February 18, 2011
One of the most requested garden ornaments made by man is the classic Pink Flamingo. Though not at all native to Florida, pink flamingos (also can be spelled pink flamingoes) became a symbol of Florida's early tropical garden tourist attractions. While most of the old attractions are gone with the wind, pink flamingos are still depicted on a huge percentage of postcards, glassware. keychains and general tourist merchandise as representative of the paradise-like conditions of Florida.
Possibly 1 in 2 clients asks me what I think about pink flamingos, and can I get any? This has always been a delicate subject for the main reason that I never met a fake pink flamingo that I liked. They are either too pink, too plastic, too corny, too unlike an actual bird. It has been difficult, therefore to handle such conversations without treading upon the dreams of those who have always wanted a garden in Florida with pink flamingos.
Now at long last I have located a pink flamingo which qualifies as garden art suitable for the front or back yard. If you have a pond, a flock of these is much neater to keep up with than the living flocks I have observed. Flamingo colonies are quite messy, actually.
So here you are, ladies and gentleman, a truly worthy pink flamingo, hand painted and made of cast aluminum has finally made the scene, while I hope everyone who has asked me for them over the last thirty years will buy at least two.
February 11, 2011
Don't Bash My Roses Please, Mr. Customs Man
There is no doubt we must carefully inspect plants and animals which are imported to the United States, to avoid accidental introduction of diseases and insects which could become harmful to our yards and what's left of our agricultural lands.
However, I wonder if it is necessary to give roses, and other delicate flowers, intended to become the tender blooms of deepest sentiment, the bashing and thrashing of a lifetime as a means of insect removal, before being stuffed unfeelingly into the boxes bound for the floral wholesalers. News film of agents beating up bundles of perfectly grown roses showed that is the way it seems to be done at the Port of Miami.
Aside from having no inkling how much effort goes into growing perfect roses, overly brutal rose inspectors don't know how difficult it is to be a florist. Money is lost on roses arriving with broken heads, in bundles which are delivered from the wholesaler to the florist, who doesn't find it out till the bundle is opened. Then, the clients of a florist expect velvety unbruised petals in their bouquets.
So give the flower people a break with less damaging means to inspect, rather than breaking the flowers, which after all, are fresh living material which needs to be in garden-perfect condition for a florist to do the best job.
January 10, 2011
I Sure Wouldn't Combine Chemically Active Herbal Ingestibles with Pharmaceuticals
So many times I've watched alternative health enthusiasts fling themselves with abandon upon the banquet of extracts and derivatives of plants and plant parts their eldest ancestors likely never encountered. Most of this stuff is imported from another part of the world for which their bodies are not even adapted.
I ask, " How do you know what this might do to you?" with the pessismistic squint of a prairie wife heckling a seller of miracle cures.
"Oh, it can't hurt. It's just an herb, and this is a health food store."
Because herbal supplements are sold as foods, they do not have to be regulated as drugs.
Until recently, almost a third of pharmaceutical drugs were still derived from plants as their chemistry could not be duplicated synthetically. It may still be so.
The Cypress Tree, Taxodium, is just a tree, yet the early settlers warned their visitors the red sap will blister the skin if touched. Taxol, an active chemical in the cypress, is used for certain cancer treatments.
We have poison hemlock, poison ivy, poison darts, psycho-active plants, Ilex vomitoria- plants to make you wheeze, sneeze, and cause your eyes to run. These things confirm that plant chemicals in the native state can induce physical responses in humans and animals from healing, to happiness, to addiction, to misery, to death.
But my point here is that the powerfully active chemicals in plants where chemicals are sufficiently concentrated to produce "an effect" are sufficiently active to combine in ways unknown to man with agents in prescription drugs where in many cases the manufacturer literature admits the exact therapeutic mechanism is unknown. Advisories including drug/herbal interactions are being printed in more detail now in prescription information. The trouble here is how many people sit down and read all the information. A nurse told me once just to not look at the prescription information because if I did, I wouldn't want to take the drug.
So what do you think of that, Dr. Welby?
Many pharmaceutical agents have interactions with St. John's Wort, meaning St. John's plant, genus Hypericum. St. John's Wort is used as an alternative medication for depressive disorders and many people say it helps them.
Though pharmaceutical science has tediously established that depression occurs through different chemical pathways, therefore different classes of drugs are found to be more effective, provided the right drug is matched with the correct diagnosis.
The St. John's Wort native to South Florida is Hypericum hypericoides (L.) Crantz, where we call it "St. Andrew's Cross." St. Andrew's Cross can be found in wetlands, scrubs and hammocks and pine woods. It is an attractive lacy sub-shrub, having a nice slightly succulent herbal texture that presents well for growing in pots and herb gardens.
I'm still trying to find out why naturalists decided to associate the martyrdom of Saint Andrew with the bright yellow four-petaled flowers of Hypericum hypericoides, especially when the plant was already known as Saint John's. Saint Andrew's Cross has also became the symbol of the flag Scotland, the flag of Florida, the flag of the Confederate States and signage for Railroad Crossings.
Photographer: Schwartzman, Steven |
County: Bastrop State: TX |
Location Notes: east of Bastrop
Collection:Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Digital Library
January 8, 2011
Red Maple Now in Bloom
A flowering tree likely to be missed in Florida's subtle change of seasons is the red maple, Acer rubrum, a native of Florida lowlands, growing up to a 35'-50' tree.
Not as flamboyant in the leaf as northern maples, its leaves become yellow to mildly orangish in the fall, and in cold enough weather will drop completely. Maples are blooming now and flowers are red. New spring foliage will come out in a mauvish hue and leaves will mature into pale green as the year progresses.
The red maple is neither drought nor salt tolerant. In South Florida, it is best used in freshwater wetlands reforestations. wet swales and low areas of parks. In residential landscaping they look well grouped in wet sites, while usually as a tree standing on its own, the red maple in Florida tends to look sparse and insignificant. If it is planted where it will receive typical or little irrigation it will look scraggly.
January 6, 2011
Cold Damage on South Florida Coconut Palms East of U.S. 1
It may be that in hybridizing the Lethal-Yellowing resistant varieties of today's landscape coconut, something was lost in cold-tolerance characteristics. A survey east of U.S. 1 in Hollywood, Florida shows that Cocos nucifera varieties were uniformly damaged in the 2010 December freeze, currently exhibiting markedly more leaf damage than the other tropical species of palms in the same plantings.
In the 1970's, as South Florida development surged westward into the everglades, municipal building codes and horticultural advisories demanded or at least recommended that landscape plants in all new landscaping west of S.R. 441 to be counted for fulfilling minimum landscape code requirements, had to be cold-tolerant . Landscape designers and landscape architects were advised to inform their clients of potential freezing west of 441, flooding, and drought years when planning landscaping.
This year has shown that in the safe zone east of S.R. 441 to right on the coast and southward, the coconut foliage is the most tender. A lot of extra cleanup and dumping will become necessary.
January 3, 2011
2010-2011 Cold Damage on South Florida Landscape Plants, beginning with Coconut palms.
This winter season of record breaking cold temperatures presents a unique opportunity to assess cold response and cold damage impacting the countless new species and varieties of plants which have been marketed by growers and introduced into our yards and medians since 1962.
Since the original Florida land boom settlers, horticulturally and botanically it has long been documented that many plants man has cultivated here are ill-suited for this ecosystem. The unique weather cycles, elevations and soil types form a niche which was originally populated with a high number of endemic species, meaning plants and animals adapted to live only in this environment of unique conditions not favorable in the long range for less-adapted competitors.
I suspect the one plant on the minds of most right at the moment is the coconut palm, genus Cocos which has been hybridized and engineered to replace the"Jamaican Tall" coconut palms wiped out by Lethal Yellowing disease thirty years ago. Many in charge felt the "Florida look" of coconuts in paradise, which is not the Florida look at all, had been destroyed with the loss of the original Cocos varieties, spurring the production of the present coconut varieties we know as 'Malayan' or 'Maypan' which would be Lethal Yellowing-resistant. Thus coconut palms have once again become a dominant feature in the landscape which affects overall community appearance and maintenance expenses.
These Cocos of the present are the first plant I observed exhibiting almost immediate cold stress, precisely on December 19th, 2010. Driving that morning south to a theatre engagement in Miami Beach, on palm-laden AIA and Collins Avenue , I was shocked to see that so far south and right on the coast, the coconuts were slipping en masse into the first indication of shock and subsequent serious damage.
Shock is first recognized by a subtlely wilted off-color appearance of the entire crown. The following day lower fronds brown and begin to pull off the tree but cling limply by the petiole to the trunk. Because, that frond wasn't ready to go just yet.
The question is, as more and more fronds turn brown, should they be cut off for cosmetic or any other reason?