Hillsborough Extension Garden Blog

Solutions you can use for your gardening problems.

Feed Your Spring Gardening Fever this Weekend March 25, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 10:48 pm

If you’re looking for something fun to do this weekend, check out the awesome plant sale at GreenFest 2011 — University of Tampa, Plant Park, 9 am to 4 pm, Saturday and Sunday. There will be some very cool plant and arts/crafts vendors, along with 2 speaker tents of gardening and horticulture experts.

Stop by the UF IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Master Gardener tent and get all your burning plant/garden/landscaping questions answered.

There’s a suggested $3 donation to enter, but all of the funds raised go to restore and maintain Plant Park, a historical park in the heart of downtown Tampa.

More information about GreenFest is available on their website – http://tampagreenfest.com.


The “Natural” Gardener: A Profile March 24, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 4:11 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I just sat through a webinar hosted by the Garden Writers Association about, “Getting to Know the New Natural and Organic Gardener”. Based on a study conducted by IPSOS-Reid on behalf of ScottsMiracle-Gro, they were interested in determining the following:

  • Who are the consumers most interested in natural and organic gardening products?
  • What do they look like demographically?
  • What are their “green” attitudes and behaviors outside of gardening?
  • What are their concerns and motivations?

Here’s my summary of the take-away message. I hope you find this useful in some way…

2 Categories of product users:

  • Natural (meaning they had used a “natural” product for lawn/garden/indoor pest use in the last 12 months; they could have also used conventional products during this time)
  • Conventional (meaning they only used conventional products for lawn/garden/indoor use in the last 12 months)

For the most part, the “Natural” group tended to look like this:

  • 35 years old or younger
  • Have kids and pets
  • More likely to engage in DIY projects
  • More engaged in outdoor activities
  • More educated
  • More ethnically diverse
  • Interested in all types of plants (ornamentals and edibles)

Motivators for using natural products:

  • Environmental health
  • Children’s and pets’ health
  • Rate of chemical exposure
  • Overall safety
  • Perception that organically grown food is healthier and tastes better

Barriers to using Naturals:

  • Cost
  • Efficacy
  • Don’t understand how they work
  • Don’t believe that they work
  • Don’t feel that they need to use any product (natural or conventional) at all

Products labeled "eco-friendly" are more likely to be purchased than products labeled "organic".

Based on the survey, here are the key data that stood out the most:

  • Conventional products are chosen most often for insect control
  • The top destinations for purchasing all types of products (natural and conventional) are Home Depot (48%), Wal-Mart (36%) and Lowe’s (33%)
  • There is a general perception that natural products are more expensive than conventional products.
  • “Organic” is most recognized as a synonym with “natural” when it comes to product labeling, BUT consumers are more likely to purchase products that are labeled “natural” or “eco-friendly” rather than “organic”.
  • Products labeled “natural” are most often purchased for lawns and indoor insect control, while products labeled “eco-friendly” are most often purchased for gardens.
  • Natural product users are MORE LIKELY to water their lawns and gardens than conventional product users. (When asked by the media why, the response was that these individuals are probably more highly engaged and spend more time caring for their lawns and gardens, and therefore are probably more in-tune with when their lawns and gardens need water…)

What was most interesting to me about this whole thing was that marketing seems to be driving consumer choices more than science when it comes to lawn and landscape care. I realize this is not news, but it can be frustrating as an educator…

I would be curious to see how this data shakes out specifically for Florida, since Florida homeowners have much more in the way of lawn and landscape care issues than any other state (with the exception of maybe Hawaii).


A Delicious Aroma: Banana Shrub March 17, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 1:57 am

This evergreen shrub is like a classic Southern lady—both sweet and tough. Its flowers are incredibly fragrant, and the plant itself is easy to take care of. Gardeners can think of it as a miniature Southern magnolia whose flowers smell like bananas instead of lemons.

Banana shrub (Michelia figo) received its common name because its flowers smell like ripe bananas. It blooms heavily in the spring with cream-colored, one-inch flowers that look like tiny magnolia blossoms edged with crimson. Blooming will continue sporadically throughout the summer. The cultivar ‘Port Wine’ has rose to maroon flowers.

The plant is evergreen and has glossy, deep green leaves that are three inches long, making it a great backdrop for other garden plants. The buds and immature leaves often have a covering of brown fuzz that the leaves lose as they mature.

Banana shrub can be planted near an entryway or window so that its fragrance can be enjoyed, but it can also be incorporated in a mixed shrub border or used as a hedge. The plants tend to be slow growing with a rounded, open habit. Banana shrub can grow ten to fifteen feet tall if left unpruned, but the plant takes pruning well and can be maintained at a shorter height with a denser form. It can even be trained as an espalier.

Once established, banana shrub is quite drought tolerant and can work in various light conditions, making it a versatile plant for a number of Florida landscapes. Banana shrub is a member of the magnolia family.

Banana shrub will grow in either sun or light shade. Plants grown in the sun will have a shorter, tighter form and the leaves will be more yellowish green. It prefers a slightly acidic, well-drained sandy soil that has been enriched with organic material.

Like other shrubs, banana shrub should be planted so that the soil line of the plant is slightly higher than the surrounding soil level. Plants should be watered regularly after planting but will become drought tolerant after establishment. Banana shrub is relatively problem free, though the leaves are susceptible to false oleander scale. Treat any scale infestations with a horticultural oil spray, reapplying if necessary.

This plant may be difficult to find in some areas, so gardeners may need to call around to different nurseries. It’s also helpful to keep in mind that nursery specimens may sometimes look sparse but will often fill in once planted.


Daylight Savings Can Mean Water Savings Too! March 14, 2011

Daylight Savings Time means many things to many people. For me, it means losing an hour of perfectly good weekend and having to wake up when it’s still dark out. Sigh…

In the gardening world though, Daylight Savings Time — as a man-made construct — serves no real purpose, but can cause real problems for a homeowner. If you use an automatic controller to turn your irrigation system on and off at a designated time (or even if you don’t), you should keep reading.

The University of Florida IFAS recommends watering your lawn and landscape very early in the morning (when most self-respecting folks are still asleep). There are two

Water left on plant leaves overnight invite more problems into the landscape.

reasons for this. First, there is less wind at this time of the day, so you won’t lose as much water, thus increasing the efficiency of your efforts. Second, by the time the entire landscape has been watered, the sun will be coming up, so the excess water will evaporate, reducing the chance for problems like fungus and mildew to creep in.

There is a third reason to water early, though, and it’s tied to the rules of your local Water Management District (WMD). Here in Hillsborough County, Florida, we are under the jurisdiction of the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD). It regulates the water restrictions for the counties in their area based on rainfall patterns (past, present and forecasted) and other factors.

As of writing this blog today (March 14, 2011), the SWFWMD has declared a Phase I Water Shortage. In layman terms, this translates to the following:

Setting your irrigation timer is not difficult and can save you lots of headache in the long-run.

  • Lawn watering is limited to twice per week.
  • Lawn watering days and times are as follows unless your city or county has a different schedule or stricter hours in effect:
    • Even addresses may water on Thursday and/or Sunday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
    • Odd addresses may water on Wednesday and/or Saturday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.
    • Locations without a discernible address, such as rights-of-way and other common areas inside a subdivision, may water on Tuesday and/or Friday before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m.

Keep in mind that your local utilities can set watering restrictions that are more stringent than the WMDs, so check with them too to be sure you’re following the rules. The penalty for violating local water restrictions may include a hefty fine. For folks living in a SWFWMD county, go to this website for your local utility’s watering restrictions – http://www.swfwmd.state.fl.us/conservation/restrictions/.

So if you’re the type to “set-it-and-forget-it” when it comes to your irrigation controller, you may want to stroll into your garage this week and take 5 minutes to make some simple adjustments. This quick and painless addition to your spring “to-do” list may have several long-term benefits, not only for the health of your plants, but for your wallet too!


2011 Schedule – EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival March 10, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 2:39 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

There’s always something blooming at the Epcot® International Flower & Garden Festival. Use this schedule to plan your visit around the Special Experience and Celebrations. Located next to Mission: Space in Future World at Epcot, the Festival Center showcases HGTV and HGTV.com celebrities on weekends and other experts — including “Master Gardeners” from University of Florida, Walt Disney World Horticulturists and a mix of national and regional TV/radio personalities, authors and educators — seven days a week. Here’s what’s happening:

The HGTV Designers’ Stage in the Festival Center features presentations daily at noon and 3 p.m. on a broad range of garden and design topics — beginning with “Butterflies & Beyond” by entomologist Jaret Daniels on the opening two days of the festival. Each Friday, Saturday and Sunday through May 15, popular experts from HGTV will take over, beginning with Genevieve Gorder (HGTV Design Star and Dear Genevieve) March 4-6 on the topic “The Art of Sculpting Space.”

Meanwhile, at the Festival Center’s Greenhouse Stage daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Disney Horticulturists, authors and educators will share tips and secrets guests can plant in their own garden. These limited-space sessions include interactive hands-on discoveries during which guests make something to take home.

Experts from University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) present Planting Pointers – gardening ideas for everyone — daily at 1 and 4 p.m. Guests also can Ask an Expert – a UF/IFAS “Master Gardener” — their gardening questions from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

HGTV Designers’ Stage

Presentations daily at noon and 3 p.m.

(HGTV/HGTV.com celebrity distinctions are noted in parentheses)

March 2-3: “Butterflies & Beyond” — Jaret C. Daniels

March 4-6: “The Art of Sculpting Space” — Genevieve Gorder (HGTV Design Star and Dear Genevieve)

March 7-10: “Passalong Plants” — Felder Rushing

March 11-13: “Design It Yourself: Easy-to-follow Tips for Designing Your Favorite Rooms” — Lisa LaPorta (Designed to Sell)

March 14-17: “Grow Great Grub” — Gayla Trail

March 18-20: “The 5 DIY Secrets That Can Transform Any Space” — Kim Myles (Myles of Style)

March 21-24: “10 Heirloom Plants You Should Be Growing” / “New & Exciting Plants for Every Garden” — Danielle Sherry

March 25-27: “Mobile Gardens” — Brian Patrick Flynn (Design Happens, HGTV.com)

March 28-31: “Secrets of the Garden Revealed & More Plants For Free” — Ken Druse

April 1-3: “Adding Value to Your Home without Breaking the Bank” — Taniya Nayak (Designed to Sell and Destination Design)

April 4-7: “Four Season Garden & Proven Combinations” — Erica Glasener

April 8-10: “Life, Love and Landscaping” — Ahmed Hassan (Yard Crashers)

April 11-14: “Container Gardening: From Dirt to Design & The Secret to Combining Plants” — Steve Aitken

April 15-17: “Gardening with Kids: Fun Seed Starting Projects” — Patti Moreno (Garden Girl, HGTV.com)

April 18-21: “Year-round Garden-tainment” — Melinda Myers

April 22-24: “Creative, Back-to-Basics Style for All Things Natural and Decorative” — Michele Beschen (B. Original)

April 25-28: “Herbal Blends from Around the World” — Susan Belsinger & Tina Marie Wilcox

April 29-May 1: “The Design Process: Curb Appeal Projects from Concept to Construction” — John Gidding (Curb Appeal: The Block)

May 2-5: “The Small-Budget Gardener” — Maureen Gilmer

May 6-8: “Beautiful on a Budget: High Style, Low Cost Secrets to Bringing Indoor Styling Outside” — Frank Fontana (Design on a Dime)

May 9-12: “Slow Gardening” — Felder Rushing

May 13-15: “Top Design Trends Made Affordable and Accessible” — Vern Yip (HGTV Design Star)

Greenhouse Stage

Presentations daily at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

(Visit the Festival Center for topics on days not noted)

March 4-6: “Groceries from the Garden” — Robert Bowden

March 10-13: “Gardening for all Generations” — Brenda Sandberg & Scott Hulett

March 17-20: “Gardening in Miniature” — Joseph Rainey

March 24-27: “Helpful Mower & Small Equipment Tips” — Scott Franklin

March 31-April 3: “Tropical Edibles” — Jarrod Stewart

April 7-10: “Fun Holiday Projects” — Doug Benedict

April 15-17: “Gardening Challenges” — Tom MacCubbin

April 21-24: “Seed, Sow & Grow” — Ed Buhler

April 28-May 1: “Inspiring Patio Designs” — Allison Brooks

May 6-8: “Mastery & Mind in Living Flowers” — Ricardo Bansho Carrasco

May 12-15: “A to Z on Herbs” — Tracy Fischer

The presentations are included with Epcot admission, but seating is limited and on a first-come basis. Speakers, presentations and guests are subject to change without notice. For more Epcot International Flower & Garden information, visit disneyworld.com/flower.


UF IFAS Speaker Schedule

Every day, 1 pm and 4 pm

March 2– March 6 – Fabulous Foliage

Anita Neal- St. Lucie County Extension Agent

Karen Stauderman- Volusia County Extension Agent

March 7– March 13 – Success with Vegetable Gardens

Ed Thralls – Orange County Extension Agent

Rebecca Jordi – Nassau County Extension Agent

March 14– March 20– Easy to Grow Exotic Orchids

Tom Wichman -University of Florida

Kim Kruse- University of Florida

March 21-March 27 – Good Bug-Bad Bug – Learn to Scout

Diane Jacobson- Highlands County Extension Agent

Larry Williams- Okaloosa County Extension Agent

March 28- April 3– Success with Container Gardens

Charles Fedunak – Lake County Extension Agent

Jim Moll – Hernando County Extension Agent

April 4- April 10 – Gardening for the Birds

Dan Culbert – Okeechobee County Extension Agent

Beth Bolles – Escambia County Extension Agent

April 11 – April 17 — Exciting Color for the Landscape

Brooke Moffis – Sumter County Extension Agent

Norma Samuel – Marion County Extension Agent

April 18 – April 24 – Amazing Trees

Jennifer Pelham- Osceola County Extension Agent

April 25 – May 1 – Compost and Garden Recycling Tips

Adrian Hunsberger – Miami Dade County Extension Agent

May 2 – May 5 – Right Plant/Right Place

Theresa Badurek -Pinellas County Extension Agent

May 6 – May 8 — –No Speaker

May 9 – May 12 – Conserving Water in the Landscape

BJ Jarvis – Pasco County Extension Agent

Marina D’Abreau – Hillsborough County Extension Agent


Especially for Kids – Daily Events

Bee Scavenger Hunt -Children of all ages can hunt to find Guelain “bees” in the garden. Located in the Fragrance Garden.

Bambi’s Butterfly House- Experience a Festival favorite, now more than double the size! Wander among hundreds of native butterflies and see some of your favorite characters from Bambi, presented in topiary.

Pixie Hollow Fairy Garden – Take flight into the garden world of Pixie Hollow and meet some of your favorite fairies in person daily 9:30 am – 5:15 pm and see them presented in topiary, too. Play structures desighned for ages 2-5.

GoGo on the Go Challenge – Fun for the whole family! Test your relay race skills or relax and discover more about healthy snacks that are fun to eat in the GoGo activity area.

The Art of Green Living – Adjacent to German Pavilion Discover how you can create an environmentally friendly, low-imput garden of your own as you explore this unique garden.


Special Weekend Happenings

March 25 – 27: World Showcase, Art in the Garden Weekend

April 29, 30 and May 1: Festival Center, Fresh From Florida Weekend

May 6 – 8: Festival Center, Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, Inc.

May 6 – 8: Festival Center, 1:00 & 4:00 pm, Guerlain’s Enchanted Gardens

May 13 – 15: Park-wide, It’s a Disney-Pixar Weekend to Celebrate Cars 2


EPCOT Flower and Garden Festival March 8, 2011

March is one of my favorite months of the year. The weather is just right for a little bit of spring cleaning and a lot of gardening. And I’m not alone when it comes to catching plant fever this month; there are community events and festivals across the state that will be celebrating the wonder of gardening and offering just the right ‘fix’ for your plant obsession.

Probably the most grandiose of all gardening events in March is the EPCOT International Flower & Garden Festival. Celebrating its eighteenth year, the festival showcases nearly one million plants, from annuals to perennials, topiaries to herb gardens, butterfly plants to vegetables. If you’ve never been, it’s really worth the trip.

My reason for highlighting the EPCOT Flower & Garden Festival, though, is a bit different than you would think. Yes, the gardens are beautiful, the flowers are amazing, the shows are spectacular and the Disney characters are everywhere… really. But my favorite part of the festival is what happens in a place called Garden Town.

Tucked away in the northeast corner of the park, Garden Town is the hub of the Flower & Garden Festival. Inside this futuristic gold dome is a wide array of activities for all – young, old, beginning gardeners and avid plant geeks. As you enter the doors to Garden Town, however, you won’t be greeted by EPCOT personnel. Rather, you’ll be welcomed by Florida Master Gardener volunteers. These volunteers, representing the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), come from all parts of the state to answer your gardening questions, from plant identification and selection, to recommended cultural controls for plant pests and diseases.

And don’t think for a minute that they can’t handle your inquiries! Master Gardener volunteers are trained by horticulture extension agents and specialists at the University of Florida and are experts in their own right. When they’re not donating their time helping out at events and places like EPCOT, they’re providing invaluable services to county extension offices by answering phone calls, assisting walk-in clients, teaching programs and maintaining demonstration gardens. With more than 4,000 volunteers across the state, Master Gardeners provide research-based information and education to help homeowners tackle the most daunting lawn and garden problems.

Wearing green aprons and sporting the blue and orange Florida Master Gardener logo proudly on their chests, Master Gardener volunteers will be available from 10 am to 5 pm every day of the 75-day long garden festival at EPCOT. If you have a question about a plant or particular garden in the park during your visit, the Master Gardeners can help. If you have a general gardening question that you’re just dying to ask – well, they can assist with that too. And if you need directions to the nearest bathroom… they’ll definitely point you there.

Another bonus to attending the festival is the chance to hear entertaining and informative talks by one of several horticulture extension agents (like me) from the University of Florida IFAS. Extension agents are county-level faculty members that provide timely information about lawns and gardens to the general public through educational programs, workshops, articles and blogs, fact sheets, websites, webinars and so much more! Topics that will be covered during the festival this year include how to create a backyard wildlife habitat, fabulous tropical plants, Florida-Friendly Landscaping™, outdoor water conservation tips and tricks, and composting and garden recycling tips.

The ultimate end to the educational outreach efforts of the Florida Master Gardener Program and the Extension Service is to extend the vision of the University of Florida – IFAS, all the while protecting and sustaining natural resources and environmental systems, enhancing the development of human resources, and improving the quality of human life through the development of knowledge in agricultural, human and natural resources and making that knowledge accessible. And the best part about it? They’re not trying to sell you anything!

The old adage says you should starve a fever, but if you’ve got gardening fever this month, I say you should feed it with all the cool events and opportunities to learn new things! To find out about garden- or plant-related events happening near you, contact your local UF-IFAS Extension office (http://solutionsforyourlife.ufl.edu/map/).


My Garden Nemesis? Drake Elm Seedlings… March 5, 2011

Late winter and early spring in central Florida should be a time for new beginnings. In the garden, that means pruning plants to encourage new growth, creating new landscaped beds, and replenishing mulch in existing beds. The experience should be rejuvenating and enjoyable.

The drake elm is deciduous, losing its leaves in winter months.

During our last workday at the Bette S Walker Discovery Garden at the UF IFAS Hillsborough County Extension Service, however, it was anything but.

We received an extraordinary number  of phone calls late last year about the bumper crop of acorns that were falling on heads and being stashed away by squirrels. But there was another plant that took advantage of the early December freeze and quick warm-up immediately after — the drake elm.

This tree, often stunning because of its textured bark, long limbs and small, delicate leaves, produced a record number of seeds this year. These seeds are very small and are easily carried on the wind.

Drake elm seedlings in the mulch

But what do you get from seeds? That’s right… SEEDLINGS!!! Thousands and thousands of them. Under the tree, in the mulch, in the pots, in the bromeliads, in the bird feeder, under the bench, along the edge of the pond, in the Asiatic jasmine ground cover, in-between the pavers… need I say more?

Days after hitting them with a 5% solution of Roundup®, they still stood tall and green, mocking me. So while the Master Gardener volunteers were enjoying the glorious weather in which to prune and plant, I was cursing under my breath crawling on hands and knees to rid every inch of the Discovery Garden from my nemesis — elm seedlings.

Luckily, they were merely growing in the top layer of mulch, so I was able to take a hard rake and fluff the mulch, thereby disturbing the tender roots of the seedlings. This was by no means a permanent fix, but at least I’ve thwarted maybe 50% of them from their cunning plan to take over the garden.

In another week or so, I’ll head out there again to attack the remaining vigilante seedlings before their roots actually touch soil! AARRGGHH!

More elm seedlings...

After raking the mulch and disturbing the seedlings


Winter Bloomers March 3, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Hillsborough County Residential Horticulture @ 6:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Spring is in the air, but it’s still technically winter! The warmer weather is causing lots of plants to put out new growth and bloom right now, but a particularly spectacular specimen (say that 3 times fast…) in the Discovery Garden this week is the native eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis).

This small to medium tree produces bright, magenta pink flowers in late winter and early spring, before putting out a mass of new leaves. Because of the early and very cold December we experienced, the blooms are even more prolific than usual. A common landscape tree in most parts of the eastern U.S., redbud is often overlooked in central and south Florida because the lack of cold winters often prevents a showy bloom. Redbud like moist but well-drained, alkaline soils and will do well either as a mass planting or a stand-alone specimen in the landscape.

This crossvine will disguise the cistern

Another great Florida native plant that blooms in the winter months is crossvine (Bignonia capreolata). This vine is fast-growing and high-climbing, with showy flowers that appear in late winter and early spring. The flowers are trumpet-shaped, orange to reddish-orange to red, 2 to 3 inches long in clusters of 2 to 5.

Hummingbirds love trumpet-shaped flowers

Cross vine will flourish under a wide variety of conditions, and spread by root sprouting if not managed. This vine is one of the first with red, trumpet-shaped flowers to greet returning hummingbirds in early spring. The related trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans) is similar, but climbs with ivy-like aerial roots instead of tendrils and blooms later in the summer. Plant the two together, though, and the hummingbirds will have flame colored tubular flowers from which to feed from early spring throughout the summer.

Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is yet another Florida native that is currently full of blooms. This small tree forms a rounded mass of slender, thorny branches sprouting from a short trunk. In spring, before the one to two-inch-long leaves appear, chickasaw plum is covered with small, white, fragrant flowers which make the trees quite decorative in the presence of other trees which are often still dormant.

The tiny red fruits which follow turn yellow when ripe, and are extremely popular with wildlife and humans. The plums are either eaten fresh or used to make a delicious jelly.

Tiny, fragrant flowers are everywhere on this tree!

The bark of the chickasaw plum is interesting, even without the flowers.


Master Gardeners Visit Riverview Flower Farm March 1, 2011

Each month, the UF IFAS Extension Master Gardener volunteers of Hillsborough County have the opportunity to learn something new and exciting about the plant world.

During their annual planning meeting in the Fall, Master Gardeners vote on their choices for a variety of educational field trips and/or lectures.

Last month, they voted to visit Riverview Flower Farm, a wholesale nursery that is responsible for those fantastic Florida Friendly Plants™ you see at your local Home Depot stores.

Rick Brown, owner of Riverview Flower Farm, was more than happy to show us around and talk about the sustainable practices he’s incorporated into the daily operations of his nursery, like composting and garlic pest repellent.

But rather than go into a long diatribe about it here, I’m going to link you to another blog by Meems, a fellow Master Gardener and all-round plant lover — http://www.hoeandshovel.com/2011/02/riverview-flower-farm-field-trip.html.


%d bloggers like this: