Monday, August 30, 2010

Fabulous tropical palms

What makes south Florida unique in the United States is the amazing assortment of palms we are able to grow here due to our unique climate. At Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens in Miami, they have collected over 700 species from all over the tropics that grow here as well.

There are about 10 or so native palms from Florida. Our state palm tree is the Sable palmetto, or cabbage palm. In order for officials to pick a state tree, it had to be able to grow throughout the various temperature growing zones. North Florida is practical Georgia, so the climate is much cooler. Here in the south we can grow cold sensitive palms that would freeze there.

In certain cultures, palms are dominant as a food source, housing, fiber, oil and many other uses. Here we see the fronds utilized for the roofs of tiki huts. Street vendors sell ice cold coconuts on street corners with sipping straws for cool summer refreshment.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Collectable caladiums, superstar plants for your garden

Caladiums are grown for their colorful elephant shaped leaves. The plants are started from bulbs. Now is the time to add them to your garden. Caladiums thrive during sweltering South Florida heat and provide a great colorful tropical look to your patio or garden.

Wholesale growers plant the bulbs in the winter. The caladiums are ready for sale by early summer. Landscapers often switch out the heat sensitive impatiens, petunias and pansies for the heat tolerant caladiums. Visit your garden center for a bountiful selection.
Caladiums are easy to grow and can be placed in partial shade to full sun. They can be transplanted to the ground or into larger size pots. Do not keep them in the containers they came in. The roots will soon become pot bound. The pot will not hold water well and the plant will decline.
When repotting the caladiums make sure you untangle the root ball. Do not tear off the roots; just loosen them so they can grow out into the larger container or ground. If you leave the roots all cramped the plant will not grow as well.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Going bananas!

Going bananas
South Floridians love bananas and there are many to grow here. There are ice cream bananas, red banana, finger bananas finger banansas and more. In fact, there even is a nursery called Going Bananas located in Homestead, Florida. Homestead is in southwest Miami.
Katie Chafin is co owner of Going bananas. When asked which her favorite banana was, she replied “Whatever is ripe!” With over ninety two different varieties to choose from, it is understandable why one would never tire of them.
Here in South Florida, many people without gardens get their bananas mostly in the supermarket like everyone else does elsewhere in the country. We buy the same ones imported by the big name producers located in Central American and the Caribbean Islands.
Many back yard gardeners also grow their own bananas. They are best started by shoots from the mother plant, divided up by digging the new shoots. If you have a friend with a banana you can get suckers from them, or buy plants from a local nursery. Backyard growers like to try varieties not found in stores.
The top sellers according to Katie:
• Gold finger- is a disease resistant large variety. This hybrid was created in Honduras.
• Nam wa- originated in Southeast Asia and has a delicious pineapple banana flavor.
• Raja puri – has a superb flavor but warns Katie, “You need to feed it like a teenage boy, you can’t feed it enough.” This Indian variety requires heavy feeding for the plant to thrive.
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