a major selection of trees available throughout the country that there are trees for every sized property and for every climate. In Miami, the selection is remarkable for its diversity. The Tropical Flowering Tree Society ( http://www.tfts.org/) is based in Miami, and has been responsible for introducing over a hundred species of new trees into the local area. The corridor on both sides of US Highway 1 in South Miami and Coral Gables is well stocked with interesting trees, a brilliant educational and marketing move to show off  new and interesting  species to thousands of drivers every day.

There are good plant choices for every size garden, for every climate and any budget. Some of the more compact trees are pictured here, including the king of all native trees, the Lignum Vitae, arguably one of the slowest growing of all trees. Resplendent with cobalt flowers draped over deep green shiny leaves, Lignum Vitae grows in solid coral rock with minimal care.This Florida native is found in the Florida Keys and into the Caribbean. It needs only a very sunny area and great drainage. The trees pictured above all do well in well-drained areas, with little additional irrigation in the short winter days. Many trees in the Legume and Coffee plant families can be found in rocky Caribbean habitats, most of which will grow well here.

The only criteria for growing many small trees is good soil drainage and at least 6 hours of direct sunshine. Many of these small trees grow in clusters naturally and support each other by having their crowns grow together. Therefore, when planting a single tree it would be wise to stake trees for 18 months to allow them to build a strong root system. Even then, some of the more common species, like Senna polyphylla and Senna surattensis, and Tabebuia caraiba  are notorious for blowing over in thunderstorms, even as mature trees. In such cases, a strong metal stake driven 2 feet into the ground right next to the tree will help. Loosely attach fabric tie wraps to the tree trunk in 2 or 3 places on the stake, and the tree will have the extra support it needs.

One of the best tactics for growing these trees is to start with a small tree and let it grow into its environment. The vigor of youth in a small potted tree is sometimes better than having a large field-grown tree try to recover its root system. This is especially true in the genus Tabebuia. For condo and townhome owners, there are small-statured trees suitable for container growing, and with a large enough container, you can even grow shade trees ! There are numerous options, so use your imagination and experiment a little.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

27.9.10

The Fabulous Silk Floss Tree


Chorisia speciosa





One of the premier flowering trees of this season is the Silk Floss Tree, Chorisia speciosa , named as such for its soft silky fiber surrounding the avocado-sized seed pods. This is one of the most spectacular flowering trees in the area, rivaling a Royal Poinciana in its "Wow" appeal. The tree thrives on poor rocky soils, is undemanding in its need for care, and after it is established, need no particular attention from you. Naturally, with all these qualities, there is a downside or two. The tree comes with a formidable-looking set of thorns on the trunk, and the roots can come up out of the ground. The tree is deciduous part of the year, but usually after the flowers open like slow-motion foreworks in September and October. In some of the selected varieties, the flowers can exceed 6 inches in diameter. There are numerous grafted and named varieties with predictable colors and flower shapes, although I have never seen a bad-looking Silk Floss Tree.

Growing this rather imposing tree takes some space, but the location only needs to be very sunny and very well drianed. Once established the tree needs fertilizing and watering occasionally for the first few years, after which your involvement in the tree's care is almsot zero .

A light pink variety of Silk Floss Tree


Silk Floss Tree in full bloom












Silk Floss tree thorns
If you do choose to plant a Silk Floss Tree, make sure you plant the tree in a well drained spot, and stake the tree securely for the first 18 months. The roots take a while to get established, but once the roots get hold of the native soil, the trees are fairly secure. Withhold water or turn off the sprinklers from November to March for best blooms. This tree gets along quite well with bougainvilleas and other flowering trees which need no water or fertilizer, such as many Tabebuia species, and several other members of the Legume family. These are among the best of the fall-flowering trees, so choose the variety wisely and give the tree plenty of room to grow over time. You will be rewarded with beautiful fragrant flowers when there are few other trees in bloom. Planting small drought-tolerant shrubs around the base of the tree will prevent anyone from contacting the thorns, and choosing a site 20 or 30 feet away from pavement or septic systems will keep the roots away from trouble. Don't let the trees few shortcomings steer you away from one of the best flowering trees we can grow in the area.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens

24.9.10

Setting Up Your Garden for Autumn

Landscape gardening in the subtropics of Miami has many advantages over growing plants in the northern states. One of disadvantages is the lack of distinct seasons, especially for a midwesterner like me. The seasons dictated what we did to the plants, and the plants needed different care for different seasons. Our local plants need different care in different seasons, but our weather here is more more subtle in its changes.

Growing up in Milwaukee, autumn was a distinct season for me, with a predictable type of weather, namely, cool dry weather. Indian Summer was welcomed, with its brisk cool days and chilly nights, preceded by stout winds, requiring the wearing of two layers of sweatshirts. In Miami, autumn is more of a concept rather than a reality. Locals might refer to autumn as "less than monsoon" weather, or "not dripping sweat" weather, or even "almost tolerable" weather. The term "winter" is different for me than it would be for local residents. "Winter" is even more of a concept here than a reality. I prefer the term "finally, nice weather", rather than  "winter". Another good term for winter would be "aha, no airconditioning bills".

For people, autumn is a welcome respite, the end of summer and the start of a new round of cooler-weather activities. In the landscape  world though, the growing calendar for many plants is almost over. Humans feel the drier weather and intuitively feel the shortening of daylength. Plants use shorter days to shift into dormancy mode, with leaf and stem production slowing down, possibly cueing flower production to start. With these processes in mind, we need to be mindful of their needs in addition to our own.

Many flowering trees in our area react to daylength changes as much or more so than temperature. A good example of this can be seen in cities on the equator, where the daylength is equal all year long. Many of our iconic flowering trees like Royal Poinciana and Golden Shower Cassia don't flower very well on the equator because the trees don't know when to stop growing leaves and start growing flowers. Our daylength makes plants change their habits, so we should assist them where possible. With dormancy comes a reduced need for fertilizer and water for many plants. Some trees and plants need a combination of factors to grow and flower best.

Bougainvilleas especially need a dry and fertilizer-free rest period in addition to shorter days to cue them into flowering. One of the primary reasons for bougainvilleas not to flower is that they get too much water and fertilizer in the short-day period. Bougainvilleas thrive on our climate where they get lots of heat and rain in the long days, not so much in the short days. Turf grasses also slow down in the shorter days of autumn and winter. With these considerations in mind, pay attention ! Reduce watering and fertilizing starting now, reducing the watering frequency to once every 7-10 days, and even less in December through end of March. My own recommendation is to water turf when it wilts. The best flowering tree blooming comes after prolonged drought in the short day months.
If you have lived in the area for more than 25 years, you may remember when the winters were cool and rain-free for a month at a time or longer. Long time residents remember the prolonged droughts in the winter months, followed by exceptional flowering tree blooms. Many trees and landscape plants are well adapted to periodic droughts, but humans seem less adapted. One would think that people would take notice of the fabulous blooms which arise at the tail end of a drought. Yet so many residents insist on watering on the same schedule year round. Here is the basic set of ideas for autumn:
  1. reduce watering by 50% now.
  2. the last scheduled fertilizing for landscaping for the calendar year should be in October.
  3. if you choose a weed-and-feed grass fertilizer use it after the daytime temperatures stay below 82 F.
  4. for plants that need drought to flower such as bougainvillea or some flowering trees, you can stop watering now. Water only when the plants wilt or show signs of leaf drop. 
  5. choosing a low-nitrogen fertilizer for the last fertilizing of the year will help slow plant growth, further assisting plants to rest for the winter.
  6. if you plant annual plants for the winter, use slow release fertilizer mixed into the soil to keep the plants well fertilized without overfeeding them and causing soft growth that might get winter damaged.  
In northern areas, we used to "winterize" a house, a car, and a garden. We need to use more subtler tactics here, but the need is still the same. Let's tend to our gardens a little closer to Mother Nature's schedule, and we'll save our dwindling resources while improving the hardiness of our plants.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens
 

23.9.10

Gardening in Small Spaces

Terrace Garden
One of the biggest challenges for people who live in urban areas with little or no outside space such as townhomes, apartment complexes or multi-unit buildings is that gardening must be done on a very small scale. This would normally dictate container gardening, but the residents of hilly cities like San Francisco have raised small-space gardening to an art form. There are stunning gardens on the smallest urban properties I've ever seen. The plants they use won't grow here, but the techniques are adaptable for our needs here. One of the problems I see with gardening on the "flatlands" here is that residents are used to wide-open areas, and haven't been beset with the challenges of working in small spaces. Necessity if the mother of invention, says the old motto. Why not diversify our  gardens with some creative new techniques and materials ? The state of the art in outdoor building materials is far advanced over the old railroad-ties of my parent's home in the 1960s. Synthetic or recycled-plastic lumber is durable, as workable as regular wood, and is less damaging to forests than real wood.



Townhouse garden terrace


balcony terrace garden

Why not try a few small terraced areas around a pool ? Terracing makes plants easier to get to for weeding and pruning, as well as adding a 3rd dimension to an otherwise flat landscape. Small aquatic gardens, or even multi-layer gardens can make a big difference in the look of a small-area garden. Vertical gardening is big in southeast Asia, where living space is measured by the square foot, not by the acre. Why not try some basket gardens? Who says baskets have to be just 10 or 12 inches in diameter? Try a larger basket, say a 24 inch diameter? "Containerscaping" is a popular tactic, using clusters of pots of differing heights to show off different sizes and textures and colors of plants. This tactic works really well on balconies and decks where horizontal space can be a real problem. Look at how other cities use confined spaces to get ideas for your yard or terrace or garden. There are numerous books on small space gardens, pick up a few and try some of the techniques. Experiment ! It's OK to fail a few times; that is how we learn new methods.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens





A really BIG basket garden


Recycled plastic formed into lumber

 
Containerscaping



































21.9.10

Citrus in Containers--An Easy Way to Enjoy Citrus in Small Spaces

'Pondersoa' lemon tree with 1 pound fruits
Florida is legendary for its citrus growing areas, especially the famous Indian River area. Decades ago, when the climate was cooler than it is now and there was far less development, citrus trees were in almost every yard and farm. With intense development and far less land per household, citrus growing isn't the sport and craft it used to be. There is still hope, though, for growing citrus in small spaces. In the same fashion that there are dwarf mango and dwarf avocado varieties, there are dwarf citrus or "small statured" varieties.
You can grow full sized citrus in pots, too, but you need really large pots ( over 36" diameter).

Calamondin Dwarf Citrus

One of the most prolific and rewarding container citrus varieties is 'Calamondin'. This variety is frequently sold in garden centers across the country, especially in early Spring. 'Pondersoa' and 'Meyer' are stalwart varieties which produce huge fruit on small trees. There are several varieties of kumquats, including some hybrids using other citrus as parents, resulting in plants with curious names like Limequat, Citrusquat, and Lemonquat. Kumquats are used as parents since the trees are fairly small, bear profuse fruit, and in some cases, the fruits are edible, skin and all.

Citrus need excellent water drainage so the roots won't rot. In Florida, there are citrus varieties for every part of the state, and as well for every type of soil. In almost every case, citrus need lots of light and good soil drainage.
A good sunny window, cactus potting soil, and some attention to regular fertilizing will produce a healthy tree with heavenly-sweet flowers. Some bonsai growers use citrus as their subjects, so check out a local bonsai show
                                                                         
for sources for growing citrus in containers. If you have the space, try growing some of the mid-size grafted citrus varieties, such as some of the tangerines or mandarins. Citrus like a lot of light and are quite suitable for conservatories, enclosed pool areas, and picture windows.

If grown indoors, citrus can have problems with spider mites or other insects on the leaves. Insecticidal soap works well, as do a number of organic pesticides, just remember to use contact pesticide products, not systemic ones. Fertilizing every 6 months with a balanced fertilizer like Dynamite 13-13-13 controlled-release or Osmocote 14-14-14 will give the tree the steady fertilizing it needs without overfertilizing it.

A little routine attention for your citrus yields a robust tree with one of the best flower fragrances in the plant world. One of my favorite memories as a kid growing up in Milwaukee was tending to my Mom's lemon tree indoors, smelling the flowers in March, and enjoying some fruit late in Summer, grown from our own tree. You can do the same thing, even in limited growing areas.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens     


'Meyer' dwarf citrus
















Kumquat dwarf citrus

16.9.10

Roses in South Florida



Hybrid tea rose 'Color Magic'

 I always think of roses as temperate plants, yet
 there are substantial rose societies and rose nurseries
in Florida. Even in almost-tropical Miami, there is an established rose society, and some very fine rose growers in it. One grower, Jeff Chait from Kendall,
has over 600 roses. As might be expected, roses in
this hot and humid climate need some extra attention compared to more temperate climates, but
it is possible to grow even hybrid tea or antique roses here with success. There are rose varieties quite well suited for landscape use here in South Florida such as
'Knockout', 'Mrs. Dudley Cross', and the highly
vigorous 'Fortuniana'.

Growing roses here involves the same basic planting
techniques as growing roses 'up north'. Soil preparation involves digging deeply into the soil, amending the soil with as much organic material as possible, using organic fertilizers where possible, and tending to the fungus problems which will inevitably arise. Roses are worth the effort to care for, producing some of the most memorable flowers in the plant world.  Roses have a
mystery and aura about them equaled only by orchids, and like orchids, roses are thought to be difficult, fussy and temperamental. In  both cases, most people are mistaken about both groups. Simple tools, basic culture techniques, and persistence are the keys to growing roses. Use your local society resources to help you through the early acclimation to rose growing, and start slowly until you understand the cadence of rose culture.

Start by growing roses in large pots of well-drained soil, and measure your success with a few sturdy plants. Local rose shows can be enchanting, as well as highly seductive. It would be easy to buy a dozen magnificent rose plants, only to have them fail if you don't have the time and skill to grow them. One thing is certain: once you learn the techniques of growing roses, harvest fresh flowers for your table or for friends, and incorporate roses into your garden, you'll be hooked on yet another fascinating plant group.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


   
 hybrid rose 'Knockout'




'Cracker' landscape rose


'Mrs. Dudley Cross' hybrid rose


14.9.10

Cactus Gardens in Miami ? Yes, really.


Epiphyllum hybrid--"Orchid Cactus"

When we think about subtropical Miami we usually think about palms, orchids, bromeliads and other tropical plants. Cacti and succulents seem to be left out, despite the fact that most cacti are tropical. There are even rainforest cacti with some really flashy flowers. There are column cacti, tree-dwelling cacti, miniature, giant and groundcover cacti and succulents. There are, of course, those "other" cacti with lots of spines which seem to poison our idea of using cacti in this subtropical climate. Yet cacti can be a great addition to landscapes, presenting a whole new look, including the addition of some excellent stand-alone container plants for focal points and balcony planters.



Kalanchoe thyrsiflora- Flapjack Kalanchoe

One of the best arid gardens in the area is at Fairchild Garden, where the staff  has done marvelous work in building and maintaining first rate cacti and succulents. Pinecrest Gardens also has a cactus garden, in which you can walk through a small valley with cacti and succulents on both sides, with a canopy of plumerias overhead. We call it 'The Desert Garden", since "Cactus Garden" has a mental image to go with that some people find hard to grasp. Most of our arid plants are spineless, as we try to introduce more people to the diversity and easy care of of arid gardens in a subtropical climate. 
Cereus peruvianus- Peruvian Apple Cactus


Over the last 6 years, I have learned a lot about cacti and succulents, especially their food and water requirements. I was surprised to see that many of our cacti thrive when watered and fertilized during the growth period. When given a dry and fertilizer free winter rest period, the Spring season yields a lot of cactus flowers, followed by butterflies and hummingbirds. The productivity of our plants has been a surprise, too. Some of our Agave  species have been remarkably prolific in producing offshoots, as well as buckets of small plantlets on the flower stems. We're experimenting with more and more small-stature Kalanchoes, Agaves, Aloes, and Gasteria species. We're also propagating more of the epiphytic types like Epiphyllum and Rhipsalis. My personal choices for the epiphytic types are the hybrid Epiphyllum "Orchid Cacti". This group bears flowers with all the flash and color of waterlilies. I've wondered if I could grow such cacti above a a waterlily pond and get them both to flower at the same time, for a mind-bending look of waterlily-look flowers both in the water and on the trees.....




Furcrea mediopicta- Spineless False Agave

Adenium obesum - Desert Rose

There is a solid Cactus and Succulent Society in Miami and an annual cactus sale at Fairchild Garden. The members of the society and vendors at the sale can help with choices, including native cactus species for your garden. Use the local resources to make your garden designs come to life. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens
    

Lobivia species-Hedgehog Cactus
      

10.9.10

Fighting Phase 1 Orchid Addiction

Paphiopedilum rothschildianum
I speak from experience about orchid addiction, and I admit my addiction freely. I have been smitten by orchid growing for years, decades, actually. I started growing orchids when I was 14, long before I could drive. I had amassed  almost 100 orchids and tropical plants by the time I could drive to nurseries to buy more plants. The addiction led to greater and greater collections of anything I could get my hands on, leading to converting the front porch of my parent's house into a greenhouse. By age 24, I had collected almost 1000 plants, which I moved to Gainesville to pursue a degree in, (you guessed it), horticulture.

Orchids, as well as other plant groups, have a magic about them that is hard to quantify. Their unusual growth habits, exquisitely complicated flowers, and heavenly fragrances can lead to a true addiction, in every sense of the word. I do not purport to be Dr. Phil, but I often counsel people on how to manage their plant addictions. One of the biggest challenges to overcome is "the fever" that arises at plant shows. It is easy to have buying fever when surrounded by thousands of plants from far off countries, seeing people walk out with armloads of plants you always wanted, and hear vendors say "you'd better buy now, supply is limited". I can help with a few tactics that may ease the addiction. This early stage is Phase 1 additicion, where Phase 2 addicition starts with building greenhouses and traveling to exotic countries to collect plants. Then there is Phase 3 addiction, which is worse......


Dendrobium superbum
First, let me mention that VERY rarely do plants come up for sale at plant shows only once in history. I have plant want lists that date back 15 or 20 years, only to find that most of those plants are fairly commonplace now, often showing up for sale at Home Depot or in local nurseries. If you simply have to be the first person to buy a plant the very first day it is released from a nursery or tissue culture lab, go ahead and spend your money. Usually, though, nurseries propagate a large number of a plant in order to keep sales and interest moving after the plant's first release. A good case in point is Nepenthes Pitcher Plants, a weird and beautiful plant that was always expensive and hard to get. Several tissue culture companies grew many thousands of them, and they can be commonly seen at green markets or at full service retail nurseries. You can now buy a high-quality Nepenthes Pitcher Vine for under $ 20, whereas 10 years ago it may have cost $ 50 or more for a far smaller plant.

A good orchid example is the King of all lady-slipper orchids, Paphiopedilum rothschildianum. I remember reading catalogs 15 years ago offering this magnificent orchid at well over $ 1000 per growth. I found out that even then, nurseries had quietly squirreled away seedlings of this plant at under
$ 100 per plant, but kept the "mystique" about this plant going to keep the price as high as possible. You can now buy some respectable plants of this species for about $ 75 at some plant sales.

Nepenthes Pitcher Vine
One of the best ways to combat orchid addiction is to join an orchid society, or even 2 or 3. The society members have helped me combat addiction in many ways, most prominently by saying "oh, don't spend your money on that one, I'll give you a piece of the plant". A good example of this is Dendrobium superbum, a plant that propagates easily by offshoots. You can also trade plants back and forth with members. Members can also steer you clear of some plants you desire, with good-sense experience i.e. "don't bother with that one, it doesn't grow well here." These are bits of advice you can use !

If you can steer clear of buying fever, join a few societies to gain real-world advice, and manage your addictions for a few years while you get started, then you will certainly have a better long term experience in gardening. My greatest wish is to increase every gardener's skills to a point where they research plants before they buy, purchase or acquire plants at reasonable costs, and grow plants to their maximum potential with minimum fuss.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens         

8.9.10

Something Ate My Plants !

Cuban Land Snail
This is one of the most frequent comments I hear, especially in the warm months. The comment can apply to any plant, and invariably is something that happens really fast. One grower I know calls it "the weekend syndrome", meaning that on Friday everything looks good, but on Monday the plants look like they were hit with a shotgun at close range. What happened, and why did the critters do so much damage so fast ? There are several answers, but some common threads in what caused the damage. First and foremost, you are unlikely to see the offending beast in the daylight. To find out what ate your plants, look under the leaves near dawn or at night. You will likely see the snail or slug or caterpillar, and then take appropriate action once you have identified the offender. Snail, slugs, and caterpillars all leave holes in the leaves. Caterpillars leave small black droppings, whereas snails and slugs leave a slime trail but no other evidence. Look for empty snail shells near the plant, where a predator may have done some dining last night.  In some cases, whole leaves or flowers are missing, which could be something larger, like an iguana or rabbit or even a rodent. I'll address them in a separate posting. 

snail damage
   

Controlling such pest problems is a chore. There are excellent synthetic pesticides to control most every pest problem, but many of them are non selective, and some are  risky to use around pets, children, vegetable gardens or near water supplies. Organic pest controls can be effective, but are often very short-lived and require a lot of labor to get good pest control. For instance, horticultural oil / soap sprays are very effective, but last only a few days, the same for cinnamon or sulfur sprays. You will have to determine the risk-reward ratio that works for you. If you have no pets or children to protect, and you want rapid and protracted control, then modern chemistry may be a good solution. Many organic farmers simply plant extra plants to allow the pests some food, which become food for predators like lizards and birds. The University Extension Service has great information about organic or low-impact pest control. 

Brown Slug- a 'shell-free' snail
Sphinx Moth Caterpillar- large and devastating
Bush Snail and edge-damage
One of the problems with "pest eradication" on a larger scale is that not all caterpillars or snails are doing the damage. Some of the organisms are beneficial or desirable, such as Monarch caterpillars or Liguus Tree Snails, which have gorgeous art-deco stripes on the shells. Using snail bait will kill all the snails, not just the plant eaters, likewise for using an insecticide for caterpillar control.  I have heard some unusual remedies for controlling pests, including using ground cinnamon as a dust, pool filter powder on the ground in snail territory every week, Neem Oil sprays, and dozens of others controls. I believe they all work to some degree, but trial and error will give you the best solution for your conditions. Once again, the local plant societies have run into these problems and can lend some spot-on advice on how to control the problems. Identify the pest, assess how much plant damage you will tolerate, and calculate the risk-reward ratio. One thing is clear: if the damage is severe and sudden, you have not been paying close enough attention to your plants. Pest populations don't explode without notice. A careful eye on your plants every day or two will help keep damage under control. In South Florida, you should be vigilant during the warm months, which means year-round. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens       
Monarch Caterpillar on Milkweed

7.9.10

Houseplants Run Amok !

We live in a great climate to grow tropical plants, save for the occasional frosts and windstorms. The down side to this climate is that weeds grow well, too. It gets even more complicated when desirable plants run amok, and become weeds by their aggressive growth. There are many examples of "houseplants gone wild", as there are with many exotic animals that are escaped pets-gone-wild. In a strict definition, a weed is a plant growing out of place, but the definition has no strictures for the value of the plant. A good example is a Royal Poinciana growing in the middle of your brick driveway, causing havoc as it lifts the bricks, and rains leaves everywhere. Everyone who sees a Royal Poinciana agrees it is a gorgeous tree, but........in your driveway ?
Many people move here from out of state, bringing their houseplants with them. When the plants get too large, people plant them outdoors. This is where our story begins............

Juvenile 'Pothos"
Over the last 40 or 50 years, laws have changed to keep up with the increase in weed species, some of which used to be grown as nursery plants for the landscape / interior plant trade. Schefflera, Fishtail Palm, Syngonium Vine, Pothos Vine, Carrotwood Tree, Pongamia Tree, Java Plum and a long list of other plants used to be popular landscape plants, but are now on the hot list of exotic weeds. In controlled environments like shopping malls and commercial landscapes, these plants still make usable trees, but once they escape into the wild natural areas, their desirability diminishes fast. The moral of this story is to be careful what you plant. Watch out for catch-phrases like "fast-growing", "vigorous", " seeds attract birds", and "easily propagated". If you bring houseplants to your new home from up north, leave them in their pots. If you want to plant new plants, consult a few authorities before you do. Weeds are serious problems in almost every state, some of which are escapees from somewhere else.




mature 'Pothos"

In my standard dogma, I suggest you research plants a bit before you plant them. One of the biggest ironies I see is people who want a fast-growing hedge, choose Weeping Fig for the hedge, then complain for years about the costs of trimming it. I never met a hedge that would accept the command "stop growing at six feet, please". A better choice would have been some of the native shrubs like White Indigoberry or Simpson Stopper. Some people plant a lovely patch of Wild Petunia ( Ruellia brittoniana) only to find that it spreads everywhere, and pops up in flower pots 100 feet away. Here at Pinecrest Gardens we have been "managing" the burgeoning populations of pothos, Syngonium, Trema, Leucaena ( Lead Tree), and African Tulip Tree for several years.Many of these were planted as ornamentals decades ago. Melaleuca trees were planted here about 40 years ago, since they were fast-growing and durable trees. We spent a lot of time removing them, since they get out of hand rather fast.




Adult Syngonium podophyllum

Many houseplants have turned into serious weeds, and one in particular, Wood Rose, is commonly brought back from Hawaii as a novelty. It is one of the most aggressive weeds in the state, and similarly for Old World Climbing Fern. Both of these were ornamental species, but both can overcome forests in a hurry. You can get excellent information about weed potentials from the University Extension Office, or from plant societies. Both offer free information, and both are excellent plant information resources.


Be judicious in planting new or little-known plants. You are unlikely to endanger the world by planting a palm or Cassia tree, but be extra careful about bringing home a piece of that beautiful vine you saw at the hotel in Costa Rica, or the groundcover at the airport in Thailand. Some of these plants can grow here at astonishing speed, and your "little introduction" can make a really major impact. If you are skeptical, ask the people who introduced Kudzu Vine, Melaleuca Trees, Asian Cycad Scale, African Giant Snails, Walking Catfish, Green Iguanas, Burmese Pythons, and others into our local environments.

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


African Tulip Tree-Spathodea campanulata





















Lead Tree- Leucaena diversifolia
   























Wild Petunia-Ruellia brittoniana