Gardening with Georgia

Archive - April 2012

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Quite a sight

Thu, Apr 26, 2012 at 10:38:14 AM

Every year, the Oncidium spachelatum in the front yard gets bigger and better. This year, it has a breath-taking abundance of flowers. Here it is.

Fertilize every two weeks; let Nature do the rest.


What plants can tell you

Wed, Apr 25, 2012 at 12:21:07 PM

Mama screech owl.

Early this morning, I was watering some newly planted milkweeds, when I looked at a firebush and noticed some newly deposited bird droppings. Looking up, I discovered our mama screech owl, still sleeping in the early sun. Knowing that her nest is in our old avocado tree, I found two young owlets, very well hidden among new growth, but sitting out of the nest nonetheless. They stayed put long enough for me to photograph them.

Take home lesson: keep a close eye on your plants, and watch for clues to what’s going on in the garden.

Here are the babies, hiding among the avocado leaves.


Biologists find orchids on the move

Wed, Apr 18, 2012 at 08:59:10 AM

Six years ago, an exotic little orchid, Eulophia graminea, popped up in some mulch in South Miami, half way around the globe from its home. Harvey Bernstein, a former Fairchild horticulturist, spotted it in his yard. The next year, it came up again, and FIU ecologist Suzanne Koptur, who lived close by, called it “an exciting botanical mystery.”

At the 2012 meeting of plant biologists of South Florida, Dexter Sowell, with the Florida Forest

Biologist Scott Zona took
this picture of the exotic
Eulophia graminea.

Service, said the orchid has spread throughout southwest Florida, from the Big Cypress National Preserve to the Naples Botanic Garden. The bulbs, which are larger than softballs, have turned up in Picayune Strand State Forest, along Janes Scenic Drive in the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve State Park, and even in mulch in a large mall near Naples.

Originally from India, Nepal, Southeast Asia, southern China to Ryuku Islands of Japan, the cosmopolitan plant probably came into the U.S. when someone purchased it via the Internet, suggested Koptur and USDA scientist Bob Pemberton, who researched the orchid. Seeds, which are dust-like, spread by wind. Koptur noted at the time that the orchid seemed to prefer cypress mulch, not her wood chips from local trees. Sowell said he finds the bulbs attaching themselves to cypress trees, and even ringing the trunks, producing 12 to 20 flower stalks per clump.

The native eulophia commonly called wild coco, Eulophia alta, also grows in the same southwest natural areas, but is so much larger that the biologists on hand said they doubted it would cross with the native plant. Since the natural range of the orchid includes the eastern Himalaya, it’s likely to keep heading north, Sowell said.

Flowers of the cowhorn
orchid, Cyrtopodium punctatum.

The other orchid news from the meeting: many specimens of the cowhorn orchid, Cyrtopodium punctatum, are being replenished in the Fakahatchee Strand, which is a swamp forest 20 miles long and five miles wide along State Road 29. It is home to 44 species of native orchids. Mike Owen, the park’s biologist, worked with Dennis Giardina and Matt Richards on a project to hand pollinate  some of the 12 cyrtopodiums found there. The massive orchids were so heavily collected from 1900 to 1974 that the orchid is on the state’s endangered species list.

Owen, who has recorded the pod and pollinia parents for each cross over a five-year effort, described how the team found the first seed pod in 2009 and then spread seed by hand on the trunks of cypress trees. They also suspended a pod to allow natural wind dispersal.

They made mycorrhizae fungus traps and attached them to trees near the orchids. The fungus is needed for seeds to germinate.

Cyrtopodium punctatum
 growing on a palm.

In 2009, five mother plants were pollinated, and in 2010, there were 14 seed pods produced. Six were collected and sent to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for germination, while eight were allowed to remain in place.

One of the pollen parents was stolen last year, but 88 progeny are carrying those genes. The plants were shipped back from Atlanta and attached to trees in the Fakahatchee. This year, 98 young plants have been “out-planted” in the swamp.

There are several Cyrtopodium punctatum specimens in the garden. One across from the edible garden is currently in flower.



Wildlife photos at ENP

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 04:21:02 PM

News form Everglades National Park for wildlife photo fans: The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center Art Gallery is currently hosting a collection of stunning wildlife photography by Kevan and Linda Sunderland.

Sunderland image of black-
necked stilt courting ritual.

Kevan and Linda Sunderland have been photographing Florida’s
wildlife for more than 30 years. Their images have appeared in many magazines, including: Florida Wildlife, Wisconsin Wildlife, Wild Bird, Audubon, Nature’s Best Photography; in Everglades National Park and U.S Fish and Wildlife publications. When not taking photographs or in a boat in South Florida, Linda works for Broward County as the Aquatic & Wetland Resources Manager. Kevan is a 29-year veteran of the Sunrise Fire Department in Broward County.
The exhibit will be on display at the Ernest Coe Visitors Center gallery, 40001 State Road 9336, Homestead, Florida, through April 30, 2012; daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.


Repotting a Giant

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 at 12:09:59 PM

The big plant in its old pot,
its leaves bunched together.

How do you repot a plant that’s as tall as you are? With planning and with help.

Anthurium schottianum is a large-leaf plant that I have grown on the back porch for about three years. It’s so large, in fact, that it nearly touched the ceiling. As the stem grew taller, I wrapped it in sphagnum moss and surrounded that with a plastic container so the roots would not dry out as they emerged. This was only a temporary Band-Aid – a trick that Steve Nock taught me. When roots emerge on self-heading anthuriums and philodendrons, they will harden off and fail to function if there is no medium to protect them.

 So when this stunning plant finally reached 5-feet six-inches tall from soil to ceiling, I decided to tackle the problem of repotting.

 We are not talking a small pot.

 To begin, I tied up all of the leaves. The largest heart-shaped blade measured 38 inches by 27 inches at its widest part, so I used a nylon rope to lasso the gang. I put an old shower curtain liner on the back porch so the mess would be easy to clean.

 Next, I took a long butcher knife and ran it around the pot, between the soil and the container to make

Moss and old container
promote new roots.

sure the root ball was not stuck to the sides. I had not watered it for a few days so I could more easily handle the weight. Then two of us lowered the potted plant to the ground and removed the container as well as the “temporary” pot around the top of the stem.

Meanwhile, in a big washtub, I combined ProMix (a potting medium), Perlite and pine bark mulch. The ration was about 2:1:2. Using an old cooking pot, I scooped plenty into the bottom of the new container where I had placed large pieces of broken crockery to secure drainage. Then two of us lifted the plant into its new home. As Sandy steadied the plant in the center, I filled around the root ball with the new soil. I had to blend one more tub of soil to complete the job.

I removed an old bottom leaf and then, using a length of green twistee wire, tied up the petioles to a stake to properly display the leaves.

Anthurium schottianum now looks quite regal.

You might think that the job was done. Wrong. Just outside the screened back porch where my Anthurium lives are lots of shell gingers. Since I noticed scale beginning to appear on an older leaf, I cut down almost all the gingers so more air could circulate around my prize plant.

That’s what happens in a garden – you do one thing and it leads to another. But with a plant such as this Anthurium, the effort is worth it!





One garden's tree is another's...

Tue, Apr 03, 2012 at 01:28:43 PM

Monkey’s apple, Mimusops coriacea, grows throughout the tropics but came originally from

Mimusops coriacea.

Madagascar, Comoros and the Seychelles in the Western Indian Ocean. It is the handsome tree encircled by the walk leading into the garden from the Visitors Center. Right now, it is dropping golf ball sized inedible fruit. The specific name means leather, and the leaves are quite leathery.

While we may admire it, the plant has managed to work its way onto the Global Compendium of Weeds. It has become naturalized on the island of Mauritius, a part of the Mascarene Islands east of Madagascar. Mauritius and Rodrigues islands were studied by a forestry team from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, which found Mauritius has less than 1 percent of its native forest remaining. Totally forested until humans arrived, the island’s flora has lost 39 plant species to global extinction. Mimusops has become naturalized in coastal areas, and should be monitored carefully, according to the 2002-03 study. Other weeds found there are thick stands of guava, Brazilian pepper, pink tabebuia, travelers palm, Lantana camara, gum Arabic or prickly acacia and Sri Lankan privet. Our islands seem to be showing us the way of the future.

Fruit of the monkey's apple tree turns yellow when ripe.