Gardening with Georgia

Archive - December 2010

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A glow from Madagascar

Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 02:15:59 PM

Aloe dyeri has scarlet flowers.


The short-day plants in the Madagascar exhibit are keeping the scenery bright. Aloes are holding up spikes of red tubular flowers, while the kalanchoes are showing off yellow flowers. Two Pachypodium rutenbergianum trees are leafless and topped with white blooms, while the Uncarina roeoesliana is sheltering yellow trumpet shaped flowers beneath its texured lobed leaves.

If you stand for a while and study the bizarre shapes as well as the flowers, you may be treated to a hummingbird visitation. This is a great spot for them.




A new home for Fausto

Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 06:34:39 AM

The rainforest now is home to this
beautiful anthurium.

Anthurium faustomirandae, one of my favorites, has moved from the conservatory to the rainforest as preparations are made for construction of the new science village.  The conservatory plants will be moved to the nursery or, like Fausto, find a natural setting.

This lovely plant that is native to Chiapas, Mexico, has huge heart-shaped leaves and a leathery texture. It feels comfortable in shade, high humidity and in soil with excellent drainage. Container-grown A. faustomirandae likes the same conditions, so a blend of peat moss, pine bark mulch and sphagnum moss is recommended. A controlled-release fertilizer such as Dynamite (13-13-13) will serve this plant well in the ground, with leaf mulch or compost around the root zone.  (I use Peter’s Excel, 15-5-15 Cal-Mag on orchids and potted aroids.) The soil should stay moist but not wet. Thick-leaf anthuriums are relatively cold tolerant, and Fausto is apparently among these, but I cover my plant in the ground anyway since I’m a worrywart. Bird’s-nest anthuriums, such as A. schlechtendalii at the top of the waterfall in the sunken garden, may be the hardiest for our gardens.

It will be fun to see how big this plant’s leaves will get in the ground. Some aroid growers report leaves up to 53 inches long.  Steve Lucas, whose website,, says Anthurium regale can produce leaves larger than six feet (I have one of these, too) and may be larger than A. faustomirandea. These big handsome plants can become addictive.

This bird's-nest anthurium is a crown for the waterfall .




Why I hate cold weather

Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 03:40:37 PM

The back porch in its cold weather disguise!


Very cold, so button up

Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 03:13:11 PM

The orchid houses are covered and tonight I'll run an oscillating sprinkler under the benches in one house to try and keep the temperature raised somewhat.

High winds make it difficult to
keep sheets on plants, so tie or
use bricks to keep edges down..

Cattleyas, cymbidiums and nobile dendrobiums are not likely to be bothered by tonight's chill, but the phalaenopsis, oncidiums, bulbophyllyms and vandaceous orchids have  been brought insiderammatophyllums are inside, along with prized aroids that are not in the ground. The back porch looks like a florist's shop, while the back yard has large lumps of variously patterned and colored sheets being wind-whipped. (Did we really buy those sheets once?)

The wind can steal the water from a plant but if it stays windy overnight there's a chance frost won't occur. On clear, still nights the cold can be very damaging. Still, the Weather Service says wind chill will make it feel like 20 to 30 degrees.

Get to work, then stay warm.




Mon, Dec 06, 2010 at 02:39:59 PM

A cold weather action plan has been set in motion.

Because this early cold front has not been preceded by rain, I have just come in from watering beneath the canopies of large trees. As water retains warmth longer than dry soil, the warmth will radiate up into the canopies tonight, creating a nice microclimate for tender trees and plants growing in the trees.

Hanging baskets are probably drying out now from the wind, so bring them inside. I have several in a lychee that I'll lower to the ground and cover with sheets.

Winterizing plastic encases the orchid houses now. I've put the  plastic sides down to keep wind from damaging tropical orchid leaves. Many Vanda orchids have already been brought inside, and soon to follow are the Phalaenopsis orchids. Cattleyas will be OK, but those with open flowers or buds (and there are lots this time of year) should come indoors.

Don't use plastic directly on plants to shield them from the weather as it can carry warmth away from the leaves and chill or kill them. Use old covers or even newspapers if you can weight the material with bricks, stones, etc.

Large-leaf aroids will come inside. I made the rash decision to put Anthurium faustomirandae in the ground and must create a tepee for it with bamboo and sheets. Last year, I even put a flood light beneath its covers to add extra heat.

A follow up regimen is a good idea. For orchids (with the exception of Dendrobium species/hybrids) a mix of Dithane M45 and Kocide -- 1 tablespoon each to a gallon of water -- may help prevent fungus and bacterial infections. Kocide, which is a copper compound, should not be used on bromeliads. Copper used more than twice in a season may be toxic to leaves. Alternatively, use Subdue or Aliette. You may wish to treat palms with the Dithane/Kocide mix, as bud rot hovers at the edge of every cold spell. Or, you may want to roll the dice and wait to see what January brings.





Pineland plants abloom and abuzz

Thu, Dec 02, 2010 at 08:56:21 AM

Pollen sacks full, this bee is working varnish leaf flowers.

A resin-like coating on the leaves of Dodonaea viscosa sometimes gives it the common name of varnish leaf. As a result of this coating, its leaves are less likely to lose water and therefore the plant is quite drought tolerant. Of course, the shrub also is referred to as Florida hopbush, because its fruits resemble hops for making beer.

This shrub, in our pine rockland plantings, is pan-tropical, and can

Seed capsules are attractive.

be found from Australia to Hawaii, Florida to Arizona. Male and female flowers are on different plants. Bees were working the flowers in the lowlands like crazy the other day. The flowers are diminutive, with succulent sepals, and on the female shrubs, the winged seedpods seem to form shortly after the bees visit. Those capsules are pinkish-green, and resemble delicate little lanterns.

Dodonaea viscosa will not need extra irrigation once it has produced two or three flushes of growth. This pineland plant likes well-drained soil and sun, and will grow to about 8 or 10 feet.

Pretty in yellow, pineland
heliotrope attracts butterflies.

Also flowering in the pinelands is pineland heliotrope, Heliotropium polyphyllum, which has the typical scorpion-tail shape to its terminal flowers. White peacock butterflies like this one. Our east coast version has yellow flowers, though they are white toward the west coast. The heliotrope is a drought-tolerant, spreading ground cover.

Havana skullcap, Scutellaria havanensis, is another ground cover from pine rockland that is flowering now. Its flowers are a beautiful purple-blue, but to be honest you have to bend over to see them. Better yet, sit down beside

Havana skullcap's beautiful
purple-blue flowers.

them. They’re impressive up close. Really up close.

Passion vine, Passiflora suberosa, keeps on flowering and fruiting. A white caterpillar with black spines (Zebra Heliconid) made the journey from the vine growing up a pine to the underside of a nearby sabal palm. The trip took it over pine needles, up the base of the palm still loaded with old leaf stems or boots, and then out onto the frond. 

Just another wonder of the natural world.

One caterpillar's amazing journey may end here.