Gardening with Georgia

Archive - May 2010

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Water lilies made easy

Fri, May 28, 2010 at 12:09:30 PM

 Amazon lilies are growing and
have produced the first bud.

Come on in, the water’s fine. It has warmed up for the tropical water lilies that are making beautiful displays in various pools around the garden. The marvelous Victoria amazonica (Victoria amazonica x cruziana ‘Longwood hybrid’) already has a flower, and many others are showing lavender, blue and white flowers.

Ken Neugent, conservatory and special projects manager, says planting water lilies isn’t complicated. Use garden soil that contains no Perlite and mix it with builder’s sand (not salty beach sand), he

Lovely in its symmetry.

directs. Plant the bulbs in the containers. You can pack sand on the top to keep the soil from washing away, or use pebbles. The container can be set in a pond or a large ceramic container, with anywhere from six to 18 or even 24 inches of water above the top of the pot.

Water lilies require a lot of fertilizer to look good. Neugent uses aquatic tabs or slow release tablets. Large lilies need new tabs weekly; smaller ones can thrive if you renew the tabs once a month. Be sure to remove the yellow leaves to keep your water lilies beautiful. And don’t plant them with large koi. The koi will nibble them to death.

Tropical water lilies bloom either during the day or at night, so if you want to see them after the sun goes down, plant pots of both.


A natural sculpture graces the garden

Thu, May 27, 2010 at 05:27:56 PM

The Marlborough Blue cycad is
unfolding a new rosette of leaves.

Try to dream up a way to package leaves with many leaflets so that they unfold perfectly when they expand, so that the miniature leaves uncoil from their natal position like fern fronds, each exactly in place along the main stem. Then come to the garden and

Leaflets uncoil with precision.

compare your design with that of Cycas ophiolitica, the Marlborough Blue cycad from Australia. Its new leaves are exquisitely presented, soft, pubescent and beautiful as they spiral around the top of the trunk. Mary Collins trimmed away the few remaining old leaves from the base this week so the marvel of the new leaves could be seen. It grows in gray-green rocky soil, and is considered threatened in its Queensland habitat. All the more reason to be thankful that it is being protected here.


FYI: BioBlitz turned up some amazing finds

Fri, May 07, 2010 at 12:36:43 PM

BioBlitz, the two-day inventory of land and water flora and fauna held last weekend in Biscayne National Park, turned up some interesting finds, including seven candidate champion trees: paradise tree, Bahama strong back, blolly, milk bark, joewood, inkwood and pigeon plum. Potentially the largest trees of their kind are growing on Totten Key. They somehow survived Hurricane Andrew in 1992 well enough to grow into (perhaps) the largest of their kind.

A press release from Everglades National Park says that on-land observations of a number of species rare to the park included the silver hairstreak butterfly, mangrove cuckoo, bay-breasted warbler and nesting roseate spoonbills.

Underwater park divers were excited to observe black, red and gag groupers on a night dive on the park’s reefs.

More than 800 species of plants and animals were counted, with a higher final number expected to be tallied after the fine details are completed. 



Handsome Haitian palms are priceless

Thu, May 06, 2010 at 06:12:43 PM


One of the handsomest sights in the palmetum is the collection of Haitian palms, Attalea crassispatha. The group was planted from seeds collected on a 1991 joint expedition by Fairchild and New York Botanical Garden. Only about two dozen palms remain in the wild, making it one of the rarest palms in this hemisphere.  Carl Lewis said the palms in the grove have not yet produced fruit, but there is an Attalea crassispatha in another area of the garden that has borne fruit.  He reports that five years ago a colleague said the trees remaining in Haiti were “in a continual state of decline.”  That was before the disastrous hurricane season of 2008 and the earthquake of 2010.

Attalea crassispatha was first described in the 18th Century by the French botanist Charles Plumier (for whom Plumeria is named). It grows in southwestern Haiti. The palm has seeds that resemble little coconuts, and in some places in Haiti it is called, in Creole, ‘ti koko’, the small coconut, according to a paper by Joel Timyan and Sam Reep.  The meat of the nut is richer in fats than a regular coconut and is utilized for cooking oil. It has more protein than coconuts, and twice the calories.

Conservation of this valuable palm is, therefore, of great importance. Plus, it is a beautiful landscape plant. The garden’s grove is twice blessed.




Summer's colors are starting to appear

Tue, May 04, 2010 at 01:41:14 PM

Monarchs sipping nectar from
red pentas.

As spring slides into summer, Florida is returning to “normal.” Lots of flowers are returning: some briefly, such as the lovely blue-purple blossoms on the jacaranda trees and the spring-flowering amaryllis; others for the duration, such as the shrimp plants, the  tropical group of acanths, including shrimp plant and cardinal’s guard. The butterfly garden has been up and running for some time, full of monarchs and zebra longwings and the occasional Polydamas swallowtail.

Jacaranda cuspidifolia is in full flower.

The Jacaranda cuspidifolia near the Bailey Palm Glade is quite full of flowers now. It’s from dry savannas of Brazil and Argentina, and Mary Collins, Senior Horticulturist, says its flowers are larger than the Jacaranda mimosifolia that is usually seen in South Florida. Its fallen flowers beautifully litter the bench and grass beneath it.

Near the veitchias in the palmetum, beach sunflowers are shining brightly. Not very far away is the shrimp plant called Fruit Salad, which offers a gentle combination of light green bracts and rose-pink flowers.The “regular” golden shrimp is full

This is the shrimp plant
called Fruit Salad.

of itself wherever it resides.

The golden shrimp, in my experience, likes pruning in late winter to develop those tall yellow bracts and white flowers. (I grow it with plumbago, and like the way the blue and yellow complement each other.)

Phalaenopsis orchids are late to appear this year due to the long cold spell in January, but you’ll find them beautifully displayed in the Conservatory now. The bat plant, Tacca chantrieri, is flowering now as well, and worth a sojourn into the Conservatory if you’ve never seen one.