Gardening with Georgia

Archive - October 2010

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Beautiful fall fruit

Fri, Oct 29, 2010 at 01:56:06 PM


Berries and more berries are borne on our native plants now and especially noticeable are wild coffee, snowberry and beautyberry. These shrubs are a boon for wildlife, and birds, and for a native garden they’re very nearly a must.

Snowberry, Chiococca alba, is a hammock native that likes some high shade. It is a sprawling shrub that bears yellow, bell-shaped flowers in the summer and white berries in the fall. The Institute for Regional Conservation cautions that it can be somewhat aggressive, so you may want to control it with pruning. It’s in the coffee family. The IRC considers the snowberry from the pine rockland to be a separate species, Chiococca parviflora, although the world checklist of names recognized by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, lists parviflora is a synonym for alba.

Wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa, is loaded now with beautiful, deep red fruit. The

Wild coffee.

fruit are smaller than those of snowberry and not held on long strands like beads as are those of snowberry. Coffee likes some shade, as it too is a coastal hammock plant. Its lovely quilted leaves make it attractive year-round. Coffee will self-seed, popping up here and there in your yard.

American beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, is laden with grape-colored fruit that form in the axils of leaves. The flowers that precede them are pink.


Beautyberry develops long arching branches that bend with the weight of their fruit. They can take sun or light shade, and mostly inhabit the edges of hammocks or pinelands. This shrub won’t need any supplemental water once it is established, although the two preceding shrubs do best with some moisture in the soil. Mulching to a depth of three or four inches is ideal for them.You can prune beautyberry quite heavily in late winter (February).




Growing a pizza in a pot?

Sat, Oct 23, 2010 at 02:00:11 PM

Planting oregano Saturday to complete our pizza garden.

What do you put on a pizza? How about tomatoes, peppers, basil, oregano? Come on by the Learning Center Sunday at 11:30 and I'll show you and the kids how to plant the right ingredients. Then you can make your own pizza garden at home with veggies fresh from your garden.


Pretty in pink

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 02:14:59 PM

This wonderful Ceiba speciosa is stopping traffic.

It's at the corner of San Remo Avenue and Yumuri Street in Coral Gables. As I was taking this photo, another woman stopped to do the same, and a third walked by to say she took a picture Sunday and sent it to friends in Seattle "to show them why I return to Miami every year."

A floss silk or Ceiba speciosa that has many admirers.

The color is spectacular, but so is the shape. This year, the tree started opening blooms on the west side of its canopy, and I worried that those flowers would fall before the rest of the buds opened. Obviously that didn't happen.

The tree is from South America -- Brazil and Argentina. The species has found a spot in the heart of Coral Gables city administrators. It is appearing in several of the round-abouts that have replaced four-way stops.

Fairchild's tree is quite a bit larger, so watch for more pink. Nice of the trees to open during Breast Cancer Awareness Month when we're all wearing pink.



Oooooooo, Halloween's best decorations

Mon, Oct 18, 2010 at 12:41:18 PM

Bev Murphy, left, directs Bob
Brennan in the cherry picker with
help from Josef Pommer.

Bev Murphy's marvelous Halloween decorations, made of natural materials, are being installed today. Palm sheath ghosts, gourd-nosed ghouls, mangy mutts with funny socks, bats, bats and more bats, witches and spiders....

Surely these are the best decorations ever, and the most Earth friendly.

They bring smiles every year, as


garden-members Bill and Bev Murphy haul Bev's creations to the garden. FTBG's arborist Bob Brennan used a cherry picker to hang the ghosts, and volunteers on step ladders helped with the smaller creatures. 

This Halloween, treat yourself to Bev's magical tricks.

Mabel MaGerk has a nutty kind of smile.


Welcome home migratory birds

Fri, Oct 08, 2010 at 07:13:42 AM

Swallowtail kite visits
South Florida in
the summer.

Caribbean Migratory Bird Day is to be celebrated Saturday on the heels of our Bird Day. This celebration is being led by the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB), the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean.  Many of the island celebrations will have a "Welcome Home Migrants" theme.

And here’s a story about a migrant that will take your breath away. This comes from the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. (You can find many more amazing conservation and bird stories by going to

This past spring, a 6-ounce Red Knot (Calidris canutus)—a shorebird only two-thirds the size of a city pigeon—flew non-stop for six days and nights, covering 5,000 miles (8,000 kilometers) across the Amazon and the Atlantic Ocean between southern Brazil and North Carolina, shattering the previous known Red Knot record by nearly 700 miles. Late in the previous summer, the same Red Knot flew non-stop for eight days between Canada’s Hudson Bay and the Caribbean, a distance of 3,167 miles (5,100 kilometers).

Red Knots winter as far south as Tierra del Fuego, South America, and breed in the Arctic. 

These are two of the fascinating results just published in the bulletin of the International Wader Study Group by a group of shorebird researchers from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Britain, and Australia. The network scientists used a new device, called a sunrise and sunset-sensitive geolocator attached to legs of Red Knots in New Jersey to follow the migration. The Red Knot is a species of special concern.

In addition to non-stop intercontinental flights of up to eight days, the researchers learned that the birds sometimes make extensive detours around tropical storms during their southbound migration and discovered new migratory paths. Such information will help ongoing conservation efforts for this threatened bird.


But aren't bonsai small?

Thu, Oct 07, 2010 at 03:14:26 PM

This black olive has been trained into a
bonsai shape, albeit on a large scale.

Today at the garden, the Bonsai Society of Miami had members working to construct backdrops and pedestals for their fabulous miniature trees that will be on display Saturday and Sunday for their annual show and sale.

Small and even medium sized trees were waiting to be placed, when a truck pulled up. Five people somehow managed to extract a 50-year-old black olive from the van and onto a rolling cart. But it is so tall, it would not fit through the wide entry doors of the Garden House. When last seen, it was being measured to ascertain how to get it inside.

It's a beautiful, majestic Bucida buceras 'Shady Lady' that has been grown in a container for 50 years. Dramatically shaped, it belongs to Glenn Hilton, who owns the Miami Tropical Bonsai Nursery in Homestead.

The show promises to be big.


Bird Day has fledged

Mon, Oct 04, 2010 at 09:18:50 AM

A yellow warbler that might steal your heart..

Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, had more than 200 people in the Bird Day audience Sunday for a talk that was powerful and exciting. Through citizen scientists around the country reporting on birds in their backyards and the astonishing technology of the Internet, Fitzpatrick said, we can follow the lives of birds and determine the health of their ecosystems.

Here are three links that will engage you in birdwatching, and probably hook you on becoming a citizen bird scientist:;;

You will be mesmerized and energized.


Small but beautiful

Fri, Oct 01, 2010 at 04:18:55 PM

A lovely flower caught my eye today at the Garden (well, OK, more than one): Clusia lanceolata, the porcelain flower.

Sometimes called porcelain flower,
this is Clusia lanceolata.

Clusia was actually a Fairchild plant of the year in 2007. It is from Brazil’s sandy shore, and therefore is salt tolerant. The waxy flowers are small but rather elegantly turned out in six white petals that have red bases. It likes sun or partial shade, and stays in the shrub-size range or may become a small tree. There are male and female plants.