Small is powerful

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The last few days I've been reminded that small doesn't always mean insignificant. In fact, small can be quite powerful.

The fragrant olive bush (Osmanthus fragrans)in our backyard just started blooming. Even though each flower is no bigger than a pencil eraser, they all pump out an amazing amount of fragrance.

Case in point: every time I step out the door, I can smell the flowers. Nevermind the fact that the shrub is at least 40 feet away.

In fact, this shrub is a big part of why I fell in love with the backyard and bought the house. Well, the shrub and also the orange tree, but that's another story for another time.

At any rate, every time I smell these tiny flowers I'm reminded of an old saying:

"If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in the dark with a mosquito."

Ain't that the truth!

No orange meatballs

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall has finally arrived here in North Florida. The mornings and evenings are noticeably cooler, the sun is dipping lower in the horizon, and it seems like everyone is plopping potted mums by their front doors.

Don't get me wrong--chrysanthemums aren't bad plants. I even like spider mums a little bit. But the orange and yellow meatball-shaped mums are sooooo overdone.

This fall, why not think outside the usual plant palette? Choose plants that have warm colors like yellow, orange, or even purple, but avoid making any stereotypical plant choices like mums. Trust me. Your neighbors will thank you.

Canna damage

Friday, August 20, 2010

Canna damage
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
The other day, I noticed a lot of damage on this canna. I figured I'd better take a look at the plant and see what was going on. After a brief scouting session, I found a hungry larger canna leaf roller that was treating my beloved canna like his own personal all-you-can-eat buffet. This was definitely not cool in my book, since this was the Canna 'Intrigue' that I paid good money for on my trip to Plant Delights Nursery.

If you live in Florida and don't know about canna leaf rollers, then it's time you learned. Most of the people I work with here at UF/IFAS would probably agree that leaf rollers are the most troublesome canna pests in our state. In fact, all of the damage that I found on my plant seemed to be the result of a single critter. Sure, it took me a few days between when I noticed the problem and when I checked it out. But still -- that's a lot of damage for just one caterpillar.
Larger canna leaf roller (UF/IFAS)

The lesser canna leaf roller can be a little harder to discover. These caterpillars are much smaller and typically roll themselves up in the edge of a leaf, where they then feed only on the top layer of the leaf.

Lesser canna leaf roller (UF/IFAS)
So if you have cannas in your yard, be sure to scout for pests often. It's a snap to make your own scouting kit, and it's much easier to get a problem under control if you find it early. You can hand pick the pests if there's just a few of them, or treat the plant with a biorational insecticide like Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) that kills the caterpillars without harming beneficial insects.

Needless to say, that leaf roller won't be bothering my plants again.

Dreaming of a cooler time--Pacific Northwest, Part III

Monday, August 2, 2010

It's officially hot. Temperatures have been in the mid-90s or higher for days now, and the heat index has gotten as high as 105. Both me and my poor plants feel like we're melting, so I figured now was as good a time as any to put up those final photos from my spring trip to the Pacific Northwest.

After we left Seattle, we were destined for Victoria, BC. We drove to Post Angeles and then took the ferry across the Straits of Juan de Fuca.

The weather was pretty amazing while we were in Victoria, BC -- not too hot and not too cold. We poked around the town area for a day or two, and then headed to our ultimate destination -- the world-famous Butchart Gardens. The place was pretty surreal -- kind of like Walt Disney World for gardeners.

Here's the shot that everyone takes when they visit Butchart -- the view from the staircase at the top of the sunken garden. There's a really cool story behind this garden.

Sunken garden at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC

It was a little overcast during part of the day, but the place was still non-stop, in-your-face texture and color.

Amazing orange tulips at Butchart Gardens

Yellow and green tulips at Butchart Gardens

See what I mean? Those tulips were insane! I swear that I didn't Photoshop these shots to enhance the color. And speaking of tulips, I couldn't believe how well our shirts matched the tulips in this shot. Crazy, eh?

Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC

It seemed like everything was bigger and better at Butchart. Get a load of this arborvitae hedge -- it has to be one of the hugest hedges I've ever seen. Jason is just barely visible at the base of the hedge, even though he's over 6 feet tall. If you're trying to create privacy in your yard, this is definitely the way to do it!

Huge arborvitae hedge at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC

On a smaller scale, I thought this was a clever and inexpensive way to create a visual barrier between a path and a lawn area. I guess if you have close to a million visitors each year, it's important to keep them off of the lawn.

Split bamboo edging at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC

And I know this shot doesn't look like much, but I had to share it. Those little stumps in the right side of the frame are bananas! Yes! Bananas in Canada! My guess is that they have to cut them to the ground each fall and protect them with straw, but they might be left to fend on their own. I'm guessing they're Musa basjoo.

Bananas in Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC

Well, that's about it for Butchart. I guess now it's time for me to brave the heat and turn over a new leaf, pulling out the melted plants in my yard. Ugh. Wish me luck!

Sunken garden at Butchart Gardens in Victoria, BC

Plant death tolls

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

So the ensete is still hanging on. I wish that it looked as good as this one that I saw at Plant Delights Nursery last year, but ultimately I think its days are probably numbered. I think I'll probably have to add it to the tally of "plants I've killed" before summer is over.

But thanks to the Plant Delights Nursery E-newsletter that I received today, I don't feel quite so bad about it. Apparently, Tony Avent and his esteemed colleagues have killed their fair share of plants too. Here's what he recently wrote:

"Here at PDN, we’ve celebrated a milestone recently, as our database indicates that we have now passed the 20,000 mark for killing plants. 20,194 dead accessions (different plants) is actually our current total, so don’t even think about complaining that you have a brown thumb. Our dead/alive plant rate now stands around 50%, but since our goal is trialing, experimenting, and learning the possible parameters under which each plant will grow, these numbers are actually a good thing...I’m constantly reminded of the late Dr. J.C. Raulston’s quote, 'If you’re not killing plants, you’re not growing as a gardener.' No truer words were ever spoken."

Amen! This makes me feel at least a little bit better that my beautiful ensete may ultimately wind up in the compost pile. At least I'm only in double digits of plants that I've killed. That five-figure mark is a completely different league.

If you'd like to hear Tony's pearls of wisdom firsthand, subscribe to the PDN newsletter here.

Ensete death march

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sick ensete
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
Well, it looks like I was right. My beautiful ensete is dying. This is what it looked like after I came home from my out-of-town conference this week. Definitely not good.

I just wish I knew what was going on with it and if there was any way to save it. I'm wondering if nematodes might be the culprit, since they're mentioned in this article. If that's the case, I'm thinking that my best bet would be to get a nematode assay done before I plant another ensete in the same spot.

Front garden progress

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Earlier this week I blogged about the potentially sick ensete. I figured I might as well share some photos of the other beautiful things that have been going on in the front garden.

First off, the cannas and bananas have been going gangbusters. The 'Red Stripe' canna that I bought at Plant Delights Nursery last September is getting huge, and the 'Intrigue' canna is looking beautiful. The striped canna is 'Bengal Tiger'. It was a generous passalong plant from Tom, along with a dwarf Cavendish banana that's doing splendidly.

Speaking of what I bought at PDN, the chasmanthium seems to have died. Very sad. It turned brown over the winter and I cut it down in spring. It put out a half-inch or so of new growth but then never grew any more. In Southernese, I'd say it up and died.

But back to the pretty stuff. Here are some macro shots of the cannas and bananas for you to salivate over.

Canna indica 'Red Stripe'

Canna indica 'Red Stripe'

Canna 'Bengal Tiger'

Canna 'Bengal Tiger'

Canna 'Intrigue'

Canna 'Intrigue'

Musa acuminata 'Dwarf Cavendish'

Dwarf Cavendish banana

And one of the mystery cannas that we transplanted recently is about to bloom. I'm wondering if it might also be 'Red Stripe'.

Unknown red-flowered canna

Sick ensete?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sick ensete?
Originally uploaded by sassycrafter
We planted this beautiful ensete back in April. It's been doing great and has double in height since then. But all of a sudden it's looking a little sick.

It's listing to one side, and the leaves have started wilting. If wilting were the only symptom, I'd wonder if the cause was just the 90+ degree weather we've been having.

Sick ensete?

But the leaves are also looking chlorotic, namely in patches that correspond to where the leaf is sagging.

Sick ensete?

Plus the roots are starting to pop free from the soil, as if they might be decaying.

Sick ensete?

Any ideas what might be going on? I'm wondering if it might be some sort of fungal or bacterial disease. I'd love to be able to treat the problem, but I need to know what's going on before I apply any potential pesticides.

This makes me very sad.

Spring in the Pacific Northwest, Part II

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Here's the second post about my recent trip to the Pacific Northwest. After spending time in Portland, we made our way up to the Seattle area. Our first stop was in Renton at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, aka Seattle Seahawks practice facility. As you all know, I'm much more interested in plants than I am in turf, but even I enjoyed this stop.

We got to peek in the indoor practice field which was HUGE. Nike was filming a commercial of some sort while we were there, so we had to sneak in between takes. The outdoor practice fields had a great view of Lake Washington, but it was pretty overcast that day so my pictures aren't that great.

We got back on the bus and headed up to Seattle and met Nolan Rundquist, the city arborist, for a walking tour of the city. It was really interesting to hear about all of the challenges his team faces trying to grow trees in an urban setting. Here's a shot of us on the tour. Of course I just had to put up this particular photo because of the Dahlia Lounge sign, given my love for dahlias.

The euphorbias that we saw all over the city were amazing. I wish we could grow these here in Florida, but I've heard that they're prone to powdery mildew.

I really loved the color and texture combinations in this bed.

The next day we got a tour of Qwest Field where the Seattle Seahawks play, and a tour Safeco Field where the Seattle Mariners play. I have to say, it was pretty freakin' cool to get to walk on the fields. I mean, how many times do most people get do that? Plus, I've been a big baseball fan since I was a kid, so this was a real treat for me. Here's one of my favorite shots looking down the third base line at Safeco Field.

But y'all want to see pictures of plants, right? Fear not! The plant jackpot came when we headed up the road to Bellevue Botanical Garden. It was a delightful garden full of all sorts of fabulous plants in stunning combinations like this one, which I think was a gold sedge and Ophiopogon nigrescens. I'd love to come back and see this garden as it changes from season to season.

Check out this beautiful Japanese forest grass (likely Hakoenechloa macra 'All Gold'). Isn't it beautiful? Sadly, I've also heard that this one won't thrive here in Florida. Sigh.

I loved this Cotinus for its striking contrast between the foliage and the flowers. I'm wondering if we can succesfully grow smokebush in Florida. My trusty Southern Living Garden Book says it can be grown as far south as Georgia, but I'm thinking that Florida might be a little too warm for it.

The garden also had tons of ferns, and I've been a sucker for ferns ever since college. They're so primitive and yet so fascinating!

We also saw lots of primroses throughout our journeys in the Pacific Northwest. This was a fairly new plant for me.

Well, that's all for now. The final installment will include the photos I took when we went up to Victoria, British Columbia and visited Butchart Gardens. If you've never seen photos of Butchart, you're in for a treat. I promise the next post will be chock full of bold plant combinations for all of you daring gardeners!

Spring in the Pacific Northwest, Part I

Friday, May 21, 2010

Portland, OR -- The City of Roses
I promised to post about my vacation to the Pacific Northwest, so here goes. I took a lot of photos, so I'll try to pick only the best ones to share with all of you plant lovers. Let's start with the highlights from around Portland, OR -- The City of Roses.

Our first stop was the Nike Worldwide Headquarters campus in Beaverton, OR. We were treated to a presentation by the landscape architect and then had a walking tour of the campus. The landscape was designed with a berm around the entire property, which effectively created a beautiful environment that feels totally separate from the surrounding city of Beaverton.

Allee and fountain at Nike World Headquarters
I developed my newest plant crush while we were at Nike: hellebores. I just loved the form of them, and their texture was unique in that it was papery. (Note: a little digging on the internet revealed this because what looks like petals are actually sepals.) We ended up seeing a lot of these throughout the trip in a number of  different shapes and colors.

Hellebore at Nike World Headquarters
Hellebore at Portland Rose Garden
More hellebores at Portland Rose Garden

We Floridians had a hard time resisting a few of the perks of spring in Northern climates -- fragrant lilacs and soft, feathery lawns.

Scratch and sniff

Real grass!

Our next stop was Berry Botanic Garden, which was a truly amazing place for a plant nerd like me. The gardens were originally the private estate of Rae Selling Berry, a plantswoman who collected rare plants from across the globe. After her death in 1976, a dedicated group of people banded together to form "The Friends of The Berry Botanic Garden" to purchase the estate and preserve the gardens. Sadly, financial woes are forcing the garden to close, so it's rather fortunate that we had the chance to see it. Such a shame, really. It's an amazing garden. (For some reason I can't find my pictures of their trough gardens, which were pretty cool.)

Dawn redwood at Berry Botanic Garden
These beautiful blue flowers are on striking three-foot tall stalks. We had seen them at Nike, as well. Our docent at Berry Botanic Garden told us that they're native bulb called Camassia, and that the Native Americans used to eat them.

Camassia at Berry Botanic Garden
And of course, there were tons of beautiful ferns including this lovely maidenhair fern.

Maidenhair fern on nurse log

Then we headed to Washington Park, International Rose Test Garden, and the Japanese Garden where we were set loose to pursue free-for-all, self-guided tours. I'd been to the Japanese Garden before on a previous trip, so Jason and I decided to poke around the rose garden and the park. Plus, it had been a full day and it seemed like it would be nice to just wander and relax.

Amphitheater in Washington Park
This is where I discovered another one of my other plant crushes -- these large shrubs that put off a wonderfully soft, sweet smell. At first I thought they might be a hydrangea of sorts, but it turns out they're a viburnum.

Viburnum in Washington Park
And here are some of the yet-to-be-blooming roses in the rose garden. I'm imagining what this would look and smell like come mid-summer. Amazing, I'm sure!

Rose garden

Well, that's about all the time I have for now. Here's one last shot from the Portland Rose garden. They actually had what looked like bananas and brugmansias in this garden, but they were pretty puny at this point in the spring and not at all worth taking a picture of. I promise that the next posts will feature more of the bold plant combinations that you've come to expect from Cannas and Bananas.

Sun dial in Shakespeare Garden in the Portland Rose Garden